The TMNT and TMNT universe are property of Nickelodeon/Viacom Entertainment, based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. This story is non-profit and for the fans.


Strong Language, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes


- Stealthy Stories Competition 2011

3rd Place Best Raphael Scene, 3rd Place Best OC, HM for Best Villain and Best ... Ending


Ninja Tune is a real record label, a great one if you're into underground hip-hop and electronic artists/DJs. I like Shadow a lot, but I'm with the lady - his earlier stuff was better.


Underneath it All

by demonsweat




-Chapter 01-



Leonardo knew from the very start that there was no winning this battle. He'd been up against countless opponents, had looked into the face of defeat too many times. But with the Foot, he'd always come out on top. This was something else entirely, an adversary that knew him, that knew his weaknesses and wouldn't hesitate to exploit them to the fullest extent.

He stared his opponent down. With one last effort Leo tried to hold steady, willing himself to maintain his position just a little longer. "Don't think I'm going to give in so easily," he said.

"You really think you can stop me?"

A sure smile crept up over their leader's face. "You really think I can't?"

Michelangelo grinned wide with mischievous intent, telling his brother that he knew exactly how empty that threat was. Of course Leo wouldn't actually try to keep him from doing this and asking his permission was a formality, but it was the order of things. Leo was sensei now and he called the shots, both in battle and out. Besides, Mike knew that if he worked his older brother long enough, he'd get what he wanted. Leo stepped into the kitchen with Mike close behind. Raphael and Donatello were both already there, getting a head start on their post-training chow session. Or one of them was, at least. The other had his attention turned towards his laptop, ignoring the plate at his side. A few seconds later he'd be reminded it was there in the form of several insults, comparisons to figures such as Rain Man, Stephen Hawking (and any other eccentric geniuses Raphael could think of), all culminating in the gripe that if he was going to ask Raph to make him a sandwich, the least he could do was eat the damn thing.

Donatello's disregard for bodily necessities aside, Mike kept on his oldest brother as they entered into the kitchen, opting to move towards a new approach. "Hey, but Leo? It's totally cool. I mean, I know you're just looking out, and that's pretty awesome. Whatever you decide, I know it's for the best. We all do. Right guys?" He was answered by a couple of grunts from around the room. "Seriously, you're a badass leader, dude. And an awesome brother. And yeah, I'll say it – the second most handsome -"

"Flattery isn't going to work," Leo muttered, cutting him off.

Michelangelo slumped a little, thinking. Maybe it was time to play hardball. He walked over a few steps and slapped a hand down on Leo's shoulder. With a sudden, serious expression, he said, "Okay listen, dude. You're my brother, and I love you. But if you don't let me go to this show, I will make your life a living hell." He turned it on, a madman's grin and a crazed look in his eye, knowing Leo would get the point. And did he ever. How many weeks ahead of items super-glued together, refrigerator liquids tampered with, or body parts doodled on did Leo have? Mike wouldn't tire easily, he knew that from experience. Leo sighed.

"Threats aren't going to work either." He went to the stove, gathering the tea kettle and running it under the faucet.

"What about begging?" Mike fell to his knees, clasping his hands and hamming it up as hard as he could. "Pleeeeeese! Please, please, please! Leo - I really wanna go! C'mon, I'll do anything!"

Leonardo rubbed his forehead, feeling suddenly tired. "Look, let's be serious a second – what you're asking is a little crazy. Being that close to so many people is bad enough, but what if our enemies catch sight of you? They'll know immediately who you are, don't kid yourself."

"Dude, it's Halloween. That's the beauty of it, Leo! I can dress up – as myself! It doesn't matter if we look funny under the clothes, people will just think that's part of the costume. Get it? So I'll be some dude dressed up as one of the 'ninja lizard vigilantes', like in the papers." He laughed, apparently pleased with the idea. "It's a rad costume idea anyways. Obscure, yet edgy… you know the ladies'll be all over it."

"Now I'm sure you're delusional." Leo let out another tired sigh. "This club will be dark?" he asked.

"Yup. And I'll be in my shadow gear too - hood, facemask, everything - just in case. The show is Ninja Tune, there's totally gonna be tons of people dressed as ninjas, no doubt. I'll blend right in!"

"I still think this is stupidly risky for something so dumb."

"Aw c'mon, it's not dumb! Dude, I love these guys. And word on the street is that Shadow might drop in for a short set himself, which is crazy. He's not even on that label, he's just in town shooting a movie or something. I mean, how lucky is that? Dude, DJ Shadow!" Mike exclaimed, as if Leo would have any idea who that was. "If I don't go, I'm never gonna get the chance to see him again!"

