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1

The first time Raphael understood what it was like to have an older brother was when he met Casey Jones. What started off as a physical representation of the intense and aggressive feelings Raphael had been suffering ended with the begging’s of a new friendship. At the end of their three hour long skirmish the unlikely duo had settled on a local park bench. A six pack between them. Raphael’s first of many beers, not that Casey need know.They’d, after a long comfortable silence, begun to introduce themselves.

“Freak” became “Raph”, “Psycho” became “Case”. And with that any last-minute lingering hostilities melted. There had been a brief description of the life he lived and how he came to be. Casey had taken a long quiet sip after hearing the quicker less dignified retelling of Raph’s origin. Casey’s story hadn’t been as elaborate. He’d had a pretty default kind of life being born and bred human being. Grew up in some run down council block and was left with several mental health issues when his father died. Pretty standard.

Despite their first meeting some sort of back-alley death match, no hard feelings had been brought into this conversation. He laughed and shook his head in disbelief. “So not only ya a weird sewer freak, but a weird sewer ninja freak?!” It hadn’t been said in a disgusting tone like before. It was humorous and light. “No wonder, worst god damned punch I’ve ever had…” Raph had taken the compliment highly, but still offered back a retort along the lines of ‘Casey’s “mug beggin’ for it”. He’d instantly found recognition in his words. He’d heard them many times from his younger siblings. Whenever big old brother Raph gave a complement, both his siblings would light up with glee, and send back cheeky replies. They would act as if it hadn’t meant a thing, when really it had.

The next few weeks he’d found himself obliviously sticking to Casey like glue. They’d set into an organised ritual almost instantly. Meet up, find some purple dragons, bust some skulls, grab a beer and gloat over their current victory. It was as if they’d been doing it for years. He was seeking the validation he’d always been seeking. At first it was clear it was because he was human. While Raphael understood how special and important he and his family were, he would ask nothing short to walk among people in the daylight. To be accepted, and friends, with the once mythical human being was almost a novelty. But as time passed Casey became more of a ‘male figure’ to him. In his eyes Mr Jones was what a man should be. The kind of man he’d hope to become; strong, gallant, charismatic and just a tad cocky. He begun to seek the kind of validation he simply couldn’t seek from his father. Casey knew but it didn’t bother him. When he looked at Raph he didn’t exactly see a man, but he didn’t exactly see a kid. He saw a fellow soul in need of the same kind of guidance he needed: anger management.

But while Raph held Casey in the highest regards it did not mean he wouldn’t challenge him. It was no different to how Mikey and Donnie treated Raph: Natural hierarchy rivalry. Yet it was refreshing for him to be on the other side of that rivalry for once. There was no pressure to be a certain person or play a specific role. Casey expected nothing from him and Raph nothing from Casey. It was far from the reality he and his brothers endured. He could show off, gloat and feel proud for once. Seeking well deserved attention was no longer frowned upon and emotions could slip without repercussions. 

Growing up hadn’t been difficult. It had been severe. Mutation was somehow the worst thing and the best thing that’d happened to Raphael ironically. It did not excuse the kind of childhood he had to endure however. When Splinter had introduced the idea of martial arts to the three young boys they’d been excited, keen even. Their lives had been restricted. Any distraction was welcomed and so the three turtle tots did not complain when their father, and now Sensei, huddle them up in a warm blanket and begun to teach his first lesson. First of thousands.

Raphael had been the enthusiastic. He’d read about human sports from rotted magazines that’d been thrown down through sewer pipes into their home. It was 1988 and the Ultimate Warrior had just won intercontinental Heavyweight Championship and every sports article was retelling the same tale. It had been perfect timing. When Raphael had first read it (or more so when Splinter had read it out to him and then explained what wrestling was and what a championship was) he knew exactly what he would like to be. Looking down at the man unable to contain both his passion and raw energy, the bright rainbow stripes of cloth hanging from his straining biceps, the colourful face paint that signified war on those against him and love for those with him, he knew what he would like out of life. To be a warrior of ultimate power. Respected. Loved. So, when training first begun no turtle took it more seriously. He listened carefully to Splinters samurai tales of heroic Japanese men and their honour almost longingly. He practiced when he could and sometimes pushed things to far for his young body. He asked questions and respected the teachings as best as he could.

He was working near thrice as hard as his younger siblings and Splinter saw the raw determination and focus of the warrior Raphael had the protentional to become. But he also saw something else, vulnerability. Splinter did what he could. On one hand he would train his eldest son to lead, to protect and of how to maintain honour. On the other, he would help him manage his feelings, help him cap the budding temper within him and teach him of the importance of love. Determined Splinter begun to work thrice as hard on Raphael.

The child understood what it meant to be a big brother. Although rougher, snappier and easier to agitate than his brothers he was protective, encouraging and loving. Later in their lives when befriending April, she would call him a teddy-bear for these exact qualities. But he was always rough around the edges no matter how hard his father tried to smooth them out. As he grew older he would become unconfident, self-loathing and defensive. He would constantly need his father’s approval for everything and no matter how much praise he’d get, he would feel weak. Worthless even. He had trouble containing his emotions and had trouble sharing them. Always one extreme and never in-between. This had made him independent in their preadolescent years where his brothers had become more dependent on him. Where Raph sought privacy, solitude and spent most of his free time honing his skills, he brothers did the opposite. They’d been clingy as kids but as young teens that were pretty much unbearable 70% of the time. When this encouraged aggressive antisocial behaviour, Splinter quickly offered meditation, mindfulness, and other therapeutic techniques. While they softened his spirits, they did not help the confusing emotions boiling within him. His internal struggles Splinter could only guide so far. He was beyond proud of his son wherever Raphael accepted it or not. In the present day, he looked on his son a fine warrior worthy of leading his clan. A fine brother and a fine man. What he did see, was parenting mistakes. Where he encouraged self-sacrifice, he did not see the future drop in his son’s self-worth. Where he promoted independence, he did not foresee the neglect his younger son’s would receive.  So when Raphael met Casey Splinter had made a silent prayer in hopes that this would correct his mistakes. While the new-found friendship gave his son some personal relief and a break from the burdens of leadership it did not bridge the gap Splinter had created. It seemed Raphael had received the kind of support he had been searching for all along but this new perspective was lost on him. He did not see the effects his attitude, behaviour and new found friendship had on his brothers.

And now things had reached their boiling point.

 

2

Donatello had always felt a failure; A slow invaluable asset. Since the start of his training considered himself an unskilled fighter. Not as talented as Michelangelo and not as driven as Raphael. He’d always looked at his big brother in awe. He was the family’s pillar of strength and a roof that sheltered them from dangers untold. The love he felt for his big brother was uncompressible. In their childhood Raphael had always been there to offer a bear hug when the storm drains filled with frightening sounds and had always been on protective guard duty when father would leave in search of supplies. His mind was filled with fond memories of three children that had once been so close. When they’d begun to train Raphael had begun to grow up.  And for the first time Raphael left them behind. And Donatello always feared one day he would forget to look over the rim of his shell back at them and run so far ahead he’d just disappear. Now more than ever that fear was ever present. While the arrival of Casey Jones and April O’Neil was wonderful it held many drawbacks. The main draw back the fact it aided Raphael in reclining from the comfort of his family. By gaining two siblings he felt he’d lost one.

Hunched over the computer screen he blinked away the sleep from his eyes. The blue haze of the monitor was no longer visible. Donatello was lost on his own thoughts.

He was remembering their first reading lesson. Due to the available resources at the time, it been a year into their training. While Splinter had taught them to talk well and he had taught them to spell, he had found the art of reading far more difficult to teach small children without the proper resources. Donatello had helped with writing and spelling. It seemed he had a memory like a library. It didn’t even matter if he understood what a word meant. If Splinter said it once, he knew how to spell it and how to write it down. When the rat had found their first tattered dictionary and an old nursery rhyme book he had begun teaching and no one picked it up better than Donnie did. Mikey was a slow learner but that was more to do with focus rather than ability. Raphael however struggled. He struggled to remember spellings, recite the alphabet and was terrible when it came to proper pronunciation. He spoke like the people above and as Donatello would later tease, “uneducated”. But Raphael had been determined, desperate almost, to learn. Splinter had liked it when they read things right and therefore Raphael had wanted to read it better than ‘right’. He’d ask his little brother for help when the baby brat had gone to sleep. They’d spend near an hour each night quietly going over the dictionary until Raphael got things right. He remembered how grateful Raphael had been. How he had said thank you each night after their little study session and how he’d called Don ‘simply da best’. He remembered it well. It was the first time he’d ever felt useful.

It was a slippery slope down the rabbit hole after that. Donnie loved to read all he could get his hands on. If he wasn’t the best fighter of the three he would find other way’s the be useful. To be of value to the family. As their situations improved, their skills and their resources, Donatello trained to become so much more. An engineer; a technician; pharmacist; nurse and doctor; inventor; walking encyclopaedia. He’d become, in Michelangelo’s words, “an absolute wizard dude”. And apparently that was just rad. Mikey was proud, Splinter was proud and so was Raph. Yet still he didn’t feel he met up to his big brother’s expectations. He was sure Raph saw Don as oversharing and submissive. He was no match for him, yet still many times he tried to gain respect by challenging him. It never ended they way Don hoped. He was constantly searching for that approval. And he thought at this rate he might search forever. They were 12 when Raphael first withdrawed from them. He simply one day stopped sharing a bed with his brothers. Asked Splinter for his own spot with promising eyes and begun to set up camp elsewhere. It had been the first step up the ladder of independence. Nothing for them to take offence at. He had been the eldest brother after all. He was pre-destined to grow up first. It was near funny to think that something as simple as that had been the start of heartbreak. After that small act he quickly became aggravated by his lack of privacy and by the presence of his brothers. Now that he was older Donatello could guess it probably all triggered off because he’d begun to enter their own special version of ‘puberty’. But little Don had not known that at the time and it did not justify the actions nor the withdrawal of his big brother. The two young turtles in those years did not understand Raphael’s absence and had begun to cling even harder like most children do.

Michelangelo had always craved attention. It was a natural part of his personality. He had this special ability where even the loudest of whines could sound almost endearing. He was the baby and he was both demanding and cocky about that fact. When the change begun, Mikey sought other ways of gaining Raph’s attention with did not aid the situation at all. He’d begun to set up jokes and pranks to gain the attention he craved and with hopes to draw Raphael in. He got pummelled nearly every day or even worse when the prank involved bugs of any sort, but to him, it was worth it. Raphael never hurt him (too much that is) and always forgave him afterwards. It was a clear sign of affection towards the baby brother that made Raphael’s distance bearable to him. But Mikey had always been different. A people person Don thought. Where he was highly empathetic, and respecting of Raphael’s changes Don was both jealous and hurt by it all. For him, the pillar crumbled with each passing day. He felt starved of any connection and no matter how much Mikey understood, he felt just as pushed aside as Donatello did. Raphael did not connect on any level deeper than basic mandatory interaction. He plain out refused to open-up and share. He resembled something more akin to a lonely old man that hated the world than a young spunky rebellious teenager. He kept everything pent up within himself. Unlike everyone who let out steam bit by bit he waited for his gatherings with Casey and released all the steam in one go. He took it one violent outburst at a time. All pent-up rage directed towards either foot or purple dragon. And still both siblings knew Raphael did not share the thoughts or feelings with Casey after those violent outbursts. No. he just dangled he legs off the roof ledge, made a few dick jokes and then drank it down. Sure he'd come back later and self-reflect over some meditation but he never found what he was searching for in his mind. Don assumed that Raphael was as clueless as they were. He had no idea why he did half the things he did emotionally, and Don was more than 90% certain Raphael did not even know how withdrawn he was from his family. Either that or he was in denial. Both were hard pills to swallow.

He gave out a small sigh so small it barely made a noise, and harshly dragged his fingers tips back and forth across his brow. He was tired. More than tired. But he couldn’t have a coffee. No, not after all the energy drinks he’d consumed this evening after his morning coffee routine. No, he’d probably have a heart attack. Yet he doubted he could sleep even if he tried. It was a strange kind of tired. Your body was heavy and hurt, but your mind softly buzzed wide awake. It was okay. He needed to stay awake anyway.

Needed to wait up for Raphael to return. He’d looked hurt when he’d left Splinter’s room before heading straight out the door to meet Casey. He wanted Raphael to see him when he got back indoors. Wanted to make sure his big brother was okay even if he’d just grumble, tell him to sleep and then ignore him.

He needed to remind him that he cared enough to wait for him.

 

3

Raphael groaned, not from pain, but from his thoughts. He was heavily conflicted by two key emotions: stubbornness and guilt. He hunched over his knees as much as his shell would accommodate and his arms rested in his lamp limply. There was no use thinking about the technicalities of his upbringing and why he was the way he was. It didn’t change the past and it wouldn’t change now. Something cold bumped against the back of his skull and he half hummed half grumbled a noise of gratitude. He sat up straight and grabbed the can. Looking down he titled the can and paid some attention to the branding design on its side. He didn’t care. Casey only bought one brand of beer: Heineken, and he didn’t need to look at the can to know that. He was avoiding his thoughts as always.

Casey plopped himself next to Raphael, one leg bending at the knee and pointing up at the sky, the other dangling over the roof’s ledge without fear of falling. He rested a weary arm on the bend of his knee and carefully sipped at his beer.

They sat in uncomfortable silence and drank. Every now and then Raphael found himself glancing at Casey’s profile. He was unshaven, scruffy even. The skin around his lower eye lid was purple and puffy. There were fresh cuts raw and red. His untamed masculinity was still ever present no matter how battered and bruised he got, so his battle scars remained unbandaged. Raphael frowned. It was 1999 and he was 17 going on 18. That meant he’d been battling the foot for nearly three years. How such a short amount of time had aged them greatly. Their talents had earned the Shredders first flesh appearance in the last year. Apparently, their efforts had reached the head honcho and he was not impressed by the mutant scum that threatened to crush his empire. The last time they’d seen him they’d been one step closer to avenging their father’s great master Yoshi. So close to fully validating the upbringing they’d endured; so close to finally gaining Splinter’s undying approval as both father and sensei. About six months ago the TMNT were under the impression that had defeated The Shredder, Oroku Saki, head of the foot clan and had brought the blood-stained helmet and cloak to their father to mount on his wall. Two months later long after the disappearance of the foot clan, Raphael was heavily ambushed during the soft snowfall of December. If it hadn’t been Casey’s annoying insistence he help Raphael’s carry some Christmas decorations from the sewers to April’s apartment he was more than sure he’d have died. The two of them had crashed landed into April’s apartment and shattered the window behind them in retreat. Both had looked like pain personified. They couldn’t look after their injuries. They needed to get out of the house. The foot was crashing in close behind them and throwing their deadly weapons through the window. They’d manage the escape and make a b-line for Casey’s farm house.

Splinter had been taken along the way. Stolen and held captive by Oroku Saki. Raphael had failed violently. For the first time the family felt truly lost and Raphael felt he had not learned a single thing from his father stories. His confidence plummeted along with his health. With careful observation from Donatello, and distractions from Michelangelo, both Raph and Case were quickly brought back into good health. But their spirits where as rotten as everyone else’s.

It was their first honest experience of adulthood. The kind of experience their fights against the foot could not prepare them for. Black eyes and crushed ribs were no competition to the pain left by their father’s capture. Getting him back had been the hardest testimony to Raphael’s skill. Unable to rely on the fall backs of his Sensei, he pushed forward, and led his brothers towards a battle they’d gratefully won. After their return to New York and a long period of intel gathering they managed to locate Splinter’s whereabouts and fight off the endless troops to get to him. As a leader he had maintained an overprotective yet distant position. Ever focused on the safety of his immediate family and concerned with the potential wellbeing of his father. He had originally prepared himself for the worst where everyone had been hopeful. His younger siblings had tried many a time to reach him past a subordinate level, but unless it was to talk about a strategy plan he showed no interest in talking, nor listening. They ended up giving up and simply settled for just one another when it came to emotional support. He’d had always rejected anything that broke down his strong resolve even before this. It was during this period did they see the cold contrast to Raphael’s hot temper. April had not thought someone so soft and emotional could be so hollow. It left a wound in the family even after Splinter’s rescue.

The Shredder probably felt now how a dog who’d been shot in the leg did: Kicked down and out of sight. This chilly night marked a month since the rescue of master Splinter. Yet Casey’s face was living proof that some things just don’t heal all that well or quick. He wasn’t any better off. His leathered skin was marred; littered with cuts that would morph into fresh scars. One of the worse cuts had been made on his left cheek just two centimetres left from his eye and one centimetre down. A long stripe made by the swipe of a long katana Raphael had just about been able to duck. It was more the location that made it one of the worse. But it hadn’t mattered too much when April reassured him that women liked a man with heavy scars. That it signified strength and protection. What he didn’t like so much was the fact his right eye was still badly swollen. It wasn’t as darkly coloured as Casey’s but it still hurt like an absolute bitch.

“You’re meant to drink your beer not finger it.”

Casey’s ushered tone woke Raphael from his thoughts. He’d been strumming the can’s key pull up and down with his thumb nail since he’d taken it. Even now he still did it but stopped after he finally heard the horrid metallic clunk it made. It was one of those sounds that made the top of Casey Jone’s spine rattle and it seemed he’d had enough of listening to it for one evening. Raph pressed down the keyring pull with the pad of his thumb in silence. “What it do?” He made a questioning noise of irritancy to convey his lack of hearing for his human friend and nudged his head to look at him. “Something’s eating at ya gunk-for-brains. So, what it do?”

The turtle’s head swayed from the left to the right and hesitantly he opened his beer and begun to sip. On a normal night he’d tell Casey Jones to mind his ‘own fuckin’ buiz’ and that would be that. But Splinter’s little father-to-son talk earlier on had changed that. Avoiding this subject would prove his father right. He swept his eyes as far away from Casey as his sockets would allow and pressed the cold can to the left of his swollen jaw. It covered half his face from Casey’s questioning gaze.

Daddy issues…”

“Oh yeh?”

“Just family drama. Nothing too serious.”

“Right.”

Case didn’t believe that, and the turtle knew full well of that fact. The human’s responses were sarcastic. If Raphael’s can hadn’t been full he’d flunk it right about then. Call it a night and wave him off. But that wouldn’t be right. No. So he braced himself and began to figure out how to say what he needed to say.

Splinter had called him in on a matter of urgent importance. It had nothing to do with training nor a mission. He’d called it “a matter of the heart that could no longer be avoided”.  He had no idea what that had meant at the time. Splinter relayed the thoughts and feelings of the family during his time prisoner. He talked of his younger brothers, the effects on them before Splinter’s abduction and the effects on them now. He talked of the small secrets both let slip in his presence. Their worries for the future and their heartbreaks. All in relation to Raphael’s behaviour prior and after the horrid affair.

“My son. You are strong, gallant and hardworking. You have taken my lessons, my teachings, and applied them well to protect this family, and to keep your brother’s safe. I have always been proud of my decision regarding you becoming this clan’s successor and I would not wish to go back in time and change a thing. However,” Raphael had somehow known there was going to be a ‘but’ somewhere in the praise. “I am afraid that while sticking to these teachings I have passed on to you, you have allowed the responsibilities you handle alone to cloud your judgment, and perhaps, your spirit.” His father’s voice had been full of worry and love, but Raphael only saw disappointment. “Yes, you have been there for your brothers. Protected them and loved them. I would never doubt such a thing.  Yet over the course of years before this chapter in our lives, even before the appearance of the foot, you have closed your heart off. And while we deserve to bask in the afterglow of such a victory I cannot ignore the damage I have caused in you any longer. It is this damage that makes your brothers afraid.”In the time of his father’s absence Raphael had put every effort into finding him. He had neglected the friends who helped and his own brothers. If they weren’t trying to look they weren’t trying hard enough. That had been attitude at the time. Stop crying and get up off your ass. He stood on guard duty each night fearful own of his siblings might disappear if he didn’t, but he did not console. His father was being tortured, or worse, was dead, so he could not afford to waste time on tears.

“I understand your fears my son. I understand why you supress the emotions that you do. That you are a pillar of strength that supports this family along side me. How you fear even the slightest act of vulnerability will crack the marble.” No matter how much Raphael tried to hide he was always laid bare before his father. A book well worn lack the tattered dictionary from their childhood.  “I thought I taught you the importance of brotherhood, trust and love. But I fear I taught you more about the application on the battle field outside and not the one in your heart. Your brothers will always love you. And while you will always hold their respect, you risk one day losing their hearts. Do you understand?” He’d said he’d had but he hadn’t really.

What did his father expect? You raise your kid to be a ruthless ninja, a killer, an assassin and a wall between his brother’s and the rest of the world. You teach him that his emotions can cause the worst mistake imaginable on the battle field. That the wrong decision could be fatal. That the heart had no place along the sai. You tell him to control his emotions; his rage and his fear, harness them and channel them away so you can be hollow and make the right choices that weren’t the best for you, but the best for those you surround yourself with. The importance of self-sacrifice and teach him to be prepared to give his own life when the time comes without hesitance. Teach him how to fear the death of others but welcome his own with honour. But then you say, ‘I made a mistake’, and ask him to be more vulnerable. ‘Open up’ and lay yourself naked for all to see.

 “He thinks I’ been neglectin’ my bros. Being leaving them out to dry and forgetting to bring them back in when the storm hits.”

“That an opinion or a fact Raph?”

Raphael slurped as his sipped. “Matter of perspective Case.”

“Know what your problem is Raph? You’re like April with that bad bottle of nasty wine. She hates it with every fibre of her being and avoids it when she’s looking for a good time. But when the going gets just a little too tough she takes it out the sink cupboard, wipes of the dust off and drinks herself sick until she hates herself.” The wine in question had been her father’s favourite brand and the irony was not unnoticed by Raphael. “Lemme’ guess. My family’s the wine but I’m the bottle?”

“Close but no cigar,”

Raphael snorted and swished a mouthful round before swallowing. “Wat den?”

“You are the bottle, but your also April here. You protect them with every part of you. Refuse to let anything get close. You are a wall around them that aims to get hurt so that they don’t. You are the bottle’s glass that keeps the air from spoiling the wine. But on the flip side’, you bury everything away in the cupboard to get dusty until you can’t ignore it anymore. And then you snap, grab it and fight it instead of accepting it. Drowning yourself in that miserable feeling and then the next morning instead of facing it, you tell yourself the worst has passed and bottle it all up again.”

He’d stopped snorting and slurping as Casey spoke. He quietly drunk his beer out of respect. “And how do you propose I avoid opening that bottle and drowning tonight Dr Jones?” His human companion tapped the beer can’s lid in thought. He glanced up curiously at the night sky, stars hidden behind black clouds of gas. “Open the bottle, but keep it uncapped until it’s ready to close again.”

Nah....” he announced taking another can from Casey. He made a comical show to open the beer and took a hungry swig. “Don’t sound quite like me.” But Casey Jones wasn’t laughing this time.

“Remember how emotional everyone got when ya got Splinter back home?” How could Raphael forget? His face suddenly became void of all humour. He didn’t like where Casey was going with this. Everyone’s face had been flooded with tears and sobs and snot. Everyone had been crying like no tomorrow.

“....”

“You didn’t even shed a tear that day Raph.” His jaw clenched tight as if it’d been wired shut. It had been the worst time in his life, lost without the guidance and love of his father, and the return of his father the happiest moment. He had wanted to cry along with them. Cry along with his father, but somehow deep down it felt worse to admit that than it did to shed one tear.

 

4

When Raphael wobbled into the sewer he was glassy eyed and two sheets to the wind. By the time he reached the tunnel his home resided in, half of the beers work had been undone. Didn’t mean he wasn’t fumbling like a giant oaf as he entered. His brain was liquid and swimming around his head in a strange but pleasant fashion. Casey Jones and several 6 packs had undone the uneasiness he’d felt earlier. Blanked out all the issues he was trying to avoid. As Stephan King once wrote,

Your mind is a blackboard and alcohol is the eraser.

Though, it didn’t keep things away for very long. His stomach gave out an ugly churn when he noticed the lab door slightly ajar. The light within struck out like some heavenly beam; blinding and judgmental. It made the dark enveloping Raphael seem so much blacker. It was 5:30 am and Donnie was still up. The thought made something inside bleed with guilt. Casey’s voice filled his head and he grumbled in irritancy. Peeling his jacket off his shell he stumbled towards the lab door and gently knocked with one knuckle.

(Fine, I’ll leave the jar open for a night Case. Then it gonna be promptly shut...)

 Donatello had been half way along the path to sleep and the sound jolted him awake. When he turned to face the noise he saw his big brother creeping around the door, one squinting eye searching for him in the blinding light. Don sighed and turned on the lamp. “Come in Raph.” He made some unintelligible grumble in response, flicked the light off from the wall and wobbled to a seat opposite his brother. His landing into the wheelie chair was heavy and the chairs spine made a cracking noise.

“Negh...rrry...”

Donatello blinked dumbly. “Sorry what?”

“’Orry...” When Donatello continued his blank stare Raphael shifted in his seat and lent back. “Made you wait up. Don’t like dat...” The words in his head were far more sophisticated than the slurred words that left his muzzle. It irritated him but he knew Donnie didn’t mind. He probably understood everything from the way he softly smiled in response. “it’s okay Raph. I was just a little worried that’s all.” He reached out a comforting hand and was more than elated that Raphael took it into his own.

They sat like that in a comfortable silence for a few minutes. If it wasn’t for the soft blink of Raph’s eyes and the knot in his forehead Don would have thought he’d dozed off. His breathing was soft and those eyes held a concentration that was almost endearing. He looked like a four year old trying to solve a simple maths problem. It made any anger within Donatello melt away. He couldn’t remember the last time Raphael actually wandered into the lab to apologize about coming home late. The fact he was pretty much a sip of water away from passing out did not take anything away from the moment. His thumb rubbed the knuckles on Raph’s hand as he waited with him. After a short while his beak started to open and words begun to finally tumble out.

“You know I, er... I luv ya. Luv both ya.”

“I know.”

“Do enythin’ for ya.”

“I know.”

Don’s free hand moved to join his other and cupped Raph’s as he listened. “I dun like talkin’ bout fins’ not cuz I dun trust ya. Its cuz, cuz...” His mind stumbled for a second and forgot how to talk. Don smiled eagerly, understanding what he wanted to say. “I jus’ don’t know how.” He looked up at his young sibling almost confused. There was a vulnerability in his eyes that was rare. Something he’d pushed down within himself over the years. Donnie cooed him slightly in fear he was about to start crying. He was glad when Raph started to chuckle and rubbed the side of his face into his palm; Just like a child. There was a cheeky grin on his face as he groaned. “I aint got no idea wat I’m sayin’.” Don snorted and stood up. “You need to sleep that is wat.” Donnie’s soft and happy smile got Raphael getting out the chair in agreement; the seat gave a satisfied groan when his arse lifted out of it.

He helped his brother to the staircase before he adamantly insisted he could do the rest himself. He watched him wobble up half the staircase before he turned away and went back to the lab. He wasn’t going to stay up longer. Just put a few bits and bobs away and make way for his own bed. It was 6am and there was no way anyone was going to get up and train in the morning for a while yet.

 

5

Raphael’s journey up the stairs was a tough one. At some point after Donatello’s absence Raphael wobbled on a not so strong leg and decided to take a break. Ten minutes later he got up off the step and managed to finally climb the remaining three to the top of the staircase. He was full of drunk triumphant glee. Still wobbling, he traversed across the second floor and made way towards his bedroom, grabbed the door handle and... Froze. Even in this drunken state his senses were keen. The nerves in his fingers twitched as he kept deathly still. He waited until; THERE.

There was a soft noise, like a heavy sigh, to the left of him, no, the room to the left of him. His fingers slid off the knob and he turned towards the other room. When he opened the door there was nothing remarkable about the sight of it. It was the same oversized storage cupboard it had always been. It smelled of metal and mould.

Raph’s forehead scrunched up. He never liked this room. He’d always had this uncanny feeling he was being watched whenever he was in it. Like there was something lurking within its depth waiting to strike. When they’d first moved here, fresh after the mousers’ invasion on their previous home, there had been four large spacious rooms on the second floor all suitable to become bedrooms. However, there were only three of them and therefore only three of those rooms became bedrooms. Raphael specifically choose a room on the side opposite of Mikey’s and Donatello took the room next to Mikey. It left Raphael with a room to his own with lots of space. Raphael had cheekily tried to get Splinter to let him knock the wall down and let him have a bigger room but he’d always been turned down. Over time unused junk got stuffed into it and Don soon turned it into an organised storage room with racks and shelves and the lot. With that came a coldness Raphael couldn’t put his stubby finger on. Almost like the act had defiled the room it’s self.

He waited another five minutes for it, but nothing came. Just the eerie quietness Raph associated the room with. Satisfied that the noise was a figment of his imagination he closed the door and headed to bed. But as he did so he did not hear it; the sounds of something scratching into plaster and the soft sighs of a familiar voice from a dark corner of the storage room.

“....Rapppphael...

 

 


 

 

Author Notes

My author notes section messes up so for this fan fiction they will be included in the actual text, at the bottom of each chapter. This story has been inspired by Stephan King and various horror film's I have watched of late. The writing style (breaking the chapter up into subsections that are numbered) is inspired by the book "Doctor Sleep" by Stephan King which is in fact the sequel to the book "The Shining". 

This chapter, and the next, are basically "setting up the plot" chapters! I'm so eager to share this story I've been working hard on it and I really love this opening chapter! The story will be Raphael focused, by will have a lot of writing from the perspective of the other three brothers. Yes... all three. Please feel free to comment below and share you thoughts on whats going on! There is no schedule for posting chapters. I'm putting all over writing projects on hold and will be putting all my efforts into updating the story. Chapter's will be put up when they are finished! If you like the story, please let me know! It will encourage me to update quicker! :) 

As always lovelies thank you for reading. Now, the question is where is Leo? What's happened to him? Will Raphael and Donnie's little late night chat sooth out any brotherly issues between them? Or is this the start of something really bad?! 

Chapter Text

1

Raphael was half sleep, blinking harshly in the dark. He thought he felt something surround him. Something like strong arms slipped round his carapace, holding him tightly. His shell felt warmed on the outside. Nothing was there when he turned behind. He sat up and stared in the dark dumbly. Sleep still cling to the corners of his mind. It was as if his brain was slowly being pulled downwards into the rest of his body. When he managed to string a thought together, he lent back down and begun to rock his hammock.

