Falling in love with Ben had been hard, Leslie noted.
It had been six weeks since he moved to Washington, and the cracks were beginning to show. Less phone calls here and there, each of them getting too busy. That was to be expected, obviously, but Leslie started to realise that, actually, she was missing him less and less.
That scared her.
At the start, it had been a keening pain in her side, especially coupled with the insane workload of being City Counsellor. The stress had skyrocketed, and she missed her Campaign Manager more than anything. Her friends were great, obviously, but something was missing.
She had spent most nights alone, but that changed two weeks in, when Ann Perkins appeared on her doorstep at just gone seven. She had an unreadable expression on her face that made Leslie anxious, so she went in with her standard greeting.
“Ann Perkins you alluring wildflower. It’s good to see you!”
It had been a few days. In fact, it had been a few days since she had said more than a few clipped sentences to anybody, including Ben. Why was her dream so demanding?
Ann smiled. “Leslie, I want you to come and stay with me for a few days.”
Leslie scrunched up her face. “Like a sleepover? Ann, I’m sorry but I’m way too busy-”
“No, I mean like, to stay so I can make sure you don’t die.”
Leslie snorted. “Ann, I’m perfectly fine.”
“You have a hairbrush stuck in your hair.”
Leslie tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. “It’s the style, Ann.”
She whipped her hair, which just resulted in it smacking her in the face. Ann tried not to laugh.
“Okay, no. You’re coming with me.”
That was how it had started. Every few days, Ann would whisk Leslie away from the stressful half-life she was living and try to inject some normalcy back into her life.
“How’s Ben?” Ann asked as she folded the washing. It had both of their clothes in. Ann tried not to dwell on that, because the more she thought about it, the more her heart clenched.
“I’m honestly not sure,” Leslie admitted. “He’s just as busy as I am, maybe more.”
Ann nodded along, but inside her head just felt incredibly loud. She had been confused for a long time now. She didn’t know why talking about Ben made her feel so odd. She liked the guy, and he was lovely for Leslie. Leslie who deserved everything in the universe.
And over time, the conversations about Ben got more and more frequent, because there seemed to be more and more problems.
“It wasn’t easy falling in love with Ben, and it seems like every step it’s just getting harder and harder.”
“I know,” Ann replied honestly, handing Leslie the ice cream.
They had both finished work half an hour before, and it was straight into pyjamas for the both of them. There was music quietly pulsing from the speaker nearby, and they were chatting.
“I’m just excited to see him next week. He’s coming back to Pawnee.”
“That’ll be great!”
“I don’t know… I mean, I spoke to him for approximately thirty minutes for the entirety of this week! I mean, Ann, we’re both doing our dream jobs, but it feels like it’s forcing us apart. I know he loves me, but I’m worried that-”
Before Leslie could carry on, her phone screen lit up. She whipped to her feet.
“It’s Ben, I have to-”
“Of course, of course. Take it,” Ann insisted, watching as her friend hurried out of the room.
Leslie was only gone for ten minutes. Ann had lazily flicked through the tv channels, quietly missing Leslie. She had once said to Mark that when you want to be with someone, you miss them even when they're only gone for a second. No, don't think about that.
She had finally found something to watch, some cooking show, but then quickly turned the TV off once Leslie returned with tears in her eyes.
“What happened?” Ann asked quickly, standing to embrace her.
“He’s had to cancel the trip,” Leslie said between sobs. “He- he was really sorry, but something came up. I think he was sadder about it than me.”
Ann looked at her best friend, who was now sniffing thickly. I hope he is, she thought.
“It’s not his fault,” Ann found herself saying. “It’s nobody’s fault, it just sucks.”
“It really does!” Leslie sobbed, pulling Ann in closer. “I’m losing him, and I feel like there’s nothing I can do about it. And now I’m crying? Ann, I bet no other female politicians cried when they were wronged by a man!”
“What about Hillary?” Ann questioned, making Leslie snort.
“I hope this isn’t a Hillary situation.”
“Leslie,” Ann said firmly, taking her hand. “You are strong and powerful. But it’s okay to be sad. I get sad all the time.” Oops. Leslie tilted her head.
“You do?” She sniffed. “How come?”
“Err-” Because I think I’m falling in love with you? “Not anything in particular. Life is hard. Besides, it’s been hard seeing you so stressed recently.”
