Allison stumbled into her dark apartment.

It was nearly one in the morning by the time she finally got home after her long meeting with David Koepp. Some of her dialogue needed to be reworked, as she was told that it was highly unlikely that any modern-day character would use the word "dude" in his language so much as one of hers did. Apparently, he had never met anyone like Michelangelo. I doubt if anyone has.

She dropped her keys and pocketbook on the table by her door and stumbled over to her couch, dropping her jacket on the floor on her way. Sinking down onto her sofa, she began to unbutton her shirt with one hand. The other hand fumbled for the lamp at the nearby table. She squinted in the dim yellow light it cast over her.

"Kinda messy lately, ain't ya?"

Allison gasped at the unexpected voice from behind her, quickly grabbing her television remote from the table and throwing it back at what may have been an attacker. She rolled onto the floor, searching for something else to toss when she heard him cry, "Ow! What the shell?"

Warily glancing up from the sofa, Allison saw a familiar form rubbing his chest where the remote hit, her jacket in his hand. "Raphael!" She stood and leapt the couch, meaning to embrace him. He huffily threw her jacket at her. "Some welcome wagon ya got here." She ignored his sarcasm and caught the jacket as she threw herself at him, hugging him. "It feels like forever! Did you get my message? Are you feeling better? Have-"

Raphael indignantly pulled her off of him. "One question at a time, Speedy Gonzalez." He walked around her to the sofa, sitting himself down in the near-darkness. "Yeah, we got your message. And the more I read it, the less I can figure you out." Moving to join him on the couch, she asked what he meant. He looked up at her as he said in a somewhat accusatory tone, "I thought you had your reasons for stayin' in New York. Now you're headed out because some movie hack doesn't wanna get his feet wet and film in our sewers?"

Allison blinked at him. "Raphael… I'm moving on. Isn't that what you wanted?" Raphael rolled his eyes, leaning back into his seat. "No one ever said I wanted anything, so don't even pretend like I got somethin' to do with it." She looked at him silently for a long time. Finally, she said, "I've stopped trying to be what I think people expect… and I'm being me. That's what you said you wanted."

Though he didn't show it, Raphael was stunned. She obviously remembered his heartfelt words to her as she was shifting back into her human form. But… how? And was she going to somehow use this against him?

"So is that it?" Allison asked him quietly. "Did you come here just to chastise me? Just to beg me not to leave while making it seem like you don't really care either way?" Defensively, Raphael snapped, "I'm not beggin'! And I don't care!" Allison laughed quietly as she simply replied, "Liar." Raphael crossed his arms over his chest, muttering to himself. Finally, he spoke, "I just came here to give ya somethin'. If you're gonna be a smartass about it, then I can just go."

It was Allison's turn to be stunned. Give her something? As Raphael stood and reached into his belt, Allison tried to remember if she had left anything in their lair. Her dirty, ruined clothes? A hair accessory? My sanity is the only thing I can think of, she thought, but I doubt he's carrying that on him right now.

Turning, Raphael handed her something small and rectangular. "It's nuthin' special," he told her, trying not to make a big deal out of it as she accepted it, "but I figured ya could use one to replace the one ya lost." Feeling the heavy weight of it, Allison brought it closer to the light. She smiled as she realized that it was a stainless steel switchblade.

She looked up at Raphael, about to thank him. She didn't get the chance to, as Raphael quickly jumped into an explanation, seeming uncomfortable. "I saw ya carryin' one the night we met. Ya lost it on that mountain-sized moron right after I got shot. I remember thinkin' that most girls that carry protection on 'em don't got the balls to actually use 'em, so I was impressed. Well, as impressed as a guy with a bullet in his chest could be."

Allison laughed quietly, looking back at the gift and thoughtfully releasing the blade. "Just another way for you to protect me, huh?" At her words, Raphael looked away. "Damn you writers. Why you gotta see symbolism in everythin'?" She couldn't help but laugh again as she stood and closed the blade. "I've got something for you too," she told him. He returned his eyes to her, surprised. "… you do?" Allison nodded and went back to her room, telling him to stay there.

As she entered her room and switched on another lamp, Allison wondered what she could give him. She hadn't expected to see Raphael again before her move, and definitely wasn't expecting him to give her a gift. What to give the turtle that has everything? Allison thought wryly as she searched through the boxes of her packed belongings.

Finding something, she grinned as she took it and spun around. She gasped when she saw that Raphael had followed her in and was standing right behind her. "Sorry," he said, noting her startled reaction. "Ninja." Relaxing, she nodded and handed him the manuscript in her hand. "What's this?" Raphael asked, looking down at it as he took it.

"It's a very early version of The Sewer Dwellers," she told him. "Back when it was just a narrative in outline form. I wrote it about an hour after you guys left. The movie's different from what's written here, but you might like to see some of my initial thoughts. It's got some notes and stuff written on it." Beginning to grow uncomfortable as he silently thumbed through the twenty pages, she threw in, "If nothing else, it might be worth a bundle on eBay in a few years."

