Sometimes there are scenes that I just don't know where to fit in to the story. This is one of them, and hearing Shinobi kind of cemented it. Just one of those moments where April realizes there are depths to her brothers that she doesn't realize sometimes.
April's brow furrowed as her knock went unanswered. She knew he was in there — the pounding music shook the floor beneath her feet — but no matter how hard she knocked, there was no response. Finally, she pushed the door open, carefully averting her eyes to the floor to give him time to notice her as she eased through the door.
The music crashed into her as she entered, and it was a little scary how much it reminded her of him; it was the auditory equivalent of sugar, espresso, and puppies relentlessly shaken together. But as she listened a moment longer, she realized that the resemblance was more than just superficial. The Japanese lyrics pouring from the speakers were echoed in Mikey's voice, broken only long enough for a cheerful, "Oh, hey April!" before the enthusiastic singing continued.
Her politeness forgotten, she looked up in astonishment at Mikey. As the music pounded through the room, Mikey jumped up and down in time on his bed, punctuating the lyrics she couldn't understand with what she assumed were appropriate accompanying actions.
"What is this?" she called over the music, moving closer to the bed.
Giving a particularly enthusiastic leap, Mikey flopped down on his stomach, the bed creaking to accommodate him. His toe flicked out to nudge the volume down, though he was looking at April when he did it.
"Donnie downloaded it for me. It's from Japan. I love this stuff, but it was really hard to get when we were kids." He beamed at her. "Cool, right? Oh, this is the best part…" As April gingerly picked her way around piles on the floor she didn't particularly care to examine too closely and perched on the edge of the bed next to him, he sang along to the bridge, bouncing in place as he did so. The chorus kicked in again, and he grinned. "Awesome lyrics, huh?"
"I… guess so," she said, her cheeks reddening a little. She'd thought she'd been doing pretty well with her language lessons, but she supposed that it didn't translate so well outside of the dojo. "I didn't really catch any of that."
"Ohhhh," Mikey said, his foot kicking out behind him again to silence the song. "Right. I forgot that you're just a beginner. It basically means ninjas are awesome."
"Well, that's true, they are„," April said, glancing around the room. She'd only been in once or twice, but as she took in the cluttered shelves, she started noticing things she hadn't before. Like the fact that the videotapes were labelled in both Mikey's more familiar scribbles from his notes on the fridge, and in equally hastily scrawled kanji. Or the fact that the mismatched volumes of manga on the shelves were mostly in Japanese.
"Mikey, what's your first language?" she asked.
His face was open, uncomprehending as he looked at her curiously. "Japanese, a'course. Why?"
"It's just…" April folded her hands together in her lap, staring at them. "I don't hear you guys speak it much, is all."
This time, his face was the one that reddened, and he rolled over onto his back, lacing his fingers together behind his head. "Uhhh… yeah, that's my fault. I had trouble with English, and Splinter made a rule that we'd only speak English when we weren't in the dojo so that I had to learn. We got kinda used to it, and I guess it stuck."
Shame burned through April, and she was suddenly very glad she'd left her backpack behind in the pit. She'd noticed Mikey's distractability — it was impossible not to — and after long lab sessions spent listening to Donnie complain about how hard it was to teach his younger brother anything, she'd gone to the resource centre at school and signed out some books meant to help kids struggling with reading and writing. She'd wanted to help… but as she looked further at the shelves, noting the epic fantasy novels and comics in both English and Japanese tucked away behind the action figures, she felt like a royal tool.
"Hmmm?" he tilted his head to look up at her.
"Do you think you could help me with my Japanese?"
The utter shock on his face made her feel even worse as he pushed himself to his knees to stare into her eyes. "Don't you want to ask Donnie?"
"I would…." she blushed harder, her hands curling into fists on her knees as she looked away, and she finished in a rush, "butDonnietalkstoofast."
Mikey stared at her for another stunned moment before he laughed and reached out to take her hands in his. "Oh, man, I totally get that! Sure, I can help you out. But first, we gotta get you more mellow, girl. You can't learn anything when you're all tense like this." His foot collided with the boom box, and the room flooded with Jpop again. Mikey clambered to his feet, yanking April up with him, and the bed creaked ominously beneath their combined weight. "Just feel the beat and let it go!"
Her father had always told her never to jump on the bed. But her father had never tried to resist Hurricane Mikey. Her stomach fluttered as she jumped with him, her hands locked gently but inescapably in his much bigger ones, and caught in his wake, she found herself jumping higher than she ever though possible as his cheerful voice flooded the room with song.
She hadn't realized just how much she had to learn from her brothers. All of her brothers. And as the bed suddenly shifted, sending them both tumbling down only for April to find herself caught against Mikey's chest, both of them laughing uncontrollably as he kept her from crashing to the floor, she vowed that she'd stop underestimating the youngest of them.
He was sweet, and innocent, and naive, and goofy, and more distractable that a cat with a laser pointer. But there was so much she could learn from him, if she could let herself get over what she thought she knew about him and just give him a chance.
But first, she could let herself rest her head against his plastron, and let the strength of his hug chase away the tension and the guilt, basking in the warmth of that sheer, unconditional love.