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Ensnared

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Six-year-old Raphael darted from his abusive dad’s clutches late one September evening, tears streaming down his cheeks and bolted from the house, running as fast as he could until he reached the sewers, where his safe haven, an abandoned subway car was. He always went there, often staying for days and existing on whatever food floated down to the sewers. He didn’t really like the dark and smelly sewers, but he knew it was one place his dad would never find him and that suited him just fine.

Hun wasn’t really his dad, because he was a human and Raphael was a turtle. He’d taken Raphael in when his dad had died of cancer when he was two months old, his dad’s dying wish that his best friend care for his son. Raphael’s mom had died in a car crash when he was a few weeks old. Hun had taken the kid in out of loyalty, given him board and lodging, food and paid for his schooling, but that’s it. There was no love, no comfort and no cuddles. Only beatings and violence. Both mentally and physically, especially when Hun was indulging in his favorite pastimes of drinking and cocaine binging. Hun was a drug lord by trade, but none of his neighbors knew that. He maintained a façade of a computer tech, who worked from home and a loving dad, threatening Raphael that if he ever told anyone about the abuse he’d kill him and that no one would believe him anyway, because he was just a mutant freak and Hun was a respectable citizen. Raphael believed him. He knew what he was and how revolted people were with by him with the disgusted looks they shot him. No one would believe him, so all he could do was take the abuse and try to escape when he was older.

Raphael had been to the hospital many times with broken bones, limbs and bruises and had been quizzed by social workers, but remembering his dad’s threat he told them he was a clumsy kid and fell a lot. He was disbelieved, but with no solid evidence of abuse the social workers had no case and had to let it rest.

Tons of women drifted in and out and out of Raphael and Hun’s lives, none of them staying long or caring for the little boy and treating him the same way Hun had. One woman had been kind to Raphael, an escort named Lily, who had stayed longer than the rest. She’d cooked for him, called him her son, read him stories, played with him and he’d grown to adore her. He called her Mommy, drew her pictures and was happy for the first time in his life. Hun was happy too and made an effort to stop drinking and drugging. He told Raphael he was going straight, how much he loved Lily and he was prepared to change for her.

Raphael had been so overjoyed, thinking the abuse would stop and that maybe he had a family now. It had and they lived as a family. Hun married her and they were happy. For an entire year.

Lily told him she loved him and he was the kid she’d always wanted. Her life was complete with him and Hun.

Then one night, Lily had gone out and never returned.

Raphael had thought maybe she had gone to meet friends and would be home in the morning, like she always was, but as the days passed there was still no sign of her and then none of Hun either. He up and left, leaving Raphael to care for himself. The kid had survived on cereal and watched TV, praying his parents were home soon. Hun had no family or friends Raphael thought he could reply on and no teachers would call, because it was summer vacation.

Raphael was alone and it was scary. He kept the lights on and the TV on for company, because he hated the dark. It reminded him of the many times he’d been locked in the basement when Hun had deemed him bad. Alone with cockroaches and other insects. He hated the cockroaches most, with their alien like tentacles, especially when they crawled on him. Hun would lock him in the basement for up to four days at a time with only bread and water. It was too much for a small kid. Hun knew it and delighted in hearing the terrified shrieks Raphael emitted when he was thrown in the basement.

The food ran out on the eighth day. Starving and missing his parents dreadfully, Raphael summoned up courage and knocked on a neighbor’s door. He was a shy, unassuming kid with a stammer and he’d never talked to anyone without his dad present, but he was desperate, so he had to ignore all of that and get help.

The door had opened and a woman had yelled at him that he was a freak and had slammed the door in his face.

Blinking back tears, a defeated and hurt Raphael headed back to his house, only to be stopped by a neighbor he knew. A man, a friend of Hun’s, who saw the bawling kid and then took him to his home, giving him a meal and watching , as he polished off a huge plate in minutes. He gave Raphael a second serving and then called Hun, screaming at him for leaving his kid in such a wretched state.

The man had then hung up and told Raphael Hun would be there in a while. He’d also calmly told Raphael that his mom had been murdered.

Raphael had reacted hysterically, weeping and throwing himself at the man and begging him to adopt him, because he feared his dad would blame him for that and he’d be beaten, but the man had said that Raphael was legally adopted by Hun and there was nothing he could do.

Raphael miserably waited for Hun to return, dreading what would happen.

Hun returned, a murderous expression on his face. The friend told him to go easy on Raphael. He was just as heartsore as Hun. Hun had reluctantly promised to be gentle on the kid.

The friend nodded and believed him, but Raphael hadn’t. He knew his dad better than anyone else did and that he was going to get one hell of a thrashing.

Back home, the beatings had recommenced, Hun blaming Raphael for Lily’s murder. Ridiculous, but Raphael guessed his dad needed someone to blame and to take out his rage on. He was an easy target, so it made sense in a sick way.

Hun started drinking and drugging again and Raphael’s nightmare resumed. A nightmare he felt would never end, unless Hun died or he escaped, but he had nowhere to go and no one to call, so he was trapped really.

Raphael would lie in bed at night and wonder why the universe had been so cruel to him. Why did he have to lose both parents, then have an abusive adoptive dad and then have Lily taken away from him? Lily, who’d been his guardian angel, his savior and who’d brought so much light and love to his life. It wasn’t fair. Sometimes he wished he was dead. It would be better than his daily hell. He’d seen and endured more than most six-year-olds: drug overdoses, murders, women pleasuring his dad, one man making a pass at him. The list was endless.

And now, as he neared the subway car, Raphael thought happily that at least he could chill here for a while and he’d be safe. Safe for three nights, because it was Friday and he didn’t have to be anywhere until school on Monday. He could heal and try to get some sleep, because naturally he didn’t sleep much at home, due to often being wakened in the middle of the night and hit. Hit so badly he could barely walk or sit down.

But here in his subway car he could sleep and dream about his future life and he had plans. Plans that would take him to Japan. His class was learning about the country and he was fascinated by the culture, mythology and Martial Arts. Lily had even paid for him to attend Ninjutsu classes. He’d excelled and had been flawless and graceful. Lily had been so proud. He was too. Ninjutsu had boosted his confidence and he planned on doing it for the rest of his life.

Raphael was a gifted drawer and painter too and Lily had also paid for lessons in them. He’d excelled as well. School was a different story though. He was good at math, but had to work extremely hard at reading and spelling. He did and his grades were improving to his and Lily’s delight.

Back in the present, Raphael suddenly heard what sounded like a clanging noise and he almost jumped out of his shell, but before he could react a figure leaped out of the shadows and tackled him, placing a katana at his throat.

“What the heck!” a panicked Raphael said, his green eyes wide and his heart racing, as a blue masked figure loomed over him with a stony expression on his face.

