Chapter One: -Raphael-
Life is funny; in a weird not a funny kind of way, if ya know what I'm saying.
Four years ago, if someone walked up to me and said: One day I'd be hopping rooftops in the middle of an icy winter night, blind as a bat, and with Mike as the leader, I'd ask them what they'd been smoking.
"Pretty quiet tonight," I murmured, and then breathed warm air into my hands and rubbed them together slightly, sensing the hint of moisture of my breath as it formed on the skin.
"Do you think we ought to call it a night? I sense a storm coming." I scowled and tipped my head, eyeing the sky I couldn't actually see. The speed of the wind and the swirling breeze playing gently around us, aside the gusts of chilling air that blew harder than usual afterwards, pushing up and around informed me the storm would probably approach faster than anticipated.
I sure as shell don't want to be stranded out here when it starts.
"Yeah, we probably should." My brother muttered. I heard the sound of cottoned snow crunch while it sloshed off the catwalk and down the fire escape, before it finally hit the ground. I heard a faint echo and I think it hit a dumpster or something, "Besides, Leo is probably worried about us anyway; we've been topside all night." He then said with a hint of a smile in his casual voice.
"That, and that he's hogging our niece all to himself." I added with a smirk.
"Um, yeah; and that." he chuckled.
Another breeze swirled by, almost as if reminding us how harsh nights like this could be to a reptilian body. We called it a night and headed home, down into an ally and then into the nearest manhole. The trip was relatively quiet and without difficulties, though I've had enough of the echoing and eluding silence of the dank tunnels, it wasn't too hard to get used to.
The echo of the water as it dripped and the gurgled trickling of sewer water, the scurrying of sewer rats and bugs, weren't quite enough to overlay the silence that thickened in my ears.
My brother had been awful quiet the past few days. I don't know what's going through his mind, because- well, ever since I've turned blind, I really can't read their facial or body language anymore and would have to rely on my other senses, along with their tone of voice, or their aura if I could get close enough to detect their flow of chi, or sense their true spiritual state in spite of their voice.
It is confusing to tell the difference when they're talking all mellow and nice, but their chi feels pissed or upset inside.
At first I was very confused cause I didn't know if they were feeling negatively because of me, tapping into how they really felt and invaded their privacy in a way, though unintentionally most of the time, or because of something else. But now that I've gotten a better hold of that skill I find it very informative, especially when we're fighting with gangsters or such.
The negative feelings often feel cold and make my skin prickle. Strong negative feelings like rage and jealousy feel hot like a gust of hot breath, and in the literal sense it smells kinda nasty sometimes, too.
Positive thoughts are often cool, not cold like the negative feelings, it is more pleasant, and the happier they are the warmer it feels. Kind of like somewhere in-between, ya know?
That was the starting point to my confusion, because I couldn't quite tell what it was I was detecting. Their voices hinted to one emotion, while their aura detected something completely different. They'd laugh while masking how sad they are and I would then feel a cool-cold sensation, and I'd get confused if they're masking their true feelings, or I'm just reading it wrong.
But after three years, I got a hold on that kill.
So while Mike and I walked through the labyrinth of the sewers, I decided to pick a conversation to kill the silence, for the lack of anything better to do. "Mike, can I ask you something?" I began casually and kept my non-visible ears perked to catch any possible foreign sounds. I surely don't want to attract any unwanted attention by piping up at the wrong time.
I sensed a shift in his mood, but it was nothing negative. I guess he was just startled by the question, "Sure, what's on your mind, bro?" he said in that mellow, warm friendly voice.
I quirked a smile and though I will deny if anyone asked, I do like Mikey's voice.
It's light and warm and it's got this- sketchy thing to it what makes it sound all- giggly like, ya know? It's like- no matter how upset he is there is always something tender about it, it's hard to explain. I admit when I first turned blind, what transpired in my mind while listening to his voice was that annoyingly whiny tone, but little by little, I realized it was just my negativity trying not to listen, that's why I interpreted it and labeled it as whiny.
