Trial and Horror
Three days passed. Raphael and the others had returned to training after a one day hiatus. Sure, their injuries weren't quiet healed yet, but as long as they were careful it wasn't too much of an issue. Michelangelo had a more difficult time than the others, due to the limited mobility of his arm, and as such, he was allowed only to participate in the lighter exercises.
Raphael was on orders from both Donatello and Master Splinter to stay away from any arduous exercise on account of the fact that his balance was slightly off. Donnie wasn't really certain why Raph was having so much trouble walking in a straight line, but he suspected that it was a combination of the black eye and the wound on the thigh. Raph had grown quickly frustrated by this predicament and by now all of them had gotten used to hearing rough grumbles wherever the red-masked turtle ventured.
Leonardo's arm wound still hadn't quite healed yet and it was giving him trouble in his practice because he couldn't stretch his arms the way he wanted to without fear of re-opening the wound. In short, the blue-masked ninja leader was also frustrated.
And everyone in the turtle lair, with the exception of Mona, knew that a frustrated hothead and a frustrated leader never mix.
The two older turtles had been snapping at each other more often over the last few days. And every time they did, both Michelangelo and Donatello did their best to ignore it. It was difficult, but the two younger turtles knew it was their brothers' way of releasing pent-up frustrations.
Mona was very confused by the whole thing. It surprised her how easily Leonardo and Raphael were able to set each other off. The two of them were candles, or perhaps, more accurately in this case, sticks of dynamite and they both knew exactly how to light each others' fuse. And when they exploded, oh man, Mona wanted nothing more than to crawl on her bed and pull the pillow down over her ears. They were so loud and Raph was so angry…Leo was angry as well, but Raph's anger disturbed Mona a little more. It was even more volatile, more explosive.
So after each and every fight, when Raph stormed off to brood, Mona followed and watched him from a vantage point a few feet away. Whenever he actually stomped off to his room, Mona would sit directly outside the door and listen as best she could. She could tell that what had been said during the fights bothered the hotheaded turtle, even if it hadn't seemed so at the time.
On the third night, Leonardo and Raphael got into a raging fight at the dinner table of all places. No one made any move to stop it, not even Master Splinter.
The fight escalated and kept right on going until it hit the ceiling…literally. Both of the eldest turtles were shouting across the table at the top of their lungs.
What had started as a petty argument had somehow graduated into a family feud. Finally, with a deep, dark growl Raphael stood and flung his fork up in the air to vent his frustration. But, to his very great surprise, it never came down. Raph's bright green eyes glared skyward at the fork that was now quite effectively embedded in the ceiling. He growled in exasperation tossed up his hands, clenched them into fists, turned his back to the table, and walked off without even taking a bite of his dinner.
Mona's eyes darkened. She stood rapidly, her chair dragging against the concrete floor with a loud screech. She glanced in the direction Raphael had gone and frowned.
"Raph's being a big baby. Just let him go." Leo grumbled.
A four-fingered fist slammed down on the table and everyone, both turtle and rat, jumped in their chairs. Mikey, Donnie, and Leo exchanged looks of surprise. Master Splinter just watched, his face impassive.
'You don't order me.' She gestured flatly to Leo before whirling around, her hair whipping after her.
Donnie shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the table suddenly grew awkwardly still. Leo growled softly as he pushed his food around the plate, no longer in the mood to eat.
Mikey felt like he should go and see if Mona and Raph were okay, but his gut told him that was a bad idea. So instead, the youngest turtle turned his eyes upward. "Hey guys?" He asked meekly.
"What Mikey?!" Leo snapped.
Mikey's eyes narrowed, but he dismissed Leo's rather demeaning tone as leftover frustration. His baby-blue eyes widened a little, making him the picture of innocence as he asked, "How do we get that fork out of the ceiling?"
Mona stood in front of Raphael's door. The stop sign was right at her eye level and it made her hesitate.
What if Raph needed to be alone? Maybe she should just go away and come back later…
No, she needed to do this now. One hand reached out to knock lightly on the door, but after a moment's hesitation, she recoiled. Mona didn't want to make the frustrated turtle any angrier. She began to walk away, but after taking two small steps away, she wheeled around. Mona Lisa reached out again, only to once again turn away. Finally, as she began to walk away she changed her mind yet again and turned around.
