Crouching in the shadow of a decrepit warehouse in the shipping district of New York City wasn't ideal but it was familiar. Glancing to her right, Stella grinned crookedly at her other half as she prepared herself both mentally and physically for the fight she knew was about to take place.
"You ready?" He grunted low enough that only she could hear as they surveyed the large number of Purple Dragons quickly loading a large cache of stolen electronic equipment from a nearby warehouse into an unmarked semi nearby.
"Pft," she brushed off his concern with a huff. "I was born ready. Question is, can you keep up with me, Princess?" She taunted with a flutter of her long eyelashes in Raphael's direction.
He raised an eye ridge in response to her challenge and bristled slightly. "Loosa buys the beer?" He replied gruffly.
"Is there anything else worth fighting for?" She whispered back with a roll of her eyes. "Hope you brought cash sweetums," she taunted, "I'm feeling quite parched."
Rising up slowly from his position at the front of the line, Leonardo interrupted the whispered banter taking place behind him as he executed a number of quick arm movements that Stella was certain she had seen the Yankees third base coach use once.
"I don't know what that," Raphael hissed, while he flailed his arm around in an attempt to mimic Leo, "means."
Leonardo closed his eyes and took a deep breath, obviously frustrated by his team's inability to communicate with him telepathically. "Don, you stay with me. Mikey, you and the twins go around the back and stay hidden unless we need you. Don't engage unless you see my signal," he commanded staring down the trio at the back of the line.
"Why didn't he just say so?" Michelangelo asked in a confused whisper from the back of the group, giving voice to the exact feelings of the other three.
Stella theorized that the sheer number of specials on Special Forces units Leo had been watching lately probably had something to do with it. Too bad he had neglected to tell anyone else about his new method of communication.
Without a word, both Stella and Raphael grabbed a hold of the youngest turtle's carapace and dragged him behind the building in a perfectly timed, well-rehearsed movement while Leonardo sprinted around the corner, Donatello hot on his heels.
Silently, the trio crept around the back of the building, weapons held at the ready as they moved into position.
"So um, what's the signal again?" Michelangelo asked as they waited in the shadows, earning himself a disgusted glare from the other two.
"How's about you just follow us same way you always do and try to keep up. Aright Mikey?" Raphael hissed staying low and clutching his Sai tightly in his hands.
"Would you two shut up?" Stella demanded with a roll of her eyes as she watched the fighting began to escalate as more and more Purple Dragons flooded out from the warehouse. "Looks like Fearless is a bit overwhelmed. That's it," she declared unsheathing her dual Kama as she watched Donatello narrowly escape decapitation, "screw his signal. They're going to get themselves killed. Let's go," Stella directed. Without waiting for a response, she took off at a run, weapons glinting dangerously under the streetlights while she headed straight toward the fray.
As she ran there was no need for Stella to turn her head to determine the location of the other two. She knew from years of experience that Raph would be on her left side, close enough to touch, while Mikey would be following closely behind on her right. It was their favorite way to fight as they complemented one another perfectly. Her agility paired with Raphael's power and Michelangelo's speed made them a lethal force.
Like a choreographed dance, the three began to move through the hordes of Purple Dragons that were converging on Leonardo and Donatello's spinning forms, slicing their way smoothly through the masses toward the two embattled turtles.
"Looks like you need a little help, eh Fearless?" Raph taunted his older brother as he intercepted a lead pipe intended for the back of his brother's head.
"Seven!" Stella shouted over the noise of the battle as she took down another thug.
"Fuck!" Raph swore loudly and lunged forward. There was no way he was paying for beer, again. "Eight," he grunted a moment before he heard the count of nine being called out from his right side.
"Dudes, check it out," Mikey laughed as he spun his nunchucks dangerously, knocking out his closest opponent as well as the thug behind him, "a two-fer!"
"Focus Mikey," Leo commanded with a grunt as he knocked out his opponent with the hilt of his Katana before spinning around to intercept the newest attack.
Within minutes, the struggle was over, leaving the small group panting lightly as they surveyed the damage. Sprawled carelessly around them lay nearly a dozen unconscious Purple Dragons, the rest having fled the scene when their loss in the fight became undisputable.
"What'da you think they was afta?" Raphael asked as he wiped down his Sai.
