because we live through our connections to those around us


"Casey? Casey!" April's voice was soft, but pointed enough that his eyes snapped open. She was smiling.

He blinked, trying to remember what was going on. Oh yeah. Movie night with the guys. With enforced bedrest for himself and Raph throughout the week, there wasn't much else they could do. The movie hadn't been so great - in fact it was virtually plotless. Everyone started ignoring it entirely and talking about an April vs. Mikey Iron chef throw-down. Casey had offered to be a judge, and as the laughter died down and the attention focused back on the less-than-stellar flick Casey had dozed off. As soon as he took a quick confirmation glance around the room to make sure he was still in the lair he mustered up a smile. "Heya, Babe."

She chuckled a bit at him, taking a seat on the hassock by his chair. "You ready to go home?"

"Home?" He blinked at his watch. "It's only nine o'clock. The night is young!"

"And what are you going to do with your young night?" Her eyes were twinkling, she was laughing without moving a muscle. "You and Raphael have been out of it for going on two hours. Mike even tried to wake you to play some Mortal Kombat, but you were sawing logs."

Casey put a hand to his chest. "In our defense, that movie was pretty soporific."

There was a groan from the couch nearby and Raphael stirred. "Is it over?"

"Over a long time ago," April replied with a grin. "You guys have been synchronized sleeping ever since."

"Hey. Everything is better when you do it with your best bud. Even sleeping!" Casey protested. It earned him an unconvinced brow perk from Raphael. The vigilante slapped a haphazard grin on his face and added, "I feel more refreshed already."

"Maybe you're refreshed because you slept all day." Raphael pushed Casey's shoulder lightly, with a gruff grin. "You're lucky. Bein' a ninja means you gotta wake up and be ready in a moment's notice. Havin' this many insane brothers means you don't get much sleep. I'd kill for your bed."

Casey turned, shooting a grin back. "You're always welcome in my bed, Raph. Wait. That didn't come out right."

April covered her mouth with her hand, stifling a rising tide of laughter, while Raph shook his head gently. "You're a moron, Case, ya know that?"

"I'm your moron, remember?" He teased back, tugging April a bit closer to him. "And no laughin' at me. I can see that expression clear as day."

She stuck her tongue out at him, before pulling away. "You stuck you foot in your mouth by yourself, Mr. Jones. I have every right to laugh. Now come on, I've got the car warming up."

Casey reluctantly rose to a sitting position, pulling himself off the couch gingerly. "Just like that, we're leavin' without sayin' goodbye? Kinda rude, April…"

"Raphael's right here, the other guys are coming momentarily" she replied, exasperated, gesturing to the hallway where Mike's form could be seen waving his brothers forward. "If you want to say your goodbyes all you have to do is get your butt in gear."

"Heh. She said 'butt'" Casey gave a grunt of laughter and a perkily immature grin. It earned him an eyeroll from Raphael, and an appreciative snicker from Mikey as the four brothers gathered. "April's packing me up and taking me home." Casey explained.

"Probably better that you get some rest." Leonardo replied sensibly. He gave Casey a grin. "But maybe in a couple of days we can get together."

Mike gave his brother a playful little chuck on the shoulder. "He just wants to set up an iron chef cookout. He voted himself onto the judge's panel!"

"Well, I think I would be an impartial judge." Leo protested. "Casey, myself, Master Splinter…"

"You just like good home cookin'" Raph teased from the couch.

"I think you could all be judges." April started diplomatically. "I mean it's not like we'd be cooking for only three."

Leonardo grinned back at Raphael. "See? Home cooking for everyone." Raph rolled his eyes, unconvinced.

As they chatted with April about the logistics of setting up a cook off, Donatello edged over, handing Casey his coat. The teenager spoke in a quiet tone, "looks like everything worked out in the end?"

The vigilante gave a small smile, a look of gratitude filling his eyes. "Yeah. It did." He paused, letting the terrapin help him tug the sleeves on. "Don... I really appreciate what you said last week. And that... you know. You stuck around, even when I was a damn big jerk."

The quiet teenager paused, watching the older man with a fond expression. "I understand what it's like to feel frustrated and hurt. I got plenty of brothers who are just as difficult, remember?"

"Still... thanks." Casey replied earnestly.

Don gave a calm grin, gesturing with his fingers between Casey and Raphael. "Trust me. It's better for all of us when you two are together instead of apart. And you're welcome, Casey. I'd come back anytime - just don't take that as an invitation to get yourself hurt any time soon." He winked lightly

"Oh, trust me, I'm not." He smiled back and looked around as the room conversation focused back on him. "I think we've got a dinner date being planned, I'll need my strength for that."

Leo looked over, sounding official. "We can hold the first April-Mike cook off just as soon as you feel up to it, Casey."

"And everyone's hoping you feel up to it soon." Don confirmed.

"Besides, you gotta come back and play some Mortal Kombat!" Mike urged. "Donnie's no good at it." He added playfully.

The purple clad turtle shook his head lightly, backing up. "I would be if you just let me hack the game."

"You can't hack my game!" the younger protested in mock horror. "What if it breaks?"

Don reached out and thumped two fingers onto Mike's forehead. "I got it working in the first place. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't break it, and even if I did, I'm sure I could fix it again."

"Oh yeeeeah." Michelangelo gave an innocent grin.

Raphael looked over to Casey as he was tugging his coat on. "You have to come back now, before they start world war three over the game."

