A/N: As promised, here is the sequel to Mikey In Love. If you want to meet Austin, Mike's wife, read that first. Or just read on, this stands alone as well.
I'd like to dedicate this fic to the many readers and reviewers who made Mikey in Love my most reviewed fic ever, who gave romance a chance and saw the story through to the end. You all ROCK.
A quick announcement: Melody Winters is now accepting commissions for her amazing artwork. Check her profile for details.
Disclaimer: I of course own no turtles, mutated, ninja or otherwise, and have made no profit from this work of fiction. I'd like to thank the creators and owners of the TMNT for the joy they've brought to my ongoing childhood.
Now... On with the show!
Chapter 1 -Ann-
The woman's voice echoed through the park, a high, hysterical scream. Raphael sighed. It sounded like some idiot had lost her kid in Central Park, hardly a rare occurrence, but at 2AM?
It's been a slow night. Mebbe I'll have a look.
"Whatdaya think the dog's worth?"
Raphael's eyes narrowed. The voice came from some bushes to his left. He took a short leap and grabbed a tree branch, swinging himself up silently, and peered through the thin moonlight. A couple teenagers were dragging a large, white German shepherd into the brush. It was wearing some kind of a harness, with a handle attached. It put its paws down, forcing them to drag it forward, and strained to turn, back toward the woman's voice.
She was sobbing now, Raph could hear the hitching in her calls.
"Bailey! Bailey, where are you?"
The dog whined.
"I dunno, man, but I betcha the lab'd pay a hundred, at least."
Raph had heard enough. He dropped to the ground and slipped into the ring of brush, standing in the deepest shadows under the trees, allowing the light to just glint off his sais.
"I don't t'ink dat dog belongs ta ya. I t'ink ya better let it go," he growled.
The pair froze, staring. The dog whipped its head around and stared too, a low growl of confusion sounding in its throat.
"What? Who're you?" The kid's mouth hung slack with shock.
"Who cares? I'll take care o' 'im," said the other. He let go of the dog's harness and reached into his jacket, pulling out a short knife.
Raphael chuckled as the boy approached. "Ya really don't wanna do that," he said, keeping his voice low. The boy lunged forward. His knife struck… and bounced off Raph's plastron, barely leaving a scratch.
"Hey!" The kid yelped in surprise and pain. His wrist was trapped in Raphael's grasp. The turtle turned the boy's hand until he had to release the knife. The kid fell to his knees, gasping.
Raph gave him a shove away, and let him go, just shy of breaking his wrist.
"Don't be stupid, Kid. Ya don't wanna fight me. Get outta here, an' don't come back."
The boy crabbed backward, his face white in the moonlight. He scrambled to his feet and took off through the park at a dead run, not even bothering to see if his friend followed. The other boy was staring at the dark form in the shadows, shock etched into every line of his face. Raph stepped forward menacingly.
The kid was gone, running so fast Raph wasn't sure he was touching the ground. Raphael chuckled, shaking his head. Those were two punks who would stay out of Central Park, at least for a while. He glanced at the dog.
"Well, boy, whatdaya say ya get back ta whoever's missin' ya? Go on, now, shoo." The dog stared at him, another low growl started in its throat.
Oh shell. I hope he ain't got a taste for mutant turtle, thought Raph, his eyes widening behind his mask. He stepped back. "Nice doggy…"
The woman's voice echoed through the trees and the growl turned to a whimper. With one last look at Raph, the dog turned and trotted off. Raph heard the dog bark, a short, happy sound. He shook his head.
Stupid dog. He tucked his sais into his belt and turned to disappear into the shadows. I should get home, see how Donny's doin'.
His younger brother hadn't felt well for a while. His cough was getting worse. He'd had to take a leave of absence from his tech support job, and the loss of income had added to the problem of his illness. April had offered to get the medicine he needed, but Don was too proud to accept. Raph figured they really had no choice. Money wasn't easy to come by now that Don wasn't working. Austin, Mike's wife's job teaching gymnastics didn't pay much.