“You’re a turtle too!” they said in astonished unison, as the blue clad figure’s flashlight, which had fallen onto the ground revealed their features.

“Yeah,” Raphael said shakily. “I am. Talk ‘bout givin’ someone a heart attack. Do ya always sneak up on people like that?”
“Sorry,” Leo said, climbing off of Raphael and then picking up his flashlight. “I didn’t know you’d be around here. I heard footsteps and was just taking precaution. Humans sometimes venture down here and I assumed you were one of them. I’d have had to….You don’t need to know. Okay. Why are you down here? Who are you and how did you come to exist? You look young. How old are you?”
“Whoa!” Raphael said, standing up and throwing his arms up. “What order did ya want those questions in?”
“Sorry. Let’s start with who you are.”
“Raphael. My mom calls me Raphie. I like Raph at school, because it makes me sound tough.”
“You go to school. Really? I’m Leonardo. Leo to friends and family,” Leo said, sheathing his katana, no longer deeming the green eyed kid a threat and then extending a hand.
Raphael shook it and said, “Yeah. Mutants have rights, so we can, but I hate it. I wish I was home schooled. I ain’t never seen ya before. Do ya live ‘round here?”
“That’s none of your business. I’m not telling you my lair’s location,” Leo said curtly. “You might not look like a threat, but you could be working for Shredder as one of his little rats.”
“Shredder? Lair? I’m just a kid, Leo. I’m six and I just wanted ta be alone ta think and ta be safe.”
“Safe? From what?” Leo asked, quirking an eye ridge. “I’m ten. Are you in danger, Raphael?”
“I don’t wanna talk ‘bout it. I just wanna play and chill here. Please. I’ll leave ya alone, okay? I won’t tell no one ‘bout ya or nothin’. Please.”
Leo sighed and said, “I’m sorry I was harsh, but please understand it’s not you. It’s the humans, who’ve made me and my family….me so distrustful. I sense you’re not a threat. You can stay and play, but do not follow me if I leave. I will be forced to use my katanas. I don’t want to, as you seem a nice kid, but I can’t let anyone find where I live. So much is at stake.”
“Got it. Ya can go. I’ll be fine.”
“Hey,” Leo said suddenly noticing Raphael’s massive purple bruise under his right eye. A real shiner. Someone had clearly used their fists on the poor soul. “How did you get the shiner?”
“Bumped into my closet,” Raphael said quickly. “I often walk into things. Maybe I need glasses. I trip a lot too.”
“Bullshit!” Leo hissed, his blue eyes blazing. “Is someone making you their punching bag, Raphael?”
“No. I got a good life at home!”
“Really? Then why are you here on a Friday evening and not home with your family?”
“I could ask ya the same thing,” Raphael said evenly, his green eyes boring into Leo’s.
“I had a fight with my dad about going topside. He doesn’t want me to,” Leo admitted. “But I want to see what life is like up there.”
“Ain’t all it’s cut out ta be. What’s it like down here?”
“Boring. At least you can do things up there. Not much to do here, but someday I’ll get out of here, travel and make my own path.”
“Travel? Where?”
“Japan. Dad has contacts there. I love the mythology, Martial Arts and culture. I was raised with the Japanese customs. Dad is Japanese and he teaches us Martial Arts. Ninjutsu.”

Leo wondered if he’d already said too much, but somehow he had a feeling the kid wouldn’t use the information against him.

“Me too,” Raphael said to Leo’s surprise. “Mommy paid for Ninjutsu classes and I was doin’ so well. Sensei just started teachin’ us how ta use weapons. He gave me the Sai. I love them. Mommy’s dead now, so my classes are over, but I’ll take them again one day.”
“How about you show me your katas sometime?”
“Okay. So those blades ya got are katanas, right?”
“Yep. I was gifted them a few years ago. I keep them polished. Do you have any siblings?”
“Nope. Ya?”
Leo hesitated and then said, “Two brothers. Donnie and Mikey. Younger than me and pains in the butts sometimes, but I love them so much and I’d die for them in a nanosecond. No questions asked.”
“Yer lucky,” Raphael said wistfully. “I wish I had a sibling and someone ta talk ta. Just me and I ain’t got friends. No one wants ta be friends with a mutant freak.”

Raphael’s stomach rumbled and he blushed in mortification, a reminder he hadn’t eaten since 7 a.m. and it was close to 10 p.m. now. Shit. He hadn’t brought food with him, but he could go and scavenge. He was bound to find something.

Leo’s heart went out to Raphael, knowing all too well what it was like to be different. He’d been called a freak too when a sewer worker had seen him. Leo had seen red, both because of the insult and because he was afraid the sewer worker would find his family. That’d been Leo’s fist kill. That’d been five months earlier. Leo wasn’t proud of it by any means, but it’d been a necessity, so he'd had to forgive himself and move on.

This isn’t a beastly human, who’s trying to locate our lair, Leo thought. This is a small kid, who’s starving and who’s subjected to the same ridicule we would have endured if Dad had chosen to live topside when mutants gained rights. Dad didn’t want us to be subjected to that and thought we’d be better in the sewers. He was right. Here we have our haven and are protected. Raphael has no protection. Not even from his family. I think he’s being abused. I just have to get him to trust me some more and open up, so he’ll tell me. If he does maybe we can help him somehow.

“Hey, Raph,” Leo said and smiled. “It’s late and sometimes these places can’t be safe. How would you like to come home with me and get some dinner? I know there are….”
“With ya? Why?” Raphael asked suspiciously and narrowed his green eyes. “Ya wanna touch me, huh?”
“Good gracious no!” Leo said in horror. “Why would you think that?”
“The last time someone offered me dinner, he told me I owed him, so I had ta let him touch my dick. I kicked him in the balls and ran. I'll do the same ta ya if ya try,” Raphael growled, summoning up courage, his green eyes flashing.
“I don’t want to touch you, Raph. I’m a kid too and I’m sorry you’re hurting and hungry. I just want to see that you’re fed and have a safe night. Seriously. I have brothers not much older than you and I would never hurt anyone, especially not that way. I’m not like that. You can trust me and if you feel at any stage you can’t, you can go home, okay? I promise.”
“What do I gotta do in return? There’s always a catch,” Raphael said and tilted his head to one side.
“You’re so cynical for one so young. It’s sad. What the heck have you been through? You owe me nothing. Just come and get some dinner and then you can have a warm bath and a safe place to sleep in. You can have my room. I’ll crash with Donnie.”
“What will yer dad think?”
“Raph, how would you like to live with me and my family?” Leo blurted out before he could stop himself. Damn his generous heart. How could he say that without first asking his dad? Now he felt like an ass for the way the kid looked at him, as if he was a guardian angel or something
“Really?” Raphael asked eagerly and hating himself for it. Leo was still a stranger and he might be pretending to be a nice guy.
“Look, you can stop pretending you have a happy life. The bruises prove otherwise. I’ll talk to Dad and you can live with us if he’s willing. You’ll be treated the same as us and you’ll be home-schooled. You won’t be able to go topside until Dad’s okay about that. You’ll have to live in the shadows with us.”
“As long as there ain’t cockroaches I’m cool with everythin’,” Raphael said joyously, his eyes and face lighting up and then throwing his arms around Leo’s waist. “I hate cockroaches and am scared of them. They crawl on me and remind me of the dark and basement."
Leo patted Raphael’s head and said, “There aren’t any, but should I find any I’ll kill them. No one will hurt you ever again, Raph.”
“Yer my guardian angel, Leo,” Raphael said and nuzzled his beak against Leo’s plastron. “Mine. I’ll be the best little brother and son for yer dad and I won’t be no trouble. Thank ya.”

