|The Reasons All Have Run Away (But the Feeling Never Did)
Author: easternepiphany PM
AU: Ann kisses Tom instead of Chris during "The Master Plan." And things... well, they don't really change, although Ann somehow becomes Pawnee's resident relationship expert. Featuring: Tom/Lucy, Chris/Ann, Ron/Wendy, Ben/Leslie, and Andy/AprilRated: Fiction T - English - Ann P. & Tom H. - Words: 8,482 - Favs: 2 - Published: 12-05-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8768574
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ann wakes up with a start and there's a few things wrong with that picture. One: it's her day off and, according to her clock, it's only seven-thirty in the morning. Two: she is hungover. Three: she cannot remember how the hell she got back to her own bed last night.
She takes a few minutes to asses. She remembers drinking too much with Leslie (not unusual). She remembers April dancing with that creepy Jean-Ralphio guy and Leslie warning her to stay away from him. She remembers Leslie's new enemy Ben. And then… nothing.
After half an hour of trying, she realizes she's not going to get back to sleep so she calls it a loss and gets up to shower. Leslie might be able to piece together her night, and if Ann gets to City Hall early enough, she can catch Leslie before she starts yelling at Ben again. But it's under the cascade of the shower water that her lips start to tingle and she remembers moving her mouth against someone else's, the taste of alcohol she didn't consume, the brush of fingers on her waist. She woke up in the clothes she was wearing yesterday, so it's more probable than not that whatever she got herself into didn't go any further.
Oh god, what if it was Mark?
Mark, who was so sweet but so stupid, who sometimes bored her to tears, who she spent an entire week breaking up with. If they kissed last night, that would be the end of that, because he would probably never leave her alone. When she gets out of the shower, though, her phone doesn't have a barrage of missed calls or text messages, which is a sign that it definitely wasn't Mark.
"I think I may have made out with someone last night."
Leslie hands Ann a notebook on her way out of her office and Ann begins making a list. Mark, Jerry, Andy, Ron. Who's left? She looks around for clues and spots Tom's empty desk. Her heart speeds up a little bit.
"Hey April," she calls. "Where's Tom?"
April just glares at her with a terrifying intensity and across the room, Donna scoffs.
"He's paying off his bar tab. He'll be in later," Donna says.
Ann remembers the burn of facial hair, the smell of Dennis Feinstein. She's wearing the same jeans as last night and when she reaches into the pocket her fingers brush against something sharp and jagged.
A bottle cap.
Ann waits in Leslie's office while she and Ron meet with Ben. Tom strolls in around eleven and freezes in the doorway when he sees Ann. A smirk spreads over his face.
"Hey, beautiful. How's it going?"
Ann narrows her eyes. "Did we make out last night?"
He laughs. "Don't tell me I was that forgettable."
"It was less of a make out and more of just one kiss. But still. You finally fell for the Haverford charm."
"I was drunk, drunk to the point where I don't remember how I got home last night." She pauses. "How did I get home last night?"
Tom laughs. "Don't worry, girl, I put you in a cab and sent you on your merry way. After, of course, you took so many tequila shots you stuck your tongue down my throat."
Ann hides her face in her hands. "Dude, please tell me nothing else happened," she says, her voice muffled.
"Nothing else happened." Tom sits down and turns his computer on. "In fact, I have a date tonight with a super hot bartender, so don't even worry about it, cupcake. It's all forgotten."
He turns his attention to the computer screen and Ann watches him confusedly for a minute. "So, that's it?"
"You're not going to hold this over my head? Make a comment about my booty? Tell me how much I enjoyed your lips?"
He looks at her and shrugs. "No big deal, Ann. Everyone gets drunk and does stupid things. Did I mention I have a date with a bartender?"
"Yeah, you did," she says dazedly. She stands up. "Hey, um, I'm gonna head home. Tell Leslie I'll call her later, okay?"
"Sure thing, babe." He resumes typing and Ann leaves the office, feeling weirder than when she woke up this morning.
"So it turns out the entire government's going to be shut down for who knows how long, and even when we do get back, our budget's going to be slashed to death." Leslie spoons another glob of whipped cream into her mouth and sighs.
"That sucks, Les," Ann says. "What's your next plan?"
"Right now all I want to do is mope for the night. I'll think about a plan tomorrow. Oh, hey! Did you ever find out your mystery kisser?"
Ann passes the can of whipped cream toward Leslie. "Get this. It was Tom."
"You kissed Tom?" Leslie exclaims. A few JJ's customers sitting nearby turn to look at their table and Leslie lowers her voice. "You kissed Tom?"
"I think we somehow ended up doing shots together at the bar and I guess I had one too many and I just… went for it," Ann says. "And after one kiss he put me in a cab so I got home safe and this morning he was totally nonchalant about it. All he talked about was some date he's going on tonight."
