Chapter 1: The Choice
Ben Wyatt had never been more stressed out in his life. He had gotten a call from Andy- a frantic call- that Leslie had collapsed at work, so he and April and taken her to hospital- despite her many protests.
Apparently it was an exhaustion thing- Andy hadn’t explained it very well over the phone (he kept repeating the words “low chocolate count,” so Ben assumed that was something to do with blood sugar) but the first thing he had had to do was find a babysitter. Their kids were two and a half now, so no they couldn’t be left alone, Andy.
After some calling, Ben found that Donna was free, so she said she would pick them up from daycare.
“Thanks Donna,” Ben kept repeating.
“Don’t worry about it,” Donna said quickly. “Just get to your girl.”
Ben was storming down the corridor at City Hall, his mind spiraling, when he nearly barreled into a man he hadn’t spoken to in six months. Because his wife wasn’t friends with him anymore.
“Ron!” Ben said quickly. Ron grunted.
“Wyatt. Where are you going in a hurry?”
“Ron- hi. Uh…” Ben rubbed his face, stressed. “We’ve just had a situation, I need to get to the hospital, so if you’ll excuse me-”
“Hospital?” Ron asked, brow furrowing. “Is everything okay?”
“Leslie collapsed.” Ron’s frown deepened.
“What?” Ben hurried to continue.
“I think she’s okay, she’s with April and Andy, but I need to get down there and I’m already late because I had to arrange for Donna to pick up the triplets from daycare...”
Ben knew Leslie would probably hate him for doing this, but for some reason something switched in his brain. He knew Ron still cared about Leslie, and he was one of many who wanted their feud to end. And as he was speaking, he saw a flicker of worry on Ron’s face, confirming what he knew now to be the truth. No matter how they acted, they still cared deeply for one another. He knew his wife and Ron very well, and there was no hiding that.
Ben sighed loudly. “So, if you’ll excuse me-”
“I’ll drive you, son,” Ron said, cutting him off. “You’re stressed out, and we don’t want you to end up in hospital as well because you crash your vehicle.”
Ben blinked in surprise. “Ron, I don’t think-”
But Ron was walking past him, so Ben had no choice but to follow him out of City Hall and into his car. Ben had forgotten just how old Ron’s car was. He had also forgotten how Ron wasn’t one for small talk. When they were nearly there, Ben felt like he had to break the silence. And maybe he could force Ron to admit what he suspected.
“I feel like I have to ask… why are you doing this? I mean, you haven’t spoken to my wife in a year.”
Ron grunted. “I am doing you a service and driving you.”
“I didn’t ask you to.”
Ron didn’t speak for a while, and soon, they were pulling into the hospital car park. He parked up, and Ben turned to look at him.
“Look, I know you want to come in with me. So, I’m going to make this less awkward and offer for you to join me. I know you have pride and everything, so you don’t have to ask.”
Ron stared at him for a good ten seconds before grunting again. “I forgot how smart you were, Wyatt. And I don’t usually compliment people.”
When they got to the waiting room, Andy and April were there.
“Ben!” Andy called, before gaping. “Ron! You’re here too?”
April looked at Ron with a smirk, and Ron was frowning again. It felt like he never did anything else.
“Yes, I’m here. I drove Benjamin.”
“Where’s Leslie?” Ben asked. Andy held out his hand, where a room number was scribbled down on his palm in black ink.
“Ann’s on the way down by the way,” April added. “Not that I care.”
Ben’s smiled at her. “Thanks guys. Just wait here, I’ll be back soon.”
As he left, he could see April and Andy giving Ron a questioning look, and smiled inwardly at how Ron was planning to explain himself.
Leslie was swinging her legs over the bed when Ben burst in. He sighed in relief, and then they were kissing passionately.
“I’m fine, babe. I was just a little tired.”
“Are you sure? It sounded really scary.”
Leslie shrugged sadly. “I guess I’ve been overworking. I forgot to eat breakfast and lunch, next thing you know I’m falling over in an important meeting.” Ben looked at her, and Leslie blushed, embarrassed. “I know. I know. I’m only here because Andy forced me to.”
“He’s a good friend,” Ben told her, squeezing her hand. “And we’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen again, yeah?”
Leslie nodded. “Yeah. Wait, where are the kids?”