When Mike is in a good mood the somewhat rasp and whiny tone is there in his voice, but when he's feeling down, a cool but tired hint makes itself clear to his tone. I never really paid attention to it before, maybe because it is actually pretty hard to detect. I don't know when I started to decipher my brothers' voices, but I guess I needed some sort of identification, some way for me to sense or feel what they were feeling through the way they spoke.
Like Sensei for example; sure he kinda lectures me a lot when I was younger, tells me that I need to pay attention and watch my temper and stuff, but when I used to see, all I felt was disappointment and stuff that just ruined my mood. After I turned blind, I could tell the times when he's being sincere in wanting me to pay attention, and tell the difference when he's just tired and in no mood to play nice.
"It's been over three years now since you've been assigned as leader, right?" I began the question and my smile widened when his aura shifted again, "In no more than fifty words, tell me what is it like?" I inquired while we moved through the tunnels, now curious to his opinion to the experience.
I recall a time when there was a collected and coolheaded leader, a hotheaded and impulsive rebel, a cheerful and happy-go-lucky goofball, and a strong determined yet reluctant fighter.
Over three years ago, all of that changed almost over night.
The leader could no longer lead while broken and stuck in bed, being nursed back to health like it or not.
The rebel sort of lost his flame and had become more passive, more user-friendly.
The goofball hardened slightly and had become more serious, he took it upon himself to protect the family in place of the fallen leader.
The reluctant fighter had inwardly developed a temper, and would flare out when things get too tense and he can't find a way to fix them.
In all that another mess arose, whereas the father of the four had grown old with heartache and hardship, weak and ill but only physically, cause his spirit is as strong as ever, if not more so than apparent.
Yet also, two dear and close loved ones were gifted with the fruits of their labor, a beautiful little daughter. She's only a year old now, but the little kid is obviously just like her dad, ditzy and overly friendly. I do hope she picks up her mother's intelligence, because I'd hate to see how a Jones daughter goes about bashing skulls, if ya know what I mean.
"It's hard to describe it fifty in words, really." Mike began to answer my question and I could sense his hands moving, but I can't pinpoint their exact action, "At first, it was a feat in itself to fit myself in the role, but then- I dunno, like a tight jumpsuit, I just flexed and stretched it out and then fit right in, despite the wrinkled kinks." He said with what I felt like a wry smile, and I sensed a movement, probably a shrug. "Sometimes when I really don't know how to handle it, I talk to Leo and he kinda helps me however he can." He confessed.
I nodded and mulled over his words. Though Leader here aint as fearless as Leo, I gotta admit Mike took hold of leadership pretty fast. I guess he's that flexible even if he doesn't like responsibility.
He still is a heavy sleeper, and Don and I always end up waking him in the morning. Some things never change and leader or not, Mike still likes to sleep in regardless of practice sessions being held or not. He can wake up early if he wanted, he just doesn't cause he likes being lazy; says it reminds him of the times when things were normal.
Just cause he grew a little more serious, doesn't mean he's no longer a goofball when he feels a little prank would help ease off some tension, or distract us from whatever it is that's bothering us. I just wish he'd stop picking on me and Don, cause if he doesn't then someone is gonna get hurt, and it aint just gonna be him!
Although I do need to note that Donny had developed a temper.
Unfortunately, about a year or so after Leo resigned and Mike took leadership, Donatello had tested our blood for any infections due to our constant contact with Leo. He said that maybe something in our bodies would work to find a cure, or antidote to help Leo's body recover and feel better. Perhaps if he found good samples and adjusted them to work with the nanos, make sure the nanos won't reject or fight them, the antibodies would accept the samples, and there would be a less risk the three of us would be infected.
After all, Leo is an O blood type and with his now mutated body, he has more blood in his system and can donate if needed.
But even so, the three of us have simply no interest in having six wings popping out of our shells, in case the transfusion might also spread the foreign substance into our system. In other words, if one of us got injured, Leo is the only donator available, and yet he can no longer donate to us because his body is considered contaminated. Therefore, blood transfusion between us is more risky now.
Don tried to figure out if he could help Leo heal, by emphasizing the nanos to work a little faster and hasten the healing, and still make sure they don't work too fast as to avoid putting his body in overload.