The grateful look Raphael shot Leo warmed his soul and already made him want to protect him and shield him from harm.

“Let’s go home, little brother,” Leo said.
“I like the sound of that, big bro,” Raphael said pulling away and then grabbing Leo’s hand.

They walked to the lair, Raphael grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Leo’s my guardian angel and I believe Mommy led me ta him, Raphael thought. I’m gonna have a good life with Leo and his family. No more beatings and Dad. Only happiness. My nightmare is over. I’m free. I’m gonna be good and do all I’m told.

Dad may be mad about me bringing a stranger home, Leo thought, but I think he’ll love Raph and he’ll take him in when he’s learned about his home life. He’ll be the dad Raph badly needs and we’ll be the brothers and family Raph needs. Raph is now safe forever and I won’t let anyone or anything touch him. I’ll guard him and love him as fiercely as my other brothers for the rest of my life.

Chapter Text

Hun slammed the front door and thought, whatever. That brat will return. He has nowhere else to go and I’ll show him who’s boss when he does.

He marched into the kitchen, grabbed a six-pack, went to the lounge, turned on the TV and settled on the sofa to watch a movie.

The villain had polished off the six-pack and was dozing, when his front door was kicked open and a furious Shredder entered the house, his goons flanking him.

“Why the fuck haven’t you answered my calls, Hun?” Shredder demanded, glowering at him.
“I’ve been busy,” Hun said with a shrug. “My kid split. Been trying to find him. You know how much that kid means to me.”
“Bullshit. You’ve been drinking on the job again. On my fucking time! What do you mean he split?”
“We argued and he ran away. Don’t worry. That little rat will return. He has nowhere else to go.”
“You’d better hope he does or I’ll wipe the floor with your face,” Shredder snarled, dragging Hun to his feet by his arm and then slapping his face so hard he winced. “Why would he run away anyway? You two seem to get along or am I missing something?”
“He’s a monster. Always whining, crying and throwing tantrums. I give him everything I can, but it’s not enough. He ran away when I refused him a Nintendo Switch.”
Shredder wrinkled his forehead in thought and said, “I think you’re fibbing, Hun. That doesn't sound like Raphael. He’s always quiet and respectful. Too quiet. Tell me the fucking truth why he left. Have you been beating him? Why? His dad trusted you to care for him.”
“All right. I hate the kid. I’m not cut out to be a dad, Master. I never wanted it. I only did it out of loyalty to Matthew, but it’s been a nightmare. Diapers, vomiting, tantrums, school runs, home work. I’ve drowned in it for years and still do. I’m so sick of Raphael. Damn. I need a break.
“You beat him, didn’t you?” Shredder asked frostily. “You beat Matthew’s kid?”
“I had no choice. Raphael never wanted to listen. I had to teach him discipline! Please understand!”
“Understand, Hun?” Shredder roared and threw Hun across the room, where he landed stomach down and grunted. Shredder planted a foot on the man’s neck and hissed, “No. You understand. You were given Matthew’s baby to love and nurture. Matthew trusted you and you betrayed his trust, Hun. You’re a child abuser. A fucking monster. I’m twisted, but I would never harm an innocent child. You make me sick! This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to find Raphael and I’ll raise him as my son. I’ll give him the love he deserves and you’ll stay away from him. You’ll also leave New York in the morning and if I find out you've harmed Raphael again I’ll kill you! I loved Matthew. He was my friend too and I won’t let you victimize his poor son anymore. Do you fucking hear me?”

A strangled cry escaped Hun’s throat, as his Master loomed over him. Never had he seen his Master so incensed. It terrified him. He knew his Master would carry out his threat.

“Answer me!” Shredder yelled, his eyes flashing. “Fucking answer me now!”
“Yes, Master,” Hun said. “I’ll leave him alone. I promise.”
“Good,” Shredder said and kicked him in the side, making him groan. “I’m so glad we understand one another. Poor Raphael. You’re despicable!”

Shredder removed his foot, glanced at his men and said, “We’re out of here. Bebop and Rocksteady, I want you to scour the city for Raphael. Do not rest until you’ve found him. The poor boy must be scared out of his wits being so alone and vulnerable in this city.”
“Yes, Boss,” the goons said in unision and left the house.

“Remember what I said, Hun,” Shredder said. “You do as you’re told or your body will be tossed like trash into the Hudson River!”
“I promise!” Hun said meekly.

Shredder stalked out of the house.

I should never have taken that wretched Raphael in, Hun thought angrily. Never. Damn you, Matthew. Why didn’t you ask Master? He’d have been better for Raphael. Not me. It’s your damn fault all of this happened!

Hun grabbed another beer from the fridge, returned to the lounge and tuned to a sports channel.

XXXXXX

Leo arrived back at the lair and wasn’t surprised to see Splinter waiting for him in the lounge. He expected a lecture, but instead all he saw were tears in the rat’s eyes. Tears of regret and relief that his precious son was okay and had come home.

Splinter’s eyes then widened, as he took in Raphael, who still clutched Leo’s hand and who looked shyly at the rat.

“Well, hello, young man,” Splinter said, approaching them and smiling. “I see you’ve brought someone home, Leonardo.”
“Listen, Dad, I’m sorry, but I had no choice. Raphael’s family hurt him and he ran to the sewers to escape. I saw him and I had to bring him home. I couldn’t let him go back to that life,” Leo said and nervously chewed his lower lip, hoping his dad wasn’t furious.

Splinter kneeled down, so he was Raphael’s height and said, “Is that true, Raphael?”
“Yes, sir. Please can I live with ya. Leo said ya would let me and…I don’t wanna go home. I can’t. Dad will hit me again. He does it all the time. I hate it and the cockroaches. Please, sir!” Raphael begged, his lower lip quivering and tears springing to his eyes. “Please. Ya can’t send me back there.”

