Author's Note - My last two stories were pretty much all about the angst and the hurt. But I figure I'll never be able to top Silence angst-wise, so instead I'm going in a completely opposite direction.

This story is going to be plot and mystery and hopefully a little bit socially relevant. It's going to have a Raphael some of you might not agree with, and it's going to have a lot more to it than Bad Guy and Torture. (Don't get me wrong, though, there WILL be angst and hurting.)

And - and this is a BIG warning - I'm subtitling this story the "Lucy is a Hypocrite" story. Because despite my intros for my first two stories, this one will contain...

An OC.

Yeah. I don't really like OCs, and it's hard for me to get into stories with OCs in them, but here I am trying to write one. Sorry. Worked for the plot, and I guess I see it as a challenge, trying to involve another human into their world in a realistic way. Who knows if I can pull it off, but I'm gonna try.

Okay, okay, enough warnings and talking. One last thing to throw in here, and then I'm getting to the prologue down there.

My last thing - the thing that inspired this story was some absent-minded thinking at work tonight about Raph and how he's portrayed and popularly regarded by us fan types. He's a bad-ass, yeah, no doubt, but I think most people see him as a hard-rock bad-ass. You know, if he listened to music it'd be loud, pissed off, guiter-heavy screaming from long-haired dudes in leather and eye-liner.

In my head Raph said something snide about how whiny emo wimps were whiny emo wimps no matter how loud they screamed, so. I wondered about an alternative to that. And during my break I was listening to music and a certain DMX song started blasting, and man. It clicked like whoa. Raph not as rocker, but as soldier.

So, this. It's different, but I'm excited. The prologue's just a bit of background, but it gives you an idea what I'm talking about.

When he first found the subdivision it was the kids who drew his focus.

That had been years ago, when they first started patrolling aboveground. At the time everything Raphael knew about humans was taught to him by Splinter, or watched on that television they had taken from a junkyard and Don had fixed up.

What he knew was the Japan of Splinter's memory and the clean, pretty, white-teeth and white-skin world on the television.

One night, though, right at the beginning, he left his brothers and went his own way. He found himself further south than he'd gone before, and seeing a world he'd never seen. People he'd never seen.


Dark-skinned, loud, in the same threadbare clothes day after day. They screamed and laughed and played music from a cassette player, they danced and kicked a ball in the street and jumped rope. They got yelled at by any adults around who spotted them wandering too far from home or coming too close to a car.

They also died.

There were sirens in the neighborhood a lot. More nights then not, as far as Raphael could see. Sometimes it was the old men who sat on building stoops and drank beer and played chess, getting carted out on stretchers. Most often it was the younger men, the ones who stood outside all night, who leaned into cars who drove past, and handed things off to the drivers.

But sometimes it was the kids. Sometimes he would hear a mother's screams before he even heard the sirens, and he would watch from the shadows or the rooftops as police gathered, medics came too late, and one less child would be jumping rope the next day.

Raph kept this violent, strange new world to himself, not telling his brothers or Splinter anything about what he saw.

He went back as often as he could get away, and simply watching the subdivision from the shadows brought him a whole new education.

Below ground he learned about ninjitsu, and spiritual enlightenment.

Above ground he learned what a drive-by was, and why the women in the short skirts went off in cars with different men every night.

Below he learned how to balance, how to stand so that no enemy could overturn him. He learned to fight blindfolded, to listen to an opponent's movements, to disarm. To fight with the same honor he lived with.

Above he learned that men had no honor. That they would kill innocent people using guns, without even getting out of their cars. That anyone could kill, and anyone could die. And that death itself wasn't grand, wasn't about honor or dishonor. It was graceless and abrupt and jarring. It didn't matter which songs a kid sang or clothes they wore, or whether their parents were the drug dealers or the teenagers who went to school in the morning and came back after nightfall in fast food uniforms. Because they all died the same way.

