Ch 5 – The Ones Like Her
“O’Neil! To what do we owe the pleasure?” the snake-eyed girl asked smugly as the Mutanimals’ security system unlocked and admitted the redhead.
“Hey, Karai,” April returned. “Is Slash around? I… kind of wanted to ask him something."
“Ooh, thinking of upgrading to a larger model turtle?” Shinigami teased, sliding over from the array of monitors in a rolling chair while continuing to paint her nails a dark violet.
A blush rose to April’s cheeks. “Nothing like that. I just wanted to see what he thought Raphael’s reaction to something would be before I ask him.”
“Well, afraid you’re out of luck there,” Karai informed her, striding a way off with her back to her. “I sent the boys off on patrol for the night so we could have girls’ night in.”
“You should stay!” Shinigami insisted. “We were going to play ‘Apples to Apples.’ It’ll be more fun with four.”
Karai jerked her head over her shoulder at the final member of the team approaching from the back rooms. “Of course, if you’d rather speak to the other resident Raphael expert…”
April bonked herself in the forehead with her palm. “Y’gytgba, er, Mona Lisa! Of course!”
“Greetings, April. Is something amiss with Raphael?”
“Oh! No, no… nothing’s wrong with Raph. Thank goodness,” she added lowly.
“I am glad. But something troubles you?”
Was it that obvious? Apparently she needed to work on that ‘masking one’s emotions’ thing Leo was on about… She supposed she didn’t have a great poker-face. She sighed.
“I was going to ask Slash, since he’s known Raphael longer, but maybe you’d know … I wanted to know what kind of reaction he’d have if I asked him to talk with me about… what I did to Donnie. And… almost to Raph, too.”
A concerned scowl crossed the Salamandrian’s face. “And what did you do to Donatello? Rakka, rakka.”
April blinked for a moment, unprepared to be the one to break the news of her own deed, and the guilt that came with it. “No one told you?” She paused a moment to take a calming breath. “I… blew him up.”
Y’gythgba drew her head back in shock at the news, while a snort and a peal of laughter issued from the raven-haired girl. “That is one way to get rid of a clingy boyfriend!”
April glared at her. “It’s not funny!”
The Salamandrian, meanwhile, dropped into a battle stance. “You have killed Donatello? And you have nearly killed my Raphael?!”
“No! I mean, yes, but I brought him back to life, and he’s fine… physically… And it wasn’t really me; I was being possessed by this crazy alien lady in the Aeon crystal, and she ripped Donnie’s atoms apart, and was twisting Raph’s limbs, and I… I couldn’t fight her, until Raphael said I should fight for Donnie, and I shattered the crystal before she could blow him up too. I used all my power and the last of what was in the Soul-Star shard to pull Donnie back together, so he’s all right.” She looked away, not wanting to meet anyone’s eyes. “Except…” She swallowed hard, holding back tears. “Except he doesn’t want to see me anymore. He said everything was okay at first, but he’d flinch every time I even looked his way! I think… he’s hurt, and scared. Of me, and what I… Za’noran… did to him.”
The alien amphibian cautiously dropped her stance. “And Raphael?” she said single-mindedly.
“He’s fine too… but you know how he is. He won’t say anything’s wrong even if it is.”
Shaking her head, Mona Lisa released a tensely held breath.
Shinigami giggled. “Boy, April, when you break up, you really break up!”
“Shut up, Shini!” Karai snapped, grabbing the other girl’s floppy witch hat and throwing it in her face. “Just because you can’t keep a guy around for more than a month…”
“It’s not my problem they can’t keep me entertained!” Shini replied with offendedly hooded eyes.
Karai rolled her own, glancing back to the other two girls. “She goes through boyfriends like chewing gum… chews them up, and spits them out! I’m surprised she hasn’t gotten tired of Michelangelo yet.”
The witch stuck her nose in the air. “Just for that, I’m keeping him around for at least another couple of months just to spite you. And is it my fault my boy-toys break so easily?”
“It’s really no wonder. You play too rough with them.”
“How would you know? You’ve settled for the first boy you met!”
“Because I’m not done with mine yet! I’ve pretty much got Leo under my thumb, but he manages to surprise me now and then. We’re playing the long game.”
“Courtship is not a game!” Y’gythgba put in, supremely offended.
“What else would it be?” Shinigami countered, drooping as though her fun was being ruined.
“Once a life-mate is chosen, one must devote themself wholeheartedly to that person’s well-being, on and off the battlefield! Rakka-rakka,” the salamander declared as if reciting from a book.
Karai cast her a skeptical glance and turned to April. “She… hasn’t seen much of the dating field before Raphael, has she?”
“Uh… I…” April stammered. Somehow Y’gythgba’s romantic life had never come up in their conversations… not that they’d had much time to gossip during their brief encounters in space.
Shini tsked, smirking and throwing her hair over her shoulder. “How can you know what’s in all the chocolates if you don’t sample every one?”
“This explains so much…” Karai drawled. “Especially why all of my chocolates have a bite taken out of them!” she said with a sideways glare at her bestie.
