I don't own anything. Unfortunately, I do have to hold down a real job (although we all know that I'd rather be holding down Raphael in my bed...)
"Family isn't about whose blood you have. It's about who you care about."
- Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park, Ike's Wee Wee, 1998
CHAPTER 10: COLLIDE
The glass window shattered in one giant explosion, the aftershock sending tiny shards across the entire front of the store. I held my breath, resisting the urge to throw my arm in front of my face. I couldn't risk shutting my eyes. Not for a second. Because a second was all that I had before nearly a dozen bodies were on top of me.
With a cry of distress, I tightened my grip on the most precious bag in my left hand, letting the other fall to floor so that I could grab for my weapon. There was one man a few steps in front of the others – tall, dark, and not at all handsome. He was barreling forward like a freight train. With speed that could only come from ninja training, I held my 'chuck in a reverse grip, throwing a punch at the man's face. Instead of connecting with my hand, the other handle of the weapon caught him squarely across the cheek. The bone under his eye shattered. The man screamed in agony, shuddered, then crumpled to the floor.
Victory was short lived. There were at least eight people to replace the first, with twice as many behind them. I didn't have a chance. I managed to side kick one man in the stomach as they approached, but the crowd forced him forward directly into me before he could fall to the ground. Oxygen violently leaving my lungs, I was swept backward in a wave of bodies, lurching into a display shelf.
It was a sickening demonstration of physics. We all had too much momentum to stop with one shelf. My shell struck the corner of the first, and with a spray of candy bars, the entire thing was spun nearlyone hundred eightydegrees. The other end managed to strike a few of the infected that were toward the back of the pack, sending them sideways and into another display. As the rest of us careened backwards, I felt the weight of a body against my plastron. It was fleeting, however, because as I struck the second shelf, the shape of my shell forced me into a reverse sommersault, and whoever was on me was vaulted straight into the air. I think that I managed to find my feet for a second, but all hope of righting myself was lost as I hit the third shelf, and finally the bottom of huge metal display case against the back wall. My head mostly hit the floor, and the sweet taste of iron exploded against my tastbuds, warm liquid filling my mouth. The entire display case swayed, then gracefully toppled down on top of me.
I was probably lucky that I was only half conscious when enormous weight of metal struck my left side. As it was, the pain nearly drove the breath from my lungs. With my left humerus as it's fulcrum, the top portion slowly rotated over me, the bottom feet ending pointed up in the air.
I was only barely still swimming in the sea of reality. Vaguely, I heard other screams of agony, but these quickly turned to cries of anger. It was all so loud – briefly, I let myself my mind daydream back to a time when I was a teenager…Leo, yelling into my ear like a drill sergeant, telling me to get my lazy butt up for practice. Me, ducking my head farther into the comfort of my soft feather pillow. And then, Leo hitting my shoulder…
…No. It was the display case. Someone was pounding on it, vibrating and driving the metal harder into my flesh. Tears began to sting my eyes, and I made every effort to blend deeper into the tile floor, giving anything to escape the pain.
And then suddenly, it stopped. Part of me relaxed, but the other part, the ninja part, snapped alert. If that someone wasn't pounding on the display case, where were they?
My left eye squinting painfully, I searched for a clue to what was happening. It took a mere second for my gaze to connect with that of another – a man's head was trying to squeeze in between the side of the display case and the floor, but his effort was in vain. The object was too heavy to move, and there was no way that he could fit through the small space between it and the floor.
The eyes on the pale skinned face were flat and dead and empty of all emotion, like chips of gray stone. I'd seen corpses with more life in their eyes. His body, however, was another story. With a screech of frustration, the man once again disappeared from sight. Before I could brace myself, he began pounding against the outside, trying desperately to get to me. Each hit drove the corner of one of the shelves hard against my left arm. So hard, in fact, that it felt like the bone was on the verge of breaking.
As the minutes passed, the pain began wrapping me in a feeling of safety, both false and dangerous. I recognized it, and although my heart screamed, I didn't feel like I had the energy to deal with it.
