It was past two am and April couldn't sleep.

Restlessly, she wandered the cramped circumference of her apartment in sloppy pajamas, ostensibly tidying up the gentle chaos that usually ruled, ultimately just creating more disorder as she haphazardly moved things from one place to another, her thoughts distracted. A hangover was already needling away at the edges of her brain, threatening to become a pounding menace and she swallowed a handful of Tylenol and began chugging back glasses of water.

Michelangelo and Donatello had returned to the lair to find April sitting, rigid with shock, on the sofa. She had forced a smile for them, feigning normalcy, but as they drew up close to her – Michelangelo crowing about how he had defeated the eternal night that had befallen the kingdom and made all well for his princess once more and Donatello rolling his eyes and smiling in his gentle way – they had both stiffened and curious, awkward expressions had arrested their features.

After they had exchanged uncomfortable glances and April wondered how red her eyes must be, Donatello checked his cellphone, cleared his throat and turned to Michelangelo.

"Okay, so Leo texted to say he and dad are on their way back and should be here in about ten minutes. So. Maybe you could – "

"On it, bro," Michelangelo had replied efficiently and indicated with his head that Donatello could leave them – which he did, quickly and without looking back.

April cocked her head curiously at Michelangelo who approached her with a warm smile, sitting next to her on the sofa and taking both her hands in his.

"How you doin', angelcakes?" And the way he said it indicated he knew something was wrong.

She tried to answer that she was just fine, but the words caught in her throat, her lips still ebbing from the intense exploration her and Raphael had become lost in what yet seemed a lifetime ago, in another reality.

Michelangelo's lips had quirked in a gentle smile and he squeezed her hands. "Listen, babe, I don't wanna put the pressure on here but Sensei will be back really soon and – " he hesitated and she glanced at him, her brows gathering together as he licked his lips and snorted, rolling his eyes heavenwards quickly as though to ask for help. " – ah, look. We all have a really strong sense of smell and – ah – well. I can smell Raphael all over you." April gaped at him as his words sunk in and Michelangelo bit his lower lip and shrugged. "And other stuff."

"Oh god," April whimpered as she was overcome with mortification, her cheeks burning hotly. The night just kept getting better and better.

But Michelangelo was shaking his head, trying to soothe her. "Babe, it's fine. Just figured you might like a shower. And there's some stuff you can borrow here while we wash your clothes. We'll just say you fell over in the sewers on the way here, no sweat!"

April was nodding, fighting against the flame that roared in her cheeks, biting down on her bottom lip and unable to look the playful younger turtle in the face. Michelangelo reached out a hand and cupped her beneath the chin, lifting her head so he could gaze into her eyes.

"Do you need me to go kick his ass?" he asked her seriously. "I mean, realistically, he'll kick mine but for you, I'm prepared to take that risk."

And the tender affection that sparkled in his eyes finally ripped a sob from her and she threw herself into his arms and wept into his neck for a ragged few minutes as he petted her hair and rocked her.

"Come on," he said finally, urging her up off the sofa and ushering her towards the bathroom. "If Splinter walks in now, there's gon' be some 'splainin' to do!"

So she had showered and put on some of Michelangelo's clothes, emerging with damp hair to find the whole family – minus Raphael – gathered before the television and turning with smiling faces to greet her, a comforting sight that went a ways to lifting her heart. Donatello seemed a little awkward though valiantly prevailed, and Michelangelo carried on as normal, serving his Sensei and brothers the rest of the pasta and garlic bread before settling down with April on the beanbags as the vote came down in favour of the latest X-Men film.

At some point, April let her head bend to rest on Splinter's knee and was soothed by the gentle stroke of his paw across her hair, recalling to mind similar movie nights with her long-gone father, confused with memories of her own fingertips scratching behind the lab rat's ears as his whiskers quivered with enjoyment.

Whenever Raphael intruded into her thoughts, the memory of his rough, hot lips and strong arms, the expression of apprehension and pain that had stricken his face before he had walked out on her, she would squeeze Michelangelo's hand and he would return in kind, pulling her back to the moment.

