Author's Note: Yes, you had better believe it folks! This fic is back! I have learned some nifty magic skills, such as the power to bring fics back from the dead and breath life into them once more. Let's just say that between the end of high school and college, my life was completely up in the air in a bit of a semi-crisis, and I just had no energy and inspiration to write. But now I'm back, alive and kicking, and I plan to see this baby to the end. I told you all I would finish it! So in part to help ease myself back into this whole process and to remind you all of what's happened, I'm going to be reposting this chapter by chapter until I get where I am now. I'll edit/change a few small things here and there to make it better, clean up spelling/grammar errors, but nothing major. Yeah, yeah, I can hear you all saying, "oh she's just giving herself more time to write the next chapter." Heh, heh. Well, if you've waited this long, I hope you all won't mind waiting just a little bit longer! Thanks to all for your death threats, bitching, and encouragements. I had no idea so many people had so much enthusiasm and interest for this story! Many, many thanks to sss979 for being the original beta/mastermind for the majority of this story. I don't know where this would be without her. And if you haven't already, you should definately check out all her work, because it's some of the best stuff ever written in the fandom. Also... muchos, muchos, muchos gracias to Splinter for offering to beta/help with the rest of the fic... this wouldn't be continuing without you, Splinter! Everyone needs to read all of her work too, if you haven't. I hope this will live up to everyone's expectations!
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters related to the TMNT, so please don't sue me. All other human characters besides April and Casey, Shredder, and the foot are mine, so please ask if you want to borrow them. Thanks.
Oh, damn him. But I guess I knew it was coming. I'd stayed out all last night, and all morning as well. So much for early morning practice. It was almost one in the afternoon now, and I had just returned. Would've been really nice if I could've gotten to my room without running into him. Ninja stealth did not work this time, though. I had been heard, if not seen.
Who else would it be? The ever-present rhetorical question… and the beginning of just about every lecture. Damn it, I did not feel like talking to him right now.
I could hear his footsteps in the hall. They stopped at my door. He wouldn't knock. Of course he wouldn't. He'd just push it open and come on in. Why not? I mean, I had no reason not to want him inviting himself into my bedroom whenever he damn well pleased, right? I gave a low growl as the door swung open. What do you know, I was right. There was no place I could go to get away from him and his goddamn lectures. I knew it, but I wasn't going to let him back me up against the wall, and this was a confined space.
"I don't wanna talk to you, Leo," I informed him, as if he didn't already know that. I pushed past him and headed for the living room. Maybe I'd be lucky and Mikey or Don would be there. Leo had a tendency to tone it down when our brothers were present. Maybe I'd be very unlucky and Splinter would be there. But no, the room was empty.
"When will you listen, Raphael? When it's too late?"
"We are not having this conversation right now, Leo," I growled. I found myself instinctively heading toward the door again, in the mood to do anything but fight with my brother. An argument was inevitable if this discussion went on much longer.
"You have no right to just walk out of here again, Raphael…"
I had opened the lair door by this time, my fists clenching and unclenching in my frustration.
"Oh yeah?" I challenged. "You just watch me."
I didn't give him a chance to answer. Why bother? I already knew what he was going to say. But before he had a chance, I was gone and the door had been slammed in his face.
"Don't even bother coming back then!" his voice echoed through the tunnel as he threw the door open and stuck his head out. I couldn't see him. I was already walking away. "To hell with you…"
The door slammed again. I continued walking. Those statements didn't mean anything to me anymore, and I had learned to ignore them. A few years ago, I would have been deeply affected by them, but now he said them so often that I had just learned to tune them out, along with everything else he said.
I sighed as I climbed the ladder to the surface. I had nowhere to go. I'd spent half the night at the bar, the other half busting heads of the so-called criminal element in New York City. I was sick of both. I pushed up on the heavy lid, and slid it aside. It scraped softly on the pavement. Years of experience had taught me how to get these things off without causing a scene. I poked my head into the alley, looking for an audience. No one here. Good. I climbed the last few rungs and replaced the sewer lid.
I stood for a moment in the alleyway, debating, running over my options. I could go see April. Oh, yeah Raph. That's a good idea. Why not just put her in the middle of every fight you have with your brother. Not like you don't do that enough already!
Okay, okay. Bad idea. I considered Casey, but he was out of town. The idea of the smoke-filled bar was quickly abandoned. I wasn't in the mood for that. I looked up, to the fire escape and the rooftops that stretched to the sky. That was always an option.
It was a feeling a lot like flying. If you ran fast enough. Of course, there were always plenty of things to dodge, and that got in the way of speed. But then, the feeling of being airborne, just those few seconds between buildings… Since I was thirteen, it had been the perfect way to release all of the pent up energy and frustration. It always seemed to work. It was as if nothing existed up here. Just me, the sky, and the rooftops. No fights, no lecturing, no responsibilities. Just total freedom.