Leslie nodded along, and Ann let out a breath. That was close. Ann only just now noticed how close the two women actually were. They were still stood in the middle of the room; Ann had her arms wrapped around Leslie’s neck in what had been intended as a comforting gesture, but now they had both pulled away it felt like the two women frozen in a slow dance, looking into each other’s eyes. Leslie’s stormy, hurt expression perfectly matched the situation, whereas Ann was more searching and soft. Leslie could see it, and she appreciated it. In fact, she couldn’t help but stare into her eyes. She had never looked properly before. She was always so busy. But right now, the two of them were frozen in place.
Leslie let out a soft sigh. She brought her hands up to Ann’s waist. Ann’s breath hitched.
The spell was broken when there was a loud knock at the door.
“Pizza!” came the muffled voice on the other side.
The twp of them leapt away from each other like they’d been electrocuted.
“The pizza, yeah,” Ann finished. “Ahem. Yeah.”
“We should probably open the door.”
Leslie hurried to the door, running like she had been burned, leaving Ann standing in the middle of the living room missing the soft weight of Leslie’s hands.
The inevitable came a few weeks later. After countless teary phone-calls dissolved into terse discussions, Leslie got an unexpected video call from Ben at two in the afternoon on a Sunday. She wasn’t at Ann’s house this time, because Ann was working a double shift. She was alone in her draughty, empty house, and Ben was calling her out of the blue.
That did mean that she wasn’t prepared. There was no binder to go off this time.
When she answered it, she could see that the poor man was in his Letters to Cleo t-shirt.
“Oh dear,” she said kindly. “I know that mood.”
“Hey,” Ben replied tiredly. “I’m sorry I’ve been… weird lately.”
“Ben, don’t be. We’ve both been busy. Is it going well over there?”
Ben nodded, smiling. “I’ve made a few friends, finally. You know how long it took me to settle into Pawnee.”
Leslie’s heart clenched. “Yeah,” she said with a chuckle. “It took a while.”
“It hasn’t been easy recently,” Ben admitted. “I’ve had a lot of thoughts going on.”
“Me too,” Leslie whispered.
The two of them looked at each other. And then words began pouring out of her mouth in one endless tirade.
Leslie could honestly say that she loved him, but it hadn’t been easy recently. And the more time they spent apart, the more time she realised that things weren’t the same. And while she loved him, she couldn’t think about being this unhappy for the next six months of her life, while she waited for him. She loved him, but more in the way you loved a dear old friend, or your favourite type of binder.
Ben listened- a little too patiently. He didn’t interrupt, he didn’t argue. And that’s what sealed the truth in her heart.
“I do love you,” she found herself saying. Ben nodded.
“I love you too.”
“Do you think you’ll come back to Pawnee?” she asked in a small voice.
“I don’t know,” he replied honestly. “I love all you guys, but…”
He trailed off, and Leslie nodded. For some reason, all she could think about was Ann. Ben must have caught her expression, because his eyes narrowed.
“Are you okay?”
Leslie thought about Ann again. How she would constantly make sure she was eating and sleeping enough. Getting her to stay with her and keeping her safe. Constantly putting up with everything while simultaneously being everything she needed.
“I think I will,” Leslie replied. “This won’t be the last time we speak though, right? I still care about you and I owe you so much…”
“Of course,” Ben said instantly. “I don’t want to lose you in my life.”
The two smiled at each other.
“Wow,” Ben said, wiping his eye. “This is really sad.”
“It is,” Leslie said, but for the first time in a long time, all she felt was a sea of calm.
“Maybe in another timeline,” Ben found himself saying, and Leslie had to laugh because of course that adorable nerd would think about alternate timelines at a time like this.
“Maybe. Bye, Ben.”
Leslie didn’t know much about the next few hours, but before she knew it she was outside of Ann’s house. She was sat on the doorstep, staring at her feet. Surprisingly, her brain wasn’t full of one million thoughts. The only thing she thought of was that she needed to see Ann.
She hadn’t told anybody yet- the rest of the Parks gang could wait. When they all inevitably found out, Leslie was certain that they would be nothing but supportive. But right now, all she wanted to do was see Ann.
And to be honest, that spoke volumes.
But why did she want to see Ann? Did she want to thank her? She had been so supportive recently, she seriously owed pretty much every ounce of happiness to her. But not only that, the whole time Ben was talking to her, she just had Ann Perkins on the brain. Her best friend, yes, but maybe… something else.
Ann walked tiredly down the path, but her pace quickened when she saw Leslie huddled on her doorstep. Leslie leapt up.
“Leslie! Are you okay?”
Leslie burst into tears, but she was smiling. “I’m not sure!”
“What do you mean?”
“We broke up! Ann, we broke up and I don’t think I’ve felt a bigger weight lift off my chest.”
Ann felt a jolt go through her body. “You broke up?”
