Leslie gets to the point where she starts thinking of Ben in new and disturbing roles. More disturbing, even, than auditor — which, if you think about it, is almost like a librarian in terms of jobs as performed by Hell's minions.
Mayor, first and foremost, for obvious reasons. Not that she wants to de-mayor Mayor Gunderson — absolutely no — but she can't help it. Ben, with his little Ben-face. His little 18-year old face and all its spoiled, idealistic dreams. You know what Pawnee could use? Ice Town. Boom. She could even send Mark his original pit-park blueprints and have him pencil in Ben's vision somewhere around the shark tank.
Also, weirdly, she once imagined slash nightmared Ben as a ventriloquist. I don't know. Weird dream. Maybe it might've been all the carbs she had with lunch?
But, way more bizarre than that, BOYFRIEND is what keeps flashing up. It's like — what do they say? Like clocks! That's what the really patronizing men always say about women with aspirations —they have internal clocks that tick little baby rattle hands towards numbers that aren't really even numbers because instead they're BABIES, so watch out! Instead of a baby, though, it's the thought of having a boyfriend that tugs at Leslie most. To be fair, she's often regularly plagued by indigestion, so it could be that.
Okay, that's not the total truth. Partial lie. But she recognizes the symptoms of having a crush, because, hello. Carried a torch for Mark Brendanawicz for a crapload of years. A ridiculous total of years. I mean, sure, at the time it was crazy romantic, and, honestly, kind of a huge deal. But, retrospectively, she could've spent that time more efficiently. And less intense.
With Ben, though, it's not quite the same. For instance, she hardly ever feels compelled to stare at him through her work window. Not that she could, because his office is on the other side of their building. But even if he was in Mark's old office, Leslie is confident that she wouldn't stare at Ben at all. 90% confident. Sometimes she might want to stare, but just because friends stare at friends all the time and it doesn't have to mean anything. Leslie stares at Ann a lot, and who's to say that means something? Just because Leslie likes memorizing certain facial indicators. Suddenly that's weird?
However — or nonetheless — nonetheless, however, also with Ben, Leslie does want to possibly have sex with him. Sooo.
It becomes even more complicated when they kiss. Which was, wow. And words synonymous with wow. Think about looking up the word 'WOW' in the dictionary, and then every possible definition, apply it to that kiss. And even though there is a loud, Chris-sounding (slash Mom-sounding, come to think of it) voice in her head saying, "LESLIE KNOPE, YOUR FUTURE AS A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IS AT STAKE HERE. TREAD WISELY. ALSO, EXCELLENT TONGUE ACTION!" it's hard to pull away because — pardon the whining — Ben is so, so, so cute and he's such a good kisser and if two people want to suck each other's mouths off in a place of business outside of their bosses office, then VIVA LA MAKE OUTS!
But, no. Dammit! No. She's a professional.
"Ben," she says, holding a hand to his collarbone just in case he's overwhelmed with another urge to kiss her (hey, you don't know.) "What are we doing?"
His whole face turns into a smile. His eyes skip away, then back. He rocks towards her. "Thought that was pretty obvious?"
People, that is subtext. Or innuendo. Crap, what she wouldn't give to call up Ann right now and have her talk her through this. Sweet, beautiful, all-knowing Ann.
"I like you," she says, to state the obvious. His face turns into an exclamation mark, pretty much.
"Kinda sorta figured," he murmurs, moving in close. I know, even though her hand is there to prevent that. Still, he swoops down, her heart rate triples like it does whenever she accidentally-on-purpose eats NutriYum bars. "Leslie, I like you too—"
And then, right as Leslie is seriously thinking about kissing him again, Chris comes whistling by. Leslie and Ben spring apart like bad ends of a magnet. Ben scratches at his temple, stammers over a cover-up. "The numbers for this quarter are similar to—"
"Your mom's face!" Leslie blurts, in a panic, then cringes: part hysteria, part apologies, and also part I-might-barf.
It makes Ben twist his mouth up, narrow his eyes. Chris just grins and grins, shoots them with his finger.
"Leslie and Ben! Lit-ra-ly the two most important people I was looking for right now."
