Title: The Night Hasn't Even Started
Fandom: Parks and Recreation
Pairing: Tom/Ann, background Leslie/Ben
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Up until this point, Ann had always had a lot of faith in humanity.
Disclaimer: No, I do not own Parks and Recreation.
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The funny thing is, up until this point, Ann had always had a lot of faith in humanity.

Yes, she had been faced with several difficult obstacles and less-than-desirable relationships, but overall, Ann thinks life has dealt her a pretty nice hand. She's smart, attractive, owns a home, has not one but two great jobs, and is blessed with pretty much the most amazing best-friend anyone could ever ask for (she dares you to think of someone who would make a better friend than Leslie. That's right, you can't.) Really, if it hadn't been for that one thing, Ann thinks she could have had the perfect life. Or something resembling it.

But that one thing does happen, and it kind of changes everything.

She wakes up in Tom Haverford's bed.

Yeah, you read that right.

Okay, so maybe it's not quite as dirty as it sounds (for the record, they didn't have sex), but it's the beginning – the beginning of drunken bar talks and nights spent wondering what if? – and if you were to ask Ann a year ago, it's the beginning of the end. This night leads to things that used to be (on both ends, really) unthinkable, allows for certain forbidden thoughts to start emerging, somehow tears down the barrier of what is and isn't considered personal space. Later on when all this is settled, it will be looked back on as the night that started it all, one of those weird if I hadn't done this, everything would be different type of situations. Of course, Ann didn't know that yet, and if she had, things would have likely gone a lot differently.

.

To celebrate the successful launch of Entertainment 720, Tom invited everyone down to the Snakehole Lounge to celebrate. The entire office was there, including Chris, who decided that this night was the perfect night to introduce everyone to his new girlfriend, Claire, a health specialist who also volunteers with disabled children. Leslie had immediately gone into best friend mode, giving advice on tactics for coping and discussing her past romantic failures.

"Once, when I was in college, this guy I was seeing invited me over to his place to ask for advice on asking out another girl," she told Ann over her sixth drink.

"Leslie, you don't have to do all this for me. Really, I'm fine."

"No!" Leslie almost shrieked, drawing the attention of several people. "I'm not abandoning you. How about we play a game where every time we think of something bad about men, we take a swig?"

However, seeing as Leslie was currently in a loving and stimulating relationship with someone she really cared about (they had recently told everyone in the parks department they were dating, so they could at least be in love with their closest friends around), she ran out of mean things to say pretty quickly ("men suck with their kissable mouths and spot on Reagan impressions"), and Ben ended up taking Leslie home around twelve, leaving a wasted Ann to discuss pulling things out of people's butts with the weird cross-eyed bartender.

"Hey girrrl," Tom says as he comes up to a very drunk Ann later in the night. "How's it crackin', cupcake?"

She just gives him this kind of dreary look (trying and failing to convey an aura of self-control), because since when does Ann Perkins need Tom to check up on her? She spits out "I'm fantastic", drawing out each syllable so it sounds more like fan-ta-sti-c, and he just stares at her awkwardly for a couple seconds, prompting her to shout out "What?"

"Nothing, just, you're really drunk."

"And you're really Mexican, but you don't see me shoving that down your throat."

He takes a breath before going "Okay, maybe I should take you home."

"Maybe I should take you home" she retorts, but it's no use. He's already reaching for her arm and heading for the door, and although in any other state of mind Ann would be running for the hills, her current awareness level is about as high as her attraction to Ron.

Tom ends up not being able to locate her keys, and they thus find themselves at his place, which looks like something out of The Ladies Man, except that there are a bunch of posters with different rappers on them, and Boyz II Men is playing as they walk in (Ann briefly wonders if it was playing the entire time they were gone, but it's late and she's drunk and reasonable thinking has left the building.) In her drunken haze, Ann vaguely registers Tom directing her towards his bed. She's about to attempt to say something about how he isn't allowed within five-feet of her (it should be noted that if she was sober, requests like this wouldn't be happening), when Tom goes over to the pull-out couch of settles in, giving her a quiet "night' cupcake," before seemingly drifting off, and Ann's last thought before she slips into unconsciousness is that Tom might not be so terrible after all…

She wakes up the next morning to the smell of fresh coffee, and Tom asking "how do you take it, muffin?"