"Fer cryin' out loud," Raph butt in, "would ya just let him go already? At least he'll stop askin' about it."

Their leader shook his head. He couldn't win, Mike was just too geared up over this. Halloween had always been a fun time for them in the past, one of the few days that they could walk around the surface more incognito than usual. But as time went on and the appeal of trick-or-treating waned, so too did the interest in the holiday altogether. At least, for everyone except Mikey. The youngest turtle had never really been able to let go, insisting each year that they do something fun, even if it was just patrolling the streets and watching people in costume, or vegging out to monster movies until the wee hours and snacking down on store-bought candy. Not quite as exciting as it had been in the short amount of years when they'd actually been able to go door-to-door fully engaged in the holiday. But this year was different. This year there just happened to be a group of musicians – his favorite ones, he kept insisting – playing a Halloween-themed show at a club just off of Canal Street, and Mike couldn't be talked out of it.

Leo caved. "Alright, okay." He sighed yet again, wondering offhand if he'd be able to take a vacation someday. Maybe go upstate, or just to the farmhouse for a few days. He poured his tea slowly, relishing in the aroma. Who was he kidding. How could he relax anywhere, leaving his brothers to their own devices? "You can go. But I don't think you should go alone. One of us should tag along." He looked around the room for help.

Tearing his eyes away from his computer, Donatello said, "Ohh no. Count me out. I don't do loud music. Plus, I have way too much work to do. And on that note, back I go." He stood, snapping the laptop shut and shoving his chair back with a loud, abrupt screech.

Once he was out of the room, Leo stared down the remaining recruit. "You know I can't stand that music," Leo said to him.

"Well I ain't in love with it either," Raph snapped back a little. "You want me to babysit him? What do I get outta this?"

"Ahm… my gratitude?" Leo chuckled. Raphael shot him sour look.

"C'mon Raph, it's gonna be a blast! There's gonna be tons of hot chicks there." Mike grinned. "And you know they'll be dressed up in those skimpy little Halloween outfits..."

In a move he was sure to regret, Raphael agreed. "Alright so ya talked me into it. Ya still owe me, though." Grabbing Don's untouched plate, he handed it off to Mike. "Here. You can start by taking this to the egghead. I swear he's gonna starve t'death one a these days."





Here it comes, Raph thought. He knew that the second Mike had permission to go to this thing, it was going to come to this. It was almost as if he could predict every obnoxious word out of his little brother's mouth. As the two of them trudged through the sewers, Raph tried to change the subject several times, to no avail.

"C'mon dude, I thought you were with me here. You know you kinda sound like Leo."

Raph let out a long, exhausted breath. "It causes me pain to say this, but Leo's right. You can't go exposin' yourself to every girl that smiles at ya."

Mike busted up laughing. "Expose myself!? Hey, I'm no pervert!"

"You know what I mean," Raph grumbled. He was already annoyed at this and the damn show was still two days away. "This is why I gotta go with ya, ya realize. You need a goddamn babysitter every time you leave the lair."

"I do not! Jeez, you guys overreact about every little thing." Mike pushed up the sewer lid, peeking out and listening. Deeming it safe, he slid it over and exited, extending a hand down for his brother.

"Yer not serious?" On his feet, Raphael turned towards Mike in a hushed tone. "Did I not just rescue your ass from the Foot, what – two weeks ago? If that?"

"Aw dude, not this again," Mike groaned. "Seriously, that was not my fault. I was ambushed! Those guys must've been watching April's place, waiting for me to come out."

"Oh ya think? Maybe that's 'cuz they're always watching her place. Ya idiot," he muttered. "Shoulda taken the basement out."

"Yeah, thanks – already got that advice from Leo and Donnie. Hey, some of us like fresh air, sorry." He hit the fire escape and headed up, Raph at his heels. The night air was chilly, but not unbearable. They were each dressed in loose clothes, hooded sweatshirts and baggy pants, just enough to keep the wind from biting. Once on the roof, Mike pulled one nunchaku, twirling it around absently. "You know," he said, "this could be the night though. Once I break out my badass ninja moves on the dance floor, everyone's gonna want a piece of that. Yep," he said sighing and looking away dreamily, "no chick's gonna be able to resist me."

"Yeah." Raph sat down close by and reached into his pocket, pulling out a flask. After taking a swig, he handed it off to Mike. "That's gonna go real well until one of 'em gets a look under yer 'mask'."

