A Ninja's Dance
Judith only realised she'd slept when she woke up to a knock on the door. She wasn't sure at what point she'd actually fallen asleep, the last thing she remembered was her mind racing after Donatello had left and the pain in her side dwindling to a dull annoying throb.
She blinked into the darkness, realising the candle that had remained ever bright on the bedside table must have gone out while she was asleep.
The person outside knocked again and Judith dragged herself out of the warm dregs of nothingness left from her nap to answer.
The door creaked open and light dripped into the room. Judith rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and blinked until they adjusted then looked over at the figure standing in the doorway. It was one of the turtle brothers but this one had a red bandanna on which told her it was Raphael, one of the ones she hadn't met yet. She smiled despite her sleepiness and gave a little wave with her good hand.
Raphael seemed to take this as his cue because he stepped completely into the room and moved slowly towards the bedside table. He was carrying a tray and even in the dim Judith could make out the mug and pill bottles on it.
Ah. More pain medication. She must have been asleep for a while then. Raphael set the tray on the chair by the bed and struck a match, lighting the new candle he had brought with him and sitting it in the holder on the bedside table. Judith watched him carefully.
Unlike the other brothers he hadn't said anything to her yet, and she wasn't sure why.
"Thanks" She offered quietly when he had finished with the candle and was moving things from the tray onto the bedside table.
Raphael glanced over at her from the corner of his eye and gave a noncommittal grunt. Judith would have been a combination of intimidated and kind of annoyed if she hadn't spotted the look on his face from the new light of the candle and the brightness from the still open doorway. He didn't look angry, or defensive, or even like he didn't want to be there.
He had that look her dad often got when he was put in a situation where he didn't know what to say. Uncertainty masked with gruffness.
Of course, she could have been completely wrong and be misreading him entirely. She'd only just see him for the first time so what the hell did she have to go off? Honestly it was only her gut feeling…which was sometimes so far off it was like predicting weather.
The mug he'd just set down on the bedside table was steaming and she could smell the salty, meaty aroma that she recognised from the chicken soup Leonardo had bought in before. She took a breath through the nose and her stomach rumbled. She was hungry. That had to be a good sign.
Raphael was tapping pills out into a little Japanese tea cup, concentrating hard as he counted them out, then rechecked them. Judith stayed quiet, examining him and feeling pretty happy with the fact she hadn't felt her heart speed up in fear when he had walked in. That was either a step in the right direction, or demonstration of how stupidly trusting she could be.
He looked like his other brothers. She still wasn't sure how she was ever going to tell them apart. They were like quadruplets. Except maybe he was bigger than Leonardo, and definitely taller than Donatello, plus his face was slightly more pointed around the…nose?
Would you call it a nose?
Judith realised she was staring at him when Raphael cleared his throat and she was suddenly faced with a small cup full of pills. She took them two at a time with her good hand and knocked them back without a drink, not even flinching as the went down. Raphael handed her the bottle of water when she reached for it and she noticed the mildly disturbed look on his face. She washed the pills down to get the sticky feeling out of her throat and started explaining why she didn't have trouble with them.
"I've been taking vitamin supplements for years, krill oil, vitamin D, stuff like that. Some of them are much bigger than these and don't have a coating. I guess I got good at taking them after a while." She took another sip of water, shrugging and wincing all at once. "My mum is a health nut, she's had us on gluten free, dairy free, carbohydrate free, glucose free. You name it we've been free of it at some point." She gave a soft, slightly nervous laugh. "It was a blessing when I moved out after I finished school."
Great, now she was giving him her life story and all she was getting back was a slightly amused look on an otherwise blank face. Why did she do this? Whenever she got nervous she talked, and talked, and talked. It always made her look stupid but she couldn't really stop herself. She didn't like awkward silences, they irked her. She'd done it when Donatello was trying to concentrate on her wounds and now she was doing it again.
It didn't help that she was feeling a little too warm for comfort, she knew her cheeks had gone red but she wasn't sure if it was because she was blushing, or because she was overheating. Judith fiddled with the odd heart rate bracelet on her wrist, sighing.
