I do not own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in any of their various incarnations. Like any fan, I wish I did.
I have been a fan of TMNT since the original 1987 show debuted. I watched it any chance I got, but didn't get to see every episode. Now, I'm watching the new show on Nick, and liking what I see. This story is being written solely for my own entertainment and muse, but I like to share, so here it is. In this story, and the following ones (if I get that far), the turtles are now in their early 20's. I'm going off some of the things in the new show; Master Splinter is now black and white, and April has been friends with them from age sixteen, when they saved her from being kidnapped. Also, since I think the April/Donny pairing is cute, I've stuck with that. I am not, nor will I ever be, a Casey Jones fan. Sorry. No CJ in this story.
And since Leonardo is my favorite, this story is his. His, and the nice girl he falls for. So if you're not into the turtles pairing with OCs, this isn't for you. Sorry again.
No more apologies. Here it is, for better or worse. Thanks for reading, even if this is as far as you go.
CHAPTER ONE: SUPERSTITIOUS
Melisande Tomkins slid her slender hand into her cocoa-brown purse and discreetly checked the time on her smart phone. It was nearing ten pm, and the lecturer she was currently listening to was still going strong. Not that the subject matter was bad; the man was talking about his adventures in the Canadian wild. He'd written a book about it, which Melisande, or Meli, as she liked to be called, had read a few weeks ago in preparation for tonight. He was a decent writer, but she'd read better. And by now, the droning of his voice was causing her eyelids to lower for longer periods.
Time to go, she thought. There was a decent little crowd of listeners at the book store, big enough to give her confidence she could slip away relatively unnoticed. She picked up her purse and stood. The speaker's voice never wavered. Hurrying away from the little reception area, she sighed in relief. She wasn't one who liked hurting someone's feelings, though she suspected the man knew what she was doing. At least I didn't fall asleep. That would've been worse.
The New York air was bitter tonight, and she drew her coat closer to her small frame. Her dark, always curling hair crept out from beneath her hat and clung to her face, irritating her. She brushed it back with an impatient hand. She was tired; she'd spent all day at the Trove, her little book shop, and business had been steady. Her father, a professor-turned-Indy Jones, had sent her a nice little bundle of unique books from the Caribbean, where he was currently traipsing around. The books had come in on Monday; today was Thursday, and two of the four had already found homes.
She hummed a Steve Miller tune under her breath as she crossed the street and headed into her neighborhood. It was darker here; a few street lights were knocked out, and the remaining ones cast longer shadows. It did no good to linger on the street in these parts. Her shop, and attached small apartment, were just beyond the next corner. The breeze grew stronger, blowing a couple of stray pieces of paper along the street before pushing them up against the storm sewers. A small black cat, scrappy and scruffy, crossed her path, making her draw up short. Rotten luck! Not that she was really superstitious or anything. Her father had always thought you made your own luck, and she tried to follow his philosophy. Still, she had to admit, seeing the cat made her rethink her decision to come this way. She could've taken a different route, but it was longer. Ah, well. Buck up. Dipping her head against the chilly November air, she walked on.
The loud voice startled her. She wasn't used to anyone being out and about this late in this neighborhood. Another voice chimed in, and another, and their subject content was made all too clear. Biting her lip and hoping to avoid the deal going down, she began to backtrack. And she might've gotten away with it, if her phone hadn't beeped, wanting attention for its dying battery. She froze. Four men emerged from the long alley she'd been about to cross. The first one looked her over, smiled, and pointed his gun at her.
Stupid rotten luck. Stupid cat. Meli's heart hammered and her feet stumbled as the men herded her into the alley. She'd been warned by one of them to keep her mouth shut or she'd be dead. The urge to scream surged up her throat. She fought it down. There might be a slight chance they'd let her live, but right now the one in a black sweatshirt with KISS's logo was staring at her, his gun drawing a target on her heart. A heart that seemed quite close to bursting with terror.
The taller man, the one who'd smiled at her, walked over. The deal had apparently been sealed. "So, gorgeous, ya got a name?" he asked. He might've been nice-looking, but for the drug haze in his eyes and the skull tattoo that crossed his face. When she didn't answer, couldn't out of fear, he grabbed her arm. "Said, what's your name?"
