Disclaimer: I do not own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I own only whatever little insanities they happen to perform under my direction. Theft is punishable by severe voodoo-induced pain in any and all sensitive organs of the body, followed by eternal damnation.
Because, you know, stealing is wrong.
Title: Getting to Know You
Summary: Oneshots. It takes some getting used to, hanging around mutant ninja turtles. "The first time it had happened, April had passed it off as one of those standard, awkward 'getting to know you' moments."
Author Notes: You know it could happen. No warnings, no pairings. Awkwardness and fluff.
Give what you have. To someone it may be better than you dare to think.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The first time it had happened, April had passed it off as one of those standard, awkward 'getting to know you' moments, like when she had tentatively run one fingernail along the edge of an oversized shell just to feel the strange rough-smooth texture. The odd look she had received had set her blushing, but nothing had been said.
She had been handing out her latest load of gifts (peace offerings, bribes for continued visiting privileges, what-have-you) – a package of simple white candles for Leonardo, a comic-book for Michelangelo, a shoot-'em-up/smash-'em-down DVD movie for Raphael – and had just passed a box of miscellaneous mechanical bits to Donatello when their hands had brushed together.
Not a spectacular occurrence, not even that rare, but an odd look came across the turtle's face – pensive, she thought – as he glanced at their overlapping hands.
"Huh," he said, and the moment was over. He grinned at her, chirped, "Thanks, April!" and headed for his lab to play with his new toys.
"Anytime," she replied to his retreating back. She frowned down at her fingers, wondering, What the hell? But then she remembered the incense she had brought for Master Splinter and strode for the aged rat's rooms, putting the strange happening out of her mind.
She did not know how she had gotten roped into an All Night B-Movie Marathon with Michelangelo…
Well, scratch that. She did know. She was new to the group, and therefore she was the only one who, apparently, was not sick to death of Michelangelo's taste in entertainment. Plus, she was still in the stage of quiet fascination with the turtles and their mentor, so time spent in their company was welcome, no matter what they were doing.
The other three turtles had been on their way to bed, uninterested in the upcoming marathon, Leonardo lecturing Michelangelo briefly about not letting lack of sleep affect his training the next morning. Raphael had snickered loudly ("Like we'd notice a difference!"), which had prompted a standard Raphael/Michelangelo Deathmatch – two blurs of green tumbling and wrestling across the floor of the lair, shouting insults, whilst everyone else rolled their eyes, sighed, and leapt out of the way as needed.
"He won't make it the whole night," Donatello had assured her during the grappling match. "He never does. He'll conk out about three… maybe five if caffeine is involved."
Splinter had broken up the match merely by striking his walking stick against the floor with slightly more force than normal. The two brothers had frozen, Raphael with Michelangelo in some sort of arm-lock while Michelangelo had a hold of Raphael's bandana tails like a set of reins.
Several backflips later, things had settled. The older brothers had gone to bed, and Michelangelo had flopped on the couch beside April, eagerly digging into the three bowls of popcorn (buttered, caramel-coated, and cheese-flavored) as the opening credits began to roll for Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. (1)
Several hours and thousands of screaming, badly-dubbed Japanese actors later, Donatello's prediction proved accurate. As a giant moth-monster terrorized Tokyo, the young turtle's head drooped, and he slumped slowly, slowly sideways, coming to rest against a tired but amused April. His head bumped against her shoulder, the edge of his shell digging into her arm.
"Mikey, you're crushing me," she said, grinning but only half-joking. A two-hundred pound adolescent turtle did not a good bed-buddy make. "Mikey?"
The turtle grumbled something incoherent, wriggling closer, eliciting a yelp when he burrowed his beak between her neck and the back of the couch. He wasn't cold, per say, but against the sensitive skin of her neck, he was freeziing! She pushed ineffectively against his chest.
"Mikey, come on!"
Her rescue came in the form of Raphael, the one turtle that still left her uneasy. He appeared out of the shadows like some kind of specter, scaring a good two years off of her life. With business-like efficiency, he reached down, grabbed his brother by the edges of his shell, and hauled him bodily off the couch, dumping him on the floor. Michelangelo squawked in protest.
"Ra-a-a-aph! I was warm." Michelangelo pouted up at his brother – though how he was able to pout when his mouth was essentially a large beak, April would never know. "Not cool, dude. Totally not cool."
"Get to bed, shell-for-brains. Movie night's over."
Michelangelo was crawling back onto the couch like a slug, pulling himself up inch by inch, eyes mostly closed. He muttered something nearly incomprehensible (April caught the words 'mean Raphie' and 'Mothra shall avenge me.') before flopping his legs across April's lap, burying his head beneath a pillow, and proceeding to snore.
Raphael snorted, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah. Um… thanks?"
The turtle waved indifferently, heading toward the kitchen. "Anytime."
