Let's get this out of the way first: I don't own TMNT. If you sue, I can shove this in your face and make you look like idiots.
A very, very, very big shout-out to my beloved beta readers, Colonel Pop and GoodSmilesGirl. I dedicate this chapter to you two and to your ceaseless work and support for me and my story. I love you both. I hope all my readers appreciate the fact that without your encouragement and help, this story might not exist.
Alright, dear readers. Due to popular demand and a personal desire, I have here an official epilogue told once more from the perspective of our very own Irma Rose Langinstein-Hamato. Enjoy and delight. And so, without any more delay, I present to you…
They drove me back to their Lair where an anxious April and Splinter were waiting for us. When Donatello carried me out of the tank, April burst into tears and as soon as her arms were around me we were both sobbing our hearts out, clinging to each other. Casey and the other brothers each got a chance to hug me tightly as they clambered out, and once that was done, Splinter wrapped his arms around me himself and then cupped my face in his hands, saying "Welcome home, child."
April had some clothes for me and set them out while I was bathing, delighting in the fact that I could go where I wanted when I wanted and there would be no beatings or guns or knives or death threats. I showed April and Master Splinter my wound once I was appropriately dressed and I took a look at it myself. It was several inches long from Ken slicing deeply across my belly before digging the blade into me. It was jagged, red, and very tender. Despite the magical properties of the peach, I would always carry a mark of my almost-death upon my body. I briefly mourned the fact that I would never be able to wear a bikini again without getting some questions, but at least I could make up stories about how I once held off an entire group of muggers on my lonesome. Or say that I saved a school bus filled with kids from falling off a bridge, which wouldn't exactly give me such a big wound on my stomach but would make me look kick-ass.
My family and the police were demanding answers as to where I was, but with the help of the turtles and my friends I came up with a good excuse. To be honest, I don't actually remember quite what it was on account of it was a very confusing time, but whatever I said, it worked.
Of course I had no place to stay and no belongings with me because everything that I hadn't sold before had been burnt to ashes in my apartment. Luckily I had insurance and I had a nice, fat check waiting for me when I returned to the Land of the Living.
My job problem, which before had driven me nuts, was actually solved almost as soon as I got back when I was talking to April and Casey in their apartment one afternoon shortly after my return. I was staying with them officially, although I was spending most of my time down in the Lair with my boyfriend. "Hey, Irms," Casey said to me as he flipped some burgers, "I got an idea for ya."
"Oh, yeah?" I said. "What is it?"
"Why don't you live in the apartment above the store?" he suggested, and April's head shot up with surprise and then she smiled.
"That's a great idea! Why don't you?"
"I couldn't do that!" I protested. "I don't have a job right now! I can't pay you guys rent or anything for the time being."
"Go work at the store," Casey suggested again. "God knows April could use the help. We're always flying around so much that we have to keep the place closed usually. If you were working there, you could keep the place open and run it for us while we're gone. Besides," he said, bringing the burgers over to the table, "April's gonna to be even more busy for the next few months."
I adjusted my glasses as I watched him go to the bookshelf for a moment, pulling something out of a small box there. "Why am I going to be even more busy?" April asked absently as she leafed through a magazine before her.
Casey set a tiny black velvet box in front of her and my hands flew up to my face in shock. "Because you'll be planning a wedding," he said calmly as he went to the fridge to bring out drinks. April froze as she stared at that tiny box and her eyes flew up to mine, my hands still covering my mouth. She lifted her hands trembling and opened the box to reveal a perfect diamond on a golden band. She burst into tears, a beautiful smile on her face as Casey came back with ketchup and kneeled before her. "Wanna get married?" he asked her, and she nodded and cried even harder as he slid the ring on her finger. She and I were both teary-eyed as he pulled her up against him and kissed her deeply. I almost felt like an intrusion, but at the same time I was so honored that he would be willing to ask her while I was present. He pulled me towards them as well and the three of us shared a hug as we laughed and cried.
April asked me to be her Maid of Honor, and I accepted. I also accepted the new job offer and the apartment above their shop.
It had been four months since my rescue. The peach seed that I had taken was still golden and shone in my hand as I held it, and I felt a sense of peace as I carefully placed it into a small ceramic pot that held a place of honor on my dresser right next to the window in my room, and covered it with dirt. The sunlight poured onto it almost constantly, and I made sure to water it every day. I didn't know exactly what it would grow into, but planting it felt right.
