I hate writer's block. (weeps)

This was supposed to be a really serious and dark Mikey one-shot. However, life happens and I couldn't focus enough to write something as complex as I'd planned that story to be. So I suppose it will have to wait for now.

However, I had to get a story up today! If you recall, I always put one up on the anniversary of the day I officially joined the fandom- today I've been writing for three years!

Therefore, I whipped up this short little one-shot. I'm sorry it's not fantastic, I really am, but I did the best I could under the circumstances.

So we have a Raph tale! Yay! It's kind of a chibi fic- just a little. So I hope you like it!

Disclaimer: I don't own the TMNT. I sold it today to pay for my Internet bill.

Raph had never liked the sewer tunnels. He'd had fun exploring them when he was younger, and they were any child's dream when it came to games of tag and keep away; hide and seek and follow the leader. And what boy didn't love playing in filth at that age?

When they were allowed out of the lair without Splinter's guiding hand, and later to his enthusiasm, another sibling's company, he'd relished the time spent loitering about those damp passageways. He took his every opportunity he had for getting away from Mikey and his stupid pranks, Don with his babbling about all of the things he'd learned, and Leo going on about rules.

But he'd never liked them. Not once had he appreciated that he had stretch after stretch of tunnels practically all to himself. How could he possibly be satisfied with that? In the beginning, it was easier- in the times when they didn't know about everything that went on above their heads. Things can't be hidden forever, though, and they'd learned. While he'd been instantly intrigued, Raph had never really questioned their restriction to the lower levels until Donny explained what the sewers were actually for.

There were things that they'd had to put up with in their own home for so many years that had become almost common place: pipes busting overhead leaking sewage all over the floor and their things; cockroaches getting to their food if it wasn't eaten the day they found it; the occasional rat sneaking into their beds as they slept, biting and clawing if one of them made the mistake of squirming. Thankfully, for the most part, Master Splinter had figured out ways to prevent all of that by the time they were five, though a bug or two still founds its way in every once in a while.

He could tolerate that. Home was home for him no matter what crazy things happened in it- the less weird stuff the better.

The tunnels, however… no allowances were made there for their difficult lives- God forbid something to make their existence easier. Depending on where you were at, it was best to do your playing during the day; the sewers didn't have the best lighting. As was to be expected, the bugs and rats were everywhere, along with the garbage. The water hid shards of glass to slice open the tender bottoms of their little feet. The second the wound was open, the bacteria was free to get inside; more than once, they'd all suffered through weeks spent in bed, sick with fever due to nasty infections.

Why did they have to put up with all of that when there was an entirely different world up there? Perhaps Raphael had only been a child, but he'd never been stupid. It didn't take long to learn that there could be few things that were worse than this. To him, it didn't matter if they weren't like other people. They had as much right to be up there as the rest of them.

It was something Splinter wouldn't budge on, though. Time and time again he'd tried to impress upon the red-clad turtle the importance of staying in the shadows. After a while, it was like trying to beat a dead animal.

When it got to be too much, Raph would huff off into the very tunnels he hated. It wasn't always Splinter- rarely was it him, in fact. Typically, the antics of a brother or two would be the thing to set him off. Sometimes, he just needed to be alone.

He was eight years old when he'd heard the scream, on a night when he'd been roaming. Normally, he'd have thought nothing of it. Sounds like that had been what had eventually led to their discovery of the city above; before the four of them had known that, they'd grown up with the melodies of stereos blaring and car horns sounding; pleasant chatter and swearing; gunshots and rushing water.

The screams were as commonplace as a dog's bark.

Despite this, he'd stopped and listened more intently, stopping below a storm drain. This time, as he was paying attention, when the scream came again it was obvious that it was a child's- maybe someone his age.

Until that point, he didn't think he'd heard a kid cry like that before. Sure, his brothers did often enough, but not like that. What he was hearing was something akin to pain and fear all wrapped in one and Raph had the sudden thought that it could be one of his brothers- Mikey getting picked on, or maybe Don; even Leo had to get scared once in a while, right?

