The Silent Partner

Sucker Punch

"Sensei help!"

The voice was Leonardo's. Splinter's mind supplied.

Mona Lisa and Master Splinter rushed out into the main room in a tizzy. They both stopped and gasped at the sight before them.

The turtles looked horrible. Their skin was covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime and their shells were tarnished with black grease smudges and fresh dents. They were all worse for wear, each turtle sporting some sort of wound except for Michelangelo who cradled his right arm in a rather awkward fashion.

Splinter looked over each of them carefully. Leonardo had an odd, banana-shaped wound on his left forearm. How he received it, Splinter could only imagine. Michelangelo's arm appeared to be the extent of his injuries, for which Splinter was internally grateful. Donatello had a rather worrisome gash in the upper left edge of his plastron, but it thankfully seemed to have stopped bleeding quite some time ago since the blood was already dried and flaking. Good. So far no major injuries.

Splinter wasn't looking forward to seeing what kind of injuries Raphael had brought home this time. If the other brothers, who were usually more careful than Raphael, were this hurt it usually meant that Raphael would be even worse. But surprisingly enough, even though he was fairly badly hurt, Raphael appeared to be...brooding?

A quick double take proved that the red masked turtle was indeed sprawled in his customary brooding position, with fire in his eyes and anger in his heart. As much as he wanted to run over and fret over his son's injuries, Splinter wouldn't dare. Raphael was exuding an aura much too dark and far too dangerous for his liking. No, as mush as he wanted to help, now was not the moment.

Right now all four of his sons needed his help. He would come back to Raphael when the turtle's anger had lessened.

Mona Lisa, on the other hand, did not seem to sense the danger, or if she did she paid it no heed. All she could see was the blood. So much blood.

Raphael had two, almost identical lacerations in his left arm and right thigh. His shell had almost three times the number of smudges and dents as his brothers, with one rather interesting addition: two dark, painful looking bruises. One on his chin and one on his left cheek just below the eye. Splinter grimaced. Raphael's left eye was practically swollen shut. That would turn into a very nasty black eye if not attended immediately.

Mona Lisa rushed over and dropped to her knees. She reached out and cradled Raph's face in her hands but he jerked away roughly and growled. Mona Lisa sat back on her haunches for a few moments. Raphael had never behaved this way towards her before and she wasn't really sure what to do about it. Yes, he had growled at her before, but that was a form of play. This? This was definitely not play. Raphael was not playing.

With a defiantly determined glint in her eye, Mona Lisa pressed forward and began examining his injuries.

"Mona Lisa, what the Shell?! Leave me alone!" He bellowed, roughly shoving her backwards.

Mona toppled unceremoniously on her butt and glared at the emerald green turtle through the wild and wavy locks that had fallen in front of her face.

"Just leave me alone!" Raph repeated, a little more quietly, but just as emphatic.

Mona glared angrily at him, with steam coming out of her ears. She was about to walk over and slap him, but Master Splinter beat her to it. He trudged over and gave Raphael a hard whack over the head with his stick.

"OW! Sensei!"

"Raphael, you should be ashamed of yourself talking to Mona Lisa like that! She has the kindness to be concerned about you and you berate her?!"

As soon Raph thought about what his Father had said he felt pretty small. "I—I—"

Splinter held up a hand and Raphael went completely silent. "Don't apologize to me, my son."

"Hai Sensei. Mona—I—I'm sorry." He whispered.

"What was that? I don't think she heard you." Leonardo goaded with a smile.

"SORRY! Okay! SORRY?!"

The other turtles flinched at Raphael's sudden burst of volume. Mona Lisa shook a little at the volume, but once Raph was done she rolled her eyes. She crawled over to the turtle slowly and sat in front of him. Soft fingers danced over his shoulder and face as she resumed her examination of his injuries.

"I really am sorry." He whispered under his breath so that none of the others would hear. Mona smiled and pressed their foreheads together affectionately. Raph blushed a little, but when he caught Michelangelo smirking, he shook it off.

