Disclaimer: I make no claim towards ownership of the characters, plot lines, or other related TMNT properties contained within this story. I can only claim to own my own original characters and as such this story is being written strictly for entertainment purposes, not for profit.
Rating: M for language, eventual sexual content, and possible violence. (The usual suspects, you could say.)
Summary: While attempting to seek a distraction from feelings of restlessness, Raphael very nearly gives himself and a fairly regular gal a heart attack via an unexpected rooftop meeting. The normalcy of both their very different lives thusly begins to change when their unanticipated introduction sparks the beginning of a slowly developing friendship.
Notes from the author: I kept telling myself I'd write a TMNT fic eventually, but I'm the queen of putting things off, particularly where fics are concerned. Finally, I'm clearing the dust out of my brain, steeling my resolve, and getting this puppy started. I couldn't quite decide what universe I wanted to set this in given that there are so many differing incarnations to choose from, so I've opted for a slight hodge-podge of the films, most notable the '07 one, and the 2k3 animated series. (What can I say? Greg Abbey's Raphael just has that voice, ya'll.) With any luck, you guys will get as much of a kick out of reading this as I will writing it.
She could still hear the damn thing going off.
The music was muffled, mildly concealed by the closed zipper of her purse and the various contents stuffed within, yet the familiar vibration and the persistent sound of an all too familiar ringtone persisted until she was sick to death of hearing it.
"Good freaking god! Just go to voicemail already!"
The call had been following her since she'd started checking her mail down on the ground floor of the apartment building, trailing along with every step she took up to the top floor where the comfort of home waited. By the third floor, she'd started to get agitated and by the seventh, she'd begun to silently grumble about how much she hated a lack of elevators and a mother who always called as soon as she knew her daughter was off work.
"Once I get inside I am shutting you the hell off and letting mom think I croaked."
The Imperial March sounded a bit clearer once she'd reached the door to her apartment and unzipped her purse, rummaging around to find her keys as quickly as she could. By the time she had the key in the lock and the door pushed open, the music blissfully went silent.
Erin Brooks let the door shut behind her with a relieved sigh and not a damn to give where tidiness was concerned as she let her shoes fall off, striding tiredly towards the worn out old couch in her cluttered living room like it had become the center of her entire universe.
"Come to mama, you beautiful, lumpy bastard," she mumbled, dropping her keys in an ash tray she used for loose change and bits of trash, flopping face down on to the tan upholstery.
After twelve hours of staring at a computer screen and wearing a clunky headset, the simple pleasure of just taking off her shoes, laying on her couch, and being in her own private domain felt nothing short of amazing. Having a sit down job probably wasn't anything to rightly complain about, but nevertheless Erin still found that talking to customers all day while attempting to make sales quotas tuckered her right out. Two years of becoming accustomed to her position as a telco rep had done nothing to make angry callers easier to deal with and she was all too happy to remember that she had two glorious days off ahead of her. Two days in which she had every intention of avoiding phone use as much as humanly possible.
She heard her cellphone beeping, alerting her that she had a new voicemail to listen to, and the nagging reminder of her mother's call had her groaning anew. Pushing herself up off the couch, Erin dialed the number to check her messages and turned on the speakerphone, stripping off her blouse and skirt as she made her way to her small bedroom. At some point during her days off she knew she'd probably have to do some tidying up around the apartment or at least clean up all the laundry she had hanging around, snagging a pair of draw string pajama pants and an old t-shirt from an unfolded pile of clean clothes atop her dresser.
"Hi Erin. It's Mom."
"Hi, Mom," Erin replied from the bedroom, grinning at the thought of how her mother would've reacted to her daughter's sarcasm.
"I figured you must be off work and at home by now, so I thought I should call. It's been a few days since we've talked."
Erin shook her head, dressed in her pajamas and tugging her hair back in to a low ponytail, not at all surprised by what she'd heard thus far. Though she'd never lacked for affection from her mother and could happily say that the two of them had always been very close, the woman had a certain clinginess that could often make her feel confined. Mrs. Brooks had a persistent need to know precisely what was going on in her daughter's life, seeking to know about what might have changed or what her daughter might need. While having a loving if not slightly pestering mother was surely better than an absentee one, Erin still liked her space and privacy. And her mom definitely liked to chatter, even via voicemail.
She listened to her mother's voice carrying on for what seemed like a good while, making herself a sandwich and aspiring to return the call tomorrow, chewing quietly with her elbows atop the kitchen counter, letting the crumbs fall on to a napkin.
"Well, I guess you're probably tired from work and screening my calls right now."
"She knows me all too well," Erin mumbled around a mouthful of turkey and bread.
