Vicissitude - Volume One, Chapter One
Two hours and twelve minutes.
That's how long it had been since the relative quiet of the lair was disturbed, when the door flew open and April stumbled in.
The television show they had been watching was abandoned as they gathered around her. Her face was down, and away from them… a submissive pose she had taken to over the past few years.
Mike reached her first, as he'd been on the couch, and he knelt next to her, then gasped. "Jesus, April." He breathed. "What happened?"
Leo knelt next to her then, too, and she moved away from him. He sighed sadly, looking down. He didn't know what had happened, but somewhere things had changed. April had become… different. She and Casey had been living together for the better part of two years now, after a brief (if one can call it that) courtship. He knew that soon after, there had been talk of engagement, but then… nothing. There'd been a huge fight, Leo knew, and since then April had tried to make nice with Casey, but… Well, her teaming with Don for some work he was getting over the computer didn't help, either…
Raph jogged over to Don's door and knocked, then stuck his head in without waiting for a response.
"Yo, Donnie." He said, ignoring the sigh Don gave at being disturbed.
"What?" Don asked, frowning.
"April's here. Something's up."
Don hissed under his breath, but jumped up and followed Raph out of the room. They joined Leo and Mike, who was attempting to calm a sobbing April. Don said nothing, but knelt, putting a finger under her chin and lifted it up to the light. An angry red welt was fading, in the suspicious shape of a hand…
"Shit." Raph breathed, standing quickly from his bent position. He moved towards the door, but stopped as April reached towards him.
"No, please!" She sobbed. "He didn't mean it, really he didn't." She grasped Raph's hand to her tear stained face as she spoke. "He just had one too many… I shouldn't have picked a fight…"
Leo grinned grimly, looking over at Mike, who was frowning deeply, and a bit pale. It was no secret that there had been problems between Casey and April. None of them knew the whole story, though, nor did they ever ask. At this moment, however, they each regretted that choice. All Leo knew, was that April had become more and more… withdrawn. Since her attack, she wouldn't go out without him or one of them… and that, along with her relationship troubles, wore on her. Somewhere, along the line that spark she had faded, and her world dwindled down to Casey and them. As if they were her lifeline…
Leo glanced down at his purple-banded brother, who he was sure knew more than the rest of them did.
"You'll stay here tonight." Don finally said, and it wasn't a question. He stood, pulling her up with him, and led her to his room, shutting the door behind him.
The three remaining brothers looked at each other.
"Raph," Leo began, watching how his brother's hands clenched and unclenched. "Don't make this any worse…"
"I never thought he'd sink so far down." Raph started, looking down at his hand, still damp from April's tears. "I mean, I knew he was havin' some… problems… He's been kinda distant lately." Raph growled low, looking at the door. "But I never thought…" He trailed off.
"What…" Mike broke in. "What if he comes after her?" Leo blinked, following Mike's gaze. He knew none of them were scared of Casey… But he understood as his eyes hit what Mike was staring at: Don's door.
Leo shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Look, Raph… There's nothing I want more than to go teach Casey some manners." Raph blinked at this, surprised. "But I think… I think we've done enough." Leo finished. He looked at Mike, who caught his gaze and nodded.
"I'm getting Don." Leo muttered, walking up to his door. "We need to talk." The door opened as he got there, and Don walked out, looking none too happy.
"Bastard." Don said, walking past Leo.
"Is she ok?" Leo fell into step beside his brother.
Don stopped, looking Leo in the eye for a minute. He said nothing but sighed heavily. "You want a doctor's eye view, or a friend's?"
"Can you manage both?" Leo asked wryly.
"Obvious welt on the face, shouldn't bruise; Less obvious bruising on the wrist. He must have pulled her, that son of a bitch."
They were interrupted as one of the shell-cells rang, and Raph picked it up.
They watched as he listened a few minutes, a scowl rising on his face. "No, she ain't here… No. I don't kn-…" He frowned deeply. "Jesus, Case, go sober up, then we'll talk!" With that, he slammed down the phone.
He turned to look at them, scowling. "Goddammit, I wanna know what the hell is going on here!"
Don sighed heavily, frowning.
"Raph, get in the living room!" Leo grabbed his brother's shoulder, giving him a little push.
"Fuck you, Leo." Raph spat.
"Guys…" Mike started. "Knock it off. You don't think April's upset enough, she has to hear you two bicker on?"
Don sat on the couch, head in his hands.
"What did she say?" Leo turned to Don.
Don rubbed his hands over his face, massaging his temples as he groaned softly. "Nothing, Leo. She just… cried." His voice trailed off softly.
"If Casey comes here, he'll flip out." Leo went on, looking back at Don's door.
"Maybe we need to have a talk with him." Mike suggested. "Get some things straight."
"That ain't gonna happen." Raph interrupted. "I tried that. There's a few… sore subjects."
"Yeah, well, there's gonna be a few more pretty soon." Don broke in. "She can't go home."
"She can't stay here!" Raph shot back. "Now, I want her to stay as much as anyone else here, but…"
"You're being ridiculous." Don interrupted. He looked over at their other brother, who was watching the exchange with folded arms and a hard gaze. "Leo, please…"
Leo sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I agree with Raph." He said finally, uncrossing his arms and gesturing with his hands.
"What!" Both Don and Mike said, in unison.
