« Reply #450 on: 01-25-2008 20:35 »
« Last Edit on: 01-25-2008 20:35 by JustNibblin´ »
Hi, Layla50 has given me permission to send this story to TLZ--it was never archived, and I'm not sure how many people know about it, since this thread is over a year old.
I try to avoid ranking fanfiction, but I will say I think this may be the single best Futurama short story ever written, in terms of characterization, style, humor, and good old heart. Also has one of the best original characters I've read in a Futurama fic-C.S.M.
So if you haven't read, you're in for a treat!
"Famous Last Words"
It was all going according to plan…
Phillip J. Fry, delivery boy less than extraordinaire, had reached a level of boredom that could have been fatal on some planets. (Namely Caffeinated V, where an omnipotent ten year old insisted that everyone be hyper all the time. If they weren’t… well, you know the rest.) Anyway, Fry was bored. He wanted to scream or dance or start a fire or write an off-Broadway play filled with bad spelling and dubious characterization.
Luckily for the world of theatre, Fry was also lazy. He really, desperately wanted something to happen, anything to relieve the mind numbing tedium. ‘Leela,’ he decided, ‘would probably be having the time of her life here.’ Perhaps he should have invited her.
In the time he’d spent pursuing Leela, Fry had, despite her claims to the contrary, learned a thing or two. Principal among these was that he needed the element of surprise on his side. The gorgeous captain was getting far too good at shooting down his plans before he could actually do anything about them. Fry felt he had discovered a useful weakness in the skintanium armour that was Turanga Leela: the unexpected.
She had no skill at all in being spontaneous. Fry figured that that must mean she would struggle with rejecting him if he came up with a brilliant idea off the top of his head, something she didn’t see coming. So far, that theory hadn’t really gotten him anywhere. The trouble was, he wasn’t particularly adept at coming up with brilliant ideas on impulse. In any case, spontaneity had never yet worked for any of the bad guys trying to kill them.
So with all that in mind, Fry impulsively switched tactics and devised an actual, carefully laid out, detailed plan with writing and thinking and everything. He unfolded the worn piece of paper in his hand.
1. Have idea.
Admittedly, it wasn’t a great plan in the beginning, but as per usual, TV had come through for him. A commercial had come along making it a much better plan. The highly exclusive “public” rocket skating rink was going to open its doors for people under the rank of “Mayor’s aid” for two nights only. Fry hadn’t thought much about it until Leela had spotted the ad. Immediately, she starting gushing about her childhood in the orphanareum again, but just before he dozed off, she mentioned how special it was when she’d gotten to rocket skate at that same arena. It had ended badly of course, Leela having all the luck of one of those dogs named ‘Lucky’, with her having been locked in a bathroom stall by a well-meaning janitor. Before that though, it had evidently been magical. After the sixth time she casually mentioned it, Fry, ever alert to Leela’s needs, picked up on the cue and suggested that they go together, but Leela vetoed it immediately, saying it would be impossible to get tickets.
Enter Philip J. Fry, master of the impossible.
The problem was that mastering the impossible sounded like a lot more fun than it actually was. “You know,” he began, heedless of the irritated grumbling of the… person-like thing in front of him in line, “This is the Future!” Fry always capitalized the word. “Shouldn’t there be some sort of futuristic magic trick to make waiting in line fun?” When no one responded, Fry tapped the growling being on what he assumed was its shoulder. “Hey! Listen, don’t you think you guys should have made-”
“No.” It responded in a voice so threatening that it would have made Darth Vader sound like a cartoon chipmunk.
“Really?” Fry bubbled, happy that someone was talking to him. Conversation was slightly more interesting that staring at the back of the weird thing’s head.
“NO.” Three lesser beings fainted. The compassionate New New Yorkers pushed their limp bodies out of line.
“Really?!” Fry repeated with an amazed shake of his head.
“Noooo.” It breathed. Somewhere, Morbo shivered.
“Huh. Well, I do.” Fortunately for Fry, the carnivorous being was on the Scarsdale diet. It turned away from him and Fry gave up.
Four hours later, he’d finally made it to the head of the line, hoping desperately because scalping was a more literal profession than it had been in his time, and hopping desperately because he really had to pee. “Please, tell me there’s tickets left!” he cried, lunging forward to prevent anyone from taking his turn.
“Yes, sir. ‘There’s tickets left.’” It quoted him obediently. “Would you like to purchase passes for rocket skating?”
“Yes! Yes! I would!” Fry asked for three, one for the first night opening and two for the second. He winced a little when the vendor quoted him the price, but it would be worth it for Leela. Fry carefully stored the tickets in his underwear. It was the only place Bender didn’t rifle through regularly, to the best of his knowledge.
Fry really, desperately wanted to look good rocket skating. It would all be pointless if Leela was completely delighted with the tickets only to be completely embarrassed when Fry did something stupid like breaking every bone in his body, or worse, breaking every bone in her body. Besides, that’s what always happened. Well, not breaking bones, unless Bender or Zapp Brannigan were involved somehow, but Fry did always seemed to botch it, often in new and creative ways, and Leela would get angry and say, “This is why I tell you no!”
Sometimes she apologized after, in that ‘let’s just be good friends’ kinda way. Fry really, desperately didn’t want to hear that message again.
So, he would practice. On the first night, he would strap dangerous, potentially explosive, high speed skates to his feet and see what happened.