Leonardo had escorted her home, enquiring with interest how her new job was progressing, his calm and steady presence providing a welcome stability she needed badly right then as the prospect of being alone with her musings loomed. She'd spontaneously hugged him outside her apartment window and he had allowed it, even placing a hand upon her back to press her against him for a moment, and she knew she was forgiven for her unexplained absence.

But then she was alone and there was no distraction to stem the tide of her thoughts.

Opting not to get further drunk – though it was certainly a tempting thought – she'd instead flitted about the apartment, shifting books from the floor to the table, clothing from the bathroom to the end of the bed, dishes from the bench to the sink, unable to think about anything other than what had happened between her and Raphael earlier – at her own instigation.

She was shocked at herself. She knew it had to have been a combination of the wine and the darkness, providing what had seemed safe cover, a step outside of reality, to do what she had done – but to go as far as she had! She'd practically jumped his bones.

April had not had much of a love life in recent years. Her ambitions had taken precedence for one thing, and for another she found it difficult to meet a man who took her seriously and respected her as more than a pretty face. Whilst not exactly a blushing flower, she wasn't prepared to go bed hopping just for the hell of it – she enjoyed sex best when there was a real connection there and since real connections were hard to form in a city like New York, it had been a while.

But only hours earlier she had basically dry-humped Raphael to the point of orgasm – and that after spending weeks – weeks – grappling with the fact he wasn't human, that he was a mutant turtle, that she didn't understand what her attraction to him meant or what it said about her.

All of it, tossed aside in a moment, so that she could grind against him in the dark and devour his lips with her own.

She wasn't sure she even knew who she was, anymore.

And yet – and yet –

God, it had been so hot.

His mouth, his tongue, the heat of his breath and the rough texture of his lips, so carefully and quickly learning how to respond to her. The feeling of that powerful musculature beneath her hands, his effortless strength in holding her up against him. Oh god – the sensation of his erection pushing against her, straining to join with her body. Even as she struggled to comprehend her own actions, she was squirming to recollect what they had yielded, and it only caused her further conflict.

God, he was a mutant turtle. A virgin mutant turtle. A virgin mutant turtle who was rough and brusque and aggressive, run through with a painfully insecure streak he carefully guarded.

How could it have been so hot?

April was startled from her tortured ruminations by a quiet but sharp rapping on her window. Rising from the couch she couldn't recall having sat down upon, she hurried over to it, sensing with a sickening lurch of her stomach who it was and not even bothering to check, just whisking the blinds open and raising the sash.

Raphael glowered at her from the fire escape for a moment before manoeuvring his enormous frame nimbly in through the window as she stepped aside, crossing her arms defensively across her chest. She was momentarily self-conscious about the old oversized tee shirt and baggy bottoms she wore and how her hair was pulled back roughly over her head, despite knowing it was about the least important thing in the world right then. He paced across the open-plan living and kitchen, mouth set in a teeth-baring scowl, his breath coming in hard pants as he seemed to wrestle with finding the words that teemed within him. She waited apprehensively, eyes darting to flicker over his clenched arms and the way the ridged shell shifted on his back as he stormed about, before returning quickly to the floorboards, unable to bear the tension, fearful of what he might force her to confront, but needing as much as he clearly did to have this out.

Finally he whirled on her, and the desperate confusion in his eyes about broke her heart.

"What the hell?" his voice was near a shout and she jumped a little, which seemed to temper him – just.

Lowering his voice to a mere rumble he continued, in a tone stricken with rage and pain: "What was that? You disappear for a week and then just – just – out of nowhere – What were you doing?" One massive hand punctuated his words with desperate gestures and his palpable rage and the sheer overwhelming size of him alongside knowing what he was capable of might have been terrifying had she not known with utter certainty he would cut his own arm off before laying a hand on her.

"Raphael, I'm sorry," she blurted, distressed by how obviously difficult this was for him, not finding it exactly easy herself. But she had quarrelled over affairs of the heart before – for him this was the first time, and something he had likely never anticipated he would experience. She had to step up. He deserved that much.

