A quick note to anyone reading "Falling" for the first time - the first two chapters are really me just trying to figure out what I was doing, retelling the first episode from two different perspectives that I was really hoping for in the pilot, but didn't get. If you want the original stuff, you probably want to skip to Chapter 3, the "From the Sewer" prologue.
There are generally two types of "story" in Falling. "From the Sewer" and "History Bites" are longer episodes, but they're broken up by "interludes", which are short, one-shot, character-driven pieces if you don't feel like settling in for the long haul. Thank you for reading!
The shifting lights of the city outside sent unfamiliar shadows dancing across the walls of the room she hadn't really slept in since she was a child. The long summer stays at her aunt's house had dwindled as she had grown older, grown more fascinated by her father's work. Now, there was little left in the corner bedroom, which brimmed with trinkets and knickknacks from her aunt's own childhood, that reminded April of home.
Her aunt had meant well when she ordered April to bed, but April hadn't bothered changing into her pyjamas. Sleep wasn't coming anytime soon. So she lay in the dark room, watching the shadows, finally understanding what it meant to be completely and utterly alone.
It had all gone wrong so quickly. One moment she was walking with her father, laughing at his corny jokes, and the next, the whole world had come crashing down around her…
The screech of tires shattered the moment as the van pulled up in front of them, blocking their path. The van doors opened, disgorging a man who appeared to have only a passing acquaintance with the notion of showering and… quadruplets? In business suits?
"What is this…" her father began, but he didn't finish his thought. Kirby grasped the situation a fraction of a second before April did, throwing his arm in front of her in a futile gesture of protection as the four identical men advanced on them.
They've come to take us… The thought popped unbidden into April's head, and fear turned her insides to ice. She gasped and grabbed at her father's arm. In another moment, the men were on top of them. Cold hands hard as steel gripped her arms, and she was torn away from the safety of her father.
"Let go of her!"
April's eyes widened. She had never heard that kind of anger in her father's voice before. One of the quadruplets released his hold on her arm, though she had only a moment of freedom before the unwashed guy grabbed her. He wasn't as cold as the emotionless statue holding her other arm, but his grip was just as unbreakable as she pulled against him with all she was worth.
Her father lunged at the goon who had been holding her, and his hand connected with a sickening crunch. As her father reeled, clasping his hand, April gaped in disbelief. All her father's strength behind the punch, and the goon hadn't even flinched. April watched in horror as the creep pulled his arm back and hit her father square in the jaw. Kirby reeled, and April bucked against the hands holding her, shaking off the shock and finding her voice again.
"Help!" she screamed as the goon marched her dazed father toward the back of the van. A cruel shove sent Kirby to his knees, and April screamed again. "Help!"
The last remaining goon picked her father up by his collar, and April could do nothing but watch helplessly as Kirby slipped into unconsciousness. The goon flung him into the back of the van like a limp rag doll. April's voice caught in her throat again. From where she stood, she couldn't even see him moving. She had no idea if he was alive or… or…
The goon holding her drew back on her arm, tearing April's gaze away from the van, and she knew in that moment that the same fate was waiting for her. She tensed, waiting for the blow to come. This whole time, none of them had said even one word about what they wanted…
A new voice, young and gruff, shattered the eerily quiet scene. The goon grabbed her away from the unwashed guy, and she lost sight of the van. Behind them came the unmistakable sound of fighting. A good Samaritan come to their rescue? It didn't matter. April wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth; she started struggling again with every ounce of strength left in her.
The goon didn't even acknowledge her efforts. He reached down and flung her over one shoulder, pinning her legs in a vice grip. "Hey, cut it out!" She pounded on his back as hard as she could. "Stop! OW!" His grip was practically crushing her as he headed back toward the van. "Let go of me!"
Something flew past her and collided with the goon's back with the force of a speeding freight train. The goon toppled, and April found herself hurtling uncontrollably through the air. Panic stopped her breath in her lungs as she pinwheeled, trying futilely to brace for the inevitable crunch as she impacted against the pavement.