My new apartment was somewhat larger than my last, although there was only one bedroom. The kitchen and living room were somewhat outdated, but all of the appliances worked and I painted the rooms myself and put up pictures and other plants. By the time I was done, I had made it mine and it was home. The largest piece of furniture I had was my king sized bed that took up most of the space in my bedroom. Luckily I had a spacious closet, so that wasn't much of an issue. The bed was also the most expensive thing I had, but it was much more comfortable for Donatello, so it was worth it. His things were lying around as well, his books on my shelves, his tools put in small baskets and his favorite foods in my fridge. His bo staff even had a place of honor in the corner, and sometimes when I came into my apartment to see it sitting there, I could feel my heart flutter in my chest as though it couldn't get over the fact that he was mine and I was his. I really couldn't blame my heart for feeling that way; I couldn't believe my good luck sometimes either.
I was officially an employee of April O'Neil now. It was true that they had needed help before. April and Casey were almost always flying around looking for artifacts and when they weren't they were swamped with paperwork. Now that they had me, they didn't have to worry about it. And honestly, I loved my job. Research had always been one of my favorite pastimes, and with my boss gone most of the time I could blast music and keep things in order my own way. Donatello had taken my pink glasses, which had sustained some damage during my escape and the ensuing chaos, and made them anti-fog, unbreakable, and the frames were made of some sort of titanium alloy. I had no idea how he got all the materials for it. For all I knew, he had made it all. Not only that, but if I wanted, I could ask him to pull up information for me and it would appear on the lenses before my eyes as a sort of personal computer that only I could use. Don't tell me how he did it; I didn't want to know myself.
Master Splinter had started calling me his daughter, and the first time he did I got teary-eyed. He was more of a father to me than my own had been and it touched me deeply how he was willing to call me his own. Donatello and I picked up our relationship right where we had left it off, and in fact, things were even better than before. Now both of us had no doubts as to how we felt and where we wanted to go from this point on. I had never believed stories that people told of 'knowing when you know' when it came to love, but I did now. He did as well. We could talk without even using words now, like we had some sort of secret sign language, and even when we were angry at each other we could discuss it like adults and come out feeling like we had said what we needed to and had no more complaints. I had never had that happen to me before.
Christmas came around once more and this time, although we did have another Christmas party with everyone, there were no heartbreaking scenes with someone walking away. In fact, Donatello came home with me, just to snuggle and spend Christmas Evening together.
I had a Christmas Tree set up in my apartment and I had loaded it down with beautiful lights. I turned off all the other lights so that the only source of light in the room was from the tree, and the two of us sat on my couch, his arm around me and me leaning my head on his shoulder. We just sat there, enjoying the soft music playing in the background and the quiet peace. Everything was perfect. And then I turned my head ever so slightly so that I could look at him, and at the same time, he looked at me. We both froze.
We hadn't done anything really physical before that moment; sure we had make out sessions and cuddles, but he didn't want to rush anything and I was so happy to be 'courted' that I didn't really care too much. But right at that moment, when was looking at me with his skin and eyes highlighted with all the colors from the tree and the pure joy I felt at being there with him… I was suddenly filled with so much love, and as we both leaned in to kiss each other and explosion of desire rushed through our bodies and I found myself with his arms wrapped around me tightly and his kisses suddenly turning hungry. It felt like flames were starting to lick at my bones and I knew he was starting to feel the same thing.
I'm not sure how, but somehow I ended up in his arms as he carried me bridal style into my bedroom and laid me down on my bed, slowly crawling over me. As he began to kiss gently along my neck and my arms went around his shoulders to run my hands along his neck (which I had learned before that he loved), I thought to myself that, although I may have rather sucky taste in men… I had absolutely fantastic taste in turtle.
Well, my darlings. This is the final, ending, absolutely last chapter of the story Peaches, Puzzles and Problems. I dearly hope that you've all loved the trip, and I've sent you off with a satisfying ending.
It's been a long trip and a sometimes exhausting one, but I can say that I feel very happy with where it's gone and how it's ended. Maybe, maybe, sometime in the future, I might do a sequel story, but right now I'm quite content with this ending and if I never wrote another story for this I'd be satisfied. But chances are that at some point I'll be writing a sequel. Just don't put it on a deadline, because you might be disappointed if I don't meet it.
Also, for those of you who are interested, I have written a Donny-centered POV about his first night with Irma, both as a challenge to myself and simply because I wanted to. Yes, it's rated M. I'll be posting it up at some point in the future, so if you want to take a look at it when it goes up, you can.
Thanks once more for sticking with me this long! You're all fantastic!