A/N: I feel that the April/Stark shippers were deprived of actual scenes between them that depicted them as the quirky couple everyone thinks they are. Personally, I think we should have seen the dates and because we didn't, this is idea on what might have happened their first date and beyond. I've attempted to have everything coincide with what happened on the show and this takes place after 7x16 "Not Responsible" and 7x17 "It's a Long Way Back," but some things might be different. I haven't decided yet for future chapters.
I'm thinking this is going to be four chapters long to chronicle the missing information in between the two episodes. I don't see it going any longer than that.
April wasn't sure anything had surprised her more - besides finding her best friend dead in a pool of her own blood. But she couldn't help but stare at him because before her stood the snarky doctor who everyone hated because of his tactics and the way he dealt with patients. And he had asked her out. Dr. Stark had asked her, April Kepner, out because she had changed his mind. That part was weird, she would admit, but she only continued to stare as he told her things wouldn't be different and he wouldn't treat her weird should she decide to reject him.
As soon as he told her to think about his invitation and walked away, she wasn't sure what had propelled her - maybe surprise or curiosity of the unknown - but she jumped around and stopped him. His eyes were a little surprised, too, perhaps even a little hopeful, when he waited for her to say something. Finally, she smiled and shrugged. "Are...Are you for real?"
It hadn't occurred to her that he might not be fluent in the current lingo everyone - particularly teenagers - used. She was about to explain the slang when he told her, "I don't know what other people your age mean when they ask someone on a date, but when I do it, it's...for real. There are no gimmicks no skirting around the issue, no will I/won't I deal. That was - what did you call it? - for real."
April thought this was the first time she had ever seen him smile; she wasn't sure what to do except smile back. "Oh. Oh-kay."
His smile faded and he stared at her; his eyes were still soft and she felt her chest tighten at the thought that he might throw an insult - or something - her way because right now she was certain that nothing would surprise her. After a few moments, he told her, "Just...Think about it, okay?"
With a nod, he turned and began to walk away, but didn't get far when he suddenly had a feeling that she was still staring at him. He had meant it to be simple: an invitation to dinner and then give her time to think about it. He didn't need her response now, but the way she stared at him, he had a sinking feeling that she was leaning toward rejection. He scowled instantly at the thought and knew that his scowl must have alarmed her because there was a fleeting fear in her eyes. "Good night, Dr. Kepner."
He turned to face her again, trying to keep the agitation away from his voice. "Yes?"
"Okay...? As in...?"
"Yes," she said after a moment, smiling because it was all she could do not to chuckle. "Yes. I'll...I'll go out to dinner with you."
There was that smile again. "When do you not work?"
Stark nodded. "Tomorrow night then. 7 o'clock. There's this nice little restaurant down the corner from the hospital and we could go there, if you'd like."
"Okay." He smiled. "I'll meet you there."
"Okay," she responded in her normal perky demeanor, keeping her sigh in until she knew he had gotten on the elevator and was away from her. She couldn't believe what had just happened. That he had asked her to dinner and she had said yes. She had said yes. April scowled slightly; she wasn't sure what to do next - because dating wasn't really her strong suit - but she knew she had to tell someone. She couldn't just keep this inside, not when it made the butterflies fly in her stomach like they would never come down again.
Even though April hadn't been on many dates in her life - she had a grand total of two or three boyfriends and those relationships didn't last long - she was certain this would go down in her record books as the one she was the most nervous over. And she wasn't even sure why. The place he had selected wasn't fancy but a local diner, one that she could wear jeans to. Because he had offered the suggestion right before leaving for work, they had both showed up in jeans. Despite his almost awkward broach of the subject, which she knew would lessen over time - God, she was thinking about the future with him already? April disgustedly shook her head as she tried to get the thought out of her head; this was one date, one date.
It didn't mean anything.
So then why did her stomach fill with knots and sweet butterflies when she got out of the car and saw him from across the parking lot?
She caught a glimpse of him as he stared off into space, the way the sun reflected off his profile. For a moment she thought she wouldn't move because she knew that standing before her was not a surgeon who would talk down to her, but a man who would treat her as an equal. And she wasn't sure why, but she smiled when his head turned and he saw her, waving gently.
She walked toward him from across the parking lot and shoved her hands in her jacket pockets nervously as she approached him. He stared at her closely; a shiver ran down her spine, but she was certain that was because of the chilly air. It couldn't possible be because of the soft smile on his face as he caught sight of her. For a few moments she thought she would never speak, but she finally said, "Evening."
He continued to smile. "I have a first name, April."
Chuckling uncomfortably, she answered, "I know that."
His eyebrow raised in challenge and he chuckled - she hadn't even realized he was capable of laughter and the sound felt strange and foreign to her ears, but not completely unwelcome. It unnerved her, however, when coupled with the smile on his face - because he was actually a human being, a feat she never would have predicted from his behavior as Chief of Pediatrics. "Oh, yeah? What is it?"
She paused to think for a moment, wishing she had a photographic memory like Lexie. After a few moments - and watching the smirk on his face grow - she finally exclaimed, "Robert! Your first name is Robert."
