Author's Note: Set directly after "Halloween Surprise" (5x05), but the recall that is threatened in "Soda Tax" (5x02) and occurs in "Are You Better Off?" (5x22) is already happening. I hope to live up to the standard set by the terrific Ann/April fics of Kyndeyrn. Indispensable beta-work by Driftwoodsun. I try to update a chapter a week.
Ann tried balancing the three plastic grocery bags with a cup of coffee as she maneuvered through the doors of city hall. The drink, hot and black, spilled onto her wrist; as it burnt she jumped, spilling more. "Dammit." After a double at the hospital, starting around midnight, she needed caffeine. She exhaled, and dumped the cup into a nearby trash can, shaking her hand off above it.
She walked through Leslie's office, attempting a tired smile. "I got all the stuff…. walkie talkies, yarn, and the city's zoning records from the last ten years. What's this for, anyway?"
Leslie perked up, and cocked her head to the side. "Oh Ann, you beautiful Johnny-come-lately. That was ages ago."
Ann's eyebrows shot up. "I came straight here from the hospital—"
Leslie was already up. "New plan! Something's come up, Ann. It's big." She looked over her shoulder as she headed out of the office. "I'll let you know what we need!"
"Oh…kay?" Leslie was already gone. Alone in Leslie's office, Ann slumped and finally put down the bags. She shook her wrist out, still hot and red from the coffee. She didn't want to close her eyes; when she was this tired it made things spin. But this time she couldn't help it.
"Gee Ann," April's sneering voice jolted her eyes open, "I thought it would be a couple more years until you turned into a bag lady."
Ann shrugged it off and walked over to April's desk. "Do you know what Leslie's talking about?"
April looked up at Ann, irritated. "I never know. Government blah blah blah, female empowerment blah blah blah, waffles blah blah blah."
Ann stared at April, waiting the real explanation. April rolled her eyes and huffed. "OK, people are upset about the anti-obesity legislation Leslie wants to put through the council," April said, not looking up toward Ann, engrossed in shredding a napkin. "Ben did some poll thing and found out that she's going to lose the recall election if she doesn't drop it."
"Oh," Ann paused. "What's she going to do?"
April looked up at Ann, irritated. "I don't know. People in this stupid town love Sweetums and Paunchburger more than anything. I don't get what Leslie thinks is so great about Pawnee anyway."
Ann wanted to say something to defend her adopted town, but nothing came. She was exhausted and nauseated, and just shrugged.
April's tone softened only a little. "What are you going to do now?"
"I don't know," Ann sighed. "I kind of plan my day around Leslie." Her wrist still stung.
April frowned and glanced at the bags slumped against Leslie's desk. "Well that's just sad, Ann," April said. Ann shook her head, too tired to fight. "Yeah."
April picked at her fries as she scanned the veterinary textbook in front of her, about ready to shut it for the night. "Ugh, why do cows have to have so many stomachs?" she said in frustration. Andy sat down at their table and took a big bite of his burger. "I don't know babe" he said through chewing as he watched the football game playing quietly on the TV, "but they're doing it right, cause they taste awesome."
April recoiled a little. She had been studying all night how animals work and how to heal them; it was weird to think of them as food. Suddenly the prospect of chewing their flesh made her queasy. "Don't be gross."
Andy laughed and thrust his burger towards her, speaking sing-song for it: "Don't eat me, April! I'm just a little bitty cow!"
April pushed it away, annoyed. "Don't. Cows are actually really sweet. If I'm going to be a vet, I'm going to have to treat animals…." she said. Andy just laughed.
April shrugged and turned on a CD, hoping that the familiar album would put her at ease.
She was only back to her reading for a minute. "Hey babe?" Andy asked, looking thoughtful. "What do you think is worse: not being able to pee all day, or having to drink pee once?"
She rubbed her eyes, trying not to be irritated. "Andy, if I'm going to get into the program at Wilmington I really need to study this." She didn't want to sound harsh, and gave an exaggerated pout. Andy smiled. "Sorry babe. I promise I'll let you study now."