His mind began to wonder. The feeling was but a barely there tingle against his skin. Suddenly he remembered something; he had been dreaming before he woke up. He could remember faint visuals. The rocking of the hammock ceased and a thoughtful look overcame him. Raphael could not remember the last time he dreamt of something.

There had been the greyed rooftops of New York City. A light breeze had blown around the buildings. The sky was blackened, the stars blocked out by years’ worth of fossil fuel congestion. Strange smells, some pleasant, some not, filled the air. Something else popped into his head. Someone had been laughing. He’d been leaping across the roofs far ahead of an companion. At the end, there had been a soft chuckle right behind him and then strong arms wrapping around his middle pulling him back before he could jump across the city once more. The arm’s had pulled him out of his dream and when he awoke he had still been half there. They had swept him up in the nicest way. He gave the ceiling a blank stare. Something else was coming to mind: Donatello and the blinding lights in his laboratory.

“Shiiiiit,” he hissed, forehead scrunching up. No, that had not been a part of the dream. That was from before the dream, when he came home drunk as a sailor.

Embarrassed, he groaned. And just like that there was a deep rooted pain in his head, striking like a lightning bolt. He grabbed the side of his head and groaned harder. That was right, he hadn’t been that drunk in a long, long time. Not since they were forced to into hiding at Casey’s farm house when Splinter was abducted. The memory left a sour taste in his mouth.

It was evidently not going to be a smooth hangover. It was already pretty ugly and he hadn’t been a wake fifteen minutes. Grumbling and cursing loudly he pulled himself to the hammocks edge and set a two-toed foot down on the ground. He might as well be dipping a toe in water because everything was practically swimming. He didn’t need a banging headache and dicky tummy. Today was already going to be awkward as it was. Donatello was a sweetheart, everyone knew that. However it didn’t mean he didn’t get on Raphael’s nerves. He had an irritating habit of getting to clingy and needy whenever they share done of those uncharacteristic emotional moments. Got right up in Raph’s face the next morning, asking 21 questions and constantly tending to his every need. It would breach Raphael’s personal space and make him uncomfortable. He would end up regretting sharing a moment with his brother, no matter how guilty feeling that way made him, and therefore withdraw once more. He didn’t need that right now, not with this bitching headache.

Cause if sober Raphael wasn’t a fan of it, hung-over Raphael fucking wasn’t either.

 Standing up took a tremendous amount of effort and far too much time. The hammock sprung backwards when he lifted himself upwards and stumble forward. He grabbed for the nearest solid thing. His head was swaying and he felt a little too sick. Somehow he managed to fumble through the doorway and towards the bathroom without falling over.

All the while, the feeling of strong arms around his waist stuck in the back of his mind. It felt all too familiar to ignore.

 

2

Donatello was in the kitchen softly humming to his coffee machine when he heard the first few thumps of what he assumed was Raphael getting out of bed. Either that or they had a fourth brother up there somewhere. Instantly Mikey froze at the sound and groaned. Without hesitation he made way to the garage in hopes of avoiding any training just a little longer.

He hadn’t told Michelangelo of his ate night encounter with their big brother. He didn’t want him to get his hopes up on anything. The fact Raphael had come to them, unprompted, and opened up was major. Being drunk took nothing from it. If anything Don was grateful he’d been out late with Casey. One beer less and it might not have happened. It was too quick to say wherever this was a promising start towards a welcoming change in their eldest brother, or if it was false hope. The factor that would determine that was how Don acted next. After all Don now knew Raphael was very much aware the situation between himself, and his younger siblings, was more than bad. He also knew his brother well. If he came on to strong or made to big a deal of last night Raphael would back off like nothing ever happened. Then Don would be back at square one.

He wasn’t sure if he had it in him to try one more time to reach him if this failed.

He sighed and leaned the back of his shell against the kitchen counter. There was a fresh cup of coffee in his hands and a contraption in the laboratory that needed fixing.  The steam from the mug blew upwards and brushed against his cheeks.

(I’m going to play this safe.) He thought. He was sure there was a chance moving forward if he did. (Handle the next few days one at a time and see what happens. Stay within distance of Raphael, by my usual charming self, but give him space.)

If he put even a little pressure on Raphael to conform he’d recline into his shell and never come out. Big brother was a defensive creature as luck would have it. Emotive, insecure and thin skinned. Don would have to play prey for a while if he was to be the predator that caught him. It would take time, but Donnie had waited so long anyway. He could wait a little more if anything.

He was taking the first sip of his coffee when Raphael stomped in. He wasn’t angry, just heavy footed. “Morning,” Don briefly glanced in his direction, and then purposely took his eyes elsewhere as if deep in thought over something else. Raphael made a rumbled unintelligible noise in response. Easing himself into a kitchen chair he continued to make uncomfortable groans. There was a glass of water and two aspirin pills waiting for him on the table. Without even thinking Raphael downed one. He put the glass back on the table, and put the second into his mouth. He didn’t swallow this one, just chewed it. No matter how many times Don said it Raph was more than confident it made them work quicker.

“Rough sleep?”

“Nah, deep sleep... too deep...”

“Good... Mikey made breakfast, it’s in the microwave. I assume we aren’t training in twenty minutes then?”

Raphael simply looked up, unimpressed and certainly ticked off. Don laughed it off, knowing it wasn’t malicious. “Alright alright. Well if you end up doing it later, I’m in the garage all day. Got to fix some things.” He was moving out of the kitchen as he talked and hat caught Raph’s attention. Surprised him even.

“Erh, kay” was all he can manage. Don smiled before disappearing out of sight coffee in hand. There was no way Don would forget their chat from last night. And he was 80% certain he hadn’t dreamt it. Yet Don was gone already and hadn’t asked a single thing.

The rest of the day, Don was helpful, quiet and hardly there. It was a complete 180 from the usual behaviour Raphael had been expecting. In a way, he was grateful. Do was obviously giving him space for once; something that Don had not done in a long while. It was a comforting thought that he knew what Raphael needed for the day. A message that said hey I am here for you if you need me, now take it slow and Raph appreciated that.

Don, from morning to night, never mentioned their late night conversation. And that to Raphael was a solid plus.

 

3

He blinked before he squinted. He knew he was dreaming, but that was about it. He didn’t remember the start of the dream or how he got here, not that it mattered much. In front of him was the cold and evil door that belonged to the very evil storage cupboard slash room next door to his. His hand was wrapped around it’s handle. When he tried to remove his fingers, pain shot through them. His skin pulled backwards with his hands as if he’d been glued to it. His flesh was inseparable from the metal. Unable to let go, he did the only thing his hands would let him do, and turned the knob.

There was a distinctive click that rung in Raph’s ears as he turned the knob. The door swung away from him, his hand perfectly fine. A cold breeze gently blew past him and beckoned him forward. When he looked behind himself he saw nothing; a sky-less, threatening, void. Somehow it was more frightening the dark that lay in the room ahead. So he swallow hard and turned his head back around.

Upon entering the room, the darkness swept away. What he saw before him was not the rack filled mess of a room, but a well kept bedroom. Film posters and a few choice singers featured on A6 posters hung of the walls. Long fabric scrolls hung all around the room from ceiling, to floor. They featured beautiful calligraphy. One read:

 “Sword and Mind must be united. Technique by it’s self is insufficient, and spirit alone is not enough. – Yamamoto Tsunetomo”

The rest carried the same vibes. There were words of imparted wisdom of famous Japanese men, lost samurai and things Splinter had once said. Their edges had beautiful needle work; blue threads pulled into various patterns. They were obviously handmade. The room was half teenager, half evidently ninja. Games were neatly placed away; poetry books on the self (English translations and original Japanese); a tatami mat; a large futon on a raised floor at the far end of the room. Everything seemed very personal like someone had lived there for years. What caught Raphael’s attention the most was the beautiful display on the all behind the futon.

Stacked neatly on one horizontal line were two rows of sword holders. In them, blades rested comfortably suspended in the air. Each was beautifully embellished and unique to one another. They were all katana, but noticeably different. The craftsmanship varied and so did the style of the blades it’s self. Between both rows, was a larger space on the wall. Slightly higher up, as if above the others in hierarchy, were two Shinogi-Zukuri Katana (or to April, a single-sided long sword) crossed over one another diagonally. They lacked embellishment, visual design or adornments. But Raphael could see the love and care the owner had for them. They were the centrepiece katana, because they were the favourites. Which meant they were used by whoever loved them, and probably used regularly. Their Saya (Scabbard) were silver and steel blue. Along their handle was a royal blue Tsuka Ito (cord wrap).

They were honestly beautiful. Something resonated deep inside Raphael. He loved his Sai and treated them with the upmost respect. A man was only as good as his tools so to speak. You could be skilled in the arts of weaponry, but without the tool, all that hard work was redundant. But this was not the reason why Raphael was touched by the sight. As a child, Splinter had taught them to learn as many weapons as they could. He wanted them to master a weapon completely, and have a secondary that no brother knew as well as them. Raphael’s chosen weapon to fully master were the Sai, however, Katana were the secondary option. He was the best sword fighter of the three, now good enough to start wielding two at one time. Yet training with two made him nervous for some reasons. It wasn’t like using his Sai. He respected the sword, but when he touched one, it seemed to take him to a dark place he couldn’t figure out. In recent years he stayed away from them unless necessary despite Splinters encouragement. The room made him feel strangely happy, like seeing an old friend. It lured him easily and he entered it without fear.

You should never trust a dream. Not ever.

The moment he stepped foot inside the door slammed shut behind him. He wasn’t expecting it, jumped and spun around. It was gone and the wall was rotted. Unsure he spun back around again. It was no longer the beautiful bedroom but the storage room once more. The walls were rusted and damp and mouldy. There was a smell somewhere between disinfectant and iron. It was littered with boxes and plastic containers and racks full of useless forgotten junk. Nothing he hadn’t seen before.

Yet he began to panic. Something was in the room with him. When it started to make noise it was scratching. Then he heard the shuffling and the sound of something wet slapping on the floor. Raphael felt sick and fell back against the door-less wall behind. It was moving. Slipping against the floor and scratching into something. He wanted to leave. He wanted to leave so bad. He felt this primal fear rip through him and was rendered helpless. A large 8 foot rack separated Raphael from the far end. The rack was placed in the centre left of the room was rooted like a wall. Whatever it was, it was behind that turning, unseen but not unheard. He felt unable to look away from the corner as the sounds of wet sludge got louder.

He couldn’t remember what happened last in the dream when he woke up. He shot upright in the hammock and breathed hard. There was no scream, no wait, no shout. As soon as he’d gotten up he lay back down, calm and collected. It was not the first nightmare more the last about the room he hated more than anything. He turned slightly and checked the alarm clock. There were a few hours left until training. So he begun to rock himself back and forth eager to get some more sleep.

Nothing was different when he woke up later. Nightmare or night it would not faze him. What was a dream but that: a dream and nothing more. He showered, ate breakfast, taught the morning lesson, trained extra with Master Splinter and spent the rest of his day they way he would any other. By the end of it he was swinging himself in his hammock, right on schedule. A towel hung off one of his thighs. He’d had his nightly shower and was waiting to fall asleep. Looking up he let him think of the dream he’d had the previous night. He’d initially forgotten about it till now and a lot of the details were pretty fuzzy. He remembered being scared of something in the storage room. He also remembered to beautiful katana and something about... Yamamoto Tsunetomo??

What he did remember was how he felt by the end of it. There had been something horrible there but he had not been scared to face it. For some reason, when he’d heard it’s moans, he felt like crying. He couldn’t do anything to help it, or stop it. That somehow scared him more.

 

 

4

It had been two weeks since Donatello had talked to Raphael when he came home drunk. At first he had felt that they were progressing somehow. Raphael was calm. Maybe even a tad bit more social than usual. That was something.

But the last few days were different. Something was off in Raphael. Don and Mikey weren’t the only ones to notice. Raph himself seemed frustrated by the fact. He slipped a few times in training in front of their father and that had been the main red flag. Something appeared to be on Raphael’s mind, yet he hadn’t confined in Don as of yet.

Like before, Don’s approach had remained the same: distant but ever present. He was helpful but not too helpful. It was honestly a struggle for him. He felt the need to offer anything and everything he could do to help his family at all times no matter how frustrating. Yet this move he was making required him to lower that from an 11, to a 2. He wasn’t sure how long he could remain like this but decided to stay optimistic. Setting himself up for failure would only make it worse.

On the flip side he had seen a positive change despite the negative one. By remaining distant Raphael was seeking him out more often. It wasn’t much but a clear increase to Don. It was Mikey that continued to step on Raph’s toes lately. But in a way that somehow was a good thing, because Raphael wasn’t keeping it to himself. He was coming to Don to rant about the brat every now and then.

The last noticeable thing, was the biggest change. After lashing out Raphael seemed to be apologising straight after. This was something Raphael rarely did. He more than often felt guilt instantly after an argument, but his pride was too swollen to allow him to seek forgiveness straight away.

Noting it down on a computer file Don returned to his current mechanical project. He didn’t want to stress himself about it further tonight. For now he was focused on waiting for the right opportunity to reach out a second time.

 

5

Sleep had always been an on-going battle. He’d always suspected depression, but had never the guts to ask Donatello about it. The closest he’d ever gotten to talking about any mental illness was with April on the discussion of her father. As did many of them, father issues seemed immeasurably rooted within her. She had always loved him as he loved her. There had never been any abuse or loss of love growing up, but they had clashed often. Both too alike and somehow completely different; Raphael was very well acquainted with that issue himself.

When Mr O’Neil had died it had been a big blow to April. She had never been too much of a drinker. And if she did drink it tended to be sweet things like cider or the kind of cocktails that just tasted of fruit syrup.  However after his passing she had bought a large bottle of wine. Her father’s favourite brand, a fond sick memory of childhood: her parents drinking by a fire place each Friday afternoon. Since then she’d suffered heavy reoccurring bouts of unhappiness. They had all had their struggling share of comforting her through them. Yet they always ended the same was; downing a bottle of black wine and then off to the pharmacy with a prescription for a month’s worth of anti-depressants.

Emotions were always difficult for Raphael. He always felt something but held them within for the sake of one thing or another. His outlet, were small bursts of verbal violence, and physical abuse on the enemy. He did not need a therapist to know that was unhealthy. Meditation did what his fists could not, but meditation was not enough. His suddenly burst of dreamland inspiration had not been helping his issues with falling asleep. His mind was most active at night. He found himself always thinking of life and death and happiness and all that would never be his, when he was meant to be softly drifting. Waking up after dreaming prolonged the time he was awake for. And if the dream was interesting, his mind wondered as to why he had it. Sometimes he wondered into it all too deeply. They had not been nightmares like the first. They were pleasant simple dreams of comforting things.

Things like scrolls and sea-salt incense. Sometimes it made him remember childhood toys Splinter had found for them in the tunnels. Other times they focused on the senses, like hearing specific sounds and feeling certain ways. It was as if he was reliving memories he didn’t exactly remember. He remembered at one point   he dreamt someone was shssing him to sleep. The voice was deep yet soft. The voice had then retold a Japanese story their father once told them when they were younger. If the dreams had anything in common it was that they were incoherent.

He still had a theory as to why he was having them regardless. His father’s words had started it all. He was deathly afraid of losing his family to anything. The idea it was because of himself was far worse than any enemy. That same night Don had been staying up waiting for him and that had pulled on his strings. Then they’d had their talk and Raphael thought maybe it triggered something inside. Since then he was thinking fondly of childhood, and thinking about it regularly. Their childhood may have not been the best. It had been the hardest, but he shared so many precious moments with his baby brothers. These dreams only helped strengthen these thoughts. His brain was reminiscing, even when asleep. There were other things too but he didn’t know al the facts.

As happy as remembering his childhood was, it made him sad. The saddest he would allow himself to get at the very least. Any worse was deafening. It was in these sincere moments he would want to cry, but he couldn’t do that. He was stronger than that. In these moments Raphael did the most comforting thing he could think of: make a green tea. He’d snuggle up on his rarely used mattress, surrounded by pillows and blankets, and let the steam flow up into his face.

This was his wine.

Michelangelo hated when Raph made a tea. This was mainly because he saw it as a massive waste. Raphael hated drinking green tea. To him, the taste was awful. Therefore it was beyond his brothers why he’d insist having spare stock of it. No one in the family other than Splinter drunk it and that didn’t eve justify it. Splinter had his own secret stash after all. He’d make one, hold it close till it was cold, and then pour it down the sink in the morning. He couldn’t really explain it. For as long as he could remember something about the warmth of it, the smell, the colour, everything, was just immensely special. He always ended up feeling just that little bit safer with it.

After a while he put it next to the mattress and cuddled next to it. Watching the steam spiral upwards his eyes fluttered shut. It didn’t take him much longer to fall asleep.

 

6

He dreamt every night that week. They weren’t disturbing in the slightest but they affected his morning mood. And for this morning, that mood happened to be a negative one. No one said morning to him as he stomped about the living space. They knew better. He spent the better part of the day in the dojo, but would occasionally grouch out in search of hydration.

His dream had left a nasty taste in his mouth. It was different than the ones before. He had dreamt someone had been telling him off. Not in a mocking way, but a patronising way. Like the other person was simply better than he. He’d been in the kitchen doorway arguing with the figure to an aggressive level. In the end he burnt out and felt unable to contain his rage. They were shouting at one another, and Raphael remembered something smashing. Unable to do anything else, he turned and ran off. Behind him the figure rumbled like thunder.

“Don’t you walk away from me Raphael!”

He couldn’t remember much else. The kitchen and its colours were one giant blur. He’d felt like he was spinning constantly, unable to stop. Perhaps he’d been drunk in the dream?

Raph managed to keep his temper in check for the rest of the day, but everyone noticed the hostile air around him. When he went back to bad that night he hardly slept.

Pushing up from the ground the fiftieth time in a row, a bead of sweat rolled off his neck.  Exercise helped settle his mind when meditation wasn’t. Today was a massive exception. With every push, strain and burn in his body, he only felt more agitated. Donatello’s burning gaze did not make things better.

Don had spent the better parts of the last few weeks avoiding his brother and simply observed.  Despite being well taught (as far as his family were concerned) in the arts of both mental and psychical health, he found it difficult to clearly separate emotions with his medical observations. That was to say when his family was hurt, emotional thoughts filled his head, instead of the medical rational knowledge he had studied. He tended to overplay an injury and somehow make it look even more serious than it was to himself. 12 stitches, was comparable to an amputation. A running nose was a sign of swine flu. Anxious behaviour made him want to offer intense therapy.

He could see the side of his brother’s face where he stood. The skin under Raph’s eyes was sagged and purple; clear signs of lack of sleep. The scales on his face were dry and tired. His expression, distracted. It was not the emotionless perfectionism Splinter had installed.

Without warning the biggest brother shot up and walked towards Donatello. His amber eyes flickered between Don and the doorway like a flame. After the first look he refused to look a second time, and kept his gaze straight ahead.

“Hey Raph I—“

Walking full speed ahead he slammed into Don’s shoulder, the rim of his shell scraping his skin as he dragged himself past. It pushed Donatello into the door frame in the ugliest way. Don hissed but kept quiet. Rubbing away the pain in his shoulder he watched Raphael climb the staircase.

Disappointment glimmered in his eyes.

 

7

There is a turtle in the dojo practicing a kata. He is shorter than Donatello and more muscular than Michelangelo. It most certainly isn’t Raphael, because Raph’s watching him. There’s nothing else in the dojo, nothing that says “this is the dojo Raphael” but he knows it is. That what dreams do; they tell you things without showing you them, and showed you things without saying anything.

His movements are perfect. As he slides between each set position he is fluid. There is not a single mistake. He stretches out his leg across the floor and slowly spins it round, sweeping an invisible enemy off his feet. His arm stretches backwards behind his shell and the other hand forward out of his right side. Raphael wants the figure to turn around and reveal himself, but he never does.

The fighting style is unrecognisable, yet somehow he knows it so well. He knows what he’s going to do next and that frustrates him.

“Hello?” The other turtle doesn’t respond so Raphael talks soft steps towards him. He feels giddy and somewhat nostalgic. He’s in awe at the obviously skilled fighter before him, and the forest green colour of their skin. Suddenly the turtle bows in the direction he’s facing, shell towards Raphael. He has finished his warm up kata and now, just like Raphael’s own training sessions, he is picking up his weapons. The light flashes off the twin katana as he assumes a fighting stance.

It’s the katana from the wall in the room he dreamt of. The ones so evidently cared for on display.

When Raphael gently presses his two finger tips against the other’s shell they disappear. All that is left behind is thick blue smoke.

 

8

“I’m dreaming... Again.”

Raphael looked up towards the sky, eye closed as the rain beats down on him. He’s living in this moment even if it is a dream. When the rain hits the rooftops it makes the sound of a thousand drums. Raphael feels like he’s being called by the beat.

Summoned.

Glancing around he tries to pin point where in New York he currently is but fails to do so. The rain is thick as the air that comes with it. Beyond the roof’s edge is a black sea of nothing. He can’t see the neighbouring roofs either. He could barely see in front of himself.

He notices this dream is different. For the first time he is in full control of himself and his senses. He knows it’s a dream and doesn’t feel lead on by his surroundings. He’s not being forced to do anything he doesn’t want to. If he wished, he could stand in this spot until he wakes up. It makes him feel uneasy and reminds him of the night mare he had last month. The nightmare that had started these series of dreams.

There’s a noise ahead that forces him to move forward. He is not the only one summoned by the roof’s drum. The sight of the mysterious turtle makes his uneasiness flush away.  “Hey!” He doesn’t respond, just looks ahead as if he’s caught sight of something.

“Hey I’m talking to you!” Raphael growls. It might be a dream, but it doesn’t take away the fact the other turtle is being extremely rude.

Almost as if signalled by Raphael’s voice, the turtle slides his blades into the sheaths against his shell and steps just out of sight. Taking a leap of faith, Raphael glides from this rooftop to the other. Somehow he doesn’t slip and his feet are dry when he lands, despite relentless rain. As he does so the other turtle is back in sight. With graceful masculine strides he reaches the other end of the rooftop and glances back. The rain is too thick to see his face.

The blood rushes behind Raph’s ears. He knows this game very well and can’t help but smirk. It’s no different from the tag he plays with his siblings, just maybe a bit more advanced.

The scene suddenly reminds Raph of a western. After all, they are at a standstill. He feels like a gunslinger that’s headed to the saloon in need of refreshment, only to be ambushed by the man and black. They are on either side of the bar, fingers twitching by their triggers.

When the turtle moves Raphael does to. He chases the other over endless rooftops through the black nothing. He feels challenge. He’s never raced against someone this fast before. Raphael does reach the turtle, but not because the he caught him. They’ve reached the cities edge. Beyond this rooftop there is nothing but the dark void that surrounding them.

Raphael is breathing hard as he approaches him. “Hey,” he whispers out of breath. The other doesn’t move, flinch or speak. He doesn’t appear worn out either. Raphael can’t see the rise and fall of his shell even this close. When he reaches him he doesn’t touch in fear he’ll turn to smoke once more, even though he wants to badly. He wants more than anything to reach out to him. Suddenly he raises his arm and winces as he does so. He’s way too frightened of the figure disappearing.

He’s finally caught up to him.

Holding his breath he gently brushes the other’s shoulder and feels great joy when the turtle does not disappear. In fact he turns around and Raphael waits patiently to see his face... except there’s nothing there. It’s just a green blur but at the same time it’s just smooth faceless flesh. As if his head were a back board and his features had just been erased. The skin is darker and Raphael can make out in the indentations were features should be. Yet somehow it’s not that ever. It’s like he’s looking at the skin of the face that is been cut open and pulled back around so you can see the other side. It’s flesh and blood but it’s canvas and skin and It frightens him.

It’s like he’s looking at a photograph and someone’s crossed out a person’s face with a thick marker. Or like a memory he just can’t remember all the details of. Or like a news presenter on the telly glitching and fading in and out when you begin to lose signal.

What scares him is the expression he can’t see because he can feel it staring at him. He knows that expression.

The faceless turtle falls away, and Raphael is so taken aback he doesn’t realise it’s because he’s dropped off the rooftop ledge and into the void until after he’s woken up. The tea next to his head is cold and a bit has spilt out onto the floor. He’s knocked it in his sleep.

Staring up at the ceiling his stomach twists in the most unpleasant way. Bile climbs his throat but he swallows it down. The image of the faceless turtle is haunting. The emotion behind it’s gazelles stare makes him feel anxious. His breathing is heavy and too quick. “Fuck,” Eyelids slid shut and his beak splits apart. “Fuck,” his plastron was becoming too tight. He felt as if the large plates that rested on it where grinding inwards into one another. There wasn’t enough air in the room.

Floundering about he struggled to get to his feet. The back of his hand slapped the mug and the tea spilled onto its side. Stumbling he propelled himself forward and managed to find his way out of his room. His breathing hitched as he flew down the stairs towards the light in the lab’s doorway. When on the verge of a panic attack he always fled there. In that room Donnie had placed breathing masks and all sorts of things in easy reach. While Raphael didn’t have them often, panic attacks tended to be a horrible occurrence for him. They’d learnt the hard way not to leave things around just in case. Luckily for Raphael Don was still up. He didn’t need a verbal announcement to know what was happening when he saw Raphael. He quickly grabbed a mask and led him to a cot and pushed him into it.

 “Hey hey it’s okay. Raph everything’s okay...” he continuously hushed him and said randomly comforting words in an attempt to calm him. Doctor Don took over the situation and for once Raphael let him. He seemed to calm more when he leaned into someone during these moments. The mask was securely around his beak and he was pushed into Don’s warm plastron. Donnie held his big brother in a strong embrace and rubbed the back of his arms. After a while Raphael seemed to calm.

Nudging an arm free, he pulled the mask off his ace and let it hang around his neck. His eyes closed again and he nuzzled into the space just above Don’s plastron. He smelt like lemony disinfectant.

“Thank you.”

“It’s okay....”

The younger turtle’s voice was quiet as he spoke. He remained silent afterwards, every now and then gently rocking Raph. The panic attack had settled and Raphael felt more than fine, but he let his brother hold him just that little bit longer. His tone reminded him of his recent behaviour; all the barging into him, the arguing, the cutting him off and the lack of communication. His father’s words echoed around him and he felt the pang of guilt strike through his chest.

“I’m sorry...”

“It’s okay you can’t help it Raph.”

“Not that Don... I’ve been a real dickhead lately. I’m real sorry.”

He felt the turtle holding him stiffen for a moment. For a moment Raphael was afraid Don would reject his apology. That father’s prophecy was coming true. But then he felt the olive arms squeeze him lovingly.

 “It’s honestly okay Raphie. I’m just worried.” His nicknamed signalled forgiveness and Raphael slipped his free arm around Don’s side to hug back. They stayed that way for a while before he pulled away.. He groaned as he did so and pulled the mask completely off.

“Don’t worry Don. It’s honestly nothing.”

“But it’s not really though is it?”

He turned to the side and instantly regretted it. He saw the helpless and vulnerable face of his beloved sibling. Don was at wits end it seemed, a parallel to the night weeks before. There was this pleading look in his eyes as they flickered across Raphael’s face. He was slumped into himself, appearing smaller than usual. Raph just saw a flash of the small child Donatello used to be. He found himself finally understanding it. He could no longer avoid the damage he was causing.

Glancing down, Raph began to pick at the breathing mask’s straps and Don watched eagerly. In his face cast down, shadowed by the laboratory’s lamp, Don read years of regret.

“I’ve been having some weird dreams lately. Like, really weird.”

It was quiet for a few seconds and then Raphael felt something soft touch his bicep. He reluctantly turned to face his brother. There was a warm, welcoming smile when he looked at Don.

“Let’s talk about it then.”

 

9

“You’re dreaming about another turtle?”

They’d switched to a more comfortable location. Donatello had taken the lead and lured him into the kitchen with the promise of an extravagant hot chocolate. With the comforting beverage in hand they’d made way to the living area and snuggled on either side of the couch. As always, Don remained patient.

Raphael was nervous, but why he wasn’t sure. He felt that by sharing these dreams he was somehow imparting on a traitorous act of betrayal. It was a feeling that had no origin. Yet it was swollen deep under the layers of his plastron. He avoided eye contact, a trait not too common with Raph. His thumb rubbed against the side of the mug. On the left side some of the cream had spilt out of the mug and slid down. His thumb spread across the liquid.

“Guess so... He’s def not one of us that’s for sure.” He mumbled as he spoke.

“And you’ve been having these dreams for weeks?”

Raphael shook his head. “Nah, just few days. I mean’ I been dreamin’ the last month just not bout this turtle till... Thursday?”

Don gave a low hum deep in thought. Raphael’s ‘opening up’ was an important subject regardless the context. He wanted him to feel like he was taking him seriously. Wanted to put across the point he really did care about Raphael, his feelings, and the things that affected him. That was always a struggle. As confident as Raphael was there was a deep rooted seed of self-doubt there. It was a sad fact that Don had accepted.

 This meant connecting could sometimes be even harder. Yet right now, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to push past that seed and prove to Raph his thoughts were just thoughts. If dreams were what had been troubling him of late then Don was extremely keen to offer any type of scientific insight, and help him talk it through it. Perhaps he could put this part of Raphael’s insecurity to rest.

“Are you sure? Could he not maybe be you? Not “you” you, but maybe a reflection of yourself?”

Part baffled part interested Raphael made eye contact for the first time during their conversation. For the last twenty minutes of so he’d recited detailed retellings of the last few dreams featuring the turtle in question. The insight of the smartest Hamato family member as always well welcomed. He nodded in encouragement, wanting to hear what Donatello had to say.

“You’ve had it tough, from Master Splinter, but you’ve also had it tough from us. You’ve been the big brother that has to do everything. Has to look after everyone and protect everyone. Maybe this turtle is a vision of what you feel you should be like, but also cannot reach, in your opinion at least.” Raphael brought the hot chocolate to his beak and silently sipped. Donatello takes this as a signal to continue.

“You are the best swordsman in the family. Father spent a lot of time teaching you to master both Sai and Katana. You’ve always felt like you could do more, despite being the strongest and the best at so much.  The fact this turtle has twin long-bladed katana, of which one is commonly held by both hands, could symbolise the strength you feel you have to posses, but lack.”

Raphael frowned. Insecurities were always avoided even internally.

“The fact you said his movements were perfect, if I’m right, means you feel you are not perfect. The other turtle, the other “you”, is a goal you want to obtain. A standard you have set for yourself.. When you chase him to the edge of New York, he disappears out of sight. You feel like maybe you’ll never obtain this type of perfection.”

