Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

The Triumphant Return of Super Irma!

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Two episodes inspired this one: Super Irma, of course, and Leatherhead Meets The Rat King. When Irma kicked away those Foot Soldiers, it really didn't look like she was relying solely on her "superpowers"! ThickerThanLove helped with some plot elements. This is part of my Exit the Fly verse. Baxter is human again and an ally of the Turtles. His brother Barney no longer works for Shredder.

Vincent wasn't really surprised when he came downstairs the morning after the disaster in Sinkhole and found Barney sitting in his home office, staring out the window. He approached slowly, not wanting to startle his friend. "Barney?"

Barney didn't turn. "How did Baxter sleep?"

"He woke up from a nightmare in the middle of the night," Vincent said. "I calmed him down."

Barney could hear in Vincent's voice that he was happy he had been there to help. "Good." He paused. "And you?"

"Naturally my dreams were not pleasant, but I had the assurance that they were only dreams."

"What about your back?" Barney demanded.

"All better. And I had enough rest to fully recharge my strength."

Barney nodded, pleased. "I hope so."

Vincent came and sat on the edge of the desk. "How did you sleep, Buddy?"

Barney shrugged. "I had to dream about Baxter being killed by an angry mob, you being stabbed and falling down dead, and our father suddenly appearing on the scene."

Here it comes, Vincent thought. Barney had handled things very calmly last night, probably because he had still been preoccupied with the Sinkhole calamity and maybe because he had at least been semi-prepared for the man to come back into their lives. It had helped that he had been kind to Vincent. But Vincent had been quite sure that once it all sank in, Barney would not remain calm.

Indeed, Barney spun to face Vincent and his eyes were flashing. "I wish I could say I'm honestly glad he showed up, but I don't know what to think," he said. "He did seem sincere, I'll grant you that. The fact that he was open-minded about you meant everything to me. But it doesn't take away the past. It doesn't erase years of feeling that I was never good enough, that I was second-best to Baxter, that our father and mother never even wanted me!" He dug his hand into his hair.

If Vincent were talking to Baxter, he would probably jump down from the desk and hug him at this point. Instead he stayed where he was, watching Barney in sad concern. "Barney, I'm so sorry," he said softly.

"I knew he was probably going to appear at some point after our talk with those children, and I thought I was prepared for it. I even acted decent and normal last night. But it brought everything back again. Vincent, I . . . I wasn't ready after all. I wasn't the least bit ready."

"I was worried about what seeing him would do to you," Vincent said.

Barney scowled. "And Baxter, meanwhile, was probably just thrilled that he came."

"It meant a lot to him," Vincent said. "But Baxter doesn't forgive instantaneously either."

"And it was seeing the town go after Baxter that made him come out," Barney said. "He didn't when I came back alive after he thought I was dead." He crossed his arms on the desk and slumped down on them. "Neither he nor our mother wanted to see me at all. And even after everything they did to me, and how I thought I'd rather they didn't come, that hurts, Vincent. That hurts so much." His shoulders shook. He still wasn't pushed to actual tears, but he was very close.

If Vincent physically had a heart, he would say that he was heartbroken to see Barney like that. As it was, all of his circuits were aching. He laid a hand on Barney's shoulder blades. "He said he'd wanted to come for a long time and didn't," he said. "Maybe he wanted to come then, but he felt he'd hurt you too much. Maybe he knew how you felt and he didn't want to show up and hurt you more."

"He didn't say anything about it," Barney mumbled. "I'm still second-best to him. I've tried most of my life to understand why, and I thought I did, but I never knew for sure." He looked up. "I'm screaming Why?! inside. What made them love Baxter more? I didn't become angry until I realized I was being pushed aside, so it couldn't have been that. What was so terrible about me?!"

Vincent got off the desk now and looked firmly into Barney's eyes. "There was nothing terrible about you, Barney," he insisted. "I would hate to think they were so idiotic that they thought they found something. But there are people like that, and if your parents are among them, then they really aren't worth your time and effort."

"You have a beautiful spirit, Barney," Baxter said quietly from the doorway. "Anyone who can't see that is a fool."

Barney jumped a mile. "How long have you been there?"

"Long enough." Baxter walked into the room and over to the desk. "Barney, I'm so sorry. I wondered how you'd feel if or when our father showed up, but when you seemed to take it calmly, I didn't think much more on it last night. I didn't even think about how he finally came after something that happened to me." Sorrow and regret and anguish filled his eyes. "That's probably how I've always been, isn't it? And part of why you were so angry with me. I never really realized how things like that could look to you and would hurt you so much. . . ."

"Yes, that was part of it," Barney admitted. "But I've done a lot of soul-searching and realized that it was mostly me projecting my hurt and anger at our parents onto you." He sighed and leaned back, propping himself up with a fist. "Anyway, you had so much to think about last night. An entire town formed a lynch mob and tried to murder you for having been a mutant! Naturally you wouldn't think much about me when I didn't give you reason to."

"I still feel horrible," Baxter said. "We're trying to be a family and I'm showing that I still don't know how to do it very well."

"We haven't been a family for 43 years," Barney snapped, getting out of the chair. "Of course a few months of peace won't suddenly make either of us experts."

Baxter flinched. "Well, yes, but . . ."

"Barney," Vincent said softly.

Barney sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I'm sorry," he said gruffly. "I don't want to go back to what we were. We couldn't anyway." He turned back. "I accepted that I love you, Brother. That will never change."

Baxter managed a smile. "But . . . where do we go from here?"

"'We' don't go anywhere," Barney said. "I'm the one who has to sort out my feelings."

Baxter sighed now and slowly nodded. "There's nothing I can do to help?"

Barney paused. He heard in Baxter's words a certain sadness. Baxter recognized that Barney still didn't feel close to him like he did to Vincent, and while he had accepted that, he still felt a little sad about it.

"The fact that you understand does help," Barney said at last. "Thank you."

Baxter smiled a bit more.

xxxx

Splinter was already awake and getting breakfast when the Turtles sleepily shuffled into the kitchen. "Good morning, my Turtles," he greeted.

"Morning, Sensei," Raphael yawned, plopping down at the table.

"Man, I don't think I slept too well when I finally got to sleep," Michelangelo sighed. "I just kept thinking about that awful town. . . ."

"It was very troubling," Splinter agreed. "I watched most of the broadcast on the news last night."

"It made me remember how you were treated the first time you tried to go topside, Master," Leonardo frowned.

"That was similar in some respects, yes," Splinter said. "Only those people seemed to be honestly afraid, while the people of Sinkhole were hateful." He shook his head. "I was so worried for Baxter."