"No pain, no gain"
An hour before the first skate was scheduled to begin, Fry paced outside the door to the rental shop, unwilling to waste a single minute of precious ice time trying to figure out how one went about getting into rocket skates. Roughly every thirty seconds or so, his tension increased until he was nearly vibrating. When a voice spoke from behind him, he metaphorically snapped.
“Oh, oh my. Someone’s certainly looking forward to a peaceful rocket skate.” Fry spun and fixed wild eyes on the tiniest, most fragile looking human being he had ever seen. He was wearing some sort of uniform and smiling warmly at Fry in a manner that suggested he had all the time in the universe. Fry was all too aware he did not.
“Are you-” Fry winced when his voice jumped an octave. He swallowed and tried again. “Um, hi. I was just wonderingifyouweretheguywhore ntsskates?” The words ran together as a direct result of the adrenaline surging through his body like a hyperactive seven year old on a pixie stick bender.
The elderly man tipped his head quizzically and looked thoughtful for a long moment before saying with great gravity, “Pardon?”
“Aieee!” Fry screamed, hands tripping over each other to jam themselves in his mouth to muffle the sound. Sanity was good. After a minute, Fry managed to settle himself enough to ask, “Skates?”
The increasingly maddening old guy watched him placidly, wearing a vaguely puzzled expression. “Pardon?” he asked again, if anything slower and more gravid than before.
Fry ground his teeth in frustration. Suddenly, a message from his brain informed him that his hands hurt. He thought about this, and then took them out of his mouth. “Skates?” he tried again in a last ditch effort.
“Skates?” Old Guy mumbled, before brightening, “Yes,” he crooned in a distinctly condescending tone. “You put skates on your feet to go skating. I’m in charge of renting them to skaters.” He smiled kindly up at Fry. “Would you like to see my pretty skates?”
Fry nodded childishly; if nods could lisp sweetly, this one would have. Victory!
“That’s great. Let me just get my key.” He held up an industrial sized key ring that Amy could have worn at a nightclub while Fry slumped to the bench, head in courageous hands.
Twenty minutes later, the would-be rocket skater was ten bucks poorer and busily fawning over the hard-won skates. “Let’s see, foot holes, warning label, sharp metal blades, warning label, filthy grey laces, warning label, liquid hydrogen ignition thingie, scary red button. Fry looked closely at the red button. It was very red. It looked like exactly the sort of button that might cause things to happen. Red sorts of things. He tipped the back of the skate towards his face and let his right hand meander towards the button in a casual, “I’m certainly not going to press this tempting red button” sort of way. The element of surprise was clearly the domain of the delivery boy, he decided and hit the button.
He was very surprised.
“YOU COMPLETE MORON!” yelled Mom’s recorded voice from the skate. “IF YOU ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO PRESS THE RED BUTTON” and the voice melted abruptly into the most grandmotherly voice imaginable, “then I’m afraid I must inform you that you are using these quality, hand knit rocket skates at your own risk. Take a bit of advice from a weary old grannie and kiss your fat donkey carcass goodbye.”
“Aw, she’s such a dear,” Fry sighed, “Kinda reminds me of my own grandmother-” His thoughts suddenly took him in an NC-17 direction and he hastily jammed his hand into his mouth and bit down hard, distracting himself nicely.
Other excited skaters had started to arrive by this point and Fry watched them carefully to see how they got the skates on. Closest to him, a wiry, white haired man with a distinctly upper-class accent was chatting to his fur-wearing companion.
“So I said, well, murder is a crime naturally, but we are talking about poor people here, and you can’t expect them to function in civilized society.”
“Wow,” Fry interjected, “you’re that judge guy who hangs out at all Bender’s court appearances. What are you doing here?”
The woman looked at him askance, but Judge Whitey soothed her, “It’s okay, Muffy, you have to expect these kinds of things to happen. That’s why were here after all, to slum with the common people.” He didn’t address Fry at all, but Fry didn’t notice or care.
“What a world we live in,” he murmured in delight, “Your friend wears fur stoles and titanium rings, my friend is titanium and sells stolen furs to crime rings. Yet, here we are together. Beautiful, really.” It was really just as well for Fry and Bender that the couple had decided to slum in higher circles.
Shrugging off the encounter, Fry turned back to the problem of getting the skates on. It seemed to him no different than putting twentieth century skates on, so he picked one up and started to slide his foot in.
“Aaaiieeee!” Fry stopped, surprised as a man threw himself over a bewildered person and grabbed Fry’s skate. “Dude, are you crazy?!” he demanded, aghast.
Hesitantly, Fry said, “no?”
“You haven’t got the safety on!” The big guy shifted on Fry’s lap, making him very uncomfortable before flicking a small switch. He got up and they both breathed a little easier, though for very different reasons. “Seriously man, you’ve got to be more careful. You coulda done some major damage.”
“Er, thanks,” Fry muttered, hoping Competent Sports Man would just go away.
“No problem, little man,” he replied to Fry’s chagrin. C.S.M. flashed a perfect smile at the girls tittering at the scene before continuing. “This your first time?”
“Uh,” Fry swallowed hard, “First time for what?”
“R.S., dude.” The redhead stared at him. “Rocket skating!”
“Oh, oh! I get it!” Fry laughed nervously. “Yeah, it is.” Fry really, desperately did not want to ask for the help he really, desperately needed. Fortunately, he didn’t have to.
