A/N: I have so much planned for this story, but I keep trying to squeeze it all into one chapter. This one took me FOREVER to get together, but it finally did. I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter Twenty Four
April walked into the locker room to change into her scrubs. It was a later start for her that morning, and most of the residents were already there. Meredith and Cristina sat on one of the benches, talking before rounds. Somewhere in the background, April heard someone retching.
"Ugh, who's that?" April asked, pulling her messenger bag over her head and putting it in her locker.
"Little Grey," Cristina said, taking a bite of her apple. "Sucks to be her."
Meredith added, "She's been in there for about ten minutes."
As if on cue, Lexie stumbled out of the bathroom, dragging her hand across her mouth.
"Wash your hands," Cristina said immediately. "I don't want your germs spreading over here."
"I did wash my hands," Lexie said, wincing. "This is horrible. Seriously. Horrible."
"Maybe you should take today off," Meredith suggested. "Vomiting is generally an acceptable reason to skip work."
"I can't," Lexie said, shaking her head. "I'm working with Dr. Sheperd on an amazing cranial reconstruction."
"Derek would get over your absence just fine," Meredith said with a small grin.
"Yeah, but I wouldn't get over my absence just fine," Lexie returned glumly. "That's an amazing surgery. I can't miss it."
"Then grab some anti-nausea meds so you don't vomit on my husband during surgery," Meredith said. "He doesn't take too kindly to that."
"Duly noted," Lexie said, heading out of the locker room.
"So," Meredith said, turning toward April with a grin. "I heard you and Jackson have been locking yourself in on-call rooms."
April gave Cristina a look and said, "You told her?"
"In-hospital sexcapades are fair game, Kepner," Cristina answered with a shrug.
"So, you two are getting pretty serious. You've met the parents. You're sneaking off to on-call rooms."
"I really need to get to rounds," April said.
"Oh, she's blushing," Cristina said, pointing at April. "Look at that."
Meredith laughed. "You're right. She's definitely blushing."
"I-I'm not," April stammered, although she could feel her cheeks burning. They flushed even deeper at their notice. "I'm going to go now."
She could hear their laughter in her wake.
Mark walked into the doctor's lounge and looked on in confusion when he saw Lexie standing in front of the refrigerator, her head stuck in the freezer.
"Uh, Lex?" he said, closing the door behind him. "What are you doing?"
She stepped back, shutting the freezer door sheepishly. "Oh, I was just…uh…putting my head in the freezer."
"Yeah, I saw that. Why?"
"I'm a little overheated," she said, stumbling over toward a set of chairs. "And nauseated."
"Hey, hold on." Mark said, moving quickly and helping her sit. She frowned, pressing her fingers softly to her mouth.
"I think it's just a little flu," Lexie said. "It's nothing , really."
"Maybe you should lay down," Mark suggested. "Or take today off?"
"I can't take a day off," Lexie said, shaking her head. "I told you. I'm fine."
"Mark, I'm fine."
"You had your head in a freezer."
"I realize that is unorthodox behavior," Lexie said slowly. "But really, I'm fine."
"Is that ten o'clock?" She leaned forward as she stared at the clock. "I need to go!"
"I was supposed to meet Dr. Sheperd five minutes ago."
She rushed out of the doctor's lounge and he called out, "Take your time, Lex! Sheperd can wait!"
Cristina stopped by Owen's office, peeking her head in for a quick hello before scrubbing in to a surgery with Burke. Owen was seated at his desk, his fingers making a mess of his red hair as he read through paperwork.
"It looks like you need to get in an OR," Cristina said.
He looked up and smiled slightly. "Anything would be better than this."
"What are you doing?"
"Budgeting," he said. "And let me tell you, it is no fun. I don't know how Weber did it before."
"You'll figure it out," she said.
"I already have," Owen said, frowning. "That's the problem."
"What do you mean?" Cristina asked.
"We're taking on four fellowships – you, Jackson, Alex and Stevens – not to mention the inflated salaries of some of our attendings. We only have so much money, and I had to make cuts."
"Couldn't you shift things? Cut funds in a few places?"
