IT'S BEEN SO LONG! I finally have an update to my 100 Themes challenge.
Rated M/nsfw, for mature situations and cussin'. Not pr0n.

056. In The Storm

He knows it's wrong.

It had begun as an accident.

Well…at least for the first couple of seconds.

He landed on her fire escape - their.

Their fire escape.

He landed on their fire escape, a jolt of protest twanging in his knees - they never did very well in the cold to begin with, but stormy weather didn't do good things to his joints these days…all those formative years leaping over rooftops. But the hot coffee felt good in his achy hands, and he took a deep whiff, closing his eyes as he pictured the scene about to come:

"Donnie! You're soaked! Get in here!"

And then he'd sheepishly hold up the coffee and she'd click her tongue at him and bustle him into the warmth of the apartment and her presence, fussing about finding him a towel and Casey would holler hello at him from the couch but not get up from the game. And he'd be able to sit at their little dining table and sip coffee and just…have a few minutes with her. Just a few minutes where he could pretend.

And it probably wasn't healthy, but nobody could tell him he wasn't allowed to have a friend. And Leo could take his superior looks and Raph could take his snide comments and Mikey could take his sympathetic, lopsided grimace and shove it. Because even if he couldn't be everything to her that he wanted to be, he could be the guy who brought her coffee, the guy she fussed over a little…a guy she loved, in her own way.

Because he knew it was more, really. Even if the rest of them couldn't see it, even if maybe she was afraid to say it out loud…he could see it in the warmth of her smile, the way her hand lingered on his shoulder, the way her eyes lit up when they talked about a book they'd both read.

You didn't treat someone like that unless you wanted them in your life.

Straightening up out of his crouch, already smiling, Don reached a hand out, still clutching the coffee, ready to rap a knuckle on the window pane, when he suddenly squinted curiously, realizing that April's bed was moving.

Not the bed - the sheets. The sheets were -

Oh God!

Don hastily ducked back down, putting his shell to the wall, nearly fumbling the coffee and spilling a bit on his thumb. The scalding heat actually felt kind of good, given the chill in the air, and he shivered at the weird mix of sensations as the thunder rumbled.

Well, this was awkward.

What now? Did he just…wait for them to finish? That was…unappealing. Head straight home? But the thought of giving up and trudging back to the Lair alone in the rain was misery-inducing.

Don's eyes widened as faint moans began seeping through the window, wending their way through the noisy raindrops to him.

Casey's rough voice murmured something unintelligible and he heard April -


He actually did drop one of the coffees, slapping a hand over his mouth, heedless as it tipped over and spilled through the grate of the fire escape, April's sensuous answering moan a tantalizing tease, just barely loud enough to hear through the patter of the rain to make you want to lean in and…

Don found his body doing it before he had even given himself permission - leaning ever so slightly closer, peering around the brick and through the window to see…

And once he saw…he couldn't look away.

And that was where it all went wrong. He should have just left - because a friend would have left. Laughed, shrugged it off, maybe turned a bit red, and beat a hasty retreat.

But he didn't laugh.

And he didn't leave.

The next morning April opened the window to let in the fresh, clean smell after the storm, and found one of her travel mugs that wandered back and forth to the Lair sitting next to her potted plants, speckled with raindrops, and full of ice-cold coffee. She wondered, red-faced, at exactly what point in the evening Don had decided to drop in.

Shaking her head, she took it inside, carried it to the sink, and dumped the contents.

Well. It didn't matter. They were all adults, here. I mean, once April and Casey had moved in together, she was pretty sure the guys put two and two together. What they did in their own home wasn't anyone's business.

Still…she couldn't shake the nagging, irrational feeling of guilt…or more accurately, a kind of dread that she'd accidentally damaged something very precious.

Once, while rearranging things down in the shop, April had set a box of china down on a dresser - only for a moment. She knew full well the dresser was wobbly. But she figured surely it would be fine for the brief moment it took her to sign for the pizza delivery, and of course, it wasn't, and when she knelt on the floor and sifted through the box, she realized her grandmother's serving plate was also in there - the one she always put the turkey on for Thanksgiving.