Mike grimaced at the burning liquid and capped off the container, handing it back. "Dude, fair warning though. Once the ladies are swarming all over me, don't get all jealous. Hey, maybe I'll kick you down a few, huh? You can totally be my wingman."

"Right. 'Cuz that's exactly what I was hopin' to get outta this. Your leftovers." He shuddered at the thought. "So I can see yer off yer meds again. I gotta get Donnie to start slippin' something into yer food, I think."

Mike brushed him off. "C'mon, it's not that crazy. Dude, it's gonna happen, I can feel it." He grinned eagerly. "Check it out, here's what I'm thinking. I meet some girl and get her to hang with me, just talk for a while. I'll tell her I've got some kinda secret job, like those dudes in the CIA –the ones that can't tell their families what they do. It's so secret, I can't even show her my real face, right? So then I just turn on the charm. We'll meet up again, in secret, maybe for a few days or weeks – then bam!" He slapped his fist. "I reveal: the truth. By that point she'll be so in love with me, she won't care what I look like. See? That could totally work! Or scrap the CIA story and just tell her I'm a for real vigilante. Some chicks are into that, you know? They like dudes that are a little bit dangerous."

Raphael rolled his eyes. "Ya definitely need yer head examined. That's it, I'm talkin' to Donnie." Jokes aside, Raph hated this. He hated the whole subject. He knew what he was and what that meant years ago, he was over it. They'd all discussed it at some point or another, each with varying degrees of acceptance. After all, their father had never been with a woman and he'd led a very full and rewarding life. That desire was strong now but it would lessen over time, he'd told them. They just needed to focus more on their training and put the idea out of their heads.

Mike popped up onto his hands, spinning around and finishing the move off by rolling onto his shell. A second later he was back on his hands again, swinging his legs around and around, looking a little like a gymnast practicing on a pommel horse. He followed that up with a series of flips and turns, all the while keeping to the beat in his head, practicing various moves he'd picked up from watching the b-boy troupes that performed across the city. Eventually, Mike's body came to a halt and he froze, laid out on the ground and looking at his brother. With a cheesy smile, he said, "C'mon, be honest - if you were a chick, you'd be all over this."

"Mikey just let it go already," Raph said, losing his patience for the conversation. "It ain't gonna happen for us, and that's the way it is." He took another pull from the flask.

"Well it won't with that kinda attitude," Mike chuckled. He stood, joining Raph at the rooftop's edge. Dropping down next to him, he asked, "What's with the whole doom-and-gloom act? I mean yeah, we might have to work harder at it than most dudes, but it's not impossible. Like I said, some girls are into guys that are different, you know? We're like, something that's mysterious and exciting."

Raph scrunched up his snout. "Who told ya that?"

He shrugged. "April."

"Yeah, well April's kind of a special case." Raph looked off a second, thinking it over. "'Sides, even she's hooked up with another human. That should tell ya right there. She knows us better'n anybody, and still, even she can't stand the thought."

"Well…" Mike frowned, somewhat at a loss for words. "That's not true," he finished. "I mean, just 'cuz she never hooked up with any of us doesn't mean she's like, disgusted by the idea."

"Says you."

Mike looked at his brother suspiciously. What was that supposed to mean? April and Casey had gotten together a couple of years after they'd all met but it had been obvious that there was an attraction there for some time. Plus, Raph and Casey were friends. When Raph had met the nutcase in the hockey mask, he'd seen a lot of himself in the human; they both spent their nights cleaning up the streets, they both struggled to come to grips with their rage. Even today, the two of them were as close as anything, often patrolling together whenever the others were off doing something else. They were similar in every way, save for the obvious. Was that what Raph was on about?

"Are you trying to tell me you're jealous of Casey, or something?"

Raph made a disgusted noise. "Look, just drop it."

"Dude, he and April are happy together. I mean, you don't wanna get in between that, do you?"

"Mikey, for god's sake." He buried his face in his hand. "Look, it ain't what yer thinkin'. I'm not carryin' a torch or nothin' here. I just always thought…" he stalled, unsure of how to put it.


"Well…" Again he stopped, stumbling. "Well I - I just figured that maybe things woulda been different, okay? If we didn't look this way."

They sat in silence for a few seconds. When they'd first encountered April the idea had seemed like a possibility, albeit a slim one. Wishful thinking on the part of a bunch of fifteen year olds. And that was the real reason wasn't it? She'd been an adult when they'd met and the age difference meant much more back then. Not to mention that they were all brothers and that would certainly complicate things. And besides, things just didn't work out that way. To Mike, none of that mattered. April loved them like family and surely if anyone could see past their obvious differences, it was her.

