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i'm my own worst enemy

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“Caaaaaassssseeeeey! You gotta get up!” called Madeline impatiently.

Casey made a muffled groaning noise but rolled out of bed. She was pretty sure it wasn’t a school day. There was some sort of teacher conferences or whatever and Roosevelt had the day off.

She cracked open an eye and groaned when she saw the numbers on the clock by her bed. Dragging herself out of bed, she opened the door and looked down at her sister darkly.

What?” ground out Casey, looking at her sibling in annoyance.

Madeline, however, was not the least bit intimidated by her sister’s morning grumpiness. Casey would almost be offended if she didn’t want to go back to bed so soon.

The thirteen-year-old raised an eyebrow and flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder, “April’s here for you. Dad and Linda are at work and I’m walking with Joanie to school. So I was being nice and getting you up so you’re not rude to your friend.” 

“God Red needs to sleep in more,” muttered Casey as she scrubbed a hand across her face. “Thanks Madeline. Tell her she can come back. You gonna be okay getting to school?”

Madeline nodded, clearly trying not to look nervous as she felt, “Yeah Joanie and I will watch each other’s backs.”

Casey smirked and tugged her sister’s hair affectionately, “Good girl. Give ‘em hell.”

“I think that is the exact opposite of what I need to do at a Catholic school. But alright. See you later, Casey.”

“Later Madeline,” called the elder sibling. She ran a hand through her sleep-mussed hair trying to get it in some semblance of order.

Padding out in her bare feet, Casey walked into the kitchen where April was nervously looking out of a window.

“Morning Red. Any particular reason why you’re here so early? Not that I don’t love seeing your face but a girl’s gotta sleep.”

April looked up suddenly. Casey’s loose and easy demeanor suddenly tensed at the expression on the girl’s face. Her eyes were red, like she had spent most of the night crying. She looked uncomfortable and awkward.

“Red? What’s wrong?” asked Casey gently. “Who do I need to go beat up?”

The red headed girl laughed wetly and ran forward into Casey’s arms. Casey’s arms immediately encircled her friend, hugging her close. April buried her head into Casey’s shoulder.

Casey held one of her best friends’ close for several moments.

“Red? What’s wrong? Please you gotta tell me,” whispered Casey softly.

“I-I’m…I’m half Kraang,” whispered April shakily. “They did something to my mom and I’m half human and half Kraang. I’m...”

“A mutant?” questioned Casey softly.

April sniffled and rubbed her eyes.

It was times like this Casey wished she still drank. God she hoped that April didn’t have a breakdown like this around the Turtles after finding it out. Casey knew, at least, how sensitive Donnie was to it. Seeing the girl he had a crush on freak out about being a mutant would not be good for anyone.

She also thought that the others would not be so thrilled that April was taking this so poorly.

“We found out last night. I just can’t believe it.”

“Well,” said Casey slowly sitting April down at the counter and going to get some food, “at least we know why the Kraang have been going after you now, Red.”

“Yeah it’s just can my life get any weirder?”

“See now that you’ve said that it’s going to get way, way weirder, Red.”

April gave Casey a dirty look, but Casey merely raised an eyebrow in response. Pouring out a bowl of cereal, Casey fixed herself a cup of coffee and hopped on the counter to eat her breakfast.

Crossing her legs, she took a sip of the coffee and considered April sitting in front of her, properly at the counter. Casey sighed and settled her mug.

“Look Red,” began the dark haired girl, “I’m not gonna sit here and presume like I know what you’re going through. Mutated bat dad? Aliens after you? Conspiracies centered around you? Hot ninja assassins with vendetta’s against you for some weird reason," counted off Casey.

“Why would you think Karai is hot?”

“Her fighting skills probably aren’t the only thing that has turned Leo’s head all around,” said Casey simply. “Plus I asked Raph to describe her once. She sounds hot.”

“OhmyGod Casey,” groaned April.

Casey merely grinned unrepentantly before taking a bite of her cereal. She chewed for several seconds and swallowed, giving her enough time to pick up her train of thought.

“Like I was sayin’ Red,” continued the older girl, “I’m not presuming anything here.  But just because you’re a mutant doesn’t change anything about you, April. You’ve been one your whole life apparently. Doesn’t make you anything like the Kraang or something.”

“I know!” said April forcefully. She then sighed, “Of course I know that. The problem is that it’s a shock okay? I don’t like the idea of them hurting my mother in any way. And it’s just what if what they did to her somehow…”

Casey didn’t need April to finish the thought. Putting down the cereal bowl, she leaned forward and took her hand.

“Your mom is still your mom, April. No matter what the Kraang did to her she still loved you and your dad. And if they contributed to her death then…”

“Then?”

Casey’s eyes were dark when she looked up, “We’ll kill them all.”

April shuddered a bit, not in fear or anything, but in an emotion she didn’t want to examine right now.

“Okay then.”

“What are friends for?” questioned Casey as she pulled the cereal back in her lap. She went back to eating, “How did the boys handle it?”

“Mikey welcomed me to the mutant family. I mean…I got home before I had my breakdown. But it was still a shock,” said April as she twisted a napkin in her hands. “I hope I didn’t hurt their feelings.”

“I think as long as you avoided the freak word, then it should be good. They’ll understand that this is a shock.”

Casey had no real doubts about that. For being raised in the sewers their whole lives, the brothers had a rather excellent grasp of empathy.

Some more so then others, but considering their whole life was basically spent with each other and their father underground, it really was impressive to consider.

“Yeah I didn’t use the word,” April looked slightly more relieved. “I was wondering if you wanted to head down with me? I promised that I would hang out with the guys today and…”

“No need to say more,” said Casey happily. “Do you mind waiting while I take a shower and get changed?”

“Nah. Can I hang out in your room?”

“Go for it,” said Casey simply. She hopped off the counter and put the empty mug and bowl into the dishwasher. “Just steer clear of my desk. I’ve been working on something for my gear lately.”

“Thanks for the heads up,” said April dryly.

Casey kissed April’s cheek and winked, “Anything for you, Red.”

“That is red light behavior, Jones,” called April as Casey danced for her swat. Casey grabbed her clothes and a towel and bustled to the bathroom. 

April walked into the darkened room and took a deep breath. 

She felt slightly better about the latest curveball that has been thrown at her. It was still disconcerting to say the least. April didn’t like the thought of sharing anything with the Kraang, much less something like her DNA. She didn’t want to think of those pink aliens as…ugh family.

