Title: Hell Hotel (Or, The Dreadful Night at the Quiet Corn)
Pairing: Ben/Leslie, Donna/her Mercedes
Word Count: ~4500
Timeline: Takes place during “Camping”
Author's Note: Ok, so not only is this my first fan fic ever but I chose to start with an AU and a crackiest of crack story. No big deal. See if you can guess my occupation after reading this. Also, I stopped here but I am definitely open to involving more characters in subsequent parts if people are interested.
Thanks to bowlsohard for beta-ing… in the middle of a freaking hurricane! She’s the best!
The Dreadful Night Spent at The Quiet Corn
What if the inn wasn’t just an annoying and cloying tourist trap? What if it was the hotel… FROM HELL???
Welcome to The Quiet Corn, serving all of your bed & breakfast needs, as long as you behave yourself and obey our rules.
“I have a good feeling about this B&B.”
The group agreed that there were two options available to them. Sleep on the floor in the woods with no fish to cook, no electricity, no cell service, no Ann, no season 6 of Top Chef, and no work to do. Or they could take their chances at The Quiet Corn, a local establishment that was horrifyingly decorated, lacked TVs, and only served German muffins and homemade tomato slices with dry seed and leek jam. They were playing a tamer version of the game Death Is Not an Option... or so they believed at the time. What they would come to understand is that Death was most definitely an option. For some it would become a certainty.
So they made the best decision based on the information available to them at the time. And eventually, each managed to find a small corner of the inn to curl up and fall asleep. But the sleep would not be restorative. Unbeknownst to all occupants except the curator, a quiet fog drifted slowly in from the west, blanketing The Quiet Corn and isolating it even further from the outside world.
Donna had a great evening; room to herself, a flask of warm gin, and an erotic novel. She soon dozed off into a warm and blissful sleep.
A loud thunderclap startled her upright and awake. The wind had picked up and was swirling around the inn, banging shutters and rattling the doors in their hinges. April had left the window open earlier and now debris rained into the room. Donna sighed in annoyance, boosted herself out of her cocoon of crocheted blankets and embroidered pillows, and staggered over to the window.
The sight outside drew her up short. No longer surrounded by trees, The Quiet Corn now sat in the middle of a large field devoid of grass and covered with dirt and small rocks. The fog lifted slightly and she let out a blood-curdling scream. For in the dead center of the field was her beloved Mercedes. And ahead she could see that the wind was beginning to pick up dirt and rocks from the ground and carry them along, on a direct path towards the SUV!
She raced downstairs and nearly broke her nose by hurtling against the inn’s front door. A chilly voice spoke behind her,
“Checkout hours are from 8 to 8:30 am.”
Donna didn’t turn around. “Do I look like I care about that? I’m leaving. Open. The. Door.”
"Well that would be very rude of you!”
She whipped around. “Are you kidding-" but didn’t finish the sentence. Gone was the Elsa Clack who had first greeted them. The figure before her, while still clad in a dowdy gray dress with lace trim, was floating above the ground. Red, demonic eyes glared down at Donna and a ghostly judgmental finger pointed directly at her face. Possessed Elsa floated down the stairs and hovered in front of the door, clearly intending to keep her trapped in the inn. She could hear small rocks start to ping against the wooden siding of the old building.
Tortured images popped into her head of her poor Mercedes, the paint chipping with the impact of each rock on the panels, the chrome belt moldings dented, and the windshield pitted. She unleashed a loud high pitched scream and charged the door and Possessed Elsa.
When she came to, she was lying on her back on the other side of the room. Possessed Elsa, her red eyes glowering in displeasure, still barricaded the doorway.
"Well that was very rude of you.”
Donna slowly stood and reset herself into a crouched stance.
“Bitch, can’t you say anything else? Get out of the damn way!”
And she charged again at Possessed Elsa. And again she saw the raised, pointed finger. But this time she saw the green flash and felt herself flying backwards across the room.
Stunned, she laid on the floor considering her options. She clearly couldn’t defeat Possessed Elsa on her own. She knew that terrible things were happening to the paint, glass, and sheet metal of her beloved Mercedes. She needed to get outside and she needed help. She knew just who to call on…
In another room of the inn Ben had swiped some crocheted pillows from Tom (who had commandeered the bed) and dragged a spare quilt out of the bottom of the doll hutch, creating a makeshift bed on the Victorian carpet. To say it was uncomfortable was akin to calling a blizzard a light dusting. Somehow he managed to fall asleep but he now regretted not pulling a work all-nighter.