"Yeah. I sure hope he's feeling better today," Michelangelo said. "I was just gonna call him." He pulled out his Turtle-Comm and hit the button.

"Hello, Michelangelo," Baxter greeted with a smile after a moment.

"Hey, Baxter!" Michelangelo chirped. "How are you feeling today?"

"Still somewhat shaken," Baxter said. "But overall, last night feels like a bad dream." He shuddered. "It's hard to believe it truly happened."

"Yeah, no kidding," Michelangelo grimaced. "Oh, is Vincent okay too?"

"Yes," Baxter smiled. "He healed completely; no ill effects."

"Gnarly," Michelangelo grinned. "Maybe all three of you could come over for dinner tonight."

"That's very thoughtful, Michelangelo," Baxter said. "I'll run it past them and let you know."

"Great!" Michelangelo said. "Meanwhile, maybe we'll just kick back today and scarf pizza and watch some good ol' boob tube."

"Unless some other villain decides to come out of the woodwork," Raphael quipped.

Baxter gave a sigh of knowing resignation. "And that's always possible," he said.

"It looks like somebody sure came out of the woodwork," Donatello said from the living room.

"Oh yeah? Who?" Michelangelo wandered in to look. "Holy guacamole!"

Their curiosity getting the better of them, Leonardo and Raphael also went to look. "Oh no, not again!" Raphael groaned.

"How did that happen?!" Leonardo exclaimed. "And why?!"

Baxter was baffled. "What is it? What's going on?"

"It's like, a long story, Baxter Dude," Michelangelo said. "But if you've got time, I'll tell it while I'm fixing breakfast."

xxxx

Irma groaned, rubbing her eyes as she trudged into the Channel 6 building. It had been such a long night, even after they had returned from the bigoted town of Sinkhole. She knew she hadn't had much sleep, and boy, did her body show it. Every muscle seemed to ache.

I wish I could have done more to help, she thought to herself. She and Vernon had managed to trip up a few of the hateful townspeople chasing Baxter, but she had wanted to do more. She and April often got into trouble on their assignments or while helping the Turtles, and while she had been able to have a more active part in helping than before, she still felt it wasn't enough.

My life is so blah unless someone's in life-threatening danger, she sighed. Why can't there be a happy medium?

The receptionist smiled at her as she came inside. "Well, if it isn't Super Irma," she smiled.

"Huh?" Irma blinked.

"You were wonderful last night," the receptionist gushed. "But how do you ever have the strength to come in to work?"

"Uh . . . well, I need my paycheck," Irma said with a bewildered shrug and smile.

She went over to the elevator and pressed the button. When it opened, a cameraman stepped out and grinned at her. "I wish I'd filmed your exploits last night," he said. "You really mopped the floor with those crooks!"

Irma's jaw dropped. "I really didn't do much," she stammered. "And Vernon was there too. . . ."

"Vernon?" the cameraman snarked. "He wasn't there. Figures you'd try to share credit, though."

Irma got into the elevator, truly baffled. "Maybe April knows what's going on," she said to the machine. "Did she put out some weird story that made me sound like the hero of the hour or something?!"

Getting off at the office level was even more gobsmacking. April and Vernon were standing near Irma's desk. Both looked up when she arrived. Vernon seemed to have stars in his eyes.

"There she is!" he cried. "Super Irma!"

"Oh no!" Irma moaned. "Not you too!"

"Irma!" April demanded. "What on Earth were you thinking?!"

"Thinking about what?!" Irma burst out. "Would somebody please tell me what's going on?!"

"Just this." Vernon led her into his office and brought up a YouTube video on his computer. "This was uploaded early this morning."

Irma stared at the footage of what looked like herself, kicking two thugs away as they came at her from different angles. As if that wasn't astonishing enough, she then somersaulted and kicked a third.

"That will teach you to mess with Super Irma!" she yelled in the video.

"Huh? What?!" Irma could only stare. "This didn't happen last night! . . . But I don't remember it happening when I actually was Super Irma, either."

"Look at the marquee in the background," April exclaimed, pointing to it. "That's today's date! After we got back from Sinkhole, you must have gone home and changed into your Super Irma costume to go out crime-fighting!"

"Irma, you were incredible," Vernon gushed. "Why didn't you fight like that when we were in that abominable town?"

"Because I can't fight like that!" Irma shot back. "I only could when I was Super Irma because I thought I had superpowers. Once those were gone, I . . . I was just plain old me again."

April and Vernon both stared at her. "You really don't remember doing this, do you, Irma?" April said.

"Of course I don't remember!" Irma cried. "So how could it have happened?! Maybe Shredder made another double of me or something!"

"But why would Shredder make a double of you that fights crime instead of causing it?" Vernon retorted.

"Well, it makes about as much sense as me having gone out like this without remembering it later," Irma said with a wide gesture at the screen. "Although . . ." She winced, rubbing her shoulder. "I really do feel like I've been pretty active in the last few hours . . . more than I should have been from being in that creepy town. . . ." Actual fear went through her eyes. "But . . . why wouldn't I remember it?! What's happening to me?!"

April frowned, running through the video again. She paused it on a close-up. "Irma, your eyes are so glazed over," she realized. "You're not even awake!"

Irma ran over to look again. "I fought crooks in my sleep?!" she yelped.

"Well, at least you do productive things when you sleepwalk," Vernon sniffed.

"But this is awful," Irma wailed. "If I'm going to fight crime, I'd like to actually be aware of it! What if some crook shoots me and I'm dead and I don't even know it because I was asleep the whole time?!"

"Have you ever sleepwalked before?" Vernon wondered.

Irma colored a bit for him to ask. "No," she insisted.

"Well, maybe it was all the stress last night," April said. "It might not happen again."

"I sure hope not," Irma declared. She walked out of Vernon's office and over to her desk. "But I'm so worn-out that I might fall asleep at any time. I don't feel very rested. If I was fighting crooks most of the night, it's no wonder!"

April chuckled. "I'll keep checking on you if you want, Irma," she offered. "If you start falling asleep, I'll wake you up."

"Oh, would you?" Irma looked at her friend with gratitude. "That would be great. The only thing worse than fighting crooks while sleepwalking would be fighting crooks while sleepwalking on company time!"

"Yes, I suppose Burne wouldn't like it," Vernon said. "He should, though. There's a lot of news value in a story like that!"

"I don't want it told all over New York that I'm turning into a sleepwalking crimefighter!" Irma protested.

"No, I don't imagine you would," Vernon said. "But Irma, you really were good. And you fought off all those horrible people without any superpowers. Think about that."

