April rolled her eyes and Jackson chuckled as they watched Laurel stroll back out of the kitchen.
"Ugh," April muttered and now it was Jackson's turn to roll his eyes.
"You're just jealous," he commented and April stared at him in surprise.
"I am not," she retorted.
"Yeah, you are," Jackson replied, leaning back in his chair. "Not in the way you think I mean, though, not because she hooked up with Karev –"
"Absolutely not," April interrupted and Jackson shot her a look.
"Will you let me finish?"
"Sorry, sorry, please, continue," she said, taking a sip of her beer.
"Thank you. As I was saying," Jackson continued, pointing at her with his beer bottle, "what you're jealous of is that she's comfortable with herself."
April leaned forward, elbow on the table, chin propped in her hand. "I'm not sure I follow," she said slowly and he thought for a minute.
"Okay, it's like – say you had gone home with some guy and then went to the kitchen half dressed and ran into his housemates, you'd be bright red and stammering all over the place, right? Totally embarrassed, right?"
"I –" April started to protest and then gave up as Jackson grinned.
"You would. You're blushing right now just thinking about it," he teased.
She groaned. He was right, of course, she could feel the heat in her cheeks.
"I'm so predictable," she said.
Jackson shrugged. "Maybe, but whatever. Nothing to stress over – you're cute when you blush."
He nodded. "Sure. You just gotta work on the whole tongue-tied thing, cuz it's not as cute."
She made a face at him. "Thanks a lot," she muttered. "But I know, I know. It's like my brain shuts down and I completely forget how to make words."
Jackson laughed and she punched his arm again.
"Shut up – it sucks. It's like I spent so much time being smart all my life, I forgot to develop social skills. If they'd ever graded us on those, I'd've flunked out in about sixth grade."
"Be that as it may," Jackson said, "the past is past – you gotta learn to let it go. Move on with life."
April held out her hands, palms-up, and looked heaven-ward.
"Of course. Such a simple plan. Why in the world did I not think of that?" she said sarcastically.
Jackson grinned. "It's been a crap day and I'm on my third beer. I hope you weren't really looking for good advice from me."
April laughed, shaking her head. "I guess I shouldn't have been." She sighed. "Anyway, I know you're right. I mean, I really hate to admit this, but I even know Alex was right when he told me I need to learn to relax."
"It's a possibility."
April laughed again. "You don't have to sugarcoat it. Even Reed used to tell me that maybe if I'd just loosen up and get laid it might help my whole general outlook." She giggled even more when she saw the surprised look on his face.
"Really. She said that?"
"Yup," April nodded.
"You mean she knew about the virgin thing and didn't tell any of the rest of us, didn't make you miserable about it?" Jackson asked, a little skeptically.
April shook her head. "Not around the rest of you, anyway. Some days I never heard the end of it when we were at home, but whatever. The question is, was she right?"
Jackson shrugged. "Maybe she had a point. Maybe if you just do it it'll eliminate having that to worry about." He paused to think for a moment. "But, on the other hand – what a waste for you to have waited all this time and then just do it to get it done with. If it's been this long, you really maybe ought to keep holding out for 'the one.'"
"I know, right?" April agreed. "Welcome to my eternal mental debate." She took a long sip of her beer, tilting the bottle back to get the last drops and then set the bottle back down on the table with a thump and began pensively picking at the label, peeling it off in pieces, lost in thought.
Jackson was quiet for a long while also, watching her build her little pile of label pieces. He hated seeing her look so – defeated. Suddenly he was struck by the realization of how much he really cared about her, how much he wanted to protect her, keep her safe from heartbreak and hurt and vulnerability. They'd always been friendly, from the first day they'd worked together at Mercy West, but since the shooting they'd become so much closer – she really was his best friend.
April finished shredding the beer label and swept the pieces off the table and into her hand. Standing up, she walked the two steps to the trash can and threw them away before looking back at Jackson.
"Well, it's late and the big questions like this aren't going to get solved in one night," she said quietly, half-smiling at him. "I should get to bed."
She started to walk past him and he reached out and grabbed her hand, forcing her to stop. "April – wait –" he said. 'God,' he thought, 'was he REALLY going to voice the thought that had just entered his brain?'
She turned to look at him questioningly, expectantly.
"I thought of a compromise of sorts," he said slowly. "You could always try finding 'the one for right now,' maybe. Like, don't just do it with any old guy who's willing, but with a friend, who cares about you and will treat you with respect and make it special for you and…" his voice trailed off as he met her eyes.
April stared at him, wide-eyed. 'Where exactly was he going with this?' she wondered. 'Did he mean what it sounded like he meant?'
"Um," she managed to spit out and then visibly seemed to gather herself together enough to say, "And, where exactly do you think I might find a friend like that? Did you have any –" she faltered a moment and then squeaked out the word "suggestions?"
"Well, yeah," Jackson said, the hint of a grin sliding onto his face. "Me."
He wouldn't have thought it possible, but her eyes actually got wider. Her mouth opened and closed a few times and finally she sank back into her chair, still staring at him.
"I – I don't even know what to say," she finally said.
"That's okay," he replied. "Talking's not always very necessary."
"Jackson!" She could feel the blushing starting all over again and he chuckled.
He was still holding onto her hand and now he took hold of her other hand so that he was holding both of hers in his and said, "Look, I don't mean to make you uncomfortable. It was just a thought."
April nodded. "It's a really nice thought," she admitted, giggling a little, "but – "
Jackson sighed. "Ah, there's always a but."
"Sshh," she said. "I – can I think about it for a little bit?" she asked hesitantly.
"Sure," he replied and she smiled.
"It's not that I wouldn't want to – I just – it's like we've talked about before – you're my best friend and I don't want to ruin that and well, it could just be kinda weird and –"
"It's okay," Jackson said with a laugh. "I know it's a big deal. Take all the time you need – consider it a standing offer."
April shook her head. "I'm almost not sure if I should be flattered or annoyed," she said with a nervous laugh.
Jackson grinned. "Maybe both. Anyway," he said as he stood up and dropped a kiss on the top of her head, "it is late. Just let me know what you decide, whenever you decide it."
April nodded as she watched him saunter out of the room and then let her head fall forward until her forehead hit the table with a thunk. "Great," she muttered as she stood up and tossed both her beer bottle and his into the recycling bin. "Like I'm going to be able to get any sleep while I've got that on my mind?"