"Ow. Ow. Ow. OW!"

"Knock it off," Raphael hissed. He shifted his grip across the back of his brother's shell. "Whining ain't makin' it any better."

"It might be making me feel better," Michelangelo huffed. He leaned heavily into Raphael's supporting bulk. "You don't know."

"It's just a little cut, Mike! Don't be such a baby," Raphael frowned down the alley, and tried to calculate the distance to the nearest safe place. At that hour of the night, there were lots of options available to them for getting back underground, and normally it would have been a simple thing for them to vanish into the shadows and be on their way home. Unfortunately, very few of those options would work while Michelangelo was bleeding from..."How'd you end up with a cut between your toes, anyway?"

"He dropped the knife right when I took off after him. It fell onto...I mean, into...my toes." Michelangelo craned his neck to look down at his foot. "Stupid Purple Dragon...don't they usually have dull blades? Never understood why they pick the weapons they do; it makes no sense. They don't know how to fight, but they keep..."

Raphael tuned him out. As long as his brother was nattering away, he must be okay, right? And if he was okay, then they could make it home in time for Donatello to stop the bleeding and clean out the gods-know-what kinds of crap a turtle would get in an open wound in a New York City alley. Right? Then Raphael thought of the long trek back through the tunnels under the city, and winced. Whatever might be available up here on the surface looked like kid's stuff compared to the sludge they would have to trudge through once they got underground!

Their situation suddenly became much more urgent when the sound of scuffed, furtive footsteps told him someone was approaching, and that someone was putting some effort into not being heard.

"Mike. SHHH!" Raphael said, and his brother's voice cut off instantly as they both shrank back, listening as the person—no, people—came toward the alley. The sounds halted just beyond the mouth of the alley, and the hooded beam of a flashlight could be seen probing the shadows—too far away to be a threat to them, but still too close for comfort. The secretive nature of the movements caused Raph's stomach to tighten. Would it be too hopeful to assume these guys were playing a night game of hide-and-seek? Then his heart skipped a beat as a figure stepped into view, light focused on something on the ground, and gestured for another person to come closer.

At once, Raph knew what they'd found. Why, oh why hadn't they thought to wrap one of their headbands around Mike's foot to stop the blood?

"I'm on it," Mike hissed. He was already tugging off his bandanna and fighting with the knot. "Cover me!"

"You don't even need to ask, bro," Raph growled. He took a throwing dagger from his belt and sent it flying towards the goon with the flash light. It struck him in the hand and goon cried out with a flurry of curses as his light source fell to the concrete with a clatter.

"Nice shot!" Mike enthused under his breath.

"Yeah? Was aiming for the bulb," Raph grumbled honestly as he unsheathed both sai with a deadly 'snick'.

"I'm gonna kill you mutant freaks!" the injured gangster declared with a warble in his voice that undercut his bold words. "They're over here, boys!"

"Looks like we're gonna rumble," Raphael warned his brother. "You ready for this?"

"Oh, yeah! It'll be just like Battle Ball," Mike gave a flinching grin. He was notorious for losing his legs in Battle Ball.

"Let's just hope they brought playground balls to- nope!" Raphael barreled Mike to the ground instinctively as the purple dragons fired into the alley with abandon. "Christ," he grimaced, holding onto the heavy metal trash can that was their only cover as it was dented and warped under the spray of bullets.

"The Purple Dragons were never very sportsmanlike," Mike decided, barely audible over the gunfire.

"They'll have to reload in a second. That's when we move! Ready?"

"Ready!" Mike agreed, but they were both worried about his injury.

The Purple Dragons didn't know the meaning of the word sportsmanlike, and they also weren't the greatest tactical planners. Just as Raph had anticipated, the machine-gun weilding gangsters exhausted their clips of ammo almost simultaneously. In the quiet that followed as their foes scrabbled to reload, Raphael lept from the cover of the fallen trash can and charged the goons with a disorienting battle cry - the first one that came to mind. "GOONGALA!"

"'Goongala'? Seriously, dude?" Michelangelo called as he followed. "You really need to get out more. I know some people, they wear capes, they could teach you a real battle cr-AI!" The whir and thud of his 'chucks faltered, then picked up again as he concentrated on his fighting more than on his patter.