Below Splinter taught him about their namesakes, about art and science and culture and music. About how man could make something that was an expression of beauty, profound and lofty.

Above he learned that the most meaningful art could be spray painted on a wall one day and cleaned off the next. He learned that music could be angry, could speak about the very things he watched go on around that street. He learned that science and technology meant nothing to people who couldn't even afford to keep their lights turned on. He learned that the only ones on the block who had money to buy food and nice clothes for their kids were the ones who sold the drugs and caused the drive-bys.

Below Splinter taught them about other countries. About Japan and its history, about Europe and Africa and South America, and other places that seemed like another planet to Raph.

Above he found out that there were some people who couldn't leave the borough, much less the country. People as stuck in their limited world as Raph was stuck underground in his.

He learned about sex from watching the whores. He learned about death by watching sobbing mothers, and learned about justice by watching cops drag young man after young man away in handcuffs.

He loved Splinter. He loved his brothers. He even loved the lessons about places he would never see and things he would never be able to do.

But he fit with the poor, the disillusioned, the people who lived in the subdivision. The hood, they called it. People who couldn't worry about more than getting through a day. Who didn't know what the world outside was any more than Raph did.

He felt closer to those people, a lot of the time, than he felt to his own brothers. He grew angry for those people, and grieved for children lost. Got so frustrated sometimes by the hopelessness in the hood that he would go home and bash a punching bag long into daylight hours.

The Foot and Shredder, Triceratons and Honeycutt, Kurai and Bishop…he fought those battles as they presented themselves. He stuck by his brothers through every insane situation that came their way, and did it without resentment.

But in his heart he thought that aliens and monsters and misguided ninjas weren't where his fight should lie. That he should have been helping those people in the hood. The kids with their jump ropes who wouldn't ever finish school. The whores and the drug dealers, making the only money to be found on the street. The families, carrying on though they couldn't have had anything to aspire to. The dark-skinned, black and Latino and Arab, outcasts from the world beyond the way Raph was outcast.

Sometimes his brothers played the what-if game, and most of the time what they came back to was, what if we were human?

Raph knew where he would live. What he would be.

Leonardo could have the wisdom, the monks in Tibet and schools in China and Japan. Mikey could have the hot sun and beaches, California and Hawaii. Donnie could make his millions revolutionizing the world of computers and internet and artificial intelligence, or whatever it was he talked about when he used those words that made Raph's eyes glaze over.

But Raph had no illusions. He knew himself. He didn't fit with his ambitious, bright brothers. He fit with shadows, with the outcasts.

He'd live in the hood. Live and die. And maybe there wasn't any honor in that, but at least it was real.

When Leo was gone, Raph spent his nights driving the streets all over the city, helping real people. He made it to the hood now and then, put the scare on a few dealers who tried to push their way onto the turf, or blue-bandana-wearing groups who hassled the few stores near the subdivisions for protection fees.

The worst thing about drive-bys? There was no warning. There was no call about suspicious cars, and by the time he heard over his scanner that help was needed in his hood, it was always too late.

Leo came back, and he found himself joined with his brothers, battling monsters and ancient stone warriors, and it was all just like it had been. There was no time to focus on the people who lived in his city. There were time portals to close.

It felt like abandonment.

But he and Leo fought, as they always fought, and eventually came to a sort of understanding. Raph would let Leo lead them - because he couldn't do it himself, because he got his brothers hurt. But Leo would give him some space for himself, to do his own thing.

The Nightwatcher as the papers reported him was retired, but Raph kept his eyes on the streets. He still slept the days away. He got up to practice with his brothers - mostly to keep Leo from screeching too much. He went on patrols with them. And in the last couple of hours before dawn he left them to make his own rounds.

And he almost always stopped by the subdivision. He left the whores and the dealers alone if he knew their faces and knew they weren't outsiders trying to encroach. He kept an eye out for slow-moving cars. He played guardian, if only for an hour or so. He never got close, never got involved in the lives of the people he had watched for years.

And he never meant to.