A/N: This chapter bothers me. I'm not happy with it, but I can't think of any way to change it. The italics are exact lines from the show. It's mostly my take on their thoughts leading up to what would have been their date.
After Karev walked away, Stark thought his day would only get worse. He should have known never to say that - however - because as soon as the door opened and he glanced up at the intruder, he smiled. There she was. And she was more perky and beautiful than ever. Immediately his heart warmed, much like it had when he twirled her around the dance floor, and he felt his entire demeanor shift, especially when she smiled at him with more optimism than he had ever known.
"Just finished recasting the O'Connor girl. Did you still need me to change Jason Cook's drain?"
Normally her optimism and perky demeanor would have bothered him but now - after getting to know her and being around her - it was one of her many traits that he found most endearing. "Nope, all done. So you can handle the rest of the patients right?"
"Really?" She was surprised; he had never given her complete control of all the patients before.
"Yeah." Was that his voice betraying him? It had gone soft - exactly how he felt whenever he was near her. There was nothing, he realized, that he could deny her, not now, not when it meant he could spend even more time with her. And if that meant giving her complete control - which she rightfully deserved because he had faith that she could handle it - than that's what he was going to do. The smile on her face warmed his cold heart, too. Seeing her smile, and knowing he had brought it there, it made this entire day all right - it made dealing with Alex Karev something he'd be willing to do.
"Thank you!" Was this really happening? She wasn't sure anyone would trust her enough, but here he was, putting all his faith in her. He actually believed she could do it, and she was certain it was because of their dates, of the she he had the opportunity to get to know the past couple weeks.
He felt the need to double-check that they were still on for dinner tonight, especially since he hadn't seen much of her the past few days. That, and he didn't want her to walk away from him just yet."We're on for tonight? 7 o'clock reservations?"
"Oh, you know it."
"All right." He walked away from her with a smile; that was music to his ears. Stark was certain he could survive dealing with Alex Karev today, as long as he could see April, too. After all, she was a better doctor than Karev. He knew she could handle it - she could handle anything.
April only smiled as he walked away. His trust in her gave her a confidence unlike anything she had ever experienced. She was excited, too, for dinner tonight. Tonight was turning out to be a great day, she thought to herself with a smirk.
"You're going to screw your way to the top. I'm impressed."
And then it came crashing down. Is that really what he thought? That they were sleeping together? "I am not screwing Stark."
"I am not screwing Stark," he mocked like a child.
"We aren't even dating!" His mock only spurred her anger. What right did he have to come here and assume something that wasn't happening? And to insult her by mocking the truth? She didn't want any part of this - she just wanted to run away, as far as she could.
"We aren't even dating," he mocked again.
She had enough. "I'm serious, we're not." And suddenly the words came out that she knew would get him to back off - even though they weren't at all true, "Maybe I thought we were at first, but it's not like that." She remembered their lunch date a few days ago and added, "We're just...hanging out. Friends." The words sounded like poison to her ears.
"Yeah. Naked friends."
April scowled at the thought as he walked away; if she was honest with herself, she'd admit that the thought of sleeping with Stark wasn't necessarily unappealing, it's just she hadn't thought about it before. He had been so gentle and kind and had taken things slow the past couple of dates that sleeping together...? That seemed like a world away. He hadn't pushed anything, and they were taking things slow. That was what it was. It had nothing to do with her insecurities and fears about the first time. Nothing.
April repeated that mantra to herself the rest of the day - because she couldn't let Alex Karev get to her, not when she had a date to look forward to tonight.
Stark was almost done with a consult when his pager went off. As subtle as possible, he turned to look at it and saw that it was April. Panic hit him for a moment before he remembered she'd come in and get him should one of his patients flatline. It mustn't be something too important, but the need to find out what was on her mind was eating away at him. He couldn't focus the rest of the consult - somehow the right words spilled out. Stark was thankful when the consult had ended, and he got out of there as quickly as possible.
He found her, not even moments later, working on a few charts. "Hey. You paged."