"Such a heavy burden you place on me." Casey started with affected seriousness before cracking a grin, "And I thought world war three was your business?"

Raph gave a faint chuckle, eyeing his friend. "Then consider your trip a sanity visit."

"Whose sanity, yours or mine?"

"Both." Raphael indulged in a smile he hadn't worn since well before this whole ordeal began, and Casey felt himself returning it. He was still wearing it as April ushered him through the lair saying goodbyes and out to the car.


Silence washed over the vehicle as it rolled into a parking space and the engine was cut. April leaned back, her breath fogging over the windshield for a second before she turned. Casey was dozing again and with a fond smile she brushed a shag of fallen hair out of his face, leaned over and kissed his forehead. His eyes fluttered open. "Whu?" He blinked again. "What was that for?"

"Well, you did come to save me" she replied. "I figured you could use a bit of appreciation."

He lifted his head up from the headrest and rubbed his temple lightly. "I seem to remember you chastising me for coming."

April perked a brow. "I did think it was incredibly dangerous and poorly planned. And don't get me wrong – I still do. You could have gotten yourself killed." She took in a long breath. "If you had done it just to be macho I would be really pissed at you right now."

"I totally didn't do it to prove anything! I was lookin' for Raph at the time" he held his hands up, ready to be defensive when she reached out and took them in her own.

"I know." Her voice was open, sincere. "Raphael told me several times how it went down. He seemed very intent on making me understand… but he didn't need to, Casey."

"Didn't need to?" Confusion crossed Casey's dark eyes.

April shook her head. "Nope. I heard what you said back there, and I believe it."

He swallowed and tried to shake it off, trying to ignore the warmth of her grip. "Well, I was just trying ta' prove a point to those punks, yanno? Get maybe one of them ta understand why being bullies is a dumbshit idea." He took in a breath and shook his head, feeling warmth creep into his cheeks and throat.

"That's not what I meant." Her eyes were smiling, even if her face was calm. "I was referring to what you said at the end of the night."

"At the end?" he screwed his expression up in thought and when it hit him, his eyes went wide. He hadn't remembered the end of that night until now. The warmth in his face flared into an all-out burn. "Aw, April, I'm sorry-"

He gasped for breath as his apology was cut off by a light brush of her lips against his. She really was smiling now. "I never said you needed to apologize, Casey Jones."

He stared at her, feeling more than a bit foolish, and searched for words. He started with a lopsided grin and fell into a heap of misplaced babbling, "April, you know I, uh? I really…"

She laid a finger on his lips to quiet him and leaned over, mirthfully whispering in his ear. "Casey, this is the point where you shut up and kiss me."

He blinked, unable to contain the smile that spread over his face as his cheeks grew bright pink. No need to instruct him twice, he gently tugged her chin back towards him and drew her forward for a kiss. A pause, he lingered close to her, taking in the scent of violet from her perfume before pulling back. Gazing into her eyes, he swallowed and cast his mind back the events leading up to the ambush. "You remember what you said the night before this all went down?"

April leaned back, a smile playing over her features as she gave a light nod. "I do. It feels like it was an eternity since then." She gave a curious pause. "Why?"

Casey drew in a breath, and he realized he was shaking, ever so slightly. 'You can face down an angry gang member with a gun, but you have trepidations about talking to a girl, spit it out, Jones!' his mind screamed to him and he shut his eyes for a second. When he opened him, he found those blue eyes staring at him full of warmth and amusement. He sighed and smiled. "I don't want to lose you, either."

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a gentle hug, granting him a second kiss. "I know." Smiling into the dim orange glow of the yard light, she tugged at his arm. "Come on, Casey. Let's go home."

He followed her. Watching her move in the darkness, even if it was only through the parking lot was somehow mesmerizing. As they came into the warmth of the house he sighed and realized that somehow, imperceptibly, home felt a bit more like home. Maybe it was the lingering smell of cooking? Maybe it was the knowledge that his friends were close by? Maybe it was just a feeling of comfort that hadn't settled in until now, and dwelling upon it he realized that the past weeks felt like an incredible journey that had led him, ultimately, back home. Before home felt like a prison, now home was a welcome place. Casey sat down gingerly, resting again the back of the natty couch as April shrugged her coat off and moved to join him. He smiled softly as she leaned into his embrace and murmured, "you never told me why you were so worked up that first morning I found you."

Casey took in a short breath. "It's a long story. Stuff I remember from being a kid."

April turned, eyes glittering in the dim kitchen light. "We have all night."

"Does this mean you're staying?" He blinked at her, unable to keep an elated grin from playing across his features.

She smiled back playfully, "only if you're telling me the story."

He paused for a second, considering. He had already told Don, and Raph… and really telling the story again was a small price to pay for having her stay with him. "Well, you see, back when I was just a kid…"


He stayed up with her for hours, each telling tales of the past and dreams for the future. They watched the sunrise together from the balcony and fell asleep on the couch. True to her word, she stayed. Casey suspected she never regretted it.

It was a beautiful evening, and an even better morning. With April in his arms he felt at peace, not only with the present, but what had happened to bring him here. And slowly as he drifted off to sleep, listening to her breathe he realized he never regretted it, either.

A/N: I suppose I am, somewhere deep inside, a sappy romantic. But somewhere in my head, I can hear Don from the original movie calling out "9.95!" every time the concept of April and Casey kissing pops into my head… ;-) After four years, I hope the ending lived up to the beginning. Thank you all for reading, and peace!