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It wasn’t like Ben had a lot of stuff to move. The Pawnee Super Suites Motel was many things -- depressing, intrusive, riddled with bed bugs -- but 'filled with an abundance of space' wasn't one of them. Besides, Ben was still the undisputed master of the Pack Like You’re Going to Live Out of a Suitcase for Eight Weeks and Then Move Again school of organization. So he really only had two suitcases and a couple boxes, and he’d never expected Andy and April to offer to help with that anyway.

It was just the principle of the thing, you know?

On his second trip through the living room, Ben decided to embrace the song of his people: traditional Wyatt family passive aggression.

April and Andy were sitting on the floor, still eating turkey chili out of frisbees in front of Robot Chicken. Ben was pretty sure they hadn’t moved in the last five hours. He let his feet hit the ground more heavily as he walked past them -- a stomp with dignity.

“Honey,” said Andy without looking away from the TV, “honey, the mice are totally back again!”

Ben stared fixedly at the far wall, and then he carried the box of DVDs into his weird bare room and shut the door.

When flicking the light switch just inside the front door on and off didn’t work, Ben rolled his eyes and added ‘how to change a lightbulb’ to his mental list of things to teach April and Andy. He closed the door behind himself and then stumbled his way to his bedroom, tripping over several items along the way. The last one gave unpleasantly when he stepped on it, and he resolved not to look back and see what it was once he turned the lights on.

Then he hit the switch just inside his bedroom door, and nothing happened.

“Guys?” he yelled warily, in the general direction of muffled voices. “Why aren’t the lights working?”

“Oooooooh!” Andy vibrated his voice in an imitation of a sound effect that belonged on a cheap animatronic ghost somewhere. “It’s spoooooooookyyyy!”

“Come on, seriously!”

April’s complaint somehow carried without it sounding like she’d raised her voice at all. “The power company turned everything off or something! I don’t know what their problem is!”

“Um, I don’t know, maybe it’s because the bills sat in the freezer for a month!” Ben set his bag and coat on his bed, then dug into his pocket for his phone. Its weak light got him exactly nowhere.

“Whatever, Ben, it’s after six P.M. -- no electricity allowed!”

Andy brayed a laugh. “She’s so funny; you’re so funny, babe!”

“Do you guys really not own a single flashlight?!”

Five minutes later, Ben stared into the camera, face lit by the sickly light of a green glowstick. “We may not have power, flashlights, or candles, but we do have everything your average 16-year-old needs for a successful rave.”

One Saturday morning, Ben opened his bedroom door and immediately almost fell on his face.

“What--” he said.

Andy’s voice said, “Ben! Hey! You’re up!” from somewhere within the enormous pile of pillows and blankets that the living room had become. There were rustling noises and his head popped up over by the front door.

“Have you guys been to bed yet?” Ben asked dubiously, and he began carefully picking his way toward the kitchen.

“Watch it, Godzilla!” April yelled from somewhere inside the pillow fort.

“Nope! We totally haven’t slept,” Andy said cheerfully, and then he sprang out of the fort, knocked over two walls, and action-movie-rolled into Ben’s room.

“Hey!” Ben protested, freezing halfway across the living room and starting to turn back toward his room.

“Common space!” Andy called, laughing happily, and then he reappeared with Ben’s comforter in his arms. He threw it over the top of the fort and crawled back inside.

Ben looked at the fort.

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, that’s cool. Take my stuff without asking. I’m just gonna be over here.” He slowly started walking toward the kitchen again. There was no response from inside the fort. “Making coffee. Just makin’ the coffee.”

He caused as much noise as humanly possible while making the coffee, and only brewed enough for exactly one cup.

It was the little things.

“--I realize that I say these words often enough that they don’t have any meaning anymore, but what are you doing?” said Ben, standing just outside the kitchen with his eyebrows raised and his tablet tucked under his arm.

He apparently didn’t even rate high enough for April to bother to glare at him. She kept doing what she was doing, which was pouring something that looked suspiciously like glue into the waffle maker that Leslie had given him as a friendly housewarming gift. “Uhh, what does it look like I’m doing?” she asked, mocking.

“It … looks like you’re putting glue in the waffle maker,” he said, watching her shut the lid. Steam hissed and the waffle maker made a sound that he was almost sure it wasn’t supposed to make. The kitchen smelled like burning.

“We’re making wax waffles!” Andy called from the bathroom, and was he...? Yeah, they really needed to have a talk, again, about closing the bathroom door while it was in use. “Like wax fruit, but way better.”

