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“April! I heard about the plane crash. Are you and Ben okay?” Leslie panicked, her hands shaking as April finally answered her frantic calls. Ben’s number had been going straight to voicemail for ten minutes, and she had finally called April instead.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” April answered groggily, “They just got me out, and they’re going to take me to a hospital.”

Leslie sighed in relief. April was safe. She could hear the fire trucks and police sirens in Washington D.C., as if they were mocking her. Laughing at her panic and her worry. All her fears had come true in one day.

“What about Ben?” She was almost afraid to ask.

The other end went silent. Leslie inhaled, preparing herself for the worst.

‘No, she could be handing the phone to Ben,’ the positive side of Leslie screamed, ‘Ben’s fine! You still have the love of your life! He’s fine and April’s just trying to scare you, like she always does. Everything is fine!’

‘Or, he could be dead,’ the negative side of Leslie cried, ‘We could’ve just lost the most important man in our life and now we’ll enter a deep depression where we will survive on waffles for the rest of our life and never do anything again!’

The line crackled. Leslie held her breath. “April, is Ben with you?”

“Leslie, who’s Ben?”

One Year Ago

“Ben, that was amazing!” Leslie breathed. Her eyes shined with an undeniable Leslie Knope passion. Ben found that to be quite the charming point.

“Are you sure about that?” Ben responded with his eyebrows raised questioningly.

“Yes! It’s the best film I’ve seen in my entire life! All about Joe Biden…” she fawned as Ben looked concerningly at her, almost bepuzzled. It had taken a lot of pleading and one calzone for him to finally give in to her pleas. She was surprised she had to do so much. The movie literally featured Joe Biden himself!

“Yes, I enjoyed learning so much about Joe Biden and his… passion for Amtrak,” Ben said with just a slight tinge of sarcasm. Small enough for Leslie to disregard.

“I think it should win all the Oscars. All of them!”

“All of them?”

“Yes! I mean, wow. Joe Biden, Ben! It’s Joe Biden!”

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Leslie groaned, pulling herself up slowly.

“I’ll go get it,” Ben laughed, “I’ll be right back. It’s probably your teacups, Madame.”

“They do package deliveries at night? That’s later than usual,” Leslie commented absentmindedly, “Usually they stop by in the afternoon and just chuck it at the door. Wait, they better not chuck it this time! Those are made of real glass!”

Ben rose from his spot next to Leslie, leaving an empty presence besides her. She could still feel the warmth of where his cute butt had been.

“Probably got lost or something, maybe a new driver,” he guessed, “But, at least they’re here!”

“Do you think they were watching the Joe Biden movie and that’s why they were late?” Leslie asked, buzzing with anticipation.

“Probably not,” Ben chuckled from across the room as he opened the door.

Leslie chose to take the time and check her phone which had blown up with messages from her best friend, Ann Perkins, who was just so absolutely perfect in every single way and wanted to know all the details about her steamy movie night with Ben. Who was also perfect.

Frantically texting back, she sent approximately fifty messages before noticing that Ben had yet to return. Stretching her neck, she saw Ben and a woman conversing passionately. She did see a box in Ben’s hands though, so it was probably the delivery service.

Ann: [What are you doing right now?]

Leslie: [He got up five minutes ago to go answer the door and he’s been talking to the mail lady since then. I don’t know what’s taking him so long. Hopefully it’s nothing.]

The door closed shut with a bang and the tinkering of teacups filled the room.

“How much did she order?” Leslie could hear Ben mutter to himself.

Leslie: [Oh, never mind, my beautiful bunny, he’s back!!! Okay bye!!!! I love you so much!!]

“Hey, sorry that took so long. I had to register my signature or something, then confirm my relation to you. That stuff. Anyways, your teacups. Where… do I put them?” Ben queried, his eyes scanning Leslie’s hoarder nest of a house.

“Oh, you can just set them on the table! There’s an empty space there… probably…?”

When Ben had first stepped foot in Leslie’s house, Ann had pulled him aside beforehand and warned him.

“Ben, her house is a hoarder’s nest,” Ann had looked him dead straight in the eyes. “I’m not exaggerating. She has everything you could think of, and not in a good way.”

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” Ben blew her concerns off, “I live with Andy and April. It can’t get worse than their mess of a house.”

“Ben, I found my sock that I thought I lost six months ago buried under her bird cages.”

“She has birds?”

“She doesn’t.”

If Ben had to describe Ann’s claims about Leslie’s house, he would have described them as underexaggerating. Somehow, his cologne had ended up under the bird feed. And he was very sure he hadn’t stepped foot in her house before that.

Ben had even offered to help Leslie clean up, but Leslie had yelled at him for trying that with her.

“Ben, all these items have value! They have stories! You can’t just throw them away; their story can’t end there!” Leslie had protested when Ben gently suggested the idea of getting rid of some of the bird feed.

“Leslie, what story could bird feed have?”

“A deep, passionate one!”

A deep, passionate one. Also a description of his love for her.

Unsurprisingly, the table Leslie claimed that “had an open space” sure didn’t. Leslie’s table was stacked to the maximum, but Ben did catch a (miraculously) empty space on the floor. He smiled to himself. It was such a Leslie thing to do. Order more stuff to stuff the already stuffed home she had.