Leslie was sobbing now, but her face was bright and happy. Ann was so tired, and she could tell Leslie was exhausted too, so she wordlessly took her hand. Leslie didn’t say anything, she allowed herself to be led through the house and into the bedroom. Leslie was crying still- but being in the bedroom with a strangely quiet Ann Perkins was doing weird things to her chest.
“Let’s go to sleep,” Ann commanded. “You look like you’re about to drop, and I feel like my brain has melted.”
“Okay,” Leslie agreed immediately. “Although, I need to talk to you about something first.”
Ann’s breath hitched. “What is it?”
“You’ve been amazing the past few months,” Leslie said to her, taking her hand. “Like, you’ve been my rock.”
“Leslie, with everything you’ve done for me…”
“No, Ann. I want you to feel appreciated. The whole time you’ve made my life so much better. I just… I want you to know that.”
And there it was again. That eye contact that made both the women feel like there was nothing else in the whole universe.
But then Ann was yawning, and then they were hugging and climbing into bed together. The two of them faced each other, and Leslie found herself looking at Ann in a new light. Sleepy and peaceful, Ann almost looked younger. And Leslie found herself letting out a calming breath. Things felt okay for the first time in…
Wow, had things never felt okay before?
Ann tried to keep her eyes open, but she felt herself falling asleep. As her eyes slipped shut, Leslie found herself systematically thinking through every single relationship she ever had. And then every best friend she had ever had. She had had multiple failed relationships, but only three best friends.
And why was it that Ann Perkins was the most significant person she had ever encountered?
They had met because of the pit. That was the start of the friendship of a lifetime, but Leslie was starting to think it was more than that.
It hadn’t been easy to be with Ben, but it felt like it was very easy to be with Ann. Even just as friends, just being near her was a beautiful, wholesome force that took her breath away.
Before she could stop herself, Leslie was slowly, ever so slowly, reaching over to stroke Ann’s hair. She smiled a little, watching as Ann’s nose wrinkled. And then she opened her eyes.
I don’t think Leslie realised how close the two of them were until now, because her eyes were less than an inch away from hers. Those beautiful eyes.
“Ann,” Leslie whispered.
“I’m sorry I woke you up. I know you’re tired. But I need to tell you something.”
Ann smiled at her softly. “What is it?”
Leslie really did think about speaking. It had been easy to speak through her feelings with Ben, but probably because those feelings made sense. There was a beginning and end to those feelings- you could put a full stop at the end of the sentence and be done with it. But with Ann, Leslie didn’t even know where to start. And for someone like her, a neurotic problem-solver, that was frustrating. So, Leslie did the only thing she thought to do, which was to close the gap between them and kiss Ann.
It felt like fire. It was like electricity. It was everything Leslie had ever wanted.
Immediately, however, she was pulling back.
“I’m so sorry,” Leslie found herself stuttering. “That was like, so not okay. I just was thinking about you and I-”
“Leslie,” Ann said with a chuckle. “Shush.”
Ann kissed her again, and soon Leslie’s hands were back in Ann’s hair. The two of them deepened the kiss, sitting up in bed so they were able to get their hands on each other. It was soft and caring, while simultaneously being the most frantic thing either women had ever experienced. For Ann, she had been pining after Leslie for months. But for Leslie, this love was a sudden realisation. Different reasons to be so eager, but each reason brought about a wave of utter desperation.
“I love you,” Leslie said as she broke away. “I’m sorry I only just realised.”
“I love you,” Ann replied instantly. “And don’t be sorry. You’ve been a little busy.”
Leslie laughed shakily. “When aren’t I? Wait- how long have you… felt like that?”
Ann tried to think straight, but Leslie’s hands were still in her hair, and it was distracting.
“A while.” Her answer was short and breathless, and Leslie took the hint to continue kissing.
They could talk about this later. All that mattered now was that they were together, and it felt so, so good.
Leslie’s hands slipped under Ann’s top and travelled down Ann’s body, her fingers stopping to grace on her lower back.
“Is this okay?”
“Yes,” Ann replied. Her voice was clipped, and yet again Leslie was taking the hint and carrying on as planned.
They kissed again, and Leslie’s hands explored her skin. Ann leaned forward to wrap her hands around the back of Leslie’s neck, as she had done last time. But this situation was very different. Now she was using the hands to support herself as she kissed Leslie harder and harder.
She could feel her cool hands on her skin.
Those hands travelled downwards, and then Ann’s hands were pulling Leslie’s clothes off, and then her own. Their clothes fell together in a heap on the floor, and the two women carried on.
It had been hard to be with Ben Wyatt. But falling in love with Ann Perkins was easy.