Disclaimer: I do not own TMNT. I do own the OC in this oneshot though. Not much…but it's better than nothing!
AN: This has been written as part of the Fireplace OC Challenge. It serves as a good distraction for me and I hope I've come up with a somewhat decent OC. Thanks to Zippie who beta'd for me! I owe you big!!!
Summary: When you can only dream of a life that's escaped you, the only reality of living becomes death.
"I…don't want to be alone! Please."
For some reason those words came easier now than they ever had before. They stumbled from stained lips without remorse or regret. A first. How many times she'd wanted to use them but she'd never summoned the courage. She'd feared them. They represented the judgement of her peers and the weakness she'd fought most of her life to hide. Often she had found herself wondering if those words could, or would have changed the direction her life had taken. She supposed it was much too late for those words to change anything important now. There was no one left to listen to them; nothing left worth changing. She really couldn't explain the desperation she heard in her own voice.
The cold, unforgiving concrete pressed hard against her back, while the clouded night sky greeted her heavy lidded glare. It could have been imagined but she swore she heard the faint sound of bells tolling in the distance. She half remembered scouting out the area and yet couldn't recall spying a church. It probably was her imagination. It's overactiveness constantly played her for a fool. Not a single day went by when she didn't see a shadow move in the corner of her eye; catch a glimpse of something on a reflective surface and turn to find nothing. Her reflection had often proved to be her worst enemy. It even went so far as to limit the job opportunities for someone with her level of education. In this city you could be smart, or you could be pretty. She wasn't either. When she found herself forced to view her own appearance she discovered a stranger staring back at her. A less than average looking woman, sloppily dressed and graced with dull, tired eyes. She was a woman that hadn't worn makeup since she was sixteen; the time she discovered it couldn't disguise her lack of personality. How did I become this thing? When did my life start to feel like my own funeral? She was sure if her parents could see her now they'd be disappointed.
The temperature was rapidly dropping now. Her hands had already begun to lose feeling in their fight against the bitter, New York cold. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been this exposed to the elements. Truth be told, she couldn't remember a lot of things. Like dreams, certain memories seemed to evaporate with time. She barely remembered what family she once had. That was before it fell apart. While never the energetic homelife everyone else seemed to have, it was better than being alone.
It all seemed so stupid now; all the things that tore her old life apart and shaped her future to this….this dreamlike half life. So many dumb choices and mistakes hung over her head. They were the only things she could remember clearly. Her failures, her screw ups. She was the cause of so much suffering. She could remember the night her father had walked out. There had been arguments about her grades, her mothers drinking; the fact that despite living in the same house they never acted like a proper family. There was no unity, no spirit, nothing more than silence in the afternoon.
He must have watched that happen for a while. He must have seen the slow entropy that crept into daily life. Her father's face had told the story of his last few years before he'd had enough and left. How alone he'd been. How he'd wanted the family that they couldn't give him. While he had argued with her mother she'd been standing, blocking the front door, just staring at his features. How old he'd looked then. Like her and her mother's distance had leeched the life out of him. It was right then that she'd wanted to reach out to him. She'd wanted to beg him to stay. Not to leave her. She'd wanted to tell him she needed him. But…nothing had come out.
It was the single greatest act of cowardice she could think of now, what had happened then. No matter how many times she ran it through her head, she just couldn't believe herself. Her stupidity, her absolute callousness. When he'd made to leave she'd simply, casually stepped aside. That one action in itself had driven the final wedge between them all. It had hurt her father deeply to think that his own daughter hadn't asked him to stay. She'd been screwed over by her own inaction and it wouldn't be the last time. Thinking back on it now she knew she was still just a pathetic weakling. She'd spent her entire life as a simple minded, moronic fool.
Her mother had been leaning towards alcoholism for years before her father had left. The last fight had sent her straight for a bottle of wine. No matter how much she tried to remember now, she'd never recalled her mother finishing that bottle. The volume of wine had just seemed to change every time she saw her. Half bottle, full bottle but never an empty one. She'd always replaced her supply quick. Maybe sobriety frightened her or maybe it was the sight of a lone, hollow bottle that she hated.
Although it had been inevitable, the speed at which her mother's health had failed had scared her. Her mother had been only forty-two when her liver had given out. Within a year of skin abrasions and that sickly yellow tint, her mother had died alone in a hospital bed with nothing but the steady drip of a morphine machine and the lone crucifix above her bed for company. She'd put off that hospital visit for weeks, only to have time finally run out. How she still hated herself for that.
