North sipped his hot cocoa, trying to ignore Casey Jones sitting beside him on the porch swing of his Northampton farmhouse, stuffing marshmallow after marshmallow into his mug. The man was like a child, honestly. When he'd pictured how Jason acted when he wasn't busting skulls, he'd pictured someone with an uncontrollable temper, not some man-child who had to be lectured by a sixteen-year-old mutant on table manners. Leonardo apparently didn't appreciate farting at the dinner table, though North was skeptical at his insistence that this never occurred in the Hamato household.
They were waiting for the turtles to come back from a day hike. April had already gone to bed, as had Splinter. The two men had opted to stay up waiting for their young friends to return. North no longer felt quite as uneasy at Casey's presence as he had during the first day of this little weekend vacation that Mike had insisted he join them on, though he still didn't know what to make of him.
"Hey, Northie," Casey said after a long draught of cocoa, earning a sigh from the one being addressed so familiarly.
"Yes, Mr. Jones?" North said tiredly.
"Eh, you can call me Casey. So, I got a question for you. You ever ride one of them cop motorcycles?"
"Yes, actually, I have," North said. Casey grinned hugely. North was suddenly afraid.
"Wicked! Man, you me and Raph, we should totally have a motorcycle race."
"Yeah… no," North muttered into his mug. Casey kicked his legs like a little boy, looking at the stars. Then he turned to North again.
"Hey, I know. When the guys get back, let's have a man sleepover!"
"A what!" North felt chagrined at having been goaded into such a strong reaction. Casey kept going.
"Yeah, why should chicks have all the fun? We can tell ghost stories and eat popcorn and drink beer!"
"Yeah, we can," North said, determined to put a stop to this. "The other four people involved are underage."
"Aw, Northie, they're mutants. Like anyone will care!"
"I'll care," North said, wondering if Casey had actually forgotten he was a cop. The guilty look he gave North made him think he had. North sighed. "We are not having a man sleepover. That's a stupid idea."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Casey said, settling back, apparently unconcerned by North's un-enthusiasm. "Raph would kick me in the head for even suggesting it. Hm. That might be good for a laugh."
"Why do you find fighting so much fun?" North asked, before he could stop himself. Casey made a thoughtful noise, and North mentally slapped himself. He didn't want a conversation with this man.
"I dunno, I just do," Casey said. "The guys tell me you won that Battle Nexus thingie. Don't you think fighting's fun?"
"Ah—" The question caught North off guard. If Casey had been asking about the kind of fighting he did now, he would have had an easy answer: NO. But what he'd done in the arena, what he'd practiced in Garrity-sensei's dojo, required a totally different thought process. There was a spiritual aspect to the martial arts, a kind of inner peace, that he had nearly forgotten about. Why had he quit practicing? It was hard to recall the reasons now, though Garrity-sensei's death had had a lot to do with it, as well as the breakup of his marriage. He'd lost a lot that year, he suddenly realized. All that junk had happened all at once, and it had taken his practice of the martial arts with it, without him realizing it. He looked over at Casey and realized he'd never answered his question.
"No, not really," he said finally. Casey shrugged, and turned back to the part of the woods where the turtles were going to emerge from. North wondered vaguely if Splinter might let him practice with them.
"So if you don't like fighting, then why are you a cop?"
North sighed. He hated that question. It was like asking why someone had red hair.
"I just am."
"Yeah, but that's not a reason. Why did you decide to go to cop school and not… art school, or something?"
Casey seemed genuinely interested, and if he had to find something positive to say about the man, then at least North could truthfully admit that he was always sincere. There didn't seem to be a deceptive bone in his body, which clashed greatly with North's mental image of the vigilante known as Jason.
"I was young and idealistic. I wanted to use my fighting skills to help people, make a difference in the world."
"I guess I still feel that way."
"That's how I feel too," Casey said, like they were going to be best buds now. North frowned.
"And so that's why you beat people half to death," he said, knowing, knowing that he was crossing a line, and not caring. Casey looked over at him, his expression furious.
"Excuse me?" he demanded, standing up. North stood up also, not pleased at the fact that Casey Jones was taller than him. He settled his face into its cop mask and hoped his unruffled demeanor could make up for the difference in height. Casey set his mug down with a sharp clunk on the railing, folding his arms over his chest. "You wanna say that again?"