Raphael risked only a couple of glances at his brother as he plowed through the Dragons. His sai were usually enough to pick off new recruits - they got scared just from seeing the light glance off the dulled metal - but the crew that had them cornered tonight was just a little more advanced than that. They knew just enough about fighting and firepower to feel like they were invulnerable with their guns. So it's time to use that against you, Raphael thought grimly.

He spun, ducked, and kicked out. Someone's elbow broke under his foot, and a weapon clattered to the hardtop of the filthy alley. Raphael scooped it up and used it as a club to break the head of the next Dragon who rushed up on him. "Mikey!" he called across the general chaos of the fight. "Over here!"

"A little...uh!...busy at the moment, bro," Mike grunted. From the sound of it, he was further away than Raphael would like.

Sirens wailed into life around the corner.

"Think maybe they're just after some holiday shoplifters?" Mike called hopefully. But that was dashed pretty quickly, as the sirens closed in on their location.

Red and blue lights strobed across the open end of the alley, and glinted on the dark metal of the gun Raphael still held.

"You see those lights?" Raph warned. He was still trying to disengage from his own attackers, and had already closed most of the distance between himself and his brother. He drew back and swung a punch that sent one of of them sprawling, then picked up his griping right where he left off. "Those lights mean GAME OVER, Mike!"

"No way. Game over is health reaching zero, with - unf! With no continues left!" Mike explained as he grappled. "Flashing red and blue lights. That's - time for a chase scene!"

"Quit screwing around and let's climb!"

"Raph! I know I am the undisputed Battle Ball champion and all?" Mike pointed out as he was simultaneously mashing a gangster's face into the side of a dumpster and being throttled by one of his beefy buddies - hopping on one leg all the while. "But - your expectations are a little - hard for me to - grrk!"

Raph tried to dislodge the meathead on Mike's shell with a shoulder slam, but the guy didn't budge.

"Quit... playing 'round... why don'tcha!" Mike wheezed. He was beginning to see stars.

Raph didn't stop to think about it. He shot the beefy gangster in the foot. The big guy crumpled with a howl of pain. He tossed down the weapon and grabbed Mike, throwing him over one shoulder ungraciously.

"Freeze!" a voice behind them cried.

Raph froze. There was a beat of silence.

"This is all your fault," Mike said matter-of-factly.

"Put your hands in the air," the same voice said tensely.

Raphael had limited options and very little time to choose between them. The gun lay on the ground, just inches from his foot. He was more likely to make it to the gun than the cop in a time that would not allow him to be shot. He didn't need to kill. He needed leverage. He also needed Mike to quit being so damn heavy.

There was a click as the cop removed the safety on his gun. "I'm not kidding. Hands. Air."

Stupid idea, going for the gun. Guns made things messy. Hard to do anything with one besides kill.

Mike slowly slid off his shoulder and landed heavily on his feet. "Any ideas?" he muttered under his breath, more somber now as the gravity of the situation began to sink in.

Humans as a whole are not our friends. The instant this one sees us, he'll have to write it in his report. He can't see us. If he's hurt, anything he says about us will be considered part of the shock.

But I can't reach him in time.

It wasn't a very bright idea, but having the weapon by his foot, larger than life and just as scary as the one the cop was pointing at him, he was having trouble coming up with any other thoughts besides shoot him shoot him shoot him.


In a split second, Raph's foot slid under the gun and tossed it into the air. He caught it in his hands, whirled around and fired at the man's shoulder.

The cop's eyes went blank when the bullet hit him in the chest instead.

"Ohshit," Mikey got out before he slapped his hand across his own mouth. Over it, his eyes were huge when he turned them on Raphael.

The gun clattered to the ground.

"We gotta...um, we gotta," Raphael couldn't quite get his voice above a whisper. And that was probably a good thing, since he couldn't really remember how to string words together at the moment, either. Or breathe. Or think, past a sudden staccato beat of cop cop cop cop cop hammering at his temples. Nightwatcher's not supposed to shoot cops!

Michelangelo lowered his hand. "We gotta go, dude," he said harshly. "We can't get caught..." and he bent and scooped the gun up off the ground, holding it gingerly by the barrel. "Come ON!"

Raphael allowed himself to be dragged along when Mike clamped a hand around his wrist and pulled roughly. Then abruptly he halted, wrenching free of Mike's grip in one motion. "NO!" he roared, more to himself than his brother, and backtracked swiftly to the downed cop.

