One of the few things Raph appreciated about the occasional visits he made to Buffy, rather than the other way around, was... well, it sounded kind of dumb to even think it, never mind try to explain it out loud, but... well. He really kinda enjoyed the chance to stay up and greet the dawn with her.
He didn't mean her sister, though the kid really had turned out to be as smart as Donny; the few times both families had fought together since April and Buffy came out to each other as Slayers, they'd inevitably wound up in a corner somewhere with that hyper kid named Andrew, talking a mix of pop culture, computers, and science that no one else could keep up with. Not just because of the time of day, either; they were both used to greeting it from the wrong side.
No-- it was the actual experience of watching the sun break over the horizon, sprawled back in a hammock that comfortably cradled his shell and allowed him to present Buffy with plenty of warm, flat, horizontal surface to drape herself over.
(He'd only compared her to a cat on a hot rock once... out loud. But the image would keep coming to mind. She even, sort of, purred. So sue him; he found it kinda adorable.)
Raph was a ninja. He was also a mutated turtle who lived in the sewers. With three others like him. And a giant rat. In the middle of one of the busiest cities on Earth. Sure, he had human friends, and they even went out above ground... to fight. But the relaxed thing? Out in somebody's freaking back yard, where anybody could see him? In daylight? It gave him kinda a thrill.
"Gorgeous, isn't it?" Buffy murmured, shifting a little for a better look at the streaks of color creeping up the cloud-shrouded horizon in advance of the sun. Her cheek was pressed against the upper edge of his shell, her hair brushing against the underside of his chin, and her warm breath fanned out over sensitive, exposed skin; he shivered, tucking his arms around her as he followed her gaze.
"Yeah, it kinda is," he said. "Like a painting."
"The expensive kind," Buffy agreed, almost absently. "Like...." She giggled then, suddenly, a delightful sound that always reminded Raph of April at her most amused with Casey: of warmth and people who mattered to each other. "I'm a little embarrassed to say this, considering what my mom did for a living-- but I didn't even realize you guys were named after famous painters and musicians and stuff until Giles said something about it, last time I came back from New York."
Raph tilted his head a little for a better look at her face; at the way the warming light almost cast a halo off her blonde hair and made her skin tone even pinker against the pale green of his plastron. "Huh. I guess I didn't think to mention it; sensei always said we were named after the great masters of the Renaissance, but...." He smiled at her. "To us, we're just Raph, Leo, Danny, and Mikey. He's mostly the only one that uses the long versions."
She snickered. "Yeah, that's totally a parent thing. I used to tease Mom that she should have named me something longer than 'Buffy', cause it's totally hard to yell my name and still sound all stern and disappointed. Not that it stopped her from trying." She shrugged, shoulder shifting over his shell; he couldn't exactly feel it, not like he did the warm calluses of the hand curled over the tough skin of his bicep, but the movement did transmit vibrations through to the vulnerable parts underneath.
"You guys, though. Master Splinter's kind of Giles-y even on good days. I can just imagine. Raph-a-el." She drew the name out, then giggled again and deepened her voice in imitation of his father. "Mi-chel-an-ge-lo."
Raph chuckled. "Yeah, we heard that a lot, growing up."
She hummed as the vivid clouds started to pale, the sky behind them transmuting from a deep blue-black spangled with bright pinpricks of stars toward the lighter, clear blue of morning. Then she shifted again, turning over and wriggling until she was sprawled out on her stomach, fingers laced together and propped under her chin.
Had he thought she was adorable before? Like, totally. And warming, in more ways than one. Her legs tangled with his, the rough seams of her jeans scraping interestingly against his inner thighs; her eyes were almost as green as his skin in the early light, and very distracting. But that kind of distraction wasn't, apparently, what she had in mind just then. It was a good thing Master Splinter's meditations on patience were finally starting to yield results.
"I thought you were named after an angel at first, actually," she mused, smiling at him in amusement.
He snorted. "The archangel, you mean?"
