A/N: An epilogue, of sorts. Thanks are below, as always. Sorry this one was so short... I promise my next fic will be longer! :)


Homeboy… come on, homeboy.
Come on home… boy.


Chapter 9 ~Thanks~

Raphael glared across the room at Casey. Long silences were nothing new between them, but Casey'd been quiet so long Raph knew something was up.

"What's goin' through dat thick head o' yers, Jones?" he growled.

"Huh?" Casey turned to look at his friend. Raph saw the flicker in his eyes, regret and anger, as his gaze landed on his plastron.

Raphael let out a heavy sigh. "Eyes up here, ya pervert." He smirked when Casey's wide blue eyes snapped up to his face.

"Hey! I ain't no pervert… Yer too ugly fer me anyway, ya freak," Casey returned, his shock melting into a familiar grin.

"I'm ugly? Ya looked in a mirror lately?" Raph shot back.

He repressed the urge to rub his hand over the scar that still marred his plastron. It didn't ache anymore, and it was slowly healing over, just as Donatello had predicted it would. He'd been lucky, in more ways than one. Donny'd been frantic to get the beam off his brother, even though Raph assured him he felt fine. It had been surprisingly easy, with three brothers working together to lift on the beam, to slide out from under.

By the time they'd gotten him loose, Carl had managed to talk Casey Jones into taking his kid brother back to his apartment on the motorcycle. Raph figured it was just as well that the kid was out of the way. The tension pouring off Leo in waves when he'd set the beam down and come over to help Raph up was so strong Raph was surprised he wasn't vibrating.

"You ok, Bro?" was all Leo'd asked, but Raphael knew his brother well enough to recognize the breaking point when he saw it.

"Yeah, Fearless. 'm ok."

He'd looked at the remaining human, vaguely curious, but more concerned with getting out of that warehouse and getting home. Carl had been waiting, standing well back out of the way, until the three brothers had succeeded in freeing Raphael. Once Raph was out, he approached Leo cautiously. Raph had nearly growled as he came closer, but he was having trouble holding himself upright. The crushing weight had left his limbs tingling, as if his muscles had fallen asleep. Don and Mike moved to either side and Leo stood firmly in front of him, as if they needed to guard him. Raphael smirked at the thought. The guy was clearly no threat. He was trembling, and stopped well back, giving Leonardo plenty of space.

"Is he ok?" The man's eyes flicked past Leo to Don. Raphael forced himself to stand straighter, glaring, but the man returned his gaze steadily, with more awe than fear.

"He'll be fine." Leonardo was watching the man like a hawk.

"Good. I'm sorry my brother caused you so much trouble. He won't bother you again," Carl assured them. He hesitated, but spoke to Leo again. "Can I... talk to you? Just for a minute? I know you want to get him home..." The human trailed off under Leonardo's predatory gaze, but Leo'd nodded once, gesturing to the others. "Go. I'll catch up."

"Fearless..."

Leo'd ignored Raph's protest.

"Come on, Raph. We need to get out of here," Don's voice was so firm, Raph didn't argue. He recognized Donny's need to check him over, to assure himself his brother's limbs were all in working order. He let Don and Mike crowd him up the fire escape without protest. They waited five minutes on the roof before Leonardo joined them.

"Let's get out of here."

Leonardo'd insisted on making just one more stop that night. They stood on the docks, and he pitched the gun, in pieces, into the East River.

Shell, thought Raph. Never t'ought I'd be so glad ta get back underground. Dat was a hell of a night.

"Can't you two agree that you're both equally handsome and leave it at that?" Leonardo's voice startled Raph so badly, he nearly toppled off the chair.

"Damn it, Leo, I tol' ya, don't do dat!" Casey snapped, his irritation a clear sign Leo'd startled him as badly as Raph.

"Sorry." Leonardo grinned, sliding the window closed behind him. "What're you two up to?"

"We're jus' hangin' out, Fearless," said Raphael. "Case here's been admirin' da view."

Whatever Casey might've said was cut off by the buzz of his cell phone. He snatched it out of his pocket.

"Yo, talk ta me."

Raphael rolled his eyes, but Casey ignored him, his face lighting up.

"Carl! How're things on the farm? You keepin' that brother of yours out of trouble?..."

Leonardo tensed, and Raphael shifted, uneasy. There was something about Casey being friends with the brother of a Purple Dragon… a former Purple Dragon, that didn't set well with him.

Leo don't like it, neither. He still ain't forgave Casey fer bringin' Carl in dat night. Good t'ing he did though. If he hadn't showed up, dat kid woulda shot me fer sure.

He waited while Casey paced, punctuating his comments with hand gestures. He didn't get much from hearing one side of the conversation.

"Yeah?... Oh, yeah I remember… Yeah?... Ok… Sounds good…. You too, Carl…. What?... Wait a minute, he's right here. Ya can tell 'im yerself."

Both Turtles tensed as Casey held out the phone.

"He wants ta talk ta ya, Leo."

"Um… all right, I guess," said Leonardo, reluctantly taking the cell from Casey. He held it delicately, as if he expected it to bite.

"Yes, this is Leonardo."

In almost any other circumstances, Raphael would've rolled his eyes, smirking at his brother's tension. Shell, Fearless. It's a phone. He can't get ya.

"I'm happy to hear that… Good… Yes, I understand…" Leonardo chuckled. "It sounds as if you're doing really well… You're welcome. Take care, Carl… No problem. Goodbye."

When he hung up, Raphael was glaring at him, his arms crossed over his chest.

"John's going back to school," said Leonardo, his tone casual. He handed Casey back his cell phone. "There's a college not far from their uncle's farm. He's studying architecture."

