Thanks for the reviews! Well, folks. We've reached the end of this story. Thank you for reading/reviewing and I really hope you enjoyed it, angst and all :)
Jackson had never actually been to a carnival. So when he heard April talking to herself about returning to the carnival, he initially thought he misunderstood her words. Why would she be thinking about carnivals during sex?
But he quickly realized his girlfriend had been referring to one of the many metaphors she occasionally invented whenever she struggled to speak straightforwardly. The metaphors used to bother him because she always seemed to be talking about their confusing relationship in a negative light, but the carnival idea was amusing. He may not have visited a real carnival, but he certainly enjoyed the metaphorical kind.
They rode almost all of the rides that night and he enjoyed every second of it.
He was definitely smitten. It took him a half an hour to say his goodbyes and leave April's apartment in the morning. If the plastic surgeon hadn't been forced to go home and change clothes, he would have arrived at the hospital with her. For at least an hour, they were separated again. While he hardly wanted to feel like that guy who couldn't live without his other half, that was exactly how he felt when he walked into the attendings locker room and she wasn't there yet.
Perhaps it was a good thing April hadn't arrived. Jackson believed it would have been impossible to change into his scrubs since he would be too busy watching her change into hers. He walked to his cubby and began removing his street clothes.
Alex entered the locker room, immediately approaching his friend. "Dude, I sent you a text last night asking if you wanted to get a drink at Joe's," he greeted him somewhat agitatedly. "Did you get it?"
"Yeah, I got it… this morning," the pretty boy replied with a smirk. His cell phone had been on silent all night, for obvious reasons. Any interruptions would have killed the mood between him and April. No pages either, which was a blessing. "Sorry. I was busy."
"Busy doing what?" The pediatric surgeon furrowed his eyebrows after he noticed a visible hickey on Jackson's neck. He pointed at the dark spot and laughed out loud. "Avery, you got laid, huh? Freakin' A, it's about time."
"More than once," he gloated, grinning at his coworker.
Alex pursed his lips and smiled when he connected the dots. "You and Kepner?"
Jackson proudly nodded. "That means you can stop calling me Mr. No Balls, Karev. My balls are well-rounded and energetic now," he quipped.
"Wow, don't ever say something like that about your balls again. It's weird." He removed his jacket and threw it into his cubby. "So, uhh, what about Abbott? Did she cheat on him or what?"
"No, she broke up with him a couple days ago."
"And now, you two are together and all is well?"
"Exactly," Jackson happily answered, pulling his t-shirt over his head. He smiled gleefully as he thought about April again. "She loves me, I love her. We straightened everything out, so no more complicated problems – at least for now. I feel like we're finally on the same page and we're happy. You have no idea how hard it was to leave her this morning."
Alex rolled his eyes, softly chuckling. "You're so whipped."
"Make fun of me all you want, but my spirits are too high and invulnerable to kill today," he nonchalantly replied while he tied the strings of his scrub pants. The redhead he had been eager to see again walked into the locker room and the plastics man's face lit up even more. "Good morning, Dr. Kepner."
April spun around after setting her purse inside of her cubby. "Good morning, Dr. Avery," she bashfully greeted her boyfriend back. She forced herself to face the other way to hide her blushing cheeks. Jackson was topless, giving her a clear view of his chiseled upper body. "Oh, and hi, Alex."
"You guys are lame," Alex sneered. "The formal greetings aren't fooling me. Avery already spilled the beans, but seriously. I guess I'm happy for you or whatever. It's nice to know his balls grew back."
Jackson shot their colleague a look, then he approached April from behind. He wrapped his arms around her waist and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. "That's okay, right? I mean, everybody's bound to find out anyway."
"It's fine. There's no reason to keep us a secret," the trauma surgeon replied, placing her hands on top of his. "Does your mother know yet? I'm sure she'll be thrilled about us."
"I haven't seen her yet, but this may be one of the few times I'm looking forward to talking to my mother," he jokingly said and tickled her neck with the tip of his nose. He firmly held her against his body and took in the scent of her lavender shampoo. "Did you miss me?"
