Well, it's been two years since I first joined the Fanfiction community. I can hardly believe it. What better way to mark the day than with the long awaited final chapter of The Silent Partner!
Ch. 45-Just be Silent
"Hey." A familiar voice called through the haze.
Raphael's eye-ridges furrowed and he shook his head.
"Wake up, sleepy-head," the voice urged.
Gentle hands nudged him. He groaned and swatted them away.
"Raph." The speaker's eye-ridges lowered and he stared flatly at the uncooperative brother. He sighed.
Someone else came to loom over Raph's bedside. They turned knowingly to the frustrated-looking older turtle. "Won't wake up, huh?"
Donatello sighed and shook his head. "We should let him rest. He's still recovering, after all."
"He's going to kill us when he wakes up," Leo said.
"No he won't. He'll be too busy panicking and storming about."
"Don't you think we should—"
"He has to rest, Leo. The stress is slowing his recovery enough as it is. In his current condition, the only reason he hasn't contracted some kind of infectious disease is because of the mountain of antibiotics I've been dumping into his system."
"You think he's still in danger?"
"Until that part of his shell is completely healed, he's always in danger."
Leo's face paled.
Don sighed and lifted his hands. "Don't start, Leo. Worrying only puts more strain on everybody else."
Leonardo frowned, but nodded. After a short pause and a glance at their sleeping brother, he asked, "Is there anything I can do?"
Don paused and glanced thoughtfully at Raph's sleeping form. Slowly, he nodded.
"Stay with Raph. Try and make sure he doesn't hurt himself too much whenever he does decide to return to the world of the lucid."
"Okay. Do you need my help changing Mikey's bandages first?"
Donnie shook his head. "No, Leo, just stay with Raph."
"We're behind in the dish washing, someone's got to take care of that. The pile's almost as high as the ceiling. I need to make Master Splinter's tea. I should probably do that before I sit with Raph. And I need to sort out the candles, April bought a whole bunch and shoved them in a box. They got all mixed up. I need to organize them by type. After that I should—"
"Leo," Don interrupted.
Leo looked at him.
Don's eyes narrowed and he pointed at the chair next to Raph's. "Sit."
"But Donnie, I need to run and do those things before—"
Leo sat. "Don, can't I at least get the box of candles—"
"No. Stay right in that chair until Raph wakes up."
"No. A billion times: No!" Don rubbed his temples in exasperation. "Sit. Stay."
Leo rolled his eyes. "Bossy."
"I heard that."
"You were supposed to." Leo crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.
Don smiled. "Leo, when you're worried, you start trying to do everybody else's job around here. You've already finished the greater half of this month's chores, including mine and Mikey's shares."
"Well, Mikey's injured and you're taking care of everyone—"
"Including you. You've gotten so obsessive you're scaring Mikey." Don said, flatly.
Leo's eyes widened a little. "Is that why he hasn't been around very much lately?"
"He's trying to avoid you. I know you're only trying to help, Leo, but you need to cool off a little bit. Relax."
"Relax?! That isn't easy to do, when my brothers are recovering from life-threatening injuries and Mona Lisa is still unconscious."
"Key word: recovering. Everything's okay, Leo, and though we're aren't back to normal yet, we will be soon." Don patted Leo's shoulder.
Leo sighed and his too-tense shoulders loosened. "I hope you're right."
"I am, bro. With Mona breathing on her own again, I've got a good feeling things will be a lot better soon."
"Good." Leo fell back into the chair next to Raph's.
Don started to leave, but turned back to tell Leo, "When he wakes up, try and keep him calm."
"He's Raph, Don."
Raph's heavy eyelids fluttered open a few hours later. The first thing he noticed was soft, even breathing beside him, and he blinked over at his older brother.
Leo was leaning back in the chair, arms hanging limply off the sides, and head lolling down towards his plastron. He was sound asleep.
That figures, Raph thought. Fearless had been strung up tighter than a ladies' corset the past few days, and it was suffocating all of them, including himself. For the most part, Leo had been running around outside the lab doing everything and anything that had needed doing in the lair. When he wasn't busy jumping down the others' throats he was hovering around in the lab twitching and carving a groove in the floor with his pacing. A few times, Raph had kicked him out because his anxiety was just too contagious, but most of the time, Raph was too focused on Mona Lisa to bother.
