A/N - this story came to me as just this picture I had in my head of one of the turtles sitting in a bar, brooding. I developed it beyond that for this first chapter, although, I admittedly have no idea where I plan to take it after two or three chapters, if I decide the story should go beyond that.
Anyway, the story takes place several years into the future of the Volume 4 comics. It is my little take on what is going on with a few of the stories Peter Laird has left sit in the series. WARNING: this is angsty. Although sad, I don't find this to be a tear jerker. I was more aiming for a shuddering feeling from the dark emotions. Tell me how you felt about this, and enjoy.
DISCLAIMER: TMNT are not mine.
Chapter 1 - Routines
I was a common enough sight to see, and hear as the case may be. The bartender had seen it often enough to not care, so he let it continue without pause of making his rounds. The figure in the long dark coat sitting at the corner of a bar, a shot glass that screamed to be refilled for the man and the lazy cigarette smoldering away in his mouth, unnoticed that it had already reached the filter. The picture was stereotypical in a way that was almost comical, and the pained moans that sounded forced to the ears of the other patrons only added to the desired effect of making them even more ignorant of the reality.
For you see, this man was anything but normal. It fit pristinely with the premise an old Sherlock Holmes book I read a long time ago. The name eluded me then, but I remembered it involving a stolen letter of extreme importance that the antagonist hid in plain sight. I always knew all four of them were masters of hiding. They always amazed me with how well they blended in with shadows considering their physical appearance, but this picture was something that would hang in my memory forever as a sad testament to the great loss I and the subject of this illustration had suffered. So to me, this picture was one that was on display at the Louvre. Even in his now very common drunken stupors, this loudmouth of a maniac, who my father had once jokingly referred to as having an aggressive rather than hyperactive form of ADD, could still blend into the shadows with little difficulty. It was just that he now seemed to prefer the metaphorical rather than the literal shadows, something else that had changed with him over time that surprised me.
But even with his mastery of ninjutsu as his aid in hiding, I could still find him with ease. And it still struck me as a sad truism that he would want to hide. After all they had gone through in their lives, after all the stories I had been told, he was always the one who wanted the most to just walk through the streets of New York as a normal part of society. Now they were able to. All four of them could. Or maybe I should say, 'All four of them did.'
I watched as the bartender wordlessly poured another shot of that poison into my old uncle's glass. The liquid vanished before the bartender had even turned his back, the only evidence it ever even being there in the first place being an echoing knock as the falling glass connected with the varnished hardwood of the bar. I sighed heavily, tired of the routine. It seemed to be occurring more and more frequently now. Every once in awhile, Raphael would disappear from my apartment, and I would have to hunt him down, scouring almost every bar in Manhattan before I found him in that same position, wearing that same coat and fedora, downing the same liquor, and smoking the same stale cigarettes. My only solace in the situation was that he was starting to use regular hideouts rather than trying to find newer bars that I did not know about.
I made my way over to him, stopping only to flash my ID to the bouncer to prove to him that I was of age. He probably did it to hit on me considering I was over thirty, and normally I would have been flattered, but right then, all I wanted to do was get him and me home with as little throwing up as possible.
I approached slowly but calmly. I knew he would not hurt me, but all the same, the hair on the back of my head stood on end. I sat down next to him and ordered myself a beer. His gaze never once shifted from his glass. "Staring at it isn't what makes the pleasure poison appear ya know." He grumbled something under his breath, which was a good sign and meant that he was still lucid and aware of his surroundings. He hadn't been here long I realized.
The bartender returned with an opened bottle and a tall, frosted mug. He poured it to the top for me and returned it to a small coaster he had placed in front of me. I thanked the guy and took a long drought from it before glancing back over to Raphael. "How much longer did you plan on staying here?" I asked him, but the only response I received was a slight shrug. It was all I ever got out of him now-a-days. I sighed again and took another stiff drink. Man, that tastes good, I thought to myself. "You were the one who taught me how to drink, remember?"
His eyes narrowed but did not move from his shot glass. "It should have been Casey," he said, his voice a barely audible whisper.
His words stung me, but I was happy to finally hear him saying something. "But he didn't, did he?" I asked. "Sure, dad taught me how to appreciate badass bikes and trucks and to love the feeling of beating a guy senseless for justice." A soft chuckle escaped Raphael's lips, but the glimmer of happiness quickly faded. I turned my head and look at him, studying his hidden face intently. "But, shit, if you didn't teach me how to appreciate a good drink." The bartender came over and poured him another shot. I grabbed my mug and gave my sulking uncle one of the most energetic looks I could muster. "Cheers!" He slowly raised his shot and I connected my mug with it making a loud clink. We both downed the liquids in one swift gulp.
