A/N: Disclaimer: I own no Turtles except Kame who is a mere normal turtle. He is neither mutant nor ninja, and is not to be confused with the TMNT who are owned by *gulp* Viacom. (though I have to say, having recently seen The Last Airbender, I at least have hope that if a fifth Turtles movie is made, it won't stink on ice. We can only hope.)
I also do not own Mag-light, which is a brand of flashlight favored by the fire and police services for its durability and powerful beam.
Yo means Honor Jin is Benevolence. Yo and Jin are two of the seven values in the study of Bushido.
This is a chibi-Turtles story. Don as about 4 or 5.
Yes, Charlie works for the same man, Mitch, who appears as Jackie's boss in Finding Mikey. The two stories are otherwise unrelated.
Thanks to my beta-readers who gave this a thumbs-up and encouraged me to push past my insecurities and share with the wider world of Fanfic. Danni, Mel, Jackie, you gals rock. :)
Yo and Jin
Charlie moved through the sewer tunnel cautiously, augmenting her helmet light with a brighter Mag-light beam that pierced the darkness and threw the crumbling walls into harsh contrasting shadows. Water dripped down the brick, glittering in the light.
Past time we closed these old tunnels off properly, she thought, shaking her head. Somebody's liable to get hurt if they wander out of the main grid. She edged further down the tunnel, mindful of the decaying supports in the ceiling above her head. The cracked concrete was obviously unstable. Still, something drew her forward; the faint, unnatural sound she'd heard from this tunnel.
Her radio crackled. "Charlie. Come in, Charlie. Report."
Charlie reached up and pushed the mike button. "Give me a few more minutes, Mitch. I'm checking some supports that look like they could use reinforcing."
"Not your job, Charlie. Let the inspectors do that kind of work."
"Safety's everyone's job, Mitch." She reached up and turned down the volume, muffling her supervisor's reply.
Mitch is a good enough guy but he's so cynical sometimes. She mused. He'd have a fit if he knew I was searching for whatever I heard making noise down here. Probably some stray that's wandered into the tunnels. Poor thing…I hope the shelter has room.
There. I knew I heard something down here…
Triumphant, she turned a corner, straining to hear the sound. A faint scuffling, and then a muffled thump. Charlie hurried forward, frowning. That didn't sound like a cat…
"Hello?" she called. "Is someone down here? I'm a City Sewer Service worker. You need to come out of here. This area is not safe."
Cautiously, she shone her heavy flashlight around the tunnel, feeling its impressive weight in her hand. If need be, the light would double as a defensive weapon against a mentally ill or intoxicated homeless person. A flash of movement, and she swung the light in that direction.
"Hey! Hey, come on out now," she said firmly. "It's not safe down here. Come on, I can help you get out."
A pebble rattled, rolling away from a small pile of debris. It was too small for anyone to hide behind. At least, Charlie thought it was too small. Her eyes narrowed as she approached.
"Hello? Come on now, it's ok. I just want to help you find your way back out of here. These tunnels aren't safe."
She edged toward the debris, shining her light carefully around the edges. Another faint scuffling sound, hardly as loud as a rat would make scurrying over the concrete. Charlie was trying to decide what kind of animal might be hiding behind the debris when a faint but deep rumbling sound vibrated through the dank air. It grew louder. Before Charlie could register what was happening the rumbling grew to a roar and the earth seemed to crack apart under her feet. She looked down, actually startled to see the floor intact as she stumbled, thrown off balance by the shaking, crashing, rattling explosion behind her. Instinctively, she threw herself forward, away from the noise. Pain shot through her right wrist and the flashlight skittered, bouncing across the cold concrete. Small shards of concrete dug through her denim uniform into her knees and thigh. Dust rose up, choking her, filling the entire area with a dense fog.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Charlie rolled over, careful of her wrist. She crawled forward a few feet, stretching out to grasp the light. It hadn't even flickered. She smiled grimly.
Takes a lickin', keeps on tickin', she thought.
Moving cautiously at first, she sat up, testing her limbs. Only her right wrist twinged, making her wince. Carefully, she stood up, shining her light around. She swore under her breath when she saw the small mountain of concrete and brick blocking off the entrance to the small side-tunnel. She was trapped. Movement in a corner had her whipping around, backing up against the cold sewer wall.