She opened her eyes slowly, not realizing that she'd even closed them. She quickly squinted against the raindrops. She'd no idea when it had started raining.
Her sight strayed from the depressing night sky to the shrouded figure by her side. He was still there. Still kneeling over her in the exact same position he'd been in before she'd last spoken, before she let her mind wander. He'd stayed when he could have left, when he should have left. Such an odd time and place for nobility. He was frozen to one spot. Despite his unwavering gaze she could tell that he was unsure of what to do.
"What's your name, kid?"
His voice startled her. She hadn't heard him speak before now, and somehow the gruff Brooklyn accent seemed out of place. Swallowing the new taste of copper she took in a deeper breath; only now realizing that her breathing had been little more than a hiss for the past several minutes.
"…Joan…" The word cost her a few painful coughs. Her body convulsed as it now struggled for more air.
He didn't say anything more for a minute or so, whilst she settled herself and resumed her steadier, albeit laboured breathing. He was probably thinking about how normal her name was in comparison to her profession. (So many did). How her name didn't match the stranger on the other side of the mirror or the uniform she wore, even now. How her name had to have belonged to someone else and couldn't possibly be hers.
How did a girl called Joan end up in the Foot? The Foot was a clan of ruthless Ninja's for hire. How did she wind up involved with lowlives? It was a question she asked herself constantly. The truth stung.
"You?" The one word question was all she could manage without choking on the blood welling in the back of her throat.
"Raphael." His gaze wavered then. She thought it was perhaps fear. But what could he have been afraid of? Her? She doubted it. The Foot? Like they'd be considering coming back to help their fallen "comrades".
"There's an ambulance on its way!" He spoke out as though he could read her mind. Either that or he found the silence as awkward and inappropriate as she did for a time like this. Though it explained that sudden flash of fear across his expression. She'd asked him to stay with her, to not leave her on her own. She didn't want to die in the manner in which she'd lived; utterly alone. But he couldn't stay. She knew he couldn't. The shadows of New York were the only things between him and a dissection table.
The ambulance wouldn't get there in time. She knew that too. So did he. This had been one of her greatest and final acts of cowardice; joining the Foot. She'd been so desperate to be somewhere where she wouldn't be judged on her past failures. Where they wouldn't ask where she went to school and how good her grades were. Someplace to be accepted. Someplace she supposed she would never be alone. In the end, she'd done some truly horrible things because someone had told her to and she had been desperate not to be a disappointment. She'd lied to herself in thinking that the Foot could be a replacement for her family.
Now, she was paying the price.
The world had gradually started to fade out. The cold had become a less than pleasant numb. It spread across her chest and abdomen. The nothing she felt was much scarier than pain. Her vision was fading. Like a fog, darkness had begun creeping in around the borders of her world. She focused on Raphael's face. It was something to hold onto, as it seemed reality was softly drifting away. She panicked for a moment when she realized that these could be her last few moments but then that energy was spent and she was floating again. Her joke of an existence left behind. A dreamscape of sorts. Somewhere where she could pretend that everything had turned out alright. That she'd lived a long and loving life. That she'd had children and that they'd had children and that she wouldn't be some unknown. That someone would remember her. With her eyes closed she could pretend that the hand that now gripped hers belonged to someone she loved and not the one whose weapons rested, holstered and covered in her blood. That she hadn't been in the Foot ambush that attacked him and his brothers. She could pretend that she was a good person; someone who'd done good things and truly lived without crippling regrets. She could pretend that the life she'd led was the dream.
She could pretend.
Her eyes closed for the final time and she smiled. Wrapped up in her illusion of an alternate life, the smile still remained and her breathing slowed until it was nothing more than a memory.
The figure that had been watching over her for the past fifteen minutes stood and slipped back into the shadows, just as an ambulance sped down the street and screeched to a halt at the alley entrance. Sirens echoed in the streets as the men scrambled out of the ambulance to huddle over the unmoving form of the recently deceased Foot soldier.
He stalled at the end of the ally for a moment before visibly tensing as someone stepped up behind him. He didn't turn. Both shadowed figures were invisible in the gloom of the alley.
A tentative voice spoke out from behind Raphael
"Who was that?"
The newcomer's question came out as nothing more than a hoarse whisper amidst the now beating rain and paramedics shouts.
Raphael seemed to struggle to find his voice in face of the difficult question. Two words cut through the rain as he turned and stepped deeper into the darkness.