Author's Notes: Heed the warning for language. I don't use it myself, but frankly, there's no way to get around it when the story involves Casey, Raph, and gangsters.

12:36 AM

Casey watched as his best friend jumped off a building. He jogged to the edge and watched as his best friend flew silently down to the street below. He watched as his best friend caught the edge of a fire escape ten feet above the ground. The fire escape rattled, but only slightly.

The miracle of ninjitsu.

Casey peered down to the street below. No one was there. Why was Raph trying to be so quiet? "Hey Raph," he called down, "I think we can skip the action hero moves. They got away."

Raphael glared up at him from below. "Shut up, ya big freak," he hissed. "Now if anyone's hidin' down there, they'll know we're comin'." That was an oddity about Raph. He had spent his entire life below the ground, in the sewers, avoiding all contact with human life, with the rest of his family—three brothers and a father. All mutants. All turtles, except for his dad, who was a rat. And Japanese. But somehow, Raph had managed to pick up a Bronx accent. Maybe it had been a deliberate choice to separate himself from the rest of his family. That wouldn't surprise Casey. Raph always played the martyr when it came to his family. Eh, he was young. He would learn.

Heat spread over Casey's face like wildfire. He and Raph shared many traits. They were both hot-tempered, for example. They were reckless, gung-ho, and prone to violent rage. They both had a fierce sense of justice and a fiercer sense of right and wrong. Neither would back down from a fight if there was any alternative. However, Casey did give Raph credit for being the only one between them who knew when to shut up.

"Okay," Casey whispered down to him, leaning over the edge of the building and nearly losing his balance. He wobbled. "So how do you expect me to get down there?" They had been chasing after a report they'd heard from Raph's police monitor: a minor theft in the vicinity, no units available. The night had been slow so far—after watching Casey's favorite violent movie, they had gone out together to "bust a few heads." The theft was the only lead they'd had in about two hours, and it was something they could easily abandon if something more important came up.

"Use the stairs, dumbass," Raph hissed up at his friend, eyes narrow, but the slight smile on his face indicating that this cluelessness was something he actually found endearing about Casey—it meant that he wasn't the stupidest person around, something Casey knew Raph felt too often. "Quietly!"

Casey gave his friend a half-smile and jumped down to the fire escape. He knew not to take anything Raph said personally. Some people, including Raph's own family, thought Raph was hard to read. Casey didn't need to read Raph. All Casey had to do was imagine how he himself would be feeling in the same situation, and Raph would be feeling the same way. While an insult from Raph could be made sharp enough to cut, it could just as easily be as blunt as a friendly punch on the arm.

Raph released his hold on the fire escape and landed softly on his feet on the ground. That was another thing that blew Casey's mind—that Raph and his brothers could fall from heights like that and not get hurt. They spent their lives learning how not to get hurt, he supposed. They were ninjas. My best friend is a ninja turtle. The thought of saying that to someone made Casey grin as he clambered down the fire escape as quietly as possible. Below him, Raph sniffed out the alley. Dark. No lights. Casey had no idea what he would find down there.

"Shut up," Raph breathed, waving his hand in the general direction of his human friend.

Casey stopped, two-thirds of the way down, looking down from the railing. "What?"

"You hear somethin'?"

Straining his ears, Casey could hear nothing. "Nada, my friend. Just cars an' stuff."

"Somethin' breathin'."

"That would be you an' me, pal," Casey said as he continued down the stairs.

"No, like a fat guy. They always breathe different. Somethin' to do with the airway bein' blocked." He stopped and listened again.

"I don't hear nothin'."

"I told ya to be quiet."

"I'm bein' quiet, Raph." Casey flipped over the railing and jumped the rest of the way down, about six feet. He landed hard and nearly fell to his knees. "Shhhi...crap," he censored himself halfway through.

Raph glanced back at him. "April makin' ya stop cussin' again?"