Sadly, there was something amiss in the concoction in spite of Don's effort to make it work-safe.
He tested it multiple times with help from Leatherhead, needing new samples from Mike and me every two weeks, saying the samples have to remain fresh for better results. He also took samples from sensei, but only every month when it came to our father, because Don didn't want to exert him with the samples, going over and over the project to be one hundred percent certain, just so when we are injected with the stuff to avoid infection, it won't harm us in any way.
He said that as long as we're not drinking any rich alcoholic drinks, containing thirty percent alcohol or more, we'll be fine. He said that was because the alcoholic stuff kinda messes with our system and makes the nanos go haywire.
Makes them accelerate to the point of self-destruction, he said. And boy, that bit of info was a godsend, cause I was really complementing trying the booze to ease the tension at the time. I'm no drinker, but the thought was tempting and with all the crap we had to deal and adjust with at the time, I just wanted an easy way out… so glad I didn't take it.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that Leo's body and blood type were different from the rest of us, not to mention already contained Avian-Entity samples, when Don injected himself to test it despite Leatherhead's warnings, the concoction had reacted with the remains of the Outbreak virus in his blood.
We weren't exactly there, Mike and I, sadly we only arrived about two hours later. We only heard the story from Leatherhead who was besides Don at that traumatizing moment.
No more than ten minutes after Don injected himself, from a sudden throbbing headache Don vocally complained about, to hyperventilating near suffocation, dilating eyes and massive sweating, and then a sudden seizer. Don dropped to the floor thrashing and twitching spontaneously. Our giant friend said all he could do was stand back and helplessly watch, listening to Don's pained howls and screeching cries die down.
In my mind's eye as the giant crocodile told the tale, it sounded as if someone was literally drilling my brother's skull, before he slowly silenced into a whimper, then soon knocked unconscious from the intensity of the pain.
I don't think I've been so shaken in my entire life at the scenes that played in my head.
At that moment, I wished if I still had my sight just to prove I wasn't exaggerating, that my imagination was just running away with me. To hear Don's scream and not being able to see what was going on wasn't helping, because my mind kept putting these horrible images in my head, filling the gaps. It was such a morbid imagination; it sickened me to no end.
He was in bed for a week, barely twitching a finger and with a slight fever rising and falling every hour or so.
No matter what medicine LH tried to cook up, nothing seemed to mach the needed results, because he took a sample from Don and all the remedies he made reacted negatively, worsening the matters on the tested samples, all because of the new stuff he injected himself with, and how it reacted to the remains of the Outbreak virus in his system.
But then on the night of the eighth day, Don woke up, head throbbing and body hurting like hell, but he was glad to be alive; or so he said. A day days later, and though he was still bedridden, he suddenly blew in Mike's face at a silly joke, shockingly startling our brother to no end.
That's when we realized Donny boy wasn't the passive one, not anymore.
Because Don was the original source of the Outbreak virus samples, not to mention the only one who carries the antibodies to it, all the studies and work on the latest subject excluded his samples.
He tested the medicines more on our samples, Mike and I, and only tested it on his samples if they worked for us. Unfortunately, the last remedy he made wasn't tested on his blood, it was late at night and apparently he was so tired it completely didn't cross his mind. The antidote he created sort of developed a little too well, and when he injected himself…
Well, let's say that though his strength and five senses were enhanced, he had also gained a vicious temper. Whenever Don goes into his berserker mode when he's too tense or angry, Mike had officially dubbed it Gemera mode.
Since I'm blind, I really can't tell how bad Don has it when he snaps, but I do recall how loud his roars become.
Plus, Mike commented that the white of Don's eyes turn into bright yellowish green, much like Leatherheads when he gets upset.
I'm suspecting that maybe during the Triceraton invasion, when we relocated Leatherhead in Bishop's lab, maybe Bishop was doing tests on Leatherhead and came across the Outbreak virus's concoction, before it somehow ended up into the sewers? If so, it would mean that Donny had- has a more advanced sample of the virus in his system, and that meant Leo had an even more advanced virus in his body as well; which therefore also means Leatherhead's blood is contaminated with it as well, but on a lesser risky level than that of Don and Leo.