He set the mug down on the coffee table and pulled a blanket over his lap. He was beginning to feel oddly naked. Donatello was reading him like a fucking book. Somehow, he hadn’t thought about this possibility. It made sense. He started to have strange dreams like this after heading his father’s words; words he couldn’t stop thinking about. He was afraid he would lose his brothers. Afraid he wasn’t strong enough to confront them and be honest with them. A voice within him told him it was too late to repair the damage in their bond. Another louder voice told him he was pathetic for even considering fixing the situation. Don’s explanation made sense, but somehow he still felt it wasn’t right to say it was himself.

“What about the no face part then?”

Don shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s a dream, it could mean anything, could mean nothing.”

“...Right.”

“But I do know one thing.” Taking a deep breath, he leaned forwards. His hands reached out and gently touched his brothers. He kept pushing himself forward until he held the others hands, and looked deep into his brother’s face with a brightness Raphael hadn’t seen in a while.

“Whether it’s a self reflection, or dream nonsense, you are a good brother; a strong, big, over-protective, perfect, big brother. One I love very much.”

Raphael internally groaned. It wasn’t because it was mushy, or because he was embarrassed. He believed Don meant it, but he felt he did not deserve it.

“You do so much. Too much even. Father is so proud, we’re so proud.” His features softened and somehow Don looked sad once more. “But sometimes, you need to let us do some things too.”

Raphael looked down once more, his yes hovering in the space between them. He accidently caught sight of Don’s hand holding his. His heart melted. He hadn’t realised Don was holding him so tight. The olive turtle’s knuckles were whitened. He wasn’t the only one who was desperate or scared it seemed. If this was what Don and Mikey needed then Raphael would do more than try.

“I’ll... I’ll try to remember that.”

His face scrunched in embarrassment, his throat groaned. He was not one with words. “That’s not what I meant.... Er I mean, eh...” It was so difficult to talk. The words were there, glued to his plastron, unwiring to enter his throat and leave his mouth. Don say the strain on his face and smiled. Leaning up he cupped the side of his face and pushed his gaze to meet his own. “Raphael, it’s okay. It’s a start.”

The both smiled in mutual understanding for a brief moment. Then Don rose to his feet more than tired.

“Look, I have some pills that will help you sleep if you want. And if they don’t stop the dreams or you have weirder ones, you can always come talk to me and maybe we can work through them.”

Raphael nodded gratefully.

“Thank you Donnie.”

They headed to bed after that. Donatello was optimistic. Raphael had taken the pills Don offered, and he was more than confident it would correct his sleeping habits and suppress the dreams for just a little while. Just enough to get Raphael relaxed again. Their discussion had been long overdue, but needed. He said goodnight, offered a hug and trailed off to sleep shortly. It had taken a long time since the night Raphael had come back drunk, but the wait was well worth it.

This was the first step, he was sure of it.

Raphael however, went up the stairs with a stomach full of lead. Their talk had been enlightening, but all too revealing. He felt as if Don had cracked his shell open. His brothers’ helpful intentions where what allowed him to understand Splinter’s words. He really couldn’t ignore his brother’s pain anymore. He had to communicate with them and for now talking about his weird dreams was enough. If it meant Don felt happier it was perhaps worth it.

He went to brush his teeth and headed back to his room. He lingered outside the creepy storage room cupboard for a moment and stared at the back of the door. Without warning, he pushed forward and opened the door. Peaking in he didn’t turn on the light. Something about the sight unsettled him. A room had never been so full of things and still feel so empty. It was as if something extremely important was missing from it. Of course nothing had ever belonged here in the first place. Before it was a storage room it had been empty and damper. For a moment he thought he heard the sound of breathing. The colour blue flashed in the back of his mind and blinded him for the briefest of moments.

It was enough he decided. He closed the door and headed off to his own room. He tumbled into the hammock and begun to rock himself to sleep. While the pills meant he would fall asleep and not dream that night, he did feel oddly warm as he drifted off. In the last moments before he fell asleep he felt a warm comforting sensation around his waist, like strong arms encircling him. He also swore he heard someone say his name ever so softly.

 


 

 

Author Notes

Wow an update so quickly from me???? Whaaaaaat?


This is honestly my writing baby atm so no wonder. I'm enjoying writing this and I'm looking forward to where it will be heading! A lot of things happen in this chapter that set up the story, but also reveal so many clues as to Leo and this world. What are your theories? I'd love to hear them. The next chapter will be technically, chapter two. As for me these two chapters were like one huge opening chapter divided into two. We will also hear from Mikey next, and have more stable structure in the writing as it will be more current time on wards only with the occasional back tracking.  I can't wait to get to the drama drama! As always, thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts/critiques

Now. Is Donnie being to optimistic? Or is Raphael about to start a path of various changes? Where has Mikey been? Who is this mysterious fourth turtle? And what do these dreams really mean??

Chapter Text

1

Michelangelo was many things but he was never a fool. Jester perhaps but that was an artful performance he whole hearted played and had the talents to do so. You didn’t need to be dumb to be comedic in his case. You just needed to be quick with the tongue and one with humour. And just with his humour, and as any well trained ninja among their ranks, he was also one with the shadows. Sure he used his skill set for more controversial tasks such as pulling pranks and ease dropping but it always paid off in time.

He’d known something was up between Don and Raph for a while now. Perhaps he might have been the first to notice it. It didn’t matter if Don knew or not. Michelangelo never missed a thing that went on in his home. Being the most perceptive brought an arsenal or skills his brothers did not possess. He had the uncanny talent of sniffing out the slightest changes in the people around them, good or bad.

He had heard Raphael’s drunken noises when he stumbled home one early morning around a month ago. He’d also known Donatello had been waiting up that night for him. Michelangelo had tried hard to convince Don to go off to sleep when he did so, but when under a certain mindset, not even Mike could convince him to do differently. A rough 40 minutes later he heard Raphael try to climb the stairs to his room. The next passing weeks had an odd air about them. With each passing day Raphael’s mood seemed to slip further and further down the drain. Don’s own mood also seemed to turn. He got more snappy, took longer nights to work and shorter breaks in between. Mike had also even sensed a sense of nervousness around him, like he had been walking on thin ice at the time.

All the while Michelangelo waited for a clue he could grasp. In the meantime he didn’t bring anything up and continued to act his usual self. Changing his own behaviour could have a negative impact on whatever was happening. He was currently the only stable turtle in this family and would remain diligently so. A sense of normality needed to be present if Michelangelo was to, A, find out what was happening, and B, figure out how he could help. So he continued to be a regular nuisance to his family and kept up his charming personality. But he was always carefully watching. When Raphael got really agitated, Mike would turn down his performance. Although the idea was to remain as normal as possible he added limitations.

No one seemed to notice.

Last night he hadn’t been sleeping all that well. The energy in the lair was bleak and Mikey had felt the need to perk himself up. Lacking the motivation to read a comic book he opted for music instead. Each time he adjusted his headphones he had a small electric shock, but kept listening regardless. He’d been stretched out on his bed staring at the ceiling as he hummed a tune from the latest hit charts. When the song faded to an end Michelangelo heard a frightening bang. Bolting into action he ran out of his room only to see the back of Raphael’s shell blur down the staircase. He saw him flee into the lab and heard the awkward breathing sounds Raph made as he stumbled.

(Panic attack...)

The fact Don wasn’t calling for Mike confirmed it was nothing life threatening or serious. Panic attacks were not unusual in this family. Their lifestyle brought various hardships on the body and in the mind. However Raphael seemed to suffer them the worst out of nay family member. Mike supposed it was just the price of leadership. Something never brother could spare him from.

Turning back toward his bedroom he had felt a small pang in his chest. The fact Don hadn’t called for Michelangelo’s help lingered in the back of his mind. He later on peaked over the balcony to see them sitting comfortably on the sofa, a serious look on both their faces, hot chocolate in their hands. He again wasn’t asked to join them. He turned back to his room a second time. He respected privacy and would allow them that privilege. But he would find out what was happening between them.

It wasn’t the first time Mike had felt left out and it probably wasn’t the last. As he washed his hands in the kitchen sink he tried to expel the thoughts from his head. Whatever was happening with Raphael was probably very personal. Donatello was probably slowly prying into him as a result, convincing Raph to open up to Don instead of Mikey. He couldn’t image another reason why Raph would tell Don something first. Mikey wasn’t as near judgmental and far more mellow. Besides, Raph had been closer with him as children. If it was as serious as it seemed they would include him soon. The knowledge did not take away from the fact Michelangelo wanted to know now. April had once accused Mike to be sufferer of ‘fomo’ (the fear of missing out) and she was probably right.

Cracking some eggs into a bowl to whisk he tried to place his thoughts elsewhere. He had thought he’d been nice and get up just the little earlier than everyone else and make breakfast. Maybe help Raphael set up training if he was in a better mood. Leave a lasting impression for the rest of the day, so to speak. It wasn’t out of character, but it wasn’t a regular even either. Michelangelo loved to cook but sometimes ingredients were hard to get regularly. And when you are living in the sewers food just seems to go off quicker... or get stolen by rats more often. If he did cook it was something very small for one, or something very big for family meals.

Another issue was that he was plain picky. Raphael could eat about almost anything and Don just ate what he needed to fuel his brain but Michelangelo was picky about what went into his body, even with snacks. For that reason Raphael tended to cook the most. When Mikey was a near empty fridge full of useless and unrelated ingredients Raph could always make something out of it. It wouldn’t be much, nor would it be as flavoursome as Mike’s special recipes, but it was good enough. Just another super power big bro had.

When they were little and unsettled Splinter would forage in the world up above for food to bring them. When Raphael was old enough to Splinter took him to help him bring more food back. Upon Raph’s return h would bring back stolen street food and happily give part of his potion to his hungry siblings. When Don and Mike were old enough they helped too and Raphael taught them tricks Splinter had taught him. After all five thieves stole better than one.

He stopped moving when the egg begun to fry and stared down at the lights on the hob. They’d come far in life since then. Yet sometimes he thought they worked better as a team when they were 9 then they did now.

The explosive crackling of fried egg yolk brought him back to the present. It was a good morning regardless of the thoughts buzzing inside him. He wasn’t going to let sunken feelings bring him down. After all they had a tough day ahead of them. There had been no sign of the foot clan. This was both gratifying and worrying. If they didn’t want the past to repeat its self they needed to track them down now. Even if the foot were kicked down for good they needed to find them and see it for themselves. No more taking their wins for granted. It was however, better said than done. The last month Raphael had spent a long time sectioning out a worthy strategy. He’d surrounded himself with sewer and street maps of their city; marking out territories and routes. Under his orders Donatello had put together small cameras using technology stolen from Baxter Stockman’s mouser laboratory. All three, and even April, had broken back into it and stripped it clean before the police could clear it out for evidence. They’d framed the Purple Dragon’s for their crime, something Splinter turned a blind eye to willingly. Putting extra heat on the PD meant the people and police were more aware of their presence, and could make themselves safer. It also very obviously meant nothing traced back to them in anyway. And this made Splinter happy.

Raphael entered the kitchen in the manner he always did each morning, despite his ninja grace: with heavy footsteps. It had always amused Michelangelo how silent Raphael could be when he wanted to. Yet each morning it sounded more like an elephant entering the room than his clan leader. Whilst he was probably the best at sneaking about, he often lectured Mike on how he could in fact be better, if he’d only focus more. Put some “drive” into his training. Perhaps that was true but it didn’t matter to him. Unlike Don, Mike felt he was more than good enough. Anything else was extra icing on the cake. Over time he would naturally improve as he always had. They would face many more hardships untold and Mike knew he would learn and grow from them like any other. That he would become better and stronger doing as he was now. Mikey was perfectly happy with how he was progressing as it was. He didn’t have anything to prove. Maybe one day he’d reach the “peak” potential Raphael had set for him, maybe not. What really mattered was that he was better than his enemy. And the only reason Shredder won his fight before was quantity, not quality.

“Smells good Mike,”

It brought a smile to the knuckleheads face; one that was cheeky and unforced. When he turned and brought Raphael his eggs he met a well rested face. The usual morning grumpiness resided, but the tired lines that married his skin the past few days had disappeared, and his amber eyes were bright with promise. Michelangelo released a mental sigh full of relief. Today would be alot easier with a relaxed Raphael. There was a glimmer in his brothers eyes before he set to devour the eggs freshly presented to him. Mike turned back to make the next few batches. They were silent until Mike sat down with his own eggs.

Don was still asleep and would be for the next twenty minutes so his was set aside. Splinter would not be joining them today, as per schedule, and would make his own food later.

“So... What’s the plan, Dan?”

“Trainin’s cut by 40 minutes. Spend da rest of the morning howeva ya want. We meet in the dojo bout 6, go through da strategy... In detail-“

Mike groaned.

“-Den gear up. Meet at 10 an’ go through da plan again... in detail-“

Double groan.

“-An make sure we on schedule for ‘leven. No butts. We been planning to long for this to let yer bitchin’ ruin it.”

“Fine,” he whined. “Guess we aren’t seeing April and the ‘thing’ later then?”

“Nah. Pushed to ta’morrow,” he chewed the last bit of his egg as he talked, “by out late anyways.”

Leaning back in his chair he pushed his palms against his cheeks and groaned. He hated long patrols; especially one’s intense like tonights. Raphael would probably keep them out until sunrise earliest. He was more than keen to get as much info on the Foot as possible. The month ahead was going to be heavy. There were plans for sewer searches, deep investigation into Hun’s fractions of New York, subsector areas where the Foot met the PD, another break in and deep clean of the TGRI building and even scouting about the Shredders domain (or as Mikey called it the “Sky Scraper of Ominous Death”). There were more things on the list that Mikey could only describe as a big heap of crap he did not want to touch. It was because of how necessary it was that kept Mikey from complaining. What troubled him most was not how much time it was going to take, but how much danger they could run into. He could not risk his father or his brothers again.

No, never again.

“Raph?”

His sea blue eyes, ringed with black, lowered. His brow deepened slightly as he folded his arms. Raphael watched him carefully but didn’t comment.

 “Do you think we are really going to be okay doing this?”

Big brother sat up straight as Mikey spoke. He kept his gaze on his brother, carefully listening to what he had to say quietly.

“I mean the last time this happened, they took Splinter days after. Just came out of nowhere-“

“It’s not going to happen Mikey.”

“But like, they were out for the count Raph I mean come on!” Exasperated and clearly frustrated he waved his hands in the air as he spoke. His disbelieving gaze pierced Raph’s exterior. “They were beat and beat good yet still they jus---“

“I said it’s not gonna fuckin’ happen Mike!!”

The plate rattled as his hand slammed against the kitchen table, and Michelangelo’s beak clamed shut in an instantly. There was only one tone Raphael could use that would make anyone in the room shut up, even the enemy, and he had just used it now. For a brief moment Mike stared at Raphael, a mix of fear, upset and anticipation hanging off his face. Raphael’s beak trembled for a moment as he collected his rage. He let out a deep sigh and slumped his shoulders, fist flexing open and closed. Feeling more at ease he pushed himself upwards and walked around the table to meet his younger sibling. Resting his hand, gently, on Mikey’s shoulder he turned him towards his plastron and pulled him into a hug.

“I’m not gonna let dat happen Mikey. Not eva...”

Mikey willingly leaned his Raphael’s shoulder and returned the hug in silent thanks. His fingers hooked over the rim of his shell, almost latching on. The moment despite it awkwardness seconds again became warm.

Don didn’t dare move a muscle from the doorway. He didn’t want to distract them from their moment. If he was being honest, it warmed his heart to see such a scene. It meant Raphael was indeed perhaps making an effort to be more open and caring. The fact he was also warming up to Mikey was proof if anything. When the two leant away Don caught Mikey’s eye. His turned his head and offered a sheepish smile, as if caught in an incriminating act. Raphael made his way back to his own seat suppressing a small smile.

“Welp. I think I hear the TV calling so, adios.”

And with that the youngest zipped out of sight. Don happily took over Mikey’s seat, and pulled the plate Michelangelo had set aside for him, in front of himself. As he chewed the still warm scrambled eggs he found it near impossible not to grin. The sight made Raphael snort.

“Sleep well?”

“Yeah, real nice.”

“Any dreams?”

“Nah,”

Raphael lent back into his chair, smile fading away.

“No dreams at all Don...”

 

2

“I’m gonna explain this one more time an’ den we are gonna go pack up, an’ ya both gonna recite it to me. Capeesh?”

He pointed a stubby finger at each of them. Mikey gave a high pitched wine. They’d heard this god damned plan so many times by now. Even Don was getting tired of hearing Raphael regurgitate it over and over. But he kept his complaints internal unlike his baby brother. He understood the importance of nailing down the plan. Raphael trying to drill it into their heads when it was already well placed was probably just his nerves over working him. God knew they didn’t want Splinter 2.0 on their hands.

“One more time boys: Da next few days we are starting the search in the Manhattan borough. We won’t leave it till da whole place has been searched. On yer shell-cell tracker Donnie has mapped out the areas we are placing small cameras into ta capture footage of da area so we don’t miss anything. Everything is also marked in ya big map in da pouch. The Manhattan area has been cut up into a grid by letters on the X Axis and numbers on da Y Axis. You’ve all been assigned yer grids. Don’t search any other grid other than yer own. Don’t go into da sewer sections either. The sewers are to be searched once up top has been completely captured. Ya also got smaller maps of the grids you’ve been assigned just in case ya somehow forgotten the city ya freaken live in.”

“Hey! Why is everyone looking at me?!”

“Anyway, everything should be well marked on da shell-cell and ya can mark it as clear to. You see anything worth noting you record it, snap it, or write it. I don’t care as long as we can record it. Don’t call in unless you need to. If ya catch sight of the Foot don’t approach, call in your location and we’ll see whats happening before we make any moves. If ya finished planting all ya cameras and finish al the grids call in and go to da meet up point. You call in when you are at the meet up point and alert everyone every ten minutes until we are all together. The main point of dis is ta plant da cameras and stay safe. Run in with the Dragons, jus loose em. Aint worth rattling with the small fry unless we found out they are in direct contact with the Foot. Got it?”

They nodded for the 70th time.

“Now go get a snack ta eat. Prepare, go over the plan. An when ya ready Don, gear us up.”

“Got it.”

His siblings left the dojo but Raphael remained there. Half is mind was swarmed with emotion. The other half, was cold and filled with a voice that recited the plan over and over and over. He needed to let out some steam before they headed outside. Needed to maintain that level headed focus that would make sure he was the best leader he could possibly be. So he headed straight to the punching bag and released a furry of attacks. There are no fancy tricks seen here. Raphael just punches hard at the sand bag, letting out his worries through a psychical outburst. He knew perfectly well it was that kind of worrying that would be the downfall of them if anything bad did occur. By overworking himself he could set himself up for fail before he was even given the chance to fix it. The past was not going to repeat it’s self. They were going to find the foot and get them a third time if need be. Raphael wouldn’t rest until the Shredder was down for the count with no intention of ever getting back up.

Donatello was full of optimism as he pulled his kneepads tight and locked them. Raphael’s energy had been far more positive than previously. The sight of Mikey and Raph sharing a hug graced his mind every now and then. He was also pretty confident they wouldn’t run into any Foot ninja whilst scouting Manhattan. . It was a smart move to place cameras across that borough first considering the Foot’s known history of returning to the area. However, it was so predictable that they probably had learnt their lesson by now and have hidden elsewhere. In the event of this, it ironically would be another advantage to the turtles. They could scout Manhattan far quicker and place the cameras with ease. And once they drove the Foot out from their current hiding place, if they went back to Manhattan, Donatello would see it from the comfort of his desktop table. The plan had been a good one. It was something Raphael had suggested indirectly. He had said a few ideas that clicked within Don’s mind and inspired the plan. Donatello had actually been embarrassed he hadn’t thought of setting up the cameras long before, considering they’d had the tech to do so for almost two years now. But better late than never he guessed.

Mikey himself had collapsed backwards onto his bed, staring up at the ceiling seriously. His arms pointed outwards like a starfish and his legs bent over the end of the bed. As comforting as Raphael had been, it had not calmed his growing fears. His father had been the greatest warrior they’d ever know yet he had been bested and caught like a novice. As thought before; It hadn’t been quality, but quantity. And sometimes the turtles found themselves out of luck. That bad luck was bound to happen again, just a matter of where and when.  And this knowledge inspired a lack of confidence within himself.

 

3

11 PM and they were sharp out of a sewer pipe, located under a dock round Midtown West Manhattan. New York was no small city and the turtles were starting with no small borough. If they kept at it, maintained focus and stuck to the plan, they could cover it in two to three nights’ tops. . It was simple; this sewer pipe was their starting pointing and their meet up point. At first their maps were designed to scout across the river’s edge in a straight line till they reached a certain area. Then they would move one grid inwards towards the city, and then backtrack in the direction they came from, a grid inwards. By scouting in layers, they were more likely not to miss an area out. Raphael would head towards downtown areas and double barrel round Stuyvesant Town, and make his way back through the inner layer of his marked grids. Mikey was heading towards Upper Manhattan, his turn around goal, good ol’ East Harlem. Don was the middle man. He’d be working straight from West to East, and then do the North-Mid sections before the South-Mid sections of his marked grids. It had been designed so all three turtles where heading towards a central part of Manhattan; Times Square.

As with every mission, Donatello took it very seriously. All three were ninja regardless of individual skill level. And whilst Don was maybe not the best at it compared to his brother’s he was better than almost any human they’d encountered. His skill was far and beyond that of normality. Bow staff closely tied to his shell he tiptoed through the dark alleyways of the Garment District. He was tackling his grids in one straight line and tonight’s ones ended once he got to the East River. Once there he’d make a U turn and start tackling a second line of grids heading toward the West side of the District. Somewhere along 7th Avenue Don stopped in his tracks and inspected the furthest wall from the main road. A street light hit its bottom corner and the rest of the wall remained dark. Looking around he saw not a single soul. The rooftops where blocked off and he was so far from the main road entrance he needn’t worry being spotted. For the first time that night Don stepped out of the shadows. One of the green garbage bins had been pulled outwards at an angle. Behind it, barely peaking out, Don could see a stripe of neon violent paint. It glowed ominously. He pulled the bin away from the wall effortlessly and inspected the marking. The emblem of the infamous Purple Dragons was slapped on the wall. It’s violet colour had been mixed with UV chemicals that smelled like they may be potentially bio-hazardous. It was lit up like a light hardly unnoticeable. It was smaller than the usual PD graffiti Don was used to seeing. Although normally placed in visible areas to assert dominance amongst the locals it wasn’t unusual to find it behind a bin either. Residents tended to shift things in front of the eyesores to make their daily lives a bit more bearable. What is noticeably odd is the emblem its self. Whilst it remains mainly the same, featuring an S-Shaped Leviathan esc dragon with his jaws wide and waiting to snap, it also incorporated additional markings.

Underneath it in a straight horizontal line was a chain link. Above the dragon’s head was a halo. The excess paint used to draw it dripped down onto the top of the dragon’s head. Donnie had never seen this variation of the gang sign before. What was also notable, was despite being a high target area for the dragon’s petty theft crimes, this was in fact the first sign of Purple Dragon presence he’d spotted all evening.

Without another thought he took out his shell-cell and took a photo for future reference. He also marked psychically on one of his maps where he found the graffiti, then continued to place the cameras as per Raphael’s instruction.

 

4

Michelangelo leapt through the skies and landed into a roll. Pushing the sides of his limbs slightly into his shell, and folding them correctly around his body, he turned into a green ball. His unfolded himself once he was safely tucked away behind a billboard advertising Diet Coca-Cola to the masses. He pulled out a small rounded camera from the bag Don had provided him and fiddled with it. Despite Don’s deep briefing on the camera Mikey was still clueless as to how to handle it. It was literally impossible to tell if it was on or not, but he took Don’s word for it. A small silver arrow on the base indicated the direction the camera should face and Mikey placed it like so. One was meant to be situated behind the billboard, hidden between the metal groves, recording the sights of a long hidden street behind blocked off by a council block. Another one was to be placed higher up on the front between the billboards support beams. After five whole minutes of fiddling Mikey stepped back and inspected his work. He couldn’t see the camera, meaning his job was a success. He was going to pick up his bag and roll to the next neighbouring building, but that’s when he saw it.

The back of the billboard was littered with flyers and tickets offering and advertising all sorts of things. No surprise there. However one of them was a sore thumb. Mikey snatched it off and brought it close to his face. There was a symbol, and the words LEVIATHAN written in blue across it. This symbol Mikey would never mistake for another.

It was the Foot Clan emblem.

Except it was upside down, resembling more of an arrow head rather than a flame. Mikey was sure it was Foot related and not some strange coincidence. So he pocketed the flyer and resumed a crouching position.

 

5

Raphael was nearly done. He was in South-West Soho and it was the last grid. He had four cameras’ left, but three of them he wouldn’t be able to complete that night. What he did not predict was a teenage rooftop party blasting “You Keep Me Hanging On” by Kim Wilde at 3 o’clock in the morning. Luck would have it the roof be the home for three of those cameras. And unfortunately it looked like this party was far from ending.

Raphael grumbled and checked his marked map. . There was one grid directly ahead of them, the last camera placement for the night. Raph could do at least that before calling in. To get there, he’d need to break route and go around the grid with the party. To the left was a main road and there was no way he could be seen on it. To the right, an enclosed area gated off with a large metal fence as tall as the building beside it. Inside it appeared to have a small space he could shuffle into that led around to the back of the following building ahead. Raph could easily climb to the roof from there.

Packing his maps away Raph makes for the top right corner of his roof to jump off. He rolls as he lands. Raph doesn’t turn into a ball as he rolls because he can’t be arsed and wants to get this down with right now. He’s face to face with the gate in seconds. The gate is positioned between two large brick walls. Instead of climbing it’s metal frame. Raphael runs up one side of the wall where there is space, and jumps backwards towards the opposite wall. Jumping from wall to wall he climbs it upwards and flips over the top of the metal gate. On the other side of the fence, he can see the turning into the tiny walkway and just about fits into it. There are no lights here and the building blocks off any glow of main road streetlights. It’s in the dark he becomes hyper aware of the music the teenagers are blasting above him. He groans knowing the slick pop tune will probably be stuck in his head before he falls asleep tonight.

“Set me free why don’t cha babe
Get out my life why don’t cha babe (oh oooohhh oh)
No you don’t really need me
You just keep me hanging on”

It’s hard for him to believe this song is already over 10 years old. Turning a corner he can see the faint outline of the buildings edge against the sky once more along with the alleys opening. He slips out quickly, and backs steps into the shadow once more. Searching around he sees no emergency ladder up the buildings side. Instead, he sees a staircase on the far end, shaded by a government planted tree.

Assuming it folds around the corner and goes along the buildings side to the roof he tip-toes up it. But it doesn’t. Instead it heads straight ahead acting as some sort of bridge across to another building’s back end. He can see a faint glow in the distant and it stops him in his tracks. He shouldn’t check it out, but he has too. So far he’d found no clues as to the whereabouts of the Purple Dragon’s or the Foot Ninja. Not a single thing. However, the glowing light the seemed to fade in and out was beckoning him like some sort of lure.

As he moved towards it he tried to justify his reasoning. After all if it was a clue he needed to check it out.

As he walks along the bridge it turns into a ramp, and finally a staircase heading higher up to yet another rooftop. He’s further down the street than the plan says he’s allowed to go. The building is half the size of the building he was originally meant to be on. He can see it’s hidden behind a block of flats that tower far above. However built this roof did not consider the rest of the roads building plans. As a result the roof is dark and closed off into a tight space. It looks more like a room without a ceiling and with three walls that don’t meet at the sides. To the right he can see a structure built on top as some sort of extension. He feels oddly excited, like he’s discovered some sort of hidden part of the world no one else has been. Upon closer inspection he can clearly see it used to once by a rooftop bar. It had long been closed down, the door behind the extension counter to the building bordered up with wood now rotten by rain. He can also see where the soft blue glow is coming from. Above the extension, is a neon sign written in soft, thick, script letters. Some parts of the sign have suffered permanent damage and don’t seem to light up, but the rest of it softly fades between dim and bright. He can hear the soft buzzing of electricity swarm through it. He reads the whole word out as one:

“...Leons?”

 It must have been the name of the bar that once made business here. Probably the name of the dude he ran the place. It’s not a recognisable chain nor is there any other distinguishable feature left behind in the ruin. Strangely warmth floods through his plastron. The longer he looks at the sign the warmer he seems to get. It is a pleasant comforting feeling and it is hard to look away. It’s as if he is looking at something precious. He walks over the counter and just about tears his eyes away from the Neon sign hanging above him.

Behind, there seems to be a small red plastic stool. It obviously did not belong to the bard. Perhaps someone else found this cool hideout and left the stool there so they had somewhere to sit when they visited? It wasn’t impossible.

Suddenly the moment is ruined. The party a few blocks away apparently decides their music isn’t loud enough. Due to the walls around the rooftop, the music starts to funnel into the bar’s space and Raphael can hear it all too clearly. For some reason, they have decided to play the same song for the last 12 minutes.

“Set me free why don’t cha babe”

Picking up the stool he dusts it off. Raphael rests the bag of cameras next to it and decides to take a seat. When he looks forward away from the bar he is taken back by the haunting blue glow that kisses everything in sight.

“Why don’t cha be a man about it
And set me free
(Oooh ooooohh oooh)”

There’s a gap between the two buildings ahead that makes the rooftop into some sort of private balcony. There s a beautiful clear view of the next couple of main roads ahead and the river in the distance. He can see the lights of New Jersey twinkle far ahead, and the soft gleam of satellite dishes in the sky, when the blue neon light fades out. The heat pools in his stomach and his breathing gets a little heavy. He’s starting to feel euphoric.

“Get out
Get out of my life
And let me sleep at night
Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hanging on!”

When he looks to the right he realises it isn’t as closed off as he thought. There is another staircase leading adjacent to another sitting area. There lies a solitary metal bench with rusted legs; a torn weathered down umbrella and a few matching sets of broken tables and stools.

Plants, originally planted probably for a romantic effect, have taken over the spot. Their stems twist around the legs of benches and the flowers there have bloomed to face outwards towards the sky. He feels compelled to walk towards it. Drawn to it like a magnet. He walks up to the staircase, takes hold of the banister and instantly flinches away.