Mona Lisa. The monitors.
Where was the sound of the monitors? The goddam beepy things weren't beeping. No!
Raph's head shot up so fast he got shell-lash. The lab table was completely clean. Mona was gone. What the shell was going on? Where was Mona Lisa? Why would they move her without telling him? Or without moving him too?
No! No! She couldn't—she couldn't be…No! He wouldn't believe that. He couldn't believe that. They would have told him, they would have let him know. Unless they thought it would be easier…No! He told himself. He sprung out of his chair too quickly. His wound protested. He hissed but pushed past the pain, frantically looking about for any signs of Mona Lisa. In his graceless panic, the ninja stampeded directly into the chair beside him.
Leo awoke with a flash and snapped upright like a twig in a storm. His sleep-dazed eyes raked over his surroundings. He rubbed a hand over his face and tossed a bewildered stare in Raph's direction.
"Where is she?! Where is she, Leo?! What happened? Is she okay? Is she…" Raph's voice cracked and tears glistened in his eyes.
Raph's words woke Leo like a slap to the face. He sprang upon his sibling to offer comfort. He hadn't seen Raph look so frightened since they were children.
"Hush, it's okay. Mona Lisa is perfectly fine. She's breathing on her own again now. Don thought she'd been more comfortable waking up in non-lab surroundings. We moved her to her room."
Emerald green hands wrapped around Leo's forearms and squeezed. He was hyperventilating.
Leo gripped Raph's arms and looked deep into his little brother's eyes.
"Leo," Raph took a few rapid breaths. He wanted to say more, but all he could manage was, "Okay?"
Leo nodded emphatically. "Mona's fine." He gripped Raph's arms a little tighter. "Look at me, Raph, look at me."
"Good, now breathe. C'mon. Slow. In and out. In—and out." He coached.
Raph obeyed. His breathing calmed a little and he flung his arms around his big brother.
Leo blinked, but soon melted into the embrace. He could feel Raph's entire body trembling and grew uneasy. He shouldn't have fallen asleep. If he hadn't he might have been able to cool Raph off before now. He'd expected Raph to panic, but the amount of fear in Raph's eyes had been staggering.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" Raph asked.
"I tried, you wouldn't wake up. Don said to let you rest."
Raph trembled a little bit more.
Leo hugged him tighter.
Suddenly, Raphael realized he was letting his older brother hug him far longer than he normally would, and he wriggled away.
"Needing comfort doesn't make you weak, Raph." Leo whispered.
"I don't like hugs," Raph justified.
"Sure," Leo said.
There was a minute or two of silence.
"I'm going to see Mona."
"Don says she'll probably wake up soon. She should make a full recovery."
Leo watched as the clouds cleared from Raph's eyes for the first time in weeks. Raph nodded and started to push past his older brother, but Leo stopped him.
"Raph, I'm worried about you."
The hothead growled. He really didn't want to deal with this right now. "Leo—" he warned, but Fearless cut him off.
"I'm serious, Raphael. Donnie says that the stress you've put yourself under is slowing your healing processes and putting you at greater risk."
"Of course I'm damned stressed, Leo! How can I not be?"
"I know, but—"
"Mona needs me. I'm going to be there by her side until she gets better." Raph growled. His eyes just dared his brother to try and object.
Leo's face bent into a sad, weary frown. "I'm not trying to stop you, but you'll be no good to her if you end up contracting an infection. We almost lost you twice at the hands of that scientist. I'm not going to lose you to carelessness." Fearless' face was stronger than steel.
"I know that Mona's recovery will be stressful. I know she'll need your support more than anyone's, but we're here, too, Raphael. We can help. Please, don't forget Mona's not the only one recovering."
Raph sighed. "I won't, Leo. Like ya say, I'm gonna need to be there for her. I know you're worried, but don't push too hard. Pushing only leads to structural collapse."
"Whose? Yours or mine?" Leo asked, grinning wanly.
