Author's Note: OMG! First of all, I want to say how incredibly sorry I am for making you guys wait this long, for I never had any intention to do so. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses for you, because that's not honest—the real truth is that I've simply had no inspiration for the past months for this fic, and I was seriously considering not continuing it. Real life has just really been weighing me down lately, with the end of high school in sight, planning for college, loads of piano work, family problems and personal difficulties…needless to say, I just haven't had the energy nor the inspiration to write. BUT, don't worry about a thing! This story WILL be completed, because I absolutely HATE leaving things unfinished. I'm not going to promise quick updates, because I'd be lying to you if I did, but just know that no matter how long the wait, I am not going to leave it undone. I thank you all for your patience, and I hope you all will understand—that is, if I have any readers left at ALL by this point! But thank you just the same, and I sincerely apologize. A big hug of gratitude goes out to my editor sss, for helping me get my butt in gear, TN, for her suggestions, help and encouragement, and last but certainly not least, Splinter, for her humor, support, and friendly nudging for updates. I know I've been killing you! And here it is, at last. Good thing Donny's had some dry wall expertise…*g*
I could see Raphael's muscles tense. His body went rigid, his shoulders straightened. The tension shot up like a rocket. I blinked a few times, confused. Beyond Raph, Michaelangelo seemed just as bewildered as I was. And just as sure that there was something very wrong. The tone of Raph's voice in and of itself hadn't begged an argument or a fight. It was something more. Frankly, I wasn't sure I wanted to know what.
Turning to Leonardo who was still on the floor beside the loveseat, I offered him my hand. He took it and rose unsteadily to his feet. "What was that about?" I asked him quietly, remembering for just a moment the loud arguing that had brought me out into the living room in the first place. It wasn't uncommon for Raph and Leo to fight, but this was a little more dramatic than usual. Leo scowled, but didn't answer.
"What. The fuck. Is she doing here?"
Raph's low, menacing, evenly spaced words cut through my thoughts like a knife. The fight of moments before was suddenly forgotten, replaced by the realization that a new one was about to start. I looked back toward the door and craned my neck to see behind Michaelangelo. He had someone with him? I tensed just slightly. There were strict rules about bringing guests down to the lair. Who was she?
That question was surprisingly easy to answer, even before I saw her. This was the reason for Mike's sudden change of attitude. This was the mysterious girl, the confirmation to the conclusions that I had previously drawn. He was seeing someone. And he'd brought her down to the lair.
My eyes came to rest on the girl and I studied her for a moment, well aware that I was far enough away so as not to offend her by my blatant appraisal. She was slim, and the whiteness of her skin was a sharp contrast to the dark brown hair that swept across the tops of her shoulders. Her eyes were a swirling, deep blue color, blanketed in a look that closely resembled panic. My gaze locked there, and I watched her closely. There was something very unsettling about the look hidden behind those eyes…
Okay. So Mike had a girlfriend. And he'd brought her down to the lair. But that didn't explain the feeling of cold fury that had swept through the room as Raphael spoke. Hadn't he and Mike come to a mutual understanding about this whole thing? Why did he have a problem with her? Did he know her? God, I hoped she wasn't an ex-girlfriend of his or something equally as difficult to deal with. To the best of my knowledge, Raphael hadn't had any girlfriends so far. But then, with as much as he was gone, it was hard to tell. It wasn't like I thought he'd tell me.
I was confused, to say the least. But somehow, I wasn't really surprised. I had known from the start that that there was more to this story than met the eye, although I hadn't known how complex it was going to be. Hell, I still didn't have a real idea yet of what I was actually dealing with here. However, it was increasingly obvious to me, even in this space of so little time as Mike tried to find an answer, that Raphael knew her. The question was how, and I dreaded the answer. God, how I desperately wished that I had been able to put all the pieces into place before they came together in a whirlwind like this…
Mike was wearing a look of surprise. He was suddenly unsure, and equally startled as I was by Raphael's outburst. That was not typically the way we greeted new people. Or old friends, I realized painfully. However he knew her, if indeed he did, it hadn't been a happy end to their relationship. I would've given my right arm at that moment to have some forewarning, some idea of what was going to happen here. I couldn't see Raphael's expression, and the confused look on Mike's face offered me no grounds for conclusion. All I could do was wait, tensed and ready for whatever came my way.