This started a pattern.
Michelangelo was easily a very touch-oriented person. April thought nothing of it that he continued to (there was no better word) snuggle with her whenever they shared the couch – first on the weekly movie night, then several times a week as she became more and more comfortable visiting the lair and spending the evening watching TV with the brothers. She was mildly surprised when Donatello began to sit close beside her as well, occasionally leaning against her, but dismissed it with the easy affection she was beginning to feel for the group.
She happened to be sitting between Michelangelo and Leonardo once, though, and had been stunned to find herself squished between the two. Leonardo radiated 'Do Not Touch' almost as well as Raphael did, though in a much less 'Or I'll Gut You And Enjoy It' kind of way. Almost as soon as she had noticed it, though, he had started and shifted away, a strange expression upon his face.
Leonardo? she thought. Embarrassed?
A similar occurrence happened with Raphael, though that also came about because of Michelangelo pressing against her opposite side, pushing her against the larger turtle. Raphael, who would shove Michelangelo off the couch for even breathing on him, sat and endured the contact, never even glancing her way. That had been a very long evening.
It was just bizarre.
Perhaps she was paranoid, but she would have sworn that one night there was a subtle-but-spirited race between Donatello and Michelangelo for the lone seat beside her on the couch – she had taken to sitting next to the arm, just to avoid being sandwiched. Michelangelo, self-proclaimed "fastestest turtle ever,"launched himself over the back of the couch and landed beside her with enough force to send her a good six inches off the cushions. His victorious "Hah!" merely cemented her suspicions that something very strange was happening right under her nose, and she had no idea what.
So she did the only thing she could think of. She started sitting on the floor.
The dumbfounded expression upon Michelangelo's face had been funny until it had morphed into puppy-dog disappointment.
"April?" he asked. "What're you doing down there?"
She tried to shrug it off with a grin. "Sometimes it's fun to sit on the floor."
The young turtle looked between her and the couch, her and the couch, her and the couch before flopping onto the latter with the air of a child that has just been informed that sorry, we know you were expecting a clown for your party, but Bongo called in sick, so here's your Uncle Rick – he can do bird impersonations. Happy birthday!
April felt like a heel, and she did not even know why.
Several weeks after her initial introduction to the turtles, she went on an errand to the local bookstore to pick up something for Donatello – he could order the volume he wanted over the internet, but actually going to the store to acquire it was a completely different problem. April's introduction to the turtles had been eased considerably by the fact that she could be their above-ground go-for.
Browsing the store more for curiosity's sake than any real desire to buy anything herself, she passed by the section labeled ANIMALS in big, bold letters and found herself gravitating to the Ts.
Huh. Tapir, Tiger, Toad… Turtle!
She grimaced at the thin, hardback book, barely large enough to qualify as an elementary picture book.
Now on a mission, she caught one of the store employees who directed her to the PETS section.
April picked up the turtle-owner's equivalent to War and Peace with a smug smile firmly in place, hefting the volume experimentally. If nothing else, she could carry it with her to bludgeon any would-be muggers. It even had color photographs.
April skipped that evening's rendezvous at the lair (She would give Donatello his book the next time she visited – he would forgive her for the delay.) to settle on her bed and begin her epic trek through the pages of Under the Shell: A Complete Guide to Owning and Caring for Your Turtle. Not even halfway through the first chapter, there was a word in bold letters (a keyword, complete with a definition in a nifty little sidebox) that gave her pause.
Ectotherm: a cold-blooded animal which regulates its body
temperature by exchanging heat with its surroundings.
April stared. She reread. She blinked at the far wall of her bedroom.
And then, she started to laugh.
That Friday, she visited the lair, armed with her newfound knowledge and a sack full of samurai- and ninja- themed movies and half her bodyweight in junk food. She was met at the entrance by Michelangelo, per usual – she had learned very quickly that sneaking up on a family of ninjas was the very definition of Exercise in Futility. The sight of the young turtle bouncing on his toes and trying to peer into the bags made her laugh.
"Come on, Mikey. At least let me set these down before you start looting them."
He followed her to the ramshackle dining table and bobbed around as she unloaded the bags, looking like a giant raven eyeing a pile of unguarded jewelry ("Whatcha got? Is that ice-cream? I thought I saw ice-cream. Whadja bring me? Huh?"). Then, before he could begin examining the pile of junk food, she turned, slid one arm around his neck – she ignored the way his hands went to his belt in an instinctive jerk – and hugged him.
She chuckled at his dumbfounded expression, said a cheery "Hi," and set about putting the food away in the refrigerator and cabinets.
A moment later, a massive grin spread across his face, and he joined her in organizing the kitchen.
That night, she sat squeezed between Donatello and Michelangelo on the couch and added 'electric blankets (x4)' to her mental Christmas list.
(1) An actual movie, my hand to God.