ROOFTOPS AND FOOTPRINTS: part three of the Closed Doors and Open Windows epic ("epic" -- I've always wanted to use that word; it just sounds so *important*!) I strongly suggest that you read "Closed Doors and Open Windows" and "CDAOW: LAST RITES" either before or after this story -- it will fill you in on what's goin' on.
Thanks to all who contributed plot bunnies -- and most especially my one and only brother Britt. This story goes out especially to you -- because you were there for all the late-night pizza binges, all the times we got up at five A.M. for the Saturday cartoons, and all the times we sang along to the theme song (Remember mom's dumb made-up lyrics?)Thanks for the memories, bro.
Okay, stick a fork in me. I'm done. Once more, for the record: I own nothing, I'm making no money, I'm just a starving film student who writes in her spare time. As always, imput as to where you'd like to see this series go is appreciated, pondered over, and sometimes even followed.
CLOSED DOORS AND OPEN WINDOWS: ROOFTOPS AND FOOTPRINTS
"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay a while and leave footprints on our hearts . . . and we are never, never the same."
NEW YORK CITY
"Yeah, that's right. We want it at about eight-forty-five . . . *how* much? . . . All right. Yeah. Thanks." Casey Jones hung up the phone with a disgusted sigh, remembering with nostalgia the days when ten bucks could get you two large pizzas and a six-pack to boot. Then he grinned. *Datin' yourself there, bud. Ten bucks won't get ya the time of day in this city anymore.*
Oh, well -- chalk it up to inflation. Casey grabbed a Pepsi out of the fridge and headed for the living room.
*Pizza's ordered, April'll be home pretty soon, and,* He grinned. *I taped the Yankees game.* Casey slid the videocassette into the VCR and flopped into his favorite chair. *Life is good.*
"Daa-deee!!" Monet's shrill voice broke the blissful sounds of the opening pitch, and a familiar face appeared at the top of the staircase. "I can't find Raffy!!"
Casey looked up at the dark-haired figure of his daughter, flannel blanket knotted cape-style around her shoulders. "Did you look under your bed, honey?"
Monet nodded vigorously.
"In the hallway?" Another nod. "In our room?"
"I looked *everywhere*, Daddy. I really really looked." Monet's bottom lip formed into a pout. "He isn't *anyplace*."
"Okay, short stuff, don't panic. I'll come look." Casey hit pause and abandoned the Yankees for the moment, jogging upstairs in search of the missing turtle.
An inch-by-inch search of the apartment's upper floor turned up a plastic teacup, a hockey puck, one of April's favorite high heels, seven crayons, an empty bottle of Chanel Number Five, a Bruce Springsteen tape and a bright pink feather boa -- but no Raffy. Casey shook his head, stirring up dust bunnies as he did so, and slid out from under his and April's bed. "He's not under there."
Monet, clutching the crayons and wearing the boa and the high heel, was near tears. "Maybe he's stolen, Daddy." Her eyes widened. "Maybe the Feet Clan *stole* him!"
"Don't worry, Monet, I'm sure he's not . . ." Casey's voice trailed off as he sat up. The bedroom window was open, the childproof lock discarded on the floor nearby.
**Oh, great. She's figured out another one.**
"Monet, what have I told you about the fire escapes?"
"Ummm . . ." Monet nibbled daintily on one thumbnail and avoided his gaze."They're for a'mergencies?"
"And," He added, picking up the discarded lock and holding it out accusingly, "What have your mother and I told you about going up to the roof?"
Monet tried her best I'm-so-cute-I-can't-possibly-be-in-trouble look. "Ummm . . . not to, 'cause it's dangerous?"
"So you wanna explain why the window's open?"
Monet swallowed and shuffled her feet. Then she looked up hopefully and turned up the voltage on her innocent grin. "But *Daddy*, I was searching for the Feet Clan. I was *patrolling*, just like you usedta."
