A/N: Wow… it's been a while.
So yeah.. a few months ago I (temporarily) got my muse back, and before working further on any other projects that I have in mind I decided that this fic deserves some work. So, it has been completely redone in the sense that I've added stuff to arguments, filled in a few plot holes, and made stuff less... corny? I donno. I'll wager it's still pretty darn corny. But its MY corny fic, dammit!
I'll warn you all here: if by any chance you are bothered by [possible] character death, swearing, or violence, please discontinue now. I don't want to upset anyone- and I don't want to get flamed. Senseless flaming gets deleted. Criticism is welcome, though.
So, what else do I need to tell you guys? This fic takes place in the lair that the guys first moved to during the first and second (third?) seasons.
Another important statement I feel I should make is to point out that I started posting this fic in 2005. I was around fifteen then. I wrote chapter 5+ in later years, 6+ most recently. The style changes. Maybe it was laziness on my part, but I didn't want to go back and change everything about the first few chapters… just to warn you all that the style/way that characters are written will change.
Italics represent dreams and thoughts.
…What else? I'm missing something. Oh, yes, of course:
I do not own the Ninja Turtles (but it sure would be swell if I did).
Dreaming of Death
He was a shadow, floating down the path to… well, he didn't know where the hell he was going. Something was dragging him deeper and deeper into the darkness, darkness so unfathomable that it overwhelmed the senses, suffocated, and threatened to seal its victims' sense of self. Accompanying the darkness was silence, silence so thick that he could barely hear his own thoughts.
But the beating of his heart… now that was something heard loud and clear.
And that was the only thing that told him he was still alive.
Having been here before, he made no attempt to fight the force that inevitably would defeat him anyway, deprived of all but the fear of what was to come… and his heart beating. And an odd, metallic taste in his mouth. Blood.
He was numbed to the very core of his soul, and yet the numbness there held the foreboding sense that something awful was taking place... Or about to. He wanted to leave, to be out of here, but there was no way to go but forward. The force that held him so tightly only tightened its cold fingers around him when he resisted. His path was set. Their path was set.
Set in what, exactly? Well, in inevitability. In blood. And fear.
And suddenly, like a gift from the heavens there was light. Light that chased away the dark, opening up like a story book as he was granted the gift of sight. If he had eyes, he would have widened them in surprise at what he saw next- a present day image of himself running- no, sprinting down the alleyways.
He was taking the familiar route to... If the direction in which he was moving was familiar, then why couldn't he remember where it led to? His mind's eye snapped back to the image of himself as, in his rush, he made an attempt to jump over an empty garbage can, but ended up tripping over it, knocking it down. He halfway expected the can to make a loud clanging noise- but it never did. Instead, the metal can hit the ground and bounced back up from the impact, reverberating with noise that didn't seem to exist. Apparently the image of himself couldn't hear it either; he fell, only to scramble up and continue at a rapid, frantic pace.
Then the figure slid to a stop and crouched low behind a dumpster, peeking at something across the street. He focused its vision on what the image was looking at, and suddenly he knew why the path that 'he' was taking was so familiar… it was the same route that he used to take to April's apartment.
His image hesitated for a few more seconds, and then made his way across the temporarily calm street. As soon as he made it to the curb he started running again… This time to a shadowed figure lying crumpled on the pavement. The turtle kneeled and carefully lifted the person's head up and the shadow realized who it was- April.
She was badly banged up and looked about to cry as she began to talk, her words bouncing over the shadow's deaf ears, and then she pointed to an open window on the second story. She must have fallen through and landed on the concrete sidewalk. However, there seemed to be more to the story, because she kept on talking, absolutely hysterical in all her pain and fear, pointing to the window and looking at the image of himself with a meaningful look in her eyes. The image's eyes widened, and when she finished he sat there, staring just past her face while his mind appeared to linger elsewhere. This seemed to anger April; she banged on his chest with a closed fist as she screamed three words that the shadow found he could read clearly off her lips:
'Raphael, do something!'
And then out of nowhere there was a sound that broke through the thick silence, a deafening noise that seemed to make the world shudder, and a shadowed figure dropped down from the window. The turtle named Raphael opened his mouth to scream…
… And the image began to fade away. Once again, the light was sucked out of existence as the darkness spread through it like a deadly plague. The shadow wanted desperately to call it back, but then the tugging started again and he was being pulled up…
Raphael sat bolt upright, falling out of his hammock and landing with a muffled thump. The dark atmosphere of his room greeted his conscious mind as he lay there frozen on the cold floor, still wrapped in his sweaty blanket. It was quite a few minuets before he recovered from his discombobulated state, reaching up to wipe the remaining perspiration from his forehead as it dribbled uncomfortably close to his eyes.