"Raph!" Mike followed in his wake, but Raphael ignored him, the pounding of his heard echoing through his head. This time, it wasn't anger that was giving him tunnel vision. It was fear. He might've killed this guy—a cop. A man. Just doing his job.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck he chanted in his head, and after a while he realized his mouth was actually forming the words. He crouched beside the fallen man, hands shaking as he touched the throat in search of a pulse, and dammit, he couldn't tell if there was anything there, he couldn't—


"Goddammit, I ain't leavin' him like this!" Raph exploded at his brother.

"No! Raph!" Mike persisted. "Look!"

Raph's head snapped up, and then looked to where Michelangelo pointed.

"No blood! If you shot him point-blank, shouldn't there be blood?" he said, jabbing at the unmarred shirt.

Raph stared dumbly for a second, and then frantically unbuttoned a couple of shirt buttons. "Vest," he breathed, almost disbelievingly. He looked up to meet Mikey's eyes.

The body moved. Raph jumped as the cop seized his wrist.

"What are you?" hissed the cop, his voice strained from pain.

Apparently, Michelangelo only saw someone attacking his brother. He dove for Raph, and the cop mistook his intentions. That must have been what happened, because a second later, Raph was free and the cop had a taser in hand.

"Mike!" Raph shouted in warning, but his brother had already recoiled and was stumbling backwards, the taser passing within inches of his thigh. Almost-by-accident, Raph's foot caught the cop in the ribs as he rose. Taking Mike by the upper arm, he half-dragged his brother at top speed at a right angle to the direction of the sirens.

They were several blocks away when Mike forced him to stop. "Dude," he gasped, raising a hand to his throat. He gulped once, then kept gasping.

Right. Breathing. Raph's eyes darted about as his ears picked up the sound of sirens approaching from the direction in which they were headed. "We can't slow down."

Headlights striped the pavement of an alley intersecting the street they were on. Raph turned. More headlights. They were trapped on both sides. The only way to go was...

Up? But UP wasn't an option! Raphael stared at the half-lowered fire escape ladder in dismay. He could make the jump alone, but not while carrying Mike!

"Mike. Are you with me? If we get up there somehow, can you - MIKE!"

His brother was unresponsive in his arms.

Raph's stomach bottomed out. Oh shit fuck no fuck SHIT!

Shadows appeared at the mouth of the alley. He saw their guns in silhouette. More guns. His mind whirled as a second solution finally came to him, slow as molasses but making more sense the longer he stared down at his brother and the bloody trail they were leaving. Elmer Fudd could follow a trail that obvious.

"-Officer down in an alley between 72nd and Vine."

But there WAS another option.

"Closing in now on two suspects, both are considered armed and danger-AHH!" The officer cried out as a trash can flew at him from the darkness.

They couldn't go up... but they could go through.

"Two thirty five! Two thirty five, report!"

Mike groaned. Sounds assaulted him from the darkness. He nearly drifted back into it - or maybe he did, for a time. But then panic seized him briefly and he awoke thrashing. "Raph," he gasped. He couldn't see. His head spun. It sounded like they were driving somewhere, but that didn't make any sense. "Raph... where?"

"Shh," a familiar voice hushed. "Go back to sleep."

Mike stirred again and managed to lift his head this time. He stared at the complicated-looking radio installed in the dash without comprehension.

"We have an All Points Bulletin on two possible suspects in a stolen cruiser, please be on the look-out for cruiser two thirty-five-"

Raphael's hand shot forward to stab a button on the radio, silencing it with a click. Mike's eyes widened.

"Don't worry," Raph said stiffly. He kept his eyes trained on the road in front of him. "We're gonna be fine."

"Fine," Mike repeated dully. HIs pulse throbbed in his temples, and in regions somewhat lower. With an effort, Mike lifted his head just enough to get a look at his foot, wedged awkwardly on the armrest of the door. The limp, clotted fabric wrapped around his toes sparked his memory. " 'm still bleedin'...'s not good, Raphie."

"You're gonna be fine!" Raphael snarled. "I'm gonna figure out where to ditch this thing, and we'll go underground and get home, and it's all...all gonna be okay." He backhanded sweat off his face, looking strangely naked without his mask.

Michelangelo braced his hands against the seat and levered himself up, slowly, to counteract the dizziness. "...yeah," he said, because it seemed like Raph needed him to agree. "So...where're we goin'?" It bothered him to have to make such an effort to talk. He leaned his head on the back of the seat, near Raph's shoulder. "Someplace...with dancin' girls? 'n music?"