Looking on the bright side, Leatherhead is an AB plus blood type, not sure if it's positive or negative, though; which probably means I can donate to him, but not the other way around, seeing LH's blood is contaminated, while mine isn't. Although Mike is an AB blood type as well, he's a negative, which makes me a more suitable candidate to donate.
Don, since the new infection, had been trying to find a cure for that mishap, but so far he was able to create a serum that would lessen the activity of the enhanced nanos roaming through his system. At least once or twice a week, he needs to inject himself with the antidote to prevent high blood pressure, which would in turn rouse him and cause the nanos to go into a state of frenzy; his Gemera mode.
I've always thought Don was scary when he's mad, but his berserker mode takes the cake.
Distracted from my thoughts, I sensed my brother stop a distance ahead of me to punch in the buttons, creating a musical theme by pressing the numbers on the pad, accessing entrance into our home. I already knew the numbers, because each button on the number pad beeps with a certain musical note, so it's easy for me to tell what the numbers are by merely listening.
I had a lot of training and practice with sensei, and an old broken telephone Don fished out from somewhere. Dad would create a series of numbers, and expect me to guess or recognize the beep. First we started with short three to four digits, and then slowly advanced to nine digits. I realized my focus could only last for the seventh or ninth beep, I'd lose focus after that and remembering the last of it is lost to me.
Then again, who would create a code number more than eight digits, anyway? Must be a number geek or something…
Since we live underground in an abandoned old pumping station in the middle of central park, it's easier to travel into the sewers without having to worry about being spotted on our way home. It's been like that ever since that treaty, the truce with Karai Mike made, since Leo is bedridden and can't do it himself, and sensei shouldn't deal with her while we're around.
Karai apparently still dislikes us for the fall of her father, the Shredder, yet after a while and when things started to calm down, she apparently had time to think back about all he did. In truth, she didn't really like how he went around hurting the innocent, risking their lives for his own benefit. Like the time with Beijing and that gravity device; she couldn't stand back and watch millions of people die.
Although she is still her father's daughter, at least her dirty work is much cleaner than her old man.
I guess a part of her retained her previous more friendly form to the rest of humanity, donating to charity and making sure her men don't go causing trouble, with us or the police. We no longer have to worry about Foot activity messing with us, as long as they don't hurt any innocent bystanders. If there are innocent people under threat, we help them regardless if the Foot are the foe or not.
Which means, our only source of entertainment now are the Purple Dragons, led by Hun, and the lower leveled punks and wannabe-gangs on the streets.
But pushing all of that aside, once into the safety of our lair, Mikey wordlessly locked the door and then he and I parted ways, just like we always do after a long night of patrolling and scouting the streets for trouble. I headed towards the kitchen for a drink then maybe go see Leo, while he as usual made a beeline towards sensei's room to report tonight's activity, or lack of.
We haven't met with the Foot a lot as of late, and thankfully through the past year or so, Karai apparently too busy traveling across the country, if not the whole world, and deeply engrossed with her growing business and companies, she doesn't know a thing about Leo's physical condition. For all she knows, he's still somewhere in Japan training and honing his skills, perfecting his ninjutsu on the hands of a great ninja master, and the three of us are here to make sure things don't get messed up while he's away, that she wont find out about him, or us.
When would he come back; she asked once. No one knows, was our answer, and that is the way it is going to stay.
So whenever the Foot activity increases and starts a ruckus, it's just Mike, Don and me with Leo nowhere in sight.
A part of me wonders how long we'd be able to keep a lid on it, though. Sure Karai aint that upset and rage-driven to kill Leo, not as openly as before when she trashed the old lair, she learned to mask her anger and tame her rage, much like how Leo did when he came back from Japan. But in truth, we are still enemies in spite of the truce held between us. I know that if she was to ever find out about his helpless state, she won't hesitate to kill him, because then he'd be too easy a catch and gain the vengeance she so gravely longed for.
Or at least, that's the reaction I expect her to do.
