What's the deal with my brain?
Why am I so obviously insane?
In a perfect situation
I lead love down the drain.
There's the pitch, slow and straight.
All I have to do is swing
and I'm a hero, but I'm a zero.
-Perfect Situation by Weezer
Ben glanced around Leslie's office for her, before peeking out into the main parks department to see if he missed her. Huh, we had that meeting she set up, Ben thought to himself. It was unlike her to be late to anything pertaining to the Harvest Festival. He checked under her desk quickly, making sure she wasn't hiding under there so she could jump out and scare him. The last time she did that he shrieked like a little girl.
"She's outside having lunch with Mark," Tom commented lazily from his desk as he flipped through a magazine
Ben glanced outside to see that sure enough Leslie was eating lunch with a guy he vaguely recognized. "Isn't that the city planner that quit?"
"Yeah, he took a job at a construction company."
"Then why is he having lunch with Leslie? Are they friends?" Ben wracked his brain, trying to think if Leslie mentioned Mark.
"I guess. She had this massive crush on him because she slept with him forever ago. But sure, I guess you could call them friends," Tom commented in a bored tone.
"Huh," was all Ben could muster, shoving his hands in his pockets and standing there awkwardly. Leslie laughed at something Mark said, patting his arm. Ben felt something hot run through him and he realized he was jealous of some guy that he didn't even know. Even after they started dating secretly, his idea not hers, Leslie was still able to completely make him feel unbalanced, and he hated it.
Ben briefly considered going outside to break up their clandestine lunch, but didn't have to decide because Leslie glanced at her watch and looked up. She caught his gaze, her face brightening as she gave him an energetic wave and held up one finger, telling him to wait. She turned back around, sweeping up her garbage before giving Mark a quick hug. Ben went from jealousy to anger when he saw Mark lean down and give her a brief kiss on the cheek.
Ben felt his face flush a little and his jaw tighten as he watched a blushing Leslie enter her office bubbling over with excitement.
"I'm so sorry I'm late. Mark just had me distracted by some amazing park ideas. "
"Park ideas?" It was the only thing Ben could manage to say with Tom in the room.
"Oh, didn't I tell you?" Leslie chattered happily as she got her papers in order. "Mark is the one that came up with those park designs that I showed you."
"Great," Ben muttered, but Leslie didn't notice his lack of enthusiasm because she had already started her speech about the importance of having a pumpkin carving contest because it lowered crime rates.
Ben listened and threw in an obligatory sarcastic remark. His mind was elsewhere though. He felt a pang in his gut, knowing he couldn't compare to Mark, the tall, handsome park designer.
Two days later he and Leslie were having a "business" lunch at JJ's. Really it's just him making up to her that he had to cancel their date the previous night because of some last minute changes Chris needed done to one of the departments budgets. Leslie not only had been understanding but when she found out that the department in question was the library and the change was a negative one, she was gleeful at the news.
"Leslie?" A quiet voice interrupted Leslie explaining her hatred of the library system.
"Oh Dave. What are you doing here?" Leslie exclaimed.
Ben looked at Dave suspiciously, remembering the police chief mentioning him. He didn't much enjoy Dave's lecherous gaze. He knew never to trust gingers.
"I'm back in town visiting some family and thought I would stop in to get something to eat."
"Why don't you join us? This is Ben, a coworker. We were just finishing up business. I would love to catch up and hear all of your thrilling California stories."
Ben gritted his teeth at the offer, but obligingly scooted over for Dave who eagerly sat down.
"Thank you. I must say Leslie, you are looking as beautiful as ever." Dave shyly smiled at Leslie, who returned his grin easily.
And that was only the beginning. Ben had to sit through the entire lunch as Dave bent over backwards to compliment Leslie. They caught up with each other, Leslie giving a small smile as she said that no she wasn't dating anybody. Ben now hated himself for even suggesting this secret to begin with. He wanted so badly to reach across the table to grab Leslie's hands and to send a message to Dave to back off. However, his own hesitation about what others thought about them would be his downfall.
The worst part came when they started reminiscing and Dave talked about how he still hoped she would reconsider moving down to California. He told her there was still a place with him if she wanted. Ben was able to breathe again when she politely and delicately declined.
Ben wanted to hate Dave, it would be much easier that way. But he found he couldn't. Dave was such a nice guy and he treated Leslie like an angel that had blessed him with her company. Ben couldn't fault Dave for that, even if it made Ben feel inadequate. He liked Leslie…a lot, but it wasn't his nature to dote on or overly compliment a woman. He would rather show he cared through his actions. But maybe that is not the kind of man Leslie wanted to be with.