"Aw, she's too scared to talk," the kid in black said. Meli was shaking now. Oh, sure she carried the obligatory can of mace in her purse, but what good did that do her now? Her father had told her to buy a taser, but she'd resisted, thinking they were too violent. And anyway, in this position she found herself in, neither would help. Not with all the guns pointed at her.
"You better say somethin,' girly," the one holding her arm said.
"Maybe she likes bein' quiet," another chimed in.
"I like loud ones." Her captor stared at her. "You get me, girl? Loud." He made a few grunting noises.
And just like that, Meli saw through her terror what would happen. Somehow, she was part of this deal of theirs now. The piece of filth holding her thought she'd go and do that with him? Anger broke past the horror. Meli jerked her arm away and kicked out at him, at the same time swinging her purse. The kick drove him back, catching him in the upper thigh. Her purse connected with Black Sweatshirt, smacking him squarely across the face. Her euphoria at fighting back faded, though, as the other two men grabbed her and threw her down onto the pavement. This time, she screamed.
She heard a sharp intake of breath, saw one of the men fall flat, and was suddenly lifted to her feet. "Hide," someone whispered in her ear, and she was given a soft push toward the back of the alley. Meli nodded and ran to two large dumpsters, wedging herself in between them. Her attackers were on the defensive now, and one of them fired a shot. She heard more groans, a sharp cry of pain, and it was still. So still she heard her own heart rampaging in her chest, and took a small, deep breath. Was it really over? She poked her head out, and saw four bodies on the ground. But where was her rescuer? She slipped out from her hiding place and crept forward, cautiously eyeing the men on the concrete.
Then there was a hitched breath. She stopped. She knew that kind of breath. It was one of pain, pain intense enough you couldn't hide it. "Hello?" she whispered. Nothing. Not even another breath. "I know you're hurt. I can tell from your breathing," she said. She moved again, her hazel eyes now roving the shadows. "I promise, I can help you. Please."
Her rescuer gave another breath. Aha. She had him now. She stopped and said, "You can't stay here and bleed to death, now can you? Please, let me help you. You helped me." Sound and logical. Would it work?
"I'm okay." The voice was nice, not too baritone, not flighty. She liked it.
She took a step closer. "You're a terrible liar," she said. Her voice was soft, gentle. "I really can help. I've taken some nursing classes." They hadn't been her idea; her mother had been a nurse, and her father had urged to the same profession. But she was too much like him, too fond of books. The training she'd picked up had never been put to use before, but she was sure she remembered it all. And really, most of the training didn't come from those classes, anyway. Her uncle Rafe had had an awful lot to do with her "nursing" skills.
There was a ripple in the shadows, and very slowly, her rescuer emerged. "Oh," she breathed, compelled to take a step closer. Blood trickled down his left side and ran slippery red down his muscular green leg. Green? What in the world…Meli lifted her eyes to take the rest of him in, and held herself rock-still. A turtle. Her rescuer was a turtle? And not just any old garden-variety terrapin, either: he was about five foot eight or nine, and packing a serious pair of katana. He was watching her from behind a blue mask, the tails of which fluttered behind him in the breeze. "Hi," she offered, once she found her voice. She was proud it didn't shake. He saved my life. I can't possibly be afraid of him. She smiled, hoping to put him at ease.
"Hello." He held himself quiet, even though she knew his wound had to be hurting something fierce. Blood still tracked down his side.
She took a step closer, watching as he drew himself tighter into his shell. "Are you okay enough to walk?"
"Yes." His eyes never left hers. Eyes so blue they brought to mind the Atlantic on a warm summer day.
"Okay." So he wasn't chatty. That was fine. He was in enough pain that talking was probably hard for him. "Um, my apartment is just up around the next corner. I've got first aide stuff there." My, didn't she sound eloquent. She started to walk past him, toward the opening of the alley.
"Are you alright?" His concern was palpable, and she turned to him, seeing it radiating from his eyes. She had to swallow hard – it'd been a long time since a guy had looked that way at her. It didn't even matter that he was a turtle.