Splinter’s blood boiled at the thought of someone harming the small boy, who didn’t appear to be older than five. A boy not much younger than his cherished kids. How could someone hurt him and why? He didn’t deserve it. No one deserved that. He needed love and tenderness and Splinter would give that to him. He would be a Hamato and Splinter would ensure he was never harmed again.

“You are safe here, my child,” Splinter said and opened his arms. “I will be your father. I will guide you and love you as much as my other children. No one will ever hurt you again. I promise.”
“Really?” Raphael said, going to him and hugging him tightly. “Ya mean it?”
“Yes. You will be a Hamato if you wish to take our name and you will be a valued member of the family, but there are rules and you will be expected to listen. Why don’t we get some dinner? I think you could use some and then it’s time for bed.”
“Okay, sir. Thank ya,” Raphael said gratefully.
“Sir? My child, you can call me Dad or Sensei. My boys alternate. Sir is for old men and I am not old yet,” Splinter said, his eyes twinkling. “I’m only in my forties. Shall we go?”
“I could eat,” Raphael said happily. “Oh. Thank ya. I swear I won’t be no trouble. Thank ya so much.”

Splinter stood and picked up Raphael, who babbled excitedly in his arms, as they went to the kitchen.

Leo followed them and thought happily, I’m glad Raph is with us. Thank you, Dad. Now Raph can heal and have the life he deserves. One of love and happiness with people, who love him and who’ll never hurt him.

XXXXX

Splinter dished up a large bowl of worms and algae and placed it in front of Raphael at the kitchen table.

“Worms?” Raphael asked and wrinkled his beak in disgust. “Really? Are ya kiddin’ me? They’re slimy and gross! Ew!”
“It’s all we can get,” Leo said. “We don’t have access to human food like you, Raph. Please eat. You’re being disrespectful to Dad, who tries so hard to provide for us. They’re not so bad and they’re nutritious.”

“Indeed they are,” Splinter said, looking frostily at Raphael and feeling insulted his food was rebuffed. “Eat. I’ll be right back. I need the bathroom.”

Splinter stood up and left the room.

“I can’t!” Raphael said with a shudder. “They’re repulsive wriggling things, Leo. How can ya eat them?”
“You’re upsetting Dad! He’s been nothing but welcoming to you and you’re insulting him. Eat the damn food, princess!”
“I ain’t no princess!” Raphael snapped, his green eyes blazing. “I’m a boy.”
“You’re acting like a snobby girl and a brat. It’s all we have, Raphael. You’ll starve if you don’t. Look, none of us likes the worms, but we can’t be choosy, because there’s nothing else. Just do it. Please. For me if anything then. Please, Raphael. I’ll try and get you something you like if you eat them now. Please.”
“Fine,” Raphael said reluctantly. “I’ll do it.” He picked up a worm, pulled a face, popped it into his mouth and swallowed it whole. “Yuck! How can ya stand it?”
“Finish the bowl. Don’t be a pansy.”
“What’s that?”
“A wimp.”
“I ain’t no wimp. I’m a tough boy.”
“Really? Then why are you so afraid of eating worms, Raph? Little worms that don’t bite?”
“I ain’t scared. I just hate them.”
“Chicken!” Leo said teasingly, his eyes shining mischievously. “Wimp.”
“I’ll show ya that I ain’t one,” Raphael hissed and ate the rest of the worms, trying not to gag, as he swallowed them. Damn. They were horrid.
“Congrats. You ate them all. Dad will be pleased.”
“See, I ain’t no wimp!” Raphael said and wiped the back of his mouth with his hand, trying to remove the offensive taste.
“No. You’re brave,” Leo said and stifled his laughter.
“Are ya laughin’ at me?” Raphael asked angrily.
“No. The situation. I’d never laugh at you, Raph.”
“I hope not. Everyone else does.”
“I’m sure we'll fight sometimes, but I’ll never laugh at you or do anything to make you feel sad and unwanted, okay? I’m sorry you thought I was making fun of you. I just wanted you to eat the worms, so that Dad wouldn’t feel upset and offended. He knows we hate the worms, but it’s all he can get us. He feels he fails us, you know. That he can’t get us better food. Do you understand?”
“I think so. How often do ya eat worms?”
“Every meal. Let me tell you a secret. I always give Mikey and Donnie some of mine. Not just because I don’t think they get enough food, but because I don’t like them either. I eat enough.”
“Can I do that too?”
“No. You’re too small for your age, Raph. You need to eat more. Did your dad starve you?”
“Sometimes. When I was bad. I only had bread and water and if was I was on my own I ate cereal. Cocoa Pops. Dad mostly ordered take out. He hated cookin'. I had to wait until he’d had enough, but Lily loved cookin’. She made me pancakes, waffles, whatever I wanted. She loved me and I loved her. I miss her. Why did she have ta die, Leo?”
“I don’t know. The good die young, I guess. Listen, Raph, life is going to be different here. You won’t have the same foods or routine. We’re poor and we never leave the shadows. Dad only does to find food and then only late at night. I can ask Dad to try and get you the things you like, but it’s not easy. He takes a huge risk just venturing out.”

“That is true,” Splinter said, entering the kitchen and pleased to see Raphael’s empty bowl. “But I realize my sons are tired of worms. Truthfully, I am too. I will try to find more appealing food.”
“Like pancakes?” Raphael asked eagerly. “Mommy made the most amazin’ chocolate chip pancakes.”
“We’ll see. It’s been a long day and it’s time for bed. Raphael…..”

“I can’t sleep!” Mikey whined, as he entered the kitchen. He was followed by Donnie. “There’s a monster under my bed. I tried sleeping with Donnie, but he has a monster too!” His eyes widened when he took in Raphael. “Wow. Who’s that?”
“This is Raphael,” Splinter said. "He's six."

Another turtle,” Donnie said and blinked in surprise. “Really? Where did you find him, Dad?”
“I didn’t,” Splinter said. “Leonardo did and brought him home. Raphael’s family are not kind to him, so he will live with us. He will be your brother."

“I already have two brothers. Why would I want another one?” Mikey asked crossly. “And he’s younger than me. I’m the youngest! It’s not fair!”
“Maybe I should leave,” Raphael said sadly, tears in his eyes, as he realized he wasn’t wanted.

“No!” Splinter said. “You will not, Raphael. Michelangelo, Raphael had a bad life with people who hit him and treated him horribly. He is hurting. We can heal him and give him the love he needs. Don’t you want to help him? He’s just a little boy like you. Just think you’ll have someone else to play with.”
“I don’t want another brother!” Mikey yelled and kicked a chair over in rage. “Donnie and Leo are enough!”

Mikey ran out of the room to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him.