Irma paused. "I guess I did," she said slowly. "What does that mean, though?"

"I'd say it means that you don't need superpowers to be Super Irma," Vernon said.

April looked torn. It was a nice thing to tell Irma, and she supposed it really was true, but she didn't want Irma to get any ideas about becoming a crimefighter again. And considering the source, she had to wonder about Vernon's motivation.

Irma smiled a bit. "Thanks, Vernon," she said. "You're sweet."

"I'll check on you later, Irma," April said. She took hold of Vernon's arm and tried to casually pull him away from Irma's desk. Despite her efforts to whisper, she still spoke loud enough for Irma to hear when she hissed, "What are you doing, Vernon?!"

"I'm just trying to make her feel better," Vernon countered defensively.

"I wonder," April frowned. "You always did like her as Super Irma. That was practically the only time you were ever nice to her until Baxter came along and started getting past your walls. Well, I thought it was disgusting how you kept kissing up to her then. It was like you only saw her as someone worthy of your time if she was physically tough. What are you, one of those men who likes Amazonian women?! You pretty much admitted that back then."

Both Vernon and Irma flinched. "What business is it of yours, April?!" Vernon snapped, pulling away from her.

"Irma's my best friend!" April shot back. "That's what business it is of mine! I don't want Irma deciding to go out as Super Irma again because you're attracted to her like that and you're giving her ideas! She likes you, in case you haven't noticed. She really might listen if you try to talk her into it!"

"What good does it do to try to be nice if I'm questioned at every turn?!" Vernon stormed towards his office.

"You've never had a good track record for being nice, Vernon," April yelled after him. "When you are, you usually want something!"

The office door slammed shut.

Irma looked back to her computer, her hands shaking now. Was April right? Had she just allowed herself to be swept up in Vernon being nice to her lately while as usual, she hadn't really seen the whole picture? She knew she had a bad track record with men. But she had always seen Vernon's faults. She had never had him on a pedestal as she had almost every other male.

She had liked when Vernon had catered to her every whim the first time she had been Super Irma, though. And she hadn't even questioned it. Maybe she had just liked being waited on hand and foot. Or maybe she had liked seeing Vernon finally act nice to her, no matter the reason. She had seen glimpses of a good person now and then before that, but he hadn't doted on her at any other time.

Vernon had looked so starry-eyed when she had come in today. . . . Irma had never seen him look at her like that except on the prior occasion when she had been Super Irma. She was just a frumpy little secretary and technical adviser to him unless she was being tough fighting crime.

"Stupid," she whispered. "I'm so stupid. . . ."

She tried to type, but it was impossible to concentrate. After a moment of fruitless struggling, she got up and ran for the elevator. She had to go hide out in a lounge or a ladies' room until she could get herself under control.

"Irma?!" Baxter said in surprise as the elevator door opened and he got out. "What on Earth is wrong?!"

Irma just shook her head as she tore past him into the elevator and pressed a button. "You wouldn't understand, Dr. Stockman," she sobbed.

Baxter was left staring after her as the door clanged shut.

April ran over to him. "Was that Irma?!" she exclaimed.

"Y-Yes," Baxter stammered. "Do you know what she was so upset about, April?"

"I'm afraid so," April moaned. "It's a long story, and it involves Vernon."

Baxter listened as April explained about both Super Irma fiascos and Vernon's apparent attitude. "I'll talk to him," he offered at the conclusion. A bit embarrassed, he added, "Irma's right that I wouldn't really understand any sort of problem involving misplaced physical attraction, but maybe that really isn't the case this time."

"Well, maybe," April frowned. "I know Vernon's acted nice lately, and you claimed he was always nice and he was just hiding it, but that doesn't mean he isn't finding himself attracted to Irma whenever she's tough and brave. I don't want her to start thinking about being Super Irma again and get herself hurt!"

"That's completely understandable," Baxter said. "But as I see it, Irma is always tough and brave, even if she isn't always kicking villains out of the way."

April smiled. "Exactly." She scowled. "But I don't think Vernon's ever seen it that way."

"We'll see." Baxter went over and knocked on the closed door. "Vernon?"

Silence. Then, "Come in."

Baxter slipped inside and shut the door again after him. Vernon was sitting at his desk, his fingers laced under his chin.

"Before you say anything, I honestly didn't mean anything wrong by what I said," Vernon said.

"I'm objective," Baxter said. "What did you mean?"

"Well . . ." Vernon sat up straight. "Irma doesn't have a lot of self-confidence. And she admitted she thought of herself as a plain girl without her superpowers. I . . . I just wanted her to know that she doesn't need her superpowers to be something special. Obviously she has some kind of fighting skills all on her own, and . . . well . . ." His voice lowered. "Completely independent of that, she is . . . special to me . . . you know. . . ." He shifted uncomfortably.

Baxter gave him a kind smile. "From what April told me, Irma took it the way you meant it, until she became worried by April's concerns." He sat down in a chair on the other side of the desk.

"About that . . ." Vernon looked embarrassed. "That wasn't entirely correct either. . . ."

"What's the truth?" Baxter gently prompted.

"Well . . . yes, I did think Irma was pretty amazing with those supposed superpowers . . . but what impressed me the most was how once she had them, she just reached out and did what she wanted, instead of staying in the little pattern society had carved out for her life." Vernon sighed. "I've never been able to do that. . . . And as far as not noticing or caring about Irma without her superpowers, oh, I noticed and cared, alright. . . . Not in a romantic sense-it was never romantic or lustful even with her superpowers-but I still noticed and cared. . . . But I felt too worthless to approach her, as you already knew . . . and then another part of me took for granted that she'd always be there. . . ." He ducked his head.

"You felt worthless to approach her as her normal self, but not when she was famous?" Baxter said.

Vernon slumped into the chair. "That doesn't make much sense, does it? But I wasn't trying to butter her up or anything like that. I saw it more as how one is in awe of a celebrity in their midst." He groaned. "It does look bad, though. I guess when Irma is her normal self, I always have that desire to prove that I can be strong and tough too, even though I know she's better than me. But I could never so much as try to compete with a superhero, so in that case I just didn't try and . . . well, groveled instead. Maybe that was the only time I felt that I could show how I really feel about her."

"If you just talk to Irma, I'm sure she'll understand," Baxter said.

Vernon looked defeated. "It sounds like April turned her against me."

"You should probably talk to April too," Baxter said. "It's understandable that she would feel protective of her friend, especially if it looked to her like you were just shallowly interested in Irma's shows of physical strength and nothing else."