April playfully rolled her eyes at his flirtatious advancements. "If I say no, will you throw a tantrum and break up with me?"
Gently kissing her neck and moving up to her jaw line, Jackson stopped at the edge of her lips. "No, because I know you would be lying to me," he huskily whispered, slightly tilting her head sideways to kiss her. "By the way, I'm a huge fan of the carnival. Actually, I've always been. Just didn't realize how big of a fan I was until last night."
She turned around to face him, running a finger along his chest. "Oh, yeah? What's your favorite ride?"
"Hmm… I'm not sure if there's a specific name for it, but from what I remember I had a very nice view of your-"
Alex grimaced after overhearing his friends speak metaphorically dirty to each other. "For Christ's sake! Get a room!" he groaned, taking his lab coat from his cubby after changing into his scrubs. The pediatric surgeon scowled at the couple as he headed for the exit. "Not even five minutes and I'm already sick of you two."
Jackson snickered after their coworker rushed out of the locker room. He was even more grateful that they were alone now. "I was just going to say eyes, but whatever," the pretty boy quipped, eliciting a loud laugh from his girlfriend. "Can I buy you some coffee?"
"Sure. I would love some coffee," April chirped.
He rested his hands on the redhead's hips with a mischievous grin on his face. "Okay, then what do I get in return?"
Hopping up onto her tip toes, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "One of these," she softly said before kissing his other cheek. "And one of those…"
"How about right here?" he asked, puckering his lips and pointing at them.
April's arms snaked over Jackson's shoulders as her lips grazed his. She had hoped to avoid him in the locker room that morning because she knew it would be difficult for her to resist him, especially when he purposely kept his shirt off and worked his charm on her. Her guilt was different now. Rather than feeling guilty for sleeping with him in the past, she felt guilty for wanting to be with him all day instead of saving lives. Harmless guilt, she preferred to call it.
She grasped the back of his head, pressing her lips against his, albeit a little too hard. The muffled groan that escaped his mouth made her giggle. Sometimes she didn't realize how aggressive she could actually be.
In the back of her mind, the trauma surgeon knew she should be changing into her scrubs and reporting downstairs to the pit. However, if there weren't any urgent traumas coming in and her pager wasn't ringing off the hook, she could spare some minutes with Jackson.
And his tongue.
But their intimate moment was fittingly interrupted by Ryan's presence. He appeared disgruntled as he pretended to ignore the couple when they pulled away from each other. April had turned her back to him to hide her embarrassment, while the plastic surgeon retreated back to his cubby. Now, she was feeling another type of guilt. She hadn't seen her former best friend, turned boyfriend, turned ex-boyfriend since breaking up with him two days ago. Clearly, he was hurt and publicly flaunting her reignited relationship with Jackson was a slap in the face.
"Good morning," the orthopedic surgeon muttered.
"Good morning, Ryan," she casually greeted him back. The tension in the locker room quickly became unbearable, so April gathered her scrubs from her cubby and decided to change privately in the restroom.
Jackson managed to buy April her coffee, track her down in the ER and ride the elevator upstairs in time for one of many boring board meetings scheduled for the day. It took time for his co-board members to warm up to him as the leader of the hospital, but they seemed to respect him more now than when they first learned that the Harper Avery Foundation anointed him as the representative of their ownership. Although he had gotten the hang of running the hospital, it still wasn't his preference. He considered himself lucky if he was given the opportunity to suture a small wound in the pit.
Waiting for him inside of the conference room were the rest of the board members. It also marked Meredith's first day back at work from maternity leave, so he decided to bring a box of doughnuts along with him to celebrate her return. They normally didn't care for the sugary treat, but he was in too good of a mood to feel offended if nobody wanted any. More doughnuts for him.
"Hey, uhh… I know I'm running a little late, but-"
"It's no problem, Avery," Callie waved off his excuse and winked at him. "We know why. No need to explain."
Setting the doughnuts on the conference table, Jackson opened it and pushed it towards the center. "Okay," he slowly answered before taking his seat. "And welcome back, Grey. I brought those doughnuts especially for you."