That surprised a short bark of laughter out of his brother, and the tension eased a bit around Raphael's eyes. "Yeah, too bad Torchy's is closed. If Casey was workin' the door, he'd let us in!" He glanced over at Mike, and licked his lips nervously. "We're headed for the warehouse district. I know a place we can ditch this thing...get underground. If we can get there without getting caught..."

"If," Mike said, dreamily. The ceiling of the car wasn't the most interesting thing in the world, but he was so tired, and it was so much easier to just sit there for a bit and look at it. " 'm thirsty, Raph." It surprised him - he hadn't known he meant to say anything at all.

"I know," Raph said, low. "Just hang on, bro. You lost a lot of blood back there. But you'll be okay. I swear it."

"Yeah...okay," he felt like things would be better if he could get his foot up. So he spent a few dizzying minutes trying to gather the strength to pull it off the armrest and prop it on the dashboard. When that was done, Mike squinted at his toes and complained, "I still can't see it!"

Raph glanced at him, but apparently he had other things to worry about, because his eyes turned immediately back to the road.

Mike was just cognizant enough to know that wasn't a good sign. "We needa…hurry," he said thickly.

His brother glanced over at him again. "If you can, put some pressure on it. Slow the bleeding."

Michelangelo started to shake his head, but realized immediately that wasn't a good idea. Too dizzy. "No," he clarified. "Faster. We should go faster." He turned to his brother, and grinned. "We need…the flashy thingies. And the, the sirens."

"Can't" Raph said with a scowl. "We'll draw too much attention to ourselves."

Just then, Mikey caught a glimpse of red and blue flashing distantly in the rearview mirror. "Too late," he muttered.

"So you stole a police cruiser?" Leo said incredulously into the phone.

Raph's voice came back at him, shouting with nearly enough volume to overwhelm the microphone on the homemade cell. "WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO, LEO? JUST SHUT UP AND TAKE THE WIN!"

"Win? WIN? Raph, in what way is this conceivably a win?"


Leo barely heard him as he put his coat on. "Forget it, Raph. We'll be there the instant we can. We're on our way out the door. Just don't hang up the phone, or we won't be able to track you. Put Mike on. Talking'll help him and he should've been the one to make the call anyway because you're driving, you i-"

"Leo?" muttered Mike's less-than-all-there voice.

Distantly, Leo was aware of Don claiming the driver's seat and Splinter scooting into the passenger seat. Responding without thinking, he hopped into the back of the truck and switched ears. "Mike? How fast is the bleeding?"

There was a pause that lasted for several seconds. "In, uh, miles per hour, or what?"

"Do you feel warm or cold?"

"Really, really cold."


"...I'm gonna pass out again." Mikey's voice sounded dangerously low.

Leo took a deep breath. "Mikey. Look around and see if there's a bottle of water, half-eaten candy bar, anything you can eat or drink safely."

"There's part of a chicken sandwich... from Mickey D's, but I don' think that counts as 'safe.'"

"Eat it now."

"There's a soda."

"Chug it. Anything to raise your blood sugar as quickly as possible. Tic-tacs, Sugar Daddies, whatever. You gotta be conscious if you're gonna perform your own first-aid, okay?"

"What are you gonna do?"

"Hopefully stall the cops. Don's calling Casey right now. The plan at this moment is for him to 'arrest' you."

"THAT'S your plan?" Raphael repeated. From the sound of it, he had snagged the phone back from Michelangelo.

"It's a plan. I didn't say it was MY plan! They're still working out the... Here, listen for yourself."

Leonardo held the phone up so they could faintly hear Donatello from a distance. Their mild-mannered brother sounded like he was on the verge of shouting. "No, now - LISTEN TO ME. I am with you as far as turning their radio signals against them. But we do not need to STEAL A SECOND POLICE VEHICLE to accomplish this. We could just as easily - was that an engine starting? That had better be April's truck! - Okay. Good. Then, get over here pronto! ...Yes! It's like you said, you spend a lot more time listening to police radios than I do. Anyway, we usually have Mike for this sort of thing. I'm a terrible actor. And Leo's even worse!"

"I am not!" Leonardo couldn't help interjecting.