C.S.M., with a flirty grin to the women watching him, was quick to volunteer. “The safety stays on while you’re not on the ice, that way you don’t burn holes in things, or people.” Seeing Fry’s glassy stare, he added, “That’s bad.”
“Right, right,” Fry nodded, “So now I put the skate on?”
“Sure thing!” C.S.M. talked him through basic safety procedures so Fry wouldn’t blow himself into “a pile of little dudes”, then demonstrated how to lace the skates. By the end of the lecture Fry was reluctantly grateful to Competent Sports Man, who’s actual name, it turned out, was Butch. The delivery boy much preferred the name C.S.M.
He let his guardian go to the tender mercies of every 20 something straight female in the rink and approached the ice. Taking a moment for a short Leela fantasy, Fry stepped onto the ice… and went down like a ton of bricks. Big heavy ones.
As he lay on the welcoming, cement-like ice, Fry heard an unwelcome voice bellow, “Dude! You gotta take the guards off first!” followed by admiring giggles.
It was perhaps the longest three hours of his life. Once he’d gotten the guards off, and became used to the weight of the rockets, it didn’t go too badly. He stopped slamming violently into the ice and even managed to skate backwards for a while. Fry’s optimism had nearly returned in full force when he heard it.
“Mommy? Why isn’t that man using his rockets?”
It was lucky for all concerned that C.S.M. had not been the one to point it out. With indescribable embarrassment, Fry suddenly understood why he was being passed by children and the elderly alike.
He didn’t want to take the safety off. He really desperately didn’t want to take the safety off, but Philip J. Fry also really desperately wanted Turanga Leela. He flicked the switch.
If Fry had been capable of coherent thought, that thought would have run somewhere along the lines of, 'What homicidal maniac decided to wreak his sublime vengeance on the world by attaching rockets to ice skates, which are already plenty dangerous, thank you very much!'
However, Fry lacked both the inclination and the capacity for such a thought. His actual thought, in the closest possible transcription, went
Fry had been leaning his weight ever so slightly forward when he activated the rockets, sending a message to the skates that he wanted to go faster than he wanted to go…ever. The compact rockets burst into action with an impressive roar. As a direct result, poor love-struck (and how!) Fry screamed the scream of the damned as he went into warp drive across the ice.
The only thing that saved his life from a nasty end at the hands of a concrete barrier was a nasty fall onto the ice. For what seemed to him like a long time, he lay there, feeling the overhead lights stab into his brain, trying to figure out who he was and why he was sprawled on something cold and hard.
A shadow blocked the light from his eyes, forming a glorious halo around someone’s beautiful head. A dreamy smile touched his lips as he recognized Leela. “I can’t believe you would do something like this,” came her astonished voice. ‘Funny, she sounds like she’s got a head cold.” His analytical mind wanted to study the problem further, but it was easily voted down by the part of his brain controlled by hormones. Just about all of his brain really.
“C’mon Leela,” he chided lightly while the world sparked and spun around them. “You know I’d do anything for you, except bathe everyday.”
“That can’t be good,” Leela muttered, though she sounded even stranger than before.
“Does anyone really bathe every single day?” Fry tried to defend himself, “Half the time we’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with strangers trying to kill us! You can’t really expect-”
Before he could really get into his rant about unrealistic expectations, Leela ran her hands over his head and across his chest, cheering him up considerably. “Whoa, Leela!” he couldn’t keep the lascivious grin from sauntering over his face, even though she had really hairy knuckles. “Not that I mind, baby, but isn’t this a little public for-?” Wait. Where was he?
“You are one funny little man, dude,” chuckled the now intimately familiar, intensely hated voice.
Heedless of his burgeoning collection of blunt force trauma, Fry bolted upright and rolled out from under the tender administrations of Competent Butch Man, er, Butch Competent Muscles, er Sporty Muscle Bag, er... Fighting back the urge to wretch, Fry pressed his face into the cool steadying surface beneath him until his chilled forehead ached.
“You okay, budster?” C.S.M. asked in infuriatingly genuine concern. Fry blindly waved an arm in what he hoped was a vaguely reassuring manner. It worked. “Glad to hear it. He’s okay, everybody!” Sparse claps and a few half-hearted cheers broke out, followed by a chorus of skates being fired up. Fry discovered where he had been storing that last little shred of dignity by listening to the anguished shriek as it died.
By the time, Fry dragged himself home to collapse on the floor of his shared apartment with Bender, he had revived enough of his battered psyche to feel vaguely self-satisfied. Though he had become more intimately acquainted with the ice, boards and Competent Sports Man than he had with some of his old girlfriends, it had been worth it. In the last ten minutes of the skate, Fry had learned just enough steering tricks to be able to do laps. It was the most glorious accomplishment of his life by a wide margin, and, sadly and pathetically, that did not strike him as sad or pathetic in the least. He didn’t really hurt that much, and tomorrow, he thought blissfully, as well-earned sleep claimed him, tomorrow he’d nonchalantly present Leela with the invitation of a lifetime.
"The Best Laid Plans O' Mice and Men Gang Aft Aglay…"
…and an ugly morning too it was for Fry. He had not felt all that badly before crashing the night before, but that was simply because muscles are hive animals, and one of them is always slow and pokey, holding everyone else up. That’s why they most often wait until the morning after to inform you that you are a colossal idiot.
