Spoilers: Through "Media Blitz" 3.05
Word count: 2,687
A/N: This was inspired by "The Lover's Dictionary" by David Levithan, which I just finished yesterday and highly recommend to everyone. As usual, giant thanks to the Ann to my Leslie, bearseatbeets23 , for her wonderful suggestions, to daybythelake who said something in one of our post-Thursday discussions that I knew I had to use in a fic, and to eHow for giving me an exact definition of what a state auditor does. Hope you enjoy!
“So I’d like to talk about where you think there’s waste within your department.”
When he first started this job, he would always broach this subject gently, and with some sensitivity. Only some, though; after the death threats and the screaming and city after city being so happy to see him go, it could never again be his main priority. That was getting the hell out of there, as quickly as possible and without looking back.
He expects Pawnee will be no different. He’ll ask the same questions, they’ll have the same protests, he’ll rubber stamp the same paperwork, and that will be that.
He is not prepared for the hurricane of optimism that is Leslie Knope.
Benjy Wyatt, n.
There are a few ground rules when trying to recover from a massive, reputation-ruining political failure:
1) Don’t talk about it.
2) Move. Preferably out of state.
3) Spend the majority of your adult life doing the complete opposite of whatever brought you to such humiliation in the first place.
4) Seriously, don’t talk about it.
So he’s surprised and, quite honestly, a little worried when all of a sudden he’s talking about it with this person he’s known for all of two days. And not just talking, but laughing about it. He never thought he’d be able to do that. But she’s everything that he was 17 years ago. Somehow she’s managed to hold onto that enthusiasm and optimism – that need to help, to do more – into adulthood. It’s refreshing.
He leaves the bar feeling a little lighter than when he walked in. It’s probably the beer.
The funny thing is, he doesn’t even like them. He was just trying to brainstorm and pitch ideas because, well, he doesn’t know why exactly.
Except that her face lights up when she hears a good one and it’d be nice if he could be the one to make that happen for a change, rather than the expression the mandates of his job usually inspire.
But now it’s this inside joke between them. It’s a whole new layer to their relationship that he didn’t think he’d be around long enough to see; the kind where you kid about something for so long that eventually you forget how the joke even started. And if, hypothetically, he stayed, he could see coming in some day in the future to find a take-out box that smells suspiciously like marinara on his desk and her sitting in her office with a not-so-innocent smile on her face.
A state auditor is an accountant whose main responsibility is to verify a state's financial records and audit public funds. State auditors study a variety of sources to understand the state's financial situation, by analyzing the state's accounting methods and overseeing the state's involvement with banks, creditors and other government agencies. The state auditor helps the government cut costs and will advise it on its financial situation.
That is his job. Not taking care of her, or leading her to the stage with a protective hand on her back, or making her soup in his hotel kitchenette, or making up a question about the festival he already knows the answer to just so he can call to check in and make sure she’s not seeing unicorns on her wall or something.
That damn badge. She uses it all the time, for things that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget, and before he can even question her about it, she thrusts it in his face like she’s a VIP and he’s the scrawny bouncer who couldn’t stop her if he tried.
After a while, he stops trying. Not just because it doesn’t do any good, but because he doesn’t want to.
The leaves change color just a few days before the festival, and she takes it as a good sign. He takes it as one more reminder that time moves fast in Pawnee.
He’s a lot of things - shy, cynical, awkward - but definitely not heartless. So he finds this Eddie Linguine, or whatever the hell his name is, doubles what Eagleton is paying him, and before he can stop to think if getting this involved is such a good idea (he doesn’t have to, because he’s already pretty sure it isn’t), he’s giving him directions to “the big lot with a stage and a bounce house. You can’t miss it.”
Maybe it’ll make his job that much harder. But it won’t hurt to have some leverage, even if he never uses it.
human disaster, n.
To say that it doesn’t go well is like saying the Titanic had some structural issues. Any leverage or authority he had is completely gone now that he’s had a nervous breakdown and practically outed himself on local television. He’s ready to run from the Pawnee Today set, get into his car, and just go. But she doesn’t let that happen. As cool and calm as he’s ever seen her, she reminds him that some things aren’t nearly as scary as you make them out to be. So he confronts all of the uncomfortable parts of his past, and it’s not so bad knowing she’s right there next to him, with encouraging nods and smiles. As quickly as the scandal came it passes, and he’s left laughing over the footage with friends (not just colleagues anymore), and a feeling that maybe it’s time to stop running.