Dream. It was just another friggin' dream. Pull yourself together an' get yer ass up…
Grunting, he pulled himself to his feet and began to blindly make his way to the doorway. His hand finally met the cold, rough surface of the door and he ran his fingers to the left until they came in contact with a small, round button. Pressing his thumb into it, he felt the device give way with a satisfying click as his door slid open, revealing the dimly lit central area of the lair. Taking an immediate left, he made his way to the bathroom, passing by Donatello and Michelangelo's room in the process. Once inside, he slid the door behind him and switched on the light, blinking as the sudden rush of brightness created multicolored blotches in place of the bathroom sink.
Rolling barely intelligible curses over an uncomfortably dry tongue, he groped for the faucet, first turning on the hot water before realizing his mistake and switching to cold tap. Cupping his hands, he drank several mouthfuls of the liquid, then turned the faucet off and leaned with both palms against opposite sides of the white porcelain bowl, glaring at his reflection in the dirty mirror as he debated with himself.
"Ah, screw it." He would never get back to sleep without more of those pills. Not tonight, at least. Donnie had said that two was enough to get him through till morning, and since they hadn't worked to the desired effect, Raph decided that he was inclined to take more. Even if Don had told him not to.
That had been- and he checked the clock hanging above the doorway- seven hours ago, anyway. He was pretty sure that taking more wouldn't kill him (though what a relief that would be). Raph always slept in on Saturdays, especially when sick or otherwise sleep deprived. The only indication that Donatello would get would be the fact that two more pills were missing from the bottle.
Don was anal, but he wasn't Leo anal.
Decision made, the medicine cabinet squeaked open on its hinges. Antacid. Cough and cold. Tylenol. No…Dammit. He had just used them, so they should be right in the front... Unless Don thought to hide them. But no, the purple-masked turtle he had seemed so sure that they would work…
Upon his second search he found them, tucked all the way to the left with the label facing away from him. Popping the cap, he spilled a small pile of the medication on to his open palm, selecting two and growling as he fought with the others to stop sticking to his wet hand and return to the bottle.
A loud tap at the door startled him into flinching. Quickly tossing the pills into his open mouth, he took another drink to help them down as the person on the other side of the door called his name softly.
Don. Crap. With a backward glance, Raph shoved down all traces of guilt as he slid open the door. The two turtles stood looking at each other for a moment before Raph folded his arms across his chest, a visual indication of his irritation. "Well, what?"
Unlike his brother, Don didn't bother to partake in courteous early-morning greetings. He tilted his head slightly to the side, voice soft so as to not disturb the other two still sleeping. "What're you doing up?"
The response was immediate, and Don had predicted it almost to the word. "I'd like to ask you the same thing."
Don's voice carried a hint of exasperation as he gestured largely to his lab. "What am I ever doing at three o'clock on a Saturday morning?" When Raph didn't grace him with an answer, he continued, "Look, I heard a bang, came up to see what was it was and saw your door open and the bathroom closed up. I've been waiting for the past ten minutes, listening to the water run on and off. I was just wondering if you maybe hurt yourself."
Raph held tight to his brother's gaze with his own, habitually replacing any emotion he considered to be too revealing with an angry facade. "I'm fine. Juss fell outta bed, that's all." He reached back and turned the light in the bathroom off. "Was thirsty, so I got up and got a drink." He made as if to pass his brother and was halted as the smaller turtle stepped out in front of him.
The two glared at each other for a minute, Donatello unfazed by his brother's looming form. "You're still having those dreams."
Raph only blinked. "How yah figure, Don? I rolled over and fell offa the hammock. That's what woke me up."
"I don't ever recall you falling off of your hammock before."
"The pills had me in pretty deep."
"Then explain to me why you needed more." The purple-masked turtle's hazel eyes looked pointedly past Raph's head to a dark shape on the bathroom wall. "You left the cabinet open."
Raph shifted away from his brother, producing a low growling sound from deep within his throat. "I told you, Don: I don't know. I just wake up and can't go back to sleep, or I can't sleep at all, so I take more."
When Don's expression didn't change and he continued to look up at his brother, Raph averted his eyes slightly. He didn't like this type of conversation, and he hated being cornered into them. Especially when Don was the one doing the cornering- the brainy turtle knew exactly what buttons to press to get him to slip up.
