A/N: I can never leave well enough alone. This takes place about a year after my "Suspended Animation" one-shot, and features the same versions of the characters.
It's not entirely accurate to say that Donatello almost gave himself away because of a video game, but since the alternative is to say he almost gave himself away because of a Halloween costume, he's going to stick with the video game story.
Friday nights had been game nights for the past eight years, but with April in Japan for the summer, game night has suffered. On the surface, she was there to study. True, to a point, but she spent more time in a dojo than she did in a classroom.
The time difference made it impossible for them to keep any sort of game going except online chess, which Raphael was opposed to on principle alone, so game night went on hiatus until she came back.
Donatello spent the summer perfecting his gaming rig, when he wasn't actively avoiding death by Kraang, or by mutant, or by Mikey-was-in-the-lab-again-oh-god-run. His brothers teased him about using a desktop, but when he tried to explain about processing power, their eyes glazed over and Raphael dredged up yet another cutting remark from his endless reservoir. As usual.
Casey stops by a few times to show off his bruises, and shakes his head over Donatello's rig. He doesn't comment past a "dude, lame" before meandering off to beat up someone else. Donatello lets it all roll off his shell and keeps upgrading.
The secret benefit to the desktop is that it stays in the lab, and since that's considered Donatello's domain, even Mikey tends to leave it alone on the occasions he wanders through. So that summer, Donatello loads almost ten years of pictures onto the rig and spends a few minutes every day going through them.
He'll never delete any of them, not even the ones Raphael took when Leonardo came down with the flu and molted at the same time. Looking at all of them in order shows him the few changes that have marked them over the years: the day Mikey's freckles disappeared, the day Leonardo became the tallest. It's the only way he knows they're moving forward, without his usual reference point.
He's a little less obvious than he was when he first met April. Her picture isn't his desktop, and the folder with all his videos of her lacks exclamation points now. But it's all there, every piece of evidence he's collected, for a hypothesis he'll never try to prove.
A summer is just about the longest he can take, even with daily emails and Skyping as often as they can, and then she emails him a picture of herself with her plane ticket home. She looks happy.
No, he thinks, not just happy. He's watched her for so long he doesn't need to concentrate to read her facial expressions. She looks relieved.
It occurs to him that he might be projecting, just a little, but since the hours till she touches down are in the double-digits and steadily decreasing, he lets that pass.
April's return coincides almost perfectly with Mikey's discovery of Mass Effect.
The day before April is supposed to arrive, they're all in the pit, watching Mikey kill a plant-monster with vague Freudian undertones.
"So this thing is a Thorvian?" asks Raph. He leans in for a closer look. "That part looks like -"
"We know what it looks like," Leonardo interrupts, as Donatello says "It's a Thorian, actually." His urge to correct faulty data is instinctual at this point, as is his brothers' way of ignoring him when he does. He sighs and leans back. Mikey could have killed the Thorian and its creepers ten minutes ago, if he'd paid more attention to his shields and didn't have to keep loading his last save.
A slight movement over by the turnstiles catches his eye. Another, deeper instinct narrows his focus and he's about to drop into a crouch, but then a bright shaft of surprise slips through his chest. April swings lightly over the turnstiles and waves at him, her smile white and toothy in the dim light. He waves back, pleased beyond words. No one else has noticed her yet, but he stays quiet, just to spin the moment out a little longer.
According to the calendar, there's almost four weeks of summer left, but in her brown jacket, with her hair falling over her shoulders, she's brought autumn back with her. Donatello knows exactly what she would smell like if he got close enough: wind, leaves, apples, and a hint of clean sweat underneath it all.
She winks at him, then cups her hands around her mouth and bellows.
"Guys, I'm h-"
"APRIL," they chorus. Even Spike stops chewing long enough to send a rheumy glance her way, and Splinter smiles as he strokes his beard.
Donatello hangs back while his brothers slalom through the lair toward her. April drops her bag and braces herself against a turnstile as Mikey slams into her. The air whooshes out of her in a laugh and she throws her arms around them all in turn.
"You're early!" Leonardo yells. "We didn't expect you till -"
"Till tomorrow, I know! But a seat opened up on an earlier flight so I grabbed it. It happened so fast I didn't think to call or text, and by the time I remembered I figured, why not surprise you guys?"
"You could have emailed from the plane." Donatello's mouth is a runaway horse. "Most international flights have internet access now."
Raph's face very clearly says Way to go, Donnie, and even Leo is obviously trying not to roll his eyes. He can't disagree with them, because of course that would be the first thing he says to her when they're finally in the same room again.
April flicks her gaze up to his, and her face is torn between two expressions. He can only be sure of one of them, and it's a fond sort of exasperation.
Well, she should have expected that. He shrugs helplessly, and she laughs, shaking her head. They're accomplices now in his awkwardness. She leaps across the room in three steps to throw herself at him, and he stumbles but manages to stay on his feet when her arms loop around his neck. She smells like sugar, too.
"Missed you," she whispers into his cheek.