Ben approached Ann's house where Chris said he would be this evening. Chris asked him to look at the progress some of the departments were making on cutting back and to give him an update as soon as he was done. Chris wanted to look at the reports over the weekend. That's why Ben was here on a Friday night even though he would much rather be spending the time with Leslie who said she would wait up for him.
Ben knocked on the door, hearing laughter from inside the house. Ann opened the door, smiling easily. "You must be here for Chris."
"That I am." Ben waved the file folders in his hand to illustrate his point.
"Ah, Ben. Do you have the reports?" Chris cheerfully asked as he approached the door.
'Yeah. Here you go." Ben handed them over, already making a retreat to leave.
"Don't go yet, Ben. We finished dinner and were just going to have some drinks. You have to meet Ann's friend Justin. He has the most fantastic stories to tell."
Ben glanced at Ann who quickly agreed. "You should stay for a drink."
Not really able to use Leslie as an excuse, Ben reluctantly complied. Chris was pleased and led Ben into the living room to introduce Justin enthusiastically.
One drink quickly turned into five as Justin and Chris kept on most of the conversation. Ben's first instinct was to not like Justin. Although he was nice enough, Ben couldn't help but think he came off as a little pretentious, talking on and on about some remote village in India. But, Ben felt he couldn't judge because the furthest he had ever been was Canada. He didn't leave with any great cultural insights except that he and his college friends thought it was hilarious when a local called a police man a copper.
Everything was going well enough. He had a nice buzz going on and he only had to half pay attention to the conversation, so he could use the other half of his brain day dreaming about Leslie. He was brought back to the conversation though when Leslie, herself, was brought up.
"So how is Leslie doing? I keep meaning to call her," Justin commented.
"You know Leslie?" Chris asked, completely incredulous.
"We dated for a while last year."
"Well, what a small world," Chris exclaimed in a tone that implied this was a crazy coincidence, forgetting that Ann and Leslie were best friends.
Ben didn't hear the rest of the conversation because he was too busy glaring at Justin, sizing up his nice suit and features. The only one that noticed though was Ann who gave him a small, knowing smile. Before he said anything he would regret he stood up, announcing it was time for him to go. Chris looked disappointed but Ann walked him to the door.
"You should really just walk because of how many drinks you have had. You know she lives only two blocks down the road," Ann whispered.
Ben thought about playing dumb but instead just smiled thankfully and started to walk away.
Ben couldn't stop the smile forming on his face when Leslie opened the door in a baggy t-shirt and sweatpants.
Her face lit up at seeing him, leaning forward to give him a quick kiss. She wrinkled her nose as she pulled back. "Have you been drinking?"
"Just a few," Ben mumbled. "Don't worry I didn't drive."
"Well come on in." Leslie moved aside. "You got here just in time. I am about to start a documentary about Koala Bears. They are on my top ten list of cutest animals ever."
He giggled, wondering what the other animals on the list were. He assumed Penguins ranked somewhere on that list. He obviously wasn't thinking enough about the intricate task of walking because he stumbled over nothing but his own feet and nearly face planted. Leslie placed an arm and his waist and led him to the couch, which he fell back on with a plop.
"Wow, you really are drunk. Did you eat anything before you drank?"
"Nope," Ben responded, popping the 'p'.
"Well, you definitely need something substantive in your stomach. I'll make you some hot chocolate, which always helps me. Oh and I have those cookies that Ann made me." Leslie straightened, now having a task to focus on. "I'll be right back. Just stay here...unless you are going to throw up."
Ben watched her leave and considered her words. It seemed like a good idea to just sit here and wait for her to come back. It seemed that last drink was finally hitting his system and he was a little drunker than he thought. His train of thought was interrupted by an idea that flitted across his brain. Oh yeah. He wanted to know more about these ex-boyfriends of hers. So, without any foresight he pushed himself off the couch and made his way into the kitchen, only banging his elbow once and stubbing his toes twice.
He leaned on the doorframe as he watched Leslie fill a kettle with water before putting it on the stove.
"You know it would be much easier to just microwave a mug of water," Ben stated matter-of-factly.
Leslie rolled her eyes at him. "But the hot chocolate doesn't taste as good then. Trust me, I know what I'm doing."
Ben held up his hands in surrender. "I didn't mean to question your wisdom on hot chocolate making."
"You better not mister." Leslie gave him one of her patented fake, warning looks that never failed to make Ben smile.
He continued to observe as she got the ingredients ready for the hot chocolate. Without really thinking about it consciously, Ben blamed the alcohol, he blurted out, "Why did you and Dave break up? He seems like a really nice guy."
Leslie didn't hesitate for a second in pulling mugs out from the cabinet. "He just moved away and I really didn't want to follow him." Leslie shrugged. "There wasn't much to it."