"Raph… I just don't get it. This is different. It's not like all the other times. This isn't a personal matter; it's a family matter. I know you think I'm being overly corny of whatever, but in order for things to get better, we do need to help each other out, here." He paused. "I know you've heard Mikey, and I know you've seen Leo." Seeing the expression on his brother's face, Don rushed on, "Who, by the way, doesn't really think you're selfish. He's just… stressed. And still hurting."
"He shouldn't say what he doesn't mean."
Something flashed across Don's features that contrasted far too greatly with his usually gentle demeanor. "You aren't one to talk." He glanced back at Leo's closed door before continuing in a lower tone. "You know him, Raph. He thinks that he's responsible for everything and anything that goes on in this lair, and takes it all to heart. And that includes not only the way that Mike's been acting, but your behavior as well."
God, Raph wanted to leave. "Where the hell are you going with this again?"
"I know what it is. We all do."
"Then I don't get why you keep shoving these stupid questions up my ass! If you know what's wrong, what do you want me to tell you for?"
Don hissed to remind his brother to keep quiet, but otherwise ignored him. "You've had these sleeping problems for a while, Raph... Things are only getting worse for you."
His bitter tone seemed to have flicked a switch within his brother, because Don was getting fired up. Had he been in any other situation, Raph might have been entertained by the fact that he insisted with keeping up the Dr. Phil crap. "You need to open up. You think that not saying anything will help you forget? Or are you just afraid of us? One would think that by now you've lived with us long enough to figure out that we won't judge you based on any weakness you think you hav-"
Raph snapped. "Wrong!" The word rang throughout the lair. He continued, not realizing how loud he was being, and yet not caring. "Everything, everything that I do is measured and compared. I can't do anything at all without being judged or criticized, whether we're talking about today or three years ago! It's all the same shit; no one gives a damn about how I want to handle-"
"-That's not true-"
"Ta hell it isn't! You all- every single one of you- expect me to sit around and deal with shit the same way you do. Want me to partake in some friggin' sob fest… expect me to act like life is all one big soap opera just because that's how you do it-"
"Well, what the hell do yah figure its gonna end up being? I go, I talk, everyone gets emotional, things get uncomfortable, and it all gets worse because you guys just don't like the way I view things. I tell you how I feel, and you guys shove it back at me- 'oh, that's not true, Raph, what the hell is wrong with you?' Or mebby it'll be onna these: 'Raph, how could you ever think like that?'"
"I told you, this is different! You're referring to issues of the past- all of what is going on now isn't about the TV, Casey or even thug-bashing…" He trailed off slightly, halfway expecting to be interrupted again. "It's not open for discussion as to whether your thoughts are right or wrong- it's just to help you cope. And- God, Raph… what happened during that fight? You haven't even told us that much!" Shifting from one foot to the other, he continued, "Say what you will, but Leo's right- you can't say that we pushed it from the beginning. We gave you time. You haven't gotten any better- we're not trying to shove you around, Raph, but as alien a concept as this may seem, we're worried."
Raph, not yet done with his own little tirade, glared at his brother for a minute before gesticulating wildly in the direction of Mike's room. It was almost as though he hadn't heard what Don had just said. "And if I don't do what you all want, I apparently don't care about my family?"
Don shook his head, distressed. "He didn't mean-" The purple-masked turtle broke off suddenly as the larger ninja shoved past him, heading for his room. "Raph, wait- would you listen?"
In response, Raph's door slammed.
Don stood in the hallway, alone, frozen in the silence that followed his brother's outburst as he listened for indications that the other two were awake. Leo was a light sleeper, and Raph had been loud enough to wake Mikey.
No one opened their door. Don had expected that from Mikey, but Leo was a different story… then again, Raph had been much more prone to outbursts within the past three months. Though the hothead had never been one to quietly announce his displeasure with anything, screaming at odd hours of the night seemed to become even more common as time went by and things became worse.
With a sigh, Don made his way to his own room, trusting the motion sensor in his lab to automatically turn off the lights after a certain amount of time. His computer would go into sleep mode.
He shut the door, not even bothering to turn on the light, stripping his gear off as he walked toward his bed. Climbing up to the top bunk to sit with his shell against the wall, he folded his knees inward, holding his head in both hands as he willed the dizzying jumble of family-oriented worries away.
God, he missed Master Splinter.