2:34 AM

It had taken him eighteen minutes to do what he should have done in the first minute.

Casey stepped out of the bathroom in the turtles' lair, having just showered away the muck, grime, and blood of the night. Splinter had lent him one of his clean robes while his clothes were washed. The robe was far too small, barely fitting over his muscled arms, and far too short all around, but it was better than going back to his old ruined garments. He hissed as the cold air hit him. Michelangelo and Donatello glanced over at him from the couch, where they were watching a news special.

"Hey Casey," called Mike, "you wanna see this."

With a sigh, Casey ambled over to stand behind the couch. After a moment, his eyes widened, then his brow pulled down, furrowing over his eyes. "Those sons of bitches," he muttered, heat flaring up in his gut.

The Purple Dragons bad broken into the hospital and stolen Cheryl Mattingly's other kidney.

"How the hell did they move so soon?" Mike wondered.

"House," hissed Casey as though it were a curse. "That sonuvabitch, I left 'im alive. He musta gone back and told the others."

Leonardo came out of Raphael's room with a sigh, stretching his arms behind him and looking exhausted. Casey and the other two turtles glanced up, the television forgotten. "He's with Master Splinter," Leo informed them, leaning against the railing of the walkway above. "He'll be fine. The concussion's better, and the bleeding's stopped." He looked at Casey. "Have you called April?"

Casey nodded. "Think I'm gonna hang around here for awhile, till they stop lookin' for me."

"I don't think they're worried about you," Don pointed out. "They've already got someone else stealing the same woman's kidney. I'll bet the heat's off you."

Leo's eye ridges lowered. "What?"

"The Dragons busted into St. Claire's."

"Shhhhit," hissed Leo, eyes glittering dangerously.

"There's nothing you could have done about it, Leo," Mike said softly. "Hun wants something, he gets it."


Casey's heart leaped. He whirled to the door, where a familiar voice had spoken. April deposited her purse by the door. "What happened?" she asked, looking concerned. She was wearing a button-up t-shirt, unbuttoned, over a tank top and pajama pants like she had jumped out of bed and thrown it on in a hurry. Dark green flip-flops were on her feet, and her vibrant hair was thrown up into a messy bun. She was wearing no make-up, so her pure white skin glowed in its true form.

Her hair and skin like strawberries and cream, she had never looked more beautiful.

"Oh baby," Casey murmured, then ran for her, scooping her up in his arms and holding her so tightly that nothing could tear her away. She flung her arms around his neck, and he could smell her hair, that smell that drove him crazy. He kissed the top of her head firmly, and the scent filled his nostrils, and every single muscle in his body went slack. "Oh baby, it's so good to see you." He pulled away enough to cover her Nicole Kidman lips, her April O'Neil lips, in a warm kiss. His arms encircled her waist and pulled her close as she responded to his kiss, making a small sound into his mouth.

"Jeez, get a room," scoffed Mike. Casey would deck him for that later, but for now, he didn't care. He was kissing April, and smelling her hair, and everything was all right again. The kiss broke on its own, and they embraced each other again, and she ran her fingers through his hair, murmuring softly.

"I'm here," she whispered. "It's okay."

"I love you," he murmured. "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. You got that?"

"I know, Casey, I love you, too."

"Don't ever forget it." He kissed her again, tasting her sweet mouth gently and brushing his fingertips over the fragile skin of her delicate ears, twirling a stray lock of fragrant hair between his fingers. Strawberries and cream. "You're beautiful, baby," he murmured when the kiss broke. "My beautiful, gentle, wonderful, strong, perfect April." He wrapped her in his arms tightly and gently rubbed his hands up and down her back. "Love you so much."

"I know, I love you, too." She kissed him lightly once more, then turned her dark-laced eyes to his, eyes green as the shades of a forest. "What happened?"

"What happened, my son?"

Splinter's question struck Raphael as a little invasive, although he knew it wasn't meant that way. Splinter was never invasive, but he was very protective. Raph and his brothers told him what he asked them to tell, not because of any possible consequences of not telling, but out of respect for their father and master. Also, because Splinter had a right to know, in his own way, because someone who sat by your bed and held your hand and stroked the back of it with his thumb and watched over you and prayed against bad dreams was someone who had earned the right to know everything about you.