… Muffin? That's a new one.

"What the hell happened last night?"

He chuckles a bit. "You took the two drinks for the price of one offer to a whole new level."

She gives him a look.

"You got drunk. Wasted. Silly out of your hot little mind. I couldn't just leave you there, so I brought you back to my pad. You like?"

She ignores his question. "Why didn't you just drop me off at my place? It's on the way."

"I tried, but you hid the keys somewhere deep in your purse, and I wasn't exactly sober enough to really search it. But it's all good, girl. You were out like a light from the moment your nice booty touched the bed."

Ann makes a disgusted face, finding her footing and heading for the door. "Thanks for helping out and all, but I think I'm gonna have to take a rain check on that coffee."

"Aw, don't go, girl. You haven't even gotten a change to see the rest of my pad," he says before dropping his voice to whisper that he apparently thinks is sexy and adding, "there's a vibrator under the sink for my lady friends."

"Goodbye, Tom," she says, slamming the door in his face and heading for the exit.

But even as she's getting into her car and driving away, Ann knows something's up. You can't wake up unsexed in Tom Haverford's bed without something being out of balance.

Just then, a tiny, life altering thought occurs to her.

This is the beginning of the end.

.

Ann knows it may seem like she's blowing things out of proportion, but the thing is, she's not. Ann knows better than to think Tom being her knight-in-shining-armor-without-benefits is normal. It's like the anti-normal.

Up until this point, their relationship has been pretty… well, clear. She's the hot nurse who more often than not seems to have a gorgeous boyfriend, he's the sleazy (okay, sleazy isn't the right word, because while she's certainly not his biggest fan, Ann doesn't particularly hate Tom; a better term would be something like annoyingly devoted or too hopeless for his own good) guy she just happens to know who wants to bone her but doesn't stand a chance in hell. Tom would hit on her, she would ignore him. Ann would try and get out of inviting him to a party, he would end up the party's star (this has actually happened quite a few times.) He would call her cupcake or sweetheart, she would awkwardly smile while looking anywhere but his eyes. She didn't ever really think about it before, but it was like they were skilled actors in their element; they knew their parts and played them well, never really confusing the other and always hitting their marks perfectly. Maybe that was the problem; all good actors have to move on, find a new muse, break away from what they're comfortable with and do something to shake things up.

And that's exactly what this is, a shakeup. Before, Ann wouldn't ever imagine a world where she would wake up hung-over in Tom Haverford's bed. Despite and her Leslie's love for drinking, she usually had a boyfriend's bed to crash in or a Leslie to take her home. And it's not just that that scares her, but the unsexed part. A drunken hookup with some guy she's hardly spent any time with, Ann knows how to handle this (better than she would like to admit out loud, if she's being honest); sneak out of his apartment in the morning and go to a different bar the next night. Situations like that are awkward, but easily manageable once you know the proper procedure.

But what happened with her and Tom, that's another story entirely. He took her home, let her have the bed, didn't make a move (the last part is what scares her so much.) Ann knows it's wrong to think like this, but of all the guys in the world she would expect to be nice and not take advantage, Tom was not on the list. It's not like Tom wasn't drunk, because he was, and if they had hooked up she wouldn't necessarily have blamed him. And that's just it, it's the not hooking-up part, because like she said before, this is a big shakeup, and if it's not sex than there's really only one more thing it could be. (This isn't true, of course, because it could be lots of different things, but this other thing, affection, be it platonic or romantic, is what the shakeup is, and despite her better judgment, Ann kind of knows that, so she's not going to waste time pretending any different.)

It's the first step in her falling for him.

.

And then to her horror, it happens again.

Not that specific situation, unsexed sleepover and all, but they do end up getting drunk together, and somehow sex doesn't get factored in. So that's something.

It's early in the fall and, after getting bombarded by questions about love and work from Leslie (who is going through a bit of drama with Ben due to the whole election thing, although Ann doesn't really consider it drama, because even though shit is going down and times look tough, they're kind of tackling it together. Ann wishes she had somebody to have kind-of-tackle-drama with), Ann seeks refuge in the Snakehole Lounge. She's not too surprised to find Tom there, downing what appears to be his fifth shot and looking like he's had one of the worst days of his life.

"What's got you down, Tom?" she asks, unconsciously trying to sound less concerned than she actually is.

