A/N: Didn't I promise a happy ending? :)
Thanks are at the end, as always and Donatello Lost, the next book in the series, will start going up tomorrow. :)
Thanks for reading!
Epilogue -I Can See Clearly Now-
Ann sighed, turning the page.
"Whatcha readin'?" Raphael leaned over the back of the couch, nuzzling the top of her head. Ann tilted her head back in time to have a bead of water drip onto the book she was reading.
"Raph, you're wet," she scolded, wiping away the moisture with her finger.
"Sorry. I jus' got outta da shower. I wanted ta see what yer doin'," said Raph, straightening.
"I'm reading," Ann told him. She held up the book.
"Bushido, the Soul of Japan."Raph read the title. Ann noticed he didn't squint this time. His eyes had improved steadily since his vision had returned, almost a month ago.
"Whatcha readin' dat for?" he asked. "Next ya'll be readin' Leo's Art of War."
Ann made a face. "Not quite," she said, grinning. "I want to understand your family better."
"Ya don't need a book ta do dat," said Raph with a smirk.
"Well, this book talks about the culture Splinter grew up in," said Ann.
"Yeah, but dat won't help ya understand us," said Raph, crossing his arms over his plastron.
"Why not?" Ann asked.
"'Cause," said Raph. "Bushido's not somet'in ya can write in a book. It's honor. Ya can't write dat down."
"I guess," she said doubtfully.
"Anyhow, what's there to understand 'bout us?" he asked, smirking. "Donny's da genius. Mikey's a pain, an' Leo's da nag."
"Oh yeah?" Ann smiled. "What does that make you?"
"Da handsome one, o' course," he answered.
Ann snickered. "Come here, you." She reached over the back of the couch, grabbing his hand. She tugged him forward. Raph leaned down until his face hovered just inches from hers. The tiny scars at the edges of each eye were the only sign that the amber orbs had been dark. Now they shone uncannily, as if a fire burned behind them, making it hard for Ann to breathe.
"Well ya got me," he said with a smile. "Now what're ya gonna do wit' me?"
"Oh, I'll think of something," she said softly, pulling him closer for a kiss.
Without bothering to straighten up, Raph stepped over the back of the couch, sat down and gathered her up into his lap. Ann squealed, wriggling as he drew her close.
"Raphael! You're still all wet!" she complained.
"Yeah," he said with a smirk. "Sorry 'bout dat."
He lifted his hand to brush his fingers lazily through her hair. Ann smiled. She leaned closer, nuzzling his neck. Raph's breathing hitched as her lips pressed against his throat.
"Yes?" She sat up, giving him an innocent look. Raph gazed at her.
"Yer beautiful," he said softly, reaching up to caress her cheek. She smiled and turned her face to kiss his palm, making him gasp.
"Ann…" Raphael's voice was soft, serious now. Ann looked up into his eyes expectantly.
"I… don't get mad, Ann." He gave her a pleading look. "But I gotta ask ya somet'in. Dat night, at yer place, when Bailey disappeared…"
"What?" she asked, tracing a finger along the smooth edge of his plastron.
"How come… I mean… what was dat… dat Stephen guy doin' there?" he asked gruffly.
Ann met his eyes. She saw anger, hurt and doubt in his gaze, and a hint of something that looked like fear. She leaned closer, instinctively wanting to reassure him.
"I called him," she said quietly. She felt him stiffen, but lifted her fingers to his lips. "I was upset, scared. I didn't have a way to call you. Besides, I didn't even know at that point if I'd ever see you again."
"Yeah, but why'd ya hafta call him?"
"Raphael Hamato, are you jealous?" she asked.
"I ain't jealous o' dat pansy," he growled.
"I wasn't going to show you this yet," she said softly. Slowly, she tugged the top button of her blouse open. Raph's eyes widened.
"Oh relax, it's not that," she said with a giggle. She leaned back and tugged her shirt over a bit so he could see the perfect, tiny turtle tattoo just over her heart. It was shaped like a sea-turtle, with a red ribbon wrapped around its shell, trailing behind like Raphael's mask tails.
"Annie," he whispered, pressing his fingers against the tiny image. "Why'd ya do dat?"
"Because, Raphael, wherever I go from now on, I want you to go with me," she said softly. "Why? Don't you like it?"
"Yeah." He relaxed marginally, drawing her closer to himself and wrapping his arms more firmly around her shoulders. "I like it." He nuzzled her shoulder.
"Stephen's moving back to Kentucky," she said softly. "He had an opportunity to take over a small law-firm in his hometown. He told me he's asked Jackie to go with him. They're talking about getting married."
"Are ya… disappointed?" asked Raph.
Ann shook her head. "Stephen's a nice guy, Raph. I'm happy for him. I told you, he's just a friend."
"So, yer sure ya'd rather be wit' a loud, stubborn, shell-head like me?" Raphael still sounded uncertain. Ann snuggled closer to his plastron.
"Don put those surveillance cameras in my apartment, and there's no sign of Stulir or the Foot coming to look for me. Don't you think if I wanted to leave, I'd be gone by now?"
"I guess." Raph drew her closer, nuzzling her hair. "Hey, Ann, did ya ever… I mean…"
Raph shook his head. "Not'in."
"Raphael, what is it?" she asked. She reached up to touch his face. "You know you can talk to me about anything, right?"
A deep blush was creeping up his cheeks.
"What is it?" she asked softly.