Finally, Mike said, "I don't think that's true. April's cool, she wouldn't care."

Raph shook his head. "People talk a big game, about how looks don't matter, how what matters is on the inside and all that. It's crap. Ya can't fight it, it's instinct. Everybody knows it's wrong to judge a person on their looks, but they all do it anyways."

Mike looked down. "Not everybody's like that, Raph."

"Yeah well most people are. And it ain't like we get the pick a the litter."

"Maybe we'll get lucky," Mike said, perking up a little. "Hey, people are into some freaky stuff. You should ask Donnie to show you some of those sites he visits online." He laughed a little. "If some chicks are down with half the stuff I saw on there, we're gold."

"Riiight." He rolled his eyes. "Like the geek would know. I really doubt most women are getting their rocks off to Reptiles Quarterly. And let's not forget what we do and where we live. What, you gonna bring some girl back to your sewer? Forget it, Mikey. It ain't gonna happen, yer better off accepting it now."

Mike sighed, fed up with what Donnie called 'yet another fatalistic diatribe from the turtle in perpetual, existential crisis'. "Well, that's uplifting. That's why I love hanging out with you, dude – you really know how to keep morale high around here." Frustrated, the younger turtle shoved himself off of the cement outcrop and stood up.

"Well excuse me for livin' in the real world -"

"You know what?" Mike turned towards him, cutting him off. "I am sick to death of your whole, 'this the real world, the real world sucks', crap. You think you're so smart, like you got this figured out when the rest of us don't. Dude, I know all this. I know chances are pretty small that I'm gonna find somebody, but you know what? I don't care. I'm gonna keep trying." He started to walk away.

"Where ya goin'? Ain't we gonna run?"

"Forget it, I'm going home to play video games. You know," he said, slipping into a tone heavy with sarcasm, "to escape this awful reality for a little while."

Raphael frowned, watching him go. Well screw him, then. But maybe he'd been a little too harsh. It wasn't an easy thing to come to grips with and it was especially difficult watching his usually optimistic sibling continue to deny the reality of it. Mike would come around eventually. Just like the rest of them, he'd have to accept that they would always be freaks in the eyes of the general population.

As Raphael looked out over the city, listening to the sounds of its inhabitants, his thoughts wandered to them. They'd gotten by all these years on the idea that it was too fantastic that such beings could exist; even the papers reported them as 'vigilantes in strange costumes'. Thugs that were lucky enough to catch a glimpse and tell about it insisted that they were dressed as any number of things, from frogs to aliens (and in one case, demons). It was a good thing, Leo would say. This blind denial of their existence made it easier for them to stay under the radar. Don would go on about how it's a natural thing, a part of basic human psychology to blindly refuse belief in anything that didn't fit into the realm of known logic, but Raph didn't really care one way or the other. He knew Leo and Don were sugarcoating the obvious. They'd never be accepted by this world, by these people. They were freaks of nature and it didn't matter how many lives they saved or how much good they did, the humans would never see them as anything but. As he sat there listening to them on the streets below, he tried not to think about what it would be like to be one of them. To live and work and love… to be normal.





At the front entrance to their lair, the two brothers faced off in their usual way, the older looking over the younger with a scrutinizing eye. "Stay close to him. I don't want a repeat of what happened a couple of weeks ago." Leo leaned in, adding, "And stay sharp."

Raph smirked. "Don't worry, I'm bringing the good stuff." He pulled up his shirt, revealing a small flask in his belt.

Leo turned away, shaking his head. "Why do I know I'm going to regret this," he muttered under his breath.

"Ah quit'cher worrin', Fearless." He clapped his brother on the back. "With me there, ya got nothin' to worry about."

Moments later saw Mike and Raph heading out, hitting the streets on this most devilish of nights, the moon high and full and casting its light on the hordes of costumed kids that had now taken over the streets. The two brothers were dressed as promised, head to toe in black ninja gear complete with gloves, tabi-style boots and hoods covering their heads. Each wore a swatch of black, elastic fabric that pulled up around the mouth and snout, so that if anyone were close enough, they wouldn't notice any odd details about the face (although the shape wasn't right, on a night like tonight, no one would think twice about it). Only the space around their eyes was uncovered, but each had foregone his mask as well so as not to bring attention to that area. For the most part, they looked good enough to pass as any other costumed reveler, but Leo had been right. If they weren't careful, their enemies, knowing what details to look for, might be able to pick them out.

