He sits down in the same exact position as Jen left him, thoughts racing through his head. The bitter taste of the beer he was gulping down is still in his mouth. He deep down wishes that Jen didn't take the beer away, but even though the office is empty except for a few remaining interns, technically he is still under the contract of Barkley Group and being intoxicated during office hours means breaking rules.
He thinks about the meeting with the businessman from Florida. Was that only this morning? The guy – what was his name? - seemed like a lost cause to him and was actually quite irritating. I wouldn't vote for him as a governor, he thinks to himself. Yet he knows that he can mold him into shape for a governor. With already 3 election winnings under his belt, and he is counting his own mayoralty for a change, he knows that he is good at winning elections.
It has been a while since he has been praised for doing a good job in a professional atmosphere. And the praise feels really good coming from Jen because he knows how little she cares for people – and April pales in comparison to Jen – and he has to admit, he deserves it. He has won yet another election and is now offered a new chance. He knows he can do it.
He leans back into his chair and swivels it to look outside. It is raining in Washington, D.C., a sight he hasn't seen much of during the summer. The rain has helped bring humidity down and actually compared to the Florida, Washington's weather, or as April likes to call it, devil's butt cheeks, seems much nicer, especially when it is early autumn.
He gets off the chair and walks to the window. He is on 7th floor and can still see people walking down the street below. Despite the rain, DC streets are full of people going to places. He knows that if he takes the job in Florida, he'll have to leave this behind as well and live in Florida with its sharks and swamp-sharks. Swamp-sharks. His mind immediately jumps back to his conversation with Leslie. Accepting Florida means being away for Leslie for a little longer. Last week they were discussing moving in together and he was the one to prompt Leslie to go house-hunting. Now he is considering postponing it.
The idea of sharing a house with Leslie immediately warms his heart and takes his mind off the dark sky outside. The idea of waking up next to Leslie every morning, the idea of buying furniture together, the idea of doing groceries, having sugar-laced breakfasts together, the idea of running errands, fixing faucets, the idea of cleaning the house together and influencing Leslie to throw things away once in a while and not turn the house into the hoarder-nightmare that is her own house. The idea of making ends meet to pay the rent and raking leaves in the backyard in fall. The idea of watching sci-fi movies under a blanket while sharing pop-corn or reading Harry Potter together. The idea of making new memories.
He sits back in his chair and looks at the framed photo on his desk. The photo of the two of them. He clearly remembers the day the photo was taken. It was during one of those small parties they had thrown during the election period. Leslie was so happy and would not leave his side even though as her campaign manager he had advised that she should go meet people for influence. He remembers holding her hand in the crowd, drinking next to her, whispering silly jokes in her ear just to hear her laugh. Damn, he misses that laugh. It has been a while since he heard it. Sure they still call one another at least ten times a day and skype and facebook and text and all, but it just does not compare to the real thing. He looks at the photo and there it is. The answer. His future. It has been right there before his eyes all along. Leslie. Being with Leslie Knope.
He does not need to go to his rental and think about the future, like Jen advised. He does not need to leave for Florida and stay away from Leslie. He knows what to do.
He straightens up and immediately turns on the computer and starts typing. Within minutes, he is booked on the next flight leaving for Pawnee. Sure he has to wait for 2 hours in New York for his connection and sure he spends three times the fare on the ticket than the normal rate, but it is okay. He knows what to do. For the first time in what feels like ages, he, Ben Wyatt, is completely sure of what he wants, where he belongs and what he is going to do. He knows what to do with his future.
He grabs his briefcase, the frame and his signed Pawnee book and forgets his umbrella and his legs take the best of him and he runs to that jewelry store a few blocks north he has passed by numerous times. He has been eyeing one ring in display but never knew when to go in and look at it. Now, fifteen minutes later, drenched, he is asking the clerk to make a special effort to place the ring in the box. The box. The box that has so far symbolized putting distance between them. As the clerk hands him the box and the receipt with the rather heavy amount, he realizes that the box now contains something that will hold them together forever.
He goes to the apartment, packs his bags, carefully puts his one suit in one of his suit bags, writes a small note, leaves the key inside an envelope and leaves it with the note on the table at the entrance. He doesn't even look back as he walks away from the building and hails a cab. He fidgets all through the plane ride and wishes that planes could go faster. The flight attendant asks three times his choice of drink but he never replies. The smile on his face never fades away.
He is in Pawnee after midnight. He wants to go see Leslie right away, but it is late and he wants to surprise her. He goes to April and Andy's house and discreetly goes to his room and finds it just the way he left it. He sleeps, barely. He remembers her mentioning to go see the realtor in the morning at the house she wanted to lease. He decides that he will meet Leslie at the house. He showers, puts on his suit and takes only the box with him. He does not answer most of April and Andy's questions and drives.
He parks on the street at the address Leslie had given him. The house looks lovely, with the porch and all. He can see Leslie and himself sitting at the porch at night, drinking hot chocolates. He enters the house silently. He enters their home.
He watches as the realtor leaves the room, hears her voice and enters with his hands behind. She turns to him and he sees her smile. That's it. That is his future.