Mike argued that maybe she still kept her honor and won't attack a handicapped and helpless person, for even her revenge, if she chose to kill Leo in his current state it would give her nothing but an empty win. Also, it would break the truce held between us, and he was sure she wouldn't want us after her for taking away a defenseless brother.
And speak of the devil… or should I say, angel…
"Hey guys, about time you came home, we were getting worried." came the calm voice, and then the giggling of a child before incoherent baby noises followed. "No, Shadow. The remote is not a chew toy. Get that out of your mouth." the voice continued, humored yet cautious.
"I see the queen of saliva is at it again?" spoke another voice, but I knew who it was.
"Casey? Hey, what brings you down here?" I asked, startled as to why the vigilante was here. I thought he and April went out for a nice, romantic dinner. I hope that doesn't mean he blew it and April kicked him out of the houses or something. "Did the date go alright? Ya didn't get kicked out, did ya?" I inquired while trying not to smirk at the thought.
He gave a wry chuckle, "Um, Ma arrived in the last minute, so she and Angel went out shopping with April." The rustling of what I guessed was his new Armani could be heard, "Apparently, I got kicked out of a date for the girls' day out." Then came another pause, "And Weo bro here was stuck with babysitting duty. Not that I'd mind." He murmured teasingly.
I heard Shadow giggle and made more baby noises, along with Leo's cooing happy voice. Obviously, my brother didn't really pay attention, or care to the reason Shadow was here.
"But it's kinda late, shouldn't they be home by now?" I argued, wondering if the ladies were still out shopping.
"Oh, no, don't worry your hard headed brain, green dome." I felt his overly friendly hand punch my shoulder, "They're already home. I just came to pick up the little squirt here."
I grunted in reply at first, "I dunno about you, but shouldn't Shadow already be home by the time they had arrived, already in bed and sleeping? It's very late at night as it is." I chided, wondering why she was even still here as we spoke. "Ya do realize Ape aint gonna be too thrilled you left her here again. You do remember what happened last time, right?" I lowered my chin, as if looking at him from under my nonexistent eyelashes.
That could have been the case, if only I didn't have the hole-less red and black mask wrapped securely across my eyes.
Every since my eyes turned super-hyper sensitive, I was forced to wear this black mask all the time, even when I go to bed, because bright light shines way too strongly and my pupils had become too erect. The only type of light I could see without having my eyes tearing up, or my vision swimming and going blurry, is that of a candle in the middle of pitch blackness, granted if I'm at least ten feet away.
Any closer than that and my eyes would start to ache.
So in other words, I'm not blind because I can't see at all, I'm actually blind because I see too much. The light blinds me because my eyes pick up all the light particles in the air, instead of reflecting them, my pupils absorb the light, which irritate my retinas even more. Donny said that if I hadn't kept the blindfold on, the brightness of the lights would have literally burned out my eyes, anyway.
Or at least, that's what I gathered and I assume I understood it right, because the idea of the eyes absorbing the light sounds kinda farfetched.
Casey gave a noise I recognized as an annoyed grunt, and then I ducked quickly when his hand moved swiftly and swiped the top of my head. I grinned broadly with a chuckle while Casey grumbled under his breath, before I heard him straighten up and mutter some more. He completely avoided answering the question, and coaxed Leo into handing over his daughter.
Leo reluctantly complied, wanting to spend more time with his drowsy niece.
Soon, Casey wished us goodnight and exit the lair with his yawning daughter.
I stood there in silence complementing whether to stay and chat with Leo, or just turn in for the night, I was kinda tired. With a stretch and popping a few kinks, I plopped on the couch besides him. Or where I guessed he was cause I felt my hand bump onto a cushion, so it was either he was on another recliner, or there were cushions between us.
"Everything okay?" he began, "You took awful long tonight."
"Yeah, not much happened tonight, just a few muggings and purse snatchers," I shrugged and then raised an arm to roll my shoulder, a kink there was grinding the bones together and causing a slight ache in the socket. "What about you? You holding up alright?"