"That, plus she's worried Irma will go do something dangerous because I 'encouraged' it," Vernon frowned. "Do you think she might?"

Baxter hesitated. "It is possible," he said slowly. "Some people can be very rash when they're upset. . . ."

Vernon bounced out of the chair and hurried to the door. "Will you help me find her?" he pleaded.

"I'll do what I can," Baxter promised.

xxxx

"Brilliant, Krang," Shredder growled as they watched Channel 6 on the transdimensional screen. "Look at this soap opera you've set in motion now!"

Krang scowled. "Well, at least Irma proved the experiment works," he retorted. "And she doesn't remember being hit with the beam, which is a bonus."

"So you've developed a ray gun that makes people act out their secret dreams while sleepwalking," Shredder grunted. "Big deal. How is that going to help us conquer the world?"

"It was supposed to make them act our their worst nightmares!" Krang snapped. "And it would have, if Bebop and Rocksteady hadn't somehow messed it up!" More calmly he continued, "But look at it this way: Irma can keep the Turtles and their friends occupied while we go about stealing energy for the Technodrome!"

". . . I guess you've got a point there," Shredder grudgingly conceded.

"So take Bebop and Rocksteady and get going," Krang ordered. "And you're only to get the fuel. Do you understand?! No stopping for revenge along the way!"

"Alright, alright!" Shredder snapped as he stormed off.

Krang looked back to the screen. "I love soap operas," he smirked to himself. "Let's see if this one is as juicy as John and Marcia."

He adjusted a few dials and came across Irma having fallen asleep on the couch in one of the employees' lounges. "Perfect!" he cackled. "Now that she's asleep, she'll get up and start acting out her dream again!" His eyes gleamed as Irma did indeed get up, her eyes glazed, and headed mechanically for the door. "This will keep the Turtles plenty busy while we get the needed fuel!"

xxxx

By the time the Turtles arrived at Channel 6, the building was in an uproar. Vernon was downstairs, opening the door to every office and lounge.

"Vernon, what the heck are you doing?" Raphael demanded.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Vernon countered. "I'm looking for Irma!"

"Of course," Raphael said, giving him a weird look. "It's all so completely clear now."

The elevator door opened and April got out. "Hi, guys," she said, sounding distracted.

"April, what's going on with Irma?" Leonardo asked. "We saw her on the news today as Super Irma!"

"It's a long story," April moaned. "She's started going out as Super Irma in her sleep. Now we can't find her anywhere and she might have done it again! She didn't get much restful sleep last night. She could have fallen asleep and walked off!"

"She did," Baxter said, suddenly appearing on the stairs. "There's a broadcast coming through from Channel 9 about her. She beat up Don Turtelli's henchmen and now she's been spotted in the warehouse district!"

"Channel 9 scooped us?!" April slapped her forehead. "Burne's going to blow a gasket! He won't be happy about this Super Irma thing as it is! Irma might be out of a job!"

"She might be out of her life!" Raphael cried. "She kept messing up as Super Irma before. We had to follow her around and save her every time she got in trouble!"

"I'm sure Irma did just fine without you," Vernon grunted.

"Oh yeah, real fine," Raphael snapped, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "She only nearly got conked by a thug, got locked in a safe and could have suffocated, and got carted off to the Technodrome! And that was when she wasn't sleepwalking!"

Vernon paled. "I have to find her!" He ran out the door before anyone could stop him.

"We'd all better join in with him," Leonardo said. "Irma can't be left wandering around in that condition."

"It gets even worse," April sighed.

"Like, how could it get worse?" Michelangelo blinked.

"I got into an argument with Vernon over how he was attracted to Super Irma, Irma heard and got upset, and that was when she ran off." April held a hand to her forehead. "Now I'm worried that those feelings will only make Irma more rash than ever, even if she is asleep!"

The Turtles exchanged a look. "Yeah, it's worse," Raphael proclaimed.

"Alright, Turtles!" Leonardo directed. "Let's get to the warehouse district on the double! From there we'll spread out and keep looking until we find Irma!"

"And I'm going to call Barney," Baxter said. "He might know how to make this sleepwalking nonsense stop." He pulled out his phone.

xxxx

Barney frowned, playing with a pen in one hand as he listened to Baxter relate the news.

"You say she's never done this before?" he said then.

"Never, as far as Miss O'Neil knows," Baxter said. "But it apparently just started last night, after we all got home from Sinkhole. Stress can bring somnambulism on, can't it?"

"Of course it can," Barney confirmed. "Only hasn't she been under high stress for years without this happening?"

"Yes," Baxter said slowly. "But maybe last night was just the . . . last straw, so to speak?"

"It certainly could have been." Barney frowned. "Or there could have been an outside influence. . . ."

"Like what?" Baxter raised an eyebrow.

"I wouldn't put it past Krang and Shredder to come up with a plot involving somnambulism," Barney said flatly. "Now what the point would be, I don't know, but it is a possibility."

Baxter cringed. "She doesn't have any recollection of running into them last night, but I suppose she wouldn't necessarily remember. . . ."

"No, she wouldn't." Barney set the pen down and started to get up. "Vincent and I will come out and try to help."

"Thank you, Barney," Baxter said in relief. "I just hope we can find her before something terrible happens."

Vincent wandered into the room as Barney hung up. "I've never understood the organic phenomenon of sleepwalking," he remarked. "How do they manage to do all those complex things without waking up?"

"The human mind does many bizarre things," Barney said. He headed for the door. "There isn't a computer equivalent to somnambulism?"

Vincent followed him. "Certainly not. There's nothing the least bit logical about it."

Barney regarded him in amusement. "And you've never done anything illogical?"

"Well . . ." Vincent looked embarrassed to be put on the spot. "Not like that. . . ."

Barney chuckled under his breath.

"Is that a laugh?" Now Vincent was both happy and playful. "So you can laugh without maniacally cackling or being under the influence of your Gagamagnifier!"

Barney paused. He hadn't even stopped to think about it. "Yes," he mused, "I suppose I can."

xxxx

Bebop and Rocksteady were in a fairly good mood when the transport module came up at a fuel plant. "Oh boy, the Turtles really aren't here," Bebop grinned.

"They could still come," Shredder snapped. "We must do what we came here to do and do it quickly. If they do come, we need to be long gone by then."

"Aww, but we'd like to thrash them," Rocksteady whined.

Shredder's eyes flashed. "Krang had a point that we need to get the Technodrome out of the mud as soon as possible. The Foot Soldiers just barely stopped some brat from spray-painting graffiti on the Technodrome today!"

"Gee, that might've clashed with its normal color," said Bebop.