A frustrated sigh could be heard through the door and the hothead's voice shouted, "I can hear you out there! Just make up your mind, already!"
The lizard mutant blushed a little at having gotten caught, but nevertheless, she moved forward and pushed her way inside. Mona canted her head as Raphael turned to her with a surprised stare.
"Oh Mona! I—I thought you were Mikey. He's the only one who usually comes after me…" Raph said softly, allowing the sentence to taper off slowly.
A short silence spread between them and Mona slowly signed to him. 'Are you alright?'
Raphael looked confused. "Yeah, of course I'm alright. Why wouldn't I be alright?" He asked with a hint of annoyance in his voice, but Mona could see right through him. Even though most of what had been said was said in anger, it had still affected the him.
Mona Lisa's eyes glinted determinately and she surged forward, ignoring Raphael's surprised gasp as she wrapped her arms around him tightly, pressing her face against his plastron.
Raph chuckled and returned the hug softly. His grip on her was light and careful, as though she were fragile and might shatter at any moment.
The lizard mutant leaned into the contact. Raph's cheeks flushed and he held her a little bit closer. His anger was gone, replaced by the tenderness of the moment. As he stared down into her eyes, Raphael suddenly found himself being drawn in and he unknowingly began to move downward. One of Mona's arms found its way to the back of his neck and she pulled herself up towards him. Their lips were only inches apart. As they both moved mindlessly closer and closer, neither of them felt anything but the intense sensation of being so close. Lips almost touching, Mona Lisa grinned a little and Raph did the same. And then—
The door flew open and slammed against the wall of Raph's room with a loud bang. The lizard and the red-masked turtle jolted apart, their cheeks bright crimson.
Raphael stared wide-eyed when he fully comprehended what had almost occurred. He rubbed his temples with two fingers and shook his head.
What was I thinking?! I can't just—I mean—she's—urgh! Why is this so difficult? I mean, what could have possessed me to—She just came to—and I—argh! Mona—and I—She probably didn't even know what she was doing! I can't just—That wouldn't be right—She doesn't realize the gravity of what we almost did—Does she?
Mikey's eyes were the size of dinner plates. He'd seen enough before they'd jumped apart to know just what type of moment he'd interrupted. Feeling embarrassed, slightly nauseated, and very guilty, the youngest turtle shuffled his feet and sputtered: "Oh, uh...sorry, I—um—I didn't realize you were…busy. B-but I can see now that you are! Er, busy that is. I just—um—just uh…"
Raph's blush was now gone and replaced by a very, very, very angry glare. "What the Shell do you want, Mikey?" He bellowed.
Mona put a placating hand on Raph's shoulder and he blushed a little at the action.
At Raph's question Mikey shifted uncomfortably. "We, uh, we need you to help us get the fork out of the ceiling."
Raphael sighed. "Fine. Let's get this over with."
When they returned to the kitchen they were greeted by the sight of Leonardo standing on Donnie's shoulders trying to pull at the fork. Strange thing was…it wouldn't budge.
Raph glanced around and noticed that Master Splinter was nowhere to be seen, so he had probably returned to dojo. But those thoughts were fleeting. Leo's grunt made Raph look up and smirk at his older brother's predicament.
"Urgh! Urgh!" Leo grunted as he unsuccessfully attempted to remove the eating utensil from the ceiling. The leader looked down and saw Raphael smirking at him from down below and he growled. "Raphael! What the shell did you do to this thing?!"
Donnie began to sway. "Leo! Get down! I can't hold you much longer!"
"Hang on Donnie, I've almost got it!"
"Leo!" Don chided warningly.
"I said hang on, Don!" Leo yelled down insistently .
"LEO!" Donnie yelled as he finally teetered and tumbled into Michelangelo.
Leo closed his eyes and waited for an impact…which never came. His dark blue eyes opened to find himself suspended midair. He glanced over at the hand he had gripping the fork, which was thankfully still embedded quite deeply in the ceiling. Silence spread over the brothers as they stared up in awe at Leo, who was now clinging to the fork for dear life. Then there was a long, low creak from above.
