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You're a Disease I'm Underneath

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For Ann, dreams are welcome. In each one, as she sits up in bed, a short figure makes way over to her and takes no time in pressing her lips on Ann's. Whatever materials hiding their bodies are thrown away for desperate touches, Ann's fingers sliding along smooth skin and the figure's hands working their way between Ann's legs. It's because of nights like these, this ecstasy and loneliness, that Ann can get through the dreams.

"Please," she whispers in sleep. 

The visitor obliges, and the black mess of hair leaves a trail along her stomach until lips meet flesh and Ann's dreams melt into that same passion every time. Every single time she tries to look through the darkness, to see the face that she's cupping between her legs, and to watch April's eyes as she brings Ann to a crumbling orgasm. When the shadows do lift, a lamp or the sun alleviating them, there's no figure in her bed. There's no April - just Ann and her sweat and her own hands. 

There's no reason she's still having those dreams, not with the way things have been going. It's unfair to pretend that she can think of April like that, and in a selfish fit of desire Ann hoped once that this would make things easier for them. But it doesn't.

Not with who she's become.

 


 

April only knows nightmares. Every step, every breath, is a night terror extending itself throughout the day until she can't breathe anymore. The carpet speaks to her, running water that sounds like him, and liquor that can only numb the pain for a little while. Only a little while until she opens another bottle and drowns those thoughts out again.

When she was younger, even a year back, April took everything for granted and she realizes that now. Now when her house, and only her house, reeks of unwashed clothing, booze, and dog instead of all those things and him. So she drinks more to hide that stench, to keep herself hidden, and stays away from work. She can't get anything done when all she has to do is look at anyone in City Hall and instantly be reminded of what she's taken for granted.

What was taken from her just hours before they could restart their life. Andy was just now learning how important he was, how successful he could be, and on that return flight from London suddenly knew nothing. Suddenly he wasn't anything.

"I miss you," she mumbles to no one in particular.

She talks to herself often, delusional in her hope that he might answer back, and April simply can't get away with that at work. People notice - people like Leslie, and Ron, and Ann.

 


 

Ann puts together the same bag she does every single day. There's water, two refrigerated meals that Ann prepares, and a sleeping pill in a small plastic case. She knew better than to let anyone give April a full prescription, knowing what she's tried before, so she goes daily to deliver the kit to April. It lets Ann sit, driving to the house, and think about what she's doing this for - whether it was because she actually cares about April and wants to see her find her way out of this pit, or if she hopes that she can get closer.

When it's like this, just before noon, Ann wishes that the woman inside the house would step outside and let the sun fall on her skin again. It would be nice to see April without, at best, artificial light surrounding her or the usual pitch black rooms. Knocking on the door, hoping April will step out, the door swings ajar a moment later and no one makes an appearance.

"C'mon," the normally dry voice is replaced by a dead intonation as April walks away from Ann.

"Hey," Ann says awkwardly, holding up the bag even though April isn't looking. "I brought the usual. I made a meatloaf yesterday, and there were leftovers so..."

There's always leftovers. No matter what Ann tells herself she always makes far too much just for herself. There's no reason for her to make these stops, following April into the living room and setting the bag on her kitchen counter. They sit like this for a while, every day, and neither of them say anything to one another. It's a few hours - silence, dust, and shallow breaths - before April puts her head on the armrest and curls up into a ball.

Each time it happens a little bit of Ann breaks, seeing that form crawl away and helpless to do anything. It's not her place to, even if all she wants to do is pull April into her lap and wrap her arms around her. Ann just wants to tell her that she can be all right if April lets herself, and if she lets Ann help. 

But there's nothing to do other than walk over to April, huddled up and breaking tact to let loose a few tears, and kiss her on the forehead. Whether she means it as simple comfort or for her own benefit, Ann isn't sure. Either way, April never reacts to that contact in any other way than a sudden burst of strangled breath. The same words follow, too:

"Go away," she'll say with ragged breaths. "Please... just go away, Ann."

"Okay," Ann will respond with, shaking herself because she just wants to reach through that black veil April's hiding behind.

She wants to pull back the curtains, the ones in the living room and otherwise, and let light in. Maybe not for her own benefit, but maybe just to see April again - and not with her eyes. Ann has more to see in April than her features, despite how dearly she misses her eyes and those long fingers usually stuck up in the air rudely gestured at her, but she can't do it just yet. She can only leave the sleeping pill, and the water, and the overcooked meatloaf likely soaked with a tear or two. 

"Stay," April says that day.

Her hand catches Ann's when she's about to leave just after she's gently kissed April again. Then, April looks up at her and Ann feels that slow shattering all over again. Instead of a stare that's normally reserved with hatred and loathing, April's look catches Ann with a disarming frailty. She quickly gets over the scorching feeling of the younger woman's hand moving to her leg, April falling back to the couch and the armrest.

So Ann stays, not sure what to do. April doesn't move either, but an hour passes and she picks at the meatloaf. After a few bites she discards the tupperware, which Ann collects and puts back in her bag, only to sit up and shiver again. 

"Thanks," she says in a small voice, Ann only just able to catch the words in their entirety. 

"You're... anytime April," and Ann smiles.