He stilled, his jaw rock hard and staring her down, his plastron rising and falling but his gaze steady – fearful but unflinching, determined to know, and she felt a swell of admiration for the courage he had that she did not.

"Sorry for what?" His voice was a surly rasp, lined in steel.

April felt her chin wobble, dashed her hair back over her ear.

"Sorry that I hurt you – " and she saw him recoil, just a little, reset his jaw and harden his eyes as though she had confirmed his worst fears and she knew she had to face up to things and stop being such a goddamn coward. "But I'm not sorry I kissed you," she finished, putting steel into her own voice and meeting his gaze directly.

Raphael stared straight into her, his jaw still tight but the bunched muscles of his shoulders seeming to uncoil a little and he shifted his weight. She swallowed hard and held his gaze, difficult though it was, forcing herself to absorb fully every detail of his face, every scale and every scar, the flat nose and wide mouth, the dappled green of his flesh, reminding herself he was not human and that it didn't change how she felt even if she was still trying to understand what it meant.

A moment later he grew agitated again, pacing across the floorboards, hunching his shoulders over so that his shell loomed over his head.

"So, what, am I just some sort of experiment to you or something?" He demanded, casting her an angry, defensive glare as he paced and pain lanced her heart, urged her to go to him, to take his face in her hands and smooth the trouble from his brow.

"No, no," she hastened to protest but keeping her distance – he radiated profoundly that his barriers were up and she knew he did not want to be touched, not right then. "It's not like that at all!" She had guessed, hadn't she, that his doubtful and wary mind would immediately jump to that conclusion and she ached for him and all the fears he harboured so deeply beneath that rock-hard exterior. She couldn't blame him for feeling that way, not when she had the upper hand however one looked at it – she was human in a world populated by humans. He was a mutant turtle, forced to live below ground, in secrecy. Whatever the conflict she felt over her desire for him, his was the worse position to be in. "Raphael, I know I've made a mess of this but I swear to you I wasn't just trying to satisfy some perverse curiosity – I wouldn't ever, ever do that to you – " and her voice was hitching as her vision blurred with tears and she swallowed hard, struggling to keep it together.

"So what then?" and suddenly he was right there, right in front of her, stooping to get into her face, his lips curled in a snarl, his eyes hard beads of amber. "You can kiss me in the dark when you're drunk and you don't have to look at me, is that it?"

And though his voice was gravelly with aggression and hostility, still beneath it she heard the rasp of despair and she looked into his face, just inches from her own, and knew what he was doing, how he was confronting her with the full blown reality of what he was, filling her vision with the sight of his green scales and enormous three-fingered hands, the ridge of his carapace bordering the rounded skull with its flat nose and formidable expression, and all so he could confirm to himself what he already believed absolutely.

With a rush of reckless feeling that left her knees weak and her body shaking, she took his face in her hands and pressed her mouth to his.

She knew she was taking a chance; knew he was brimming with confusion and on the offensive, knew that touching him, especially in so intimate a way, might only upset him so that he would run from her again, but she also knew no words in that moment would've convinced him of what she suddenly, desperately knew for sure: she didn't care what he was. She was prepared to take the chance for the sake of who he was.

He jerked as her lips mashed to his and she felt the tremble as his entire colossal body tensed, but she didn't back down and he didn't pull away.

And a second later he had yanked her against him and was kissing her back.

There was a desperation to their kisses this time, their mouths opening and closing against each other with a raw hunger that had them both breathless and panting in seconds and he clasped her to him in an iron grip that left her limp and sagging to feel the overwhelming strength in those arms, propped up effortlessly within them. No longer so tentative or uncertain, he devoured her mouth with his own, his tongue twining fervently with hers and she sensed that he was searching for answers in her kiss and strove to reply, to give him the reassurance he so frantically sought.