Donatello poked his head out of one of the delivery truck the PDs had been loading with stolen goods. "It looks like quite the collection of computer components as well as some heavy duty scientific hardware. My guess is someone is planning on building something big and they're just the collection team."
"Cops are on their way," Stella informed the boys as she tucked her cell phone away. "Warehouse is clear. Looks like this was probably the last of whatever they're moving. Hopefully Donny can get a good track on one of the goons we let go."
"Well what're we waiting around her for? Let's get out of here dudes and dudette," Michelangelo suggested. "I can barely feel my toes and more importantly, I'm starving!"
Sheathing his swords, Leo nodded silently before leading the way to the nearest sewer grate and disappearing into the darkness.
"I don't know about you Raph, but I'm parched," Stella piped up from the back of the group reminding him of their earlier bet.
Raphael narrowed his eyes in response. "How many you'd get?" He demanded gruffly.
"Bullshit, no you didn't!" He shouted angrily.
"Did so," Stella shot back haughtily. She was certain he had only managed to take out twelve making her the winner which was a good thing since she hadn't brought any money.
"Didn't!" Raphael shot back.
"Uh actually Stella," Donatello interrupted, "no, you didn't."
Stella froze. "Are you saying I'm a liar?" She seethed as Raphael's face lit up with a victorious smirk.
Ignoring her ire, Donny shook his head, "No, only pointing out that you miscounted slightly. You actually took down fourteen. You probably forgot to count the one you took out with a backswing."
Raphael's smirk slid off his face in the blink of an eye leaving him looking comically bewildered while Stella beamed happily up at the brainy turtle. "Why thank you Donny. It's so sweet of you to keep track for me."
"It's no problem," Donatello shrugged before following Michelangelo into the sewer, leaving the other two behind.
"I still don't believe it," Raphael griped as he too descended into the darkness.
Stella shrugged above him. "Doesn't matter what you believe does it? Fact is I won so you pay, simple. Anyway don't act like it bothers you that much," she grinned down at him playfully. "It's not like I'm not going to split the beer with you. Besides, if it's any consolation, Leo only got eleven."
Raph looked back at her, a devilishly satisfied glint playing in his amber eyes. "He did?"
"Yeah," Stella chuckled. "Why do you think he was so quick to leave? Normally he would at least lecture us about behaving appropriately and taking our responsibilities more seriously."
"You know," Raph said thoughtfully as he stepped down from the ladder before putting out his arms so Stella could just jump down without having to climb, "ya ain't half bad kid." He placed her on the wet concrete. "Maybe I'll keep ya around after all." Stella just stuck out her tongue and led the way back toward their lair.
Once back in the lair, the twosome dashed into their respective rooms and changed into winter clothes before heading back toward the door.
"You two going back out?" Leo called out as Stella passed by his doorway.
Pausing for a moment, she popped her head inside the meticulously organized room. "Yeah, Raph lost a bet so we're heading topside for the night."
Leo nodded, marking his place in the book he was reading with a strip of cloth. "Are you planning on coming back tonight?"
Stella shook her head as she worked to tie her short brown hair back from her pale face. "I'm not and I'm pretty sure Raph'll just end up crashing at the apartment with me given the chance so don't expect him for practice in the morning."
Leo raised an eye ridge. "I take it you won't be joining us either?" He asked in a disapproving tone.
"Can't," Stella shrugged. "I've got a new shipment coming in first thing so I've got to be at the store to receive it and before you ask," she held up a hand to stop the questions she already knew were coming, "I already spoke to Daddy about it days ago so he's aware I won't be around tomorrow. Anyway, I'm planning to make Raph help me unload the crates and move some stuff around so don't worry about him getting out of a workout."
Leo smiled, probably remembering just how strenuous some of that work could be when Stella was in charge. "I'll hold you to it," he laughed. "Just, be careful up there."
"Always am," Stella replied before letting out a surprised shriek as she found herself tossed over Raphael's large leather clad shoulder and moving swiftly out the door and in the direction of the nearest liquor store.
"Alright now, cough it up," Stella demanded with a shiver as they stood in the shadows outside of the liquor store, their breaths coming out in puffy white clouds.
Raphael rolled his eyes but obligingly fished out the beer money and placed it in her waiting palm. "Now Stel, none of that girly shit Donny likes," he reminded her seriously.