April went back to her book. Mid-way through a paragraph on the circulatory system, she could sense that Andy was getting antsy. "What?"
"Umm, is this," Andy grimaced, gestured the stereo which was softly putting out sound, "that CD Chris likes to play about the monk?"
"No," she sighed, "this is Neutral Milk Hotel." She tried to change the topic. "Can you please quiz me on this?" Andy was already distracted by the football game playing silently on the TV. "I'm not good at that stuff. But Ann is, why don't you just ask her?" He took another bite of his burger while he focused on the TV and tossed the Paunchburger wrapper aside. "She's, like, a real adult or something."
April shut her book. "Yeah. I guess sometimes you need that."
Ann woke up cold. It took a while for her eyes to adjust to the light streaming in through the sides of the blinds. The knocking that had awakened her sounded again.
She stumbled to the door, and opened it up to April, who looked her up and down and scoffed at her pajamas. "Sleep in much?"
Ann squinted in the bright sunlight. "Sometimes I work the late shift at the hospital." April brushed past her and sunk down onto the couch. "Make yourself at home," Ann muttered as she closed the door, and went to the kitchen to make some coffee. "What's up?"
"I, umm," April mumbled, "I kind of need your help. You had to learn about anatomy and stuff for nursing school right?"
"Well, I have to learn about things like that for veterinary school. And Andy's not really helping me study, so I thought maybe you could… help." April tried to be casual about it as she paged through a healthy eating magazine on Ann's coffee table.
Ann smiled and crossed her arms playfully over her chest. "Well, I guess you must think pretty highly of my professional expertise, then, April."
April shrugged. "I guess you're bound to learn something about medicine if you sleep with as many doctors as you have," she said, not looking up from an overlong article about flax seed. Her voice was flat, but something in it told Ann that April was pleased with her response.
Ann rolled her eyes and went back for the coffee. "Fine." She stopped. "But you've got to do something for me."
April looked up from the magazine.
"I have all five seasons of Sex and the City, and you and I are finally going to watch it," Ann grinned.
April grimaced. "Can't I just read the summary on Wikipedia?" April recognized the lotion on the table as the same kind Tom used at his desk.
Ann wrapped her hands around the cup of coffee, still trying to get warm. "Why don't you come over after work tomorrow and we'll get started?"
"OK." April got up and was ready to leave.
"Hey April." Ann stopped her. "Maybe this is none of my business, but… if that veterinary school is in Wilmington, does that mean you're leaving Pawnee?"
April stared at her feet, unable to look up. "I don't know. Andy wants to stay here. But," she bit her lip, "I just don't see the point."
Ann frowned. "What do you mean?"
April's brown eyes looked up into Ann's. "I don't know what's here for me. Or anyone. You never think about leaving?"
Ann looked down now. "Sometimes. Not much anymore. Things get… things get complicated, April. It's hard to disentangle yourself from someplace, after a while. Maybe you don't feel it yet, but you will."
April noticed that the white square on the magazine bore Ann's address, but the postmark had the name "Chris Treager" typed at the top. "No shit, Ann." April turned around, opened the door, and left.
Ann looked around the room. She was up; she might as well do something. She just didn't know what. Leslie still hadn't told her what the new project was, and the hospital didn't need her for another few days. She sat down on the couch, and looked at the remote control, but she was sick of TV. She was in a bad mood, and she didn't know if it was because of April or not.
She picked up the magazine April had looked at. It was months old, but she felt like she needed to read the articles in it before she could throw it away. Lately she just couldn't bring herself to care. And now there were ten or twelve magazines on her table, cluttering it, accumulating. These magazines felt like her past, pulling her down like a weight. Had she really wanted a subscription to Natural Health? Or was it just because Chris kept a copy in his office? It didn't matter much anymore. Now every month it was going to just keep showing up. She hated looking at them. She collected each of them, and dumped them into the garbage in the kitchen.
She still didn't know what she was going to do now that she was up. She wandered over to the window, wondering if she could still see April walking down the street, but all the view could offer her was the empty lot that used to be the Pit.