Title: Straight on 'til Morning
Author: Stormy1x2 (travelingstorm)
Word Count: 2315
Series: Done as part of LiveJournal's Fanfic100 Community, prompt #31: Sunrise
Notes: Some April and Mikey interaction. Takes place sometime after the appearance of April's sister Robin, and before Karai attacks and destroys the lair.
Additional: Special thank you's to everyone who reviewed 'Lucky'. It had been an experimental style of writing for me, and I wasn't sure how it would be received. You guys are a real confidence-booster. :)
"Relax, Mikey! I know better than to mess with a guys comics!"
- April O'Neil (S02, Ep12: "What a Croc")
"Mail call!" April called out as the heavy elevator doors slid open, granting her passage to the turtle's lair. Various greetings called out in return, Donnie giving a distracted wave from his work station, and Raph nodding in her direction before launching a snap kick at his punching bag.
Balanced on the walkway over the pool, Leo turned his head at her arrival, looking at her quizzically. "Mail call?"
April nodded, setting a large plastic bag down on the ledge that ringed the lair's floor. "Well, comic call, at any rate. I picked up Mikey's order for him."
"You shouldn't spoil him like that," Leo commented mildly. Still maintaining his balance, he shifted poses, sliding comfortably into the splits along the rail. "He's fully capable of making the trip himself and carrying his own comics."
"True," April conceded. "But I didn't go to the store." Reaching into the bag, she pulled the top comic and waved it at him. "See? Mail-order. And since your lair doesn't have an actual delivery address yet, he had it sent to my place."
Leo was about to comment when a green and orange streak flew off the second floor balcony, spring boarding off the back of the sofa, and landing with a flourish – and a waggling finger – at April's side.
"I hear the sounds of bending comic pages!" He all but shrieked, snatching the book out of her hand and cradling it to his plastron, making cooing noises. "Sacrilege! Poor baby, did she hurt you?"
Leo rolled his eyes and went back to training. Over at the punching bag, Raph snorted and continued his own workout. Donnie didn't even look up.
April folded her arms, raising a eyebrow at the youngest of the four brothers. "Excuse me? I resent the implication that I don't know how to treat comic books."
Michaelangelo looked up from where he was nuzzling Justice Force #57 (thereby completing an entire run from forty-two to seventy-three in his series collection). "Don't try to hide it, April. I saw you flapping SS in the breeze, poor guy."
"Check the book before you blast me," she said, glaring mildly.
Mikey blinked and looked at the book. It was solid, unmarred in any way, protected by the acid-free wrap and cardboard backing. "Well, you might have damaged it."
"That's a funny way you have of saying thank you." April looked pointedly at the huge stack of books she had brought for him. "That's the last time I let you use my mailing address."
"No! Wait! I'm sorry!" Mikey gently placed the comic on the stack and then fell at April's feet, clutching her knees and peering up at her with huge, brown eyes. "I was just so psyched to get this issue and I panicked! Forgive me? Pretty please with pizzas and lasagna on top?"
April glared at him for another minute, and then relented, reaching down and flicking his forehead. "You goof," she sighed. "Get up and claim these things, before I auction them on Ebay."
"You're a goddess, April. A truly benevolent spirit sent to help rabid, comic collectors everywhere." Mikey wrapped his arms possessively around the stack. "Come to me, my children. Daddy's got brand new homes for all of you on his book shelf, yes he does."
"I added something to the bag," April told him as she turned to go. Donnie was bound to be working on something interesting and she needed something to do while Casey was visiting his mother.
Mikey opened the plastic bag wider, and saw a stack of flat pieces of cardboard. "April?"
She paused. "Those are collector boxes, Mikey," she said. "Real collectors keep their books in boxes like these. They're collapsible, and there's a bunch of dividers in there that I added, so you can arrange them alphabetically, or by series runs." She smiled. "Shelves are good, but without the proper support, eventually they will bend and you won't be able to blame me."