Fry woke up to the miserable cacophony of nearly 700 muscles making clear to him why they felt he was an amazing, colossal idiot.
He tried to say ‘ow,” but he was not up to the task at all.
“Uhnnnnn,” he moaned plaintively, really, desperately hoping Bender would hear it and rescue him, until he realized what he was hoping for. “Nvrmnd,” he sighed to no one, having used up all his vowel strength in his first plea. Fry set about apologizing to each of his muscles until they decided to help him fall out of bed.
Eventually, by some unholy aid, (you know the bending unit I mean), Fry made it in to Planet Express where he found a convenient space of linoleum to be very, very still on until Leela strolled in, whistling merrily. The sight of him lying on the floor put a stop to that rather quickly, a fact that his ear muscles appreciated.
“Fry! What in the name of Douglas Adams happened to you?!”
Right. Talking. He remembered doing that. One of the face parts was involved somehow. As Fry tried to piece together the lost art of conversation, Leela started prodding him in much the same manner as C.S.M. had the evening previous. This time he was fairly certain it was Leela anyway.
Fry would have been thrilled beyond the dreams of base jumpers everywhere had not his rebelling muscles interfered. Being pawed by C.S.M. had actually been a more pleasurable experience. He wanted to cry, and would have if only it wouldn’t have meant his immediate death.
“No blood, no broken bones…” Leela looked into his eyes. “Hangover?” He could have denied it, but he would have had to come up with another lie to avoid ruining their magical evening of happy happiness. After organizing a resistance force to counter the rebellion, Fry tipped his head in assent and watched mutely as all sympathy faded from Leela’s face.
“On a Tuesday night?” she demanded, not quite as incredulous as Fry wanted her to be.
“I had a really good reason,” Fry began weakly.
“Which was?” Leela asked, never moving her eye from his face.
“Ummm?” he offered hopefully. The cyclops rolled her eye and stalked out of the room.
Just when he thought he knew what feeling miserable was like, he found out he was wrong. His right calf jabbed at him in scornful agreement. His spirits lifted almost a picometre when Leela returned a minute later with a wet cloth, a glass of water and a couple of Trylenols. Opiates for the muscle masses.
She lifted his head and gave him the pills, washing them down with the water. With almost unnatural strength, Leela pulled him to his feet and helped him over to the sofa. Once he was lying down, she brushed his tousled hair from his forehead and placed the damp cloth where it would be the most soothing. Fry tried to send her gratitude and love signals with his eyes, but her receiver was down.
“You are so lucky,” she chided. In that moment, despite everything, Fry had to agree. “Hermes is on his one day mandatory stress leave and the Professor is getting his hips upgraded. ‘The Captain,’” she muttered, switching oddly to the third person, “is feeling lenient today, so you’re gonna get off.” Fry completely misinterpreted that remark, so it was just as well the analgesics had gotten bogged down in the trenches of his stomach lining and blinding physical pain kept him mute.
Leela frowned down at him with such a serious expression that he felt a jolt run through him. “We all need a little stress reliever from time to time, Fry, but when it starts to affect work, it’s getting out of hand. Be careful.” With a friendly pat on the arm in parting, Leela left him alone to think.
She thought he had a drinking problem? Leela thought he had a drinking problem?! It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility, Fry had to admit, but still! Utter dismay conquered any last thoughts he had of sticking it out until the date. It was over. He had blown it, big time. Instead of a once-in-a-lifetime dream date, Fry had gotten a humiliating lecture from one of the few people whose respect he actually wanted.
Really, desperately wanted, and no chance of that now he realized.
When Amy wandered in, mid-pity wallow, she hardly noticed him.
“Hey, Amy.” His voice sounded strange to his own ears, like some depressed stranger had borrowed his voice box. He felt the absurd urge to toss a nickel at himself.
“Hmm? Oh. Hey, Fry.” She was obviously in one of her low-key moods and that suited him just fine.
“K’mere for a sec.” Amy glanced at him vacantly, then wandered over.
Shifting wearily, Fry fought back an unmanly whimper as he dug the hard won passes out of his pocket. “Some guy dropped off a couple of rocket skate tickets. Why don’t you show ‘em to Leela?”
The intern smiled brightly. “Oh, hey! I love rocket skating! Two tickets?! Maybe Armando-”
Fry tried to sit up in his alarm, regretting it fiercely a moment later, but Amy didn’t register it. “No! Uh, I mean, you know, maybe you need a girl’s night out or something.”
“With Leela?” Amy asked, faintly skeptical. He shot her a pleading look and she relented. “Alright. Well, whatever. I’ll go ask her.” Without another word, she grabbed the tickets and left the room.
“See ya, Amy.” At last Fry let himself sink into the embrace of the coffee (among other things)-stained couch. He started to drift off, despite the nagging worry that things would be even worse when he woke up again. Fry really, desperately tried to be happy that Leela, at least, would have a great evening, but he really, desperately failed.
“I’m just saying, it’s not like him!” Leela shouted over the noise of the happy, animated crowd.
“Yes, and you keep saying it,” Amy replied, rolling her eyes cutely in her own well-practiced technique. Leela frowned at her, unsatisfied.
“Well, I’m worr- mildly concerned about him, that’s all.”
“He’ll be fine, Leela,” she insisted, “he always is. You can’t honestly think Fry’s a drunk!”