"Thank you," Meredith responded with a smile. "I'm glad to be here again."
"Alright," he sighed, rummaging through his stack of papers. "First topic on the agenda-"
"So you and Kepner are doing it again, huh?" Cristina teasingly inquired with a smirk.
Jackson softly laughed as he stared at his blank notepad. "That's not in our topic of discussion, Yang."
"Oh, you and April got back together?" Meredith asked curiously. "Since when?"
"Since I caught them making out on my couch the other night while they babysat Sofia," Callie answered, grinning widely at the bashful plastic surgeon. "And for the record, I didn't spread the news. Karev put you two on blast after you apparently tortured him with your sex talk."
"Let's get back on topic, everybody," Jackson ordered, fighting back a smile. He didn't mind bragging about his newly restored relationship, but board meetings were meant to be serious not a place for gossiping like teenagers. And he was thankful Catherine didn't attend their meetings because she would have been a never ending chatter box that he wouldn't be able to shut up. "C'mon, the faster we get through this, the sooner we can leave."
Arizona dismissively waved her hand and smiled brightly, which was a rare sight to see. "Don't hide your happiness, Avery. I'm not."
He exchanged glances between Callie and Arizona with a raised eyebrow. They were actually sitting beside each other without wanting to rip each other's throats out. Their past meetings in the last couple of months were more uncomfortable when they weren't speaking to each other. The Latina woman used to sit at one end of the table, while her wife was seated on the opposite end.
Those "very important plans" that Torres had mentioned when she asked him to babysit Sofia made more sense now. She must have been meeting with the pediatric surgeon to discuss the fate of their marriage. It was obvious to him their get-together had gone well. The fact that they were making googly eyes at each other gave it away even more.
"I'm happy, I promise. But we're still stuck with this board junk, so let's get moving," Jackson murmured.
"Ah, I get it. Pretty Boy wants to hurry up and get this meeting over with, so he can partake in a special consult with Kepner," Cristina jokingly responded and shared a laugh with their colleagues. She reached for a doughnut and pretended to wave royally at him. "Go ahead, boss."
At least the teasing wasn't mean spirited, he thought. It seemed they were all happy for him and April, so he wasn't going to complain. The hour couldn't go by faster for Jackson. As soon as it ended, he bolted out the door before the other doctors could tease him again. Checking his watch, he had two hours to spare before a scheduled facelift. He knew exactly where he wanted to be until then.
As he waited for the elevator, another surgeon stood beside him. Ryan took a deep breath and placed his hands on his hips. "You and me need to talk, man," he stated in a serious tone.
"I'm a little busy at the moment," Jackson lied, avoiding eye contact with the blonde man. In his mind, the orthopedic surgeon didn't want to talk. He probably wanted to kick his ass. "Maybe later."
Ryan followed him into the elevator. After the doors closed, he pushed the emergency stop button creating a jolt inside. "Now can we talk, Avery?" he impatiently questioned.
The pretty eyed man cautiously backed up against the farthest wall. "It depends. Will violence be involved? Because I've been in a few scuffles here and there, so I'm prepared to fight for April."
He rolled his eyes and slid his hands inside of his lab coat pockets. "I don't want to fight you. We just need to have an overdue man to man talk without anybody interrupting us," he insisted. "Look, I've always known April was in love with you. She never said it outright, but I'm not an idiot. You were always the one for her. If you make her happy, then fine. That's cool. I respect you, man, so I hope now you'll stop looking at me like I'm the enemy and respect me too."
Jackson folded his arms, slightly furrowing his eyebrows at Ryan. "Are you being for real or is this the beginning of a very sadistic ploy to make nice and murder me later?" he suspiciously asked.
"Do I come off as a guy who wants to kill you?"
"The good looking ones are usually the homicidal maniacs," he noted and immediately pointed at himself. "Except me, of course."
"I'm going to ignore your shallow comment and tell you instead that I'm not a homicidal maniac. If I was, I would've killed you in your sleep when you were crashing at my apartment," Ryan pointed out, rolling his eyes again. "Which is totally different from thinking about suffocating you with a pillow and I've done that, but I'm not twisted enough to actually do it."
