|Hypnotized and Trying Hard
Author: easternepiphany PM
"Well," Tom says, standing up, "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but movies make it seem fun because the maid of honor always goes home with the best man."Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Ann P. & Tom H. - Words: 2,999 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 2 - Published: 10-13-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8606819
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ann hates weddings, even when they're the wedding of her amazing and wonderful best friend. Actually, that might be when she hates weddings the most, because Leslie is an organization monster and while Ann might not go so far as to call her a bridezilla, the thought has crossed her mind more than once. So now that the ceremony is over, and Ann has made her speech about how happy she is for Leslie and Ben—and she is, she really, truly is because they are honestly the best couple she knows or has ever met—she is content to sit at the head table with a glass of wine and breathe and watch her friends dance.
Being Leslie Knope's maid of honor has not been an easy journey, but Ann only has one battle scar: a teeny half-circle on her ankle from where she was stabbed with a seamstress's pin during a fitting for her dress when she had to chase Leslie around the room after hearing there was a problem with the flowers. Everything worked itself out though, which shouldn't have been surprising because it always does, and the entire thing has gone off without a hitch.
With a tired sigh, Ann slips off her shoes and lines them up underneath the table. She feels like she's been awake for a hundred hours; this has been more exhausting than the City Council campaign. The entire wedding party (which isn't very big, to be fair) has booked rooms in the hotel where the reception is being held and Ann is looking forward to going upstairs at the end of the night and curling up in one of those overly-soft hotel beds.
The DJ switches to a slow song and everyone on the dance floor couples up. Ann spent so much time buried in wedding binders and fielding 2AM planning phone calls that she never even had time to think about finding a date for the wedding. And she's fine with it, she really is, because the last thing she needs to worry about is entertaining yet another person.
Last night, at the rehearsal dinner, Ann was put in charge of making sure Ben's family could navigate themselves from the hotel to the restaurant. It wasn't a really big deal, and they seemed to take to Pawnee the way she did when she moved there after college: a little hesitantly and with a grain of salt.
The most interesting part of meeting Ben's family, though, is his younger sister, Anna. After the initial awkward laugh over their similar names was over, Ann watched as Anna introduced herself to everyone, making small talk and "nice to meet you"s without batting an eyelash. Now she's sitting at one of the corner tables talking to someone's cousin that Ann doesn't know.
Anna is surprisingly beautiful: small and slender, brown hair that's shiny and falls in soft waves, a smile that shows two even rows of perfectly white teeth. And she's nice, making a genuine effort to get to know all of her brother's friends and smiling politely and laughing at Jerry's lame jokes. Tom eyed her the moment she walked in the door. He threw out a line and instead of rolling her eyes and moving in the other direction, like Ann had done so many times in the past, she used it to start an actual conversation.
The DJ follows up with a second slow song, which is a pretty bad move. Ann has a brief moment of panic that Leslie's going to get upset, but her face doesn't really change as she continues to dance with Ben, and Ann sits back and has another sip of wine.
Across the room, Tom makes his way over to where Anna is sitting, says something, and then smiles as he leads her onto the dance floor. His hands position themselves on her hips and she returns his smile as they begin to sway.
After much begging and pleading, Ben gave in and appointed Tom as his best man. This, of course, means that he and Ann walked down the aisle together, took pictures together, sat at the head table together. It was the part of the wedding Ann was dreading the most, to be honest, because her ex situations have always been more awkward than bearable, but that wasn't the case with Tom. He made his fair share of usual inappropriate comments, but he also told her she looked really beautiful and didn't make any uncomfortable references to their disastrous relationship.
It was actually kind of nice navigating the whole thing with a familiar face next to her.
But now Tom is dancing with Anna—and now it's starting to annoy Ann that their names are so similar because really?—and he's laughing, genuinely laughing at things she's saying and his hands aren't actually creeping closer and closer to her butt. They just look like two people having a good time and Ann's not jealous because she gave Tom up, sent him back into his sleazy, greasy, glitter-infused world. They lived together for one day and it was nothing short of awful: getting caught in cologne clouds, arguing over wall decorations, not being able to keep any sort of carbohydrate in the kitchen.
And it's not like Ann hasn't had dates or boyfriends since then because she has. And they've all... failed.
Ann drains the last of her wine and gets up in search of a new glass. She leaves her shoes underneath the table and makes it to the bar just as the song ends. The DJ thankfully plays something fast and Ann takes her wine back to the table without sparing a glance at the dance floor.