Casey crossed his arms. "That's not a good excuse for disobeying and you know it, Monet. There are rules for a reason."
"I know." Monet muttered sheepishly. "M'sorry, Daddy." She paused, then added hopefully, "Daddy, you think you maybe could look for Raffy on the roof? 'Cause I think that probably I left him up there."
Casey grinned in spite of himself. "Yeah, short stuff. I'll go look for him."
Casey spotted Raffy as soon as he stepped off the fire escape. The stuffed toy was propped up on the white plastic picnic table near the roof's edge, his black glass eyes gazing off across the roof. Casey walked over and picked the turtle up gently.
Raffy was made of thinning terrycloth, with a shell and plastron of industrial-strength felt. The shell had once been criss-crossed with black stitching so it would seem more "realistic", but the stitches were loose in most places now and all but gone in others. A long tear across the bottom of the shell had been repaired with thread that was just a shade darker than the felt. A fraying mask of red flannel, a shoelace belt and a "sai" made out of a broken fork completed the toy's ragtag ensemble.
Casey grinned. What would the real Raphael have said about the small, ragged replica of himself?
** We may never know.** Casey tucked Raffy carefully under his arm and turned to look across the roof. The million buildings of Manhattan spread out around him, a landscape of cliffs and canyons. The shadows between the buildings deepened as the sun sank lower and the rainclouds moved in, and lights sprang into existence one by one. Down in the streets, lines of headlights and taillights stretched like bizarre, slow-moving rivers.
He loved the city from above -- so much that he'd proposed to April on this same rooftop, years ago. But his love of high places dated from before that. Even back in the old days -- in the days when he was young and crazy and fearless, and hotheaded enough to believe that he could solve all the world's problems with a baseball bat -- he had gone above the city when he wanted peace. Central Park and the alleys around it had been his haunts -- the rooftops had been his refuge. It was from a rooftop, so many years ago, that he'd seen the thing that would change his life.
**Raphael . . .** he pulled the stuffed turtle back out from under his arm. **Fighting like crazy against the Foot Clan and never giving up.**
After all the years he still didn't understand what it was -- curiosity? Anger? The love of a fight? -- that had made him rush headlong down the stairs to grab his gear and then dash to the old Antique shop. To the fight. To the Turtles.
Casey looked back out across the rooftop, clutching Raffy and remembering the night he'd proposed. Everything had been perfect, the moment had been just right, and just as he knelt to ask the question . . .
A flurry of snickers erupted from the shadows, followed by the sound of an elbow thumping a plastron.
"Jeeze, Mikey!" Raph hissed.
"Way to ruin a Kodak moment, dude." Donatello's voice added.
"C'mon, guys, lighten up!" A pause, then, "Man, Raph, your elbows are *sharp*!"
April cleared her throat, hands on hips, her eyes flashing. "Do you guys *mind*? This is only the most important moment of my life, here."
"Oh, right." Mikey's sheepish voice crept out of the shadows. "Sorry."
She turned back to him, beautiful and perfect, and he knew from the look in her eyes she would say yes.
"You were saying?"
That had been the last night he'd seen them. He'd never had a chance to thank them -- for bringing him together with April, for calling him their friend, for teaching him to call them friends in return . . .
Or for Monet.
Without the Turtles, he knew, he and April would never have met or fallen in love or married --
And he never would have known that there was anything strong enough to make him miss a Yankees game.
Monet's voice filtered up from the bedroom window. "Is Raffy up there, Daddy? Did you find him?"
"Yeah, kiddo, he's here." Casey sighed and shrugged off the wave of memories. *Regrets . . . well, everyone's got 'em, I guess.*
He tucked Raffy under his arm once more and descended the fire escape.
"I'm home!" April's shout was punctuated by the slamming of the front door. A moment later, Monet came barreling downstairs, dragging Raffy along behind her.