"I jus' wondered… I mean, if ya ever t'ought… If ya ever t'ought about… gettin' married. Ya know, you an' me," he finished in a rush.
Ann stilled, looking into his face. He looked away, uncharacteristically avoiding her gaze.
"Raph, do you want to get married?" she asked softly.
"Well, I mean, I'd… I'd like ya ta move in. Ya know, permanently. I talked ta Splinter, and he said it'd be ok, seein' how yer down here all da time anyway…"
"So you want to get married before we live together, is that it?" she asked.
"Well, I t'ought… ya know, Mike an' Austin did, an'…" Raph swallowed hard, looking away. "I mean, shell, I don't know. It… it might be a while 'fore I can get… a ring an' stuff, but…"
"Raphael, I love you," she said softly. She felt him shiver under her. "If you want me to stay, I'm not going anywhere," she said soothingly, reaching up to caress his arm. "If you're sure, I'll stay in the guest-room I've been using. I'll give up the lease on my apartment. But I'm not ready to get married, unless that's the only way we can be together."
Slowly, he looked up to gaze into her eyes.
"We don't hafta," he said softly. "I jus' t'ought ya'd wanna."
"I'm in no rush," she told him. "We can take our time, if that's ok with you. But if I move in here, you're stuck with me. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a lease in New York?" She grinned.
"Are ya… are ya sure?" he whispered. "I mean, are ya sure ya wanna live wit' me fer da rest o' yer life? I might get cranky when I'm old."
Ann laughed. "Raphael Hamato, I will love you when you are a cranky old turtle, shaking his cane at his grandchildren and yelling at them to turn off the television when they're not watching it."
Raphael's eyes widened. "Gran'kids?"
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and drew her in for a kiss. When he finally released her, Ann was breathless, her brown eyes shining. He smiled.
"Gran'kids. Listen ta you," he murmured.
Ann snuggled close to his plastron.
"We'll have a bunch, you know," she said softly.
Ann looked up, regarding him for a long moment. "That's it? Just 'ok'?"
He smirked. "Whatdaya want me ta do? Faint?"
"Nah," she said with a grin. "I like you this way. Awake and kissing me."
"Sounds good ta me."
A/N: If that last scene didn't make you go "Awwww", I don't know what to tell you. I love Raph when he's being all sweet. :)
If they seem a bit lovey, remember they've only been together a short time. This is the "honeymoon phase". The bickering doesn't set in for most people until a solid 6 months into a relationship. heh
Yeah, I know, there's no wedding scene for Raph... but hang in there, the series isn't finished quite yet. ;)
Thanks once again to my beta readers, raphfreak and 54 Viruses. They both rock. Be sure to look up their many fine fics. 54 Viruses will make you laugh, and raphfreak creates villains you will love to hate.
And on with the thanks to the many reviewers who've followed this story through twists and turns, over cliffs and through the maze of glitches. You guys all rock. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series. Donatello Lost will start going up tomorrow, and Leonardo's Angel is in the works, nearly all written. I'm really excited about those two books.
Many thanks to:
HiRoSiDaRk for a funny first review o.o
xLannyx for thinking Ann "lovely", for squishing Don and wanting to cuddle Splinter (bad idea.) heh
Diva Danielle for comparing this fic to a Danielle Steele novel
candlelight for sending Don a get-well basket and card, for a rant on the nature of evil, for "yarking bumwarks" (ROFLOL), and for ongoing chibi-turtle goodness. :)
Kyaserin Marii for picking up on Devon Stulir's "whackbag vibe"
Mew Sakura for thinking Donny's cute when he blushes
xS. for noticing Ann's temper issues. lol
Nala162024, for saying it. ;)
Ramica as always for detailed reviews, for expecting a carpet-yank, and for giving out "baka" awards.
AJsHellCat for telling Stephen to back off. LOL
TigerToa for thinking the turtles "handsome" :)
jadedolphin for looking forward to more
Nightwatcher'sUnknownGirl for letting the boys review with her, and for giving Raph a "Mikey chair" lol
Scribe of Turesa for going crazy on Raph's behalf
AlyssaFelixa for wanting Stulir to meet an untidy demise
Polaris'05 for promising to read Don's story even though I'm sure she's going to hate it, and for "politically correct" reviews. ;)
Fantasyfan4ever for being both scared and eager to find out what happens next.
lynzyb for having high expectations
54 Viruses for recognizing Austin's mad diplomatic skillz LOL And for her awesome beta-reading, as always :)
sait4soreyes, for quoting the chapter and making "Happy endings" a mantra
Melody Winters for chat and inspiration
sabra jaguar for calling Donny "Precious" and making me spit coffee across the room in a fit of hysterical laughter
DuckiePray for... everything. Most especially for the lovely dedication of her book, Sacrifice, to this undeserving author. Many thanks, my friend.
stylin-cute for losing the ability to type coherently upon reading Raph's dilemma. ;)
WebMistressGina for taking the time to read
April101 for wanting the update and looking forward to Leonardo's Angel
xHitsulover for liking it
Leah-The Writer for liking suspense
Sunny for chasing down the chapter in spite of the glitch
mariarosa for kind reviews
Leivi for calling my OCs "refreshing" :)
EllMarr for wanting more
Scotia60 for reviewing
Beyond iin sane for the shock at Raph's "please" heh
Allithea for liking the character's voices
Fyrefly for kind words :)
Jemand for liking my favorite interaction between Raph and Don.