A/N: Sorry for, well, the huge A/N, but there's some stuff you should know before diving into this story. (There is a story down there, I promise.) I guess you can skip it if you want, but then you... won't know stuff. And wouldn't that be horrible? So.
Warnings and Disclaimers: There is a little bit of swearing in this fic. There are some parts that might kind of look like Turtle-cest, but I promise nothing is going on. The Turtles, Splinter, April, Casey, and most of the objects and places in this story do not belong to me. (Well, none of the places belong to me literally... but most of them I didn't even make up.)
Continuity Notes: This story takes place in NT Season 4. It follows from the events in "Exodus" (parts 1 and 2), "The Ancient One", "Scion of the Shredder", and "Prodigal Son". In case you're not familiar with those episodes (canon spoilers ahead):
Shredder attempts to leave Earth, in a spaceship. For various reasons, the Turtles and Splinter wind up on the ship as it's taking off. Shredder finds them there and defeats them in a battle. Determined to win the war, the Turtles decide to trigger an explosion in the ship's power core. Of course, this will kill them too. Fortunately, at the last minute, the Utroms arrive and rescue everyone from the ship. Our mighty mutants (and Karai) are sent home to Earth, while Shredder is exiled to an ice asteroid.
Back in New York, Leo spends the next several episodes in a major snit over his perceived failure on the spaceship. Eventually, Splinter, recognizing that he can't give Leonardo the help he needs, sends Leo on a journey to Japan, to find "the Ancient One" and study with him. Leo does as he's told, learns a few things, and forgives himself for his mistakes.
Some time later, the Ancient One suddenly tells Leonardo that his family is in danger. Leo rushes home, only to discover that the Lair has been completely destroyed by Karai and her Foot soldiers. Unwilling to believe that his family is dead, Leo sets out to find them. He successfully reunites his family and brings them to a new home - an abandoned pump station under Central Park.
This story begins a few weeks after that, but before any other major plot events - except that the Turtles, after their brief disappearance, have re-established contact with Casey and April.
There are some discrepancies between the canon of those episodes, and the events of this story, but I think the differences are in the details. Forgive me my artistic license.
A final note: This story gets pretty depressing, especially in the second half. If you're looking for something cheerful and uplifting, you are probably in the wrong fic.
Thanks to Sai Ninja and River Nymph for beta-ing parts of this story. Any remaining awkward sentences, confusing scenes, or failures of plot logic are entirely my fault.
And now... on with the fic! (See, I told you there was one.)
A Paper Wall
They've been working on the new Lair for three weeks now, slowly turning it from a shelter into a home, and Splinter has finally declared the place to be fit for guests. The Turtles waste no time in inviting Casey and April, who have been impatient to see their friends' new digs. They make it clear that this will not be a dinner party: their food stores are still too low to share, and they don't want to ask for any more handouts. It will be strictly a house tour and a chance to hang out.
Don is out retrieving April, and Raph is getting Casey. Mike and Leo loiter around the bare main room, waiting. Splinter is there too, but he's standing with a calm, centered gravity that can't be called loitering.
The door opens. April takes one step, and Mike sees a million things in her eyes. Shock at the hollow space. Sadness for the loss of their former home. Outrage, that they're reduced to living this way.
Then she tries to say something nice, and Mike is ashamed. Everything he has is cheaply shined tin foil, a thin mockery of a real life.
April holds out a basket wrapped in crinkling cellophane. "I brought this for you," she says. "As a house-warming gift."
Leo takes it from her. "Thank you," he says. "You didn't have to -"
"I know," she says. "I wanted to."
They go into the kitchen. That's where all the furniture is. When they moved in, there was already a table and more chairs than they could use. Even better, there was a microwave, a refrigerator, and a stove. Almost unbelievably, all three of those worked as soon as they were reconnected to electricity and gas.
They had cleaned the kitchen aggressively, until Master Splinter had almost passed out from chemical fumes. As long as they don't look out the door, they can almost pretend they're in a normal house.
Raph and Casey come in. When they sit down, the tide turns: there are more full chairs than empty ones. Now it really feels like a party.
They all keep staring at the basket, their eyes boring hungrily through the clear plastic. Just beyond that translucent barrier is a fountain of fruit, artfully deployed.
Mike, like most people living on the thin edge of destitution, isn't usually sentimental about food this way. But he thinks it would almost be a crime to eat the arrangement.
"Guys," April says, after losing their attention for the thousandth time. "Just open it already."
Leo draws his sword and cuts the top off the bunched cellophane, just below the profusion of ribbon holding it closed. Normally he makes it a rule not to use his weapons for household tasks, but they're short on kitchen knives right now and he has no idea where the ones they do have might be.
Don lifts the basket out of its plastic shell, and noisily wads up the decapitated wrapper.
"This one is mine," Mike says, cautiously poking the pineapple. "And this one," he tags a banana, "and this one," he slaps an enormous orange, "and -"
"Knock it off, bonehead," Raph says, smacking Mike's hand. "We're gonna peel those before we eat 'em anyway."
"Hey," Casey says. "I brought you guys some stuff too." He hauls his duffel bag onto the table, and unloads five old shoeboxes. Each is labeled with a mutant's initial. He passes them around.
"Go on," he says. "Open 'em."
They all open their boxes simultaneously. They each lift out and hold up one stiffly creased pillowcase in their signature color.
Diplomatic actions are always Leo's territory. "Thanks, Casey," he says. "That's... very thoughtful."
"I got all the other stuff back at my place," Casey says hastily. "Y'know, sheets and blankets and stuff. I couldn't carry it all, so..."
They all look at each other. New, never-slept-on-by-strangers bedding is an unheard-of extravagance.
Splinter folds his white pillowcase, stands, and bows. "Thank you, Mr. Jones," he says. "We are in your debt."
The presence of the fruit is driving him crazy. He can't sit here any longer, looking at it and not eating it.
"Hey," he says to Casey. "Wanna show you something."
The two of them go out of the warm kitchen, cross the main room, and stand in a chamber dominated by a gigantic cistern.
Raph crosses his arms and fixes his gaze on the tank. "Wanna take this apart," he says, as though verbalizing his intent will cause the Universe to rearrange itself to make this action possible.
Casey mirrors Raph's pose. "Gonna need a heck of a saw."
"Know where I can get one?" Raph asks.
"Know a guy who might have one," Casey says.
They both nod at the cistern. Just once, down and up.
Raph and Don glare at Leo and Mike, and the two remaining behind swear with their eyes that they will absolutely not touch the fruit until everyone is present. Then Raph and Don go out, showing their friends the routes away from the new Lair.
"What a pleasant evening," Splinter says, and his sons murmur agreement.
They argue loudly over the division of the fruit. Leo threatens to quarter every last grape so there can be no accusations of unfairness. After that they rapidly reach consensus.
Don doesn't even know what he's eating, but it's delicious and he wants to eat them until he's made up for all the ones he hasn't eaten in his life to date.
Mike has managed to get the orange and the banana. He's eating them alternately and carrying on a dialogue with himself about which one is better.
Raph declares that peaches from wherever-the-hell are now his favorite fruit, beating out his previous favorite of Slightly Damaged Apples.
Splinter eats the suspiciously prickly fruit that was hiding under the strawberries, and which nobody else was brave enough to try. He doesn't say a word.
After another argument, they agree to leave the rest of the fruit for the next morning. They all make mutual assurances of non-fruit-touching.
They all cast furtive glances at the unguarded basket.
Splinter orders them all to their rooms, and forbids them to come near the kitchen again until breakfast.