Of course, family is what you make of it. It still made her feel skeezy is all. 

She sighed and picked her way through Casey’s mess of a room. It was really amazing that the other girl could find anything at all in her, considering how disgusting it was.

April sat down on the bed and pulled a comic from the floor into her lap. At least, she had some answers about why the Kraang was so interested in her. Even though the reason was close to the last thing that she ever wanted to hear.

She sighed and tried to focus on her comic.

Sometimes, it felt like her life had gotten way too weird on her. It was starting to kind of drive her crazy.

Most days, April thought it was a miracle that she wasn’t screaming in the fetal position yet.

Still, she had to look on the bright side. Donnie thought that he was getting closer to figuring out a retro-mutagen soon. She still had her health and her aunt. She had a circle of really close friends, true friends. Master Splinter said she was progressing admirably as a kunoichi.

Things, after all, could be worse.

Today, all her plans were focused on spending a nice and quiet day with the guys and Casey down at the Lair. Maybe they could swing by and pick up some junk food or something before heading down.

As if on cue, Casey came wandering back in toweling off her hair. She was dressed in her usual attire and seemed much more awake.

The other girl went over to her line of red lipstick and picked a tube at random. It was kind of fascinating, April decided, watching Casey apply her lipstick.

“What color is that?” asked April.

Casey smiled as she finished applying the shade, “Revolutionary.”

“Fitting.”

“You always say the sweetest things to a girl, Red,” Casey said dryly. April watched as the girl shoved her lipstick, keys, phone, and wallet into her pocket. She grabbed her preferred wrist bandana and tied it on.

“Ready to go?”

“I’ve been ready, Jones. You need to stop sleeping in.”

“It was eight in the morning, Red,” complained Casey. “You need to stop being a damn morning person. Oh hey let’s go to the pastry shop near the usual manhole and pick up some donuts for the guys. They just did this s’mores one and I think they may die from how delicious it is.”

April smiled at that.

Yeah. Sometimes it was really good to be surrounded by people who just got you.

“It’s such a pity,” purred Karai with her eyes half lidded. “You could have been someone great, Leo. But instead you’re just pathetic.”

A crack echoed a moment later, April sobbed from where she was kept with her bloodied wrists.

She cracked her whip into the air, Casey cried out from where she was tied. “W-Why Leo? Why didn’t you protect us?”

Leo couldn’t move. He was tied against something and it felt like it was made of titanium chains. The turtle struggled against them and tried to free himself.

“Some leader you are,” said Raph with dark and judging eyes. A trickle of blood fell from his mouth as he spoke and he looked so broken.

“You let us down, Leo,” whispered Mikey judgingly. His brother was hanging, brokenly from the rafters.

“We trusted you,” cried out Donnie from behind him. A second later a scream of agony erupted from his brother. Leo tried to look but couldn’t move.

“You were leader for a reason, Leonardo,” said his father with a disappointed face. “I cannot believe you have broken my faith.”

“I’m sorry,” whispered Leo brokenly. “I didn’t…I was just trying…”

“Trying, turtle, is never enough,” growled out Shredder. “It is time for you to die.”

The steel claws got closer to his throat and...  

Leo sat up in bed immediately. He was sweating and his sheet was held close to his chest. He closed his eyes and tried to refocus his breathing.

It felt like his heart was in his throat.

“Everyone is safe,” he whispered to himself quietly. “They’re still alive. They’re still here. Everything is fine. I haven’t lost them. They’re right here.”

Now, if only his shaking hands believed his words, then he would be in business.

The leader sighed and rubbed his hands across his mask less face. A shower sounded like a good thing right now if he was going to get through the day. He had a special meditation session with Sensei in an hour. He needed to be as fresh as he could possibly be for it.

Sighing, Leo rolled out of bed and got to his feet.

It was another day of making sure that everyone lived to see the next.

Casey stretched out on the bench of the street that she and April preferred to use for sewer access. It was surprisingly crowded for a morning. Opening her comic book, Casey settled in while April half listened to some music on her T-phone made by Donnie.

She was telling Casey some story of her roommate days with the boys. Apparently April had lived with them briefly for a few weeks. Teenage boys, Casey had learned, were always going to be teenage boys regardless of species.

“So Mikey just has a dirty pair of underwear in his room?”

“Yep,” said April as she concentrated on her game.

“Why?” asked Casey. “Does he wear it?”

“I never really thought to ask,” stated April as she swiped across the screen. “Mainly because I was scared he would give me an answer.”

Casey laughed at that, “It certainly sounds gnarly.”

“Sister,” said April simply, “You ain’t see nothing yet."

Casey threw her head back and started laughing. The sun was warm on her skin, and sitting with April on the bench it felt oddly normal: two teenagers just hanging out together. It was a nice feeling.

“I’m really glad that you know the guys too, Casey,” said April suddenly. “I’m glad that they’re making more friends. And it’s nice to have someone to share these stories with.”

Casey smiled a bit, “I like learning about the guys. They’re pretty cool but kind of quiet. But I like to think things are getting better.”

“Joining in on training definitely helps things,” agreed April.

Casey had to agree. She showed up Sunday and Wednesday prompt and ready to work hard. It took a lesson or two for Splinter to get used to her brawler style, but he was able to help her work on some of her weaker spots.

She was never going to be a ninja, but at least Casey will be able to watch everyone better in a fight. Though she did hope she would learn to throw some shuriken those things looked freaking badass.

April looked around the street with cautious blue eyes.

“Ghost is clear. Let’s go see the guys.”

Casey grabbed her messenger bag and pulled out her crowbar, John-Boy. April kept watched as the taller girl carefully removed the manhole cover and pushed it to the side.

April started climbing down and asked something that she had been wondering for awhile.

“Casey?”

“Yes?”

“Why do you own your own crowbar?”

“I won John-Boy in a fight last year,” said Casey simply as she packed away the crowbar. “Some guys just can’t handle being beaten by a girl twice in one night.”

April paused at that and decided not to pursue that avenue of questioning any further. The two girls climbed down into the sewer.

Though she was growing used to the smell, Casey still covered her nose. Something new was definitely reeking down here. It was something that Casey didn’t want to examine too close, but the stench was getting to her.

“What’s that smell?” she asked April.

April raised an eyebrow, “I told you, Jones. The smell is just something that’s down here. It is a sewer you…”

The red-haired girl then got a good whiff of the air and wrinkled her nose, “On second thought that is a very new smell.”