Raphael scowled and threw the phone into Mike's lap. Mike nearly spilled his soda as he fumbled to stop it from skittering onto the passenger-side floorspace. Raph readjusted his grip on the steering wheel and muttered, "Christ... This plan had better work."

"Wait...wasn' I s'posed to talk to Leo s'more?" Mike frowned down at the phone.

"He's got nothin' useful to say," Raphael snapped. He spun the steering wheel in a tight circle, reaching out to hold Mike in place with one arm while the car went around a corner on two tires. The heavy chassis made the turn and then slammed down onto the pavement with an ominous CRUNK sound. The phone, and the soda, smashed up against the passenger-side window and slid down between the seat and the door.

"Oops," Mike said carefully, rolling his head in the direction of the lost phone. "I think he was still...still on the line."

"Yeah? Well, we still got red n' blues on our tails," Raph jerked the wheel again, cutting off a double-decker tour bus that advertised "New York City Midnight Ghost Tours!" in garish colors.

"Don't you norm...norm'ly have them on your heads?" Mike grinned.

It surprised another burst of laughter out of him, and Raphael snuck a quick look at his brother. Mike's eyes looked sunken and dull, and it panicked him more than the police lights in the rearview mirror.

Outside of the bright lights of the tourist traps, there was a reasonable amount of traffic on the roads, and Raphael planned to use that to get away from his pursuers. Don't know what Casey's planning, and I don't care - I gotta get Mike outta here! "Here! This goes to the warehouse district," he spun the wheel again, and the police car launched itself down an alley. He pushed a button, and all of the car's lights went dark.

"I should...should call Leo, tell 'im where we are," Mike said suddenly. He lurched over to the side, away from his brother's hand, and fumbled for the phone.

He didn't seem to be having any luck finding it. In fact, Raph realized with a sickening jolt in his stomach, it didn't seem like he was moving at all - just laying there, slumped up against the door. "Mikey? Mikey, damn it, you'd better stay with me!"

"Mikey?" Leonardo called into the phone. "Mike? ...Raph? Damn it, they won't pick up!"

"It's okay, Leo," Don tapped a display on the truck's overloaded dashboard. "Look - we still have a signal. They didn't hang up. Whatever else they did, we can still track them."

"But no one's responding," Leo said tightly. He pressed the phone against his head even harder, like he could hear them if he only had enough contact. "I can hear Raph, but I can't make out what he's saying."

"Whatever it is, I'm sure it's laden with profanity." Don's tone wasn't quite dry enough to be meant as humor.

"Michelangelo dropped the phone, I'm sure. I hope it didn't land in that soda you instructed him to drink," Splinter added. His eyes were tight, and his ears were held back just a bit, betraying his tension. Donatello glanced at him, opened his mouth, reconsidered, and closed it again. In a way, it was as alarming as anything else - if Don was feeling too nervous to explain the technical ramifications of dropping a piece of electronics into a cup of cheap soda, then things were quickly edging into the realm of "catastrophe".

Don's phone rang then, diverting his attention. He pressed a button without taking his eyes off the road. "Casey?"

"Wouldja stop moving long enough for me to catch up!" the man's voice carried over the tiny speaker. "How'm I supposed to get in there and do my thing if you won't - woah!"

"'Woah'?" Don repeated skeptically. "Was that a request, or an exclamation of surprise?"

"I think I see 'em!" Casey ignored the question, as he usually did when Don laid on sarcasm. "Tell Raph to slow down, and I'll catch 'em before the cops can!"

"No such luck, Case," Leo called grimly. "They dropped their phone. They're operating without a plan right now."

"Oh. So...business as usual, then!" The grin could be heard clearly. "Still think I should swipe another cruiser - "

"NO!" Don shouted. "The last thing we need is to compound the problem by giving the police another reason to look in our direction -"

"Oops, gotta go catch some turtles!" There was a click, and dead air on the line.

Donatello swore and threatened violence against the vigilante. Splinter's ears laid back completely.

Leonardo slumped back in the seat. His hand was starting to send off pins-n-needles feelings, or he might have completely forgotten that he still held a phone to his head. "...Mikey?" he said forlornly into the mouthpiece.