"A little sore on the sides but nothing painful." He replied softly and felt his fingers brush against my shoulder, probably flicked the tails of my mask off to my shell, "Sensei thinks it might help soak in a hot tub for a while, but he's lacking some herbal stuff. He gave Casey a list to give it to April, or Lorelei, so hopefully they'd be able to get them for us from Chinatown." He added.
"Well, I admit in three years-" I began casually.
"Four." He corrected, nonchalant.
I quirked a bemused brow, but didn't argue, "Four, right. It's good to see that you're healing faster than expected, ya know?" I leaned back against the couches' backrest to get more comfortable, "Back then, Donny said that it might take your body up to five years before you can handle things independently." I smiled a bit, feeling my lips stretch, "But look at you now; a year ahead of schedule, and this is practically the first month you've been going around on yer own."
"Nothing a bit of stubbornness, along with sensei's tea mixes couldn't boost." He chuckled, and something to my side moved, probably his tail, "I admit I was kind of surprised when I was able to walk on my own again, a year ahead of schedule, but I guess I was just too excited to think much about it." he murmured in a mellow and happy voice.
"Don't blame ya. Every time I take off the blindfold and actually see things, it feels… indescribable, ya know?" I touched the black fabric encircling my face, voice tinged with a hint of awe, "It's almost as I'm seeing things for the first time," I said, wondering how it would feel to see things normally like I used to, to be able to see my family's smiling faces again.
"I think I understand, Raph." He answered softly. "Although we're living and adapting to our changes, they're still a mystery and it is still, in a way, hard to cope with it all." He paused for a moment, complementing his words before he continued, "For one thing, I think my tail hates me! The thing keeps getting where it shouldn't, and everyone seems to step on it when it decides to lie on the floor like some lazy dog." He grumped.
I snickered, "I think I lost count of the times I've tripped over the thing, too." I chuckled in a friendly manner, "At least, ever since Mike got that collar on Klunk, I've collided with the fur-ball less and less, as long as he keeps the dang thing on."
He laughed, "Klunk doesn't like the thing, and the bell keeps confusing him, so he takes it off because it makes him feel uncomfortable." He explained, and then I felt the cushioned seat under us shift sideways.
"So, what'cha two talking about?" Mike piped up, voice calm and casual.
"Nothing much, just about the times I almost broke a neck trippin' on yer darn cat." I smirked, teasing.
He didn't respond immediately, and instead gave a fake sigh, "Raphie, Raphie, Raphie, when are you going to learn that Klunk doesn't always listen to what I have to say? We're friends, not your typical master and pet scenario." he paused, but I bet my rollerblades he was pouting, either that or a smirk and a raised eye ridge, "Seriously, I think the guy doesn't really realize you- uh, can't see, so he just approaches you for a petting." He moved, I think it was a shrug.
"Well petting is one thing, licking my toes is another." I growled and squirmed in my seat at the feeling of that small, rough yet wet tongue rub against my toes, "And the lack of any bell to signal his approach startles me even more." I harrumphed and crossed my arms over my chest to emphasize how unhappy I was with the startling experience, "What am I supposed to do to make him stop? Start wearing shoes?" I whined.
"Aww, you ought to be grateful! Licking and nipping toes to a cat is a sign of affection." He argued, though I'm surer there was a grin plastered across his face. "Klunkers likes you, that's why he keeps doing it, ya blame the guy?"
Leo only chuckled while I snorted, discontent and ignoring the tingly warmth on my cheeks, and Mike just sniggered.
But ya know what? It weren't really that bad, I grinned and shared a laugh, just because I felt like it.
True the family had been practically tossed into a whirlpool the past three or four years, but I know things had been looking up for quite a while now, and I do hope they stay that way, cause in our current state, anything or anyone who might attempt to shake the foundation of this family, is going to end up with lots of sore bumps and bruises! I'll be sure to hand them personally.
I just hope it's something with a physical body, because I know I can't go against the fates, no matter how stubborn I can be.
For my family's sake, I hope this time of peace continues, cause a hunch tells me it's going to be very short lived.
And I think my family knows that my hunches are never wrong…
A/N: I decided to post it, its been sitting on my hard drive for over two months now, but I dunno when I'll get around finishing it, been really busy…