When Shredder woke up a few hours later, there was still no change in Raphael's condition. He rose, stretched, and headed over to the sink to make himself presentable. It took a bit of awkward crouching to see himself in the mirror that was placed at mutant-height, but he could see enough to know that stubble didn't do much for his looks.

Then, from behind him: "You shave with those?"

Shredder gasped, jumped, and cut himself. He was annoyed at being cut, and glad that the turtle was finally awake, but he managed not to express either. "Don't you think it would be a little silly for me to carry a razor?"

He finished up, then came and sat down next to the tub. "The others are asleep. Do you want them? Stop moving. Stop talking."

"M'not moving. M'not talking. Yeah, I want Splinter." But then, when Shredder rose, Raphael made an uncoordinated grab for him. "Wait…stay."

Shredder sat back down. "Don't try to get up. Your injuries are very serious."

Raphael blinked, then finally thought to ask. "Where am I?"

"In the tub."

"In the lair?"

"Where else?" Shredder snapped. "Do you mean to tell me you can't recognize your own bathroom?"

"Well, sorry for being a little out of it, Can-head," Raph snapped back. He paused. "What are you doing here, anyway? Shouldn't they have left Leo or somebody responsible to watch me?"

"Fine. I'll get someone. Want to come with me? Oh, wait, I forgot, you can't even stand up by yourself. Stay here." Shredder rose.

"No don't go." Shredder sat back down. "How did I get back here?"

"You skipped home, singing and dancing the whole way. How do you think, you idiot?" Shredder took a deep breath and finally got his tongue under control. "Sorry. It's been a hard night. Let me wake the others."

"You carried me?"

Raphael's eyes were clearing. He was looking more lucid and together, but Shredder effectively hid his relief. "Oh, what a clever mutant."

"Oh, what a funny can-opener."

Before the argument could progress further, it was interrupted by the bathroom door banging open. "Raph! You're awake!"

"Gee, Leo, I hadn't noticed."

Leonardo stepped into the room and glared. "Shredder, you shouldn't be exciting him like that. And I can't believe you didn't come wake us up like you were supposed to. Raph, you-"

"Shut up," Raphael and Shredder snarled simultaneously.

Leo looked offended. "I'm going for Splinter. Don't go to sleep, Raph, until he tells you it's okay."

Once Leonardo had gone, Raphael rolled his eyes. "See that? I even need permission before I can pass out, for pete's sake." But two seconds later, he was already snoring.

Leonardo returned a few minutes later with Splinter and Donatello in tow. While the two of them began fussing over Raphael and making plans to transfer him out of the bathtub, Leonardo grabbed Shredder by the hand and led him to the door. "I'm sure Raphael will appreciate that you stuck around to see that he woke up," he said insincerely, "But he's fine now and you can go. So go, all right?"

Somewhat taken aback at the rude dismissal, Shredder allowed himself to be ushered out without too much fuss. Leonardo slammed the lair door behind him, and he stood stupidly for a few minutes before finally getting himself in gear to start moving.

He and Raphael had left a very clear trail of blood that should be easy to follow back to the Technodrome, but Shredder didn't feel like heading home just yet. Instead, he decided to go for a walk. He couldn't exactly go topisde looking like he did now, but in the last few weeks he'd become comfortable enough down below to wander the sewers without fear of getting lost.

He felt odd, all things considered. He was glad that Raphael was all right, irritated that he had been thrown out without a chance to say goodbye, and not at all happy that he wouldn't be seeing Raphael any more except on the battlefield.

Shredder frowned. He was not used to denying himself something he wanted, and right now he wanted his friend back. His leisurely stroll soon turned into frantic pacing as he considered his options. Generally, he preferred to rush into things with a half-baked plan that had only the smallest chance of success, but this time he thought there might be a better way. He would probably only get one chance, and he had to do it right while the enemy was too weak to resist.