Leslie makes a face. "That's weird. Really weird."
"Everything about this week is weird."
Tom's hot bartender? Well, it turns out she's actually really nice and really cool and comes to Lot 48 ready to help put on the Freddy Spaghetti concert any way she can. Ann finds herself alone with Lucy a few times during set-up and actually enjoys her company a lot.
It's weird, because Ann's been able to piece together the missing parts of April's birthday party. And every time she looks at Tom she can feel the softness of his lips, the way his hand curled around her waist. So she puts extra effort into helping Leslie. She lugs equipment. She speaks with vendors. She keeps everyone hydrated.
And then the auditors show up. Ben, Mean Ben, and his insistence on killing all of Leslie's dreams. And the other guy. Chris.
He introduces himself to Ann with a million-watt smile. She likes the way he says her name, like it's the most important name in the entire universe. Ann. Perkins.
But then she kisses Andy and what the fuck is she actually doing?
She'd never admit this to Leslie, like, ever, but she's kind of glad this whole government shutdown is taking place. It's an easy way to avoid Tom and Andy and the ghost of Mark.
Andy comes to her house one night, though, rings her doorbell like he didn't used to live there. She invites him in and he sits at her kitchen table, his fingers wrapped around a bottle of beer. He doesn't seem natural in her kitchen anymore, among her things that were once his, too.
"I told April about us kissing because I never want to lie to her. And she just ran away and won't return any of my phone calls and her parents said she's not home. What do I do?"
Ann doesn't point out the irony of Andy asking her for relationship advice, or that she's probably the worst person he could have come to for help. Instead she says something about how honesty is good and he shouldn't give up if he really likes April.
He bounds out the door a while later with a smile on his face and Ann texts April I'm sorry. April doesn't reply.
It would be easier to avoid all of the City Hall men if Leslie didn't insist on having Parks Department picnics weekly throughout the summer. And if she didn't insist on throwing them in Ann's backyard. (In her defense, though, Leslie's backyard is home to a couple piles of rotting firewood, a collection of bricks, and an old swingset that's half-buried under some overgrown weeds. "I don't know how to work a lawn mower, Ann!")
Ron mostly refuses to come, although sometimes when he does he brings Wendy, which is awkward, even though Tom always brings Lucy. And Mark's just flat-out disappeared from their lives. And April's gone, too, but Andy jumps every time he hears a car pass by, hoping she'll show up.
So it's usually just a big jumble of feelings, at least for Ann, although she can always see the jealousy on Tom's face when Wendy laughs at something Ron says and the confusion on Lucy's face when Tom's jealously staring at Wendy and the discomfort on Wendy's face when she realizes Tom's staring at her. It's a creepy love square and when Ann thinks about it, she remembers kissing Tom and she feels like the point on the pentagon, which makes no sense because a drunken kiss is not the same as a marriage or whatever.
So she sits with Leslie and Jerry and Donna and Andy and tries her hardest to ignore the weird soap opera going on around her.
One day toward the end of the summer, Leslie invites Ben and Chris to their picnic. Leslie claims that Ben's not so bad once you get to know him, and she says it with a teeny, almost invisible smile on her face.
City Hall is the most incestuous place Ann's ever seen in her life.
Chris is sweet, a little intense but so positive and so energetic. When Ann tells him she's a nurse he goes off on a long tangent about health food and exercise and a heart condition he had as a baby. Ann likes hearing him talk, likes listening. She likes how uncomplicated it seems to be, so when he asks if she'd want to have dinner sometime, she smiles and says yes, she would love that.
He programs her number into his phone before he leaves and Ann feels pretty satisfied with herself for a few minutes. Until Tom drops into the chair next to her where Chris had been sitting.
"You and Traeger, huh?"
"We're having dinner tomorrow night," she says.
"Good for you. It's been a while since Brendanawicz, right? It's about time you got your fine little booty back on the dating market."
Ann shifts, uncomfortable. "Yeah, I guess. Where's Lucy?"
"She went on vacation with her family. She's pretty great, isn't she?" He smiles a smile Ann's never seen before, and for some reason an ache settles in her chest.
"You know what? I never thought I'd say this about a girl who chose to date you, Tom, but she is pretty great. I like her a lot," she says truthfully.
Tom shakes his head. "Backhanded compliment. I'll take it. Hey, if things work out with you and Chris, we could double-date or something."
"Maybe." But a double-date where the guy she's kissed is the date of another girl? Probably not the best idea.
The government shutdown ends sometime in late August. Tom quits his job at Lady Foot Locker and Donna quits hers at the nipple factory. Ron emerges from his secret cabin in the woods and Leslie puts the finishing touches on her final idea binder. Ann starts taking her lunch breaks in the City Hall courtyard again.