"My brothers and I spent the first 10 years of our lives on tha pizza diet." Raph said quietly.
Judith started at the sound of his voice, turning to look at him in mild surprise. He speaks!
His voice was very different to his brothers. It was gravelly and hard and there was an odd accented twang to it that neither Leonardo nor Donatello had. She wondered where the accent had come from.
"Pizza diet? Sounds awesome" She smiled up at him, pleased she'd managed to get him to say something. She wasn't sure why it made her feel better to have him talking, maybe it was because a silent giant mutant turtle was a lot scarier than a chatty one. "You're Raphael aren't you?" She asked when she taken another sip of water. She was already 99% sure he was, but she didn't want to start calling him the wrong name because she hadn't taken the time to ask.
Raphael nodded, confirming that he was indeed who she suspected him to be and swapped the water bottle she was holding for the warm mug of soup. She brought it up to her nose and took another long breath in, enjoying the smell far more then she expected too. Raphael noticed her pause and cleared his throat again.
"If ya don't like chicken I can get ya somethin' else. S'just what Leo said you had last time"
Judith gave a little smile and shook her head, staring down at the soup. The mug was hot in her hands and just holding it made her feel a little like she was sitting in a sauna.
"No, no, this is good." She lifted the cup to her lips and took a long sip. The soup burned on the way down and the way the heat pooled in her stomach made Judith feel suddenly queasy. She frowned, confused at the quick change in her appetite and tried to take another sip.
The minute the liquid touched her tongue Judith gagged.
Raphael took the cup away from her before she even had time to notice and one of his big warm hands landed on her shoulder, easing her up a little so she could breathe easier. She was thankful she didn't actually throw up. As if she hadn't suffered enough embarrassing situations recently, she didn't need to add hurling on someone else's bed spread to the list.
"Let's not try that again for a bit yea?" Raphael said quietly, setting the cup down beside the bed and rubbing her shoulder. Judith just nodded, breathing carefully through the pain that had come with the movement and spasm of her stomach.
"Yeah" She managed to say, leaning back into the pillows with Raphael's help. He looked concerned and Judith decided that in this case her gut had been right about him. "I don't know what's going on. I'm actually hungry but…"
Raphael shook his head and his face softened.
"Its ok." He said gently, gruff voice taking on a very caring tone. Judith nodded, breathing carefully.
"Thanks" She smiled up at him. This seemed to shake Raphael out of whatever mood he'd fallen into because his shoulders stiffened and he quickly let go of her shoulder. When she was settled Raphael stood there awkwardly for a moment before clearing his throat for a third time since he'd arrived.
"There anythin' else ya need?" Obviously he wasn't one of showing his softer side Judith decided.
"Could I have some more water? I'm feeling really warm"
Raphael frowned at her request for some reason but handed her the water bottle none the less. She thanked him and took a drink. She wasn't sure why the water didn't make her feel sick like the soup had. It was weird.
"You can sit down if you'd like" She said after a moment when Raphael hadn't moved much aside from shifting his weight from one leg to another.
Raphael looked a little taken back, but cleared the tray away from the chair and took a seat anyway. Judith waited until he'd gotten as comfortable as he was going to before she spoke up again.
"I…ah…I was kinda hoping you could hang around for a while." She shrugged. "I was thinking the more time I spend with you guys the more I'd get used to…all this" She gestured to the walls of the small room as though that was all the explanation she needed to give.
Raphael nodded, leaning his elbows onto his knees.
"Yeh. Makes sense." His lips quirked in a slight smile, first one he'd really given her since he'd come in. Judith smiled back.
"Cool…so, you said your brothers ate a lot of pizza when you were kids. It must have been tough, getting food and stuff." Was that too personal of a question? Shit, she hadn't really thought about it, she'd just been curious and opened her mouth. Raphael however, didn't seem fazed by the question at all. He shrugged his shoulders and rubbed a hand across his face.