“That went down well,” Splinter said and sighed. “Raphael, you will not leave. You are wanted. It was just a shock to Michelangelo. He will apologize and soon welcome you. Donatello, you are quiet.”
“Just thinking,” Donatello said, as he studied Raphael. “I don’t mind another brother, as long as he doesn’t touch my stuff or go in my lab. Besides, it might be nice to have someone else to play with. Raphael, do you like chemistry?”

“What’s that?” Raphael asked.
“Science. How about astrophysics and microbiology?” Donnie said. He was only nine, but he loved reading textbooks Splinter found in the dump.
“I don’t know what that is.”
“Are you stupid? What do you know? Why doesn’t anyone know anything? It’s so hard being a genius! I have no one to talk to. It’s not fair!”

“Donatello!” Splinter said, looking at a now sobbing Raphael. “You’re being rude to our guest. Please remember that we aren’t all as clever as you.”
“I’m well aware! Sorry, Raphael. I’ll tone down my vocabulary, so that you understand. I won't talk intelligent stuff with you!” Donnie said snidely.
“Donatello, you owe Raphael an apology,” Splinter said heatedly, glaring at his genius son.
“What for? He is stupid and a baby. Look at him bawling. Pathetic.”

“I ain’t stupid or a baby!” Raphael wept. “Stop sayin’ that. Daddy says that and I ain't. I’m good at math and ninjutsu and I loved bakin’ with Mommy. I’m not dumb. Take that back!”
“Well done, Donnie!” Leo said furiously, scooting closer to Raphael and wrapping his arms around him. A tearful Raphael melted into his embrace “You upset a sweet kid, who’s not much younger than you. A kid, who’s been through hell and back. I hope you’re proud of yourself. It’s okay, Raphael. I have you. I will always have you. I don’t think you’re dumb. I think you’re sweet and brave. You can play with me, okay?”
“Okay,” Raphael whispered, clinging to Leo. “Thank ya. They hate me.”
“I don’t and never will. Sh. Don’t cry, little brother.”

“Donatello!” Splinter said irately, turning his most withering gaze on Donnie. “Apologize this instant.”
“I’m sorry, Raphael,” Donnie said, but not meaning it. Raphael seemed a drip. Let Leo look after the baby. He wanted nothing to do with the stranger.

“Okay,” Raphael said, not looking up.

“Can I go to bed now, Dad?” Donnie asked. “Mikey woke me up and I’m tired.”
“Yes, but no lab or any of your technological devices, including your laptop and the TV tomorrow,” Splinter said firmly. “You are limited to your books.”
“Why the heck not?” Donnie demanded. “I apologized to the brat.”
“Yes, but that’s not always enough. You need to atone for your actions. Go to bed. You’re dismissed.”
“LIFE ISN’T FAIR!” Donnie screamed, his brown eyes flashing. “I said I was sorry! Damn. My life sucks!”
“Do you want me to make it a week of no technological devices?”
“Fine, Dad,” Donnie grit out. He glowered at Raphael and then stalked out of the room to his bedroom.

“I am so sorry, Raphael,” Splinter said. “I had no idea my sons would be so rude. I am sorry for their actions. Please don’t think it is your fault. You are a wonderful little boy and I am sure they will grow to love you. Give them time. They’ve only had Leonardo for a long time and….”
Raphael raised his tear-stained face and said something he already felt. “They’ll never love me like Leo already does and I’ll never love them as much as Leo neither. They’ll be nice, but it won’t be like the bond me and Leo have and will have. Never. Ya can’t make people love. They either do or don’t.”
“You are very wise and cynical for one so young.”
“It’s somethin’ I heard my uncle Saki say ta his girlfriend. It’s true. Love ain't forced. It just happens.”
Splinter pricked up his ears at the name and said, “Saki?” Could it be the Shredder? It was a common name, so probably not.
“Yeah. He’s real nice and was my bio Daddy’s friend. He lived in Japan, but moved ta New York, so he can be closer ta us. He buys me presents sometimes and plays with me. I love him. I hope I can see him sometime. Ya’d like him.”
“He sounds like a nice person, Raphael, but why couldn’t you live with him?”
“Because he is too busy ta care for a kid. That’s why my dad asked Hun.”
“Hun?” Damn. It was the Shredder. Hun worked for him, but why was the Shredder so kind to Raphael, a mutant, when he’d tried to kill Splinter and his sons?
“Yeah. Hun. He works for Uncle Saki. I don’t know what he does, but lots of people visit the house and there are drugs and parties. Women too. Naked women and orgies. Threesomes. I’ve seen them,” Raphael said almost proudly. “I smoked a bong too. Uncle Jason gave me one. It made me cough and space out.”
“Raphael, that’s enough!” Splinter said sharply, making the boy blink at the harsh tone and Leo’s eyes widen in amazement.
“Don’t ya wanna hear more? I got so many stories.”
“No,” Splinter said. “Those stories aren’t appropriate, Raphael. Not for kids. You shouldn’t have seen that. It’s wrong. Hun was a bad parent. Wicked. Do you understand? Not normal. Kids should have a happy and carefree existence and be kids. Not do adult things and see that. No one touched you, I hope."
“Tried, but I kicked them in the balls. I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for, my child. You did nothing wrong, but no one wants to hear those awful stories, okay?”
“Okay. I didn’t mean ta make ya mad.”
“I’m not mad, my child. I’m just sad you went through that and I do not want my children to hear about it. They are so very young. So are you. Here you’ll only know love and happiness, Raphael. None of that adult trash. It’s late and time for bed.”
“Could I go home and get my bear my bio Dad gave me? If I’m gonna live here forever I want my bear. Please. He, a few photos and this locket I have,” Raphael said, fingering the gold locket around his neck. "Are all I have of my parents. If it ain’t no trouble.”
“I’ll go. Leonardo, take Raphael to bed and stay with him. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“Yes, Dad,” Leo said and stood. “Come, Raph. You can sleep with me tonight, okay? We’ll sort out a room of your own tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Raphael said, standing up and grabbing Leo’s hand. “Thank ya, Dad. My address is ten River Avenue. It’s in lower Manhattan near a large park. It’s a red brick buildin’. It’s ‘bout twenty minutes from here.”

“All right. I’ll see you two soon. I love you,” Splinter said and went to his bedroom to get his disguise.

XXXX

Leo took Raphael to his bedroom and settled him into bed.

“Will ya read me a story, Leo? Please,” Raphael asked, his green eyes boring into Leo's. “Mommy always read ta me.”
“Do you know the Three Musketeers? It’s about three brave guys , who fought bad guys and went on awesome adventures. They went through a lot, but the one thing that never changed was their brotherhood and their deep love for one another. It reminds me of Mikey, Donnie and I. Us three brothers.”
“But now ya got three brothers, so there are four of us.”
“You’re right, so I’ll find a different story. I know. How about Space heroes? Do you like that show?”
“Yeah. It’s my favorite.”
“Cool. I’ll make up a story about them. Here we go.”