So, she’s actually really pretty. He discovers this by accident, when he thinks he’s the last to leave for the day. On his way out, he casually glances in the direction of her office and is surprised to see her there.
It’s a particularly hot August day, and the air conditioning has been broken for a week. Which explains why she’s ditched her blazer and thrown her blonde hair into a lazy ponytail, pouring over some binders that appear to be color coded and running a small fan over her face and neck. It’s the most casual he’s ever seen her and maybe “pretty” is an understatement.
He knows he’s been staring too long, and leaves before she notices. He takes some relief in the night air, running a hand across his damp forehead. The heat is clearly getting to him. He’ll put in a call to maintenance to have that air conditioning looked at again and he’ll have no trouble conducting business as usual knowing that her shoulders are lightly freckled.
He’s been called much worse. But she says it so earnestly, like it’s the absolute worse thing someone can be, that it’s a little startling. A jerk? For doing his job? He doesn’t need lessons in compassion, especially when it comes to a building that looks like every other government building he’s ever visited (well, except for the shoeshine station. That’s new).
Still. It bothers him more than it should, which is how he finds himself at a birthday party for a girl he doesn’t know at a club he could have gone his whole life without knowing. He tries to be nice, but she’s drunk and kind of horrible to him, and he leaves wondering why he even cares.
He leaves one on her cheek.
The festival is over, the last of the vendors gone, and all that’s left is the smell of apples and hay. That, and the two of them, picking up the last of the ribbon from the maypole. She ties a piece in her hair as a souvenir, and he tugs at it teasingly, his hand brushing her neck as he does. The touch surprises her and she looks away, blushing, mumbling something like “thank you,” “couldn’t have done this without you,” and finally, as she beams at him, “It was just so great, wasn’t it?” And it really was. They’re way past handshakes, and a hug just doesn’t seem like enough after all she went through to make sure it was so great. So he kisses the spot where her smile meets her cheek and feels the heat rise in his own. He pulls back, relieved to still find the smile is still there, albeit a bit hesitant and shy now.
He walks home that night, the city the only thing that could possibly contain him.
John Jacobs and Carson Turner are originally assigned to Pawnee, until John gets another job offer and Carson comes down with a nasty case of strep throat.
Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt are named as their replacements.
She gives him a going-away present: a historical map of Pawnee and a note that reads “In case you need to find your way back.”
Leslie dated a cop.
It ended because he moved away.
He’s moving away.
It’s been six hours since he found out that she is, in fact, a member of the dating community and he’s losing his mind. He wonders what she’s like on a date, how she wears her hair, if she wears different perfume at night, if she shares her candy in a movie, if she lingers at her door at the end of the evening.
It makes him ache a little bit to think that he’ll never know.
*One time, when he’s helping her with her coat, he catches Ron’s eye. He can’t see much emotion behind that mustache, but something in his eyes tells him that Ron knows, and for awhile.
*At the hospital, he fills out her admissions paperwork since she can’t seem to even hold a pen properly. When he hands it to Ann, she takes it gingerly, eyeing him up and down. And he can tell she’s thinking the same thing he is: Why are you here?
*Andy offers him a shoeshine the day of the festival, “totally free of charge, but tip’s not included”. He tries to decline, but Andy’s adamant.
“It’s a big day, dude.”
For once, Ben thinks maybe he knows something he doesn’t.
*He’s surprised when he finds out that April turned down the job in Indianapolis.
“I know it’s none of my business, but I think you would have really liked it there. It’s got everything.”
She shrugs in her non-committal way.
She makes rare eye contact, raising her eyebrows as she says it, and walks away.
*He tries on about a dozen suits before Tom approves.
“That’s the one. Even I’d date you.”
They’re going on TV. Who said anything about dating?
parks, n, pl.
She’s trying to convince him of the absolute need to have a playground in every park.