"Who's there?" she called out, her voice sharp with anxiety. No answer, but the pile of debris she'd been stalking was larger… no, it was buried. Even as she stared, she heard a distinct scuffling sound, and a whimper. Oh no… That sounded… human.
Charlie rushed to the pile and started pulling aside bricks and chunks of mortar.
"Hey! Hey, are you all right?" she called. The scuffling stopped quite suddenly. Charlie dug frantically.
"No! Go away! Leave me alone!" The muffled voice was small, wavering, and sounded very young.
"It's ok," soothed Charlie. "I'm going to get you out of there. Don't be scared."
"No!" The voice responded again. "Please… just go away!"
Charlie moved the bricks as fast as she could, tossing them over her shoulder in her haste to reach the child. "Are you all right? Are you hurt? It's ok. I'm going to get you out of here and take you back to your Mom, ok?"
"I don't have a mom! Just leave me alone."
"Honey, I can't do that," Charlie answered. "I can't leave you. Don't worry, you're not in trouble. Everything's going to be all right…"
The rubble shifted and Charlie saw a pocket of deeper darkness within the pile. A shadow moved, as if the child were trying to stay buried. She reached deeper, grasping, and her fingers brushed something smooth and cool. Something struck at her hand and she jerked back with a yelp.
"Leave me alone!" The voice sounded strained, as if he was trying hard not to cry now.
"I'm just trying to help you." Determined, she reached in again. This time she was prepared for his strike, and caught a small wrist. "Ha!" Triumphant, she drew the squirming child up and out of the pocket, just as the pile shifted, collapsing on itself.
"Whew, that was close. Are you ok? Take it easy now, everything's… o… k…"
Charlie trailed off, staring at the struggling creature. He pushed at her hand with his free one, trying to break her grip. His eyes were wide and tears were streaking down his dusty cheeks, but that's not what made Charlie feel dizzy and lightheaded.
The shell that seemed attached to his back, and the green color of his skin… the wide mouth and rounded face… the three fingers prying at her hand as he strained against her grip, desperate to get loose, those caused her heart to beat wildly and her breathing to come in short, shallow gasps.
Suddenly the creature thrust his free hand forward, striking the hard joint of her thumb with the heel of his hand. It felt as if an electric shock had run through her hand. She released her grip, shocked, and he backed away, panting. The little… Turtle… didn't stop until his shell brushed the tunnel wall. He stood, staring at her.
Charlie shifted, not quite reaching for him, and the little creature jerked, his breathing hitching.
He's scared, she realized. The poor thing. It spoke. I heard it. It talks. Either that or I've lost it.
"Hey…" She swallowed hard and rubbed her aching hand absently. "Umm, hi there. Are… are you ok? You're not hurt are you?"
"Don't… don't you come any closer." That soft, fearful voice again… so like a human child… came from the little Turtle.
Charlie blinked. "Ok." She shifted, resting her bottom on the cold floor. "I… I think I might've hit my head really hard. Are you… are you really a… a Turtle?" The creature stared at her, silent. Charlie nodded. "Ok. I'm going to take that as a yes. And… I'm not… dead or anything, right?"
The creature's eyes widened slightly. "I… I don't think so," he replied finally.
The woman sighed. "I guess I wouldn't know if I was," she mused. "Ok, I'll assume I'm not dead. I'm not dreaming... at least, I don't think I'm dreaming. So you're… you're really a Turtle. Ok. Are you ok? You weren't hurt, were you? When all that stuff fell?"
The creature watched her, wide-eyed, but didn't answer.
Charlie shifted to her knees. In spite of her fear, she had a pressing need to touch the creature again, to prove to herself he wasn't simply a hallucination brought on by head trauma. It watched her draw closer. When she was nearly close enough to reach out and brush its plastron with her fingertips, it scrambled suddenly back and away, bolting toward the still-unstable pile of rubble. Charlie lunged forward with a cry, just catching the creature's elbow and pulling him back as the pile shifted, groaning ominously.
