Chapter 1: you don't know what it's like (meeting someone like you)
“Senator Wyatt? Someone is here to see you.”
Ben doesn’t hear his assistant at first, too engrossed in editing the documents that has somehow made its way on his desk. His kind, elderly assistant, Gertrude, has a soft voice that seems to get quieter with every passing day. Ben can’t bring himself to replace her; he would miss her homemade toffee too much.
Ben pulls his focus from the papers in front of him, the topic of which he isn’t even sure.
“A… Leslie Knope is here to see you,” she has to look down at her notes to remember the name. “I told her that she had to schedule an appointment, but then we got to talking and I accidentally revealed that you had a break and I didn’t want to reject her a second time,” Gertrude needs a deep breath after such a long sentence. She holds up a chocolate chip cookie Ben didn’t realize she had.
“She made these for the front office!”
Ben sighs and straightens his tie.
“Send her in. And tell her she has to be quick.”
Gertrude goes back to get Ms. Knope. Ben knows she won’t actually say anything, which is probably good because he has a hard time believing Leslie Knope takes orders (or even suggestions) very well.
Ben sits back in his chair, letting his pen drop to the paper in front of him.
He doesn’t know Leslie Knope, but he definitely knows about her.
Last he heard, she had a screaming fit with a Whip and hasn’t actually been seen in D.C. in over a year. Since just after the midterms.
So does Ben have any idea as to what Leslie Knope could want with him? Not a clue.
When the actual Leslie Knope comes blistering through his office door on a Thursday morning, however, any preconceived notions of her go out the window. In fact, the minute Leslie Knope’s foot crosses the threshold of his office door, Senator Ben Wyatt’s (D-MINN) life is never the same again.
Ben doesn’t know this, of course. Instead, he watches as a pretty, blonde woman walks briskly into his office. She stops, briefly, to look around his office (wistfully? Ben isn’t sure) and then turns to him. She looks familiar, but Ben chalks it up to his having passed her the halls once or twice.
“Senator Wyatt. It’s good to see you,” she says, and sticks out her hand. Has he seen her before now?
Ben stands there, dumbstruck, before he realizes that a normal person would take her hand and shake it.
“Please, call me Ben,” Ben says, amicably. And then, in an attempt to clear up the feeling of recognition in his gut, “Do we know each other?” It’s always an awkward question, made even more awkward when the recipient doesn’t answer it. Leslie smiles, a knowing smirk that makes Ben warm.
“I’ve been following your career for some time. I’m Leslie Knope. You probably already know that,” she says, smiling. Ben honestly tries not to notice how the tops of her cheeks are pink. Like permanently pink. Or the fact that her blue eyes are huge, like incredibly big. And very blue.
“Of course. Please, have a seat,” Ben says, motioning for her to sit at one of the chairs opposite his desk.
“I’m sure you are wondering why I dropped in on you today,” Leslie starts, pausing so Ben can get situated in his seat. He nods.
“Last I heard, you were in Indiana.”
Leslie chuckles, but in that polite way that means he said something he wasn’t supposed to. She looks down at her hands and shakes her head.
“I went back to my hometown for a couple months, yes, but I didn’t really come to talk about me.”
Ben thinks to apologize, but decides it’s probably best to move on. She stops and looks up at him, possibly waiting for him to say something. He’s struck with that familiarity again, one he can’t seem to get out of his head.
“Well, you have my attention.”
“First, tell me, what are you working on today, Ben?” Leslie says, with the same tone as if she’s asking what he wants for breakfast. She leans back, looking at him as if she’s appraising him. He smiles right back.
“I’m afraid that’s confidential, Ms. Knope.”
Leslie just nods and stands, meandering around the room as if she owns the place. For a second, Ben almost believes she does. Her small fingers brush his picture frames of siblings and nephews. She actually stops and reads his college diplomas.
“Do you believe that saying is true, that Senators think they are better than members of the House?” Leslie asks as she looks at the view from his window. It’s of a parking lot, but she stays fixated, waiting for his answer.
His brow furrows as he thinks about the question. “I’m sure that’s true for some people, yes.”