Jackson nodded his head. "Okay, then. Well, as long as there aren't any ill feelings towards me…" He stepped forward and extended out his right hand. "I suppose being friends won't hurt either of us. However, I'll make one exception and that's when Harvard and Yale football are playing in The Game. I won't play nice."
"Fine by me," Ryan agreed, shaking the other man's hand. He pushed the emergency stop button again to reactivate the elevator. It stopped on the second floor and he walked out and turned around to face Jackson, smirking at him. "Oh, and you owe me a new inflatable mattress. Electrical tape? Really?"
The doors closed and the plastic surgeon laughed to himself. "Damn," he mumbled, thinking he had gotten away with covering up the hole in Abbott's inflatable mattress. By then, Jackson thought he would have just bought a brand new bed for the spare bedroom. On a positive note, trying to build a friendship with Ryan meant he gained another male friend and the news would earn him more points with April.
Arriving at the ER's floor, he searched for his girlfriend and found her tending to a patient, so he decided to wait for her by the nurses' station until she was finished. The trauma surgeon gave one of her residents instructions on how to treat the patient before heading towards Jackson's direction. She softly chuckled as she stood beside him, clutching her tablet against her chest.
"Do you need something, Dr. Avery?" she innocently asked.
"Actually, yes. As a member of the board, part of my job is to observe the ER and ensure our doctors are doing their jobs sufficiently. Unfortunately, your individual performance is unsatisfactory, Dr. Kepner," Jackson answered with a serious tone to his voice. "In fact, it's better that I speak to you privately about this matter."
April frowned as she followed him out of the pit. She waited until they were in another hallway to smile back at him. "Your angry boss face is kind of cute," she complimented.
"I've practiced," he boasted as they searched for the closest available on-call room. "Abbott cornered me in an elevator earlier."
"He did? What did he say?"
"Nothing threatening, if that's what you're thinking. He uhh, he wants to be friends with me," Jackson truthfully replied and shrugged his shoulders. "I'm cool with it. I mean, as long as he's not secretly trying to kill me. That's what you wanted, right? For us to be friends."
"You don't have to be friends with Ryan if you really don't want to."
"No, I'm going to try. He's another drinking buddy option whenever Karev's busy with Wilson, so it's fine."
"That's great. I'm glad you're willing to give him another chance – just don't fall for him, okay?" April teased and laughed at her own joke.
Jackson shook his head as he opened a door to an empty on-call room. "Yeah, that's definitely not happening." He walked inside with the redhead, closing the door behind him and pinning April against it.
She tugged on the lapels of his lab coat and kissed him. "How was your meeting?"
"Boring as always," he murmured against her lips before moving down to her neck. "It doesn't matter to me how important the job is. It's painfully boring and it cuts into my real job. I feel like I only cut people twice a week these days."
"You poor baby. Anything I can do to make you feel better?"
Jackson grinned as he pushed April's lab coat off of her shoulders. "I've got a few ideas."
Brushing aside hair that had covered her face, April placed her hand on her forehead as she panted heavily. Beside her, Jackson propped himself up using his elbow and smiled down at her. His breathing was more controlled, but she had equally given him a workout of his own.
"That was…" her voice trailed as she stared at the ceiling.
"You're not gonna say it was stupid again, are you?" the plastic surgeon quipped. She gently slapped his chest in response, then he placed a soft kiss on her lips. He really appreciated the fact that they could make love and she wouldn't feel guilty about it afterwards. "I love you."
"I love you too, Jackson." April crossed her arms over the blanket and smiled. "I like saying that. I love you. It's nice to be able to say it to somebody who isn't my mom or dad or my sisters. And to hear it being said back to me, I get this funny feeling in my stomach. That butterfly feeling, you know what I mean?"
He nodded, slipping his hand into hers and interlocking their fingers. "I never really did say it out loud before."
"Not even with Lexie?" It was awkward bringing up their deceased coworker and his ex-girlfriend, but she became incredibly curious. "I always thought you… well, I know you cared deeply for her."