It had been easy to fix, but there would always be a crack there now, where it had split almost perfectly in half.

Sometimes, even if you fix things, the damage lingers subtly afterwards, making things just a bit weaker than they were before.

She knew she was being irrational, knew it was her life after all, and that Don really shouldn't be dropping by unannounced all the time…but still. She hoped Don was okay.

And…if she was being really honest with herself? She kind of…liked the way he dropped by unannounced.


April jumped, and turned the faucet off. She'd left the water running.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah, Case," April said, smiling as he kissed her forehead. "Just thinking."


Never one to pry much, Casey shuffled past her, took the entire carton of milk out of the fridge, and shuffled back towards the couch and April chewed back the words reminding him to drink out of a glass like an adult human being.

The next morning, Don had a fever, and was excused from training.

He woke several hours later than usual to the sound of his phone, and he was immediately awake when he saw the caller ID.

"'Llo? Uh, hello?"


"Oh. April. Hey."


There was a slightly awkward pause.

"So uh…Mikey texted that you were feeling under the weather?"

"Oh, yeah," Donnie said, his nerves jangling a bit. "It's fine. Just a cold."

"You…were out in the rain the other night, weren't you?"

Don froze, not sure what to say. It'd be easy to play it off, just laugh and say 'Yeah, got caught in a downpour on the way home.' He could mentally hear himself rehearsing the words, the casual little laugh to go along with it, but it just wouldn't - come out.


Her voice on the other end of the phone sighed and trailed off.

"I'm gonna come over later and bring you some soup."


"Soup. Chicken soup."

"Aw, n - you don't have to," he stammered shamefacedly.

"Hey," April said, firmly. "You bring me coffee? I'll bring you soup."

So. She had figured it out. The anxiety melted away a little bit, replaced by embarrassment and regret.

"Listen," he began, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to - uh…I know you, uh…"

"Don?" April interrupted. "It's okay. Really."

"It…it is?"

She sighed again.

"I just…please take better care of yourself okay?"

"Um. I'll try?"

"You…you're a very special person, Donnie," April said, "and I think about you, and I want you to be…healthy. And happy. You're my best friend, and…I think if I didn't have you I'd go crazy." There was a brief silence on the phone. "I love you."

Don swallowed a growing lump in his throat and forced a smile.


"I'm here," he replied. "April…I want you to be happy, too. I really do."

"Thanks," April said, relief in her voice. "I'm not saying this right, but - "

"You're doing fine," Don interrupted firmly. "And…you're my best friend, and…I love you, too."

It was the first time they had said it in those precise words, and they both knew it wasn't really the whole truth, at least not for him. But it was what it had to be, and it was enough.

Yep. Enough. Is what it was.

So April and Casey came by the Lair, and Casey and Raph palled around and made a lot of noise and watched wrestling, and she brought him soup and made him eat it and clucked over him, and it was nice. Normal.

So it was only natural that he return the favor and finally make good on that coffee delivery. But when he knocked on the window, he was surprised to see not April, but Casey's bulky frame making its way over.

Yes. "Surprise" was the feeling. Definitely not disappointment.

"Hey! Uh, I brought -

"Hey, thanks," Casey said, taking one of the coffees, light two sugars, the one he'd intended for her. "April's out. Come on in."

"I…didn't think you drank coffee," Don said, slinking into the apartment unwillingly.

"Yeah, Apes kinda got me into it."

"Ah," Don said, not really knowing what to add.

"Aren't you gonna drink yours?"

"Mm? Oh!" He considered the other cup of coffee in his hand. "Uh…well, is April coming back soon? Because, I guess I could always leave this for her if -

"What was it she said?" Casey said, sitting casually on the footboard of April's - their. Of their bed. It creaked under his weight. "About coffee? It's a…somethin' taste."

"Acquired?" Don ventured, suppressing some slight irritation.

Casey snapped his fingers and pointed at Don, a broad grin on his face. "That's the one. 'Acquired taste.'" He hoisted his cup in cheers. "Guess I'm acquirin' it."