"And it would've been a pain to wash off too," Rocksteady scowled.

"So let's get the fuel and get back to the Technodrome before anything more happens!" Shredder snarled.

"Okay, Boss," Rocksteady nodded agreeably.

Between the three of them, they managed to knock out the guards and steal into the plant. "This is really workin'," Bebop said in surprised delight.

"Just keep hurrying, you mutant morons!" Shredder ordered. "The tide could always turn against us!"

They loaded two heavy canisters on a dolly and headed for the door. While Bebop pushed, Shredder and Rocksteady grabbed two more canisters to carry. For a while, everything seemed to be going according to plan.

"Hey!" a guard yelled when they were halfway down a corridor. "What are you doing? Stop or I'll shoot!"

"Oh really." Shredder turned, holding the canister to his chest. "Shoot me and you'll have a catastrophe on your hands."

"Yeah!" Rocksteady snorted. He lifted his canister above his head. "So you'd better just let us go. Got it?"

The guard gulped. "Y-Yes, of course. Go right ahead."

"Thank you," Shredder sneered.

They made it to the door when the alarm rang through the building. "Uh oh," said Bebop. "He must've gone and pressed the button."

"Nevermind! We have what we want!" Shredder snapped. "Come on!"

They ran for the transport module and started to leap inside. Bebop was just loading the two canisters when the wail of police sirens filled the air. He practically threw the second canister into the module before jumping in after it and pulling the door shut. The module burrowed into the ground just as the police cars arrived.

xxxx

It was Vernon who finally found Irma, and he was stunned when he did. She was in a warehouse on the waterfront, going through crates on an apparent search for some type of contraband. She ignored Vernon as he approached, seeming completely focused on her mission.

"Irma!" Vernon exclaimed. "What do you think you're doing?!"

She pried open another crate, looked inside, and tossed it into a stack with others.

"Irma, for Heaven's sake!" Now Vernon could see that her eyes were glazed over. She was asleep. He looked around, left, and came back in a moment with a bucket of water. "I don't like to do this, but I've heard people can be attacked if they try to awaken a sleepwalker. And I don't want to end up on the receiving end of one of Super Irma's kicks!" He flung the contents at her.

Irma yelped and fell backward, sitting down hard on the floor. "Ow!" she cried. But then she really took in her surroundings. "What the heck am I doing here?"

"You were sleepwalking," Vernon told her. "Irma, when I said you could be Super Irma without superpowers, I didn't mean for you to go around deliberately taking idiotic chances! April does that enough for the both of you!"

Irma sprang to her feet. "Well, why don't you make up your mind, Vernon?! What do you want me to do?!"

"I want you to do what you want to do," Vernon countered. "If you want to fight crime, alright. Get some professional training first! Clearly you have the abilities; you just need to learn how to properly use them. In the meantime, Irma, this warehouse is owned by The Butcher! You're not safe here!"

"Yeah, I'm sure not," Irma frowned. She folded her arms. "You wanted me to be Super Irma, though. You like me that way, don't you?!" As she woke up more, the memories of April's words and her own devastated feelings began to return.

"Irma . . ." Vernon hedged.

"You were attracted to me that way," Irma persisted. "Come on, you can't deny that! I knew it at the time, but I liked being waited on so much that I didn't protest."

"Alright, yes, I was," Vernon conceded. "I am."

"And you're only attracted to me if I'm Super Irma!" Irma rushed on. "Plain old Irma Langinstein isn't good enough for you or for anyone else! All men are alike!" She stamped her foot. "I'm sick of it! It's no wonder I can never get a date. I'm not glamorous or beautiful or even pretty!" Tears pricked her eyes. "Everybody always overlooks me because I'm just there. I'm part of the furniture to them! And any time I do get a date, they never want a second one!"

"Irma, that's not true. I know you're upset, but won't you at least let me explain?" Vernon pleaded.

"Explain what?!" Irma shot back. "That you're a two-legged rat?! I already knew that! Maybe Barney shouldn't have freed you from that were-rat mutation. It really suited you!"

Vernon flinched. "Now look!" he snapped. "You acted like you were starting to like me. Shouldn't you at least give me a chance instead of just believing April's concerns?!"

"She was right, though," Irma retorted. "You were hardly ever nice to me until I had superpowers! Then you were kissing up to me, sure. And you stopped as soon as I was back to normal!" She blinked back the tears. "That's just the same as now. You acted really enamored of me when I came in to work today. When else have you ever looked at me that way?! I'm nothing to you!"

"That's not true either!" Vernon cried. "I never thought I was a good enough friend for you! And I tried to discourage you because I thought you deserved better than me. It was only when Baxter started talking to me that I started to think maybe I had a chance."

"I'm just a lowly secretary!" Irma shot back. "You're a news director! And you come from a wealthy family!"

"They don't appreciate me!" Vernon insisted. "I'm nothing to them. I thought I was nothing to everyone else too. Irma . . ." He grabbed her upper arms. "I never meant to hurt you today. The way you took what I said before April got on her high-horse . . . that's how I meant it! You're not important to me only when you have superpowers or kick the bad guys around. And it's not like I see you as a friend or a coworker in normal circumstances and then suddenly develop some sort of physical attraction to you when you're Super Irma. Yes, I was in awe of you with your superpowers, because you really took charge in a way I never could. That was what the attraction was! It wasn't shallow or lustful or what have you. It was . . . more of an idolization." He blushed.

Irma stared at him for a moment. "You don't make sense, Vernon. You've never made sense!"

"I've heard that before," Vernon grunted.

"What's more, I don't know that I believe you," Irma went on, ignoring the warning voice in her heart that told her she was going too far. "I think you're a liar!"

Vernon let her go with a jerk. "I'm a liar, am I?! What about all the times I've tried to be nice or brave or do something to help you or someone else?! You acted like it meant something at the time. Now you're letting these doubts creep in on you?"

"Honestly, Vernon, there's been a lot more bad times than good," Irma said. "So it's pretty easy to doubt! I think I've been an idiot for listening to Dr. Stockman and believing in you!"

"Well, I don't have to try to help you," Vernon sniffed. "Maybe next time I won't. I'm sick of trying to be brave and sticking my neck out only to get hurt!"

"Fine. Then don't!" Irma stepped back, still seething.

Vernon looked angry too, but hurt was flickering in his eyes.

Silence reigned now. Neither knew what else to say; they seemed to be at an impasse.

It was Vernon who first realized they were not alone. "Irma, look out!" he yelped. He grabbed her upper arms, shoving her aside. In the next moment there was the sound of a blast and he gasped, falling back. "I . . . I'm shot," he said in disbelief, holding his hands to his chest and then turning them back and forth.