Raph was still struggling to stay awake, fighting the weight of his own eyelids. As Splinter coaxed him, he sipped herbal tea with honey, trying to restore blood volume. "Casey didn't tell you?" he asked, handing the cup back to Splinter.

"He told me his side," murmured Splinter, setting the tea on Raph's nightstand. "Only you can tell your side."

Raph didn't want to tell his side. Now that he wasn't distracted with trying to stay alive, the sheer horror of what had happened to him had finally struck him, and speaking it aloud only made it more real. His mouth opened, his heart pounded, and his mouth shut. He didn't want to say what he had gone through, what had penetrated his mind to its recesses, what had weakened him to the point of futility. But Splinter was there, very real, very worried, and very much in his rights to know.

"Sensei, I was..." He couldn't breathe. A dizzying panic locked his joints, and he was frozen.

"Yes, my son?" Splinter watched him with compassion in his eyes.

With barely any breath to speak, Raph tightened his jaw, visions of Enzo's rage and Jezimar's laughter dancing in front of his eyes.

A hand where it was not supposed to be.

'Ey House, gimme your flashlight.

Vocal cords worked, mouth worked, but there was no breath behind it, so no sound came out.


"I was..."

Malcolm's calm eyes. You'll watch 'im die.

He was afraid of humiliation.

"I was so scared," he croaked, and he sounded like he was a small child again, lost and bewildered and unsure what had happened to him. Unable to look his master in the eye, he turned his head away, tears forcing their way out of his resisting eyes.

So scared.

Warmth, and a soft downy touch, resting upon his face, turning it upwards and wiping away a tear that had escaped. He raised his eyes, and Splinter caught them, holding his son's chin in a firm, gentle grip. "My son," whispered the rat, "it is all right to be afraid. But," he added with a shadow of a smile, "it is also all right to know when there is no need to be afraid."

Tears spilled from Raph's eyes, but they didn't matter when he was pulled into his father's strong embrace.

7:04 PM, two days later

Casey flopped on the couch by Raph, who was watching an episode of Mythbusters that had just started. "This the one where they rocket the dummy kid around a swing set?"

"Nah," muttered Raph, "they're seein' if you can rocket yourself into space with Medieval Chinese rockets."

"Seen it already?"

"About a thousand times."

"Wanna go to a movie?"

Raph rolled his eyes. "Think I'm allowed?"

"Aw, c'mon," encouraged Casey. "I'm dyin', here, and I know you're at least as stir-crazy as I am."

"The difference is, I got shot in the leg less'n forty-eight hours ago."

"That's true. But I did jump from a second-story window less'n forty-eight hours ago."

"I got a concussion, I gotcha beat."

"Yeah, but I got a face-full a' Jezimar's breath. That's gotta count for somethin'."

"Believe me, I got way more points off him'n you did." Raph didn't look at his friend. He had told Casey, and only Casey, about Jez's assault, and Casey suspected he regretted it already.

Casey was suddenly worried. "That..." He hesitated. "That's really botherin' ya, huh?"

A pause. "Just...gimme some time, I'll be okay." Raph tossed the remote control from hand to hand idly, still not looking at Casey. This was a habit Casey had noted long ago—when Raph was telling you things he didn't talk about with just anyone, he didn't meet your eye. It was as though he expected to find judgment there, and couldn't look.

With a small nod, Casey gave in. Raph would talk about it when he needed to. "That's cool," he said softly, sinking back against the back of the couch. "Looks like they're settin' up ta give Buster one helluva ride," he said, motioning toward the television.

A wry grin spread over Raph's face. "Yeah, he takes some real punishment in this one."



"Thanks for savin' my life."

"Yeah. Thanks for savin' mine."

"Any time."

"You, too."

Author's Notes: Hwow. I actually finished a multi-chapter story. And quickly, too. Granted, this is pretty short, but still...hwow. I know chapter eight ended with a cliche, but I figured, as much cliche-dodging as I've been attempting, I'm allowed one big, neon-lights-flashing arrows-pointing-to-it "HEY! I'M A CLICHE!" cliche. So that's that: my first attempt at suspense. I enjoyed writing it, and hope you enjoyed reading it. Thank you for reading, and remember to review!