"No! No! Let me go!" the creature shrieked, struggling wildly. "Let me go!"
"Hey! Hey, take it easy! I just don't want you to get hurt, that's all. I'm trying to help you."
"I don't need a human to help me!" he cried, still squirming. Tears were streaming freely down his olive cheeks now. "Let me go! I want to go home!"
"Ok, Honey, I'm going to try to help you. Just calm down, ok? I can't let you go until you calm down. I don't want you to make that pile fall down," soothed Charlie.
"I don't want your help! I want to go home. I want my brothers. I want my Dad…" The creature stopped fighting her and went limp, sinking to the floor. "I'm gonna hafta do flips forever when Sensei finds out we snuck out."
"Flips?" The woman shifted, and carefully, without letting go of his arm or looking away, she sat down next to the trembling Turtle. He jerked back, staring up at her, and swallowed hard. Charlie tried a gentle smile, but he just ducked his head, shrinking away. "What are flips?"
"Backflips," he answered reluctantly. "Sensei's gonna make me do a hundred. Maybe a thousand." He sniffled. "If I get ta see Sensei again. Raphie hid on me an' Mikey an' I thought he went down here an' now I got captured by a human like Sensei always said would happen if we wandered off… an'… what're you gonna do with me?" Dark eyes came up, staring suspiciously at the woman.
"I'm not going to do anything," said Charlie, startled. "Why would I?"
"Sensei says humans are scared of what they don't understand. He says humans would hurt us," said the creature, shivering.
"Well, I have to admit, I'm pretty scared right now," said Charlie. "But I promise, I don't want to hurt you."
"You… you don't?"
"Nope." She shook her head vigorously to emphasize the point.
The little Turtle pondered her suspiciously.
"Listen," said Charlie, watching the light reflect off the soft brown of his eyes, "I'll let you go as long as you promise not to go near that wall, ok?" she gestured toward the collapsed sewer tunnel. "I don't want any more of the ceiling to fall down. You could get hurt."
The creature seemed to be thinking it over. "Ok," he said finally.
Slowly, Charlie released his arm. He scrambled back a few inches, watching her. When she didn't pursue him, he stopped.
After a moment, Charlie cleared her throat. "So, do you… do you have a name?" she asked.
Brown eyes watched her, glinting in the faint light from her headlamp. "Donatello."
"What a pretty name," she said, the sense of unreality deepening. She felt light-headed and dizzy. "My name's Charlie."
"Charlie's a boy's name," said Donatello, cocking his head.
She laughed. "It's short for 'Charlotte'," she explained. "Mom named me Charlotte, but my dad always called me Charlie."
God, I've gone crazy, haven't I? I'm talking to a three-foot tall Turtle. I've lost my mind.
For the first time, the creature's face moved in a shy smile. "My Dad calls me Donatello," he explained. "But my brothers call me Donny."
"It's very nice to meet you, Donatello," said Charlie. Well, crazy or not, I have to get out of here. "Now, I'm going to see if I can move some of this debris, ok? We have to get out of here. Will you please go toward the back of the tunnel, and stay out of the way in case more of the ceiling comes down?"
"Ok." In spite of his calmer manner, the little Turtle edged away from her, watching her every move as carefully as if she were a dangerous animal he didn't dare turn his back on.
Charlie shook her head to clear it, and turned to face the pile. It was an eerie feeling, knowing the little Turtle was behind her in the dark. He was absolutely silent. She glanced over her shoulder once, to see if he was still there, and caught sight of his figure crouching by the wall.
Ok. If he were an illusion he should've disappeared by now. Or I should've passed out from the trauma. So maybe he's real? Whatever. I can't sit here and wait to be found. I've got to get out before this tunnel collapses entirely.
Cautiously, she began to shift the debris, careful to avoid disturbing the less stable side.
When something moved at her side, Charlie jumped nearly out of her skin.
Holy crap, I felt that... he is real... holy crap holy crap...
He stumbled back. "Sorry!"
"It's ok, you just startled me, that's all." Charlie leaned back against the pile, ignoring the brick that dug into her hip. "What are you doing?"