"I know you have tomorrow off, so call me back sometime in the afternoon. Try not to party too hard tonight. I love you, honey. Bye."
When an automated voice let her know that she'd listened to all of her messages, Erin hit a few buttons to clear out her voicemail and shut off her phone, dusting the crumbs off her fingers before she tossed her napkin in to the trash. She supposed she ought to have been thinking about calling up a friend and going out for some fun, but she felt no real urge to get re-dressed for a night on the town, especially not on a Thursday evening. Jamie, Annette, and Adam all worked Monday through Friday, leaving her few options as far as having friends to go hang out with and she frankly didn't really want to anyway. She was happily in her pjs and more content to have a quiet night in. Or a quiet night pseudo-in, as she liked to call it.
As comfortable as her couch was, most nights Erin found that she liked to enjoy the fact that she had a top floor apartment and thus access to the roof. She'd grown up in a smaller city and had adapted quickly enough to having city lights over stars, learning that she was fond of looking out at all the skyscrapers stretched out around her. New York had a different sort of beauty than the modest buildings and quiet neighborhoods where she'd been raised. It was noisy and even a bit lonely at times despite the vast populace, but she relished the sounds of the nightlife beyond her windows and the feel of the city air when she sat up on the roof, glancing down at the world below. It had become something of a weekly ritual for her; climbing out on to the fire escape and heading as high as she could go. Sometimes she brought along a pocket light and a book while on other occasions she just went up to enjoy a view better than the alley her windows faced. The roof was one of her favorite places in the entire city and she was eager to head up, forgetting every hint of weariness the work day had caused.
The air that night was just brisk enough that she felt it necessary to wear something warm, tugging on a black hoodie before she slipped in to her favorite pair of worn out sneakers. With only her bedroom light left on so she could see where she was going and her iPod settled around her neck, Erin opened a window and slipped out on to the fire escape. Her earbuds slipped comfortably in to her ears, music soon blocking out the blaring car horns she could hear out on the street, bobbing her head a bit as a song by Jet began, though she couldn't remember the name of it. The beat was fast, energetic, and made something as mundane as climbing the access ladder up to the roof feel exciting.
"Rip it up, rip it up if you're ever gonna make it!"
The chorus of the song began when she neared the top of the ladder, making her smile as the title finally came back to her, mouthing along to the words as she pulled herself up to the very last rung.
"Damn, I love this song."
Open air washed over her face as she reached the top, the cool brush of wind on her cheeks as startling as the figure that came to an abrupt, skidding halt right in front of her. Erin had expected a big, empty space to greet her, not a body rushing towards the edge of the roof, all shadows and green skin. She didn't know what she seeing, could hardly register an expression as equally shocked as her own staring back in the dim light when a startled scream escaped her lips, swallowed up by the pulse pounding guitar riffs thundering in her ears. For a moment Erin was absolutely terrified, more afraid of her faltering grip than the creature that had appeared in front of her eyes.
Erin didn't know if she'd said it, thought it, or if it'd come from the green…whatever that'd scared the ever loving hell out of her, a bit more concerned with the realization that she'd lost her hold on the ladder rungs, teetering backwards.
"Oh god! I'm gonna die playing peek-a-boo with a mini roof Godzilla!"
She pin-wheeled her arms in futility, trying to hook one of her legs around the ladder to keep from falling in what became an unnecessary attempt to regain her hold, feeling a large, three-fingered grip closing around her forearm. She felt herself being yanked forward and then up, an arm circling her waist as she was drawn on to the roof. There was a brief press of warm, green skin against her cheek, spying what looked like a shell on the creature's back as she was lowered safely on to solid ground, eyes wide and lips parting. She hadn't intended to scream again or at least she thought she hadn't, unable to do so regardless when her apparent rescuer knelt before her, a large hand covering her mouth to quiet whatever noises she might've made. She felt her earbuds being tugged out, the music becoming faint as the city's nightlife surrounded her once more, forgetting about the wind and the traffic when it…when he spoke.
"Keep it down, lady! You ain't doin' me any favors by screamin' your damn head off!"
He stared at her, expression hard and tense like the tone of his voice, his hand staying put over her mouth for a few seconds longer before it lifted away slowly, as if he was trying to make certain that she wouldn't scream again. Erin felt so shocked by what had nearly happened and what she was seeing that she stayed silent, watching as the green figure took several steps back. He stopped only once there was a fairly significant distance between them, watching her from a place where the shadows enveloped him, the ends of the red mask he wore across his eyes flapping quietly in the dark.
