A/N: Woo! Long delay but I finally managed to edit this chapter. Hopefully it's not too much of a disappointment. Work and school are crashing down on me hard but I'm hoping to be quitting my job after Christmas. We'll see how things go. For now I don't want to promise an exact date when the next chapter will be out but it will be coming. This story is one I won't leave until it is complete.
Thank you so very much for all the favourites and follows lately. I'd like to thank IceColdFever, Diana Fay, Livangel16, Rosie White, kaaayyytteee, & TheDCStar for your beautiful reviews. I hope you continue to enjoy!
020 - You Can Check-Out Any Time You Like but You Can Never Leave
"I'd like to let you know that I'm getting sick and tired of all this walking," snarled Megan Rios as she trudged behind a silent Raphael.
"And where would ya like to stop, Princess? We're in the middle of a fuckin' swamp!" He roared back at her, not even bothering to turn around and glare. She was getting on his nerves and had been for the last hour.
"I don't know!" Megan hissed back, cursing as she stumbled and fell to her knees. They sunk into the wet muck, staining her overpriced jeans and numbing her to the bone. It was freezing. Night had fallen quicker than they had thought. Neither hothead wanted to admit that it had been a stupid idea to keep moving, that despite how small that swamp had looked they had been tricked by fog and rising gases.
The smell was something she had quickly become immune too. Being submersed in the wretched stink of the bog, waking to the sound of flies buzzing in her ear had made for quick adaptation. Megan remembered little from what she assumed was the night before. She remembered Lana literally being consumed; body vanishing in a black mass and Connie's high pitched scream but that was it. When she awoke she was laying face first at the edge of the swamp, hand dangling in the murky water. Raphael had been beside her, unconscious in a pile of reeds.
No one else was around for miles.
It took a while for her to get her bearings straight because her head had been spinning out of control but once she did she managed to drag that lug of a turtle out of the water. He awoke seconds later, grumbling and reaching for the sais that weren't there. Megan found them half submerged, sticking up in the mud.
"This is fucking stupid," she said, pushing herself back to her feet and wiping the mud off her hands with her once white shirt. "Are there even any swamps near New York? Fuck! Where the hell are we?"
"Would ya just shut up for five minutes?" He was sick of this. She had been complaining since he awoke from everything to the smell to the sound of flies nattering at their ears. While he could do without the flies, Raph would have much rather done without her talking.
Why the hell did he have to be stuck with Megan of all people anyway?
"Oh I'm sorry! Was the hothead actually thinking for once? Maybe you should've done that when we started trudging through this god forsaken swamp!"
"Me?" Raphael snarled. "I wasn't the one who -" but he stopped when he heard a dark rumble above their heads.
"Great! Just great!" whined the woman, forcing herself forward. It was like walking through thigh deep snow, never getting far for the amount of energy used. "Rain is just what we need!"
The ninja sighed. "Just keep movin'. It's not like we got much of a choice. This place can't go on forever."
"It better not or I'll make sure you never hear the end of it."
"Dick," She bit back, shooting him a glare he could just see under the fleeting moonlight. Clouds were slowly covering the sky, dark masses that groaned and rumbled under the impeding rain storm.
The rain hit about twenty minutes later, falling down like hail. There was nothing they could do but keep moving, bodies exhausted and frozen under the sky's torrential attack. It was Megan that first noticed the large figure in the distance, the shadowed mass that had once been hidden by the fog. It stood upon a hill, grand and beautiful.
"Look!" She cried, slapping Raphael on the shoulder and pointing furiously in front of them. The swamp was coming to an end and even though the rain felt like knives upon their heads, a pleased grin couldn't help but cover their faces. "They better have some food in there and a bath."
"Yeah, well, don't get your hopes up. It's not like we can just waltz in."
"Pfft!" Megan rather happily started a stiff jog, pushing the rain out of her eyes as she went. "Like you will have any issue scaling those walls. Now hurry up."
Raphael just answered her with a grunt. At least she wasn't complaining anymore. He gazed up. Megan was pushing forward, cackling to herself about blankets and baths. Far in the distance was a castle, grand and glowing with smoldering torches. There were various windows lit up and despite his caution, Raph couldn't help but be excited for some bit of warmth.
The rain wasn't letting up. Even when they pulled themselves out of the bog, their feet finally upon dry land the sky continued to roar. Thunder sang in the distance, lightening periodically giving them enough glow to see the world around them. Rolling hills traveled as far as the eye could see, a grand forest dotting the horizon. They were nowhere near New York City.
Megan moved quickly, running faster than she had ever before. Her stomach was growling, her feet ached and every inch of her was freezing. She just needed to get to that castle even if they had to hide in the shadows; she just needed a relief from the rain.