“That’s what I was telling you!”

“Let’s head to the Lair. Maybe the guys noticed something going on here.”

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!” a man’s voice screamed. Casey and April were instantly on guard. The red haired girl fell into a defensive stance while Casey pulled out John-Boy. She twirled the familiar metal once and assumed a defensive stance.

An overweight sewer maintenance worker ran past the pair, screaming at the top of his lungs.

“THE DEMON SQUIRRELS ARE GOING TO EAT MY SOUUUUUUULLLLL!!!!! STOP THE DEMON SQUIRRELS!!!!”

Casey and April watched as he ran past them, deeper into the sewer.

“Well,” said Casey drily, “okay then. Demons squirrels are new.”

“The guys mentioned something about mutant squirrels. But Donnie told me that they were able to get them all.”

“Maybe one got away?” asked Casey as she repositioned her grip on John-Boy.

“Maybe,” agreed April, wishing she had her tessen on her. Master Splinter had taken it to sharpen it for her. “We should probably get to the Lair and tell the guys.”

“Good idea, Red. I feel way too vulnerable without my gear here,” said Casey, echoing April’s own feelings regarding the situation.

The pair cautiously made their way down the tunnel. Both were aware of the other’s position but not making a noise, lest the give their location away to their unseen enemy.

It was tense, walking down the corridor of the sewer in such a way. Plus the strange smell seemed to only grow more pungent the deeper into the passage the pair went. It was almost choking April with the scent of rotted earth.

Out of the corner of her eye, April saw something move. Tensing her body like a coil ready to spring, the girl took a cautious step and peered in another pipe. A strange, electric blue glowing mushroom jumped out at her. It’s yellow eyes were opened wide and before April could call for Casey, it released a cloud of mustard yellow spores into her face before disappearing.

Stumbling back, April coughed and the scent invaded her noise. Her eyes stung with the strange spores and she shuddered.

“Red?” called Casey’s voice, “Are you okay?”

“Y-Yeah,” said April, rubbing her eyes. “I think I’m fine.”

She turned to look at her friend and frozen.

Behind Casey a mutagen container was flying through the air. The bluish-green ooze glittered in the pale light of the sewers and the container shattered. April tried to scream, tried to warn her, but she was rooted to the spot as the girl was splattered in it.

Fear overtook April as Casey let out a horrifying scream and began to change. Her skin melted and bubbled and shifted. The crowbar in her hand became fused to her body as the muck from the sewers started to ooze at every orifice of her body. Her face disappeared under the muck as the metal twisted and bent throughout her new form.

A pair of bright, wild eyes peered from a face made from an old messenger bag stared at April with no recognition.

“Miiiiiine,” croaked the mutated Casey, reaching out her metal-muck hand to April.

April screamed, loud and shrill.

Casey jumped back and stared at April.

She looked around the corridor, “Red? What the hell are you screaming for? There’s nothing down here!”

“No! CASEY! NO!” screamed April as she stumbled back. She was shaking all over and Casey was confused as all hell.

“I’m not doin’ anything, Red!”

But, whatever April was seeing, it was too strong for Casey to reach her. She took off like a shot running and disappearing into the darkness of the tunnel.

“Red! Wait!” called Casey with a hint of terror in her own voice.

It was too late though. April was missing.

Well frak, Casey was screwed. She needed to get the guys.

Leo was sincerely trying to concentrate here. He was trying to get to that place of perfect serenity and oneness with the universe. The place where one could feel all things and be apart of it.

“Failure,” whispered Raph’s voice in his ear. 

Leo’s eyes snapped open. He looked over at his Sensei, who was radiating the perfect zen of a master. Shaking his head, Leo tried again and shut his eyes tight.

Brea-Mikey’s broken body hanging from the rafters tied up in the change of his kusarigama as Rahzar howled in the distance.

Leo’s eyes snapped opened again and his breathing hitched. He shook his head as if to clear it by force. He was not going to let his fears get the best of him today.

What he needed to do was not worry about this stuff. Everyone was here. Everyone was fine. He just needed to focus.

Leo fixed his position and took a deep breath. He shut his eyes and just breathed, focusing on the expelling and inhaling of oxygen from his lungs. Focusing on the beat of his heart in order to feel that connection. He breathed again. 

Donnie’s screams echoed throughout the room.

Dark blue eyes snapped open again.

Leo let out a groan and settled back on his feet.

“Leonardo?” asked Splinter suddenly.

Leo let out a small shriek and tumbled slightly onto the ground. He blushed and looked up at his father, who merely raised an eyebrow in question and concern.

“Sorry Sensei,” said Leo from his spot. “I’m having some trouble focusing today.”

“I’ve noticed,” said Splinter kindly. “What troubles you so greatly my son?”

Leo sighed and rubbed a tired hand across his face. He wasn’t going to tell his father the whole truth, but just the general gist of it. Leo did not want his father to think that he couldn’t handle the responsibility given to him.

“I keep having the same nightmare, Sensei,” he began carefully. “Every night I have this dream that I let the team down. Badly. They disappear into darkness and I’m…I can’t move. I’m powerless to help them.”

That didn’t even begin to cover it. Leo wasn’t going into the consequences of letting the team down that sometimes his mind supplied the aftermath of the darkness. He knew his father also had nightmares; Leo did not need to let his own dreams to feed into the ones of Splinter.

His father placed a kind hand on his shoulder. Leo instinctively leaned into the touch, needing the comfort his parent and teacher.

“This is not uncommon,” assured Splinter kindly. “Every leader must face the fear of losing his team. It is a fear that is similar to the one I feel every time you and your brothers leave the Lair.”

“How do I beat it, Sensei?” asked Leo in a small voice. He felt all of five years old again.

“You do not beat it, my son,” said Splinter squeezing Leo’s shoulder. “You face it.”

It was not the answer Leo wanted to hear, but it was one that he needed.

“I think that we can wrap up our meditation session for today,” said Splinter with a small smile. “I believe that April will be here soon. Knowing her, she has probably brought Casey along as well. I do not wish to keep you from your brothers and your friends. With the news April was given last night, she probably needs all of our support right now.”

Leo nodded. His thoughts lifted slightly at the thought of just being a teenager for a little bit.

He bowed deeply to his Sensei, who bowed back. Leo left the dojo, though his mind was still troubled by his dreams it felt calmer then it had in awhile. He stepped out to join his brothers to watch Super Robot Mecha Force Five!