For Ben was having a terrible dream. He was still inside The Quiet Corn but somehow the downstairs level had been transformed into the Meet the Press television set. Ben was sitting in the interviewee chair and directly opposite him was David Gregory. It became clear to Ben that he was about to be interrogated on national TV on a serious news program. He instantly broke out into a cold sweat and stood up, pushing the chair back.
Well, he tried to stand up. He succeeded only in shoving the chair back from the table while very much still attached to the chair. He began panicking as he realized that several comically large chains were wrapped around him, anchoring him to not just any chair, but the spank chair from the Crazy Ira and the Douche studio. Ben also realized that it was not David Gregory hosting the show. Rather curiously it appeared to be that old crazy innkeeper Elsa Clack in a David Gregory-esque suit and her eyes were glowing bright red. He began hyperventilating in earnest.
“From NBC News in Washington, Meet the Press with David Gregory.”
“Good Sunday morning. Today I will be spending time with former teen mayor Benji Wyatt. We go behind the scenes and on the record with Mr. Wyatt to press him on why the nation should move on and forget about his infamous failed run as mayor of Partridge, Minnesota. We will also have insights and analysis from our Political Roundtable, featuring Pawnee Today host Joan Callemezzo and our Pawnee NBC affiliate head news anchor Perd Hapley.
“Disgraced Teen Mayor Benji Wyatt, thank you for joining us this morning. I would like to start out by talking about your improbable election. Now, seems like 18 is pretty young for a mayor. What were you, like 12?”
Ben could clearly see that the “On Air” sign was lit. He could also see someone in a headset waving frantically at him to respond.
“I was a kid and when you you you get yourself out there… ”
“You recently did an interview with Perd Hapley on our Pawnee satellite station where you stated, and I quote, ‘Who hasn’t had gay thoughts?’ Please elaborate on this statement in detail for our viewers.”
“The funny um, when, I guess…. <long silence>… The fortunate… um, can we just sort of…”
“Let’s go to our Political Roundtable and talk to today’s panelists. Perd, you actually conducted the interview in question. How would you describe Mr. Wyatt’s degree of readiness to do anything besides be a Numbers Robot?”
“Thanks David. The question that you just asked is what we are going to talk about now. Ben Wyatt is the person that we’re going to talk about. Joan, will Ben be successful in his career in the public sector?”
“Perd, my first thought would have to be, ‘When did the failures start?’ and for Mr. Wyatt that was 17 years ago. We all saw the tape from a few months ago and he was flashing some serious ‘do-me’ eyes at you. That’s just my opinion.”
“Strong words from a powerful lady. Back to you, David.”
Ben feared that he may vomit while on live national television. He could not physically make himself speak in coherent sentences and he could not leave the room. He needed help and he knew there was only one person who could save him.
Help would have to wait because Ben’s heroine was otherwise occupied trying to escape her own personal hell. No, it wasn’t the room filled with fifty cats; that had been manageable after she accepted the fact that a cat blanket could actually provide a lot of warmth on a chilly evening.
Rather, Leslie was the centerpiece of an enormous press conference in a room the size of an airplane hangar. Hundreds of reporters shouted at her, demanding that she tell them why she was running for president and how she hoped to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. Overwhelmed and disoriented by the bright lights and dozens of microphones on the stand in front of her, she tried valiantly to organize her thoughts into a cohesive narrative.
One reporter was louder and more aggressive than all the rest, aided by the fact that she had been able to locate a microphone. The crowd quieted, listening to her. Leslie could hear the voice before she saw the reporter’s face. She squinted, and then she realized that she was being berated by what could only be described as a possessed Elsa Clack
“Please provide specifics on your plan to get Americans back to work and help America to get back on its feet. Also, define the difference between deficit reduction and debt reduction and provide us with your position on Egyptian debt relief.”
Leslie could not remember her position on Egyptian debt relief. The pages on the podium in front of her were blank. The silence dragged on. She felt compelled to say something that would break up the awful silence blanketing the room.
“Here it is…… What do you think?”
The reporters erupted into a loud scrum. She only caught snippets of random questions: “What kind of answer is that?” “You can’t fool us with that political double talk!” “Flip-flopper!”
She desperately felt her pockets for any notes. The blank pages on her podium had been replaced by her trusty dream journal. She started frantically flipping through it.