“Why do you think that is?” Leslie comes back toward him, maintaining eye contact. It would be all too easy for Ben to get lost in a sea of blue. He just shrugs and looks at her feet.
“Senators serve longer. There are less of them. I guess some would say they get more done, but that wouldn’t really be true right now,” Ben tries to laugh but it feels empty.
“Do you think you are better than me?” Leslie asks.
Ben looks at her, confused. “Are you a trying to be a member of the House of Representatives, Leslie Knope?”
Leslie laughs, shaking her head. “No, I would say I’m trying for much more than that.”
Ben furrows his brow, trying to make sense of her, well, everything.
“Can I be honest?” Leslie nods. “I doubt there is anyone in this city better than you.” It’s the truth, and Ben would say it again if it meant that Leslie would look at him like she is now.
Leslie follows Ben’s gaze to her shoes, probably to hide the blush that has formed on her cheeks. “Good answer.”
She sits at the edge of the desk, looking down at him.
“Do you remember when you gave that speech at your alma mater, in January?”
Ben waves his hand. “Vaguely.”
Leslie smiles again, but it’s a little wearier. “When I moved to D.C. after college, my mom went to Michigan with her partner. She’s been living in Minneapolis for almost a decade.”
She takes the glass of water Ben had poured earlier that day, before he hunkered down. She takes a sip, before setting it down right in front of him.
“I went to see her for my birthday,” Leslie says, drawing out the words and Ben realizes he’s supposed to understand something. “My birthday is on the 18th. Of January.”
And then it hits him.
Or more aptly, he hits it like a wall of bricks.
And suddenly, Ben has a vision of a bar in Minneapolis and ordering drinks for a birthday girl in order to make her cackle, just one more time. He remembers an overpriced hotel room that didn’t feel overpriced at the time because he just had to feel soft, blonde hair between his fingers or he might explode.
Leslie cackles, just like the one Ben remembers.
“OK. Good. I thought I was going to have to spell it out for you.”
She shouldn’t have even had to get that far. Ben feels like a total ass.
‘I’m so sorry. I totally remember. I just didn’t put a face with the name or something.”
She shakes her head, resting her hand on his shoulder. It’s supposed to be a comforting touch but it fizzles with an electricity that only puts Ben more on edge.
“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t realize it was you until Jenn gave me your name two week ago.”
“Jenn? Like Jennifer Barkley?” He mumbles, like an idiot.
“Like my boss? Yeah, keep up Ben. I’m not here just to remind you of our past sexual encounter.”
Ben should laugh, and he thinks to go through the motions, but it’s much harder to laugh about their sexual encounter if said sexual encounter wasn’t going through his head right now.
“I’m not sure what to say.”
“About which part?” Leslie asks, curiously.
“Both, I guess.”
She scoots closer across the desk, forcing Ben to look up at her.
“I only came here today because I was a little worried you had the same epiphany that I had, and I didn’t want it getting in the way of us working together,” Leslie snaps her fingers, jolting Ben. “Crap. I mean, us possibly working together. I’m a little rusty at this.”
“At what?” Ben feels like he’s just been pulled out of water and he can’t think straight.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”
She walks past Ben’s chair towards the door and he is awashed with the aroma of vanilla. It calms him, suddenly, and for the first time since Leslie’s walked into his office, Ben can finally think straight.
“Would you like to get a drink tonight, Senator Wyatt? There is much we need to discuss.” She asks as if she already knows the answer.
“About my future?” Ben asks, and he almost manages to be charming.
“About the future of the United States, Ben.”
And there is something in the way Leslie says it. She raises her chin, her chest, and those goddamn blue eyes twinkle with something Ben desperately wants to understand. He knows that she’s not just saying a line, like the one he heard when he was approached to run for Senator less than five years ago.
It actually means something, and that’s when Ben finally understands that his next response will mean everything.
What the hell. He breathes in the vanilla Leslie has left behind.
“I would love to.”
Chapter 2: 'cause baby i'm gifted (you see what i mean?)
Ben finishes his work early, which gives him time to worry and overthink about his dinner date.
Not a date.