Mona's fingers finally came up to examine the swollen area around his eye and Raph hissed. She glanced down at him curiously. He lifted her hand away. "Don't touch it." He snapped dryly. Mona frowned, she didn't like his tone, but she could tell that he wasn't snapping at her this time, so it didn't bother her very much. The lizard mutant's bottom lip pushed out into a pout. Something else was wrong.

Raphael wasn't acting like himself. He was quiet and angry. Splinter may have assumed that Mona Lisa hadn't been aware of the hotheaded turtle's anger, but he was very wrong. She had sensed it from the moment she set eyes on him. But that didn't deter her from making certain that the hothead was hale, healthy and whole. She cared too much.

Besides, she wasn't afraid of Raphael. Mona knew that the emerald green turtle would never purposely hurt anyone. Of course, she had never seen him in battle…but even if she had, the gentle unassuming lizard somehow knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Raphael would never hurt her. Call it instinct, or perhaps just plain stubbornness, Mona was determined to see to it that the turtle took care of himself.

Meanwhile, Raphael had fallen back into his deep pool of anger and exasperation. Today was a very hard day. Truth be told, he'd taken a very hard knock in the pride. He was angry and upset. And the way his brothers had taunted him on the way home hadn't exactly helped much. This wasn't one of those things that would be easily forgotten either. This was going to be a black mark on his record. His brothers would be teasing him about this for weeks, months, and possibly even years.

It had just been so stupid! Such a stupid mistake! Urrrgh! He really needed to kill something right now…

He hauled himself to his feet and immediately began to totter. Mona Lisa surged forward, wrapped her arms around him and gently lowered him down to the ground again. His anger faded a little as she held him close. For a few moments, Raphael returned the hug.

Now that Raphael had calmed a little, Splinter approached them. Mona stepped aside and allowed the old rat enough space to get to work. The wounds on Raph's arm and leg were still bleeding.

"Donatello, I need some clean rags! We must stop the bleeding."

Donnie nodded, his expression entirely serious. He was a healer, so injuries were something he seldom joked about…but he had to admit…Raph's black eye was rather amusing. Still, there were wounds that needed to be cleaned and dressed. But even so, the genius failed to keep an amused scoff from leaving his throat.

Splinter stared incredulously at the smart turtle, briefly wondering if Donatello had suffered a head injury. "You think this is amusing, my son?"

Don paled a little at his father's tone and shook his head. "Nah Sensei. It isn't that. It's just…Raph's face."

Raphael looked down and away, prompting a frown from Master Splinter. The old rat's frown only deepened as he realized that Michelangelo, too, was doing his best to hold back a laughing fit. Even Leonardo had a tiny crook of a smile on his face.

"There is nothing comedic about an injury, my children." The rat mutant scolded.

Mikey chimed in, "It's not the injury Sensei. It's how he got it that's so hilarious."

Splinter took the clean towels offered to him by Donatello and immediately began applying pressure to the wound on Raphael's leg. The red-masked turtle hissed and tried to squirm away, but Splinter held firm.

Suddenly, Raphael felt something else, besides the pain. Something warm pressing against his side.

Mona. He realized.

Green eyes swiveled over to his right side, quickly widening in surprise at what he saw. His cheeks flushed and he could do little else but stare. Mona had snuggled up to him, arranging it so that he had his arm around her shoulders. Her arms were wrapped tightly around his middle, and Raphael felt gratified that she didn't care about the dirt and grime.

Once the bleeding had stopped, Splinter handed the care of Raphael's wounds over to Donatello and examined the red-masked turtle's face. "How did this happen, my child?"

Michelangelo finally exploded with laughter. Raphael refused to meet his father's or Mona's inquiring glances. Mona Lisa frowned and tilted Raph's head down so she could stare directly into his eyes. Raph sighed and opened his mouth to reply, but again, Mikey interjected.

"Awww, man, you guys should have seen it! Raphael got sucker punched right in the face...by Fong! Ahahahahahahaha!" The orange-masked turtle wiped a tear from the corner of his eye dramatically, "Oh, it's just too much!"

"Rrrrrrgh," Raphael growled warningly.