“Um, I married ALF and we’re pretty happy?”
“Is that it? How can you claim to be the best candidate for American citizens if the cornerstone of your platform is to reinstate a 25 year old TV show?”
“That’s not what I meant! I had a dream about it, that’s all!”
“So you’re saying that you’re pro- puppet/human marriage? Wouldn’t you consider yourself in the minority of Americans in this belief?”
“No, I don’t want to marry ALF in real life!”
“So you’re saying that you wouldn’t govern based off your beliefs?”
Like a trapped rat, Leslie scanned the room in vain for an exit. She knew that she would have to fight her way out of this one. But she would need some backup. She needed her Numbers Robot.
The stress of the situation was causing Ben to vibrate like a hummingbird.
From a distance he heard the moderator speak again, saying something about bringing on another guest to discuss the political future of a failed teen mayor. Ben braced himself for the worst. Who could it be? His perpetually disappointed father? A city council member from Partridge? Chief Trumple, of the Pawnee Police Department?
“We’re joined now by Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana. Leslie, welcome to Meet the Press.”
“Thanks, David. It’s a pleasure to be here. And might I just say, I think that you are doing an admirable job continuing this tradition of thoughtful news analysis after the passing of the late great Tim Russert.”
“Thank you. Leslie, why do you think that so many people think that Mr. Wyatt would not be an effective political leader? Also, how do you answer the charge that every town he has worked on has gone bankrupt, beginning with his home town of Partridge, Minnesota?”
“Oh, Ben… I mean, Mr. Wyatt isn’t responsible for Pawnee’s bankruptcy! He is helping us return to fiscal responsibility!”
“Well, our NBC News research staff is telling us that Pawnee declared bankruptcy after the arrival of Ben Wyatt and his co-auditor Chris Traeger. So if they aren’t responsible, who is?”
“Alright, fine. I, Leslie Knope, am the one responsible for the Pawnee government bankruptcy.”
“Well, this is an unexpected development. We do need to take a break but we will be back with more questions for Ms. Knope, who has just taken personal responsibility for her town falling off the fiscal cliff.”
As soon as the On Air light dimmed, Ben whipped his head around to stare at Leslie sitting calmly next to him. “Leslie. Why are you doing this? This has nothing to do with you! Why are you so calm right now?”
She turned and winked at him. “Don’t worry. This is just a little bit of misdirection.”
“Welcome back to Meet the Press on this Sunday morning. On our program today we are featuring Benji Wyatt, failed teen mayor, who is attempting to reenter the political arena. Before the break Leslie Knope, Pawnee’s Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, took full responsibility for her town’s fiscal breakdown. Leslie, please elaborate on your unprecedented declaration of responsibility.”
“David, what can I say? I got that tunnel vision that girls get.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I let my emotions get the best of me and I made terrible fiscal decisions. I just cared too much about the people of Pawnee. I guess you could say that I was thinking with my lady parts. I was going through a thing at the time and I don’t even remember what I spent the money on! Bottom line: I’m good at tolerating pain but I’m bad at math and I’m stupid.”
As Leslie gave one ridiculous excuse after another, Ben felt the chains holding him in place begin to loosen. By the end of her speech he was able to slide them off him completely. He felt lighter than he had in years. Leslie was taking on his battle, both defending and protecting him at the same time. It felt amazing.
“Ok. I want to button this conversation up with what I think is an overarching point. Individual responsibility and accountability of employees is a key component of fiscally responsible government bodies. Great discourse by everyone this morning. I would like to thank my guests, Joan Callemezzo, Perd Hapley, Leslie Knope, and Ben Wyatt. We will see you next Sunday.”
The show ended and almost instantly Elsa vanished, leaving behind the David Gregory suit, as did the chains that had pooled at the bottom of Ben’s chair. He turned to Leslie and held her gaze while they both smiled goofily.
Finally, Ben broke the silence. “You shouldn’t have defended me. The city council is going to make you the scapegoat for the government shutdown!”
“It wasn’t right what they were doing to you. I couldn’t just let it happen!”
“We should probably meet to discuss the interview at some point. How about I swing by later, and we’ll just, you know, maybe go over everything?”
“Or we could go out after work… You know, go to JJ’s or something, grab a bite?”
“Great! Well, I guess I’ll see you later. And Leslie… thanks for everything.”