Only the impact never came.
Large, impossibly strong hands cradled her beneath her shoulders and knees. April realized belatedly that she wasn't falling anymore. That someone had caught her. Bewildered, April looked up into the face of her rescuer.
April screamed, and the… the thing holding her screamed back, dropping her hard to the ground. April scooted backward despite the pain in her backside as the creature recoiled from her. It recovered quickly, though, and reached out toward her.
"No, no, no. No, don't worry, we're the good guys."
Its hands – green, three-fingered hands – were covered with scales. April screamed again. She pushed herself back across the pavement, but the creature followed her, looming over her, reaching for her.
"It's okay," it said. Despite everything, its tone was gentle, like it was trying to soothe a frightened puppy. God, its voice was so… so normal. It sounded just like any other teenage boy. Any other green-skinned, masked, mutant boy…
Forget that. April turned, attempting to lurch to her feet as the thing pursued her, only to be brought up short by the threat she had forgotten.
Oh, right. Goons.
The expressionless men advanced, their hands crooked into claws, reaching out like something out of a zombie movie, their faces still coldly impassive. April turned again, her heart pounding, the fear welling in her so strong she could barely think. Barely breathe. The creature had stopped moving toward her, and it held out that strange, green, impossibly strong hand.
And smiled at her.
For the first time, April looked, really looked, into its eyes. Warm brown stared back at her, and strangely, unlike the suited goons who looked at her with absolutely nothing behind their cold and empty eyes, there was something very… human behind the purple mask. Slowly, impossibly slowly, April's hand began to drift toward the creature's.
It still didn't move. It - no, he - was waiting for her to make the first contact.
Another one of the creatures landed behind the first, this one wearing orange. April flinched, and her would-be rescuer glanced over his shoulder to see what had frightened her, only to get the orange one's weapon square across the face. In the moment it took for her rescuer to glower at the newcomer as he stammered out an apology, the goons struck.
"Watch out," the orange one cried. April cringed as one of the goons flew toward her rescuer and delivered a powerful kick to the middle of his… wait, was that a shell?
A second later, April found herself grabbed from behind. Before she could think to scream, the goons had managed to gag her. Something cold was locked around her wrists and she was tossed into the van next to the inert body of her father. April struggled to sit up, hindered by her bound hands, and for a brief moment, her gaze locked with that of her creature as he lay sprawled atop the other in a pile of garbage. His eyes widened, and he was on his feet so fast she could barely track his movement, sprinting toward her, reaching out with that strange, scaled hand.
Then the van doors slammed, and she was alone…
April sat up, sighing. She couldn't keep lying here, alone in the dark. Moving quietly, aware that her aunt would be listening for restlessness, April moved to the shelf and picked up the radio that had been her companion during those summer stays in her childhood. Even then, she hadn't had many close friends; most of the girls her age had been interested in dolls and makeup, and she'd just wanted to blow things up with her chemistry set. After the first conflagration, the other parents had learned to keep their kids clear of her, though the pile of melted doll parts had been awfully neat…
Shaking her head at the memory, April undid the latch and pushed the big window open. Her aunt had always had conniptions when she caught April sneaking out to the fire escape. That had never stopped her, though. It was soothing out here, where she could think without interruption, save for the friendly chatter of the little radio. She turned it on, the volume low, and almost immediately thought about turning it off again. It was still tuned to the news channel she had regularly listened to when she was younger – she'd always liked the news. She'd even thought of being a news reporter someday, if she didn't end up becoming a scientist like her dad. Somewhere in the back of her mind now was the idea that if she listened closely to the news reports, she might hear something that everyone else would take for normal New York weirdness, but for those who knew the truth… for those who were on the lookout for things that might be related to alien brains in robot bodies…
But all anyone could talk about was the mysterious ninja clan rumoured to be floating around the city. If only they knew…
"We found them!"
April would never have imagined that the emotion that would fill her on seeing that strange green masked face again would be relief, but there it was. And what's more, he'd been looking for them. And he'd brought the others with him.