She's gone on two dates with Chris, and she's enjoyed herself on each one. She knows that eventually he'll go back to Indianapolis and then on to the next bankrupt town, so she tries not to get too attached. But it's nice, for now, to have someone who's interested in everything she says and is genuinely fascinated by the mundane details of her day.
But the Parks Department budget hasn't just been slashed: it's been pretty much decimated. Ann's gotten used to the idea that there's not going to be a park behind her house for a long time, but Leslie has a lot of trouble trying to come to terms with all the things she's no longer even allowed to think about.
"I have an idea," she says one day during lunch. Ann had been in the middle of a sentence about one of her co-workers but Leslie got that look in her eyes and that was the end of that story.
"Chris can put more money into the Parks budget, right? And Chris is the guy you're dating. What if you seduced him into giving us the money for the park?"
Ann scrunches up her face. "Leslie, that's kinda weird, don't you think? I mean, I don't even work here and things are going pretty well between us and I don't want to mess that up…"
"But you want the park, right? And okay, you don't have to seduce him, maybe just bring it up next time you go out. Please, Ann?"
"I don't know, Les."
Ann sighs. "I'll try to bring it up. I'll try. But I'm not going to promise anything, or that it's even going to work."
And it doesn't work, but not for lack of trying. It's not hard to bring it up, actually. Over dinner, Ann just tells the story of the pit and how she and Leslie met, about the Lot 48 task force, about how now there's a giant empty lot behind her house wasting space that could be used for something worthwhile. She laments a little bit about how now that the budget's stretched so thin, it could be years before they ever get the money for a park.
"Hey, you know the numbers. What do you think, is there any way I'll see a park from my backyard anytime soon?" she asks.
"If it were up to me, there would be an outstanding park behind your house. But, to be honest, Ben and I have gone over the books from every angle. There's just not enough money in Pawnee for the added expenses." He smiles. "Now, there is an excellent organic soy ice cream place not too far from here. Okay, it's less of ice cream and more of unflavored frozen yogurt. But it is delicious. What do you say?"
"I say that sounds great." She exhales in relief as she shrugs on her sweater and hopes Leslie never brings it up again.
She does. Many times.
But then the Harvest Festival gets approval and Leslie, thankfully, stops asking Ann to pimp herself out to her boyfriend for the government.
But then Ann walks in on Tom and Lucy making out in the courtyard. Ann's frozen to the spot for a few seconds and it's been months since she kissed Tom but she can still feel his lips against hers. She sneaks back inside. They don't even notice.
She has sex with Chris that night for the first time.
Leslie wants to celebrate her victory before the team gets to work on the Harvest Festival so she drags everyone to the Snakehole after work. Ann hasn't set foot in the place since April's birthday. The whole thing makes her a little nervous and she's not entirely sure why, but Chris is excited to go, so she plasters on a smile and tries to enjoy the night with her friends and boyfriend. Boyfriend? Boyfriend.
Lucy's working behind the bar when Ann goes to get another round for her and Chris. She hands Ann two beers with a smile.
"This is all pretty exciting, isn't it?" Lucy says. "Tom talked me into volunteering during the festival. Should be fun, though."
Ann returns the smile and slides a couple bills onto the bar. "Yeah, it will."
"That Chris guy is cute." Lucy nods over to where Chris is sitting with Andy. He's been helping Andy try to woo April and Ann's weirded out by how not weirded out she is over the whole thing.
"Yeah, he's great," Ann replies. And she means it. Chris is exactly what she needed after breaking up with Mark, kissing Tom, and kissing Andy all in the same week. And if she has to pretend she likes jogging on Sunday mornings, well, relationships are about compromise, aren't they?
"My two favorite ladies!" Tom appears behind Ann seemingly out of nowhere. He leans over the bar and kisses Lucy, which makes Ann uncomfortable, so she turns away. "Whatcha talking about? Me?"
Ann scoffs. "You wish, dude."
"Oh, Ann, remember a couple months ago when you and I were throwing back shots and talking about how shitty our love lives were?"
It catches her off-guard because she's been doing a good job pushing it out of her mind all night. She doesn't say anything, doesn't move, really, until Lucy laughs and Tom laughs and then Ann forces herself to laugh, too.
"Yeah, that was… something."
She waits for a knowing look, a pointed glance, a lewd leer, anything from Tom to acknowledge what happened after the shots and the bitching. But he just orders a drink from Lucy and kisses her again before she goes to get it. It's like he forgot about it.
It's like he doesn't care.
An arm wraps around her shoulders and Ann jumps before she looks back and sees Chris standing next to her. "Tom Haverford! And Lucy! Two of my favorite people on this planet."
Tom and Lucy say hello and Chris points at them.
"I just had a fantastic idea. The four of us should have dinner together sometime. There is literally nothing that would make me happier."
Ann smiles and hunches her shoulders a bit, tries to look small.