Mikey swallowed hard and forced aside his sudden insecurity. "Raph… this is, uh…"
Jesus, Mike, you forget her name?
My eyes cut to the girl and I saw her take a step back into the shadows. Her eyes remained locked on Raphael as she backed away from both of them. There was no chance that her uneasiness was mere shock at seeing more mutants like Michaelangelo. She definitely knew him. For that matter, she probably knew him well. I felt my own lids slide closed as the information slowly began to process and new realizations began to form. So much more than what meets the eye…
Mike's stammered answer apparently wasn't enough to satisfy Raphael. "I said, what the fuck is she doing here!"
Before I had even the chance to take in the screamed sentence, it concluded with a loud slam. My eyes fluttered open and my own muscles tensed as I saw that he'd pinned Mike to the wall beside the lair door. Michaelangelo tipped his head back instinctively, putting what few centimeters he could between himself and Raphael. His eyes were wide as saucers, and I could tell it hadn't even crossed his mind to struggle. I winced with sympathy pains for Mike, knowing that the grip on his arms was most likely that of iron. He wasn't going anywhere. At the moment, he was at his brother's mercy. And that was a frightening thought. My previous worry for Raph ebbed away as my only thoughts remained locked on Mike.
The girl had jumped back. She stood now in the tunnel, well outside of the lair. I was half expecting her to bolt, and I wouldn't blame her if she did. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be that close to Raphael at this point in time. But she remained, hidden by the shadows, her eyes locked on my brothers. For a lingering moment, no one spoke. The only sound to cut through the tense silence was that of Raphael's heavy, enraged breathing as he stared Mike down. He growled something too low to hear and Mike's eyes widened even bigger, a look of pure fear coming over his features.
I couldn't guess what was said. I didn't really want to. I stood still, too confused and surprised to manage speech. It was Leo who found his voice and his feet first. I could sense him start to move cautiously towards Raph and Mike even before I saw him, and I tensed. For a moment, I couldn't help but think he'd gone crazy. You just signed your own death warrant, Leo…
"Raph, stop this." How Leonardo managed to throw that authoritative tone was beyond me. I couldn't even speak, and he'd managed to revert back to his normal, determined self. But his tone was cut short by Raph's hot, fiery one.
"Stay the fuck out of this, Leo," he growled, his voice as sharp and cold as the prongs of the sais he used. "This ain't none of your goddam business." His eyes never moved from Michaelangelo.
I felt a chill run down my spine, and feared for Mike's life. I could count on one hand the number of times I'd heard Raphael use that tone, and it was almost always followed by blood spatter. I could tell that Leo felt the same thing I did, for it silenced him momentarily. He knew as well as I did that if he stepped any closer, blatantly refusing to "stay out of it," he and Raph were going to end up killing each other. I knew I had to do something. But there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I wasn't about to make a move on Raph. Maybe I should go get Splinter before someone gets hurt…
Choosing to ignore Leonardo's presence for the time being, he turned to Mike again. "What kind of goddamn trick are you trying to fucking pull?" he snarled.
Michaelangelo tried several times to answer before he managed to make a sound. "Trick?" he stammered, his voice much quieter than Raphael's. He swallowed hard and blinked a few times. "I'm… not pulling anything," He dared a quick look toward the door. "You… Splinter wanted to meet her and…I thought you…"
This statement just seemed to make Raph tense all the more, and right now I was confused beyond belief. What trick could Raphael possibly be referring to? Who was…?
And then, everything suddenly seemed clear, all the puzzle pieces slid into place, and the mere prospect that the conclusions I had reached might be true sent cold shivers up my spine. Raph had known her. He'd known her well, and maybe still did. And Mike...