I'd been running across the rooftops until well into the evening when I heard something as I flew over the alley. Something that didn't quite fit in the peace that was up here. Actually, I think I felt it more than heard it. Danger. Evil. A threat. I slowed, then stopped. I stood there for a moment, debating on whether or not I cared enough to get involved. Finally, I sighed. Of course I did. It was my job after all. And maybe the only thing in the world I was good for. But I couldn't help but cast a longing glance over my shoulder at the endless abyss that made up New York.
I moved to the end of the roof and squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the scene. Shadows moved over the figures. Five of them. No, six. One was pressed against a wall. It was that figure that caught my attention. All the others were just faceless street thugs. My eyes ran over her quickly, drinking in every detail I could manage in the dim light from the street. They were pretty far back in the alley, so I didn't have much to work with.
Dark hair, white skin. I couldn't see what color her eyes were. Gloved hands clutched a black purse to her chest. She had on a black overcoat, but underneath that I could make out a dress. Not just any dress. It looked pretty formal. Dark colored, maybe green or blue. High heels. Shit, what was she doing walking around the city streets like that? Especially around here? That was asking for trouble.
"What's a pretty thing like you doing in this part of town?"
Uh huh. My thoughts exactly.
"That's none of your business. Now if you'll excuse me…"
She tried to run through a gap in the circle. Stupid move. Not that she had a choice. Stay against the wall and let them move in on you, or move to them. Either way, the two forces would come together. But the fact that she chose to run, to take her safety into her own hands, rather than, say, scream at the top of her lungs… that struck me. This girl was going to put up a fight. She wasn't passive.
I watched in amusement, resting my chin on the palm of my hand. She wasn't going to get far. But I wondered, with her decision to stand up for herself, how far she was prepared to go on her own. I knew I could be down in the alley in about two seconds if they actually made a move to hurt her. As I'd half-expected, she tripped over her heels. Running with spikes on the back of your feet couldn't be an easy task. Why didn't she just kick them off? Maybe they were strapped on. She almost fell, but one of the thugs caught her.
"Oh?" he smirked. "Well, looks like it just became our business. Better tell us, sweet cakes."
She glared at him. "You know, it's been real nice talking to you. But I gotta go."
I admired her spirit, although she had a thing or two to learn about city smarts. She tried to break away from the thug. I smiled to myself. What did she think? That he'd just let her go and bow politely as she walked away? Yeah. Right. She wasn't going anywhere with that firm grip he had on her arms. She realized it, and then she screamed.
"… hell outta here," I finished loudly, dropping to the ground a few feet away. He never finished his sentence. They all looked toward me. I knew they couldn't see me. Yet. If they didn't heed the warning, they were going to see more of me than they wanted to… just before they saw the backs of their eyelids for a good long time.
They advanced. I reached for my weapons as they found theirs. Knives. Good. As long as they weren't packing heat, I wasn't in any danger. "Just leave her alone," I snarled. "Don't make me kick your asses."
"You talk big," one of them growled. He looked like the leader of the group, the one who had been doing all the talking before. The girl struggled again, but she was held fast. "Whaddaya gonna do about it, huh, tough guy?"
I grinned evilly. City punks could be so stupid. They didn't know who they were messing with now. Their knives glinted in the pale moonlight. I drew my sais and held them in front of me, low and relaxed.
"Don't make me kill you," I threatened, my voice low.
"Oh, I'm so scared!" he grinned back. He turned around to his crew. "Hey, guess what boys? It's the devil himself!" The thugs snickered at this. Irony, I thought. How sweet. Too bad they didn't know how right that was…
I let them come to me. And as they got closer, they froze. "Holy shit!"
I smiled pleasantly at them. "Uh huh," I agreed as I took a few, slow steps forward. They backed up, tripping over each other.
"You really don't want me to use these," I warned flicking the sais back and forth carelessly, allowing the tips to gleam in the dim lamplight.
"Let's get outta here," the thug leader ordered, his voice shaking slightly.
"Good," I grinned, "that's what I like to hear."
The thug who had been holding the girl threw her to the alley floor, and then they all turned and sprinted, falling over each other in their rush to get away from me.
"You haven't seen the last of us!" one called out boldly before they disappeared from sight.
I laughed to myself. You better hope you've seen the last of me.
I glanced at the figure on the ground. She didn't move. Concern jolted through me. Was she alright? They hadn't hit her or anything… I knew I should go, before I was seen. But I also knew I had to make sure that she was alright. I couldn't just leave her there. And even if she was fine, leaving her to walk the rest of the way to wherever she was going, in high heels and a dress, was comparable to homicide. I could trail her, just to make sure she got home okay. But she wasn't moving.