If they ever lived together, Ben would definitely be the one cleaning up behind her (and also throwing away stuff like the bird cages and the bird feed she had ordered). He had already started the practice of throwing Leslie’s belongings away without her noticing because they were getting rats and rats in a home were never good. Besides, Ben was very sure Leslie would not need that much sugar in her diet.

“Oh, fuck!” Ben cursed, glancing at the clock, “it’s already nine? Crap, I’ve got to start heading back to Andy and April’s place.”

“You could stay the night,” Leslie offered, her eyes like a pleading dog’s. Ben rapidly shook his head and squinted his eyes.

“Leslie, remember how I woke up next to a squirrel? As much as I love animals, I don’t think I’d like to recreate that experience.”

Leslie groaned. “Okay, but we could rewind Joe Biden’s Amtrak Life and watch it one hundred more times… you don’t have to go yet, Ben.”

“No!” Ben instantly protested, unable to control himself, “I think we’ve had enough of Joe today, Leslie.”

“Fine,” Leslie sulked, “But next week, we’ll watch Lil’ Sebastian’s documentary! The greatest tiny horse!”

“Oh god,” Ben muttered audibly.

“Ben, did you say something?”

“No, no, not at all!”

“Good. You love Lil’ Sebastian, right?”

Silence.

“Right?”

“Right! Yes! I love him!”

Leslie beamed and placed his hand in hers, lighting up at how Ben had come to appreciate Lil’ Sebastian as well. She considered Ben perfect, but not liking Lil’ Sebastian had been a cardinal sin and would’ve been the only reason she would break up with him.

Okay, since he’s Ben, maybe she’d excuse him for that. Maybe.

If he fed her enough waffles with extra whipped cream from J.J.’s diner.

J. J.’s Diner was Ben and Leslie’s go-to place for food anytime. J.J. had warmed up to Ben in the past few months, which wasn’t a surprise, because Leslie was pretty sure J.J. would know anybody who has now probably spent thousands on waffles. All for her.

“When I become president, I’ll come back every day for J.J.’s waffles,” Leslie had remarked vehemently to Ben, “It’s going to happen. Whether you like it or not.”

“Leslie, I doubt you’d have the time to return to Pawnee every day for waffles.”

“I’m president! I could just move Pawnee right next to Washington D.C., take the whole place with me, y’know? The best city in the world next to the second-best city in the world. It’ll be magnificent, trust me.” Leslie explained as she stuffed her mouth with waffles.

Ben would almost dare to say she was the Ron Swanson of waffles. Leslie was a budgeting nightmare, and he swore that J.J.’s business only thrived because of her. It was so typical of Leslie to be like that.

“How are you going to move an entire city?” Ben had asked amusedly. He loved hearing Leslie’s answers: fully planned out and completely unrealistic. Her passion and her love for government was something he hadn’t seen in so long.

It made him want to be like her. Passionate. Inspired. Ready to take on the world and change it. Something he hadn’t felt since he was named the “Ice Clown of Ice Town.” He actually felt motivated for once in his life to do better.

Of course, dating Leslie did have its downs. Like the thousands of dollars he had to spend on waffles instead of his very successful calzone place.

“Leslie, I’m going to go home now,” he pecked her on the lips as she looked pleadingly at him. “Andy and April definitely burned something down, so I have to take care of that ASAP.”

“Alright, hopefully they didn’t electrocute themselves again,” Leslie joked, but inside, they both shuddered at the memories. A loose wire in the bathtub (again) caused them to have to miss out on their romantic date night and spend it with Andy in the hospital. However, Leslie did see the best nurse in the world, Ann Perkins, who also gave her free candy!

“Bye,” he waved as he stepped out Leslie’s front door. She waved back and as the door shut and locked, she collapsed on her couch, cherishing the warmth that Ben had left behind. His scent was embedded into her house and she loved that.

Checking the time, Leslie decided to wash up and start a productive night of planning for her campaign as well as her full return to the Parks and Recreation department when this was all over. She had so many ideas, and a cup of tea was just what she needed to get the night started.

“Now where did Ben put those teacups,” she hummed to herself, peeking around the table. She knew that Ben had to set it on the floor, but she couldn’t see where. Ruffling through a lot of open cardboard boxes, she found everything but her teacups. Lotion from ten years ago, a rabbit plushie, saline solution even though she didn’t have contacts, and way too many bottles of soda.

She spent the next ten minutes searching for her teacups before finally deciding to just give up and call Ben. Leslie picked up her phone and dialled in his number, waiting for him to pick up.

Her call went straight to voicemail (which Leslie found odd… but he could still be driving, and she didn’t want to risk having him pick up and end in a car crash. That would be… unideal, to say the least).

Well, since she couldn’t use her brand-new teacups, she would just drink one of those carbonated drinks with all the sugar that Ann hated. What Ann doesn’t know what hurt her, she reassured herself.

She’d call Ben again in ten minutes, but right now, she was going to enjoy her night dedicating her hours to the local government.

Because she’s Leslie Knope. And Leslie Knope always works for the people and to better humanity.