He pursed his lips together in defeat and answered quietly, "Yes, it is."
April laughed - Stark could make her laugh? The realization stunned her. "See. I'm not as dumb as you think."
He scowled. "I never thought you were dumb."
He shook his head before he stared her up and down, shoving his own hands in the pockets of his jacket. "No." Stark looked at the restaurant after a moment and turned back to her, asking, "Are...Are you hungry?"
He smiled when she chuckled - perhaps a little uncomfortable since this must be awkward for her, he was sure. Instead of continuing with that and thinking that she felt this was awkward because it was a date with him, he asked, "Really?"
"I haven't eaten anything since breakfast and that was twelve hours ago."
Stark scowled, surprised. "You didn't eat lunch?"
The concern in his voice shocked her; she never thought he had a considerate bone in his body - well, that was until he accepted her request not to call child services about Kyle Miller. But to hear it from him now, it stunned her almost as much as the soft smile she would see very so often, like the sun shining through from the dark clouds after a storm. "No, I didn't. I...I got called in to an emergency surgery right before I was about to eat and I didn't get a chance afterward, so I'm famished."
"Well, then let's not waste any time. You need to eat."
He gave her a soft smile and extended his arm toward her though he didn't touch her. "Well, come on, then. We don't want to head into the rush hour."
"Exactly. Rush-hour's seven-thirty."
"You come here often?"
"Enough to know when their evening rush hour is, apparently," he answered with a smirk, waiting for her until she started to walk with him toward the restaurant. When he was certain she followed beside him, he shoved his hands back in his pockets again and asked, "How did that Rutger surgery go today?"
"The kid who came in impaled by his friend's bicycle?"
"That's the one."
April scowled at the memory, at his scared face when she had told him that everything was going to be all right - like he didn't believe her. "That went great. He's healing now and couldn't be happier because nurses are fawning over him and giving him anything and everything he wants."
Stark laughed. "Well, I'm glad everything went well. I heard from Dr. Robbins about the surgery. She...She begged for me to let her do it."
"Well," he chuckled again as he held the door open for her, "not necessarily begged, but she really wanted to be on it."
"And you gave her her wish?"
"I couldn't do it," he answered with a shrug. "And...And Dr. Robbins is the only other doctor I would trust with a case like that one."
"Yes." Before he could hear her response, however, he approached the hostess. Within moments they were seated in a small corner, away from the hustle and bustle of the few people who actually were eating in the restaurant. Once they were seated, had ordered drinks and appetizers, he read the menu as he asked, "That surprises you?"
"That I trust Dr. Robbins?"
He chuckled. "Why?"
"Because..." She stopped suddenly and opened her mouth - nervous - when he stared up at her from his menu after moments of silence. He only stared at her, like he would stare at her from across a surgery, and waited patiently until she said, "Because you have two different styles."
It was her turn to scowl when he looked back down at his menu. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing." He shook his head and glanced his menu up and down. "If you're a meat person, the steak here is excellent - so is the prime rib."
April took note of his change of conversation, deciding it was a mechanism he used whenever he felt uncomfortable or didn't want to discuss something. "What does 'Ah' mean?"
He laughed again. "Nothing, April."
She hadn't decided yet if she loved or hated it when he laughed; it was so infrequent in the professional world that hearing it now still surprised her. Hell, she was surprised he wore anything besides formal work attire or was a man who people addressed as "Robert," and not "Dr. Stark." After a few moments of staring at him, she asked, "Let's say I'm not a meat person."
"No, just not in the mood for meat tonight."
He nodded slowly. "Well, then you're on your own. Because I'm a meat guy and that's really all I order when I come here."
She smiled - God, he had her smiling a lot, and for no reason other than he was here, talking to her, and didn't seem annoyed. April shifted in her seat, suddenly uncomfortable with the possibility that might change - that he could be like all the others and hate her because she was annoying. Instead of saying anything - so paranoid now that everything would change - she turned to her menu and scanned it slowly. After a few moments, she looked up to find that he had set his menu down and was now staring at her carefully - like he was trying to see what was underneath her facial expression. It took her a few moments to realize she was frowning when she smiled suddenly and asked with an uncomfortable chuckle, "What?"
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah. Why would you ask that?" Was she that easily readable? Was that concern she had heard in his voice - over her?
"Because..." He stopped and then shook his head. "Never mind."
"You just seem - I don't know - a little uncomfortable."
He looked down at his hands - away from her - and she had a strange sensation that she had done something to hurt him. He deserved the truth - or at least a portion of it - so she admitted softly, "I've never really done something like this before."
"Dated a co-worker?" He realized suddenly that was probably the reason for her discomfort, the label he had placed - as if natural - even though there were barely ten minutes into their first date. He smiled gently. "Well, we're not dating, really."
"We're on a date, aren't we?"
"Yes, but dating is not the same thing as one date," he answered. Didn't she know that? With her looks, he didn't guess that guys were fawning over her because it was so obvious - and he wasn't about to question why she had even agreed to dinner with him. It was better not to questions things like that in case he jinxed it.
She returned his smile and continued with his inaccurate assumption. "Yeah, I've never dated a co-worker. So...It's kinda weird."