"Eh. It wasn't too bad. When we were too young to get food ourselves Master Splinter made sure we didn't starve. Then we figured out some tricks. It's amazin' how much money ya can find on the streets and in tha sewers. We'd call a place, get them ta deliver food to a house with instructions ta leave it outside and we'd tape the money to the door." He smirked. "One time we scored big, found a fifty dollar bill. We didn't go hungry for weeks."
Judith wasn't sure how she was meant to feel about that story. On one hand she was pretty sure this was a happy story for Raphael, a good memory. But the fact that a happy memory for him was a few weeks where they weren't starving made her feel like she should hug him and tell him it was all going to be ok.
So she shut that thought away and focused instead on another curious element of that story.
"Did you and your brothers spend a lot of time in the sewers?" She asked, taking another sip of water.
"Yes." Raphael answered, sitting up straight in his chair and meeting her eyes. "It's safe. Not a lot of people come down here."
Judith frowned at Raphael. Down here? Meaning down in the sewers.
"Wait…" Judith started, considering him "So I never left the sewers?"
Raphael made a face and Judith didn't need him to say much else.
"They didn't tell ya?" He rubbed his neck and heaved a sigh "Aaah shit. I thought they'd told ya already"
Judith shook her head slowly and Raphael eyed her like he didn't know what to say and he was expecting her to explode like a time bomb.
So she was still underground.
Come to think of it that made quite a bit of sense. The room had no windows, the walls were all undrendered cement, and the picture on the bedside table had been taken in a place that looked a little like a really big cellar.
Plus…where else would four giant mutant turtles and their rat sensei live without constant prying eyes?
"Why didn't anyone tell me?" Judith asked after a brief pause to think it over. She wasn't particularly upset by the news, it wasn't the weirdest thing she had learned recently. But then, maybe her weird-o-meter was a little out of whack what with all the giant turtles.
Raphael seemed to have expected something other than that reaction because it took him a little while to come up with something to say.
"I dunno. Guess they were worried it'd scare ya" He shrugged. Judith stared at her hands for a bit before nodding.
"Ok." Judith paused then another startling observation dawned on her. "It doesn't smell like a sewer" It was true, while the air was stuffy and not hugely fresh, it didn't smell like the horrible stank that had risen up when she had pulled the man hole cover off.
Raphael nodded, his lips pulling into another little smile. He looked relieved, obviously he'd been thinking she was going to take his little slip of information much, much worse than she had.
"Yeh, that's Don's work. When we found this place he put in a bunch o' ventilation systems that run fresh air from up top into the lair…though with New York dunno how 'fresh' the airs eva gonna be." Raphael chuckled and Judith grinned, nodding in agreement.
"I've kind of noticed that. When I moved here I had thought I'd worked everything out, but nothing can prepare you for the noise and the smells. It's like an assault on your brain." She rolled her eyes like that sort of amazing experience was something she hadn't revelled in for days. Raphael was still smiling and she could tell he was relaxing into the conversation. That was a good thing. She was too. Also a good thing.
Perhaps it was because of the conversations she'd had with his brothers, but she wasn't as scared of him as she thought she would be when she'd heard the knock on the door. The uncertainty was still lurking in the back of her head, but the thick feeling in her chest that made her breath come out short and fast hadn't assaulted her at any point since Raphael had come into the room.
She was, however, aware that since she'd woken up the temperature in the room must have jumped up about ten degree's, because she was overheating.
She wanted to kick the blankets off, cool down, but there were two things stopping her. The first was the turtle in red sitting by her side and her lack of clothes under the blanket. The second was that when she really thought about it, she was overheating under the blanket and a little too cold above it.
"It can get like that, yeh. But cha get used ta it." Raphael startled Judith out of her thoughts and she looked over at him "My brothers and I grew up with it, few time's we've been outta the city we've had trouble sleepin' in the quiet"
She smiled, drinking some more water and shifting her legs carefully into a cooler spot on the bed.
"On one of my dad's postings we were living out of this little base in the middle of nowhere. It was more terrifying than any city I've lived in. It was so quiet I was expecting an axe murder to jump through my window at any moment. Though how an axe murder would get into a military base I have no idea"
Raphael chucked again at her story.