Ben took a deep breath, then released it. It wasn’t worth it, he told himself. “Whatever. Did you at least call an electrician about that wire dangling over the tub?”

“Andy poked it with a stick and it didn’t kill him,” April said dismissively. “What, do you expect more than that?”

“...Yes,” said Ben.

“Not everybody lives with your weird 'standards,' Ben,” April said with finger quotes, somehow managing to make his name sound like an insult. She opened the waffle maker to reveal it caked with dried glue, and Ben would have sworn that he actually heard something inside his own brain snap.

Tu are the worst roommates I've ever heard of,” he burst out. “Yeah, I said it. Tu! Tu! Not usted!”

April stared at him for several long seconds, just enough for his skin to start to crawl. She finally stabbed two fingers at her own eyes, then at him.

“Yeah, okay,” said Ben, laughing and rolling his eyes, but he shot a leery look after her when she turned her back.

“What?” Andy yelled from the bathroom.

Late that night, Ben was catching up on the last three episodes of Mythbusters when he registered the steady drip-drip-drip of another faulty faucet. He sighed sharply and turned around to look toward the kitchen sink -- and found April standing behind the couch, staring down at him from roughly an inch and a half away.

Ben yelled and instinctively threw his bag of chips, sending Lays flying in every direction. “Oh my god! How long have you been there?!” he demanded.

“Long enough,” April said, ominous, and she swept off toward the master bedroom.

The next morning, when he opened his bedroom door, April was standing there.

That went on for three weeks.

Ben never used the informal tu again.

“Hello Ben,” said Leslie loudly, as she breezed in his office door. (Ben twitched. He still had some problems with people appearing suddenly.) “I have some questions for you about the budget gap in the latest draft of the Parks annual plan.” She stood in the doorway and looked at him.

“Uh, yes!” said Ben, stilted. “Leslie! Leslie Knope. You should come in.”

Leslie made expectant eyes at him.

“--You know what, that actually sounds like it’s going to be a sensitive conversation, which it would be prudent to have in private,” Ben added, pitching his voice a little louder.

“I agree,” Leslie said at the same volume, and then she shut the door and said, “Hello, Mr. Deputy City Manager,” flirty and smiling like sunshine. He grinned back at her, standing up and coming around his desk.

Leslie looked thoughtful. “Huh, that works better with ‘Mr. President.’ Or ‘Mr. Vice President’...” She trailed off dreamily.

“Or Ms. President,” Ben said, resting his hands on her hips, and they were both laughing -- Leslie’s that delighted, throaty chuckle that he loved -- as they leaned in for a quick kiss.

“--Glass door, glass door,” Leslie said urgently under her breath, and they sprang apart. She cleared her throat, walked to the chair in front of his desk, and sat down. Still grinning a little, Ben went around his desk and dropped into his chair.

“So I hear that these two people are going to have a super romantic date tonight; isn’t that crazy?” said Leslie, and Ben’s smile grew.

“Totally,” he said warmly. “Just -- bananas.”

“First: dinner at Zapana, where they will unfortunately be stimulating the Eagleton economy but they’ll see no one they know or who’s worth knowing, because Eagleton is where dreams go to die and demons in human form go to spawn,” she said, “which will be followed by a stroll under the stars in Pawnee’s finest park that stays open past 4:30 in the afternoon, and then, if everyone plays their cards right, they’ll go to your house and make out all over each others’ faces.” Her tone took a matter-of-fact tone right at the end, and she beamed at him.

Ben winced. “Yeah,” he said, “about that... I’m really sorry, Leslie, but we can’t go to my house. It’s basically the frat house from hell, with Andy and April.”

“--Whaaat? No,” Leslie said, suddenly sitting up straight in her chair; “it’ll be fine! I always wanted to go to a frat party with Andy and April! We can totally go to your house!”

“They are literally the two people I’d trust the least with any kind of secret,” Ben said dubiously.

“April and Andy are two -- very, deeply, trustworthy young people,” she said, in the way where it was very clear that she was grasping at straws, “and I can climb in the window! It’ll be romantic!”

“Why don’t I just come to your house?” Flirty: “We can watch that documentary on the Iran-Contra affair.”

“Or we could hijack a car, drive to Canada, and hop the first flight to Havana, how does that sound?”

Ben stared at her, nonplussed. “Uh, time-consuming, for starters,” he said, and then Leslie burst out, “Time! Gosh, time, look at the time, gotta go, see you later alligator!” and fled.