It’s like he’s been burned and struck by lightning at once. There is a strong wave of deja-vu that rushes through him. Like he’s not only been here once before, but perhaps millions of times. The cold from the banister has frozen his arm and the heat has fallen away from his abdomen. Staring intensely at the bench up ahead, the pleasant soft feelings from earlier dissipate. Instead he has a hard lump in his throat. His heart is hammering under his plastron and he feels heavily conflicted.

His mind is blank, like it tried to process too much information at once and turned itself off. He feels scared but also oddly excited. There’s even a twitch in his groin that he can’t help but bring attention to.

The sound of his headset ringing is so sudden Raphael jumps in his shell. Cursing loudly and pressing a hand over his heart he clicks a button on his ear piece.

“Every’fin’ good?!”

“Yeah just calling In Raphael. Heading to the tunnels now.”

“Gotcha Don. Same here”

It clicked off with a beep and Raphael was forced to turn away from the staircase. He headed back to the stool and picked up his bag.

Before he left, he fitted a camera in the area just in case, and marked it on his map for future reference. He felt the strong need to return to this place once more.

 

6

Raphael inspected the objects in his hands: the flyer in the left and Don's print out in the right. The only clues found that pointed towards the whereabouts of the Foot and Purple Dragons during their in depth patrol; but maybe even more importantly, the only sign since their last encounter. His brow creased in thought. While it was clearly good they were finding traces of them the edits made on their clan symbols were troubling. It could mean a variety of things; A safe house marker, indication of a subsection of the gang/clan or an event being held some point soon by both parties. All options, and there were more, were equally annoying. It meant they weren't fully kicked down and licking their wounds. They were up to something and the turtles were still clueless about it. That needed to change. 

He'd sent his brothers away and congratulated them on a good nights work. Whilst all were tired Mikey was the only one who headed straight to his room yawning. Raph lingered in the living area for a while, skin tight gear still attached, and Don trailed briefly into his lab with promises of staying up for no longer than twenty minutes. He would report to Splinter in the afternoon. Their father’s nightlight was off and Raphael did not want to wake him. Besides, they all needed their own rest. They’d been awake for over 24 hours, and Raphael would ideally like to get up in 7.

He filed the clues away in the dojo before traversing up the staircase in search of sleep. But he wasn’t quiet tired just yet. Stopping halfway through the corridor he started idly at the shower room door. Usually, he always showered as the last part of his day. However, he should really do these things before hand. The shower could wait till the morning for now, for there was a familiar warm twitch in his inner thighs.

Heading into his room he promptly locked the door behind him and sat on the edge of his hammock. What would normally take place in the shower took place here instead. He set to work removing the gear on his skin. With the introduction of April came an introduction to various industrial services previously unavailable to the three turtles. Appropriate and fitting clothing was one of those things. While the turtles formally did not wear clothes, they were able to find serviceable clothing that could protect them whilst a midst a fight of patrol. They wore sporty, breathable, tight and hard-woven materials over their skin. They still wore their joint straps on top but also wore flexible leather guards along their forearms and shins. Everything was light and did not restrict movement. Everything was also dark to blend in better with the night. In the off occasion they were spotted, it also helped hide their green skin, something Splinter appreciated.

Green fingers reached around to pull at the black side zip that rested against the side of his plastron. Once it was pulled down everything was easy to pull off. He'd already removed his weapon straps and side packs upon arrival home. Unwinding the guards and pulling them off his forearms he flung them off to the side. He'd worry about presentation after a well deserved sleep. He repeated the action on his shin guards. He flipped off his footwear and pulled the pants off in a fluid movement. They fluttered down and disappeared somewhere behind a weapons rack.

A grateful groan left him as he twisted and slumped backwards into the dip his hammock made. He pulled a soft cover half over his body and rested an arm behind his head. Now relaxed in his room away from all responsibility, he could no longer ignore the desperate pang of interest in his groin.

In moments such as these no extra stimulant was required. He reached down between himself and rested his hand on the side. His thumb begins to roughly push up and down along the soft creases of skin there. His mind is suddenly filed with the rooftop bar’s neon sign. Its light is sensual and soft, gently kissing everything in sight till its blue. Briefly he imagined having that kind of sign in the room with him at the thought comforted him greatly. He never thought a person could find the vision of a place arousing. He certainly never thought he’d be one to jerk off to that kind of weird thing. Kinks were normal but getting hard about a place you visited was more than odd. Raphael tried his hardest to not think too deeply on it, and successfully lost himself in his hormonal mood. When he dropped down his fingers instantly curled around the reaction, and he began to softly squeeze.

It doesn’t take him too long or too quick to finish. But when he does he’s tired, and buries his head into his pillow comfortably. He forgets to take the pills Don lent him the previous night and drifts off to sleep before he can remember.

 

7

If Donatello yawned any harder he might dislocate his jaw. He promised Raphael he’d head off no more than 20 minutes and hat was 45 minutes ago. He had a valid excuse though: He was almost done checking all the cameras. He would rather do it now than in the morning. After all it meant he could get the best sleep in he would get for a long time. Besides, if any of those cameras had been damaged whilst being positioned, were in the wrong position or had already been moved now was the best time to know. They could spend less time checking the next day and fix what needed to be fixed.

He skips through three more screens and yawns harshly. It takes him a moment, but something’s off. Back tracking one screen he finds perhaps the first faulty camera out of all 250 placed during their mission. He squints and leans forward. It’s not because he’s too tired or because he might need glasses. The camera footage is glitching and full of grain. It also fades in and out, static flickering onto the screen. He zooms in a few times and tries to focus on the image in its clearest moments.

He can make out a rooftop, but the details are too blurry to see. What he does notice is a massive neon blue sign shinning bright. Don can see it’s lit up letters clearly, but one if blacked out and broken. He can’t read it because it’s too dark to see. So he reads out what he can see.

“...Leos?”

Something’s off about it, so he makes a note of the camera number and location to report to Raphael in the morning. After that, he checks the remaining five cameras, and heads off to bed without a second thought.

 


 

Author Notes

This chapter is a little different than the first to and there is no mention of the fourth turtle, but this is the start of something important.

I've noticed a lot of spelling and grammar errors in the last two chapters so I plan to go back and edit it before I update next. Really I should do that before I post this but I was excited to get it done and wanted to push it out there before I loose my mojo. I am going to take it easy with Christmas coming up on the next chapter, so expect it in the new year. It should be too long a wait however.  As always, please feel free to comment and critique! Thank you for reading. 

Will not having the pills again affect Raphael's dreams? What are the Foot and PD up to? And what could be happening to the camera Raphael left behind? Please tell my your thoughts and theories in the comments I would love to hear them! :) 

Chapter Text

1

 

There was a strong smell of pine wood and lavender. Their dojo had never smelt so relaxing. There was a small river of mist across the floor, the kind incense sticks let off. When he tried to look for the source, he saw nothing. The walls of the dojo were covered in shadows.

Raphael was lined up in front of his father. His younger brothers draped themselves across a bench near a wall, chests heaving as they caught their breath. They were always heavily worked out after a training session with Master Splinter. As they recovered, Raphael stood proudly ready to go another round. The sweat that rolled off his shoulders longed to be scratched, but he remained still as water. Splinter looked upon him proudly and Raphael went to bow. He had assumed their training session was over. Pleasantly surprised by Splinters risen hand he stood straight once more.

“You have done well this morning my sons. All of you.”

Michelangelo gave an out of breath but enthusiastic “wooo” in the background. Raphael knew what was about to happen. His plastron was already swelling with excitement, fingers twitching uncontrollably at his sides.

“However, I think we could do a little more today,” he let out a soft chuckle as Raphael’s beak split into a genuine grin. “Raphael,” he gestured to him and Raphael bowed. Without wasting a second, he walked further to the left and turned to face his right. Splinter turned his head to the opposite direction and lifted his other hand. 

 

“p̶̧̧̦̦̘͍̺̳̼̗̱̜͉̫͈̣̍ͫ͒͋͊͆̍̒̍ͮ̊̉̐ǝ̢̨̮̯͚̩̪̠͉̣͕̘̻̖̦̟̟͙̦̍̅ͥ̒̓̚ͅͅʌ̯͉̟̟͍̖̺̺̜̦̈̄̏̆ͦͭ̚͢͠o̠̩̖͎ͨ̌ͩ͗́͜ɯ̵̴̵̼͎̭̱̟͓̦͕̠̮ͨ̒̄́̂ͤͩ̂̒̑ͦ̑ͫ̚̚ͅǝ̧̧̨̹̩͚̳͖̩͛̍̑̇ͬ͂͊͌͗͐̈́̆̌̊̉ͣ́̚ͅɹ̡̛ͩ͂́̽͋̂̾͗̓́͟͏̤̻̙̰̹͍ .”

 

He was more than excited to see the other turtle directly across from him. The turtle bowed towards Splinter, then did the same to Raphael. His face was a blurred mess from this distance.

“You will practice the second art of the 18 Ninjutsu Disciplines,” his ear twitched playfully as he turned to Raphael, expecting an answer. Splinter never let a pop quiz opportunity pass. The word left Raphael’s beak deep and dark.

“Taijutsu…”

“Correct. You will spar until one of you has pinned the other for 3 counts. Proceed my sons.” Work finished Splinter stepped backwards and sat on a bench opposite. His fingers hooked over one another and rested atop of his walking stick. The humour had drained from his face, because these two turtles sparring was never a laughing matter.

Raphael walked backwards, unblinking eyes watching the other. He stripped himself of his weapons and belt. There was a surge through his body as he saw the other glance away from him. The knowledge they were about to cross blows in the dojo was almost joyful. He was already in his starting position by the time the other had begun to remove his own belt. Raph’s fingers weren’t the only things twitching. His body felt so alert and jittery, like a live wire. He was beginning to become impatient and he knew the other turtle was taking his sweet god damn time on purpose.

It was the first time in a long time Raphael hadn’t known he was in a dream. This was so far down the rabbit hole he didn’t even question it. Everything felt so damn real. From the sweat on his skin to the sound of his opponent’s footsteps. There was another thrill through his chest as he focused on everything. It was like reliving a beloved memory.

Now ready, Raphael took three steps forward and so did the other. They were only a metre a part, yet the face was still so undefined. There was something there, but Raphael couldn’t make out the features. It was like trying to read a newspaper through a screen of smoke. Still it didn’t take anything away from the piercing stare he gave Raphael.

They bowed and Raphael set straight into action. Not wanting to appear too eager, he began to stalk his enemy counter clockwise. It was only a matter of time before one of them found an opening to strike.

As they outlined a circle Raphael took in the movement of the turtle. Where his own steps were lighter than usual, silent and carefully placed, HIS were weightless. He could see the turtle’s steps through the floors mist, but Raphael could have sworn they was floating.

Unable to contain himself any longer he bolted into action; steamrolling towards the other like a runaway train. Raphael huffed as he attempted a cross jab. The nameless turtle caught it and dug the balls of his feet into the ground. Raphael instantly tried to land a knee strike to his groin. They forced Raphael’s caught arms downwards, smashing into his knee. Raphael had pretty much blocked his own attack and it only encouraged him even more to land a blow. Making a split-second decision Raphael planted his raised leg back against the ground, the weight of his arms pushing down on the knee dropped with it. He took the opportunity to squat, slipping and sliding forwards between the other turtle’s spread legs. The turtle was forced to let go of Raph’s arms or risk smashing against the ground head first. Before he could move out of the way Raphael used his shell as pivot and spun around with a leg stretched outwards. It hit his opponents’ right leg and knocked him. Thrown off guard and off balance the other turtle let the sweep of Raphael’s legs carry him. The movement pushed him away and more importantly, out of reach. Once the speed of his slide slowed down, he carefully rolled onto his feet. Raphael also pulled himself up. Eyes locking together they began to stalk one another a second time.

There was something so invigorating about unarmed combat to Raphael. Raised on the undying knowledge that your body and mind were the most powerful weapons within your arsenal probably had something to do with it. The other seemed to carry the same notions within him as far as Raphael could tell. He was just as excited as him, wearing an equally cheeky expression. They were enjoying this, perhaps more so than they should. What more could he say? Raphael was just a nerd when it came to one on one sparring. Though they both carried hints of their own individual styles, they were equally rough and unforgiving. The punches were not held back, and neither were the knees. Whoever he was, he was holding Raphael with the respect you would a mutual. He was testing himself against Raphael’s abilities and the thought made his chest thud.

The other turtle went in to strike next, jumping from left to right like a grasshopper. Raphael went in for a grab, the turtle bent backwards and swept himself left to right. When he finished his movement, he locked his arms around Raph’s waist, and used Raphael’s own momentum to throw him over his shoulder.

With Raphael disabled on the ground the other turtle quickly snapped into action. Adrenaline pumping, he dropped down on his arse and grappled Raphael legs with his own. Raphael knew what hold he was in and this made blood boil. All the humour within him was instantly erased.

“Oooooh,” Mikey hissed. “That’s gotta hurt dude.” Donatello hushed him, telling him to keep his voice down.

Raphael desperately tried to pull himself out of the hold, but he was locked effectively. Normally this move was used for performance value, but when pressure is applied on purpose it could hurt like a bitch. Raphael’s legs were pulled towards the other turtle’s plastron. He hissed as the weight on his outstretched kneecap increased. His joints felt like they were being pulled out of place and as the other turtle shifted, he became all too aware of a great pain in his other ankle. Struggling only increased the pressure on Raphael’s limbs.

The sound of Splinter’s cane crashing against the dojo’s floor signalled the third count. However, the other turtle didn’t release his hold. Raph hissed as his opponent put even more pressure, forcing his kneecap down in the wrong direction.

“Yield,” he whispered smugly. Raphael was still struggling in a desperate attempt to get free and Splinter’s brow knotted with frustration. The other turtle remained silent and squeezed the muscles in his calves hard. Something clicked inside Raphael’s ankle and he cursed loudly. With that he ceased to struggle, muscles relaxing and submitting to the hold. The other turtle immediately let go of him and stood up. Bending down he offered his hand to Raphael.

His hand was slapped away with a snarl. “Are ya fucking kiddin me?! A fucking figure four move?!” he was outraged, spit flying out of his mouth. The turtle wary of his younger brother, stepped backwards. His face seemed to crease and twist in response, but his mouth remained shut. “You used a fucking Rick Flair move on me?!”

There was no doubt that had been a power move. So long for fighting as mutuals huh? An overpowering rage was brewing under his shell. There was no way it wasn’t unintentional. Because HE didn’t fight dirty like Raphael did. HE fought dirty, but not wrestling dirty. No, he used fancy backflips and traditional martial art holds. No figure four holds. He went to snarl a second time and the other turtle immediately backed off. Raph could hear a growing grumble of anger from his father but ignored it in favour of antagonising his big brother.

“You did that on fucking purpose to piss me off.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Raphael.” He refused to back down and stood proud, staring down at his little brother from his high and mighty perch. Raphael’s fists tightened into round blocks, nails digging dangerously into his palms.

“Bullshiiiit—”

He hissed in disgust. As if he’d just randomly used one of Raphael’s favourite wrestler’s signature wrestling moves to finish him off! Did he think he was really that stupid? That he could just rub this in his face all smug and walk away unscathed because daddy was sitting just over there? No! No that wasn’t going to happen!

The other turtle’s face twisted again, and Raphael could feel the harsh coldness of authority settle into it. “You need to learn how to lose Raphael,” he swiftly turned and made his way to his gear. In the corner of Raphael’s eyes, he could see his belt just to the left, the sai strapped to it glisteningly gently.  When his big brother reached his gear, he bent down and gracefully lifted his belt of the floor. Turning ever so slightly Raphael could see the side of his blurred face.

“It’s that temper that’s going to kill one of us one day.”

There was a snapping noise in Raphael’s brain. Grabbing the sai he bottled for his big brother, so quick, silent and deadly even Splinter could not foresee it. Traversing the length of the dojo, ignoring the worried calls of his younger siblings, he let out a tribal scream.

 

2

 

Don’s face was pale shade of turquoise. The neon green and blue lights bounced off the TV and onto his olive skin. It gave this ghostly glow that always seemed to compliment him. Mikey watched contently from his corner of the sofa. Watching Donnie play horror survival games was a favourite pass-time of his. While Donnie was not inheritably scared of ghouls and ghosts, he completely submerged himself into these little games of potential terror.  It made him the perfect victim for jump scares.

Mikey smiled and rested his head against his bent arm. He was watching Don sideways, completely ignoring the game itself. He had already played it anyway and he knew exactly what was coming and when. Keeping his breathing quiet as to not distract Don a grin split his face in half.

(1…. 2… 3….)

“—AHH!”

Mikey snickered as the controller rattled in Don’s hands. Catching it before he dropped it, he hung his head shamefully and sighed.

“Not fair Mikey you knew that was happening!” he groaned and turned to give his baby brother the evil eye. Mikey only grinned wider at him in response and snickered.

It was a pleasant moment. It had been a long while since the two of the last spent an honest moment with one another. Sure, they had had banter and some real sweet moments, but there had always been this shadow floating above them somehow. And while Don was keeping his secrets from Mikey still, that shadow was so small it was easy to ignore it. Raphael’s improved mood had a lot to do with it. He had yet to have some heart thudding brotherly moment with big bro yet, but their overall interaction was far more playful than those the last few months.

As Mikey’s snickering levelled out, the smile started to fade. As nice as this moment was, he would have to potentially ruin it. Because Don still hadn’t talked to him about Raphael yet. This was the first time in a while Mikey had managed to convince Don to leave the lab and spend some time with him. It was the perfect opportunity to do some fishing. Especially as the game its self was distracting Donnie from almost everything in the room. Carefully choosing his words Mikey thought long and hard about what to say to his brother. Don was playing a game of his own and Mikey did not want to arouse suspicion. It was becoming more likely to Mikey that he was going to have to try and guilt his brothers into telling him what the heck was going on. If Mike’s manipulation was too obvious Donatello would see right through it and completely shut off. He could be even tighter than Raphael’s ass sometimes. If that happened Mikey would probably never find out.

“So…. Raph huh?”

“Hmmm?” Don replied, the end of the hum trailing off as he spotted a health pack glimmering in the distance.

“Big lug’s getting a bit soft lately.”

Watching Don out of the corner of his eyes he saw his jaw clench just a little. The skin pulled from the corner of his eyes. Don wasn’t too distracted in this moment.

“I guess. He has certainly been politer lately. Why?”

Michelangelo shrugged. “Just noticed. It’s nice, real nice. I’m not sure why to be honest but I’m glad.”

Don glanced at him briefly to study his face, but easily became distracted by something in the game. Not hearing anything from Donnie Mikey took the opportunity to “ramble” on.

“You know he hasn’t exactly been the best version of himself lately. To be honest Don, he’s been a complete and utter arsehole.” Don frowned. “And that’s not really Raph. At least our Raph.”

Leaning back in the sofa Mikey waited for Don’s curiosity to get the better of him. His face seemed to pull into his centre. That tended to mean he was thinking hard on what to say.

“What do you mean by that exactly Mikey?”

“Mean by what?”

“By our Raphael.” Studying the side of Donnie’s face their eyes briefly met in the corners. Don’s flickered away but Mikey continued to stare, as if it was just a normal glance.

“You know how it is Don. We’re all rough and tough out there cause we gotta. One false move and that’s it, remember? We can’t relax up there. We play the roles Splinter’s set us up to master and we do it well. But down here it doesn’t matter,” he leant forward, giving his brother a cheeky grin that left him a little confused.

“Because here we are how we really are. You can play your weird icky video games-“

“Hey you’re the one who bought it for me Mikey-“

“-And I get to annoy the ever-living shit out of you.” His smile softened out when Don smiled back. Turning his attention towards the screen he made sure Don saw the smile slip from his beak.

“Lately Raphael’s putting on this face when he’s down here to. Like it’s not okay to be himself, not even round us.” The was a moment of silence as Mikey gathered his thoughts. Eyes turning serious, a small gravely noise left this throat as he continued to speak. “You know we used to be so close… All of us.”

Donatello forgot about his game, the controller limp in his hands. All attention as on his dear baby brother. His heart felt tight as Michelangelo’s words washed over him. Mikey leant back and dropped into the back of the couch. “I just…” he puffed out his cheeks forcing the words out. Even if part of this was for pure performance value, his words were honest true feelings. And it was hard to just say them.

“I just want to help. I love you guys so much and I just feel so useless.”

“Mike…” There was a guilty tinge to Donnie’s voice. The olive turtle reached out to his brother, resting a supportive hand on his shoulder and squeezing. Michelangelo turned to him, eyes a calm dull blue.

“I just wish I knew what was wrong with everyone. Ya know?”

He let it hang in the air, staring deeply into Donatello’s eyes. For a moment he thought Don might slip but wasn’t surprised when he just turned his head back to screen and said: “It’s tough, but we all do. You are doing good Mikey. It’s just… These things just take time. You know?

“Yeah I guess… Thanks Don.”

The fact he couldn’t say that to his face was a clear indication that Donnie was feeling guilty. And whilst Mikey didn’t get anything valuable out of this conversation it was a good step in the correct direction. Not wanting to worsen the mood for the rest of the night Mikey playfully slapped his thighs and jumped up.

“You know what? I’m thinking movie night.”

The announcement made Don’s eyes glimmer.

“Pizza and friends?”

Mikey’s natural response was to click two finger guns in Don direction.

“Like, dude duh!”

 

3



Splinter's tail slapped the ground in outrage. The crackling sound it made deafening to the turtles. It, along with his father screaming Raphael's name, was the only warning the fourth turtle had. Their father didn't move from his spot, confident in Raphael's sense of self control. The youngest siblings did not feel the same and scrambled to their feet.

"Raphael don't---!!"

In one clean fluid motion the other turtle picked up one of his blades, unsheathed it and swung a line in front of him. He was careful not to cut into his little brother, but the defensive warning did little to deter him. Snarling like some sort of wild bear Raphael back stepped, rolled in the opposite direction of the blade and slammed into his big brother's bicep. The turtle's body was knocked to the ground and Raphael fell on top of him. Bending his knees towards his chest the other turtle forced his feet into Raph's mid-drift and pushed him off. Where the defender had been calm, he now was just as worked up. With no more harsh words to mutter he twisted himself to the side and grabbed his second katana. Sweeping a leg to the side he ducked just before Raphael could grab him.

Don and Mikey froze helplessly. They were no longer able to intervene without getting injured now that these two brothers were fighting. Raphael elbowed his brother's shin when he rose his leg for a push kick and winced in pain. The force pushed him backwards, but Raphael grabbed his belt and pulled him forward. The other turtle jumped upwards and flipped himself backwards. Plastron and belt going upside down it pulled and twisted the muscles in Raph's arm. He had no choice but to let go of the belt. Landing on his feet the other turtle turned and landed a roundhouse kick to Raph's chin. The force sent him to the floor.

For a moment they stopped, locked inside one another's gaze. Breathing hard and looking down at his little brother the turtle's heart seemed to tighten. Raphael turned his head to the side and spat out a blob of red slime. When he glanced back his jaw begun to grind and his eyes burned. The other turtle's breath hitched.

"Raph I'm---"

He wouldn't let him apologise. Erupting with rage Raphael lifted off the ground and barged headfirst into his brother's mid drift. They crashed against the floor violently and Raphael’s feral growls only darkened. Stradling his older brother, he raised his fist, and let the knuckles hit their face. The noise it made was a heavy thud.

"You think yer so hot don’t cha?! Think yer fucking perfect??"

With each grunt came a weighted punch that slammed his brother's head further into the ground. Splinter let out a distasteful noise. His tail begun to whip uncontrollably behind him and without a word he slammed his cane down against the concrete. The sound made his brother's flinch, but Raphael was indifferent. He kept on his merciless onslaught.

"Think everfins bout you but it's not!"

His breathing became erratic with each word. The pressure simply boiling up within him. With each connection between his fist and the bloodied swirl of a mess below, a wave of feeling washed over him. There was something there weighing inside himself. It was almost euphoric to beat the turtle below him. Euphoric and somehow deeply pathetic. He felt torn between conflicting thoughts he didn't understand. Splinter's tail cracked like a whip around him, but the strong guidance of his father's voice was long gone. His brothers had long past melted into the dojo floor.

 Raphael started to sob.

The turtle below just took every punch in silence. The only noise he made was the sound of small bones in his jaw breaking.

"Yer a fucking cunt," he cried, voice nearly inaudible. The emotions were no longer contained. For a moment, Raphael saw a different version of events

Splinter let out a distasteful noise. His tail begun to whip uncontrollably behind him and without a word he slammed his cane down against the concrete. The sound made his brother's flinch, but Raphael was indifferent. He kept on his merciless onslaught.

It flashed in his mind like some sort of active memory.

"Stop this at once my sons!! This has gone on long enough.” Twisting his arm free from underneath him, the other turtle landed a punch of his own. Using the moment Raphael was distracted, he pushed himself out from under him.

Like he was reliving the choices of a different Raphael from an alternate dimension.

During the tussle their weapons slid from them, but they were still within reach. Taking the opportunity, confident both could reach their psychical extensions, both leaped towards their weapons. With Blade and Sai in hand both charged at one another. Emotions had erupted within them; years’ worth of honest truths written on their faces.

He continued his therapeutic punching, forcing himself to ignore the flashing images. His tears blurred his vision and all he saw was the shadow of his hand rain down over and over. There was a loud crunch, different from before. Raphael had slammed down even harder, a dark sob leaving him in relief after he heard the noise. His hand stopped there, resting in the fresh hollow cove his fist had created.

"I SAID ENOUGH!" Splinter shot into action. His tail, quick as lightening slapped their weapons out of their hands. The tail smacked painfully against the top of Raphael's shell, forcing him into the ground. For his brother, the tail slammed against his mid-drift and the turtle was propelled into the dojo's brickwork. It was over.

There was the sound of trickling. After a while the tips of his knees started to feel a warm wetness.

They were fine. Just another fight. They were alive.

The wetness spread to his calves and then his ankles. When he opened his eyes suddenly the tears didn't matter. He could see the sight below him in all its crude humour.

He was alive...

The turtles head was caved in but too many things were wrong with it. Had he really done all this? The turtle had been torn apart. The skin was peeled backwards exposing the flesh within. The bones were misshapen and forced together in awkward angles; like a child had put together a picture puzzle using the wrong pieces. Moving flesh pulsated in places as if each part were its own creature. Transparent veins full of blood swelled and leaked onto the floor. Parts seemed to wriggle with a burning need to crawl away from its own body. His plastron rose and fell like normal as if he were alive and well. His fingers twitched playfully, and the hand touching Raphael's thigh squeezed reassuringly.

"N-no--!"

The hot rush in his body fell cold in an instant. "Not this--" He tried to pull away, but the flesh in this body was reaching out for him, the blood circling in on him. Parts of the muscle and tendons and skin peeling off and wrapping around him, trying to pull him into the body below. He heard a reassuring hum, but Raphael shook his head in defiance, desperate to escape.

"No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-"

He chanted it like a mantra. As if it was some sort of spell that would make it stop once and for all. As he began to sink into the wet flesh that surrounded him, he fell silent. He gave into its pull, letting his body sink into the flesh that wanted to consume. Before it could drown him, Raphael let out one last heart-breaking sob.

"Not again..."

He woke up after ushering those words. Blubbering like an idiot he lost balance and caused the hammock to topple over. When he fell to the ground, he curled up on his side. Breathing was a little shaky and hard to control. Attempting to calm himself down he tucked his head between his knees like a child. The room was quiet. There was no indication anything was wrong at all. The room was warming up, the radiators Donnie had recently put in buzzing quiet in the distance. "Just a dream... Just a stupid dream..." he shssed himself the way he would Mikey when they were kids. A comforting tactic that brought him back to reality. He wasn't going to go down stairs with another panic attack because of a fucking nightmare. Once was enough.

It took about twenty minutes to calm fully. He was starting to lose feeling in his left arm, the pressure of his bulk reaching its limit. With an irritated grumble he slowly pulled himself up. Glancing at the twisted hammock, half on the floor and half still hanging, he noticed a darkened circular patch.

"Fuckin' fantastic." Kicking it away with his foot he made a disgusted tut. It had been a long time since he last wet the 'bed'. He wasn't particularly in the mood to move it. It didn't stink nor had he pissed all over the floor. He would wait until he's brothers slept to remove it. Besides, he didn't want to leave the room. There was this sort of comforting presence here. He couldn't pin his finger on it, but it was coming from behind him. Twisting his head backwards at the angle he saw the upside-down image of his bedroom. The mattress he rarely used was on the ground and he did not remember putting it down at all. A frown tugged at his beak. He normally left it against the wall to save space; his brothers hadn't come in the room either. that would have woken him up otherwise.

Strolling along its length he timidly placed a palm against the fresh covers. Warm, like it had just been slept in. The comforting feeling was so strong here. It washed over him like a powerful wave; lulling him towards it. Raphael slipped underneath the duvet and slid into a comfortable position. There was something about a mattress that felt a little odd to him. Perhaps because it was inappropriately designed for his shell, but it in this moment, there was no awkwardness. He just felt so cosy. Wrapped up in the maternal warmth he found himself dozing off once more. With a peaceful and near grateful sigh he willingly let sleep take him once more.

   

4

 

Donatello’s heart was shuddering. He felt like a bigger arsehole than Raphael. And that was only because Donatello knew what was going on…. kind of. For a moment Don nearly told him about the conversation he shared with Raphael but decided against it. Telling Mikey about that would not fix anything at all. Raphael had told Don with full confidence he could keep it to himself. Sure, keeping things from Mikey was shitty, but if he overshared Raphael might never open again. That somehow felt shittier.

This might just be the last time his brother’s ears listen. Don couldn’t risk that. No not even for Michelangelo.  He could hear his baby brother fumbling on the phone to April, convincing her to grab Casey and come down for the night. A normal night with the full family would do all of them good.

In that moment Don made a promise he would convince Raphael to talk to Mikey but that would take some time first. Raphael was still uneasy to approach and Don needed to take things slow if he was going to reach him. He couldn’t risk his younger brother ruining everything he was trying to fix.

With a new resolve the guilt suddenly became weightless. Why should he feel guilty when it was for Mikey’s own good? All Mikey needed to know right now was Raphael was getting better. And that was final.

 

 

5

 

The traces of their dissagreement remained on his skin. After Splinter had slapped them both their weapons and pride away with a single strike of his tail, he had sent them to... "detention". This time it consisted of 50 consecutive backflips, in perfect execution; an hour lecture; 50 somersaults, again in perfect execution; two hours meditation in Master Splinter's room; and straight to bed with no dinner. Their nightly shower was the only peace.