Shell it's weird t'inkin' o' Mikey as a married turtle now. He sure is head-over-shell wit' Austin. An' she loves him, too. Hard to believe she used ta wear a Foot uniform. Dat's just Mikey, I guess. He could fall in da sewer an' come out smellin' like roses. It's a good thing we've got friends like April and Casey. But they shouldn't hafta take care o' us, payin' fer stuff like antibiotics. Even Austin an' Mike oughta be savin' up, t'inkin' o' da future. Kids cost a lot, and da way those two look at each other, they'll be announcin' a baby any day now. Don don't want dem spendin' what they make on his meds. I gotta find a way to earn a couple bucks… Mebbe I can get a job at the grocery store, puttin' stuff in bags… Yeah, I can just see that, a giant, mutant turtle askin' people if they want 'paper or plastic'.
He smirked, in spite of his frustration. He'd taken barely two steps toward home when he heard a shrill cry, and a yelp.
Oh shell. He turned back, and darted toward the sound. Rotten kids. I t'ought I scared 'em off da first time. Guess I'll hafta bust some heads after all…
He skidded to a halt, staring into the darkness. He could just make out the scene in the moonlight. A slim woman was holding onto the dog's harness for all she was worth. On the other side, an older teen was trying to yank him away from her.
"Just gimee yer purse, lady, an' I'll leave ya alone," he taunted. "Fido here bit me, an' I need ta pay my medical bills."
"I don't have a purse, you punk! Let go!"
"I guess I'll just hafta take da dog, then," said the boy. He swung with his free hand, catching her in the cheek. The woman dropped to the ground with a moan, the harness slipping from her fingers. The dog growled and lunged, but the stiff handle allowed the boy to hold him at arm's length.
Raphael darted forward with a snarl of his own. The boy never saw him coming. A sai-handle connected solidly with the side of his head, resulting in instant unconsciousness. The dog yanked away, and was at the woman's side before Raph could blink. He whined, nudging her limp hand with his nose. Raph shook his head.
"Looks like you two are popular tonight, doggy. Mebbe I'd better see ya home." He approached cautiously, but the woman's eyes were closed.
"Lady. Hey, lady." Raph sighed and knelt at her side. The dog whined. Raph kept an eye on it while he reached for the woman's wrist. The dog growled softly, and he froze.
"Look, pooch. Bailey, isn't it? I'm tryin' ta help her. Ya ain't gonna bite me, right?"
The dog looked at him, as if it were considering, and whined softly, nudging the woman's hand again with its nose. Slowly, Raph reached for her wrist again. The dog's eyes snapped up, watching him, and he hesitated. Bailey took a step toward Raphael, cautiously stretching his muzzle toward the green hand.
Raph held very still, ready to jerk away if the dog snapped. Bailey sniffed, and whined again. Finally he withdrew his nose, and with a sigh, lay down, resting his head on the woman's other arm. Raph let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding.
"I guess we're ok, right pooch? Ok, now I'm just gonna check an' make sure she's ok…" He took her wrist in his hand and felt for a pulse. It was there, strong and steady. Raph breathed a sigh of relief.
He was so busy checking her pulse and watching the dog, he didn't notice the woman's eyelids beginning to flicker open until she moaned softly. Raph glanced at her face, alarmed. Her eyes were open now, and looking directly at him. He jerked back and at the same time, she yanked her wrist away from his hand.
"No!" she shrieked.
Raph was on his feet, backing away. The woman sat up, probably faster than was good for her, and moaned softly, her hand straying to her face where the boy had struck her. She tried to get to her feet, but fell heavily to her knees and moaned again.
The dog nuzzled her side. Raph hesitated, hidden in the shadows. He couldn't just leave her. But she'd seen him.
He had to get out of here, fast, before she pulled out a cell phone and called 911 or something. Austin's relationship with Mikey notwithstanding, most people would take one look at a giant walking, talking turtle, and freak out.
"I know you're still there," said the woman quietly, startling him. If you touch me again, Bailey'll eat you."
"Hey, I was jus' tryin' ta help ya," Raph retorted, his pride stung.
Her head came up. She looked in his direction, but there was something… unfocused… about her gaze. "You're… you're not the kid who attacked me."
"Nope. He's knocked out. Are ya ok?"
"Yes, I think so." She reached… felt… for the dog. He moved over, putting his nose in her hand. She laughed, and ran her hand along his back, taking the handle.
