He's high on adrenaline, blood rushing through his veins, heartbeat thumping in his ears. He's breathlessly scrambling down the corridor after a blur of red curls, laughter bubbling in his throat, disbelief rising in his chest. He just got punched in the face, but he can't feel a thing, he's too pumped, too shocked, too giddy to reflect on the fact that the punch was perfectly aimed and with enough power behind to make it hurt like a bitch tomorrow.
He didn't think she had it in her. Her reaction had been completely unforeseen, a snappy comeback would have been expected, but actual physical violence from April Kepner? Unheard of, unthinkable, unimaginable, yet here they are, being sent back to their rooms by the Chief because he and April Kepner herself had been engaging in a bar room brawl. It's done something to her, it's energised her and as she comes to a halt outside her room she is beaming, her eyes are glittering and her cheeks are flushed. She suddenly has a confidence he's never seen in her before, gone is the fragile, whimpering bundle of nerves from this morning.
He catches himself glancing at her lips and tries to pull away, but instead his eyes travel up to hers, and there is a darkness in them that holds him in place. For the briefest moment the atmosphere between them change completely, electricity crackles and sparks between them and the world around him fades to black. Inexplicably he's nervous, he holds his breath in anticipation of something without knowing what. He opens his mouth to fill the silence between them, but before he can get the words out her lips are on his. Before he even registers what is happening his hands fly to her hips and her hands fold around his neck and pull him in closer. Her mouth is soft and sweet against his, but demanding and eager at the same time. He is not prepared for her, his lips are hard and unyielding against hers as he tries to process what is happening. Her fingers grazing the back of her neck sends chills down his spine and his gut clenches as she moves against him.
"April," he finally manages, pushing away from her and trying to catch his breath.
"What?" Her eyes are dark and hooded, still filled with confidence and exuberance. "Should I not have done that?"
She doesn't wait for his answer, instead pulling him back in with an intensity that sucks the breath out of his lungs. His mind is still racing, but his instinct is controlling his body and he finds himself melting into her, lips softening against hers and his hands spreading across her back and drawing her closer. Between them he can feel the loud thump of a rapid heart beat, but he's not sure if it's her heart or his.
"If you want me to stop, just say so," she whispers into his mouth, breath sweet with wine. "And I'll stop." But she doesn't stop, and neither does he.
There is a subtle shift, she is no longer April Kepner, friend, study buddy and house mate. She is no longer neurotic, perky, determined chief resident April, she is touch, taste, smell. She is silky soft skin, she is the sweet, sour taste of apples, she is the clean, crisp scent of fabric softener. She is red, pink, pale. She is soft, hard, soft again.
He's high on adrenaline, blood rushing through his veins, heartbeat thumping in his ears. He's breathlessly pulling off clothes in a blur of red curls, suppressing doubt and disbelief. He is kissing his best friend, and he can feel everything. He's pumped, shocked, giddy, and hopes to God it won't hurt like a bitch tomorrow.
He sees him before he sees her. He sees big hands, big arms and big coat before he sees red hair, small frame and pale hands in dark hair. She's on her tiptoes, body flush with his, entirely wrapped up in the taller paramedic, locked in a passionate kiss. Those big hands and those big arms nearly swallow her up, obscures her from view, removes her from the equation. They are oblivious to the world around them, red and blue lights from the nearby ambulance bay lighting them up, the slight drizzle in the Seattle night air having no bearing on their embrace.
He only looks their way for a second, swiftly looking away once he's taken in the full significance of the moment. His own big arm is slung around Stephanie, her bright chatter humming away below his consciousness level. He tries to focus on what she is saying, but he is spending all his energy trying to not care about what is happening behind his turned back. For every step he takes, for every smile and nod he gives Steph, his mind snaps back to what he just witnessed. The back of his neck grows hot as if she might be looking at him, his ears are turned backwards, listening out for her voice, his eyes staring ahead but not seeing anything in real time, only replaying the scene on his retina. There is a thick lump in his throat making him swallow over and over. His neck is tense, his free hand involuntarily clenched into a tight fist, his smile wearing thinner and thinner.
Try not to think, try not to feel, it just complicates things. The woman on his arm is the one that deserves a place in his head, the one he should give a place in his heart. She is grateful that he has made space for her, she is proud to fill that space, he is neither dessert nor car crash to her. This is good, this is right, so try not to think, try not to feel.
If he thought about it too much, he would think that when he kisses her she doesn't taste like apples. If he thought about it some more, he would think that she doesn't smell like fabric softener. If he thought about it even a little, he would think that his hands don't quite fit into the crease above her hips, that their bodies don't fit quite like they did with her. If he let himself feel, he would know that his head is already full and his heart already closed.
Try to let go, try to move on. Try to open your eyes, he's better off without her. Try to convince yourself that she is better off with someone else, that someone else is better for her. Try to believe that you haven't just been punched in the face, and that it hurts like a bitch already. Try to pretend that you're not lost, that there is nothing left between them, that this was for the best. Try to ignore every fibre of your being telling you that it wasn't supposed to end like this.
There is no place for thoughts and feelings when all he can see in his mind's eye is big hands, big arms and big coat swallowing up red hair, small frame and pale hands. There is no place for thoughts and feelings when those big hands don't belong to him and his big arm is wrapped around someone else instead and it takes them both out of the equation. His world comes into sharp focus, red and blue lights from the nearby ambulance bay burning his eyes, the slight drizzle in the Seattle night air stinging his skin.