“GUYS!” shouted a voice through the Lair. Casey jumped the turnstile and skidded to a stop. Her eyes were wide and wild; hair in disarray, and a look of intense worry was on her face. In her hand, she held a crowbar tightly.

It spooked Leo a bit to see Casey so scared. The older girl gave off the vibe that she wasn’t afraid of anything. He instantly stood on alert and picked up his pace to join the group.

“Casey?” asked Raph, standing suddenly in concern. “What’s wrong?”

In a testament to Casey’s athleticism, the girl was barely out of breath as she spoke.

“Red and I were walking over when a sewer worker ran by yelling about demonic squirrels? Anyway, we were on alert and making our way through the tunnels carefully. All of the sudden, Red just started freaking the hell out. When I went to go see what’s wrong she started screaming and she took off down the tunnel. I lost her and came here.”

“You LOST HER?” yelled Donnie semi-hysterically.

Casey glared at the tallest brother, “I came here because I figured that you could track her phone! No use for the both of us to get lost down there!! I don’t know the tunnels that well!”

“You did the right thing, Casey,” soothed Leo. He gave Donnie a warning look when it appeared that his younger brother was going to object. “Can you take us back to where you two where?”

“We were making our way down the corner from the manhole cover that Red and I usually use,” said Casey rubbing her arm.

Mikey came running out with Casey’s gear, the girl took it with a grateful look.

Leo clapped a hand on Donnie’s arm gently, “We’ll find her. Can you see if you track the signal down here?”

Donnie glanced over at Casey, still clearly unhappy with the girl, but nodded. “It’s a long shot, Leo, but I’ll try.”

Leo nodded and tried to ignore the feeling in his gut. He could only hope that April was all right.

April ran. Her heart thundered in her ears and her footsteps splashed with every move that she made. Tears, fresh and hot, poured down her face.

Casey was a mutant. Casey was a psychotic mutant like the Shredder’s henchmen or what happened to Goo Guy or her dad. She was lost to April. She wanted to hurt April and April was going to hide.

She shuddered. It was like her worst fear come to life to see Casey go through that.

April sniffled and pressed herself against the wall. She couldn’t stop shaking. She couldn’t calm down her heart.

A sound caused her to jump and she turned to look the open drop.

Her dad, in his mutated form, flapped his wings before her. Saliva dripped from his fangs and he let out a loud screech.

“NO! DADDY! STOP!” screamed April backpedaling and running away with a shriek.

Casey had never felt so useless and stupid in all her life. So much for being good at this hero stuff, she lost one of the people that she swore she would protect. Maybe she could have done something more to keep April in her sights, brought the other girl with her.

But when April disappeared into darkness, Casey booked it for the boys. She knew that they could have done more together.

Casey shook her head. No use in worrying about it now. She probably shouldn’t be taking Donnie’s reaction all that personally. His crush with April would probably cloud his judgment from time to time.

She gripped Gretzky tighter in her hands. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing up. She didn’t like the thought of April being out there alone, scared by something only she saw.

“And it only effected April?” asked Donnie again.

“Her and the worker who ran past us screaming like hell,” answered Casey. “We were together the whole time, too. I have no idea what got into her so bad. One moment she was fine and the next moment she was screaming her head off.”

“I wondered if she was drugged somehow.”

“How?”

“I don’t know,” said Donnie irritably. “Nothing is making sense right now. I need more data to draw better conclusion.”

“Anyone can figure it out, then it’ll be Donnie,” assured Mikey brightly. Though, Casey noted, he had a rather tight grip on his nunchucks. Everyone was feeling rather tensed.

It made sense to Casey, no one liked the idea of their home being invaded, even if it was just on the periphery. She had heard plenty of stories of Great Granny Jones with her shotgun protecting her land to understand it.

Casey pulled down her mask and focused. Deep breath and let the world shrink around you.

She coughed as the smell invaded her mouth. Ugh. Maybe deep breathing was not a good idea.

“There’s that smell again,” muttered Casey.

Raph looked up at her with a quizzical expression.

“Case? This is a sewer. There’s going to be a smell.”

Casey rolled her eyes under the mask, “Of course it is. But we’re close. THIS particular smell was really strong where I lost April. It’s not my fault you guys lost your sense of smell from living down here.”

“Hey!”

“Have you smelled yourselves lately?”

The teen ninjas decided not to grace that with a response, mainly because they knew she had a point.

“Anyway,” said Casey looking around, “I’m pretty sure that it was around here.”

“Oh pretty sure is an accurate measurement,” snarked Donnie from his position.

Casey spun around and glared at him from beneath her mask. “Hey look I know you’re worried about April and all. But back off I’m not as familiar with this tunnels are you are, Doc. So stop it before I expand your tooth gap.”

Donatello narrowed his eyes. Casey glared back. Both of their tempers were frayed with nerves and worry for April.

“Okay guys,” said Leo seriously. “This? This is the exact opposite of helping. I will separate you two.”

“Tch,” muttered Casey but backed off. “The smell gets stronger up a ways. Actually I don’t remember it reaching this far back.”

Mikey sniffed the air and made a face. “Ugh I think I smell it, too.”

“Let’s move in. Be on your guard. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here,” commanded Leo as he pulled out a katana. 

Casey tightened her grip on Gretzky. This whole scenario was starting to remind her uncomfortably of every horror movie ever made.

As the guys talked about their next move, she sat down on an open drainage pipe. Most of these clothes were definitely ruined anyway, might as well just embrace it.

Pulling up her mask, Casey sighed and wrinkled her nose. She turned and raised an eyebrow.

In the cavernous pipe, there was some strange sort of mushrooms. They were glowing in the light, almost a pretty color. She leaned forward, despite possible better instincts, and jumped back slightly when one sprang to life.

Graceful as a ballerina, the mushroom twirled in the air and Casey was sprayed in the face with some sort of yellow spore.

She stumbled back out of the pipe and started coughing.

“Casey?” called Raph distantly. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. What the hell was that?” asked Casey.

“What was what?” asked Leo, moving closer.

“Tha…”

She trailed off. Her heart jumped to her throat and her stomach churned unpleasantly.

“You hate me,” whispered a familiar slurred and broken female voice from the pipe, “Don’t you, Casey?”

Gretzky fell from her hand. “N-Nonononono. Not you. Not you. I don’t…” 

“Don’t lie to me,” demanded the voice still distant in the tunnel. “Why don’t you come to see me anymore if you don’t hate me?”