Over and over their lips met, their mouths opened, their tongues darted, drawing them so close together her nose mashed against his philtrum and his scales rubbed her cheeks and chin. This was nothing like how it had been in the sewers, in the midst of that silent darkness, her head spinning with wine and anxiety. They were in her living room, the lamp next to the sofa dim but more than ample to fully illuminate the room in a soft warm glow that hid nothing of them from each other. He was there, massive and green, his back covered with a tough shell and his front with armoured plating, the realness of him unquestionable and profound against the supremely ordinary backdrop of her apartment. Over and over their eyes cracked open and met before closing quickly again and she thought that if the burning passion she brimmed with was being reflected in his eyes then they couldn't hold that gaze for fear of scorching each other.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, they ceased their ravenous exploration and drew apart, her leaning back against the firm boundary of his arms to stare up into his face, her lips swollen and her heart pounding, somewhat giddy with desire. He stared back at her, his lips slightly parted, his eyes glazed and a little stunned looking.

She took a breath, licked her lips. "Does that answer your question?" she said. She was aiming for levity but her voice was too breathless for it to quite work, too damp with passion to sound anything other than desperate.

His shoulders heaved as he panted, staring down at her in silence like she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, the tough veneer he usually so convincingly wore utterly askew.

It was touching, this sudden unguardedness, the blissful disbelief that smeared those rough, fearsome features, and again she felt desire for him crest within her, prompting her to reach up again and kiss him, pushing his mouth open with hers then allowing him to take over as he responded to her fervour with equal ferocity. Now, her hands began to explore, running firmly, surely down the thick neck and the broad shoulders, then reaching back to find the rim of his carapace and grasping it, her fingertips feeling out the grooves and ridges of the nuchal plates within reach, marvelling at their bony texture. His shoulders were so massive she couldn't reach back very far, but her fingers nonetheless located the tip of a healed-over crack that splintered the surface, yet one more battle wound in his considerable collection. As he cupped the back of her head and thrust his tongue into her mouth to play with hers, she let her fingers slip back, beneath the ridge of his shell to the point it connected with his back and he was shuddering and twitching as she stroked him there, so softly, delighting in the way he reacted even as her mind still struggled to come to terms with what was happening.

As though in response to the stimulation, Raphael broke the kiss and began to mouth her jaw and neck experimentally, his wide lips eliciting delicious sensation from her sensitive skin, the occasional scrape of his teeth sending jolts straight into her nipples, which hardened where they were pushed up against his plastron. She tipped her head back and gasped, her hands continuing to tease him, her hips thrusting up against his groin, feeling her arousal pool between her thighs. His fingers deliciously kneaded her back, working her muscles in tender circles, adding to the various pleasures she was experiencing in his arms. She drew her fingertips back over his shoulders, dragged them down his collarbone and then the pebbled texture of his scales finished and the rigid surface of his plastron began. Again he twitched and sighed as she stroked and traced the whorls that patterned the armour and this time he nipped her neck softly, making her clit jump.

Once again, things were getting out of control faster than she could scarcely comprehend, their desire seeming to rage into an unquenchable fire that threatened to consume them, regardless of the hesitations and doubts they both held in abundance. It seemed that once joined, only the most momentous of events could separate them.

Or so it seemed. April kissed desperately at his broad cheek as he tenderly mauled her and dragged her fingertips lower, down to where his loincloth slung low on his hips and suddenly he was pulling back, arresting her hands within one of his own, panting and straightening up, reminding her that he had been stooped to reach her the whole damn time and it made her heart throb to think of it even as she blinked at him in delirious confusion, her neck still tingling in the places his lips and teeth had grazed, wondering why he had stopped.

"April – " he gasped, then swallowed hard, looking away from her and seeming to gather his thoughts, his brow once again knotting together beneath the red material of his mask. His enormous hand held both hers firmly but gently in his grip, his other still encircling her waist, rendering her completely immobile, but she felt no fear as she stood there helpless within his grasp, seeing only the conflict that once again raged in the deepset gold of his eyes.

Finally he turned back to look down at her, his breathing still a little heavy, but she thought it was for more reason than the smouldering embers of their passion.

