Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home
-Home, Phillip Phillips
Mona Lisa followed the familiar path from her hideout to the turtles’ lair. They’d offered to let her stay with them but the thought of living attempting to live in close quarters with four teenage guys and their dad was not appealing. It was nice to visit, but she’d go nuts if she had to stay there all the time. A girl needed her space after all.
Though she had to admit it could get a little lonely at times. Not that her place wasn’t nice. Being the remnants of an early 20th century subway station, it was pretty classy, all brick with fancy stonework. She loved it.
And the guys had gone all out to furnish it for her, finding her even nicer pieces than they had in their own home. She’d worked with Donatello to get heat and electricity up and running, driving away the dampness and drafts and illuminating the exquisite mosaic work on the ceiling. It really was wonderful, especially with all the appliances Donatello had fixed up for her.
But she’d always shared a place with someone before, first her family and then her friend, Taylor, throughout college. April was nice, albeit very focused on her career, but she really did miss having Taylor around for some serious girl talk. Especially now that she had so much to say.
There was one item in particular she wished that she could get her almost-sister’s advice on. Or even her mother’s. But she couldn’t face them like this. Sure the turtles were kind of crime-fighting celebrities, but they didn’t actually have that many real, human friends. It was one thing to cheer mutants on from a distance, but feelings could become more complicated and unclear up close and in person. What would her family and friends think of her now? She just couldn’t risk it. No matter how badly she missed them.
But as lonely as her home was, she wasn’t truly alone.
“Hey guys.” She called out as she stepped through the round entryway.
Master Splinter looked up from his recliner in front of the television, some Japanese soap opera playing across the screen, and gave her a nod of acknowledgement.
Beyond him, she could see Leonardo in the large open space, running through a kata. He smiled at the sight of her. “Care to practice?”
She grinned in return, pleased with how her martial arts training was coming along. A girl had to know how to defend herself after all. But she had other plans today. “Not right now.”
He shrugged and resumed his training.
A boom resounded from the lab and she veered from her current path to duck in under the billowing cloud of smoke.
Donatello coughed, waving the thick fumes out of his soot-covered face. “Well that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“You okay in here?”
Momentarily startled, he juggled a glass beaker before finally managing to get a grip on it and set it back on the table. “Mona Lisa, hi. Interested in jumping in on this experiment. It’s a doozy.”
She laughed. “I can see that.”
Working in Donatello’s lab had certainly been one of the highlights of befriending the turtles, although saving the world from interdimensional criminals might actually have been a safer activity. What could she say? She liked living on the edge. Besides, she’d learned more from her time working with him than from the whole rest of her education put together.
Even so, playing science roulette with Donatello was not why she’d come by today. “Maybe later. Just making sure you didn’t blow yourself up.”
He huffed. “It doesn’t happen that often.”
She laughed and retreated from the lab, making her way towards the kitchen-dining room. Michelangelo popped out of the entryway just as she was about to cross the threshold and she yelped, staggering back.
“Hey dudette.” He flung the pizza dough high into the air, deftly catching it on his fingers as it came back down. “Come to try my latest, totally tubuloso culinary creation? I’m trying Siracha sauce and bleu cheese, topped with sardines and cool ranch Doritos.”
Her stomach turned at the thought, but her brain short circuited as she tried to come up with an out that wouldn’t hurt his feelings.
“Dude, she’s here for the classics.” She let out a relieved breath as the familiar voice of the turtle she’d come to see called out from within the room.
Michelangelo rolled his eyes as he backed up to let her pass. “Whatever. Jellybean and brownie pizza is mondo boring. Delicious but boring.”
Raphael shrugged as he leaned back in his chair at the kitchen table. “Eh, we can’t all be iron-stomached, thrill seekers.”
A wide grin spread unbidden across her face as she took in the sight of him, waiting for her with her recently-discovered, favorite food. She pulled out her chair. “Aww, you shouldn’t have.”
He grinned. “I know, but it was this or training with Leonardo. As much as I would have loved to work out until my muscles bled, I made the sacrifice and decided to hang out with you. You’re welcome to be vocal and generous with your praises.”
She laughed heartily as she grabbed herself a slice of pizza, enjoying the warm feeling that suffused her being whenever she was near him. While she loved spending time with all the turtles, even cooking with Michelangelo, though that was more damage control than anything else, Raphael was by far her favorite companion.
Funny, confident and cavalier, he seemed to get her in a way that no one else ever had and she still had butterflies around him even after the touch of hero worship from their first encounter had worn off. It didn’t hurt that he was the cutest of his brothers, in her humble opinion. Knowing him, certainly brightened up her new and lonely existence, such as it was.
With a sigh, she lowered her half eaten slice of pizza, willing away the heavy thoughts that she didn’t want intruding on her time with Raphael.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” She snapped out of her reverie and realized that he was looking at her in concern, uncharacteristically serious. A hint of mischief returned to his features. “If the pizza isn’t perfect, I have no problem speaking with the chef.” He spun his sais as his eyes sparkled with mirth.
