Author's Note: I am sorry and grateful to report that I have both good news, and bad. The bad news is that this will be the final chapter for Vigil. I've honestly taken this story as far as I can write it, and I feel like I'm starting to rehash old plotlines instead of writing something original. However, I've also poured out too much heart and soul in writing this story to just leave it alone. I am in the process of starting the sequel right now, and I hope to have something up very soon. Thank you for all your support, and I am sorry for the abrupt change. God bless, have a good day.

Raphael's Point of View:

I stared at the empty space where Splinter's…ghost? Spirit? I don't know what the hell it was then, still don't know, and it doesn't matter. I watched as Splinter raised his paws in that gesture of farewell, flung his arms wide as if to hold us close, and then…he was gone. Just like the little flame of the candle that died away, Splinter flickered out of our sight, and vanished once again.

I was too torn up and bewildered to do much more than snort back the snot, and wipe away more damn tears. I may have sobbed out Splinter's name, I really can't remember. Don't need to. I remember looking at each of my brothers, and we were all blubbering like a bunch of little kids. Donny and Mikey were clutching each other, trying to hold themselves together, while Leo just shoved his palms to his eyes, silently crying, and desperately trying not to. I hate it when any of my brothers cry, of course. But it always tears my guts up to see Leo losing it. And God help me, I had seen my big brother fall apart more times in these last few days than I had in the normal life we had all left behind with our ruined home.

Not surprisingly, Mikey was the first one to pipe up. I watched as he smeared on another bright, false grin, before he looked at all of us and said, "So, guys….when are we going back?"

"Now!" I snapped as I forced myself up from the cushions, and kicked away a pillow, before I nearly toppled with a wince from the sudden, vicious coil of pain.

From the corner, I heard Don's motherly whining, about "taking it easy," Leo's griping about "calming down," and Mikey's yapping. I didn't bother turning around, or listening to any more lectures, or bitching. All we did was bitch, and if I didn't get out of that room, I would have punched a wall.

I hobbled out of the room, ignoring the sharp ache of my abused muscles, grateful that my anger was strong enough to override the instinct to curl up and howl. I guess my brothers were smart enough to know that I needed to be left alone, because I didn't hear any of them follow me. Thank God for that.

By then, my bad side was starting to cinch up tight, and I had to lean against the wall to finish lurching down the stairs. I ignored the way my knee cramped up, and nearly buckled beneath me with a grunt before I limped into the empty dining room, and flung myself down into the nearest available chair.

Wincing, I buried my face in my hands, trying to steady my breathing, trying to stop the wild, stupid urge to hijack the battered van, and drive back to the city. It would have been nothing but stupidity and suicide. I wasn't in any shape to drive, let alone fight. And, yes, it hurt like hell to admit to that.

After calming myself down enough to not do something dumb, I sighed, and yanked a chair closer. I gently eased my throbbing leg up to my lap, propped it up, and started rubbing the sore muscles down. Yeah, it hurt, but it was nothing compared to what I've already been through.

"Raph?" I flinched in surprise, and looked over my shoulder to see April. She was staring at me with that soft concern that pissed me off and made me grateful at the same time, a cup clutched in her fingers.

Setting it down on the table, she frowned, worriedly, as she looked at my leg. Thankfully, she bit back the mothering instinct, as she gestured towards the kitchen.

"I was making some tea. Do you want some?"

I shook my head, and muttered out a 'no, thanks', which she ignored, of course. She set a steaming cup in front of me, along with a spoon and the bowl of sugar, and sat down in front of me.

She stared at me for a long moment, until I finally snapped, "What?!"

She narrowed her eyes, and gave the ceiling a glance before turning back to me. "Is everything alright?" She asked the question in that sweetly aggravating voice, the same that Leo used when he didn't want to make a bad situation worse, and always failed at it.

"No, April. It's not."

Her mouth quirked, as she shook her head. "Do you want to talk about it? I'll listen."

Maybe it was the fact that I was about to explode, or the fact that she was a friend who gave a damn that made me spill out the whole thing. I told her everything, from Splinter's tortured, ghost-like appearance, my being pissed off about keeping my family shackled here, and the ongoing, stupid debate on what the hell we were going to do.

She didn't say anything, except a smattering of encouragement, nodding her head in agreement, and coaxing me to drink the tea and keep yapping if I needed it. And, yes, I needed to get it out. After I had finished, I had drunk the cup. April had nicely had poured me two more, and emptied the sugar bowl as well.

She sat back, folding her arms across her chest, giving me that look of sad understanding.

"I know that it's hard for you to be cooped up here, big guy, but you can't just storm the city and expect to find Splinter. Not without some sort of-"

I scowled at her, and shoved a palm up. "Save me the lecture, April. I've gotten plenty of that from Leo and Donny."

She narrowed her eyes. "Let me finish,Raph."

April tilted her head, her green eyes gleaming. "I'm with you on going back."

I clamped my mouth shut in surprise.

April frowned at her tea cup, and refilled it and mine without asking. Setting the kettle down, she finally looked at me, searchingly.

"Raph, I want you to be completely honest with me. Are you healed up enough to go back?"

"What the hell do you mean, am I healed?! What exactly do you think I've been doing this whole time, April?! Sitting on my ass and picking the flowers? Of course I'm healed up!"

Instinctively, I snarled, only to have my venom flung back at me when April whipped around and spat, "Damn it, Raph, shut the hell up and listen to me!"

I was too stunned to do anything else, as April narrowed those green eyes and stared me down.

"This would be so much easier on everybody if you'd just stop being such a stubborn jackass, Raph. I get that it's hard on you to be less than up to par. I know that it's been humiliating for you to need help with the basics, and I know that you've hated every minute of it. Believe me, you've made that very, very clear." April shrugged, tiredly.

"Do you remember that night you saved my life, Raph? Do you remember how beaten and broken I was? Now, granted, it wasn't nearly as severe as what you went through, but I still had to recover…pick up the pieces. It took me a lot of time and help. And it was hard for me to admit that I was struggling, that I was scared, and that I was hurt. "

She looked at me, pointedly, before continuing, "I know that you hide a lot of things from us, Raph. I don't know if you're just trying to protect yourself, or if you really don't trust us to understand you. But, that, for now, is a side issue."

I heard the clink and scratch of metal as she dumped the van keys out on the table.

"I want you to tell me the truth, Raphael. If we go back to the city, will you be able to handle it? If there's any fighting involved to save Splinter, can your brothers count on you? You say you've been healing, and I believe you. But, what happens if something goes wrong? I don't know, you twist something, or a Foot henchman clobbers you at just the right moment, and you're incapacitated when your brothers need you most. I know that you'd die to defend your family, that you'd never do anything to deliberately put your brothers at risk. Well, that is exactly what you're doing if you claim to be ready to get back into fighting, when you really can't. I trust you, Raph."

She sipped her tea, staring at me over the rim of her cup with wary catlike eyes.

"You say the word, and I'll drive you back to the city myself. So, tell me, honestly. Are you truly ready to go back?"