into the great unknown
or, five times ben thinks about marrying leslie
The first time Ben thinks about marrying Leslie, they're roleplaying.
She's adventurous in bed, he's found, more adventurous than he would have guessed. She likes experimenting and pushing limits and roleplaying. She likes roleplaying a LOT, not that he minds (he's written a fair number of fanfiction himself, so it's not like he can talk). One night when they're sneaking around and hiding everything from Chris, she decides they're going to be Bill and Hilary Clinton, circa Bill's first term. She gets over the fact that she's not the president in the scenario when he convinces her it would be weird if she was Bill ("Well, okay, I guess you're right, but next time I'm totally being Queen Elizabeth or something.").
The thing about Leslie is that when she commits to something, she really, well, commits.
They don't even make it to the bedroom ― after checking that April and Andy aren't home, of course ― before she emerges herself into the fantasy. "Well, Mr. President," her voice is low and seductive and shit, she could turn him on just by speaking, "that was quite the conference, wasn't it?" She wraps her arms around his neck and gently tugs on his earlobe with her teeth, and he won't last very long if she keeps this up.
Ben usually gets into the groove quickly after she does. He lets out a heavy sigh and bites back a smirk and a moan as he places his hands on her waist. "Why yes darling, very stressful."
"Well, let me try and help you to relieve some of that stress, dear husband."
And it's not like it's a huge deal, or that he has some kind of epiphany or anything, because really, it's just a roleplay. But he likes the way she calls him "husband" and he gets this warm kind of feeling that spreads thorough his body ― or wait, maybe that's just the feeling of her lips on his neck and her hands under his shirt. But either way, he likes the scenario and the way she mutters "my sexy husband" against his skin.
It soon slips from his mind, though, when he's distracted by other things, like Andy and April walking in on a topless Leslie straddling a pantless Ben on the living room couch.
Andy yelps, then covers his eyes, then peeks and covers his eyes again, while April just stands and mutters something about them being "sly dogs".
Well, Ben thinks as they both hurry to put their clothes back on, at least it wasn't Ron.
The second time he thinks about marrying Leslie, they're drunk.
Or more accurately, he's drunk.
It's the night of the End of the World and he can't think of anything better to do then get a drink at the Snakehole Lounge. He supposes he had other options. Shauna Malwae-Tweep not-so-subtly invites him back to her place, but her hair is too brown and she's too tall and she's too young and besides, she's a reporter so. It just wouldn't work. And Leslie leaves him about fifty messages giving him a play-by-play of the park activities.
11:30: Still no sign of Zorp. Maybe he's ending another world?
11:40: No Zorp, but JJ's doughnuts. Would it be bad if I took one?
11:56: Ron says he'd have whiskey on his last day, but I prefer beer.
12:01: Guess Zorp didn't come. It's a good thing because I would have missed you.
12:02: And I would have wanted to spend my last night with you.
He doesn't respond because he's not going to do this to himself. He's not going to allow himself to miss her and to want to be her with her and make out with her and ―
It's then that he decides he needs a drink.
So he orders himself a beer, and then a gin and tonic, and then another beer, and then another gin and tonic, until he's found a comfortable pattern and feels nice and drunk and can't exactly feel his face. It's then that he gets yet another text from Leslie, and he audibly groans at the sight of the name.
12:43: youre a jerk and i hate you but i like your hair
12:43: and ur butt
He scoffs out loud and puts the phone down on the table, shaking his head as he takes another swig of his beer. Even in his state he knows she drunk, and that Leslie only gets piss-drunk when she's upset. He supposes that should make him upset, but it doesn't. He's more annoyed than anything, and makes a point to make sure people know.
"She loves me and my butt," he mumbles to know one in particular, frowning as the words come out of his mouth. They taste funny.
Ben looks up to see the middle-aged bartender smiling sympathetically at him. Ben makes a noise that cross between a "pffft" and a scoff and goes to correct the man, but stops when the bartender slides a gin and tonic his way wordlessly. It's given to him under false pretenses and he knows it's wrong, but who is Ben to not except free booze?
Maybe I should be married to Leslie more often, he thinks, not giving himself time to analyze his thoughts.
(It isn't until the next morning when he wakes up to a pounding headache and an overly cheerful Leslie knocking on his door that he realizes the implications of it all.)
The third time he thinks about marrying Leslie, she's won the election.
She's won and she can't believe it and they're all crowded around her, watching her as she makes a speech. And at first she's stuttering and nervous, but she soon finds her groove and it's just Leslie again. Except it's not just Leslie now, it's Councilwoman Knope, and he's so proud of her that he can feel his heart swelling in his chest. He watches her as she speaks, looking as though she belongs up there (because she does), and he thinks, how could I have ever let her go?
It's weird to think about. Ben thinks of his life in two phases: Pre-Leslie and Leslie. It's silly, he knows, but by some cruel trick of nature, it's how his life worked out. Pre-Leslie was the time of the Ice Town debacle and his twelve years of mindlessly moving through towns of Indiana, auditing budgets and crushing dreams. Pre-Leslie was a time of confusion and pointlessness in Ben's life, and whether or not Leslie influenced that, he wasn't sure. Leslie, though, changed everything. The time period, not the woman, though the woman must have had something to do with it. The period of Leslie was when he found himself, made something of himself. And in the town of Pawnee, no less.
"You must be so proud."