Raphael eagerly listened, as Leo made up a story about Captain Ryan visiting a planet, defeating vicious monsters with tentacles and then returning to his base.

Leo noticed that Raphael was asleep before he’d even finished his story, Raphael’s arms wrapped around Leo and his small frame snuggled up as close to Leo as he could get, his plastron rising and falling with each breath.

Leo kissed his forehead and whispered, “I love you, Raph, and I always will Sleep well, little brother. May God always bless you and protect you. I certainly will. I’ll never let anyone harm you. Never. They’ll have to go through me first."

The blue clad Turtle closed his eyes and was soon asleep.

XXXX

Splinter left the lair in his disguise of a trench coat and fedora, ran through the tunnels until he saw a manhole not far from where he needed to be and climbed up it.

It was pitch dark and there were few people about to his relief.

He hated leaving his precious children alone, but it wouldn’t be for long. He’d be gone an hour max. He’d get Raphael’s stuff and try and avenge the poor boy. No one should have had to endure what he had and the monster, who’d inflicted his trauma had to pay. Splinter would see to it.

Splinter rushed to Raphael’s address, jumped the wall, picked the back door lock and went inside.

XXXXX'

Hun was snoring on the sofa, one arm dangling on the floor.

Splinter glared daggers at him. So this was the psycho who’d hurt sweet Raphael. Well, he wouldn’t be around much longer.

In one fluid motion, Splinter grabbed Hun’s arm and then flung him across the room.

Hun landed on his stomach with a grunt and said sleepily, “What the fuck, man? What’s going on?”

Splinter jumped on him, turned him around and placed a tanto at his throat, his brown eyes blazing with intense hatred for the man.

“Who the heck are you?” Hun asked. “Wait. I remember. You’re that disgusting rat in the sewers. What do you want and how did you find me?”
“Raphael,” Splinter said curtly. “Remember him? That innocent little boy you traumatized, a boy, who was left in your care!”
“That shit deserved all he got and more! He’s nothing but trouble. Why do you care so much about him? Unless you want to plow his ass? I bet he’s real tight! Tame them young, right? That’s what you want, isn't it? That’s why you have the other Turtles. You’re their Master and you fuck them!”

Splinter’s eyes flashed with revulsion, loathing and indignation. How dare this beastly man speak about him and his sons that way. As if he’d harm them. He would be glad to see the end of this man. That was a huge deal, as Splinter hated inflicting loss of life. He’d never reveled in it. It'd only been a necessity.

“Aw. How cute. You’re angry?” Hun mocked. “It’s okay you can tell me the truth. You do want them!”

Splinter slammed Hun's head onto the pine floor in rage with one hand, the other still holding the blade against Hun’s throat. He watched the vile man groan in agony and curse.

“You’re pure filth!” Splinter snapped. “You don’t exist to walk this planet. You will die tonight and at your own hands. How dare you suggest I want that relationship with my sons and Raphael! I love them as a father only. I cherish them, love them and nurture them. I protect them with my life. I would never do that to any of them. I have Raphael and I will treat him the same as my sons. He will flourish and thrive with my guidance and love and you…you will sleep with the devil! That is where you belong. In hell!”

Before Hun could speak, Splinter dragged him to his knees and said, “You will end your life. You are well aware of seppuku. I will give you the tanto to commit it.”

Hun looked at the irate rat and for the first time in his life he was truly afraid. Him, who’d fought battles, drug wars, been shot at multiple times and much more. Now he was frightened of this rat. This rat, who had somehow found Raphael and who meant every word he said.

“Have mercy,” Hun begged, tears sliding down his face, his body trembling with fear.
“You showed Raphael none. I will show you none. Get on with it,” Splinter said in a steely tone, which sent shivers down Hun’s spine. “It’s the only way to atone for your shame, although I’m positive Heaven will not accept you for abusing an innocent child. Hurry up. I do not have all night!”

Blubbering, Hun took the tanto blade and slowly slid it into his abdomen, Splinter watching him impassively, the only sign of irritability being his swishing tail.

Splinter then removed a katana from a sheath on his back and waited.

“Please,” Hun tried again. “I’m sorry. Please. I’ll do anything you want.”
“You’re not. Get on it,” Splinter yelled. “Raphael pleaded for you to stop. You did not. I will not either. Hurry up, maggot."

A bawling Hun gently sliced the blade across his stomach and then upward towards his chest, taking care that it was three inches above his navel.

The pain was excruciating and he howled in agony.

“Can’t take any pain, but you can inflict it on an innocent child?” Splinter hissed. “You’re pathetic and a waste of space. Come on. End it now.”

Weeping and intense pain coursing through him, Hun pulled the knife out, his internal organs and blood spilling out and onto his lap. Total guts and gore.

Splinter watched stoically, unmoved. The bastard deserved no tears and he would receive none.

Hun stared at his organs in horror, his life source pooling around him, knowing he would soon meet his Maker. He was only thirty. There was so much he still wanted to do. Now he would never be able. This couldn't be it, could it? This was a nightmare, surely? No. It was real. He was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it. No one could or would save him.

Losing blood and consciousness fast, Hun wheezed, as his eyes grew glassy, “I’m sorry. Please tell Raphael that. Please.”

Splinter ignored him and lopped off his head with the katana in one fell swoop.

Hun’s body fell back onto the floor with a dull thud, his head rolling until it stopped underneath the coffee table.

Splinter looked at the headless corpse, spat at it and said, “Rot in hell.”

The rat then made his way to the bedrooms.

He soon found Raphael’s bedroom and went inside.

XXXX

Splinter quickly packed Raphael’s clothes, toys, books, photos and his beloved Teddy bear into a large suitcase. Then he picked up the suitcase and another bag and went to the kitchen.

XXXX

The rat raided the cupboards and the fridge, taking as much food and as many tin cans as he could carry, but this time he left via the front door, keeping his hat down low.

He made his way to the manhole, threw down Raphael’s suitcase and slowly descended with the other bag.

He’d defeated Raphael’s monster. Raphael was safe forever and now he could heal.

And if anyone ever tried to touch and hurt Raphael, they would also be shown no mercy. No one harmed Splinter’s sons. No one.

Splinter picked up the suitcase and wended his way back to his lair.

You’re safe, Raphael, he thought. Heal, my son. Thrive. Grow. I’ll be the father you need. I’ll love, nurture and protect you. I am so sorry for all you've endured, but it’s over now. I promise. No one will ever touch you again. You have me and your brothers and we’ll always be there for you, as I know you’ll be there for us. You’re a Hamato now and your bonds with me and my sons will always be strong. Nothing or no one will shatter them. I love you and I always will.

Chapter Text

Splinter peeked in on all of his kids when he arrived home. The last room he checked was Leo’s room and he saw him and Raphael snuggled together, their arms wrapped around one another, angelic smiles on their faces.