Mikey blinked again. "Wow, thanks! Geez,April, I didn't know you were a comics aficionado."
She snorted. "Hardly. But I did tell you, I do know something about guys and their comics."
"Really?" Mikey grinned slyly and waggled his eye ridges at her. "Old boyfriend?"
April smiled, and it was a sad, fond one that caught Mike off guard, making him cock his head to the side, looking like an overgrown puppy. "Not quite." She hesitated, and then came back over to him and the pile of books, running a hand over the top stack. "My brother."
On the bridge, Leo nearly fell off, and only the timely grabbing of the ledge prevented his headlong dive into the pool. "Brother?"
Raph halted in mid-kick, and even Donnie looked up, sliding his goggles back on his head to look over.
"Wow, Ape, I know you have a sister, but I didn't know you have a brother too!" Mikey bounced in place, eager curiosity radiating from him like a beacon.
She shook her head, lowering it a bit. "'Had', Mikey. He died when I was a kid."
Silence filled the lair. Leo sheathed his blades and walked over, looking at her with some hesitation, before he spoke quietly. "I'm sorry April."
"Me too," Mikey added, looking at her with wide eyes. "I didn't mean to...you know."
April laughed gently. "It's okay, Mikey. It was a long time ago, and you couldn't have known. I've never really told you guys much about my family."
Donnie had left his tinkering behind, and had joined the group. "Well, we know about your Uncle Auggie, and your sister Robin."
"Mmm." April nodded. "The two of them and my mother are all I have left of my family. Dad died of cancer when I was in high school."
Raphael sat on the ledge, giving her a sidelong look. "What was your brother's name?"
"Peter." April closed her eyes, a faint smile touching her lips. "He was eight years older than me, and I thought he was just the coolest person in the world." Her eyes opened and focused on Mikey. "He was a big comics fan, and he spent his allowance every week at the comic store around the corner from our house, back when we all lived in California."
"What happened to him?" Mikey asked quietly, more serious than she'd ever seen him before.
"He was almost seventeen, and was learning to drive," she said, biting her lip as the memories came back to her. "He had gotten his learner's permit and was allowed to finally drive without another adult in the car." She shrugged, eyes downcast. "One night he was coming back from basketball practice and another car hit his. The driver was drunk. Peter died instantly; the car was completely totaled. The other driver walked away with a sprained wrist and a hangover."
Donnie lay a gentle hand on her shoulder, sad and solemmn. "April, I'm so sorry." The others chimed in with various murmurs of sympathy.
April shook her head. "I was only eight," she said softly. "I don't remember much of him anymore – just a few things. Sometimes I think one day I won't remember anything."
"That won't happen," Leo told her resolutely. "Family is never truly forgotten."
"Yeah. You remembered his comics," Mikey reminded her. "I bet you remember a lot more than you think. What was he like?"
"Honestly? He was like you, Mikey." April smiled. "He was such a happy guy, always smiling and laughing. He spent hours playing with me. I remember he was a great athlete too – he was the starting forward on the basketball team. Mom and Dad were so proud of him."
"He sounds like he was a good brother to you," Leo said softly.
"He was." April chuckled as she remembered something else. "Pete was always pulling my ponytail and telling me to 'giddy up'. I used to get so angry and then I'd chase him around the house, trying to hit him with my stuffed animals."
"He really does sound like Mikey," Raph joked, shooting a grin at his brother.
Mikey rolled his eyes. "So, he collected comics?" He urged her, ignoring the groans of his brothers.
"Yeah. He had hundreds! He used to spend hours organizing and reorganizing his collection." She tapped Mikey on the head. "It was Peter who taught me about the importance of cardboard backing and acid-free bags. He would lecture on the evils of direct sunlight, and God help anyone who put one back in the wrong spot in the box."
"What else do you remember?" Leo asked her.
"Not much...oh!" April's eyes glowed with the light of recollection. "His nickname. We had a ritual about it."
"Ritual?" Donnie tilted his head.
