Hello friends! I meant for this one to take place around "The Fight" or really just before "Road Trip."
Also, sorry to plug my own story, but I have recently posted Harry Potter/Parks and Rec crossover I think some of you guys might be interested in. Anyways, enjoy!
4:00 PM was one of Leslie's favorite times of the day. Any chaos had usually come to a close, sunshine made the office warm and bright, and she finally had a spare moment to go over her planner.
Leslie cracked open the massive blue binder she used to plan her life and found her place. She liked to start by going over the events of that day. Meeting w/ Councilman Howser 11 AM. Done. Pay back Donna for lunch Tuesday. Done. Pawnee Goddess Meeting 7 PM. She had circled that one to remind herself that Ann had an important date tonight and couldn't come. But that was no problem. She was sure she and April could—
Leslie bolted up. April. April was gone. She and Andy had left last night on an impromptu trip to Disney World. She was a little frustrated that April had decided to neglect one of her responsibilities, but it wasn't that big of a deal. Surely, she could handle the Goddesses by herself…
Only there were a lot of them and only one of her…
Well, never mind. Leslie was just about to sit back down when she remembered the location of tonight's meeting. The Rec Center had been booked by the Reasonabilists for their monthly meeting, so the Goddess councilors had decided to hold it at April and Andy's place. And they were conveniently gone.
The meeting was in three hours. There was no way to get a message out to all of the girls in time about the change of locations.
Leslie was considering different ways to break into April and Andy's home when she remembered that they weren't the only two living there anymore.
She sat back down. That would certainly fix both of her problems. But did she really want to ask him? Knowing Ben, he'd say yes, but would he really want to? And even though this was technically a work thing, it was after hours…and at his house…
Kind of dangerous.
Sighing, Leslie stood again. If she was going to ask for his help, she needed to do it right now.
Ben was doodling. He would never admit to anyone that he did this, but on the off chance he let his mind wander, it was nice to at least feel like he was being productive.
He wasn't sure what this particular doodle was. It had started off as the sun but then had somehow morphed into a horrifying face akin to something he'd had a nightmare about as a kid. It had been a strange turn of events.
Ben jumped what felt like six feet in the air. "Oh, hi Leslie." She was standing on the other side of his desk. He let himself calm down, but not by much. "It's a…well, I'm not really sure what it is, but I think I need to destroy it."
Leslie twisted her lips and took a look at the strange dark, inky mass that Ben had let take over one of his spreadsheets. "Well, I don't know. I think maybe it could be salvaged. You could turn it into…a cupcake! Just color over the eyes and then add a base. And then add frosting and sprinkles."
"Well, now I really want cupcakes."
She laughed, and Ben could feel himself smiling at her. Then he remembered she had surely come in here for a reason. "Did you need to talk to me about something?"
"Yes. I have kind of a big favor to ask you. And keep in mind that it's totally okay to say no."
"…Okay." Honestly, he felt a little nervous. Both at the uncertainty of what she was about to ask and at the fact that if it was something he didn't want to do, he wasn't sure he had the ability to say no to her.
"So, April was supposed to host the Pawnee Goddess meeting tonight. But, you know, she and Andy went to Disney World—"
"Yeah, there's no way they went to Orlando. I've seen their finances, I doubt they could even make it to Cleveland."
"…Anyways, she and Andy are gone, which means that I have no place to have the meeting unless you can help me out and host it. Also…Ann can't make it tonight, so I was kind of hoping you'd chaperone. I mean, the Goddesses are very well behaved, so really you'd mostly just have to stand there."
Ben considered this. He didn't have a problem letting the girls come over, it was the chaperoning thing he was little nervous about. He liked kids, and Leslie was right, the girls were old enough to mostly look out for themselves. But still, the thought of a room full of preteen girls staring at him made him…apprehensive.
But he had to do it. He had been right; faced with this opportunity now, no way he could say no. He wanted her to think the best of him, and besides, a night spent with Leslie at his house was certainly a nice bonus.
"You'll do it?"
"Yeah, yeah. It's no problem."
"Great! Thank you so much, Ben. It's gonna be so much fun! So, I'll meet you at your place after work then?"