"Yes, thanks to you," she whispered. She still wasn't sure if she was actually conversing with a giant turtle, or if that slam to the ground a bit ago had rendered her unconscious, in a really weird dream state.
"Good." He seemed to be waiting, so she started leading the way out of the alley. It was much colder now, and she shivered, wishing she'd listened to her instincts earlier and worn her heavier coat. She glanced over her shoulder; the turtle was coming along, his face devoid of any emotion. But his jaw was clenched, and he kept his left hand tight against his side. She wanted to walk faster, or jog, even, but didn't think he'd be able to keep up.
They reached the store front, and she slid her key in, having grabbed it out of her purse on the way. She didn't want to keep him waiting any longer than necessary. She stepped in and hit the first light switch; two tall floor lamps came on, illuminating the main room of the store with all its book cases and treasures her father had gleaned the world over. "My apartment is back this way," she said. She waved toward a rear door, and waited as he stepped by her so she could relock the front one. She didn't want any interruptions.
"Here, please sit," she said. She showed him into her small kitchen, noticing the care he took to ensure his shell didn't knock anything off the countertop. "Be right back." She hurried to the bathroom, and grabbed her first aid kit from the back shelf. Pausing to glance in the vanity mirror, she grimaced. With her hair disheveled and street grime streaking her face, it was no wonder he thought she might be hurt. Oh, stuff it. It didn't matter what she looked like right now. It only mattered that she help him, because he had risked his life for her.
He was ill at ease when she came back into the kitchen. His eyes followed her close, and for this she blushed, feeling self-conscious. She set the kit on the table and grabbed a couple of rags from a drawer. Running them under warm water and putting a bit of gentle soap on them, she turned to him. He eyed her.
"Can I see your wound?" she asked. It looked like he was considering bolting, but then he removed his hand, and she got her first true look. The blood was starting to clot, but she saw the ragged edges. She sucked in a sharp breath. A knife wound. Those crazies had knives? She could imagine what sort of damage they would've done to her had he not shown up. Her vision swam a little, and she reached a hand to the back of his chair to steady herself. Get it together, Tomkins. "I'm sorry you got hurt," she said. She cleaned the wound with gentle care, glad it wasn't very big.
"I'm glad you didn't." His voice was low. He had his eyes closed against the pain, and she marveled at how tough he was. Even though the wound wasn't particularly large, it was deep enough that he needed stitches.
"Thank you for rescuing me," she said. She put some antiseptic on another clean cloth. "This will sting some." He nodded, probably already figuring it would. She saw a few faint scars on his toned arms, and wondered how in the world he'd gotten them. Saving other people in distress? He made no sound as she put on the antiseptic. "You were very brave," she added.
He opened his eyes to look at her. "You're welcome." No comment on the brave part.
"It isn't too deep, but it needs stitches. I can do that, if you'd like." Really, where else would he go? She doubted he frequented a veterinarian's office much.
"Thank you." Again he closed his eyes, like he was summoning will power to stay seated. She got a needle and heavy-duty thread, the kind doctors used in the ER.
"They're sterile, in case you're wondering." She paused. "Would you like anything to drink, or eat? I have tea, or coffee, or soda." Her mouth was dry; she could only imagine his, after all the fighting.
"Tea, please. Thank you," he said. She nodded and moved away to set some water to boiling. Taking up the needle and thread, she considered his position.
"Um, this would be easier if you were lying down," she told him. He opened his eyes again and nodded. "My couch is this way," she added, waiting for him to get to his feet. He followed her into her living room and waited as she pitched her throw pillows off to make room for him, leaving one for his head. He lay down, and she knelt next to him. "Just try to relax," she encouraged. She began to stitch the ragged edges together, recalling her training.
"So...you learned how to stitch in school?" he asked, his voice dark with pain.
"Well, yes and no." She paused for a second. "One of my uncles taught me how to do it, actually. But I did take a couple of nursing classes, too." She worked quietly then for a few moments, and he seemed content to stay quiet as well. "My name is Melisande Tomkins," she told him a couple minutes later. She stitched quickly, carefully, trying not to hurt him more than he already was. "Meli, if you'd like," she added.