"Yaaaaaaay, Mommy's home!!" She launched herself into April's arms and showered her with kisses. "Hi Mommy!"
"Easy there, kiddo. Let your mom do some breathing, huh?" Casey swept the five-year-old into his arms and gave April a kiss. "How was work?"
"The usual." April slipped her shoes off. "Crime's up, the economy's down. And," She added with a significant glance at Casey, "There's been a rash of thwarted robberies in Little Tokyo. Thugs turning up pummeled outside the scene of a crime, with the stolen goods piled neatly nearby."
There was a meaningful pause before Casey set Monet down gently and patted her back. "Hey, kiddo, what say we watch 'Robin Hood' with dinner tonight?"
"Aaall *right*!" Monet beamed at the mention of her favorite Disney movie and bolted upstairs in search of the tape. Casey grinned briefly, then grew serious and turned back to April.
"That could be a lotta things, A."
"But it's not and you know it." April retrieved a Diet Coke from the fridge. "They're back, Casey. And they want me to know it." She opened the soda and took a drink. Then she pulled back the curtain of the kitchen window. "Mikey told me they'd come back."
"Mikey said they'd *think* about it." Casey came up behind April and wrapped his arms around her from behind. "That was five months ago, April." He said gently.
"They'll come back!" She pulled away, her jaw set stubbornly. She hugged herself tightly. "They'll come back." She repeated, but this time it was a plea instead of a shout.
Casey embraced her again. "You think I don't wanna believe that, A? You think I don't want to talk to 'em, to see 'em? Of course I do. But April," He embraced her again. "Can we wait forever?"
"Yes." She nodded fiercely against his chest. "Yes, we can. We can wait forever -- because *they* would."
Casey sighed . . . and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess we can, at that."
"Hey!" Monet's voice broke the moment. "C'mon! We gonna watch the movie, or are you two just gonna *snuggle* all night?"
Monet's rapt attention to Robin Hood and Little John lasted for about twenty minutes, followed by about ten minutes of rapidly waning attention, which was followed at last by soft snores as the girl slipped into the sleep of those who know the ending is a happy one -- even if they are not awake for it.
April stroked her daughter's dark curls absently, letting her gaze wander. Finally she spoke. "Case, are we . . . the same?"
Casey, confused, roused himself from his own half-slumber. "Same as what?"
"As . . . we were? When they . . . are we the people they knew?"
Casey frowned gently, thinking. Then he shrugged. "Yeah. Sure. Sure. Only . . . ." His gaze came to rest on Monet and he stopped.
"Only there's so much that they weren't there for." April finished.
"Yeah." **Yeah. Ten years. A lifetime.** He glanced down at his daughter, her head pillowed in his lap, Raffy half-buried beneath her. **Monet's lifetime.**
"Her first birthday. And her first Christmas." April said softly. "And all the ones after."
"And the time she fell and cracked her head on the stairs and I thought she was bleeding to death." Casey softly traced the inch-long scar above Monet's left eyebrow. "Or," He added, thinking of his earlier trip to the roof, "All the childproof locks she's broken through."
April laughed. "When we got married, and you were shaking so hard you dropped the ring . . ."
"And it rolled halfway down the aisle." Casey grinned and squeezed his wife's shoulder. "How about when you had Morning Sickness and June Thompson at the station told you to drink a pot of Almond tea?"
"And I got so sick!" April shuddered good-naturedly. "To this day I can't eat an Almond Joy." She fell silent for a moment, twisting her wedding ring on her finger. "Is that why they haven't come back, Casey? Has so much happened? Are we so changed that they don't even know us any more?"
"No." Casey surveyed the apartment quietly. "No. That isn't it, A."
"But," She said, so quietly it was only a whisper, "How do you know?"
Casey thought for a long moment -- about Monet, and the past ten years, and the strange stirring feeling he still got whenever he stood on a rooftop.
"Because." He said at last, "If we were that changed, then we wouldn't need them anymore. There wouldn't still be that place in us that wants them to come back."
