Smiling confidently, April O'Neil stared at Casey Jones unwaveringly.
…That is, until the ice emitted a noisy 'CRRRKKK'…
April's brow furrowed as she stared down at her quaking skates.
"Uh oh…" she gulped.
Fractals were beginning to form in the ice beneath her, breaking off into sporadic patterns. Her freckled face paled.
"Red," Casey urged, his forehead beading with sweat, "For God's sake, whadevva you do, do not move."
In a fraction of a second, the ice split.
Casey's brown eyes shot open. "Red!"
Breaking off on her own teenage girl-sized ice patch, April began floating down the lake, connecting into the canal of a rushing stream. As she took off, the rest of the ice crackled and divided – with Casey right in the thick of it.
A shock went through Casey's entire body as he hit the frozen water. Bitter waves thrashed him about beneath the frozen lake's surface. And, what was worse, they threw him back under a part of the lake where the icy surface was still sturdy. The boy tried to throw his body up to break through, but this proved to be of little success. His shoulder barreled into the firm ice, once – twice – three times! Just as his vision was becoming fuzzy, a massive green fist cracked through the icy blockade.
And before he knew it, Casey Jones was hoisted out of the water and thrown onto a nearby snowbank.
"Huh-hurck! Ah-hurck! Hh-hurk-hmm!" His lungs aching, the teenager hacked up the freezing water. Every part of him felt so numb with cold, he almost didn't feel the life-saving hand slap his shoulder.
Casey's head was swimming. Literally! He was so confused. What just happened? When did the turtles get here? But more importantly…
"A-April… W-whr's April…"
Raphael helped the drenched, shivering boy rise to his feet. " 'S'alright, Jones. We saw the whole thing."
Casey's soaked brow furrowed. "Y-you… y-y-you w-were s-s-spyin' on-n us?"
"Gah, no time for that now," Donatello interjected, his cheeks glowing, "We've gotta catch up to April!"
"Let's roll, bros!" Michelangelo cried, whipping out his ninchaku.
Without hesitation, the group sprinted along the lake's bank. They noticed the entrance to the stream as the ground became less level.
"Aw, rats," Donatello inspected as he jogged, "This isn't a good sign."
"Whaddya mean, Professor?!" Raphael retorted.
"Well," the purple clad turtle replied, "This sort of foliage indicates a changing pattern of the water's formation. The land is rising higher and higher from the water! And the ground – well, it's not very level. Based on the geography, I think we're headed towards a—"
The boys jerked their heads at April's cry: her crystal eyes were ablaze with panic. Her white knuckles gripped the ice patch for dear life, as if that would help her case now. Then, she screeched as she crashed into the branches of a fallen tree that had (miraculously) landed about ten feet from the waterfall's edge. Reflexively, April clung to one of the larger branches.
The gang cheered at this. Donatello, however, sighed in relief. It bought him some time to think of a plan! Not much time, but he'd take it.
Meanwhile, Casey beamed. "W-way t' think, Red! H-hang in th-there! J-jus' keep h-holdin' on!"
"Wow! Brilliant suggestion, Jones! What the heck do you think I'm doin'?!"
Meanwhile, Michelangelo stopped dead in his tracks – forcing the others, who were following closely behind him, to ram into one another in domino-like fashion.
Piled on the snowy floor, the group glared at the youngest brother. Raphael was the first to rise, fuming at Michelangelo.
"Mikey, what the shell?! You—"
"n'aaAAAH, WHADDAWEDO, WHADDAWEDO, WHADDAWEDO?!"
The youngest turtle began to hyperventilate. This, however, was promptly put to an end as the red clad turtle slapped him across the face.
"Dammit, bro! Pull yerself t'gether!" Raphael shouted.
"W-we don't got time fah this!" Casey puffed up, standing between them. While he was still shaking like a leaf, the teenage boy forced the two brothers apart as he continued.
"W-we go-ahh…hhhHrrr'ssshhh! Ugh, *snff*, w-we gotta help her!"