Irma had crashed to the floor when he shoved her. Shaken and stunned, she looked up with a start. "Oh Vernon, you're just overreacting, aren't you?" she retorted.

Vernon didn't answer. He fell backwards to the floor, one hand still clutching his chest.

Irma slowly crawled over to him. "Vernon, quit kidding around," she said. "Come on, wake . . ." But she trailed off at the sight of red all over the hand sprawled on the floor. More crimson was oozing between the fingers of the hand on his chest.

Irma trembled, both hands flying to her mouth. He's dead he's dead he's dead! she screamed in her mind. But then she noticed the faint rise and fall of his chest. He was still alive, but he didn't look like he would be for long.

She pressed herself into the shadows as two men tramped down the metal stairs and over to him. "You shot the wrong one," the first snarled. "You were supposed to get Super Irma!"

"The wimp got in my way," the second retorted.

Horrified tears pricked Irma's eyes. She had known Vernon had pushed her out of the path of the ray guns, but she hadn't known the blasts were specifically meant for her. She had thought the thugs were probably just firing because they weren't supposed to be in there.

"She can't be far," growled the first. "We'll spread out and look for her."

Irma glowered at them both. She wouldn't let Vernon's act be in vain. But she also wouldn't let his would-be killers get away with this. She stepped out, her hands on her hips. "Are you looking for me?" she snapped.

They spun around. "Oh, you're as stupid as your boyfriend was," said the first. He moved to fire.

Irma leaped up, kicking the gun out of his hand and then striking him in the chest. When the second came at her next, she delivered a harsh kick to his stomach. As he fell, she wrenched the gun out of his hand.

"Vernon told me that I really could be Super Irma, even when I wasn't sleepwalking," she said coldly. She held a gun in each hand, pointing them at the crooks. "I guess he was right."

"Turtle Power!"

She looked up in relief as the Turtles, the Stockmans, and April ran through the warehouse doors. "Guys!" she cried. "Vernon . . . he's hurt!"

Donatello and Baxter immediately knelt beside him. "What happened?!" Baxter demanded.

"He was shot with this." Irma held out the ray gun and Donatello took it, turning it over in his hands.

Leonardo and Raphael dragged the crooks to their feet and tied their hands behind their backs. "So who got the better of them?" Raphael blinked.

"I did," Irma said softly.

"That's righteously amazing, Dudette!" Michelangelo exclaimed.

Irma looked away, blinking back new tears. "I told Vernon he was only interested in me if he thought I could go all Amazonian crazy on the bad guys," she said, still barely speaking above a whisper. "He said that wasn't true. And I was so mad I didn't listen. I called him a liar and I told him not to bother helping me anymore. . . ."

April drew an arm around her shoulders and hugged her close. "Oh Irma. . . . Vernon doesn't have a good track record. He of all people knows that."

"But he's not a liar," Irma frowned. "Except where it came to hiding his good self behind all his jerk-ish comments. He was trying to be honest with me and he was really showing how he's changed, and I wouldn't listen." Her strong front crumbled and she sobbed, covering her eyes with her hands. "He said maybe he wouldn't bother trying to help me anymore, but then he saved me and got shot taking the blast that had my name on it and now he's lying there bleeding . . . !" Irma turned and sobbed into April's shoulder. "I thought he was overreacting when he said he'd been shot! I said that! That was the last thing he heard me say and now he's probably going to die and . . ."

"He's not going to die," Donatello interrupted.

Irma looked over, blinking in stunned surprise. "He's not?"

"This wound isn't life-threatening," Baxter said. "But it could be if he goes into shock." He pressed a cloth against the wound. "Or if he loses too much blood. . . ."

Irma was undoing her cape in the next minute. "Cover him with this," she offered, spreading it over Vernon herself and then kneeling next to him. "Vernon, please wake up," she whispered.

"I wonder if this is the first time someone's wanted that so badly," Raphael hissed loudly.

"Raphael," Leonardo scolded.

Irma took Vernon's limp hand. "I didn't mean what I said," she said, her voice trembling. "I swear I didn't! I've been really grateful to you for how you've been trying to help lately, and to be nice, and . . ." She sobbed. "You still tried to help me even after we both said you shouldn't. Vernon, it's true that you don't make a lot of sense and you've been hurtful in the past and all, but I thought I really was getting past that. Please don't die. . . . "

Barney looked to Donatello. "Can that gun be thrown in reverse?"

"Yeah, I just did it," Donatello said. "But it can't restore the blood or mend the torn skin, so it's pretty much useless."

"What kind of lousy ray gun actually makes holes in people?!" Raphael cried.

"Whoever invented it is mondo uncool, Dudes," Michelangelo said.

Vernon weakly opened his eyes. "Irma . . . ?"

"Yes, Vernon, I'm here," Irma soothed. "And I'm going to stay here until you're better."

Vernon gave her a shaky smile. "You're not angry at me anymore?"

"We can sort it out later," Irma said. "No, I'm not angry. Vernon, you took a blast that was really meant for me!"

"I wasn't trying to," Vernon mumbled. "I just wanted to get you out of the way. Then there wasn't enough time to get me out of the way too. . . ."

"It's okay, Vernon," Irma said. "You just rest. Everything's okay. . . ."

Vernon looked at her blearily. Then he fell limp, his hand slipping from her grasp.

"Was that supposed to happen?!" Irma cried. "Is he okay?!"

"Um . . . no, he isn't," Donatello said in chagrin. "I must have underestimated something in that ray gun. His pulse is racing."

"I knew they were shooting to kill!" Irma wailed. "That was what they said!"

Raphael turned to the thug he had restrained. "Alright, Buster. How do we save his life?!" He drew a sai and held it up to his throat. "And you'd better tell us the truth, because if he dies, I'm not feeling too generous!"

Baxter flinched. This person deserved the threat, but he couldn't help remembering when Raphael had threatened him similarly when he hadn't knowingly done anything wrong.

"It's no ordinary ray," the thug gulped. "It shoots an untraceable poison into him."

Irma stiffened. She stood, storming over to him. "Then tell us how to fix it right now or I'm going to kick you across the room!" Her eyes flashed.

"Okay, okay! The gun's already in reverse. Shoot him with that and it'll give him the antidote." The thug squirmed, not sure whether he was more afraid of Raphael or Irma.

"You'd better be telling the truth!" Raphael snapped.

Irma grabbed the gun from Donatello and pulled the trigger. "Please work," she whispered.