"Nice name," he offered. "I'm Leonardo. Leo."
She smiled. It fit him and she told him so. She thought maybe she saw the corner of his mouth tilt upward, but couldn't be sure. His skin wasn't near as tough as she'd thought it would be, and she liked the smoothness of it. In fact, if she was going to be completely honest with herself, she rather liked having this well-built turtle in her home. As soon as she let that thought pass, she blushed something terrible and hoped he wouldn't choose that moment to open his eyes. Really, what was she thinking? Would he even be attracted to a human? Was she really attracted to him? She wasn't willing to examine that thought, so she concentrated on finishing up her work.
The kettle whistled as she finished up, and she went to her main cupboard and stretched to reach her tea tin. He came back into the kitchen and sat down, watching her with a steady gaze. "What sounds good?" she asked. She was having trouble thinking about the tea, as his gaze was warm and intense, and for a second, she couldn't breathe. Seriously, she needed to quit reading those stupid romance novels her mother had left her.
"What do you have?" he asked. He seemed more relaxed now, as if he sensed she really was trust-worthy, now that she'd put him back together.
She took a breath and set the tin on the table, allowing him to look through the tea, and hoping there was at least one he deemed appealing. He took two out and held them to her, and she smiled. Sweet Dreams, my favorite. Was her luck starting to get better? It was hard to find a guy who liked tea, and especially the same kind she did. She made two cups and handed him one, fascinated at how large his hand was on her delicate china cup, and how gently he handled it. They were both quiet for a few moments.
"Do you own the store?" he asked a while later. His voice sounded friendlier now, not clipped and upset. She supposed most of that had been the adrenaline, and not knowing how she'd react to a big talking turtle, especially one who packed a grisly-looking pair of katana.
She nodded. "The Trove, I call it. I sell books. Well, old books, anyway. No best-sellers here, unless they're rare, or unique, or different." She blushed, hating that she was rambling. Attractive men always had weird effects on her. And no matter that he was a turtle – he was definitely attractive.
He sipped his tea. "It's a very nice place." He moved and she caught the wince that crossed his face. He wasn't feeling hot.
"Thanks. Would you like some ibuprofen? That will help with the pain," she said.
"No, I'm fine." The response came so fast she knew it was automatic. He hadn't even stopped to register how much pain he was in. She got up and went to another cupboard, taking out a large bottle and turning to him. His eyes widened. "No, really, I'm fine," he said.
"You're hurt. You need to take something," she said. She slid the bottle across the table to him. "Please."
He frowned, but reached for the bottle. He unscrewed the top and shook out two pills. He swallowed them down with some tea.
"Now, that wasn't too hard, right?" she said, and smiled when he shot a dark little glare her way. "You don't have to be in pain just to prove you're a hero."
He snorted and said something below his breath that she couldn't catch. For some reason, his reaction made her mad. "Leo, you are a hero. My hero. Do you know what those guys were planning to do to me?" She didn't have to say it. She saw the conclusion in his eyes when they met hers.
"I'm glad I was there." His eyes didn't leave hers while he said it, and she could feel a blush blooming across her cheeks.
"Me too," she said. She didn't want to imagine what could've gone on. Deciding she wouldn't think about it right now, she asked, "Do you like to read?" Her job, her hobby, were much safer topics. Later, when he'd gone his way, and she could cry, she'd face what had happened earlier.
He nodded. "All the time. I'm assuming you do, too." He offered her a smile.
"It's a passion," she admitted. "A disease, my father says. I caught it from him." A soft smile stole over her face as she thought about him, wondering where he'd be off to next. It would've been nice to see him, but he'd never been one to roost in any one place long. Made life stale, he said.
"Are you two close?" There was genuine curiosity in Leo's voice.
"Yes, but we don't see each other much. He travels, looking for rare and exotic literature. He sends them here to me, and I sell them." Or, sometimes she kept them. She hadn't been able to part with the fabulous expose of the European monarchs. "Do you have family?" she asked. She immediately hoped he did; she didn't want him to feel bad. Surely there had to be some others like him. Right?