They headed towards the club, taking the streets for a change and enjoying the ability to do so. Even though Halloween didn't have quite the same mystique as it once had, it was still fun to walk amongst people as one of them, to pretend they were just a part of the crowd. They talked along the way, Mike chattering excitedly about the various performers they were about to see and Raph doing his best to not seem completely uninterested. As much as Mike had annoyed the hell out of him over this, he had to admit that his brother's utter joy at this outing was a little infectious. Besides, Raph didn't hate being around humans. Deep down, he enjoyed things like this. It was something he and Mike actually had in common, a shared curiosity about the people that inhabited the world above them. Raph's approach however, was along the lines of stay-hidden-and-observe, whereas his little brother was more of a hands-on kind of guy. A little too hands on, in the opinion of the others; it was generally considered that Mike's shenanigans were one of the reasons stories of their existence made it to the papers in the first place. And just one more reason their leader had tried to talk Mike out of tonight's festivities.

Several blocks from the club they passed by a group of a half dozen or so kids, young teenagers, probably looking at their last or next to last outings for candy. Their outfits revolved more around the macabre, bloody and torn, emulating certain undead creature films that had suddenly risen in popularity over the last few years.

"Ooh, nice costumes," Mike said to them. "Hey, I'll show you something really cool for a candy bar!"

The kids slowed to a stop. "Yeah? What?" One of them said, a little suspicious.

"Okay, check it out." Mike backed up, getting some room. With a burst of speed he ran at the wall of the nearest building, running up the brick a few steps and pushing off into a backflip. Landing perfectly, he took a little bow. "Ta-da!"

The kids looked at each other. The one who spoke before piped up again. "My cousin does parkour, he can do that too."

"Huh. Tough crowd," Mike said to his brother. "Okay, how 'bout this?"

Raph knew what was coming. Mike was all hopped up on adrenaline to begin with; add in his natural flair for showboating and it was a dangerous combination. He sensed his brother's attack just in time, shifting out of the way and grabbing Mike's leg at the last second. With a hard twist, he sent Mike off of his feet and spiraling towards the ground. The younger turtle landed hard on his shell with an oomph, causing a bit of laughter to erupt amongst their onlookers. Not to be outdone, Michelangelo rolled, popping back onto his feet in an instant and tossing a punch at Raph instead. He missed, but countered Raph's next attack, knocking him back hard enough that a few of the kids had to step back themselves. They traded back and forth like that for a few minutes, using just light kicks and punches, sparring and laughing all the way. By the end, a few more people had stopped to watch, forming a small crowd around them. Even Raph started getting into it; with an audience, it was hard not to show off a little. Finally, Raph managed to get Mike into a hold and threw him, tossing him into a giant pile of trash bags on the side of the street and effectively ending the match. The people around all laughed, a few clapping.

Taking his brother's hand up, Mike turned back towards the kids. "So c'mon, hook me up!" He held his palms out, ready to catch.

The kid who'd spoken before reached into his sack, obliging him. "Alright, that was pretty cool." Before moving on, he asked, "Hey, what are you guys supposed to be, anyways?"

"Ninjas," Raph said matter-of-factly.

"Mutant ninjas," Mike corrected him.

"That's lame," the kid grinned wide, laughing a little. He headed off down the street, joining his friends.

"What? Aw…." Mike turned away, ducking down the nearest alley, opting to take the back route the rest of the way. Pulling down his face mask, he shoved the candy bar into his mouth. "Pff, kids. What do they know," he said, between bites. A second later, he grimaced, looking at what he was eating. "Ugh! Little punk gave me an Almond Joy? Seriously, it should be illegal to put fake coconut in anything."

He'd scarcely finished chewing when the figures dropped down around them. "Kame freaks," one of the Foot soldiers said to them, "you reveal yourselves so readily. Do not think you can hide beneath such a transparent disguise."

Right away Raph and Mike turned, putting their backs to one another and pulling their weapons. Mike said, "For dudes that run around dressed in pajamas every day of the year, you guys sure are judgmental."

They didn't give him any more time for jokes. There were only six of them, enough to put up a good fight, but neither one of the brothers was worried. As they put the ninjas down one by one, Raph kept looking around, expecting more. But it seemed luck was on their side this time. Raph felt good, he was in good form tonight. He laid out two with a single attack, wrenching his sais from their carcasses a second later. He tripped up a third, assisting Mike, who followed up by bashing his twin nunchaku into the unfortunate soldier's skull a second later. Following through, Mike swung one of his weapons behind in a long, sweeping move, nailing another who'd been coming up on his rear. The soldier went down hard and another hit from the nunchaku-wielding turtle made sure he stayed there.