Casey gunned the engine of the truck, scaring the crap out of the people in the sedan with the Minnesota license plates. "Move it!" he shouted out the window. Instead of moving, the driver braked in panic. Casey slammed on his own brakes just shy of merging his bumper with the sedan, and jerked the wheel hard to the left. "Stupid tourists!" he shouted, and gave them an evil grin out the passenger window as he roared past them (while simultaneously flipping off the driver behind him, for honking.)

"Now then," he resumed his hunt, scanning the side streets for signs of disruption. "Where, oh where, did my little turtle go? Where, oh where can he be?"

Two blocks away, he found what he was looking for. Several people clustered at the mouth of an alley, staring down it like something interesting had just raced past them. "Gotcha!' Casey murmured, and gunned the engine again, this time racing to get ahead of Raph and cut him off. Luckily, it was a long block, and the alley was full of obstacles - Casey made it just before the darkened police cruiser could swoop out onto the street, and slammed on his brakes, blocking the alley exit.

He grinned through the passenger window at Raph, who snarled at him in return and gestured angrily for him to move.

"Hey, Raph, why don't you - crap!" Casey's eyes lifted and focused on the "obstacles" that had slowed Raph down in his headlong drive. There were two separate delivery trucks in the alley, bringing supplies to restaurants. And where they made deliveries, there were small crowds of people standing out in the alley, staring after the cruiser with their mouths open or their phones in their hands...or both.

Raphael must have seen them in the rearview mirror, because his gestures got more extreme.

"Crap! What are we gonna do!" Casey glanced around frantically. They were attracting way too much attention all around. Even people on the other side of the street were staring at them. No brilliant ideas came to mind. No backup, in the form of other turtles, came into view.

And then Casey's eyes, skittering around for an escape, fell on the darkened row of lights on the roof of the cruiser. "Raph!" he shouted, knowing it was probably useless. "Turn on the things, the lights!" He pointed up, at the roof of the truck, and twirled his finger around. "C'mon, man! The lights!"

Raphael frowned at him, going still as he took in his friend's strange gestures.

Casey gritted his teeth, and gunned his engine one more time.

"Where the hell could they be?" Donatello wondered out loud for the third time. The strain was wearing on him and he was losing what was left of his famous reserve. He spent more time turning his head, looking around frantically as he drove, than he did examining the readouts on his dashboard.

So it was Leonardo who noticed it first. "The signal, Don. It stopped moving two minutes ago. Wherever they are, they're holding still."

Don almost rear-ended a taxi.

"There," Splinter breathed. He touched one nail to the screen. "Where is this?"

"Not too far," Don answered absently, mesmerized by the unmoving green dot. "Not..." he shook himself out of his near-daze before Leo had to do it for him, and turned the truck into traffic with a new sense of purpose. "It's down by the warehouse district," he explained. "About a mile."

Leo finally relaxed his hold on the phone, and let it fall into his lap while he worked out the cramps in his fingers. "I still don't hear anything on the phone," he reported, worried. "I can't even hear Raph's voice anymore."

"I don't like this," Don frowned and turned a corner.

"Something has changed," Splinter said, low. "I cannot tell..."

Leo bit his lip. If anything happened to them...!

They turned one more corner, and Don slammed on the brakes. "Oh, crap!"

"No!" Splinter sat up and gripped the dashboard, hard. "It cannot be!"

But there was no mistaking it. Ahead of them, a dozen police cruisers, lights flashing, converged on one lone police cruiser that balanced precariously over a concrete embankment.

"We have to get them out of there!" Leo's brain spun into gear, furiously churning up plans that he evaluated and discarded with ruthless speed. "Don, what have we got in here to use for a diversion?"

"If they touch that, it'll go straight down into the river!" Don seemed locked into a horrified, assessing stare. "Could that maybe be his plan? Get the police to help them escape by accidentally pushing them over? But that's just..."

"Don!" Leo snapped. "Focus! They need us to get them out of there, and the best way to do that is...um. Sensei? Are you...chirping?"

Startled out of his own horrified stare, Splinter began to pat at his robe. "My phone," he said. A strange note crept into his voice.

"All respect, sensei, but is this the time -?" Leonardo began.

Splinter ignored him. "Hello?"

A pause, and then: "Thought you weren't gonna answer at all," Raphael said gruffly.

"My son!" The strange note in his voice strengthened into recognizable relief. "Where are you? And where is Michelangelo...where? How did you get there?"

Raphael stood up and stretched as he heard the heavy door rumble open. "I'll be right back," he said unnecessarily to April, who nodded but didn't look up from her task. He slid out the infirmary door and into the living room...