It was Raphael who finally stopped her, yanking her arm until she stumbled backward with a snarl.
"Would'ja slow down for a minute? We can't just go runnin' in there."
"The hell I can't!" She smacked his hand away, moments away from the stone fortress.
"Stop!" Raph growled, grabbing her again. "Would'ja look around for just a minute?"
"Look at what? There's nothing here!"
Megan froze. What had once looked like an impenetrable tower seemed more dilapidated now, more broken. The wall that surrounded the building was crumbling on every side like it had been hammered into repeatedly. What had probably once been a beautiful courtyard was now barren and desolate. Flora grew out of control, gripping to the cobblestone like a virus.
"So? It's deserted. Better for us, right?"
"Right, deserted," said Raphael. "Then who the hell turned on all those lights?"
She tilted her head back. That's right. The castle was aglow, every window shining like a beacon in the night. There had to be at least someone living there so with another defiant hand she shoved him off.
"Relax, would you? Whoever lives here clearly doesn't get out much. We'll just avoid them if you're that worried and move on in the morning, okay?"
Raphael didn't like that plan. He didn't like that plan one bit but the rain seemed to roar down hard, sharper and with no other place to hide he had to agree. Megan rushed across the low hill, carefully slipping over a broken hole in the wall. When he caught up he found her pushing open a heavy wooden door, light streaming out from the inside while she carefully looked around.
"It looks clear."
"Right." Raphael wasn't so sure. Someone had to have turned those lights on, lit each and every torch. One person alone would've taken hours but the castle had seemed to light up in an instant. He closed the door quietly behind them. The rain still pitter pattered outside, reminding them of how cold they were. Megan took it upon herself to lead the way, rushing up stairwells and poking her head into doorways. Raphael lingered quietly behind, hands upon his sais.
There was something wrong about this place and he was pretty sure he wouldn't be sleeping that night.
Megan hadn't expected the lack of people to be frightening. She knew that whoever had lit these torches had either horded themselves up in a room or were on the other end of the castle. Yet, despite that notion, she still felt freaked out. The outside of the castle was horrendous, no one had taken care of it in years and yet the inside looked brand new. The torches were large and lit up the long, stone hallways and various rooms. The furniture looked well taken care of, the curtains dust free. Even the multitude of paintings on the walls looked freshly smeared.
Though despite her fear she wasn't about to let that hotheaded ninja know. Sitting comfortably upon a bed, Megan watched him stoke the fire in the large heath across from her. Everything about this room screamed princess and she was quite pleased about their lodgings for the night, despite that haunting feeling hanging about her shoulders.
"So what's the plan tomorrow?" She asked.
"We get outta here," said Raph. The fire was blazing but a chill still hung in the air. He continued to turn the coals over.
"Well obviously but I mean where? Where the hell are we going to go?"
He shrugged. "There might be a map or somethin' around here. I'll look later. We need to find everyone else."
Megan fell back upon the bed, staring up at the high ceiling. "Cause that's going to be simple. How do we even know they're here?"
"We don't have much of a choice either way, do we?"
The storm continued to roar outside, lightening flashing every now and then. The rain lulled Megan into a sense of security and she tugged at the quilt folded at the end of the bed, pulling it over her legs.
"Morgana did this, didn't she?"
Raphael finally looked over his shoulder. The tall girl was staring at him, scarred face shadowed from the fire behind him. She suddenly looked so very small, frail and it reminded him just how much she shouldn't have been brought into this world. He could only imagine what Connie was doing, probably screaming at the top of her lungs still. Lana would be…
He nodded. "Yeah."
Megan didn't need any more than that. She laid her head back upon the mound of pillows while Raphael turned back to the warm glow. If she slept at all tonight, she was positive there would be no peace in her dreams.
"I'm gonna go see if there's anythin' to eat in this place," Raphael finally said, looking up from the blazing fire in the fireplace. Megan was sound asleep, head tilted back and a rather obnoxious snorting coming from her throat.
He smiled, half-heartedly. It wasn't that he didn't like her. She was tough. She could take care of herself but she was annoying to no end. She was an instigator and she seemed to know exactly what nerve to pick to get him fuming. Though despite that Megan was tolerable when she was sleeping and he supposed she had been pretty tolerable all the way here despite her attitude.
It wasn't his fault they were in this mess. He didn't bring home that damn shadow.
Closing the heavy wooden door quietly behind him, Raph slipped out and into the cold, empty hallway. Tapestries still littered the high walls, old paintings peering down at him in silence. He walked amongst them, feet slapping upon the stone floor but eyes never daring to gaze to long. Something about the pictures put him on edge. Something about this whole damn place put him on edge.