Strange emotions had stirred within her as she watched the creature – Donatello – try to hotwire the door. How exactly did you thank someone for risking his life to break into an alien fortress to rescue you when your first response to seeing his face was to scream in it? But he hadn't been fast enough. The aliens had come through the second door, and before Donatello and his brother could get through the lock, April and Kirby were being dragged off again.
She had tried to fight them. It seemed even more futile now that they knew about the robotic strength of their captors, but she had tried anyway. Anything to give the creatures – no, the turtles – time to reach them. But it hadn't worked. Some kind of monster had barred the turtles' way before they could reach April and Kirby, and April didn't even have it in her to be surprised anymore. Plant monster. Of course.
A helicopter waited on the roof. Once they were in that, there was no hope of tracking them. This was it. They were going to vanish, and nobody would ever find them again. As the rotors whirred to life, she twisted in her captor's grip for one last glimpse at her would-be rescuer. On the field below, Donatello was staring at her, and even from the roof, she could read the dismay in his face. He was too far away. She was lost.
The robot holding her wasn't gentle as he shoved her into the helicopter after her father, and the humming weapon in the hands of another dissuaded any further protest she might have made. As the rotors reached full speed, April looked out, defeated, at the city they were leaving behind – and froze.
Donatello was on the roof.
April gasped and pressed her hand against the window as the helicopter lifted off. He had been so close… but he wasn't finished. As the gap between the helicopter and the roof widened, Donatello was running after them, his weapon in his hands, and as he reached the end of the roof, he used the staff to fling himself off the edge.
Time slowed as he drifted across the space between them, and April watched, unable to breathe lest it shatter the moment…
His hand locked around one of the helicopter's landing skids.
Her breath left her in a rush. He was insane. He had to be. But hope began to fill her again. The goons in the cabin with them, both human and robot, looked at each other. They hadn't said anything, but the robot with the weapon rose from its seat and threw open the door.
"Oh good," April heard from below the door. "For a second there I thought this was gonna be too easy!"
Despite the fact that she was shaking in terror, a hysterical laugh escaped her. The goon opposite her looked her way, and she bit her lip. She turned her gaze to her father. She didn't dare say anything, but she hoped her look could speak for her. We're going to be okay.
Then the robot started firing.
April's eyes widened in horror, but in another second, a green blur swung out over the door and Donatello's foot connected with the robot's head. It left something behind, embedded deep in the metal skull. As the robot faltered, Donatello's legs wrapped around its neck and yanked it from the helicopter.
April gaped. That… was incredible.
But impalement through the skull wasn't enough to defeat the robot. Even as it fell, it continued to fire at Donatello. April heard his cries as he fought to maintain his hold on the skid, but the shots were going wide now, striking the helicopter, and the goon piloting it began to lose control. The helicopter pitched wildly, and before she knew what was happening, she found herself thrown from the cabin.
She screamed, and somehow managed to catch the edge of the door as she toppled forward. She dangled helplessly into space, and as the helicopter continued to careen through the sky, her gaze met with Donatello's one more time. His face mirrored her fear. "Hold on!" he called. "I'm coming!"
She tried. She really did. But her fingers slipped from the edge, and with a cry, she tumbled through space.
The fall took an eternity. Long enough for her to remember how happy she'd been with her father, and how much she regretted that she'd never see him again. Was this her life flashing before her eyes? She closed them, bracing for the end. They'd been so high, with the unforgiving concrete of the roof below them. There was no surviving this one. Thank you, Donatello, she thought at the very end. You tried.
She heard a grunt of pain somewhere beside and slightly below her.
No way- was all she had time to think before something slammed into her and she was no longer falling, but hurtling sideways. Her eyes flew open, but she already knew the feel of the hands that held her close against the solid safety of a terrapin shell. Her arms wrapped around Donatello's neck as he turned the fall into a controlled tumble, and she pressed her head against him, unable to tell up from down as he flipped across the levels of the building, shielding her from the impact with his shell.