As she tried to will her heart rate to slow back down, Erin fumbled for the iPod around her neck without taking her eyes off the very large and very clearly angry turtle in front of her, fumbling to shut off the device.
For several moments, the two of them remained very much like her iPod; completely silent.
Raphael had never been one to be especially shy as far as using foul language was concerned. There were some occasions and instances, most notably when he was within Master Splinter's hearing range, in which biting his tongue to prevent the more colorful parts of his vocabulary from slipping out seemed necessary. A hair trigger temper and progression in to adulthood had only lessened his need to practice any sort of censorship, so withholding the urge to cuss like a sailor, or a ninja in his case, was exceptionally hard when surprising circumstances had pushed him from zero to pissed in the span of a few seconds.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!"
She'd seen him. There was absolutely no denying that fact. It would have been impossible for her to have not seen him and at least have registered that he wasn't human when he'd gotten up close and personal in order to make certain that she'd be quiet. Lord only knew what kind of additional trouble could come his way if she screamed again and drew even more attention to the big, angry turtle standing on the rooftop.
"Leo's gonna be pissed."
His brother being ticked off and vice versa was nothing new. Leaving their teenage years behind had somewhat tempered the heated arguments that had often exploded between the two turtles off and on throughout their lives. The passing of time had presented enough trials and battles to strengthen the bond between Leonardo and Raphael, allowing the two to get along more easily than they probably ever had. In a world full of humans and hidden secrets beneath the city streets, it was better to keep close to those who were so very different from what the general public considered to be normal. Family was something precious, irreplaceable, and while it would never be perfect, it was still something that would always matter. A closer relationship had never and would never mean that fights or bickering was beyond the two, however. Not when both brothers were so vastly different in personality. It tended to happen on a less consistent basis, but the two always seemed to manage to find something to quarrel about, usually as a result of Leonardo's taciturn nature and the hotheaded impulsiveness which distinguished Raphael from his fearless, stick-in-the-mud, always too damn bloody right about everything leader. Master Splinter had made an analogy about the way their relationship tended to work once. It had involved a deeply rooted tree and the wind; how the breeze could slip easily through the branches or cause them to sway about in a storm. The comparison had seemed initially silly at first, but it had certainly come to make sense over time.
If he really could be likened to the wind then Raphael was quite certain he was close to reaching hurricane level gusts. He'd already been in an odd state of being before his present predicament, listlessly hanging about the lair and seeking some sort of means to pass the time. The usual patrols he and his brothers tended to undertake had lessened in regularity, becoming more of an every-other-night occurrence then nightly as they had once been. NYC never lacked for a purse snatcher or cat burglar to bust, but even still, with the Foot having become more like ghosts than ninjas and the Purple Dragons seeming to tread more cautiously in the past several months, the need to scout around the city every night hadn't seemed quite as necessary. A lower crime rate was, of course, a good thing, but it tended to make a turtle restless and anxious. Fighting crime and saving lives couldn't keep his mind off considering the things he was unable to do when there was no real crime to fight and no lives that needed saving. Perhaps he'd simply grown bored or maybe he'd just gotten tired of having too many nights free to consider how he was limited in ways to pass the time while living in the city that never sleeps. It wasn't as if he could go out to a movie or drop in on April and Casey without hiding in shadows or concealing himself with a bunch of bulky clothing.
He hadn't been able to stay in that night, not with his mind treading so dangerously in to that ever annoying 'what if' territory, ignoring Leo's insistence that it was a bad idea to go out alone and storming out of the lair in order to take to the rooftops. Raphael had hoped that a good run would have both cooled and cleared his head, helped him find a bit more peace with his chaotic thoughts. He hadn't anticipated that those very thoughts would have distracted him so thoroughly that he would be surprised by the sight of a human popping up just before he'd been about to make the jump from one roof to the other. Exposure of what he was and a new risk towards the safety of his family's very existence had not been something he'd been hoping to find that evening.
Raphael stared the young woman down, silently fighting with the anger he felt as a result of both his own carelessness and her horrific timing, wondering if the fear in her eyes was a result of her near death experience or because she had a ticked off turtle glowering in her direction. If he had to guess, that the later of the two seemed more likely. Even his human friends had reacted in some sort of shocked or freaked out way the first time they'd laid eyes on himself and his brothers, so it wasn't as if her reaction was anything new. It was still pretty damn irritating, but definitely nothing he hadn't witnessed before. Rather than dwell on the frustration of being regarded as a freak from the get-go, as per usual, it seemed wise to turn his attention on more pressing matters than his own chaotic feelings. The best course of action seemed to be to question her, to figure out if he could get her to keep what she was witnessing to herself in order to make certain that his mistake wouldn't cause his family any unwanted trouble.
