By Dierdre

Disclaimer: They ain't mine, to the great sorrow of my wallet.

AN: Just a little idea that crawled in my head last night and wouldn't go away. I hope y'all like it.

It was all a lie, of course. Every hesitation, every frustrated sigh and every misplaced line of coding was all merely part of a complex trap.

I'm not a deceiver by nature and so each venture into trickery was like playing an amateur's game of Russian roulette. It was dangerous, childish and would blow up in my face one day with all the force of a landmine, but for now the future consequences paled next to the present rewards.

I knew what I was doing was wrong, yet I couldn't stop myself when the compulsion began to build like this. To be truthful, I didn't even want to.

It was time set the bait.

Donatello leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. Staring with a sort of bemused fury at the screen, he blew out a low breath and allowed his head to dip forward, his chin nestling in the join between his skin and the bony plates of his plastron.

April looked up curiously from her notes at the sound of his muted sigh. Her mouth quirked into a lopsided grin as she took in her friend's posture, his shoulders hunched in a classic pose of frustration she knew all too well.

"Problems, Donny?"

Seemingly a bit startled at her question, the turtle straightened out of his stoop and turned partially in his chair, throwing her a wry look. "How'd you guess?"

She put down her pencil and raised an eyebrow, her hand idly running across pages graced with her tiny, elegant script. "Call it a hunch," she said.

Her voice was as sweet as honey and warm with undercurrents of laughter. It made him smile, like it always did.

This scene had played itself out before in a dozen different variations, but the bait still had the power to lure. The hook was in my prey's mouth and all that remained now was to reel in the line without arousing suspicion. A task that was not as easy as it sounds, since my prey was far from stupid.

"It's just so exasperating," Donatello sighed. "I can create a hoversled using only scrap metal and a few parts from the local junkyard, I can repair delicate micro-circuitry with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my shell…" he jabbed a finger at the computer screen, his fingernail flicking against the displayed lines of code in a quick, irritated gesture, "but for some reason I can't seem to master this new programming language."

April's lips quivered with the effort of holding back laughter. "So the great Donatello isn't perfect after all?"

"Not quite yet," Donny replied, his teeth flashing in a wide grin that belied his deadpan tone, "but give it time."

She laughed outright at that and pushed away from the makeshift desk, rolling over to him in her wheeled chair. Her hair swept in a red curtain about her shoulders as she came to a halt by the computer terminal, just inches from his right shoulder. Shooting him a questioning look, she asked, "So what's the problem?"

The line had been reeled in with a careful mixture of humor and contrived ignorance. My quarry seemed to suspect nothing as she glided towards me, quickly rewarding my deception with the smell of perfume.

It was a subtly sweet aroma reminiscent of lilacs or lilies, with a faint spicy undertone of something I have never been able to identify. She had worn it just about every day for years now, and it had become as much a part of her identity as her red hair or green eyes. I found I could no longer think of April without breathing in a phantom aroma of that perfume.

I had come to love the fragrance and so I took advantage of her close proximity by inhaling deeply, savoring the scent like a fine wine.

Donatello drew in a deep breath and held it a moment, before exhaling slowly. "I've entered in the coding for my latest combat simulation program," he said. "It works fine when I preview the model, but when I download the program onto my hard drive and try to run an actual simulation my computer freezes up." He shook his head and massaged his temples, as if to rub away a headache. "I've looked over the codes twice already, but I still can't figure out what I'm doing wrong."

"You've just been working on it for too long," April soothed. "You haven't looked away from the screen for over three hours, so it's no wonder you're not catching every little thing." She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear and gave him a lopsided grin. "Just sit back and relax for a moment, Donny. Let a fresh pair of eyes have a crack at it."

Donatello complied, leaning back and lacing his fingers behind his neck. His eyes slid almost shut as he said, "Thanks, April."

This was it, the heart of the deception. I knew where the mistakes were, since I had intentionally inserted them into one of the programming strings not fifteen minutes ago. The errors were subtle and hard to recognize, buried amongst line after continuous line of boring encryption, but I had no doubt she would find them fairly quickly. April was remarkably intelligent and observant, both marks of a good scientist.

Which is why what I was doing was so wrong.

When my lie was eventually discovered (and there was no doubt it would be, only a question of when), she would be both hurt and angry. She would view it as an insult to her intelligence and an indication of my own lack of confidence in her. It would give my brilliant April cause to doubt her own abilities... and would probably damage our friendship. Perhaps irreparably.

