waltzmatildah: (greys: april smile)
[personal profile] waltzmatildah
Title: Like Water On Feather
Fandom: Grey's Anatomy
Characters/Pairings: April (Alex, Meredith, Reed and Jackson)
Word Count: 3550
Rating: R
Prompt: From [livejournal.com profile] rorylie. How April is so "fine" after tripping over her best friend's dead body.
Summary: I believe this is called 'the anti-prompt'?!
Author's Note: For [livejournal.com profile] writing4acause. This is a continuation of my [livejournal.com profile] team_enfuego big bang, The Sound Of Your Sorrow Comes and will be kind of confusing if you haven't read that first. Title and cut text from Paper Shoes, Incubus.



The cavernous house is painfully silent as she moves through the maze-like hallways. Her impromptu chauffeurs for the evening quickly disappear into their room for the night as Alex snags himself a six pack from the fridge on his way through and follows suit. She can hear a murmured exchange between he and Meredith at the base of the staircase, a heady mixture of awkward concern and terse defiance that she has to force herself not to cling to desperately.

The acid like burn of her fingers clutched around his has seared itself into her synapses and no amount of scrubbing seems to lessen the sensation.

She knows because she's tried now. On three separate occasions.

It takes her seven steps to cross the width of the kitchen. Another eleven and she's at the very far wall of the den. Turning left, an additional nine and a half will bring her to the base of the stairs. She's tried and failed to climb them more than once already. Doesn't trust herself to walk past his room without hesitating.

Without seeking some kind of signal that he's still conscious in there. Convinced as she is that he's three quarters to washing himself away.

Folding into himself so completely that no amount of anything she could ever offer will unbend his concrete angles.




--




She makes a cheese sandwich with the forgotten ends of a loaf of days old bread. Barely manages to swallow the dry crusts around the lump that has taken up permanent residence somewhere behind her tonsils.

Dry heaves into the sink twice before spitting the lot out into the garbage bin.

“You okay?”

The sound of his voice shocks her to her core. Jerks her to upright and flailing in the blink of one split second as she barely manages to get her muscles under command enough to bob out a completely unconvincing nod.

“I'm fine.”

“Yeah, right.”

He doesn't believe her obvious lie but he leaves it at that nonetheless. The swell of gratitude in her chest is almost her undoing and she blinks resolutely. Brings the back of her hand to her mouth as though the appendage might be just large enough for her to hide behind completely.

He's staring at her curiously. Like he hasn't quite managed to figure her out yet.

The scrutiny is ice under her nails.

But he stops as quickly as he'd started. Makes a move towards the refrigerator and pulls the door open with a sucking whoosh and the tinny clink of jar on jar.

“Don't you think-” The words tumble out, end over end before she has time to calculate where she'd like them to go. Shocked as she is that he's managed to finish six beers already and still co-ordinate his limbs into a steady reconnaissance mission for refills.

Isn't afforded the chance to finish anything in the end.

“Nope.” Defiant. Sure.

“Excuse me?”

“Nope,” he repeats. Resigned. The pull of exhaustion cracking through the single syllable with an echo. “I don't think. Thinking leads to all kinds of dangerous things so I've decided not to do that anymore.” Punctuates the statement with the slam of the closing door and turns back in the direction he appeared from.

And she's almost positive it's the most honest he's ever been with her.




--




Christmas comes and goes in a swirled blur of holiday carnage, garish decorations, and too much but never quite enough cheap champagne to keep her myriad ghosts at bay. She wraps a gift for Reed and tries not to feel too pathetic as she picks an unsteady path across the sodden ground to the spot marked as her final resting place. Sinks to seated in the mud and barely notices the cold as it seeps through her jeans and into her bones.

She hasn't been warm for months now. Today is no different.

The cemetery is silent. Fills the spaces where her insides used to live with a temporary peace of sorts that she knows from experience will fade before she makes it back through the wrought iron gates.

She can see the city skyline from here. Split as it is by the imposing Space Needle. She's lived in Seattle for over three years now and she's yet to take the time to visit. Supposes she might make it number two on her list of new year's resolutions.

Right behind the phrase 'get a grip' that she's determined to have at the top of the page.




--




Jackson apologises. Corners her under the dart board at Joe's well after the clock has struck midnight and she can't help but to notice the way his hands shake by his sides. A tell-tale tremor that appears when his guard is liquor loose. She accepts his stumbled offering with a curt don't worry about it, slams her eyes to shut and lifts her glass to her lips.

Vows to keep it there 'til he's moved away and only just manages to stop herself from downing the acrid contents in one go.

Tries not to think too much about the fact that he might have been right. A shouted accusation staunchly denied all those weeks and months ago.

The passing of time has sharply shifted her perspective.

When she dares to look once more he's still stood right in front of her. Vacant and pleading all in the same staggered pose.