North pointedly took a sip from his cocoa. "I'd just like to understand how someone who says he wants to help people can go around doing what you do."
"You said," Casey yelled, jabbing a finger at North, "you said you had no problem with what the guys do."
"I don't," North said in the same calm tones he used when confronting an angry perp. "My problem is with what you do."
"What I do?" Casey curled his hands into fists. "I do what they do."
"They don't cave a kid's head in with a blunt instrument for stealing an old lady's handbag."
Casey took a few steps back, as though North had actually assaulted him. He looked shaken, and North held tightly to his anger, which now seemed more slippery than it had before.
"That… that was a long time ago," Casey muttered, looking away.
"So that makes it okay?"
"No!" Casey exploded, arms flailing. "I… I was a different person then."
"Not in the eyes of the law," North said in a low, dangerous voice. Casey's eyes sharpened.
"Are you threatening me, copper?" he asked in a matching tone. North forced himself to take a mental step back. What was he trying to accomplish here? Focus on that.
"No," he said, consciously relaxing his posture. "I'm not. I'm just trying to reconcile… you," he burst out, flinging an arm at Casey, "with… Jason."
"Jason…" Casey repeated uncomprehendingly. Then his eyes lit up. "Oh, yeah, that's what you guys call me. I gotta say man, that's not very imaginative."
North couldn't believe Casey Jones had just said that. He switched the mug to his other hand and glared at the man in front of him.
"Why do you do it?" he demanded. "Why do you hurt these people so badly? Even Raphael doesn't take any real pleasure in beating people to a bloody pulp, despite what he may say. He's only sixteen, and he already understands what that path leads to. How come you don't?"
Casey turned abruptly to the porch railing, gripping it tightly, head bowed. He looked like a picture of sorrow and grief. North shifted slightly, uncomfortable at this raw display of emotion.
"You gotta understand, North," he said in a low voice, not looking up. "I was going down that path. Raph helped drag me back. He helped me see what I was doing was wrong. I… I'm different now. I don't expect you to believe me," he added, looking up at North. "But it's the truth. I don't go that far anymore. I'm not… heh… I'm not Jason anymore."
North stood there for a long time, and then, when he could think of nothing to say, sipped his cocoa again, despite that fact that it was now cold. The two men surveyed the stars in silence for a while, and then Casey said,
"Look, man, if you want to fight me, get it out of your system, I'm game."
North raised an eyebrow at him.
"I'm not a fan of trial by combat," he said finally. Casey snorted.
"Trial by combat nothing. This would just be a friendly brawl, you know, to clear the air."
"I hate to sound like Mikey, but I am a former Battle Nexus Champion. Are you really sure you want to take me on?"
Casey rounded on him, but it was clear he got the humor.
"What! That musta been like a hundred years ago, old man."
"Old man!" North exclaimed, taking mock offence. "I'm not old."
"You're the oldest one here."
"No, I'm not. Splinter's got me by a few decades at least."
"Dude, Splinter," he said, giving North a mischievous look, "is eighteen."
North spluttered into his mug.
"You're pulling my leg!"
Casey held up his hands.
"I'm serious. He's a rat, right? He was only two years old when he got mutated, which is pretty old for a rat."
North mulled that strange fact over.
"April?" he said hopefully, but Casey laughed again.
"It's not nice to ask a lady about her age," he chided. "But I will tell you this: I am older than her."
"What!" North turned to him, disbelief written on his face. "There's no way."
"Way. I mean, I've only got her by a few months, but still."
Somehow that was even stranger than Splinter being eighteen.
"How did you two meet? I mean, I know you met through the turtles, but…"
Casey told him about the exact circumstances of his first meeting with April, which involved crazy robots and breaking china and lasted until the boys came trooping home, tired but happy. They had something of a man sleepover after all, though thankfully Casey didn't use that term, and there was no beer involved. Mikey fell asleep first, followed by Don and then Raph and finally Leo. North watched as Casey, almost tenderly, pulled blankets over each of his young friends, tucking the corners in around them to make sure they were warm. Then he stretched, caught North's eye, and nodded, not even embarrassed at being caught in this display of affection.
"'night," he said, heading upstairs. North nodded.
"Good night," he said softly. He didn't bother getting up from his chair to go to bed. He had a lot to think about.