"Heh," Don chuckled. "So…I'll just leave this on the -

"What are you…lookin' to acquire, Donnie?"

Don froze awkwardly, coffee half-way to the table by the window. "Excuse me?"

Casey didn't elaborate. Just watched him and took another slurp off April's coffee.

"I…should go."

"No. You should stay."

Don felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Casey, I don't want to…to…"

He trailed off, but Casey just waited him out. He held his arms out in an exaggerated shrug.

"Don't want to what, Donnie?"

"Look, I don't know what you're asking me," Don lied, flatly. "April and I are just friends."

"Yeah, but I'm asking about what you want, Donnie," Casey said, his voice dropping deep and quiet. "Not what you got."

Don scowled, and straightened up a bit. He wasn't about to be intimidated by some shmuck in a wifebeater and a man bun.

"What I want is irrelevant. April made her choice. I don't claim to understand it," Don added loftily, "but I will respect it. So. If that's all?"

Casey gave him a friendly grin that belied the glint in his eye.

"You know what I think?"

"I couldn't begin to guess," Don returned, oozing disdain.

"It's not even about April anymore. It never was."


"It's about uh…that Donkey Odie guy. 'Tilting at windmills.' That guy."

"You think I'm infatuated with a mentally unstable 17th century Spaniard?" Don drawled dryly.

Casey put one hand dramatically over his breast and hoisted the coffee aloft.

"To dreeeeeam the impossible dreeeeam!" he sang off-key. "To baaaang the unbangable broad!"

"I don't have to listen to this," Don spat, his cheeks heating. He turned to leave.

"I saw you."

Don paused.

"Well I should hope so," he bluffed, turning over his shoulder slightly. "Seeing as I've been standing here talking to you for the past -

"No," Casey said, shaking his head slowly. "The other night. In the storm. I saw you."

Don's guts turned to jelly. He tried to be cool, but he couldn't keep a poker face, he never could, everyone could always read him like a book oh God -

"And this wasn't just a little 'oopsie,' was it Donnie? Because you didn't just turn around and leave, now did you?"

Don tried to swallow, but he had no spit.

"Casey, that was…I didn't -

Don cut himself off again, taking an involuntary step backwards as Casey casually stood and sauntered closer.

"See, that's how I know I'm right," Casey said, closing the distance way too quickly. He clapped a hand on Don's shoulder, and leaned in close. "What you want isn't April. What you want is your nose pressed up against the glass, forever - close enough to touch, but never actually touching. Right? Because fantasy is perfect and it lasts forever, and real life is just so damned disappointing."

His voice was ragged and soft in Don's ear, and it sent goosebumps down his neck. He wanted to protest, to argue, but his breath hitched in his throat, and his eyes began to water as the truth of Casey's words sank home.

"You want her because you know you can't have her," Casey continued, relentlessly. "And if you could have her? It'd be ruined for you. You'd find some way to ruin it, I guaran-fucking-tee it."

Don bit his lip and held his breath. He knew he couldn't hide the tears but he would be damned if he'd give Casey the satisfaction of blubbering in front of him.

"And you know how I know that?" Casey asked, crouching down to look Don in the eye. He tried to look away, but Casey just leaned the other way, eyes still searching his. "Huh? You know how I know that, Donnie boy?"

Don didn't answer. Just stared at the baseboard of April's bedroom - their. Their bedroom, trying not to breathe and waiting for him to stop.

"Because I'm doing the exact same thing."

Don's brow furrowed, and when he looked over he was shocked to see Casey's own eyes glazed with unshed tears. He nodded spitefully, his jaw grit with tension.

"Yeah. That's right! I'm fucking everything up."

He ran his free hand through his hair, pulled out his man bun so his hair fell shaggy by his ears, and resumed his seat at the foot of the bed. The footboard creaked in protest.

"I don't know, man. I drink from the carton and put it back empty, I leave my shit lying around, I do this, I do that. It's all piddly shit though, right? Like it shouldn't even matter, not if you're in love with somebody. But I swear to God, most days I can tell she is hanging by a thread. I mean, she is barely putting up with my dumb ass."

