Okay. Ann's a little jealous. She feels absolutely terrible about it, because Leslie is without a doubt her best friend in the entire world and in the past 24 hours she's given her an endless array of supportive girl talk. She's threatened Chris for her. She's investigated his home for her. She's skipped out on receiving a commendation she was really excited about to drive Ann home. She's recounted some truly horrific break up stories on the car ride back just to cheer her up and bought her a large number of colorful shots to help her drown her sorrows. Basically, she's done everything a best girl friend should do and more.
And here's Ann. Jealous.
God, she's the worst.
She glances over to her right where Leslie and Ben sit, wrapped up in conversation. She'd left them to it about twenty minutes ago, her brain too hurt and humiliated and fuzzy from alcohol to muster the energy to keep up with their cheerful chatter.
She had participated in their banter for the first hour or so, but now she's resigned to swirling around the ice in her drink, tuning in and out on occasion but not really saying much.
It's okay. Ben and Leslie are more than capable of keeping the conversation going on their own. So far they've been through everything from a recount of Tom's failed attempt to sell his "ass cologne" to the current state of the Clean Air Act to who shot first, Han or Greedo (it turns out, it was Han, which Leslie knew all along but pretended not to in order to mess with Ben's "nerd mind." His expression on realizing he'd been played had been priceless).
Their chattered flows with incredible ease, all the while with Ben Wyatt looking completely an utterly enthralled by every word that comes out of Leslie's mouth. Which, Ann notices, he can't seem to stop staring at.
Right now, Leslie's grinning and sheepish but proud as she tells him about the time she chained herself to a gate to stop a gazebo from being torn down.
When she gets to the part where she realized it didn't open in the middle right after the keys had been thrown into the bushes, Ben bursts out laughing, and Ann thinks if the timing had been even slightly different he probably would have spat a mouthful of beer into Leslie's bashful yet amused face.
By the time she gets to the part where Tom entertained himself by forcing the gate to swing open and closed repeatedly while she waited for rescue, Ben's practically crying with laughter.
Leslie's whacking him, telling him to shut up, that it isn't funny, that he's being a turd, but she's laughing too and they're just so happy.
And Ann's jealous. A little.
Their laughter dies down after a few moments and Ann looks over to see Ben gazing at Leslie- just gazing at her with total adoration and admiration in the way that every girl dreams of being gazed at.
The funny thing is, she's pretty sure Leslie has no idea. Because she's Leslie.
And yet it's so painfully obvious that he's head over heels that Ann's ashamed she hasn't picked up on it before.
Granted, she hasn't seen them together that much.
Besides that time Leslie had very professionally given him a piece of her mind and he'd walked away looking super dejected, like a kicked puppy.
And that time he randomly decided to save her concert by paying off Freddy Spaghetti even though he was supposed to be shutting it down in the first place?
And that time Leslie crashed their first date and Ben crashed her crashing. He sure had a pretty good handle on her personality to anticipate that one. Even Ann had been a little surprised Leslie had actually shown up.
Then there was the time he brought her to the hospital and had been so concerned for her well being and really adamant that he would take care of things and wouldn't let her down.
And he hadn't. Leslie'd told her about how he fielded the questions at the Chamber of Commerce and gathered up participating businesses after she'd starting going loopy again.
And he'd brought her soup. Homemade soup that Leslie ignored for the waffles he'd also brought until Ann convinced her that her ten-year-old eating habits should probably take a brief vacation in favor of normal nutrition as she recovered from her illness.
Surprisingly, once Leslie had taken her reluctant first bite of soup, her eyes had widened and she'd muttered, "Damn, Benjy! Top chef, much?" and wolfed down the rest.
And then there were all their lunches together. God, how many times had Leslie mentioned having "lunch with Ben" in the past few weeks? Surely there couldn't be that much Harvest Fest stuff to discuss.
Speaking of which, he seemed helping her with that festival at every turn. From what it sounded like, no one was working harder on it than Ben but Leslie herself. He wasn't even in the damn department!
How had she been so blind?
She'd maybe been a little bit drunk on Chris Traeger coolaid to see all the brilliantly flashing signs.
Well, she sees them now.
His affection, his adoration, his -you know that really does look a lot like love- is written all over his face as he grins down at her and says something adorable and shmoopy in response to her gazebo story.
Something about how taking a stand is important, even if it fails and he looks like he genuinely believes it with all his heart and seriously flat out worships her for being so bold and brazen and crazy.
How can Ann not be a little jealous?