Raphael had spent that evening in meditation with a heavy, guilty, and stubborn heart. It seemed his older brother felt the same. While they meditated facing one another they blocked as much of the other out as they could. They would not risk getting emotional again and facing an even worse punishment because this 'detention' was lenient for their father’s standards. Raphael had seen Mikey do worse time for leaving plastic cockroaches in Raphael's bedroom. The only true annoyance was if one of them did the exercise incorrectly they both had to start again from number one. That and Raphael had to spend detention glued to HIS side.

Standing in the shower doorway Raphael cast shadows on the wall. He was looking inwards. When he locked eyes with the other turtle, he found himself unable to move. It was the first time they'd looked at each other since the dojo. The horrible memory of his face crushed in was forgotten, as was the knowledge he'd even woken up at one point. Raphael was submerged in this reality once more obliviously unaware he was currently resting in a warm bed.

Glancing over his shoulder back at Raphael there was this uneasy gentleness rushing off him. Like he wanted to speak but couldn't find the right words. Raphael held that gaze with his own intensity. He felt conflicted. He was still pretty pissed off with his brother making fun of him, but he had gone way too far. He hadn't known what or why he had initially snapped. It all seemed kind of hazy, like two different events happened all at once. What he did know was he wanted to apologise.

He always wanted to apologise so bad.

Shifting his weight from foot to foot he decided to lean against the doorway. More light filled the room, reflecting off his brother's wet skin. At some point he turned the water down but Raph didn't notice. With the new-found light he had a better look at the fuzzy face that lacked definition. Whilst he features were forever smudged on his skin, Raph could see the clear tell-tale signs of a big massive bruise appear on half his face. His heart squeezed at the memory, because he could still feel the punches he had given, and he wanted that feeling that lingered on his knuckles to just die.

The words were welling in his throat, but he couldn't find it in himself to spill. "Hey..." The first words spoken other than "Hai" since the dojo. Raphael couldn't even respond to him. The sound of his voice left a bitter sweet taste in his mouth. Then something happened. Big brother's gaze changed entirely. The face seemed to flicker and glitch like TV static for a moment.

"...Here..." the voice softly sighed. Raph's brow creased in confusion. The other turtle leaned towards the wall a little more and lifted a hand up to steady himself.

"IIh....kay....Raph." Bits of his voice, much to Raphael's dismay, seemed to cut out. They were being spoken, but it was like Raphael couldn't remember how the turtle made certain sounds. They were blanked out when they left his mouth, leaving Raph with snippets of an untranslated request.

"Co.....um" He was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Not because of the faceless being before him, or the cutting out of his disembodied voice, but because the turtle had stared to noticeably part his thighs. His gaze still faced him, and Raphael became nervous.

"He....re.... Come.... Re..."

He didn't understand at all. All at once he felt strangely unwelcome here and shook his head reluctantly. "I don't--" He couldn't finish. The words were lost on him. With nothing left to say or feel Raphael twisted and headed for his bedroom. The utility cupboard’s door was open again; a strange sort of invitation the hot head just couldn't refuse. When he entered, he was relieved to see the Japanese styled bedroom from before and not the storage closet from hell. It looked more lived in now than the last time. The room was dark kept alight only by the soft haze of melting candles. Magazines had fallen on the floor near one rack and a few scrolls were haphazardly folded on the bed. The display swords were off the wall and comfortably on the bed. The simple silver steel and blue handle wrap triggered a memory within. These were the swords he used and fought with each day: His most beloved possessions. Yet mere hours ago, they'd been aimed at him with malicious intent. He had been no better with his sai.

Raphael picked up the blade curiously, twisting it in his hands. The light flickered off it and bounced off his scales. The craftmanship of these blades was beyond comparison. It struck a familiar fuzzy feeling in his plastron. Like he knew these blades all too well.

Soft hands reached out and gently rested on his biceps. He hadn't heard the turtle approach and the touch frightened him. Blade slipping from his fingers Raphael attempted to catch it. In one fluid motion the steel edge slid through the skin of his hand like butter and clanked on the floor.

"Fuck!"

The cut was large; the blood ever flowing. The forest green hands on him slid down his arms until they cupped the bleeding hand. Raphael could feel the warmth of their plastron through his shell as it pressed to him.

“Shsss.”

The sound made his muscles tense. His voice was so soft yet so strong all at once. It was a comforting tone. The turtle cupped Raphael’s bleeding hand in one of his own. A thumb pressed against one end of the palm and slowly stroked out to the other side. Raphael let out a small hiss as the thumb brushed against the cut and watched in wonder as the red blood followed the movement.

“Silly…” he was sighing. All the anger from earlier completely gone. Raphael felt the guilt within him slowly lift off his shoulders. Suddenly the hand disappeared behind their heads. There was this soft rustling sound and then a blue bandana drifted into of his face. Being careful not to cause him too much pain the other turtle wrapped his bandanna around the cut and tied it tight. He didn’t say anything else, just rested the front of his beak behind Raph’s head.  The gesture was not lost on Raphael. It gave him a sort of fluttery feeling.

A smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth, but it quickly vanished. In an instant he saw the bandanna’s bright blue dissolve into a crimson so dark it was almost black.  Unable to absorb any more, the blood pushed through the fabric and splattered the ground.

“What on earth would you do without me?”

 

 

6

 

Raphael groaned as he was pulled out of his dream. His irritancy only sky rocketed when he saw Mikey peering over him with a worried expression.

“Dude… Hey dude! Wakey, wakey!” despite his enthusiasm to wake him up Mikey kept his voice low enough. “Feck off.” Was all he got in reply. He tried to burry his head in the covers, but Mikey simply pulled the cover off him. Beyond annoyed Raphael grabbed the pillow he was resting on and threw it in Mikey’s direction. He did not get the desired effect as Mikey only snickered when it bounced off his plastron.

“Come on. You’ve been asleep allllll day sleeping beauty. We thought you might never wake up.”

“Yeah yeah yeah…” the eldest grumbled.

“We ordered pizza and April n’ Case are coming down an—”

“I SAID YEAH YEAH YEAH MIKE!”

Exasperated he threw his final pillow and watched in dismay as he missed his fleeing brother.

“Got thirty seconds till the pizza man dude!”

He stared at the doorway, hatred for his sibling slowly dissipating. The dream was filling his minds eye once more. He couldn’t remember much. Just this and that. Couldn’t even figure out what had been the scary bit that had woke him up the first time. It’d been something along the lines of sparring… and a shower? The mystery turtle had been in it, that he was certain. He grimaced when he remembered he’d wet his hammock. That could fuck right off he wasn’t touching that thing till tomorrow morning.

His mind was trying to think of an excuse not to get out of bed. He felt incredibly tired, knackered even. He hadn’t thought yesterday’s mission was all that strenuous, but he must have been wrong. Either that or the stress of the last few months was finally catching up to him. Peeling himself off the mattress proved a difficult task. As did making his way to the bathroom. He was slow, grumpy and heavy footed. All signs Raphael was a tired ass mess.

Looking at himself in the mirror he noticed the puckered tired skin beginning to bag under his eyes. The skin in the corners just below his inner water line was turning a faint purple. You would think he hadn’t even fallen asleep just looking at him. But he had. He’d slept a good 12 hours today and he intended to probably sleep another twenty after dinner. Deciding he needed to freshen up he began to wash his face and then his hands. His was rubbing circles into his left palm when he began to look confused. His fingers came to a still and he brought his hand closer for inspection. Tracing a long diagonal stripe across his palm he became hyper aware there was no scar there when he could’ve sworn, he had a bloody scar there.

All his scars were important. He could remember each any every tale. How he got one and how he could’ve avoided it. They were not moments of weakness in his life, but moments where he came out on top. Strong and stubborn. He loved his scars. And more importantly, he didn’t pretend he had more than he did. As far as he was concerned, he’d had a scar in the middle of his palm from a katana blade since he was thirteen. He’d been training with the swords for the first time, a little to enthusiastic. When he cut himself and Splinter saw all the blood his father begun to panic. Without thinking he had torn a part of his robe off and used it to dress the wound. Somehow, and it was probably because of all the blood, Don had gotten it into his head that Raphael was ‘dying’. They had spent the rest of that evening convincing the ‘genius’ otherwise. Looking up into the mirror Raphael’s eyes widened in further confusion and utterly disbelief.

“Wat da fuck?!”

Bringing his wet fingers up to his face he traced another angled line beneath his left eye, right on the apple of his cheek. Another scar was missing. Not just any scar for it was perhaps the most important scar of all. He’d had that one for so long. It meant so much to him but now it was just… gone? Scars didn’t just do that overnight.

Feeling his bad mood return the distant disembodied voice of Mikey from the living space downstairs was not welcome. “Oi Cinderella!!” He called playfully.

Growling Raphael grabbed the door and slammed it open. “I fuckin said gimme a minute Mike!!”

From the comfort of the kitchen April and Don smiled. The exchange between couch and bathroom was just too amusing. Splinter shook his head at April, a small smile of his own.

“Kids.”

 


 

 

Author Notes

Been a little while since the last update. I took some time off writing this to work on some art because I was having trouble starting and structuring the chapter. There are parts of this I'm not exactly unhappy with, but just "okay" with. I will probably re-write some setences one day in the future and fix it. But for now this will do. I really love parts of this chapter though! Some sections like 1 and 3 were actual meant to go a different direction, but I got too into writing them that what happened kinda just happened and I liked the fresh idea better than the planned one!

Once again thank you for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and theories in the comments! <3

Chapter Text

1

Ramped up by Mike’s antics Raphael stomps down each step into the living space. Each thud travelled up his legs, vibrating at his hip. He’s suddenly aware of just how tired he really is. It’s almost unbearable. The only thing that’s keeping him up now is the knowledge that once he’s eaten, he can go back to bed. It’s only when he sees the seating set up does he realise what is going on. That and the fact Casey is plopped down on a bean-bag sending him this arrogant shit-eating grin.

“Sup sunshine, you look radiant tonight.”

Raphael growls and plops himself down on the sofa reluctantly. He’d forgotten about the infamous weekly movie night and that it had been pushed back to this very moment.

Mikey jumps down next to him unexpectantly, pop corn flying in all directions. He’s about to say something comedic when he hears Raph’s snarl but takes one look at his face and decides against it. The guy looks like he’s been up longer than Donnie and that’s pretty much impossible. The stress of whatever was going on was becoming visible on his face. Mikey didn’t want to stress him out further, so he opted for a toned-down version of his usual performance. He gently touched Raph’s bicep and pushed the popcorn into his lap.

“All for you big guy.”

Raphael was still annoyed, but the noise he made in response was less aggressive. A positive sign Michelangelo was still charming as ever.

The arrival of April signals the arrival of the pizza and the rest of the Hamato family. They all huddle round the various TVs. For movie night specifically, Don unplugs the 24 television sets and sets up a projector. For one night every seven days the “front room” becomes their very own personal cinema.

And for the first time in a long time Raphael is unable to appreciate that fact. Movie or not, he wanted nothing more than to head off back to his mattress and lull off into slumber. As the choosing of the film, and the setting up of the film, just kept on prolonging itself Raphael found his attention slipping away from the on-going conversation. His thoughts seemed to bring him back to the strange dream about the sparring he’d had last. He was starting to remember a few more select moments. More specifically, the turtle’s fighting style and how he’d looked in the middle of it all. His figure and the way he seemed to handle himself, was different from any of his brothers. This fictional turtle carried himself with immense grace and delicate aggression. For a moment, Raphael found himself in awe as he replayed their movements in the back of his mind. He didn’t even notice the film begin to start. In fact, he only tuned into what was happening when he reached down to grab at some popcorn that was no longer there.

Some Chinese dude with a questionable American accent seemed to be arrogantly talking down to another Chinese dude with a perfect American accent. A few Kungfu moves appeared out of nowhere, and then suddenly everyone on screen was attacked by some weird CGI animated green coloured lightning. Leaning to his side he whispered to April, “What the fuck are we watching?” Turns out they’d been thirty minutes into ‘Escape Plan 2: hades’ and Mikey was royally annoyed with the lack of screen time Silvester Stallone was getting so far. Deciding the movie wasn’t worth seeing every second of, Raphael left to the kitchen in search of more pizza and popcorn.

He rested the empty bowl on the table and groaned as he sat next to it. Opening one of the boxes of pizza left over he nicked a slice for himself and begun to chew lazily. In the distance he could hear martial art sound effects and the sound of some sort of robotic voice.

He groaned again, scrunching his forehead up and leaning into one of his palms. Fingers went to work and tried to smooth out the rough scaled skin beneath. He hadn’t noticed his head-ache until now. It pulsed hard and slow.

A image flashed in his mind suddenly, when the head-ached thumped more harshly than before. It was like a flash of metal. It happened again, this time a slither of blue skating behind his eyelids. His breathing deepened, and his palm lowered, eyes shutting tighter. There were a few seconds of silence, the film in the distance no longer loud, and then—the sudden sensation of falling.

“Raph?”

Raphael jolted up in his seat with confusion, making an unintelligent noise as he glanced over at Donatello, now near the fridge pulling out refreshments.

“You okay Raph?”

“Y-yeh yeh m’ peachy.”

He subconsciously rubbed at the dried drool on the corner of his mouth. “You sure?” Donnie’s eyes flashed down at his feet, a frown forming on his face. “You been gone for about twenty-five minutes.”

Raph glanced down, cursing as he did so. The pizza slices he’d been nibbling on were splattered across the marbled floor, part of it having slid down the side of Raph’s foot. He cringed in disgust lifting his feet out of the way.

“Shit.”

“Here.”

Unprovoked Don grabbed some kitchen towels and bent down to the floor. Raph watched in silence and slight embarrassment as Don cleaned up the mess. There was a soft look on his face as he glanced up at his big brother.

“Hey. I don’t want to sound preachy or anything. But you’ve been sleeping weird again and if… if you want to, talk, about anything.”

Raphael’s brow lowered, but not in anger. This was in discomfort.

“Like, anything at all, you can still. I’ll be in my lab after Ape and Case leave but like,” his gaze flickered away, his head lowered, and he found himself standing up straight and moving out of sight. “If you don’t want to that’s completely fine Raphael. Just do what’s best for you.” Don kept the silence his eldest brother held. It was full of awkward energy and when Raph finally did speak it only seemed to feel even worse.

“Thanks Don.”

He wasn’t sure how to respond. His heart felt heavy and his brain swamped. He wasn’t sure if that was too bold a move to make or not, but he did it. “Cool.” His confident tone was not convincing and gave way to the quietest of trembles his voice had. With a shaky breath he passed Raphael a can of coke and made way to the door way. Looking over behind his shoulder, but still avoiding eye contact, he smiled and told Raphael not to doze off a second time.

For a second Raphael considered doing so. It wouldn’t hurt and he had the perfect excuse of bringing snacks back for the hoard. It was a tempting idea, but the sound of Don’s words began to fill his head. Reluctantly he sighed and pushed himself out the chair, grabbed a box of pizza and a new bowl of popcorn, and followed the sounds of Silvester Stallone’s voice.

 

2

“What a con man! The guy was hardly in the damn thing!” Mikey raised his hands above his head in frustration. Casey seemed to be equally annoyed with the movies finale. The credits rolled past, and Raphael felt grateful it had been a two-hour film. There was no excuse for his friends to decide to stay for anything extra, which meant sweet, sweet sleep would soon be his.

Casey Jones shook his head with a grimace. “None of the posters showed that lame Asian dude off at all!”

Splinter seemed to be the only one finding the situation somewhat positive. He raised his finger in the air wisely and let out an amused chuckle.

“But hear this Michelangelo. Here you’ve seen professional stunt actors use the martial arts in this movie. If you cannot take anything away from the plot, then look at the choreography and learn from their mistakes!”

Mikey grimaced and Don could only stifle a laugh in response.

“Great now the movies shit and a training session. Perfect just what I always wanted!”

More than eager to get away Raphael made quick work of cleaning up. Seeing his opportunity, Casey quickly swooped up some of the empty cans and follows Raphael into the kitchen. He unwillingly left the debate about the movie’s crapness behind him.

“Yo, meat sceptre.”

For a moment Raphael’s eyes seemed far away and glazed. When Casey snapped his fingers in the air the clouded expression quickly slipped off his face. Raph, slightly disorientated, grumbled and looked over at his human friend. “Sorry. Ya say something?”

“Nah,” the human man casually leaned against the fridge, folding his arms across his chest, “just professed my love to you. Other than that, nothing too important.” Rolling his eyes, the turtle turned away tutting as he did so. “Well that’s a real shame Case.”

“All jokes a side man. Been tryna get your attention all night. Everything okay?”

He glanced behind his shoulder at the human, the rim of his shell covering part of his body. “Nah, everyfins fine. Just, need some sleep. Been a bit of a few days.”

Casey gave a low hum and shifted his legs.

“Sure. I can appreciate that. You busy tomorrow night?”

Raph’s brow creased. “Depends man, what’s happening?”

“Been working at that Jimmies Junkies again. Got a new client, kind you might appreciate.”

“Oh yeah?”

Oh Yeah.”

“I’m listening Case.”

“Real beaut. Gonna be an all-nighter. Might appreciate four extra fingers.”

“Hmmm, gotta check with Splinter but should be fine. If not gonna hafta do it without me. Got a few tight nights coming up with no room for mess round.”

“Ninja stuff?”

“Yeah… Ninja stuff.”

 

3

His sides were itchy. No matter his position, he just couldn’t get comfortable. This is what he got for not sleeping on a mattress more often. He was so accustomed to the hammock, he forgot how hard it was to fall asleep anywhere else unless he was completely knackered. Despite having fallen asleep in the kitchen, and twice during the second half of the movie, he hadn’t even dozed off thirty seconds in his own bed. And that was annoying him even more.

Angsty and tense Raphael pulled himself into a seated position and cracked his shoulder. There was nothing more he could do. He’d tried every position that normally worked, made the bed warmer and softer and had even put some tea down by his side. Yet here he was, wide awake with a splitting head-ache. Even Don’s weird sleeping pills seemed to do little to Raphael’s situation.

He swallowed hard, a soreness burning at his throat. Thinking a quick walk might do the trick Raph got out of bed and wondered down to the kitchen. Cold milk soothed the pain in his wind pipe and somehow made his head-ache lessen. He stood there for a moment, hand on the open refrigerator and the other holding what was left of his milk. His eyes slowly slid to a close and his body hummed gently. If it hadn’t been for a loud metallic clank, he might have fallen asleep right there.

Twisting his head backwards, he saw the soft glow of the laboratory light kissing the floor just outside the kitchen. He was standing roughly in the same spot Donnie had been when he’d offered his ear to Raphael. He felt his gut push inwards, a sudden stab of guilt running through him as Splinter and Casey’s words repeated themselves. With a sigh and an expression that could only be described as “uncomfortable”, Raphael topped up his glass of milk and made way to his brother.

 

4

Donatello hadn’t expected Raphael to come join him, but he had appreciated it when the door began to open. At the start Raphael seemed shy, reluctant and insecure. He had obviously not wanted to be there, and Don could only look at that face with in a supportive manner.

It started off with small talk. Chit-chat about what Don was doing up this late. He played along with the ruse, softly going through all the steps of the repairments he was making. The language only dumbed down enough for Raphael to understand the gist of what he was doing. By the end of his enthusiastic but quiet monologue Raphael was noticeably relaxed. He was no longer hiding between slumped shoulders.

“But none of that really matters,” he smiled softly when his brother looked up at him. “How are you feeling?”

Shuffling the glass between his fingers Raphael awkwardly began to talk in a semi-open fashion. He was protective of his feelings, as always, but he tried his best to be more outwardly sensitive. Instinctively Don reached out and gently rested his palm over Raphael’s knee, the fingers ghosting his skin. It seemed to have the desired effect, his older brother starting to relax just that little bit more.

“I dunno Don. I slept real good last night, like, really good. But I feel like, errr, like um…”

He tried off and Don happily interjected.

“Like you’ve been hit by a truck?”

“Yeah! Yeah… that.”

If Don suddenly said that Raph look mildly tired, he would be lying. Raphael looked so much worse. He looked like he’d been having trouble sleeping for days. The skin around his eyes was tinted blue and violet. It was no where near the refreshed shade of green it had been when they’d set off on their mission the previous day. Sure, they were all recovering from the weird sleep cycle and getting back into routine, but Mike and Don looked psychically fine. Raph didn’t.

“Have you had any dreams again?”

His eyes shied away at the question and Don frowned. “Yeah, kinda… I think.”

“Can’t remember it well?”

He shook his head slowly, face looking deep in thought. “Nah just bits n’ pieces. Vague things. Like tryna remember something unremarkable from a few years back.”

“Try anyway. It might come back to you if you start talking about it.”

Raphael met his brothers gaze, doubt in his eyes. Taking in a deep breath he stretched in the seat he’d taken and tried to collect his thoughts.

“We were… we were fighting. In the dojo. We all had been training and we were about ta finish but Masta Splinta wanted me to fight him.”

“Who? The turtle?”

“Yeah, da turtle. It was one of those three count pin matches without our weapons. We started fighting and I remember being, I dunno… Happy bout it? Something like dat I guess.”

As he spoke, he put the glass on Don’s desk and pulled his legs up to tuck under himself. Don moved his hand away as he did so, but carefully placed it back once Raphael was settled. As Raphael focused on the floor between him his face seemed to fall into a focus Don knew all too well.  

“He… he felt the same. I knew that and then… Then…”

The muscles between his eyes folded as he concentrated on the memory. There was the sudden flash of metal in his mind. A rush of some sort, shouting, a splash of blood. It was all gone as soon as it came.

“Then?”

“I fink we had an argument. Got carried away with it.” He began to shake his head once more. “I woke up after that. Tried going back to sleep soon after, didn’t take too long. And, and it was like, the same dream, jus later on? We, me and da turtle, we were showering. I left an I cut myself on one of his blades and he patched it up for me. I woke up cuz of Mikey and dats pretty much it.”

Having finished sorting his memory he looked up into Don’s olive face. He had smoothed over some of the details, particularly the turtle’s weird behaviour in the shower room. Something deep down told him he shouldn’t mention that part. He didn’t know why.

“Did he, did he say anything at all? I think you said before he hasn’t spoken to you yet.” Raphael took a moment to search again. His eyes lit up slightly when he remembered. “Yea, he was talking to me when we were trainin’. An when I cut myself.”

“Do you remember what he said?” Don asked, beginning to look even more intrigued.

“Urgh yeah! Yeah. It was something like, er, ‘what would ya do without me?’

Donatello frowned lightly at the sentence. “Strange.”

“What do ya think it means Don?”

There was a vulnerability in Raph’s voice that made Don sad to answer back.

“I don’t know Raph. I’m not dream doctor or anything.” He gently shifted his hand so his fingers touched Raph’s, and squeezed. “I have some ideas on what it could represent, but you know me. I could go on forever.”

Raphael shoulders slumped at the answer.

“Did you take any of the pills I gave you before you slept?”

He went to answer but cut himself off after letting out a small noise. In all honesty, he had no idea. He had been so tired, he did not even remember going from their living space to his bed. It kind of just happened without any memory.

“No idea Don.”

“Well make sure you take one tonight and let me know in the morning what effect it had on you. I think you forgot to take it, and therefore had one of your rough sleeps again.” He sighed gently. “Is…” he stopped for a moment, a questioning gaze overcoming him. “Is there anything else bothering you Raphael?”

Without warning, Raphael’s hand snapped away from under Don’s. He hadn’t intentionally ment to do it, and only realised what he’d done when he saw the flash of hurt on his brother’s face. To recover his grip on what little trust the had left he answered honestly.

“Yes, but you’ll probably think I’m nuts.”

Don didn’t answer, but he did patiently wait for Raphael to continue. Hesitantly Raphael raised the palm he’d snatched away into the space in front of Don’s face and spread his fingers. Don flickered back and forth between Raph’s outstretched hand and his face utterly bewildered.

“See anything strange?”

“…Am I supposed to?”

Feeling the slight sting of embarrassment Raphael dropped his arm and looked away.

“I used to have a scar there. And by used to, I mean yesterday.”

Don took Raphael’s hand unexpectantly in his own, turned it round, and traced the skin of his palms. Something about the act seemed to upset Raphael deep down. He kept the feeling submerged and focused on the more pleasant feelings it brought him. Don’s fingers were smooth and careful. They traced over the other scars delicately.

“Where?”

Raphael almost didn’t hear him. He was being lost in his brothers soft touch and Don’s quiet voice washed over him. It had begun to sooth him; made him even more tired than he already was.

“Big one, right in da middle from thumb to pinkie.”

Donatello slowly traced the imaginary line and that made Raphael start to feel nervous. “Hmmm,” he softly sighed, tracing it a second time backwards. “Do you remember how you got it?”

“When we started training with weapons. Cut it on a sword. You cried like a baby. Thought I was gonna bleed to death.”

Donatello hummed again, lost in thought. He just started down at the hand he held with slow thoughtful blinks. “It’s familiar but…” The olive-skinned turtle fell silent, lost in his ministrations. When Raphael gently tugged at his hand it seemed to bring Don back to life. He let the hand slip from his grasp, and limply rested his own across his plastron. “I think you are confusing your dream with real life memories Raphael.”

Raphael went to disagree, but Don stopped him.

“You said it yourself. You cut yourself on the turtles swords. It was the same hand wasn’t it? We get new scars with each and every battle we fight Raph, good and bad. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t discover new ones and lose track of old ones. And scars don’t disappear overnight. They take years, if they even disappear at all. Do you remember having any other scars that have disappeared on your body?”

Annoyed and embarrassed Raphael mutter a ‘no’ and kept the scar under his eye to himself. He understood what Don was saying, but this was no misunderstanding. He knew his body like nothing else. He didn’t make things up. Don went to speak again but his brother had decided that it was enough. Cutting him off, completely guilt free this time, Raphael looked him in the eye seriously and asked if he’d filtered through the camera’s yet.

“Not today. Did last night before bed. Was going to start a second run through tomorrow morning and then finish working on the algorithm so I don’t have to do manual checks that take hours.”

“Anything suspicious?”

Don shook his head. “Nothing. No sign of the foot or the PD. One camera was glitching up real bad but that’s about it.”

“Which camera?”

“Near the edge of South-West Soho, little bit out of the grid placements we agreed on. Must have been one of the last ones you planted.”

“I know which one. Huh, in the morning go through da sweep carefully. Write down any other cameras that might be even a smidge dodgy and gimme their locations. I’ll check that one out after seeing Case tomorrow an’ whatevas close.”

Donatello grimaced. “You shouldn’t be doing that alone or at least without nearby backup.”

“Probably take Case with me. Don’t worry I’ll be fine Don.”

Raphael slapped the top of his thighs, signalling the end of their conversation. To further cement it he even yawned and gave a little stretch for show. Don understood well and made way to move towards the lab exit, deciding to head off to bed as well.

“I’ll get it sorted Raph. Please do take the pill again tonight and tell me how it goes?”

“Will do Dee.”

“I’ll have a look into what I can dream wise and if I find anything interesting, I’ll obviously let you know.”

They traversed the staircase in simple silence after that, both saying good night and twisting in opposite directions to their individual rooms. Don stopped just as his fingers gripped the handle. For a moment he felt weak and turned to look at his brother’s shell. He was halfway through the doorway disappearing into the black beyond.

“Raph?!”

He stilled and softly stepped backwards till Donnie could see his face. He didn’t speak but waited patiently.

“I… I didn’t mean to offend you. It was not my intention. I’m just, trying to help.”

Tired emotions were beginning to tug at the corners of his mouth. They were being pulled down in shaky motions. The bigger turtle simply looked silently at his brother across the hallway, the tone in his voice not betraying how he felt inside.

“I know Don. Don’t worry.”

“We cool?”

“We cool…”

And with that Raphael slipped back into the shadows out of reach.

Placing a pill on the middle of his tongue he drunk what was left of his milk and laid back on the mattress. Guilt was tugging on his heartstrings. At first, the guilt had been small and mainly about his lack of “opening up”. He felt upset that his brothers were losing trust in him, and even more upset in his lack of motivation to try harder. Yet now, that feeling was gone. Instead there was this heavy block of guilt weighing his plastron down. Not because of his initial reasons, but because he had opened up to Don. The feeling was overwhelming. He felt like he had done something terrible. Something he wasn’t meant to do.

The feeling weighed him down, even after he’d fallen asleep.

 


 

 

Author Notes

As promised, my soonish update. I have the next three chapters well fleshed out so writing should go smooth and quick. Which means more updates relatively soon! Thank you for reading! This chapter is a tad shorter and you may feel not much happened in this one, but honestly some very important seeds have been sown here! Also, I really did watch Escape Plan 2: Hades the other day and it is really bad so don't make my mistake. Let me put it this way, Dave Bautista solves a rubix cube while intimidating a nerd and one of the villians insists on being called "The Zookeeper". These are the only genuienly good parts of the movie, and both are only ironically good. Just watch the first one (which is good!) and pretend they aren't making a third one. You'll thank me one day.

Chapter Text

1

 

He couldn’t stop running. The tunnel was endless, the onslaught of foot ninja behind him merciless. The sewer water beneath his feet splashed rapidly and slowed his movements down. He kept slipping, tripping. The ninja skills he’d been raised to fall back on so naturally forgotten.

A few shuriken swirled passed him and barely missed. One sliced through his bicep with a snip and the turtle hissed. He couldn’t afford to look behind him to avoid future attacks. They would catch him if he did that and he would die. He couldn’t die. Not here, not now. Not so dis-honourably.

His weapon and his tools were lost somewhere in the sewer. His only means of defence were escapism. Something told him he might not make it to a safe point. His brother’s were in the tunnels too. Every now and then his hammering heart calmed enough to hear the noises around him. He could hear the thunderous marches behind him of a hundredfoot ninja right on his tail. He could hear the rushing sewage spurt into the tunnels. He could even occasionally hear the distant shouts of his siblings calling for him.

Tears fell from the rims of his eyes, bluring his vision. He tried desperately to blink them away. He needed to focus right now. His life and his family’s depended on it. Deepening his breathing he focused on the reality around him and soon the fear turned to anger. He let it push himself; the speed of his body just increasing. He shot straight ahead, bouncing off the wall and turned left down a tunnel. He hoped wherever he was heading lead to his family.

Eventually he managed to find a metal pipe sticking out of the wall. With renewed determination to make it out alive he grabbed that pipe and yanked it out. If they caught up to him at least he might be able to take a few out with this.