"Yeah," Casey admitted, ambling over toward his friend.

"You shouldn't let her."

"Nah, I don't mind. 'Sides, it's probably a bad habit. There are a lot worse things I could give up, 'specially considering who I'm givin' it up for." Casey couldn't keep a grin from spreading across his face.

"I'll give ya that, Case," Raph said, turning back to the alley and scanning the area. "She's somethin'." His eyes fell and studied the ground.

Although he and Raph told each other everything except that which they told no one, Casey was usually reluctant to talk with Raph about his girlfriend for fear of making him uncomfortable. Unlike Casey, Raph didn't have a female of his kind, and was therefore doomed to be a bystander in romance. Unless Casey could find a really, really kinky girl. Maybe Raph liked them kinky. Heck, would Raph even know what he liked? "Sorry, Raph."

Raph's eyes snapped up to him. "What, did a monkey perform your lobotomy? That had nothin' to do with you. There's somethin' on the ground. C'mere."

Casey walked over and squinted at the area to which Raph was pointing. "Looks like some kinda receipt."

"Dry. It was rainin' ten minutes ago. This's new."

"You're right. What's it say?"

Raph knelt to pick it up. "I don't know. Let's--"

A gunshot sounded. Raph swore and jumped to his feet. Casey leaped backward, yanking his hockey stick and baseball bat from the harness on his back. Twin sais appeared in Raph's hands, at the ready. Two men, previously hiding around the corner of a building, appeared from the shadows. They had guns.

"Casey," Raph said in a warning tone. Casey glanced behind to see three more men stepping from the shadows. They had guns, too. Casey whirled to face them, pressing his back to Raph's. Five men with guns. Alone, Casey wouldn't stand a chance. But he had a ninja on his side, and that had to be worth at least four of them.

One man, a black man of average height, slit-eyed and wearing a t-shirt with a beer ad, stepped forward with a grin that made his stark white teeth stand out. "We gotcha, Jones," he said in a deep bass voice.

Jones? Holy crap. "How do you know who I am?" demanded Casey, gritting his teeth.

Unless they were...

"Purple Dragons?" Raph grunted from behind Casey. Casey could feel the vibrations of his friend's voice through his back.

"Oh, listen ta that," rumbled the man, who seemed to be the leader. "The freak's smarter than Jones." He raised his gun and pointed it at Casey. "Now put down the stick. We needa talk."

Casey growled and launched himself at the man, bringing his hockey stick down onto his right hand. The man swore and dropped the gun. The gangster behind him, an enormous, pale man with a shaved head—breathing like a fat guy, Casey remembered Raph saying—stepped forward as the leader was disarmed, pressing the end of his gun to Casey's forehead before Casey knew what he was doing. Behind him, Casey heard the sounds of flesh striking flesh—Raph was putting up a fight, he realized, causing a leap of joy in his chest. The man holding Casey at gunpoint sneered at him and forced him backwards, snarling for him to drop his weapons. Casey obliged, confident that Raph would pull through.

Until he heard the fighting cease for half a second, followed by a gunshot.

The shot pounded into Casey's brain like a physical thing, its echoes striking his head again and again. The cry immediately following it was just as painful—it was Raph's voice. Heedless of the gun pointed at him, Casey whirled around with a cry and fell forward a few steps toward his friend, who had crumpled to the ground and was now sitting half-reclined, face distorted with pain.

"Raph!" he gasped before he felt the end of his captor's gun butt against the back of his head, whispering against his hair.

"You move, you die," hissed the gangster.

Standing close to Raph was another man, tall and menacing, posing with his gun resting at his shoulder like he was on a movie poster. His hair was dark and yanked back into short ponytail, his complexion slightly tan but butter-smooth, and his eyes as grey as limestone. His black shirt had a red skull on it, and the sleeves were ripped off, revealing well-muscled arms. Ragged jeans tumbled down to worn brown shoes. He was no kid, but he couldn't have been older than thirty. He might have been Casey's age, actually.