Leslie was still floundering in her own personal press conference from hell. She was now being questioned by both Joan Callemezzo and a possessed Elsa Clack at the same time. Joan kept calling Leslie a liar every time she began speaking and Possessed Elsa continuously commented on how very rude Leslie was acting. There were dozens of news cameras zoomed in on her face and camera flashes constantly blinded her. She could barely hear the questions over the constant camera clicking.
Just when she feared that she would never escape, a voice spoke out, causing the crowd to pause and all turn. She craned her neck and squinted her eyes to see. When she realized who was there, she felt nothing but sweet relief.
The calm voice spoke again. “Joan, to answer your question, Pawnee awareness of the Harvest Festival was at 34.2% a mere three weeks before the opening day. However, you will see from the reports published by the City Manager’s office that the gross profit margin was greater than initially projected by 14.5%.
It was Ben, of course. She gave him a dazzling smile that was brighter than all the camera flashes in the room. He grinned sheepishly back at her and turned again to Joan and Possessed Elsa.
“And Ms. Knope’s support of ALF is support for the middle class. ALF was lucky that the Tanner family opened their home and hearts to him in his time of need. This is truly the spirit of America.”
“Also, everyone knows that the cats on that show represented terrorists who wanted to harm Americans. ALF was a true patriot who constantly protected the United States by any means available.”
“It’s not just me, right? That’s what you meant, Leslimen… I mean, Ms. Knope?”
The herd of reporters turned back to her and in one movement they all thrust their microphones back towards her. She smiled and spoke,
“Yes it is. Thank you, Mr. Wyatt.
My fellow Americas, I love this country. And when you love something, you don’t threaten it, you don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first. As your president, I will make sure that no one takes advantage of the United States.
If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on too strong, it’s because I feel strongly. If I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This country is my home and you are my family and I promise you: I’m not going anywhere.”
The crowd erupted into cheers as “Get on Your Feet” started blaring from the speakers. Leslie waved to the crowd in the same manner that she had been practicing for almost 30 years. She made her way off the stage and into the crowd where supporters frantically reached out for a hug, a high five, a fist bump. She even kissed a few babies who were thrust in her face by their eager parents.
When she finally reached the end of the line Ben was there waiting (she had quietly hoped that he would be). They paused, smiling shyly at each other.
Leslie could feel the words bubbling in the back of her throat. She quickly spoke while she still felt brave.
“You’re so good at this. Don’t go back to Indianapolis. Stay hereandhelpusbuildsomething.”
She looked into Ben’s shining eyes and thought that he looked like he was proud of her… and maybe there was something else there?
“No, you did it all. I’ve never met somebody who works as hard as you. You’re like the energizer bunny of government.”
As soon as she heard him speak, Leslie deflated faster than a small child’s balloon popped by an older bully. So Ben admired… her brain. And her work ethic. Both were admirable qualities but both could only be classified as “work colleague” complements. She wanted very much for Ben to think she was hardworking and dedicated AND not terrible, face-wise.
But then! Oh, the delicious unexpectedness of life (and dreams). For Ben, perhaps realizing that his previous words had been very much a chaste pat on the back, spoke again.
“Uh, you are really good at your job. But also, you really inspire me. And the best part of my day is when I get to talk to you about non-work stuff. And I’d like to go eat pizza with you and not get salads with it because we aren’t ballerinas. And I’d like to talk to you about the most recent political biography you’ve read and whether you thought David McCullough’s John Adams was overrated. And after the pizza and before ice-cream I’ll ask you out for another date… because by then you’ll be full but not stuffed. What do you think?”
Leslie beamed. “I… I would like that very much.”
Meanwhile, Donna clenched her eyes shut and loudly chanted the name of the one person she knew would understand her plight. It took a couple of tries but finally he appeared before her: Craig from Reinhold Mercedes and his Gold Service Team of ASE-certified technicians. Armed with a variety of tools and wearing the Reinhold Mercedes uniforms, they stood before her ready to go into battle.
“Ms. Meagle, I understand your concern about your vehicle. Others have felt the same way. But we have a long tradition of providing excellent care to discerning Mercedes owners. Please sign this authorization to rescue so that we can begin the emergency retrieval of your vehicle.”
“Craig, do what you gotta do. My baby is out there!”
Craig and his Gold Service Team rushed at Possessed Elsa, tools drawn and ready. An epic battle ensued. Each technician utilized a different tool in his attack. One tech began bludgeoning her with a torque wrench. Another threw frame machine targets at her like ninja stars. Even Craig got in on the act, at one point smacking Possessed Elsa with his clipboard.