A few signs on the wall and the series of turns alerted him where in the sewers he just might be. Feeling more confident he tried to lay out the map ahead off him. He needed to get somewhere where there was a sewer junction of some sort. In two right turns, a slide down a collapsed floor and another left he’d reach a big cylinder room full of rushing water and very thin slippery pipes. It was near impossible to see in that place and know which tunnel was where, but he had learnt it like the back of his hand. No because it was his home, but because it was survival. The foot ninja would find it hard to traverse. Even if they saw him escape and followed him out into the next lane of tunnels, a good amount would probably fall to their deaths.

A few more sobs escaped him and sent tremors through his shoulders. This would make or break it for him.

He spun right at the turning, nearly sliding onto his side in the water. He used his hand to push off the wall and boost his speed. The foot was gaining up on him again. Their shadows loomed over him and the floor ahead. It wriggled like some soft of monster made out of black tar. Desperately trying to devour him. The march was becoming out of sync, their steps more frantic and desperate. It sounded like heavy hail on a glass window.

He spun along the right turning a second time this time without fault. The dead end wall was up ahead, and he started to run towards the left corner of that wall. As it approached his breathing became heavier and louder.

“I’m going to do this!”

He groaned to himself, forcing the words out. He hit the wall hard and dropped down the hole. His calves bounced when he landed as if they were springs. The small hole in the floor would slow them down but he still needed to be quick. Turning around he ran down the tunnel in the opposite direction, he could hear them above rushing over and past him towards the hole. When he turned the corner, he heard the first heavy thuds of bodies dropping through it. More shuriken swiped at him, two slicing through the back of his calves. His shouted in pain, tripping as his muscle spasmed. Looking down at it he stopped for the briefest moment. They had missed any tendons by a few inches. He forced himself to work through the pain. Stopping to check the wound had cost him precious seconds. The hoard was so close behind.

He could hear the waterfall ahead. “I’m going to do this!” He shouted. “I’m going to fucking do this!” Visions of his family flashed in his mind and then he saw the waterfall. He held his breath and plunged off the end of the tunnels open mouth, driving through the first waterfall and into the second one. His disappeared out of sight but the foot continued their chase. At some point he dropped the metal pipe. It clanked against metal as it dropped down. He hoped some would follow the noise instead.

Lunging forward his arms, in hope he would grab onto a metal bar located in the centre of the second waterfall. He grabbed it and the shock nearly knocked him off. His hands slipped, swinging him forward further than he wanted it to. He let it propel himself upwards and flew towards a second bar higher up. Twisting as forward as it could he pushed himself 180 degrees until he was on top of the bar he had been dangling off. Once he stopped wobbling, he carefully ran down it to the right side of the cylinder tower. There were a few ledges to his right, and he stepped onto them, rushing as he shuffled along them. A small circular opening was above him. Using a strong bicep, he pulled himself up and into its darkness, crawling along inside of his length. If his shell was any bigger, he would have gotten stuck right there. No foot had followed him into the tunnel as of when he had managed to wiggle out, but he could hear the sounds of them searching echo through the pipe. Falling on to the floor he scrambled up and grabbed a latch pulling it towards him with all his strength. The rusted lock creaked under pressure but eventually gave in. With a heavy clunk a metal seal held above the hole swung round till it hung down. Once it slipped into place, he pushed the latch backwards again, locking the entrance he’d escaped through. He didn’t know how long it would hold them. He just hoped it was enough time to find to find his family. Then they could all jump into Casey’s truck and get as far away as possible.

His heart was thudding, his breathing erratic. Thick blobby tears flooded his left eye and he smudged them away with the back of his hand. A breathy laugh escaped him, shaky from adrenaline. Never before had he been so happy to be alive.

He twisted and the pain in his calf made him freeze. All misplaced humour burnt away. A muffled scream pushed through his locked teeth. It was not the only wounds he had. A hand instinctively covered the blooded gash on his midriff. The pain was coming back to him, and the rush of adrenaline was making him gag. But he couldn’t stop here. No not at all.

Forcing himself to move, he spat out a shot of stomach acid before breaking into another run. He was running back towards where he started, but a few levels above, where he was sure he heard the shouts of familiar voices. It took him a few lost attempts, but he began to hear a deep gravelled voice he knew oh so well. Following the noises, he broke into a speed frenzy. His body worked on desperation.

He came to the room where he needed to be, but he didn’t want to be here. Not when he truly saw it. Upon running through the door way, he shouted expectantly, head frantically whipping around searching for a brother, a friend, a father. There was nothing but black sludge and dirty brickwork. He thought he heard something shift in weight above him. He looked up and terror overcame him.

He had found his father, suspended in the air. His hands pulled above his head, held up by chains and small fish hooks that grappled his fur. His head hung limply down, neck broken, face twisted with anger. Those once warm eyes were a bright white, a strobe shining down on him in repulsion. Blood dripped from his jaw and from the many cuts across his once soft body. His feet were clenched like an eagles’ above his son’s head.

“No….”

He could barely even talk. His voice broke raw and ragged. This is what he had feared most. Captured by the foot, by the Shredder, to pray they would show a shred of mercy was delusional. He couldn’t stand anymore and fell to his feet, staring upwards at the cold expression his father held in his final movements. An uncontrollable sob escaped him. His body tried to breath and cry at the same time.

“No! No!”

It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. He began to scream at the dead body in front of him. Slowly around him, beady white eyes, slanted and thin as slits began to appear and blink. The foot ninja rose from the black darkness and begun to flash their metallic weapons. They swirled around him like mist. And as they closed in, blades haphazardly slashing, he continued to cry for the loss of his father.

Donatello awoke with a silent sob. He didn’t scream but he was panicking. The nightmare, like all the others before, had felt to real. Been to real. He was curled up on his side under the covers, limbs tucking into his shell as much as it would allow. He stayed like that until he calmed down enough to stop his tears. It wasn’t the first nightmare he had about this, nor might it be the last. The dream’s timeline always changed but the ending was always the same: Father dead and it was his fault. Because he hadn’t been clever enough to find where they hid Splinter quick enough. Because he wasn’t strong enough to defeat all the ninja that ended up taking him. Because he wasn’t skilled enough to save him.

In reality, this dream was just an insecure fear he had when Splinter had been taking at first. It was an insecure nightmare they all shared. It had been a unspoken factor that their father might have been dead when they retreated. Getting him back was the best and the worst feeling ever. While no one had said it, everyone had prepared themselves for the worst. Donnie had expected to find a corpse, not a pulse.  The return of their father alive was a blessing. An unpredicted reward from some unknown spiritual force and they were grateful. They could not ask for anything more.

Yet even afterwards the nightmares still plagued them. Occupational hazard he liked to think it. While they were horrible, he tried to be positive about it. As long as they plagued him Don was sure he would never make the same mistake twice.

For the briefest moment suddenly, his usual routine is just not enough. A fat tear rolls down his cheek and his eyes blink aimlessly. As a child in these moments he would do what came naturally; pack himself up and jump into Raphael’s bed till morning. As a teenager about to enter the adult status, stuff like that looked silly and were sometimes even awkward. He braved the idea out of his head and turned on the nightlight instead.

But it was no replacement.

 

2

 

Raphael woke up groggy and relaxed. His muscles were heavy in the most comfortable way. His shell had sunk into the mattress as if it were jelly. He was cosy and appreciated it deeply. The pill had done what Don had said; given him a deeply refreshing sleep that didn’t make him feel rotten in the morning. He also hadn’t had another dream as far as he knew.

Lazily blinked up at the ceiling he let that fact sink it. It was odd. He’d had so many at this point he was expecting them before he slept. Almost intrigued as to what it would be this time and what more he could find out about this mysterious fourth turtle. Somehow, he knew it wasn’t healthy to think like that and decided to focus on the success of the pills. If things ever got tough sleep wise at least Raphael knew he could fall back on these tablets. Long as it didn’t become a habit.

Now a little more awake he became aware at the strange sensations his body were feeling this morning. In some places, his skin felt tingly. As if fingers tips were barely tracing patterns on his leathery. The sensation moved away, traveling to spots that made Raphael’s breathing all that little bit heavier. He let the feeling gently overtake him. He had no idea what it was. Not in the slightest. At first, he thought it might be a psychical side effect of the medication its self. Until he felt the sensation of a hand press down on his lower plastron. He jolted upright, jolting about under the cover as he looked around the room. No one was there and it had not been his own hand. They had been behind his head since he woke up.

It was there again, linger fingers sliding down the centre line of his plastron. He let out a confused and shaky breath but groaned when the tingly sensation covered his groin. Suddenly all that pent up tension just shuddered through him. Half asleep and heavily aroused he forgot about the strangeness of the situation and allowed himself to follow the feeling.

He dropped a hand between his legs and went straight for his tail. Holding it gently, he let his thumb push strong lines down it, groaning again at the sensation. Everything was tingly. His hand, his tail, his sensitive lower plastron. Even his hidden cock could feel it. Raphael rode it out, finding it almost comforting, and continued to stroke his tail as his bulge developed.  He glanced down, eyes glazed over and mind fogged. Staring at his own slit he gently traced the parting downward with the edge of his thumb, and churred when the tingling happened in reverse, sliding past his fingers tips towards his chest.

Weak little noises started to escape him, though Raphael tried to keep the volume down. He bit the inside of his cheeks in hope it would stop his mouth from opening and covered it with a palm. Dropping down felt spiritually freeing. The moment it finished bobbing into place all the tingly touches from his plastron rushed towards it. It slid up the underside of his cock and settled on the tip. His head felt both sensitive and numb at the same time. And at one point he could of sworn something wet and warm was even touching him there. The tingling seemed to focus right there, gaining pressure, becoming stronger. Raphael gripped the base of his cock and only pumped as far as half way up.

With each passing churr the feelings on his genitals became too strong. And as his orgasm faded so did the ghostly tingling. He laid there, one arm folded over his brow, his other hand still gripping the base of his dick. Staring up at the ceiling he tried to calm his hammering heart with deep breaths. They did little to help. He may have had a great orgasm and he doubted he’d be able to get off a second time, but the rest of him burned with a need. There was a sickly twisting feeling in his gut. The kind you got when you were really shy or nervous.

Raphael had no explanation for the tingling, nor the swarm butterflies in his stomach.

 

3

Splinter had spent the passing days on the sidelines with purpose. He had sowed the seeds of understanding into his eldest son, now all it took was a little patience and soon, they would germinate. Splinter was confident he saw the roots already forming. Raphael was no different than an exotic plant growing outside its natural habitat: with patience, love and adaption, he grows slowly and surely.

The warning and advice he’d given had been absorbed. Now all it took was a good few days for his son to think things through and chew the fat off his words.

His sons may think they know their father’s schedule, but they are wrong. Nothing in such a small and well nit family gets out from under Father Splinter’s nose. In the very moment that Splinter over heard the soft noises of Raphael opening up to Donatello in the early hours of the morning, a large warmed smile had overcome him. He did not eavesdrop in on the conversation, simply put on the headphones Donatello had made for him and listened to his soap operas on the small portable telly fitted into his room. If it was a serious an issue Raphael would come to him in time as he always had done. Nothing in this family was bad enough to hide from their father. And even if Raphael was too stubborn to do so, Splinter would see the signs and emotions hang off him. He would speculate, snoop around his younger siblings, and figure out the old fashion way.

Due to the nature of their previous mission Splinter had requested that Raphael give his report the following morning when their scheduling returned to the standard. This morning was now. And Raphael had spent a good half hour going over all the details.

He frowned at the small printed paper Raphael had slipped on the floor in front of him and thoughtful pulled at the fur on his cheek. Don had scanned the images into his computer, fixed them up and Mikey had redrawn the designs to be clearer and easier to distinguish as the symbols had been well worn and weathered when the turtle had found them. It displayed both symbols. The left was the symbol Donnie had found:  The Purple Dragon’s Leviathan emblem, with a chain link underlining it, and a halo dripping onto the dragon’s face.  On the second, Michelangelo’s own find:  The ‘family’ emblem of the Foot clan, upside down like an arrow head, with the words LEVIATHAN written over in blue paint.

“There is no doubt that they are connected.” Splinter began. “The constant absence of Dragon and Foot crime alike, in such a specific time frame, is no coincidence. Both vanished after you reclaimed our home and outcast the Shredder.” His brow furred.

Raphael huffed out a frustrated breath.

“They are defiantly working together. The reference of leviathan in both emblems, the use of coral blue and the additional symbols are all too close to not match. Besides, we didn’t even fight da PD that night. Yet they just up en’ vanished like they neva existed to begin with. Crimes being real quiet and careful. People think police are doing a better job at cleaning up the streets and that’s being reflected in the media.”

“A false sense of security. It will make them harder to find.” He sipped his tea, giving his head a little shake in disappointment beforehand.

“Hopefully these cameras aren’t a waste of time then. Even if we can’t catch the foot on em’, there’s no way one PD moron isn’t gonna slip up right into one eventually.”

“If history is to repeat, then perhaps we won’t have to work too hard to find them, my son. We all know the Hun is a very proud man and perhaps even more arrogant, than Oruko, Saki, himself.”

Raphael’s face grimaced at the mention of the Shredder’s real name. “Just because we believe he may be dead, does not mean it is fact. No body has been found and this is not the first time the Shredder has cheated death.” He pointed his finger towards the symbols and brought the conversation back to his initial point.

“They have proved unable to work with one another successfully, time after time. Both are power hungry and their pride is easily sliced. Betrayal is beneath neither. They are no trust worthy ally to one another. They lack honour in their tactics.”

“You think they might end up fighting one another before we can even find em? Pushing one another out of da shadows and into our sight?”

“Perhaps,” he sipped again, closing his eyes and letting the smell wash over his snout. “Perhaps we will find them, and one will turn on the other as a defence tactic to distract our efforts and push our attention completely on the other. There are many possibilities we can think of. Even the idea, that whilst unable to find balance in their collaboration, that they in fact wipe out what little of each clan is left.”

“We aint dat lucky.” Raphael laughed a touch of genuine humour in his voice as he did so. Splinter hummed with equal amusement.

“Have you three come to any conclusions as to the marking definitions?”

“Could be anyfin right now. A lotta gangs have some sort of emblem key used to alert otha gang members without direct contact. Both have got so much done to them it could mean anything from ‘someone died’ to ‘recruitment night’. Donnie feels its da latter. The foot had a right butt kicking and it would be no surprise if their numbers of the main group are real down.  They may be tryna contact young foot recruits that haven’t quite made it in yet, or just other main groups that are scattered though New York in other strong holds. Cuz we’re pretty sure they’re workin’ together, and they both reference ‘Leviathan’, we think it might be an event somewhere.”

“Hmmm, but then the questions are when, where and what my son.”

“Yeah... We’re wrokin’ on dat one Sensei.”

Splinter hums deeply, looking down on his son. He is more than confident in his son’s abilities, and that of Raphael’s younger siblings, but the Foot had risen up once before. It would not be out of the question that they may rise up a second time. One small miss-maneuver could cost them more than a kidnapping this time. Splinter was oh so very sure that they would be out for slaughter to overwrite their un-honourable defeat the last time.

“Be very careful in your actions my son. We don’t want a bad slip up in any way. Even though the sights appear victorious for now, there is most definitely, something round the riverbend. We should treat it as if we were on very thin ice. Which brings us to the next part.  When will you be continuing to place the cameras?”

“Tomorrow night. We were gonna just continue dem after the first night but Donnie requested time to finish the algorithm beforehand. Says it should be done some point afta dinner but who knows. Wherever its done or not we’re gonna go out tomorrow night and just get it over with. Too much time is passin’. If they’re up to something bad we need to know it now.”

He didn’t sound angry, but he did sound frustrated. Shoulders tensing lightly as they dwelled on the subject.  

“We will get through this Raphael,” he reached out and placed a loving hand on his son’s shoulder. Raphael’s gaze lowered in respect. “It is just another chapter in our lives. And this chapter will have a good ending.” He squeezed in reassurance and pulled his hand back when Raphael’s shoulders relaxed.

“Now.” He paused reaching over to the pot of tea and refilled his own. “Let’s discuss other important matters. How have you been feeling since we last talked?”

He instantly sensed his son tense up awkwardly and mentally chuckled. Having finished topping up his own tea, he pulled out a second tea cup and filled it. He knew his son would not drink it, but he also knew his son would find it comforting. Raphael took it grateful and held it close to the middle of his plastron. The steam wafted up and brushed the skin of his neck gently.

When he didn’t exactly respond Splinter continued with a softer tone.

“I’ve noticed you’ve been spending more time with Donatello. And you have been a lot friendlier to everyone.”

Raphael’s eyes nervously wondered about the floor. He wasn’t sure what to say. It was an awkward enough subject as it was. “You don’t have to answer anything if you don’t feel comfortable. It pleases me to know you have listened to my desperate words and are making the changes this family needs to become close once again. Please, know this my son, that I love you indefinitely.”

Raphael quickly looked up at his father’s face, surprised by the words that left him.

“I am here for you now. And I always will be.”

“Thank you Sensei.”

Raphael quickly bowed out of respect, shell pointing upwards as he lent forward. Splinter smiled at the flush that covered his son’s face. Raphael didn’t handle the “L” word all that well. He never knew how to react to it, always got hot-faced and became immediately shy. Thankfully, Splinter didn’t need a “I love you Dad” back to sense the emotions within the turtle.

“Never forget your family Raphael, and all will be clear.”

He leant upwards again, eye burning with a warmth in them. His features went serious, but the embarrassed colour of his cheeks lingered.

“I would never do that father.”

Happy with his answer Splinter dismissed his son. Raphael gave another quick bow, got up to leave and made it to the doorway handle before his father stopped him.

“One more thing my son. You have looked exhausted the last few days. Make sure you are getting enough sleep before the next mission.”

Raphael frowned and nodded.

“Yeah, will do Sensei.”

 


 

 

Author Notes

Welp guess whos back with another chap- Wanted to get this out much sooner but didn't have access to it! Anyways, some very important things are about to happen, and infact have been set off in this chapter. The next couple ones will be longer chapters again more towards the length of chapter 1 & 2. I hope you think things are getting more interesting because some serious changes are just arround the corner. :D

Thank you for reading! I love to read comments so don't be afraid to post anything! What section of the chapter did you find most interesting and how are you feeling about the story so far? :)

Fun fact: I come up with chapter titles when I go to post them. The story was originally tittled the acronym R.A.M until I fillied out the submission info for chapter 1.But the chapters titles are also relevent to the story in the chapter, or reference something deeper thats hidden within the story.

 

Chapter Text

1

 

Casey Jones wasn’t the easiest to employ. He worked hard at what he did. Unafraid to do the grimy stuff most would shy away from. In many aspects, he was in fact an ideal employee. The only problem was Casey had strong opinions. Strong opinions that often overshadowed any workplace ethics that came with the job he was doing. Meaning if it went against his beliefs he wasn’t doing it and he was going to say it. He never kissed another’s ass, and did not respect authority figures unless they earned that respect. Most of the time Casey’s work streaks would end in some sort of disagreement. These disagreements tended to end in fist fights.

The one decent job Raphael remembered Casey holding down for more than a few good months was at a local working-class school. Really he’d been working at this community based youth-centre and the school were hiring them to run after school sports clubs. Casey was a hockey coach, unsurprisingly.

The school’s actual PE teacher, some arsehole Raphael was never told the real name of, liked to get involved in the after school projects if he could make them. First few months the guy was present he kept pissing off Casey every chance he could. Correcting his technique and insulting his skills. Few months in the guy crossed some sort of line and Casey challenged him to a fair game. The guy agreed and the club was split into two teams with Casey and the teacher as team captains. Casey won the game and the teacher couldn’t quite grasp that simple fact. He accused Jones’ of cheating and the fight followed suit.

Casey had to leave that job straight after that. The school dubbed him unfit to work with children and that was that. Those kids loved him though. Most of them tried to keep in contact afterwards, sending postcards and letters with photos from their games. Few would even go down to the youth cent-re Casey was still helping out in to pay a round of hockey. The job had meant a lot to him, so much. Raphael knew he wanted to start up his own kind of club for local youths; a better centre with better facilities that kids didn’t have to pay for. So Casey’s part time job turned into a full time job. At least while Casey was job hunting for something a bit more rewarding.

Raphael looked at the garage’s backdoor neon sign and shuddered from the cold. It had been broken, a few of the letters hanging below the sign by a single bolt. Each time the wind blew they swung with it. Someone had smashed the right side of the sign. The glass on the last letter was cracked and the red light inside desperately flickered.

‘Jimmies Junkies’ was a very special place indeed. April refused to go anywhere near the place and with good reason. And even if she’d wanted to pop down and see Casey work in the middle of the day he and Raph wouldn’t have let her either. If her vehicle ever broke down Casey took it to the garage himself personally and that was about as involved April got.

You didn’t need to go down and see the place to understand what kind of sleazy shit-hole it really was. All you needed to know was three simple facts:

  1. The guy who owned it was Jimmie.
  2. He was a junky.
  3. His friends were junkies.

And really that suited Casey just fine. As long as he didn’t sell drugs, didn’t see the drugs, or didn’t have to deal with Jimmie all too much he was fine. Jimmie himself had no work ethics anyway and hardy spent his time there unless it was the early morning. He mostly phoned in, if he even bothered too. Casey apparently handled him well. And while he had a lack of sympathy for men of his kind, he did think it was a shame. Jimmie wasn’t a bad person. He employed a lot of men trying to move past their criminal records, good men. He didn’t mind how you went about the garage as long as the car got fixed. And he was a family man at his core. He just had difficult things weighing him down. Casey knew what that was like. The only real issue were the hoard of tweakers that popped down to the place, either looking for Jimmie, Jimmie’s stock, or anyone else’s stock. If Casey was there then the tweakers were getting removed and nothing else. It wasn’t the best garage in the city but it at the very least hadn’t fired Casey in all nine year’s he’d been doing work for them, on and off. Sometimes that was enough.

Raphael growled and begun to rock back and forth, shift foot to foot. He was still at the backdoor entrance, hands shoved so far down the pockets of his bomber jacket it stretched past the top of his thighs. He tried o tuck himself into the caramel coloured fur rimming the collar but it did little to keep him warm. Of all the nights Casey had to choose he’d chosen the one day in the week it was pissing it down. Unfortunately he hadn’t headed his baby brother’s warning and had nothing to shelter him from the onslaught of rain and neither did his motorcycle. Neither his feet. He grimaced as he pushed his foot forward slightly and wet dirt not turned sludge squished between his toes.

It was a full fifteen minutes before Casey opened the door. Any longer and Raphael would have broken it in, the rain becoming too much to bear.

“Took ya fuckin sweet time,” he grouched.

“Not my fault you’re green and always come way to early.”

For the first time in a while Raphael saw Casey’s face clear as day. It was funny because the previous night Casey and April had been down long enough for Rah to have looked at them properly, yet he hadn’t remembered a single detail about how they dressed or looked. Now very much awake and focused he could see how much his face was healing up since their rooftop discussion. His friend still looked scruffy but he had shaved since that night and recently it seemed. His skin was ashy and dry round the stubble, probably from being stuck in this garage all week. The cuts had turned into scabs, the purple turning into a beetroot coloured blemish that tinted the skin under his face. He looked better, but he still looked god awful. It always astounded him how slow humans healed. He didn’t know if it was because of his turtle genes or the mutagen but his external injuries had healed up over a week ago. That he was grateful.

 Casey flipped a button on the inside of the doorway and a small roll shutter to the side began to open up. Quickly and with attitude Raphael started to move his motorcycle to safety within the garage’s back end. The place was empty, devoid of any other life forms. The shutters at the front of the garage were down and locked into place, the windows blocked. Raphael was safe to roam about naturally.

Out of nowhere a beer was shoved into Raphael chest. He put it on a counter but eagerly took it back once he jacket was off. There was a promise not to get drunk tonight but a single beer never hurt anyone.  

 “Dis better be damn good, especially if I get a cold Case.”

Casey had the terrible habit of dragging Raphael under false pretences. He’d lie about a vehicle that had been pulled in for repairs, get Raph to trug all the way down for company, and have a right laugh when Raphael saw some old junk pile instead of a pretty car. It would piss Raphael off immediately but he chose to keep quiet about that fact. It was touching to know that despite Casey Jones’s popularity with other human people, he would still rather choose to spend these moments with him. That level of respect and love was irreplaceable to Raph.

“Hey don’t get your tail in a twist. It’s worth it, trust me.”

When Casey began to walk round the worktable towards a low levelled car of some sorts covered up by a mysterious navy blue cloth, Raphael’s curiosity got the better of him. He followed him around heavy footed; inspecting the small details he could see while he sipped his beer. Jones turned to him with a classic grin before he pulled off the dust cover and gave a low seductive whistle. Raphael looked star-struck. He quickly placed the beer to the side and slid right up the front of the car, glancing over the sleek shiny bodice.

“Woah, a Cadillac...” the words left him in a soft yet amazed tone. He’d never gotten up close to a car of this calibre before. It was often spoken, but Raphael had specific tastes when it came to vehicles. He liked that late 1960 styled Harley Davidson look and the bikes from “Easy Rider”. And the cars, he preferred something more slimming rather than bulky, and couldn’t resist a nice convertible. When he’d first gotten into vehicle mechanics, part to help out Donnie, part to feed his growing interest in bikes, he’d been bought a collection of lovely hardbacks. He couldn’t remember who exactly bought him them, but it had been Christmas present, that he was sure of. It had been one of the first Christmas’ they were able to properly get their hands on gifts and live more ‘human’ like. There had been two in the set, one on classic cars, the other classic bikes.

“Yeah, 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, custom...”

Raphael buzzed around it like a bee, eager to touch it but scared he might leave some sort of irreparable mark. “She’s beautiful...” The body was a cherry orange and if it was made of food it would have probably left a sweet sherbet tang on the tongue. The framing was shiny silver, and the soft top roof that folded away like paper was a coal black.

“How’d you get such a pretty girl in a dump like this?”

He was honestly amazed. This was not the kind of garage to take a car like this at all. Casey’s face was nearly splitting in two, eye glued to the car himself.

“I know right? She’s not even fixed as well. Turned out that new kid, one working the morning shift, has got some fancy cousins. They decided to support his part time job and bring down some of their collection down. They paying a lot more than what Jimmie charges too.”

“Ya mean dey got more like her??”

There was a hint of high pitched excitement in his voice, like he was getting one for his birthday.

“Oh yeah. They got more. Saw some photos and it’s legit,” he lifted a thumb gesturing it towards the Cadillac. “She’s in there and everything. The plates and licenses also match up. Apparently if the jobs done right they got a few more cars that need fixing.”

“Woah,” He was at a loss for words and his excitement soon turned to anxiety as he looked back at the car.

“Man I would kill for this car.” Casey Jones snorted as he jogged off the side and retrieved a tool kit. “Raph you would kill for pizza and you know it.

When Casey returned with the toolkit Raphael instinctively took a hold of it without looking. No obvious damage was on the outside and that meant it was all internal. And as he was pretty familiar with the standard internal organs of most vehicles it didn’t take a lot of thinking as to what the problem was. Raphael’s time down into the garage was never lazy or simple. Yes they drank beer, but Casey also put Raphael to work. And them being them they ended up working real hard. Twenty minutes in and they were already covered in heavy grease marks, the Cadillac propped up with various car jacks. It hovered above Raphael who worked on the main body of the car from underneath. Casey was in the front, looking over the engine, passing back suggestions between the two of them as they tried to get the car to work again. Normally during these moments Casey and Raphael fell into a comfortable silence that was occasionally broken by the odd friendly insult. They didn’t need to talk much about the job unless it was a real hard one. Working individually within the shared space was comforting enough.

However tonight was different. While the car had successfully captured Raphael’s attention it did nothing to calm the thoughts swirling in his head. He still felt pretty drained as well. While he had what he could only describe as the best sleep in months, the grogginess still weighed within him. It was making him tired and things hard to focus. Yet at the same time he found it difficult to stop worrying about things. So many questions about the strange sensations this morning, the whereabouts of the foot clan, the purple dragons, what his father really thought of him and how was he going to fix things with his brothers. Every now and then thoughts about the dreams would slide in-between his worries and overloaded him. Casey could sense the stress roll off him in waves below the car. So he decided to break the silence this once.

“Are you okay Raph?”

The question catches him off guard. It’s so straight to the point and full of concern that it makes Raphael almost suspicious. Casey wasn’t a generic stereotype but he definitely carried a lot of traits associated with one. And yes he was very emotional and opened up about feelings more easily than the average guy, but he was never this forward about these kind of things, especially with Raph. At first he stopped, glancing about the wiring above his head as he thought about what direction he wanted this to go in. When the clanking resumed he was still quiet but acted as if the question had not made him uncomfortable. Casey knew better.

“Nah I’m doin’ fine... You?”

“Bullshit Raph,” he spoke loud, but with a hint of softness. A sign he wasn’t going to be swayed, but he wasn’t looking for a verbal fight either. The turtle bit the inside of his left cheek, squeezing them between his teeth until the flesh slipped free.

“I aint seen ya in a while now. You’ve been avoiding me and avoiding April and generally just being... weird.”

“Weird?” he could tell his green friend was frowning from his tone alone. The sounds of his wrench seemed to soften too, meaning he was losing focus on fixing the car and putting more into the conversation.

“Yer bein’ less of an asshole Raph.”

He frowned defensively at the inclination he was an arsehole at all. Though he knew it was a joke and more of a jab Raph decided to take it negatively and began to quickly work on a small pipe above him, clanking his wrench about as it were a weapon. “Tch” he couldn’t find a better thing to say and that was of course because Casey Jones was right that something was up.

 “It got anything to do with them daddy issues you mentioned last time?”

Raphael groaned loudly, dropping the wrench on the floor with a crash. He used his legs to pull him and the skateboard out from under the car and growled again as he pushed himself up into a seated position.

“Lay off Case...”

He didn’t want to talk about his family, or bring up any of the things they talked about from that night. In Raphael’s opinion both sides have over shared too much that night. And while Casey was okay with that and saw it as an opportunity to work on ones character, or push past the problems, Raphael was not okay with that. That kind of vulnerability was a weakness in his mind. It made him uncomfortable to be that open with someone; to reveal so much of your raw self to another being. He couldn’t understand it. He didn’t think he was capable of that. Not to his father, his brothers and most definitely not Casey Jones. He thought it was a lover thing because that had been the change that came with Casey and April coupling. And as if Raphael would ever experience something like that.