"Shit," hissed a voice behind Casey, and the leader of the gangsters dashed in front of him. He stopped a few feet in front of Casey and shouted at the man who had shot Raph. "You shot the damn ninja!"

"He was getting on my nerves," sneered the other, grey eyes half-lidded. Casey was uncomfortably reminded of Raph, but Raph would never try to kill someone just for getting on his nerves.

"He's the one we're here for," snapped the leader, tagging on a word April didn't let Casey use.

"So we get Jones to do it," the other man slurred lazily.

Casey tensed. He didn't like this conversation.

"Thanks to you, we have to. But if this don't work, the boss it gonna take it out on no one but Enzo Gordon." The name apparently referred to the gangster being addressed. "Now keep your gun on the freak an' don't shoot him again." While Casey couldn't see the leader's face, he was sure it wasn't pleasant. He turned suddenly, glaring daggers at Casey, who returned the stare. The man swaggered toward the vigilante, regaining control of himself with each step, until a confidant smirk was all that remained on his face when he reached his prey.

Casey ventured a glance at Raph. The turtle had pulled himself to one knee, but he was bent painfully over his right thigh, which was blossoming dark wetness that glinted from the distant street light. His eyes turned to the leader of the gangsters, who was fully as tall as himself. The leader stared back, still smirking. After a moment of silence, he spoke.

"You've been annoying us again, Jones," he said in a sing-song manner. Casey spat in his face. The man's eyes narrowed, then he grinned and wiped the spittle from his face with the sleeve of his hoodie. "We've been real patient with you, Jones, but things change. We all know you're still upset about your dear ol' daddy an' want your revenge, but tonight's the night you learn some respect."

Casey snorted. "Yeah," he snarled sarcastically. This was the gang responsible for his father's death and his family's ruin. The Purple Dragons had been his greatest source of fear as a child before and after the fire that broke his family, leaving his mother a widow and himself fatherless. The fear had fed his anger until there was no fear left, just a burning anger and a desire to keep what happened to him from happening again, to him or anyone else.

"Shut up, Casey," Raph unexpectedly growled from the pavement, receiving a kick in the side from the gangster covering him that made him flinch. He was right, Casey realized. Too much talk was going to get them both killed.

The leader leaned in, his horrible breath filling Casey's nostrils. "Listen up real close, Jones. Down the road is St. Claire's Hospital. A woman just came in dead from a little accident. Her name was Cheryl Mattingly. She was an organ donor, and her kidneys is sittin' in there in jars."

His eyes narrowed suddenly at Casey. The subject changed. "My favorite radio program is on, an' I'm missin' it 'cause a' you." He tilted his head to one side and called, "Turn on the radio, Jezimar."

A slim, dark gangster, who had had held back during the fight, sauntered forward and set a small radio on the ground, turning it on. It crackled as he changed the frequency, then a voice emerged.

"...tell ya kids today expect too much out of their technology. I remember video games back when the soundtrack had one instrument, and you could ask freakin' Beethoven whether it was an oboe or a violin an' he'd be like 'WHAT THE FUCK?.'"

Laughter crackled from the radio. The leader chuckled as the comedian continued. "See, this guy cracks me up, an' I'm missin' him." His face lost all trace of amusement, and his eyes glittered hostilely. "Tell ya what, Jones. I listen to my show while you run a errand for me."

"Fuck you," hissed Casey. Forget his promise to April, it needed to be said.

"Not so fast, Jones. The show ends at one a.m. While I listen, you go get me Cheryl Mattingly's kidney. You come back before the show ends, you give us the kidney, you an' your little green friend go on your merry way."