Raph's eye-ridges rose in amusement. "Knowing us? Both."
Donatello heard a familiar tread stomping down the hallway and stopping outside the door. He straightened up from where he had been checking his instruments. Mona Lisa was doing much better, but he was still monitoring her progress with utmost care. Nothing was going to slip by him if he could help it.
The door opened silently on its hinges.
Raph was trying very hard to quiet his breathing. Probably because he thought the notes Donnie was scrawling on his clipboard paper were critical.
"How was your rest?" Don asked.
Don's eyes rose from the paper. Raph's tone was clipped. That was never a good sign. He turned towards the hothead and didn't like what he saw. Raph looked worse than he had before he'd fallen asleep. Don frowned.
"I'm going to the lab to grab my other equipment. I want to examine you."
"You'll keep your hands off," Raph said.
"I need to look you over." Don retorted, reaching for Raph's forehead to see if he had a fever.
Raph's eyes narrowed, "Hands off." He swatted the hand away.
Alarms rang in Donnie's head. Raphael was exhibiting extreme irritability, tiredness, and hostility. Danger, his mind screamed. Code red. Raph was furious. He brought his hand back to his side because he didn't want it bitten off by a snappy turtle.
"I thought she was dead, Donnie."
"What?" Don asked, freezing to the spot.
"I woke up and she was gone. What the shell—"
Donnie stepped forward and against his better judgment, allowed his instincts to take over. He wrapped the snarling hothead in a tight hug. "I'm sorry. You needed the rest."
Raph twisted away. "I've had enough of you guys telling me what I need, Donatello."
Donnie gulped. Full names never boded well with Raph. He allowed a few seconds for the air to clear before he opened his mouth, but it was no use. Raph wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise.
"You checked her over?"
"Yes." Don confirmed.
"She's fine for now?"
"Yes, I'll try to examine her every couple of hours, though, to see if there are any changes." The brainiac said casually.
Raph turned his carapace to his immediate younger sibling. His voice, cold and thick, tolled through the room. "Then get out."
Donnie's feet rooted to the spot. His eyes widened. "But I need to look you over—"
"No. Just get out."
In the not-so-distant background, their other family members were shouting questions to each other. Soon they would soon descend upon Raph and Donnie with worried faces.
The yell was all Donnie could take. He snapped. Though his temper wasn't as short as Raph's, all the turtles knew to be wary of it.
"I'd be happy to. Go die of septicemia, for all I care!" Don shouted at the top of his lungs.
Raph's face fell. His anger had been sucked up by his younger brother and spat back out at him like a fowl sewer apple.
"Donatello!" Splinter scolded from the doorway, where he had appeared sometime in the past few seconds while his arguing son's weren't paying attention.
Donatello slowly descended from his cloud of rage and realized exactly what had been said. Horror-struck, he took three steps back.
Raph stepped forward and tried to apologize. "Donnie, I—"
Don shook his head vehemently from side to side and appeared to still be in shock. "I didn't mean that." He said. It didn't adequately summarize his meaning.
Raph nodded and attempted to get closer, but Don continued to back away from him.
At the door, Don paused and stumbled over his words. "I—I'm going to—should probably—I need to go."
He was gone.
Raph immediately felt guilty. He thought about going after Don, but his eyes lingered on Mona Lisa. He sighed and sat by her bedside. Don needed space. Raph could apologize later.
Mikey's worried eyes lingered on Raphael for a few seconds, before he glanced at Leo. Their eyes met and informed his big brother of his plans. Leo nodded somewhat remotely and Mikey was off. He took off after Donatello at a gentle run.
He trailed his purple-masked brother through the sewers for miles. Don stopped at a very familiar spot. They all knew this place. Raphael had found it when they were kids. It was one of the places the hothead fled to when he was upset. Huh. He hadn't realized Don used it, too.
"So this is where you run off to whenever you have a major fight with Raph, huh?"
"Just leave me alone, Mikey."
"No can do." Mikey sat next to his brother.
Donnie looked over at him.
"Leo and I split the difference. I'm with you and he's with Raph. Can't go back without ya, bro. Leo'll buy cattle."
"It's 'have a cow', Mikey." Donnie smiled.