She spent her entire relationship with Chris wishing he would look at her the way Ben is looking at Leslie now. As opposed to looking at her in the delightedly enthusiastic and cheerful way Chris looked at every single person he ever met. Even April.
But then she thinks about all that Leslie is and all that she does and how she's bright and enthusiastic and an undying optimist and there's really no reason a jaded ex-boy-mayor with a secret nice side wouldn't fall madly in love with her and the jealousy starts to fade.
And it strikes her how sweet it is and how great this could be for Leslie who has probably had the worst luck in the entire world when it comes to men. A break up in the shower? Really? And God, the skywriting…
The thought is so terrible that she focuses her attention back on Leslie and Ben to get her mind off it.
They smile at each other for a moment and Leslie thanks him, and then the smiling goes on for a little too long and it becomes a little awkward. Panic flits across his face for a split second before he smirks and adds, "Of course, it would have been an equally noble stand if you'd just, you know, asked Tom to put the key in his pocket. But that wouldn't have been nearly dramatic enough for Leslie Knope though, huh?"
He bumps her with his shoulder playfully and Leslie glares at him and laughs and the awkwardness disappears and they get back into cheerful banter again.
Still. Despite the suave recovery, it was more than enough to remove any doubt Ann had that Ben Wyatt has fallen hard for her best friend.
The boy's got it bad.
And yeah. It's hard not to be a little jealous, because she thinks if Ben weren't kind of awkward and dorky and shy, he probably would have declared everything he feels for her by now. Would have boldly declared that he's never leaving Pawnee. That he's here to stay and will find a way because there's no way he can leave her now.
And she…she really had hoped those feelings existed between her and Chris and tonight she'd been rudely awakened to the fact that they don't.
And that stings.
But as she listens to Ben goading Leslie with some dig about Hillary Clinton he clearly doesn't believe just to get her riled up, watches Leslie puff up like an angry cat and start on a furious rebuttal until she realizes he was only trying to get a rise out of her, her last twinges of jealousy start to fade.
Even though her heart's been crushed like she's never experienced before and she's bitter and angry and hurt, a real, genuine grin spreads across her face.
This guy might actually be Leslie's One.
And Leslie, being Leslie, is totally clueless about it.
Ann realizes hasn't really been there to help her hapless friend lately and she instantly feels terrible about it. Terrible, but determined. Determined to help things along a little. If she can.
Poor Ben is so clearly enamored and Leslie so oblivious that she wants to drag her away to the ladies room to start dropping the painfully obvious hints needed to help her see, but she resists the urge.
Knowing Leslie, she'd undoubtedly start freaking out and being a spaz and overthinking everything and there's no need for that because they're being completely perfect right now. Leslie's so cheerful and cheeky and glowy and at ease with Ben right now and Ann knows all too well how quickly she self-destructs when she feels any kind of pressure and she doesn't want to ruin how sweet and fun things are.
She can see it in his eyes. Leslie's already got him wrapped around her finger. He'll be willing to wait as long as it takes for her to wake up and Leslie Knope deserves someone willing to wait for her.
Someone who not only loves her for her passion but really gets that passion and shares it. It's not like he's the only guy who's ever been sucked in by that adorable Leslie charm, but she thinks Ben's on the same page as her like no one else has ever been.
And now the last of her jealousy departs, and her heart starts to pound because it's so freakin' cute.
Leslie and Ben clink their bottles together and finish the beers they've been nursing and Ann smiles at how easy and natural their friendship is as Leslie gets to her feet.
"This round on me, guys! Ann, you want anything?"
"No thanks," Ann says, gesturing towards her nearly empty drink. "I think this one better be my last. I have a feeling my bed really wants to mope with me shortly."
"Oh, sweet Ann. If you're sure," Leslie says with a sympathetic pout and a kiss on top of her head. "Ben? Another Miller lite?"
She waggles her eyebrows at him in a 'you know you want to' voice.
"Sure," he smiles and he's definitely had a few because as she bounces to the bar he watches her go pretty shamelessly.
Ann can't resist giving him a highly knowing look when he turns back to her. He looks mortified for a flicker of an instant and then brings it down to a cool,
"Nothing. Nothing," she says.
Then, because he's just been so very obvious all night and maybe she wants to get back him a little for knowing about her break up before she did, she grins,
"You just uh, look a little bit like a puppy does when it thinks its owner is never, ever coming back even though she's only gone to work for a few hours."
She pauses triumphantly as she waits for it to sink in. It doesn't take long.