"Sounds fun," Tom says. "Let's do it."
Chris rattles off a list of restaurants he loves in the area and Ann thinks about an awkward double-date where Tom hits on her in front of his girlfriend. But as Tom and Chris laugh at something Lucy says, and Tom looks at Lucy with some serious googly-eyes, Ann can't remember the last time Tom hit on her. He's kind of a different person with Lucy. Ann's happy for him.
Lucy gets the flu. She's admitted to the hospital when she passes out at work one night. Tom ducks out of the meeting with the business owners to sit by her bedside, despite her reassurances that she's fine, just dehydrated. Ann's not sure, but she thinks this behavior might have something to do with the fact that a patient of Wendy's who's in recovery is on this floor and Wendy walks past Lucy's room every few hours.
Between chasing down Leslie, fighting the urge to drug April with sleeping medication, trying to convince Chris that he's not going to die, and taking care of a floor filled with patients, Ann doesn't have time to give Tom hourly updates on Lucy's health. He commandeers the call button and buzzes her on the hour, wants to know Lucy's vitals and her progress. And Ann's pretty proud of herself, because it's not until the fourth time he buzzes and then tracks her down at the nurses' station that she snaps.
"Goddammit, Tom, there is nothing wrong with Lucy. She has the flu. She needs some fluids and fever reducer. She'll be out of here in the morning so please, for my sanity, put the fucking buzzer down."
Tom just kind of stares at her, dumbstruck.
She takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I am very tired and Leslie and Chris and April are driving me absolutely crazy. Lucy only passed out because she didn't have enough water and her fever got too high. It's down now. It's policy to keep her overnight for observation but I promise you, she's fine."
He puts his hand on her shoulder and she flinches. "You need a break, girl. Leslie's right, though. You are the best nurse in North America." He turns around and goes back into Lucy's room.
Ann's shoulder burns a little bit for the rest of her shift.
Andy bursts into the hospital sometime in the afternoon, after Ann has gotten Chris to sleep and Ben's brought Leslie back to her room and Tom's given up the buzzer. "Ann! Where's April?" He skids to a stop in front of the nurses' station.
"She's in room 207, Andy. But I think she might be sleeping. How are things going between you guys?"
"Well, she's still super pissed at me. And she's still dating that Eduardo guy. He hasn't been here, has he? I didn't even know she was here until Ron told me."
Eduardo had, in fact, been in earlier this morning, but Ann wasn't going to be the one to tell Andy that. "Go get her, man."
Andy smiles before taking off and Ann goes back to filling out her charts. Chris buzzes in thirty seconds later, complaining that he still thinks he's dying.
A few weeks later, Ann's supposed to meet Leslie for lunch in her office but when she gets there, Leslie's nowhere to be found.
"She had some emergency Harvest Festival meeting," Tom says. "Or something like that, I wasn't really paying attention, to be honest."
"Oh," Ann says, taking her usual chair. "I brought her a sandwich. You want it? It's on wheat bread."
Tom sighs. "Sure. I can eat all the carbs I want now, I have no one to impress."
"What do you mean?"
"Lucy broke up with me yesterday." He puts his head on the desk and sighs again.
Ann drags her chair closer to his desk. "Really? Dude, that sucks. What happened?"
"You know how Ron's dating Wendy and how I said I was totally cool with it? Well, I lied and I guess Lucy could tell because she dumped me. I really liked her, Ann."
"I know you did." Hesitantly, she places her hand on his arm. "But you and Wendy were married. For a while. And now she's dating your boss, which has gotta be hard to see. Maybe you need some more time to get over her."
Tom looks up and takes a deep breath. "Okay, I have to tell you something, but you have to promise—no, swear—that you can't tell anyone."
"Yeah, I swear."
"Wendy and I had… a green card marriage."
Ann wrinkles her brow. "But I thought you were from South Carolina."
He rolls his eyes. "I am, Ann! Wendy's from Canada. You guys are all racist."
"Okay, so it wasn't a real marriage. What's the big deal, then?"
"I kind of…" He screws up his face in discomfort and Ann thinks this might be the only time in her entire life she's going to see Tom Haverford look embarrassed. "Like, the day we got divorced I realized I might be in love with her."
Ann sits back in her seat and doesn't say anything. It's too much information for her to process. She's always thought of Tom as, well, not really a person. He's never seemed to have feelings or problems. Even the day he got divorced and everyone took him out to dinner, he just didn't seem sad enough. He's always been an overconfident assclown and to see him embarrassed and uncomfortable and admitting to being in love with one woman and lamenting his breakup with another, it's just… too much.
"Does she know?" Ann manages to ask.
"Not really. After we split up I asked her if she wanted to go out sometime, maybe try something for real, and she wasn't interested."
"It's messed up, isn't it? I ruined things with Lucy over a girl I never even had."