I had never in all my eighteen years seen Raphael this angry and upset with Michaelangelo. Even when we were younger, they never really fought, unless it was in jest. But now, here, with Mike pinned to the wall in a death grip...
It had all happened in seconds, and it could very well end that way. I still hadn't had a chance to process everything my eyes were seeing, much less why it was happening. I didn't know the whole story; how could I even begin to pick sides? But my concern for Michaelangelo had nothing to do with my agreeing or disagreeing with him. The only thing that I was really certain of was that I was frightened for my younger brother. I had seen that look in Raph's eyes before, heard that tone in his voice, although I'd never heard it toward Mike.
Michaelangelo was terrified. His eyes were large and I could see fear stamped clearly in their depths. Beads of sweat stood out sharply on his forehead, and his whole body had gone rigid from shock. My gaze drifted away from him and locked on the girl he'd brought with him. She was cowering in the shadows, afraid. Well, hell, I would be too. Michaelangelo could be dead in ten different ways, if that's what Raph wanted, before any one of us had a chance to take a step toward them. But some nagging feeling warned there was more to her fear than the obvious. And that feeling begged the question of whether or not I wanted to get involved. Or if I had a right to.
But now, Mike's life was practically on the line. And regardless of the girl or what she meant to either of them, that was my problem. It was my responsibility right now to make Raph think clearly, or there was going to be bloodshed. My subconscious rolled its eyes at that thought. Yeah, right. If you knew how to do that we wouldn't be having this problem...
Raphael would get even angrier at me if I tried to intercept him, and I knew it. But that was a risk I had to take, hoping that he would loosen his grip on Mike's throat when he moved to attack me.
"You better tell me what the fuck is going on…" Raphael growled. His low, menacing words broke the suffocating silence that was beginning to descend upon the room, and I glanced at Don to see if I could read his thoughts. From the side, his expression was unreadable. But he turned to face me as I watched him, and our eyes met briefly. He was afraid. Just as afraid as I was and maybe more so. The look in his eyes told me he knew something I didn't. He understood something...
I shook myself free of his gaze and turned back to the scene at hand, hoping desperately that Splinter would come into the room, already surprised that the brief racket hadn't been enough to disturb him.
"Raph…I'm telling you…" Mike began to protest softly again, the fear in his stance accentuating the nervousness I detected in his voice. It was already pretty obvious to me that Raphael wasn't satisfied with whatever it was Mike was saying, and I wondered what it was that he thought Mike knew.
God…what is going on here? I could feel myself starting to go crazy from this ignorance and lack of information. I had already sensed that Don knew more than I did; Raph sure as hell knew more. My eyes flicked again to the girl and I let them stay on her for a longer moment than I had previously. She knew too. Mike and I were the only ones who were clueless right now. But she was backed so far into the dark of the sewers that the blackness almost swallowed her up, and I couldn't see much of her expression. All I could really tell was that she was frightened, though whether by the situation or Raphael's rage, I couldn't be sure.
Everything about the way she stood spelled fear—hell, she looked almost as scared as Mike. Her eyes were extremely large, and they were moving about the room nervously, flickering to me, to Don, but mostly remaining locked on Mike and Raph. She rarely blinked, like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. She was fiddling anxiously with her hands, shifting indecisively from foot to foot. Damn, just watching her was making me nervous.
Okay. So she probably knew more about this than anybody; maybe she even knew the whole thing. But what it was she knew still evaded me, and I had not come any closer to solving that puzzle by scrutinizing her.
"Yeah?" Raph growled back, his voice rising to an enraged shout. "Well, how about you just tell me how the hell she got here and how the fuck you know her!"
I'd had enough. I wasn't quite sure exactly what I was going to do about it, or even what Raphael was getting at. But right now, the most important thing to me was Mike's safety. And at this point, it was most certainly in jeopardy. I stepped forward slightly, ready for World War III when I had to pry his grip off of Mike's shoulder, but stopped as I felt the presence of someone else in the room.