“With Donna,” Ben soothed. “Don’t worry.”
Leslie and Ben sat in silence for a minute. Then Leslie felt Ben bristle, and she looked at him in confusion.
“What is it?”
“Uh, you know how I mentioned good friends…”
Leslie frowned. “Yeah? Wait! Is Ann here?”
“She’s coming,” Ben said quickly, hoping that would soften the blow. Leslie smiled widely, and Ben felt the confidence to finish his point. “Ron’s here. He’s the one that drove me here actually…”
Ben watched Leslie’s face morph from delight to anger in the space of a second.
“He’s here? I refuse to see him, Ben. I don’t care if he drove you. Any old fart can drive a car.”
“He betrayed me, Ben!”
“Leslie, calm down. This is why you were here in the first place!”
Ben made her take a few calming breaths, but he could tell she was still fuming. After a second, she gave him a pointed look.
“You know how I feel about that man.”
“That man who you’ve known for over ten years, babe. Isn’t it time you went back to being friends? I saw how worried he was when I told him- he still cares. And I know you do too.”
Leslie gulped. "No I don't."
Ben looked at her pointedly, before leaning in to give her a quick kiss. "I love you. And I know you love Ron a lot. And you want this argument to end."
Leslie had to smile. Her husband knew her so well. "I love you too."
Ann burst into the waiting room, not surprised to see most of the gang there waiting. She was surprised, however, to see Ron there. She moved to April first.
“Is she alright?”
April nodded. “Yeah, she’s just with Ben right now. None of us can be bothered going back to work so we’re here.” Ann rolled her eyes.
“Or because you care, maybe?” April shrugged a shoulder.
Ann looked at Ron, who nodded once. She nodded back at him awkwardly.
“Perkins. It’s been a while.”
“Sure has. Are you and Leslie friends again, or…?” Ann knew that, should that have been the case, Leslie would have told her. Surely.
“Not exactly.” That was all he said, so Ann just sat down next to him and waited.
It wasn’t long before Leslie and Ben appeared, and Leslie wasted no time in closing the distance between them and giving Ann a squeeze.
“Leslie! Sweetie, are you okay?”
“I’m fine now,” Leslie insisted. “I just overworked myself.”
Ann shot her a look. “We’ve talked about this!”
“I know! I’m sorry.”
Ann rubbed her arm. “I’m just glad you’re okay. And I got you some chocolate from the vending machine. You need to eat up.”
Leslie smiled at her, accepting the bar, before looking at April and Andy and giving them a grin. “Thanks for taking me here, guys.”
“No problem,” April murmured.
“Yeah!” Andy added. “Even though it was really scary when you fainted, I got a free packet of chips from the vending machine! It’s been a great day!”
“That’s good then,” Leslie said hurriedly. “Nothing else to discuss here. I need to go home and rest for ten hours or my husband might kill me.”
She tried to walk past them all, but then Ben was squeezing her arm. “Leslie. I think you should say thank you to Ron for driving me here.” Ben turned to smile at Ron. “He was right. It would have been dangerous for me to do it.”
Ron put both hands on his belt and nodded at Ben. Leslie let out a long sigh, before mumbling something.
“What did you say?” Ben asked.
“Fine! Thank you, Ron, for driving my husband here.”
Ron didn’t say anything for a second. But then he was giving her a look. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re alright.”
Leslie and Ron looked at each other, and Ben caught it. That flash of concern of Ron’s face; the affection on Leslie’s. He knew it was there. He glanced at Ann, who gave him a similar knowing look.
“Hey!” Ben called loudly. “Andy, I think I saw a shiny coin on the floor outside, wanna’ look?”
“Dude! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?!” Andy yelled, barging past them and outside. Ben looked at them, confused. He stopped to give Leslie a quick kiss, before going out after Andy.
Ann turned to April, who rolled her eyes. “Sure.”
“I didn’t say anything!”
“I know. But let’s go.”
April grabbed Ann’s arm and dragged her out of the room, leaving Leslie and Ron alone. Leslie didn’t look at him, she simply sat down in one of the chairs and put her head in her hands. Ron hovered awkwardly, before indicating the chair next to her.
“Is this seat taken?”
Leslie waved her hand, and Ron sat down beside her.
He looked at her. “Are you alright?”
