My, How You’ve GrownPairing:
None, but it takes place shortly after the Harvest Festival. Disclaimer:
I don’t own any part of Parks and Recreation
Leslie needs a date to her high school reunion and Ben happens to be available.A/N:
Title blatantly ripped off from 10,000 Maniacs. A big thank you to lunar47
for taking a look at this even though she wasn’t feeling too well. I hope you feel better soon!
This was written for the second round of Hiatus Fest 2011
. I used prompt #2: fanfic tropes, so welcome to fake dating and high school reunions! Let’s get this train wreck started!
Leslie was always telling people that necessity was the mother of invention, but sometimes she forgot how true that was. That being said, it’s not like she planned it. Ben simply walked in at an opportune moment.
The Harvest Festival was over, but for two weeks she’d had the nagging suspicion that she’d forgotten about something. Something that was sort of important. She called Ann, she called her mother, she’d even called her doctor, but no one could think of anything she was supposed to be doing.
She spent Friday afternoon down at the community center working with the seniors in the newly re-implemented aerobics program. When she finally made her way back to the office Donna brought her up short by telling her that someone named Margaret Pearson had called.
“She said that she’s looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow night?” Leslie stopped at the table in the outer office and thought for a moment. “Oh! Oh, no!”
Tom came walking out. “Oh no, what?”
“I don't believe it!”
Jerry stood up from his desk. “What’s wrong?”
“My 20 year high school reunion is tomorrow night. I totally forgot!”
Donna laughed, “Oooh, good thing she called! Your date would have been pissed if he’d come to pick you up and you were still in your pajamas.”
“Well, I might still be in my pajamas as I have nothing to wear, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have a date. I was going to go by myself.”
Jerry, Tom, and Donna all looked at her as if she'd just told them she was planning on taking someone from sanitation to the event.
“No. Nonononono-” Tom began.
“What’s wrong?” Ben asked as he walked into the office.
“Leslie’s twenty year high school reunion is tomorrow night,” Tom answered.
“It’s not quite twenty for me, but it was a small high school,” she mumbled. “We do group reunions. The classes of 1990-1994 are all invited.”
“Oh! Well that’ll be fun, won’t it?”
Tom laughed cynically, “Leslie just told us that she doesn’t have a plus one.”
Leslie looked at them pleadingly. “It’s not a big deal, right? I can go without a date.”
Donna shook her head furiously. “Nuh-uh, Leslie. No way.”
Tom agreed. “You have
to have a date- and it can’t be Ann! Going with a friend or going stag to this kind of thing is like tattooing a giant LOSER sign across your forehead.”
“I don’t think that’s true.” Ben started.
Donna dismissed him with the wave of a hand. “Don’t listen to him, Leslie. He’s from Minnesota. The cold warps their minds.”
Jerry walked over to her side. “If you need a date, I could always take you.”
“God, Jerry!” Tom cried out. “That’s the opposite of a solution!”
Donna and Tom looked at Jerry in disgust, even Ben looked slightly horrified, but Leslie smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Thanks, Jerry, but some of these people are bound to know you or your wife.”
Donna smiled. “They don’t know Ben, though.”
Ben seemed a bit taken aback. “Oh, no. I don’t think. . .”
“Oh my God! That’s perfect!” Leslie said. “You could pretend to be my husband. No! My ex-husband!”
Ben shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Leslie!” Tom interrupted, “Most of the people going to this thing live in Pawnee. They know you’re not married.”
“He could be my secret husband!”
Everyone looked at her like she was crazy, which was ridiculous because she was a mysterious woman. She could have a man chained in her basement. They wouldn’t know.
“What? I could have a secret husband!”
Tom’s eyes were practically popping out of his head. “Aside from the fact that, no, you totally couldn’t, the two of you were all over the local media a few weeks ago. If you were married it would have come out!”
She’d forgotten about that. “Oh. . .right.”
Ben stepped closer to her and smiled sympathetically, “Leslie, I’ll just go as your date, okay?”
“Mmmm, I don’t think so,” Donna interjected. “You need to go as her boyfriend. She doesn’t want everyone to know she had to scrounge up a date at the last minute.”
“Donna’s right,” Tom said. “You guys need to say you’re in a relationship.”
“But if you’re going to do that,” Jerry warned, “you should practice. That way when people ask you questions you’ll have the same answers.”
Leslie ran the whole scenario over in her mind. Ben was totally cute, he was reasonably social, and as long as there wasn’t a camera on him he was somewhat capable of carrying on a conversation. Plus he was the new Deputy City Manager, which would kind of make them a political power couple. This was a great idea.
“What do you say, Ben?” Leslie asked. “Want to be my pretend boyfriend?”
