Raphael squinted at the bottle being offered, then looked up to the one offering. His face was a study in skepticism.
April sighed good-naturedly. "It's just a beer, Raph. It won't bite you."
With a small frowned he grabbed the beer and took a long slug. It tasted good and went down nice and easy. They both sat on the bar stools in April's kitchen. "Let's not beat around the bush," he said, after taking another gulp. "We're both here to ask the same question." He paused. "So, you heard from him?"
April didn't need to ask who. "No, I haven't. Have you?"
"Not a peep since we sprung him outta Bishop's creepy little dungeon." Raph set his bottle down on the counter in front of him. Rubbing his large thumbs up and down the bottle neck, he sighed. "And I don't think we're gonna hear from him, neither. Not 'til Leo gives the okay."
"Because Leo's clan leader now?"
"Because Leo's clan leader. And 'cause he don't wanna hurt Leo." A bitter smile appeared. "Well, hurt Leo any more than he already has."
April nodded thoughtfully, sipping her beer. She drummed her nails on the counter, and Raph couldn't help but notice the diamond ring glinting on her left hand. It was still a bit weird. Then she turned to face Raph with an appraising stare that unnerved him. "So," she said, "it sounds like you don't want Don dead after all."
For a second Raphael's eyes narrowed in confusion before he realized—Casey. Of course. The stupid bonehead always told everything to his girlfriend. Wait, scratch that. His fiancée.
"It was easier wanting him dead when I thought he was dead," Raph admitted after a moment. When instead of responding April only took another sip of beer, he continued, "Don't get me wrong, April. I hated the bastard for a good long time, and I'm still pretty pissed at him. But it's been ten years and, much as it truly pains me to admit this—Mikey was finally right about something."
April raised an eyebrow, eyes filled with silent laughter.
"I know, I know," Raph groaned.
"So what was Mikey right about?"
"The short version? He said Master Splinter is dead, and Donny ain't." Raph picked up his beer and finished it off in one long swallow. "We already lost one family member. Don't make sense to lose another if we don't hafta."
April finished her beer too, though at a somewhat slower pace. She glanced at Raph and smiled. "Hamato Raphael," she said with a hint of admiration in her voice, "sometimes you are a very wise man."
Rolling his eyes, Raphael snorted.
Keeping to the shadows, the Black Ghost carefully approached the electronics store. He reached up and adjusted the brightness on the night-vision lens he'd built into his new mask. That had been a stroke of minor genius, because already they were proving useful—the Ghost could clearly see, even from his hiding spot several yards away, that the door to the store was open and several men were inside. His heart started racing at the sight. He'd never liked confrontation, and he despised killing.
Which was why he had built a small arsenal of the least-harmful deterrent weapons ever. Including specially-formulated tear gas pellets. Creeping up close to the store's entrance, the Ghost took out a pellet, set its activation for a five second countdown, and gently rolled it into the store.
In a little over five seconds, the first of the thieves came stumbling out of the store, coughing up a storm and wiping furiously at his eyes. The Ghost tasered him, then the next man, and then the next. As the men lay on the ground helpless, he waited for a few more moments. When no one else came through the doorway, the Ghost knelt down beside the nearest thief and checked his vital signs. Suddenly he heard the sickening click of a gun cocking, followed quickly by a sharp whistling sound and a dull thunk.
Startled, the Ghost whirled around, to see a final thief struggling against the wall, trying to free himself from the katana that had sliced through his coat sleeve and held him firmly in place. The thief's gun lay on the ground. The Ghost quickly zapped the man and yanked the katana out. He checked the tear in the sleeve to see if there were wounds, but the katana had been so expertly thrown that not a scratch was present.
The Ghost pocketed the gun, just to be on the safe side, and stood. Turning around, he looked up instinctively. Though the figure on the neighboring rooftop was nothing more than a black silhouette against the moon, mask tails fluttering in the breeze, there was no question who the Ghost's savior was. The Ghost threw the katana back up to its owner, who caught it easily by its handle.
"Just returning the favor," Leonardo called down, completely deadpan. Then he turned away from the roof edge and disappeared from view.
Behind his mask, the Ghost smiled.
Michelangelo sat in the living room feeling out of place. It had been so long since he'd been to the lair. It still felt like home, but there was something odd about actually being here. Especially because it was so quiet. Raph had gone off to visit Casey, and Leo had … well, Mike never really inquired into where Leo went these days.
Sighing, he pulled out his laptop. He might as well put this overabundance of quiet solitude to good use and get some writing done. His fingers lovingly ran over the laptop's weathered, chipped casing. The computer was old and probably wouldn't last much longer, but Mikey had never had the heart to toss it out, no matter how outdated it got.
All these years he'd kept it because the computer was the last present Donatello had ever given him—back when the family was together, when Splinter was sick but still alive. As he waited for the ancient machine to boot up, Mike remembered the note Don had written to go along with it:
"To Hamato Michelangelo, the future world-famous writer. Now you can write from anywhere and everywhere. Love, your fan Don."
A small smile passed over Mike's face at the memory. The laptop was now over a decade old and ridiculously obsolete, of course, but as the entire hard-drive was built with Don's expert craftsmanship, the machine still ran pretty well. When it finally started, Mike opened an existing file that contained his latest novel. He leaned back, and his hands hovered over the keyboard. Mike closed his eyes and let his mind wander. His hands never moved. Then he opened his eyes again with a frustrated groan.
Writer's block. Well, of course. Just his luck, too.
It would have been a shame, though, to have wasted all that time for the laptop to boot up only to shut it back down. So Mikey signed online to check his email, based on the time-honored principle that one could never check one's email too often. In his inbox appeared the email addresses of the usual suspects. One from the Silver Sentry, one from April, one from Angel. Then Mike's heart skipped a beat as he saw the address of the last sender. Though he hadn't received an email from that address in years, he recognized it immediately.
With trembling hands Mike clicked on the message to open it. His eyes quickly scanned its contents, down to the bottom, where plain as day were the words "Love, Don." He shut his eyes again and swallowed down the lump rising in his throat. Without a doubt, keeping the old laptop had been one of Mike's best decisions ever.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to those of you who have read this story, and especially to those who took a moment or two to review. Also, thanks for the very kind feedback. I'm glad folks have enjoyed it!