~Winter's Curse~

Summary: During an especially cold winter, Casey invites the turtles out to the farmhouse, and out of the frozen sewers. During an early morning walk, Raphael soon finds out that it may have been safer to stay in the sewers…

Disclaimer: I do not own TMNT. All rights belong to their respective owners.

A/n: Just a little idea that popped into my head. Should only be a short story, around 5 or 6 chapters. Hopefully this small piece should get my inspiration back so I can work on my other stories.

Chapter One

There was nothing but darkness all around him; a cold, numbing darkness that froze him solid. Bubbles escaped his mouth and travelled up, up, up towards the surface. His lungs burned with fire despite the cold that had him trapped. His arms flayed uselessly in the black water that was pressed in all around him. He was sinking, his body slowly being dragged towards the endless bottom. He couldn't breathe, couldn't hold his breath any longer. His mouth opened and a wave of darkness consumed him, making him cough and choke on the dark water. He was suffocating, drowning. His mind registered the fact before his eyes, heavy with fatigue, slipped closed as his body went numb and the world went black.

Raphael growled in annoyance as more snow slipped off the naked branches of a birch tree and dripped down the back of his neck. Raphael hated snow. He hated how cold it was. He hated how wet it was. He hated having to wear oversized clothes in it. He hated the way his feet sunk into it, and he hated the way it covered everything. He hated the whiteness of it. He hated the way it was running down his neck, cold and icy, making him shiver.

Glaring with detest at his fluffy gloved hands, Raphael scanned his surroundings, which looked exactly the same as the surroundings he had been in one hundred metres before.

"Stupid snow," Raphael muttered, turning back in the direction of the farm house.

Winter was always a terrible time for the turtles. Even with Donatello's heaters and generators, the lair was still freezing, despite how many worn and tattered blankets they covered themselves in. The stone walls seeped with cold, and the water turned to chunks of ice. The plumbing froze and they were often left with no electricity. Even now, at the stellar age of sixteen, the four brothers often found themselves curling up against each other for warmth, like they had done when they were children.

Michelangelo was the most susceptible to getting colds and the flu at this time of year, and Master Splinter's aged joints protested loudly against the freezing weather. So this year, when winter rolled around, Casey invited them out to his family's farmhouse, two hours outside of New York. The old, wooden house, despite its age and leaking roof and rusted pipes, offered a warm and dry night's sleep for everybody. Every morning Raphael and Casey would stomp outside in their snowshoes and cut up more firewood for the much loved fireplace. They would come inside, arms full of kindling, and start the fire early in the morning to warm the house up, checking it every few hours. Leonardo and Master Splinter had helped set up beds and blankets for each of them in the living room, in front of the large fireplace. Donatello was hard at work fixing all the old plumbing and attempting to fix the old generator. Mikey and April spent most of the day in the kitchen, baking warm bread from scratch, cooking soup, and making up mugs of hot chocolate.

They had been at the farmhouse for just over two weeks now, and despite the freedom and open air, Raphael was starting to miss the feeling of running without being hampered by snow.

He woke up early this morning, earlier than usual, feeling restless. The clock on the wall read 4:30. Around him, Don and Mikey slept soundly, the occasional snore coming from Mikey. Leo's bed was already made, and Raph knew that he was probably meditating somewhere, or getting in some extra practise.

As quietly as he could, Raphael slipped on his snow clothes, pulled on his snow boots, and pulled the front door open. The sky was still dark, tinged with a deep purple and littered with stars. The air was cold and Raphael could see his breath misted in the air in front of him. It hadn't snowed last night, but the twelve inches of snow from the other day reflected like diamonds in the dim pre-dawn light. Pulling his snow jacket around himself tighter, Raphael set off for his early morning walk, the snow crunching under his boots.

Despite the cold and the snow, Raphael loved this time of morning, especially out at Casey's farm. It was early enough for a few animals to be awake, mostly bushy tailed squirrels running across the tree branches, and early enough for there to be virtually no noises. It was the silence Raphael enjoyed, and the peace that came with it.

The first few rays of the sun lit the sky a rich gold, as it slowly climbed the horizon, telling Raphael that he had been walking for close to an hour now. Deciding it was a good time to head back; Raphael turned around and started back the way he came. He could practically smell April's and Mikey's cooking, and pictured a tabled filled with freshly baked bread, sizzling bacon and eggs, and mugs of steaming hot chocolate. The thought made Raphael's stomach growl in hunger.

Absently patting his stomach, Raphael was lost in his own thoughts. He didn't hear the sound of something large moving very close to him until he stepped into the clearing, which by then was too late.