The fact that the torches were all alit was enough but the air seemed thick, tense. He had a constant chill like there was something always following him. Raphael was close to turning around when the brief glance of a canvas caught his eye. It was of a young woman, stoic with a deep set frown. Next to it, a blatantly different then all the rest, was of an old man and his cheeky grin. He looked ready to burst into laughter, his eyes dancing and the corner of his mouth twitching. Raphael smiled, sadly and began to wonder about his family.
If Megan and him were here, the rest of them had to be somewhere in this world. He watched Leo disappear, he watched Lana vanish. For all he knew they could be somewhere in that swamp and they had just trudged by them, to dead set on finding shelter to care about their surroundings. He and Megan would start looking after the rain settled. They'd find his brothers and his father and he would damn well make sure they would all be okay.
After a good twenty minutes of pushing open doors and poking his head down stairwells, Raph gave up the hope of finding a kitchen. He was just about to turn around, head back to the couch Megan declared for him when he heard the faintest of whispers. It echoed down the hallway, a slight hum that made him do a double take. The sound silenced. Raphael moved forward but just as he turned the corner there was another cry, a little bit louder, bolder and he made a sharp turn back.
Cautiously, he crept along the wall until that little gasp of air turned into a timid sound. Someone was sniffling and trying hard to hide their tears. He wanted to say something, to open his mouth but he didn't dare risk the chance of them being found out. Just as he reached the end of the hall the sniffling came to a stop and a quick gasp sounded out.
"Hello?" The voice called. It sounded weary, frightened and it was female. How had she heard him? He couldn't have made a sound – "Is someone there?"
Wait. He knew that voice. He listened to it every day, its gentle giggle, its teasing tone. Raphael felt his heart begin to pound and his palms begin to sweat. He took off, whipping around the corner and deeper in the maze-like castle.
"Lana!" He yelled.
"Raph!" cried the woman. "Raph! Where are you?"
"Lana!" He quickly came to a halt. A solid, stone wall stood in front of him. A dead end. Shit! He had heard her! She had called his name and he swore it came this way.
"Raph?" sounded out from behind him
Turning around, he found a familiar face peering at him, body carefully stepping out from another hall he must have missed. Despite being a little damp and a little muddy, Lana looked fine. A smile was growing on her face and those large, large eyes of hers looked to be tearing again.
"I was looking everywhere for you," She said, brushing her cheeks dry. "Are you okay?"
"Me? I'm fine. How long have ya been here? Is anyone else with ya?"
Raphael took a step forward but as his foot reached the ground, he slipped and what had once been a flat cobblestone floor turned into a deep pit. Without a chance to yell, he landed silently save for the crash as his shell hit the ground. A string of swears quickly followed before the soft giggle above brought him back to his senses. Lana was on her knees, peering down at him with her thin fingers gripping to the edge of the pit.
"What are you doing down there?" she asked, an eerily calm smile on her face. She looked amused like he had purposely done this for her entertainment.
"Where the fuck did this come from?" spat Raph, pushing himself up to his feet. "Lana, back up. I'm gonna jump out."
Raphael leapt forward, his feet pushing off the side wall but as his fingers reached the ledge, the ledge jumped from his grasp. The ninja landed roughly again and above him was a little giggle that sent a chill down his spine.
"Don't be silly, Raphael. You can't jump out of this hole. You're stuck there forever."
"Lana," He hissed. "Help me out."
"Help you? I can't do that."
"Lana -" but she began to laugh again and what he used to think was a pretty sound turned cold and frightening.
"Raphie, I'd get out of there as fast as you can or you'll be swallowed up."
"Lana!" The darkness in the pit began to move, shifting off the walls and reaching for his feet. He rapidly swung at it with his sai, dodging the hands that pursued him to no end. Lana continued to cackle, pretty face staring at him with an unfazed amusement. The darkness soon began to grow thick and his right foot was trapped as a claw surrounded it. His left hand soon followed and what had once been swings of precision turned into swings of desperation.
That wasn't Lana. That couldn't be his Lana. With one last bit of fear, he peered up at her and the cackle silenced.
"Raph?" Suddenly, she looked horrified. "Raph? What's going on? Oh my god! Get out! You've got to get out of there -"
She couldn't continue. Her body crashed to the ground but instead of falling in, the pit vanished and she was left lying on solid stone. Raph found himself on his knees, darkness gone in a blink of an eye and his weapons at his sides. He quickly reached for her, turning Lana's silent form over and watching the blood spill from the back of her head. Her eyes were wide open, no life left in them.
