A/N: Hello, all. A moment of your time, if you will. Before beginning this story, you should note (if you have not already) that it is a sequel to "A Paper Wall". I highly recommend reading that one before attempting this. In particular, read the version posted on FFN, as the last chapter is a little different and contains some scenes that are critical for setting up this next installment.
Okay, done that? Awesome. Next thing: This story is rated T for some strong language. If only I could get Raph to control himself. Also, as in many of my fics, there are some scenes that may look like Turtle-cest, but if you have read my other disclaimers then you already know nothing is going on.
The Turtles and their friends and possessions do not belong to me. Alas.
And finally: This story is entirely the fault of Willowfly. She ordered me to write it, held my hands to the keyboard (or to hot coals, when I resisted), and punished me severely when the most recent chapter was not up to her standards. The results are as you see.
The Wooden Bestiary
(with apologies to Tennessee Williams)
April answers a knock at the window, and doesn't even think there's anything odd about it anymore.
"Hi," she says, as Leonardo climbs into her apartment. "I didn't know you were coming."
He glances out the window, as she closes it and draws the curtains. "My family doesn't know I'm here."
She gestures him into the living room. "How are things with you and them?" she asks. "I haven't talked to you since..."
"Yeah." He hovers between two chairs, then picks one and sits in it. "Things have been... It's a long story."
She sinks slowly into a chair opposite, and looks at him expectantly.
He shakes his head. "Another time," he says. "Things are - better, mostly."
"I'm glad to hear it," she says. "Can I get you anything? Some tea?"
"No, thanks." He shifts in his seat. "I came to ask you about something else."
"Sure," she says.
"It's - kind of a favor." He looks at her nervously. "You can say no..."
She smiles at him reassuringly. "You haven't even told me what it is yet."
"I -" He reaches to his hip, and unknots a small pouch from his belt. He holds it in his hands a moment, then pulls open the drawstring and shakes the contents into his palm. "It's this."
He offers the objects to her, and she takes them. They're three delicate wooden carvings of animals. A horse in full gallop, its mane and tail flying. A dolphin, curved as if caught mid-leap. A swan, its wings folded and neck gracefully arched.
"They're beautiful," she says. "But I don't understand..."
"Would you... sell them?" he asks. "I mean - do you think anyone would buy them?"
"Absolutely," she says, examining the workmanship of the pieces with a practiced eye. "They're really good." She looks up. "Where did you get them?"
Leo looks surprised at the question. "I - made them."
"You -" She looks back at the carvings in her hands. "Wow, Leo. I had no idea..."
"They're nothing much," he says softly. "Just samples..."
"They are really good," she tells him. "I would buy them."
"Thanks, April." He ducks his head, and she suspects he's blushing. "Um. On second thought, some tea sounds good..."
They sit in silence, and April remembers the first time she drank tea with the Turtles.
She'd made some comment, just small talk, and they had all stared at her in astonishment. She had put her teacup down slowly, wondering what she had done wrong.
"April," Donatello had said softly. "You don't talk to people when they're drinking tea..."
Leo drinks slowly, meditatively, as he always does, and then he sets his teacup down, placing it precisely, completing the ritual.
"It would really help us out," he says, "if we could make some money off this."
She nods, understanding. "Do you want me to sell these?" she asks, gesturing to the three figures. She'd lined them up on the coffee table, and they stand there, frozen as if only waiting for the right moment to come to life. "Or are they only for show?"
He casts a deprecating glance at his work. "No one would pay for those," he says, despite what she had told him not twenty minutes earlier.
"Sure they would," she says.
His gaze turns calculating. "What, maybe... three dollars? For one of those?"
She looks at him, until he feels her gaze and raises his eyes to meet hers. "Leo... do you know what three dollars is worth?"
He frowns. "Too much?"
She sighs, struck again by how little her friends actually know about the human world. "Leo, three dollars is a cup of coffee. I can sell these for ten. Easily."
His eyes widen, then dart towards the carved figures, as if checking to make sure he and April are talking about the same thing. "Ten dollars? For that?"
She nods slowly, not wanting to scare him with sudden moves. "For a unique, beautiful artwork made by a local artist? Leo, I won't be able to keep them on the shelves."
He just stares at her in disbelief.
By the time she flicks the light on in the shop, Leo is already standing at the central display case, contemplating its contents. He had moved around the shelves of fragile antiques as though he hadn't even noticed it was dark.
She lays out the three carvings on the counter, making a mental note to get a stand for the dolphin, and reaches into the filing cabinet for paper and markers.
"Hey, Leo," she says, as she writes, and he looks up. "Would you say your art is environmentally sustainable?"
He blinks at her. "What?"
"Where does the wood come from?"
"Oh..." He moves to the counter, picks up the beached-looking dolphin, runs his thumbs over it. "It's just fallen branches. It's not worth anything."
"Made from eco-friendly renewable resources," April says, as she writes the same words with a flourish. She finds a roll of masking tape, tears off a piece, and affixes the sign to the glass surface of the counter.
Leo reads it. "Fifteen dollars? April, you said ten!"
She shrugs. "I'll ask for fifteen. If people don't like it, they can haggle."
He glances from the figure in his hands to the number on the sign, trying to figure out how one equals the other.
"Okay, hard bargain time," April says, and his attention snaps back to her. "Twenty percent is mine," she says, "for display space, overhead, administrative costs and sales commission. The rest is yours."
He looks around slowly, then back to her. "Okay?"
She slaps her hand against the counter. "Come on, Leo. What did I just say about haggling?"
He puts the dolphin down, the wood clicking softly against the glass.
"Ask for ninety," she whispers.
"Ninety what?" he whispers back.
"Not a chance!" she says loudly, and he whips around, checking to make sure there isn't suddenly someone else in the store. "I can't feed my children for less than fifteen percent!"
He turns back to her in confusion. "April, you don't have children."
"All right," she says. "You can have eighty-five percent. But that's my final offer."
"April, I -"
She slaps the counter again. "Done. Pleasure doing business with you."
She sticks out her hand, and, for lack of a better response, Leo puts the dolphin in it.