"Don't be such a grouch, Raphael." Donnie instructed chidingly, "After all, you guys laughed at me for getting beat up by a monkey!"

All they got was another growl. Mona Lisa's eyes narrowed into a rather chilling glare. Master Splinter raised a curious eyebrow, but said nothing to warn his sons. Though, in retrospect, he probably should have.

Mona was furious. Raphael was injured. Very serious injuries! And what were the other turtles doing?! Laughing at him! One glance at Raph was all that Mona had needed. Suddenly everything clicked. She was observant enough to realize that being punched in the face by this 'Fong' had deeply upset Raphael. It had bruised his pride.

Mona Lisa wasn't a child. The lizard mutant had recognized almost from the very first that Raphael had much more attitude than his brothers and probably twice the amount of ego. But this had upset his measure of confidence. Not to mention sent his self-esteem plunging down the tubes…

Raphael was hurt. Physically and emotionally. And his brothers were laughing at him.

Splinter was a very wise old rat. He had recognized the look in Mona's eyes as soon as it appeared there. While he found it very interesting, the rat knew better than to stand in the middle of war zone, so he took several steps backward.

Leonardo noticed and raised an eye-ridge at his father. Splinter said nothing. He was confused, but he took a step back anyway.

Mona may be mute, but damn, she certainly wasn't about to let that keep her from putting the three turtle brothers in their place. In an angry uproar she stomped over to the nearest of Raph's brothers, who just so happened to be Michelangelo, and shoved him backwards with all of her might to get her point across.

The youngest turtle fell backwards several feet and straight into Donatello. Together the two of them toppled in an undignified heap on the floor.

Leonardo had followed his Sensei's example and moved out of the line of fire, but as soon and Donnie and Mikey were 'taken down' he chuckled and Mona Lisa wheeled around to face him. He stiffened as Mona crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.

Leo held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, what did we do?"

She began to gesture wildly and emphatically, but unfortunately, Leonard was pretty bad at charades and even worse at sign. "Translation, please?"

"She says: What did you DO?!" Raph supplied.

Leo's eye-ridges furrowed in confusion.

Mona went on and Raph 'translated' for Leo.

"You laughed at him and he's hurt! Don't you realize that you're only hurting him even more?! I can't believe that you're so cruel to your own brother!"

Leo sighed. "Oh, come on, Mona…We were just having a little fun…"

Splinter frowned. "Mona Lisa is in the right, my sons. You should not treat your brother in such a manner while he is injured."

Ever one to voice the things nobody else would dare, Michelangelo blurted out: "What about after he's better Sensei? Then can we laugh at him?"

'Sure thing.' Mona gestured making Donatello laugh.

"Hey!" Raph yelled annoyedly. "I thought you were on my side!"

Mona rolled her eyes, 'I am, for now.'

"Don't think I won't get back at you for this you—you—backstabber!" Raph whined angrily.

Mona stuck out her tongue at him and Raphael couldn't help but smile softly.

Donatello raised an eye-ridge as he watched their exchange.

Could it be more than a passing interest? The brainiac's thoughts from the day before echoed.

They really did show all the signs. But how? They're just so…so…so different. I mean, come on…

She's sweet, unimposing, and very kind. Raphael is very emotional, dramatic, hard-headed, hotheaded, and a whole lot of other not-so-desirable attributes. But Raph was also kind, or at least, he was when he wanted to be. He was also very caring, very comforting, very protective…hmm, perhaps Raph had a lot more going for him in the relationship department than Donnie had originally thought. And when it came to his older brothers, sure Leo was the one to go to when he had a problem, Mikey was the one to seek out when he needed company, but when he wanted someone to watch his back…it was always Raph.

And as for the hothead's brash nature, that was just Raph. That was part of his personality. It wasn't something that could be changed, and Don had a feeling that Mona Lisa wouldn't want to.

The lizard mutant had opened up a side of Raph that the other turtles had never seen, at least not since they were eight or so before Raph grew so closed-off. It was like Mona had lit up that fun, playful, and gentle side of Raphael.

All the pieces of the puzzle slid into place and Donatello realized something very important:

They're falling in love with each other.

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