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Her Fortress

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April was a natural at keeping a poker face and a deadpan voice, but not at keeping her feelings away. At least she could hide them with the sardonic attitude she displayed toward everyone. Especially Ann. If she couldn’t be with her, she might as well build walls around her heart, April figured. An impenetrable fortress to keep Ann out.

April takes in Ann for the very first time as the nurse opened her front door. Her throat went dry as she gazed at the older woman. Ann’s long hair flowed down her shoulders in perfect, brown curls against her tan skin. April thought she was beautiful.

When Ann finally explodes at the hospital around the first flu season, April knew she had feelings for her. It hit her like a blazing train she never saw coming across the tracks. She knew she was attracted to the older woman, but never thought it would turn into something more.

“That’s the most I’ve ever liked Ann” she tells the camera, with a faint smile. It was funny, especially since she already had a crush on Andy, and Ann kissed him, knowing this.

It was nice to learn that, like April, Ann could snap at someone if she wanted to. Even if that was at April herself. But on the other hand, April truly did not want Ann to hold ill will towards her. It was depressing enough that Ann would never feel the same way.

It was hard to look at Ann knowing that she was seeing men, but it didn’t hurt too much, as Ann never stuck with any of them for long. Not even Mark.

But when Ann met Chris, April knew it would be different. The nurse was obsessed with picking apart the state auditor’s imperfections so much that she didn’t—she couldn’t—stop until she found one. Knots curled in April’s stomach just thinking about it. She tried to think of Andy, but when she did, she could only feel guilt on top of her unrequited feelings for Ann. Andy was her boyfriend. There was no doubt that she liked him. He made her heart skip a beat, but when she looked at him, everything vanished except Ann, alongside him. It wasn’t that April liked him less, it was that she liked Ann just as much.

What was April supposed to do? Ann was never going to like her back. She was beautiful enough to have any guy she wanted—and she did. She had Chris. And April knew there was no way she could compete with him. He made Ann smile in a way she had never done with the surly intern. How was Ann supposed to look at her the same way she looked at Chris?

“If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time” April and Ann sing in harmony. Together. The irony was not lost on the younger woman — she knew no matter how much she wanted it, Ann would never find her when she was lost. And April was becoming more lost in her feelings for Ann within the fortress she built around her heart to hide them. April could only lean on the song’s words for just that moment and savor what she could with Ann.

“So. How long do you think you’ll stay in Pawnee for?” Ann asks.

“I don’t know. We like it here. I made Andy promise that someday we’ll move to Transylvania, but that probably won’t happen until we’re like, a hundred,” April admits.

Ann took a deep breath. “Well, for what it’s worth, I’m really happy that you and Andy are married,” she confesses with a small smile.

A part of April dies inside when she hears those words. A crack in her fortress forms, threatening to enlarge itself.

“Why?” April asks, careful to not let her voice falter as she looks down.

Ann frowned, confused. “Why? Because I love him, and I love you. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”

April rolls her eyes, not allowing her mask of disinterest to slip. “I love you” she mumbled back.

Ann was now smirking. “What’s that?”

“I love you too” Aptil still mumbles.

“I couldn’t - I couldn’t quite hear you” Ann says with a hint of a smile.

“Please don’t make me say it,” April begs quickly, and earnestly. Because if I do, this becomes too real. I can’t say goodbye to you like this. “Please.”

Ann relents. Thank God. “My going away present to you would be that I do not make you audibly say that you love me.”

“Thank you,” April says, hugging her closely. For a moment, just a moment, the girl let herself experience being in Ann’s arms, wanting to let go of all the memories she had of Ann with Chris instead of her. April listened to her own heartbeat as her heart beat against Ann’s. Fuck, this feels so good, April thought. If only I didn’t shut her out so much. Regret filled April as she thought of this, but washed it down quickly. At least she’s here now, and I let her in before she goes. April hoped this moment would last forever, but as she allowed herself to, she noticed Leslie walking back and quickly pushed the two of them away from each other. No more Ann, she realized as she separated from her. “Oh - okay Leslie’s coming back, get off me wench!” she said harshly, stammering slightly.

“Did I miss a nice moment?” Leslie asked eagerly.

“Yes, you did,” Ann admitted, looking at April with a sigh. She wasn’t wrong.

“Oh, good,” Leslie said happily. April could only look away in embarrassment, and with a sadness only she would ever know of. 

Eventually, April left Ann and Leslie to say their final goodbyes to each other in the park. As she walked back home, her thoughts naturally wandered back to the fact that that was the last time she’d ever see Ann. The girl looked back as she processed this further. Ann and Leslie were now standing in the center of the pit, all where it began. It was the pit that drew Ann into April’s life. She would miss her, April realized. It’s not like she wouldn’t keep in touch with everyone. Ann would of course offer to let them all visit her and her new family in Michigan, but what would be the point? It would be weird if she went to visit the woman she tormented, and she wasn’t looking for Ann to catch on. The proximity to Ann would reignite the old feelings that April hoped would fade with the time and distance between them. Her mask of disaffection for the nurse was the binding in her fortress. Was risking exposing her heart to her worth it when April worked so hard to conceal the sad truth in the first place? It would be for nothing. Ann not only was in a relationship with someone else, but was having a baby without her, too. The idea of Ann starting a family with Chris was just yet another reminder that Ann had her sights elsewhere. Silently April cringed at the thought. She shouldn’t be thinking about Ann’s family as a bad thing, when Ann’s unborn child brought so much happiness to her. This was what Ann wanted. She should be happy for Ann. I need to be. Because if she was, then maybe she could be happy without her. And hopefully, as happy as Ann was. At that thought, April finally turned away and took a step forward. Away from Ann, away from her misery, and towards the happiness she craved to have. Ann was leaving everyone, including her, and April realized, in a sense, she’d have to leave Ann too, and each step she took was a chance to move on from her, to leave her in the past. She knew the thoughts would still linger once she reached home, but that was to be expected. Ann would turn from a tangible love into a fleeting dream, a memory that would try to break into her fortress as she slept. And in her wake, she would cherish Andy. The lovable, goofy, childish man who made her smile without realizing it. It was how he slipped so easily into her fortress, undetected until she realized she loved him. Andy, whom April loved just as much as Ann. Andy, who loved her back just as strongly. And it would be Andy that eventually replaced Ann in April’s dreams.