Mikey shrugged. "Same thing." He paused and stared down the tunnel. "It's a great idea, though. Just think, we could protect our cattle from rustlers, talk with funny accents, and wear hats!" He said excitedly, his eyes sparkling.
Don chuckled. "That's ridiculous, Mikey."
"Yeah, you're right. It would be so much cooler if they were alien space cattle."
Don smiled and rolled his eyes. Silence settled between them and Mikey watched Don's face stiffen.
"Buck for your thoughts?"
"Penny," Donnie corrected.
The brainiac shot his little brother a withering glance. "I don't think you fully grasp that concept."
"Meh." Mikey shrugged.
There were a lot of heavy memories here. Ghostly versions of his brothers: smaller, younger, with clipped bandana-tails and great, big eyes. They danced in front of Mikey's eyes.
"What's wrong with you?" Donnie asked.
"That's my question." Mikey replied, impertinently, grinning from cheek to cheek.
"Then you should be asking it. You're quiet."
Don lifted an eye-ridge, "You and quiet?" He shook his head. "Never a good thing."
Mikey scoffed, wearing a dim version of his usual grin, "True."
Don briefly wondered whether Mikey's arm was bothering him.
"It's just—" Mikey looked over and ran a hand over his head. "—Lots of old times here, ya know?"
Glancing around with vacant eyes, Don agreed. "Yeah, guess I didn't really think about it."
He didn't even know how long it had taken him to get here. He wasn't even coming here. At least, he didn't realize he was. His feet just kinda took him there. Maybe it was what happened that guided him, who knows. But he was here.
"You know that Raph didn't take what you said seriously, right?"
Anger rose up from within the brainiac. "But I took it seriously, Mikey."
"I know you didn't mean it."
"I was serious, Mikey," Don reiterated.
"You were angry." Mikey corrected.
"It doesn't matter. I said it, and when I said it, I meant it." Don sighed. "I can't believe that I said that to him. It-It really scares me that I could even think something like that."
"Donnie, we've all said things like that sometimes. It happens. We're bros and we get mad at each other. And we aren't us when we're angry. We say things that we would never actually mean. I'm sure Raphie gets that better than any of the rest of us."
"Look, I don't know all that happened, but I know my bros. Trust me Don, whatever happened I'm sure that it was partially Raph's fault, too. Raph'll probably be waiting for you when we get back and you two can hug it out." Mikey said, slinging an arm over Donnie's shoulders.
"Hug it out? Are we talking about the same brother?" Don snorted playfully.
Mikey laughed. They walked side by side. During the few minutes of silence that passed between them, Donnie sincerely hoped that Mikey was right. The last thing he needed, under all his current pressure, was to have Raph against him. Though Raph would never really be against any of them, the hothead did occasionally hold grudges. Mikey pulled him out of his stupor with a shaky cough.
"You think Raph and Mona will get all that stuff between them sorted out?"
The brainiac's eye-ridges rose. "What stuff?"
"Well, ya know…before we went in to the fight, Raph and Mona were already kind of—riding on two pieces of a broken skateboard, ya know what I'm saying?"
"Mikey, I don't think anyone in New York knows what you're saying."
"Hey!" Mikey's arm shot out and prodded his brother in the side. "I mean, since they had that fight, they'd kinda…"
Don's hand flew up and silenced the younger turtle. "I know, but whatever happens now it's going to be between those two."
"But Don, don't you think we should—"
"No. Interfering will only push them further apart. Let them be, Mikey." Donnie warned.
Mikey sighed. "I guess you're right. But what if Mona can't convince Raph to—you know? I mean, he was real upset."
"I don't think Raph will be the one needing convincing."
"Why not?" Mikey asked.
Don looked his little brother in the eyes. Mikey's feet briefly stopped moving forward. He scurried to catch up with the brainiac. No words were needed. Mikey knew what Donnie meant. Of course it would be Mona. After what happened…Raph would have to work hard to convince her that they could have a relationship, even after what happened. But what if she wouldn't listen? What if she blamed herself? If that happened, Mikey was ready to talk some sense into her, like a good little brother should for the sake his older brother's happiness. It was the least he could do. Especially for Raphie.