April pondered that for a moment. Then she slipped her hand into Casey's and nodded. "You're right. That's what keeps me waiting. That's why they'll come back. That's it."
It was another fifteen minutes before the doorbell finally rang. April stood quietly and hurried to the intercom.
"Who is it?"
"Pizza." The reply was tinny and distorted -- the intercom system had been on its last legs for years now. April hit the button that would unlock the lobby doors, then crossed into the kitchen and started taking down plates, glasses and napkins and setting them on the kitchen table. Casey shook Monet's shoulder.
"C'mon, munchkin, the pizza's here."
Monet's hazel eyes snapped open and she sat bolt upright. "Pizza?"
Casey laughed. "Yeah, Monet, pizza."
The girl grinned widely and she bounded into the kitchen, Raffy dangling from one fist. "Pizza, pizza, pizza!" Monet chirped happily. "Yay for pizza!"
April laughed and bent to kiss her daughter. "Wash your hands, little miss. Finger food is for clean fingers, remember?"
"Yeah." Monet nodded and headed for the bathroom. "C'mon, Raffy, let's get washed up!"
Casey chuckled and fished his wallet out of his back pocket just as someone knocked at the door.
The delivery girl was teenaged, with color-streaked hair and a pierced eyebrow. She shifted a wad of chewing gum around in her mouth as she spoke. "Jones, right? Large supreme, extra cheese?" Casey nodded, and she handed Casey the box. "That'll be twelve-fifty."
Casey handed her a twenty. "Just keep the change."
"Really?" The girl grinned. "Hey, thanks man. You guys have a nice night."
"Yeah." Casey shut the door and set the pizza on the kitchen table as Monet bounded back downstairs.
"M'kay, hands're washed, let's eat." She announced, and hoisted herself into her favorite chair, adding, "Raffy wants two pieces."
"*Raffy* usually has trouble finishing one." April returned dryly as she and Casey sat down.
"And," Casey tapped her head, "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"Oh. Yeah." Monet grabbed Raffy's hands and pressed them together between her own. Then she squeezed her eyes shut and intoned, "Bless the bread, bless the meat, bless us all . . ." Her eyes popped open. "Amen. Let's eat!"
Casey stifled a laugh and started setting pizza slices on plates. No sooner had they begun eating, however, than the door buzzer went off again. April, puzzled, stood up and answered it.
"Uh, yeah." The intercom distortion was worse than usual. "Pizza delivery. Did you guys, like, *mean* to give me a fifty?"
Casey's eyebrows shot up. "I gave her a twenty!"
April shrugged at him. "Ah . . . no, I guess we didn't."
"I gave her a twenty!" Casey protested again.
The intercom gave off a burst of static. "'Kay, didn't think so. Lemme just run up and give you the change."
April shrugged again, buzzed the door open, and sat back down. "Now that's odd."
"No kiddin'." Casey agreed around a bite of pizza. "Coulda swore I gave her a twenty. And that didn't sound much like her, anyway."
"You know that intercom." April shook her head. "I wish the building would pay to replace that thing."
A few minutes later someone knocked on the door. April started to rise, but Casey motioned her back into her chair. "I'll get it."
He swung the door open and started speaking at the same time. "Thanks for comin' all the way back up he --" He stopped.
The figure in the doorway tipped his fedora back and grinned. "No problemo, dude. Stair-climbing's good for your calves."
Casey opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again and said weakly "Mikey?" He glanced over Michelangelo's shoulder to where three other figures stood, wrapped in trenchcoats and sporting fedoras. "Guys?"
"Casey!" Donatello grinned. "How's it goin'?"
"Good to see you, Case." Leo added. Raphael merely nodded in greeting.
Casey grinned slowly. "You guys . . . you're back."
"Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!" Mikey's smile widened and he took off his hat. "So you gonna let us in, or what?"