“Dude, my pizza is always perfect, although you’re totally welcome to make your own next time.” Michelangelo called over from the kitchen.
She raised her hand…her green, scaly, webbed, four-fingered lizard hand, to forestall the banter, but caught herself looking at it with a sigh. She wished she could be pretty again. Shaking off the melancholy, she pushed forward with her original intention.
“Chill. I’m fine. Just thinking about life…before. That’s all. I’m good though. Can anyone hook a girl up with some soda?”
Raphael moved with ninja-grace to the fridge door and tossed her a can of root beer. As she cracked it open and washed down her first few bites of pizza, she missed the thoughtful look on Raphael’s face.
“Hey Donatello…whoa!” Raphael ducked as springs and cogs ricocheted around the lab. “Dude, you need to come with warning signs.”
Donatello looked up sheepishly from a sprawling mess of parts. “Sorry. I think I had the oscillation set too high.”
“You know that no one understands a word your saying, right?”
Donatello rolled his eyes at the familiar jibe. “Mona Lisa does, so at least I can content myself with one kindred spirit.”
The mention took some of the wind out of Raphael’s sails and he was more subdued as he fully entered the lab, carefully avoiding stepping on anything sharp. They’d all learned long ago, that Donatello’s lab bred science caltrops.
“About Mona Lisa…did she seem kind of down to you today?”
Donatello stopped and thought for a moment. “No, not really. Of course, I was kind of distracted when she popped in.”
Raphael snorted. “You’re always distracted.”
In science-mode, Donatello wouldn’t notice a stampede of giant sewer rats through the lair. But that’s just who Donatello was and as much as it drove him, and probably everyone else, crazy sometimes, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Donatello started gathering scattered parts. “Why do you ask?”
“Because she was.”
Donatello looked up, surprised, but not questioning him. It had long since been generally accepted that he was the authority when it came to anything Mona Lisa related. “What do you think’s the matter?”
He leaned against the wall and looked away, not liking what he was going to say, but certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was right. “I’m pretty sure she misses being human.”
Donatello blinked. “Really? She never said.”
Raphael shook his head. “Yeah, because that wouldn’t sound rude to us at all. Glad to hear you think she’s so tactless.”
Donatello frowned. “That’s not what I meant. But she’ll be ok, right?”
Raphael’s jaw clenched as he forced the next words out. “If she wants to be human again, she has the right. Can you do it?”
He knew this would cost him whatever slim chance he might have had with her, but her happiness was worth it. He wouldn’t keep her locked down in the sewers for the rest of her life for his sake.
“Well, her mutation was really different from ours, but I detailed some notes on her story of how it happened and have produced several theories, confirmed with samples I collected from her.”
Raphael cocked his head at Donatello’s words. “Samples? Why would you…you know what, I really don’t want to know. Can you do it?”
Donatello nodded emphatically. “Yes…probably.”
“And it’s not going to end like the time you reversed Master Splinter’s mutation?”
Donatello shook his head. “No…maybe.”
He sighed. His heart heavy. “Good. Do it then.”
Shredder flinched away in disgust as Krang eagerly rubbed his tentacles together in manic glee as he proudly displayed the blueprints across the Technodrome’s massive screen. “The new weapons array will be glorious. With it, I will be completely unstoppable.”
Shredder’s eyes narrowed. “We.”
Krang spared a glance at him. “What?”
“You mean we will be completely unstoppable.”
Krang shuddered inside his hulking exo-suit. “Yes…we.”
Shredder didn’t actually believe that but, as long as their interests were mutually aligned, he would pretend to.
“How long before the construction-bots finish it?” With this he could finally complete his conquest of Earth. He could almost taste the victory as his enemies were crushed beneath his heel and all humanity bowed before him. Krang rushing off to reconquer Dimension X would be an added bonus. Never having to hear that condescending voice, whose speech always sounded like a blend of burping vomit and drowning, would be a dream come true.
“Two weeks, assuming there are no complications.”
Shredder rubbed his palms together eagerly. “Excellent.”
“There is one potential hindrance.”
He turned to glare at the squishy, pink blob, ruining his visions of world domination. “What?”
“The Technodrome’s current energy resources are insufficient to power my genius design. This pitiful planet is incapable of providing even the most basic fuel that would have been available in Dimension X.”
Shredder could feel his teeth grinding as he resisted the urge to thrust his armored fist into the exo-suit’s chest cavity and make scrambled Krang. Instead, he applied his formidable mind to the problem at hand, looking over the blue prints and considering the energy requirements.
Yes. With the right materials, he could do it. Liquid hydrogen combustion working in synergy with nuclear fission would suffice. Of course, he’d need a lot of hydrogen and uranium to make this work, along with materials to build appropriated containment and extraction units. But it could be done. He could do it.
“Just worry about finishing the weapons array, Krang. I’ll handle the power deficiencies.”
Krang crossed his tentacles. “You’d better.”
Stuffing down, once again, the desire to dice his colleague, he turned on his heel and stalked out. Once this was done, the Earth would be his and he’d never have to see that obnoxious glob of flesh ever again.