I know I said that I would get this chapter out soon, but life has been getting in my way. So much to do. There is just so much to do. Also, video games are a big distraction. Also, with so many people in my life, it's a challenge to schedule them all in and make everything work. Good news though, I do believe I am getting the hang of things and should hopefully be able to get more writing in.

Ch. 10-Sleep

It was only ten o'clock and all occupants of the lair had been asleep for hours. Leonardo was banned from all training activities for at least another three days and prescribed plenty of rest. Even Donatello—a born insomniac—was fast asleep in his own bed.

They'd had a long and trying week. In short: everyone was dead tired.

Slash glanced around the main room, his night-vision slicing through the darkness. He was surprised, but not shocked, that no one was out and about. He knew that if the main room was dark, his friends were most likely asleep. They deserved a good night's sleep after everything they'd been through.

Raphael was alive and as far as he was concerned that was the only thing that mattered—well, that, and Leonardo's full recovery. Raphael would've never forgiven him if Leonardo hadn't made it.

His shoulders fell. Raphael might not forgive him at all.

It had been a whole week since Raph's revival and Slash still hadn't gone to see him. When Raph had first awoken, he'd been focused on his family—primarily Leo—who'd subsequently collapsed from over-exertion. The Mutanimals had agreed to steer clear and give their friends some room to breathe after Raph and Leo were stabilized.

All week Slash had been telling himself it was too soon and that they needed more time, but the truth of the matter was, he just wasn't ready to face Raphael. Honestly, he still wasn't. Putting it off was making things worse and he knew he just had to get it over with. Only now it seemed that all inhabitants of the lair were all fast asleep. Best come back in the morning.

Somewhat relieved he turned to leave, but as he did, uneasiness wormed its way into his gut. Slash turned to the hall, his green eyes sparkling with conflict. Should he check? He just wanted to make sure…

He didn't remember moving, but next thing he knew he was standing outside that familiar door. The "STOP" stared him in the face. With a silent inhale, Slash took hold of the handle and pushed. The door swung inward on silent hinges. Sticking his head inside, Slash detected the gentle vibration of Raphael's soft snores. Relieved, he closed the door and made a hasty retreat.

He should have known better than to indulge his protective instinct to see his friend safely asleep. In doing so, Slash had disregarded an important fact: Raphael was a ninja. He wasn't halfway to the lair door when a voice he thought he'd never hear again stopped him in his tracks.

"Not even gonna say goodnight?"

Slash turned. Try as he might, it was hard to stop staring. Part of him still couldn't believe it. Somewhere deep in his gut, Slash feared he'd wake up and Raph would be gone…forever.

While Slash's mind drifted, Raphael stretched and yawned.

The larger turtle shook off his morbid thoughts and appraised Raph's condition. The teenager looked tired—dead tired. Slash shuddered, poor choice of words, he thought. Raph yawned a second time, making Slash feel guilty.

"Go back to sleep. I'll drop by in the morning."

Raphael blinked owlishly at him and shrugged. "I'm already up. Might as well say what you're going to say."

The spiked turtle's defenses flew up. He put his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes. "Who said I had something to say?"

Annoyance flooded Raph's face. So that's how he's gonna be, huh? Of course he's gonna make this harder than it has to be, Raph thought. Raph sighed internally, I'd probably be the same way.

"Leo," Raph said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Said we should have a talk. He said some other things too."

Slash was too ashamed to look Raph in the eyes.

"Told me you blamed yourself for what happened."

A probing look at Slash yielded little.

Raph grumbled, "Thought you were smarter than that."

Their eyes met. All Slash's shields were up but it didn't take long for Raph's virescent stare to bore through them. Slash drew himself up and foolishly attempted to divert the conversation by asking how Raph was.

"Nice try." Raphael clearly wasn't about to let go.

"Back off," Slash snapped. He wasn't angry—at least, he didn't think he was angry—and Raph was the last person he wanted to be angry with, but his temper flared up in face of his young friend's persistence.

Raph did the exact opposite of Slash's words. Trust Raphael to fight fire with fire. The teenaged turtle stomped over and stared him down. Slash was once again struck by Raph's larger-than-life personality.

"I don't think so. Cut the crap, Slash. Talk now, or get out and don't come back until you're ready to talk."

Slash had expected the hostility. What he hadn't expected was an ultimatum. He paused to consider.

"Sit down," Slash ordered.

Though Raph wasn't much of a turtle for being told what to do, he acceded the request. Slash stood across from him, slightly turned, so Raph couldn't see his face.

"Whose fault was it, if not mine?"

The teenaged turtle knew he wasn't meant to answer. He waited.