Everyone tensely waited. After a moment Baxter looked up in relief. "His pulse is evening out again," he reported. "He's going to be alright."

"Thank goodness," April breathed in relief.

Again Vernon opened his eyes. "Irma?" he mumbled in a half-whine. "What happened now?"

Irma leaned down and hugged him, being careful of the wound. "I think we'll wait to tell you until you're better," she said. "But . . . thanks, Vernon. A lot."

Vernon looked both stunned and confused. "Well . . . alright. . . . You're . . . welcome?"

Baxter pushed up his glasses and smiled.

xxxx

The wound itself actually was fairly superficial, as Donatello and Baxter had determined, and with a little first aid Vernon seemed to be feeling somewhat better-albeit he wanted to immediately go home and lie down instead of returning to Channel 6. The Turtles drove him in the Turtle Van, while he rested and Irma stayed with him, as promised.

"Vernon, are you really alright?" she pleaded.

"Yes, I think so," Vernon mumbled.

"If I hadn't been arguing with you, you wouldn't have got shot," Irma said sadly. "You were right; I wasn't being fair to you. I know you're not the same as you used to be, and even that you weren't what we thought back then, but I let doubts push what I knew away."

"No." Vernon looked regretful. "You were right that there have been more bad times than good. Of course you'd think back on the worst when things looked bad again. I shouldn't have got on my high-horse. I should be more like Baxter. He understands when trust fails because of what he did in the past."

"Baxter is . . . someone special," Irma said with a smile. "But so are you."

Vernon regarded her in disbelief. "Irma . . ."

"I mean it," Irma said firmly. "It's not the weird sleepwalking side of me talking. You're my friend, Vernon."

Vernon smiled, awestruck. "Really?"

"Yeah." Irma squeezed his hand.

Vernon relaxed as he slipped into a half-awake state.

"Well, that's really touching and all, but how are we going to get Irma to stop sleepwalking?" Raphael muttered.

"Barney said he'd try talking to her after we take Vernon home," Leonardo said.

Vernon had offered to let Barney talk to Irma there and lock up when they left. When they arrived, he went into the bedroom to lie down and left the rest of the group in the living room.

"One of us should stay with him in the apartment a while to make sure he's going to be alright," Donatello remarked.

"Well, it sure won't be me," Raphael retorted. "Anyway, it should probably be someone with some level of medical knowledge."

"I'll do it," Donatello said.

"That's a good idea," Baxter said. He was certainly willing to do it, but perhaps this would help smooth things over between Vernon and the Turtles.

"So what are you gonna do, Barney Dude?" Michelangelo asked. "Hypnotize her or something?"

"I'm just going to talk to her," Barney grunted. He sat with Irma on the couch, while everyone else stood by.

Irma shifted, nervous and unsure. "So, uh, how does this work?"

"We're just going to talk," Barney insisted again. "What did you do after you left Channel 6 last night?"

"Me and April went home," Irma said with a helpless shrug. "Then I went to my apartment and started getting ready for bed."

"What were you thinking about?" Barney queried.

"About everything that'd just happened. . . . About that creepy town. . . . Wishing I could've been more helpful. . . ." Irma looked down.

"Did you think about Super Irma at all?" Barney asked.

"No, I don't think so," Irma frowned. "I don't even remember noticing the costume hanging in the back of my closet. I mean, I knew it was there, but I just didn't think about it. I finished getting ready for bed and . . . you know, that's funny. I don't remember getting into bed!"

"Oh well, you were probably so tired that you were already half-asleep walking to it," Michelangelo said helpfully. "That happens to me sometimes."

Barney gave Michelangelo an exasperated look.

"Ooops. Sorry, Bud." Michelangelo held up his hands.

Barney turned back to Irma. "Do you remember anything at all?" he asked.

"I remember . . . a weird light," Irma mused. "Yeah. . . . I was totally wrapped up in the light."

"Okay, that's weird," Raphael proclaimed.

"I think someone was leaning in through the window," Irma said.

"It was probably Bebop or Rocksteady," Leonardo frowned. "Irma must have been hit by some new invention of Krang's!"

"I think . . . hey, I do remember Bebop's voice!" Irma exclaimed. "He said 'Nighty night' and Rocksteady said, 'Don't let your worst nightmares bite!'" She frowned more. "But being Super Irma isn't my worst nightmare. If anything, I'd say it's a secret dream. I felt like I was really being useful and important then. . . ."

"Then apparently they fouled up the device," Baxter blinked.

"Oh boy, Krang must have been furious!" Raphael cackled.

"The question is, how do we get Irma out of this?!" Leonardo wondered.

"You can make a device to reverse it, right, Barney?" Michelangelo asked.

"Yes, I can," Barney said slowly, "but it might not be necessary. Now that this has been brought out in the open, Irma's mind may not feel the need to engage in acting out her secret dream anymore."

"But how can we know?!" April cried.

"We'll just have to wait and watch and see what happens when she falls asleep again," said Barney.

Irma gulped.

xxxx

Irma had wanted April to stay with her as she went to sleep at her apartment, rather than having a bunch of boys and men in her room. They waited outside in the hall.

"Like, maybe Irma won't even fall asleep, fellow dudes," Michelangelo said. "I always have trouble falling asleep if I know I'm supposed to and people are waiting and watching for it."

"That's why she wanted all of us to wait out here, Michelangelo," Raphael countered.

"Yeah, but she'd still know she was supposed to drift off," Michelangelo said.

Vincent paused, staring off into the distance. "I'm receiving a news report," he announced. "A fuel plant was robbed earlier today, around the time we were all looking for Irma. A masked man and two mutants escaped with four canisters."

Everyone exchanged stricken looks. "Oh no!" Leonardo moaned.

"So this whole thing was just a distraction so Shred-Head and the Gruesome Twosome could get power for the Technodrome!" Raphael said in disgust.

"Well, like, we did have to help Irma," Michelangelo said. "And Vernon. So I guess it really had to be this way?"

"And they've won this time," Leonardo cringed. "Let's just hope it won't be like when they got the Technodrome rolling after successfully robbing a plant."

Everyone concurred.

In a few minutes Leonardo's Turtle-Comm buzzed and he answered it. "Good news, guys!" April said. "Irma's asleep, and she's staying put!"

"That's great!" Leonardo said in relief as the other Turtles high-fived and tried to engage their friends in such.

"She should keep watching Irma for a while to make sure," Barney said. "And we should also try watching her go to sleep at a point when she isn't expecting it, just to make sure she just isn't sleepwalking now because she knows she has an audience."

"Like, that could happen?" Michelangelo blinked.