Judith was pretty sure she had figured out how she was going to be able to tell them all apart. She would just have to make them laugh and she would know instantly. Raph laughed like one of the movie stars her friend Dia would fawn over, all raspy and chesty.
"Military base? Ya Dad in the army?" Raphael asked, Judith just shrugged.
"He retired a few years ago but yeah. It wasn't as exciting as people seem to think though. We moved around a lot and I kind of resented it for ages, but it gave me the confidence to move out here I guess, got used to packing up and moving you know."
Raph tilted his head at that, looking a little curious.
"What made ya decide to move here anyway?" At this question Judith leant her head back onto the pillows and stared at the roof. What indeed? Right now it seemed like one of the more stupid decisions she'd made in her life.
"That's a pretty long, boring story." She answered finally, looking back to Raphael and giving a slight non-committal shrug. It wasn't actually a long story, it was short and simple, but it always came across mopey and a little depressing and Judith didn't really want to think about it right now.
Raphael's face twitched through a whole series of different expression before he seemed to settle on something and leant back in his chair, matching her shrug.
"I'mma mutated turtle livin' in a sewer lair fightin' crime by night. Long boring stories happen ta be ma favourite kind ya know. Somethin' bout enjoyin' the grass on the other side"
Judith smiled a little, he'd phrased his little prod into her past so nicely it was hard not to want to tell him something. Except this particular story usually made her feel pretty down and she wasn't sure she could handle it right now.
But…she should be able to handle it.
It had been two years, she should be able to talk about it without getting upset. At least that's what other people told her. Judith took a long breath, winced as her side pulled and made a face.
Right. She was going to talk about it, just to prove she could.
"Ok. Well…" She cleared her throat. "I was a professional dancer, well, auditioning to get into a company to be a professional dancer. It's stupidly cut throat and I wasn't picked from my graduation so I was doing a lot of auditions…ah" She realised she was babbling and tried to re-centre the story. "Anyway…about two years ago I was dating this guy, Kane, and he was really into dirt bike racing. He convinced me to go with him one day and watch him take his bike around the course. He got me to help him unload the bike, it overbalanced and fell on me from the ramp coming off the trailer." She frowned at the roof, annoyed at the way talking about this still made her angry and sad and frustrated all at the same time.
"Where ya ok?"
Judith turned to look at Raphael. He had leant forward while she had been talking and despite the turtle-ness of his face she could see the concern. She attempted a small smile, even though this next bit was the worst part of the story.
"Not really. The bike tore a whole lot of muscles apart in my ankle, dislocated my knee and shattered a lot of the really small bones in my foot. Plus hairline fractures up and down the lower part of my leg. All on the right side" She looked down at her legs and wiggled the toes on the foot not locked away in a cast. Raphael grunted and shook his head.
"Sounds bad" He muttered. Judith nodded
"Yeah. It was. Most of it was covered under insurance though. All but the bones in my foot. See they would have required surgery to fix, but that wasn't covered because it was considered elective." She glared at the bump in the duvet where her feet were "With physical therapy I got most of the movement back without the so called 'elective' surgery, so it wasn't considered a necessity, but the little bones in your feet control a lot of the precise balance when you're on pointe…" She paused here and shook her head, realising Raphael may not know what she meant "Ballet thing, we dance on pointe…anyway…the muscles healed, but I never got the strength and control back in the leg again, and my foot is still pretty broken up inside." Judith let out a very long breath.
"I couldn't dance anymore. Not without hurting myself. It kind of destroyed me. It was all I'd ever done you know? It was my life, my everything, and in one second it was all gone. I mean I still got good grades, so I tried attending uni, did ok. It wasn't what I wanted you know?" She rolled her eyes at how pathetic she was making this sound. "Anyway, long story shortened, I still have a massive hole in my life and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't fix it…So when I won the green card lottery I bailed. Guess I hoped a new place would make it easier"
Said the girl currently laid up in a semi-strangers bed with months of recovery in front of her and whatever hope she had of ever dancing again completely gone. Huh.