"You know, a normal person would use the stairs if they wanted to come up on the roof!"
Clearly the best course of action was not the one his temper would allow him to take, feeling a fleeting moment of wry amusement that he, the mutant turtle, was commenting on normal behavior to a clearly very normal human woman, dropping the hand he'd used to gesture in the direction of the roof access door. When the wide eyed, cautious unease the woman had been showing shifted to a furrowed brow and a clumsy shuffle to her feet in clear indignation, Raphael knew that one if not both of them were likely to have a headache before the night ended.
"A normal person doesn't climb a ladder and expect to get the crap scared out of them by a giant talking turtle carrying around a couple of half-sized pitchforks!"
It was her turn to gesture, to the weapons securely tucked under the belt tied about his middle, and Raphael tried to keep his tone even when he corrected her.
"Sai!" he reiterated with a bit more force than was probably necessary, stepping forward and brandishing one of his weapons with an impressive twirl that likely appeared more menacing than he meant it to if the way she'd recoiled was any indication.
Raphael put his weapon away, trying to show her that he had no intention of using it as she may have thought; almost groaning in frustration over how horribly things were going. Her countenance had gone back to that same frightened wariness rather than the brief anger she'd just shown and that fear of him bothered him so much more than her ire. Being looked at like some sort of a monster had grown old a long, long time ago.
"I ain't gonna hurt'cha. If I planned on it then I wouldn't have saved you from fallin', would I?"
"I guess not."
"Then would you stop lookin' at me like you're waitin' for a fist or somethin' to go flyin' at your face?"
His words seemed to have done the trick to some extent, her visage seeming no less confounded, but at least a bit less petrified, the tension in her shoulders seeming to loosen marginally as she rubbed the back of her neck in some sort of nervous motion. He waited to see what she might do, what she might say, trying to mirror that even expression he'd watched Leo perfect over the years while feeling certain he probably still looked more pissed off than what would be helpful at that moment. The woman dropped her hand from her nape and let out a deep breath, as if trying to calm herself a bit more, her voice sounding a little less meek the next time she spoke.
"Really. I'm sorry. This is just…it's a little difficult for me to process all of this. I mean, I was expecting to come up here to just chill out; not to nearly fall to my death and then start having a conversation with a big, life-saving turtle carrying a pretty intimidating pair of sharp-and-pointies."
"Sai," he reminded her again somewhat tiredly. "And you're right. I did save your life. Try to focus on that part, okay?"
"I know. I know. I'm sorry. And…thank you."
The appreciation was welcome, especially after the screaming and the obvious horror. It wasn't every day that he got to hear someone thank him for coming to the rescue given that he kept to the shadows, letting the heroism that he and his brothers practiced be left unknown by the world at large for the sake of their own safety and anonymity. It was his presence and her own clumsy response to it that had nearly sent her off the ladder, a fact that she seemed aware of given her initial angry outburst in response to his words. Her thanks at least abated a little more of his upset over the whole situation. He was no less on guard as she slowly took a step towards him, eyes on his face to gauge his reactions, coming to a halt when the muscles in his arms tensed. She looked too nervous to move any closer without some sort of go ahead, testing his unspoken boundaries rather than pushing them, and she seemed to have just enough inquisitiveness about her to breach the silence once more.
"You're really real, aren't you?"
"You ain't dreamin' right now if that's what you're askin'."
Though it would probably be better for him if she had been.
Raphael held out his hand, unfurling his fingers so she could see them clearly and count the number of digits that differed from her own; see that he was indeed very real.
"Same hand I grabbed you with."
She seemed to hesitate for a moment, looking down at his hand and then up to his face, searching for some telltale sign of ill will, gingerly moving towards him when she saw none. Until she could place her hand upon his. He wanted to jerk back from the contact at first, having extended his hand for the sake of sight and not touch. He didn't know her, didn't feel very thrilled at a stranger who could cause him a world of trouble touching him, but decided against pulling away. If touching his hand would help her come to grips with the reality of what he was, sooth her frayed nerves, then maybe it would allow him a better chance to bargain for her silence. He couldn't help noticing that her fingers, while more in number and smaller in size than his own, felt a bit cold. Instead of staring down at the fit of her hand on his, Raphael took to watching her face as she noted the difference in the color of her skin against his, her expression caught in a faintly mystified look that didn't seem as if it would be leaving any time soon.
"I don't understand," she said after a time, pulling her hand back and lifting her gaze back to his eye level, looking very inquisitive all of a sudden. "How are you even here?"
"Jumped from the next building over."