He doesn't see her at first. He sees light blue scrubs and big arms wrapped around someone, and he sees small hands on broad shoulders. He's about to excuse himself when he recognises the small hands, when his presence shatters the embrace and he sees bouncy curls and wide eyes. She jerks away from the taller man, eyes pleading, small hands retracting.
He leaves them to it, ignoring her calling out for him, ignoring her need to explain. He's just been punched in the face, but he can't feel a thing. It's supposed to sting, it's supposed to hurt, it's supposed to drive him to the brink of insanity, but he's not angry, he's not even disappointed. His shoulders are relaxed, his hands hang casually in his tuxedo pockets, he breathes freely.
Try to think less, try to feel more, try to un-complicate matters. She is grateful for him, she is proud of him, she probably didn't initiate the kiss. She has feelings, a lot of them, for him, and she feels far more than he does. She is easy, she is light, she is fun, so try to invest, try to fall. Try not to think about why this doesn't sting, hurt and anger, try to feel what you're supposed to feel when your girl kisses someone who is not you. Try to feel betrayed, try to feel afraid that she's leaving you, try to feel like it matters.
She's playing games, because he has been playing games this whole time. So far it's been working great, so far she's kept him from thinking, kept him from feeling, kept him high. She's served her purpose, and he's grateful for her, but he can't be proud of her without feeling guilty. She wants more from him, she wants more feeling, she wants more falling, she wants a reaction. She wants a rise out of him, beyond what she can manage physically, something to prove it's not as one-sided as she fears, to prove she is not that needy, boy-obsessed girl she hates. She wants invitations and introductions, she wants to be factored in the equation, she doesn't want to be an afterthought, an after-hours convenience. All of her is right in front of him, ready to be everything he could ever want if he could only reach out for her and ground her to him. Problem is, it's not that he doesn't care anymore, it's just that he can't. He's done waiting for something that's never going to happen.
She's been great for his ego, building him up when he needed to feel good about himself. He'll admit that this has bruised his ego, seeing her with another man, but a bruise heals easily, leaves him exactly as he was before, unaltered and quickly forgotten. A bruise is nothing compared to a wound, nothing compared to the wound he suffered before her. Wounds take longer to heal, leave you marked, the scar a constant reminder of how the wound was inflicted in the first place, they alter you and even after the initial sting is gone you still remember the pain.
They've always been a maybe, never a must. Maybe he should have said something he didn't mean, maybe he could have believed it eventually, maybe living it would eventually have made it real. Or maybe the things he never said but meant would eventually fade and leave room for her in his head and in his heart. Maybe he can't let her fill the empty spaces in his heart because he already knows what the missing pieces look like, and maybe he has already left pieces of himself in what he used to love and he can't give them to anyone else. Maybe he already has a must-have, must-see, must-do and it's not her.
Maybe he's already forgotten about blue scrubs, small hands on broad shoulders, and bouncy curls and wide eyes. Maybe a punch to the face doesn't matter if it doesn't sting, hurt or anger. Maybe his shoulders are relaxed and he breathes freely because he's scanning the room for red hair and red dress, and it's a must, not a maybe.
He's high on adrenaline, blood rushing through his veins, heartbeat thumping in his ears. He stands up. He sits back down. He stands up again, not because it is a conscious effort to do so, but because he can't control it, he can't stay in his seat. He must stand up, he must say something, he must burn his life to the ground if that is what it takes. He's done rationalising, he's done pretending, he's done waiting for something that must happen. Heart before head. Feeling before thinking. Falling before falling apart.
His throat burns, his stomach clenches, his lungs contract as he unloads the words he didn't know he had into the space between them, into history, past the point of no return. He feels a thousand eyes burning holes in him, burning holes into his confession. He's punched himself in the face, but he feels nothing, he is frozen in time and space until her words can either save him or ruin him forever.
There is a rush and a gasp and heads turn, but all he can see is red hair and pink cheeks and white dress racing towards him. He forgets that this is not just a reunion, that it's also two break ups, a public humiliation and more questions raised than answered, but she reminds him. There is that unshakable confidence again, she is electric, eyes glittering and cheeks flushed, and she grabs his hand and leads him out of the barn so it can be just her and him.
Finally, it's just her and him, but the confidence is gone, the adrenaline is wearing off and the magnitude of what they've just done is sinking in. She makes his heart come to a full stop as he sees her grappling with her conscience and her choice, he holds his breath and tries to not let doubt permeate him when he is so, so close. Her eyes find his, and the confidence is back. There is the briefest moment where the atmosphere between them change completely, electricity crackles and sparks between them, it hangs in the air and pulls them in closer. Inexplicably he's nervous, he holds his breath in anticipation of what he knows is coming. His stomach is in free fall as her lips crash into his, her hands fly to his face, reacquainting herself with him. The answer to her fingertips are yes, he is as hungered as she is, his own hands travelling from her shoulders to her face, fingertips counting the beat of her pulse.
He is home, he is saved. She tastes like apples and smells like fabric softener and his hands fit perfectly into the crease above her hips. Her white dress rustles, reminding him that it was not meant for him, but now it is all for him, and all of her along with it. Everything he ever wanted is right here in front of him, and he reaches out for her and grounds her to him. His wounds are healed, the missing pieces to his heart slotted into place, the equation finally added up. She is his must-have and must-hold from this day forward.
"Drive the car."
He's high on adrenaline, blood rushing through his veins, heartbeat thumping in his ears. He's done taking life's punches. Heart as well as head. Feeling as well as thinking. Falling forever and hope to never fall apart.