Judith snorted at herself and rubbed her eyes. She was overheating something crazy now and she felt like she was shaking a little. She's mustn't have been as ready to re-count all this old stuff as she hoped she would be.
"I get that" Raphael's gruff voice brought Judith back and she looked over to him, 'hmming' curiously. Raphael was nodding to himself as he looked her over. "Whatcha sayin'. I get it. How it'd put a gap in ya to loose somethin' so big in ya life." He left it there and Judith took the way his shoulders stiffened as the hint that that was all he wanted to say on the matter.
Something deep down in Judith pulled at Raphael's simply phrased sentiment. She realised that as odd as it was considering how little she knew him, she appreciated his few words more than the hours of babble the people around her back home had offered since the accident.
No one had ever just said to her 'I get it' and actually meant it. She'd had a lot of 'It will be ok', 'You'll move on', even a few 'Get over it'. But the way Raphael had spoken, his posture and the look on his face made Judith feel like he really did just…get it.
"Thanks." She said quietly.
The two fell into a calm and companionable silence until Judith's bows furrowed.
"Wait…what do you mean you fight crime by night?"
"Pretty sure this is going to be the one guys" Don clicked through the blue prints of the latest hospital they were scouting with a half-smile, examining the ins and outs of the building on his tablet.
"Agree'd bro, there's an old subway track that runs right under it. One convenient turtle sized hole made with the shiny cement cutter of yours and we're in." Mikey's voice chimed in over the headset and Don brought up the feed from Mikey's camera. The abandoned subway station Mikey was standing in was falling apart, but despite the seemingly ruined state of the place the support structure looked to be doing its job well enough.
"According to your GPS location Mikey you are…" Don blinked at the screen before him and made a little noise of amazement "Huh…You, little brother, are right beneath the power circuit board." Mikey laughed over the com and gave a thumbs up in view of the camera.
"How about you Leo?" Donnie asked, smiling and downsizing the feed from Mikey so he could look over the numerous security camera's he had hijacked in the area.
"There's a multitude of blind spots at street level, and I've found three manhole covers all within easy distance of the hospital. Don, I know hospitals aren't meant to be fort knox but…something feels off…This is like an ice cream shop next to the other places we've scouted." Leo answered, sounding suspicious as usual.
Don shrugged, rocking back on his heels and looking up from his tablet. Even from the vantage point of the rooftop he'd picked, the hospital rose up like a behemoth before him.
"What do you want me to say Leo, this place is a weird mix of old and new. According to the records last winter the power completely shorted out and they were running on backup generators for three days. It was all over the news, one of the doctors was even nominated for citizen of the year for doing a triple bypass under nothing but the light of two desk lamps. I guess when they upgraded the power they just left everything else as it was." Don did another quick check on the blue prints as Leo grunted in understanding over the comms.
"Ok. The pharmaceuticals are kept on the ground floor, only a few doors down from where we would come up from the basement, and there aren't any OR's or emergency services along that ward…so we could literally cut the power to everything on the ground floor and as long as we're fast make it in and out without much foot work in the open…this is too good to be true." Don grinned and tacked a few more buttons on the touch pad. "Huh! This is perfect. Because of the power outages this place has had during winter we could probably pass this off as just another short out…and if we pick a spot to come up somewhere in-conspicuous they may not notice for months."
"Awesome" Mikey was grinning, Donnie could tell. There was a joy in his voice that was exclusive to moments when his younger brother was looking forward to a project…usually a break in…or a new skateboard.
"We should head home then. If we have all the information we need we can get the gear and come back sooner rather than later." Leo on the other hand was all business, no amused excitement, no budge. Don heaved a breath and put his tablet back into his satchel.
Leo had always been a 'stick in the mud' as Mikey would put it, but ever since he had gotten back there was a coldness to him that caught Donnie off guard. It wasn't always there, sometimes the old Leo would come falling back into their lives…then as soon as they went scouting, or something put him on edge, this newly built wall would go up and bam! Hard ass Leo was back.