Stella frowned slightly and griped at her chest. "It's like you don't know me at all," she pouted playfully.
"Yeah, yeah," Raph brushed her off. "You got your ID?" He asked as he visually inspected her for anything about her appearance that would set off red flags to the store clerk.
She rolled her eyes. "Yes Raph. You know, this isn't the first time I've ever bought beer I am aware of how this works. Can I go now? I'm freezin'."
"Don't know whatcha waitin' for. I sure as shit ain't stoppin' ya," he replied nonchalantly as he slipped further into the shadows.
Choosing not to argue, Stella spun on her heel and pushed open the door to the small store causing the small bell over the door to chime.
The young man behind the counter glanced up from his cell phone screen before doing a double take and tucking it into his back pocket. "Well lookie who it is," he grinned perking up immediately and unconsciously trying to fix his hair and generally straighten himself up. "Hey Stella, how's it goin'? Haven't seen you in here in a while," he remarked.
Stella waved in his direction. "Hey Jimmy!" she called as she strolled toward the back and grabbed a case of Raph's favorite beer before walking back to the front of the small store and placing it on the counter. "How's your dad?" She asked as Jimmy rang up her purchase.
"He's doing better. Chemo seems to be working, thanks for asking. How're things over your way?"
Stella shrugged noncommittally as she passed him the money. "Same shit different day. Got a new shipment coming in tomorrow, you should come check it out when you have some time off later this week," she suggested.
Jimmy handed back her change. "Yeah," he agreed before leaning on the counter, "then after maybe you and me could go out to dinner, like somewhere classy like in Manhattan or some shit," he suggested.
Stella smiled and shook her head, "You don't give up do you?"
"Not in this lifetime babe," he admitted with a grin before giving her his best puppy dog eyes. "Come on," he cajoled, "just one date? Let me take you out Stella. I'll be a perfect gentleman, I promise."
"Sorry Jimmy, answers still no," Stella laughed and grabbed the beer before heading toward the door. "Tell your dad hey for me and maybe I'll see you later this week."
"You can count on it! See you then!" Jimmy called back as the door swung shut behind her.
Stella couldn't hide the grin on her face as she walked back toward where Raph was waiting. Jimmy was a sweet kid but definitely not her type and although she had turned him down for dates for years it never stopped the guy from trying.
"Wha's got you beamin' like Mary fucking sunshine?" Raph asked as he fell in step beside her.
Stella shrugged her shoulders and handed him the case of beer to carry. "Nothin', just happy I guess."
"That little shit asked you out again didn' he?" He accused shooting an annoyed look back over his shoulder.
"Yeah, so what if he did?" Stella asked as she hurriedly crossed the street.
"You say yes?" he grumbled darkly.
Stella glanced skeptically at Raphael out of the corner of her eye. "What's it to you?" She asked suspiciously.
The large turtle scowled into the darkness. "I don't like it is all. You're too good for that guy Stel."
Stella rolled her eyes. "Jimmy's a nice guy," she defended, "and not that it's any of your business but no, I did not say yes. You happy?"
"Happier," Raphael admitted gruffly as they came to a stop in front of an old four story walk up, "but I'll be happier once I'm inside and drinkin' one of these here beers. Now, you gonna hurry up and open this door or am I gonna have to break this shit down?" He demanded. "I'm freezin' ta death out here. You know not all of us are warm blooded."
"Oh keep your shell on you big baby," Stella laughed as she fumbled with the lock on the ancient door. With a click the door was unlocked and with a push, a burst of warmth washed over the pair.
"Aaah, finally," Raph sighed as he pushed his way past Stella and began jogging up the narrow staircase toward the small apartment on the fourth floor.
"You're welcome," Stella called up the stairs toward his quickly disappearing backside as she closed the door behind her and locked the deadbolt.
When she finally made it up the several flights of stairs and through the doorway of the small apartment, she found Raph already sprawled out on the small sofa with a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other. His leather motorcycle jacket was thrown haphazardly onto the kitchen counter and his weapons lay discarded on the small dining room table.
"You're a real piece of work you know that?" Stella admonished as she snatched his coat off of the counter before hanging it on the ancient coat rack by the door.
The large turtle never looked away from the television screen as he flipped through the channels, searching for something to hold his interest. "Why'd ya say that?" He took a swig from his can of beer.