She turned around and he could immediately see she was flustered. "Yeah, um, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it to dinner by seven. These post-ops are taking me longer than I thought."
Like that, the music stopped. "All right, skip dinner."
He scowled in thought before it suddenly hit him - something where he could be close to her in a private setting, and one that didn't have any specific time restraint. It was now or never, he decided. If he didn't get up the courage to invite her to his place now, he figured he never would. And what better opportunity? He was certain she would say yes as he offered, "Hey, you know, From Here to Eternity is on cable. We could just...grab dinner at my place."
April didn't mind the thought of that. It was a fantastic movie, and they could still have dinner together, but as soon as she saw the proud smirk on Alex's face from across the distance, a wave of anxiety hit her hard. She didn't want that to keep her down, however, so she agreed with a shaky voice that matched the unsure emotions she was feeling, "Okay. Sounds fun."
Her tone bothered him, but he smiled softly at her agreement. Though she hadn't looked at him while she had said that - and he was afraid to find out what had caught her attention - she had agreed. That was enough to make him happy.
"Um, I still don't know what time I'll finish."
He didn't like the sound of that - and true to his promise - he did what he never thought he'd ever do...just so he could see her again. The words stung at him, but they were necessary. He almost hated himself for it if he didn't remind himself that it meant he could see her tonight - on a more personal level. "Karev? Could you help Dr. Kepner with her patients?"
"Now you need my help?"
No, now he had to do everything in his power not to strangle the younger surgeon. Instead of having a burst of anger, he warned, "Don't push me, dude."
April turned back to her charts and handed some of them to Alex, who had walked over after Stark requested he help her. She smiled to think they would still have their date and told him, "Okay so if you take these, I can do the rest." She frowned when he laughed; she was not in the mood for this, for his antics and what he thought about her dates with Stark. "What?"
He shrugged. "The only way you'll be watching that movie is if it's playing on his bedroom ceiling."
She frowned again as he walked away from her. Where did he get off assuming she was going to have sex tonight? The thought scared her - she would admit - to have sex tonight but it certainly didn't help for him to make fun of her for it. What right did he have, in any of this, to judge their relationship? None, she decided.
But God, she couldn't get the words out of her head.
April had actually been surprised that Alex had stuck by her side the entire day; as soon as Stark left, she had excepted him to bolt, too, and find something else to do that didn't so closely resemble the presence of Stark. At first she had thought it was because he wanted to tease her more about her dinner date - and each tease bothered her deeply - and though, she hadn't proved mistaken because he actually had teased her, Alex had actually stepped up as a surgeon and done his work. When it came to little kids, it seemed, he could have a softer side - and regardless of his own personal circumstances, he actually took care of them. Nevertheless, his comments irked her, especially now with the glances he would give her like he knew what was going to happen. He had no idea, she decided, and instead of letting him bother her now when she was supposed to be working on work, she turned to Stark and told him, "The Rodriguez boy had an incarcerted incisional hernia, but with conscious sedation we were able to reduce it."
He nodded, happy with the news. "All while I was in surgery. I am impressed."
"Well, Dr. Karev did most of it, actually."
"Oh, Dr. Karev?" He didn't like the sound of that. "Okay, well that's good to know. I'll make sure it was done right."
"Robert, just say thank you."
Stark watched as Alex looked at April, confused, and April met his glance as if she surprised herself by saying that. Choosing to ignore it, however, he did as she asked and said, "Thank you, Dr. Karev. Now go away."
What the hell was wrong with her? Had she seriously just done that - just brought their personal lives into the professional arena? God, now Alex would really be on her back for that. All she'd hear would be endless comments and teases about how she referred to him by first name - which must mean that they were sleeping together in his world. She felt the need to apologize for her indiscretion, to backtrack to a point where they were doctors in the workplace. "Oh, my God! I am so sorry! I didn't mean to call you that!"
He waved her off. "There's no need to apologize, Dr. Kepner."