Leo grimaced. "Aw shell."
The fork finally slipped from the ceiling and Leonardo was falling. Falling, falling, falling…not falling. Leo opened his eyes, which he had screwed shut during the fall. To his very great surprise, he discovered that he'd landed in the arms of his immediate younger brother.
Raphael scoffed and smirked at his older sibling. "Well, well, well. Looks like I rescued the damsel in distress."
Leo growled and snapped at his sibling. "If you hadn't thrown this up there in the first place, this wouldn't have happened!" He yelled, waving the fork around in Raphael's face.
Raph frowned sternly. "I always could have let you fall."
"Why didn't you?" Leo asked roughly.
The hothead set Leonardo down and stared into his older brother's eyes. "Because you're my brother. And no matter how many fights we may get into, nothing is going to change that. I'm not just going to stand by and watch my brother get hurt." Raphael didn't usually confide in his brothers like that, but Leonardo had asked a question that he felt needed a clear and concise answer.
Leo's glare softened and his shoulders loosened at the soft declaration. Raphael had never really realized it, but sometimes his words had a way of making Leo think about things. And this was one of those times.
The eldest turtle bowed his head with guilt. "Hey Raph, I'm—"
Raph put a hand on Leo's shoulder and cut the leader off mid-sentence. "Me too."
Leo clapped a hand over Raph's shoulder and the fight from earlier was as good as forgotten. From behind Raphael, Mona Lisa smiled.
Suddenly the sound of a commotion in the front room made the turtles exchange glances. They all reached for their weapons and moved out of the kitchen towards the main room. Raphael tucked Mona Lisa protectively behind him as they entered. She frowned a little at that, but did nothing to oppose the action.
Within moments, the familiar figure of Casey Jones was bounding over to them. Mona smiled a little and pushed her way out from behind Raphael to greet the human. Casey smiled, "Hey beautiful, how's it going?"
Mona Lisa blushed.
Raph crossed his arms. "What are you doing here Casey? You didn't tell us you were going to be down today."
Casey Jones gave his best bud a toothy grin. "Thought we could hang out. I brought someone else with me, too." The hockey player gestured and April emerged from the shadows with a smile on her face.
"Hey guys!" She greeted jovially.
"April!" They exclaimed happily. Donatello rushed over and immediately began a conversation since he hadn't seen her in a while. Leonardo and Michelangelo took a few steps towards her.
Raph did the same, but he soon realized that Mona was no longer at his side. He glanced around, searchingly. When he finally laid eyes on her, he raised an eye-ridge.
She had moved all the way to the other side of the room. Her entire body shook like a leaf in autumn as she never took her eyes off of the two humans.
Raphael realized that she was spooked, so he was cautious in his approach. "Mona?" He called softly. She didn't respond. "Are you alright?" Raph asked, placing a soft hand on her wrist.
Mona jolted at his touch, but once she realized it was him, she flung herself into his arms and began to sob.
Raph no longer cared about the others in the room. He cradled Mona's head in his hands, concernedly. "Mona. Mona. Mona!" She finally looked up at him as though she hadn't even realized he'd been calling her. His eye-ridges crinkled with concern. "What's wrong?"
The others heard Raph's voice from across the room and they all turned towards the hothead and the lizard mutant. Leo, Mikey and Donnie rushed over. Casey and April followed a little more slowly.
They all watched with worried faces as Raph tried and failed to calm Mona's hysterics.
April approached them slowly. She glanced at Raph and concernedly asked, "Is there anything we can do? Maybe I could just—" April reached out and put a hand on Raphael's shoulder lightly. Mona's eyes widened and she glanced up April's arm and to her face. Tears cascaded down her cheeks and she slapped April's hand away violently.
"Mona!" Donnie yelled reprimandingly, pulling April behind him.
Mona jumped behind Raphael and trembled in fear. Raph bristled. "Don't you ever talk to her like that again!" The hothead threatened, looming over his purple-masked sibling imposingly.
"She hurt April!" The genius retorted.