"This hospital is already running as thinly as possible," Owen said. She noticed that he looked tired, then. More tired than he ever looked with his PTSD or late night surgeries. "And there was only really one solution."
"What is it?"
Owen paused, face drawn. "I have to let Kepner go."
April stood in front of the board, updating the surgeries for the day. She saw that Jackson was on a facial reconstruction, and silently took a note to ask him about it later in the day. She heard him talk about the patient before – a burn victim with nearly half of his body covered with third and fourth degree burns – and she was anxious to hear how it went.
"This is a good board," Richard said, stepping beside April. "Evenly spaced. Nice and full."
"It's a good day," April agreed.
Richard was silent for a moment, studying the board. After a moment he said, "You're not up here."
"No, I'm not," April said. "I guess I wasn't put on anyone's service today."
"Well, we'll fix that. You'll scrub in with me."
"Dr. Weber, you don't have to-"
"This is still a teaching hospital," Richard interrupted affably. "And you deserve to be taught. I have a gallbladder to remove in twenty minutes. It's not the most exciting surgery, but it's better than nothing."
April grinned. "I'd be honored to scrub in, sir."
Meredith, Izzie and Callie sat in the cafeteria, finishing a quick lunch before heading off to their respective surgeries. They had been talking about a case they overheard some doctors talking about during the day, and as that conversation died down, it turned toward a more domestic topic.
"You had an anniversary with Arizona a few weeks ago, right?" Meredith asked.
Callie nodded. "Yeah. It was our one year."
"What did you guys do?"
Callie shrugged. "Nothing special. A nice dinner. Some gifts. Anniversary sex. Sort of the standard."
"Derek wants to celebrate this year," Meredith said. "We'll be married three years next week – we've never celebrated – and now he wants to do a big thing."
Callie grinned. "McDreamy's always struck me as the romantic type."
"Exactly," Meredith said. "That's the problem. He's going to plan this wonderful romantic evening, and I'll have nothing."
"I'm sure he doesn't expect some overblown romantic gesture," Izzie said. "He does know you."
"Yeah, the candle house was my one and only overblown romantic gesture," Meredith said. "So, I should just sit back and not worry?"
"That is exactly what you should do."
"It doesn't make me a bad wife?"
"Hey, I sat back and let Arizona do all the planning for our anniversary," Callie said. "And I think I'm a damn good wife."
Izzie looked between Callie and Meredith, wondering what it was they had that she lacked. Even the dark and twisty Meredith Grey had found herself with a husband a kid. How was it that Izzie Stevens – domestic girl next door – was alone? She had tried to find someone after Alex. After beating cancer, she found herself with a new lease on life, and she really did try to open herself up to something new. She dated a few guys, but none of them had was she was looking for. Something was always off, and she found herself alone again, searching for a person that she was becoming increasingly convinced didn't exist.
"It's nice," Izzie said after a moment.
Meredith glanced at her and asked, "What's nice?"
"You guys all settled and happy. I mean, look at you Meredith. You were the resident queen of all things twisted and unhappy, and now you're a wife and a mom. It's amazing."
Meredith caught the undercurrent to what Izzie said and told her, "You'll have it too, Izzie."
"I don't know," Izzie said, laughing humorlessly. "I think I might have used up all my chances at happiness."
"I beat an unbeatable cancer," she said. "If I were God, I wouldn't give me anything else, either." Her pager beeped and Izzie glanced down at her waistband. "I have to go. I'll see you guys later."
Izzie rushed out of the cafeteria, brushing past Alex on her way out. They exchanged a quick hello, and Alex watched her sail down the hallway.
Meredith and Callie watched the exchange from their table, both of them noticing the way Alex's gaze followed Izzie as she rushed past. Callie shook her head.
"That girl is completely blind."
April finished the surgery with Richard, feeling an excitement in the OR that she hadn't felt in weeks. The boards had done a lot to shake her confidence, but Richard's confident instruction made her feel skilled and in control. He let her do the final sutures, nodding appreciatively as she snipped the end.
"You're a fine surgeon, Dr. Kepner," Richard said.