"Raphael!" I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the authoritative voice that I knew so well cut through the tension. "Release him."
Everything had happened so fast. One second I knew I was walking down the sewers with Mike, and the next he had thrown open some door that had been hidden in the wall and I was face to face with Raph. Now I could do nothing except curse myself for being such a complete idiot.
Great job, Shannon, I grumbled to myself, you've really done it this time! Where did you think he was taking you while you're walking around the sewers, a new pizza parlor? So now what? I had some explaining to do, and it looked like I was going to be doing it a lot sooner than I'd originally intended. Not only to Raph, but to Mike as well. I wasn't entirely sure which I dreaded more. I certainly feared the thought of having to face Raphael… but I didn't want to think of how Michaelangelo would stomach the idea that the "other guy" was none other than his own brother! You should've told him, Shannon… You should've told him a long time ago…
Nothing had prepared me for the sudden threat, the way Raphael threw Mike against the wall. I had never seen him so angry, and it frightened me. What frightened me more was the fact that Mike didn't even know what he was being attacked for. But you had been warned that he had a temper, I reminded myself. Mike told you. Anger, yes… but he wouldn't really hurt his own brother, would he?
The fact that only Raphael and myself really knew why he was so angry made me realize that I had to step in. And the rash part of me was fully prepared to go over to them, to try and explain the whole soap opera to the entire family. But I couldn't move. I was having a hard time breathing, and walking was certainly out of the question. Fear had paralyzed me. I was seriously afraid that Raphael would rip me to shreds if I so much as touched him right now.
And you certainly deserve no better than that right now, I reminded myself.
I was still trying to work up the nerve to speak when I sensed a new presence in the room. I turned and jumped, surprised, as a giant rat walked into the room. I almost laughed at my own reaction. Heh, remember? Mikey's told you about him, too…
A feeling of gratitude and relief washed over me as the command came for Raph to let his brother go. I could feel beads of sweat on my forehead, the back of my neck, and the temperature in the room seemed to climb even higher as everyone in the room, including myself, turned to look at Raph expectantly. I don't know if I actually expected him to obey or not, but I prayed he would.
The seconds ticked by, the tensions mounted, and fear flooded through me as I was suddenly terrified that Raph would not release him. What then? Would their sensei step in between them? Could he step in? Would it do any good? I was about to open my mouth to plead with Raphael when he finally let go. He let out a low growl and slowly removed his hands from his brother's shoulders, stepping back reluctantly.
His eyes flashed dangerously. Mike's shoulders sagged. There was a loud sigh of relief, then a long silence. Eyes shifted to me, then back to Raphael. The feeling of their stares did not really effect me any more than I had already been effected. At least, not until Raphael turned. I gasped an audible breath in, pressing back against the wall with my fingers spread, trying to get further away from him.
He glared, his eyes flashing. Anger, yes. But also pain. Confusion. Guilt swept through me. My heart broke and my knees seemed like they would give way beneath me at any moment. I didn't breathe. I felt as if he were staring straight into my soul, and that terrified me. The intensity of that stare was more than enough to make my heart hammer in my ears.
He watched me, growled something I didn't understand, then stepped toward me. I jumped. A million thoughts ran through my mind. Should I scream? Run? Curl into a ball and try to shield myself? I was still trying to decide what to do as he pushed past me, his arms at his sides, fists clenched, and stormed into the darkness. He didn't touch me. Didn't look at me. I breathed out. I closed my eyes. I wished things hadn't happened this way.
I had known from the start that my son was not entirely truthful with me concerning his relationship with the woman who was now in our home. In addition, a peculiar feeling of foreboding and apprehension had been ever present, though the exact reason for it had evaded me thus far. Now, even without explanation, I was witnessing the result of things I did not understand.
