HEEEEEEY Y'ALL! I'm back, yes it's wonderful isn't it? I know you all have missed me soooo much I recently came up with some great ideas for the next chunk of the stories and KNEW that I HAD to update, so here ya go! Enjoy! Lots of Luv, BD 3

PS Look out for a new chapter in I Never Knew I Needed You, co-written with the lovely IceCreamPopStar. Luv ya girly! Okaaay now on with this thing

Chapter 18

Never once had I thought that I'd fit in so well with other people, let alone giant turtles and a rat. I'd been living with the guys for only 4 months and despite my past experiences, I'd warmed up to them completely and treated them like family. They WERE my family. And besides the awkward love/I'm totally crushing on you SQUARE I was tangled up in with Leo, Raph, and Donnie, things were pretty much normal. Sometimes things got awkward, but I'd gotten used to it.

I'd gotten pretty close with each of the guys, especially my three love square-ees. My relationship with Mikey, the only brother that DIDN'T have a crush on me only because he was still too immature, was nice and calm. We played video games most of the time and told stupid jokes to make each other laugh. I was glad he was ONLY like my cute little brother; the other three were too much of a handful. Don and I spent quite a bit of time in the lab together, discussing scientific matters and current events in the news. He was like my "best guy friend who likes you but is totally friendzoned because he's too much like your twin brother". Then there was Leo, who for the past four months I had been teaching how to cook and having normal conversations about normal things with. Things between us were good and when he wasn't acting like my big overprotective brother, he was subtly hitting on me with sweet compliments and those awkward moments when your hands touch and you pull away embarrassed but he just stands there and smiles warmly at you. Leo was sweet, I couldn't deny that, but he also had the tendency to purposely hug me, say that I'm beautiful, or make me giggle girlishly right as Raph is walking into the room. Damn those ninja senses.

And then there was Raph, who was…the hardest to figure out out of all of them. We didn't spend a lot of time together, not like the other guys, but when we were around each other, things were so…different. It's like the room stood still and the air got warm and fresh and it just felt…right. He was sweet with his words too but was much more subtle than Leo or Donnie. The slightest word he said to me made my heart swell and my face flush. He rarely laughed or smiled but when he did…it was utterly amazing. His gentle but rough chuckle made me so happy and his sly half smile made me want to burst. He could come inches within me and I could feel the warmth from his body, and if we ever touched it was like electricity. Despite the fact that I'd kissed him when he'd done CPR back at my apartment after the Purple Dragon Battle, we were distant but so close at the same time. And sometimes, I swore I could tell that he felt all the same things I did when I laughed or smiled or spoke to him. He was like my protector. Like a best friend, brother, father, and guardian angel all wrapped in one, and I knew he meant something special to me, but I just couldn't figure it out yet.

Life in the sewers became a routine. I woke up when I pleased, cooked breakfast for Splinter and the guys, washed up and got to meditating and training, and then cooked dinner and spent quality time with Master Splinter while the guys did their night rounds patrolling the city. Surprisingly, spending time with the rat was pretty fun. He became my father figure/girly best friend, due to the somewhat disturbing fact that he loved watching Gossip Girl and those overdramatic Lifetime movies. I could talk to him about anything, and I was shocked when just weeks after we'd become movie buddies, he'd talk to me about the guys over a hot cup of freshly brewed tea that I'd made. He talked about Leo and how he worried about his obsession when it came to leadership, battle, and anything he became involved in. He worried about Raph and his detachment from the rest of the family, but he'd said he had a feeling that I would take some part in solving that problem since Raph and I had some kind of special "connection." I could only blush at his words. He also worried about when Donnie would become more social, and of course when Mikey would mature, but the only topic that he seemed to put first was how proud of each of them he was, and how much he loved them. The first night we'd spoke, he brought tears to my eyes and the two of us hugged just as the guys came back from patrol. The rest of that evening had been fairly quiet.

Today had gone according to the usual routine. I woke up around 10am enjoyed a bowl of cereal with Mikey, Donnie, and Leo. Splinter sat at the head of the table with a cup of tea, watching contently as Donnie and I argued over updates on the gun control debate in the newspaper, while Leo chimed in every now and then and Mikey yelled out "BORING!" every fifteen seconds. Once we'd all dressed and washed up we sat in the dojo for meditation, where a groggy Raph joined us late and sat down next to me, mentioning that he'd slept on his back funny.

"You should ask 'A for a massage, Raphie boy." Mikey whispered and returned back to meditating, stifling snickers. Leo punched him as Raph and I exchanged a warm glance.

"After warm ups," I joked with a slight smile. Raph's face flushed and he tried his best to concentrate on mediation. Neither of us succeeded in that.

After the day's training ended, everyone prepared to split up and do their own thing for downtime as we stood in the kitchen drinking cold water and resting after the hard work out.

"Any plans for dinner tonight?" Mikey grinned elbowing me. "I was thinking pizza." I laughed and made my way to the fridge and took a peek inside. I hadn't even realized that throughout my time in the Lair the food stock had grown considerably low with all my cooking. The fridge had barely anything in it except a nearly expired gallon of milk, some cans of soda, and leftover pizza.

"Guys we need groceries, badly." I announced and closed the fridge.