"It's not messed up. Relationships and feelings are weird and complicated. Wendy's great and you spent so long pretending to be in love with her that it makes sense that you developed actual feelings for her somewhere along the way. And Lucy's really great, too, and it was obvious that you cared about her a lot. And it would probably be a lot easier for you to get over Wendy if you didn't have to see her with Ron all the time."
Tom scoffs. "You think?"
"Look, why don't you take some time, push them both out of your mind for a while, and then when you get your head cleared, you can call Lucy and see if she wants to give you another chance. She really likes you, Tom."
"Or, I could do this," he says. "I could call Ron's ex-wife and start dating her."
"That is the worst idea I've ever heard in my life. Tammy would tear you apart, and not in the good way. Please, please don't do that."
"But then he'd know how it feels."
Ann raises her eyebrow and holds out her pinky. "Pinky promise you won't do that, Tom. I'm serious."
He wraps his pinky around hers. "Fine. I won't call Tammy."
"Okay, you know what happens if you break a pinky promise."
"You die," Ann says simply. She picks up her sandwich with a shrug.
Tom laughs and Ann feels like she helped, feels good.
"Sorry I bailed on lunch today," Leslie says later. She showed up at Ann's with takeout for dinner. "There's so much to do, so much more than I thought. The whole department is riding on this and I can't let everyone lose their jobs."
"No big deal, I totally understand." Ann spears some salad onto her fork. "I gave your sandwich to Tom. He and Lucy broke up, he was pretty bummed about the whole thing. He told me that you know about him and Wendy."
Leslie makes a face. "Yeah, that whole situation really stinks. Hey, maybe we can get Ben to hang out with Tom, you know, cheer him up some."
"You like Ben, don't you?"
"What? No, of course not! He's a stupid jerk and I actually hate him. He's mean and rude and doesn't care about anything except… okay, fine I kind of do like him." Leslie frowns. "What do I do, Ann?"
Ann's not entirely sure when she went from giant mess to relationship advice giver. "Why don't you just tell him? Ask him out. You guys spend a lot of time together working, ask him to grab dinner after you're done one night."
"You think I should?"
Ann smiles. "I really do. You guys would be great together."
"What if you ask Chris to ask Ben if he likes me?"
"Leslie. I'm not going to do that. That's something you do in middle school."
"Fine," she pouts. "How is Chris, anyway?"
"He's good. He's leaving soon, you know. But I think… I think maybe he's going to ask me to move to Indianapolis with him. He's said a couple things hinting toward that and, I don't know, maybe it would be good for me."
"Wow, I didn't realize you guys were that serious."
"I didn't either. But I think we could be."
They can't be. Chris dumps her two days later.
And watching Ben and Leslie together? It's awful and disgusting and horrible. They are so freaking cute and adorable Ann wants to scream. She sits through every Harvest Festival volunteer meeting with her eyes glued to her watch, trying not to see that the two of them lead the meetings totally in sync and staring at each other longingly.
Frankly, it's offensive and rude.
Tom's technically co-running the meetings with them, since there are so many volunteers. But Leslie and Ben rarely let him get a word in edgewise, so he spends the time staring at Lucy and then looking away every time she glances in his direction.
Lucy decided to keep her promise to volunteer. She's been assigned to help Ann in the first aid tent, which Ann thinks Tom had something to do with. It turns out she's CPR certified, or maybe she's not and Tom just wants her to be stationed with Ann and not with another guy. Ann's never known Tom to be the jealous type, though. Until Ron started dating his ex-wife, anyway.
After the meeting, Lucy comes up to Ann, and Ann can feel Tom's eyes on them from the front of the room. "Hey, Ann, can we talk for a minute?"
"Sure, what's up?"
Lucy shifts her weight and looks at the ground. "Look, I don't want to bail on this because I know how important it is. And I'm excited to do this. But I know you're friends with Tom and he's going to ask you to talk to me for him and just… could we not do that?"
"Of course. As far as I'm concerned, you and Tom don't know each other. Actually, in that first aid tent, there is no Tom." Ann gives her a smile. She can see Tom packing up his things aggressively out of the corner of her eye.
"Thanks, Ann," Lucy says. "I really appreciate it. I'll see you this weekend."
It takes approximately five seconds after Lucy leaves for Tom to catch up to Ann. "What did Lucy need to talk to you about?"
"It's nothing, Tom," Ann says, walking away. Ben and Leslie are giggling over a binder and it's making Ann slightly nauseous.
He follows her out of the room. "Come on, Ann, please? Will you at least talk to her for me? Wendy's gone, she's moving back to Canada."
Ann stops walking. "After all that, she's going back? After you married her so she could stay here?"
Tom shushes her and looks around. "I know, I've already thought of that like, a million times. But the point is, now that Wendy won't be around anymore, maybe Lucy will understand how much I want to be with her. So if you could just mention that while you guys are working together—"
"No. Absolutely not."