"That's not what I meant," she told him, crossing her arms against the cool air despite the hoodie she had on. "I mean…how are you…you? Human-sized turtles that can talk and look like they've got the muscle tone to bench a Buick aren't something one sees every day. Where did you even come from?"
"S'a long story and not one I'm all that great at tellin'."
Explaining the tale of how he, his brothers, and his sensei had come to be was really more Master Splinter's forte. Hell, even Mikey had a decent enough knack for telling the story and Raphael felt it best to leave such things to those who were better at it than himself. Not that he had any specific plans to introduce her to a relative who could answer her inquiries, finding it was smarter for now to let the fact that he was not the only talking turtle in Manhattan go unsaid. She fell silent when he rebuffed her questions and he wasn't wholly sure what was going on in her mind, what she may have been considering or what theories about him she'd started cooking up.
"Aliens probably," he thought to himself.
She'd already expressed the idea that he could be a figment of her imagination, so extra-terrestrial explanations had to be her second idea. That's how it usually seemed to go in any case.
Raphael moved a little closer, closing the slight distance that was left between then in order to regard her more closely under the city lights, needing to be able to read her face more clearly. He noticed that the nearer proximity made her folded arms press together more tightly even though she made no move to step back, trying to hide the discomfort that he could discern without any trouble. While he may not have been much taller than her, he was certainly much bigger and she seemed completely aware of that fact, had to know that his strength was nothing to bat an eye at when he'd pulled her on to the roof without any trouble. It would've been easy to use scare tactics to assure her silence, instill enough fear to make her too frightened to dare sharing what she'd seen that night with anyone. It would have been simpler than asking her to keep quiet and having to hope that he could believe her if she agreed.
What was easy, however, wasn't always right and fear was something to be instilled in the enemies he fought; not in a woman who had only made the unwitting mistake of having really bad timing. Aggression to get results had no place in dealings with a civilian and maybe, to an extent, he simply didn't want to resort to a method like that when he'd gotten so damn tired of being looked at in the way she was clearly trying not to look at him now.
"I ain't gonna hurt'cha," he told her for the second time, with a little less heat and a fraction of the annoyance he'd expressed before.
He meant it and thankfully, if the way her arms slowly fell lax at her sides was any sign to go by, she'd realized that he was speaking the truth.
"You could hurt me, though. I don't exactly move around at night 'cause I want people to see me. If you start tellin' people about our little run in, it's gonna cause me a lot of trouble that I don't need. Ya gotta promise me that you're gonna keep quiet about what happened tonight."
"Why would I tell anyone? Saying that I had a chat with a turtle would just make me sound next level nuts."
"I don't need you to rationalize why you wouldn't tell anyone! I need you to promise that you won't! End of story!"
"Okay, okay!" she said, holding up her hands to try and calm him down when his tone of voice became more gruff in his impatience. "I'm not going to tell anyone about you. I promise."
It was what he had needed to hear, what he had wanted to hear, yet despite how genuine her reassurance had sounded, he didn't feel particularly soothed or convinced. People could be damn good at faking sincerity when they felt it necessary and for all he knew she could have been doing just that.
"Do you believe me?"
"It ain't like I got much of a choice, lady."
She said what he needed her to say and that was about all he could really do. Loathe as he was to head back in to another feud, he would have to return home and let his brothers know what had happened so they could figure out what to do about it. At the very least, they'd all have to keep an eye on the woman for a short while and make absolutely certain that she didn't go back on her word. He'd stumbled in to quite a mess and he had to make sure that he kept it from leading to a bigger one.
Raphael turned away from her, heading towards the edge of the roof where she'd first appeared before him on the ladder, ready to make the jump he'd missed and make his way back to the lair. Saying goodbye felt pointless and was something meant for a pleasant conversation, not a tense exchange of words.
He stopped near the edge and looked back at her in question, squinting his eyes to showcase his confusion.
"My name. It's Erin."
If she wanted him to give his own name in return then Raphael could only set out to disappoint her for now, nodding his head and staying quiet rather than telling her what she could call him. Why give his name when he'd most likely being watching her from the shadows instead of meeting her face to face?
"I spend most nights up here. Fridays and Saturdays especially since I have those days off from work."
"What's your point?"
"I'll be here if you want to check in and make sure I've kept things to myself. Or avoid coming this way next time you're out and about. Just…figured maybe it'd be good to know, is all. A little peace of mind."
"If you really wanna give me peace of mind…"
He cocked a small grin; the first and only one he'd shown her that night.
"…then take the fuckin' stairs next time you come up here."
He left without another word, preparing to face the music back home.