He looks less surprised to see her than she would hope. "I messed up," he starts, looking down at his drink, "fucked myself. I made a life changing decision on a whim and now I'm totally screwed."

"Did something happen with of Entertainment 720?" she asks, sitting down and ordering a drink.

"No, that's just it. We've been opened almost five months now and absolutely nothing has happened." He looks up at a poster for some kind of alcohol, with a lot of pretty people smiling. "Who was I kidding? Jean-Ralphio is fly, but he doesn't know how to run a business."

Ann looks him carefully, searching for words to make him feel better. "It's… it's not so bad. I'm sure things will work out."

Tom just shakes his head. "No they won't. Dammit! This was all I wanted, and I blew it in five months."

She wants to comfort him, wants to tell him it's all going to be okay and that he just needs to wait a little longer, because dammit, Tom may sometimes be an idiot but he's following his dream. And if this is what he wants, this is what he should be doing. It may have been a steady job, but working for the government and Leslie wasn't satisfying him, and it shouldn't have been, because his dreams are so, so different. Tom needed to move on, or he would have never forgiven himself.

She wants to tell him this, and so much more, but can't, because the truth (and it really, really pains her) is that he did make a mistake. While the philosophy is nice, doing whatever makes you happy isn't often practical. It's great that it worked out for Andy and April, but not everyone can just live on love. Some people need a little more to be happy in life, and really, why shouldn't they? There's nothing wrong with wanting to have a stable and satisfactory life, to want to have it all. If everyone settled for second best, there wouldn't be great rock stars or politicians. If everyone settled for second best, what on earth would Leslie do with herself?

She doesn't say any of this to Tom, though. It wouldn't help. He's going through a bit of a freak-out, and needs to be reassured that it's not just him.

"My life has really sucked lately, too."

He rolls his eyes. "I'll believe that when I see it, Muffin."

(Again with the Muffin. Really?)

"No, it's true. I've been working really long hours, and Chris has been parading around the office with his new eco-friendly, children-saving girlfriend."

"I hear she also works with disabled animals," Tom cuts in.

"Of course she does."

"Wait," Tom says, gaining more interest, "I thought you were over Chris?"

"I am, it's just… I was really into him for a little bit, and seeing him with a new perfect girlfriend, it kind of stinks." Ann takes a breath, thinking for a moment. "And then there's Leslie, who I love and I'm so happy that she's met the one and I hate that they're having to deal with all this, but it's just, I'm sitting there listening to her complaining about having to pick between her dream guy and her dream job, and I know that sucks and I'm so sorry for her, but I haven't even come close to either one, and I just feel so – nothing has been going great this year and I don't have anyone to talk to about it, and that really, really sucks."

Ann lets out a huge breath she didn't know she was holding in, before downing her drink and signaling the bartender for another. As she's gathering her thoughts, Ann hears Tom say in a hushed voice, "You have me."

"What?" she asks.

"If you ever need someone to talk about how shitty life is, I'm your guy."

Unconsciously, a huge smile spreads on her face, and before Ann knows is, she's saying "thanks, Tom". And she means it.

He lightly smiles. "Don't mention it, cupcake. So, what should we tackle first? My financial problems or your bad deal with Chris' hot girlfriend?"

.

It doesn't take long before hanging out in bars, venting about how sucky their lives are, sort of becomes a thing. (Yeah, even after all her previous worrying, it still happens. Oh well.)

"Okay, that doesn't sound so bad. She said she'd think about hiring you guys."

"Ann, she kept saying how unconventional our approach was," Tom says ruefully, taking another swing of his drink

"Well, yeah but – wait, did Jean-Ralphio do a rap about her?"

"…Yes," Tom whispers.

"How did it go?"

Tom puts his head in his hands before sitting up and going "P to the A to the M E La, you're the flyest little lady a guy could ever want – to have." Tom collapses right back into his chair, finishing his drink in one last gulp and yelling at the bartender to bring him another. "So, how's life been treating you, Ann?"

She looks down pointedly. "Not great. It's flu season, and I've had a bigger work load than normal, and since I'm also the health department public relations director, even when I'm away from the flu it's still being pushed into my face by people complaining about it. And when it's not the flu, it's Leslie. And Leslie and Ben, more specifically how much it hurts that she can't be with him because of the campaign. Or how she saw him in the hallway or heard someone talk about him or accidentally kissed him."

