Title: Grief: Ben’s Depression
Rating: PG (other chapters contain adult content)
Word count: 1035
Summary: The title says it all. But let me say that I was watching The Vicious Kind while writing. So there are some shout-outs. None of this belongs to me btw…
Ben was down. He couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t eating. He started smoking again – he’d quit at 25, so eleven years were down the drain there. He just…he was falling apart everywhere. He introduced himself to a tree once. Started thinking about random things like how small they could make a t-shirt. He really needed sleep. He really needed Leslie. He was seriously depressed.
So he decided to embark on a mission. His objective was to prove to Leslie how utterly important she was to him. He wound up being the unofficial mascot of her campaign because he was everywhere the campaign went. Barnes asked him if he wanted to take on a more official role, like volunteer coordinator. But Ben declined. He didn’t want to make anything uncomfortable for Leslie. So he just went. To everything. Followed her campaign like she was the messiah and he her disciple.
And watching her do this? This thing that she was meant to do? God, he was starting to feel like he worshiped her. She was so amazing at this. To think that he almost had the nerve to take it away from her…to deprive the people of Pawnee this woman, this goddess, this perfect and unstoppable force of positivity. He was almost glad they broke up. Almost.
His work at city hall? Not going well. Chris was convinced that he had mono and made him take sick days. So it took his three weeks of sick time all at once and devoted himself full-time (and then some) to Leslie’s campaign. Which was fine, he had tons of time stored up. And double fine because he hated bumping into Leslie at work. They had not spoken since he left her house a month ago. When she saw him in the halls, she turned and ran the other way. In meetings they had to both be in, she wouldn’t look him in the eye. He felt so terrible. This was a delicate situation and he was like a bull in a china shop. Or he was afraid he would be. Really he was barely looking at her either. He didn’t want to impose on her, or see any hurt in her eyes that he was most certainly the cause of.
He didn’t want to force anything. And what he did was so extremely fraked up that he was having a very hard time forgiving himself so he knew it would have to be ten times worse for Leslie.
So he just dove into her campaign. He stuffed envelopes and went door to door and had like, a million bumper stickers on his Saturn. He asked people for money and helped set up sound equipment for her speaking engagements. He was always careful to not be in her bubble. He didn’t want to distract her from her goals. He stood in the back and listened to every word she uttered and digested it like food. It was the only thing sustaining him. And it was enough. For a while.
But after a while…
He started lingering. He went back to work and made her look at him, asked her questions directly in meetings. The first time she looked him in the eyes, it was everything he feared. But then by some miracle, she smiled, chuckled a little bit too. And he kept going. He left her notes on the podium before her speeches. Quotes from her favorite political figures and inspirational sayings. Always signing them: Love, Ben. She stopped turning the other way in the halls. She made eye contact with him in the high school auditorium while giving a speech. The section where she looked at him? It was about the future, and hope, and making progress together. He cried. Like a giant baby. But she made him do that. She could make him do anything. She was so proficient in tugging at his heartstrings that he could not help it when he started sending her flowers.
First it was flowers. Then he started sending her gifts: Fancy scarves, a custom-made plush Lil Sebastian, a waffle pendant necklace, and one very rare and very expensive first-edition signed autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. They all came with cards signed with his love.
He started feeling lighter. Like he wasn’t burdened with this love for her. It felt nice to give it to her, even though it was via proxy. He wanted to keep giving it to her. It helped him sleep at night. He started eating. He stopped smoking and he grew a beard. A simple symbol that he was now an adult, that he was making steps to improve himself. He really didn’t know that was why he started growing the beard. But it was.
And the added bonus? Leslie liked it! The first time she spoke to him outside of a meeting, she smiled and told him that she really liked his beard. And that she really liked his gifts. And that she really liked the notes that he left her. But she really, really liked his beard. Then she smiled more and blushed and walked away.
Oh my god.
He was so excited.
So he started texting her.
-Good job with that speech tonight.
-You look beautiful today.
-Did you read Bobby Newport’s op ed about nougat!? You’re going to kick his butt!
-I saw a special on the History Channel about Eleanor Roosevelt and thought of you today. I think she would be proud of you.
-I may not have already told you, but I am voting for you tomorrow. And I can’t wait to see your name on the ballot!
-You’re wearing my scarf today! I thought it would make your eyes sparkle even brighter than normal…it does, btw.
Even as he sat across the room from her, as the election results were announced, he texted her three times in rapid succession.
-I love you.
-Watching you do this has made me a better man.
He saw her look at her phone. And she found his eyes through the crowd. She stood up and pressed her phone to her heart and sighed, her smile reaching her eyes.
Ben Wyatt no longer felt depressed.