"Sorry, April, ninjas only."

…Um. What?

"I'm almost a full-on kunoichi!"

"Yeah," Raph laughed sarcastically, not even bothering to turn around, "Almost."

April clenched her fists at her sides, drawing deep breaths through her nostrils. Casey was saying something leering and gross, but she'd gotten so used to tuning him out, she didn't even hear it.

So. At the end of the day, this is what it came down to? No room in the Teenage Mutant Club House, huh? "No Girls Allowed," that it?

Funny. Donnie didn't seem to mind having her around when it was time to moon over her, or show off, or – oh yeah! – experiment on her brain and blind her like his personal red-headed guinea pig. Yet she was expected to be patient, gracious, kind, supportive…and come crunch time, he couldn't say one word in her defense?!

Leo didn't seem to mind having her around to pull his head out of his…shell, when he couldn't be bothered leaving the farmhouse to save his own brothers! She'd been struck blind about twenty minutes prior, and she'd been the one to practically drag him up that mountain!

Okay, Leo had been through the wringer, no one was arguing that - but nobody needed a "Vision Quest" to figure out that his knee was the least of his problems – that he was transferring all of his fears, bundling all of his deepest anxieties into one convenient source of blame.

But after all they'd been through together…after coming to think of him like family, like the big brother she'd always wanted, but never had – after nearly losing him, and trying to patiently, lovingly guide him back to himself again – it's "Sorry, April?"

Mikey sure didn't mind having April around, when he needed someone to stick up for him! (Or pick up after him, for that matter!) His brothers dog-piled on him all the time, called him names; "stupid," "clumsy," a "lousy ninja" – their own brother! When Mikey ran away, who was it that called them out for it? Who stood up for him? That's right! Kid Sister to the rescue. But where was Kid Brother when it was time to stick up for her? Nope. "Sorry, April."

And Raph…

April felt her eyes sting, and bit it back, inhaling deeply.

Okay, she shouldn't let this get to her. Raph could be a jerk. Everybody knew that Raph could be a jerk.

He didn't even turn around. He had laughed at her, and didn't even turn his head.

Was she that much of a joke to him? He had been helping them all so much with their training, since New York…Was it just a waste of his time, then? All her progress, all the hard work she'd put in, pushing her body to its limit, refusing to show weakness, refusing to be the weak link, refusing to even process half of the crazy she'd been through, pouring it all into getting stronger, better, faster –

But to him, she was still the silly girl "playing ninja."

She shook her head and smoothed a hand over her hair. Calm down. Maybe this wasn't a Boy's Club thing. After all, they hadn't asked Casey, either. Maybe this was just a family thing.

Which made it even worse. Because she had really thought…

"You haven't lost your family – because we're your family, April!"

A dull ache spread through her chest as she remembered Mikey's words. Was he just being nice? The words had seemed so easy for him to say, had felt so right. It was exactly what she needed to hear at one of her lowest, loneliest moments…but were those words just as easy to forget? She knew she wasn't their equal as a ninja; not yet. Maybe never. But hadn't she earned a place at their side, as…well, as a sister? She felt foolish now, just thinking it.

Guess that's the difference between "sister," and "like a sister."

Know what? Fine.

Never mind that she'd saved them all from Kraang Prime. Never mind that in the past few months, she'd lost her father (again!) her home (again!) her sensei, been attacked by the Kraang, the Foot, the Creep, a grotesque failed experiment that she had thought was her long-lost mother (thanks for that, Universe), Dream Beavers, mutant frog people, a killer muscle car, and a Turducken!

All the while, stiff-arming Casey, protecting Donnie's fragile ego, sticking up for Mikey, dealing with Raph's "moods" and trying to lovingly encourage Leo to quit being a basket case and lead, already!

But a training exercise in the woods?! Woah, there – Stay in your lane. You better hang back and kick logs with Casey.

"So, Red…looks like it's just gonna be you and me," Casey drawled, waggling his eyebrows and stepping just a few inches into her personal space…again.

She grabbed another log off the ground and thrust it forcefully into Casey's chest.

"Just hold it steady," she hissed, through gritted teeth.

So, they wanted her to break the log, huh? Oh, she'd break it, alright. In fact, by the time they got back from their little nature hike, she'd have a cord of firewood waiting for 'em the size of the Empire State Building!

"Hah!"

Ow.

"NnnnYAH!"

Ow. She shook out her wrist.

April missed Master Splinter. He would know what to say right now; something about quieting her mind, or striking through the wood. Even when he made no sense, even when it was obvious just how much she still had to learn – he had never, ever, not once, condescended to her, talked down to her, or gone easy on her; he never treated her differently than he would have treated any of his sons. The more they trained together, the more she wanted to push her limits, wanted to always hit her personal best.

Training kept her sane, made her feel like there was something she could control, even if it was just her own mind and body. When her life was spiraling into crazy, totally unrecognizable, Splinter had given that feeling of control back to her. When she met with his approval, when he was pleased with her progress – it lit her up from the inside like a flame, filled her with pride, confidence, determination…

Splinter had always believed in her.

Now…who even knew where he was? Or if he was even…

She threw a lame punch, her heart heavy in her chest.

"Hn."

Ow.

Maybe she should just quit.

"I toldja I could soften it up for you. Wanna switch, let me show ya how it's done?"

The fire in April's gut flickered back to life. The same stubborn flame that had guided her through this tumultuous, terrifying, heart-breaking year - this surreal, waking nightmare that was their new normal.

"Show me how it's done," huh?

"GrrrrAAH!"

Ow.

"Ow!' Casey echoed her thoughts, rubbing his chest where the log had slipped from his grip and struck him.

April tried not to enjoy it too much.

TMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmnt

A/N: HRMmm. In fairness, there were some things I loved about this episode. But all told, it felt rushed…I wish they'd broken it up into two parts. And here's how that scene with April should've gone:

APRIL: A camping trip sounds like a great idea!
LEO: It's more than that, April. We're trying to connect to the spirit world…it's sacred…and dangerous.

APRIL: Oh.
LEO: This is something we need to do together – as brothers. I'm sorry.
APRIL: :sighs: I understand. Just come home safe.
LEO: Thanks, April.

:they hug:

See?! Was that so hard?! Here's pretty much how it actually went:

APRIL: Yay, camping!

LEO: Not for you, Tits McGee

APRIL: But –

RAPH: L8R NOOB.

APRIL: …

CASEY: Soooo…wanna make out?

:HEADDESK: