*Here we go again, my friends. I received the inspiration for Refuge last year, while I was still in the process of releasing Redemption. It's a good thing I started writing it while still posting the other fic, because this story took on a life of it's own like none before it. For those of you who didn't get enough of Michelangelo in Redemption, take heart. This is HIS story, from start to finish. Refuge follows in a series of stories I've posted over a couple of years, but have no fear if you aren't familiar with my other fics. Yes, I have a lot of OC's, but I promise I'll catch you up if you give me a chance.
A big thanks goes out to my beta readers on this project, Mikell and sait4soreeyes. Your refining makes me a better writer, and I'm grateful you took the journey with me. Also thanks to Candice and Tonya for following me on Facebook, and offering encouragement along the way. There are several disasters and cliff-hangers in Refuge, but the crux of this story isn't suspense. It's the cry of my own heart and I think that of so many others, who are looking for a safe place in the midst of the storms of life. In that sense it has become a very personal piece of work to me...and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading.
Blue eyes shot open as Michelangelo startled himself awake. His chest heaved painfully with the wracking cough that wasn't letting go of him. The turtle sat up quickly as he fought to catch his breath, and threw both legs over the side of the bed.
Mike bent over as he tried to muffle the attack, but it was much too late to try and hide it. The light clicked on, and he glanced over guiltily to see the curly-haired young woman rubbing sleep from her eyes.
Rebecca drew up on her knees beside him, and gripped his arm anxiously as the wheezing continued.
"Mikey, are you okay? Can you talk to me?"
The orange-masked turtle nodded, but didn't attempt to speak. Rebecca darted to her feet.
"I'm getting Donny!"
"No!" The hoarse word escaped Michelangelo as firmly as he could manage. "I'm o-kay." He gulped air greedily as the attack subsided somewhat. "See? Fine."
Rebecca's blue-green eyes narrowed at him in a way that they rarely did. "You're not fine, Mike! How many times do you expect me to just ignore this?"
"That was the first time in three weeks, Beck."
"I don't care! That cough has held on for way too long. It's been almost three months since you had bronchitis. It shouldn't still be this bad!"
"It isn't that bad," he insisted. "The cough comes and goes. I've even been training without any issues! Donny has been over me a dozen times, and never seemed alarmed about anything. I don't want to invent things for him to worry about."
"Is that what you think I'm doing? That I'm just searching for any excuse to hold you down? Mike, I think something could really be wrong with you, and you should be taking this seriously."
Michelangelo sighed deeply. "Beck, what do you want me to do? Donny said this could be a chronic thing. Am I supposed to run to him every time I have some episode? You know that there isn't anything he can do about it!"
She shook her head. "There have to be more things he could be checking into. Just because he doesn't know what's wrong yet doesn't mean something bigger isn't going on. I really wish you'd talk to him again."
"He's been going over me every week, Becky. I'm sorry this is worrying you so much."
The young woman didn't say anything in response, but the way she clenched her fists indicated her feelings on the matter. Michelangelo gave Becky a plaintive look.
"It's gonna be okay, it really is. The cough is irritating more than anything."
The orange-masked turtle reached out to her, and Becky reluctantly relaxed into his arms. The reprieve was extremely short-lived.
"Mike, you're freezing!"
"Beck, you know how easily we get cold, especially when the temperature drops-"
"No, I don't care how much you deny it! This isn't going away!"
Michelangelo huffed under his breath as he got to his feet. "I'm not hiding anything! I just don't want to make a big deal out of nothing."
"This isn't nothing, Mike, you're sick."
"What do you want me to DO about it?" he demanded heatedly.
"Mikey, I'm just scared, that's all. I want you to be all right."
The desperation in her voice almost broke him completely.
"I know," he said quietly. "But I'm doing the best I can, I am. If you want me to drag Donny out of bed, I will. I'm only pointing out that I've been doing better over the last month or so. Don and the docs wouldn't have cleared me to return to training if I wasn't."
"You're not working out full-time," she reminded him.
"But they wouldn't have signed me off to return at all if there was something seriously wrong, right?" Mike persisted. "I don't wanna fight, Beck."
"Neither do I. Are you coming back to bed?"