She's just settled back into her seat when she feels rather than sees someone plop down in the chair next to her. "And why is the most beautiful maid of honor sitting here all alone instead of shaking that fine booty?"
"What are you doing here? I thought you'd be dragging Ben's sister back to your room by now."
Tom reaches up and loosens his bowtie. "Anna? Yeah, she's pretty hot, isn't she? Nice, too."
"Yeah, she's great," Ann mutters into her wine glass.
"Are you—you're not jealous are you?"
Ann scoffs. "No. Why would I be jealous, we broke up like a million years ago."
Tom's smirk is a mile wide. "Okay. So what are you doing here all by your lonesome?"
"Just reveling in the afterglow of not having any more wedding responsibilities. And watching Leslie and Ben be disgustingly adorable and perfect."
There's a glass of something on the table—maybe scotch, Ann thinks—and Tom picks it up and takes a sip. "They are pretty great together. This whole wedding was dope. Even though Ben wouldn't let me throw him a bachelor party at the Glitter Factory or get them a nude ice sculpture like I wanted to."
"Dude, that's gross," Ann says. Then she lets out a giggle. "Can you picture Ben at a strip club, though?"
Tom laughs. "It would be hilarious, right?!" He drops his voice down an octave. "Um, I uh, that's a great lap dance and I appreciate you but uh, I would... woah there, uh no thank you. Have you seen Star Wars, by the way?"
Ann snorts into her wine. "It would have been such a disaster. Hey, it's too bad there's not a woman on earth who would ever marry Jean-Ralphio, because I bet he would appreciate a strip club bachelor party."
"Girl, there are not enough strip clubs in America for the bachelor party I would throw Jean-Ralphio."
She wrinkles her nose. "Ew."
"Hey, but really," he says, his voice turning serious, "you shouldn't waste the whole night sitting here like a wallflower. You look amazing and you should flaunt it. Get out there and dance, at least for a little while."
She nods and he stands up. "And oh, don't forget to save me at least one dance," he says, bumping her arm. "The maid of honor and the best man are the flyest duo here so we have to give the people what they really came for."
"Okay," she says with a smile.
He heads over to the table where April is sitting and drags her onto the dance floor. She resists, of course, but there's a tiny smile on her face and she lets Tom twirl her around anyway.
After the song is over, Andy cuts in and Tom dances with Donna and then with Anna again. This time, they don't speak to each other for the entire song. Anna rests her head on Tom's chest and his cheek presses against her temple. It's worse than the two of them talking and laughing, more intimate.
Oh no, Ann thinks. She feels the familiar twinge, the rush of blood, the churn of her stomach. Her fingers flex and unflex around the edge of her chair. She takes two deep breaths.
Ann Perkins is jealous.
After splashing some water on her face in the bathroom, Ann goes back into the hall to find Tom sitting at the head table again. He smiles when he sees her.
"I was looking for you. Where've you been?"
"Bathroom," she croaks.
This is the thing about Ann and Tom: he is her weakness. She should have slapped him and walked away the first day she met him, but she didn't. Instead, she rolled her eyes at his come-ons and learned to kind of be his friend. And then she dated him for far longer than she should have. And after the election, when they sobered up and he came over and said Okay, let's do this, I've got my stuff in the car, she didn't object, just opened the door a little wider and made room in the closet. Not only should they never have worked, but she should have never even tried.
"Well come on, Annberry Sauce, I'm not taking no for an answer. Me and you, shaking our booties on the dance floor, now."
Ann doesn't know how to object without arousing suspicion. Because why wouldn't the best man and the maid of honor dance together at the reception? Just because they used to date? Ann's done a really good job of getting everyone to forget it never happened, and she's not going to ruin it just because she's jealous of Ben's stupid, beautiful sister and her dumb four-letter name.
"All right," she says. "Let's do this."
With a grin, he grabs her hand and pulls her to the exact center of the dance floor just as the song ends. And, of course, because Ann has pretty much the worst luck in the entire world, the dumb DJ starts a slow song and Ann vows never to recommend him for anything ever. Tom rests his hands on her waist—and not her hips like he did with Anna, she notes—and she lays her hands on his shoulders. It's an awkward, middle school dance position, but it makes Ann feel a little better to have a bit of distance between them.
They don't say anything for a while and Ann catches the eye of Leslie, who's dancing with Ron. Ann smiles and Leslie returns it, but it comes with a rather lewd raise of her eyebrows that makes Ann's smile slip off her face.