That damn dream again.
…Go away, Leo. I'm too tired to practice today.
…Mike, get up.
…Nnn..No. I'm sleeping in today.
…Mike, they need you. I need you.
The dream changed. I was on the rooftop – blood spraying across my plastron, Leo on the ground, blood everywhere, April screaming…
Instantly, Leonardo's voice was gone. My vision spun, then suddenly seemed to explode. The heavy slap of rubber soled boots against the tile floor jerked my fuzzy conscious back to reality.
The drugstore. The breaking glass window. The metal display case. The pounding, and the pain. But now, only the sound of footsteps. The noise started loud, and then gradually faded away.
He was leaving. But why?
And where did everyone else go? There had to have been at least thirty people pouring into the store when the front window broke!
My only answer was silence. I let out a small sigh of relief. The infected people weren't smart enough to set up any sort of trick - if I couldn't hear them, they were definitely gone.
…Mike, get up.
Everything hurt. Shifting myself slightly forward away from the wall, I tried to move most of the weight back onto my shell. It took a few minutes, but I was finally able to free up my crushed left arm. Then, with both palms on the ground, I attempted to lift myself up off the ground.
Almost instantly, my left arm gave way. It wasn't broken, but the muscles were so flattened and deprived of oxygen, they hardly wanted to work anymore.
I wanted to scream. To die. To have anyone there to help me…but it wasn't going to happen. If I was going to get out of here, it was going to be on my own power. And I was going to get out of here. Not just for myself, but for Leo.
"Argh." I pushed up with everything that I had. I ignored the pain in my arm, willing the muscles to contract. Slowly, the display case began to rise. I was able to walk my legs up towards my chest, and finally, to slide out shell first. Free, I collapsed back onto the floor, lungs heaving to re-catch my breath. While I panted, I caught a glimpse of my left arm. It was a green palate splashed with purple bruises, some as bright as Donatello's mask. A nasty welt and indentation spread across my bicep, a reminder of where the metal shelf had rested. I winced, but reminded myself that it wasn't nearly as bad as it could be.
My rest didn't last much longer. After a couple minutes I was back on my feet, grabbing another plastic bag to replace the one that had been lost in the scuffle. I didn't bother searching through the disarray on the floor to find the missing bottle of penicillin – I jumped across the pharmacy counter and quickly found another. That, along with a couple candy bars and some bottled water were all that I took the time to grab. I'd wasted too much time already. I had to get back.
Steps filled with quiet caution, I made my way to the front of the store. I did my best to avoid the glass on the floor. Then, with ninja speed, I stepped through the window and moved toward a back alley. Just before I turned into the shadows, I had the sickening discovery of why I had been left alone so abruptly.
They were feeding.
Down the street, at least five blocks away. There was a huge swarm of them, milling about, covered in blood. A woman, on the outskirts, was obviously holding a human arm, chewing up and down the bone like a corn cob.
My stomach turned. They must have found some other poor souls, people easier to get to than I had been. I stood staring for a horrific moment, unable to turn away from the grisly sight…until one of them seemed to notice me. I won't lie – at this point, seeing those glowing, devilish eyes connect with mine scared me worse than a hundred foot ninja. I wheeled, tightening my grip on the plastic bag, running as fast as I could into the darkness of the alley.
I listened for signs of a chase, but all that I could hear was the sound of my own blood pounding in my ears.
Don't look back, my brain told me.
"Hey Raph, slow up. We're almost there."
Raphael didn't look back. He was at least thirty feet ahead of us, and had been for the duration of our trip through the sewer. Instead of answering me, he just kept walking, eyes forward, at the same exhausting pace he'd set for the last hour.
"Seriously Raph, do you want them to hear us?" I whispered loudly.
Again, no answer.
"Raph - "
"They aren't going to hear us, Don." His voice was annoyed, and louder than usual, which was clearly just to prove his point. "We walk this path at least twice a week and no one has ever heard us." There was a pause, as if he couldn't decide if he wanted to voice the rest of his thought. "Even with Mike along."