But nothing was working! Time after time the demon rose again, growing larger and more powerful with each attempt to destroy her. The technicians were beginning to tire. All hope appeared to be lost.
Until! The scrawniest tech of them all wheeled over a machine that Donna had never seen before. It had a tank on the side that looked like it belonged beneath a home gas grill. The tech rolled it over to the demon and very quietly began hooking up hoses to her feet while she fought off a determined tech who was attempting to lasso her with an air hose.
Once the hoses were connected, the tech flipped the switch on the machine. A vacuuming sound filled the air.
“Craig! What is that? What’s he doing?”
“John is our Mercedes-Benz certified A/C technician. That’s an evacuate/recharge machine. He’s attempting to suck the demon into the recovery tank.”
Suddenly, agonizing screams filled the air. Donna whipped back around and saw a sight that was almost as horrifying as a damaged Mercedes. Elsa Clack was being drawn slowly into a hose that was no greater than a half an inch in diameter. The progression was slow and she fought it the whole way but she was no match for the power of the machine. As soon as her lower body was fully pulled into the machine, Donna sprinted for the door. Craig and the service team continued staring at Elsa, as she howled over and over, “Well this is very rude of you!”
“Wait, Ms. Meagle! Allow me to send one of my techs out into the storm! You stay here where it’s dry. I will have your car brought to our body shop so our repair techs and painters can look it over.”
“Craig! You saved my baby!”
“No problem at all, Ms. Meagle. Here’s your invoice, charging you 2.0 hours mechanical labor for diagnosis of the demon, another 3.0 hours for demon removal, and a remote service fee. Your total is $800.00. Here’s a copy of our guarantee for the demon removal. You should not be bothered by her again.”
“Worth it. Thanks, Craig!”
Donna jerked upwards, spilling her flask all over her book. She whipped her head back and forth, surveying her surroundings. She was back in the bed, with a quilt wrapped tightly around her, restricting her movements. She fought the quilt off her and tumbled out of bed, stumbling over to the window.
She looked out and saw nothing but trees and a small tent that appeared to be shimmying from side to side. No open field, no Mercedes.
She leaned out, yelling “Get it, girl!” at the tent. Satisfied, she staggered back to the bed and fell into a blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
Everyone made an appearance at breakfast the next morning, looking like they belonged in a raccoon gang with deep dark bags around their eyes, but otherwise no worse for wear. As it turns out, German muffins are actually quite disgusting but they wolfed them down anyway.
Only the most preoccupied person (and there were six at the table) would have missed the new development in Ben and Leslie’s demeanor towards each other. The “good-natured coworkers” vibe was gone, replaced by shy smiles and deep blushing whenever they caught each other’s glances. Their behavior would most certainly have earned a “Get a room!” shout from Tom- if he had been paying one iota of attention.
Elsa didn’t attend breakfast which was appreciated by all. It would have been a tad awkward to break bread with the same woman who had drawn out their worst fears while holding them captive in their dreams.
However, it was a little odd that she also did not make an appearance during check-out either. A surly older man was fumbling through their paperwork, muttering that this crap was not in his job description and since when did “handyman” equal “running the front desk” anyway?
It wasn’t until after two employees from the city’s fleet management department showed up with new car batteries and the two vans were caravanning back to City Hall that Donna’s cell phone rang.
“Good morning Donna. This is Craig from Reinhold Mercedes. I’m calling to let you know that we had the body shop check out the storm damage on your Mercedes and luckily it is very minor. The paint was not damaged and the dents caused by the storm are shallow. We are confident that we can utilize paint less dent repair techniques and replace a few moldings and get your vehicle back to you good as new. I will call you when it’s ready. Will you require a complementary loaner vehicle in the meantime?”
“What the hell? I thought it was all a dream!”
“No ma’am. Oh, we’re also going to have to charge you an additional $300.00 for a replacement refrigerant recovery tank. We can’t reuse the one with the demon in it and we had to pay for a hazardous waste pickup. You can pay the bill when you pick up your vehicle.”
Donna hung up the phone and turned to her fellow coworkers who were all looking at her expectantly. She paused. How could she possibly explain what had happened to her? That somehow Elsa Clack had become possessed, had whipped up a sandstorm, was killed by a service advisor and a team of techs, and somehow it wasn’t a dream?
“Oh, that was nothing. Just some detail work for my baby.”
The end… or is it?