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 VCR blinks 12:00 in a never-ending beat, but the television is off, and April blinks blurrily into the darkness, wondering briefly of where and why."
Author Notes: I've been bitten by the five-and-one bug. Yikes! At least it's a longer chapter than normal to kick off the fanfic revival, hey?
I'm also starting a blog, as though you people don't get enough of me yammering: Scriptophrenia (dot-wordpress-dot-com), all things writing – fanfic, original, and… well, yammering. Lots of yammering…
Five Times April Woke in the Lair
(And One Time She Didn't)
Each day is a little life:
every waking and rising a little birth,
every fresh morning a little youth,
every going to rest and sleep a little death.
– Arthur Schopenhauer
The voices come to her slowly, like waves creeping up the shore, but she is too tired and too comfortable to really care.
"What part of Do Not Touch do you not get? How can I make it clearer? Do Not Touch means Do Not Touch, Not Ever, Not If The World Was Ending, Not If You Were The Last Turtle Alive, This Means You, Michelangelo!"
"She said she was here to pick up some doohickey for her computer. How was I supposed to know the difference?"
"It was labelled!"
"Yeah, but still…"
"Dude, you have really tiny writing."
Bangs and crashes – snarling voices and girlish shrieks, echoing around her as though she was trapped on some kind of bizarre battlefield.
"Get back here!"
She frowns. So much noise…
Then another voice. Authoritative. Peace.
"What in the world is going on? Don?"
"Mikey decided to try chemical warfare on April!"
"Come on, it was an honest mistake. Besides, you were the one that said she looked tired."
"Mikey, she has a job!"
"She doesn't have to be there until tomorrow, Donnie."
"That doesn't mean it's okay to sleep-grenade April!"
"You already tested it on the Dragons."
"Yes! Most of whom outweigh her by two or three times! Body mass, Mikey! It's important!"
"You said she'd be fine!"
"Don, really, is she okay? Do we need to get her to the hospital?"
"What? No, she'll be fine. It's harmless. No side-effects, just… sleeping."
"See? Dude, what are you so worried about?"
"Lots of sleeping!"
"How long with this last?"
"How should I know? I calibrated these for adult males, not anyone April's size."
"Give me an estimate."
"I can't really—"
"Don. How long?"
"I don't know! Er, twenty hours?"
"Then she'll be fine?"
"… with continued drowsiness and disorientation for another twenty-four hours, give or take?"
There is a long moment of silence. She sighs and curls deeper into the warmth that surrounds her.
"… I'm a dead turtle."
"We, Mikey. Definitely we."
The VCR blinks 12:00 in a never-ending beat, but the television is off, and April blinks blurrily into the darkness, wondering briefly of where and why. When she shifts, the massive, hard lump beneath her torso jerks and mumbles, and she freezes.
And then she smells the musty scent of filtered sewer air, and she hears the grumbling snore from beneath her and the nasally not-quite-squeaking breath from somewhere behind her, and there is the rough-smooth texture of a giant shell beneath her hands.
Mikey, she thinks, lowering her head back onto the pillow braced upon the shell. And Donatello, she thinks, uncurling enough to press bare feet to the side of a scaled thigh.
Snores to shame a diesel engine come from further in the darkness. Raphael.
There is no noise and no shift in the air, but there is suddenly soft warmth draped over her, a well-worn blanket that covers her from neck to toe, and she smiles into the shadows, already drifting back into the warm embrace of sleep. Leonardo.
The first thing that strikes her is that someone has removed the bowl from beside the couch, and she cannot decide whether to be touched or mortified. She settles for a bit of both and huddles deeper into the mound of blankets scavenged from around the lair. Her skin is icy cold but her insides seem to burn far too hot – logically, she knows that keeping warm will help her recover, but a fever is a fickle, deceptive thing, and she wants nothing more than to jump in the nearest body of water until she no longer feels like she's roasting from the inside out.
When the drainage channels of the nearby sewer system begin to seem like a tempting swimming hole, she knows it's time for another Tylenol.
As if summoned by this thought, two tiny pills materialize before her nose, cradled in a broad green palm. She squints at them in bemusement.
Did I do that? she thinks, and then there is a glass of water beside the pills, also held by a green hand.
"Two o'clock," says a familiar voice. "Down the hatch."
She blinks and squints harder, because changing her eyes' focus from the green hands to the green face is like dialing in focus on an ancient camera. Green snout and white teeth and purple bandana waver into clarity.
"Don," she rasps in greeting.
"Hey," he replies.
She pops the pills and accepts the water, and she does not stop drinking until the glass is drained. Even then, she thinks she could probably drain Lake Erie given half a chance.
She hums something that is neither a yes or no.
"I'm so sorry," she says. "I don't want to be a pain."
"Hey, we've seen worse than a little stomach bug." A broad grin crinkles the skin around the turtle's snout. "You should have been here for the Great Influenza Epidemic." He winks. "Then again, you were probably better off not experiencing that."
She snorts a laugh – even that hurts, but she doesn't care.
"Thanks, Don," she says.
"April. April, come on."
Her arms and shoulders ache, one of her hands tingling with the onset of pins-and-needles, and something hard is digging into the center of her chest. Something pushes against her shoulder, rocking her from side to side.
She blinks muzzily, and before her, a blur of black and white resolves itself into a sheet of scribbled equations. Beyond it, a stack of textbooks looms over her, and she can hear the hum of a laptop somewhere nearby.
"April, wake up. You need to go to bed."
The sheer stupidity of that sentence prods her further into wakefulness.
"Dumbest thing I've ever heard," she mumbles. "Wake up and go to bed?"