He liked the sound of those words. "Yeah! Yeah, totally."
At 5:30, there was a knock on Ben's door. He opened it to Leslie, her hands full with bags of supplies for the meeting. There was something different about her Ben couldn't stop staring at as she walked in. He couldn't figure out what it was until she put all of her supplies down and it came to him—she was wearing normal clothes. Jeans, to be specific. She looked nice in them, although he tried not to look too hard.
Also, her hair was different. At work, she always wore her hair the same, but now she had it in a ponytail. He liked that he could see her face better.
"Okay, so there are a few things that need to be done," she told him, snapping him out of his daydream. "We need to decorate, specifically the living room, cookies need to be baked, and we need to prep the craft supplies."
"Cookies should probably be done last, so they'll be nice and warm when the girls get here."
"Let's decorate first."
Leslie went into the living room and set a large pink bag on the couch. She began taking things from it, banners, posters, paper lanterns. A lot of stuff. He was beginning to see why she had asked for his help.
"Wow," he said when she was done. The couch was covered with decorations.
"Yeah, I know. It's a pain in the butt, but the Goddesses love it. Makes the meeting feel more like a party, you know?"
"Okay, you're taller, so why don't you hang the lanterns?"
So, he got a step stool out of the closet. Leslie opened the lanterns and tied them to strings, and he hung them from the ceiling. They did the same thing with various brightly colored banners. When that was done, Leslie hung a poster on the wall with a list of which girls had gotten which badges. Ben looked at some of the offered badges. Sassiest Snowflake. Best Braider. Math Wizard. Cutest Socks.
"Oh crap, it's already 6:00? How is it already 6:00? Okay, okay. Let's organize the craft supplies," Leslie told him, and they set to work immediately. There were glue bottles, paint, colored paper, markers, popsicle sticks, scissors, and even some blank coffee mugs for the Goddesses to decorate.
"Okay, no way the budget for the Goddesses is this expansive," Ben said. He smiled at her. "You're paying for most of this stuff, aren't you?"
"No, no…well, yes, I am paying for most of it."
"Of course you are."
"But it's worth it! It's totally worth it. It's so much fun! You're going to have so much fun. And the girls love it, and…it's the club I would have wanted when I was their age."
"Honestly, I think I would have too."
"Time for cookies!" Leslie went back over to her bags and began pulling out ingredients, setting them on the kitchen counter. Sugar, eggs, butter…
"You know, I have most of this stuff, you didn't have to bring it all," Ben told her.
"Well, I wanted to be prepared. Plus, I mean, you're already giving me your house and like a ton of your time, so…"
"Okay, the only thing I was going to do tonight was watch about a dozen episodes of Alias and probably eat a lot of ice cream. I should be thanking you."
"You have ice cream? What kind? Never mind. Do you know how to make cookies?"
"Yeah, of course."
"But do you have the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe memorized?"
Not at all surprising. Ben grabbed a bowl and a wooden spoon. "Then, by all means, direct me."
Leslie smiled at him in that way that sometimes made him want to hit himself with a hammer. He smiled back at her. "Okay," she said. "Butter first."
At every step of the dough-making process, Leslie kept dipping her fingers into the bowl.
"Leslie, it's—I literally just put raw eggs in there."
"Yeah, but come on…I mean, has anyone ever gotten sick from eating raw eggs?"
"But what are the chances? Again, worth it."
When the dough was finally done, Leslie shaped all the cookies and put them on three big sheets. Of course, for nearly every cookie she placed, another scoop of dough went directly into her mouth.
"There's not going to be anything left if you keep doing that," Ben told her, watching her from the living room.
"You know what, it's—there's plenty. You just don't know what deliciousness is, Ben."
While the cookies baked, Leslie went over the meeting's itinerary with him. First, they were going to share about their weeks while they ate cookies. Then, they were going to do crafts. Then, they would have what Leslie referred to as "Open Floor Time" when the girls could take turns singing or sharing stories or poems they had written, like an open mic night. Leslie had marked off a half an hour, so the Goddesses could choose an activity for themselves, and then finally, the badge ceremony.