"Aaaaaaaaann! That's all you have to say! 'Hey Lucy, how's it going, let's perform the Heimlich on some people oh and did you know Wendy Haverford moved back to Canada?' It's so easy!"
"Why does everyone want me to get involved in their love lives? I'm not doing it. Figure out your own relationship."
She starts to walk away again but Tom grabs her wrist. "Everyone needs your help because you're the only person we know in a healthy relationship. Who else am I gonna ask for help? Jerry? I don't think so."
"Chris dumped me, so, there's that." She stares down at his fingers wrapped around her wrist. She wonders if there will ever be a time when they're in close proximity that she won't remember their kiss.
"He dumped you? He dumped you?"
"You don't have to repeat it a bunch of times. It's not going to make it any less true."
He pulls his hand away and her wrist feels cold. "I'm sorry, I just can't believe it. Chris is a great dude and all, but you're Ann Perkins. You're a perfect ten. I don't get it."
A slow smile spreads across her face. "Chris doesn't think so."
"Chris is crazy. Certifiably insane. He lost a good thing and you just wait, because he's going to regret it. Hard."
She hopes he's right because while Ann is anything but vindictive, she wants Chris to feel this amount of heartbreak and embarrassment that she feels now.
"Thanks, Tom. I really appreciate you saying that. But I'm still not going to talk to Lucy for you."
The Harvest Festival is beautiful and perfect and Ann wants to cry because she's so proud of Leslie. Luckily, aside from a couple of scraped knees and one skeeball accident, there's no real need for the first aid tent, so Ann gets to spend her time watching people enjoy themselves.
The first aid tent does eventually—predictably—become the relationship advice tent, and Ann wonders if at some point she put a sign on her forehead without realizing it. April slinks in and mutters something about telling Andy she loves him and him reciprocating with "awesomesauce." Donna drops by to say she's not going to be helping pass out water after all, because she's blowing this whole thing off for a police officer working security by the Wamapoke Memorial. Ron warns them all to watch out for Tammy, who's been keeping mostly quiet, but is sure to wreak some sort of havoc. And Leslie, who still hasn't asked Ben out yet, texts Ann updates about how he bought her cotton candy and other equally grossly cute things.
So Ann takes care of it all. She tells April that of course Andy loves her back, he's just terrible at understanding that he needs to say it instead of just reacting to it. She assures Donna she can handle the tent herself, but texts her later to ask her security guard to remove Tammy from the premises. She replies to all of Leslie's messages with smiley faces and encouraging but pushy phrases to convince her to ask Ben out.
And then Tom shows up. Lucy's been switching between helping Ann tackle these relationship problems and reading a magazine. Her face kind of falls when Tom walks in and she gives Ann a look, at which Ann quickly shakes her head. Ann had told Tom to stay away from the tent, and she knows for a fact he's supposed to be manning the Li'l Sebastian exhibit.
"Hey guys," he says. "Lucy, could we maybe talk for a minute? Maybe take a walk?"
Ann's always been good at silent communication. She learned it in middle school, when she and her best friend sat two rows apart in every single class, a boy they both liked between them. So she tilts her head slightly toward Lucy, as if asking her if she's okay with going, or if she wants Ann to tell her to stay. Lucy gives her a small smile and shakes her head before standing up.
"Sure, let's take a walk."
They leave and Ann tries her hardest not to watch them walk away or peek her head out of the tent to see what direction they take. She occupies herself with Lucy's magazine and texting Leslie. A woman comes in with her young daughter who got sno-cone syrup in her eye and Ann flushes it out for her. She paces the tent a few times. She has no idea why she's so antsy.
Lucy comes back alone about twenty minutes later. She doesn't say anything, just sits down and pulls her magazine toward her. Ann's about to die from anticipation when Lucy looks up and grins. "Tom and I are back together."
"Congratulations," Ann chokes out. She convinces herself that it's just because of her recent breakup with Chris that her stomach sinks a little bit.
It's not until Ann is walking into JJ's does she realize that she's doing to Chris the same exact thing Mark did to her. She has the irrepressible urge to get back in her car and drive home, but somehow standing Chris up is even worse.
"Thanks for meeting me," she says as she slides into the booth across from him. He was early, of course.
"Of course. I'm glad we got to see each other before I leave tomorrow. Now that the Harvest Festival is over, and Pawnee looks like it's going to be okay, my boss is sending me to Snerling for a few months."
"I've just been thinking about our relationship and I thought it was going really well before you broke up with me and... well, I've been kind of a mess for the last couple months and I need to know. Did I do something wrong?"
It's like déjà vu, really, except weird because she's in the opposite position. But she can't stop the words from coming out of her mouth and the patient, pitiful look on Chris's face is what she imagines she looked like sitting in this same diner with Mark all those months ago.