Ben sat and stared out the glass office door in her wake. “Leslie?” he called, and when she didn’t respond, he knew he was going to have to take stronger measures.

He followed her back to the Parks department.

“Hey,” he said after a quick rap at the door to Leslie and Tom’s office. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” Leslie looked up and her eyes widened. He added, “It’s about the Parks budget.”

“You -- can talk to Tom about the Parks budget!” Leslie said, pointing across the office. “Tom knows things!”

“No can do, Benihana,” Tom said, swiveling back and forth in his chair with the phone cradled between his ear and his shoulder. “I’m on hold with the company that makes Pipper Dippers.”

At their twin blank looks, he impatiently added, “The cashmere slippies with your face embroidered on the toes? Honestly, people!”

“Well, that sounds … productive,” Ben said. “Leslie?” He raised his eyebrows at her, and she sighed, got up from behind her desk, and followed him into the hall.

“Secret meeting place?” he asked.

“Secret meeting place,” Leslie agreed grimly, and they separated.

Ben passed Ann’s officemate Stuart walking fast in the opposite direction with his hands jammed in his pants pockets, looking deeply irritated. Ben blinked after him, then he reached the Department of Public Health and found Leslie pacing in Ann and Stuart’s empty office.

“I’m sorry I was a little weird earlier,” Leslie said as soon as he walked through the door.

“That? Weird? No,” Ben said. “People always proposition me for spur of the moment trips to embargoed countries.”

She laughed, then immediately sobered again. “But -- Andy and April, they’d totally notice if you didn’t come home at night, right?” she said, faux-commiserating.

“--No,” Ben said. He didn’t mention the horrors he’d sat through before investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.

“And they’d figure out, right away, that you were with me, so, that’s clearly out of the question!”

“Leslie, is everything okay?” he said. He lowered his voice, half out of the need for privacy and half out of sheer alarm and concern. “You don’t feel like I’m pressuring you, do you? Because I’m not; I’m totally happy to go at whatever speed you’re comfortable with--”

No,” Leslie said, so vehement it almost knocked him backward. “Absolutely not; I want to go very fast. NASCAR fast. Warp speed!!”

Ben was dating the perfect woman.

“I want to put my face on yours, do a little cuddling, watch a little History Channel -- and listen, one of these days, maybe tonight, maybe not, I’m gonna get a private viewing of that butt; I’m sorry, it’s just gonna happen,” she finished, smirking at him, and Ben grinned, pleased.

“Me too,” he said; “I mean, I feel the same way; so -- why Havana?”

“Um,” said Leslie, and her voice went up in pitch, “my house is a little messy.”

He was so relieved that he almost laughed. “Is that it? Really?” When she didn’t crack a smile, he said, “Leslie, I don’t care if your house isn’t in perfect showroom condition; I just want to spend time with you.”

When Leslie finally smiled, Ben thought, you could probably have run half of southern Indiana’s electricity off its power. “Yeah,” she said. More emphatically: “Yeah, you know what? You’re right. What it looks like isn’t important.” She took a deep breath. “Ben Wyatt?”

“Yes?” he said seriously, playing along.

“Please do me the honor of accompanying me to dinner and then my home tonight.”

“Leslie Knope, I would be delighted,” he said.

They stood there smiling at each other for about ten seconds, and then there were footsteps and Stuart said from the door, "I want my office back now."

“Yes, yes, and no,” Ben said into his cell phone. He considered the shoes he was wearing, then kicked them off and grabbed a different pair out of his closet.

“Really?” Leslie’s tinny voice asked breathlessly. “You wouldn’t choose Marie Curie as your third guest-from-any-point-in-time at a dinner party?”

“It just seems so complicated, you know? She’s married, she’s been dead for 70 years...” Ben said, and he grinned when Leslie laughed. “Hey, is everything okay?”

“What?” she wheezed. “Yes, of course, why would you ask something like that?”

“You just sounded a little out of breath, that’s all.”

“It’s totally fine!” she said, and then something dragged and thumped in the background and a voice yelped.

“... Leslie?” Ben asked, tucking his phone between his ear and his shoulder while he bent to tie his shoes.

“Ann!” Leslie said, making him blink at his shoe for a second. “Ann’s here! Hangin’ out, havin’ ladychats, knocking things over like the big klutz she is. So where did you want to meet? We should talk about where we’re going to meet.”

“I was thinking the park ‘n ride, if that makes sense. We can go to the restaurant in one car from there.” He shrugged on his jacket, walked out into the living room, and stepped up into the kitchen, where he leaned over the counter.