Ben's thoughts are interrupted as a woman turns to him, looking towards him with an all-knowing smile. Ben blinks, taking a moment to understand what this stranger means. It's then that he realizes she's talking about Leslie.
"Oh, uh, yes, yes, I am. It was a wonderful campaign to run and―"
"How's that?" The woman's expression turns to one of confusion, and Ben blinks once again.
"I'm her campaign manager?" And it comes out as more of a question than anything else, because what else could she have meant?
The woman's face brightens and Ben's confused all over again. "Oh, how wonderful!" She claps her hands together and laughs, and Ben briefly realizes that this woman is off her rocker. "You running your wife's campaign, how sweet!"
"My what?" If Ben had been drinking water, he definitely would have choked on it. "Oh, uh, no, no, um, no, we're not ― I mean, weren't not ― no, no, uh, no." He lets out a forced chuckle and runs a hand through his hair, wondering, where did she get that idea?
"Oh, well, forgive me. It just seemed as though you two were married." The woman looks both confused and amused, and Ben thinks this is all very strange. He chooses that moment to look at Leslie, her eyes traveling to him at the same time. And despite what's going on with them respectively, they both make the point to lock eyes, to have a moment of connection. To let the other one know they're there for each other, no matter what. Because they're Ben and Leslie, and they jump off of cliffs together, and he would go to the end of the world with her, for her. Ben smiles a bit more and turns back to the woman, confidence finding itself back into his voice.
"No, ma'am, not yet."
The fourth time he thinks about marrying Leslie, he almost proposes.
Ben always had an idea of how much he loved Leslie, but he doesn't understand fully until he's forced to leave her. Being away from her kills him, and he realizes he can't really focus on much of anything. He can do to the work, sure, because he has to. It's Congress, after all, and this campaign has the makings of setting up Ben's career. But just because he does the work, doesn't mean he has to be able to focus on it. The work and the words and the orders all jumble together and get lost in the mix up and he can't stop thinking of her, of her hair and her smile and her unwavering and irrational love of her town and soon it's not work anymore, it's just LeslieLeslieLeslie over and over again until he can't stand it.
And when he calls her at night, when they tell each other about their days and their troubles and occasionally their desires, the hole in his heart grows bigger. He just wants to hold her in his arms most nights, and sometimes it physically aches. And as she tells him about the river she's fixing up and the bill she's trying to pass, he realizes that he never wants to be away from her.
It's a startling epiphany. One moment he's thinking about how silly Leslie's law was, and the next moment he's thinking about how much he wants to marry her. He supposes he's always wanted to marry her. Leslie's the first woman he's ever seriously thought about being with, and it's both scary and thrilling. He wants to marry Leslie Knope. He almost laughs into the phone at the idea, because it's so elating. He feels so free and he doesn't even know know she might say yet.
He hopes, with everything in him, she'd say yes.
And suddenly, he needs to know the answer. He feels as though he might explode of anxiousness if she doesn't answer him. There's this rise in his throat and he can't stop the words from coming out and suddenly he's screaming into the phone, "IwanttomarryyouLeslieKnope!"
He doesn't even know what she had been previously talking about, but she stops mid sentence and he can almost hear her stumped, yet amused expression.
"Say that again?"
Ben pauses, thinking, This is my chance. This is his change to make it pretty, to confess his undying love and need to be with her, to promise her a ring he probably can't afford. This is his chance to calmly and proudly say: "Leslie Barbara Knope, I am deeply, ridiculously in love with you, and above all else, I just want to be with you. Will you marry me?" It sounds so nice to his ears and all he has to do is just say it to Leslie.
"Uh, nothing. Nothing. It's nothing." Before she can ask him what he really wanted to say, he quickly changes the subject. "So, uh, the soda tax?"
He's a coward, and he knows it, but a part of him really does want to make it special. Because Leslie? She deserves more than just a question over the phone. Leslie deserves roses and a tux and Ben down on one kneeing, telling her just how much she means to him.
Leslie deserves the world.
The fifth time he thinks about marrying Leslie, he's a cross between insanely excited and absurdly nervous.
He's been planning for it for a few days, so he's more than prepared. He rehearses the speech over and over on the way to Pawnee, the words engraving in his mind until they're coming out like breathing. He keeps the ring he bought (with April's help, though she'll never admit it) in the cup holder and glances at it as he drives, a smile spreading on his face. He isn't one for symbolism (expect for in Star Trek, because symbolism makes for great TV), but the idea of that ring, that endless loop of metal, hope, and love, makes him smile. Makes him think what he's doing is going to be worth it.
He calls Ann because Ann would know where Leslie is. Once Ann stops talking about Jerry and Chris, she lets him know that Leslie's at the house ― their house ― letting the realtor know that she won't be needing a house for a while. And the thought breaks his heart, and he realizes that, screw their dinner plans, he's going to propose to her in their house, right then and there.
It's more perfect than anything he could have imagined.
And it's all very Ben and Leslie, the way the proposal works out. She cries before he even asks her and she makes him wait, deciding she needs to make a memory of the moment besides just living in it. He wouldn't have had it any other way.
And as they christen their new house ("Martha won't be able to give us our... Oooh! Ben... Our deposit back, you know..."), he thinks, screw Washington, there's no place he'd rather be in the world.
The first time Ben thinks about seriously having a family with Leslie, he can't get Jerry out of his head.