"I'll take care of it after patrol tonight, Adriane, no worries." Donnie said reassuringly and pulled a pad of paper and a pen from the drawer, jotting down the usual grocery list.

"Well, maybe…I could get the groceries while you guys are out?" I suggested. "I mean…I haven't gone topside in almost four months, I'm sure I'll be okay." Leo immediately shook his head.

"If one thing's for sure, you can't go alone. I'll go—"

"How bout I go with ya?" Raph said from next to me. He did his adorable little half smile and my heart skipped a beat. I couldn't help but grin.

"Yeah, come with me, Raph." I tried hard not to blush. "See, Leo? No worries, I'll be well protected. I'll be ready to go in a few, I'm gonna go change." And with that I shot up the stairs to shower and get ready. If anything, time with Raph would be good. I wanted to actually get to know him and I hoped we'd at least have some fun.

Third Person POV

Raph stared after Adriane in disbelief. He couldn't believe that she'd been so excited that he wanted to accompany her to the grocery store. He'd expected for her to say something like, "Nah that's ok, I'll go with Leo," or "Thanks but I think I should go with Donnie." She'd actually been happy! Raph's stomach twisted and he couldn't help but smirk. He promised himself that he wouldn't let a moment of their time together go to waste.

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH, Raphie's got a daaaaaaaate!" Mikey sang and danced around Raph making kissy faces. To everyone's shock, Raph simply ignored the immature younger turtle. He turned to Leo and sneered.

"Betta luck next time, Fearless Leada." Leo clenched his teeth in fury as he watched his brother prance off to his room to freshen up.

"It's not a date, Mikey." Leo hissed and gave him a shove as he stalked off to the dojo.

"Nah nah nah nah nah nah, Raphie's got a daaaaate," Mikey continued to sing as he danced around the kitchen. Donnie sighed and leaned against the counter, head propped up and his elbows.

"Friendzoned…" he muttered.

Adriane's POV

The cool night air electrified my skin as Raph and I leapt across the rooftops. It'd been far too long since I'd seen the city lights, heard the roar of the streets, or even smelled the New York air. I felt alive.

I pushed my body to its limits, running and sprinting from building to building, feeling one with the night. It felt like flying. It felt amazing. I couldn't help grinning and laughing out loud as I leapt and tumbled and flipped and spun between the gaps in the brick apartment buildings. I felt some strange kind of harmony between my body and the darkness around me. It was simply indescribable.

From beside me, I could tell Raph was watching my every move. I knew he couldn't help but smirk at my happiness and energy as a result of my long awaited freedom. We stopped at a rooftop just across the street from the grocery store, and I sat down on the ledge to catch my breath.

"It's beautiful out tonight," I whispered, staring up at the night sky. Above me, tiny dots of light speckled the obsidian sky. Raph sat down next me to and joined in admiring the night.

"Ya know, I don't think I've ever noticed those stars." He replied just as softly. He was so close that I could hear his gentle breathing and feel the warmth of his body. "I mean, I'm out here every night with the guys, and I guess I forgot they were there." Still looking up, I smiled.

"People say that each star represents something good in the world," I looked at his, and his amber eyes softly gazed back. "It's kind of a reminder to people that good does still exist amongst all the bad shit." Raph chuckled.

"Don't think I coulda said it better myself." A moment of silence floated between us as we continued to appreciate the sky full of gentle lights before Raph spoke up. "So what kinda good things do ya think might be up there?" he asked.

I blushed. I hadn't expected him to start up a conversation from my comment. I hesitated, thinking of something good to say. "Friendship…family…happiness…"

"…Love…"

I quickly snapped my head away from the sky to look at him. His response had shocked me. I mean, Raph? The roughest and toughest of anyone I'd ever known and his answer was love? Raph simply looked back at me, calmly and almost caringly, his warm amber eyes trying to say something. I smirked.

"…And roses." Raph raised his eyebrow ridges and made a gentle confused snort.

"Roses?" he asked. I nodded.

"Roses are kind of my thing," I lifted up the front of my shirt to expose my hip, where I had gotten a small thorny rose tattooed. "A lot of the things I've been through in my life have almost broken me. I lost my parents, my family, my innocence to some creep, almost everything. I realized that no matter how many downs that make me fall, there'll always be ups too, and I can't let anything break me. I got this tattoo after…you know. I'd always liked roses just cause they were pretty, but when I got it, the tattoo artist told me something I wasn't expecting. She said that she could see I was a lot like a rose."

"Whatdya mean?"

"Well, she said that like a rose, I was beautiful—"

"Well ya are beautiful."

I blushed. "But she also said that she could tell I always have my guard up, like the thorns on a rose. We ended up talking a lot while she did my tattoo, and before I left, she told me that sometimes, it's okay to put away the thorns and let the beautiful side show." Beneath my rose tattoo, I pulled down the waistband of my jeans a little to show a quote that I'd had tattooed on in a gorgeous cursive calligraphy. "A rose by another other name would smell as sweet." I read softly. Raph glanced from the quote back up to my eyes. "It's Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet. It means that no matter how broken I get by the things that happen to me…I'll always be me."

Raph pulled a gentle and warm half smile and softly put his hand on top of mine.

"And who ya are…is perfect."