"It doesn't have to be."
The hope in his voice stunned her so much that it was almost difficult to find her own voice. "I beg your pardon?"
"I won't favor you, April," he answered with a simple shrug. "Nor would I not favor you if tonight didn't go well. I told you, sexual harassment is not my style. That's unfair to you. Besides, I'm discreet. It's not like I'm going to shout it to the rooftops that you and I are on a date right now." He scoffed. "That's none of their business."
Stark hoped that was enough to calm her fears about tonight - because he wasn't her co-worker tonight. He wasn't Chief of Pediatrics and she wasn't a resident, and he was determined to prove that to her tonight, to prove that he could be more than cold-hearted wretch who didn't care about his patients. There was more beneath that icy exterior, and he hoped she knew that; he had a feeling she did, because she only smiled at him. And he couldn't help but smile back, nervous slightly, at what this night would bring.
April laughed softly as they walked from the restaurant, the last people to leave after an evening of pleasant conversation, a couple drinks, and a nice meal - which he had insisted on paying for. She supposed that made it a real date, if he paid and didn't allow her to even chip in for the tip. It was old-fashioned, but she had to admit that she liked it. It wasn't so bad, being treated like a woman he wanted to woo. Woo. She laughed to herself. Was she as old-fashioned as he was? She had to be, she figured, because otherwise she wouldn't be a twenty-eight year old virgin, extremely nervous about a date with a man with whom she worked. She looked at him from across the moonlight and smiled at the way his eyes shined. He really was full of surprises, the biggest of all being that he wasn't a robot, but a real human being who had real feelings.
"Robert?" God, that was strange to say. It didn't exactly roll off her tongue, but she figured in time it would - and there she was talking about the future again.
"Yeah?" Stark glanced over at her and steered her toward her car, which wasn't far away in the empty parking lot; he wished it was, however, because he wanted to talk to her longer, to hear more about her. She had hooked him - somehow - when she told him that she had once slaughtered a pig. He had laughed in that moment and now he couldn't stop thinking about her and the thought brought a smile to his face. She really had been full of surprises, tonight, and it was refreshing, especially since she had been so invested in what he had to say about medicine. April had listened intently as he regaled her with stories of his first years of a resident, smiling at the memories. She loved listening to his stories as much as he loved telling her, and that was so refreshing. He supposed the children were right: sharing was caring.
She shoved her hands in her pockets.
He scowled immediately at her action, because it tore him away from his thoughts, and asked, "Are you cold?"
"Oh, no, my car is right over there." She didn't have a chance to rebut; within seconds he had removed his coat and threw it around her shoulders. April felt a blush creep up so she looked down at the ground - thankful for the shadow of the moon. "Thank you."
He only nodded in response and pointed to her car. "Is this you?"
She stopped to stare at him and shook her head, smirking at his smile. "No. That's Vivien Leigh. She comes here every Saturday to meet Clark Gable."
Stark snorted. "Good movie."
"You honestly think Gone With the Wind is a good movie?"
"Excellent," he answered with a proud smile. "All the classics are."
"You're a fan?"
"Of course." He shook his head. "You can't beat the classics, I don't care what anyone else says. Romance movies aren't what they used to be - well, I would assume so. I don't really watch your romance movies."
"Chick flicks aren't your thing?"
He snorted again and smiled when she laughed. "No. Chick flicks are definitely not my thing."
"Well, we'll have to watch one sometime, just so I can torture you." Was she flirting? She fought her scowl and forced a smile. April turned back to look at her car and told him, "I, uh, I really should be going. It's going to be a long day tomorrow...a long shift."
He nodded in understanding and offered, "Tomorrow's my day off."
"What are you doing?"
Stark shrugged. "Normal things like...I don't know. Normally I relax and do...something. It just depends on what I feel like doing, really."
April nodded. "Well, I really should..."
"Yeah," he agreed quietly with a smile. As he watched her turn to her driver's side, he asked, his voice betraying him as it reached a higher octave, "April?"
She turned. "Yeah?"
"Tonight was..." He paused and found his voice again. "Tonight was nice."
"It was," she agreed with a smile. She had loved the conversation and his company after she realized he wasn't a grouch like everyone thought. As she had told Lexie, there was a nice man under there and he had shown her that side of him tonight - a side she never thought could exist. And she suddenly wanted to know more, to see that part of him again, because it was so much better than the snarky surgeon who everyone hated.
He smiled. "Well...Good night. I'll see you at work then?"
"Yeah. Good night." She smiled and shook her head as she watched him turn around and walk toward his car. It wasn't until she had gotten in and started her own car that she saw him get in his - making sure she was safe before he left her. It wasn't until she pulled out and drove away - and he drove in the opposite direction - that she realized she was still wearing his jacket.
She moved sheepishly - though she was alone in her car - as she tilted her head gently, taking in the scent of his cologne, smiling suddenly. She could certainly get used to this, and was certain he wouldn't be getting this jacket back unless he specifically asked for it.
Tonight hadn't been bad, she decided. In fact, she found that she couldn't wait until she saw him again.