At last, they skidded to a stop, both of them panting and short of breath. April could barely feel her limbs, she was shaking so hard. She finally dared to open her eyes again, and found him staring at her.
Wait, did he just jump off of a helicopter for me?
He could have been killed… should have been killed, but he'd saved them both. And the first thing out of his mouth wasn't concern for himself.
In that moment, she realized the truth. He hadn't come for April and her father.
He'd come for her.
And as they watched the helicopter fly away without them, she had room in her mind for only one thought.
She hadn't thanked him. She hadn't known how. How did you thank someone for breaking into an alien stronghold and then jumping off of a helicopter for you? And after she'd stopped shaking enough that he could set her on her feet, there hadn't been time.
Donatello kept a hand on her arm to steady her as he set her back on her feet. She opened her mouth to say something, though she didn't really know what was about to come out, when a horrible shriek reached them. In the chaos, she'd completely forgotten about the monster.
"Oh yeah," Donatello said sheepishly, and grabbed his stick-thing from where it had fallen after his vault from the roof. "We'd better go see if they need help." He glanced over his shoulder. "The other Kraang are still out there, too."
"The brain robots." He looked at her, and her fear must have been written on her face, because his expression softened. "Stay close and stay behind me. I promise I won't let them take you again."
The monster made another one of those horrible noises as Donatello sprinted toward the fight, April following as fast as she could. She got the feeling he was deliberately slowing down so that she could keep up. "What is that thing?" she panted.
"Well," he said, not even winded, "it used to be Snake." He glanced at her and took in her expression. "The jerk who drove the van."
They rounded the corner, and April got her first really good look at what had happened to the unwashed creep. Donatello halted, bringing April up beside him, and commented on what the others were doing, but April couldn't look away from the monster. It was awful. His limbs were twisted beyond recognition, and barely any trace of his humanity remained. But April couldn't find it in herself to be sorry.
The Kraang at least had the excuse of being alien. Snake had been as human as she was, and he'd hurt her and her father anyway. As the thing that had been Snake hit the overloading power generator and exploded in a shower of plant parts, she couldn't help thinking that he'd gotten what he deserved…
There still hadn't been time to thank him after that. Before the pieces of Snake had finished hitting the ground, the other turtles had joined them; then all their focus had been on getting out of the compound. Donatello had introduced her to his brothers as they fled.
April rested her cheek on her knees, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth as she went over them in her head.
Leonardo. So serious in his role as leader. His hand on her shoulder had been firm as he led her away from the battlefield, but there had been a gentleness there, too. The compound gates had still been locked tight as they passed them, but April hadn't realized that they'd be going over the wall until Leonardo and Michelangelo were already halfway up, clinging to the stone with spiked metal cuffs. It had been Raphael, stockier and stronger than the others, who had grunted "Oh, for Pete's sake," and grabbed her arm, hauling her onto his back. He had grumbled all the way up the wall as April clung to him for dear life, but behind the gruffness, there was a strangely attentive kindness. He'd been careful as he guided her over the jagged security glass that littered the top of the wall, ensuring that she didn't hurt herself, before he lifted her off her feet and tossed her down to Leo's waiting arms below.
It had taken her a while to really get Michelangelo. After everything she'd been through, the fact that he wouldn't stop cracking jokes (usually at his brothers' expense) as they fled through the alleyways, despite their repeated hisses of "ninjas are silent, stupid!", had seemed callous. Like he didn't care that she'd just lost her father and her heart was breaking. And then she noticed that after every joke, he glanced at her, gauging her reaction. That was when she figured it out. He was upset that she was sad, and he was trying to make it better the only way he knew how. He was trying to make her laugh.
Michelangelo's joking aside, their flight through the alleys was eerily silent. For all that they were four large reptiles with incredibly heavy shells on their backs, they moved like cats; the only footsteps she could hear were her own. They changed position often as they ran, one occasionally breaking away to run along a rooftop or a fire escape, scouting their position, yet they always returned to one particular formation: Leonardo in the lead and the others fanned out around April, keeping her in the centre of their little ninja circle. Keeping her safe.