Ben kind of looked like he just swallowed paint thinner or something, which was kind of insulting, Leslie thought. Pretending to be her boyfriend was an honor. It was almost as good as actually dating her.
“There’ll be an open bar,” she added with a nervous smile.
Ben swallowed hard. “Okay. Sure. How can I turn down free alcohol?”
Tom clapped his hands together. “Great. Jerry’s right, though. Surprisingly. You have to make this believable and you only have one night to sort all the details out. So, practice date. Tonight, 7:30. The Snakehole. I’ll reserve you a table.”
Ben sort of blanched at that suggestion, and to be honest Leslie didn’t think a club would be conducive to carrying on any sort of conversation. “As nice as that is of you to offer, I think we should just meet up at my house. I’ll make dinner and we can come up with our back-story. How does that sound?”
Ben relaxed a little at her suggestion and agreed, but he still looked a bit shell shocked when he turned around and walked out.
His lack of enthusiasm made her feel uneasy, but she’d get him to see how awesome this was going to be. It would be a great way for him to meet some of the people of Pawnee and an open bar was always something to be taken advantage of.
She went into her office and started brainstorming.
Ben was on time, which was nice except Leslie wasn’t ready. She herself was a big believer in being ten minutes late if she was going to someone’s house. Unfortunately most people didn’t understand that being late was sometimes just good manners. Not that she’s saying Ben’s rude, because he’s not. It’s just that her hair was still damp from the shower, she hadn’t really finished putting her make up back on, and her feet were still bare when she ran to answer the door. It didn’t really matter though, because it was just Ben. And he brought three different kinds of wine because he didn’t know what they were going to be eating, which was kind of adorable.
He was also very understanding when she explained that dinner wasn’t ready yet. Which was great, because truth be told, dinner hadn’t even been started. She did buy him beer though. She came back from the kitchen with two bottles and handed him one as she joined him on the couch.
“So here’s the thing, Ben. My oven is kind of broken and I can’t get it to turn on.”
“Oh, well is the pilot light out?”
“Umm, maybe? I don’t know. I basically use it for storage.”
He laughs, which is good, because some people get weirded out when she lets it slip that she doesn’t ever cook. In fact, her first inkling that things with Justin weren’t going to work out was when he tried to encourage her efforts in the kitchen by saying that cooking was both a spiritual and a sexual experience for him. She’d nodded and said, “Mmm, yes. I see what you mean,” at the time, but the truth was she’d thought that was crazy talk. Thinking back now, Justin had ended up being kind of a whack job, really.
“So you’re not big on cooking, huh?”
She focuses back on Ben, who is sitting there in an orange and blue-checkered shirt that is really comforting somehow. A guy that wears a shirt like that isn’t going to talk about how sexual stuffing a turkey can be.
“No, I’m kind of terrible at it. But you like cooking, right? You made me that awesome soup!”
“I do like it. I’m a pretty good chef, actually. I get it from my mom.”
“She’s a good cook?”
“Oh, yeah. The best.”
“Aww.” She mock punches him in the shoulder, “That’s so sweet. Benji Wyatt loves his mother. That settles it, though.”
“You’re the one who cooks in this relationship!” She leans forward towards the coffee table where there’s a big stack of poster board. She picks up a black magic marker and writes Ben Cooks
on the top sheet.
“So did you want me to check out the pilot light? If that’s the problem I could fix it and make dinner now.”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s electric anyway. Let’s just order. What are you in the mood for?” She hands him two menus off the coffee table, both of which are for Chinese food.
“Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Chinese.”
She smiles. “How funny! That’s exactly what I was thinking!”
Three hours later, they’ve eaten a ton of Chinese food and are on their way back from being a little drunk. Leslie places a new poster board onto an easel by her fireplace and divides it into two columns. She writes her name on one side and his on the other.
“Embarrassing things about you. Go!”
Ben opens a can of soda, “Um…um, I’ve seen The Empire Strikes Back
more than two hundred times!”
Leslie laughs and writes Nerd
under his name.
“What about you?”
“Oh! Um, sometimes I just eat whipped cream for dinner.”
Ben gets up off the couch, takes the marker from her hand and writes Wants Diabetes
in her column.
She laughs. “Okay, you again.”
“Well, there's the teen mayor thing.”
“No! That’s not embarrassing. Besides, I want something new.”
“Well this isn’t going to help with the whole nerd issue, but I speak a little Klingon.”
Leslie’s mouth drops open. “Say something in Klingon.”
“SoH 'oH 'IH”
“That’s really bad. That’s terrible.”
Ben nods his head. “It’s very shameful.”
“What did you say? Was it dirty?”
He nods. “Filthy.”