“You know, that lot is known around here as the park ‘n makeout.” Leslie paused, and then he could hear the smiling promise in her voice. “It’s not the catchiest name, but it is an accurate one.”

“Oh yeah?” Ben asked, chin in his hand as he grinned helplessly, and then April walked past, snatched his cell phone out of his hand, and underhanded it onto the couch with enough force that it buried itself in the space between two cushions.

“No personal phone conversations in the house!” she yelled over her shoulder as she departed.

“So Ann actually came over and helped me clean up a little, after work but before our date,” Leslie said, gesturing with her free hand as she unlocked her front door.

“Is that what was happening when you were on the phone? I kind of thought you were out for a jog." Ben leaned in close with his hand on her hip. Leslie's laugh vibrated against his side. "You guys didn’t have to do that,” he said, and then Leslie shoved the door open and turned on the light.

“Oh...” said Ben, jaw dropped like he’d been hit by a cattle prod, “holy crap.”

There were piles in every direction that he looked. They were fairly neat piles, granted, but they were at least chest-high and some were taller than his head; boxes, newspapers, magazines, drawers, books, VHS tapes -- the stacks went on as far as the eye could see, turning Leslie's home into a terrifying maze.

"Home sweet home," Leslie said, sounding genuine. Somewhere in her living room, three clocks started striking eight o'clock, one right after the other right after the other.

“This is after cleaning?” he asked, unable to stop himself.

"It could use some more work," Leslie allowed.

It could use some more demolition, Ben thought, but he kept that to himself. "No," he said, weakly. "No, it's ... great; it's great."

"The couch is clear!" Leslie told him cheerfully, and it was true: the couch did seem to be clear, along with roughly five feet of floor space between the couch and the television. "Can I get you anything? A glass of white wine?"

"Uh, yeah; yes, please," he said. "Can I help you in the kitchen, or...?"

"It's easier if it's just one person," Leslie said matter-of-factly, and then she kissed his cheek and went clambering through to the kitchen, squeezing around, jumping over, and shoving piles of random items like it wasn't strange at all.

Ben watched her go, and then it was just him and a cardboard cut-out of Hagrid.

He stood awkwardly just inside the front door for several long seconds, and then he made up his mind and slowly eased his way toward the several square feet of bare floor. It took some serious effort. A box full of globes (the globe on top, he noticed, still had a giant red blob labeled "USSR") almost went toppling off the top of its pile, and Ben had to lunge to catch it.

"Holy shit," Ben said quietly to himself, standing in the only empty space in the entire room, and then the sound of cloth scraping on cardboard heralded Leslie's return.

"Oh good, you found it!" She sounded cheerful, without the slightest bit of irony, as she handed him a glass of wine. "Well?" she asked. "Still interested in that documentary on the Iran-Contra scandal?" She raised her eyebrow at him.

God, scary house or no scary house, that was the sexiest thing he'd ever heard.

"Um, yes," said Ben, and Leslie beamed at him, and then they did, in fact, cuddle and watch most of the reenactment of Oliver North destroying incriminating files before they got wildly distracted by how close their mouths were and how much privacy they had, and then they made out like teenagers on the couch for hours.

Leslie eventually raised her head and said, "You're staying over! You're staying over, right?" and Ben said, "God, I hope so," and then started laughing after Leslie's cackle, because there was no other possible way to respond.

"Step where I step," Leslie told him, and Ben did, his hand in hers and his wary eyes on the teetering piles they squeezed past on their way to the bedroom.

It was worth it.

Leslie was worth a thousand horrifying hoarder murder nightmare houses.

Ben walked into City Hall the next morning feeling both delighted with the world in every possible way, and also kind of unsettled.

The elation carried him through the entire morning and most of the afternoon, especially after he passed Leslie in the hall outside the commissary and she shot him a wink when nobody was looking, but by the late afternoon, he'd made up his mind.

"Hey," Ben said, and then he paused there in the doorway of the Public Health Department office. "Do -- you have a minute?"

"Uh, sure!" said Ann. "Sure." Thankfully, Stuart didn't seem to be around; Ben was pretty sure that if Leslie kicked him out of his own office one more time, the guy's head was going to explode. Ann perched on the edge of her desk. "Mi office es su office."

"Thanks." Ben sat down in the extra chair. "So, listen, I don't want to put you in a weird place, because you're Leslie's best friend, and I don't want to put me in a weird place, because--" He made a gesture that was, in retrospect, less than clear.