Chris reaches across the table and takes her hand. "Ann Perkins, you are a delight, as was our relationship. But I'll be gone in the morning and I just think it's better if we leave things now. You understand, don't you?"
Ann fakes a smile and pulls her hand away. "Of course I understand. I was just being silly."
Until the city manager has a heart attack and the city council offers Chris his job and Chris? Well, he doesn't go to Snerling.
Ann only has to spend about thirty seconds wondering if him staying in Pawnee means they'll eventually get back together. Because Jerry's daughter meets him at the office for lunch one day right when Chris walks into the Parks Department and Chris speaks of nothing but Millicent Gergich for the rest of the day.
Ben stays in Pawnee, too, takes a job as Chris's Assistant City Manager. Leslie's happy, but it's also weird because he's kind of her boss now and dating would be against the moral code both of them carry much too close to them. Also, Chris sends out a ton of government-wide memos with all of the new policies he's instituting and one of them is a strict no inter-office dating policy. It's a rule that sits between Ben and Leslie with kind of an elephant-in-the-room intensity so Ann does her part by playing third wheel during lunch sometimes.
And it sucks even more because Ann really likes Ben and she thinks he would be so beyond perfect for Leslie. If this was three months ago, Ann might be convinced into seducing Chris to get rid of that rule. But Chris is off seducing Millicent Gergich, who is really pretty and sweet, and for once, Ann wants someone to date someone she can hate because it might make her feel better.
Andy visits her at the hospital one day, an envelope in his hand.
"April and I are having a dinner party tonight and we want you to come. Well, I want you to come. April says she doesn't care. But that basically means she wants you there. Anyway, please come."
Her invitation also requests that she bring six bottles of wine, and Ann's not sure if she should take that seriously or not, so she stops at the liquor store on the way home and buys two bottles, one red and one white, just in case.
It's a nice party until Leslie physically rips her away from a conversation with Lucy and drags her outside.
"Leslie, what the hell?"
"Andy and April are getting married. Tonight. Surprise wedding. You have to do something!"
Ann doesn't respond right away because she has no idea what to say. Leslie shakes her.
"Do something! Make out with Andy again! Make out with April! Object! Anything!"
"Focus, Ann. Focus," Leslie says. "Andy and April are going to get married. Tonight. In like twenty minutes. They've been dating for a month. April is barely twenty-one years old. This cannot happen."
Once upon a time, Ann thought she'd marry Andy. After three years together, she couldn't help but imagine it. But then Andy kept... not proposing. It was like he didn't want to get married, and she probably could have lived with that, but instead they didn't talk about it. At all. If he's not only talked about it with April after a few weeks, but actually plans on going through with it, well, it seems like less of an impulse decision and more of something he just actually really wants.
And it makes Ann a little sad, but she's seen them together and she knows how hard it can be to love Andy sometimes. April not only does it well, she does it in her own way.
"I don't think you can stop them, Les," she says finally. "I think it'll be okay. They're good together."
Leslie pulls April into the bathroom three times before the ceremony starts, but when April walks down the aisle, Leslie's crying what Ann knows are happy tears.
Ann tries not to watch Chris and Millicent dance while Mouse Rat plays, but it's hard. They look happy, and maybe now that Ann's seen her first ex-boyfriend wedding, she's mature enough to handle it. Maybe.
"Tough night to be you, huh?" a voice says in her ear.
She turns around to find Tom holding out a fresh glass of wine, which she takes thankfully. "I'm being mature about it. I even prevented Leslie from stopping the wedding. Look at me."
Tom smiles. "Look at you. Very mature." He clinks his beer against her glass.
"Can you believe how beautiful Millicent is? When Jerry said he had three beautiful daughters, well, I kind of thought he was just one of those parents who believe their children are the most spectacular-looking people in the world. But he's not. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it."
"She's okay," Tom says nonchalantly.
He shrugs. "I still think Chris is nuts for letting you get away. Millicent or no Millicent."
Lucy emerges from the direction of the bathroom and Tom bumps his shoulder against Ann's before taking off to meet her.
Ann walks into Leslie's office in mid-December to find Tom eating another sandwich. On white bread this time.
"Woah, dude, what's going on?"
"Lucy's going to grad school in January. In Terra Haute. She didn't know how to tell me, so she sprung it on me last night. She thinks we should break up again."
"You guys just got back together like two months ago!" Ann takes notice of Leslie's empty desk and mentally scraps their dinner plans. She has the feeling Ben is involved, so she'll let it slide.
"I know! Maybe it's just for the best. Seems kind of dumb to keep fighting for it."
Ann sits in front of his desk and shrugs. "It's not dumb. I think you just have really terrible timing with women. Wendy, Lucy. I think relationships are like, sixty percent timing."
