Disclaimer: I do not own the Turtles, Splinter, April, Casey, or the Turtles' kitchen. All I own is the plotline.
HUGE GIGANTIC THANK YOU to SASSY AND JO DAWN for the amazing beta-ing, you gals ROCK!
Washing the dishes at the Lair was never a chore. No, not to me. It was my one night a month I had the turtles and Splinter all to myself, no Casey, no alien invasions, no crises. We would eat dinner like a normal family would. A simple chore was the least that I could do.
After we'd eat, Mikey would beg off because, "Dudes and Dudette, no way did I slave away over a hot stove for an hour to feed you just so I could do the dishes." He loved making excuses, so I just pretended to be angry and let him go without much fuss.
Leo would 'want to go over a just few more katas before he went to bed' and wouldn't reappear until right before I left. Raph would go out to do who knows what with Casey, and Splinter would leave before them all to 'meditate,' or whatever he does in his room all day.
Which would leave me and Don to do the dishes. Without fail.
I didn't mind, of course. Don was the gentlest of the brothers, the quietest. We were unalike in so many ways (Ex.- species), yet I felt closer to him then anyone I had ever known. Over the dishes we could reminisce and talk and be ourselves, purely ourselves, without interruption. It was peaceful, a spot of normalcy in a life far from normal.
We had a pattern. I'd dry and put away, he'd wash.
Every time, we'd play rock-paper-scissors to see who got to wash, and every time I'd complain that dish-soapy-water made my hands prune-y, so I needed to dry the dishes. He'd smile and say that I was being childish, that we needed to do this 'fairly.' But every time he'd let me win.
I think it was subconscious, the desire to make these chore times last longer. We'd always encourage Mikey to use as many dishes that he needed to, and we'd set the table with too many forks and knives and spoons for a normal dinner.
Lots of dishes meant that we needed more time to wash them in. More time to talk, more time to flick soap bubbles at each other, more time to poke fun of the variety of aprons that Mikey had in his possession and always insisted that we wear. ("C'mon, I MADE these dishes in the first place, the least I can do is make sure you don't get splashed!")
Not flattering, never new, probably not even liked when they were new in the first place. These were the aprons that time forgot and Mikey found. Limp lace, frills, pictures and sayings outdated and faded to beyond comprehension.
We always complained. Mikey always won. It was 'our thing.' Leo only shook his head and chuckled when he saw the three of us arguing. If Raph was still hanging around, (he rarely was) he muttered only slightly obscene suggestions to 'fix' the 'tense situation' to me under his breath as he went by, just loud enough for me, and me only to hear. Just to see if he could rile me. I would blush sometimes, and Raph would laugh because he knew then that he had won the round
Don and Mikey always pretended they never saw the exchange, but whenever Raph got close enough to tease me, sometimes too close, Don would get tense. His fists would clench and if Raph was in a particularly mischievous mood, Don would just shake with the urge to do something to his brother. Raph knew what he was doing, I just know it. He rarely got to annoy Don, so when he got the chance, he did it with a vengeance. When that happened, Mikey would get louder and clown around more then usual, bringing the attention back to him and our argument over the aprons. Those damn old frilly aprons.
But we wore them, and they did save us from splashes.
I always dreaded finishing. Finishing meant that our time together had ended, that we had to return to the 'real world' once again.
Don would always finish before me. Then he'd take off his frilly apron, (It never ceased to be frilly, I think Mikey picked out the most ridiculous aprons for him to wear on purpose.) grab a towel, and help me finish. Part of me wanted to scream out, 'No! Don't help me! Don't make this take less time!'
But I never did.
About this time our conversation would wind down, and it would be almost quiet in the small kitchen, except for the muted clinking of dishes.
And then the last dish would be in my hands, and I'd put it away in it's proper cupboard or drawer, sadly tracing the outline with a finger, trying to stall for time I already knew was lost.
I'd turn to Don, and he'd be smiling sadly at me. We didn't need words to talk, by now. We both knew that our little world had ended. Again.
I'd untie my apron, (mine was never frilly, but always with a semi-faded saying on it, something like 'Kiss me, I'm Feeding you' or 'Cooks like it Hott') and turn back to give it to Don. He would take them and hide them, later going topside to throw them away.
Of course, Mikey always found out, and he always found new ones before the next dinner.
Sometimes our fingers would touch when I was giving him my apron. Only sometimes. And there'd be this spark, this little shock that would start at my fingers and dance throughout my whole body, prancing up and down my spine. I'd shiver, and I could sense that Don shivered too.I'd look in his eyes, and there'd be something in them that I couldn't, wouldn't figure out, that I'd be too afraid to recognize, because I would never see it in his eyes any other timeIt broke my heart each time.
But we'd never acknowledge the spark. That would be changing the routine.
And then Don would be gone, breaking eye contact and stowing the aprons away somewhere for the time being, turning his back to me.
The world would come flying back into focus after that. Mike's TV would get louder somehow, and Leo could be heard beating away at the punching bag or slicing away at pretend adversaries with his katanas.
And I would remember the ring in my pocket.
The ring that I always took off when we washed dishes. The ring I pretended didn't exist, so life could be like it was before. Before Casey proposed, before I accepted. Before I hurt the best friend I ever had. Before I made the biggest mistake of my life.
I knew Don would never really forgive me, never let me really get as close as I had been when we were at the farmhouse. But we still have our dishes and our unspoken words, and I suppose that for now, those dishes and unspoken words are good enough for me.