She laughs and holds out her hand for the marker. When he gives it to her she writes Dirty Mind
in his column.
“Hmm, Ann says I have like, a hoarding issue. Sort of, I don’t know. I’m kind of a pack rat.” She writes Hoarder
under her name.
The room is awkwardly silent for a moment as Ben kind of furtively looks around her living room. She knows that he’s noticing all the clutter and that he’s trying to figure out if she’s some sort of deranged person who will eventually end up with dead cats under her sofa and a show on A&E. She wishes she’d had time to dust.
“I’m going to hire a cleaning lady,” she offers. “Ann gave me a flier, I just haven’t had time to call.”
“I don’t know,” Ben says as he takes the marker from her hand. “It doesn’t seem so bad to me.” He crosses out Hoarder
and writes Messy
. “I like it. It looks like someone really lives here.”
For a moment she has this overwhelming urge to throw her arms around him. It’s like the greatest thing he could have said, because it’s what she always thought too. She hates going into houses where everything is in its place and you’re afraid to sit your glass down. Her house could probably use a little organizing, but she also didn’t want it to be devoid of personality. She’d always believed that houses should be a reflection of the people that lived there, and her reflection wasn’t some horrible, stuffy, sterile museum.
“What’s your place in Indy like?”
“Come on, I don’t believe that!”
“No, it is. Really. It’s small, dark, depressing. I have six dead bamboo plants in my kitchen. Chris keeps giving them to me and saying that they’re impossible to kill, but somehow I find a way.”
“Ugh. Bamboo plants are awful anyway.”
“I know, right?”
“Who wants a big green stick in their face all the time? I mean, give me a flower or something. Bamboo is the worst.”
Ben raises his soda can at her. “I’ll drink to that.”
Leslie smiles at him and takes in all the poster boards scattered around the room. “This has been a lot of fun, Ben. It’s just like The Parent Trap.”
“The parent what?”
“You know, the Disney movie where Hayley Mills plays a set of identical twins that are separated at birth but meet up at camp when they’re teenagers? And at first they hate each other, because one’s all posh and from Boston, while the other’s all wild from living out West and riding horses, but then they realize they’re sisters and grow to really like each other.”
“Which one am I?”
“Which twin am I?”
“You’re not a twin. Neither of us is a twin. It’s just that they end up switching places and they have to study all the details of their lives so they can trick their parents. That’s what this is like. The scenes where they’re studying.”
“You should watch it, it’s a really good movie.”
“Okay, I’ll look for it.”
Leslie eyes him for a second and then shakes her head. “No, don’t. It’s not good. I just liked it because I was eight and my parents had split up. It’s a young girl’s movie, not a grown man’s movie.”
“Well, thanks for telling me, because the lady that runs my hotel probably would have thought I was a pervert if I’d requested it for movie night.”
She smiles and he smiles back and then there’s this moment where they’re standing really close to each other and she feels like she should kiss him. Which is crazy because this is just make-believe.
Ben reaches over and brushes a strand of hair off her forehead, and then his fingers sort of trail down her cheek. His hand drops away suddenly and his face turns so red that she almost asks him if he’s okay. He steps back and tells her he has to go.
“Oh, alright. We didn’t get to any of the big stuff, though.”
“What big stuff?”
“Like how we met or where we went on our first date.”
“Maybe we should just stick to the truth. We met at work and you know, we did sort of go on a first date when we crashed the one Chris and Ann were on. We could just omit them from the story. Dinner at a nice restaurant and then dancing at a gay bar- classic first date.”
Leslie sighs disappointedly. “I guess so.”
“Did you have a better idea?”
“No, I was just going to go a little more exotic and say we met in Geneva or something. Yours is probably better.”
“It just sounds good, doesn’t it? So cosmopolitan.” She drops her voice a little, “We met in Geneva.”
“Maybe we could say we’re planning a vacation to Geneva instead?”
She smiles brightly at him. “That’s perfect. We’re planning a trip to Geneva. I love it. Good thinking!”
She walks him to the door and he leans in and surprises her by kissing her on the cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She stands in the doorway a little bit stunned and watches him get into his car and then waves as he pulls away. When she steps back in and closes the door her hand brushes against the spot where his lips had been. She takes in the room and smiles until a thought comes barging into her head.
That was the best first date she’d ever been on. Too bad it wasn’t real.
She arrives at his motel the following night and takes a moment to straighten out the silky fuchsia dress Ann had picked out for her earlier that afternoon. It’s sort of a little more form fitting than she’s used to, but the saleswoman had sold it to her by saying that if she threw a blazer over it she could wear it to work too. Ann had told her it looked really good on her, and she herself thought it made her legs look nice, so she’d gone ahead and splurged.