He tucks Leslie under one arm, Ben beneath the other. They are smooshed together like a weird, disfigured, sexually potent being. Leslie is caught in a shroud of Ben cologne and Chris cologne.
"Cuddle-walk with me," Chris says, and they do. Awkwardly and stiffly. "Look at us. Don't we look fantastic?"
Leslie's tucked into someone's armpit. Ben is too, but being taller (a good, handsome height, Leslie thinks) he's slightly more comfortably hunched over.
"I wanted to thank each of you, separately and together, for sticking to my no-fun internal dating rule."
A brick is placed atop Leslie's romantic interest. That's what it feels like. Like her romance for Ben is a balloon, and Chris just put a brick on top of it. Does it still float? Yes. Probably. With the right kind of wind, absolutely. But it's weighed down by something made of clay and cruelty now.
"It's not a—"
"Problem?" Chris cuts Ben off. "Exactly! Preventive obsolescence. I know how hard it is when you like someone that you can't date, even though they're absolutely matched perfectly for you. Remember Ann Perkins?"
"Uh, Leslie's best friend? That specific Ann?"
Leslie says, "I think you mean, Pawnee's newest public relations director in the Health Department."
Chris's eyebrows go high. From Leslie's pit-vantage, it seems as if they lift right off his face. "Really? Incredible news! I'd like to send her a congratulatory vitamin basket. You know what, I think I will. Good. We're veering off-topic, though, let's redirect our energy."
He stops them in the middle of the hallway. He closes his eyes and breathes in deep, then lets the air back out nice and slow. His eyes pop back open.
"Where were we? Ah, yes. The conflicts aroused by internal dating."
Ben pulls a face at the word aroused, which does something funny to Leslie. "Is there arousal?" Ben wonders out loud. "I wouldn't say there's necessarily... That. Wow. Okay. Arousal. I don't know why I said that. It just happened. Twice now. Word vomit. Sort of... verbal barfage — I don't know why I'm still talking."
Chris is staring at Ben with what Leslie assumes must be his version of confusion, but it mostly just looks like Leslie looks whenever she's in front of a plate of waffles. "You okay, Benny-buddy?"
"I think," Leslie says, and attempts to pull away from Chris, except, wow, he is not loosening his grip, "it's just that, we get it. We get the severity of the punishment." But then her eyes grow wide, because: does she? Does she get the severity? And what kind of punishments could there be? To herself she whispers, "Waterboarding. Extreme interrogation. Termination. Political assassination."
Chris gives her a good, happy shake. "See there? You get it!" He squeezes both Leslie and Ben extra close. "I'm glad we had this talk."
Then, finally, he releases them from his death-grasp and strolls off at a considerably jaunty pace.
There is four seconds of awkwardness.
"Wow. Okay. That was super weird, right?" Ben says, but he's joking, moving in close.
"Maybe we shouldn't," Leslie blurts. It makes Ben stop, and his whole face, his whole everything, tenses with surprise.
Ron suddenly sweeps by. In her peripheral one second, out the next, like a mustached blur.
"Leslie," he calls out. "Walk with me."
She makes apology faces at Ben, and we'll-sort-this-out later faces and on a scale of 1 to everything-I-ever-imagined-it-being, making out with you was an 11 face.
"LESLIE," Ron barks. He is already turning a corner.
"Shoot," she says, and waves at Ben, then rethinks that and decides, no, a pat to his shoulder is better, and does that, then thinks right afterward, probably a hand shake would be more professional, so she goes for it, then thinks, well, they've already kissed ONCE, probably it won't hurt if —
"LESLIE KNOPE, FOLLOW AFTER ME OR CONCEDE TO A SWIFT TERMINATION OF YOUR EMPLOYEE PRIVILEGES."
Leslie settles for a punch to Ben's arm, then bails (flees the scene is probably a more accurate term) with a mental round of applause at how awesomely she avoided that potential scandal.
(Though, two days later, while her and Ben are making out so spectacularly that they rattle a Condoleezza Rice picture off her wall, nail and everything, that mental round of applause admittedly sounds more like an angry mob of Republicans and, weirdly specific, Joan Callamezzo, but whatever, whatever.)