"What is this to you?" he queried her bluntly, his voice soft and hoarse, his expression sombre and searching.

Once again she was knocked off guard by him, by his readiness to come at the matter head on, to give voice to that which she avoided and she struggled to clear her thoughts and give him the answer he deserved.

"I don't know," she admitted finally and his expression softly fell and he was gently, if reluctantly, releasing her and stepping back. She felt chilled by the sudden loss of him, her heart dropping like a stone as she realised how quickly she had become intoxicated by his touch, how their separation now left her feeling like an addict in need of a fix – and suddenly terrified there would not be another.

Raphael was gazing at her with liquid-gold eyes, his expression still but sorrowful, longing but firm. "I have to know," he rasped. "Otherwise I can't – " and he gestured helplessly between them, the words he always found so difficult continuing to elude him and causing a flicker of frustration to contort his face.

April gazed at him with yearning, could barely wrestle back the impulse to step over to him and run her hands up over those magnificent biceps again, lose herself in the deep well of his gaze and comfort him with another delirious embrace. But she knew it was vital that she respect his needs right then, not attempt to overcome them by provoking his desire. Truthfully, he was demonstrating more maturity than most thirty year old men she had ever known, let alone any twenty-one year old – never mind a twenty-one year old mutant turtle with very little social experience. And it impressed upon her once more how deeply those still waters ran, that he had thought all this through already and knew what he needed to feel safe and sure of how to proceed with her.

Aching to move to him, to show him in caresses and kisses how deeply she perceived and appreciated this hidden complexity but knowing it was a selfish impulse, she felt her expression grow desperate and sad and he sighed and shifted his weight, glancing off to the side in agitation.

"It's different for you," he pointed out quietly. "You got – "

He stopped, but he didn't need to elaborate further. " – options," she finished for him silently in her head. And she supposed, from his perspective, that was a simple truth. She watched as he backed up to lean his shell against the kitchen bench, folding his massive arms across his plastron, his jaw again tight, his brow heavy. She had less to lose from an arrangement without sure purpose, and much more to gain staying within the realm of her own species – so he believed, at any rate. He couldn't know that earlier she had been contemplating how what carried out between them could impact her relationship with his entire family – maybe he didn't even fully realise how vitally important they had all become to her. She had the life of a human, and how different that must look from his eyes – he couldn't comprehend how isolated she had been, a social misfit who never quite fit in, whose life had been irrevocably changed by their miraculous entry into it. No matter what happened, she would never be the same again and she didn't like to think of the future without them in it.

It prompted her to speak, her voice throaty as she found it, her lips still feeling the imprinted pressure of his.

"I don't know what this is yet," she said to him, crossing her arms over her breasts and rubbing her palms on her upper arms, finding the sight of his rippling shoulders and large thick lips a continual distraction she had to keep glancing away from. "And the decision has to be yours, if that's what you need." Her voice wavered only a little as she continued, making herself look back straight into his eyes where they glimmered with feeling from within his mask. "But I do know that I care about you – I truly care about you. And – " she felt the words catch in her throat for an instant as their full import struck her to the core, as she comprehended what speaking them aloud would mean, how she would have no choice but to confront and fully accept this new reality once they were out there, whether or not he decided to join her. "And I want you."

Silence reigned for a long, heavy moment between them as he gazed stoically back at her, absorbing her words, perhaps turning them over and over in his mind, searching them out for the catch he doubtless anticipated. Quivering with longing for him, she waited nonetheless patiently, wanting him to decide without coercion.

Suddenly, his lips twitched upwards in that little smile, the one that had set her pulse racing when he'd first gifted it upon her from the back of the van at the underpass, the one that was so genuine and warm that it was like the sun upon her face.

"You want me?" he repeated, his voice sounding at once incredulous and shyly thrilled and she felt her mouth flickering at the corners in response, her heart welling with a warm pleasure to see some small measure of peace at last on his face.

"Yes," she replied firmly, surely, accepting the simple truth of it without further question.