I had no understanding of the situation as a whole, but I knew that it was first and foremost dangerous. Not only to Michaelangelo, but also to Raphael. His quick temper impaired his thinking and caused him to act irrationally. But this was more than a demonstration of instinct. His wrath was intense, in such a way that I had never seen it before. Certainly I had never seen him so angry at Michaelangelo. Their bond had always been the strongest among the four of them, and they rarely quarreled. Certainly not to such an extreme extent. I did not know what had come over Raphael to cause him to act so. This was not acceptable. I could not have my sons living in terror of each other.
Michaelangelo was still resting against the wall, his eyes speaking of fear. I saw him making occasional surreptitious glances at her, as if doing so would help him uncover the reason for his brother's sudden and unexpected outburst. It was immediately evident that he understood very little of the present situation, and he had perhaps not lied to me to such a great extent as I had first thought. He did not understand; but from a brief look at this young woman, I felt rather certain that she understood a great deal. Leonardo and Donatello appeared frozen in place, the shock of what had happened, and of what had just been about to happen, seemingly preventing them from moving. It was Leonardo who finally spoke first.
"Sensei," he began, and I turned to look at him. "Do you want me to go and…"
His voice trailed off as I shook my head. The doubtful look in his eyes told me he did not concede with me entirely, but I knew he would respect my decision. I understood Raphael. And I understood that he needed to be alone for some time now to collect his thoughts. Speaking with him now would only incur more anger.
"Let him be for awhile yet, my son. Perhaps it is best that this is done so that we achieve more in the present time."
My eyes moved to Michaelangelo again. He was watching the woman in confusion. "Michaelangelo, sit down," I guided gently. "So that we all may be able to talk."
He nodded wordlessly and stepped away from the wall. I sighed softly and turned so that my gaze fell on the still-open door, and the young woman that had been forgotten for the moment as she stood in the shadows of the sewers.
"Come here, my child," I beckoned, smiling encouragingly at her.
She gave a nervous smile, and as she stepped toward me, I noticed her slender form trembling ever so slightly. Not wanting to intimidate her and keep her from speaking, I held my small smile as she moved to sit down upon the loveseat positioned across from the couch where my three sons were now sitting. It was positioned akwardly, and had recently been moved. I chose not to mention it.
I remained standing so that I could see everything. I noticed Michaelangelo looking at her more openly, seemingly not caring now who saw. It pained me to see the intense battle of emotions playing across his face, the grief, hurt, and bitterness that clouded his eyes. Such emotions were not like him to possess.
Leonardo and Donatello sat respectively, waiting for me to speak again. I was just about to open my mouth to begin, and I was a little startled when she took the initiative and spoke first. "I am so sorry," she apologized quickly, her voice choked. Her head was lowered slightly so that her brown hair fell forward, concealing her eyes. "This whole thing is all my fault."
"What do you mean by that, Shannon?" I replied gently.
She raised her head then, a curious look in her eyes, and inquired, "You know my name?"
I smiled. "Yes. I have been told of you."
Shannon gave me a weak smile in return. "Raph and Mike spoke to you of me then?"
I blinked. This news was new to me. I had known that Raphael was seeing someone, but he had never offered information about her in the way that Michaelangelo had, and from the reactions of my sons, I could easily see that it was new to them as well. Michaelangelo's head snapped up, and I saw his muscles visibly tighten. His eyes flashed for a moment with something akin to anger as he struggled with the information he had just been given. Leonardo's jaw went taught and his eyes narrowed and darkened, but I could also see a speck of worry imbedded in them as well. Donatello watched silently, seemingly unaffected. But I could see the flicker of emotion in his eyes. Not surprise. Perhaps dread, or something very near to it.
"Michaelangelo has told of you to me, yes," I answered, "but I have not heard Raphael mention your name."
The slight jolt that ran through her showed that this information slightly shocked her, although she quickly tried to hide it. "He didn't?"
I shook my head, a sad look in my eyes. "No, he did not, my dear. So how about you tell us the whole story, from the very beginning?"
*puppy dog eyes*