Crash and Burn

By Kali Gargoyle

***

Chapter One: Introductions

***

Raphael patrolled Central Park alone. Casey was out with April and none of his brothers wanted to come out with him. They all complained that it was getting too cold out, and Leo had even lectured him about going out, saying that it was too dangerous. Raph argued that keeping him cooped up was equally dangerous and left.

He'd at least taken the time to grab his coat and fedora, which he was grateful for now, because the wind had really started to pick up. After nearly two weeks of being stuck in the lair due to storms, he was raring for some action, but now he was thinking about just giving up and seeing a movie. No one else was out in this weather, and if they were, they weren't hanging out in the park.

Raphael passed by a gap in the trees and stopped in his tracks. He backed up to double check what he had seen. A girl was sitting on a bench, legs pulled up in front of her, and a book in her lap. She had a pencil so he guessed she was either writing or drawing, but why was she out here all alone in this weather? And with short sleeves!

He was about to leave, but ended up circling around behind her. He couldn't care less why she was out here, but she could attract trouble. He managed to get behind her and look over her shoulder from a distance. She was drawing, and it almost looked like a page from a comic book, except really sketchy.

He looked up at the sound of someone approaching, three young men. He half hoped that they would just walk by and leave the girl alone, but he also wanted to see some action. He could easily take them out before they did anything to the girl.

They stopped in front of the girl, who didn't even look up, although she had stopped drawing.

"Hey, sweetheart, what's a pretty thing like you doing out here all by yourself?" The other two boys chuckled. "This is a dangerous city, and a woman should have a big strong man protecting her."

The girl looked up. Raphael couldn't see her face, but the tone of her voice told him she wasn't scared. "I can protect myself."

The first boy scowled, but tried again. "What do you say you put the pencil down and join us for a night on the town, baby. It'll be more fun than sitting out here in the cold." His voice dropped a little. "Warmer, too."

Raphael was ready to jump over the bench and tackle the jerk when the girl's foot shot out and connected with the guy's groin. Raphael cringed but chuckled as the guy fell to his knees. One of the boys made the unfortunate mistake of stepping away from the light. Raphael used the bench as a vault and knocked the boy down with a kick to the chest.

The third guy pulled out a knife but the girl was on her feet and kicked it from his grasp. It flew into the bushes. Raphael knocked that guy out from behind and flashed a smile at the girl, not knowing if she could even see it in the pale light.

"Thanks," she said, looking at him before picking up her sketchbook. She reached down for her bag under the bench when a hand grabbed her wrist. "Hey!"

The first punk flung the girl at Raphael then ran off with the bag. Raph caught the girl and set her aside to run after the punk. The guy had a few seconds on him, but was really no match. Raph took him down without breaking a sweat. He picked up the bag and made his way back to the bench.

The girl was still there, waiting for him. She smiled as he handed the bag back to her. "Thanks, again."

Raph smiled. "Uh, no problem." He looked into the girl's blue eyes and quickly looked away. He started to walk away when he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the girl again. She stepped back as he turned around.

She held her hand out. "I'm Kali."

Raphael looked at her for a moment. She seemed harmless enough, or at least she wouldn't be able to hurt him if she tried anything. She wore plain blue jeans and a white t-shirt, and a sweatshirt was tied around her waist. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, but Raph couldn't tell the exact color of her hair in this light. Maybe red. She had a nice smile though, and he figured what the hell. He reached out and shook her hand. "Raphael."

She stared down at the thick green fingers wrapped around her own pale hand. "The stories are true," she whispered.

Raphael quickly pulled his hand away and walked away again at a faster pace. This girl gave off a weird vibe.

"Wait!" she called after him. She ran to catch up and fell into pace beside him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you, I was just surprised. I've only been in New York a month and I wasn't quite sure if I could believe the stories I heard around campus."

Raphael groaned. If this random girl knew about them, how many others did? He stopped and pulled the girl off the path they were walking on. He backed her into a tree, his face just a couple inches from hers. "What stories?"

Kali tried to pull out of Raphael's grasp but he was really strong. "I've been told about big Turtles who went around fighting people."

Raphael frowned. Okay, that wasn't so bad. He expected that the punks they beat up would squeal to some people.

"But no one really believes them," Kali added quickly.

Raph looked at her. "You did."

Kali managed to get out of Raphael's grasp. "Yeah, well, I've seen a lot of weird things in my life."

"Like what?" Raphael was genuinely curious. What could be weirder than crime fighting Turtles?

Kali shrugged. She started walking away and Raphael was the one to follow after her.

***

Raphael really didn't know why he was doing this. He had the feeling that his brothers were beginning to suspect something. They knew he wasn't out with Casey because the one time they called to find Raphael, Casey had said he hadn't really seen Raph in a few weeks. He'd been questioned and lectured and none of his brothers had come close to the real answer. They thought he was trying to hunt down the Foot, or hanging out at bars, or doing something illegal.