“Jackson.” She sighs his name around the rim of her glass. Frowns as her breath fogs the icy surface.

“April, please.”

But she has no idea what it is that he wants. And no where near the strength required to give it to him anyway.

So she turns then, draws in a ragged breath intended to strengthen her resolve and attempts a purposeful stride to the exit as it doesn't even come close.




--




She dreams.

Aprons of blood that she can't quite manage to tangle herself free from. The inner most part of her best friend stained with a cloying tackiness to the undersides of her nails. The ends of her hair dipped, paintbrush-like, into the swirling red and grey.

Wakes with a startle and tries not to think too hard about the fact that the macabre images no longer disturb her the way they probably should.




--




The hospital does a good job of pretending to move on.

Hasty repairs under the guise of modernisation and 'much needed up-grades' take place. Fresh paint is rolled out over white-washed walls and conference rooms are demolished to make way for additional patient beds.

A three month memorial is held in the glaring absence of those intended to benefit from it most. Red raw wounds heal to puckered scar tissue that provide the constant reminders they're so desperately running from.

She brushes up on her knowledge of the long term side effects of massive blood loss and, more importantly, the experience of significant trauma. Ticks them off one by one as Alex falls apart at his ripped and ragged seams.

She is almost certain she is the only one to have noticed.

And she is no where near naive enough to believe she can do a damn thing about any of it.




--




They announce there is to be an inquest. She's called into a meeting full of faceless people in suits and informed that she'll be expected to give evidence. Apparently she is a big deal.

What with the blood and the best friend and the begging and the running and the patching up of people who weren't quite as lucky as she...

Lucky.

She nods her head in all the right places, backs out of the room again, wobbly, eyes closed. Hands against wall, against floor as she sits.

Breathes.

“Kepner, you okay?”

She laughs. Drags in viscous air and chokes around sobs that build from her toes and bubbles over saltwater stained lips.




--




An all expenses paid trip to Ohio is offered and then delivered before she's managed to come up with an adequate excuse for turning it down. The electronic ticket appears in her in-box from an email address she didn't even know her mother owned. She stammers around a half hearted protest that involves the Chief, a lie about not being able to get the time off, and several completely unintentional references to Alex.

Though she does manage to stop just short of saying his name.

In the end she concedes defeat, sighs an exhausted thank you, mom, I love you, too down the phone line and disconnects the call.

Drowns the inevitability of it all in the remains of last night's bourbon. Forgoes the flat coke and wraps her lips straight around the mouth of the bottle.




--




She packs haphazardly and with no real consideration for what she's most likely to wear. Tucks Reed's sweater into one corner of her suitcase and hides all evidence of its continued existence with underwear and denim jeans.

The zipper jams as she's closing the case and she catches her nail in the mechanism. Tears a piece of it away in the process. The jagged remains are rough against the palm of her hand and she uses the sting to ground her as the minutes 'til she must leave tick off one by one inside her head.

She's organised a cab because the thought of asking someone (Alex) for a lift is almost more than she can bear, and she's almost at the end of the path before the front door swings to hastily opened behind her.

His mouth opens, like he might be trying to say something, before falling closed again without a sound. He seems so insignificant, perched as he is in the doorway of a house that is fast becoming home to both of them.

“Are you coming back?”

His second attempt at finding words sends slivers of ice through her bloodstream. And she'd reply if she had the air in her lungs to do so.

She'd reply if she knew the answer.

But she doesn't trust herself to say Yes and mean it so she lifts her shoulders in a shrug that she hopes says it all for her before collapsing back into the cab.

Buckles her seat-belt and refuses, stoically, to turn back.




--




Ohio is everything and nothing like she remembers and it takes less than three hours before she thinks she might just drown there.

Weighted down by expectations and memories and the equilibrium shifting feeling that she no longer belongs.

No longer belongs anywhere.




--




Her cell phone bursts to life at three am four days after her arrival. She fumbles for it, barely conscious, manages to flick it open before message bank cuts the caller off.

“Reed?” Breathless and dazed.

It's automatic and the word falling from her lips shocks her in ways that no amount of leaked and leaking blood ever could.

She stiffens to rigid under the covers. Ice cold suddenly and almost, almost daring herself to dream.

Swallows the heady desire down low into her gut and only just resists the urge to scream instead.




--




Her sisters ensure she's more than occupied. Organise lunches and shopping trips and raucous movie nights that involve too much but never quite enough red wine to keep her smile genuine. She loves each and every one of them more than she could ever find the words to express and the thought that, one day, something might happen to them... a teenager with a new car and a misguided sense of immortality, a bungled robbery attempt, a man with a gun.

Life.

The thought that it might be their blood that coats her hands, streaks across her face, stains the linoleum floor a dark, black red, is almost more than she can bear.