Leslie looked up at him. “Do you even care, Ron? You haven’t cared this past year, why would you care now?”
Ron looked away and didn’t say anything. Leslie sighed. “For your information, I feel pretty rotten. Work has been piling on lately, and the kids have been mayhem and clearly it got too much. And that’s embarrassing enough."
"You need to look after yourself," Ron commented. Leslie groaned.
"I don't think you have a right to say that to me."
“I was worried,” Ron admitted. “I know we’ve had our differences, but I still… consider you a…”
Ron gagged a little, as if he were about to vomit. “…close workplace associate.”
“You didn’t when you bulldozed Ann’s house,” Leslie muttered.
“There was a reason for that,” Ron replied. “Not that I have to explain myself.”
“You kind of do!” Leslie shot back. “I would very much like an explanation!”
Ron looked at her for a second. She might have been acting feisty, but he could tell she was still feeling pretty rough. “Eat your chocolate.”
“You eat your- oh, you mean actually eat it.” She grumbled, unwrapping the bar. “Okay,” she said between chews. “You’d better explain yourself. Because I don’t like you right now. Man, this chocolate is good.”
Ron chuckled. “It’s good to see you, Leslie.”
Leslie looked at him. “It’s good to see you too, I guess. I wish the circumstances were better.”
“Me too." He paused. "I still care, you know. And I'm glad you're alright."
Leslie sighed. "I guess I do too. Potentially." Ron snorted, and Leslie smiled back. "Thanks, Ron."
That felt good. "You and Ben need a lift home. I’d be happy to oblige.”
“Alright,” Leslie replied. “And we can talk?”
Ron groaned inwardly, but he wasn’t going to deny her that. It had been too long.
“Sure. We can talk.”
Ben was waiting outside the hospital when Leslie and Ron finally decided to leave. Leslie hadn’t been as cold to him when they were walking out as she had been before, which was a good thing. Ron himself was quite a cold person but seeing somebody like Leslie do that to him made him… sad.
“Hey honey,” Ben called. Then he looked at Ron. “And Ron.” He gulped. “I wasn’t calling you honey.”
“Noted,” Ron replied.
He had almost forgotten how awkward Ben could be. While he was still good friends with the rest of the gang, Ben had been one he hadn’t spoken to that often. Which was understandable. His wife couldn’t stand him, it’s not like they were going to be the best of friends.
Another loss Ron hadn’t expected to hurt.
“Hi,” Leslie said tiredly. “Ron’s driving us home.”
“Ann is following behind in her car,” Ben told her, like it would have been any other way. Leslie smiled widely, and Ron watched as Ben got visibly happier seeing her smile.
The drive back was awkward. Leslie was quiet, which was always disconcerting, but this time it was for about three different reasons. Ben sat in the front, probably because he was a polite man and would have felt awkward if they had both been in the back. Leslie had put herself in the back seat without question, and part of Ron wanted Ben to do the same. He kept turning around to check on her, and it was distracting.
“Do you remember the way to ours?” Ben asked him. Ron snorted.
“It’s only been a year, son. I still remember the way to the warehouse where I had my sheet metal job.”
“When you were nine,” Leslie cut in, surprisjng Ron. Ron nodded, but didn’t say anything. An air of awkwardness fell over the car which lasted until he pulled up outside the house. Ben quickly got out and ran to the door, unlocking it. Ron was getting out the car when he saw two of the three Knope-Wyatt children, both of them yelling excitedly. The third one then appeared from behind Donna, who looked like she wanted to rip out her hair. That didn’t stop her face from going all surprised when she saw Leslie and Ron walking up the path.
“Hi Donna,” Leslie called tiredly. “Thanks for that.”
“No problem,” Donna replied, recovering quickly. “How are you doing, Knope?”
Leslie smiled at her. “I’m alright, thanks.” One of the small children ran over and wrapped his arms around Leslie’s legs, and Ron felt that pang again. “Better now I’m home!” Leslie called in a sing-song voice.
Then Ann was making her way up the path, calling a sweet hello to Donna, and Ron lost interest. He moved to walk away, but then Leslie was shooting him a look.
“You’re coming in for a drink,” she told him.
“You probably don’t have the type of drink I want,” Ron shot back.
“Ron,” Leslie said with a laugh. “There’s been a bottle of whiskey under my sink for a year and a half.”