"Three brothers, all younger, and a father. Well, father and Sensei. He's a…rat. Literally." He paused, watching her close. "We're mutants. We were changed when some mutagen was poured on us."
"Oh." She processed this, and jumped to what interested her more. "A Sensei? As in martial arts?"
He nodded. "Ninjutsu, specifically."
She smiled. "Ninjas. Ninja turtles." She found she liked this way of thinking of him and his brothers. "So that explains the katana and mad fighting skills." Wow, had she said that last little part out loud? Could he tell that she was crushing right now? On a turtle? A turtle she'd just met? Still, he'd saved her life. He deserved a crush just for that.
He smiled, a true smile, and her heart skipped. It looked like a thousand suns burning. "Thanks. We've been training pretty much our whole lives. Master Splinter is a very good teacher."
"And you go around saving people?"
He grew serious again. "More or less. We have some enemies, and we fight as much crime as we can. And sometimes, yes, we come across people that need our help." His mouth became a grim line, and she realized she'd do just about anything to bring back that thousand-sun smile of his.
"You do a great job, then. You were on time and everything tonight," she teased, desperate to erase the hard lines in his face. He looked up at her, surprised by the tone, and smiled again.
"We do aim to please," he said, and she grinned, pleased with her results.
"Do you go out alone a lot, or with your brothers?"
"Both. I just happened to be solo tonight. We work best as a team, though." Again he became pensive, and she wondered at the family dynamics. Did they get along? Was he the leader? It stood to reason that he was, being the oldest. He straightened up in his chair, and glanced at her. "I should go now. Thank you for everything."
She could feel panic crawl through her. He wasn't really leaving already? She barely knew anything about him. "Are you sure? There's more tea. Are you sure you're okay to go home?" She hated that she sounded desperate.
He nodded and got up. He winced, and she wished there was more she could do for him. She thought about asking him to spend the night, so he wouldn't have to be on the move, but felt it would be much too soon for that. He turned to her, and said, "Thank you, Meli. You didn't have to do this." He indicated the stitches.
"My pleasure. You got hurt protecting me," she said softly. "It's the least I could do." She followed him back out into the store, where he paused to look around. He looked good in here, so natural, like he belonged. Heat flushed her cheeks, and she bit her lip, wishing he wasn't leaving so soon. She realized now, on the brink of his going, how much he'd helped keep the fears from earlier at bay. He picked up a slim book that she knew from memory talked about feudal Japan. "If you like it, take it," she encouraged.
"Are you sure?" he asked, looking at her. "I don't have any money on me."
As if she could charge him. She had a sudden thought, and decided to be brave and try it out. "Okay, how about this? I'd like to get to know you better. Why don't you drop in for a visit? We can talk books." Her blood pounded in her ears as she waited for his response. She couldn't even breathe.
A slow smile wended it's away across his face. "That would be great. I can drop by tomorrow night, if that's okay."
Okay? Okay? She thought her smile might split her face in two. "That would be wonderful."
"Okay. And thank you for the book." He held it carefully, almost reverently. The way she and her father held books.
"Um, be careful going home, okay? No fighting, or you might tear the stitches out," she cautioned. She couldn't bear the thought of him getting into another fight, of lying in some other dark alley, with no one there to help him.
"I'll try not to." He moved to the door, and she rushed to unlock it. She was very aware of how big he was next to her; not really bulky, just solid, comforting. Safe. She blushed and opened the door for him. He stepped out and turned to her. "You be careful, too. Make sure all your doors and windows are locked. Stay away from dark alleys." It wasn't a request; his seriousness was reflected in his blue eyes as well as his voice. "I'll come over at ten tomorrow night, if that's alright."
"Can't wait," she said, and saw his instant pleasure at her heartfelt words.
"See you, Leo." She watched him until he melted into the shadows, and stepped back inside, locking the door. She breathed deeply, and smiled. Maybe the black cat hadn't been such an unlucky incident. After all, she'd just met maybe the nicest guy she'd ever known, and it didn't matter one wit if he wasn't human. She turned the lights out, and headed for bed, trying to ignore the tremors in her body. As long as Leo was out there, she didn't need to fear anything. She had a hero to look after her. A ninja hero, at that.