Casey’s breath quickened and her muscles tightened. She had to get away. She had to get away. She couldn’t be here. She shouldn’t be here. She had to get away.

Turning, with fear evident on her face and eyes, she ran away from the demands of the voice for her to say the false words.

“CASEY!” yelled Raph, watching his best friend disappear like a scared rabbit. Casey didn’t scream, but she had definitely started to freak out.

He had never seen her look so scared before.

“Why did Casey run off?” asked Mikey, looking frightened himself.

“I have no clue,” said Raph. “She just started acting weird and mumbled no a lot and then she booked it. And now we lost both of them.”

A loud and familiar shriek caught their attention.

“APRIL!” yelled Donnie, booking for the red haired girl they had come to look for originally.

Raph glanced down the tunnel where Casey had booked it. As much as he hated to admit it, with the new revelations, April’s safety took precedence at the moment. They had to keep the other girl safe.

April was sobbing openly. Her dad and Casey and now the turtles, how did they further mutate them?

The grotesque and monstrous form that was once Donatello stood before her. He was a hulking, beastly creature that no longer held the spark of intellect and kindness in his eyes. All of them were covered in spikey growths and were hunched over more with the weight of their shells.

Donatello’s mask was melded with his face and the tails of it formed a tattoo pattern on his throat. His breathing was ragged and his snout was elongated with sharp teeth.

They were grotesque caricatures of themselves, lost to the madness of the mutagen.

April sobbed, “Donnie no. Not you guys, too.”

“April?” said Donnie coaxingly. “April we’re all fine. See? We’re totally okay.”

The girl refused to look up. She was scared with her knees drawn to her chest and her hands balled up as fists to either side of her head. She was crying quietly and muttering, “Not them. Not them. Why did it have to get them?”

Donnie felt a wave of frustration hit him. Casey was missing, driven off by her own invisible fear and April was too scared to move. He then noticed some strange yellow powder in her hair.

“What’s this?” he muttered to himself.

“What’s what?” asked Leo looking around with careful yet anxious eyes. Going into a high tense situation with little to no info was something no of them were ever going to get used to.

It was becoming increasingly too common for Donnie’s taste.

Raph was pacing like a jungle cat. He didn’t have anything to hit to make the situation better and knowing his older brother, Donnie figured that leaving Casey behind was weighing on him.

“This yellow powder,” said Donnie, “it’s all over April’s hair. It looks like some sort of pollen.”

Leo leaned in closer to get a better look but Donnie stopped him.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said carefully. A theory was beginning to form in his mind, but he needed more data. “Raph?”

“Yeah Donnie?” asked the red bandana turtle. He moved closer, ready to do something.

“You were closest to Casey when she started freaking out. I need you to really think. Was there a strange yellow powder of some sort on her clothes?”

Raph concentrated really hard to when Casey stumbled out of the pipe coughing. He had called out to her to make sure that she was alright and she looked up. In the dim light of sewer, he could see her clothes.

“Yeah,” he said coming back to himself. “Yeah there was some yellow stuff on her clothes. And she was coughing too.”

Donnie had that look on his face when the pieces of the puzzle were slotting in.

“We need to look in a drainage pipe,” said Donnie stubbornly. “April has some sort of weird pollen or spore in her hair. I need to look in one around here to see what’s in there.”

Raph looked over to Leo. His normally cautious brother nodded fiercely.

“Fine.  But we need to stay close, keep an eye out for Casey, and be careful.”

Raph let out a breath from his nose. He hated fighting enemies that he could not see. He was not meant for battles of wit and smarts. If he was pummeling something, then he would be feeling a lot better right about now.

Casey Jones scrunched up her body as tight and as little as it could go.

She was hidden in a pipe. Her equipment was an uncomfortable bulge against her back like this. She buried her face against her knees to block out the sounds of the world. She had lost her. She was pretty sure that she had lost her.

How could she be here? She was dead. She was dead and cremated and her ashes were scattered. How could she have come back?

Casey bit back a sob that threatened to overtake her.

“You hate me,” accused the voice. It was louder now and closer to her ear. Casey almost sobbed.

“No. No. No. Mommy,” said Casey in a broken whisper. “I don’t hate you. I’m sorry that I stopped visiting so often. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I couldn’t see you sick.”

“Stop lying!” shouted the voice, slurred from the medication and the pain. Casey felt the tears sting her eyes and fall down her dry skin.

“It’s the truth, Mommy. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Casey looked up and sobbed at the sight before her.

Her mother stood with her long blonde hair falling out of her scalp. The smell of disease and hospital invaded Casey’s nose. Her mother looked bloated and gaunt simultaneously. Her eyes held no recognition of her daughter, no love, but were lost to the disease.

“Why do you hate me so much?” the words were hard in coming, the treatments had damaged her brain more than help the tumors inside of it. Casey felt her stomach churn again and sobbed.

“I don’t. I don’t,” she pleaded. Her heart hammered and she was terrified.

“She died thinking that,” whispered a new voice in her ear, an accusing voice. “What a cruel and vicious sister I have.”

Casey turned and looked up at Madeline. A sneer was across her pretty sister’s face.

“You’re pathetic, Casey. You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”

“I love you, Mads!”

“Then why couldn’t you save me from those thugs?!” demanded Madeline in anger. “If you really loved me then you would have been there!”

“Yeah, Jones,” said Nick with dark eyes and a sneer across his face. Casey’s heart broke all over again seeing him, blood pouring from the wound that she had given him. Even after learning of his cheating ways after he cut ties with her, something in Casey still ached whenever she thought about him. “Why do you even try? Hanging out with those freaks? Are they the only ones who could love someone like you?”

Casey sobbed more. She huddled closer and tried to block out the voices.

“We trusted you, Casey,” her dad’s gruff voice echoed through the tunnel. “After all that bullshit you got into last year. Coming in at all hours from god knows what, we trusted that you would do better. Now look at you.”

“I am doing good!” cried out the dark haired girl wildly. “Really Daddy! I promise. I’m doing something right.”

“Are you using us then, Jones?” whispered Raphael’s voice. “To make yourself feel better for being such a fuck-up?”

“No! No! Never please believe me, Raph.”

“Why should we?” said April with her voice cold and her blue eyes like ice. “You break everything you touch.”

“It’s not like you have anything worthwhile to contribute to the team,” sneered Donnie, looking at her with indifference.

“Honestly,” said Mikey with a malicious grin on his face, “we just let you hang out with us because we pity you.”