"No, no, no. It was completely unprofessional. I promise, I will never-"
Stark had enough of this. "Hey, April." He was happy when she stopped and stared at him, his use of her first name surprising her. Like with earlier, he decided it was now or never. Time to put all the cards on the table. "I'm saying I liked it." A feeling of dread filled him as she opened her mouth to say something, then looked down at her charts. Maybe he had made a mistake and being so forward with her. But he couldn't judge her so quickly - the dread would swallow him whole if he did.
Suddenly Alex's comments swam in her head, like a little voice on her shoulder, and she couldn't block them out. Naked friends and bedroom ceilings and taking her pants off...Fear spilled through her so swiftly and powerfully that she told him, without even thinking, "I, uh, I can't make it tonight."
"To...?" Stark realized suddenly what she meant and frowned. "What?"
April looked away from him as she came up with some fabrication - that wasn't completely a lie, but enough for right now - because she couldn't bear whatever it was she saw in his eyes. "The, uh, the new chief resident is getting picked soon and everyone is stepping up their game, so...I should probably just stay here...work. I'm sorry." She placed the look in his eyes finally; she had ripped his heart from his chest. and he didn't seem surprised, either - almost like he had expected this to happen at some point.
Her words had stung at him but he couldn't lash out at her like he wanted to; he cared about her too much to hurt her like that. Finally, he looked at her, which in itself was the most difficult thing he could do today. "I understand. You know, we've got the age difference, we work together...Not to mention, you are very beautiful."
He thought that about her? She wasn't sure anyone had told her that before - and meant it the way he did when he stared at her so openly and honestly that she had to look away from him to process his compliment and catch her breath again.
"But still, you know," He shook his head at the realization of what she had done - and why. "I'd hoped you wouldn't feel the need to use work as an excuse to get out of spending time with me."
"No, no, no, no. I wasn't..." She frowned when he shook his head and looked up at her, like he was bracing himself for this. "I enjoy spending time with you so much." The way he nodded told her that he didn't wholly believe the truth that she was telling him. And here she went again, remembered Alex's comments and Cristina's and Meredith's and the fact that she couldn't get them out of her head. It hit her that she could lose her virginity when she wasn't ready for that, and if she wasn't ready for that than she must not be attracted to him, right? The words came out quickly as she told him, "I just...I guess I just think of you more as a friend. Friends. I mean, we're friends."
He nodded slowly at her words, wondering how he could be so stupid to think that there could ever be anything more. He should have seen it coming - and he had earlier, when she had looked away from at the mention of a movie at his place - he just didn't want to admit it. And if she was being so honest with him, then he could be so honest with her, too. "Yeah, well...But that's the thing, you know, I never wanted to be just your friend."
April wanted to tell him that she wanted that to, that there was nothing more that she enjoyed than his company, and that this was all because of everyone else..that she didn't want to have sex tonight. But she couldn't tell him that, she couldn't admit her virginity, because he might laugh at her like everyone else had.
Stark shrugged, hoping she would think he was all right - because he really wasn't. "Good night, Dr. Kepner."
As he walked away, he shook his head and thought for a moment, wondering where the hell he had gone wrong to bring them here - to the point where she felt the need to back out because of what others thought, or perhaps because of something he had said or done. He wasn't sure he had something wrong. Maybe taking things slow had given her the wrong impression - that he didn't want anything to do with her. But he wanted to see her, to be with her...He thought he had just made that clear. And, for some reason, she had blanched and shot him down. Stark couldn't figure out why - and he didn't have the strength to as he walked out of the pediatrics wing away from her.
One thing he knew for sure: he wished he would have kissed her that moment after dancing. And not just that peck on the cheek, but really kissed her. If he had done that, maybe now he wouldn't be filled with so much regret - so much humiliation because, damn it, the entire hospital knew they had gone on a few dates and soon the entire hospital would know she had rejected him.
He had never been a man to feel such rejection and humiliation at the same time; he wasn't angered by it, but frustrated. Because now he knew he'd have to build his walls back up - and he wouldn't let anyone affect him exactly the way she had. It would be difficult, but he had to wipe the memories away; he had to forget the fun he had and the way he felt about her, because it was all he could do to stop the pain from eating away at his heart.