"I did. I'm not sure I could call it love, though. Maybe at the time, I thought it was," Jackson admitted. "But I'm not second guessing my feelings for you. I'm definitely in love with you."
April pressed her free hand against her boyfriend's cheek and smiled, pulling him down for another kiss. Her pager went off on the floor and she rolled over to pick it up. "Incoming trauma," she announced. The redhead rushed to dress herself, while he remained lying in bed. When she finished getting dressed she adjusted her lab coat before hovering over Jackson and kissing him one more time. "See you later."
"Have fun," he playfully called out to her as she sprinted out of the on-call room. Instead of putting his clothes back on, he decided to relax for a few more minutes and recall the amazing sex he just had.
In the hallway, April nearly bulldozed Catherine on her way to the elevator. "Slow down, baby. Where's the fire?" the urologist amusingly inquired.
"Sorry, Dr. Avery. I-I I was just paged for an incoming trauma, so I'm trying to report downstairs to the pit as fast as I can," she explained, forcing a cheesy grin. "Has Jackson told you the news?"
"About what, dear?" Mama Avery noticed something peculiar about April's attire and moved closer to her. "Your scrub top is inside out, by the way."
Glancing down at her shirt, she nervously laughed and backed away from her. "I really should be downstairs for that incoming trauma," she sheepishly said, her cheeks and neck turning a bright shade of red.
"Do you know where my baby boy is, Dr. Kepner?"
"Umm… I'm not sure, but I bet you'll find him soon. You always do," April hurriedly responded before spinning around on her heel and running to the closest stairwell.
Catherine wondered where her son was hiding. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that he and the perky surgeon had finally gotten back together. Walking down the hallway, she began snooping through each on-call room she passed by. Just when she thought her luck ran out, she spotted Jackson in bed from the door's window. Without knocking, she barged inside, startling him in the process.
"Is there something you haven't told me, sweetie?" she asked, placing her hand against her hip while she tapped her foot.
Jackson instantly sat up on the bed covering his abdomen and everything below with the blanket. "Mom! Shut the door!" he demanded and closed his eyes. His worst nightmare finally came true – his mother walking in on him after a round of sex. If April had still been next to him, it would have been ten times worse. "Do you mind? I'm… not wearing any underwear."
"Oh, calm down. We'll talk when you're free and fully clothed, okay?" his mother chuckled.
"I have a surgery in about an hour and a half, so our talk will have to wait a little longer," he agitatedly replied. "And yes, I'm with April. You can interrogate me for details later."
Catherine grinned widely at him. "That's my boy."
After she left him alone, Jackson collapsed back onto the bed. He grabbed one of the pillows and covered his face with it, groaning loudly. The pretty boy planned on staying in the on-call room for an extra five minutes, but after his most recent and embarrassing encounter with his mother, another twenty minutes were necessary.
Even an hour post-surgery, Jackson opted to avoid Catherine as much as possible. He continued to feel humiliated about her discovering him naked in an on-call room and he fully anticipated her giving him grief over it, along with countless questions about his relationship with April. To pass the time, he decided to watch his girlfriend operate on a patient with gall bladder stones while he simultaneously dealt with paperwork for the Harper Avery Foundation. He found himself staring at her from OR 2's gallery more than filling out the papers sitting on his lap.
A small smile formed on his face as he realized how much her scrub cap fit her personality. It was bright and colorful just like she was. He enjoyed seeing her in control of her operating room. People listened to her and didn't question her authority. And of course, her confidence was a major turn on for him.
His peace and quiet in the gallery was disrupted when Catherine joined him and sat down beside him. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he tilted his head down to look at his paperwork. "Yes, Mom?"
"Are you ready to talk, baby?" she politely asked, crossing her legs as she glanced down at April. "She's good for you. I can tell she's less wound up now. I can also say the same for you."
Jackson let out a laugh. "How about we skip all of the sex talk? It was embarrassing when I was fifteen and it's still embarrassing now."
She took his hand and squeezed it. "Then, what do you want to talk about? I feel like I'm always the one who has to initiate the conversation because you hardly open up to me. Sometimes it's like I have to threaten to cut off a finger before you start talking."