Raphael nodded to Michelangelo, then at Casey. "Right. Who's got a plan?"
The boys turned to the purple clad turtle – who, in the midst of all the ruckus, had created a MacGyver'd safety rope out of a tree branch and his own mask.
"It'll work," Donatello insisted, rubbing his chin, "But it needs to be longer."
Raphael scratched his head.
"Umm… alright. I see where you're goin' with this, braniac. But how – Hey!"
Mid-sentence, Donatello snatch Raphael's mask off. Following suit, Michelangelo's was also confiscated.
"Ah! I feel so… so exposed!"
Casey, already feeling fatigued from the excursion, was in no mood for Michelangelo's dramatics. He walked towards Donatello as he removed his winter coat. The formerly purple clad turtle frowned.
"Casey, put your coat back on! You're gonna get sick!"
"*snnnffff* D-don't fight me, nerd. I - hhhHrrr'ssshhh! I-I j-jus' wanna help her."
Donatello stared down at the coat, and then shifted back up as he looked at Casey's teary eyes.
"P-please... I p-promised I w-wouldn't let'er fall. L-lemme help."
With a sigh, Donatello grabbed the coat from Casey's outstretched arm. The boy smiled at this, and the inventive turtle reciprocated. However, their moment was broken up by a high shriek.
The boys peered down at their friend to find the branch beginning to crack, just as the ice did.
April groaned. "Ooo, this is so not my day!"
"April!" Donatello cried, clutching the rope, "Grab this, and we'll pull you up!"
With a grunt, the reptilian genius lobbed the rope down to her. While successful, the rope was just barely four feet above her. As April tried to stand up, she recoiled in pain and let out a pained—
The boys turned to each other in confusion, readying themselves to pull her to safety.
Tears began to well up in April's eyes. "M-my knee. I-I can't stand up! I can't reach it!"
The branch's crack lengthened. April could feel it weakening as her grasp tightened. Donatello's eyes widened. Promptly, he brought the rope back up.
"Don," Raphael yelled, "What the shell are you—"
"Lower me down."
"Lower me down. That way, April can grab my bo staff and I can pull her out."
"Did I stutter?"
"Good. Then, you understand my orders."
There was silence. Donatello's expression grew solid as Raphael's softened.
The red clad turtle huffed. "Okay."
'So,' Donatello thought, 'This is it's like to be Leo.'
Doing as told, Raphael rounded Michelangelo and Casey to lower Donatello down to April. He gulped hard as he saw the rushing waves beneath him.
'Crap… this leader thing isn't so easy!'
Finally, he'd made it. Just as she grabbed the bo, the branch broke off and flung off the side of the waterfall.
"Th-that coulda been me," April sighed, tears streaming down her face.
"But it's not," Donatello affirmed, giving her a reassuring grin. He quickly called back to his team.
"Hoist us up!"
With a jolting tug, Donatello and April were being pulled up the fall's edge to land. His forearm burned at the weight of April's grip on the bo, but he daren't let go. Every muscle in April's body ached, but she knew she had to hold on. And the boys (including a weak Casey Jones) used every last bit of strength they had to retrieve their friends. With one final heave, Donatello and April came crashing into the snow.
A dogpile greeted the tired girl. In-between sobs, April hugged and kissed the turtles, thanking them relentlessly for what they'd done. As Raphael's eyes grew wet, he wrapped his jacket around her – following a classic, Michelangelo bear hug. Donatello watched on, smiling all the time.
As the dogpile broke free, Casey shyly cleared his throat. April's smile melted.
"Uhh," the boy stammered, "L-let's, er… let's t-take a break f-from ice skatin' fer a w-while, 'k-kay?"
The teenage girl's grin returned.
"Well, alright," April replied, "But not too long, alright? I gotta keep up with you, y'know, and I don't want to get too rusty."
Her wink indicated a sort of peace offering. Casey's gap-toothed smile shot back on his face. That is until he—
"Bless you," a small voice called.
As the whole group turned around, they couldn't believe who the voice belonged to.