And so she laughs when she's supposed to. Clinks cheap wine glasses, rim on rim, and dances around dated furniture 'til her knees wobble and her resolves slips to somewhere beneath her toes.

Counts the seconds as they pass.

One, two, eleven, one hundred and forty three.




--




The feel of her body in the worn leather stock saddle with the stretched stirrup leathers and the deep scratch across the left flap is the only thing that feels at all like something she's done before.

Grass seeds in her hair and the dusty, dreamy scent of horse that gets into your blood and never quite makes it's way back out again.

Kind of like surgery, she thinks.

It rains. A drenching kind of storm that passes before it's really begun. So far removed from the constant Seattle grey that she lets it take her far, far way. The paddocks are wide open and she pushes up into a gallop, lets go of the reins and throws her head back into the driving wet.

Shuts her eyes and laughs as she thinks that she might finally understand what Derek Shepherd was doing all those weeks and months ago.




- -




She lies.

Says she's meeting old friends at the bar by the old bowling alley. Slicks gloss, three shades darker than she'd usually attempt, across her lips in a wide slash. Slides into six inch heels that threaten to send her to her knees more than once and a pair of black jeans that she hasn't worn since med-school.

Orders a tequila shot from a bartender she vaguely recognises as someones little brother. Doesn't bother with the lemon he tosses beside it on the damp runner and barely flinches as the liquid beats a fire trail through her insides.

Feels awake for the first time in weeks.

Contemplates calling Alex. Gets as far as five digits through his number before a palm settles on her thigh and drags the tone of the evening into the gutter.

Just where she'd hoped it would end.




--




Touching down in Seattle feels a lot more like coming home than she imagines landing in Ohio ever could. The heavy weight of ghosts and memories settle like a cloak over her shoulders. Ground her completely.

She directs the cab driver on a detour because it's been over a week and she'd whispered promises against a dark wood coffin that she vows not to break

At least, not yet.

The snow globe pays abstract homage to an inside joke that was born in their intern year and never really went away. She holds her breath as she sets it against the stone that marks where Charles is buried before backing away. Picks an unsteady path across the grass carpet to Reed.

“I'm sorry I'm late.”




--




Alex waits three days.

Fucks a random stranger with his bedroom door wide open and she reads far too much and probably not nearly enough into the action as he still refuses to meet her questioning gaze.

She thinks she gets the message.

Loud and crystal clear.




--




She pushes boundaries upon her return. It's a move that is wholly unfamiliar but she's completely at a loss for how to switch it off. Eyebrows raise more than once in her direction but no one says a word and she calculates that more slack than usual is cut for people who land face first in their best friend's insides.

Neurosurgery no longer holds the appeal it once did. The precision and the patience and the tedious nature of picking through grey matter. Of knowing that a single shard of metal can undo everything in an instant anyway...

Discovers instead that being just the right side of manic is a definite advantage in trauma surgery where it's fast and dirty and loud and the adrenalin rush almost wipes her off her feet the first time she slides her fists inside a shuddering chest and rides the gurney all the way to the ER.

She vomits when it's over. And rakes hands that won't seem to still through hair streaked with blood and gore.

Can't help but to think of it as her natural state now.

Grins back at her reflection. All teeth and tears.




--




Almost two weeks after her plane touched down amid white sheets of stinging sleet Alex collapses at a bar that isn't Joe's but might as well be.

Sways a path from the bar to the table where she's waiting for him and almost makes it.

Almost.

She tips her beer over in her haste to get to him. Spills it, tacky slick, across the table and down into her shoe.

Doesn't even notice.




--




His eyes are rolled to back in his head and she slaps him, hard.

Irrationally angry beyond belief. Thinks that now is her turn to fall apart but how can she when he keeps stealing the show?

He laughs.

The kind of sound she associates with hysteria and the noise that lives inside her own skull most of the time. Silences it with her lips over his and her fists bunched in her own curls.

Right there on the floor of a bar that isn't Joe's.

It isn't Joe's but might as well be.




--




They fuck that night. And he gets up three times to vomit.

She cries herself to sleep some time after the clock has struck four am.

Leaves him right where he lies, curled as he is on the bathroom floor.




--




An intervention of sorts is staged. Involves Meredith and Jackson, whose eyes never leave his toes, and even Cristina appears to make a snide comment or several before shoving her face full of fries that she didn't purchase and skulking away again.

It's the middle of the lunchtime crowded cafeteria and she wants to scream at everyone to stop looking at her like she's about to stand on the formica table top and tear her own hair out in ragged handfuls.

She nods her head instead. Says yes and no in all the right places and offers up a forced smile that she hopes doesn't look as pained as it feels.

Beats her retreat at the first available lull in conversation.