Tom, who Ann knows is at least peripherally aware of what the entire Park's department has termed "THE BREAK-UP", raises his eyebrows. "Accidentally kissing?"

"They're not great with restraint. Anyway, I know it's not really my place to complain about how Leslie complains, because she has a right to, but meanwhile I haven't had a steady boyfriend in like a year and–"

"Wait, what happened to tall guy – Steve. He seemed kind of nice."

"Yeah, he was nice. Until I learned of his past at Steve Hard-On, who starred in several adult movies."

"Ouch," he says, patting her on the shoulder. "Do you know if he has a sister?"

Ann knows this may seem a little – weird to the outsider, but over the last month or so, this has become the norm. Quicker than she could have ever expected, late night bar talks with Tom have turned into the favorite part of her week (parts after a little bit), and Ann secretly feels that this might be the only thing keeping her from going completely insane. It's crazy, but somehow Tom understands her in ways nobody else ever has. Her life is kind of in the dumps right now, and he gets it, because so is his. She can tell him all about the porn-star who she was really starting to like, because he's telling her right back about how Jean-Ralphio fucked up their chances of securing a client.

And maybe it's because her life has never been this far down before, but having someone, having Tom, to complain to, it makes it all a little better.

.

Around late December, right near Christmas time, at another one of their bar talks, Ann walks right in and downs her drink in one gulp (Tom knows her usual by now, and tends to always have it waiting for her), and promptly orders another, all before sitting down.

"What happened to you?" Tom asks as she gets herself situated.

"Christmas," she says bluntly, starting on her next drink. "I've been so stressed out with work and everything that I forgot to go shopping, and now Christmas is in less than two weeks and I'm totally screwed."

Tom laughs, causing Ann to give him an annoyed look. "That's not a big deal. I haven't gone shopping yet either."

"Really," Ann asks, "I thought you'd be into that?"

"Normally, yes, but with everything that's been going on, or should I say not, with Entertainment 720, I haven't exactly had a lot of free time on my hands."

"You guys still don't have any clients?"

"No," Tom says ruefully. Than, brightening up, "hey, how about you and me go shopping this weekend, you know, make a day of it."

"Really?" Even though they've been having these bar talks for a couple months now, she hasn't exactly started to picture Tom as anything resembling gallant. "I mean, Leslie is pretty hard to shop for."

"Please, you're looking at the coolest guy in Pawnee. Getting a little something-something for Les won't be a problem."

And even though she should be questioning this, because guys don't just turn into superheroes after a couple (okay, a lot more than a couple) bar chats, Ann doesn't. She doesn't wonder if he's kidding or messing with her, or even trying to get in her pants. In fact, Ann's so wrapped up in thinking about what to buy for the others that she doesn't even register that this will be her and Tom's first outing that takes place in somewhere other than this bar.

.

"Alright, now this, this is perfect for Leslie."

"Yeah, Tom, I really don't think Leslie wants a belt that says juicy on it."

They're in a department shore in the mall, the 7th one they've visited today. Presents have already been bought for both their families, Ron, Ben, Andy, April, Donna, Jean-Ralphio, and Jerry (despite Tom's wishes to just say they forgot to get him a gift), but finding something for Leslie is just as tricky as Ann said it would be, and they've spent the last hour or so going in and out of different stores, trying and failing to find the perfect gift for the perfect gift-giver.

"You underestimate how much of a wild card Leslie is," Tom says, still focused on the belt. "I've known her longer than you, and this, this is what she needs in her life."

Ann laughs, shaking her head and taking the belt away from him. "Leslie needs this in her life as much as Ron needs to get back with Tammy."

"Which Tammy?"

Ann thinks hard for a moment. "One."

Tom throws his head back in frustrations, groaning. "Fiiine. We'll do what you say, again. But may I add that you haven't exactly found the perfect gift yet either."

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry if Leslie is impossible to shop for. I mean, what on earth are you supposed to get for the best friend ever?"

"A customized shot glass."

"Very funny, Tom," Ann says, fake-laughing. "Alright, let's think about this. What does Leslie want more than anything else in the world?"

It takes Tom less than five seconds to answer. "Ben."

"Well… yeah, but that's not going to happen. And even if it does, it's not going to be because of us."

"But it could be."