I didn't want any of those things to happen; yet time and again I still continued to deceive her. It was the only chance I had to be this close, so near that all I had to do was lean slightly to the side and our shoulders would touch. And the only chance I had to listen to the way her unbound hair whispered about her shoulders, like the sound of a distant waterfall.

I carefully kept my posture nonchalant as April leaned forward and propped her elbow against the desk. She braced her chin in her hand, chewing on her lip in an absent gesture as her eyes skimmed across the lines of code. Watching her through half-shut lids, I felt my heart swell with an emotion that was simultaneously profound and difficult to describe.

Even when my brothers and I had first met her, half-mad with terror and covered in filth, April had been lovely. As the years passed, however, my perspective shifted and she had gradually transcended beyond mere attractiveness. To me she now held all the radiant beauty of a goddess incarnate… and the mere sight of her never failed to take my breath away.

The companionable silence stretched for a few minutes before April abruptly straightened. "Eureka!" she cried.

Donatello unlaced his fingers and leaned forward, a slight smile on his face. "I take it you've found something?"

"Yep. There's a missing bracket here," she used the mouse to highlight a row of text, and then moved on to another, "and this line is missing some binary."

His eyes widened as April added in the appropriate data sequence with a playful flourish of her hands, before smacking himself lightly on the forehead. "Of course," he said ruefully, "why didn't I see that?"

"No celebrations yet," she cautioned. "Let's see if it works first."

April saved the changes to the program and proceeded to download it onto the hard drive. She absently fiddled with her hair as they waited, completely unaware of the way Donatello stared as her fingers combed through the silken strands.

"So far so good," she said. The program finished uploading and she quickly entered in a simple simulation command, once again waiting tensely as it ran through the programming filters. The screen flashed and she grinned in triumph as the simulation proceeded to run flawlessly, as Donatello knew it would.

She was so beautiful at moments like this; her smile bright and her eyes alight with an inner glow of pleasure. Pleasure at helping me, the person playing her for a fool.

Guilt stabbed through me, needle-sharp, like it always did.

"Excellent," Donatello said. He leaned forward and gripped the mouse, ending the trail simulation. Shooting her a quick, warm smile, he said sincerely, "Thanks, April. I don't know what I'd do without you."

She returned the smile, her cheeks flushing a momentary pleased scarlet. "Anytime, Donny." Shaking the hair out of her eyes, she rested a hand on his shoulder and squeezed briefly. "You should probably get some rest soon. It's been a long day."

Actual physical contact between us was somewhat rare, so I was consequently unprepared for the feel of April's hand. It was a minor miracle that I didn't jump in surprise, or worse, lean into the touch.

My skin, roughened as it was by vestigial scales and old scars, tingled faintly where she touched me. The silken softness of her delicate fingers never failed to make my heart pound.

My beautiful, glorious April. She didn't have a clue what an affect she had on me.

He nodded in agreement as April withdrew her hand. "I'm just going to run a few more simulations before I call it a night." Donatello threw her a wry glance and continued, "You should probably get some rest yourself. Don't you have work in the morning?"

"Yeah, but I want to finish this theoretical equation first," she said. "It shouldn't take too long."

Donatello and April exchanged pokerfaced expressions for a moment before simultaneously breaking into laughter, both knowing it would be a few hours yet before either of them was willing to call it quits. Steadfast dedication and self-induced insomnia; such was the life of a scientist.

The laughter faded and April graced me with one last smile before wheeling herself back her desk. She was soon engrossed in her notes and theories, mentally a thousand miles away from me.

I turned back to my computer with an internal sigh, a lingering mix of pleasure and guilt churning in my gut. Entering a new and much more complex simulation into the program, I watched with indifference as it performed perfectly. It would be days, perhaps even a week or more, before it would be safe to try another deception, to lay another trap. Until then I would just have to endure.

Her perfume was diffusing quickly and I inhaled one last breath of it, my heart aching dully. Even though it had only been a few moments, I was already missing her touch.

AN: For those of y'all who have read my other fics… I have a question. Which would y'all like to see first, another installment of 'Nightmare Memories' or of 'Fade'? Both are clamoring for attention inside my noggin and for the life of me I can't decide which one to work on first. So… help? (Sweatdrops)