Raphael laughed at her comment, stopping his perusing. After a while, he looked up at her and showed her the page he had stopped at. In the margins, she had drawn a rough sketch of a turtle brandishing a pair of sais. "Good-lookin' guy," he remarked. "Any reason that's the only sketch in here?"

Having forgotten about the absent-minded doodle, Allison shrugged, hoping Raphael's night vision wasn't good enough to detect the small blush rising to her cheeks. "Any reason you're the only one who came to give me a going-away gift?" He said nothing, and the two of them merely stared at one another.

At length, Raphael closed the booklet, telling her, "Thanks. Can't wait to read it." Allison slowly put the knife down on her nightstand. "Thank you," she whispered. "Hope I won't have to use it any time soon." Making his way to the window, Raphael told her, "Yeah well, if ya do, you'll probably be able to handle yourself. And if ya can't… you've got a turtle who's always up for a bit of a scuffle, even if I gotta get to the West Coast before I can do it."

Thinking he was about to jump out of the window and leave, Allison couldn't will herself to move. He didn't leave, however. Raphael opened the window and peered back at her over his shoulder. "You cut your hair," he mentioned. "I liked it better long." Running a hand through her chin-length hair, Allison approached him, saying, "I don't do things anymore just because other people like it. It's my life." As she continued walking towards him, Raphael seemed to think about that, then nodded slowly. "Yeah, it is." He paused for a moment, then offered her his hand. "Goodbye, Allison."

Allison stared at his hand, not expecting the abrupt kindness. Was he serious? Was he really leaving? He hadn't actually asked her to stay. He hadn't asked what she meant in her letter by stating that she was "fond" of him. She felt embarrassed to realize that he hadn't even mentioned anything about her blouse being partially unbuttoned. He hadn't done anything that she would think he would do. But then, he so rarely did.

Finally, she took his offered hand. Instead of shaking it, she used it to pull him closer to her, hugging him once again. Surprised, it took Raphael a few moments before he reacted and obliged to hug her back. She could feel his muscles relax a bit and marveled over the fact that, now that all of her bruises and aches were gone, it was actually nice to hold him against her. "Stay out of trouble, kid," she murmured lowly.

Laughing, they parted and looked at one another. Allison wondered over the bit of sadness she could see in Raphael's eyes, despite the fact that he was wearing a rare smile. Moving away from her, he jumped on the ledge of the window and ducked out. Manuscript tightly in hand to keep it from being blown away by the wind, he turned back to her. "Ya better come back," he remarked slightly threateningly. "And ya better write. If ya don't, I'll use Donny to track ya down. And if he does, you can bet that he's gonna be harassin' me about it, which means I'll be in a pretty pissy mood. So ya better do the smart thing and come back 'a your own free will."

Allison chuckled at his remark, shivering slightly at the cold. "I will. I might not have a place to live immediately afterwards, so I might just be forced to crash with you guys for a bit." Raphael let out a single laugh at her half-joking comment and looked away. "If ya do," he told her, "make sure ya don't walk around with your shirt open like that." Alarmed that he had indeed noticed, she looked down to button her shirt, then glanced back up. Raphael was gone.

Sticking her head out of the window, Allison looked up. She just managed to see a dark shadow disappear over the ledge of her roof. Before he could get too far, Allison hurriedly called out, "Stay safe, Raphael!"

She didn't need to rush her words. As she closed her window and turned back to her new life, Raphael sat atop her roof, opening Allison's manuscript. He looked over her small, impeccable handwriting and watched it become messier and more rushed as the pages wore on. He wasn't even two pages into the outline before he realized that the leader of the group of "sewer dwellers" was a brash, irrational turtle who, despite his knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, always managed to do what was right.

"People don't like my outside anyway," this unnamed character said at one point, "so if they wanna know the real person inside, they gotta earn it." The human girl he was speaking to answered, "Well, I think I've earned it." The mutant responded with, "You don't gotta earn it. You're me, minus a shell. Just find out who you are, and you'll see who I am." Find out who you are, Raphael read again, and you'll see who I am. That pretty much sums it up, I think.

Not feeling the cold, Raphael continued to read, already missing the girl who was asleep a few floors below him.


Author's note- Thank you to everyone who's made it this far. I didn't think that this story would go on as long as it did, but I felt too connected to all of the characters to just let it go so easily. You have just finished reading 110 pages, currently making this my longest fanfic by far. Any comments, questions, criticisms, or anything else would be vastly appreciated. Thank you once again for putting up with my writing, and my utmost gratitude goes out to Mr. Laird and Mr. Eastman for giving me such amazing characters to work with.

–Starry Oblivion