What an idiot he had been, to bring Raphael home in the first place. He'd just made himself a whole lot of extra work, as it would now be necessary to kidnap the turtle out from under the noses of his worried family. But he could do it. All he needed to do was get back into the lair somehow and hide - that shouldn't be difficult – and wait until Raphael was awake and demanding privacy. As soon as the other turtles left the sickbed, Shredder could just knock Raphael out again and carry him back to the Technodrome.

But when he really thought about it, Shredder had to admit that maybe it wasn't the best idea in the world. Raphael would probably start trying to escape as soon as he was back on his feet again, and while keeping him always bled to the edge of death might work to
make him more manageable, it would also defeat the entire purpose of taking him prisoner in the first place.

He sat down heavily. One of the perks of being a ninja was that while he did spend much of his time in a rage and did run the constant risk of bodily injury, disappointment and heartache were not usually a part of his day.

Shredder decided he preferred the bodily injuries. At least you knew how to prevent and cure them.

Donatello found him still sitting there an hour later. "Raph's awake again. And he's asking for you."

When Shredder arrived, Raphael was in bed, very thoroughly bandaged up. "Way to skip out while I'm sleeping, Tin-grin."

Shredder shrugged. "Your brothers insisted." He realized this might be the last time he got to talk to Raphael without being uncomfortably close to the wrong end of his sais, and much as he hated it, there were things that needed to be said. He turned to the other turtles. "Go away. I want to talk to Raphael alone."

"Why?" Leonardo demanded, shooting a suspicious glance Shredder's way.

Shredder hesitated. "Because," he said after a moment, staring meaningfully at Raphael, "He's been waiting a long time for something, and I think he's waited long enough."

It only took Raphael a second to understand. -What are you waiting for? -A thankyou.

-You'll be waiting a long time.

Well, Raphael had just almost bled to death because Shredder couldn't keep a handle on his temper, so he felt like he was entitled to give him a bit of a hard time. "No. Let them stay," he ordered, crossing his arms with some difficulty. Shredder glared at him, and for a moment Raphael worried that he'd pushed too hard.

Then Shredder just waved him the OK. "Fine. What I wanted to say was..." He gave a short bow. "Thank you. You did well last night. You held up where most people wouldn't have...and didn't." He wouldn't look up.

Raphael couldn't believe his ears. Had Shredder actually just made reference to the pipe incident? In return he wanted to reassure him that the secret was safe, but couldn't think of how to do it. He realized that it had been a mistake to have this conversation in front of his brothers - Leonardo was staring at him with suspicion that bordered on hostility, and even Donatello was watching him edgeways. "You're welcome," he said uncomfortably, and felt compelled to tell his brothers something. "I saved him. Although...he kind of saved me a couple of times too, so I guess all in all I still owe him."

"Not at all," Shredder said smoothly. "It's true that I may have bailed you out a total of six or seven times by now, but last night you saved my job and my life. And since I'm worth at least ten of you, the way I see it I still owe you a life or two."

Raphael snorted. "I'll be reminding you of that someday, Can-head."

Leonardo butted in. "Speaking of the future. How do we know you're not going to turn right around and fetch your Foot soldiers and lead them to our lair?"

Raphael answered for him: "Because if we get the feeling that our lair isn't safe, we'll have to move house. To someplace on...higher ground. You read me, Shredder?"

"Of course." Shredder was not at all surprised. He had known all that what Raphael knew was legitimate blackmail material - if it became common knowledge that the Shredder fell apart in high places, the turtles might take to somehow forcing aerial battles on him, trapping him on planes or rooftops of heaven knows what. That was simply not acceptable, so he nodded agreement to Raphael's bargain and sealed it by offering the turtle some good friendly counsel. "A word of advice, Raphael, and I am serious: I may like you, but do not put yourself in a position where your life depends on my good graces. You'll end up dead."

Raphael prepared to argue with him - after all that had happened, how could Shredder say that? But then, as he went to sit up a little straighter, the bandages on his arm rubbed the blanket the wrong way and it hurt so much that he kicked his feet reflexively, opening up the stinging cuts there, too.

For once in his life he kept his mouth shut, and Shredder smiled from behind the mask.

The End.

Aww, isn't that cute? What did you think? Pleeeease tell me! Thanks for reading.