Ann eyes him angrily. "Shut up Tom, we're getting nowhere. Okay, we just need to calm down and think clearly for a moment."

"Oh, come on," Tom says, rolling his eyes. "Just get her a gift certificate to JJ's and be done with it."

"Tom! I'm her best friend, I can't give her a gift certificate. That's… tacky."

"Sweetheart, have you met Leslie? The girl is all JJ's, all the time. Trust me, she'll love it. She'll be able to buy extra waffles."

Ann huffs, giving in. "Oh, alright," she says, begrudgingly. "But if Leslie ends up hating it, I'm telling her it was your idea."

"Whatever makes you happy, girl."

As he predicted, Leslie loves their gift. Tom won't let her live it down.

.

Sometime early in March, Entertainment 720 gets its first big break.

It's for some giant spring time bash, and everything from the client to the plans smells of success. Ann's the first person he calls, and her screams of joy are so load that both Leslie and Ben are in her office within seconds.

"What happened?" they ask in unison.

"Entertainment 720 got a gig!" She's jumping up and down slightly now, and Tom's shouting/explaining on the other line is so loud that she hardly hears Leslie and Ben's claps and cheers (or notices when they hug and only realize a second too late who it is they're hugging.) "Tom, this is fantastic! I'm so happy for you," she says as Leslie and Ben leave, hand-in-hand (she'll think more about that some other time.) "I mean, this is like a big deal, isn't it?"

"The big-igidy-est deal you eveah seen, girl!" She can hear him jumping, and is Boyz II Men playing in the background? (That's a rhetorical question, of course. Ann knows Boyz II Men is playing in the background.) "Hey cupcake, I gotta go. I have to call my parents. I just wanted to tell you first, cause I knew you'd want to know and all."

"Well thank you, I'm really glad you called." She thinks about it for a moment and then, "I'm really, really proud of you, Tom."

"Thanks," he says genuinely before hanging up.

It's only until she's put down the phone and calmed down a bit that it fully registers that she's the first person he called.

It makes her smile a little, despite herself.

.

"So," Leslie asks her one afternoon while they're eating lunch, "what's going on between you and Tom?"

Ann nearly chokes on her salad, spiting out one piece of lettuce back into the container (she'll worry about how disgusting that is later) and trying to give Leslie her best what the fuck look. "Nothing! Why would you think that something is going on?"

Leslie raises her eyebrow as high as it can go. "Well, you guys have gotten closer in the last couple months."

"Yeah, as friends. We've become closer friends."

"Fine, well, when Entertainment 720 got that big gig, you seemed pretty cheery."

"Well… yeah, I was cheery because Tom – my friend got a huge gig." Leslie giggles a little. "You know what, maybe you're just turning the tables on me because you feel sorry that you haven't been a very good friend to him since he left the Parks Department. Yeah, that's it; you feel guilty."

Leslie puts her hands up in defeat, though she hardly stops giggling. "Whatever you say… cupcake."

At this point Ann feels it's about time to reevaluate her and Tom's relationship.

.

Because of his giant workload, Ann doesn't get a chance to talk with Tom again until the night of the gig, which is kind of a good thing, because since Leslie brought up the subject of feelings, she's thought a lot about her and Tom and what they are (and still isn't sure.) Almost everyone from the office is there (minus Chris, who Tom made a point of forgetting to send an invite), and from the moment she enters, Ann is handed a complimentary goodie-bag, complete with several mini bottles of alcohol and a shot glass.

She's got to give a hand to Tom and Jean-Ralphio, because this party (she's honestly not entirely sure what it is, but there's music and dancing so it's getting called a party) is pretty awesome. There's lights and music and did she just see Jay-Z? As Ann is looking around at everything, Tom walks up to her wearing a snazzy (Tom language is rubbing off on her) outfit and doing a little dance.

"Hey girl! So, what do you think? Did we nail it or did we nail it?"

She's honestly a little speechless (she just noticed that they have light drinks, as in glasses with fucking lights in them!), and lets out a breathless "you nailed it" as he shows her around, introducing her to all his high up (or so he calls them) friends and buying her a few drinks. After meeting up with Leslie and the rest and the Parks Department for a while, Tom and Ann head for the dance floor, but are intercepted by Jean-Ralphio, who has a weird, kind of anti-sexy look on his face."

