A/N: This is my first Jackson/April story! I'm not new to the fandom (I write a lot of C/O) but last episode has cemented my J/A shipping. Hope you enjoy this! Also - I can't remember if him and April live together. So, for the purpose of this story they do not.
Jackson knocked on the door, checking his watch briefly. He was forty minutes late, his procedure with Sloan going later than expected. April had invited the residents and a few attendings to her apartment to celebrate the end of the Boards. He felt an uncharacteristic pull at the pit of his stomach as he waited. April hardly made him think twice before, but after what had happened in San Francisco he found himself questioning everything. It didn't help that they hadn't talked about it. After what she had said before their Boards, both of them had actively avoided the topic. The door opened and April stood there with a morose face.
"Hi," she said, stepping back to let him. He looked at her strangely, and then glanced around the empty apartment. Peppy music played from her iPod, in stark contrast to the downtrodden mood. There was a table filled with different appetizers and desserts. A row of untouched bottles of liquor lined the back of the table.
"Help yourself," she said, gesturing lamely toward the table. "There's more than enough now."
He shrugged off his coat and asked, "Where is everyone else? I thought you invited some attendings, too."
"I did," April said. "They didn't come. None of them came."
"What do you mean? I'm sure they're on their way. Maybe they're just late."
"You are forty minutes late," she returned. "Face it, Jackson, if anyone is later than you it probably means they're just not coming."
"I'm sure they're on their way. You invited Hunt, right?" She nodded. "I'm sure Hunt wouldn't just not come."
"But he's not - they're not," April said, shaking her head as she smiled humorlessly. "The residents aren't coming. The attendant's aren't coming. How do I expect interviewers to like me when even the people I work with don't?"
"Hey, that's not true," Jackson said, stepping forward and touching her arm. She quickly pulled away, turning toward the table. "April, that's not true. They like you. We all do."
"They don't like me. They tolerate me. If they liked me, they would be here."
"Maybe they got held up at the hospital. That's where I was."
"Did you see any of them?"
Jackson was silent, because he hadn't seen one of them. He saw some of the attendings flitting around, but most of the residents were given the weekend off because of the boards. He shouldn't have eve been there, but went in anyway to assist Sloan with a facial reconstruction.
"I thought they'd at least come for the free booze," April said, uncorking a bottle of pinot noir and pouring herself a glass. "And the food. I'm a good cook."
"I'm sure you are," he said. "And I'm sure they're coming."
She sat down heavily at the side of the table and grabbed a crostini, taking a large bite. Mouth full she retorted, "Yeah. I'm sure they're all coming right this very minute. To hang out with the girl no one can stand."
Jackson frowned. "You stay there with your food and wine." She raised her glass. "I'll be right back."
He stepped outside and pulled out his phone, dialing quickly. After three rings Sloan picked up.
"Jackson, my man! Miss me already?"
"I need you to do me a favor."
"This is amazing," Jackson said, dipping a pretzel into an orange-colored dip. "What is it again?"
"Buffalo chicken dip," April said.
She grinned a bit, swirling the wine in her glass. "You know, Jackson, you don't have to stay."
"What? Why would I leave and pass up all of this great food?"
"I mean, you don't have to stay to make me feel better," April said. "I'm okay now. I promise."
"You know, despite what you keep telling yourself, I don't mind spending time with you. I was invited to a party, and I intend on making this just that."
"A party? With two people?"
"We'll make the best of it."
His gaze lingered on her face and she felt her cheeks flush. She looked away, and he cleared his throat, shifting as he reached forward and piled more appetizers onto his plate.
"Alright, tell me what is I've got here," he said, gesturing to his plate.
She leaned forward, inspecting his choices.
"Well, this is a pesto palmier," she said, pointing to a green speckled puff pastry twist. "This is crostini with olive tapenade. And…those are veggies with store-bought ranch dressing."
"Store-bought," Jackson admonished lightly, shaking his head. "What would Martha say?"
"Screw Martha," April retorted, laughing lightly.
"You really are a good cook," he noted, biting into the crostini.
"Yes, I am." She nodded her head firmly. "The others are missing out."
As if on cue, there was a knock on the door. April looked at Jackson strangely, and he shrugged.
"Better go get the door," he told her.
She placed her glass on the table and stood up, heading toward the door. When she opened it, she was flabbergasted to find Mark Sloan with what seemed like half of Seattle Grace behind him.
"Dr. Sloan," April sputtered, eyes wide.
"This is where the party is, right?"
She stepped back in a haze, mouth open like a guppy as the group moved into her apartment. The usual group was there – Derek, Callie, Alex and Owen – along with some nurses that she wasn't as familiar with. She closed the door and turned back to her now bustling party.
Sloan walked over to Jackson with a wide smile.
"So, how did I do?" he asked, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Better than I expected," Jackson said, looking around at the crowd.
"I brought the wine, too," he said, brandishing a bottle of wine from behind him. "Think white's okay?"
"Yeah, I'm sure it's fine. Thanks again for doing this, man."
"No problem. I expect a full explanation tomorrow, of course" Sloan said with a raised eyebrow. Jackson laughed and nodded before saying, "Sure thing."
"Look at all of this," Callie said, looking at the spread of food. "Who knew Kepner was such a domestic?"
"I would have never guessed," Alex said. "The chick only ate cereal and Lean Cuisines when we all lived together."
"I guess she was holding out in more than one way then," Cristina said, reaching around him to grab a mini egg-roll. Alex scowled.
"Hey kiddies, play nice," Callie said.
"I'm not the one who started it," Alex sniped. "As usual, Yang can't keep her mouth shut."