“Name one park in the whole world that doesn’t have one.”
“Death Valley. Yosemite. Yellowstone.”
She relents, though not without insisting that if she were in charge, they would.
He has no doubt.
He goes back to Indianapolis on Monday.
He gives his notice on Tuesday.
He knows now that telling people they can’t afford it and telling them they can’t do it are two very different things. He learned that from her.
He comes back on Wednesday, a little out of breath from the run down the hallway because he needs to see her, like, now.
She looks up from her desk, confusion, worry, and happiness sweeping over her face all at once.
“I was wondering if you’re hiring.”
She’d be the worst spy ever.
“And you’re all on board with this?”
He’s met with nothing but agreement, and even an “aye” from Ron. It’s kind of amazing how they’re so willing to rally around her, no matter the cause. There’s something about her that makes you want to be good, and then better. She makes you want to be a part of something bigger.
It’s a good presentation, and a good plan, and he realizes before it’s even finished that she’s worked her magic on him too. He tosses the pumpkin to her and gets a mouthed “thanks” in return.
He feels like he should be the one thanking her.
For the record, he is not a Twilight fan.
He hadn’t even planned on going. On Friday, Tom’s bouncing off the walls, rattling off quotes and checking with everyone to make sure they’ll be there. And Ben’s still enough of an outsider that no one really talks to him about it, which is fine. He’s worked through Saturday nights before.
He’s loitering in her office, which is rapidly becoming a bad habit, when Tom starts packing up at 3:00 in order to “fully prepare” himself, and everyone follows suit. Leslie doesn’t fight it.
“Alright mortals, I’ll see you tomorrow night. April, see you tomorrow night? Donna, I know I’ll see you there. Jerry, even you have to come, you big werewolf.”
He slaps a hand on Ben’s back.
“Ben, you’re coming right?’
“Oh, umm, I don’t know--”
“Wait, what?” she holds up a hand to stop him.
“Vampires aren’t really my thing.”
“But the whole department’s going!” she interjects, like she can’t believe she even has to say it, because who doesn’t hang out with their colleagues on the weekend?
And it hits him that he no longer just belongs to Indianapolis. Like it or not, he’s carving himself out a little place of his own this town, and they’re making room.
Which is how he finds himself in a lawn chair, watching bad actors in glittery makeup and the blonde head in front of him thrown back in laughter. More of the latter than the former, really.
Chris and Ann, predictably, break up. Ann says it was mutual, but she’s so visibly upset that no one really believes it.
She’s in Leslie’s office all day, having some sort of marathon cry-session. He has no idea how women do it.
He makes excuses to hang around, trying desperately not to look creepy as he glances through the windows every once in awhile, making sure no one’s climbing out or approving an ice cream truck to be parked outside the building.
Hours go by before Leslie finally emerges, looking like she’s been through war.
She nods. “Need tea.”
He follows her to the break room.
“So she’s taking it pretty bad.”
She pulls Darjeeling from the cabinet, shaking her head.
“She really liked him. But long-distance never works, so...”
She says it so matter-of-fact, like there’s no room for discussion.
Right. She’s speaking from experience.
“You think you guys could stay? For Ann?”
He wants so badly to tell her that if anyone’s staying, it’s him, and if it’s for anyone, it’s her.
Turns out they’re not hiring because he made sure there wasn’t enough money in the budget for new hires. Of course.
But there’s an opening in the treasurer’s office and she says that she’ll put in a good word for him.
Everyone knows why he came back, including her, and that’s really all he cares about. Still, it’s all very new and different and they have a silent agreement not to force it. But he finally feels free to call her on the weekend to ask if she feels like shopping for shower curtains.
She always does.
He marks one on his map, right over where city hall now stands.
Leslie was right; it did have feelings. And he left his there.
He goes back to get them.
He gets lost in the corn maze and she has to help him find his way out.
He does his best to ignore the glaring metaphor.
“So next year, I’m thinking we put the petting zoo a little further away from the food to just, you know, make it a little more appetizing. And I’m thinking Andy would make a great scarecrow for the maze. What do you think, too scary?”
Her smile tells him that he’s starting to sound like her. And using future tense.
He’s more than okay with both.