I gave her a few seconds, hoping she'd get up. She didn't. Finally, I headed over to her. A thin trickle of blood ran from her forehead. She'd hit her head when she fell. Nice. I shook her gently, and sighed. I couldn't just leave her here, and I didn't know where to take her. There was no way in hell I was taking her back to the lair. That would go over real well…
She moaned slightly and turned her head to the side. "Hey," I called softly. "Hey, you okay?"
She cringed. I knew this was my last chance to get out of here without being seen. But she was hurt. Her eyes opened slightly, then flew open in surprise. "Shit!"
I let her go, and she scrambled to get away. That was my cue. I turned and within three seconds, I was half-way up the fire escape. "No, wait!" she called after me. I froze, but didn't look back. "I didn't… mean that. Please…"
I turned, cautiously. She was struggling to get up. But in the middle of the alley, on heels, with one foot that looked like it was hurt, it was a trick. I started back down the steps, moving silently. She gasped when she looked up and saw me standing in front of her. I tensed. Maybe this was a mistake. She bit her lip. "You… uh…"
She was still trying to find an easy way to maneuver her way to her feet. I held out my hand. She looked up and for a moment, just stared. Then, hesitantly, she offered me a gloved hand. Velvet. She was dressed up. I pulled her to her feet easily and she nearly fell forward, trying to regain her balance on one leg. Her hands went to my shoulders instinctively.
"You okay?" I asked again as she steadied herself.
"I think…" she mumbled. "Think I just twisted my ankle. Could've been a lot worse." She looked up, and our eyes met, and I was able to notice their color. They were a warm shade of blue. "Thank you."
I couldn't help but smile. "No problem."
She cringed and bit her lip, looking down. "Geez, I…" she stammered. She laughed cynically, more to herself than me. "I don't know how the hell I'm gonna get home."
"Where's home?" I questioned.
"About three blocks that way," she pointed. "I was actually…" She sighed. "Never mind."
"No, what?" I prodded. It wasn't every day that I had the opportunity to talk with someone outside of the family who wasn't drunk or high.
She shook her head, and looked away. "Just… rough night."
"Yeah, looks like it," I agreed. She was still holding onto one of my arms. I didn't think she could stand on her own. I knew she couldn't walk. Especially not in the heels. "Well," I started, "I can help you home or I can carry you… but since you're conscious now that might be a little awkward."
She laughed quietly, and looked down. I took her hand off my shoulder and held it as I knelt down to pick up her purse. I handed it to her. "Here."
She took it, a confused and curious look on her face. I didn't question her, just slipped under her arm, circling her waist. "Which way?" I questioned. "Or do you just want me to take you to a phone? You have somebody you can call?"
She sighed. "No. I really don't. But I… like I said, my apartment's about three blocks. If you… have time?"
Time was right. Those three blocks took nearly three hours to conquer. But it gave me some time to find out a little about her. Not that I pried, but she offered information. Her name was Shannon, and she had been going home after a horribly failed date, which explained the dress and heels. She didn't live in a good part of town, and was having problem after problem at her apartment complex. She had just recently moved to Manhattan, and it was the only place she could find that was cheap. No family, or at least none that she cared to talk about. She wanted to talk about mine, though.
That was one thing I wouldn't do. I'd give her my name. Hell, I'd even give her my life story. But when it came to talking about my brothers... I shuddered as I considered the lecture that would come of this, if Leonardo or Splinter ever found out. And there would be more than a lecture. Hell, I'd probably be thrown out. Maybe even disowned.
When we finally reached her door, she stopped and turned to me, her arm pulling away from my shoulder as she fumbled for her keys. I considered my next move. "You wanna come in?" she invited.
I shook my head. It was almost midnight. Leo would, hopefully, be asleep by now, and I was exhausted. I needed to go home and crash. "No, but thanks."
She smiled as she opened the door and leaned back against the frame. She bit her lip. "I… I don't know how to thank you enough, Raphael."
I shrugged, very aware of how exposed I was. If anyone came out of their apartment and into this hallway… "Don't worry about it," I assured her. "My pleasure."
She took my hand and gripped it tightly. "Will I see you again?"
"You mean do I want to see you again?" I asked, grinning. She smiled, but her eyes were serious. I brushed back a few strands of dark hair from her eyes and left my hand resting on her cheek. "Of course."
Without warning, she kissed me. Very chaste, very modest. Just a kiss on the cheek, but it still shocked the hell outta me. "That's what I wanted to hear," she said as she turned away and slipped through the door to her apartment. Before closing it, she turned to me. "Good night, Raphael."
I was still trying to figure out how I felt about this whole thing. Leo's gonna kill you.
Heh heh. Except Leo doesn't know.
He'll find out.
Shut up. What the hell do I care if Leonardo's pissed off? When have I ever cared if Leonardo's pissed off? Not like it's his problem, anyway. My life is my business.
Although he always manages to make it his…
Finally, though, I smiled. "Good night, Shannon."