Donnie went back in to check on Mona Lisa about two hours later. The second the air shifted, Raphael knew that he was no longer alone. He could tell from the footsteps who it was. He got to his feet. Don tossed him a look of admonition and gestured him to sit back down, but Raph didn't listen.
"Look, Don, about—"
"Raph," Don put his hands on Raph's shoulders. He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around his older brother and continued, "I'm sorry. I can't believe I said something so horrible. Please forgive me."
"Wasn't just you." Raph said scratchily, calmly accepting the embrace. "I'm sorry too."
Don shook his head. "You were worried and stressed."
"So were you." Raph retorted calmly.
The genius had to concede the point. In fact, he decided to press it. "About you."
"Donnie…don't." Raph wrapped his arms around his brother and squeezed.
Donatello felt calm for the first time all afternoon. "I—I—I didn't mean what I said, Raph."
"I know, Don. I know."
She groaned and twisted her head from side to side.
"Mona. Mona, can you hear me?"
Her face crinkled up. Her eyes opened a little, but it was bright, so she closed them again.
"Mona Lisa." The sweet, gentle voice called. It sounded worried. Worried about her? Who would be worried about her? What happened? Where was she? Who was—
The answer presented itself. She forced her eyes open just a crack and searched for the face to match the voice.
"Raph…" she sounded froggy and strained.
"Mona," there was relief in Raph's tone. His hand traced her jaw.
Mona let him continue, his fingers brushing sweetly against her cheek. She smiled and leaned into it.
"Raph…" she repeated.
His lips pressed softly against her forehead. She hummed. Whatever had happened, this was a nice way to wake up.
"Can you open your eyes?" Raph asked, sounding timid.
Mona did her best and opened her eyes wide enough that she could see his entire face. He looked handsome…but tired. Exhausted. There were rings under his eyes so dark he might not have slept for days. His face lit up like a firework at the sight of her eyes staring into his. It made her heart swell. And—he was holding her hand. How sweet. She brushed his cheek affectionately.
"Hi." Raph was very choked up. "It's so good to see you like this."
"How else would I be?" She whispered.
"You've been unconscious for—a long time."
Mona Lisa didn't miss the crack in Raph's voice. She started to sit up, but fell back down at the sharp pain in her abdomen. Suddenly, images flashed in her mind's eye. Raphael…The scientist, the mission…the fog of mind-control…Raph returning…and then—
No. She couldn't have. She-she had nearly— She released the hothead's hand faster than a hot cooking utensil.
"Mona?" Raph's eyes were wide with alarm.
"I-I could have killed you. I-I-I nearly did kill you."
Raph shook his head. Anger clouded his face. "Don't ever think that. That wasn't you. Not really. You were under her control."
Mona's hands slid down to Raph's side and anxiously peered at it. He grabbed them and pressed them to his face instead. "Mona—I know that before the mission, I told you that I didn't want to—but now I-I'd like to—"
His bright green eyes filled with hurt. "Mona…"
"No, Raphael. I nearly killed you! You can't love me."
He grabbed both of her hands. "But I do."
"Not gonna let that stop me. I love you." Raph remarked, stubbornly.
Mona wasn't going to accept that. "You almost died."
"So did you."
Raph looked deep into her eyes. One of his fingers traced her lips. "Mona, please. We both have long recoveries ahead of us. I know that isn't the best time for a second shot at our relationship, but…Let's take it slow."
"You sure you still want me?"
His hand on her cheek tightened firmly. "Couldn't be more sure." He kissed her chastely on the lips.
Mona Lisa smiled as he pulled away from the kiss. "Okay…slow."
"Slow." He said, pressing a quick kiss to her forehead.
She beamed at him and leaned into his embrace. Her eyes grew heavy with sleep. "Slow…" she murmured drowsily.
Raph smiled. "Sleep well. I—" He blinked as a light-green finger pressed to his lips.
"Shhh. Don't say it. Save the words. It makes them more special." Mona Lisa smiled and signed: 'I love you'
Hope you all enjoyed the Silent Partner! How was it? Review please!