"Oh no reason," Stella muttered as she unzipped her own coat and placed it near his much larger one. "Just make yourself at home why don't ya?"
"Thanks," Raph let out a particularly large burp and slumped further into the couch, "I will."
"Charming," Stella remarked dryly as she kicked her boots off, "real fuckin' classy Raph."
Raphael shrugged before putting down the remote. "I got no one to impress. 'Sides, s'not like I don't live here part time anyway," he pointed out. "Hey while you're up, turn off the lights would ya Stel?" He asked. "That zombie flick ya wanted ta see is about to start."
"Oh crap this one's supposed to be particularly good. Super gory!" She gushed before flicking off the lights and hurrying toward the couch. "Think I should call Mikey and invite him over? He'll be a nightmare to live with if he finds out he missed this."
Raph considered it for a moment before shaking his head. "Nah. Maybe call and let him know it's on but I don't really feel like hanging with 'im right now. Here," he pulled up the tab on a fresh can of beer before offering it to Stella.
"Thanks," she sighed contentedly as she took her first sip and moaned. "Damn, this stuff is good."
"Yeah, yeah I'm a god at findin' good brews. Now hurry up and sit your warm blooded ass down. I'm cold and the movies starting." Raphael didn't wait for her to move. Instead, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her down onto the couch with him.
"Better?" she asked with a laugh as she pulled a throw off the back of the couch and draped it across them.
Raphael sighed contentedly as he pressed his face into the back of her neck and inhaled deeply before pulling her down further onto the couch until they were both laying comfortably. "Much."
"You know, I wonder what the others would say if they knew you were a closet snuggler?" Stella laughed earning a growl from the large turtle beside her. "I mean everyone would assume if it were anybody it'd be Mikey for sure. I mean, kid's got the whole adorable bit down pat but I'm bettin' no one'd pick you out as a cuddler. Hell, I'd bet there's people out there that'd pay good money for that kinda inside information…"
"This conversation got a point?" Raphael demanded as he shifted around nervously behind her.
"Not really," she admitted taking a long drink from her beer before putting it back on the side table, "just wanted to make you squirm."
"Why you littla'," he laughed, showing a side of himself that only Stella and to a lesser extent the rest of his family knew.
Suddenly, Stella found herself being assaulted by his large hands as he launched an all-out attack on her most ticklish areas. "Bet I know some people that'd be real interested to know just how ticklish you actually are," he taunted.
"You- you wouldn't," she gasped through her tears as she tried unsuccessfully to fend him off.
Raphael leaned forward slightly and pinned both of her hands above her head with just one of his. "Just try me doll," he whispered darkly, his lips brushing her ear lightly causing her to gasp slightly as a rush of heat flashed through her body causing her to flush.
"I- I hate you," she sputtered trying to recover before he could notice how flustered he had made her.
"Na you don't baby," he cooed, "you love me. Now," he released her hands and leaned back, giving Stella some room to breathe, "let's stop ta chatta an watch this shit while we get rip roaring drunk before we get called out to save some poor asshole again."
Stella reached up and grabbed her beer back. "Agreed. So drink every time we see some poor bastard get bitten?"
"You know any other way ta play?" He replied before taking a large swig as the first of many victims appeared on the screen.
By an hour into the movie, both Raphael and Stella were thoroughly trashed. "Oh you've gotta be shittin' me!" Raphael exclaimed loudly before slamming the rest of his beer as yet another victim met his bloody end at the hands of the hungry horde on the screen. "I need another beer. These poor stupid bastards jus' don't know how to run. Pass me one another would ya Stel?"
Stella swallowed her own beer before leaning over to grab one out of the box and falling off the couch in the process, much to Raphael's amusement. Struggling to right herself, she crawled over to the box and peered inside. "No can do compadre," she announced sadly before turning the box upside down and shaking it forlornly, "we's been cut off."
"What?" Raph grunted unhappily. "Lemme see. You just ain't lookin' hard enough." With as much grace as he could muster, Raphael struggled to rise to his feet only to find himself tangled up in the discarded blanket. He flailed his arms wildly for a moment before coming crashing down onto the floor, barely missing Stella.
With a groan, he rolled over, grabbed the empty beer box and shook it upside down over his head while peering skeptically inside. "There's gotta be more," he grumbled as he continued to stare unbelieving into the empty box.