The children were running around like lunatics and Ron was sat at the table thanking the deity he didn’t believe in that his own son wasn’t this energetic. No, Jon took after his father’s stoicism much in the same way these children clearly took after their mother.
Ron watched Leslie and Ben share a quick kiss in the kitchen, and then Ben disappeared with the children, leaving Leslie in the room with him alone. She smiled at him and put a glass of whiskey in front of him.
“Much obliged,” Ron said quietly. Leslie just hummed and sat opposite him with a mug of hot chocolate. Or maybe it was coffee- either way there was a lot of whipped dairy product on top.
“You seem more tired now,” Ron commented. “If it’s my place to say.”
“Long day,” Leslie replied. “But we’re not leaving until we talk about this. I know you hate talking, but I need to know what happened, Ron. “
Ron watched as she pulled a binder out from under the table, entitled: “POTENTIAL REASONS FOR THE FRIENDSHIP FALLOUT CIRCA 2016” and Ron had to hold in a chuckle. She hadn’t changed.
“I don’t care to talk about my feelings,” Ron told her. “I rarely have them.”
“Are you sure?” Leslie asked, giving him a look. “Because it seems to me like you cared about me enough to drive Ben to the hospital. So why can’t we keep this feelings train chugging?”
“Are you trying to blackmail me into talking?”
“Ron,” Leslie groaned, getting some of her usual vigor back. “You told me we can talk! You said, and I quote… sure, we can talk.”
“I never stated specifically what we were to discuss.”
Leslie took a long gulp of the hot chocolate. He knew he was driving her mad, but he never claimed to be comfortable with this kind of thing. Hence why this whole thing had gone on this long in the first place. Ron Swanson was a proud man.
But Leslie did have a point- he had dropped everything to make sure she was alright earlier today. It wasn’t like he held any cards anymore. And she looked tired, still. She was worn down, and he didn’t want to make it worse.
“Fine,” Ron forced himself to say. “We can talk. About our feud.”
Leslie smiled at him. “Finally.”
“Ron, I’m so sorry!”
Ron rolled his eyes inwardly. This was the sixth apology he had gotten. “You’ve said that already, woman.”
“I know, but I just can’t believe my behaviour!”
“I don’t fully blame you. I could have been… less difficult.”
“But you wanted a job from me, and I… I didn’t show up.” He watched as she started filling up and wasn’t sure what to do. He sat there awkwardly as she wiped a few tears away. “I’m so sorry.”
She stood up and walked around the table, pulling him into a hug. Ron accepted it awkwardly, letting out a long sigh. Her hugs never ended.
“We’re going to fix this,” Leslie told him. “We can fix all this. You can go and have a proper introduction to my children.”
“I would like that,” Ron found himself saying. “But in return, you need to get some sleep.”
Leslie rolled her eyes. “Seriously?”
“Or have you forgotten where you were two hours ago?”
Leslie rolled her eyes again, but this time it was fondly. “Alright, fine. Ann and Ben have probably run out of things to say to each other, we should probably go and rescue them.”
Leslie moved away, but then Ron put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m glad we’re friends again," he said softly.
Leslie smiled widely, her eyes teary. “Me too.”
Leslie had passed out on the couch pretty much as soon as they got in there, her legs on Ann's lap and her head in Ben’s. The children were playing on the other side of the room, being surprisingly quiet, which allowed Ron to share a nice conversation with the two. Ben was running his hand through Leslie’s hair, and Ann was laughing at Ron’s stories, even though none of them contained jokes. She had always been an overly cheerful person. But not entirely unpleasant.
It felt like things were okay again. Not that Ron had functioned any less without Leslie in his life. No. Well, maybe. But if she ever found that out, she would never let him live it down. So he was going to keep that to himself.
“I’m glad she’s alright,” he said quietly. Ann nodded.
“Me too, I was so worried.”
“She’s just got a lot going on,” Ben told them, sighing. “It’s been super crazy around here lately, and I hate that I can’t look after her better.”
They all looked at Leslie. There was a lot of love for Leslie in this room, Ron thought to himself. Ben would do anything for her. And Ann the same. And him.
“You’ve got help,” Ann told Ben earnestly, before looking to Ron. “Right, Ron?”
Ron nodded. “Yes. That’s right.”
thanks for reading :))