Cristina shot him a look and then made her way over to Derek. Meredith was at home with Zola, both of them finishing off the last of their flus. As Derek put it, the projectile vomiting had ended, but neither looked ready to leave the couch.
April flitted around the room making polite conversation while making sure everyone had enough to eat and drink.
"This is quite a party, April," Owen said with a grin.
"Thank you, Dr. Hunt. I hope you're enjoying yourself."
"Everyone is," Jackson said, appearing at her side. "I'd say you've got yourself a hit."
"This dip is extraordinary," Sloan said loudly, scooping up some dip with a celery stick. "Kepner, you ever have an interest in plastics, you just bring this dip and you're in!"
April laughed. "Thank you, Dr. Sloan. I'll keep it in mind!"
"I think the dip is a keeper," April said, grinning up at Jackson. He gazed at her and echoed, "Yeah, a keeper."
Jackson stayed behind to help her clean up the mess from the party. Despite numerous overtures from her that he should do the opposite when they cleaned dishes side by side, her on washing and him on drying duty, she was happy to have him there.
"You ended up having a pretty good turn out," Jackson noted casually. "I'd say there were, what, fifteen…twenty people?"
"Yeah. Around there."
"I told you they'd come."
"You called Sloan, didn't you?" she asked, glancing at him. "That's why they came."
"No. I mean, yeah, I might have called him to remind him, but they were totally here for you."
She grinned. "You know, Jackson, you really are a decent guy."
"Sometimes I wish you weren't so decent," she muttered half to herself. Her tone lost its levity as she said, "It would make things a lot easier."
"What do you mean?"
"I could blame you for San Francisco," she said, eyes trained on the dish in her hands. "Say you seduced me. You made me act irrationally."
He didn't say anything for a moment, too taken aback by their talking about this now. For two days they had actively ignored the issue, and now while washing dishes she decided to bring it up.
"Instead you were just so…nice. You were so nice and decent. You wanted to stay, and I was the one who made you leave…"
The water turned off, and he laid his hands over hers. The plate clanked loudly against the bottom of the sink.
"April, you don't have to explain yourself."
"I'm a total spazz," she said. "A spazz, and-and a Jesus freak!"
He chuckled, gently squeezing her hands. "And that's perfectly fine."
"Is it? I feel like a fish out of water with you guys sometimes. It's like the hospital is this pay-per-view special and I don't belong in it."
"A pay-per-view special?" he said, unable to suppress the grin that spread on his face. She scowled and said, "You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. But you don't have to be like that. Everyone's different."
"I just…I wanted to feel like I belonged for once. I wanted to feel normal."
"So you get in a bar fight and jump me?" Jackson mused. "That's a pretty out-there normal."
April paled. "Oh my God, I did jump you, didn't I?"
She pulled her hands from his and covered her face, turning away from him. He chuckled lightly and took a hold of her shoulders, making her turn back toward him.
"For the record, I was not against the jumping," he said. "I was a willing participant."
"I'm sorry," she said.
"For what? April you don't have to apologize-"
"No, I do. I'm sorry for making things weird between us. You're my closest friend, and I've gone and messed things up."
"No, you haven't," he said firmly. She averted her eyes, and he reached forward and laid a hand on her shoulder to regain her attention. "Look at me, April. We're fine."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm drying dishes here. You think I'd do that for just anybody?"
She sniffed. "I don't know. Maybe you just really like drying dishes."
"No one really likes drying dishes. We're fine. Let's just put San Francisco behind us."
She nodded, wishing it were that simple. If only she could take the loss of her virginity and put it in some box; push it to the back of her mind where she rarely touched on it. She couldn't, though. It was a constant presence, each moment replaying in her mind at ad nauseum. Each touch still burned her skin as if the moment never truly ended.
At least it had been with him, though. She remembered the only other time she had gotten close to the act, with Karev, and the memory made her cheeks flush not with shame but anger. His callous hands and the irritation pulling at his mouth when she hesitated, all of it came back to her and she imagined how she would have felt if they had gone through with it.
She glanced over at Jackson, and for the first time since that night, she felt something besides regret. She still regretted what they had done, but she realized that it could have been worse. It could have been much worse. She was with someone who truly cared about her. She had felt safe with him. Loved, even.
"You want to finish washing that dish? I'm out of things to dry."
"Oh." She turned on the faucet again and rinsed the dish, passing it over to him. He wiped it dry and piled it on the other plates. There were only a few larger dishes left, and she told him that she could finish.
"You've done more than enough," she told him kindly.
"Yeah. Get out of here, Avery."
He smirked. "Alright. Great party, April."
She grinned. "Great rallying, Jackson."
"You know, we make a good team. You do the cooking. I do the invite list."
"Yeah yeah," she said, pushing him toward the door.
"Think of the unstoppable force we'd be together."
"We're going to be surgeons, Jackson. Remember?"
"Well, if these Boards don't' go as we hope, a catering business is always an option," he joked. "I'd hire you. I'd order tables of just that buffalo chicken dip."
"I don't understand all your guys' fixation on that dip. It takes less than thirty minutes to make."
"Which makes it all the more remarkable."
She grinned as she handed him his jacket, pointedly saying, "Goodbye Jackson. Drive safe."
He grinned. "I will. See you tomorrow?"
She opened the door and he tossed her one more grin before leaving. She closed the door and turned around, leaning heavily against it. Her eyes drifted closed as she realized that she not only slept with her best friend but fell for him, too.
She was screwed in more way than one.
A/N: Did you like it? I'm not set on ending it here. Would you like to see more?