They scrubbed out, her and Richard speaking amiably as they washed their hands and removed their scrubs. Chatting away with the former chief of surgery, April found herself thinking that maybe everything would be okay, like Jackson had been telling her. She would bide her time at Seattle Grace until the next boards. She'd work on skills and gain experience. Next time, she'd pass without fault.
Her beeper went off and she saw Chief Hunt's name flashing on the screen. She headed to his office, wondering what Chief Hunt had in store for her. Perhaps he had an interesting opportunity for her, or he had heard from another hospital. She stepped inside the office, smiling timidly.
"Chief Hunt," she said, nodding in greeting.
"Dr. Kepner, hello," Hunt said. "Sit down, please."
She felt a pull of nerves when she sat down across from him. She had never found Chief Hunt particularly intimidating – he was always giving and open in the OR – but with him behind the large desk, she found herself nervous.
He was silent for a long while – longer than was comfortable – and as the silence stretched on, her stomach twisted.
"This is difficult," he finally said. "This is extremely difficult."
Her stomach dropped. She knew what was coming. It was the opposite of what she expected, but in that moment she had no doubt.
"You're letting me go," she murmured, voice soft. She wanted him to tell her no. She wanted him to shake his head, lean forward and give her soothing words that of course that wasn't the case. Seattle Grace took care of its people. They wouldn't cast her out.
But she knew that wouldn't happen.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I tried to find another way, but with our budget and all the new fellows…" he trailed off, jaw tense. "There just isn't another way."
"Okay," she murmured. She knew she should say something else. Thank him for the experience, maybe. For the opportunity to work under the attendings. She couldn't find the words for either, though. She couldn't find the right thing to say that would tie everything up nicely. Owen was similarly at a loss, clearly uncomfortable.
"When will my last day be?" April asked, finally finding something to say.
"Next Friday," he said. "That should hopefully give you time to set something else up."
"Right," she said, nodding. "Something else."
"April," he began shakily. The use of her first name grabbed her attention and she met his eyes, surprised by the pain in them. It almost seemed as hard for him as it was for her. "I just want you to know, this in no way is a commentary on your skill or ability. You are a good surgeon. Regardless of what that test says. What this says."
She nodded, embarrassed by the tears springing in her eyes. "Thank you, Chief Hunt."
"You're welcome, April." He leaned forward and extended his hand. As they shook hands he said, "Good luck with everything. If you need anything – recommendations or advice – don't hesitate to ask me."
April waited for Jackson in the locker room, passing the time by thinking about all the non-medical jobs she could have.
Book shelver at the library.
The person who collects money at tolls.
She was considering the life of a carnie when Jackson burst into the locker room, rearing with energy from a surgery done well. He grinned wide when he saw her, firing off details at a rapid pace over his shoulder as he changed. She listened silently, nodding when appropriate.
"It was amazing," Jackson enthused. "I mean – stuff like that – it's just amazing!"
"Yeah, it is," April agreed. She bet carnies wouldn't do amazing things like that.
He pulled his shirt over his head and asked, "So, how was your day?"
"Fine," she said. "I did a surgery with Weber."
"Nice." He sat down and pulled on his shoes.
"We removed a patient's gallbladder and then Chief Hunt told me he was letting me go."
Jackson stared at her, his shoe half on his foot. "What?"
"They don't have room for me in the budget," April explained calmly. "He said it was nothing personal. It was just business."
"This is ridiculous," Jackson said, indignant in a way she knew she probably should be, but couldn't find the energy to display. "He can't do this! He can't just kick you out!"
"I'm not a board certified surgeon, Jackson," she said. "He has every right to do this."
"We can fight it. We can go and talk to Hunt. Make him reconsider."
She shook her head, pulling the strap of her messenger bag higher up on her shoulder.
"Jackson, the only thing I want to do is go home."
"They can't do this to you," he said, although the tone of his voice belied the underlying truth. Yes, they could. And they did.
"Come on," she said, holding out her hand. He took it and she pulled him up from the bench. "Stay at my place tonight?"
He nodded. "Sure. Anything you want."
They walked out, both of them trying to convince themselves that this end didn't ensure another.
A/N: For all you guys wanting Jackson/April drama - here's the start! Hope that you enjoyed this. For all my Crowen shippers - next chapter will feature them more :D