The kitchen timer Ben had made Andy and April buy a few weeks ago beeped and Leslie bolted up from the couch, grabbing a kitchen towel to protect her hands. The first two trays came out fine, but the third one…
"OW! Crap on a corn cob!"
"You okay?" Ben asked, standing up.
"Ow ow ow ow ow ow…"
"Well, run it under cold water," he told her, turning on the faucet. She put her burned finger underneath the water and cringed.
"Are the cookies okay? They didn't get smooshed, did they?" She asked.
"They're fine. They look delicious."
"Oh, thank God."
"How's your finger? Feeling any better?"
"Eh…I don't know…"
"Okay. Let me see." He turned off the water and grabbed her hand, looking at the burned finger. "Oh, it's not that bad. See? There's not even a blister."
"Then why does it feel like Satan just spit on it?"
Ben couldn't help but laugh, and then Leslie laughed too.
And he was still holding onto her hand. A bad idea.
But he wasn't letting go. In fact, Ben could feel his fingers wrapping around hers tighter, and he couldn't break eye contact with her.
It was one of those moments when, in any other situation, a voice inside of Ben's head would have been screaming, KISS HER YOU IDIOT. This time, however, the voice was banging on pots and pans with a wooden spoon, telling him, NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
And had she somehow gotten closer to him? He was relieved when finally she broke eye contact, but then she started staring…at his lips.
That was about a thousand times worse.
Then the doorbell rang.
Leslie smiled at him and let go of his hand. "I should…get that."
"Yeah, yeah, of course."
Thank God. Ben breathed a sigh of relief at first. And then, watching her answering the door and inviting the first carpool of Goddesses inside, he felt a pang of…disappointment? Had that been his chance? Maybe he should have just done it. Maybe he should have just…kissed her. He knew he had wanted to. A lot. He was starting to think any consequences brought on by this action would be far preferable to…this. The wanting her. The really, really wanting her.
Okay. He had work to do. Very punctual Goddesses were arriving more and more by the minute, and it was time for cookies.
"Ladies, I am so proud of you all. Five minutes after 7:00 and you are all here! Now that's what I call punctual!" The Goddesses cheered, and Leslie clapped. "Very impressive. Who needs to be fashionably late when you all already look amazing?" More cheers, more claps.
Leslie looked up and saw Ben in the kitchen, putting cookies on paper plates. She hadn't asked him to do that. Her heart pounded looking at him. Just a few moments ago, she had almost lost her mind. She thought of it again, his fingers curling around her hand, slowly. It had taken everything in her power to not just…
No. She couldn't have this conversation with herself again. And besides, there were more pressing matters. "So, tonight we're going to start with cookies and share time. But, before we get to that, I'd like to introduce someone. Ms. Perkins and Ms. Ludgate couldn't be here tonight, so my friend Ben is here. Ben, say hello."
The girls drifted their attention to Ben, whispering and giggling about him.
"Um…hi, everyone," he said, stepping into the living room. "I'm Ben. Wyatt. Hi." He cleared his throat. "I…work with Ms. Knope. I'm in the City Manager's office, which is as boring as it sounds."
More giggles and whispers from the girls. Leslie smiled at him, a clear expression of HELP in his eyes. "So…who wants to share first?"
A few hands went up. "Lauren?"
As Ben passed out cookies, Lauren shared about her amazing grandmother, who had taught her to knit. She was now selling hats and scarves and donating the money to saving the blue whales.
As cookies were consumed, each girl shared a similar story until only Ben and Leslie remained. They sat next to each other on the living room floor, empty plates in front of them. "Well," said Leslie. "I learned a new recipe for hot chocolate that is AMAZING. It tastes like…the tears of a Pegasus."
Ben and the girls laughed. Leslie smiled at Ben encouragingly. "Um…I clearly don't live as an exciting life as you guys do, because I…have no idea what to say." Leslie had thought of something for him and started mouthing words in his direction. "Oh!" He said. "Yeah, so…Leslie told me that I should watch Planet Earth, that documentary series…" Already the Goddesses were vocalizing their support. "And, yeah, you guys are right, it was amazing. I mean, the cinematography is…breathtaking, and the voice of David Attenborough…I mean, I almost fell asleep. Several times, actually."