Amy gasped as she narrowly avoided tripping over the perfectly level surface of the ice. When she steadied herself, the cyclops still looked miserable. Surprise, surprise. “I wouldn’t say so normally, but he was a complete mess this morning. Fry looked like he’d been playing Twister: F5 Edition with Zoidberg again, only without the smell, thank goodness. Besides, he’s so helpless against Bender’s influence." Leela looked completely anxious, and it was killing Amy's good time. "I just don’t know what’s going on with him, and I don’t like not knowing…” Leela trailed off, staring into space. Even without looking, the cyclops easily dodged a mitten that had gone astray. Melodic Asian curses whispered in Amy’s jealous ear.
“Leela, even Fry understands the difference between a robot and a human. He did really well in the “Things You Must Never Do for Bender” course that Hermes set up,” she offered helpfully.
Leela’s moody expression continued to stand in the way of Amy’s fun, so she switched tactics. “Look Leela, every man has his off days. Every once in a while, even Armando X. Cruz gets all melty, and not in the good way.” She felt she’d made some progress when Leela’s lips tensed just enough to add ‘confused’ to the thesaurus rich levels of unhappiness they were already expressing.
“There’s a good way to be ‘melty’?”
Amy lips did a few contortions of their own, investigating the many flavours of the word, ‘lecherous’. “Oh, yes,” she sighed. “That’s why I only date him on every second Tuesday in months with the letter ‘A’ in them.” Leela did not press her for details.
“Maybe you’re right,” the cyclops announced in the manner of someone trying to convince someone else of her sincerity while feeling entirely insincere. “I’m sure Fry’ll be fine. He’ll be up and around by now anyway, and after all, why should I throw away my entire evening just to chide him for being so miserable?”
Amy nodded. “That’s the spirit!” she replied supportively, all the while really desperately wishing she hadn’t accidentally dropped her little black book in a duck pond that afternoon. It was either invite Leela as Fry had suggested or pick up some random hot stranger, and she just wasn’t in the mood to put in that kind of effort today.
“Except, except that that’s just the sort of thing I would do,” Leela finished doubtfully. Amy blew out through pursed lips in irritation and Leela shot her an apologetic glance.
The older woman fired up the rockets and launched herself into a delicate spin that Amy couldn’t have done if her social life depended on it. Leela came out of the spin and returned to her easily. “It is wonderful to be here, with the cool breeze and the raw, scorching Freudian power under my feet.” With a sincerity that startled Amy, Leela added, “Thanks for inviting me, and tell your parents I said thanks, too.”
She frowned at the cyclops, “Why?”
Leela shrugged, “Well, I know they’re incredibly rich and all, so it wasn’t hard for them to get the tickets, but it’s still a nice gesture. You’ve got great parents.” Amy wasn’t particularly self-aware, but she knew she didn’t want to hear about how great her parents were. Leela’s eye took on that watery quality that usually warned of an impending bout of orphanarium-inspired self-pity.
“The tickets aren’t from my parents,” she said quickly, hoping to turn the tide. “I don’t know where they’re from actually.” At Leela’s surprised brow-wrinkling she added, “Fry said some guy dropped them off. He’s the one who suggested I invite you.” Amy hoped that would be some consolation for the cyclops. But she didn’t seem consoled, she seemed shocked.
Leela gasped dramatically. “So that explains it then!” Then she immediately calmed, adding nonchalantly, “I mean, what are the odds of you inviting me out on your own whim.”
Amy was hurt, but not surprised. She patted Leela’s arm in a sisterly manner. “Don’t feel that way, Leela. It’s not like your so freakish looking that I wouldn’t be seen in public with you.” She glanced around to make sure none of her cotillion friends were around before smiling kindly at the purple-haired woman.
“All you need is a little make up, and a better hair cut, and maybe lose a few pounds er,” Some of the hostility newly radiating in the air caught Amy’s attention but she couldn’t stop herself from adding, “and you really should do something about that unibrow…” Finally, Leela’s furious stare bored a hole into her armour of apathy and Amy managed to trail off in a verbal equivalent of her cursed clumsiness. Judging from Leela's expression, this conversation was not going to turn the tide and make it a fun evening. Nearly frantically, Amy tried to find something positive to say. After a few seconds, she blurted, “And you’re such a good skater! Makes you look much younger,” she added brightly. To Amy’s intense relief, Leela winked in surprise and a reluctant smile crossed her face.
“I guess, I guess I am a good skater,” she murmured, almost shyly, as if it was some sort of revelation. Amy knew Leela was very intelligent, and intense in every sense of the word. She was the only person Amy had met who could take down a Vampiric Richard Simmons clone without unattractively retching, yet Leela could completely fall to pieces over a more or less sincere compliment. She watched in strange fascination as Leela’s face began glow with defiant pride. “Yeah!” she yelled, startling more than a few skaters, “I am a good skater! You hear that, jerkwads?!”
Amy was quick to downplay the grinning lunatic beside her. “Ignore her. She’s off her meds. I’ve never seen this woman before in my life,” Amy hissed out a litany of blithe reassurances.
Leela either didn’t notice or didn’t care about their staring, launching herself into the air with a jubilant leap. Amy couldn’t help but feel a bit of envious adoration. “Physicality is definitely your friend,” she grudgingly muttered as Leela circled back.