Again that smile that made her melt within, his eyes dashing down to the floorboards before lifting back to hers, for all his size and strength seeming endearingly boyish in that moment.

"Say it again?" he asked her quietly, and that vulnerability – the immense tide of emotion he had let overflow in a great torrent when he had believed he was facing his last moments on earth atop the collapsing Sacks tower – threatened once more to erupt, making her heart swell and throb at the sight, making her want him even more.

She stepped over to him across the floorboards, tingling with anticipation as she took his great hands in her tiny ones and tipped her head back to look right into his reptilian face, drinking in the sight of him and his great, rough visage, her thumbs smoothing across the pebbled texture of the scales on the back of his hands, wondering at the miracle that he was.

"I want you," she said, softly but surely, letting her feeling shine raw and naked in her eyes for him to see and in the next moment he had stooped to kiss her, capturing her lips softly and passionately with his and she was moaning at the feel of him, the taste and scent of him that once again suffused her senses, collapsing into his arms as they wrapped around her and then he was lifting her up onto the kitchen bench and she was parting her legs so he could fit between them, their kisses long and hungry and sending waves of bliss shuddering through her, reminiscent of that final ecstasy they had come so close to sharing in the darkened sewers so many hours ago.

She was suddenly, vividly relieved things had not played out to that ultimate conclusion. This was so much better – here in the cosy privacy of her apartment with enough light and time to unravel the mystery of each other's bodies more fully and thoroughly. She had accepted it now, but found herself still fluttering with nerves to consider what she had yet to discover, how little she knew to really expect and how careful she would have to be not to inadvertently provoke the insecurity she knew lurked at the ready within him. It would've been easier in the dark – but impersonal and lacking intimacy, not fair on either of them.

Deeper and deeper they kissed, her lips tingling from the relentless stimulation, her groin thrusting against his plastron of its own accord and her hands reaching back again to grip the rim of his carapace, wanting him to know for sure that she was fully cognizant and willing. For still she sensed he hesitated, that he shyly held back, his great hands quivering tentatively on her waist, encircling it completely but straying no further, even though she felt sure that the ache radiating in her breasts and between her legs to be touched must be palpable, so keenly did she herself feel it.

"Raphael," she moaned when their mouths parted for a moment and he exhaled at the sound of his name on her lips, shut his eyes as her hands came up to caress his skull, the worn material of his mask rough beneath her fingertips, the bone beneath dense and hard. She trailed her fingers down over his cheeks, feeling the rippling pattern of his scales, the smoothness of his muzzle and the fine depression of the scar that ran down to his top lip, running her thumb across it as his eyes cracked open again with a smouldering stare and she leant forward, holding his gaze with her own, and traced the tip of her tongue down the full length of that scar, slowly and softly and he made a guttural noise deep in his throat, a fire raging in his golden eyes and she felt his powerful hands twitch at her waist and readied herself with a breathless anticipation.

But then he had released her once more and was stepping back, lifting a hand to rub over the top of his head, cracking his neck hard and heaving out in a great gust of air.

"April – " he began in an unexpectedly quavering voice and her heart leapt into her throat as she waited, both aroused and anxious, perched upon her kitchen benchtop in an old three-sizes too big Skid Row tee shirt, left behind by a long gone ex-boyfriend, and grey sweat pants, wondering if the mutant turtle she desired was about to reject her after all.

Again he became agitated, looking about him with a darting eye, wrestling with some inner torment he couldn't yet name. April felt like crying, felt the sting gather behind her eyes, felt her heart clutch and twist. Had they finally come so close only to once again be leaping backwards? She could no longer stem the tide of certainty that somehow they had a path to walk together and if he walked out on her now, a part of her would shrivel and despair.

But finally he was looking back to her, his countenance gently entreating, a softness to it she had glimpsed only a couple of times before – when he had seen his father's battered body, when he had struggled to collect his emotions in the cloud of dust as they had come to rest after their terrifying descent through the sky.