He quickly shrugged. Being open with others wasn't his favorite thing to do. It was difficult enough with April and while it felt refreshing to pour out his feelings to her, it wasn't the same situation with Catherine. "I don't know. I'm happy. I don't know what else I'm supposed to say."
"Well, is she the woman you want to marry in the future?"
"Yeah, of course. I thought you knew that."
"I make assumptions, dear. It doesn't mean I actually know what's going on inside of that head of yours," she teased, poking his temple. "So, this means I will be getting grandbabies from you soon, yes?"
Jackson bit down on his lower lip and smiled. "Just don't dictate how many we should have."
Mama Avery squealed in excitement before planting a smooch on her son's cheek. She used her thumb to wipe away the lipstick print she left behind causing him to move his head away. "What? April won't care if she sees us bonding. She might find it attractive, you know."
"I'm sure she does," he murmured. "But it doesn't mean I want you coddling me like I'm two years old."
"Anyway, are you two taking it slow or do you both know what you want?"
"If you're trying to ask me if I'm ready to propose to her, the answer is no. I'm not. We only got back together two days ago, so while we managed to get everything out in the open, we've still got a long road ahead of us," Jackson explained. He stared at his girlfriend again and another smile appeared on his face. "But I can't imagine myself with anybody else."
April yawned as she stepped out of the elevator when it arrived on the fifth floor. Her shift had ended and she was exhausted. Half of the reason was from running around in the pit and the other half was due to her overzealous and horny boyfriend. Jackson struggled to stay away from her throughout the day even if it was just to check on her. He had been a gentleman, asking her if she needed another round of coffee or a brief massage to ease away the knots in her shoulders.
And she occasionally peeked up at the gallery during her operation when Catherine visited briefly to speak with Jackson. They had appeared to be having a delightful conversation. He smiled continuously about whatever they were talking about. For once, he didn't feel annoyed by her presence.
She entered the locker room and was surprised to see the plastic surgeon sitting in front of her cubby, already dressed out of his scrubs. "You're off? I thought you had more board meeting stuff."
"I did, but after a lengthy talk with my mom, she realized how much of a burden being in charge was for me. I'm not saying I quit the board, but she agreed to take over for me in terms of delegating everything," he happily stated. "That doesn't mean I'm exempt from those boring meetings. I'm still a part of that, but at least partially stepping down from my position gives me more room to be a doctor again."
"That's wonderful," April congratulated Jackson with a kiss. "And your mother's completely fine with that?"
He nodded as he watched her remove her scrub top. "My grandfather will probably send me a ridiculously long e-mail about how Averys are supposed to be leaders instead of followers. I don't care, though. I have to do what's best for me."
"If it makes you happy-"
"It does," he insisted, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. "You do too."
"You're so sweet," she gushed. April spent the next few minutes changing into her street clothes, then she and Jackson walked out of the locker room hand in hand. "I'm hungry."
He pressed the button for the main lobby and draped his arm around her shoulders. "Hmm… me too. What are you feeling tonight?"
"I've been aching for a fat, juicy burger from Joe's," she confessed, laughing at his surprised expression. "It's so unlike me, but I really want one. Oh, and a beer. Just thinking about it is making me salivate."
"Huh, now that you mention it, I want the same thing." Jackson kissed the top of April's head and smiled. He loved being on the same page as her. "A casual date at Joe's. Not a bad idea."
"Who said it was a date?" The trauma surgeon stuck her tongue out at him when he blankly stared back at her. She giggled and rested her cheek against his shoulder. "I think anything we do together after work is a date night."
The elevator arrived at the main lobby and they walked out together. "Sounds good to me," he concurred.
April wrapped her arm around Jackson's waist as they exited the hospital side by side. Their journey had been complicated and frustrating, but it helped them realize their true feelings along the way. Now, everything felt perfect between them.
Please let me know what you thought of this chapter or the story as a whole :) For those waiting for JM&Y to be updated again, I'll try to work on that soon and I do have a small AU ficlet coming soon as well. Thanks again for reading!