“I’ve always had a bit of a knack for sports,” the cyclops announced cheerfully, forgetting her anxieties, at least for the time, “provided they aren’t heavily dependant on depth perception or teamwork. C’mon! Let’s skate!” Without waiting for Amy’s consent, Leela snatched hold of her arm and began dragging her forward.
“Okay, okay! Spleesh! Leela, let go!” Amy squeaked in terror before she managed to find her precarious balance. They skated together for a while in silence, Leela in a state of near rapturous joy, Amy breathing heavily as her heart fell back into its normal rhythm.
A guy swooped in front of them before turning to skate beside Leela. “That was suh-weet, skater babe! Where’d you learn to slag a hanky like that?” While Amy tried to recover from the slight of having Totally Hot Fantastic Stud completely ignore her to talk to Leela, the cyclops had launched into her life story.
“-so I attached the laser cutters to the sewer boots, and wallah! Cheap and highly destructive skates!”
“Wikipedic!” Totally Hot Fantastic Stud, Amy noted with distaste, was practically drooling. Typical of Leela to blow it, though, with all that talking.
“-and so he told me I would have spend the entire summer re-paving the courtyard. That’s how I picked up my first applied trade, too.”
Amy decided to intervene in the borefest. “Leela, why don’t you introduce me to your charm-” That did it. She had taken her delicately slanted eyes off the ice, and the long threatening, terribly patient, sword of Damocles dropped. Amy dropped too, just flopped down on the surface as though gravity had suddenly remembered that she had stolen it's boyfriend.
Fortunately, she’d been slightly ahead of Leela and so missed badly scorching her arm in the rocket’s flame. Unfortunately, she’d been slightly ahead of Leela and so did not miss tripping the cyclops, causing her to slam face-first into the rock-hard ice. THFS naturally escaped unscathed.
“Gnarly! Are you still biting?!” He bellowed, calling out to Amy as he turned Leela over.
“I’m fine, I’m fine!” she waved him towards Leela. Fear seized her heart and she felt colder even than the icy landing would justify. Even someone with the medical expertise of Zoidberg could see that it had been a bad fall. She burrowed her head in her hands. Leela had not even had time to scream.
“Is she okay?!” Amy shrieked, when no answers were forthcoming. Voices clamoured around them, but she could not pick out Leela’s from among them. “Leela? Leela?!”
“Easy, easy. Can you stand?” Amy uncovered her face and allowed a woman to haul her to her feet. She couldn’t even see Leela’s head for all the worried people peering at her. Suddenly, someone gasped, “She is messed up! Look at her eye!” She’d fought back a wave of panic before she understood the message behind the horror.
“She’s only got one eye!” A rush of sympathetic mortification washed over her as the anonymous chatter began flying.
“What on earth is it?”
“No, keep the children back!”
“Some sort of monster-”
Amy instantly repented of every unkind word she’d ever sent in Leela’s direction. “Get the hell away from her if you’re not going to help!” she snarled, shoving bigots out of the way. Some of the crowd began to take their thoughtless gossip elsewhere; others turned their attention to the attractive, enraged Asian who had lapsed into Cantonese curses.
“What, are you a friend of that-”
“Her name is Leela, you a-”
“Ow.” Amy spun in a circle and eight hands reached out to keep her from falling again at the breathy, patently anti-climactic sound. Leela didn't even sound human.
“Leela?!” Amy shrilled, elbowing an idiot out of the way so she could finally see what had happened. Blood, was her first thought and it sent her into a spiral of recrimination.
“Whoah, dudette,” THFS murmured to her, “You better sit down before you fall down. I got this covered.” He gestured toward the benches. Amy continued to stare at the streaks of blood covering Leela’s face. Her eye was half-lidded and already beginning to swell. ‘She’s gonna be purple and lumpy for days,’ Amy thought, distressed.
“’my,” Leela slurred her name, “Amy, I’m fine. I just need to sit down.” The intern noted that there was no way Leela could get more sat down, but she didn't say anything. THFS was supporting the sprawled woman with one arm as he dug through a first aid kit.
It was only then that Amy realized that he worked at the rink. A few feet away, two more rink guards were watching anxiously, one holding a bulky two-way radio and the other trying to clear the scene. Totally Hot Fantastic Stud was proving to be very good in a crisis, and Amy filed away that thought for further consideration later.
More employees of the rink rushed onto the ice, sliding with practiced ease even with the heavy medical equipment they were carrying. “I’m alrigh-” Leela slurred, clutching her head in obvious pain. She began trying to get up, but was quickly forced back to her sitting position.
Amy moved forward to help, but was lost as to what exactly she should do. She noticed that someone was awkwardly trying to unlace her deactivated skates and instantly took over the task, glad for some way to help. Amy’s fumbling had little to do with her klutziness and everything to do with the adrenalin pumping through her blood.
Leela’s skin had taken on a distinctively grey tone and she wasn’t talking nearly enough for Amy’s liking. The observant woman had not missed the concerned glances flying back and forth where Leela couldn’t see.
After what seemed like an hour, she managed to work the large skates off Leela’s feet. They looked terribly cold on the ice, even with the hideous thick plaid socks she was wearing.
“Boots,” Amy told them, “I’ll get the boots!” before sliding wildly though the crowds to where they’d left their gear. After a quick debate, Amy kicked off her own skates and slid into her shoes, grateful that she’d worn rather grippy flats that evening. The ice was rough from the skates and surprisingly easy to walk on. She grabbed the boots and cut straight through the crowd, heedless of the wild maneuvers she was causing.