It was too easy. Four of the soldiers went down in less than a minute. With their brethren lying dead and bleeding in the dim alleyway, the last two made a break for it, attempting to retreat up a fire escape nearby.

"Aw, ain't that cute," Raph said to his brother. "These guys think they're gonna get away."

"Ha, yeah right!" Mike stood, dusting himself off. Motioning towards the wrought iron ladder, he added, "After you."

"Why thank you," Raph said with a grin, leaping up after the ninjas with Mike right behind.

At the top, Raph sprinted after them. They never had a chance. One turned at the last second but got a sai buried in his gut; the other Raph tackled to the ground from behind and wrestled with while Mike finished him off. A few moments later the last two soldiers lay dead on the rooftop.

"Huh." Raph looked around. "Kinda expected more up here. Thought those guys might be leadin' us into a trap or somethin'."

"Yeah, no kidding. Gotta say I'm almost disappointed, I was just getting warmed up."

They didn't spend time debating it. No doubt the Foot had caught sight of their antics on the street. Raph and Mike's moves gave them away in an instant, there was no mistaking the brothers' fighting style. And it wasn't rare to see a small patrol out like this, nor was it totally unexpected to be jumped by them. So why was Raph getting an uneasy feeling?

He shook it off. It was probably nothing, just Leo's nagging getting to him, maybe. He said to Mike, "We better make tracks before any more of 'em show." As they took off, hurrying along the rooftops now, Raph kept his eyes sharp, scanning the surrounding areas for more. He didn't pick up on any as they went but something still didn't seem right. You could say what you wanted about the Foot but they usually put up a decent fight. The majority of them were quite skilled, though tonight's encounter had shown otherwise. These guys had been amateurs, newer recruits, Raph guessed. It was another reason why he kept expecting another wave; usually the novices traveled with a group of trainers close by.

But not tonight, it seemed. As they neared the club, Raph let it go. Just a fluke, a chance encounter – it happened sometimes. He never did pick up on the figures tailing them, following along and watching as he and Mike entered the large building with the loud music blaring from inside.





Raphael leaned against the railing of the balcony, keeping to himself. The music actually wasn't too bad, he thought. Not really the sort of tunes he was into, more along the hip-hop and electronic sound of things, but it wasn't half as annoying as he thought it would be. Plus, Mike had been right about one thing – there was plenty of eye candy. Up here, he was in a good position to watch the dance floor below and there was no shortage of beautiful women for his viewing pleasure. There were cats and devil-girls, multiple nurses and one very voluptuous go-go dancer losing herself to the music, unaware or uncaring of who watched (and Raphael certainly wasn't the only one). On the stage a pale guy sporting a goatee scratched records with a massive set of headphones around his neck, his head dipped to one side and listening in. Raph didn't know or care much about who he was, but the crowd was eating it up. The club itself was of moderate size; he guessed there was several hundred in attendance. And Mike had been right about something else – at least half of the people here were dressed as ninjas. Go figure. Still, it was great place to blend in, that was for sure.

He reached down, unscrewing the cap on his flask and tipped it upwards, taking a long drink. He didn't even notice the woman approach until she was on him.

"Nice costume."

Raph blinked. She was stunning, dressed like she just stepped out of a 1970's Blaxploitation film. She wore a full-length, light yellow pantsuit complete with bell bottoms, the kind that came up and split between her breasts with an open back, the fabric held in place by a loop around the nape of her long, delicate neck. Her afro had to be three inches deep but not natural, a wig if he wasn't mistaken, but convincing enough to fool most people. Glancing down, he guessed that they were roughly the same height, when she wasn't wearing platform heels. Startled, he quickly pulled the fabric over his mouth again and dipped his chin, letting the shadows take his features.

She toyed with one of the oversized, gold hoops that dangled from her ears. "You a fan?" she asked, nodding towards the stage.


"I said, are–you–a–fan?" she repeated, a little louder over the music. "Do you like this guy?" He shook his head, too rattled to give a proper answer. "Yeah, me neither. His first album was good, but after that is was all downhill." She changed directions. "So what are you supposed to be?"

"Ninja," he said. He looked around a little. Why was this lady talking to him?

"Yeah? You and everybody else here." She peered into his hood suspiciously. "So what's with the face? And the hunchback?"