Then the girls started clapping for him, Leslie included. Clearly, the Goddesses loved Ben already. No surprises there.
During craft time, Leslie decorated a mug for Ann, with sparkles and pink flowers and her name on it, right in the center. Leslie told Ben that the girls were strongly encouraged to create something honoring an amazing woman. Ben asked if that woman could be fictional, and she had said of course, so, Ben painted a mug dedicated to Dana Scully from The X-Files, one of his favorite fictional characters. One of the geekier Goddesses, Casey, was delighted by this and she and Ben spoke about their favorite episodes and various fan theories. Of course, Leslie didn't understand any of what they were saying but was glad that Ben had found a friend.
Later, after all the girls had taken turns sharing their songs, art, or writing, Leslie got up to read a story she had written, about a dragon who sacrifices herself for her master, a beautiful warrior named Matilde the Brave. Some of the Goddesses were crying by the end, and every time she looked up, Ben looked enthralled. That made her happy.
Leslie gave the girls a few minutes to decide what they wanted to do for their free time, and, just as she taught them, they held a public forum. Most of the girls wanted to do a braid train, but Casey's hair was too short, and it was the public consensus that the activity should be something all of the Goddesses could participate in. Casey, however, said she was fine setting herself aside for the good of the group, and though there was an outcry, she insisted. So, braid train it was.
While the girls braided, Leslie, Ben, and Casey discussed Enchanted, a movie they all three loved with a burning passion.
Then the badges. Leslie bestowed badges for Coolest Scrunchie, Best Listener, Yummiest Mac N Cheese Recipe, and Sweetest Laugh. To Casey, she gave the Dragon Badge for her sacrifice. Yes, she had created a badge based on her story. And she stood by it.
"I have one more badge to give out," Leslie told the girls. "To Mr. Wyatt, I grant Most Helpful."
The Goddess cheered for Ben as he accepted his badge, pressing it awkwardly on his tie. "Thank you, Leslie," he said, smiling at her. She had wanted to give him Best Smile, but that might have been too much.
And then the meeting was over. Carpools came for the girls in waves. Leslie talked to the girls while Ben did dishes in the kitchen. Just as the last group was leaving, three of the Goddesses came up to Leslie. "Ms. Knope," whispered Lauren. "Your boyfriend's really cute."
"Oh, well, he's not my—" Her voice caught in her throat watching him wash the cookie trays. Another thing she hadn't asked him to do. She turned back to the girls. "I know, right?" She whispered.
And then all the girls were gone, and it was just her and Ben again. The house seemed very quiet. "So," she said, "what'd you think?"
"It was actually really fun, I have to say," he told her. "I can see why you're willing to spend so much money on this. And those girls…really look up to you, Leslie. Watching them…I don't know, I just…can't help but believe maybe they'll all be just like you one day."
This time, she was on the couch, him in the kitchen. Much safer, at least.
"Thank you, Ben. You know, that…means a lot to me."
"Well, you're welcome." There was a brief pause, and then Ben looked up at the ceiling. "There are twenty paper lanterns hanging from my ceiling. And it's 9:45. Should we get to work?"
Ben took down the decorations while Leslie organized the craft supplies once more and put them away. She detached the lanterns from their strings and made them flat again for next month's meeting. She safely stored away the cookie ingredients. By 10:15, all of her bags were by the door ready to go. Ben helped take them to her car, and once they were all loaded up, he opened her car door for her. "See you tomorrow?"
She smiled. "Yeah. See you tomorrow."
As Leslie drove home, her thoughts were reeling again, weighing advantages and disadvantages, searching for any possible way they could be together. But after a few minutes, she stopped. She remembered Ben's words to her, his grip on her hand, his willingness to help her. Leslie decided that it was nice to think about what these things meant.
There was a wonderful and adorable man who found her equally wonderful and adorable. He thought she was desirable, intelligent, powerful. He was good with kids. He was very funny. When he looked at her sometimes she couldn't breathe.
That in itself was a miracle. She was going to focus on that.