Author's Note: Ok, since Ben's proposal was sooooooo fucking romantic and amazing I had to write something about. Ben and Leslie forever! Reviews are much appreciated.
We're just ordinary people, you and me,
Time will turn us into statues, eventually.
~ Foo Fighters
It takes him twelve hours, forty-two minutes, and thirteen seconds to get moving.
The clock begins a little after five in the afternoon, after he's been given the pep talk and finished his beer and knows without a doubt that he's in for a night of tortured decision making. To get started, he pulls a couple of cardboard boxes from the closet down the hall and packs up his desk, because he knows that one way or another, whether it be in Florida or Pawnee, he'll need his stuff.
He shuts down his laptop, throws in loose pens and half used pads of sticky notes. In one of the drawers he finds a half eaten biscuit he's not even sure is his own. He resists the urge to rent a HAZMAT suit, and settles to nudge the barely recognizable breakfast food into the trashcan with the end of a pencil.
Duct tapes follows into the box, with a few notebooks, a dictionary, an extra tie. He puts the picture of Leslie on top, after staring at her blonde framed face for a moment.
He goes home to his still barren studio apartment, with it's sum total of three furniture pieces, and can't help but think that this is the rest of his life as a single man, bouncing from shitty apartment to shitty apartment in attempts to push forward a winning candidate. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. Florida is just the beginning.
With Leslie, they'll have a nice house and a couple of kids (maybe) and live out in quiet anonymity, unless she decides to run for president one day, which he's not ruling out. He long ago forgot about trying to underestimate Leslie Knope. He could manage local campaigns and manage budgets in the off years, and could probably find happiness in that kind of work.
But there is that one niggling little perk to the single life—the career that seems to be growing upwards at a promising rate.
And so back to square one on the pros and cons list.
He packs up what little he has in the apartment, neatly folding each extra garment and stashing them in the two suitcases he brought along. Toiletries and a few other personal items, of which there are few. A couple of spare linens and his favorite coffee mug, then throws away all the empty calzone boxes. He writes a final check and makes a mental note to slip it under the landlord's door by the next morning.
It's eight at night now, and he can't think of anything else mindless to do, so he figures it's time to go to bed. Sleep is always an escape, and maybe he'll wake up with the answer poised to smack him across the face. So he strips down to underwear and a t-shirt and slips under the sheets, actually believing that his eyes will close just because he tells them to.
He doesn't look at the clock, because that would just be depressing. But it must be hours before he even begins to nod off. In the interval, his mind attempts to predict every possible future for himself. There's a lot of unknown variables, but the out comes are always easily fit into one of two categories: With Leslie and Without Leslie.
Love or career.
He can see one fearful timeline clearly, in which he goes to Florida but promises to return to Leslie as soon as he's done. Of course, It's a hollow promise, because there will always just be one more campaign to run, one more reason he can't yet return to Pawnee. And then one day she'll wake up and have forgotten him, and though he'll never forget her there's not a god damn thing he can do about it.
No. NO, he will not let that happen. No lying. It's stay forever or leave forever, none of that fading away shit.
When his eyelids finally droop, his sleep is fitful and restless. He dreams of white boats on bright blue water, with what can only be Florida sun shining down on him. Leslie is there, and he doesn't question it cause it's a dream and she looks beautiful in that floral sundress, her hair glowing in the light.
The scene changes and he's walking down a street that he knows to be in Pawnee, a sunny suburban neighborhood with freshly paved asphalt and a beautiful park up ahead. Out of nowhere, Leslie approaches, her eyes full of despair.
"We only raised twelve hundred dollars," she says.
"What?" but the setting is already changing, and he's in an unfamiliar bed with a very familiar person, holding her close and breathing in her sweet scent. He looks down and can see the curve of her cheek as she smiles against his neck. It feels like a memory, but they've spent so many nights like this it's impossible to differentiate one from another.
He wakes up at three in the morning, her essence still lingering in his mind.
Florida has disappeared in the first few dreamscapes, whereas Leslie was present for all. He doesn't think, he just does.
He gets dressed for travel, putting on a suit and comfortable shoes, and then picking up his cellphone to call the airline he has the most frequent flyer miles built up on. Minutes later, he's booked on the seven fifteen am flight to Indianapolis. He then calls a cab, loads all his worldly possessions into the trunk and tells the driver to take him to the only jewelry store open at five in the morning.
m m m
Every second he spends away from her is another few seconds of his life wasted.
That's how he knows he can't go to Florida, that no career would matter if it meant losing her. Sitting on the tarmac at Reagan airport he's itching to be with her again, so much so that he doesn't know how he managed these last six months without her. He's nervous as hell and the little box in his backpack is burning a hole through the pocket, but all he can think is that no matter what her answer is, at least he'll get to see her face again.
The DC to Indianapolis flight is thankfully short, just a little over an hour, and he manages to absorb some much needed sleep. Somehow, now that his path is clear, he is at peace, and the nerves are just background noise.
On the ground in Indiana, he collects his checked bags and rents a car. He calls April from the road. He's not sure why, because the logical choice for finding Leslie's whereabouts would be to call Ann, but he feels more comfortable giving the news to April and Andy first.
The Dwyer residence picks up on the second ring, and when he tells April what he plans to do there's more life in her voice than he's ever heard before. Even holding the phone away from her mouth, he can hear her yell to Andy what's going on, and his elated screech from across the house.
By some miracle, she happens to know where Leslie is.
Perfect, he thinks.
He knows the address, because Leslie told him to Google Earth it when they'd first started looking around for houses. He pulls up quietly, digs out the little box from it's safe nest of clothes in his backpack, and has to physically restrain himself from sprinting up the front walk.
The realtor, Martha Lane, is in the front room preparing to leave. She gives him a look that pretty clear says, who the fuck are you?
He puts a finger to his lips and gives a whispered explanation. She points toward a doorway, into a second, larger room, and he nods thankfully before taking the few strides across the room to the threshold, concealing the box behind his back. He takes an involuntary pause, though, still out of sight from Leslie.
The cynic inside him whispers, what if this is the biggest mistake you'll ever make?
And, to himself, he replies, not a chance.
He steps into the room, and the smile they share is blinding.