A large brown bear looked up from where it had been digging through the snow. Raphael froze, his breath hitching in his throat. Brown bears were a rare sight around here, but not uncommon. What was uncommon was seeing one so early. Most bears would have been in hibernation, sleeping the winter away in a cave or a hollow in a tree. But this bear looked hungry, hungry enough to wake up early in search of food.

The bear was a female, if its size was any indicator, and it didn't look happy. Locking eyes with Raphael, the bear growled and took a threatening step forward, head bowed and muscles tense, ready to charge. Raphael thought quickly; he knew that, if you ever come face to face with a bear, not to run and make yourself look as less-threatening as possible, or lay face-down on the ground, not moving. Raphael knew it was not a good idea to run, but with the look the bear was giving him, he knew it would still attack if he were lying motionlessly on the ground.

Taking a slow, cautious step back, Raphael's eyes never left the bear, holding his breath as he waited to see what the bear's reaction would be.

The bear growled louder this time, taking a step closer. Raphael could tell the bear was moments away from charging. Praying that he was close to the farmhouse, and cursing himself for not bringing his sai, Raphael turned and bolted. He could hear the bear crashing through the snow behind him at an alarming speed. He knew bears were fast, but he had hoped that the thick snow would slow the bear down. Alas, the snow only seemed to slow him down.

Risking a glance behind him, Raphael didn't see the tree root covered in a thin dusting of snow. Running straight into it, he snagged his foot in the root. Unbalanced, Raphael pitched forward, falling head over heels down a steep embankment. Groaning, Raphael pushed himself onto his feet, waiting for the world to stop spinning.

He felt his heart crawl up his throat when he saw the bear making its way down the embankment, eyes locked on its prey; Raphael. Looking around quickly, Raphael lunged towards a branch that had been snapped in half during his fall, using the two broken ends as crude swords. The bear leapt at him in the same instant, as if knowing he where going for the sticks. Raphael had time to turn around before the bear crashed into him. Raphael hit the ground with a thud, but managed to keep a hold of the branches. The weight of the bear pushed him deeper into the snow, crushing him.

Pushing against the bear, Raphael tried to cut the bear's exposed throat, but its thick, shaggy hair prevented him from even nicking the skin. The bear roared and exposed its long, yellow teeth, its beady black eyes filled with rage. Adrenaline kicking in, Raphael managed to flip himself over, exposing his shell to the bear as he tried to pull himself from under it.

Agonizing pain suddenly flared in his right arm. Raphael screamed as the bear's long teeth sank into his flesh, ripping through the thick snow jacket. Hot blood ran down his arm and dripped onto the snow, turning it scarlet. With his free arm, Raphael managed to punch the bear in the nose. Letting go of his arm, the bear stumbled back, crinkling its nose in anger. Raphael leapt to his feet and made a dash for it, but the bear was quicker. Slicing its front paw across Raphael's chest, the bear lunged a second time, one paw pinning Raphael down. Raphael struggled violently, the curved claws of the bear's front paws shredding his clothes and leaving long gashes in his plastron. Sharp pain raced down Raphael's leg as he landed funny, the bear's full weight pinning his leg down.

With a final surge of adrenaline, Raphael managed to poke the bear in the eyes with one of his branches. The bear roared in pain and instantly let go of Raphael, stumbling back and shaking its giant head, blood running down from its ruined eye.

Clambering to his feet, Raphael limped away from the bear. He froze when he heard a crack under his foot. Glancing over his shoulder, Raphael realized with a jolt of fear that he was standing on the edge of a frozen lake.

The bear growled and walked cautiously towards Raphael, the scratch on its face forgotten. Raphael took another step back, the ice groaning under his weight, but staying firm. I just have to stay here. The bear won't follow me onto the ice.

But the bear did follow him. Ever so slowly it placed its front two paws onto the ice, before stepping on completely. The ice groaned again, louder this time, and Raphael could make out the fine network of cracks that started to form, transparent veins in ice.

Oh God, it is following me! Raphael thought, heart pounding wildly in his chest. The bear looked down at the cracked ice before taking another step towards Raphael. He could feel the ice shudder under him, as the network of cracks grew larger. Growling in annoyance, the bear took another step, quicker this time. The ice cracked and the bear's front paw broke through the ice. With a howl, the bear toppled forward, falling with a crash onto the ice. Large cracks split the ice, as the bear fell through into the frigid dark water.

Raphael's body went numb as he saw the cracks race towards him, and only had a moment to think before the ice gave way under him and he plunged into the darkness.

A/n: Reviews are always appreciated. Thank you for reading!