Stella creased her forehead, trying to solve the dilemma. "Maybe there's sometin' in the fridge," she declared at last. Too quickly, she jumped to her feet only to find herself also caught up in the blanked still wrapped around Raphael's legs. With a small scream she came crashing down atop the downed turtle.
Raphael let out an audible, "Oof!" as she landed atop him.
Stunned, Stella lay still for a moment before she began struggling to untangle herself and climb off of Raphael. "I- ah, hum." She grunted as she tried and failed to untangle herself, flopping back down in defeat.
"Here, what if we," Raphael suggested as he flipped them over so that Stella now lay on the floor. "Now if I jus-." He tried to get up and failed. By rolling them over all he had really managed to do was wrap them up even worse than before. "Ah hell, I give up," he moaned as he dropped his head in defeat. "I've been beaten by a fuckin' fuzzy blanket. Remember me as I was Stel, not as the fuckin' mess I am now," he moaned dramatically.
Stella couldn't hold back the giggles at his dejected expression and ridiculous dramatization. "Wha's so funny?" He demanded with a glare. "I'm fuckin' dyin' here and you're laughin'." Raphael continued to glare for a few more seconds before he too started to chuckle and the pair dissolved into a fit of gut busting laughter.
"I can- I can't breathe," Stella choked out a few minutes later through the tears now streaming freely down her face.
Taking a deep breath, Raphael managed to get his own laughter under control and propped his weight up on his elbows. Opening his eyes, he cocked his head to the side as he surveyed the laughing woman currently pinned beneath him.
"You know Stel," he remarked thoughtfully as he began to play with a stray curl while she tried to control her giggles. "I've never told you this before but you're fuckin' gorgeous."
Stella's laughter died quite suddenly as she sucked in a surprised breath at his declaration. Eyes wide, she snapped her gaze up to meet his. "You're drunk," she accused him, her face heating up quickly.
"M'not," he defended indignantly. "Aight, maybe I am," he admitted, "but I'm bein' fuckin' serious right now. You're the prettiest fuckin' girl in the whole wide world and I lo-."
With a mighty shove, Stella managed to roll a startled Raph off of her and onto his back while she scrambled out of the tangle of blankets and jumped to her feet.
"Stel?" Raphael questioned confused as he struggled to rise up onto his knees.
"Gotta get to bed," she replied shortly as she bustled around. "There's a big shipment being delivered in the morning and I've got to be up receive it."
Raph furrowed his brow as he climbed back onto the couch and watched her dart off toward the small bedroom. "Uh, night?" he muttered after her retreating form.
Once inside the small bedroom, Stella quickly changed her clothes before throwing herself onto the bed. The small fourth floor apartment was anything but quiet. The muffled sound of city noises provided a backdrop to the rattling coming from the ancient radiator by the door and the movie in the next room, and while she knew it was impossible, Stella worried Raphael would hear her heart pounding over all these noises. She had no idea what had come over him and she wasn't sure what to do.
She had known for years that she was attracted to Raphael but never had she wanted to badly to act upon her feelings. Normally she brushed it aside and suppressed her emotions knowing he would never see her the same way but she was finding it harder and harder to do as time went by and it frightened her.
She had never once questioned whether he thought of her as anything other than his sister, his twin and therefore she had never let herself consider the possibility that he might- She clutched at her head and tried to clear her muddled thoughts.
He was drunk that was all it was, she assured herself. Raphael wasn't interested in her like that, he was just spouting off nonsense and everything would go back to the way it was in the morning once they had sobered up, she was sure of it. With that thought in mind she curled up under the blankets and allowed herself to drift off.
She was almost asleep when she felt the other side of the mattress dip as Raphael climbed into the large bed beside her as he was apt to do when they stayed the night at the apartment. "Raph?" She mumbled sleepily turning toward his bulky form outlined in the darkness.
"Ssh, sorry," he muttered lowly. "It's jus' me. Go back to sleep"
"Movie ended," he explained as he climbed under the mountain of blankets.
"Tay," Stella murmured as she slipped quickly back toward unconsciousness.
"Night Stel," Raphael whispered as he wrapped his arm protectively around her and closed his eyes. "Love you," he mumbled into her hair.