"Oh. Yeah." Casey backed up rapidly and the Turtles filed into the apartment. April, who had risen at the sound of voices she thought she knew, beamed and flung herself at Michelangelo, embracing him tightly.
"Guys! You're here! You came back!!"
"Urk." Mikey made a strangled sound. "April . . . uh, April . . . oxygen, April. Must . . . have . . . oxygen . . ."
April just laughed. "Mikey." She released him, grabbed Leo and repeated the hug. "Leonardo."
Leonardo grinned -- everyone was grinning. "Hey, April. You look great."
"Oh, Leo." Donatello, in the middle of removing his trenchcoat, was the next one to be suddenly embraced, followed by Raphael. "Donnie . . . Raph . . ." April finally stepped back, her face glowing with joy. "You're really here."
"Yeah." Raphael nodded. "We're really here."
Casey stood by, grinning like a fool. The part of him that still believed all the world's problems could be nicely solved with the right set of golfing equipment was turning cartwheels for pure joy. The part of his life that had paused ten years earlier was back, and . . . a gentle tug on the leg of his jeans brought him back to reality. He knelt down next to Monet.
"Daddy," she said in a reverential whisper. "Is . . . that . . . *them*?"
Casey smoothed her hair back and nodded. "That's them."
Monet's eyes went wide, her mouth formed into a perfect O of amazement. Clutching Raffy under one arm, she edged cautiously over to the nearest Turtle -- Michelangelo -- and gently poked his foot with one finger. Then she gazed up in wonder.
"Are you . . . *real*?"
Mikey grinned. "Sure, babe, of course I'm real." He knocked on his plastron with his knuckles. "One hundred percent American-made."
Monet giggled. "*You're* Mikey-langelo." She turned around slowly, matching the colors of masks and bandannas with the stories she'd heard all her life.
"An' *you're* Donatello . . . an' *you're* Leonardo." She pointed at each of them, shifted Raffy from one arm to the other, and nibbled quietly on her thumbnail for a moment. Then she turned and pattered over to Raphael, still standing near the door with his trenchcoat on. She lifted Raffy up and whispered something to the stuffed toy, then pressed her ear tightly against the turtle's terrycloth face. Finally she reached out and tugged on Raphael's trenchcoat, pulling him down to kneel at her level.
"You look just like I knew you would." She leaned closer, her voice lowered to a confidential stage-whisper that could be heard throughout the room. "You're my favorite. Raffy's, too. But," she looked back over her shoulder, "Don't tell them. They might feel bad."
Raphael grinned and removed the fedora. "The secret's safe with me, kid." He glanced at the stuffed turtle. "And this must be Raffy. Sheesh." He looked up at April, Casey and his brothers with a "what-will-happen-next?" shrug.
There was a snicker from Mike, and Casey shrugged back. "Kids'll be kids." He mouthed.
Monet, introductions handled, rushed over to her father and flung her free arm around his legs. "Daddy, they're *real*! They're really real, I knew they were, I knew it!"
Casey laughed out loud. "Yeah. Yeah, kiddo, they are."
There was a pause then, filled with the weight of years spent apart -- until at last April spoke.
"Well, come on, guys, shut the door, get your coats off. We've got pizza -- you want something to drink?"
And the pause -- and the years -- were gone as if they'd never been. The Turtles sat down, answering April's questions and all talking at once -- except for Raphael, who had been latched onto by a chattering five-year-old.
"You like pizza? It's my favorite. Next week's my birthday, I'm gonna be six. How old are you? Do you still fight with the Feet Clan . . .?"
April stopped on her way to the fridge and flung her arms around Casey, eyes filled with a joy that had no words. Then she released him and continued on into the kitchen.
Casey took a deep breath and looked hard at the laughing scene before him, filled with a sudden surge of joy so great it threatened to overwhelm him.
It was better than the view from a thousand rooftops.
The Beginning . . .