"In a minute. I'm gonna grab a sweatshirt, and then I'll be right back."
Michelangelo dug an oversized hoodie out of a drawer, and jerked it over his head as he headed out into the hallway. He stifled a cough by quickly covering his mouth with his sleeve. Mike was painfully aware that Leonardo could hear a pin drop in his sleep, let alone his respiratory issues.
He shook his head as he half-stumbled into the bathroom. Mike hated getting irritated with Rebecca, particularly because she wasn't the source of his annoyance.
Man, I thought I might actually be done with all of this, he thought impatiently. Weeks go by with nothing, and now out of the blue, I can't breathe again.
The turtle leaned tiredly against the sink.
The second I tell Donny or Doc, they're gonna cut back on my training again.
Mike pounded his fist against the edge of the sink a little too hard, but the pain barely registered.
Something's gotta give. Either I'm sick, or I'm not. I wish my body could make up its mind.
Mike buried his chin in the crook of his arm, to prevent the sound of his coughing from traveling beyond the bathroom walls. As he leaned against the pedestal of the sink, he was startled to feel the porcelain tremble under his skin. He nearly jumped as the floor also vibrated underneath him.
What the shell?
Mike cocked his head as he bent closer to the floor, and experimentally pressed a hand against the tile. The faint rumbling was over as quickly as it had begun, further puzzling the turtle.
"Huh." Michelangelo ran some water through the plastic bottle sitting on the sink, took a drink, then filled it up again to take with him.
By the time he'd made it back out to the hall, Rebecca was standing in their doorway, hesitating.
"Did you feel that, Mikey?"
The turtle nodded. "Yep. Can't tell you what it was, but it didn't seem like a big deal. Kinda felt like Raph was running down the stairs." Mike smirked as he cast a glance over the edge of the walkway to the empty living area below. "But it doesn't look he's doing any calisthenics."
Rebecca shook her head and actually smiled. "Are you coming to bed now?"
Mike threw an arm around her back as they walked toward the room, and she returned his embrace with less tension than he'd sensed earlier.
"I don't want to stay on your case, Mike," she murmured.
Before she could say another word, he cut the woman off with a soft kiss.
"I'm sorry for getting irritated with you, Becky. I'm just tired of dealing with all of this."
Rebecca nodded solemnly, but then broke into a wider smile. "I guess I'll just have to take better care of you."
"Now that doesn't sound half bad."
She giggled as he nudged her in the direction of the bed, but it trailed off when Becky noticed him stifling another cough.
At her pained glance, Mike offered her a lop-sided grin. "They're geniuses, Becky, and they always take care of us. I'm telling you, there's nothing to worry about."
Donatello had been sleeping soundly on the ground floor of the Den, when the slight tremor under the mattress jolted him awake. The turtle sat up swiftly in the darkness, but then held still while the quiet rumbling continued.
He cast a glance at the raven-haired woman beside him, but she didn't appear to be stirring. Donny didn't realize he'd been holding his breath until he exhaled sharply out of reflex when the tremor stopped. Living underground for all these years, he'd felt his share of strange disturbances, but this one left him...unsettled.
Whatever it was, it can't have been that serious. I barely felt it, and Jenna didn't even wake up, he reasoned with himself.
Donny shut his eyes, but after a few seconds, it was wholly apparent that he was wide awake. With an irritated grunt he climbed out of bed carefully, hoping not to bother Jenna.
I guess I'm going to have to prove to myself that it was nothing.
The faint illumination of the small night-light they always left on in the living area met him the moment he slipped into the hall. Donatello heard a whimper from behind Raphael and Karina's closed door, and felt an even stronger urge to be silent. He and Jenna rarely heard much out of his older brother's seven-month old, but it wouldn't take a lot to set Olivia off if she was already awake.
Donatello craned his neck from side to side, wincing as it cracked. He reached for the shoulder bag on the table and carried it into the darkened living area. He set it on the coffee table before unzipping the bag and removing his laptop.
While the computer started up, he reached for the TV remote. Chances were, not many people had felt it on the surface, and it could have originated from several miles away. Donny chalked his sleeplessness up to his own incessant curiosity, and flipped to a local channel that might contain breaking news on the possible earthquake. He glanced at the TV intermittently as he logged onto the internet.
A muted cry was his first clue that someone was coming, and Donatello glanced over his shoulder to see Raphael staggering down the hallway with the baby turtle. Donny gave him an appraising glance, as the red-masked turtle yawned stiffly.
"Hey," Raph announced, somewhat less than enthusiastically. "What are you doing up, Genius? Are we lookin' at the end of the world as we know it?"
Donny gave him a dry smile. "I doubt it, Raph, but it shook me up for some reason."
"You've never needed much of a reason to get up in arms over something." Raphael snickered.
"Look who's talking." Don grinned, as a whimpering Olivia suddenly looked over at him from his brother's shoulder. "Are you getting any real sleep, Raph?" he asked sympathetically.
Raphael shrugged. "Started out pretty good tonight, but she's been fussy on and off for the last hour or so."
"You know she'd probably sleep better if you and Karina got her in her own space."
"But then we'd be further away from Olivia too. I don't want to burden Leo and Mikey or their girls with this. Liv is my baby."
"We've been through this, Raph. One of the happy couples upstairs would switch with you and Karina if you asked them to. That way, Olivia could be in the other empty room on the second floor, and you guys would still be close by. Why haven't you talked to either of our brothers?"
Raphael hesitated a moment. "I s'pose I should get on that, huh?"
"Sure wouldn't hurt to try. You look really tired, bro."
Raphael rolled his eyes. "Don't start transferring your worry over Mikey onto me, Don."
The purple-masked turtle unconsciously furrowed his brow. It was true that some of his anxiety over his younger brother had diminished over the last couple of weeks, but there was a nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him to keep an eye on Michelangelo.
Probably just my over protectiveness rearing its ugly head, but it still doesn't make any sense. I might need to check his white blood cell count again.
Donatello blinked, and noticed Raphael sitting in front of him once more.
"I said the wrong thing, didn't I?" his brother asked quietly.
Donny gave Raphael a faint smile. "I've got a lot on my mind, Raph. So what's my niece doing up, huh? Is she in training to be a night-owl?"
"Heading into overtime." Raphael groaned. "You know what makes it worse? I've gotten so paranoid over her waking up Kari, every little noise has me jumping. I'm waking up about every hour on the hour, just to make sure she's cool. I'm starting to feel a little bit loopy."
"Raph, talk to Leo or Mikey, tomorrow. In the meantime, give Olivia here. I'm not sleeping anyway, and you look seriously deprived."
"I ain't gonna saddle you with her, Don, but you can hold Liv while I get her a bottle."
Donatello set aside his laptop and accepted the baby into his arms. Olivia sniffled as she gazed up at him with Raphael's amber eyes, and Donny wrapped her blanket tighter around her.
"You gotta quit giving your Dad such a hard time, Liv."
Olivia squirmed somewhat once the little girl realized that her father was no longer in sight.
"Now calm down, he's going to be right back," Donny assured her.
She didn't look entirely convinced, and Donatello could only hope that Karina was sleeping deeply enough not to be disturbed if Olivia started crying. Seeing the woman return to work with the Dance Company brought joy to the entire family, but it also added pressure on his brother to make sure she got enough sleep.
The red-masked turtle returned to the living area a few seconds later, and immediately reached for the baby.
"Raph, I've got her. Why don't you take a load off already?"
"Donny, you don't have to-"
"No one said I did. It's fine, bro. She's here, I'm here, and I'm not tired. Give me the bottle."
Raphael gave him a weary smile. "Okay, Genius, I'm not gonna stand here and argue with you at one in the morning."
The red-masked turtle dropped into the recliner with a mighty thump, as Donny turned his attention to feeding Olivia. The baby struggled restlessly for a few moments, but eventually relaxed into contentedly sucking from the bottle.
Donatello smiled as she drifted off, and her breathing became even. He shifted her carefully so that he wouldn't disturb Olivia while he set the bottle aside. He glanced over at Raphael and almost laughed out loud when he realized his brother was asleep too.
I guess this can work. I'll just wait for a few minutes to make sure she's really asleep, and put her down in the playpen. I don't want to risk putting her back in with Karina, not if she's still fussy. I think it's better to let both sleeping turtles lie.