"That's not Lana," said a voice above him. A heavy rock dropped in front of him and the tall body of Megan Rios stepped backward. "I swear that's not Lana. Just wait."
"Wait! She's dead! You killed -" but Raph couldn't finish. The body in his hands dissolved, skin turning to ash until there where nothing but bones left. He leapt back, dropping them and scattering them across the floor. The bones clattered loudly until they shattered like glass and from the dust rose a white mist. It swirled about the air, screaming like the wind before it crashed into the wall, sinking out of sight.
"See," Megan whispered, like she was trying to convince herself. "See, it's – it's just a ghost."
"Just a ghost?" cried a voice and they both turned to see the lingering figure of Lana Cruise. She was crying, pale face wet. Raphael could see the torches glow through her body. He felt sick. "You - You let her kill me, Raphael. You let her kill me!"
"Shut up!" roared Megan, grabbing the no longer bloody rock and throwing it through the spectre. It crashed upon the ground, straight through the Lana look-a-like's torso. "Shut up!"
Lana's sad face turned wicked, her frown twisting into an evil sneer and just as quick as the pretty young girl had been there an older woman lingered cackling as she vanished once more into the ceiling.
Raphael didn't have time to voice his concerns. Megan had grasped his head, pulling the large mass of green muscle down the hall. He had no will to fight, simply letting her led while he tried to get the picture of Lana's dead face out of his mind.
They both walked in silence, feet slapping against the cold floor. Megan had long since given up finding the path back to her borrowed bed. She had long since cared about sleeping or the growl in her stomach. Who knows what would happen if they both went to sleep. The mystery of the lit torches had been solved.
Ghosts. Of course it was a ghost. She had often thought of that, wondering if maybe this place was haunted but hadn't the courage to actually voice that opinion. Too late now, she supposed.
"How'd you know where I was?" Raphael finally asked. She looked over her shoulder to see him glaring at her, eyes sharp and hands gripping to his weapons. Like those things would do were going to protect them.
For the first time in a while, she smiled and not some fake little grin, a genuine one that made him soften. Megan peered about. The torches were still flickering but she wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not. The hallway looked empty but there wasn't a hum or whisper echoing from either end. Falling against the wall, she slid down to her bottom, dragging her knees up to her chest. She felt safe if only for a moment
"I woke up and you were gone."
Raphael stood across from her, listening silently.
Megan continued. "At first everything was quiet and I figured you went for a walk so I was going to go back to sleep when I heard someone talking. It was coming from outside the door. I guessed maybe you'd found someone but when I opened the door the hallway was empty. The voices were coming from around the corner so I decided to follow them."
Raphael waited but she never continued. She had started to pick at her nails, her eyes drifting away from him. He wasn't sure if he wanted to push her but just as he was about too she released a loud sigh.
"I walked for a while," said Megan, her voice a lot less confident then it had been moments ago. "I got lost trying to find whoever was talking. I didn't really realize what I was doing until I heard my name being called. I thought it was you but it wasn't."
"Who'd ya see?" Megan didn't answer, her eyes drifting to gaze at the pattern in the stone flooring. Raphael sighed. "Was it Don?"
Quickly, her head snapped up, the brown bob of hair on her head bouncing. She released a light laugh. "Huh? No, it wasn't Donnie. God, I wish it had been."
"Then who was it?"
The smile vanished in an instant and the scars upon her skin suddenly seemed more prominent. Her hands clenched into fists, so tight he watched her knuckles turn white.
"It's funny how smart your ghost was compared to mine. I mean seeing Lana makes sense. You're dating her, you care about her and we're both searching for her."
"I saw my Dad. I turned around and I saw my father standing there with open arms. I actually laughed out loud and walked away but he just kept calling my fucking name!"
He had seen her angry before. He had been the reason of a lot of her anger lately but this - this was nothing like her little tantrums through over the shower. Pure hate radiated from her face, an anger so deadly he was actually left silent.
"I mean really? He was never in my life before so why the hell would he start now? Because I was in trouble? Like that's ever been a good enough excuse." Megan released a dark cackle. "I picked up a rock and threw it. It went straight through his head and when that little old man came flying out I heard you swearing around the corner."
She kicked at the ground with her heel. The storm roared overhead. "I don't care if it's still raining in the morning. I want out of here."
"At least we agree on somethin'," he muttered but Raph didn't have the heart to say much more. Megan was fuming, hands clenching and unclenching with each sharp breath she took. She turned her head too quick for him to see for sure but he swore he saw tears forming at the corner of her eyes.
Thank you so much for reading :)