"Mmm. We – mom, dad, Robin and I – used to call him Peter Pan. You know, the boy who never grew up?" She grinned, shaking her head. "After all, he was a sixteen year old with more toys in his bedroom than most toddlers. He hated watching dramas and anything he considered 'adult' television – and 'adult' to him, meant boring. It was cartoons or nothing." The smile on her face faded a bit, turning tremulous, and her eyes grew distant. "He said he wanted to be Peter Pan – that he never wanted to grow up, if it meant trading his comic books for a briefcase." Her lip twitched. "In a way, he got his wish."
"April..." The four brothers exchanged troubled looks, unsure of what to say or do to comfort their friend.
April looked at them in confusion, and then shook her head again, snapping herself out of her fugue-like state. "Sorry guys – I zoned out for a second."
"No problem," Raph told her. "But you were gonna tell us somethin' about a ritual?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." She bit her lip, thinking back. "He had to wake up early for morning practice at school. I'd get up and go outside with him, and sometimes it'd be dark outside, the sun not having risen. He'd point up at the brightest star we could find, and tell me, 'Second star to the right, kiddo!' I had to finish by saying, 'Straight on 'til morning, Peter Pan!" Her eyes closed and a single tear finally slipped free. "He...he said, I'd always be able to find him there."
Mikey had been silent for a while, and now he stood in front of her, reaching out with a gentle finger, touching her face, making her open her eyes in surprise. He moved his hand away and she saw her tear sitting on the tip of his blunt-edged finger. "Don't cry, April," he said softly, looking at her earnestly. "If he said he was there, then that's where he is."
Two of his brothers were silent, gaping at the pod-turtle that had obviously overtaken their brother.
April blinked. "Mikey?" she breathed, eyes very wide.
"He was a good brother to you," he continued. "And if he was like me, like you said, then there's no way he wouldn't keep a promise like that to you." He smiled at her and flicked the tear away. "You just have to know where to look."
Leo smiled, unsurprised. Mikey had always been the most empathic of them all.
The same finger that had wiped her tears away, was now pointing just over her chest. April raised one hand, clenching her fist and pressing it over her heart. Mikey was still smiling, and she returned it, stronger this time. "You're right."
"Of course I am," he said, his smile taking on a cocky twist. "I'm always right."
"Oh, please," Raph muttered, and it was enough to break the tension. Mike glared at his brother and a scuffle quickly broke out. Donnie rolled his eyes and went to break it up. Leo placed a hand on April's arm and squeezed lightly, silently telling her she could talk to him any time she needed to, and she nodded in acknowledgment. Then he was off to help Donnie break things up before the lair was destroyed.
April watched them, giggling at the roughhousing, reminded of further times with her brother, when she would attack him and he would scoop her up and run through the house with her tucked under his arm. She supposed that that was the reason she was so comfortable around the guys, despite being the only female in the group. She just hadn't thought of Peter in so long...
Her phone rang, and she took it out, turning slightly to shield herself from the noise of the escalating fight. "Hello?"
"Yo, April! I'm on my way back. You at home?"
"Actually, I'm at the lair. Come pick me up?"
"No problem, babe. Wanna go out for dinner or somethin'?
"Sure." She was silent. "Casey? Are you and Raph going 'hunting' tonight?"
"Probably. Why? What's up?"
"Nothing," she said. Something crashed and broke behind her. "You usually finish up late, right?"
"Three, four o'clock. Sometimes later, all depends on what we find."
She nodded, even though he couldn't see. "Stop by my place when you finish up," she said quietly, turning again to watch the four turtles. Raph was dangling Mikey by one leg over the pool. Donnie was trying to convince him to let him go, and Leo looked like he couldn't decide between helping Donnie, or telling Raph to let him drop. She turned back to the conversation.
"...uh, sure April. But why? You get mad when I wake ya up early, remember?"
"Oh, I know." A splash sounded behind her, and a chuckle escaped her lips. "I suddenly have this urge to watch the sun rise."