His mouth opens and closes wordlessly for a few moments and Ann feels kind of bad because she'd watched his Perd Hapley tape (thrown into her dvd player by a cackling, bowl of popcorn-weilding Leslie the day after it aired) and she knows he's a totally disaster when it comes to answering hard questions.
But if she can't take a stab at helping along this –thing- between them from Leslie's side, it's gotta be through Ben.
"Relax," Ann smiles, putting a hand on his forearm and winking. "Your secret's safe with me." Then, she pauses and thinks about Leslie's unyielding fierce and loyal protectiveness of her and adds, "But if you hurt her, just know they will be finding your body for weeks."
He looks like he wants to die.
"It's pretty obvious," she says simply, and watches the color drain out of his face. "To me, that is," she adds quickly. She's not trying to torture the guy. On purpose. He still looks thoroughly panicked and miserable so she hurries on.
"Look, Ben. Leslie…Leslie doesn't usually notice signs unless they're in neon colors and thirty feet tall. Any maybe have those inflatable flailing arms like those things at car dealerships. And maybe have sirens. I can see it plain as anything, but Leslie? She might not pick up on it for twenty years, even with your utter lack of subtlety."
"I…I.." he stutters, face red and embarrassed and her heart goes out to him. But she's learned the hard way how poor communication and unclear signs can lead to terrible misunderstandings and unhappy relationships, so she's not ready to let him off so easily.
"I'm just saying. You seem like a really nice guy, and you obviously care about her a whole lot. And Leslie deserves that. I…I'm not a hundred percent on where you stand with her but if this thing between you is real…well, you better not fuck around, Ben Wyatt."
His eyes widen even bigger at that last part. Hey. She has to be the scary best friend on this one. It's her job. She claps him on the back, maybe a little too hard because she's a little drunk and has kind of wanted to punch a wall or something all night and has a bit of pent up aggression.
"Don't panic. I'm just sayin' Ben. You've got two choices here. You're either in this for the long haul and you need to work at making this happen. Or you're leaving after the Harvest Festival and you need to pull it back now before someone gets hurt badly. And if Leslie gets hurt even a little that someone may very well be you," she glares at him- long and hard and serious and he maybe gulps a little and Ann feels like a bad ass.
Then she softens and smiles and adds. "For the record, I vote long haul."
Ben blinks rapidly and she can tell he's struggling to make sense of this against at least six beers so she waits patiently.
"I…I um…Okay. Thanks?"
"No problem," she winks.
He looks at her, running a hand through his hair, uncomfortable, like he wants to ask something but can't find the words. Finally, he starts stammr
"Do, uh…do you…think she…um…she might-?"
Ah. She honestly doesn't know if Leslie does because she's kind of selfishly dominated the girl talk lately with her Chris woes and she feels like a royal ass about it.
"You know, I honestly don't really know. You guys clearly have a lot in common…and she did accidentally tell that reporter you were 'easy on the eyes,' but that's kind of classic Leslie foot-in-mouth. But I think she- oh, crap, she's coming back! Better change the subject."
Ben bolts up in his chair like he's been struck by lightning says, a little too loudly "Yeah, you should have seen it! He starts choking on this pill and I swear it was the size of a golf ball. He was panicking so crazily that I couldn't even get him to hold still long enough to do the Heimlich maneuver. He looked like a blueberry. When I eventually did manage to get a hold of him, it launched out so hard that it shattered some antique vase of his which he moped about for way too long," he says, giving a signature Ben-judgment look. He smiles at Leslie as she reaches them and continues on, smooth and casual.
For his next part, he adopts his best Chris voice which is surprisingly accurate. "'Ben Wyatt. I am incredibly grateful for your saving of my life. However, the feng shui of my office is unthinkably off balance right now. I've simply got to go retrieve a replacement from home. I will lit-erally be back in two shakes of lamb's tail.' So…kind of a loser, really. " he smiles and Ann actually laughs because she knows Chris well enough to fully believe it's a true story.
The mental image of him choking on those ridiculously multi-vitamins gives her more than a little satisfaction.
"Aww!" Leslie says, plopping the beers on the table and ruffling Ben's hair affectionately before sitting down. "Ben is telling you 'Chris sucks!' stories! Go Ben! Boo Chris!"
Ben gives Ann a tragic look over Leslie's shoulder that seems to plead 'What does this mean?' and Ann can only give a little grin and a shrug because she really doesn't know. But she really hopes it's mutual.
Because Ben Wyatt is kind of adorable and kind of awesome.
Even if he hadn't let Chris choke to death on that pill.