Leo halted abruptly at the mouth of an alleyway, and April found herself pressed against his back. Donatello and Raphael crowded in on either side of her, and Michelangelo planted his hands on her shoulders to help himself peer over Leonardo's shell. Leo made a sharp gesture with the hand that wasn't holding one of his ninja sword things.
"Yeah," Raphael whispered. "Cause she can totally tell what you mean."
Leo glared over his shoulder, but his gaze was gentler when he lowered it to April. He still didn't speak – she got the feeling he took the ninja thing very seriously when he was leading – but he stepped aside so that she could see the building that sat on the other side of the road.
The police station.
"Oh," she whispered, her mouth suddenly dry. Stupid, April. She hadn't even considered what would come next. Of course they couldn't go with her the rest of the way. But she hadn't thought of that. It had never occurred to her that she would have to say goodbye.
Over the police station, the sky was growing paler. The sun was coming up. They didn't have to tell her that they worked better in the dark; the daylight world wasn't going to be kind to four large mutant turtles. She didn't have a lot of time to waste. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward.
"April." Leo's voice was serious. Leader voice.
She turned to face him and looked solemnly up into his eyes. "I won't tell anyone about you. I promise."
He smiled at her a little, approval written across his face. He brought his hands together over his chest, one clenched into a fist and pressed against the open palm of the other, and he bowed toward her. April bit her lip, unsure what to do, and looked to Donatello.
He'd been through even more than his brothers that night, and he was leaning heavily on his staff, but he straightened when she looked at him and gave her an encouraging smile.
April's throat tightened. "I—"
"Whaddya lookin' at?" The voice was loud, angry, and dangerously close to the alley. April whirled, certain that they'd been discovered, but the large balding man in the stained undershirt standing on the sidewalk nearby was yelling at the driver of a cab. He snorted as the cab screeched away from the stoplight, turned, and noticed April staring at him. "And what are you staring at?"
"Nothing," April whispered. The man shook his head and stormed off, muttering under his breath. Letting out a sigh of relief, April turned around.
The alley was completely empty.
She stood there, unbelieving, for a long moment. Then she squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and marched into the growing daylight. She didn't believe for a second that they'd abandoned her. They had to be nearby somewhere, watching her. If the Kraang and their van were to come around the corner right now, they'd be there to stop it. But this mission was hers to do.
Of course, she hadn't considered what would come after that, either. She should have, she supposed. But after the weirdness of the night, and the fear, and the nearly dying, reaching the police station seemed like the castle at the end of a video game. The place where everything was put right and you got your happy ending. She should have known that alien brains in robot bodies wouldn't go over too well with New York's finest.
Oh, they hadn't accused her of lying. They knew she and her father were missing – they'd been on their way to her aunt's house for dinner and she'd been frantic when they hadn't shown up. But as April told her tale, her accompanying gestures growing bigger and wilder with every measured "…uh-huh…" from the officers around her, they had exchanged looks over her head, and wrapped her in blankets, and had a paramedic look at her bruises, and called her aunt, and exchanged a lot of phrases like "shock" and "post-traumatic stress."
Her aunt had arrived not long after that, and had additional long conversations with various officers and doctors. April had dozed through a lot of that - she'd been up all night, after all, and there was nothing for her to do but sit in an empty room and drink tea and wear more blankets that the paramedic kept forcing on her - but in the end, it was very clear. They thought the shock of the kidnapping had made her invent some wild story to explain it all. At the end of it, she was alone. There were four other people in the whole entire world who knew the truth, and she was never going to see them again.
She never even got the chance to say goodbye.
April hadn't cried when she and Kirby were taken. She knew she had to be strong for her father. She hadn't cried when she thought that the turtles hadn't been fast enough to save them. She hadn't cried when she thought she was falling to her death. She hadn't even cried when she realized that her dad was gone. But now the tears sprang to her eyes, and she pressed her head against her knees, forcing herself to be quiet so that she didn't disturb her aunt.