"What about Justin? What's your reason for breaking up with him?"
Leslie turned in the middle of putting cookies on a plate to stare at him questioningly. "How do you know about Justin?"
"I just met him at Ann's when I was dropping off some things for Chris. And don't deflect. He's so put together and worldly, why wouldn't you want to be with him?"
Leslie turned around, leaning against the counter so she could look Ben fully. "I just thought he was kind of selfish and I didn't think he was right for me," Leslie spoke slowly, and suspiciously, not getting the direction of the conversation.
The rational part of Ben's brain wanted to let the whole thing go and move on to have a nice evening with Leslie watching another one of her animal shows. Sadly the part of Ben's brain that was still drunk was in control and it wanted answers. "Fair enough. What about Mark? He's all handsome and designs you fucking parks. I take your parks away." Ben did realize his voice was getting a little strangled and hysterical, but alas there was nothing that could be done about it now.
"Where is this coming from?"
"Just answer the question," Ben replied shortly.
"What do you want to hear? I was in love with Mark and after I slept with him he never called me and we barely talked. And then he dated my best friend. So, that is why I am not in a relationship with Mark currently." Leslie's voice took on the tone she used on him when he had first arrived in town. "I really don't know where this is coming from and I have to say if this is you drunk, I really don't like it." She turned back around and finished making the hot chocolate, banging anything she could whenever she had the chance.
Ben didn't know what to say so he just turned around and went back to the couch. He dropped his face into his hands, moaning into them. He really needed impulse control on saying whatever popped into his head. It had never been a problem before, but something about this town made him completely off balance where he just said the craziest shit. He hated it, yet it never crossed his mind to leave. That possibility was unthinkable.
He was brought out of his thoughts by Leslie setting a tray on the coffee table in front of him. He looked up to see a steaming mug of hot chocolate and plate brimming with cookies. He nabbed one, taking a large bite. He really did need some food in his stomach. After finishing his cookie he took the mug and sipped at the drink slowly. Throughout this Leslie didn't say anything to him, too focused on her routine of putting whipped cream on her hot chocolate, drinking some, and then adding more whipped cream. Ben wondered if he was supposed to speak first, and figured he probably should say something. He bought himself a few minutes, steadily drinking his hot chocolate. Once it was gone though he was forced to set it down and turn his attention to Leslie.
"Look, I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't be prying into your past like that and I was being obnoxious," Ben murmured.
"What was that about?" Leslie questioned.
Ben thought about lying, but honestly he couldn't come up with any other explanation for his curiosity except the truth. "I saw you with Mark earlier this week, and then meeting Dave and Justin made me wonder why you were dating me. I'm so different than all of those guys so I just had to know why things ended with them."
Leslie's face softened at his words. "Did it ever occur to you that the reason I am with you is because you are nothing like them? I don't regret any of them working out because it means I get to be with you. You, who likes politics and is smart and funny."
Her words were so simple but they fell on him like cool water, clearing his foggy mind. Oh God, what was wrong with him? "I was being stupid, wasn't I?"
Leslie laughed. "Just a little bit. Luckily, you being jealous is cute." She leaned forward and gave him a lingering kiss, filling his senses with chocolate.
When she pulled away, Ben couldn't stop the yawn from escaping him. Leslie smiled. "You must be tired. Here, lie down." She grabbed a throw pillow and placed it on her lap, patting it. Ben didn't hesitate, lying down and placing his head on her lap. She took the blanket off the back of the couch and threw it across his body. "Get some rest. You'll be thinking more clearly tomorrow."
Touched by her care, Ben blurted out the first thing that came to him. "I love you."
"You're drunk," Leslie teased.
"Drunk on love," Ben replied sleepily, already feeling quite cozy.
"Go to sleep Ben," Leslie quietly chuckled as she ran her fingers through his hair, soothingly. "You'll laugh about this tomorrow."
Ben doubted he would laugh at anything said but he didn't have the energy to tell her that as he slowly drifted off to sleep.
A/N I struggled SO much with this story. I don't know if it's because it's my first Parks and Rec story or because my idea just didn't translate well. But I cannot look at this story any more without going crazy. I've been working on this story for weeks, hence the outdated info about Chris and Ann. I really do like this fandom and felt there needs to be more stories for these two so I decided give it a shot. I just don't think I can improve it anymore so I just decided to post it and be at peace with this story.
I have to give major thanks to Shornt for helping look over the story and set me back in a better direction. I'm not completely happy with this version but my last version was just terrible and that last scene is way less awkward thanks to her advice. Thank you so much.
Please leave reviews. All feedback, both positive and negative, is greatly appreciated.