“I’m just sayin’ Raph. Things been a bit odd with you since that night and maybe talki---“

“I said LAY OFF!”

Raphael’s aggressive outburst silences the room. He’s aggravated, shoulders bobbing up and down as he tries to recompose himself. Casey is staring at the back of Raph’s shell and he can feel it the intensity of his stare. The turtle reaches out for a towel to wipe the grease off his skin, hoping it’s enough of a distraction to calm his emotions. It’s not often Raphael gets this mad with Casey, and when it does happen, it normally turns into a very rough fight, the kind that takes weeks to resolve. He can sense his human friend behind him probably weighing up his options. When Casey just sighs Raph starts to relax again. There will be no fight tonight.

“Aight Raph,” there’s no point in pushing this now, not when Raph hasn’t even finished a beer and Casey knows that. He’s tired, drained, and can’t be arsed to deal with one of his hissy fits because he doesn’t want to admit to how he’s feeling. It is a problem that can be pushed to another day. So he drops it, “...Whatever...” and goes back to work with a defeated tone.

There is a massive stab of guilt striking Raph’s gut in that moment. It is the small things like this that separate him from his friends and family and he knows this. Yet, its so god damned hard and he can’t help it. He wants to open his mouth and say the things deep within but it’s hard. So he settles for an easier option, but one that’s still difficult to say.

“I opened the bottle.”

Raphael mumbles it and Casey isn’t even sure if it imagined it or not.

“What?”

“I said I, er... I opened the bottle...”

Casey turned to his shell a puzzled expression hanging off his face. The beer he’d given he was in a can not a glass.

“That night you, you talked about the, the bottle that isn’t really a bottle?”

“Oh, right...”

“I opened it, just a moment. Talked to Don a little. Not a lot but, enough for now.”

“Is it helping?”

Raphael’s quiet for a few minutes and Casey watches his head top forwards and down, as if he’s getting upset and trying to level it out. His shoulders rise and fall slowly with a deeper breath before he answers.

“It will... I think it will.”

And that answer is good enough for Casey. He walks over to Raphael, tapping the back of his shoulder affectionately and patting it a few times before he walks past towards a small cooler. Raphael takes the time to turn the tables around and push the spotlight away from him.

“What’s going on with you then?” He caught the beer thrown his way, now understanding it’s time to down his first one. “You an’ Ape doing well?”

Casey seems to slow down at the question and a thick fog overcomes his face. He spends the time he takes to open the beer can quietly until the words find him. “Depends on yer definition of ‘doing well’.” Is what comes to him.

Raphael can’t help but be amused at that statement. It’s almost a complete parallel what he has said the last time they talked.

When Casey sits down opposite him his face seems to have twisted into something sad. It wipes the amusement right off Raph’s face. “Is it... Is it what I ‘fink it is?” Casey just nods, swishing his can about before he takes a long swig.

“I feel so useless.”

Raph can’t blame his human friend for feeling this way. Each year was the same and in some cases even worse. The anniversary of April’s father’s death was approaching and it killed her each time. Before Casey met her the turtle’s spent the most time with her during this period. And by the most time meant all the time. When she wasn’t working she didn’t want to be in the house, or above the ‘second time around’ shop her father had owned before her. So she would venture down into the sewers and distract herself with the company of her adopted family. It was then they found out about her little wine habit during her mourning phases. More than a few times Raphael had found himself being her main comforter, especially after bedtime hours. He’d hear her softly crying, or she’d have a nightmare, and he’d let her stay up in his room. At first she stayed in his bed and he would lie in the hammock, as he did most nights. However there would be times we she would need physical contact. Raph would hold her against him while she slept. Sometimes it was cruel; it feed into the teenage hormonal crush he had for her at the time. Other times it was comforting. It was a small little taste of what he assumed he would never had. It also left warm familiar feelings within him.

When Casey met her, and not long after that became her partner, he took on alot of that roll during these times. He replaced Raphael’s comfort in more ways than Raphael could have ever been. Their comfort had platonic; this was romantic and sometimes sexual. It seemed to have a better effect on April herself, but the effect it had on Casey himself was not so great.

There were many factors that came into play with why Casey found it difficult to push through. April’s wine habit this time of year was hard to control and even harder to manage. During these periods Casey often felt like he drew the short straw. He never knew what to say and most of the time he felt like he was saying the wrong thing. He had no strong parental bonds growing up, only ones full of pain and regret. His father was an absent shadow, having been killed when he was young. And the effect’s that his father’s death had had on his mother made his upbringing harsh and lacking. April was too close to her father and in alot of respects Raphael could relate with the feelings she was holding onto. He had his own taste of it recently and it had been far worse than he could have imagined.

Raphael groaned and tried to find the right word’s inside of his brain but fell short. He offered what he could in terms of comfort, but just as Raphael struggled with his brother’s he was equally struggling with this. Being compassionate was not a welcomed character trait, but at least he was trying.

“Hey look, what matters is dat yer there for her,” he gained the attention of his friend and held his gaze. “Like ya been saying to me, that’s the most important thing.”

Casey nodded weightlessly, almost convincing himself as he glanced down to his drink. He was mulling over the words, and probably thinking a lot of other things to. Raphael could sympathise. His mouth pushed slightly to the side into one of his cheeks as he did so.

“Yeah... Yeah I know Raph.”

His reptilian friend hasn’t said anything groundbreaking that Casey doesn’t already know. In fact, he’s said jack shit on the subject, but Casey knows Raph’s heart is in the right place when he says this to him. Especially after the way things have been for him lately. So regardless of how crap the advice is Casey appreciates it nonetheless.

 

2

 

Raphael lets out a loud grunt the moment he’s in the clear. He’s angry to himself; angry at his inability to share, and angry at his inability to comfort. As far as he was concerned Casey was suffering way worse than he currently worse. And yet despite this Casey was wasting his efforts on Raphael’s problems. He had nothing to add on to the April situation that Casey hadn’t heard a thousand times before. Now he was the one feeling useless, but that was no different than usual. The same feelings in a different context.

Raph kissed his teeth and pulled out a crumpled cardboard box out from the side of his belt. He wasn’t really a smoker. He’d done it a few dumb times with Casey and it had mainly been to impress. And while Raphael was heavily against alcohol and drugs, he still found himself drawn to such vices. He didn’t know why. Maybe it was to feel more human, more like a normal kid. He didn’t really care. When nothing else took the edge off his stress these little things always did and that was what really mattered.

The flickering of his lighter was the only light in the shadow he had hidden in. Its colour warmed up his skin, giving it an amber glow as if he were lost in time. When the lighter died out the butt end of his cigarette gently glowed. Raph didn’t think much as he inhaled and exhaled with a relieved sigh. The things tasted like shit and the feeling was the only nice thing he could dwell on right now.

Wrestling with the bag on his hip he pulled out a small map of the borough he was in. It had various ballpoint pen markings across it full of symbols, circles, arrows and the messy short-hand scribbles of Donatello. Raphael knelt down and propped the map half up, using his other hand he pull out his lighter again so he could read the map better. He positioned it so the map covered its light up and remained in the shadows. Being careful not to burn the paper with the cigarette or lighter he hovered as far back as he could manage.

“Urgh,” some of the listed locations were on the other side of the borough. While it would be easy for him to pop over and check out any questioning cameras out Raphael honesty couldn’t be bothered. According to Don they were still recording film footage completely fine and the battery life was running strong. They could easily wait for tomorrow to be checked out when they returned to putting the rest of the cameras up all across New York. A few of them were scattered in a pleasing pattern that lead towards home. Among them, the questioning location that had Don concerned about the camera feeds all together. For a moment lost in his thoughts Raphael’s imagination altered reality. He felt the neon blue light burn through the map and suddenly got the compulsion to drop everything and head there right away.

And he did, but he did not ignore the three cameras along the way beforehand. He could hardly contain his excitement when he reached the rooftop bar named “Leon’s”. The blue light flickers all the way until he’s standing underneath it. Then it seems to hum full of life and glow brightly, almost as if it were happy to see Raphael. The longer he looks at the sign the warmer his plastron begins to feel. At one point the letter ‘n’ flickers dangerously and burns out with a high-pitched pop that makes Raphael jump internally. When he looks back at the sign and reads the word “Leo’s” the feeling suddenly changes. His breath hitches in his throat and he’s overcome by the butterfly sensation he experienced this morning. His hands are shaky and he’s trying to ignore the chills in the back of his shell.

The wind brushes past him to the left, making him turn with it. It whispers “hey” when it kisses his cheeks. He follows the end of the breeze with his eyes and it has disappeared off into the second staircase towards the weathered garden area. He pulls himself back against the pull and painfully turns away. Something about the staircase still makes him uncomfortable. He does not what to go up there, not now at least. It’s the same feeling he gets when he has to go into the storage room next to his bedroom. It makes the butterflies in his stomach turn into metal blocks.

Regaining what little control he has left in his body he begins to travel towards the general direction of the camera’s location. He remembered putting it in the corner of one of the walls that actually connected, high up and at an angle. It isn’t there and Raphael’s brow creases. When he pulls out a small flashlight and inspects the area more closely it still isn’t there. It occurs to him that the wind here was stronger due to the construction of the surrounding buildings. It’s being funnelled into a tight space and a very strong open wind could potentially knock things over in such an enclosed space. Wondering if he’s right he searches the ground around him for the camera. Its plastic body becomes shiny when the flashlight skims its surface. The camera has fallen and rolled between the spaces where the two walls meet. Luckily, it was too big to fall through and onto the ground below, but it has managed to lodge it’s self between the brick work.

Squeezing into the tight corner as much as he could he began to slowly seat himself into a squat and pushed his chest forward. His right hand closed around the camera and tried to gently rock it back and forth in an attempt to dislodge it. His left hand hovered next to his head shinning the light down into the camera. A few times he gave it a hard pull out of frustration and the flashlight wobbled with him, splashing onto the wall opposite his head. That’s when it caught his attention. He stopped moving, blinking at the muddy wall opposite his face. Slowly he shone his flashlight on it, the spotlight circle mapping out the wall until he found an indentation. Carved into the wall with what was probably a thick blade was the date “1996”.

A small wave of nostalgia hit him. It’s the year he and his brother’s were allowed topside officially. Raphael had snuck out many times before but his father had always been a hawk. He’d either been found in twenty minutes or less, forced home before he even got out of the manhole. The first outing had been fun disguised as an exploration mission. It was simply a new found freedom Splinter was introducing, alerting them of their maturity. It had been a night full of mischief and mayhem. One they’d enjoyed heavily. The memory was very close to Raphael’s heart.

Upon closer inspection it appeared that two different blades had been used to carve the date into the wall. One indent was scratchier and the other one more smoothed, the edges more rounded as if something cylinder shaped had rubbed the numbers into the brickwork. Raph thought for a moment on it and then quickly spun his Sai out of his belt. He slid the tip into the marking and it fit with ease, no brick pieces scraping against it. The other markings where defiantly made by something blunter with a shorter tip, like a thick angled knife.

Raphael was pretty sure he and his brother’s hadn’t made this marking, but the inclination that they did was very strong. Unsure of himself he decided to take a picture of it back with him and pick his brothers brains. See if they remembered making it on a separate occasion perhaps. Having taken the picture on his shell-cell he turned his attention to the still stuck camera, prying it out of the wall gap using the end of his Sai.

The wind whipped round him once more and the strong urge to turn around and walk towards the staircase overwhelmed him. He stood his ground however, grunting through the feeling as he pulled a brand new fully functional camera out of his bag. Slipping his Sai back into his belt he stood up straight and put the new camera into place. Happy with his work he found himself rushing to the exit of the rooftop bar. He felt the strong need to look back longingly at the bar but kept his head straight ahead. As he walked down the ramp he heard the wind sigh disappointingly behind him.

Guilt seeped into him like he was some sort of sponge. The feeling held onto him his entire journey back. By the time he got to the entrance tunnel of his home he felt the worst he’d felt all day. Even shitter than when he’d been talking to Casey about April.

Trying to push away the feelings like he had done earlier on only made them heavier. They were like metal weights pulling his stomach down to the ground. It was that horrible sense of guilt that he’d felt the previous night. Like turning away from that place was something he really shouldn’t have done. It instantly took him back to a time when he was six and Splinter was scolding him because he was doing the thing that Splinter had explicitly told him not to do.

In an attempt to distract himself he decides to walk towards where he has to go: Don’s Lab. Like clockwork Don is in there working on plans to improve their living space and made life just a little more comfortable in the sewers, like he does every day after 10PM. Don hasn’t fully acknowledge Raph’s presence as of yet, caught up in his own thoughts, but Raph hasn’t exactly crept on him either. The bigger brother wonders around, putting the gear he had taken from the room back into its place quietly. When he’s done he wonders over to Don’s shell, camera from the rooftop bar in his right hand. He’s looming over Don’s shoulder at the various blueprints’ he’s working on. One of the corners peering out from under a few other sheets shows upgrades for a motorcycle and Raph smiles at the notion.

“You’re a little late Raph,” Donatello states softy, still focused on one of the blueprints on his desk.

“Yeah I know. Casey needed the work. Came back as soon as, sorry...” He mumbled apologetically, relaxing when Don didn’t seem to appear upset by it. After all he was grateful his big brother was home at a reasonable time, sober at that too. There was no reason t be irritated with him, especially since Don was trying to stay on Raphael’s good side since their discussion the previous night. Raphael may have said they were in fact ‘cool’ but Don had this small inkling things still weren’t as ‘cool’ as they could be.

“It’s okay Raph,” with that he spun around in his spiny chair, putting on a smile and resting his hands loosely in his lap. “Got anything for me?”

“Yeap,” with that Raph tossed the camera at him. Don caught it with little effort and inspected it closely.

“Looks fine to me. Where was it?”

“Fell down and got stuck between two walls ‘fore it could hit da ground. The brick probably scrapped something.”

“Hmm, maybe. But it did glitch when it was high up in position. I never saw it fall in the footage before the camera went cold this morning.” He got out of his chair and walked over to his computer desk. Raphael groaned as he watched Don start up the chunky desktop monitor. He couldn’t understand how Don could stand those things. “I’m gonna check if there is any footage on the camera that didn’t stream over. I’m hoping the glitching was just signal interference. If I’m right I should find out what happened to it and I’ll show you in the morning. Anything else?” He hummed happily, leaning back and stretching his body upwards as the computer’s start screen flickered on.

“Nah. Gonna go bed now. Remember tomorrow is important so not too late tonight Donnie.”

“Yeah yeah...” he yawned and Raphael chuckled. The moment with his brother seemed to settle the negative feelings bubbling inside of him, but not completely. He made it all the way to the doorway before he stopped, smile slipping off his smooth beak.

“Actually Donnie...”

Donatello turned to him when he heard nothing. Raph’s shell was facing him stuck in the doorway. He could see his brother’s head slowly bob up and down as if he were trying to figure something out. His hand was perched on the door frame just next to his head, fingers tapping at it lightly. He turned his head slightly, an unsure gaze glancing backwards at Don. “Took one of em’ pills last night.”

“How did it go?”

“Didn’t dream. Slept great but urm... In da morning, got this weird tingly sensation in my body.”

“Oh?” Don lent up with interest, curiosity setting into his face. Raphael decided to skip over some of the details out of embarrassment. “Yeah, this sort of numb tingly feeling. Kinda like pins and needles, cept in was everywhere but like, on and under my skin.”

Don hummed again in thought. “I’m not sure if that is just a side effect. Take it again tonight and I’ll look it up. If it doesn’t happen again or I can’t find anything it might just be that your muscles haven’t gotten a good rest in a long time. We’ll see.” He smiled and Raphael nodded.

“Night Donnie.”

“Night Raph.”

Donatello waited for his brother to close the door before he turned his attention back to the monitor. Its blue light painted teal lines on Don’s skin. He’d download the information from the camera, check to see if it’s accessible and filter through before heading off to bed himself.

Raphael made his way to his room slowly. Splinter is watching one of his scheduled shows in the living area, using the projector screen rather than the various television sets behind. He wishes his son good night before turning all attention back onto his show. Raph enters stealth mode as he climbs the staircases. It is evident Mikey has gone to bed, and being the light sleeper that he is Raphael doesn’t want to wake him. The only noise he makes is a click as he looks his door into place. Once inside his room away from Mikey he relaxes and lets go of his full weight. Despite being used to the manual labour, working on the classic car at Jimmies’ has worn his biceps out. They burn lightly as he strips off any remain gear. He’s too tired to have a shower, or brush his teeth even. Those chores can wait till the morning. What he needs is a good night’s sleep. He’s about to get in the hammock and then he remembers it’s not up. It’s still in the corner of the room, still unwashed, and it makes him grimace. He needs to remember to take it out in the morning. It’s already a wonder it isn’t letting off a smell. Either that or Raph is immune to the stench already. Undefeated and lazy Raphael flops down on his mattress belly first, grumbling when he leans to the side to grab at Don’s pill bottle. Flipping up the cap he turns it upside down and shakes it. Nothing drops out. He groans.

He should go down to Don and get new pills, but the lab is so far away, too far to bother. So he sighs and buries his face into his pillow, hugging it close. Sleep is tugging at his eyelids and before he knows it he’s already drifting off. He’ll ask for new pills in the morning. For now, he sleeps.

 

3

He was here again, running helplessly for his life, braving the terrors of the foot clan. The sounds of his family were nearby, but yet so far away at the same time. This time there were no sidewalks in the sewer tunnel for Donatello to run across. Instead he had to waddle through the sewage, occasionally splashing about and slipping under as he tried to get away. He could hear the sounds of rushing water up ahead where it seemed to dip forward. He hoped for his sake that was a large drain pipe leading into a tunnel bellow. That could save his life if he could only get there quick enough.

The Foot Ninja were close, hot on his trail. They scuttled along the walls and ceilings like bugs, their twisting forms constantly shifting. They were no longer human, not that it mattered much. The further Don got the harder it became to move his legs. The floor also seemed to get lower and lower, till Don’s toes no longer touched it. He was swimming through the dirty sewage; part water, part slime. It seemed to get nearly impossible to control himself. The focus from earlier was gone and Don began to panic. Without warning the water around him dropped.

He seemed to slip through a drainage system, metal knocking into his shell and scraping it as he slid through. Hitting the pool of still water below disorientated him, but he soon regained his bearings and climbs to safety. Lifting himself onto a ledge Don forced himself to run through the nearest tunnel, legs giving out as he did so. When he was far enough he stopped to regain his breath, sliding down the curved wall with shuddering breaths. It was silent. He heard the foot march in a different direction, around and past the tunnel he hid in.

The sense of relief was immediate, but it did not last. To his left deeper in the tunnel he heard an awful metallic clank. It made his heart pound and his body jerked away from the wall. The light from the room he’d ran from filled this end of the tunnel, creating a shadowed barrier where the tunnel began to curve round a corner. It was something out of a horror movie to him, like a deleted scene from Ridley Scott’s Alien. The black tunnel had ridges along it, their edges highlighted in bright white. Don saw a shadow shift towards him through it, gripping helplessly along the side of the tunnel.

“D-ddonnie?”

The breath that left Donatello was loud and heart breaking. Within an instant he rushed towards the voice he knew so well, grabbing onto his body and pulling him against the wall towards his plastron. He said his name a few times, pressing his beak against the side of his cheek in shock.

“D-donie I’m... I’m...”

He pulled away, squinting as he looked down at his brother’s form. It was hard to tell what was wrong, but something was wrong. He carefully pushed his palm against part of his brother’s middle and instantly pulled away. Warm wetness had squished around his fingers during the touch and that terrified him. When he pressed his hand back against the wound he felt the blood gush out and slip past his palm. He also felt the way the flesh seemed to be pushed inwards. A sob broke out through his body and he began to clamp both hands over it, pushing down with a desperate need to stop the bleeding.

He didn’t have anything to help apply the pressure on the wound. He didn’t have a shell-cell on him to call for help. It had no weapons or lighters to seal the wound. Hand no med-kit to clean and dress and stitch. He had nothing but himself, his useless self. He couldn’t hear his brothers words anymore, they were drowned out by groggy moans and Don’s own crying.

He was useless. Here he was, everything he had trained himself to be, the valid essential team member. And yet he couldn’t stop Raphael from bleeding to death.

 

4

 

When he woke up from last night’s nightmare he remembered distinctly thinking no other fate would be worse. This night’s nightmare proved him wrong. He should have known better than that. After all, where his father had raised them independent from their parent, so that they may survive in his absence, he had forgotten how to teach them to live apart from one another. Donatello knew deep down that if even one brother were absent he would be unable to function. They were everything to one another, extensions of themselves. To be torn from one another was to have a limb missing.

And what worse than the loss of his big brother, the turtle who makes sure their world continues to turn.

It was harder to stop sobbing this time but he managed as best he could. By the end of it his eyes were tired and slightly puffy. Most importantly they were dry and empty. He didn’t want to stay in the bed lingering so he drifted off downstairs in hopes of shaking the terrible feelings from him. On the way up the staircase he found himself standing still. He need to go up and around to the right, all the way to the end of the hall to reach his own room. But just a few steps upwards and left was the doorway of his older brother. His fingers twitched as he found himself unable to suppress the childlike habit he had the previous night.

Going against all the adult thoughts in his head he quietly clicked Raphael’s bedroom door open and slipped in. He isn’t in his hammock but in his bed for once. There’s a very faint but odd smell in the corner that seems to be coming from a rolled up piece of fabric that Don presumes is the hammock. It’s too dark to tell and he doesn’t want to go towards it. Instead he heads straight towards his brother and gently kneels down beside the bed. Raphael is sleeping on his stomach at an awkward yet comfortable angle, cheek squished against the pillow pulling his mouth open at one side. Every now and then parts of him twitch lightly and heavy snores that sound like soft rumbling escape him. Don presses two knuckles against Raph’s cheek and softly drags them downwards. It’s strange to see his leader so vulnerable and so relaxed.

Raphael’s face twists with feeling briefly, wherever it’s in discomfort or not he cannot tell. Don can only assume he’s dreaming deeply about something. Wanting to be as careful as possible he gently places a hand on Raph’s shoulder and rocks him till he’s half awake.

“Raph... Raph?”

He awakens with a snort that makes Don chuckle. Raph can’t see his younger brother, but he can hear him, except he’s too groggy to understand that.

“Raph can I stay? Just tonight?”

When his big brother blinks stupidly at him Don keeps repeating it until the words sink in. Raph doesn’t outwardly say yes. He just mumbles unintelligible garbage and rolls away till there’s enough space for Don to slip in next to him, then starts snoring even louder. Don eagerly gets into bed before Raph can wake up and tell him to go to his own room. He carefully positions himself so he’s close enough to Raph’s plastron without being overly snugly. Too much contact will wake him and make him feel incredibly awkward and Don intended to stay till morning. He rested his head against the underside of Raph’s bicep and curled into his own shell. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep next to his bigger brother.

 

5

 

“I don’t understand you.”

Raphael doesn’t understand either. Everything was so disorientating. The dreaming was always too deep to tell apart from reality and he wouldn’t know this wasn’t really happening until he woke up, like all the other times. Deep down there was a voice in him that said “you are asleep” but the words didn’t hold meaning in this world. They were empty, almost as empty as he was in this moment.

They were alone together and talking, as they tended to do when it was just them. The family were, asleep? No, they both weren’t at home. At least it didn’t look like home. It didn’t matter he decided. He had his shell to him, swords in their sheaths. He was shaking his head and Raphael caught the occasional blur of his face when he moved his head too far to the left.

“I’m getting tired of this Raphael.”

There was this defeated tone in his voice. His throat sounded rough and raw, as if he’d been shouting earlier.  It ignited something within him, something hostile and bitter.

“Wat’s the matter? Death as well as blind?” the words left him like a snake spitting venom. He didn’t know why, but it felt good to be mad. To be taunting and stubborn, the opposite of how his father raised him to be. The words seemed to strike a nerve and the mysterious turtle stilled his body before glancing back in anger. His eyes were still a mish-mash of blotched pixels, but their intensity did not waver.

“Don’t test me Raphael.”

The words left him smooth and thick as if he were mentally cutting the space between them.

“Or wat? Ya gonna tell daddy I hurt ya feelings?”

“I’m warning you Raphael.”

“Yeah all you do is warn.” The sarcasm was gone. All the aggressive humour designed to piss the other one off melted away. All that was left were raw feelings he’d been hiding behind the surface, feelings he perhaps didn’t even fully agree with. This was not about who was right, this was about passing on the blame, making himself feel better.

Don’t do this. Don’t do that. You sound like a fuckin’ parrot. All talk no action.”

The other turtle span round silently. He took a dominate stance, shoulders pushed back and arms proudly clenched either side of his shell. His head appeared thinner, sharper and Raphael assumed the look he was giving him was one of anguish and disappointment. It only spurred him further on.

“If you had of listened to me none of dis woulda happened. The shredder woulda been dead, the foot no more...”

Your plan would have gotten our heads severed!” the turtle hissed.

Raphael ignored his older brother and continued as if he hadn’t of said anything.

“No, instead we followed yer stinkin plan and now we hiding behind a bunch of cameras like we got something to be scared of.”

“We have everything to be afraid of. We don’t know what they are up to Raphael!”

“Pff you absolute pussy. Just admit it, you were wrong.”

“No. I will not. I was right Raphael.”

 

“No you weren’t p̶̧̧̦̦̘͍̺̳̼̗̱̜͉̫͈̣̍ͫ͒͋͊͆̍̒̍ͮ̊̉̐ǝ̢̨̮̯͚̩̪̠͉̣͕̘̻̖̦̟̟͙̦̍̅ͥ̒̓̚ͅͅʌ̯͉̟̟͍̖̺̺̜̦̈̄̏̆ͦͭ̚͢͠o̠̩̖͎ͨ̌ͩ͗́͜ɯ̵̴̵̼͎̭̱̟͓̦͕̠̮ͨ̒̄́̂ͤͩ̂̒̑ͦ̑ͫ̚̚ͅǝ̧̧̨̹̩͚̳͖̩͛̍̑̇ͬ͂͊͌͗͐̈́̆̌̊̉ͣ́̚ͅɹ̡̛ͩ͂́̽͋̂̾͗̓́͟͏̤̻̙̰̹͍ ! You fucking weren’t!! Why can’t you just say it?!”

 

“I made the right choice Raphael!”

Raphael growled, his aggression beginning to take over. In an outburst of rage, to quick to stop, Raphael grabbed the nearest object and threw it against the wall. The horrid smashing sound it made did not make the other flinch. He was used to this. So used to this.

“You think yer so perfect don’t cha? Think yer better than me in every way?”

“No Raph...” the turtle shook his head side to side, walking backwards a few steps as he did so. “I’m not the one who thinks I’m perfect...” he turned to walk away, head to wherever Raphael wasn’t, but he couldn’t have that. He had to have the last word, the last action. He had to start the last fight and he had to be the one to end it. Growling he lunged forwards nails gripping into his brother’s shoulder and twisting him around painful. They gasped but let the action move them, and Raphael pushed them into the concrete wall. The cool New York breeze rushed past him and suddenly he knew he was outside.

“Don’t walk away from me!” he shout was loud, but his brother kept his hiss low and deep.

“Oh how funny. So you can walk away from every responsibility in your life? You can walk away from me because I said something you didn’t like but I go to do it in for the first time in your life and you can’t even handle it?”

It was unusual for him to lose his patience in these moments, but Raphael had that affect on him. Always made the unexpected happen, always made him snap. Raphael didn’t like that response. It made him want to punch his brother, and therefore he did.

But they didn’t move. They didn’t dodge his punch and they didn’t grab his wrist when he went to punch again. His brother’s face kept turning back to him and Raphael went to punch more times, each one weaker than the next.

“Fight me!”

But the face staring back to him was devoid of fight. There were no emotions, no features, no psychical notions carved into the flesh. The final punch, now more like a tap, sunk into his cheek. The other brother gently took hold on the wrist, leaning into his throbbing palm with a sigh.

“I don’t understand you.”

Raphael’s throat trembled, unable to keep the intense emotions contained within himself. He did not speak, just stood there shaking. The anger was gone and he felt pathetic.

“I’m so tired of fighting.”

He slid a hand gently round the back of Raphael’s neck and pulled him towards the grove where neck met shoulder.

“I don’t get why you want me to hate you so much. Why you try to hurt me like this. I don’t understand it at all.”

Raphael rested against his brother’s shoulder in silence. A few tears began to escape him and he instantly felt dishonoured by their presence. He wanted to disappear. To be erased completely. He felt so many things and the voice deep down within him, the one who knew he was dreaming and that this wasn’t real, did not understand any of them: Embarrassment, fear, great loss and heartbreak. So many things were wrapped up in a ribbon of anguish and they wanted to consume him. For a brief moment as his big brother wrapped his arms around him into a tight loving embrace, he felt a moment’s peace. Like calm before the storm. Raphael’s heart sunk inside his shell and gave a heavy throb. He stopped shaking enough to push the words out of his throat.

“Because I don’t deserve ya.”

 


 

 

Author Notes

Longer chapter like the start. The start of important sub-story lines are coming next chapter, as is the end of the slow build up to the adult themes in this story. Things are about to slowly (but quicker than they have been!) become more crazy and I cannot wait to share it! I really enjoyed writing all of this, especially Casey and Raph just relaxing together. As always thank you for reading and please share your thoughts, which part of the chapter was your fav, or just you viewpoint on the story so far! 

Where will the story go next? Casey seems to be struggling with his relationship, but is it as bad as it seems to be? Is Raphael maybe focusing on one to many problems? Donnie appears to be getting a little too close for comfort, and Mikey was mysteriously absent from the day in this chapter and the last. This is the calm before the storm, but is it really calm at all? 

Little bit of time between this chapter and the next due to its length and the complexity of the stories next part! However I will be as quick with an update as possible. :)

Chapter Text

1

 

The world had turned into a giant whirlpool. With his final words everything began to turn to the left; spinning into an infinite circle. The sky seemed to tear with it. The turtle in his arms slid away into a giant cloud of blue powder.

His reality was being torn at the seams before his eyes. Despite this, nothing about the sight before him appeared violent. So, Raphael remained calmed if not dazed, and gently followed the mystery’s turtle blue smoke as it swirled around him.

“Hey… Hey Raph,”

He seemed to be fazing in and out of this space. Out of the neon coloured rooftop and into his bedroom. His surroundings kept shifting between the two locations, unsure of where he really was.

Teetering on the edge of this dream world and his reality, he groaned painfully.