"I'm helping. I can move bricks. I'll get out. Sensei will come looking for me soon. I have to get out of here. I have to get home. I'm gonna be in so much trouble…" The Turtle's voice cracked.
"Oh, honey, I'm sure your… your Dad… will understand," she said. "Don't worry. It'll be all right. We're going to get out of here just fine…"
There was no warning, only a vibration that rumbled against Charlie's hip, before the ceiling crashed down, spilling chunks of concrete and brick. She lunged forward, reaching blindly to push hard against the little creature's plastron, throwing him back and out of the way, as the weight of the world seemed to come down on top of Charlie.
"Run!" she choked out before everything went black.
Awareness returned with a sharp, shooting pain in Charlie's chest, and the brush of something smooth and cool against her forehead.
"Charlie?" A small voice, near her ear. "Charlie? Please wake up, Charlie."
She turned her head a scant millimeter, and immediately wished she hadn't. Pain shot through her crushed shoulders, driving a moan from her chest. "Charlie? Wake up. Please wake up."
"…'m awake," she managed. "You ok?" Words came slowly, stiffly. She couldn't draw breath with more than short, shallow gasps.
"I'm ok, Charlie. I'm sorry. I jumped. I didn't mean to but the ceiling fell down. How come you didn't jump, Charlie?"
"Like this." The Turtle leapt away, agile, to the top of the small mountain of dirt and concrete that once made up the ceiling of the tunnel.
Charlie would have cried out if she could've gotten the breath. As it was, the sound that escaped her was more of a squeak. In an instant, the Turtle was back at her side.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah. How… how'd you… do… that?"
"Sensei taught me."
How? Why… Charlie couldn't get enough breath to voice the questions that crowded her mind. The shooting pains in her chest were enough to discourage the fight to force forth words. A faint light filtered from the top of the pile.
Sounds… scrabbling… and Donatello shot up as if he'd been electrified.
"Musuko?" The voice was deeper than Charlie had heard before. For an instant she wondered if the very gravel around her had found its voice. Nothing seemed too far-fetched, considering the presence of the diminutive Turtle.
"Father?" The small voice piped, high with an odd mixture of relief and trepidation.
More scratching, as if claws were scraping at the concrete, made Charlie shiver slightly. Rats were a common sight in the sewer tunnels and the primal fear sent chills racing down her spine. She managed to open her eyes far enough to make out a shadowed figure edging over the debris toward her. Donatello clung to her wrist, his small hands wrapped comfortingly around hers.
"Come away from here my son. Do you not realize the danger?" The gravelly voice scolded.
"But Sensei! My friend… she's hurt."
A low hiss, and Charlie's eyes opened wide. The shadow shifted again and approached until the faint light from her headlamp fell on its… fur. Onyx eyes glittered and whiskers twitched. If Charlie could have gotten the breath, she would've screamed.
A huge Rat was reaching toward the little Turtle. Charlie's hand moved almost involuntarily, grasping Donatello's wrist protectively.
"Donatello! Get away from that human!"
"Her name is Charlie, but her dad calls her Charlotte. She told me. Father, she saved me," he insisted. "When the ceiling came down she didn't jump, she pushed me away so it didn't come on me."
This… is his… Father?
Charlie blinked. The black eyes were regarding her with suspicion and fury, and suddenly she was very afraid.
"Donatello. Go. Follow this tunnel to the junction. Wait there for me."
Small hands reluctantly released her wrist, leaving a chill. Charlie heard Donatello scrabble over the mountain of rubble, and his small feet padding away down the tunnel.
He'll be safe. He's out, she thought with relief. He's ok now.
The Rat shifted in the dark near her. She heard the faintest rustle of cloth, saw his hands coming toward her, felt them rest lightly on the sides of her head.
"You will feel nothing." The gravelly voice was no longer angry. He spoke in a whisper, infinitely sad, determined and compassionate.
Charlie closed her eyes. She couldn't breathe, couldn't think. The world was reduced to the crushing black pain in her chest and the soft touch of his hands. His fingers tightened slightly against her temples, and she heard him draw a deep, steadying breath. Tears were streaming down her cheeks now. She didn't know what he meant to do but she was certain she was about to die.