No, of course not. He’s not crazy enough to make more of something than it actually is. Nor is he creepy enough to push that role on her. But he can’t help his attraction, and he saw the way she looked at him too.
Then again, maybe she just wants to brush that night under the rug. Now that Ben’s been reminded, he’s having a hard time doing the same.
“What do you do, Benji?” Leslie says, drawing out the childlike name he gave her. With her saying it, it definitely hurts less.
“I work in Washington,” Ben replies, vaguely.
“Really? So do I,” Leslie shoves him, making him spill his drink a little. “Or at least I did. I’m not really sure anymore.”
Ben downs the rest of his drink and motions to the bartender for another. “How about we don’t talk about work, just for tonight?”
They seal it with a toast.
Honestly, Ben hasn’t really been able to get the mystery girl from the bar in Minneapolis out of his head, so it’s a little disappointing that he didn’t realize it the minute Leslie walked into his office. He woke up in a hotel room, alone and naked, with a pile of cash on the far nightstand.
Not for the sex (which was great) but for the hotel room. x
He had traced the note for hours but still managed to lose it during his flight back to D.C. Since then, he’s been sure that he dreamed it out of his incredibly lonely mind. Who doesn’t write their name or number as a way to contact them after a night like that? A measly x is all Ben got.
He packs up at six and heads out through an empty front office (Gertrude and company usually leave around four).
Ben silences a groan and turns toward the man currently jogging to him.
“Chris. What’s up? I’m on my way out.”
“I won’t keep you from your big plans, Ben, but I heard you met with Leslie Knope today.”
For all intents and purposes, Ben was prepared to tune out whatever topic Chris Traeger needed to so urgently speak to him about: vitamins, quinoa, jogging. His brow furrows at the unexpected conversation.
“Yes, she stopped by for a couple minutes during my break in between sessions.” Ben tries to keep his voice relaxed.
“I didn’t know she was back in D.C! I’ll have to catch up with her,” Chris says, smile never falling from his face. At Ben’s further questioning, he continues: “It was her and Jen who ran my first campaign. Jen was a firecracker who broke my heart, but Leslie was so lovely. It would be great to catch up!”
Chris is one for too much information, never able to keep his mouth shut because to him, nothing is ever really a secret. Ben decides to take a chance.
“Well, I’m actually meeting her for drinks. She said there was something she needed to discuss with me.” Ben isn’t sure if Chris would know anything, but he is higher than him in the ranks of the Senate. Still, Chris just raises his eyebrows and cheerily points to him.
“That’s great to hear Ben Wyatt! There must be something big brewing for you. I’ve always known you were destined for great—”
Ben cuts Chris off with a point to his watch
“I really have to go. I don’t want to make her wait long.” Despite Ben’s rude interruption, Chris just flashes him two thumbs up and turns to a colleague walking in the opposite direction, quickly greeting them.
Despite D.C. traffic, Ben arrives to an empty bar. Leslie gave him the address when they agreed on a time. It’s just outside downtown, quiet and dark, where shady meetings take place in the movies. Ben orders a drink before he feels a touch on his shoulder.
He turns to Leslie, looking the same from earlier today but wearier.
“Let’s go to that booth in the corner. More private,” Leslie actually whispers, looking around. She orders a Cosmopolitan which is promptly handed to her and they head to the booth.
“Is everything OK?” Ben asks as they get situated. Leslie nods and waves him away, unconvincingly.
“I just had an interesting conversation with Jen today. I can’t believe our talk this morning was the easiest part of my day.” Leslie downs her drink, then looks at regretfully. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Ben chuckles. “Why?”
“I’m supposed to be more professional. According to Jen, any more screw-ups and I’m back to Indiana.” She puts air-quotes around the latter half of the statement.
“And she doesn’t know about us?”
Leslie smiles. Still too sad and tired for Ben to feel any better.
“That was screw-up number one,” Leslie looks down at her empty drink. “We nearly went twelve rounds on it today. Apparently I should’ve told her immediately.”