Tom puts down his sandwich. "Yeah, but that makes it sound like my fault when it's easier for me to blame them."
"Don't be a jerk," she says, kicking him under the desk. "So you got dumped. Join the club. At least Lucy's going to move away so you don't have to constantly run into her anymore. I see Chris like three times a week."
"That's because you practically live at City Hall. You need to hang out other places, girl. Not just in the Parks Department. When was the last time you were somewhere besides here or the hospital?"
She opens her mouth to answer but he cuts her off. "And JJ's doesn't count!"
She narrows her eyes. "JJ's does too count. And so what if I've been in kind of a rut lately? I'll get out of it. This has just been a weird couple of months for me."
"I have an idea. Leslie obviously stood you up because she's not here and she brought her coat wherever it was she went. How about you and I go to the Snakehole and you can buy me a drink because I got dumped and I'm sad and you can actually be out in the world with people and not sitting on your couch watching Lifetime."
"Hey! That's… totally accurate. Okay, fine. Let's go."
He makes her drive because he's "too sad to use his own gas" and she rolls her eyes but gets in her car anyway. When they get there she shoots Leslie a text saying they can reschedule and she better be hooking up with Ben. Tom calls the bar from the parking lot and asks in a weird voice if Lucy is working and since the answer is no, they're free to go inside.
They commandeer a table in the back corner ("Just in case Lucy comes in for any reason, I'll be able to duck and hide." "Why don't we just go somewhere else, then?" "Because I own this place, Ann! Hey, I can fire her, can't I?" "No. No, you can't.) and Tom's serious about making Ann buy the first round.
"To getting dumped and being single," he says bitterly, raising his glass.
"Always a good time," she replies.
"Hey," he says after he takes a drink. "Remember when you got really drunk and kissed me? Never thought I'd see the day."
Ann crosses and uncrosses her legs. "I remember," she says, which is the understatement of the year.
She wonders how much he remembers, if he was as drunk as she was, if he remembers his gasp of surprise when she pressed her lips against his, running his fingers along the waistband of her jeans, slipping his tongue into her mouth. She's dreamt about it so many times; it's gone from a hazy moment to something clear and focused, like she watched it happen on a movie screen.
"Hello? Earth to Ann! You okay, boo?"
She blinks and looks at him. "I'm sorry?"
"You just totally spaced out. Everything okay?"
"Yeah, it's fine." She shakes her head. "No, it's not fine. You were totally weird after we kissed. Why?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that everything I thought I knew about you turned out to be wrong. You didn't keep bringing it up. You didn't hit on me or make a ton of inappropriate comments and now it's like six months later and this is the first time you're mentioning it. I don't get it."
"What did you want me to do? Wear a sign that says 'I Kissed Ann Perkins' all over town? I know you were beyond drunk and we're friends and I didn't want things to get weird. And then I was with Lucy and you were with Chris and I don't get why this is a big deal."
Ann presses her hand to her forehead and screws her eyes shut. "It's a big deal because I kind of can't stop thinking about it. Like, I've never stopped thinking about it. And I don't know what to do with that and literally everyone comes to me for relationship advice and I just want to scream at them that I'm the last person they should want to talk to because I drunkenly kissed Tom Haverford months ago and it's been like, eating me up ever since."
It feels simultaneously horrifying and amazing to say this out loud. She hasn't spoken a word of it to anyone, not even Leslie, and it's something she needed to get off her chest but she got it off her chest to Tom and what's he going to think and oh god Ann's going to throw up right now all over the table and Tom's not saying anything and her eyes are still closed and this is it, the moment where she dies of humiliation.
She slowly opens her eyes and Tom's just kind of sitting there with a weird expression on his face. For a second, she thinks she imagined saying all that, so she picks up her drink and takes a sip as if nothing happened.
"You give good relationship advice," he says finally.
"Thank you," she replies quietly.
Her phone chimes loudly on the table and Ann picks it up to find a text from Leslie: Ben and I made out! It was amazing! :D :D :D !
She can't help but laugh because Leslie's timing is out of control ridiculous.
"What's so funny?" Tom asks.
She hands him her phone and suddenly she's laughing way harder than necessary; her eyes are tearing up and she covers her mouth to muffle the sound.
And then Tom laughs, just as hard, and Ann is so thankful for Leslie. She buries her face in her arms and when she comes up for air, she wipes the tears from her eyes and Tom isn't sitting across from her anymore.
He's sitting next to her.
It sobers her up really fast.
"You scare the absolute shit out of me," he says.
"I have awful timing when it comes to women."
"For fuck's sake, Tom."
He leans in and kisses her on the cheek before sliding out of the booth. "I'll get the next round, okay?"
Happy for you and Ben :) she texts Leslie later. I made out with Tom. I'm going to remember it in the morning, though.
Ann! Call me right now!