Raph's eyes widened as she got slowly to her feet, and swayed again. Without thinking, he darted forward, catching her as she fell. She let out a little scream when he touched her.
"It's ok. It's just me," he told her gruffly.
She was trembling. "I… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scream… You startled me," she managed. Her breathing was rapid, shallow.
"Ya seem a little unsteady. Mebbe I'd better help ya get home. Where da ya live?"
Her face turned toward him, and he flinched, anticipating another scream. Her eyes stared at him… but now that he was closer, he could see no recognition in them, no focus. They weren't clouded over, they looked almost normal, but clearly she was blind.
"No… no, it's ok. I'll be fine."
He supported her as she swayed again. Raph was intensely grateful for the trench coat he wore, which hid the texture of his skin, as she instinctively grasped his forearm.
"Yer not fine. I'm jus' tryin' ta help. If ya want, I can call somebody…"
"No. Thanks, but there's no one to call."
"Well, can I help ya get home 'r not?"
She sighed. "I guess I don't have a choice. If you were going to… do anything, you'd have done it by now. I'm sorry… It's just, being a blind girl, living alone in New York… I can't be too trusting of strangers. Even strangers who fight off street punks and bring Bailey back to me."
Raphael smiled in spite of himself. "It's ok, I understand. I don't trust people, neither."
"Why not? You're a strong guy. I have the feeling you can take care of yourself."
She smiled, and he noticed for the first time, how pretty she was. She had long, chestnut hair that curled around her pixie-face. Her eyes were dark brown.
Shell, she can't be more than twenty, thought Raph. About my age.
"You didn't answer," she said.
"I… just don't. Like ya said, it's da city," said Raph gruffly.
His eyes flicked to her face, because something in her voice sounded… as if she did understand.
Is she playin' wit' me? Can she really see, an' she's jus' playin'? Panic shot through his chest, and he stepped away with a growl.
"What? What's wrong?" She turned her head, alarmed, but Raph noticed she didn't seem to be looking. It was as if she were straining to listen for danger.
"Not'in," he said quickly. "Sorry. Fer… fer a second there, I thought… Everyt'ing's ok. Where da ya live? I can walk wit' ya 'til it's safe."
"On the corner of Carter and Tenth."
"Ok." There was a manhole in the alley two blocks down from Carter. "I'll walk ya most o' da way, ok? Until ya feel well enough ta get home on yer own."
"No." She straightened, and took his arm. He almost jerked away, startled, but she had a firm grip. "This is silly. You probably saved my life. You definitely saved Bailey. The least I can do is invite you in for a cup of coffee. What do you say?"
"Oh… well, I…"
"It's ok," she said softly. "I don't have company often. And… we can go in through the back. No one will see you."
"Whatdaya mean?" His voice was rough with fear and anger.
"You didn't want me to see you," she said softly. "You don't have to worry. I can't."
"How… how did ya know I didn't wanna be seen?" he asked.
"You ran away when I woke up. And just now, when I tried to look at you, you jerked away from me. You're trying to hide your face."
"Oh. Well… I… I just don't like people lookin' at me, dat's all."
"We should get along great then," she said with a laugh. "I can't look at you. Hey, what's your name, anyway? I'm Ann Peters."
"What a beautiful name."
"Will you escort me home, kind Sir?" She squeezed his arm playfully, making a warm thrill jolt through him.
What da shell? I don't feel like dat when Austin or April touch me…
"Umm… Ok, I guess." Raphael let her hold his arm through the coat. She gripped the dog's handle with her other hand. She stumbled, and fell against him with a gasp.
"Sorry," she muttered, stopping a moment to regain her balance. She let go of his hand and touched her forehead. "Darn it… I have a heckofa headache. Rotten kid."
"Why was he tryin' ta steal yer dog, anyway?" asked Raphael. She swayed, and he put his arm around her waist. She held up her hand, startled, and it brushed against his plastron. Raph turned to avoid her touch, trying not to drop her. She stood very still.
"What… what are you wearing?" she whispered. Her face was pale. Slowly, tentatively, she reached toward him with her fingertips. Raph let go of her waist and stepped back. Without his support, she fell forward to her knees again, and swore.
Aw, shell. "Sorry," he said quickly, but made no move to come closer. "I… I should go."
