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The Start of a Beautiful Something

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Things were just starting to get very, very nice when Bender's head popped up at the foot of the bed.

"So that's what it looks like when two meatbags are goin' at it without a robot involved," he said in a tone of mild interest. "I always wondered."

Leela let out a scream and would have reflexively kicked Bender in the face if Fry hadn't been on top of her at the time, inadvertently blocking the movement of her knee with his exposed and vulnerable stomach. He yelped and rolled off her, clutching his midsection. She sat up and glared.

"Bender! What are you doing in here?!"

"I sleep here now," Bender said. "Didn't Fry tell you? I thought you two lovebirds shared everything."

"Fry?" said Leela, her voice dangerously patient. "Is this true?"

"Uh, yeah." Fry uncurled a little and smiled weakly. "He was jealous because I was spending so much time with you, so I told him he could sleep under my bed. It's kind of like a slumber party! And kind of like having a puppy."

"Bender," said Leela, "is nothing like a puppy."

"No?" said Bender, his voice trembling a little, as he performed an astonishingly good hurt puppy dog expression for someone with square eyeballs and an evil disposition.

"Aww," said Leela, immediately hating herself for it, but unable to stop.

"See?" said Fry. "That's the face he made!" He sat up carefully. "Anyway, you let Nibbler stay in the room with us at your place."

"That's different!"

"It's not either different!" said Fry. "It's creepy. Sometimes he just... stares. I think he's taking notes to send back to his home planet."

"This," said Leela, extremely unamused, "is not about Nibbler."

Fry, wisely deciding to leave Nibbler out of it, turned his attention back to Bender, who had stopped doing his puppy impression and was now lighting a cigar. Leela was pleased to note, not for the first time, that despite having twice the number of eyes, Fry's glare was nowhere near as good as hers. Well, she had put in a lot of practice. "You were supposed to be asleep!" he said accusingly.

"Yeah, well, it's kinda hard to stay in sleep mode with all the disgusting squishy noises coming from up here," Bender said, finally extending his legs to stand up the rest of the way.

"My squishy noises are not disgusting!" Leela protested.

"I think your squishy noises are beautiful," said Fry.

"Thank you, Fry."

Bender rolled his eyes. "Whatever. You two just keep enjoying your little delusion. Don't let me stop you."

"And just what is that supposed to mean?" said Leela.

"Well," said Bender, "you might not have noticed, on account of how Fry never took my advice about putting mirrors on the ceiling--"

"I was gonna," mumbled Fry at the same moment that Leela breathed, "Thank God." They exchanged a brief glance and mutually decided to pretend neither of them had said anything.

Bender took a puff on his cigar and continued. "But when it comes to the horizontal mambo -- by which I mean sex -- you two suck. And not in the good way. You suck in the sucky way."

"That's not true!" said Fry, before Leela could finish deciding whether now was the time to attempt Plan Kick Bender in the Face again or not. "My sexy moves are totally sexy! They are cool. And smooth. And smokin' hot!" He made a gesture with his hand that seemed to indicate shivering, smoothing something, and then bursting into flames. Or maybe he was just developing some kind of space palsy after their visit to the Planet of Infectious Diseases last week. "Right, Leela?"

"Your moves are very nice," said Leela and patted him gently on the knee.

"See?" He gave Bender a smug look. "Leela thinks I'm a stud."

"That's 'cause she's never had a real man," said Bender.

"Hey!" they both yelled, at exactly the same time, in exactly the same tone of voice.

"That's pretty good harmony," said Bender. "If you could pull that off in the sack, you might be a little less pathetic. Here. Let me give you some pointers." And suddenly, he was climbing into the bed with them, clambering over Fry to get between them. Fry let out another yelp as a foot cup thwacked his stomach again in passing.

"Bender!" Leela cried.

"Shut up, baby! Let Bender show you how it's done!"

"Bender! Get out of-- Oh." Leela stopped abruptly and blinked in surprise. "Wait a minute... That vibrates?"

"Wow," said Fry.

And then things got very, very nice again.

**

Leela woke up slowly, gradually becoming aware of a body next to her. A soft body, surrounded by the faint, familiar smell of junk food and sweat. "Mmm," she murmured sleepily, and cuddled up a little.

A moment later, she became aware of another body on the other side of her, rather more cold and metallic, surrounded by a slightly less familiar smell of cigar smoke and oil. "Mmm," she murmured again, turned over, and cuddled up some more.

Then full consciousness kicked in. She sat bolt upright, blinked, and slowly turned her head to either side. Fry lay on her right, curled up with his thumb not quite in his mouth. To her left, Bender emitted a gentle electronic snore, twitched, and muttered something about cops.

"Good lord," she said. It came out sounding much less shocked than she would have thought the situation called for, but it's hard to be properly freaked out when you're feeling... What exactly was she feeling? Happy? Huh.

Fry stirred a little, rubbed his eyes, and yawned. "Uh, Leela?" he said. "Did we have sex with Bender last night, or was that something I dreamed?"

"You wish your dreams were that good," came a voice from the other side of her, followed by a belch. "Morning, meatbags! I'll make breakfast!" Bender opened up his chest compartment, pulled out three beers, and handed two of them to Fry and Leela. He chugged his, and without much hesitation Fry did the same. Leela shrugged and took a sip. It wasn't bad.

"Is this weird?" said Fry. "Should I feel weird now?"

"It's extremely weird," said Leela. "But it was... kind of good."

"It was the best you losers have had, and you know it," said Bender.

Which, now that she stopped to think about it, was actually true. Leela avoided meeting Fry's eyes, until she suddenly realized Fry was avoiding meeting hers. "Oh," she said out loud, wondering if she ought to be offended, but unable to work up any real indignation.

"So, uh," said Fry, "Maybe we could do it again sometime? Like... maybe tonight?"

Bender produced another cigar from somewhere and leaned back, folding his arms under his head. "Eh, maybe. If I don't have anyone better to do," he said. He looked extremely self-satisfied. Or just satisfied? Probably both, Leela decided. Well, maybe for once he was actually entitled.

"This," she said, shaking her head, "cannot possibly work."

But then, she'd been wrong about relationships before...