It was made worse by the way Leo seemed determined not to talk about his training in South America. All they knew was the tiny snippets of information from his few letters and what April had told him about his jungle camp outside a small village in the middle of nowhere.
They all knew something had happened, but Leo would brutally shut them down whenever they asked. Then Raph would get aggressive about it, they would argue, Mikey would get upset and retreat with Don to his lab and they would all hide out until Master Splinter intervened or the argument blew over. Then it would be forgotten.
"Leo, dude, we gotta talk to Jay before we do this thing. She may opt for the biosites, then we're not going to need to do this job at all." Mikey announced, the smile in his voice gone.
Leo grunted over the com and Donnie frowned, jumping down from the rooftop and moving towards the nearest manhole cover.
"We should try the antibiotics first, if they fail we can consider offering the biosites" Their fearless leader shot back tersely.
Donnie rolled his eyes and pulled the manhole cover off.
Was Leo seriously saying what Donnie thought he was saying?
"You heard Master Splinter Leo. We're going to offer every possible solution and Judith gets to make the call" Donnie said as calmly as he could, dropping into the sewer and pulling the cover back over the manhole before he let go of the ladder.
"Yeah! Don't tell me you're going to go against what Master Splinter's told us?" Mikey's voice got louder over the coms and Don turned on his heel, heading deeper into the tunnels towards the intersection where he'd left the sewer slider.
"It's not going against Master Splinter. We're just offering the safest option first" Leo said bluntly, no give in his tone at all. Don reached the sewer slider and tossed his bag into the back, glaring at nothing and everything around him. His calm was dwindling quickly.
He wasn't sure exactly why but he didn't have the longest fuse anymore when it came to Leo. Add in the safety and freedom of their new house guest and that fuse was startlingly short, and Leo was pretty good at lighting it.
When Leo had been away Donatello had, for all intents and purposes, fallen into the temporary leader position, much to the vexation of Raphael. Don would be the first to admit he had been pretty hopeless at it, he was a background man, the one who finalised plans and worked out details. He'd craved his brother's return, wishing Leo had been there to make the calls and weather the fights with Raph.
He was starting to realise how Raphael sometimes felt under the thumb.
"You don't get to make that call." Donnie announced, voice getting a little icy "Judith gets to make that decision. Not you Leo, and we'll give her all the options to think over"
Everything went quiet on the line and there was a long tense moment. Don winced a little at the silence that wasn't broken until Mikey cleared his throat.
"What Donnie said…" Mikey's voice rang out through the tunnel and the comms as he rounded the corner, arriving at the rendezvous point and smiling at his brother in support. Donnie smiled back and went to say thankyou, but was cut off when his shell cell started vibrating.
"Hello?" Don answered it quickly, taking his place in the driver's seat of the slider.
"Don, Raph here" Don put the shell cell call through into his headset before he responded.
"Hi Raph. Hang on, I'm hooking you up with everyone" Don pressed a button on his Bluetooth and the call clicked into conference, all four brothers now on the same line.
"Hey Raph" Mikey chimed in his greeting and Raph grunted his response. Mikey rolled his eyes.
"We're heading back now, we found a hospital we can get into." Don said simply, smiling at Mikey's reaction and starting the slider up.
"Good. Right on time then bro. I just took Jay's temperature, like ya asked. She's runnin' a pretty high feva and she's not keepin' food down"
Don's smile disappeared and Mikey threw his brother a worried look.
"Shit" Don muttered, leaning forward onto steering console of the slider and rubbing his eyes.
"What does that mean?" Mikey asked, face set. Don sighed heavily.
"A fever means the infection has hit her blood stream. Its progressing faster than I thought it would." He said slowly, looking up at Mikey. "It's not a good thing."
"So what do we do?" Raph asked, voice slightly less gruff than usual. Don went to answer but was cut off.
"We get back and ask Judith what she wants to do" Leo's voice sounded and Don looked up as his eldest brother finally arrived at the slider. Don went to say something but Leo raised his hands defensively, stopping the conversation short "And we give her all the options."
Don nodded slowly.
End Note: Please read and review. It makes me smile.