Don tried not to look too cheered by this turn of events.

"I know! Music to your ears, right? Well. Sort-of ears. Speaking of ears, you should fucking hear the way we fight, the neighbors sure do. And man oh man, your little angel up on the shelf? She dishes it right back. She can make you feel about two inches tall."

He held up his thumb and forefinger to emphasize.

"One minute we're at each other's throats, just - mean. Really hitting below the belt...and then the next minute she's crying. And I just wish I was dead, man, when she cries? God. I wish I was dead. And she doesn't say it, but I know she's thinkin' - couldn't you just be normal? Couldn't you just be a boring guy with a boring job?"

Casey shook his head.

"Sometimes I think that's the only reason she's with me. She just wanted someone normal." He jutted his chin Don's way. "No offense."

"Some taken," Don muttered.

"Just a regular slob, y'know? Just some dumb shit guy. And I can't even get that right."

Casey took a long swig off the coffee and grimaced.

"God, this shit is nasty. Look at me. I fucking hate coffee, Don. I hate it. Do you get what I'm saying? You think I don't know that I'm not right for her? You think I don't know how smart she is and how stupid I am? Or how -

"You're not stup-

"Please," Casey said, holding up a hand and fixing Don with a sad, weary look.

The protest died on Don's lips and he just shrugged, twisting his fingers together. For a moment they just stared at opposite corners of the room in silence.

"You and I…we both know how special she is," Casey finally said, flatly. "We've always known. And you and I - we both know I'm nothing."

"Casey, listen." Don said, hardly believing that this is where the evening had turned and this was what he was about to say. "You're not nothing. You…you're great. You're my friend too, and…we've been through a lot together, you and I. And…"

Don trailed off, shaking his head. "I've been a jerk. I should have backed off a long time ago. I know it. It's just…"

"It's just, you can't," Casey said, with a grimace of a smile. "Because it's her. And you've gotta try. You gotta at least try."

He looked down at the floor, and shifted his weight. The footboard creaked again.

"And honestly? I didn't say anything before now, because deep down…I don't think she wants you to back off."

"I - huh?" Don stammered, his heart doing a painful little flop in his chest. "Why do you - what makes you…"

"She's different with you, man," Casey said quietly. "You don't scream at each other. She laughs at your jokes, and…look, I see it. We all see it. I think…honestly, I think she sees it too, but she's scared, man."

Casey looked up and gestured vaguely at Don from head to toe.

"I mean, no offense - that is a lot."

"Yeah," Don said, dryly. "I'm aware, thanks."

Casey held his hands up in surrender, and slouched back down again. "Jus' sayin'."

Casey made a face, and forced himself to drain the last of the coffee.

"Look. This thing with me an' April…well. I sure as shit know she could do better than me. An' I don't know how much longer she's going to put up with my dumb ass. But…I gotta try, man."

He looked up at Don with a doleful expression on his face. "You know what that's like, yeah?"

Don gave Casey a jerky nod.

"Cool," Casey said, then sniffed, wiping his nose with his thumb, the empty cup still in his grasp. "Cool, cool. Good talk."

Don finally turned for the window and put one foot on the sill.

"Hey Don?"

He turned and looked over his shoulder.

"Don't do it again."

"Oh - no," Don sputtered. "Of course not. Casey, I am really sorry, I never meant to -

"I'll tell her," Casey promised, locking eyes with him. "I'll tell her that you stood out there in the rain spying on us."

A chill ran down Don's spine, and he nodded grimly.

"She'll hate me for it," Casey continued grimly, "but she'll hate you too."

He chuckled sadly, and shook his head, staring across the room at a framed watercolor April had done of the farmhouse.

"What a couple'a miserable jerks we are."

"Hm." Don hummed his agreement.

"Hey, close the window, huh?"

Don stepped out and slid it softly shut behind him.

In the hallway, April sat on the floor, one hand pressed over her mouth, cheeks wet, a fresh carton of milk from the bodega around the corner sitting next to her, forgotten.