As Slash fumbled with his words, the silence stretched. The whole way here, he'd been going over what he wanted to say in his mind, but now all that had flown away. He knew that Raph would let him take his time.

"You told me the danger. I should've done something. I should've convinced you right then, should've stayed closer to you during the fight—"

"What good would that have done, huh, Slash?" Raphael raised his voice.

Slash's eyes narrowed to slits and he loomed over the smaller turtle. "He wouldn't have gotten the chance to hurt you."

Raphael puffed out his chest and met the fierce glare point-blank with one of his own. One of his fingers prodded Slash's plastron.

"You don't know that! And you don't know that he wouldn't have been able to kill you, too! Where would that have gotten us, huh?"

Donatello was awoken by muffled voices. He yawned, stretched and rolled over.

Oh, just Raph and Leo fighting in the middle of the night again, he thought, closing his eyes.

Slowly, realization dawned on him. His eyes opened and he jolted upright. The voice was unmistakably that of Raphael. He glanced at the clock. It wasn't as late as he'd thought, but still…Donnie felt ill at ease. He stood and shivered. The night air was exceptionally cold.

He slid down the hall with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. With every step he took, the voices grew louder and he realized that, though one was Raphael's, the other was not a native of the household. Hmm…Slash?

"Yeah, and we both could've ended up dead, where would we be then, huh?!"

Don peered into the main room and spied on the argument. A frown creased his lips. Should he make his presence known? Or allow the fight to peter out on its own? Still uncertain, he decided to lie in waiting. If things got out of hand or Raph started overdoing it, he'd step in.

"You don't understand!" Shouted Slash, gesticulating wildly. "I was responsible—"

"Responsible? Responsible?!"

From his hiding place, Donatello heard the crack of pure fury in Raph's speech. He watched the proceedings uneasily, ready to jump in at a moment's notice.

Raphael's eyes were on fire. "Who asked you to be responsible for me?"

Upon hearing the question, Slash became gravely aware of his mistake. He'd unintentionally rubbed Raphael's fierce independent streak the wrong way. Slash's arms fell at his sides.

As expected, Raphael exploded. After a five-minute tirade describing, in detail, his ability to take care of himself, Raphael's volume dropped and his shoulders fell.

Slash glanced up and expectantly met Raph's eyes.

Chewing his gum nervously, Don clenched his fists and readied himself to come between them, should the heavy silence lead to blows.

Raph moved like lightning.

Don stepped into the main room, but screeched to a sudden halt.

Wide, mutagent-green eyes stared at the top of Raph's head in shock. Raphael was hugging him. Slash's stunned arms rose to shakily return the hug as if his friend were made of glass.

If Raph noticed, he ignored it. When he pulled away, he jumped and smacked Slash in the face with a mighty FWAP!

"That's for blaming yourself."

Slash rubbed it, and grinned. He punched his friend in the shoulder. "That's for letting us all think you were dead."

Raph smiled. "Right. I should have sent a telegram." His eyes caught a flicker of purple in the hallway. "Goodnight, Donnie."

Like a child caught with the cookie jar, Donatello sidled forward and laughed nervously. "Oh, hey guys," he waved.

The hothead rolled his eyes. "I said Goodnight, Donnie."

"Oh. Uh—" Donnie looked at Slash, then at Raph, then nodded. "Yeah. Goodnight Raph." He nodded farewell to the leader of the Mighty Mutanimals, "Slash."

"Donatello," Slash acknowledged.

Pausing on his way back to his room, Don glanced over his shoulder. Raph met his gaze and nodded reassuringly. All was well. Donatello returned to his room with an easy conscience.

When Donnie's door clicked shut, Raph turned back to his friend. He put a hand on Slash's plastron, near the large turtle's shoulder.

"You shouldn't have waited so long to talk."

Slash frowned. "Your family—"

"You're my family too," Raph interrupted, patting Slash's plastron. He yawned and stretched.

A big grin stretched across Slash's face. With a short chuckle, he turned his friend around and carefully shoved Raphael in the direction of the hall.

"Goodnight, Raphael."

"Hmmmm. Goodnight." Raph murmured sleepily.

Slash moved towards the door.


The mutant in question turned.

"Sleep well." Raph grumbled over his shoulder.

Slash left without another word, confident that his friend would go back to bed. Leatherhead's tired face greeted him upon his return to the Mighty Mutanimals' lair.

As though he could see his leader's peace of mind, Leatherhead curled up on the floor to go to sleep.

"Sleep well, my friend," Leatherhead said, unknowingly echoing Raph's words.

"I will," Slash said under his breath, heading to his room, where he lay down and slept like the dead.

The End! I hope you guys enjoyed this story! Please Review! How was it?