Tom turns his head to see why Ann's frowning. "Secret Ann-Leslie language?" he asks.
"Something like that," Ann mutters. She looks around again and sees that Anna is sitting at a table right along the dance floor and every so often, her eyes land on Ann and Tom. Ann straightens her posture a little bit before she can stop herself.
"I hope your new girlfriend over there doesn't mind that you're dancing with me," Ann says with only the tiniest hint of maliciousness.
"Who? Anna?" Tom asks. "Hmm, going home with the groom's sister would be a pretty badass move, I must say."
Ann doesn't reply.
Tom laughs. "I cannot believe how jealous you are! Your face is practically green! All because I danced with a girl. What would you do if we actually hooked up?"
"Shut up, Tom," she says lowly.
"I'm sorry but do you really not see how funny this is? We broke up because we almost killed each other after one day of living together and now, months later, you're so jealous of the thought of me hooking up with another girl that you pretty much have smoke coming out of your ears!"
She pushes him away and gathers her dress in one hand. "You're a jerk, did you know that? And please, hook up with every single girl at this wedding because you and I are not together and I couldn't care any less about what you do."
"Ann, come on I was just—"
Trying her hardest not to cause a scene, she navigates her way through swaying couples and back to the head table. Her shoes are still underneath, hidden by the long tablecloth, neatly lined up the way she left them. She slides her feet into them and makes her way to the nearest door. It's chilly outside for a May night, the warm breezes of summer still a few weeks off.
She makes an ass out of herself in front of guys over and over, but to do it at Leslie's wedding is kind of the worst. She sits on the bottom step outside the door and buries her head in her hands until she can't make out the sounds from inside the hall anymore, just the thump of the bass and the occasional laugh. Suddenly she feels stupid for booking herself that big old hotel room because what the hell is she going to do with it? Change into pajamas and go to sleep? And she didn't even pack her comfortable, single girl pajamas, the ones with the hole in the knee that are so old that they conform to her body, even straight out of the dryer. Ann really wishes she had those pajamas right now.
Suddenly, a jacket drops over her shoulders and she knows it's Tom sitting next to her. She raises her head just a little and peeks at him with one eye.
"Hi," she says.
"Hi," he replies with a small smile. It's one of his genuine smiles, a smile she doesn't get to see a lot because more often than not, Tom's smiles are full of pretense. Ann kind of likes his genuine smiles. They're softer.
"I was being a jerk. I'm sorry," he says.
"Ben's sister is very pretty and please, have sex with her if you want to." She pushes her arms through the jacket sleeves and pulls it tight around her.
He sighs. "Ann, how many girls do I hit on?"
"Um, all of them?"
"Exactly. And how many of them do I actually have sex with?"
It's a little mean, but Ann can't help but laugh. "Just me?"
He looks around, leans in close, and lowers his voice as if it's a secret. "Just you. You're the only girl that's fallen for the Haverford charm. You're the only smart girl out there, boo."
"I just thought I'd be married by now, you know?" Ann says. "And I'm so happy for Leslie. But being single at a wedding isn't as fun as movies make it seem."
"Well," Tom says, standing up, "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but movies make it seem fun because the maid of honor always goes home with the best man. Now, I'm not saying that you should take me upstairs to that nice room I know you booked. But I am saying that you walked out mid-dance and that's not cool. So get up, because you owe me a dance right here, right now."
"Here? We can barely hear the music."
Tom heads toward the parking lot and for a crazy minute, Ann thinks he's going to get in his car and drive away. But he bends down and pulls a loose brick out of the flower bed surrounding the building. He props open the door and turns to her with his arms in the air. "Ta-da."
She laughs and when he offers his hand she takes it and allows herself to be pulled up. He doesn't let go and she wraps her free hand around his shoulder and they're dancing the way old people do, or Disney princes and princesses.
Tom is neither of those things. Ann tries to imagine him in thirty or forty years, his hair and beard streaked with gray, but can't take him out of a place like the Snakehole Lounge. She tries to imagine him in a tuxedo, chasing a carriage while waving a glass slipper, but can't mute the '90s R&B playing in the background.
The song is a fast one, but they slow dance anyway. Ann's a little old for Disney movies.
Anna catches the bouquet. Ben slings the garter right in Tom's direction. Ann's not sure if she imagines this or not, but it looks like Tom moves out of the way at the last second. It ends up in Chris's hands instead.