Leslie takes the cherry from her drink and slowly draws it into his mouth. It’s enough to make Ben squirm in his seat, losing his train of thought. Leslie looks at him and quickly sets down the stem, and he blushes like a schoolboy caught.
“Um, why didn’t you?”
“I don’t know.”
But as Ben looks at her, unable to make full eye contact, he thinks she’s lying.
“Are we still talking about the future of the United States?”
At this point, Ben wouldn’t mind if they didn’t. He just got Leslie back in his life and she’s already showing this part to him. He could go home right now happy.
“No, Ben, I’ve decided to put my pity-party above the wellbeing of American citizens,” she says, completely serious before falling back into the booth, cackling.
Ben still isn’t used to hearing the cackle, but he laughs along with her. She turns to a waiter and holds up her drink.
“So, you know I went back to Indiana. I actually went to Pawnee, my hometown, and the greatest city in the world. I met with Ron Swanson. He’s a former boss and mentor who actually turned me over to Jennifer Barkley, which is basically how I ended up here.”
Ben nods along, trying his best to follow while sipping his vodka soda. She looks down at his drink and smiles, a wistful one that makes Ben feel warm.
“I didn’t really go there for some rest and relaxation. Pawnee has become some sort of hub for like-minded individuals with big goals for this country,” she sips at her drink.
“Do we have a think-tank in Pawnee, Indiana I didn’t know about?” Ben asks. Leslie chuckles.
“No, it’s not government-sponsored, by any means,” Leslie looks at him and Ben suddenly gets that he’s not getting anything at all. “Tell me, Ben, are you happy with the way this country is running?”
Ben doesn’t hesitate. “No. Of course not.”
Leslie leans forward and Ben’s eye linger on her lips and the slipping collar of her blouse.
“Why is that? Ben?” She pauses and Ben coughs. He sits up and tries to gather his thoughts.
“I mean, everything you probably already know. The rich control everything and leave nothing for everyone else. Racism and misogyny affect every aspect of citizens’ lives. And there is no one at the top who wants to change anything.” Ben can go on, and it takes him a minute to realize he does, for another five. He looks into Leslie’s earnest eyes and lays out all his fears about this country. Poverty, immigration, abuse of power, Russia. Everything that he isn’t allowed to say to his friends or colleagues.
Leslie just smiles through his spiel, nodding her head at certain items. When he finishes, he takes a breath and downs the rest of his drink, motioning to the waiter for another. Leslie grabs at his forearm on the table, leaning into him even more.
“Would you do everything in your power to change all of that, Ben?”
Hell, at this moment, looking into Leslie’s eyes as her hair brushes his arm, he believes he can.
“Yes,” he breathes, barely speaking the word. Leslie leans back, making Ben yearn to follow. She picks up her drink and raises it.
“Welcome to Pawnee, Benji Wyatt.”
It’s only after Ben’s clinked glasses with Leslie that realizes he doesn’t know what he’s celebrating.
“I’m not sure I understand.”
Leslie looks behind her shoulder, scooting towards Ben even more.
“There’s a rebellion afoot, Ben, and it’s not happening in two years. It’s happening in three months and Jen, Ron and I want you to be a part of it.”
With Leslie’s talk about changing the world, it shouldn’t have been that surprising. Still, it takes a moment for her words to land in his lap.
It’s not the question he should’ve asked. Maybe he could’ve started with what rebellion? Or why now? Or even do you understand we are in Washington D.C. and I can easily report you for treason? Instead, Ben goes with a question that voices all the insecurities he’s felt since he began his career as a Congressman.
Leslie tilts her head, eyes looking at him like it wasn’t a wrong question.
“I’ve done a lot of research on you in the past two weeks, Ben. I think you’ve done a lot of good things, but I also think you are logical, tactical and incredibly intelligent. You are one of the smartest people in Congress, I can promise you that.”
Ben feels his cheeks warm, especially as the “logical” part of his brain continues to yell WARNING! in his head. He takes a gulp of his beer.
“So what is the plan?”
Leslie shakes her head. “I can’t tell you until we go to Pawnee. Some people are a little worried you might back out.” She waves them off as if they’re wrong.
