Just a little piece of Don/April fluff—because the world can always use more of that! Set during NT episodes "A Better Mousetrap" and "Attack of the Mousers."

Dedicated to Donny's Boy.

Free Fall

By KameTerra

Some have said it creeps up on you, approaching so gradually that by the time you identify its presence, it's impossible to determine how long it's been there. Others say it's instantaneous, like a clap of thunder through your heart, fearsome and thrilling at the same time, leaving you shaking and breathless and utterly helpless.

For me, it was neither of those things. I didn't have any strong feelings one way or another when I first set eyes on her, covered in filth and pressed against a tunnel blockade as the mousers advanced on her. Nor did I wake up one morning after I'd known her several months and realize I was hopelessly in love with her. No. I couldn't tell you the exact instant when I crossed that treacherous line into something beyond friendship, but I can tell you the precise moment I started to fall.

It was as inescapable as gravity.

A high-pitched scream tore through the tunnels, ricocheting repeatedly before it was swallowed by the heavy air of the sewers, and for the split second it took for the four of them to process it, Don was sure none of them breathed. Even Leonardo, who was good at feigning calm he didn't necessarily feel, was caught in a moment of surprise, eyes wide and mouth parted as they all stared at one another.

The scream rang out again, more urgent this time, and as one they turned and jogged towards it, as if lured by the irresistible song of a siren.

A human. A woman. In the sewers.

Their first rescue.

"Oh, thank you—thank you so much, you've saved my…my—"

Their first rescue. And at the sight of them, the woman promptly fainted.

"Hey, so…can we keep her?"

She had red hair, as it turned out. It was hard to tell at first—not only was the lighting in the sewers decidedly lacking, but she was absolutely coated in the liquid filth of the tunnels. Don couldn't observe her too much until they got home, and once Michelangelo laid her out on the couch, none of them could stifle their curiosity. Though Don had seen humans before, in person and on TV, everything seemed even more bizarre up close. The flat, colorless face bisected by a protruding nasal bone, a tiny mouth framed by distinctive lips, ears like cross-sectioned kidneys stuck right there against the side of the head, immobile and completely ridiculous… and then there was the hair. Sure, he knew hair was kind of a qualifier for mammals, and of course he was used to it on Master Splinter, but the only place it was really apparent on humans from far away was on the head. Yet when he had a chance to study this woman up close, he saw it was everywhere. All over her face, her arms, even inside the nostrils! Michelangelo was the first to point this out, as he was the only one bold enough to actually put his face that close to hers.

"Eeeeew! There's hair up there!"

Even Leonardo, who was pretending to read, looked up at that one.

"Dudes, you have to check this out!"

His curiosity piqued, Raphael actually started to get up, but a glare from Master Splinter stopped him.

"Michelangelo! Go sit down. Just because she is unconscious does not mean you may invade her personal space."

"Sorry, Sensei. It's just weird. I mean, you don't have hair up the nose, do you?"

"No," he answered stiffly. "I do not."

"Cuz like, how does that not tickle?

Don remained silent, maintaining an air of scientific detachment. He knew there was probably an evolutionary reason that humans had hair in their nasal passage, but he was nonetheless relieved that turtles were spared that bit of biological absurdity.

"I'm asleep, I'm asleep, I'm asleep, I'm asleep…" At first she held the pillow clamped tightly around her head, refusing to a acknowledge any of them. And just when it seemed she was beginning coming around, Master Splinter triggered another little vacation into shock-induced oblivion.

"Sure have a way with the ladies, Master Splinter," Don said with a roll of his eyes. This was going to take forever. "Now what do we do?"

"Let's nudge her," Leo suggested, apparently just as keen to get things moving as Don was.

"I'll snap her out of it…"

"Raphael, no!" barked Splinter, and Raphael grudgingly withdrew his sai.

Still, when she recovered sufficiently to actually speak to them, there was something undeniably appealing about her, though Don couldn't put his finger on exactly what it was. He didn't know if he was just getting used to the way she looked, the close proximity of her, or if it was because she'd had a chance to clean up, but already she seemed less strange to him. Actually… she was a lot like them, other than the obvious physical differences. And the fact that she was female, of course. Everything about her seemed exaggeratedly feminine in comparison to their stocky, heavily muscled bodies, like she wasn't just a woman but a caricature of a woman, a Disney animation. Michelangelo managed to make her laugh a few times, and each time he heard it Don couldn't help but smile with her, it was so unlike anything he was used to (even if Raph commented that she giggled just like Mikey).

Don was impressed when she revealed she'd worked for Baxter Stockman, but he refrained from asking her too many questions about it just yet. It wasn't like he was intimidated, or, or, concerned about what she might think of him, or anything, he just figured there were more important things right now than satisfying his own curiosity. Besides, she knew nothing of his household reputation as the Smart One.

Which was maybe why his face grew so warm when Michelangelo pushed him forward as April was saying how difficult it would be to break into Stocktronics.