"Yeah. Not the fight-y one, or the messenger-y one, or the one whose name sounds like he has to go to the bathroom...."
Also known as Michael, Gabriel, and Uriel; and no way did Raph believe Buffy didn't actually know their names. He'd heard of them lurking in church; hooded robes could get a guy into some of the bigger ones without drawing too much attention at the late services, so he'd lurked a time or two, people watching and getting another perspective on what humans believed about the hows and whys of their existence. Buffy, he was sure, had either picked them up from a similar source, or from her Watcher; if she knew what their roles were, she knew the rest of it. She wasn't dumb. But he knew it tickled the crap out of her sometimes, pulling the blonde routine; so he humored her.
"The healer one," Raph replied. "Yeah. Angel of music and healing: associated with the East Wind, air elementals, and... whaddya know... sunrise." He tipped his chin toward the brightening sky.
"Yeah, that one," Buffy smirked, then sighed, expression turning serious. "Do you think they're actually real?"
"What, angels?" He blinked at her, startled. He'd seen plenty of strange things in his life-- heck, he was one of those strange things to some people-- but most of what he'd run into had been ninjas or monsters. Or even monster ninjas. "Wouldn't ya know that better than I would? I mean, fighting demons and all."
"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" Buffy sighed, then pouted. "But no, not so much. I mean, I know some kind of god's got to exist, because crosses work against vampires, and holy water, and, y'know." She lifted a hand to gesture aimlessly toward the sky, before tucking it back under her chin. "Heaven. From what I remember, it really is as advertised. But angels? Not so much, no. Which begs the question."
She didn't say anything else. But he could guess. "Why aren't they fighting the demons, too."
"Why don't they at least talk to us," she said with a slight shake of her head. "Even if they're not allowed to meddle. Even if they're like the totally unhelpful PTB's and have to stay at a distance. It would be nice to know they actually exist. That we're not alone down here."
There wasn't much he could add to that, so Raph just stroked a broad, three-fingered hand down her spine as she shifted again, lowering her arms flat against his shell and turning her cheek to rest atop them. Then she started humming, tapping the fingers of one hand absently against him. She had a habit of doing that, he'd noticed, whenever she was either really content, or thinking about Heaven; the wordless songs were usually beautiful, but kinda unsettling, and more improvisational than anything like a consistent melody or pattern. Nothing he recognized from the radio, but he didn't want to know where it came from enough to interrupt her; he'd rather listen.
A tug of breeze from the East blew a few strands of her blonde hair free of her ponytail, and he stretched his fingers to tangle through them as they absorbed the morning together.
Then a sudden voice, melodic and unfamiliar, spoke up from behind them. "You aren't alone here. You know that; it's the reason you've lived so long. And the reason you didn't stay."
Buffy sat up abruptly, every muscle going taut, sending the hammock swaying, and slid off Raph's chest to stand next to him. She drew a sharp breath, something terribly wounded in her expression as she stared at the intruder; then she laughed, harshly.
"That's your argument? Because I didn't stay, the world nearly ended. Not that I remember having any choice about it. And I did end up alone. The way I always seem to, when things get really critical. Do you know how much it would have been worth to me, if you'd shown up then? Instead, I had to get my support from a vampire."
Ouch. Raph had never heard quite that particular degree of venom from his girlfriend before; something told him she'd been bottling that up a long time. And that last bit about the vampire worried him; they hadn't shared all the dark places in their pasts yet, mostly knitting their relationship together with threads of companionship and matched skill. They hadn't let the rest matter; and maybe that had been an oversight. He could worry about that later, though; he had more urgent matters to deal with just then.
He'd tried to sit up when Buffy rolled off of him, but hammocks weren't designed for quick exits-- at least, not for the one on the bottom. The knotted cords caught on the edge of his shell, sending him flailing as he tried to heave himself up and out of the clinging construction. He swung a leg over the edge, trying to gradually shift his weight to one side-- then spat an incoherent "Dude!" as the whole assembly twisted, dumping him in a heap on the ground.