A second after the thoughts had entered his mind, he'd already known none were a possibility. Nevertheless, that was all of an excuse he needed to crawl up on a pipe and peek through the opening, in hopes of spying the screamer.

What he'd seen was a young girl his size being yanked around roughly by one arm into an alley. He hadn't yet been old enough to completely understand what it was that he was seeing, though it would take less than a year for him to figure it out. But then, all he knew was the obvious- there was a man out there hurting a little kid. And he was certain he could do something to stop it.

"Hey!" He'd shouted, trying to slide out through the slim opening provided by the storm drain. He'd quickly met resistance, remembering with a growl that his shell wouldn't fit, and hopped down off the pipe with the intentions of going up out of the manhole nearby. They hadn't carried weapons yet, but Raph had been sure that what he'd been taught so far would be more than enough to take care of the situation.

He'd gotten no more than a few steps before being brusquely yanked backwards. Had the hand not held on to the rim of his shell, he'd have likely fallen over flat. "Lemme go!" He began, only faltering when he saw that it was Master Splinter who held him. He'd stayed out too long. "Sensei, there's this girl who's gettin' hurt-"

His father's voice had been calm. "And you thought you could do what? Raphael, there are times when courage alone is not enough. This battle is not yours to fight. I fear that in this case, the risks are not worth the deed."

He'd heard this speech too many times by now. Again, Raph tried to jerk away with little success. Above, he heard more yelling, but as it wasn't from the girl, he paid no attention to it. "This isn't about not bein' seen or humans gettin' us. It's about helping somebody when you can do it."

Splinter matched his stare, holding his forearm as he kneeled. "I agree, my son. Again I must stress to you that this situation is entirely out of your control. You are young; your opponent would have you beaten in size and stamina, and you do not know what other surprises might await you." He smiled, patting his shoulder. "There will be a day, Raphael, when you will be able to do these things. But until that time, I beg you heed my warnings."

Stone-faced, Raph glared at him. "Then you help."

Once more, his Sensei patted him. "I would, my son, if I did not think the problem had already been corrected." Standing, he led Raph back to the storm drain, hefting him up slightly so they could view what had happened.

The yelling, Raph could see now, had been from a man walking by. He'd stopped the attacker, and now the young girl was sitting on a cement step crying while her rescuer made calls on his cell phone. Frowning as he was lowered, the turtle's eyes were downcast; satisfied but far from pleased. Had he been able to step in, he doubted she'd have as many bruises as she wound up with.

Pressing the back of his shell, Splinter urged him towards home. "Someday," He again assured Raphael.

Someday never could come soon enough after that. Topside was more flirtatious with him then ever. Despite what he'd seen, and what he became increasingly aware from that point on, it was still better than the tunnels. They became like a prison to him before too much longer, for it never seemed like it was his size that held him back, but rather the underground hell in which he was forced to hide, able to hear and occasionally see the pains brought upon others right there in front of him yet not permitted to do anything about it.

It didn't take long for him to sneak out. And after that, when he got upset and needed to be alone like all those other times, he could no longer stand sticking to the tunnels. He needed wind and the slap of pavement beneath his feet; anything else was an insult. When he finally reached that special age Splinter had gone on about, it also became a matter of watching out for the innocents that passed by on the streets and stopping those who'd try to disrupt it.

It doesn't happen often, but there are days when Raph will stop to consider it all. The shit he sees and the way the criminals seem to be everywhere- their bites a bit more deadly than the animals he's used to. The way the people he and his brothers protect turn on them like a flipped switch when they take a look at their faces. If you let it, their words will cut deep and sting.

During times like these, Raph wonders whether or not he's just in a bigger tunnel.

Yay! I finished! It is 11:30 PM my time- it counts!

Well, I hope you enjoyed. I'd really like to know how I wrote Raph; I'm working on characterizations for all of the turtles.

So if you'd be so kind, drop in a review! Thanks for sticking with me for all these years!