“Because...” She squinted at him. “You … think you’re going to get a puppy?”

“Uh, no,” he said, on the verge of a huff of laughter, “no, because I really like Leslie.”

"Got it," said Ann, nodding firmly.


“Okay,” she said. “C’mon. Out with it, dude.”

Ben took a deep breath. "So Leslie's house."

"Oh," said Ann. She folded her arms over her cardigan. "Ohh, yeah. Leslie has a ... unique idea of what you do and don't keep and then pile in your house for 30 years."

"It's a hoarder nest," Ben said. He still felt shellshocked. "It's like something out of a TLC reality show."

"Hey," protested Ann, but when he looked at her, she shook her head. "Yeah, I can't keep going with that; it is that bad."

"Has it always been like this?" he asked.

"Pretty much, for as long as I've known Leslie," Ann confirmed, a little wry but mostly fond. "I've actually only seen it a couple times; she usually comes over to my house. You guys must seriously be doing well if she let you in the front door."

"She could barely open the front door," Ben said, but he was smiling a little bit.

“I know,” Ann said. “Is there still that lifesize--”

“--cardboard cutout of Hagrid from Harry Potter?? Yes.”

“God, I know,” she said. “It’s crazy gross. Technically, as an employee of the Pawnee Department of Public Health, I should probably be reporting it.” Her mouth tilted into a momentary wry moue, then she shot him a beady-eyed look. “But it’s a part of Leslie’s life.”

“No, I know,” he said. “And it’s worth it. It’s seriously worth it. Leslie’s incredible.”

“Good,” Ann said, and she kept up the fierce face for just a few seconds before cracking. She smiled at him. “I’m just really happy for you guys.”

“Thanks,” he said, smiling back. “Me too.” His smile faded somewhat. “Even if I’m a little scared of being crushed to death by a stack of Tiger Beat and Economist back issues.”

"Yeah," said Ann, and she reached over and patted his shoulder. "Good luck with that, buddy."

At the house that adulthood forgot (aside from Ben), there was actually a pause in rules arguments for a while as the three of them generally got used to living together and Ben got better at ignoring it when his roommates were childish and inconsiderate. And then he realized that, when he was by himself, he didn't have to pretend that he hadn't been halfway to in love with Leslie Knope, so he spent a lot of time in his room after their secret relationship's secret break-up. That strategy had the added bonus of exposing him to a lot less boundary-pushing weird behavior in and around the house.

He bought a lock for his bedroom door. It was peaceful, if lonely.

April cited her next two arbitrary house rules when they were all off for the federal holiday on Columbus Day. Ben came home from breakfast with Chris at JJ’s, where the woman at the next table ordered French toast with whipped cream and Ben had struggled to keep the pained pang off his face, to find the TV blaring at an empty house.

When Andy and April stumbled in behind him, laughing, with a YIELD sign tucked under Andy’s arm, Ben wheeled on them.

“Leaving the TV on the home shopping network isn’t going to make potential robbers think that somebody’s home,” Ben told them, feeling himself on the edge of a yell. “No one watches the home shopping network!”

“Uh, that’s where you’re wrong, friend,” said Andy, in that special dopily condescending tone that Ben didn’t think anyone else in the world would use.

“And believe it or not, street signs do have actual practical uses other than being art on your walls!” Ben pointed in the general direction of the wall where he knew there were two speed limit postings and a do-not-enter sign hanging.

“Well, somebody's feeling rebellious today. No noise on Mondays and no TV after breakfast?" April said, doing that thing she did sometimes where she played a character, and that other thing where she stared at him without blinking. "What're you trying to play me for, soldier?"

"Oh my god." He stabbed the power button on the remote control to shut off the TV and threw the remote at the couch. “If you need me, I’ll be in the bath,” Ben said, with great dignity, and he didn’t notice April shooting him a measured look as he left.

Ben almost broke his shoulder trying to get into his own house.

This happened because he casually tried to shoulder the door open after unlocking it, while he was sorting through the mail in his hands, and he hit the sudden unexpected resistance of the chain.

He stared for a second, then shoved the door twice, harder both times. He dropped his hands, clutching the mail tightly, when the door didn’t give way.

“Are you kidding me?” he demanded of the clouds and the cameraman just behind him, and then he stomped around to the back door, where, as expected, his keys didn’t work in the broken lock.

Ben fished his cell phone out of his coat pocket and dialed. After a hand signal from the cameraman still following him, he put it on speaker.

“Heyyy, Ben! Honey, it’s Ben!”