"Bring it on! Allow me to introduce our very own secret weapon—the Techno-Turtle himself: Doooonatello! Take a bow, Don!"

Kill me. Kill me now.

God, she was quick. Not quick like ninja-quick, but sharp. Perceptive, maybe, or sensing. The way she handled his brothers… it was like she knew exactly what each of them would respond best to, though she'd met them only hours ago. Leonardo was aloof but respectful towards her, and even though no one actually stated that he was the second in command, she followed his lead as if it was the most natural thing in the world, chiming in only when she had something important to add due to her inside knowledge of Stocktronics. Mikey was easy—all she had to do was laugh at his jokes and not smack him upside the head every three minutes. And Raphael … well, it actually kind of amazed Don how easily Raph took to her. They interacted with a casual ease that was all the more surprising because Don was anticipating at least some degree of reservation (or even hostility) on his brother's part. Maybe it had something to do with the way she looked him in the eyes when he spoke, direct and open, and considered what he was saying. Maybe he knew that all of the false bravado in the world wouldn't impress her, or even fool her. Maybe he could tell she already respected him.

As for Don, April never once questioned his expertise, never showed a moment of skepticism or doubt while they were disabling the subterranean alarms, even though she had only the word of a mutant turtle who'd spent his whole life in the sewers that he knew what he was doing. He couldn't help but wonder if he would have given her the same benefit of the doubt if their positions were reversed.

Scratch that. He knew he wouldn't have. He was too used to being the resident genius to fully put his trust in anyone else without proof of their competence. And she proved hers, again and again. To have someone working independently alongside him, focused and so damned assured… it was an experience he'd never had before, not when it came to computers, to real technology.

But still he couldn't figure out what made her so captivating. Yeah, okay, she was smart—maybe even brilliant. And pretty by human standards, he supposed. Not like those pin-ups Mike drooled over, with painted faces and boobs that defied gravity, but attractive enough in a pale, big-eyed way. Plus there was the whole newness of it, of interacting with a human, any human who didn't scream and run away at the sight of them. But it was more than just those things that made him glance at her repeatedly while they were working, and he reasoned that the more he observed her, the closer he would come to figuring out what it was.

By the time they infiltrated Stocktronics he still didn't have an answer, and he was forced to put it out of his mind for the time being and focus on the problem at hand—stopping Stockman's mousers.

Mousers closing in—dozens of them, hundreds of them, walking on two legs like robotic Compsognathus straight out of Jurassic Park, steel jaws snapping repeatedly in a metallic cacophony that drowned out the sound of April's fingers tapping frantically at the control panel.

"It's not working!" April called out desperately.

"Keep trying!" Don returned, his eyes racing back and forth on the screen in front of him as he worked with her to shut them down. Come on, come on, come on…

"This is it—it's been fun, guys."

"Even me, Raph?"

"Even you, Mikey. 'Specially you."

It was a last resort, a desperate action held until the last possible second when the slim chance it gave us finally outweighed the risks. She didn't run it by us, didn't tell us what she was going to do, she just hit the button.

But no matter what she says to the contrary, she saved us all.

The overload sequence she initiated gave us the precious seconds we needed to escape before the army of frozen mousers self-destructed. Michelangelo was the first to evacuate, exiting through the broken glass window of Stockman's main office overlooking the work area and leaping down a full story to the main floor of the laboratory. Raph and Leo weren't far behind him. April and I were last, and we sprinted the short distance to the window. She halted at the edge, eyeing the drop, and then looked at me expectantly.

I didn't even think about it—though I hadn't so much as laid a finger on her in the time since we'd met, there was no way she could make it down on her own, and she obviously wasn't difficult to carry. Mike had carried her all the way home in his arms, and Raph had lifted her down from the duct that allowed us access into Stockman's facility. But when I scooped her up, I felt an unnerving sensation like the ground was tilting under my feet, and for a moment I thought we were too late; I thought the explosion had come.

But there was no blast of heat from behind us, no blistering of skin or unendurable pain, no bite of shrapnel into our flesh—there was only the warm curve of her body in my arms, a soft brush of hair against my shoulder as she tucked her head in close, and the touch of her fingers pressed to the top of my chest, just over my plastron.

Just over my heart.

And just like that, I knew. It wasn't love, not yet, but I could see the trajectory and where it would end as clearly as a skydiver sees the sweep of landscape rushing toward them, and I was helpless to stop it.

Though barely a second had passed, I knew I had already wasted too much time, and I jumped, springing off of a pipe on the way down to gentle the landing.

From that moment on, I didn't even bother to try and figure out what it was that made her so special, didn't try to catalogue her qualities like so many pieces of data, flat and unremarkable beneath my fingertips. I just gave in to the rush. On some level I understood that there could be no fall without a landing, but I didn't worry about that at the time. All I cared about was that I had never felt more alive.

Once we were safely on the ground I set her down, knowing we could both run faster on foot than if I continued to carry her. And even though it was unlikely she needed any more help, I couldn't resist taking her hand as we fled.