Donatello had caught her twice that night. So why did she still feel like she was falling, spiraling out of control as the ground dropped away beneath her?
A quiet voice from the shadows of the fire escape said, "April?"
April screamed, grabbing for the windowsill as she nearly toppled clear off it. An instant later, the sound died in her throat as she made out the identity of her intruders.
"April!" Her aunt's voice was tense with alarm on the other side of the bedroom door.
April reached out quickly and shut off the radio. "I'm fine!" she called back. "I just…um… saw a spider! It scared me. Buuuut…I'm okay! Don't come in! I'm not decent!" She made a face. That sounded stupid even to her.
"If you're sure…" the uncertainty in her aunt's voice told her she hadn't bought it either.
"I'm sure. I'll see you in the morning." Okay, wrap it up, April, you're getting shrill. "Good night!"
After a moment of silence, when she was sure that her aunt wasn't going to force her way in anyway, April let out the breath she had been holding and turned back to her intruders. "What… when… How did you get up here?"
Donatello leaned back against the rail, a tiny smirk on his face. "It's a ninja thing."
She glanced at them in disbelief. "But how did you find me?"
This time all four of them answered in unison. "Ninja thing."
April let out a huff of exasperation and drew her knees up to her chest again, turning her face away from them. She knew her eyes were still red, and truth be told, she wasn't sure what the turmoil of emotions inside of her was doing. And right now, she didn't want them to see her cry.
Donatello stepped forward and placed his hand on the sill next to her. She looked up at him, and he wasn't smirking anymore. His brown eyes were wide with concern.
"Are you going to be all right?"
April sighed. "I guess. My aunt says I can stay here as long as I want." Her voice hardened. "But I'll be a lot better once I track down the creeps that took my dad."
"Won't the police help?" Leonardo asked.
"Funny thing," April said. "When you tell them your dad was kidnapped by alien brains in robot bodies, they don't take you all that seriously."
Michelangelo nodded solemnly from his perch on top of the ladder. "I hear that."
"April," said Donatello, "I promise you that we will not rest until we find him."
Raphael, who had been sitting quietly on the fire escape rail and observing the conversation, looked up sharply at that. "We won't?"
Leo elbowed his brother. Hard. "No," he said pointedly. "We won't." He looked at April, his serious leader face firmly back in place.
In that moment, April loved them all. But they had already risked their lives for her once. The Kraang were dangerous, and if anything happened to them because of her… "Thank you," she said, and looked down at her hands. "But it's not your fight."
A big, green hand covered both of hers. "Yes," Donatello said. It was a voice that was gentle, and concerned, and full of iron. "It is."
April stared at his hand, shaken. How could she have forgotten the warmth and the impossible strength that lay beneath the scales? And then the full impact of what he had said hit her, and she looked up at him, smiling despite the fact that her eyes had filled with unshed tears.
There was no arguing with that voice. For better or worse, they were in this together.
Her smile seemed to undo something within him, and she could have sworn he was blushing as he stepped away. Leonardo and Michelangelo were already gone, despite the fact that she was three feet away and hadn't heard so much as a squeak of the rickety old ladder. Ninjas. Oy. Raphael, with that same odd mix of gruff attentiveness, saluted her before he leaped up to the roof after his brothers.
Donatello followed after, but he paused when he reached the top of the roof. Turning back, he smiled, and raised his hand in a little wave. April returned the wave with an answering smile, and he was gone, vanishing over the rooftops.
She still hadn't thanked him for saving her life. But she would get another chance. She wasn't alone anymore. Still smiling, she gathered up her radio and headed back into the darkness of her bedroom.
She pulled the window closed, but as she reached for the latch, she hesitated, and her hand fell away. No, she wasn't going to latch it. As long as her four strange, kind, dangerous, amazing new friends were out there, she wasn't locking this window ever again.
And as April turned and leaned her back against the glass, she realized something else. Donatello had caught her a third time tonight, for the moment his hand had touched hers, the ground had stabilized beneath her and the world had started to feel right again.
She no longer felt like she was falling.