"It isn't out of the range of possibility," Barney said.

But to everyone's relief, the other tests came out the same way. Irma was no longer going around fighting crime. And when Donatello checked in from Vernon's home, he reported that Vernon was still sleeping and recovering well.

"So does he have any idea you're there?" Raphael wondered.

"Not really, I don't think," Donatello said.

"You know, we still haven't told him that he was actually poisoned," Raphael remarked.

"Like, do you think we should?" Michelangelo blinked.

"It'll have to come out at the trial," Barney pointed out.

"It would be better if he knew before that," Baxter said. "I'll tell him, if Irma doesn't."

"Gnarly notion." Michelangelo looked to Barney. "Have you heard anything more from your dad?"

Barney stiffened. "No. I don't really expect he'll contact us again, especially since he knows it won't be easy for us to give our forgiveness and trust. Just having him appear once is difficult."

Baxter nodded. "But I'm still happy he came, and especially that he showed he was willing to be open-minded about Vincent." He smiled at Vincent. "That means a great deal to all of us."

"I'm sure," Leonardo smiled.

Michelangelo still seemed puzzled. "But so, you're not gonna contact him?"

"Maybe if he was serious about helping us if we needed it," Barney said. "Someday we may need to take him up on that offer."

"I may contact him in other circumstances," Baxter said. "Forgiveness doesn't come easy after how sad Barney and I were in our childhoods because of him. But he seemed sincere and I would like to give him another chance. Part of me feels I should be even more cautious after how trying to reconnect with Mother worked out. The other part feels that he has shown he's deserving of a little more trust after how he reached out to Vincent. I don't think Mother could ever have done that."

"Well, all of us really hope it will work out for you guys," Leonardo said in all sincerity.

"Thank you," Baxter smiled, while Barney gave a single nod.

"I think that one way or another, everything will work out just fine," Vincent said. "Even if things don't completely smooth out with Mr. Stockman, we still have each other."

"Cheesy, but true," Raphael said.

"And hey, who doesn't like cheese?!" Michelangelo chirped.

The Turtles and Baxter looked at each other and laughed. Standing to the side, Barney folded his arms and quirked an eyebrow. Vincent looked amused. "You have to admit, Buddy, there probably isn't another group that could possibly like cheese more."

"I'll give you that," Barney relented. And he allowed a slight smile.

xxxx

Krang cackled as the fuel was absorbed into the Technodrome's engines. "Now we can finally get out of here!" he exclaimed, pulling levers and pressing buttons.

"And then we can conquer New York City!" Shredder cried in delight, pumping his fists to the ceiling.

The Technodrome rocked back and forth, trying to shake off the mud.

"Uh, is this really gonna work?" Bebop blinked. "Seems like we're still pretty stuck. . . ."

"Of course it's going to work!" Krang snapped. "We just need to give it a little more power and . . ."

The Technodrome groaned and tipped. Everyone screamed. When the chaos finally settled, they were all laying on the wall.

"The Technodrome has fallen on its side!" Shredder said in disbelief.

"And now we're stuck in the mud worse than ever!" Krang wailed. "Shredder, you incompetent! You didn't get enough fuel!"

"Well," said Bebop, "it looks like the next thing we'd better steal is a crane."

"Or a really big magnet," Rocksteady chimed in.

They sighed and looked to each other as Shredder and Krang started yet another argument.

"How about we go to our room and play a video game?" Bebop suggested.

"How are we gonna do that when everything's tipped over?!" Rocksteady countered.

"Nothin' was nailed down. We'll just set it up like the wall is the floor." Bebop got up and headed for the doorway.

"No, wait!" Rocksteady exclaimed. "Now the door's in the . . ."

Bebop yelped as he stepped over the doorway and plunged into the next room.

"Floor," Rocksteady finished.

"Oh," Bebop groaned from where he was sprawled over the equipment. "I wish there was another giant whale that could push us up again."

"Maybe a stampede of cows could do it," Rocksteady suggested as he peered through the doorway.

"I don't think the Boss would like that," Bebop said. "But maybe it would be worth a try."

The screams of the argument echoed up and down the halls.

xxxx

Irma really hadn't expected Vernon to come to work the next day. When she saw him pull up shortly after she arrived, she went over in concern. "Vernon, what are you doing here?!" she exclaimed.

Vernon looked both embarrassed and pleased at her worry. "Well, I was feeling alright, so I thought maybe I should check in. . . ." He hesitated. "Baxter came to see me late last night. He told me it wasn't just a flesh wound. He said I was poisoned."

"That's what the bad guys said," Irma said.

"And he said you saved me. . . ." Vernon looked more awkward than ever.

"I couldn't do anything else," Irma said quietly. "You took a poisoned shot that was meant for me. I had to save you. Of course, I would have done it in any case," she quickly added.

"I know." Vernon shifted. "But . . . well, thank you anyway. . . ."

"And maybe it was understandable that I doubted you, but I still feel awful about it anyway," Irma said. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too," Vernon confessed. "For everything. . . . The past included."

Irma smiled. "Apology accepted."

"Just like that?" Vernon said in disbelief.

"Hey, I think I'm sick of being chained to the past," Irma said. "I want to move forward."

"I wonder if April feels the same way," Vernon grunted.

"I'm sure she will, if she doesn't yet," Irma said. "So, shall we see what's in store for us at Channel 6 today?"

"We might as well, since we're here," said Vernon.

"But don't overexert yourself," Irma insisted. "If you start feeling miserable, lie down or something."

"Alright," Vernon consented, amazed and awed at her concern.

Irma linked arms with him. "And I've been thinking about it and I think I'm going to follow your advice," she said as they walked through the parking garage. "I'm also sick of being the clumsy oaf. I actually did pretty good fighting off those thugs, and I don't think I could have focused enough to do it if I hadn't had a good reason. I'm going to ask Splinter if he'll teach me some stuff about the martial arts. Just so I can start making good use of the raw talents I already have. Maybe I can help out more the next time I get mixed up in a fight."

"I think that's a very practical idea," Vernon said.

"And I think I should see if April would be interested in joining me," Irma said. "I mean, just think about all the times she's been kidnapped! Maybe we could see to it that it doesn't happen again."

"I'll support you all the way," Vernon said. "Just as long as no one tries to use me to practice on." He shuddered.

Irma looked at him in amusement. "Oh Vernon, no one's gonna be that cruel." She stopped at the door and smiled up at him. "You don't really think we would, do you?"

Vernon looked back. "No . . . I suppose not."

Inside the lobby, Baxter caught sight of them at the doors and paused to watch. Then he walked on, smiling.