"Donnie stop." April said softly, pressing a hand to Don's shoulder. The genius obeyed without a single word of protest, completely confident in April's judgment. April took a few steps towards Raph and Mona and the lizard mutant cowered in fear. She frowned worriedly. "Look at her…she's scared to death."
Casey frowned. "She wasn't this bad with me. What's up?"
Raph frowned and glanced back over his shoulder at Mona. She stared pleadingly at him with tears in her eyes. He turned back to the humans. "Look, guys, I think you should come back another time."
Casey sputtered in protest, but April nodded. "Of course, Raph. We'll plan it next time, too. Obviously just showing up wasn't the best idea." She sent a glare in Casey's direction and he deflated.
Casey had just thought that they could hang out a little bit. Once again he had scared Mona Lisa. He sent the lizard an apologetic glance, but she was too upset to notice. With a sigh, Casey slowly followed April through the turnstiles and out through the old subway tunnels.
Raph nodded and watched the two humans exit the lair. Then he turned to his brothers. "Give us a few moments." He instructed softly.
Leonardo nodded and herded Donatello and Michelangelo into the lab.
Once his brothers were gone, Raph turned around, only for Mona to cling to him desperately. Violent sobs wracked her entire body. Raphael stood there with a deep frown on his face as he rubbed gentle circles into her back. He had no idea what had upset her so, but he sure as shell was going to find out.
"Mona." He said softly. She sobbed a little more before finally meeting his questioning gaze. "What happened? You were doing so well with Casey…why?"
Tears stained her cheeks as she signed meekly, 'A female.'
"What?" Raph asked in confusion.
'A…Female.' Mona repeated, this time with her hands shaking. She closed her eyes tightly as she was bombarded by memories. More tears wet her cheeks.
There was a long moment of silence before a thought occurred to Raphael. It was something he hadn't even considered until now. He gripped Mona's wrists tightly and she looked up into his eyes. "Mona," he spoke slowly and did his best to remain calm even as he asked the question, "were the humans who did this to you…" Raph pointed to one of her scars, "were they female?"
Mona nodded and even more tears ran down her face. Raph yanked her into a tight hug.
The lizard mutant pulled away and began to gesture, 'She would do horrible things to me…horrible things…'
Raph reached out and stopped her hands before pulling her close and whispering softly in her ear. "You don't have to tell me if you're not ready."
Mona nodded and returned the embrace. A whimper split the silence and Raph stared down at her in shock.
Did she just…?
After getting an exhausted Mona calmed and put to bed, Raphael stormed through the lair to the lab.
His brothers all tensed as he entered. They could tell he was enraged by what he'd learned so they gave him a wide berth.
"What happened?" Leo was the first to ask.
Raph glared at the wall and slammed his fist into it.
Donnie grimaced at the sound of a cracking knuckle. Great, now he was going to have to bandage Raph's hand later.
"She freaked because of April." The hothead growled.
Donnie rolled his eyes. "Well, we deduced that. The more relevant question is: why?"
Raph's voice was low and filled with anger. "Because April's a female."
Leo's eye-ridges furrowed and Mikey was completely lost.
"Why does that matter?" the eldest turtle asked.
"Because they were female scientists, Leo! They were female scientists that…did those things to her!" Raph's fists clenched angrily.
All three of Raph's brothers stiffened, first in shock, and then in rage. A dark, angry silence fell upon the room until Raphael broke it.
In a voice that was low and surprisingly level, the hothead murmured, "You were right about her vocal chords Don."
Don's eyes widened and he gave Raph an inquisitive stare. Did Raphael mean…?
"She whimpered." The hothead murmured. "The first noise she actually made was a goddamn whimper!" He said, absolutely enraged. The red-masked turtle's chest heaved from over-exertion. Raph wanted nothing more than to beat the scientists that had tortured Mona to a pulp. His muscles were so tense that his hands were shaking.
Leo put a hand on Raph's shoulder and the emerald green turtle turned towards him.
Raphael's voice was eerily calm. "I swear Leo, when I find out who did this to her I'll…"
Leonardo patted the red masked turtle's shoulder reassuringly, and when he spoke his voice reflected the anger in Raphael's eyes. "I'm with you, little brother."