"I'm not – ready," he managed to force the words out, voice gruff but pleading for understanding, and in a rush she did.

Once again she had to reprimand herself for the assumptions she had made, the conclusions she had leapt to with little but her own considerations in mind. She had been so wrapped up in the struggle she had coming to terms with their conflicting species, it hadn't occurred to her he himself might not be ready to take the final plunge just yet – he was a guy, he was young and healthy, he was undoubtedly sexually frustrated – if sex were undeniably on offer, surely he would grab the opportunity without hesitation, right?

But realistically – and she had already seen ample evidence of this, some investigative reporter she was – he was still struggling to accept this was even truly happening, that it was real. She knew Raphael was a pessimist, so it was likely he had never even allowed himself to fantasise about an opportunity such as this one. He would need time to process it, to come to terms with it himself, to decide what it meant for him and how it might impact his future.

And then, she was seven years older than him, and experienced too. Intimidating for any virgin, no matter their gender or species, and especially so for a big tough guy who wasn't accustomed to being at a disadvantage. She knew he knew exactly what to expect once her clothes were off – with mass media as it was it would be impossible for him not to – but that didn't mean he knew what to do. And for Raphael – for whom the realm of the physical was his expertise, who expressed himself best through action and movement – that was probably a challenging reality to accept. He didn't like being vulnerable, was not at ease with ignorance when it came to the world of the corporeal. That was why emotions were so hard for him to deal with, because they were complicated, intangible and unpredictable – and held so much at stake.

It was even possible he himself had to reconcile the fact she was human and he was not as well. She had seen enough to know the brothers all found human women attractive, but for the first time it dawned on her they had no other options to choose from. She had taken it for granted he would be at ease with her status, assuming his conflict would be around his own and her reaction to it.

And of course he had to be anxious about her reaction to his body – the exact configuration of which she was as yet unsure of.

He needed time to build trust in her, to move at a pace that made him feel at ease, that enabled his confidence to grow. Of course he did. Just as she had with her first boyfriend, all the way back in senior year, in as much as those circumstances could be compared. And it struck her profoundly that she wasn't the only one in over her head here and that the only way they could possibly move forward was allied and supporting each other.

"Raphael," she whispered and held her hands out to him, feeling her gaze suffuse with tenderness as she beheld the fearless behemoth whose very heart she seemed to hold in her grasp. He came to her, eyes lowered and let her take him by the thumbs, allowed her to lift his enormous hands and place them on her lap, palms up. She slid her hands into his, massaging his palms with her fingertips, feeling the powerful muscle undulate beneath, enjoying the leathery feel of his skin. "It's okay. I understand."

His gaze remained lowered, fixed to the side and his jaw shifted as he fought against emotion cracking through, and she reached up to kiss his cheek gently, watching as his eyes squeezed shut upon her touch. How hard this must all have been for him – right down to the surrender of his machismo. And she smiled fondly and softly kissed him again.

"It's okay," she murmured, close to his ear, her hands stroking his where they rested across her lap. "Whenever you're ready, I'll be here. There's no rush."

She felt him nod, felt the tension leave him in a rush. He finally glanced at her again, his lips twitching in a little smile as her reassurance emboldened him.

"I dunno about there being no rush," he quipped dryly and together they softly laughed, his a deep rumble that sent shivers down her spine. His forehead lowered to press against hers and she pushed back up against him as their eyes shut and they each breathed in the other, taking pleasure and comfort from that sweet, slight contact as they readied themselves for an uncertain but hopeful future.

After several long moments, their lips were drawn back together and April felt gooseflesh prickle her skin in a delicious flush at the tenderness of his strong mouth against hers, and knew absolutely it would all be worth the wait.


I know, I know, this wasn't as racy as Seven Minutes and things didn't get further and I hope you all won't hate me and be horribly disappointed. But this felt like a necessary bridge to gap. I know we all love the idea of confident, swaggering, testosterone fuelled sex-god Raphael, but he's just not there yet. He will get there. But not yet. I hope you don't feel let down by this.