“Raph…”

The blue smoke turns into a dark grey shadow on the bedroom wall.

“Raph?” He awakens with a snort that makes Don chuckle.

There’s laughter that he recognises but cannot confirm. He slips into sleep again briefly; a baby blue light brightening behind his eyelids.

Raph can’t see his younger brother, but he can hear him, except he’s to groggy to understand that. “Raph can I stay? Just tonight?”

Stirring awake he blinks stupidly at Donatello. When his eyes lull back into the back of his head Donnie shakes him gently. The pull of slumber is far stronger than anything else Raphael has ever experience. The shake awakens him again and forces his eyelids half open. He can see the person talking to him is a turtle. But who is it? He cannot tell. He mumbles acceptance to the answer and then he…

…rolls away until there’s enough space for Don to slip in next to him, then starts snoring even louder.

He doesn’t hear or feel Donatello get into bed next because he is already deep asleep and venturing into the blue smoke. Things are still twisting back into place, creating a new environment that seems oddly familiar. Once everything has found its new place the smoke disappears and the world around him stops spinning.

It’s the corridor from the second floor of his home; the one where their bedrooms can be found. Except everything is different. There is no staircase leading down to the first floor. Only a balcony overlooking the city above ground. The road is full of empty cars and distant streetlamps that glow in the dark.

He turns to face the bricked wall behind him, letting his eyes follow it upwards. The ceiling is gone, replaced with a black boundless sky that looks like water. This water rains down onto his skin: cold and comforting. And the walls that never end tower  above him and out of sight.

Raphael suddenly notices Donatello’s bedroom is the nearest to him. He reaches out for the doorknob, overcoming by humble gratitude his family is here to share the rain with him.

When he opens the door the room he sees is clearly his brothers bedroom. All the personal items and furniture have been squashed against the walls and out of the way. The middle of the room is empty save for his brainy brother.

Donatello is sat cross legged on the floor tinkering with an object Raphael can’t quite see. Raphael goes to open his mouth to speak but is immediately hushed by his younger brother. Don’s eyes briefly flicker to him and his face twists with irritation.

The hot head immediately begins to sizzle. He’s hurt by Don’s rudeness but tries to remain understanding. Leaning into the room he attempts to sneak a peak at the object without disturbing his brother.

It’s made up of various strange silver cubes all attached at awkward angles, like they have been forced into one another. Thick tubes exit and twist around its metal exterior before re-entering at another point. Donatello is twisting it around like it’s a Rubik’s cube. He turns it in ways that seem physically impossible to Raphael. When one cube shifts so do all the others. Some even open up spaces between them, revealing a brilliant pink light that glows from within.

Raphael went to speak again, interested in knowing what the strange object was and what Donnie was trying to do with it. But dream Donnie let out a terrifying noise of disgust and Raphael watched in silence. As that disgust melted into a serious concentration Donnie’s mouth gently parted.

“The fate of time rests in your hands.”

Raphael’s facial expression turned confused and he leant back out of Donnie’s room. The words had struck a chord deep within him, but he was very unsure as to whom Donatello had said those words too. He seemed nearly oblivious to his big brother’s presence, gaze burning intensely into the cube he held.

Had those words been for him? Or was something else there in the room with them?

Nothing else was to be said so Raphael shut the door and continued onwards to the next one. He hoped his bubblier brother would be kinder to him.

It’s well worn handle was cold to touch, and the door slowly swung open with little force. It creaked as it did so, as if it had not been opened in a long time, and gently knocked into a dresser before it stilled. The room was as always messy and well enjoyed, though it lacked a certain warmth it normally held.

The room was embraced in a blanket of dark, his little brother no where to be seen.

“Mike?”

He couldn’t feel his brother’s presence in the room either. Yet there was nowhere else he could have been in the first place. Convinced the knuckle-head wasn’t here he nearly moved on, but then he noticed the light switch next to his head and flipped it.

The main light buzzed to life, quickly brightening up until it was to bright to look into the room. The fuzz fizzed out and the light bulb shattered with a loud pop. In the few seconds the room had been bright Raphael had seen a dresser with a mirror in the corner of the room.

And in the reflection of the mirror he had seen the corner of the room next to him, the one blocked out of sight by the bedroom door.

Michelangelo had been standing in the corner, facing where the walls connected, his shell reflecting through the mirror into Raphael’s eyes. His arms were stiff at his sides, his body still without the soft bob that came with breathing. A ghost in the corner of the room. Michelangelo did not speak.

For a moment Raphael feared the skin had been stripped from his baby brother’s face. An unusual and irrational fear for him to have.

When the light had died so had the memory of what he’d seen. He did not remember the terrifying reflection and had no explanation for the fear he currently felt. Unsure of where Mikey was he closed the door and moved on. Unknowingly leaving the phantom alone in the dark.

Next up was his own bedroom. His hand gripped the door handle loosely, but he felt no desire to enter at all. Putting his ear to the door he listened. On the other side, he could hear this distant howling noise.

“Don’t go in there.”

There was no one else in the corridor, so where did the voice come from? He looked to the left and saw the storage cupboard door. Or was it his older brother’s bedroom? He couldn’t tell.

“You’ll only upset yourself.”

The voice came from behind the door. When Raphael didn’t reply he could hear the voice sigh softly. On the floor was a dirty stain protruding from the door’s floor gap. As if something had once tried to drag it’s self out of the room. A sound came to life. One that reminded Raphael of a jar full of wasps desperate to escape. He glanced above the doorway and saw the neon’s signs radiant blue. The sight comforted him.

Raphael squinted for a moment, pondering on the sign. Something was wrong with it, although it had not changed from when he last saw it.

An excited chill overcame him when he touched the door handle. A spark of electricity deep within. It felt intimate, the way it travelled through his body.

“Why? Wat’s in there?”

He calls, half expecting no reply. As Raphael turns the door he hears the other let out an excited sound.

“The fate of time.”

He enters the room, closing the door behind himself.

 

2

 

It was a black gleaming eye in the dark; a small pearl lost in the shadows. Karai overlooked it with a sense of curiosity. Her thumb glided over the small crack she had made in its side.

(Utrom technology…)

There was a shift of sound to her right, a foot ninja lacky appearing out of nothing. He knelt by her side, bug like eyes looking carefully at her hands with wonder. She glanced at him and held out her hand, dropping the small sphere.

“Camera.” She whispered and the foot ninja caught it effortlessly, pocketing it for future use.

Disabling the camera without being caught on it had been no easy task. She assumed it had been planted by the purple one, for he seemed to be the only one with the mental capacity to create such a pretty little spy. Though he would suspect the Foot when he noticed one of their cameras were missing, there was no visual proof it had been her.  

They would need to stay away from this area for a while until it cooled down. No doubt the turtles would search it come tomorrow night.

She hated hiding from them. Acting as if three mutated turtles were capable of ruining everything their clan had built. Except they were capable of this very thing. She supposed that was what irritated her most. That they had underestimated the biggest threat they had ever known.

So many Foot Ninja and so much pride had been lost to them. Their retreat from the city had been the Foot’s mistake. The turtles should have never been allowed to escape and regroup. And then the Foot should have never stopped searching for them when they did.

She had come from Japan when the clan needed it most. When the turtle’s initial attack had sent them into disarray. She had assisted her master when he had failed the clan, sworn to defeat the turtles and bring the Shredder their shells.

She had failed too.

Another Foot ninja trailed into her sight, head twitching side to side as he noted his surroundings.

“Sensei, should we assume we have been caught on camera by now?”

“Maybe.”

She stepped forwards, fingers lacing around the banister in front of her. With little effort she flipped herself up into the air and over the banister.  The two ninja followed suit.

She kept her watchful eyes on the shadows, eager to spot more black pearls along the way.

 

3

 

Warmth flooded Raphael’s shell. His body was comfortably sandwiched between a soft bed and a warm place. He murmured quietly, nuzzling his check into the softness below. He came to life with a groggy moan.

In response, something tightened around his waist.

Opening his eyes, he saw he was draped across someone’s plastron, buried deep into their right side. The arm that circled him curved around his shell, the fingers on his hand taping softly on the ridge between Raphael’s carapace and plastron.

He glanced upwards curious to see which of his brothers he was with, but they had their face turned away from him. His eager eyes trace the strong jawline of the turtle he found impossible to identify. The dark didn’t help. Looking further up, the adornments on the wall tell him everything he needs to know.

As if triggered by the sight of the katana, Raphael’s right palm begins to throb. When he glances down he sees the blue bandana has been replaced with a fresh gauze. Trying to close his palm into a fist Raphael hisses loudly.

“Does it still hurt?”

Raphael stills, an anger bubbling within him the moment he hears his big brother’s voice. The corners of his mouth curl into a frown and he feels the need to move away from him.

The other turtle’s hand squeezes his side in reassurance when he doesn’t receive an answer.

“Are you… still angry with me?”

“…”

He growls softly in the back of his throat. A clear ‘don’t say it’ to the other turtle.

“I did not reject your plan Raphael because it was yours. I rejected it because the risks were just too high.”

Raphael’s bandaged hand closes into a fist and squeezes tightly. Leaning upwards he shakes his brother’s arm off him and pushes upright into a sitting position on the bed’s edge. Staring at the back of Raphael’s shell the other turtle also sits up.

“I didn’t want anyone to get hurt Raph. I didn’t want to put anyone else at risk. I wanted to get in there and out safely.”

“Fuckin’ shit,” he hissed, the sound almost mocking. “Dat’s crap and you know it. No one woulda gotten hurt. No one. I wouldn’t have let dat happen p̶̧̧̦̦̘͍̺̳̼̗̱̜͉̫͈̣̍ͫ͒͋͊͆̍̒̍ͮ̊̉̐ǝ̢̨̮̯͚̩̪̠͉̣͕̘̻̖̦̟̟͙̦̍̅ͥ̒̓̚ͅͅʌ̯͉̟̟͍̖̺̺̜̦̈̄̏̆ͦͭ̚͢͠o̠̩̖͎ͨ̌ͩ͗́͜ɯ̵̴̵̼͎̭̱̟͓̦͕̠̮ͨ̒̄́̂ͤͩ̂̒̑ͦ̑ͫ̚̚ͅǝ̧̧̨̹̩͚̳͖̩͛̍̑̇ͬ͂͊͌͗͐̈́̆̌̊̉ͣ́̚ͅɹ̡̛ͩ͂́̽͋̂̾͗̓́͟͏̤̻̙̰̹͍  and you fuckin know it. We woulda been fine and da Shredder woulda  been dead.”

The silence that followed was comforting. It calmed the younger turtle down and made him feel like he was being listened to. It also allowed the reality of the situation to sink in fully.

“Yes, you’re right.”

He paused, leaning out and forward, sliding his palm across Raphael’s shoulder and down the side of his bicep.

We would have been fine. Father would have been fine, and the Shredder would have most likely died.”

His hand continued to train down. The backs of his fingers brushed the outer curve of Raphael’s thigh.

“But what about you? Would you have been fine Raph?”

His voice is soft as he scoots himself closer to the edge of the bed. Slowly he turns himself, so his plastron faces his brother’s side. Raphael’s profile looks strong but vulnerable. His amber eyes, turned brass in the dark, stare down at the empty space beyond the bed.

Raphael’s head barely shook side to side as he mumbled to himself.

“Doesn’t matter anyway…”

“Don’t say that,” he ushered, immediately springing to life. He grabbed a hold of Raphael and brought him close to his chest. The younger brother did not fight the notion and sunk into the warm plastron when he landed. “It matters to me. It always matters.”

His face felt warm, his eyes felt wet. He let out a small sniffle, overwhelming emotions swelling inside his chest.  And carefully, the other turtle began to pet his side affectionately; Rested his cheek against the top of Raph’s crown and leant backwards.

“I don’t want to fight Raph. Not now, not ever. But more importantly, I would never want to be away from my baby brother.”

Feelings, guilt and great affection, began to shudder within his body. Words tumbled up his throat and towards his mouth; a message straight from the heart. But it never made its way past his beak. He felt something splash against his cheek, a small wet thing not unlike a tear or raindrop. It ran down the side of his face and fell off the curve of his chin.

The other became quiet and Raphael felt two more drops splash against his cheek.

“Hey, hey fearless it’s fine I’m—”

He twisted his head upwards to glance at him, freezing in spot as he stared up at the face looking back at him.

The green smooth featureless skin had opened in the centre like a flower, skin painfully stripped back to reveal the pulsating flesh underneath. It moved into and out of itself; a continuous mobius creature. At its centre an orifice that sunk deep inside endlessly. From it the blood splashed out and down onto Raphael’s face in thick red blobs.

 

4

 

With the added threat of the camera, Karai found herself taking an awful long time to get where she was going. She could not be caught on one at any costs. Could not allude to any sort of location or meeting whatsoever. The problem was she had no idea how to tell if she had been recorded or not. The camera’s were obviously made from alien technology and were probably light sensitive. And who knew just how many those reptiles had planted in the city by now.

She had hoped her suspicion of Utrom technology was correct. For if it was, certain movements were harder to capture on the camera. Though she did not know how advanced these camera’s were, or how much the purple turtle had tinkered with them.

The fact they were heading into a territory they were not all to familiar with did not help. If it wasn’t for the strict instructions they had been sent, Karai doubted she would have found the Purple Dragon’s safehouse in one night, for it was surprisingly well hidden.

They stood in the corner of a dark alley way, as advised, waiting impatiently for the PD member in question to come collect them. A young boy no more than fifteen appeared near them. Karai frightened him when she stepped out of the shadows.

Unlocking the latches on the bottom of a dumpster the young boy struggled to push the dumpster out from the wall. Karai and her men offered no help. Once the entrance was revealed she entered without a word.

Inside laid an infestation of delinquency. Young children smoked cigars and played cards. Older men and women, well worn from years within the gang, wore ugly jewellery and jackets to display their laughable devotion. They drank beers and small cans of vodka, carefully watching Karai and her ninja pass by.

She felt their hatred for her clan, and she felt hatred for their kind.

When the two ninja and their Mistress enter Hun’s office the entire atmosphere of the hideout seems to shift. Hun is hunched over a map of the city, strands of blonde hair that have escaped his ponytail dangling by his face. Half of it seems to have suffered some sort of injury as it’s bandaged up with fresh gauze. Karai assumes it is the turtles doing and doesn’t ask.

“We have placed all our markers,” his voice sounded fat with annoyance. “We await your request impatiently.”

Karai shot one of her ninjas a look and he carefully creeped out of his post, bug like eyes looking at the street Boss with a childlike wonder. How their suits gave the impression of surprise and curiosity, with a touch of innocence, always amused Karai.

“We too have placed our emblems. And we have brought you,” the Foot soldier approached Hun passing him so photograph’s he had taken out of a pocket, “our request.”

He snatched them in a slow brutish way, leaning back until he flopped into the chair behind. A goon on his left peered over Hun’s heavily tattooed shoulder, eager to get a better look at the images he was shuffling around.

“Find him and bring him to us undamaged. Anything you find on him to, such as parts of devices, we wish for you to bring with you also. If you find a hideout, alert us so we may investigate it. These are his ordered.”

A noise escaped him as he threw the photographs down onto the city map. Another goon from his other side let go of his gun briefly only to pass his Boss a Cuban cigar and lit it for him. With a sigh he brushed the two strands of hair out the way, smoothing it with the rest of his bleached blond hair.

Karai’s eyes flickered to the tattoo of the dragon wrapped round his thick bicep. He twisted with his movements as if it were alive. Her face scrunched in dismay as she looked at the other arm. She could see the corner of the Foot Clan symbol seared into his skin. She felt he did not deserve to have such honour forever burnt onto his body.  

 After what appeared to be a period of long deliberation Hun broke the silence. “Does the deal still stand as before?”

“Yes,” her eyes hardened, “Unfortunately my master still holds a great deal of respect for you, despite your long history of deception. Prove yourself useful and complete our tasks for us, and the benefits stand in your favour as promised.” She gritted her teeth, unwilling to say the following words. “You and the Purple Dragon’s will stand alongside the Foot Clan once more.”

Something gleamed hopeful in the Hun’s eyes as he leant forward.

“What do you need this one for? Why all the trouble for something so… worthless?”

“Master found him in the aftermath of the turtle’s retreat and put him to what seemed good use. Following the attack of these beings, Baxter fuelled by his endless jealousy created blueprints for his next invention: A powerful device. A device that would benefit us greatly. Overconfident in his ability to use such a device, he later decided that it would be better suited for his own person revenge and not that of the Foot Clan. He has the only copy of the device blueprints.”

“What does this device do?”

If Karai could have it her way she would have walked in, thrown the photos at him without a word and then walked right back out. But a level of professional transparency was required to make this work. She had been ordered to assist and instruct, not avoid and order. The Master Shredder may have given Hun a second chance, but that didn’t give him Karai’s passing vote.

“It removes a common factor from both our lives. A mutual pest that has haunted us the last three years.” Hun’s face seemed to harden. His smoky eyes fell onto the photographs in wonder.  

“One of my Foot Ninja will bring you some intel in the next few weeks. Until then, recruit and find him. We have, as a gift of sorts, left you some weaponry at the usual structure.” With nothing left to say, the mistress of the Foot Clan turned to leave.

With the Foot gone Hun’s goons visibly relaxed, resting their weapons limp at their sides. The one that had peered over Hun’s shoulder leaned forward and took one of the photographs, rubbing his stubble in thought.

“Geez, what is it with that Japanese chick and freaks?”

“Lemme see!” The other one waddled over, his acid coloured mohawk swaying back and forth. “Say Boss, who’s this bozo anyways?”

Hun chewed the end of his cigar in annoyance, taking it out of his mouth and putting it out on one of the map’s edges. His face twisted with disgust as if he was all too familiar with the fellow.

“Stockman…” He groaned. “Baxter fucking Stockman.”

 

5

 

Michelangelo listened to the sounds of the sewer tunnel in perverse silence. He sipped casually at his can of soda, letting it dangle between his legs when he wasn’t drinking from it. Staring forward he watched the soiled water gently stream off to the left and down the tunnel out of sight. By the sound of things, it seemed to be raining up top.

There had been a cold presence in his room earlier, one that did not allow him to sleep. For a brief moment he had thought he’d seen something in the corner of his room. A sort of solid massive shape not unlike his own. It’s eyes had gleamed back at him innocently. And although he could not see anything else, he felt it’s expression did not suit it’s body.

But the creature left as quick as the creature came.

Unable to relax he ventured out and upstairs into the garage to do some tinkering of his own. Nothing major. He knew Donatello had been working on the Battle Shell and while he wasn’t as skilled as Don or Raph, he knew enough to help out with simple mechanical jobs. When he finally felt tired enough to go back to sleep, he found himself stopping outside Donatello’s door. It had been left slightly ajar.

Glancing behind his shoulder he felt a sense of anxious acknowledgment fill him. He didn’t even need to check to know where Donatello had slipped off to. Yet he did, starting for Raphael’s door a good two minutes later. Peering inside he saw the shadows of two turtles sleeping.

Jealous overcame him.

So, he grabbed a cold can of soda from the fridge and sat outside the entry tunnel to their home base.

His attempt to crack Donnie’s emotional amour had nearly worked. Though something, most likely his own selfishness, had kept him from opening up to his baby brother. Raphael’s awkward decent into solitude had always been a slow gradual process until recently. With his newly improved behaviour came a whole new layer of isolation that Mikey had never seen before. One that Donatello seemed to be becoming more wrapped up in with each passing week. He had hoped his father’s eventual intervention would change at least something for the better, but it hadn’t.

Yes, they had shared a nice moment in the kitchen a few days back. But it had not stacked up to the emotional progress Donatello seemed to have made, nor the affection Michelangelo had been missing out on for years since childhood.

In fact, Michelangelo felt outcasted by his family now more than he ever had.

And now Donatello seemed to be turning his back slowly on everyone save his big brother. Yet no one but Mikey seemed to see what was really going on. If their father did then he was ignoring it. 

Reconnecting with Raphael wasn’t meant to be some sort of rescue mission for their big brother. It wasn’t even to stroke Donatello’s ego or feed his admiration for his older brother. It was about reconnecting their entire family; a family that had one communicated effortlessly without words.

If Mikey failed to crack whatever secret club those two goons were creating he might just loose them both. A sighed escaped him and his shoulders slumped.

Raphael put everything on himself. He was the sole reason and the solution for every problem he encountered. Unfeeling towards his own safety and soon unfeeling to the family who adored him. Donatello had personified his insecurities, forever unable to separate his emotions from his physical reality if it didn’t involve mechanics or sciences. And even then he got so emotionally invested in his inventions. Michelangelo had always felt a dependent party member. Someone everyone needed to get by. But with each passing day he became less and less of a main character, and more of an NPC watching from the side lines.

They were all selfish, this he’d always known. And he could not blame any of them for being that way. Everything they were was one giant mutated mess. Being a fully functional happy family was never going to be any easier either. They had grown dangerously dependent on one another, a well oiled machine that desired compromise. But with age came that desire to be who they wanted to be, and it split them apart.

Because Splinter had not raised them to be independent forces, but a single unit. And now in their young adolescence they wanted to be both.

So here they were, all equally responsible for their family’s destruction in different ways. Raphael was emotionally constipated; Donatello was a push-over and Michelangelo himself? Invalid.

He had been there when they had need it, even if they weren’t there for him. He had sacrificed his perceived maturity for the sake of comedic value. Keen to bring his family a laugh when they needed it most. Always ready with a pun when death was two stops away. Trying to act like the glue that kept them together, only to forsake his own needs and feelings. Donnie may be a push over, but he was listened to. Donnie may be someone that is easy to take advantage of, but he’s still seen as irreplaceable.

How much longer could he keep this up when he was clearly not a desirable addition to their family?

Scrunching up his forehead he let out a frustrated growl. As it echoed through the tunnel it seemed to quieten his inner monologue if only for a moment. He lifted the can of soda, resting it against his brow in hopes it might cool his hot-headedness. And as he did so he suddenly felt cold all cover. As if he was being touched by a spirit. Startled he let out a shaky breath. It left him in a frosty white puff.

ʎ̵̢̛̛̛̠̰̲̥̱̺̲̪͕̰͇͔͈̼̗͚͓̺̼̠͎̩̪̪̙̳̰̙̲̗̹̈́͂̆͊̐̄͊̍́̎͗͆̉͂͑̇̒̀͘̚̕͜͠͝͠ǝ̶̨̢̡̡̨̯̬̰̦̭͈̪̖̰̬͖̗̰̺̞͚̘̖̥͖̞̜̣̗͈̬̻̣̬̗̭͈̹͉̝̠̭͉̝̩̩͉̲͇͈͉̜͓̺̟̱͋̇̏̈̇̆̽̉̕͘͜͜ͅͅͅʞ̶̢̨̨̡̡̡̢̡̨̛̫͕̳̳͙̞̥̳͕̼̗̞̤̞̫̥̫̼͖̥̦̝͔̜̯͔͎̘̠͚͈̰͍̻̰͍̗͓̰͔̟̼̣̟̯͈̮͖̠͕̣͎̙̣͇̗̺̫̳͓͕͓̩̮̮̮̹̪͇̳͕̘̞̺̪̫̃̈̓̆̉̈́͋̆̊̓̈̈́̔̒̃̈́̅̊̈̑̑͑̈́̐̎̇͆̔̃̒̎͐͒̂̐̌̈́̍̀̆̈́̃̓̔̽̄̍̽̆̿̽̾̇̃͑͌̍͋̑̈́̑͗̍͌̀̂͒́͒̎̊̚͘̕̚͘͜͜͜͝͝͠͝͠͝͝ͅᴉ̵̧̡̡͓͓̟͇͙̘̺̜̮̥̦̟͖̤̮̬͔͎̻͕͕̯̲̖̱̝̰̮̫̺̹̺̬̪̝̮̼̾̅͘ꟽ̵̻̯͍̫̫̱̋̿̽͆̉̾̓̏̈́̊͒̀̋̎́̈́̈͊̈́̄̎̉̂̆̀̉̈́̋͂̂̽̽͊̾͛̍̈́̐̈́͂͊̓̆̐̚̚̚̕̚͝͝

 

He heard it’s voice in the air around him; so recognisable yet completely foreign. It moved around in the water in front of him and Michelangelo squeezed his eyes painfully together in fear. As it splashed desperately in the water, drops sprayed his knees. Irrational emotions overtook his body though he knew not where they came from.

ʎ̴̢͓͇̥̰͔̲̩̩͙̩̥̎̅̔̊͛̊́͌̕͜͠͝ǝ̴̬̘͕̩̭̰̲̰͖͉̩͙̤̊͌̔̄̑̄̀̾̓̂̍͗ʞ̴̡̘͉̦̭̭̲͉̝̘͕̠̐̃͛̒̀͌̑̓̓͌̓͝͠ͅᴉ̶̡̛̲̻̖̟̱̤̥̲̖̠͈̓͒̐̐̍̈́͐̊̏̽̕͜͠ꟽ̴̡̧̼̩̹̠̩̦̣͈̠̬̓̃̈̎̇͆̍̌̂̓͘͝͠

 

When it finally dragged itself out of the water Mikey felt cold wet air push out of its body. As it spoke he became decided the sound was coming from inside his ears and not the creature in front of his face. This revelation was somehow scarier.

And although it spoke clearly Michelangelo could not understand a single word it said. Then suddenly, a white light broke out from behind his eyelids. It was bright and felt neither warm nor cold. There was a soft hum, like a computer monitor turning on. In the brilliant light he heard the voice clear as day:

oʅǝƃuɐʅǝɥɔᴉꟽ

Something familiar over came him and he shuddered to life, opening his eyes wide as if he’d been resuscitated. He didn’t see the sewer tunnel, but he did see a series of moving images flash in his mind:

Lights reflecting in and out of one another. A metal cube with protruding cylinders constantly spinning and clicking and shifting. It was covered in blinking lights more appearing the more it came undone. One of them seemed to be an eye. A giant red eye rimmed with silver. It seemed to swirl around endlessly searching for Michelangelo’s gaze, inflating larger and larger until it popped like a balloon. In the centre spun a turtle and a blue flower, but it was soon lost its grip on the ground and began to spin away, desperately clawing at the ground.

Michelangelo saw the small turtle squirm until it’s shell suddenly cracked without warning. It’s movements ceased, the blood swirled out of it and Michelangelo was suddenly pushed down with a great force.

He kept coughing, sputtering for air in an attempt to calm himself. The sewer ceiling was there again, and he could hear the rushing soiled water pass him by. Signals that whatever he had witnessed was over now. He felt unclean and unstable. However as the fear began to fade, so did the details of what he had experienced.

And suddenly he felt the incredibly strong notion to go to sleep.

 


 

 

Author Notes

Believe it or not I have a few excuses reasons as to why this is late! I've been under a lot of pressure professionally, my laptop died, I haven't been able to replace it (my computer time obviously being drastically reduced) & I started my first ever relationship! But I guess I must be honest: The main reason was because I recieved a harsh crituque on the original chapter 8 when I posted it to months ago.

It was such a harsh critque and I was going through an emotionally sensitive time, so I immediately tore down my chapter and felt ashamed by the content I had written. The person seemed to misunderstand my choices I had made on purpose with writing style and pacing. They were looking at the plot I have revealed as a whole final product and not considering the choices I made to build atmosphere, create a dream like sequence (in terms of pacing), or give the impression that some characters are more absent than others, by making you as a reader feel like you are ignoring them alongside other characters. (For example, my choices to make Mikey's presence a small part of the story, yet he is still a very important component and incrediably expressive as you can see in this chapter, when I write his monologues! Therefore when he feels negligted and you move on, you feel somewhat upset that you have to move on and notice more when he is not mentioned, or doesn't appear in chapters. And as I hope, 99% of you have noticed I have done this, which means I'm doing it the way I hope I am!!)

In a weird way I am greatful. Because my computer died afterwards and I had no acess to the original chapter I had written. And because I have a bad memory I could not remember what happened in great detail. This meant I could take the time to really pace out my story, and reconsider some of the choices the first chapter 8 made. This is by far a better chapter!

And in the end of the day, I knew I wasn't going to please everyone! Opinions are opinions, and art (even written forms) are subjective! Not everyone is going to see this the way I intend or they way I want them too. So not only is more story better, I have gained insight I can take with me and grow.

I hope you have enjoyed this chapter! A lot of things happen here, some new some old. What are your thoughts? Have your theories changed drastically after reading part 5 of this chapter? Many things are to come. But the real question is: When will we see the Leonardo we all know and love? Or can you see the glimpses already? Because you guys love my questions to much (lol) I am adding a sort of "question of the day" to each chapter regarding what you have read starting now! The best way to show your support for this story would be to consider this chapters question! I will respond to every comment and even debate with you should you have any other burning questions! I love to know what you guys feel: it helps me make decisions in the story that I might not have made otherwise!

TODAY's CHAPTER QUESTION = Who is your favourite character so far and why? Who do you feel the most sorry for and why?

I appreciate your comments and critisism! Please let me know how you think and if a kudo if you should be so cheeky and kind. Thank you to everyone who encouraged me to finish this story. You are my shooting stars.

Always and forever, Lisa Frank x

Chapter Text

???

 

I remember the sound of hardness rocking against wet concrete and the faint wail my little brothers made as they struggled to roll onto their chests. I would crawl and stumble over and help push them onto their sides so they would stop being sad. I remember the colour of my father’s fur – two shades of brown ruffling in and out of one another in an incoherent pattern. I remember small things; pulling on the asymmetrical cut of his coffee coloured robe to grab his attention; the small smile on his face when he cut those first four stripes of colourful fabric with a pair of rusted scissors; and the quiet praise whispered by my cheek as he wrapped that first band of blue around my little chubby face.

 

But these memories overlap and loop themselves inside myself over and over until they loose their substance. They’ve become hollow husks; outlines of something I once experienced. They’ve lost emotion, texture and presence. Absent from the world.

 

What is a word when it lacks expression? Does a memory still hold feeling if I can’t remember why it should? Words have lost all meaning to me now. No matter how much I try I can’t remember what they stand for.

 

Colours? Blue? Father? Brother? Memories? I've forgotten what these words mean, no matter how well I say them now. I don’t remember what they are. I don’t remember why I had them. And I don’t remember why it matters so much to me that I find those answers again.

 

Though one thing I am certain of.

 

While I always had a fondness for objects of blue (whatever blue may mean to you) I was always drawn to the presence of red.

 

Especially displayed on a brilliant emerald green.