Casey’s heart sped up and her breathing quickened. OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod it was truetruetrue. They hated her. They didn’t need her.

She could feel Leo’s breath on the back of her neck.

“No one here wants you, Jones,” he growled out. “So why do you even bother?”

Casey put her arms over her head and sobbed heavily. She felt like she was about to throw up. It was like every single fear was in front of her.

“We’re trash,” said a voice she never wanted to hear, “Aren’t we?”

Casey looked up weakly.

“Not you,” she said.

The black eyes of a bloodied and battered version of Casey stared back at her. The other version of herself smiled, revealing two rows of sharp fangs.

“Yeah,” said the black-eyed and shark toothed Casey Jones. “Me.”

“Mushrooms,” said Raph simply. He looked around at the cavernous expanse.

“Mushrooms,” agreed Donnie simply. “Specifically ones that seem to have mutated or been biologically engineered to release a hallucinogenic spore that makes a person hallucinate their worst fear.”

Mikey blinked in confusion from his spot of watching April and looked over at Leo for an explanation. The girl twitched a bit and looked around with wide and frightened eyes, but she wasn’t crying anymore.

“Don’t let those things hit you in the face with any yellow stuff or you’re going to hallucinate some bad things.”

Considering how terrible their luck was, Raph felt that Leo saying such things was practically inviting it to happen.

A moment after Leo explained to Mikey, a squadron of mushrooms attacked them.

Raph sighed.

He knew that was going to happen.

Leo fixed the grip on his left katana and cleanly sliced the nearby mushroom in two. There were a lot of those little buggers around, more than he would care to think about.

Part of him hoped Casey was okay. It looked like whatever kind of spore the mushrooms sprayed people with only got worse with time. April looked too terrified to even move, which was both a blessing and curse. She screamed every time one of them got too close.

Leo spun and stabbed three of the mushrooms through with his katana. Depositing them on the ground, his eyes tracked his brothers.

Donnie and Mikey had converted their weapons from bo and nunchuck to naginata and kusarigama respectively. Using the long range and bladed capabilities of both weapons to safely destroy the mushrooms.

Satisfied that his two younger siblings were fine for the moment, Leo’s eyes tracked the area for Raph. He was at the most disadvantage here. Long-range attacks would have been preferred over the short distance allowed by his sai. Even if he stuck with his shuriken, there were only so many of those to go around.

Raph was putting up a valiant effort though, stabbing the mushrooms just before they released their spores.

Right until one attached itself to Raph’s head and released the spore down his face, like a waterfall.

“RAPHAEL!” shouted Leo. It was all he could do as the mushrooms started swarming him, Donnie, and Mikey to keep them from his brother.

Raph coughed as the spore invaded his lungs.

Oh. SHIT.

“They’re holding you back, Raphael,” purred a low, rumbling voice in his ear.

Raph’s heart lodged in his throat and stayed there.

“No. No,” he said slowly. “Not you. What are you doing here?”

He turned and looked at the monstrous, hulking form of Slash. His former friend smirked and hefted his mace onto his shoulder.

“I’m here to finish what I started. I’m going to destroy your brothers,” he chuckled darkly. “And then it’ll just be me and you, partner. Like you always wanted.”

Raph was rooted to the spot as Slash lumbered toward Leo.

He spun his sais and growled out, “Like hell you are! I ain’t afraid of you!”

It was partially true.

He wasn’t afraid of Slash.

He was terrified of him.

Casey was terrified of her. She scrunched tighter against the wall, ignoring the uncomfortableness in her back.

“Not you,” she whispered, as she looked at her monstrous other self.

The black eyed Casey Jones tsked simply. The blood trickled from a gash in her hand and her knuckles were skinned so deeply you could see the bone. She wore a black tank top and old jeans, blood splattered on some areas of them.

“Don’t be like that,” she murmured. “You make the both of us look bad.”

“I’m not scared of you,” said Casey, looking her down trying to feel brave.

“Oh please,” scoffed her black eyed self. “We both know that is utter bullshit, Cassandra Jones. I am you after all. We both know what they’re all saying is true.”

Casey looked at the people surrounding her black eyed self. People she loved and cherished and trusted. All of them hated her. All of them she had failed: failed to protect, failed to love, failed to be there for, and failed just in general. She was a failure and trash and never deserved to be with them.

“Why care about such people?” asked her other self. “They all hurt you in the end, Casey. “

“No,” whispered Casey. “They love me.”

“Do they?” asked her other self. She stood and smiled with her sharp and bloodied teeth. “Do they really? You don’t have to lie to me anymore, Casey. I am you.”

“You are not me!” shouted Casey fearfully. “You were never me! That’s a lie! That’s a lie!”

“It’s the truth,” whispered her other self. “I am you, Casey Jones. I am every hateful feeling inside of your worthless and pathetic body. I am your repression and anger and bloodlust. I drive you, Casey. I make you enjoy hurting them and failing them and yourself. What did those girls say?”

Almost as if on cue, Alison Ann Abernathy came forward. She was still nine years old going on ten and her perfect nose was bloodied and broken. She smiled cruelly.

“Trailer trash Jones, loser and a freak, you’re just one moment away from snapping. The nuns think you’re going to Hell after all.”

“We’re not a good person,” whispered her other self. “We’re as horrible as they come. We give false hope and take it away.”

Behind her black eyed self, everyone smiled darkly.

“Maybe we should just take her out of her misery,” commented April taking out her tessen. “She’s a useless sack of skin anyway.”

Casey screamed as they advanced toward her. In the lead was her black eyed self. 

Her greatest fear and her own worst enemy: herself.

There were too many of them, realized Leo.

They were all going to be hit and this was going to be it. Donnie said that they needed to make sure to defeat them before sundown.

But how could they? How could they win when their own fears were so potent?

Mikey was the second hit, much in the same way as Raph. He sliced through several with a long range attacked with his kusarigama when a lucky one had jumped onto his head and released the spore.

Leo didn’t know what his youngest brother was seeing, but he was sitting there silently and trembling like a leaf. He wasn’t screaming. He was just quiet.

It was cold.

It was dark.

His brothers were gone, gone, gone far away from him. An unseen enemy growled all around him.

Michelangelo was alone in utter blackness and he was terrified.

If he stayed completely still, never moved and never joked and never smiled and never cried, then maybe the monster would go away and his brothers will come back.

He could stop being scared when the blackness receded.