"Hey, hey, hey Ann. How you doing, girl?" He gives her a kind of wink (it's not really a wink though. It's far too creepy) and starts looking her up and down.

"Um… fine?"

"Well, if at any point in the night you want to be… more than fine, you know who to call," he says in a whisper.

"Right," Ann quips, looks down. "Wait, do you mean like, call on a cell phone when we're in the same building, or do you actually want me to call out your name?"

He licks his lips a bit before going "whatever floats your boat, goat," and walking away.

Ann turns to Tom. "What the hell was that?"

"Jean-Ralphio has recently told me that he'd like to tap that," he says, pointing at her booty (no – butt).

"And you told him that I'd never sleep with him in a million years, right?"

"I tried, but what can I say, boy is in love." Ann raises her eye. "Fine. Don't tell him I told you this, but just stay out of the light for the next hour or so and you're good. He'll be too drunk by then to bug you."

Tom winks at her as he goes over to another table to talk up some poor girl, leaving Ann to gaze at all the party lights and try her best to avoid Jean-Ralphio (which is kind of contradicts gazing at the lights.) Feeling a little faint, she looks around at all her friends, Andy and April role-playing, Jerry and Donna dancing, Leslie and Ben – still missing, Ron and his new girlfriend (who is known as Tammy 3 around the office). Everyone she loves, everyone who's dear to her, everyone-

And then she sees it.

The girl Tom had been chatting up just a moment before is leading him into the back room, holding his hand hotly and letting him stare at her ass.

Ann quite suddenly feels like all the blood has left her body, like she's about to faint and die, like she can't move any of her mussels. She stares at the door they exited through for several moments, desperately hoping to see Tom come back out of it, ideally shaking off the girl and waltzing over to herself. She wants to scream, wants to push or knock something over, go on a rage-streak. Through her angry haze, Ann can vaguely register two fierce feelings. Number one, that girl is a skanky-bitch who deserves to die in hell.

And number two, she kind of wants to be the skank right now.

(The second one sticks with her for a lot longer, though it changes into more of a I want Tom feeling pretty quickly. She doesn't really know what it means, though, and ends up getting wasted. It doesn't help.)

.

So, here's the gist of it.

Ann likes Tom. Like, really likes him. She doesn't know how it happened (or, she does, late night bar talks and all), but yeah, the damage has been done, and she's slipped into the depths of love. Ever since Entertainment 720's big gig, she hasn't been able to get Tom out of her mind. Whether it be when pulling something out of somebody's butt or listening to Leslie tell her all about Ben (they recently got back together after a big you have to follow your heart moment), Tom is all she thinks about. What he's doing, what he's wearing, if or if not he's thinking about her. A few nights ago, she even woke up sweaty in the middle of the night, only to realize that she'd just been having a wet-Tom-dream. And the worst part? She couldn't wait to fall back asleep.

Basically, the end has come

She tries to fight it, really. She goes out to bars and hooks up with other guys. She signs up for dating websites and attempts to find the one. She even cleans her entire house, polishing everything and going through old boxes of stuff she doesn't need, and although that gets her mind off Tom for a bit, it backfires when she calls him to help her rearrange the furniture to the way it was before Chris messed with it (which she knows doesn't make a ton of sense, seeing as Tom isn't exactly the strongest guy around, but again, she's having trouble getting rid of her infatuation with him), and after a while she has no option but to accept that she's gone insane.

However, despite her newfound feelings, Ann hasn't exactly gotten to spend a ton of time with him over the last couple weeks. Due to the success of Entertainment 720's last party, requests have gone through the roof, and Tom has been extra busy working with Jean-Ralphio (who has called her like six or seven times) to secure Entertainment 720's place as the number one mass media company of Pawnee (as Entertainment 720 is Pawnee's only mass media company, they don't have a lot of competition.) Ann is okay with the space, though. It's given her plenty of time to think and rethink her feelings for Tom, and currently the only thing Ann can come up with is that she likes him.

Still, if Ann has learned anything from Lifetime movies, it's that you can't rush into these things. Just because she's infatuated with Tom now (and has been for the last couple weeks) doesn't mean it'll be the same tomorrow. She's just got to take this whole liking Tom thing one day at a time. Maybe it'll wear off. Or she's meet someone else. Or he'll meet someone else. (Scratch that last part.) The point is, Ann not just going to burst into the Entertainment 720 office declaring her love for him (though it has come up in a couple of her dreams.) She's going to be reasonable, look carefully at all her options, and when the time is right, handle the situation in the simplest manner possible.