- -




She finds him in out in the hall. Halfway between here and no where. Catches his wrist in her insistent fingers and tugs him sideways before he has a chance to plan his protest.

The door has barely clicked to closed behind her when she starts to laugh. Can feel the hysteria bubbling from somewhere primal as he blurs out behind a wall of saltwater.

“They think it's you!” Barely manages to get the words out through teeth that are clenched around gulping bellows.

“Excuse me?”

“They think it's you. That you're the one making me crazy!” She looks up at him sideways. Eyes wide. He's pushed himself against the far wall, palms flat on either side of him.

Keeping him in place.

Like he'd spin to sideways and off the planet if he let go.

She knows the feeling.

“Maybe I am.” He shrugs, shuts his eyes and continues, “Wouldn't be the first time.”

She throws her hands in the air then. Theatrical and melodramatic and a thousand other things that she can't ever remember experiencing previously.

“But don't you get it? It has nothing to do with you. Nothing. It's me. I'm crazy. I almost broke my nose when I fell face first into a puddle of my best friend's blood. I watched a married guy I thought I loved get shot right in front of me.” He's blinking blankly but she's not stopping now, “I begged for my own life using a technique I'd heard about on freaking Oprah. I mopped Meredith Grey's dead baby from the floor of an OR. I wrote a eulogy and I picked out headstones and funeral dresses. I am crazy because all of that happened to me!”

She spins around and around. Arms outstretched for no real reason other than it's all finally coming out.

“And every time I wanted to scream. To cry. To throw things through windows or set fires in garbage bins-” He snorts and she baulks because, yeah, she doesn't remember ever wanting to do that, “- Every time I wanted to react I couldn't. Because you were shot. And Cristina was freaking crazy. And Lexie Grey got sent to psych. And Derek got arrested more times than I remember and I couldn't be crazy because everybody else was.”

He hasn't moved.

“Well, guess what? Now it's my turn.”

She stalks across the room towards him, breathless. Dizzy. Drags her scrub top over her head as she closes the distance.

“And it's got nothing to do with you.”




--




She cuts her own soliloquy short. Has no air left in her for words and sentences. Twists her fingers together at the nape of his neck and kisses him like she's wanted to for months.

Means it with every inch of her being.

Melts as he moves against her, glances his own hands over her shoulder blades and twists her 'til she's a little to the side.

Pulls back for a stutter, “This is you being crazy, right?”

She laughs. Properly.

And for the first time in forever it seems.

“Yes. No. Maybe a little.” Decisiveness at it's very best. “But this bit is totally all your fault.”

Date: 2011-02-08 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ovariesofsteel.livejournal.com
The imagery. Amazeballs.

Date: 2011-02-09 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waltzmatildah.livejournal.com
Thank you! (And thank you even more for reading April!fic!)

Date: 2011-02-08 02:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rorylie.livejournal.com
I love it.

I understand that this is crappy, crappy feedback, but I just love every single letter of it. It's beautiful and achy and made me cry, but then I cry all the time anyway, right?

It's perfection.

Date: 2011-02-09 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waltzmatildah.livejournal.com
Oh, yay. Thank you!!

So glad you liked it! I wasn't sure because it's totally the anti prompt but... yeah... you liked it!

Date: 2011-02-09 11:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rorylie.livejournal.com
I don't know, I mean...I think you did answer the question of how she's so okay (because there's no time for her to not be okay) and honestly I'd forgotten that I even gave you a prompt so...it doesn't matter either way cause I adored it.

Date: 2011-02-09 11:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waltzmatildah.livejournal.com
(because there's no time for her to not be okay) That's exactly the message I was trying to get across so... YAY!

Date: 2011-02-09 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] felixen.livejournal.com
Another amazing fic from you. Thank you!!!

Date: 2011-02-10 10:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waltzmatildah.livejournal.com
No problemo! And thank YOU for reading!!

Date: 2011-02-09 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jillbee7.livejournal.com
Damn. Poor April, having to hold it together simply because everyone else has lost it. You wrote this with such brutal honesty, because it's true- you always hear about people hitting "rock bottom" and just giving up, but it isn't that easy. You don't get out of school or work or your other responsibilities that easily. It's almost like you would have to schedule in your meltdown, and who's going to do that? It's overwhelming and impossibly hard and you got that across so well.

Date: 2011-02-10 10:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waltzmatildah.livejournal.com
Thank you!!! And I'm super glad that you think the premise of this rang true. You're right, not everyone is afforded the time and the space to 'crash' after tragedy strikes and I really wanted to get that across...

THANK YOU!

Date: 2011-02-10 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dariclone.livejournal.com
Poor poor April. I'm glad to see that there's some happines ahead in the future for her though.

Date: 2011-02-10 10:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waltzmatildah.livejournal.com
I know! But yes, happy, sexy times with Alex ahead! Haha!

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