“Great,” said April’s muffled voice.

“Are you guys at home?” Ben asked.

“Nope! Guess where we are!”

“I really don’t w--”

“Guess!” said Andy. “Guess, guess!”

“Uh, not at home,” Ben said.

It started to rain.

Wrong!” Andy informed him, cheerful. “We’re in Missouri!”

“You’re … in Missouri,” he said slowly, rain dripping down his face.

“We stole April’s dad’s car and we’re going to the Grand Canyon!”

There was only so much information that Ben could take in at once. He went with the immediate. “So you put the chain on the front door?”

“Oh, yeah!” Andy laughed, “Duh. We’ve got to keep burglars out while we’re away, and you said it didn’t help to leave the TV on!”

“I’m not a burglar,” he said, with what he thought was great self-restraint. “I need to use the front door.”

“Tell Ben to stop whining like a baby and go in the back window,” said April.

“April says--” Andy started, and Ben hung up on them.

When he was half-in the house, lying on his back on the living room floor with his legs still sticking out the window, he looked at the camera lens and said, “Nothing is worth this.”

Ben was watching a Lifetime original movie on the couch when he heard someone (probably April, by the fact that nothing got loudly knocked over) moving around nearby, and then a hand stuck a tube under his nose. He blinked and pulled his head back. It was a tube of mascara.

“Ha ha,” he said. “Very funny.”

“I need it to see if you’re crying,” April said. He ignored her. She hovered for a few seconds, then huffed a sharp breath and sat down beside him on the couch. She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them.

They watched a woman tearfully confront her husband about the affair he was having with her half-sister.

“So you’ve been more of a loser than normal lately,” April said.

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not,” April said, and she switched off the TV. He was so startled that he turned to look at her. She was watching him steadily through her hair, looking both disconcertingly intent and also annoyed that she was having to have this conversation. “You’re all sad and stuff, because you fought with Leslie.”

“No I’m not,” he said warily.

“He totally is,” said Andy, wandering in. He had a sandwich in hand, and between the hallway and the couch, he knocked over a bottle of drain cleaner. He dropped down on Ben’s other side. “You were in the sadness bath for, like, three hours yesterday. I had to pee on the fence out back and then Mrs. Nebbits yelled at me so much her teeth fell out.”

“--Oh,” said Ben. “Sorry.”

“You shouldn’t pretend to be okay if you’re not,” April told him, and when she added, “The moon decrees it,” he felt himself smile a tiny bit.

“Ohhh, look!” Andy pointed at him, so close that his finger almost hit the corner of Ben’s mouth. “I told you he can still smile! Dude, you should totally put on the Batman costume; that always makes you happy.”

“It’s a uniform, actually,” Ben said as April rolled her eyes.

“Whatever, just go get the cape,” she said.

“Cape,” Andy chanted, “cape, cape, cape, cape!” When April joined in, giving him that enormous wide-eyed smile that always freaked him out, Ben said, “Okay, okay!” and got up to go to his room.

He felt kind of stupid coming back with the Batman cape over his T-shirt and jeans, but Andy broke out grinning and applauded at the sight of him, and April, now tucked under Andy’s arm, shot him a sarcastic thumbs up. They had opened Ben’s laptop on the coffee table, and he heard a familiar stirring violin theme playing.

“We’re watching your stupid show,” said April. “The internet says there’s lots of decapitations.”

“And romance!” said Andy.

“And blood,” said April, and Ben didn’t even mind that much that they’d turned on his laptop without asking and somehow stolen his Game of Thrones season 1 boxset out of his room without him noticing.

“Look at all the little houses!” Andy said, clearly delighted. “They’re popping up like popcorn! House popcorn!” April patted his arm.

“Yeah, see, that’s King’s Landing.” The cape snapped in the breeze of Ben’s movement as he hurried over and sat down on the couch. “They put all of the locations from the show into the opening credits to give the viewer an idea of the size and scale of the world; it’s genius.”

“Where’s the blood?” April complained, but she sat through Ben’s entire explanation of the significance of the production team using George R.R. Martin’s original maps.

“You know,” Ben told the camera a year later, poised on the front steps of Andy and April’s house with a box under his arm, looking both thoughtful and surprised, “call me crazy, but I think I might actually miss living here.”

A narrow yellow barrel poked out of the bushes and pelted him with marshmallows. The nearest bush shook with two voices’ laughter and he heard Leslie cackling from the car.

Ben stared at the camera as marshmallows bounced off his chest and face.

“Never mind.”