“So I have to go to Pawnee? For how long? I still have a job.” Ben is making no arguments for his intelligence right now.
“It’s not like you are the first Congressman to miss a few meetings, Ben. And it’s not going to matter in three months anyway.”
“In three months I won’t be a senator?”
“In three months, there won’t be any senators.”
Leslie gulps down her drink and Ben understands she’s said too much. She wipes her mouth and smiles. “Once again, I’m a little rusty at this.”
“You never told me what ‘this’ is.”
Leslie shrugs. “I’m supposed to convince people to join. Be enticing without giving away too much. Don’t act like we need them more than they need us.” Leslie reads off the phrases as if she’s memorized them. With her work ethic, she probably has.
“I’ve probably been your easiest one yet,” and when Leslie tilts her head, questioning, “Why exactly did Jennifer not take you off my case?”
Leslie swirls her drink, blush forming on her cheeks.
“She may have thought I could use my feminine wiles to convince you after our night together but I told her it wasn’t like that.”
This time, Ben lays his hand on Leslie’s forearm, squeezing once and leaning in.
“Leslie? It’s exactly like that.”
Leslie cackles, shaking her head.
“No! You can’t want to do this because you want to sleep with me.”
Ben laughs, pulling back. “I mean, not just ‘because I want to sleep with you. The whole, ‘saving the world’ thing is an added bonus.”
The idea that Ben might not be joking seems to suddenly occur to Leslie because she stops laughing and turns back to her now-empty drink.
“So it wasn’t just me that had a nice night,” Ben emphatically shakes his head. “Because even though I said it was OK you didn’t remember, it did make me think…”
He grabs at her hand to stop the awful sentence.
“Trust me, Leslie, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that night since it happened. It just didn’t occur to me that it would actually be you .”
That actually seems to make Leslie blush and she proudly sports the effects of the adoration that has seeped into Ben’s voice. She looks at him, trying to find something there that will put her at ease. She looks around, leaning in.
“We wouldn’t be able to tell anyone. Jen would absolutely kill me, but...” Ben nods along to her determined look. “I don’t mind keeping secrets, if you don’t.”
It feels like an eternity as Ben reaches for a stray piece of hair that has fallen in her face, swiping his fingers across her warm cheek as he puts it behind her ear.
“Leslie, you have to know. I would do anything for you right now.”
Ben can feel the desperation in his voice. Despite her cackles, Leslie must feel it too because because she basically hauls him back to her apartment. It’s filled to the brim with unpacked boxes (or at least he hopes they just need unpacking). Ben has always been a fan of the minimalist style but that goes out of the window as he watches Leslie take her clothes off while trying to navigate through boxes of birdhouses and old catalogues.
By the time they make it to her bedroom, Ben’s taken the hint and stripped down to his boxers. He’s a toucher during sex, which means he would absolutely love to have taken Leslie’s clothes off for her, but she seems to need this last piece of distance between them. And he can’t really complain when Leslie flops onto her bed, wearing nothing but her panties as she leaves the last piece of clothing for him take off.
“You’re so beautiful,” Ben breathes as he gently lowers over her, swiping his lips over hers before moving to her collarbone. He licks and nips down to her breasts, spending enough time there that Leslie is bucking and growling, pulling at his hair while begging for him to go lower.
He doesn’t hold back for long; going down on her is just as pleasurable for him. She’s wet and waiting for him and Ben stops to savor the tangy sweetness that has stayed with him since that night over a year ago.
“Ben, please,” Leslie moans, breathy yet demanding. He splays his hand across her stomach, stopping her from bucking up to his waiting lips. He pauses and she opens her eyes and looks down. “What are you doing?”
Ben smiles, using his other hand to lightly trace her, just enough to make her groan in frustration. “I’m wondering how long I can wait until you go absolutely crazy for me.”
He licks up her center, making her groan in relief, before pausing once again. She sighs, lowering her hips and raising her head.
“It won’t be long now,” and she shoves at him with her foot. “Please, Ben. I need you.”
Ben has never been as fan of begging as he is in this moment. With a final swipe of his finger and a look that makes her gasp, he dives in.