He could move then. 

It was just Leo and Donnie now. Raph had disappeared from Leo’s sight, fighting an unseen enemy wildly.

Leo grunted and moved forward slashing through another wave of the mushrooms.

“There has to be a main mushroom that all of these are stemming from! They’re multiplying way too fast,” called Donnie.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“You’re getting through more of them then I am,” said his brother as logically as he could muster, “They’re either going for me or you next. Leo, if it’s me then you’re going to have to have to find it destroy it.”

“I’m not leaving you guys!” said Leo as he slashed through a new wave.

“You’re going to have to!” shouted Donnie as he stabbed several at once. The hidden blade did not pierce a mushroom at the end of the line. Quickly and gracefully, the mushroom floated through the air and hit Donnie in the face with the spore.

“NO!” screamed Leo as Donnie landed next to April, who screamed and ran away. 

Donnie coughed and opened his eyes.

April peered down at him disgruntledly.

“April?” he croaked.

“Ew,” said the girl, wrinkling her nose. “Don’t talk to me you freak.”

Terror seized his heart, “Wh-what? April I’m your friend!”

“Please,” snorted April as she stood up with a cruel light in her eyes. “Like I would seriously be friends with a bunch of mutant freaks who mutated my dad! You’re not even smart enough to cure him!”

“I-I will! I will cure your dad! April…”

He reached out to take her hand when a hockey stick came down on his own. Donnie’s hand jerked back and he saw Casey standing there with a sneer on her face.

“Sewer trash shouldn’t touch her,” growled the older girl. “You’re such a disappointment, Donatello. Why do we even spend time with you guys? You bring nothing into our lives.”

“We’re your friends!”

“Like we would ever really be friends with a buncha mutants,” scoffed Casey. “Especially a freaky one who experiments on people. Are me and April gonna end up like that Goo Guy you keep in your lab?”

“His name is Timothy! I’m gonna to find a cure for him and for April’s dad!”

“Like they believe that, egghead,” whispered Raph in his ear. “You’re weird even for a mutated turtle. You weren’t even human to begin with. So why play at it? No one is ever going to truly accept you?”

“STOP!” screamed Donatello, shutting his eyes tight and placing his hand over his ears. He stumbled to his feet and ran away down the tunnel.

Leo tried to run after his family. The only one he could see was Mikey, sitting perfectly still and shaking like a leaf. Even though he was right in Leo’s sight. He was also lost to him.

Leo was, in the truest sense of the word, alone.

“No,” he whispered before turning around and getting hit the face with the spore.

It blinded him, causing him to loose his footing and fall down into darkness.

They were coming after her, thought April hysterically.

She didn’t know why they were coming after her. Her father, the newly mutated Casey, the twice-mutated turtles all of them were coming after her.

All of them wanted a piece of her, and April felt a terror seize her in the gut. They were so far gone that they weren’t sure what they wanted her for.

They didn’t know her anymore, didn’t know their bonds, and she was terrified of what that would mean when the mutagen got her.

“Why try to fight it?” asked Casey’s dark eyed self.

“T-this is-isn’t real,” stuttered Casey as she prepared to fight. “You’re not here.”

“Doesn’t matter if I’m here or not. Only matter if I’m right. I’m you after all.”

“You are not!”

“Am too! You just refuse to accept that I’m there! You just ignore me!”

“NO! I DON’T!”

“One day, Casey you’re going to become every single thing that they believed you to be. You’re going to be the failure and loser that you are. You are nothing, Jones, nothing. And you’ll never amount to anything good.”

Casey felt the cool hand of her dark eyed self touch her cheek.

“Face it,” she said with bloody smile, “It’s either dead, imprisoned, or an insane homicidal mutant. You’re prospects aren’t that great.”

“It’s a lie,” insisted Casey, but she wasn’t meeting her other self’s eyes. Her heart pounded in her chest and she felt a real terror carve itself in her bones.

“LET HIM GO!” screamed Raph in terror. He tried to strike Slash, who was holding a bloodied Mikey in his fist. His youngest brother’s arm was obvioiusly broken and rivulets of blood rolled down his skin.

“After all he’s done to you?” whispered Slash menacingly. “Not a chance. Anger makes us strong, Raphael. Give into it.”

Slash lifted Mikey to deliver the killing blow.

Raph’s eyes widen as the cold grip of terror seeped into his blood stream. Ice ran through is veins.

Mikey whimpered as he felt the monster move all around.

He could barely see his own hand in front of his face. When he dared to move it, the monster growled unpleasantly and he felt it brush against he cheek.

He hasn’t dared moved since.

The monster that surrounded him in this strange and dark place probably killed his brothers.

And if Mikey wanted to live to avenge their deaths, then he would have to be perfectly and utterly still in this instant.

He was scared.

Donatello ran from April, Casey, and his brothers all of whom hurled insults and abuse at him.

They were right. He was a freak even amongst the mutants of society.

Why did he try so hard to be human when he would never, ever fit in with them? Why did he loved a girl who would never love him back? Why did he try so hard with his brothers, who loved but felt like there was a vast expanse separating them?

What right did he have to any of it?

“You’re just a freak,” growled April, slapping him across the face.

The terror racing through him stopped all higher brain functions.

April was right. They all were right. He was a freak and an outcast.

That was all he was ever going to be.

‘It was strange,’ thought Leo as he woke up, ‘the spores aren’t effecting me like they should.’

He was in a deeper cavern. He was surrounded by the strange mushroom creatures and was totally cut-off from his team.

He was hit in the face with those spores.

So…why wasn’t he feeling the effects of it? Shouldn’t he be curled up in a ball of gibbering terror right about now?

Leo stood and tried to calm his pounding heart.

Maybe the spores don’t work when you’re already scared? Because, before Leo was hit in the face, he was already terrified.

His brothers were lost to him. Casey and April were gone. He was alone, separated from his team.

There was no fear for him to live.

Leo was already living his greatest fear.

“Feeeeed me,” moaned a guttural voice. “Feed me your fear.”

Leo turned around: face-to-face with a giant one-eyed mushroom. A can of mutagen protruded from the great fungal beast.

He looked at the giant mushroom with big eyes. He thought of his team, his brothers and friends, scattered and needing him. Something like a resolve bloomed within him.

He had no time for this creature, not when those truly important to him needed him more.

“That’s the problem,” said the leader simply. “I have no fear to feed you.”

“Feed me,” demanded the mushroom in an earth-shaking voice.

