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The Way We Were

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He did it because of her. Did it for her.

He did it because he believes in her, believes she can do it all and he couldn’t bear holding her back. She doesn’t know if she hates him for it or if she loves him even more. Because she loves him, that’s for sure.

After she left City Hall, beautiful and wonderful red-nosed reindeer Ann came over and held Leslie while she cried until it was time for her shift at the hospital.

Now she’s alone, a can of whipped cream next to her on the bed and C-SPAN playing on the tv. Tomorrow she will wake up and work on her campaign, work to win, because if she had to lose Ben to be City Council, she was going to do it right.

But for tonight, she was going to cry and wallow and feel bad for herself for having a man who loves her enough to give his happiness away for the sake of her dreams.

She unlocks her phone, pulls up Ben’s contact and stares at his photo, her finger lingering just above the call button.



Ben gets home after work and feels like he just got run over by a train. His head is already exploding from holding in the tears. He locks himself in his room and kicks off his shoes falling into bed clothed, only moves to silence his phone and turns his back to the nightstand before he falls asleep.

He wakes up around two in the morning and gets up, shedding his clothing from the day and throwing them on top of the hamper, not bothering to look where they fell. He goes into the bathroom and takes something for his headache that still isn’t gone and steps into the shower, hoping to wash the day away from his pores and from his mind. When he goes back to his room, he sees his phone screen is lit up. There are two voice messages and five text messages from Leslie.

He goes for the text messages first, not looking forward to hearing her voice right now.

[12:25am] Ben, this is Leslie Knope from the Parks Department. Please delete the voice messages before you listen to them, I dialed by mistake, they were meant for Ann Perkins from the Department of Health.

[12:32am] Ok, I lied, it is for you, but it was still a mistake, please don’t listen to them.

[12:35am] I realize this will probably make you want to listen to them even more.

[12:38am] If you do listen, please know that I’m ok and you don’t need to worry about me.

[1:03am] I’m sorry.

Ok, now Ben is worried. He shouldn’t have silenced his phone. Leslie needed him and he wasn’t there for her. What if she had an emergency and couldn’t reach anybody else? 

He clicks through his phone and finds the voice messages, dumbly clicking on the latest one. Leslie’s voice invaded his room and he rushes to turn the volume down on his phone. She sounds rushed and ashamed, speaking too quickly like she needed to get the words out.

"Ben, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have called you, please ignore my message, ok bye."

Well, that didn’t make any sense. He looks at his phone again and clicks on the first, longer message. He first hears her sniffing and her voice is heavy like she had been crying.

“Hi Ben, it’s um… it’s me, I’m not sure I’m supposed to be calling you, but Ann left a while ago and…” There’s another sniffle and she clears her throat. “Remember when we watched The Way We Were and Katie and Hubbell had broken up and uh…. and she called him, because she was lonely and she missed her best friend and she asked him to just…. just come and sit with her and he did and they just sat together and talked all night...” 

She pauses again trying to work up courage for the next part. “Well...I’m lonely and I miss my best friend and I don’t mean Ann this time. Can you… can you come over and just stay with me for a bit? Please… just…. just come over, I need to see you, please Ben. I…” And the message ends. He can’t tell if it was cut for length or if she hung up.

His heart breaks from how sad and broken she sounds - so unsure of herself. Leslie is always so focused and optimistic, and even though he knows it was for the better, he can’t believe he made her feel this way, made her plead for his presence. 

He checks the time of the messages: 12:10am and 12:13am. He had just gotten back home at that time, and he was also sad and broken and missing her that he just knew he would have immediately gone to find her if he had gotten the message right away. He knew that it would be bad for the both of them in the long run, but he knew that at that moment, they just needed each other.

And now Ben is glad that he remembered to silence his phone.

Because he really misses his best friend too.