"No! No, wait, please, don't leave," her voice rose with panic. "Don't leave me. I don't think I can get home on my own. Please."
"I… I'll call da cops 'r somebody ta come get ya."
"No. Please. Raphael, I'm sorry. I won't ask any more questions. Please, don't go." She was reaching out with her hand toward him, those unseeing eyes pleading.
Raphael sighed. She has better puppy eyes than Mikey.
Cautiously, he approached and touched her hand with his coat-covered forearm. She gripped it gratefully, and staggered to her feet. He managed to lead her a few more steps before she swayed, bumping into his side. Raph grunted, and she flinched.
"Sorry," she said quietly. "I… I'm really not feeling very well."
"Ya've probably got a concussion," he said mildly. "Look… Dis would go a lot quicker if I carried ya."
"What? No, it's ok, I can walk… Oh…" She stumbled again, letting go of his arm to clutch at her head. Raphael sighed. He bent over and scooped her up. She gasped.
"It's ok," he said.
"O…o… ok," she gasped. She clutched automatically for his shoulder, her hand catching the edge of his plastron. "Wh… what…" she trailed off, biting her lip.
"It's… kinda like… body armor," he said softly.
She swallowed hard, but nodded. "Ok."
"What about da dog? Will he come?" He hoped he could keep her distracted, so she wouldn't think too much about what she felt under her fingers.
"Oh, Bailey? He'll follow you, don't worry. He won't leave me willingly. Come, Bailey."
Raphael needn't have worried. The dog walked along calmly, about ten inches from his left knee. He moved swiftly, coming out of the park just across the street from the corner Ann had indicated. She was tense in his arms, and she kept turning her head, as if she were looking around.
"What?" he asked finally.
"Oh! Sorry… I'm just… listening," she said, flushing. "I know where I am by what I hear."
"Ya don't trust me ta take ya home?"
"We're here." He set her gently on her feet close to the door, supporting her. "Da door's right in front of ya."
She reached out, and grasped the handle. She stood for a moment, trembling.
"What's wrong? Ain't it da right buildin'? Ya said da corner of Carter an' Tenth, right?"
"Oh, it's the right building. It's fine. Please, come in, Raphael."
"I… I gotta go."
"Please, Raphael." She caught his sleeve as he turned to go. "Come up with me. I… I was attacked twice tonight, by kids trying to steal Bailey. I…" She shook her head. "But you don't want to. I'm sorry."
"Ya don't wanna go in alone, is dat it?"
She nodded, biting her lip. "It's ok. Thank you, for everything." She turned to the door, but Raph touched her arm.
"Ok, for a minute. I'll come up an' make sure it's safe, ok?"
Relief lit her features. Raph felt a little thrill in his gut. Whoa. Suddenly he felt he'd do almost anything to see her smile again.
He shook his head, feeling a little foolish. Geez, just 'cause only a couple pretty girls ever smiled at me… an' one's my sis, an' da other's in love wit' my bro.
He waited, watching the alley nervously, while she fitted her key in the door, and pushed it open. His eyes scanned the short corridor and the stairway leading upward.
"It's ok. No one's here," she said.
Raphael hung back a bit as she began to ascend the stairs. She held the railing firmly, her knuckles going white. He put his hand on her back, steadying her and trying not to notice how soft she was under her thin coat. She drew a deep breath, and nodded her thanks. On the first landing, she let Bailey lead her down the hall. He stopped, sitting expectantly, in front of a door.
"Home, sweet home," she said, smiling. Raph stood for a moment as the door closed behind him, and waited for her to turn on the lights. He heard her moving around the room.
What da shell? I can't see a t'ing in here… Oh.
"Yes, Raphael? Hang on a minute, I'll start a pot of coffee. Unless you'd rather have a soda?"
"Coffee's fine. But I… can't see not'in."
"Oh! Oh, Raphael, I'm so sorry! I never even thought…" She made her way back toward the door, moving confidently now that she was in her own home, and flicked a switch. The lights came on, and Raphael could see again. His eyes scanned the small apartment, alert, but he hadn't heard any movement but Ann and Bailey's in the darkness, and he already knew they were the only occupants.
"Better?" she asked, smiling.
Raph nodded, then remembered she couldn't see him.
"Yeah," he said with a sheepish grin. "T'anks."