She wanted to scream, to cry, to beg, but she couldn't get enough air with the weight of the debris on her chest. She could manage only the faintest of whimpers.
"I am sorry Miss Charlotte-san."
"…No…" she breathed, dragging air into her tortured lungs. "Please…"
The hands twitched again, as if he were as shocked to hear her speak as she had been to hear the Turtle.
The velveted fingers jerked against her skin, causing her to flinch and gasp. She kept her eyes tightly closed.
This isn't happening. There is no huge Rat. There is no Turtle. It's all been an insane dream…
"Donatello," he hissed. "My son, I told you to wait for me."
"Ootochan, she was nice to me. Are you gonna help her?"
She felt chills. The small, trusting voice. The hands still touching her temple twitched slightly.
"Donatello, go back to the tunnel. Wait for me. I will come."
"Hai, Sensei. Bye, Charlie."
She wanted to lift her hand, to wiggle her fingers, to say goodbye, but her limbs were too heavy, her shoulders trapped under the concrete and earth that was crushing the life from her lungs. Hot tears spilled over, trickling down the sides of her face, pooling against his fingers, which still rested on her temple.
"I must protect him." The voice spoke again, sounding far away. The fingers trembled against her skin, a faint tremor passing through them. Suddenly they left her head, leaving a chill behind.
He muttered something that might've been a curse. She couldn't understand the words. Cloth brushed her face, and she gasped, lighting a fire in her lungs that distracted her from the oddly pleasant, if slightly musty, scent of the fabric. When he moved again she realized his sleeve was brushing her cheek. A weight shifted, then eased, taking with it some of the crushing pain in her chest. More movement, more weight removed. She drew a deeper breath, and the pain spiked, but it was a new pain, of lungs too-long denied precious oxygen refilling. More movement, more pain.
Finally the movement stopped, but the pain went on, ebbing and flowing like an ocean tide. Something brushed her face, causing her eyes to snap open. He was kneeling beside her now, just visible in the dim light from the head-lamp.
It's going out, Charlie realized with a start. Soon I'll be alone in the dark… with him. Before fear could rise up, choking off her air, she realized the Rat was speaking.
"For the sake of my son, I…" He paused, cocking his head to regard her with an eerily intense glare, as if he were trying to look through her. "You will not speak of what you have seen today, Charlotte-san. You must tell no one of our existence. It would mean death. I must have your word."
She couldn't move to nod. It took a moment to gather the strength to speak, and even then her voice was so weak she wasn't sure he'd understand what she was trying to say.
He stared into her face, his onyx eyes glittering in the dark. Finally he gave her one sharp nod, and rose. She flinched automatically, but he only turned away.
"Do not fear. I will see that you are found quickly. Remember your promise." Then, more quietly, as if he was speaking to himself,
"My sons' lives depend on it."
He was gone before she could get enough breath for a reply, melting into the shadows.
She lay in the dark after the light finally flickered and went out, her limbs trembling intermittently, growing colder, for what seemed like a long time, before she heard voices not far off.
"The caller said she'd be here…"
"How could anyone have survived this?"
"We've gotta keep looking, Mitch…"
"Charlie! Hey, Charlie, is that you?" A muttered oath, and a bright light shone full on her face. She blinked.
"Oh my… Charlie, are you ok?" Scrambling noises, and another curse. The light dimmed, and she managed to focus on the shocked, pale face of Mitch Jamison, her boss.
"Hey… Mitch," she managed with a grin. "Guess… the supports… need… fixing… huh?"
"Oh man, oh damn… Charlie… I'm sorry… we're gonna get you outta here, don't you worry…"
Her eyes were already sliding closed, her lips relaxing into a smile. Everything, after all, was all right now.
A/N: I feel compelled to mention, this was inspired by a fic by Kunoichi Nazena, titled "What I have to do". While I love her characterization and her writing, the ending made me cry. I wrote a different version of a similar (I hope not too similar) story, with a different ending that reflects my belief that above all else, Splinter values life.
Many thanks to Kunoichi Nazena, and to the many very talented authors here on Fanfiction who continue to inspire and motivate me by challenging me and making me think about the issues that we write about every day, here and elsewhere. Doomo arigatoo, my friends.