Yeah, like that was ever going to happen.

.

Around the beginning of May, Leslie and Ben announce to everyone their plans to marry. Both Tom and Ann are in the wedding party (Ann as the maid of honor, Tom, after much begging, as the best man), and thus end up spending a lot of time together, what with the second hand planning and all.

They've each got their work cut out for them, though. Both Leslie and Ben tend to over think just about everything, and while Ben does horribly under pressure, Leslie is a tad too dedicated to making sure every detail is perfectly on key with what she calls her dream wedding (Ann still doesn't have the heart to tell her that it's pretty impossible for this wedding to resemble her dream in the least, seeing as she included a "heart-felt" and "deeply personal" speech by Barack Obama and "weather that will please every guest" at the top of the list.) Because of all this, her and Tom's drinking nights, while severely less frequent, have become far more necessary.

"Oh my god, what's Ben's problem?" Tom says, at the start of one of their bar-talks, also known as the venting period.

"Tom, it doesn't really sound like he's doing anything wrong."

"Ann, he's insisting that none of us wear any gold with our tuxedos. Or hats. I mean, how exactly does he expect me to make that work? I'm not superman."

Ann giggles. "And you're surprised? Come on, Tom, since when is Ben into anything even remotely flashy?"

Tom lightly huffs. "Yeah, I guess you might be right." He takes a deep breath, seemingly zoning out for the moment. "God, I need to give him some more cool lessons. The boy is a disaster.

"Well, if it makes you feel better, working with Leslie hasn't exactly been a walk in the park either," Ann says. "She keeps on making decisions and then completely changing her mind. And waking me up at midnight with phone calls about what kind of appetizers they should serve. And interrupting me at work to discuss seating arrangements. I love her, but this wedding is driving Leslie a little crazy," she says, sighing and suddenly remembering, "oh god, and don't even get me started on-"

Ann's cut off by the ring of her own phone, Leslie's name flashing brightly. "Hi, Leslie," she answers. "Leslie – Leslie, can you just calm down for a second. I know. I know, Leslie. I'll head down there when Tom and I wrap up. I – okay, I'll be there as soon as I can. Yes. I'm leaving now. Yes! I'll see you in a bit. Bye." Ann hangs up, immediately putting her head in her hands and breathing in deeply, downing the rest of her drink in one gulp and quickly explaining to Tom, "there's been some sort of massive floral disaster. I've got to go over to Leslie's and calm her down. Sorry."

"You're right," Tom says, watching her scramble and raising an eyebrow. "Leslie is worse."

Ann eyes him angrily. "Haha, very funny. I'll see you next week." And with that, Ann is out so fast that she doesn't notice him taking one last long, warm glance at her.

.

At about two thirty on the Saturday night before the wedding, Tom calls her.

"So what do you think would be better for Ben's bachelor party; strip club or… strip club?"

"You're calling me about this now?" she asks, yawning.

"What? I need a second opinion." Ann rolls her eyes.

"No strippers. Take him to a fancy restaurant or, I don't know, a Star Wars convention."

"Ann," he says, clearly aggravated by her apparent lack of good ideas, "you can't have a bachelor party without a strippers. I mean, have you ever been to a bachelor party? It's all stripping, all the time."

"And have you ever met Ben, Tom? He doesn't want strippers, he wants… anything else. If you take him to a strip club, he's just gonna feel awkward and guilty and will be on the phone with Leslie within the first fifteen minutes."

"You don't know anything about throwing a bachelor party, Perkins" he scoffs.

"You wanted a second opinion."

"Yeah," he says after a moment, albeit begrudgingly, "I guess you're right. But I got to tell you Ann, without strippers this is going to be one lame party."

"I think you'll live."

"Whatever you say," he says skeptically, causing Ann to slightly giggle. "Hey, also, would you be my date to the wedding?"

She almost chokes in her own tongue. "What?"

"Don't worry," he says in a claim voice, "I'm not hitting on you or anything. It's just that, we're both the stars of the wedding party-"

"You mean aside from Leslie and Ben."

"Right, whatever, and you know, we're both single. I just thought it might be kinda fun if you and I went together, as friends. Unless you already have a date?"