If she didn't smile she would comment on April's frayed hair, the circles under her eyes, and how defeated she looks. But she can't think that, definitely can't say a word of that to April, so she just accepts the thanks with a plastered on smile and leaves a few hours later than usual.

 


 

Ann has the dream again, except this time she barges into April's house. They say nothing to each other, April's mouth moving in unsure patterns before Ann crosses the distance and kisses her with the full force that Ann needs. They're both shivering in some strange cold, their hands jittery as they reach up to the other's face and back to meet together and lace fingers, before April starts crying. 

Her face contorted like that, and Ann knows what she must be thinking, brings the whole fantasy to a close. It turns into something else though, something Ann didn't realize she wanted. It's April laying her head in Ann's lap, letting her stroke that black mass of hair and whisper comforting words to her. They punctuate with presses of their lips before April's red face is closer to Ann's again, and soon Ann's laying her across the sofa with less haste than the other dreams.

The woman lies back and Ann removes the same sweatpants she's likely been wearing for days, leaving tender impressions of her lips along thighs and wet, hot skin until her lips meet April in a sweltering sense of closure. Tasting April, even in sleep, was usually just for her own benefit - to know every inch of the woman she couldn't have - but now it's because she wants to feel April come to a halt in release.

Ann wants to look up across April's body and see heaving breasts, closed eyes, and a look of unbridled pleasure not for her own edification but just to make April happy. Making love to April could be her comfort, even if it was just her imagination. The dream is punctuated with a sad, little whine escaping April's mouth when Ann suckles and, eventually, wakes up.

Breathing hard in bed, Ann wipes away a bead of sweat and buries herself in the pillow. Her eyes squeeze tight as she chases that dream again, running desperately for April so that she can at least comfort her in sleep. At least, in that, Ann could help her. Maybe she could even save her.

 


 

One breath, two drinks. 

Repeat on loop, in step with one of Mouserat's albums, and that's April's day. Everything flows together into a miasma of horrible thoughts, dredged up memories that make her cry more, and Ann's visits. On some level she's happy for the human contact but only because she can take that pill and have a dreamless rest for a night.

In that, she is thankful. Because of Ann she's forgotten some of those fitful nights. In part, April knows a more comfortable night because she's locked the door to their bedroom and refuses to go in there ever again. If she has her way that bed will rot with that pillow on it, those sheets, and collapse in on itself so that April never has to think about it again. She can have control in the physical reality around her even if inside her mind it's nothing but relentless memory and regret.

 


 

"Maybe we can be okay," Ann tells Leslie. 

"Maybe," she says through a mouthful of whipped cream. 

"I just don't know how to help her," she mutters and picks at her own salad, looking back up to Leslie. "Everyone misses her."

"Yeah," Leslie sighs, pursing her lips in the way that lets Ann know any more talk will only lead to fits of unwelcome crying for the both of them. "I think she just needs someone, y'know."

"I get that," Ann nods, chewing and trying to ignore that she wants to be that someone so bad it hurts. "I'll keep checking up on her for you Leslie."

"Oh Ann, you're too perfect," Leslie holds her hand and Ann smiles because if she doesn't the other woman will know something's wrong.

In reality she's a miserable failure, a horrible friend, and desperate. She's so desperate for April that she was willing to fantasize about the woman's body all night, yet not strong enough to say a word to her when she delivered her pathetic attempt at a care bag. She doesn't take the bottles out of April's fridge, or take her to someone at the hospital and use one of Ann's myriad built up favors, and for what?

So that she can see her every day. So that she can kiss her every day, even if it's just on her forehead like a worrying mother. It's a selfish streak of doubt because Ann worries that if she helps April then they might not be different at the end. 

"I have to go," Ann jolts out of the bench without another thought, her eyes watering immediately. "I... I just-"

"Oh right, visit to April soon," Leslie smile at her and Ann's thankful she's inundated with work or she might notice Ann's tears.

Or maybe she does notice and doesn't question it. Maybe she knows. Either way, Ann has to collect herself enough to set up the bag for the day.

 


 

"Thanks," April says slowly for the seventh time in seven days.

"You're welcome," Ann's learned to say that with a warm comfort in her chest.

It's not what she really wants - April still drinks, and her breath is always heavy with alcohol, and never leaves the house either - but it's something. At least now she can see April in clean clothes and with some color in her cheeks from consistent meals. Seven days, seven dreams, and seven nights where Ann wants to knock on the door and share that couch with April just to let her know she's there. 

"For y'know..." she falters for a moment, her mouth hanging open and hands unsure what to do, "um... for trying."

"I'll always try April," Ann says calmly, ignoring how it sounds in her own head.

"Yeah... thanks," and it's so quiet that Ann barely hears her.

April pulls her into a hug for a brief second before standing up and following her out to the front door. She shrugs at Ann when the door's half-open but doesn't cross the threshold, leaving Ann to walk out alone. 

Outside, in twilight Pawnee, Ann lets out a choked sob at what just happened. It's not much, but April's speaking to her in semi-complete sentences and it's incredible. Maybe the next time she visits there will be lights, and water instead of wine, and April will have a small smile. Perhaps Ann can tell a joke and April will grimace at her like old times, except she could smile. Or, maybe, when she goes to visit the next day all that's left in the house is a body.

Maybe there will be bones where there was April.