When Amy returned, she was startled to find Leela being escorted off the ice, walking mostly under her own power. “I have your boots,” she said quickly, rushing beside them. For a second, Leela peered at Amy through the narrow slit her eye had become, as if she’d didn’t quite understand. Then she smiled with an incomprehensible affection for the clunky footwear and tried to take them.
“Just wait, wait now, ‘til we’re off the ice.” One of the medical equipment guys said firmly.
Amy nodded quickly, and clutched the boots to her chest. With the blood wiped off her face, Amy could see the scratches that had caused them. Leela had evidently slid a foot or two when she’d fallen. The eye would be black for sure, but it was globviously still working. It was the head injury now, that was scaring Amy, but Leela’s colour had improved and the skate guards no longer looked so worried.
“Ma’am?” Totally Hot Charming Bedside Manner Stud called to Leela. “Ma’am, I need you to give these awesome rockers behind me permission to give you a shot of the Anti-Concussion stuff. It’ll make your brain feel totally hearty, and I promise it won’t hurt nearly as much as the brash crash did.”
Leela nodded her permission silently, but the man patiently kept asking her to repeat what he was saying until they were satisfied she understood. The cyclops improved rapidly after the injection, wondering about her skates and expressing her dismay at the spectacular way she’d humiliated herself. Politely, most of the employees excused themselves to file a coniferous forest worth of incident reports. Amy would have protested Leela’s claims of embarrassment, but Bedside Manner Stud beat her to it.
“Oh, man, you have totally no idea about humiliation, babe!” He grew suddenly less boisterous, “R.S. is a radical, but dangerous sport: accidents are bound to happen.” He laughed suddenly, “and you really are a punktacular skater compared to most. Just yesterday we had this one red-headed spudman, and he was hopeless.” BMS nodded and grinned crookedly at them. “I mean, really, “Little Dude was cruising all over the place, crashing and falling, didn’t know the first thing about R.S. Wouldn’t give up though, said he had to make a miracle for his chickita.” Amy glanced nervously at Leela, who looked like she’d been slapped in the face by Gamera, both literally and metaphorically.
“Did you catch his name?” Leela whispered.
BMS man shrugged, “Even if I did, I’m too much of a gentledude to tell you, sorry. Nice little biter, though. I figured he’d be here tonight actually, but I haven’t seen him. Bet he woke up with one ripping hydrogen ignited R.S. hangover though.” Leela choked quietly as Beside Manner Stud laughed again. “Poor guy, we didn’t even have to clean the ice, ‘cause he did it for us.” Amy smiled back at him, or rather, she bared her teeth in a hideous parody of a smile, really desperately wanting him to stop shoving the truth in their faces like a British nanny of steroids.
“So, um, is it all right if I just get her home then? Or should we maybe go to a hospital?”
“She’s seems to be alright now, so you can take her home, but it that headache gets worse, or if she nauseous or disoriented later then she oughta get that checked.”
“She,” came a nearly audible growl from the multihued cyclops, “would like to keep skating, if it’s all the same to them.
“Shmeesh, Leela, you’ve got to be crazy.” Amy began, but Leela cut her off in a manner so quietly threatening that it briefly took the cute out of Amy’s ‘do. Even Totally Hot Charming Bedside Manner Stud seemed to lose some of his masculine charm. He quickly spotted another dude in distress and excused himself for his next heroic mission.
“I’m skating, Amy, and I’m going to love it more than Bender loves stealing.” There was nothing weak or disoriented about that declaration, so Amy wordlessly pulled out her skates.
True to her word, Leela skated until last minute of the skate, fearlessly speeding around the area, exploring and experimenting with the power of the skates. The intensity of it frightened Amy, and she didn’t really understand why going home after a head injury was so completely unacceptable. She tried really desperately not to look worried as she watched the beauteous ferocity of Turanga Leela finding magic, surrounded by the unkind whispers of the world.
The faint hiss of a door sliding open stirred Fry from his light doze. Contrary to his usual habits, he had shown up quite early for work, despite being immersed in his body’s ongoing civil war. He had slept hardly a wink last night and that was only partly due to the fact that Bender had declared it Mexican Fiesta Night, purely to spite his Cuban neighbours. Naturally, war broke out and the robots had settled it in what Bender claimed was a time-honoured tradition: a yodeling contest. After Bender had been arrested for violating his court ordered singing abstinence, Fry was left alone with his thoughts. Ten minutes after that unbearable silence, he’d dragged himself out of bed and trudged wearily to work.
Fry really, desperately wanted to know if Leela’s evening had been as awesome as he had intended, but he wasn’t exactly sure what he was hoping for. In theory he wanted her to come in, radiating joy, but ... it had been without him. He tried to push the selfish thought away. Something good oughta come out of all this misery, and his great plan was ruined either way. “Oh, please, let her be happy,” he sighed wishing Bender was there to pull him out of this funk.
A whisper of lime-green fabric and the heavy soft thuds of a major pair of boots alerted him to Leela’s approach. He tried to smile, but regret and nausea turned it into a sickly grimace. It really was a good thing he was far too manly to cry. She came nearer and he snapped his eyes shut, pretending to sleep so he wouldn’t have to pretend to smile. Thud, thud, thud, thump. He didn’t have to see Leela to know she was watching him.