“Trust me, April,” the witch continued without acknowledging her friend. “You are better off having split up. Now you can go find a new boy who doesn’t come with so much baggage!”
April clenched her fists and stomped a foot. “Donnie is not disposable!”
Mona joined her, looking pissed but valiantly holding back from unleashing her fury upon her allies. “Neither is Raphael! Come, April. We shall hold a more… mature council in my quarters.”
Side by side, the two walked off. Shinigami wilted. “Ohhhh. Now we don’t have enough players…”
April ducked under the amphibian’s strange-eyed gaze as though they were an accusation and picked at a loose thread in the shabby, patched together blanket immaculately spread over Mona Lisa’s cot. The salamander remained silent, waiting for her to say something first, so she led with, “I’m sorry.”
The alien cocked her head. “Why do you apologize?”
April blinked at her, wondering if something had gotten lost in translation. “For… for nearly getting your boyfriend killed!”
“As you said, you were controlled by another, were you not?”
“Well, yeah… but… I didn’t fight her… I couldn’t! I was off-balance, and scared… It took Leo and Mikey and Raph just to remind me what I was fighting to save!”
“Yet you fought, in the end,” Mona said levelly.
April’s eyes snapped up to hers. “What choice did I have? To just let her blast everybody to atoms? If I’d acted sooner, she wouldn’t have done that to Donnie!”
“You feel guilt for things you failed to do, for your inadequacies.”
“You say that like you’ve experienced something similar.”
“All warriors do, at some time or another, rakka rakka. There are always choices made that turned out wrong. Poor decisions, misunderstood orders, inaction. We train so that we may avoid making these errors at a critical point in battle. But, O’Neil, you were not raised as a warrior, correct?”
“I’ve been training with Master Splinter to be a kunoichi for two years!” April stated, offended that her training would come into question.
Y’gythgba moved to the window, pulling the likewise tattered shade back from it to look out over the city. “Your world… is so different from ours. You were not raised from youth to become a fighter as we are. You are allowed to play, and create, and become entertainers, farmers, tax accountants!”
The girl grunted a laugh. “We must seem so soft to you.”
Mona made a glunk, glunk, glunk noise in her throat, which, given the amphibian’s face, April took to be a sign of amusement. “Indeed! But the softness of this world is what gives it beauty. On Salamandria, we are trained without choice into warriorhood from a very early age.” She dropped the curtain and looked April in the eye. “Despite that, there are still moments where we all fail. It is a fact we must all accept, that there is no such thing as a perfect soldier. April, if we, trained from our efthood, cannot reach perfection, do you expect you could do so in the span of two Terran years?” April remained silent, mulling this over, so Y’gythgba added, “Do not allow yourself to be burdened with guilt for a choice not taken.”
April nodded, then turned a wry smile on her friend. “So what was your mistake?”
“My…? Oh… uh…” the salamander dithered. “I, uh, dropped a box of solid fuel cells.”
The girl gave her a skeptical look. “You dropped stuff?”
The alien’s cheeks deepened in color. “…on General Go’thrakka’s tail. Very heavy.”
“Oh no…” April laughed.
“…during Examination Week….”
“Oh, gosh… What did he do to you?”
Y’gythgba made the glunk-ing sound again. “He assigned me to his squadron,” she stated with pride, “and made me wash and buff every one of the transport pods twice a day for two cycles!”
April joined in her laughter, trailing off to become somber. “At least that’s something you can look back on and laugh about.”
“You speak true. There are other mistakes I do not care to remember, even if I may learn from them. So let us not speak of those, and instead speak of your original mission in coming here!”
“Sure you’re just trying to get out of mentioning any other amusing incidents to me?” the girl asked side-eyeing her.
“Any opportunity to speak of Raphael I shall gladly take, more so if the path leads us from memories best left buried. What did you wish to know?”
“Well… I wanted to know what you thought his reaction would be if I brought up… the incident with him. D’you think you think he would expl—do you it would set him off if I asked him about it? Or… would it just do more damage?”
“Surely you have spent more time with him than I…”
She shook her head. “Not in a way that I can get a good read on him, even with my powers. He’s more open with you. Besides, I could use another perspective.”
Mona Lisa sighed fondly out of her beak. “My Raphael’s true emotions are not buried deeply beyond his tough exterior. Surely you have noticed this? April nodded. “Raphael’s highest priority is protecting his brothers, always. He may be defensive about what was done to Donatello, what may have happened to his brothers, had this Za’noran attempted to harm them. Anything that happened to himself will be secondary, or he may be burying it beneath his familial duty. If you can bypass those walls, you may reach what he truly feels.”
“Well, worth a shot,” April shrugged. “Thanks, Mona.”
“You are welcome. I hope this information will yield a solution for you.”
April made a show of crossing her fingers. “Here’s hoping… You wanna go back out and join the game?”
The Salamandrian rose. “Yes. Let us join the festivities of this night of girls! You and I shall destroy all the apples! Rakka rakka rakka!”
April tried to hide a sympathetic wince. “That’s… not how you play the game.”
“Hmmm, a pity. Those apples would not know what had hit them!”