...just in time to take a Leonardo-shaped missile in the chest. "Oof!" Raphael went staggering backward, tripped, and landed on the concrete with Leo's weight on his plastron. "Leo, back off!" he wheezed.

"Do you have any idea what you've put this family through?" Leonardo hissed.

"Yeah, he does!" Casey came out of the kitchen, carrying a pan of something that steamed. "April's already ripped 'im a new one, Leo, so give 'im a chance to recover first."

"And leave some of him for me, if you please, my son," Splinter added. Ignoring Raphael's half-formed protest, he went on, "I suppose that Michelangelo is in the infirmary?" Without waiting for confirmation, he slipped through the door. Donatello followed, after one heated glare that he divided evenly between Raphael and Casey.

"I need those towels, right now!" April's voice rolled out of the infirmary, snagged Casey, and dragged him in after Splinter. He cast a grin at Raph right before he disappeared around the corner.

"Man," Raphael shoved Leo off and sat up, rubbing at his plastron. "I'm glad to see you, too." Irony wasn't a strong enough term for the lack of gladness in his face or his voice.

Leo sighed, all of the residual worry leaking out of him. "We were worried that we'd lost you," he said bluntly. "When we found the cruiser like that..."

Raphael glanced up and winced. "Yeah, well...we wanted to shove it all the way into the river, but it seemed more important to get Mike home, fast." He wanted to put on the bravado that he usually used when he came staggering home, wounded from some altercation that his brothers hadn't seen or fought, but it didn't seem to fit at that moment.

Leo stared at the infirmary door. "How is he?" Without looking, he put out a hand to help Raphael up.

Raph thought about not taking it, but he was tired and it had been a long night. "He lost a lot of blood. Forensics team is gonna have a field day with that cruiser," he let Leo pull him to his feet, and drag him toward the rest of the family. Leo gave a tiny start as he recognized the sodden mass just inside the infirmary door as the tangled masks that his brothers had worn earlier that night, now totally ruined and inseparable with stiffening blood.

"He'll be fine," April reported quietly without looking up from the stitches that she was setting in Michelangelo's foot. "Raph and Casey got him back here just in time."

"How did you get away from the police?" Don glanced over his shoulder from the medicine cabinet, where he was obviously rummaging through their scavenged medical supplies for something antibiotic.

"It was easy," Casey smiled. "I had Raph turn on the lights, and chase me. It was awesome!" He dipped into the steaming pan and handed April another boiled towel to use in her surgical work. "It was like being invisible in plain sight - no one looks twice at a police car chasing someone in Manhattan! It was like, was like...it was like being a ninja!" He grinned triumphantly at Raphael.

"We got all the way to the warehouse district and got the car up on the concrete wall, before Mike passed out again. Thought we'd better get back here," Raphael added.

April glanced up, snorted, and turned back to her task. "I told them that I would skin them and make them into purses if they didn't get back here before Mike bled out."

"I am pleased that my son and Mr. Jones have avoided a career in fashion," Splinter murmured, eyes alight. "Though I suppose there is still time tonight...Michelangelo? Can you hear me, my son?"

On the bed, Michelangelo tossed his head, frowned muzzily, and cracked open one eye. "Masser Spinnter?" he croaked.

"Yes, Michelangelo. You are home, safe."

"Oh." Michelangelo considered the scene in front of him woozily. "S'not where I thought...where I was?"

"No kidding, brainiac," Raphael crossed his arms and leveled a glare at his brother. "Me 'n Casey just schlepped your sorry shell through a half-mile of grungy tunnels. And you slept through it all!" He considered working himself up to making some kind of biting comment about Michelangelo's weight.

The expression his brother gave him stopped the barb in his throat. "Mikey?"

Mike's eyes gleamed strangely in the uneven light of the infirmary. An odd, weak smile played around his mouth, and he reached feebly for Splinter's sleeve. "Auntie Em, Auntie Em! I was somewhere else...and you were there, and you, and you," he pointed around the room randomly.

"Mikey," April said warningly. "I've told you before, I refuse to play out your little Wizard of Oz fantasies."

"Aw, man," he laughed weakly. Then he winced as the needle dug into his foot again. "I always...always wanted to say, There's no place like home..."

Splinter smiled. "I have always liked...Have I got a story to tell you!"