"Eh… mutant ninja," he corrected himself. "It was my stupid brother's idea." He nodded off towards the dance floor, where Mikey was. It was no wonder why the goofball had wanted to come so badly; he'd spent so many years perfecting his moves it looked like it was actually paying off. For the second time this evening, a small crowd was gathered around the younger turtle, watching as he performed a mix of breakdancing and martial arts. Raph could only imagine how happy the little attention whore must be right about now.

"Oh, is that him? He's pretty good!"

"I guess." Raph shrugged. "If yer into that sorta thing."

She sipped her drink, a dark cola mixed with something, he guessed. "You guys are supposed to be one of those weird vigilantes right? The ones I read about in the Daily? There's a few of you walking around here. And one of the other guys, the one who wears the hockey mask – I bumped into him on the dance floor."

"That so?" Raph said, genuinely interested now. Maybe Mikey was right, they did have some small amount of celebrity status, at least where the gossip rags were concerned. He had actually seen a couple of the guys she was talking about around the club, kids dressed in ninja gear with their faces painted green. Not even close to the real thing, but hey – it was a little flattering, he had to admit it.

"Yeah. So what is it those guys dress up as? Lizards or something?"

"Turtles," he said, perhaps a little too forcefully. She didn't seem to notice.

"Oh right." She giggled. "I'm Aliyah, by the way." She extended one hand to him.

He squeezed her hand quickly and tried to pull away but she held him, looking his glove over. "Wow, you guys really pay attention to detail! Three fingered mutants, huh? I love it!"

"Uh, thanks." He ripped his hand from her, looking away and hoping she'd get the message. This was the last thing he needed, was some frisky club-goer to blow his cover. Maybe coming here was a bad idea after all. Why in the world did he ever listen to Mikey in the first place?

"So, you look like you could use a drink. Can I get you something?"

He froze. Okay, so she wasn't getting the message. He should say no, but be polite about it, thank her…

Holding up the flask, he stuttered, "Ah - I'm covered. Thanks." He looked down at the thing in his hand, swishing it a little. Half-empty. And he was feeling the effects; it was probably time to slow down a little.

"Oh yeah? So whatcha drinking?" She smiled sweetly at him, still playing with her earring. Nope, definitely not getting the message. Raph couldn't help being suspicious a little. Why would this woman pick him out? There had to be dozens of single guys around. She leaned against the rail casually, her hips curving with the cut of her dress, her big, brown eyes looking at him a little too closely.

Raphael swallowed. "Whiskey," he answered. "S'nothin' special, just cheap stuff." He thought he sounded okay, but inside he was in a panic. What was he doing? He had to get away from this woman, excuse himself. But something held him back. Maybe it was the fault of the alcohol, maybe not - but he couldn't take his eyes off of her. He opened his mouth to say something but she cut him off.

"So… you got a girlfriend?" She moved in close, laying a hand on his arm. He answered no, shaking his head slowly and in a daze. "Well, then. Lucky me." She smiled at him through slitted eyes, cat-like and confident, moving closer to him like a woman with little inhibition. Her chest heaved with each breath, her every move like water, calm, flowing and graceful. "You know," she said, stroking his bicep, "when I saw you, I knew what you were. I have a confession to make, I have this thing for vigilantes."

Raph swallowed again. Why was his mouth so dry all of the sudden? "Oh yeah?" he asked.

"Mm-hmm." She smiled at him, showing her teeth. "I love hearing stories about them. My girlfriends think I'm crazy." She giggled. "But what can I say? I just love a hero. And I can tell you're really into the part." She squeezed his arm tighter, feeling the muscle there. "Very into it."

"Well," Raph said almost casually, "I guess you could say that."

He saw something flash by, a quick expression that he couldn't read. It was as though her demeanor dropped away for a split second, showing him something more; something that seemed more real, in a sense. Whatever it was didn't last and she was back to fawning over him. "You know, I've always really admired what those guys do. It must take a lotta guts to put their lives on the line for people like that. Do you wanna know a secret?" She looked away for a second, biting her lip lightly. "I've always had this… fantasy. I'd be in trouble somehow and a handsome hero would come to save me." She pressed herself a little closer to him. "You know anybody like that?"