But enough was enough. I needed to get him home, and since I got a chuckle out of him, now was the best time. I stood up and threw a couple bills on the counter. "Time to go," I said. To my relief, he did not argue. He just stood up and threw his own bills on the counter. I flinched at the amount of money but said nothing. My uncle's mind was on thin ice, and the less hammering I did, the less likely he was to fall in and start wallowing and screaming.
I led him out the door and into my little two door convertible. The top was up and the heat was blasting since it was mid-November and the cool air could easily bite through his cold blooded anatomy in no time, and with all the liquor in him right now, he would probably never notice.
It was not a long ride back to our apartment from the bar, but the stiff silence unnerved me. I wanted to say something, but I knew it would fall on deaf ears. My uncle, my last remaining family, was slowly withering away right in front of me, and I did not know what to do. So I watched him, and I let him slowly drink himself to death.
This is what swam through my head on that eternal ten minute car ride that day. I was fed up with taking care of him. He was nearly fifty and a turtle. By human standards, that would probably come out to being mid to late thirties. I should not have to take care of him like this. I kept telling myself this, but never once did I listen. Never once did I think to leave him at one of those bars and actually drink himself to a point where he curled up in the gutter and died. I was too selfish to do that, because no matter what he did, I needed him. And so did she.
When we got back, we entered through the back door. Raphael still had not entered the old antique shop ever since April passed. With the influx of aliens to Earth, the shop was doing a lot better than it used to with all the various tourists desperate to bring home some small souvenir, and now it also held a section for off world items which always fascinated the old locals. It was not much, but it was enough to support us.
We ascended to the upper apartment, Raphael leading the way. He always refused my help, even when he was too drunk to stand he refused to take anyone's hand, except for Sara's.
My little Sara. She was sitting in the living room watching the news when we got back. I always found that to be a strange hobby for a fourteen year old, but I always encouraged it just like how my parents had always encouraged my hobbies.
Unfortunately, if she was watching TV, that also meant she had a perfect vantage point to the rest of the living room and kitchen, which included the doorway I was standing in, and that also meant that Raphael would refuse to come in. He hated when she saw him depressed, but she seemed to be the only one who could reach him in these states. But that would not stop him from refusing to come in.
"I'll be on the roof, Shadow," he mumbled as he continued up the stairs. I watched him disappear beyond the next story. A soft echoing came down as I heard the roof door close.
"He wouldn't come in again?" The soft voice made me jump and I turned back to my apartment to see Sara looking at me from her spot on the couch. I could only shake my head sadly. Sara looked back to the TV, but it was apparent that she was no longer paying attention to the current events. I had seen that look all too often. She was trying to picture her uncle on the roof, sequestering himself from anyone and her instigating her clever strategy to bring him back to us.
I sat next to her on the couch. "Anything good on?" I asked trying to sound nonchalant.
She reached down and hit the power button on the remote in her lap. "No," she said without looking at me. She pulled her legs under her and clutched the blanket that lay next to her close to her chest. "Tell me again why we go through this."
"Sara Hamato Jones, don't you ever say something like that again," I scolded. "He's family, and we never abandon family. You know he's hurting. He lost his entire family in the war."
"But so did we, Mom," she countered. "I loved Dad, Grandpa and Grandma, and Uncle Leo, Mike and Don." Her eyes fell to the hands in her lap. "Why does he get to grieve and I don't?"
I looked at her then and a disturbing epiphany hit me. She had grown up. She was a fourteen year old child who had seen more and lost more than many people had in their whole lives. My once bright and vibrant daughter was now withering as she tried her best to hold together the pieces of a fractured vase that was our family. She did not deserve this, the pressure, the responsibility of taking care of a middle aged mutant turtle with a drinking problem. She had had her youth stolen from her.
So I did the only thing a mother can do in that situation. I reached out to her, and I held her. She shivered under my touch, and I did that pointless yet strangely effective act of rubbing my daughters back in an attempt at comforting her. I never knew why it worked when April did it to me when I had a nightmare, but I knew it worked, and that was enough for me to know that it would work for her.
"I'm sorry, baby, you don't deserve this. You deserve so much more." I meant every word I said, but they came out hollow, empty. I was kidding myself and her acting like the responsible adult I should be.
But I was not. That role had fallen to her in this last year after the Great Galaxy War of the Planet Nations. That horrible war that had taken from us almost everyone we had ever loved.
The first one they took was Michelangelo. After his brief foray as a "Translocation Reorientation Facilitator," his people skills quickly got him promoted to various different positions. Soon, he was appointed as an ambassador of the Milky Way Collaboration of Planets. We were all so proud of him. It was actually Michelangelo that introduced me to my late husband Jack, one of the TRFs he worked with. "Jones, meet Jones. Jones, Jones." That was the way he introduced us. Michelangelo seemed to find the fact of our last names being the same hysterical.