She knocks and when Ben opens the door she’s relieved to see that he’s wearing the suit Tom made him buy a few weeks earlier.
She whistles at him. “My, don’t you look handsome!”
Ben smiles, “You look pretty good yourself. Beautiful, even.”
They both blush at the same time.
The reunion is in the gym, which is smaller than Leslie remembers it, and the party is in full swing as they make their way in. There are people there that Leslie hasn’t seen in years, the people that moved to New York or California, the ones that couldn’t wait to put Indiana behind them. She listens to their stories and tries to visualize what her life would have been like if she’d made different choices, if she’d ever taken one look at Pawnee and thought that her life would be better if she lived it some place else. She can’t even imagine it.
Still, she laughs at the stories of rude New Yorkers, acts suitably impressed at the tales of interacting with self-centered celebrities, and tries to ignore the way people seem to put up their noses when she tells them that she never really left home.
“So you never got out?” Someone asks her.
Ben’s arm tightens around her shoulders.
“I never wanted to.” She says with a smile.
No one seems to believe her.
Eventually there’s some rubbery chicken for dinner, followed by a slide show and then people win silly prizes for traveling the farthest to come home, for having the most children, and for having the longest marriage. She tries not to let it bother her that she doesn’t qualify for any of them.
When the nostalgia has been properly indulged and all the prizes have been given out, the dancing begins. She watches as her former classmates get down to the greatest hits of the early nineties, which ends up being an odd combination of Mariah Carey and Nirvana.
After a couple of songs, Ben takes her hand and leads her onto the dance floor and she laughs as he bops along awkwardly to the beat. When the music slows she goes to sit down, but he catches her arm and gently pulls her against him. Towards the end of the song, he holds her a little closer and softly tells her, “You’ve given more back to Pawnee than anyone else in this room. There should have been a prize for that, too.”
His words shouldn’t make her want to cry, but they do.
The evening winds down and they walk through the halls aimlessly until they stumble across the school’s trophy display.
On the end of the top shelf are three large trophies that declare Pawnee High the All State Field Hockey Champions of 1991, 1992, and 1993. In front of the trophies are the team photos. The girls in them look impossibly young and extremely proud.
“That’s me.” Leslie says as she points to a small blond girl wearing the captain’s armband and a ferocious grin.
“You played field hockey?”
Leslie scoffs at the question. “Played field hockey? No, Ben. I owned
Leslie’s voice softens slightly, “They called me the enforcer. I broke the kneecaps of sixteen different girls. To this day they still whisper my name on the field to scare the opposition.”
“Yeah. Field hockey was serious business. I still have the scars.”
She lifts up the hem of her skirt and turns her knee so he can make out the faint pink crescent shaped mark running over it.
“Did you play sports in high school?”
“Yeah. Well, you know, the whole Ice Town thing happened because I wanted a better rink to play hockey in. I was pretty good, a really fast skater, although I don’t think anyone in Partridge brings up my name if they can help it.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
“No, no it’s fine. I wasn’t looking for a pity party or anything.”
“Well, I wasn’t offering one, so good!” She says, bumping her shoulder into his.
Ben looks at the picture of her again. “So, what would the seventeen year old you think of your life today?”
Leslie looks at the image of her younger self for a few seconds and tries to think back to who that girl was.
“You know, I think she’d be pretty happy,” she says with a smile.
“Well, obviously the not already being President thing would be a bit disappointing, but there’s still time.”
“Do you think the seventeen year old you would be happy, Ben?”
He thinks for a moment. “No, but I don’t much care what that kid would think. He had some pretty stupid ideas. The nineteen year old me, however would be extremely relieved that I’m not still living in my parent’s basement.”
Leslie smiles softly. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ice Town wasn’t stupid.”
Ben cocks an eyebrow at her.
“Alright, a little misguided.” Leslie concedes.
She turns away from the case and they wander for a little while longer. They see her old locker, she shows him the lighting booth she got caught kissing Brian Wolfe in, and the science lab she accidentally set on fire, “I was the hero of the school for the rest of that semester.”
As they finally begin to make their way out, Leslie’s stomach growls loudly.
“Are you hungry?” Ben asks.
“A little. I couldn’t really bring myself to eat that chicken.”
He laughs. “Me neither. Come on, I’ll buy you a bowl of whipped cream.”
They’re just about to reach the parking lot when Leslie suddenly stops.
“I can’t believe it,” she says indignantly. “All that preparation and no one really asked us any questions!”
Ben reaches out and takes hold of her hand. “Maybe we just make a believable couple.”
She smiles and twines her fingers with his.
“Maybe we do.”
Tags: fic, leslie/ben, parks and recreation