"Maybe I do," he played along. He wasn't sure how, or who was making these words come out of his mouth but some part of his brain was still managing to function along here. He couldn't believe this was really happening. Even though this woman had no idea who he was (and surely she didn't think he was really a vigilante – the way she was talking, this seemed like some bizarre game to her), she was practically throwing herself at him. Some rational part of his mind kept trying to tell him that this was wrong, unnatural, that no one came on this strong without some motive. She was probably mental. But maybe it was as she said, her motive was finding a "hero" to take home with her. Not the most normal thing exactly, but it wouldn't be the strangest thing he'd ever seen. So she was a little nutty for guys who dressed up in costume and fought crime, that didn't mean she was crazy. Something Mikey had said a few days ago, something about people being into some freaky stuff came back to him right then.

She stoked his arm lightly, leaning in close to his ear. "Let's go back to my place. I'm close, just a couple of blocks, we can walk there."

No. No, this was not an option. What was happening was amazing – and suspicious – but mostly amazing. And had never happened to him before. And never would again, probably. But he could not follow up on this, it was insane to think that this was a possibility!

"Ah, my brother – is here. I shouldn't just leave 'em…" He gestured towards the dance floor where Mike was waiting his turn, standing in a circle of people who were currently watching a man dressed as a shogun pop-and-lock to the music.

She turned to face him full-on then. Placing her hands lightly on his shoulders, she began to sway a little, gyrating her hips to the beat. Raphael's hands came up on their own, resting on the small of her back. Goddammit he was so nervous. Did she notice? He raised his hands slowly along her sides and back down again, feeling and caressing her flesh. It was both terrifying and incredible. He let out a shaky breath.

He could not. Freaking believe. This was happening.

"You know," she said with a look of mischief, "I don't mind if your brother joins us."

While his mind froze, working over exactly what that statement was supposed to mean, terrible images presented themselves; terrible, awful, Mikey-filled images. He shuddered slightly. "Ah… I dunno," was all he could manage.

She went in for the kill. Leaning in close, she spoke low and into his hood, where his ear would be. The things she whispered to him right then, Raphael would take to the grave. Never had he heard a woman say such things, let alone directed towards him. His defenses utterly crumbled. Twenty-eight years of isolation from the opposite sex, countless years of longing for this and it was over. If every warrior had a weakness, Raphael had just discovered his.

"Okay, let's go," he said, his voice cracking the slightest bit. He took her by the arm and began leading her out, a little too quickly.

"What about your brother?" she managed.

He blinked, rational thought given to those images again – terrible, awful, Mikey-filled images. "I'll come back for him later," he said.

Maybe it was the chill air hitting him as the two of them exited the club but the voice of reason began to settle in again on the way back to her place. What was he doing? How far could this go, before she discovered who he really was? Should he come clean with her right away, or insist on leaving his 'costume' on for the purposes of role play? His mind was a mess. Mikey said to leave the "mask" in place for a while, get to know the girl and reveal himself later to her, after they got to know each other.

Wait. Was he really taking advice from Mikey?

Okay, this was crazy. He would wait until they were inside and tell her the truth. Then what? Hope she didn't wake up the whole neighborhood screaming? She might faint at the sight of him, or try calling the cops. She might attack him. Then what?

Throughout these thoughts he managed to make small talk, mostly letting her do the talking along the way and trying to respond in the correct places. Eventually they came up to a dull-looking brownstone, indistinguishable from those around it. "Here we are," she purred, leading him up to a small apartment building. Now, he should bail out now, before it was too late. He could make up an excuse, say he wasn't feeling well. Or he could say he had a girlfriend after all. Something, he had to think of something…

Instead his body kept moving along on autopilot, his eyes planted on her, mesmerized by her motion as she ascended the stairs. Her body was perfection, like a dancer she swayed from side to side with each step. His pulse was racing. Looking at her move was like having tunnel vision; she was the center and it was the world that moved around her. When they reached the top of the landing, she opened a door there and waved him in.

Immediately Raphael knew something was wrong. This wasn't a person's apartment, it was something else. It was bare, not decorated or furnished really, outside of a few functional pieces. A kitchen table sat in the center of the room with what looked like monitoring equipment sprawled out on it, screens and wires, headphones and the like. Even more interestingly, there was a squat, bald man sitting there, fiddling with the stuff.

It was a trap. Raphael whipped around, expecting some sort of attack, the Foot probably – or maybe this was some sort of set-up, he was being robbed, shaken down by some lusty woman to bring back to her "boyfriend" (and really, how could he have been this dumb?). His sais were out and in his hands before he even finished turning towards her.

"It's okay," she said, her voice suddenly different. "My name is Detective Aliyah Morrison, with NYPD Homicide. You and your brother are in danger."