It takes her a moment to take everything in. "No, I, um… I don't have a date."

"Great, than we'll go together?"

"Yes," she chokes out.

"Sounds fly. I'll meet you there," he says before wishing her goodnight and hanging up the phone.

And Ann just stands there for a moment, wondering how on Earth she fell into this situation, going to a wedding with Tom, a guy she really likes (maybe even loves), as a friend. Because yes, no environment is better for trying to carefully handle your feelings than a big, romantic wedding.

.

Over the years, Ann has been in her fair share of weddings. With four siblings and a mountain loud of cousins, she had always been first pick for a bridesmaid. Still, the feeling she gets as Leslie walks down the aisle on Ron's arm is simply unparalleled. Somehow, everything had turned out kind of perfectly, and Leslie, now handing over her bouquet and taking Ben's hands, looks like the happiest woman on earth (Ann tears up a bit at the thought.)

Next to Ben, Tom stands looking excited and mature, more mature than she's ever seen. He catches her glance and smiles, winking and causing Ann's heart to flutter.

"By the power vested in me by the state on Indiana, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Cheers are heard as Leslie and Ben kiss for the first time as a married couple, none of which are as loud as Ann and Tom's, who both clap fiercely and (him more so) wolf whistle a bit. Ann can't help but feel that the wedding has been a major success, and continues to tear up as Leslie and Ben smile genially at each other. She notices Tom starting intently on his face, as if he can't believe a love like that can be real. It makes her smile even harder.

The reception turns out to be a major success as well, with everyone dancing and smiling and generally being happy, and Leslie and Ben being practically attached at the hip.

Despite all the fun, however, Ann has spent a good fifty percent of the day distracted by Tom, who had been dancing like a maniac for like forty-five minutes and is currently bringing them a couple drinks.

"Here you go, sugar-plum," he says, handing her a glass of wine. "Man, can't believe these two crazy kids finally made it work."

"Tom, they're older than both of us."

"Doesn't matter, they're still crazy kids in my book," he says, looking away from her at Leslie and Ben, who are currently swaying on the dance floor, giggling and joking and pretty much being the cutest thing anyone has ever seen. Tom, who is normally so together and cool, is just staring at them like he can't really believe they actually exist, because it's just impossible for two people to be so perfect and so in love.

And at this point, she kind of just ends up blurting it out.

Ann wishes she could say it was the wine or the lack of sleep she had over the last couple days (because Leslie was keeping her up all night). Honestly, she just wishes she could say it was anything, anything other than what it was, impulse, that feeling of just doing something because it feels right in the moment, without thinking about the complications that might (will) arise if you act on it.

But the problem is, the moment does feel right. She's sitting next to Tom, both of them watching Leslie and Ben dance and smile and basically be in love, and Tom's just taking a sip of the wine and smiling and being happy for them. And Ann can't take it. He doing everything right without even trying to, and maybe Ann hasn't been this in love for a long time, and maybe that feeling of being completely infatuated with someone is pretty great, and maybe she just wants him to know.

It doesn't really matter why she does it, though, because the point is, when the music changes and Tom turns to Ann to say something, she looks into his eyes and lets it out:

"I think I'm falling in love with you."

His face immediately changes from light-hearted and smiley to one of complete shock (she silently takes note of the fact that he doesn't question her or think she's lying), and Ann is stricken with a feeling of oh shit. She looks down, trying and failing to properly gather her thoughts, and all she can decipher is that she's completely screwed everything up.

He, however, doesn't seem to be going quite so crazy, and what happens next surprises her more than anything (more than her confession, more than her feelings.)

Tom stands up and holds out his hand. "You want to dance, cupcake?"

He doesn't say it cockily, or with any kind of sexy voice; it's just genuine Tom, a guy who tries and tries to be cool, but at the end of the day, is just as dorky and scared as everyone else. Ann takes his hand, and she feels for the first time a long time that she's safe to just be. She doesn't have to put or a show or try to be perfect, because he knows her, knows she isn't perfect but pretends she is anyway. And Ann has never had that, never been with a guy who cares for her so much that he's willing to pretend she is perfect just to make her feel good.

So yeah, maybe this is the end, but if she remembers correctly, with every end comes a new beginning. And this is definitely the beginning of something wonderful.