He beamed and thought, as he placed Raphael’s bear beside him, you’re already settling in, Raphael. I am glad. I hope you will soon forget your past life and remember only the good one you will have with me. Sleep well, my sons. I love you.

The rat left Raphael’s suitcase on the floor and then went to the kitchen to unpack the food he’d brought home. Breakfast would be something different the next morning and he was positive his sons would approve.

XXXXX

Raphael woke up the next morning, still cocooned in Leo’s arms. He blinked, looked around and thought, this don’t look like my bedroom. Where am I?

Noticing Leo beside him, memories of the previous evening hit him. That’s right. He wasn’t at home. He’d met Leo and the Hamato family and he was at their lair. He was one of them, but Mikey and Donnie didn’t like him and called him a baby. Only Splinter and Leo had welcomed him with open arms. Well, he wasn’t a baby. He’d show them. He was tough, even if he was scared of cockroaches. You couldn’t blame him for that surely. They were hideous and looked like aliens.

He reached for his bear and clutched him against his plastron. Thank goodness Mr. Snuggles was here. He’d make it all okay if things soured more. Mr. Snuggles had been given to him by his Dad when he’d hatched and he’d always been there. Raphael had spent many nights sobbing into his fur and dreaming about a better life.

Raphael pressed the middle of the bear’s back and heard, “I’m Mr. Snuggles. I love you, Raphael. My sweet Raphie. Never forget that I love you so much and I always will.”

Of course it wasn’t Mr. Snuggles’ voice. It was his dad, Matthew’s voice. Raphael never tired of listening to it, the only recording he had of his dad’s voice, which was gruff, but you could hear the love in it. He had no idea what his mom sounded like, but he liked to think she had a sweet voice to go along with her personality and looks.

His mommy, Cassie, had been stunning. Sea green skin with cornflower blue eyes, looking a bit like Mikey. No. She wasn’t like Mikey. His mommy had been kind and loving. Mikey was rude.

He took after his emerald skinned, muscular and green eyed Dad, who by all accounts had been a hero. Uncle Saki had told him countless times how Matthew had saved him more than once from enemies and even when the house had been on fire.

Matthew had been a ninja too, his choice of weapon also the sai. He’d courageously served in the Foot and had been highly esteemed by all who knew him. It didn’t matter that he’d been a mutant. No one saw that when they looked at Matthew. All they saw was a valiant warrior. Perhaps there had been a few assholes, who’d jeered at Matthew’s looks, but Saki had had warned them to be polite to Matthew or else.

Cassie had learned Ninjutsu, but she hadn’t been as skilled as her mate and had preferred being in the kitchen, where she’d been a phenomenal cook.

Uncle Saki had promised Raphael that he would inherit his dad’s weapons and other possessions someday.

That was all Raphael knew about his parents and it pained him. Leo and the others were so lucky to have a dad, who loved them and they would have so many memories of him.

He pressed the bear’s back again and heard his dad’s comforting voice again.

“I love ya too, Daddy,” Raphael whispered. “I wish ya hadn’t died.”
Leo stirred, opened his eyes and said, “I bet your parents adored you, Raph. So your bear talks, huh? How cute.”
“That’s not Mr. Snuggles’ voice, Leo. That’s my daddy’s. He recorded it for me just before I hatched. It’s all I got of him.”
“Still lovely. That shows how much your daddy loved you and how much he loved being a daddy.”
“He didn’t get much time with me. I don’t know what cancer is, but it killed him when I was two months old. Mommy died in a car crash soon after I hatched. Uncle Saki says it devastated Daddy. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds bad. Then Daddy was sick. Uncle Saki was so sad. He loved my daddy. My daddy was a hero and saved Uncle Saki in battles and from a house fire,” Raphael said, his eyes shining in pride.

It was so odd hearing Oroku Saki referred to as a good man after all Leo had heard about his feud with Splinter and after so many times the villain had tried to eradicate them. They were only kids, but he hadn’t cared and had found their first lair and ambushed them. Then he’d tortured them.

Leo shoved that memory aside. Raphael didn’t need to know that right now. He could fill him on Oroku Saki’s true nature and that he was a nemesis at a later date.

“I’m so sorry, Raph,” Leo said. “But you have us now. You know that, right?”
“I got ya and Daddy Splinter. Not the others. They don’t like me,” Raphael said forlornly. “Can I see Uncle Saki sometime?”
“They soon will. They’d be dumb not to,” Leo said, sitting up and ignoring the last question. “Hey. I was thinking. “Do you like swimming?”
“Course.”
“Awesome! Me and the others go to a little pool about five minutes’ walk from the lair. We have so much fun. You’ll love it. You can swim, right?”
“I’m a Turtle, like ya, Leo. I swim like a fish,” Raphael said and grinned. “Uncle Saki had a huge pool at his house. Dad-Hun took me there a few times and I loved it.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Leonardo and Raphael,” Splinter said. “Breakfast is almost ready.”
“Coming, Dad,” Leo said and sprang out of bed.

Raphael stood up, his bear still in his arms and said, “More worms, Leo?”
“Probably.”
“Gross,” Raphael said and pulled a face. “Can Mr. Snuggles come too and eat my worms? I think he needs them more than me.”
Leo chuckled and said, “Sure. Hey, Raph? Just remember, whatever happens we’ll always be brothers and I'll always love you."
A smile spread across Raphael’s face and he said, “Me too, Leo. Always and forever, right?”
“Yes, little bro.”

They trooped to the kitchen, Raphael obediently following his new big brother.

XXXX

They arrived in the kitchen and sat at the table.

Mikey and Donnie were there and greeted them, but there was no warmth in their voices when they addressed Raphael. They were still determined to ignore the baby.

Leo sensed it and decided he would talk to his dad after breakfast.

Splinter was at the counter, whipping up breakfast.

His kids cringed, knowing soon they’d be eating the dreaded worms.

Splinter turned around and placed a plate of cheese sandwiches on the table.

“What’s that?” Donnie said. “Where are the worms, Dad?”
“I managed to get different food, Donatello,” Splinter said. “It’s called cheese sandwiches. No more worms for a while, my sons.”
Donnie picked up a sandwich, tucked in and said, “I could eat this everyday. It’s so wonderful.”

“Yummy!” Raphael said happily, as he munched on a sandwich.

“I was tired of them,” Mikey admitted and picked up a sandwich. He took a bite and said, “This is so good. Thank you, Dad.”

“Raphael’s talking with his mouth full,” Donnie said. “It’s bad manners. What a baby and he brought the bear to breakfast. So childish!"
“Leave him alone, Donnie,” Leo hissed, his blue eyes blazing.
“Aw. Got a soft spot for him, huh, Leo? You’re always taking in strays, so he’s the new one, huh?”

