Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Character/Pairing: April, Ensemble
Word Count: 1,523
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Fear clogs her throat. Her hands tremble as he laughs. She wants to believe her friends will reach her in time, but she's still afraid. This has to be the Christmas ever, April thinks, when she thought it would be the best. This is her first Christmas in a long time, after all, that she had planned on spending with a family.
A family that she loves though they're not her blood. The four turtles who have brought so much into her life could not be her brothers more if they did share blood, and a kind word from their wise and gentle Sensei carries more strength than a hundred of the Shredder's snarls. She knows he's wise. She knows the Turtles will figure out Shredder's plan. They'll find her. They'll reach her.
But what if it's too late? she frets, chewing on her bottom lip and wishing she could reach a camera with a live feed. The city deserves to know what's happening, but for the first time in a long time, she's not concerned with the city or with the news. She wants only to send a message out to her family, to her brothers and to their father who is the first father figure she's had in a long time, since she was a little girl. He's so very different from her own father and grandfather, and yet there are times, especially in those rare, quiet moments when they exchange a smile over the turtles' antics or he actually hugs her, that all those differences fall away and it's as though she's being loved by a father again.
April wishes she could feel those arms around her again, fur and little, wiry tail included. She wishes she could hear the Turtles laugh or even just call her "Ape", a nickname she'd hated at first. She'd give anything, in this moment, to see them scarf down the pizza she knows they'll have for Christmas dinner, despite Splinter's best efforts to persuade them to eat more conventional holiday meals. She actually giggles aloud when she remembers Michelangelo's eggnog pizza.
The happy sound that escapes her lips makes Shredder whirl toward her. "You dare laugh, Miss O'Neil? I'm going to silence that mouth of yours once and for all!"
"You know, Shredhead," April taunts with a shake of her short, red bob, "you've been saying that all along, but you haven't done it yet. I'd like to see you really try. Put some effort into it this time, why don't you?"
His eyes flash, and for a moment, she wishes she didn't hang out with Raphael quite so much. Some of his attitude has clearly been rubbing off on her. Her instincts scream at her to scurry to the back of her cage, but she knows her brothers wouldn't run. She feels her spine stiffen with an entirely different instinctive reaction. She squares her shoulders and lifts her chin instead of avoiding the Shredder's gaze.
He reaches through the bars of her prison and grabs her throat. The spikes that shield his hands graze her skin. April wants to scream. She wants to run. She wants to at least shut her eyes and imagine herself anywhere but here. But the Turtles have taught her many things in the past (almost) year that she's known them, and one of those things is to be brave in the face of the impossible.
The clock chimes. They don't have much longer to reach them before New York will never see another Christmas, before she'll never get to spend a Christmas, or even another moment, with them. "The only reason," Shredder snarls, "you're still alive is because whereas they might not show to save the city, I know they'll show to save you."
He tosses her back against the bars, but as she hits the rusty metal, she suddenly hears bells. She looks up with a grin and meets his gaze again just in time to see his eyes narrow with anger and, she suspects, a hint of disbelief. Her own smile grows as she gets back on her feet. "Cowabunga, bastard," she breathes and watches her brothers go to work with glee.
She laughs again as she sees how they've come onto the scene. Shredder destroyed their van, but they whipped up a red sleigh out of somewhere. Splinter is dressed in a Santa suit -- she suspects, to make their travel through the city easier -- while the boys are clothed in festive green and red suits topped with headbands that include fake, pointy ears.
She watches as they defeat Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang, kicking them all back to Dimension X again. It's Mikey who reaches her first, but only because Raphael is taking longer than necessary to decimate the last of the Foot soldiers, Donnie's focused on stopping the latest missiles from launching at the city, and Splinter and Leo are watching over their whole family. She doesn't think of them as a team tonight, though they always are. She thinks of them as a family, and as she steps out of her cage and into Mikey's waiting arms, she finally realizes why tonight she was actually afraid.
The Turtles have brought a lot of new things into her life, many of which are amazing, but the fear she felt tonight is new, too. Having her brothers arms around her, watching Leo and Raph high five and Splinter's smile as he confirms his sons are safe, she finally understands why she was so afraid. Her fear wasn't for the city or even for herself. It wasn't for the Turtles, because she knew they'd win eventually. Her true fear was never that they'd fail. It was simply that she was afraid she wouldn't get to see them win the day again, she wouldn't get to be with them again, she wouldn't get to stay with her family through whatever next adventures and trials, too, were coming their way.
She smiles wide at Mikey though her lips tremble. "How about being a little faster next time?"
"We saved you. Did you ever doubt we would?" he asks, far more serious, for a moment, than the party maniac ever is for long.
"No," she answers truthfully. "Just . . . that you wouldn't be fast enough." She makes her smile grow as she exclaims, "Hey, I don't want to miss a second with you crazy turtles!"
"Don't worry, sis," Mikey assures her, hugging her again, "you're not going to."
She knows she will even as she hugs him back and feels the others come around them and join into what's becoming a group hug. She knows there will be times when she's captured again. There will always be times when she's used as bait to lure them into traps, but they're going to win. They're going to best whatever Shredder or whatever anybody else throws at them. She has complete faith in her brothers.
The brothers suddenly part. April looks up as Splinter softly clears his throat. All five younger people await his sage words. "A family," he says simply, his tail swishing, "will always come together again, especially on Christmas Eve."
"Yeah!" Mikey enthusiastically agrees while Donnie and Leo nod. Raph looks away for a moment. They all know he's got a tear in his eye though none of them will call him on it.
"So," April clears the tight ball of emotion in her own throat, "does that mean I'm . . . a part of your family?"
"Dudette!" Mikey squeals from behind her. "How could you ever doubt it?!"
Suddenly, she's surrounded again by five pairs of strong arms. April knows she shouldn't have asked that question. She doesn't have to wonder. Her brothers and their father have proven their love and loyalty to her time and again. Her own blood family may be long gone, but this is her family now, as crazy and wonderful as every single one of them is. "I love you guys!"
"Did you hear her?" Mikey asks quickly. "Did you hear her? She says she loves us!"
April laughs, and soon they're all laughing. It's Christmas, and as it's always been meant to be, it's filled with laughter, love, and family and no more fear until their next adventure again makes April question how much more time she can possibly have with her family. Her fear is never for herself but always about how much longer she has with them.
She wants a lifetime with them, and she knows she'll get though she doesn't know how long or short it might be, but a thousand lifetimes with this awesome family could never be enough. She may tire of finding snakes in her drawers or sitting on whoopee cushions. She may one day grow tired of pizza, and she's already tired of Shredder. But she'll never grow tired of her brothers or their father. She'll always want more time with them, and as long as she's breathing, she's happy to spend every moment she can with her family -- no matter how many times Mikey bursts her ear drums hollering "COWABUNGA!"