"Leonardo?!" they all cried in unison.
Crutch and all, Leonardo stood in the snow, which was beginning to flurry again. As his brothers ran to him, the blue clad turtle chuckled.
"I send you for firewood, and this is what happens?"
Laughing, the group bombarded Leonardo with questions.
"What are you doin' out here, Fearless?"
"Yeah, how're you feelin'?"
The eldest brother shrugged at them. "Well, it was getting late. And I was worried, and—"
Leonardo stopped short. He caught a glimpse of Casey supporting a wounded April, slowly limping toward them. Removing his crutch from beneath his elbow, Leonardo handed it to April.
"Oh, Leo," the girl cried, "No, I—"
"Take it," the leader in blue insisted, "You need it more."
With a gentle smile and a hug, April accepted the crutch.
"And you," Leonardo stated, staring at a shivering Casey, "Where's your coat?"
The boy sniffled as he laughed bashfully. "Hehe… i-it's a long story."
"I don't need to hear it," Leonardo replied, extending his own winter jacket, "Here."
Without the energy to put up a fight, Casey sighed and threw on the coat.
"Now," the blue clad turtle called, "Let's all go home, huh? I know a few people who could use a hot bath and a cup of cocoa."
The team cheered as they slowly made their way back to the farmhouse. Donatello trailed behind the group, and supported Leonardo as they trekked onward.
"Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you how crazy you are for being out in this kind of weather, right?"
"And, I don't have to remind you of how foolish you are for walking around like this when you should be resting… right?"
"Donnie, cut it out. I get it."
"Oh – you 'get it', good. S-so you're just insane, is that it?!"
"Well… I'm not the one who dangled above a raging waterfall today, Don."
The purple clad turtle halted in shock.
"You… you saw everything, didn't you?"
Smiling, Leonardo nodded. Donatello sneered.
"And you… did nothing!? Y-you just… just watched?! You didn't jump in, y-you didn't try to lead, you—"
"I didn't have to."
"…Say what, now?"
Leonardo chuckled. "I didn't have to, Donnie. You had everything under control. And you know what? You did great. Guess we have two leaders in the family, don't we?"
Donatello didn't know what to say. Was there anything to say? All he could do was chuckle to himself and smile like an idiot.
Eventually, the band of friends made it back to the farmhouse. Casey and April were the first to change into dry clothes: mainly because they were the only ones who wore clothes. Then, Casey was wrapped up in a blanket, as his feet soaked in a small tub of scalding hot water. Donatello clapped his hands together after he finished pouring from the tea kettle.
"Now, this should help you from catching a—"
Laying on the couch, cocooned in a wool blanket, April offered a box of tissues to her ill-weathered friend.
"Gesundheit!" she cried.
Giving a weak smirk, Jones sniffled and accepted the tissue. After letting out a trumpeted blow, the two snickered together. Donatello mumbled, 'Oh, brother,' at the grotesque site and exited the living room. Meanwhile, in came Michelangelo with a tray of–
"Hot cocoa! Getcha cocoa, here!"
"Mikey," Raphael groaned, grabbing at a mug, "Can you dial down the annoyingness meter a few notches? We're all exhausted!"
"Shhh!" Donatello hissed. The two brothers turned to him, as the purple clad turtle pointed to their two exhausted human companions: both of whom had fallen fast asleep.
"Poor things," Leonardo sighed, sipping his hot chocolate, "They had quite a day, huh?"
"Yep," Donatello replied, yawning, "We all did, eh, fellas?"
"You bet," Raphael added, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm not gonna forget about this winter anytime soon."
"Agreed!" Michelangelo cried.
For the next hour, the turtles quietly chatted amongst themselves. Not wanting to disturb their ailing friends, they retired to the kitchen for a bit before heading to bed themselves. Meanwhile, Casey only stirred once to make sure April's blanket was tucked under her chin. The boy promptly fell back asleep, and – stirring from this – April looked over, shook her head and whispered, 'Oh, Casey Jones."