Only Splinter had guessed, and he had the good sense to question Raphael in private. Raphael was sure his brothers would take it the wrong way if they knew he'd been spending that much time with a girl.

He'd sputtered and fell over his own feet verbally trying to explain himself, but Splinter seemed to have it all figured out already.

"It's quite all right, my son."

Raph blinked. "It is?"

Splinter nodded and looked at Raphael. "You have not been acting quite like yourself lately. It's a subtle change, but noticeable to us, your family." Splinter reached out and rested his hand on Raphael's shoulder. "And I believe it is for the better."

Raphael blinked. He'd expected Splinter to reprimand him for revealing himself to someone. He was a complete loss for words.

"I would, however, like to met this young lady."

And there had been no arguing with that. And now Raphael was heading towards Kali's apartment to invite her to have dinner with his family. It was a big step, but not totally without caution. He gripped the blindfold in his pocket that he was supposed to use on her. He trusted her a great deal, and she seemed like a good person, but he still couldn't put his family at risk. Himself, yeah, but not his family.

Raph took a deep breath before knocking on her door. It was flung open to reveal Kali, smiling in a bright Hawaiian print halter-top and black jeans.

"Hey!"

"Hey." Raph walked past her into the apartment. It worried him that she did that, open the door without checking. Or maybe she did, but he couldn't see how, there was no peephole, and she never used the chain.

"To what do I owe this visit to?"

Raphael ran his fingers along the lapel of his jacket. Kali could tell he was nervous about something. "Um, would you like have dinner?"

Kali blinked in surprise. "Dinner? Like a date?"

Raphael looked up with a shocked expression. "No! I mean, my family would like to meet you."

Kali found his reaction amusing. She smirked, "So I finally get to meet your elusive family, huh?"

Raphael nodded.

"Okay, just let me get changed." Kali turned towards her bedroom.

"Changed? For what? Just wear that, you look nice."

Kali turned and put her hands on her hips. "This is not proper first impression attire! I'm just changing my shirt and putting on a bra."

"TMI!" Raph yelled at the closed bedroom door. He'd expected her to take a long time, since it was common knowledge that women took a long time to get ready. Of course, this was based on TV since the only woman he really knew was April, and Kali was nothing like April.

Kali was out in about two minutes wearing a deep blue shirt. She grabbed her coat and purse, stuffing her keys into it. "Okay, ready."

***

Kali raised an eyebrow as Raphael stopped in the middle of an alley and knelt down to open a manhole cover. "Down there?"

"Yeah, what did you expect, a penthouse suite?" Raph replied sarcastically.

"No, I suppose not." Raph gestured for her to go first and Kali went down, wondering if her sneakers would keep her feet dry down here. "You never really told me where you lived."

"Sorry," Raph mumbled as he reached the ground beside her.

"I guess I understand. You guys don't really want many people finding out about you, do you?"

"Nope." Raph pulled the blindfold out from his pocket. "Come here."

Kali eyed the scrap of fabric. Raph sighed. "It's procedure. I trust you, I really do, but..."

"I understand." Kali turned and let Raphael tie the blindfold on. Raphael didn't think anyone could ever really understand. "I suppose it says a lot that I'm down here at all."

Raph dropped his hands. He supposed it was. He took Kali's hand and led her through the maze of tunnels. He ducked her head down under hanging pipes and warned her about debris until they reached the den's entrance. To anyone passing by (as if anyone else came down here) would have seen a plain brick wall, and that was the idea. Raph opened the control panel and punched in the code to open the door.

He pulled Kali through before it closed and pulled the blindfold off. Kali took a few seconds to rearrange her hair as they walked down a tunnel. She gasped when she saw what was at the end of the tunnel.

She stood in a large room, as big as her living room and kitchen combined, furnished much the way her own apartment was. There was a TV, couch, and a few chairs, although they all looked a bit worse for wear. There was a modest kitchen attached to the room by an archway and there was a tunnel at the back that could have led to other rooms.

"This is nice."

"Thanks."

Kali jumped at the sound of another voice. Two turtles entered the room from the back tunnel. They looked a bit like Raphael, but she could see differences. The most noticeable was that they were wearing different colored masks, purple and blue, while Raphael wore red. They both looked her over. The one in the purple mask seemed curious and a bit amused, while the one in the blue mask seemed to be sizing her up.

"Hey!" Raph growled, getting the attention of both of them. The purple masked one gave him a sly grin while the other gave an unreadable look towards Raphael.

"Uh, hi." Kali said. She really didn't know what else to do.

The one in purple walked over to her and shook her hand. "Hi, I'm Donatello, you must be Kali."

"No, I picked up some random girl off the street," Raphael replied sarcastically. The turtle in blue shot him a warning glance, and Raphael replied with his own.