Casey, who had stayed beside me, quickly shrugged his shoulders.
"Last time I checked, last week we weren't dealing with blood thirsty rabid zombies," I muttered, more to myself than to argue with Raph. At this point, it just wasn't worth it. I didn't have the energy to deal with whatever funk he had lapsed into after the fight.
Ahead of us, Raphael stopped suddenly, having reached the manhole that we were looking for. The one that opened up at the back of April's apartment building. Surprisingly, he waited for Casey and I to catch up before starting to climb up toward the surface.
As Raph moved up the first few rungs of the metal ladder, I again noticed him favoring his leg, like he had been after the fight. He'd done a good job disguising the injury while we were walking, but it was harder to cover up when he had to use each leg individually to climb. Suddenly, I felt bad for snapping at him.
"What?" He kept climbing, and I started up the ladder behind him.
It wasn't just his leg. When my brother stopped and looked over his shoulder at me, I could tell that something else was bothering him, something much more important. Behind his mask, his eyes weren't stormy and sarcastic, like usual. Instead, I saw something else…an emotion that was normally kept from the rest of us by Leonardo.
Worry. Intense worry.
"I'll be fine, Donnie. Let's just go."
I started, pitched quickly from my thoughts by the sound of my name. A male voice – but not Jake's.
It was. Face covered with dirt and blood, I saw his mop of brown hair barely visible above the ledge at the other end of the roof. Then, suddenly, to Casey's surprise as much as mine, his whole body was launched the rest of the way up, obviously thrown by someone behind him. With a less than graceful landing, Casey rolled up to his hands and knees, then stood up stiffly.
What a mess he was.
A dirty, bloody, sweaty, beautiful mess.
I ran toward him, just as he started to grin that stupid lopsided grin of his. Within seconds, his arms wrapped around me in a blissful collision, one that lifted me off the ground and swung me nearly three hundred and sixty degrees. "Missed you," he gasped, the side of his forehead pressed to mine. I paused a moment, breathing in his salty scent, then pulled back and smiled.
"Funny, you couldn't have missed me too much since you haven't called in, oh, four weeks. And don't tell me you were busy, cause that excuse only covers the last three days," I scolded, voice laced with sarcasm and flirty affection.
"Always so difficult."
I didn't have time to respond. Casey's hand raked up through my hair, pulling my lips into a brief, but hungry kiss.
"Hey Casey, ya mind giving me a hand before ya go gettin' a room?"
I pulled away, seeing Raphael's upper half draped over the roof's ledge.
"Sorry, Raph," I giggled. He rolled his eyes at me, then accepted Casey's hand to help him the rest of the way over. I was relieved to see Donatello's green head pop after Raphael's – thank god the three of them were all okay. The red masked turtle turned to help his brother up onto the rooftop as well, with he and Casey each grabbing an arm to pull him over. With Donatello safely onto solid ground, Raphael immediately started to scan the rooftop, I could only assume for Leo and Mike. Although Leonardo was mostly obstructed from view by small brick utility encasement, his bloodied outstretched legs were still barely visible, probably even more so from his angle.
"Leo?" Raphael's eyes flew wide when he recognized the form of his fallen brother across the rooftop. Suddenly, he jerked out his sai with the speed of a whip crack. "What the Hell…" It was a statement, not a question. Raphael rarely waited for explanation. He was already in motion, before I could even part my lips to give him an answer.
"Raph, wait!" I tried to grab his arm as he brushed passed me, but he ducked away from my grip.
If Raphael wasn't held back when he found out what happened to Leo, Jake's head was going to ROLL…
A/N: Just a little fun for me after a stressful week of job interviews. Looks like I may be joining Fallen Hikari in the great city of Chicago...
Man, I can't tell you all how good it feels to finally write a chapter again! I told y'all, no matter how long it takes me, this story will NEVER be abandoned. It may just collect some dust in between chapters, LOL.
Sorry about any mistakes...I posted pretty quickly, seeing as I may not get another chance for a while after tonight!