"Imagine, little Johnny, designin' buildin's an' stuff." Casey shook his head.

"Yeah, guess dat's a step up from da Purple Dragons," said Raph.

"I tol' ya, he's changed," said Casey. "John weren't no bad kid, jus' a little dumb. Carl'll keep 'im outta trouble."

As long as he keeps 'im outta da City, thought Raph grimly.

"I hope so," said Leonardo with a faint smile. "It sounds as if they're doing better."

"He will, Leo. You'll see. Dat family's tight. They look out fer each other," insisted Casey.

"Well, I'm glad John's doing something constructive with his life," said Leonardo. "Are you two ready to head down? Mikey wants to get movie night started. We even managed to get Don out of the lab."

"Now dat's a minor miracle," said Casey with a grin. "I'll meet yous guys down there, ok? I promised Ape I'd pick 'er up."

"Sounds good, Casey," said Leo easily. "You ready to head out, Raph?"

"Yeah, Fearless, I'm comin'," said Raph without much rancor. Leonardo'd relaxed quite a bit in the past couple of weeks since the accident. They all had. Even Mikey wasn't glued quite as tightly to Raph's shell. Still, Raphael knew he'd be glad when his brothers got over the whole incident entirely and things went back to normal. Deliberately avoiding arguments with Leo was beginning to wear on his nerves.

"See ya, Case."

Raphael followed his brother out into the night, heading up the fire escape to make their way to their usual manhole cover a few blocks away via rooftop. He debated for about three seconds before deciding it was time to stop tiptoeing around with Leo.

He was right ta be mad. I shouldn'ta gone off on my own dat night, but it's time we both got over it. Me bein' dumb once don't mean he gets ta jus' do whatever he wants without me gettin' on his shell about it.

"What was dat all about, Fearless?" he demanded once they'd reached the roof.

Leonardo paused, turning to face his brother, his expression unreadable. "What? The phone call? It was nothing, Raph."

"Leo…"

Leonardo looked away. Raphael watched him, frowning. If he didn't know better, he would've thought Leo looked embarrassed.

"Raph, honestly, it was nothing." He looked up finally, meeting Raph's eyes, and sighed.

"Ok. That night, he wanted to thank me. For giving him a chance to save his brother."

"Lucky fer him," muttered Raph.

Leonardo nodded, and went on. "I talked to him a little. About his brother. About… some of the things that… can go wrong, you know? About how to handle him better. He just wanted… to let me know they're doing better."

"Ya mean ya talked about how ya handle me?" Raph bristled, his fists clenching.

"No. Raph, listen… All I told him was… he needs to respect his brother," said Leo quietly. "He needs to be there for him. To listen to him, and, once he's proved he can handle things, to trust him to make decisions for himself."

Raphael stared at his brother a moment longer. Leonardo returned his gaze steadily, not backing down.

Finally Raphael gave him a short nod. "Ya done good, Bro."

A slow smile spread across Leo's face. "Thanks."

Raphael shook his head. Lookit us, gettin' all sentimental.

Leonardo's smile turned mischievous, an expression Raph didn't see often from his eldest brother.

"Race you."

Raphael laughed. It felt good, to be here in the clear night, with his brother, about to kick his shell in a roof-top foot race. Yes. Life was good.

He nodded, smirking. "See ya at home, Bro."


A/N: And that, dear friends, is that... at least for now.

I'll try to update my profile occasionally to keep interested readers up to date on upcoming stories. Currently I'm writing the sequel to Heroes and Friends, titled Hero's Return. It's going to be a while, I'm afraid. College, freelancing and homeschooling our son is going to be eating up a lot of my time, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to begin posting, but I promise I haven't disappeared forever. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the amazing fics-in-progress I mentioned in my Chapter 1 A/N by my AWESOME beta readers!

Many thanks to Melody Winters, Fair Drea and DuckiePray. Without their support and input, I likely would not have finished this story, let alone posted it.

And thanks, as always, to those who took the time to read and review this little tale:

TigerToa- who made me giggle with her first review "NOO Raph!... welcome back, Mikell, nice to see you..." LOL
DuckiePray- who, as always, rocks my TMNT world. Can not WAIT to see this gal's original fiction on the bookshelves!
MelodyWinters- Who sleeps about as much as Don and is just as smart, tho she tries to deny it. Love you, Girl!
Leonardo1885- Another author rocking the TMNT-verse with her awesome fics! :)
Britteny of Angels- For a nice review
Laughter's Tears- For making me laugh with her sarcasm "yeah, the hockey mask is 'for keeping up the reputation'" heh
artychick7- For nice reviews and also for her amazing depictions of scenes from Leonardo's Angel, which you can see on Deviant Art under the same screen-name. I am continually amazed at the talent and generosity! *hugs
Margui- for kind reviews. :)
Goddess Hanyuu- for inspiration, for awesome translation and beta help in my earlier fics, and for being awesome. :)
Linzerj- For epic foreshadowing, sensing a rescue mission ;)
Icy Rundas- for "Nothing's ever easy with you, Mikell", which made me lol... because it's so true. ;)
Karrey- for loving suspense.
chibiwolf33- for loving cliffies
ZathuraRoy- for foresight :)
LilNinjaWolf- for hoping Raph's not dead
notawordsmith- for such a kind review! :')
Twilightlvr5- for reading despite the cliffies.
Jenihenpen- for being gripped.
WebMistressGina-for catching my goof *blushing* and for watching for grammar and other goofs :)
Silverdragonstar- for liking Carl and Leo's meeting. heh

Until next time! Doomo arigato, and sayoonara!