"Look," Leo said. "I agree that April shouldn't be made to go back to him… But…" He sighed, looking down. "I also think that… that we may have interfered a few times too many." Raph opened his mouth to object, but Leo held up a finger, stopping him. "Look, all we've done for them is interfere. Maybe… maybe it's time we give it up for awhile."
Silence fell over the room, and Leo looked at them, as if daring them to speak. Even Raph couldn't find his voice.
"But… But why?" Mike finally sputtered out.
"Because look at April. Look at her life." Leo said angrily. "We did that to her! No matter what excuse you give, we are at fault!"
"That is," Don began. "With all due respect, bullshit, Leo."
"You mean we can't talk to April anymore?" Mike went on.
"You've lost your fuckin' mind, Leo." Raph said, shaking his head. "If you think we're gonna just forget all'a the stuff she did for us…"
"She needs us." Mike finished. "We can't… take that away from her."
Leo growled softly. "I have made my decision and we will abide by it!" He finally yelled, and all motion in the room stopped. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself, then began speaking again. "Now I hate pulling that 'uber leader' shit," He started.
"No you don't." Raph grumbled.
"Please, Raph." Leo pleaded.
"This is ridiculous, Leo." Don cut in. "You can't… exile her. We can't let her go back! Abandon her? Especially now?"
"You're only saying that because you want her to stay here." Raph snorted. Don's face flushed a blush then, and Leo sighed.
"Maybe us not being around so much might get rid of a lot of their problems?" Leo said gently.
"Any problems they have, aren't just magically gonna go away." Don argued. "Did you see the welt on her face!"
"Yes, Don." Leo said, irritated. "I saw it. And I hate it. But this is not for us to deal with."
"How can you say that?"
"Look." Leo started. "This is what I think, ok? Can we just give it a try?"
Mike frowned sadly. "I'll miss her…"
"I don't like this, Leo." Don said unhappily.
"And I do?" Leo shot back.
"You just want what you want, and you don't bother to think about anyone else." Don stood, hands on the table.
"And I am not making life altering choices based on one person's feelings, Don!" Leo said wearily. "You know what I'm saying is logical. Of all people, you should understand."
Don breathed in deeply, closing his eyes. "I'm not discussing this anymore tonight." Leo said. "We'll talk tomorrow when we've all had a chance to calm down and see things clearly."
Don pushed away from the table. "Mikey, you care if I bunk with you tonight?" He asked, as he walked away from the table.
"Go for it." Mike said glumly. "I'll be there in a few." He stood then, looking at Leo. "Can't we… try a it more? Before we give it all up?" He looked down at Leo, who was sitting with his head in his hands. He looked up at Mike, and suddenly Mike realized how weary his brother looked; how aged.
"We've been trying for over ten years now, Mike." Leo said lowly. "I think we've done enough damage for one decade."
April pressed herself against the door as much as she dare. Listening for any sounds that confirmed that any of them were still awake. Her tearstained face was forced against the door, it's coolness comforting her aching head. She'd had a headache since she'd gotten there, and now her eyes ached to be rubbed.
Satisfied that no one was awake, she slipped out of the door. Looking around, she felt new tears begin to leak down her face, and then she quickly walked out of the lair. The cool air hit her, and she breathed in deeply. A few steps away, she realized that she alone, and her heartbeat quickened. Fear coursed through her as she stepped down the path to her exit point, which was near her own house with Casey.
She didn't know which she was more afraid of: Being out here alone, or going back home. She looked back once, then shook her head. She wouldn't go back and bother them again tonight.
Suddenly, she felt a breeze move past her and she stiffened. This didn't feel right… Her heart raced as she exited the sewers, and got to her building. Turning the corner, she fumbled for her keys.
All of a sudden, she felt a pressure on her side and she fell to the ground, her ankle rolling as she did. Pain coursed through her, and she screamed.
"Miss O'Neil… What a pleasant surprise…" Three masked men surrounded her, another holding her arms behind her back.
"No!" She screamed, bucking against her captor, who chuckled at her attempts to escape. "Let me go!"
He looked back at the other men, grinning. She spun, moving to bite him and making slight contact. He grunted, shaking her. "Mistake."
"Let me go."
"I think not, Ms O'Neil. Tonight, you're coming with us."
Leo woke up with a start to a crashing sound reverberating throughout the lair. He sat straight up, reaching for his katana that he left next to his bed when he slept. He bounded into the living room, looking around.
"Sorry." Mike said sheepishly, picking up the table he'd knocked over.
"What is going on?"
"April's gone." Raph grunted from the kitchen. "Donnie freaked and went after her. She shouldn't be alone this time of night, Leo." He said pointedly.
"I didn't think she'd… go, alone." Leo stammered.
"Yeah, neither did we." Raph said, sighing. "Look, I'm gonna…"
Suddenly, a beeping noise started emanating from Raph's shell-cell. "What the…?" He picked it up, wrinkling his nose. "This thing's goin' off by itself?"
Leo and Mike stood, frozen, looking at Raph. They'd never used the button Don had installed as a 'Help' alarm, to be used when they needed emergency assistance. It was based with the tracking device Don had initially installed, and could help them find each other if need be.
"Must be a mistake." Mike said nervously. "Donnie'll turn it off any minute."
Leo nodded, and they all stared at Raph's phone, which he held a bit away from himself, like it was about to explode right in his face.
It didn't stop.
A minute later, Leo could feel a buzzing in his belt, and he reached down. His shell-cell was vibrating the same alarm. He looked up to see Mike's eyes as wide as he was sure his own were. In Mike's hand was his own beeping phone.