“DONATELLO!” Splinter boomed, his dark eyes flashing, as he took in a now sobbing Raphael, who was being comforted by Leo. “Do you want to go a month without any privileges?”
“No, but it’s true. This is no different and don’t say he’s our brother. He’s not. A brother is someone you grow up with. He’s a stranger. You can’t expect us to accept him right away. That isn’t practical. It takes time and Raphael has to prove himself. Leo doesn’t get it. He tries so hard to please everyone and to make everyone feel welcome, but some things just don’t belong. Raphael doesn’t. He comes from the outside world. He will never fit in here and Leo’s insane for thinking he will.”

“That’s not true! You’re not even giving him a chance, Donatello,” Leo yelled. “He’s had a bad life and we can help him find a place he belongs.”
“A place? He had a place, Leo. God put him there. He doesn’t belong here! I will NEVER ACCEPT HIM!”
“Oh, now you choose to bring God up when you tell us there’s no scientific proof of him and we’re daft believing in Him!” Leo growled. “That’s right. You only use….”

Splinter frowned. Donatello had a point. He’d been foolish thinking Raphael would be accepted so quickly. It took time for people to settle in and to be accepted, but then again Leonardo had readily accepted Raphael, but that didn’t shock him. Leonardo had the most generous heart out of all his sons and was constantly caring for abandoned strays. He couldn’t cast Raphael out and he couldn’t allow Raphael to be near Donatello. Leonardo would be Raphael’s sole friend until they’d hashed out the new family dynamics.

“I don’t mind being around Raphael,” Mikey said. “I was nasty yesterday, but I’m sorry. Please forgive me, Raphael.”
“Really?” Raphael asked, looking at Mikey suspiciously.
“Yep. I was a brat. I want to be your friend. We can play together. How about we play after breakfast?”

“Mikey, are you sure?” Leo asked skeptically.
“Yep. I was nasty. Raph is a kid too and just wants to be play,” he said winking at Donnie surreptitiously, hoping he saw it and only he did. That was the case.

“Okay,” Raphael said, his green eyes shining with happiness. Yay. He now he had two friends.

“Donatello, your punishment stands,” Splinter said, relieved Mikey had apologized.
“I know. I’m finished. May I go to my room, please?”
“Go and stay there until lunch. I do hope you will learn to accept Raphael. He’s just a mere child, who needs love.”

Donnie ignored the comment and left the room.

“In that case,” Leo said and nibbled on a sandwich. “I have a couple things I want to do after breakfast. Then I’ll take you swimming, okay, Raph?”
“Deal, Leo,” Raphael said and finished his sandwich. “What can we play, Mikey?”

“Do you like Hide and seek?” Mikey asked.
“It’s my favorite,” Raphael said and squealed in excitement. "I'm the best at hidin'."

Leo’s heart soared, grateful that Mikey had thawed. It would be one less headache he had to deal with.

Breakfast finished, the family dispersed and went their separate ways.

XXXX

Mikey and Raphael had fun taking turns at playing Hide and Seek, Raphael trusting him and never thinking he was soon to be horribly pranked.

Raphael found an old trousseau in the spare room and hid in it, thinking he wouldn’t be detected.

Mikey had however seen him climb into it and he had evil plans. He fetched a hammer and nails from the kitchen and thought malevolently, you’re going to have so much fun, Raphael!

He went into the spare bedroom and began to nail down the trousseau.

“What’s goin’ on? Let me out, please,” Raphael, begged in panic, as he realized what was happening, his small fists beating the trousseau to no avail.
“Nope,” Mikey said. “I won’t. Have fun in the dark, Raphael. Bye now.”
“Please!” Raphael wept, his heart breaking. “I’m scared of the dark. Please, Mikey. I’ll be a good boy. Please. Don’t leave me here! Leo!”
“Leo’s busy. Bye now!”

Mikey ran out of the room, leaving a sobbing Raphael, who huddled, his knees drawn up against his plastron. He knew he was done for unless someone found him.

XXXX

Four hours passed.

Leo finished his chores and went in search of Mikey and Raphael.

“Hey, Mikey,” Leo said to his brother, who was sprawled on his bed and reading a comic. “Have you seen Raph?”
“No. We were playing Hide and seek and I gave up finding him. I came here and decided to read. Don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll turn up soon.”
“I hope so,” Leo said and left the room.

Leo searched high and low for Raphael and with every passing second his anxiety grew. Where was the little boy? What if he had left the lair and run into trouble? He wouldn’t be able to defend himself. He had to find Raphael and fast.

Leo went into the spare bedroom and checked the closet. Nope. No Raphael. He wouldn’t go in there. Too dark and there were bugs. Then his eyes landed on the trousseau. Maybe Raphael had climbed in there thinking it a good place and it had somehow slammed shut on him and trapped him inside.

He noticed nails had been hammered into the trousseau. Why? Who on earth would do such a thing?

Leo picked up the hammer and removed the nails. Then he lifted the lid and his heart shattered.

Raphael was inside, his eyes closed, one hand resting on his plastron.
“Raph!” Leo yelled. “Don’t be dead, please. Please. Raph, wake up.”
“Leo?” Raphael asked, opening his eyes. “Leo, is that really ya? Am I dreamin'?"

The emerald skinned turtle had cried and screamed until he'd passed out from sheer exhaustion.

“Yes,” Leo said and gently lifted him out. “Are you okay? Who did this to you?”
Raphael threw himself against Leo’s plastron, wrapped his arms around his waist and said, “Mikey's bad."
“Really?”
“He’s no friend, Leo,” Raphael bawled. “He was pretendin'. All I got is ya, Leo. That's how it's always gonna be. Just me and ya."
“You’re safe now, Raph,” Leo said and stroked his head. “You’re safe. I promise.”
“Leo, don’t leave me with no one else. Please. They don’t like me.”
“I won’t,” Leo said and bent down and kissed his head. “I’ll never leave you. What did I say earlier? Do you remember?”
Raphael raised his head and said, “That we’ll always be brothers and that ya’ll always love me?"”
“Yeah. It’s true. I will always love you and we’ll always be brothers. Always and forever.”
“Always and forever. Aishiteru.”
“You speak Japanese?” Leo said in amazement.
“A little bit. Uncle Saki taught me that.”
“Aishiteru, little bro,” Leo said. “Let’s go and find Dad and how about we get you something to eat? It’s been ages since breakfast.”
“I could eat.”

They went in search of Splinter.

I’m going to wring Mikey’s neck, Leo thought furiously. How dare he traumatize Raphie like that! I hope he gets the thrashing of his life. I will never let Raph be around Donnie or Mikey until they change. I wish I'd never trusted Mikey. What if Raph had died? I'm going to pay Mikey back big time and I know how.