The tall, glowing presence in front of Buffy turned to look at him as Raph spat out earth and sat up; its eyes were bluer than anything Raph had ever seen in his life, and a brilliant nimbus surrounded it. Its expression-- his expression?-- was very serious, though, as he turned back to Buffy and shook his head. "I don't know why so much is asked of one and not another. But it is as you say: we're not meant to meddle in human affairs."
"So, what, this doesn't count as meddling?" Buffy replied tartly, crossing her arms over her chest.
The angel-- because he had to be an angel, with those huge, sweeping wings like sails coming to a point twenty feet over his head, nevermind that he looked more like an eagle with a man's face than any of the traditional descriptions Raph had read about-- smiled suddenly at that: a quiet smile, full of old memories. "I am more than a mirror; I may be sinless, but I am hardly perfect." He paused for a moment, then added, "You have been much missed."
An old grief contorted Buffy's face as Raph scrambled to his feet, brushing dirt off his knees and wishing he hadn't unstrapped his sais before they came outside. Holy the guy might be, but he was still hurting Buffy; and nothing got a free shot at Buffy while Raph was around. He stepped up next to her, crossing his own arms across his shell. "Hey. Leave the lady alone."
"No... it's all right, Raph," Buffy told him, grimly. "I'm sure-- Raphael, here-- thinks he's here to help."
Raph frowned at that, confused by the repetition of his name-- then widened his eyes as the winged being inclined his head. He was the actual archangel they'd just been discussing?
Buffy wasn't done yet, though. "Not that any of these things ever really understand what it's like to be human, and why I might not want to take them up on what they're selling."
The angel clapped his wings together in what looked like a reflex reaction; a sound like cymbals rang out, making Raph jump, but his expression didn't change. "You would be surprised," he said. "Or... perhaps not. You should have been one of Michael's, when you came to us; but you stayed much with my Djoura instead. You have a creative soul, Buffy Summers."
Buffy reached out to Raph, steadying one hand against his shoulder without looking at him, as though simply reminding herself that he was there. "What do you mean by that?" she asked, brows drawn together in incomprehension.
Raphael-- the feathered one-- smiled at her, his glow brightening a little and rippling the air with little shards of rainbow. "You see past the way things have always been, to possibility." His gaze shifted back to Raph again, smile widening in a way that tugged inexplicably at Raph's chest. "In many ways. As was said once, it may not be everyone's idea of courtship, but as it suits...."
Raph frowned. What was the dude saying? That he and Buffy were, what, approved? Or was he talking about her past pattern of relationships? Whatever. "It suits," he replied belligerently. What did an angel know about it, anyway?
"Thus, I thought you might appreciate knowing-- and this seemed an appropriate opportunity to tell you," Raphael continued, ignoring him. "To put the question to rest."
"Tell me what?" Buffy asked, her voice almost uncertain-- as if she wasn't sure she wanted to hear whatever the angel had to say. Raph didn't blame her; he still wasn't sure what to think, himself.
"You've been healing a long time," Raphael replied, almost gently. "But your cookies are done."
Buffy made a startled noise; then, with a shiver of sound like laughter struck from a stringed instrument, the angel disappeared in a great flash of light.
Cookies? Raph wrinkled his brow as he turned to his girlfriend. All that-- just to leave a cryptic message about cookies? "What was that supposed to mean?"
She turned stricken eyes toward him, all the color drained out of her already pale face, and his heart sank. But then she blinked, and warmth crept back into her expression, followed a faint, teary smile.
"Buffy?" he asked again, hesitantly, gathering her close against him.
"It's okay," she sniffed against his shell. "It's... I'm... I guess he knows what the important things are, after all. I'm okay."
The last two words were firmer, spoken with more certainty... and she tipped her chin up again, smiling as she reached to touch his face. "Raph?"
"Yeah?" he asked cautiously, still kind of thrown by the whole encounter.
"I love you," she said.
...Yeah, Raph was definitely going to have to mark sunrise as his favorite time of day, from there on out.
But first, he had a sentiment to return. With interest.