It hurts to sit up, but she manages, bracing herself against the edge of the dining room table. It takes her a moment to decipher the massive jumble of pens and papers and graphs and diagrams spread before her, and she remembers: a 'Geek Night', as dubbed by Michelangelo, science and techno-jargon so thick in the air that the other three turtles fled to train above-ground and Splinter retreated to his room.
Donatello stands at her elbow, looking down at her with concern.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I was working on the schematics on the computer and… kind of lost track of time."
She mumbles something that might have been acceptance, had anyone been able to understand it.
"It's really late," says the turtle, sounding entirely too articulate to April's muddled mind. "Do you want me to take you home, or would you rather stay here for the night?"
She looks toward the kitchen clock. After a moment, she deciphers the time and moans softly. 3:48 in the morning.
"Couch," she says, and she ignores Donnie's quiet chuckle as she totters across the room to flop onto the worn cushions, cocooning herself in an equally worn, but oh-so-soft, blanket.
Her eyes are already closed, but she hears the soft click and sees the change as Donnie flicks the light off.
Crazy ninjas, she thinks, wandering around in the dark…
"Mornin'," she corrects, more of a grunt than an actual word. Then a thought strikes her, so she adds, "Donnie?"
"Tell 'em… if they wake me 'fore noon… not pretty."
Donatello chuckles again – more of a snicker, really – and says, "Sure thing, April. Sleep well."
She nods into her pillow, satisfied, and then she's gone.
Her first thought is something like What…? but before that can take root and bloom into anything more coherent, it is trampled by the thought of Holycrapheadhurtsowowow…
She tries to orient herself – wheres and hows and whys – and remembers only a too-quiet lair, and searching for the turtles, and peeking into a darkened dojo, and then—
There are voices all around, garbled and tripping over each other like a litter of puppies.
"What the shell is wrong with you!"
"April, can you hear me?"
"She startled me, okay! How could I know it was her and not one of you guys?"
"Are you a ninja or aren't you?"
"I was blindfolded! We were all blindfolded!"
"What sort of excuse is that?"
"Oh, man, when Master Splinter finds out…"
"I don't think she has a concussion. April?"
"She's not allowed in here anyway!"
"Hundreds of flips, dude. Thousands."
"April, open your eyes for me, okay?"
"How was I supposed to know she was gonna—"
She makes some kind of noise in protest, because, hello, noise plus headache equals ouch, and she's gratified when the voices drop to more acceptable levels.
"Hey, there." There are hands on her face, not warm but not cold, the skin of the palms rough but their touch gentle. "Come on, April, let's see those pretty eyes."
She blinks, and she sees green. She blinks again, and the green resolves itself into four familiar faces. They are suddenly still and quiet, and she takes a moment to just look at them. Each has a scrap of cloth tied loosely around his neck.
The side of her face throbs like a second heartbeat. She works her mouth silently, examines her teeth (all present and accounted for) and moves her jaw (painful, but still in working order).
"Next time," she slurs, "I'll knock."
And one time she didn't…
She wakes at two in the morning for no good reason, and she stares into the shadowy depths of her room for a long moment to wonder why.
And then a faint chorus of snores drifts to her ears, and she smiles into her pillow before she pushes back her covers and stands. Her robe lays on the end of the bed, and she finds it through feel, wrapping the warm terrycloth around herself. Outside the window, flakes of white drift down like a shower of lace.
She picks her way through her room with ease born of long familiarity – avoid the nightstand, around the end of the bed, touch the dresser, follow it to the door. The door's hinges squeak when she pulls it open, but the snores continue unabated, and she eases down the hallway to peer into the living room.
The coffee table has been shoved to one side, and a pile of blankets has taken its place. The blankets shift and quiver like a living thing, and here and there, a bit of green shows amidst the riot of patchwork colors. On either side, her space-heaters run full-blast, set just far enough back that they won't set the pile alight.
Seated upon the couch, a giant rat sits in a meditation pose, eyes lidded. His ears twitch as she enters the room, though, and she makes her way to the couch with all the stealth she knows – which, granted, isn't much, especially in her present company.
Splinter accepts her presence beside him on the couch with a gentle nod of greeting.
"Good morning," he says, his voice kept just above a murmur.
She replies in kind. She eyes the pile of blankets and, when there is no sign that its inhabitants are bothered, she dares speak again.
"Do you need anything?" she asks. "I can get more blankets. Or I could turn the heat higher, if that would help."
"Do not concern yourself. Donatello assures me that the lair's heating system will be repaired within a day."
"Everyone deserves a warm place to sleep, especially when it's snowing outside."
"I must apologize for troubling you so."
She shakes her head. "Really, it's no trouble."
"You possess a gentle and generous soul, Miss O'Neil. My sons are lucky to have met you."
She blushes, a wave of red that creeps up her neck and across her face, and she blames it on the heat – she has never turned her thermostat above seventy degrees before, but she has never had as good a reason as she has tonight.
Instead of replying, she leans forward enough to grab hold of a stray corner of blanket and tuck it around a bare green foot that has somehow emerged from the pile. When she sits back, Splinter has turned his attention to his sons.
"They have not slept thus in many years," he says. "Not since they were still hatchlings. They have grown so much since then."
"I'm surprised they're still asleep," she admits, eyeing the turtle-pile with not a little fondness. To think that the tangle of limbs and shells and blankets before her was an elite family of ninja warriors… She could not help but grin. "I thought ninja were supposed to jump awake at the slightest little noise."
"Indeed, Miss O'Neil." There is a strange expression on the ninja master's face now – amused, she thinks, or smug. "With training, one learns which sounds and smells mean safety or danger – which touch means friend or foe."
He nods meaningfully to the blanket she had just tucked in.
The implication leaves her speechless.
Splinter merely smiles.
End Five Times