She looked down at Fry with unguarded fondness, a warm smile lighting her face despite the way it caused her skin to tighten painfully. Bruises striking enough last night were positively vivid that morning. The angry red scratches and dark blue colouring had sent Nibbler into an alarmed frenzy and belied Amy’s best efforts to cover them with makeup. Leela had greeted the intern’s unexpected arrival that morning with bemused acceptance. Amy had squeaked in dismay upon first seeing Leela, but then said nothing more about her appearance. Instead she’d practically ambushed her with foundation, powder, blush and substances Leela couldn’t guess at, let alone afford, for nearly an hour before Leela had finally, gently pushed her away.
“It’s fine Amy, there’s nothing else you can do. Some things just take time.” Leela didn’t understand Amy’s actions at all, no more than she understood Fry’s anonymously giving her the tickets, but she accepted it with gratitude nonetheless, trying to reassure Amy that everything would be fine, that one didn’t study Kung Fu without earning a few bruises, and that as long as Zoidberg was nearby, a purple faced, purple haired woman wouldn’t stand out from the crowd.
Amy hadn’t looked convinced, had in fact worn the same uneasy look she’d sported throughout the rocket skate, but Leela didn’t worry too much about that. Tomorrow she would remember the way she’d humiliated herself, the way people had stared and whispered, the way they always stared and whispered.
Today was for Fry.
So now she stood, watching him as he pretended not to notice her, something she’d done to him many times in the past.
What to say to him?
Another awkward few seconds and she smiled again, this time mischievously, coming at last to a decision. A couple quick strides and she flopped down on the couch where he was sprawled, half landing on his feet and causing his eyes to fly open.
“Leela! Oh, I didn’t see-”
And that was how long it took for his eyes to communicate with his brain, and then his brain to his mouth.
“Wha-?! What happened to your face?!”
Not a bad reaction time, considering it’s Fry.
Leela beamed at him before pretending to look exasperated. “Fry, nothing happened to my face. I only have one eye. Count ‘em, one.”
He stared at her, slack-jawed as he tried to process this bit of information. Finally, cautiously, he asked, “And... you we’re always ... that bluey-blacky colour.” Leela shook her head in amusement. “‘Cause I think I would have remembered that. I think.”
She laughed quietly and casually pushed his feet off the couch so she could slide next to him. Fry winced subtly and Leela cringed. “Sore?”
His eyes darted around anxiously as he tried to come up with an explanation. “Uh-?”
“Hung over again?”
He didn’t hear the apology in the question and stiffened immediately. “Aw, no, c’mon Leela, it’s not-”
She touched his shoulder quickly. “I know, I know. I’m teasing.” He looked away from her unhappily. “Listen, Fry, I’m really sorry. I was out of line yesterday.”
“Oh, well, uh I wasn’t drinking- I was, um-” He was still taking in her discoloured face.
Leela cut him off quickly before he could continue. Though she couldn’t say why, she didn’t want Fry to know that she knew. “You were working out.”
Fry blinked as his brain hiccupped. “What?”
She smiled sweetly at him. “I know you wanted to keep it a secret.”
“But you know, the results really show.”
“You’re definitely getting muscles, Fry.” She squeezed arm playfully as he tried frantically to understand what was happening. “I think it’s great that you’re trying to take better care of yourself.”
“Right...” the redhead said slowly. “Good.”
Leela nodded eagerly before leaning in closer. Fry looked distinctly nervous. “But I want you to know, Fry, that I think muscles are highly overrated. It's the heart, the heart that matters. Understand?”
“Yes?” It was pure question.
“Yes.” She patted him once again on the shoulder before leaning back with a sigh.
It took a few minutes for Fry to recover enough to ask again about her face.
“Oh that,” she shrugged it off. “I tripped last night.”
“While skating... I mean, you did go rocket skating last night, right? Um, with Amy?”
He looked so nonchalantly anxious. “Oh, yes. We did go skating. It was absolutely wonderful. Best time I’ve had in, oh, forever.”
Fry perked up a bit, a smile creeping onto his face like Zoidberg on Professional Competence Day. “So you really liked it, huh?”
Leela looked him right in the eyes and beamed at him. “It was an amazing evening. It was... it was magical.”
Fry nodded slowly, his eyes sparkling with dawning satisfaction. “Sounds like you had a perfect evening then.”
“Pretty much.” They sat together in companionable silence for a few minutes before Leela reluctantly stood. “It’s 9:15. Duty calls.”
“A captain’s work is never done.”
“Not with this crew.” But she smiled to ease the criticism.
Fry gave her a teasing little wave. “Go on then, Captain. I’ve got important delivery boy things to do here.”
Leela rolled her eyes then headed towards the lockeroom. Just as she reached the door she paused, turning back to him. It would never happen, but still- “Oh, Fry. Next time I go rocket skating, why don’t you come too? It’ll be fun.”
He sat up immediately. “Me? Really?”
“You really want me to come skating with you? Really?”
She chuckled but not without a bit of wistfulness. “Really.”
“Yes, desperately!” Leela laughed out loud.
Fry couldn’t quite believe it. “Desperately?” he repeated skeptically.
“Yes. Really, desperately. Now go back to sleep.”
Fry obediently snuggled back down into the battered couch and Leela left him, but not before she heard him mutter, “Heh, heh. It all went according to plan.”