It was also Michelangelo the Palaerons used as their example. That savage species was the first civilization that my uncle was assigned to as an ambassador. His time there lasted for one month. He came back in a box as a present from those monsters.
Nothing but bones.
The Milky Way Collaboration of Planets declared war immediately. It was a long and bloody war that the MWCP eventually won, but not before ten years of losing people had gone by.
Sara was only three years old at the time. I sometimes wondered if she ever actually did remember Michelangelo, and that was what hurt me the most, that my daughter would never know the most caring and fun loving person who ever lived
The next people we lost came a year later. Leonardo was recruited as a commander of a fleet. The utroms, the head race in the MWCP, knew his leadership skills were exemplary, even if he had never commanded a star fleet. But after a few quick lessons and some military strategy texts supplied by the navy, Leo advanced and made a name for himself as one of the most cunning and skilled generals of our army.
Jack was drafted into Leo's division as a medic since he had a nursing degree from NYU. Jack tried to assure me that he would be safe, especially since he was with Leo, but not even Leo was able to get his fleet out of the ambush the Palaerons set for him. The whole fleet was annihilated, no survivors.
That was two years into the war. I cried myself to sleep for months. The hardest part was telling my five year old daughter that her father was never coming home. I do not think she understood, but thankfully, April, Dad and uncle Don were still with us, and they helped me get through the next few years.
And they stayed with us for a long time. We did not lose them until close to the end of the war. It was a little more than a year and a half ago. Uncle Donnie and April were working with the Utroms on a space station near the outer edges of the galaxy. They were trying to come up with a cure for a biological weapon that the Palaerons were using that acted by making people think and act like sadistic vampires. My father, Casey Jones, was, of course, with my uncle and surrogate mother. He refused to let April go anywhere without him for long periods of time.
But the Palaerons attacked them, trying to stop them from finding a cure. They destroyed the research station. Don, April and Dad never made it out in time.
But the research team had found a cure in time and had shipped it back to the Utroms. A few months later, the biological weapon was neutralized and the MWCP pulled ahead and swiftly ended the war.
I still remember the memorial ceremonies for all of them as vividly as I do their faces. It seemed, at the time, a shallow and empty way of apologizing to them for letting it all happen. I always thought that we could have done more to honor their unique lives. After all, they had saved the world on numerous occasions.
And where was Raphael during all of this, you might ask? He was here with us, safe at home. It was not that he wanted to be stuck with us, but he was still mutated into that larger and wilder version at the time, a unique side effect from the biological weapon on his mutant anatomy. The government, although trusting in his brothers that he was calm and in control of his form, insisted that he remain out of combat in case he went on a rampage. It burned Raphael deep within his soul to not be able to fight while his brothers were killed one after another. The cure Donatello and April concocted returned him to his normal form, but I do not think he wanted to be returned. I think he wanted to stay in that form and get revenge for his brothers' deaths. His honor dictated that.
But he never got the chance. The Palaerons were wiped out and Raphael, Sara and I were left alone in the universe. Sure, we had friends with us like professor Glurin and Honeycutt, but they just were not the same as the old guys I used to hang out with, the ones I grew up with. They were not the unique family of ninjas and scientists and vigilantes that I had. They were alien to me, metaphorically and literally.
They were gone, all except for Raphael, who was now beating himself to death for not dying with them. But Sara and I needed him, and I like to think that he needed us to, or, at the very least, that he knew we needed him, and so he refused to let himself be consumed so much that he would commit seppuku.
I felt Sara shift under my arms, and I backed off and held her at arms length. Tears were welling up in her eyes, and all she could do was stare downward. "I just need to hear it one more time," she said wiping her eyes. "I just need to hear what he told you one more time."
My own eyes began to flood with salty water. Sara was so caring, but even Raphael was starting to strain on her nerves. I sighed and searched my memories for the story that I had told her so many times before. That same story that I hated telling, but could not help but forget. My daughter was right to ask to hear it again. It was the only thing we needed to think about whenever we needed motivation to reach out to him.
"Alright, baby," I said, letting her go and making myself comfortable. "I'll tell you. One…more…time…"
A/N - I was depressed when I wrote this. I guess I kind of took my frustration out on the turtles, sorry. I usually do not care too much for stories where all but one of the turtles dies, but I could not get this out of my head, and when I wrote it out, I liked it too much.
For those who have not read the Volume 4 comics, quick update of stuff to know. The turtles are in their thirties in it and aliens have come and started allying with Earth thanks to the Utroms. The vampires I mentioned are something that is going around in the story right now too.
For those who have read Volume 4. Jack, Shadow's husband, is not Jay, the boyfriend in the comics. She dumped him pretty quickly in my world here.