"Leonardo," the one in blue said. "Mike went to get some take out and Splinter's still meditating."

Raph nodded and guided Kali to the couch. They sat on the couch, Kali in the center and Raph and Don on either side of her. Leo sat in one of the armchairs.

Kali felt nervous, the same way she felt when she met anyone's family. Don sensed her nervousness and tried to break the ice. "So, how'd you meet Raph?"

Kali turned to his smiling face. He seemed really nice. "Well, I was in the park and these guys came up to me and he kinda helped me fight them off."

Don nodded. "Basic damsel in distress." He paused. "Did you say he helped you?"

Kali smiled weakly. "Yeah, I'm not totally helpless or I wouldn't have been in the park at all. I've done some martial arts."

"Really?" Leo asked. She piqued his interest. "What style?"

Kali twirled a lock of strawberry blonde hair around her fingers. "Mostly free style from my father, a mixture of moves from lots of different arts. There wasn't to much more available to me." She finally managed to catch Leo's gaze. "But I've also read a lot about other forms, like Ninjutsu."

Leo shot another look at Raph, who just shrugged it off.

The tense moment was broken when another Turtle, this one in an orange mask, bounced in carrying a few pizza boxes and some Japanese take out in a bag. "Hey, I didn't know what Kali liked so I hope she likes-" Mike spotted Kali sitting on the couch. "Whoa!" He came over with a wide grin and managed to take her hand without dropping the food. "You must be Kali." He kissed her hand and Kali blushed.

Mike gave an exaggerated wink towards Raphael. "Way to go, bro!"

"Mike!" Raph yelled.

Don shook his head as he chuckled. "Mike, you are such a ham."

Mike grinned. "Speaking of ham, it's a pizza topping. I hope you like pizza, Kali."

"That's fine." Actually, she wasn't too fond of pizza, and she was more interested in the Japanese food.

"Then set the table, Michaelangelo."

Mike looked over the back of the couch. "Right away, master."

Kali turned around to see who Mike was talking to. Raphael had told her about his Master Splinter, so the sight of a four-foot rat standing in the tunnel entrance didn't surprise her. What did surprise her was the power of his aura. He practically radiated wisdom and strength. They locked gazes and Kali felt like he was looking right through her. She looked down, breaking the trance. "It's an honor to meet you, Master Splinter."

Splinter approached and sat in one of the other chairs. "I have been looking forward to meeting you as well, child. Did you make the journey here well?"

Kali nodded. "Yes, Raphael made sure I didn't get hurt or lost."

"I hope you understand our need for secrecy."

"Oh, yes, I do, perfectly."

"Dinner's up!" Mike called from the kitchen. Raph put his hand on Kali's back as a gesture for her to get up, but he kept it there until they were seated at the kitchen. The pizzas were piled at one end of the table, and the Japanese food at the other end.

The Turtles grabbed for the pizza while Kali thoughtfully chewed her lip, deciding what to do. She glanced at the pizza, which had everything on it, including some things she couldn't identify. She then looked at the boxes of Japanese food Splinter was unpacking. Splinter noticed her looking.

"Would you prefer some sushi?" he asked.

Kali smiled. "Yes, please."

Mike looked at her with an open mouth. "You don't want the pizza?"

"Ew, Mike that's gross." Leo shut Mike's mouth, which had been full.

Kali smiled nervously. "I just like Japanese better."

"That's fine," Raph assured her. "Mike's just defensive about his pizza."

"I thought everybody liked pizza," Mike said, still in disbelief.

"Michaelangelo!" Splinter yelled. Mike snapped his jaw shut. "Now, swallow." Mike did so.

Kali giggled. They were everything Raph had said they were. She took the chopsticks Splinter handed her and started on the meal. She watched in awe as the Turtles practically inhaled the pizza. She and Splinter chatted between sushi rolls. The Turtles managed to ask questions and make comments between bites.

After dinner, and a longer chat, Raphael walked her home.

"That was fun," Kali said cheerfully.

"Yeah, they really seemed to like you," Raphael said quietly.

Kali frowned. "What's wrong? I thought you would be glad that I got along with your family."

"Yeah, but... I kinda wished they hadn't met you."

Kali gave him a questioning look as she opened her door.

Raph couldn't find the right words to describe his answer. He walked in with her. "I guess I liked having my own life, something away from my family."

Kali nodded. Her family had their differences, too. "So, do you want to hang here awhile? I'm sure we could find something on TV."

Raphael was about to accept, but thought better of it. "No, I better get back. I'll see you later."

***

Raph hadn't even taken his coat off yet when Mike came over to him.

"So, you kiss her good night?"

Raph snarled at him. "No. She is not my girlfriend."

"Dude, why not?"

Raph walked through the tunnel and turned into his room, shutting the door behind him. He knew his brothers would take it the wrong way. He and Kali were just friends, that was it, there could be nothing else.