“Not when it’s feeding me,” retorted Leo, as he jumped into the air with his katana. “We’re going to end this! NOW!”

The mushroom groaned and released several balls full of the spore into the air. Leo jumped and landed.

The fight was on.

Leo breathed and focused his energy.

He was terrified, but not of this. He wasn’t fighting the fear or running or hiding. He was facing it.

Maybe that’s why he was keeping such a cool head.

He dodged the balls of spore and flipped into the air. He sliced through the retinue of the dancing mushroom creatures.

There had to be away to defeat this thing.

Leo dodged another attack of exploding spore bombs and drove his katana through a new line of mushrooms.

He kicked away an oncoming one, which landed in a spot where the light bled through a crack in the surface. With a tiny scream, the mushroom withered and died.

Leo looked up at the crack.

He smirked to himself. That could work.

“HEY UGLY!” shouted Leo in a taunting voice. “COME AND GET ME!”

The one-eyed creature took the bait and launched a spore bomb.

Leo jumped into the air and met it halfway, twisting his body, he kicked the spore bomb upward. It lodged into the crack as Leo began to fall back to the ground.

“NOOOOOO!” howled the creature as the spore bomb exploded and filled the cavern with light.

“Let here be light,” shouted Leo, using the reflective surface of the katana’s blade to make the light brighter.

The mushroom mutant released an unholy shriek and began to whither and die.

April gasped and looked around.

She stood, surrounded by the guys and rapidly decaying mushrooms in a open corridor of the sewers.

The insane mutant versions of her father and friends had disappeared. She was safe.

“Guys?” she croaked out nervously.

Mikey immediately jumped up and looked around. His hand was shaking, the same fine tremor that was in April’s own hand.

“It’s gone,” he said with a relieved sigh.

“MIKEY!” shouted Raph in a relieved voice. The normally emotionally hidden turtle ran over and picked up his youngest sibling into a bone-crushing hug.

“C-Can’t breathe, Raph,” choked out Mikey, but didn’t struggle too hard in the hug.

“April?” asked Donnie tentatively.

April turned around and felt a wave of relief surge through her, “Donnie.”

“Oh thank God,” said the purple masked turtle, hugging her close.

April sagged boneless into her best friend’s arms.

“Guys!” cried out Leo, jogging over to them. Relief was clearly etched across his face. “You’re back to normal.”

“Yeah,” said Donnie pulling away from April with a slight blush on his face. “You did it, Leo. Good job.”

April had a lot of questions about what happened. She was about to ask them when she noticed someone missing. Her stomach plunged to somewhere around her toes.

“Guys?” she asked with shakiness to her voice. “Where’s Casey?”

“She ran off earlier,” said Raph also looking worried. “She must have stayed wherever she ended up.”

“We should find her,” said Leo immediately in leader mode. “I know no one wants to do this but we should split up. I’ll go by myself.”

“Actually,” said Donnie suddenly. “Leo take April with you. Mikey and Raph could go together. I’ll go by myself.”

Normally Donnie would have loved a chance to jump at free time alone with April. But, after today, he thought that Leo was a better option. Drawing mainly on past experience, when Donnie was younger and his nightmares scared him awake. He usually tiptoed into Leo’s bed for comfort from the bad dreams.

Statistically, he hoped, it would have a similar effect on April.

Leo caught his eye. Donnie set his face to remain firm, but Leo must have seen something on it. His eldest brother’s dark blue eyes softened kindly and he smiled gently.

“Okay,” he said. Leo held out his hand for April to take, which she did gratefully.

“Casey couldn’t have gotten far,” said Leo, slipping into leader mode. “We should find her soon enough.”

Donnie nodded and kicked a dying mushroom out of the way. They had a comrade to find.

She was all alone now.

Casey trembled with fear and repressed sobs. All the reminders of her failure had vanished. She was alone, in a cavernous pipe in the sewers.

She should move. She should go to the guys. She shouldn’t hide away from the world like she was five years old again and refusing to deal with people.

She buried her face into her knees and several tears escaped her eyes.

She couldn’t move. Casey felt like she was so lost. She didn’t even know how to get back to her friends.

She didn’t even know if they wanted her back. She ran off like that. She lost April.

All she does is let down people. What if they don’t want her anymore? She screwed up.

She keeps screwing up.

Casey huddled in on herself even tighter and buried her head into her knees.

No one was going to find her. She was going to have to save herself, again. She’ll move in a minute.

“Casey?” called a familiar voice. It was a kind voice, full of gentleness that Casey’s heart ached.

“Doc?” she croaked up. Her throat was clogged with tears and scratchy from shouting.

“You’re okay,” said Donnie with a relieved voice climbing into the pipe. “We’ve been looking all over for you. We were worried.”

“You…were?” questioned Casey, looking up at him.

Donnie was surprised to see the tear tracks streak across Casey’s cheeks. Her eyes were red, puffy, and bloodshot. She had obviously been crying for quite awhile.

Making a decision, Donnie took a seat next to her.

“Of course we were,” he assured softly. “We’re friends.”

Casey nodded absentmindedly. She moved closer to Donnie and was clearly trying to stop herself from crying.

“A-Am I good person?” she asked suddenly.

Donnie felt like this was a question to some sort of test.

“I think you try to be,” he said suddenly and soothingly. “And I think that, in the end, that’s all we can strive to be.”

He wasn’t sure if answer satisfied her, but she moved closer to him still.

“I don’t think that I can move right now,” said Casey roughly.

“That’s fine,” assured Donnie gently. “You and I can just sit here awhile. Then we can go back to the Lair okay? I think we all need each other after the day we had.”

Casey nodded in agreement at that. She didn’t say anything more, but she did lean into Donnie. Resting her head on his shoulder, the older girl buried her face in it.

Almost instinctively, Donnie wrapped an arm around her.

Casey Jones sobbed against his shoulders, in a show of vulnerability that Donnie didn’t think the girl possessed. He held close and didn’t say a word. Instead, he just let her sob and wondered what scared her so much to elicit such a reaction.

In the dim light of the sewers provided, Donnie held Casey close until she finished crying and had fallen asleep against him. They stayed like that until Leo and April stumbled across the pair.

Leo carried Casey’s equipment back to the Lair, while Donnie carried the girl herself.

He laid her on the couch near everyone as the congregated in the main sitting area. No one said a word. Instead the all gathered around each other, needing the contact instead of the words and needing to know that their worst fears had no come true that day.