He pulled another gun and held it level with his other. "If, by chance, the show ends, and you ain't here with the kidney, you'll find him in a lesser state than you left him." He spun the second gun like a dueler in an old Western movie. His inimical gaze turned toward Raph. "It's empty," he told the turtle with a grin. Raph only glared back at him, his penetrating dark eyes as sharp and deadly as his sai. The gangster continued to address Raph. "If my show ends before Mr. Jones here gets back, you're gonna bring it here to me, an' I'll load it. See," he hoisted the gun he had handled first, "this is the gun I shoot you with if you ain't cooperatin'." He dropped it to his side and raised the other gun with a gleeful smirk. "THIS is the gun I shoot you with if your friend ain't here in time." He tossed the empty gun to Raph, who shied from it. It landed on the pavement in front of him and skidded toward the turtle.

Raph looked at it, then up at the gangster. "No thanks," he hissed.

"Pick it up," the one called Enzo snarled, giving Raph's wounded leg a fierce kick. Raph released something between a growl and a scream through his clenched teeth, curling over his wounded leg instinctively.

"You heard him," sneered the leader. "Pick it up."

If Raph didn't pick up the gun, he might be killed. It took Casey's breath away to encourage his friend to cooperate with the thugs, but Raph wouldn't listen to the gangsters. "Do it, Raph," he said, flicking his chin upward in a show of confidence. I won't let them use it.

Raph's eyes snapped up, widening fractionally, then narrowing at his best friend. He picked up the gun without looking. It had the same effect as giving everyone in the vicinity the finger.

"If you call the cops," continued the leader, turning back to Casey with a gleam in his eye, "they'll find your little friend here, too, an' he'll be dead. Wouldn't that be tragic?" he tagged on musically, punctuating it with a confident grin.

"You bastard!" Casey growled, taking a hasty step in the leader's direction. It had been bad enough that these goons had ambushed them, but now that they just might have to cooperate, Casey's blood was beginning to boil.

There was the sound of a gun being cocked. Casey's eyes swerved to the motion he had caught out of the corner of his eye--Enzo lifting the gun to aim at Raph's head. "Jones," warned the leader, "I ain't playin' no games here. You want your friend to live, you do what I say." When Casey didn't reply, the leader cocked a half-smile. "Jimmy, give 'im the radio."

The gangster addressed, a man with dirty blond hair, brown eyes, and a tattoo of a snake winding around his meaty arm stepped forward, holding a minuscule portable radio with tiny ear buds attached. He was unwinding the headphones as he walked toward Casey.

"Turn the radio to 52.9 FM an' you'll be able to listen along with us," the leader informed him with more than a little glee as Jimmy handed Casey the radio, which the vigilante took without a word. "When Mitch goes off, so does the gun." The leader made a clicking sound against the insides of his cheeks with his tongue.

Casey stared at the radio in his hands, then glanced up darkly, fists clenching around the device. They were toying with him. They could have simply told him that he had until the top of the hour, but no, they had to do this radio crap and make Raph bring them the gun that would end his life. That ticked him off. "What if I think you should stick your damn radio up your damn ass?" he said hotly, realizing too late that he was toying with his life, as well as Raph's.

The leader did not physically react to Casey's words. "This ain't up for negotiation, Jones. You got nineteen minutes until Mitch O'Farrell and your friend both go off the air."

Casey froze. Nineteen minutes? "Are you fucking kidding me?" That was ridiculous! He would never get the kidney in time--

The leader glanced at his watch. "Yup," he said with poisonous sweetness. "You got eighteen minutes now." He looked at Casey, eyes hard and uncompromising.

It hurt. Turning his brain around, actually realizing that he was going to have to accept the gang's terms was painful. But he had run out of time to think, to talk his way out of this one. No time to get used to it. No time to accept it. With an animal growl, Casey turned and ran. Behind him, he heard the uproarious laughter of the five ruthless gangsters he was leaving behind with his closest friend in the world. Casey ran, and could feel the bond that connected his senses to Raph snap, leaving them both alone.

Author's Notes: Please review. I love constructive criticism. Flames will meet asbestos suit.