"Accch," Casey Jones hissed, teasing one of his implants, the incisor, gently with his tongue, "No shit, Raph, I think you knocked one of 'em loose."

"Yerr lucky s'all I did, ya big BABY," Raphael slurred, pointing the long neck of his bottle in Casey Jones' general direction. He snorted. "Heh. Geddit? Baby." He did a terrible impression of his Dad, "I made a funny."

"Yeah, clever, Raph," Casey smirked, "You're a real friggin' Shakespeare."

"You and April," Raph wheezed with glee, and slapped him on the back, "Haaaaaah! I knew you an April were at it again. Who's got two green thumbs and called THAT one a mile off?"

Casey couldn't help it, he turned bright red and laughed along to Raphael's helpless, drunken wheeze-laughter.

He was a bit more sober than his little green pal, but Casey figured Raph had gotten a good head start over at Donnie's. Still, Splinter wouldn't be thrilled when Raph didn't show up at the lair tonight. But at this point, what could he honestly do about it? Gum him to death? Raph was way past the age of doing push-ups for breaking curfew. Past the age of getting fall-down drunk, truth be told, but that was a conversation for another time. Besides, it was a celebration.

Casey briefly wondered if he should call, but then shrugged the thought away. Leo always took care of that crap when Raph was "indisposed." In fact, he'd probably been there for hours already, having already checked in on Sensei, made sure he'd remembered to take his meds, and all that. Someone had to be the responsible brother, he guessed. He eyed Raph out of the corner of his eye, at his shit-faced, sloppy green grin, and grimaced. Yeah, Raph was definitely going to be couch-surfing Chez Jones tonight.

It was the wee morning hours when Raph had showed up. April was already snoring softly and Casey was just drying off from the shower when Raph had ambushed him and whupped his half-naked ass up and down the apartment (damn near took his head off, too) laughing like a maniac and cussin' him out the whole while.

"Casey?!" April's voice had sounded shrilly from the bedroom at the sounds of combat, "Casey?!"

She came pelting out of the bedroom clutching a Louisville slugger, wearing Casey's saggy wifebeater and a pair of socks, just in time to see Raph standing over him in the kitchen, and watch him snap his bare ass with the stolen towel, announcing "That's for keepin' secrets, ya bum."

Yeah, by that point, Jones'd pretty much figured out that the cat was out of the bag.

April'd given Raph an earful (and almost a batful) but it was like he didn't even hear it. He just grinned at her dopily like Mikey, parried her half-hearted swing with the slugger, and instead, used the opportunity to pull her into a big hug and a wet, boozy kiss on the cheek, tellin' her what a great Mom she was gonna be (April's eyebrows almost hit the ceiling) and that she was like a sister, damnit, a sister to him, and if she or Casey or Donnie or the kid ever needed anything, anything at all, he'd be there, swear on a stack of Bibles (which was pretty laughable, since near as Casey could tell, the Hamato clan's religion was technically some flavor of Buddhism, and Raph's religion was technically some flavor of beating up lowlifes.)

Yeah, Raph was definitely faced, but at least he was an affectionate drunk – one of his nicer qualities, Casey reflected. It seemed though, unfortunately, that the happier he was about the whole situation, the madder April got that he even knew about it in the first place. She'd dialed Donnie up over the T-phone, and jerked her thumb at Raph, fuming at Casey to "get him the hell out of here," muttering under her breath about turtles and brothers and drinking and the history of bad ideas. Not needing to be told twice, Casey pulled his jeans on, and pulled a battered Maple Leafs jersey over his bare chest.

"Hello? Yeah, hi, honey. No, we're not in danger. You, on the other hand…oh, he's here alright, and feelin' no pain. Hey, guess what? Your complete inability to lie? No longer adorable," she'd grumbled into the well-weathered T-phone, "Not adorable. Problematic."

Looking up from the phone in irritation, she waved them out of the door again. Hurriedly backing out with a grimace, Casey dragged Raph to Candy's place, thanking his lucky stars, not for the first or the last time, that most of April's temper was landing comfortably in Donatello's capable olive hands these days.

He picked at the label on his Molsen idly, brought back to the present moment. His nerves still felt kinda jangly now that everything was out in the open, not just about the baby (Knock on wood. He tapped his knuckles lightly on the bar) but about this thing with him and April…well, him and April AND Donnie, he guessed.. April was definitely annoyed at the way it had all come to light – and given Raphael's colorful reaction, he could get why. At the same time it was sort of a relief, not to have to lie to his friends, especially Raph. He'd hated lying to Raph.

He imagined Leonardo was gonna give him the stink eye and possibly even a thinly-veiled lecture about family or responsibility the next time he saw him. Pfft. Let 'im. Casey Jones was no stranger to being judged. He knew what they had was weird but he also knew, beyond doubt, that it was good. And honestly, at the end of the day, Leo was a walkin', talkin', ninja-kickin' turtle just like the rest of them, so really, who was he to decide what's weird? Besides, Casey correctly surmised that the prospect of an adorable rugrat in-bound had softened any objections to the notion.

He felt fiercely protective of the little pocket of joy he'd managed to carve out for himself in this ugly world. Since he'd started patrolling with Raph, and fighting alongside the turtles and April all those years ago, he'd seen some heavy shit go down. Things didn't always turn out nicey-nice. Happy endings were hard to come by. This situation with him and April and Donnie could've ended bad, real bad. Still could, he guessed. But he was kinda proud of himself, proud of all of them, that they'd sat down and decided that it didn't have to go down like that. That they'd actively chosen to do better, to be better people in a way – bigger people.

He successfully peeled the label and started rolling it in his thumbs. That night, making love with April, it'd been – different. He thought back to the scene on his ugly yellow sofa just a few hours ago, the ugly yellow sofa where he supposed he'd be depositing Raph in a few hours.

"Alright," she'd announced, unbuttoning her blouse pretty much as soon as she'd closed the door behind her, a hungry look in her eye, "let's do this."

"Woah, woah," Casey had said, pausing the Giants, "Time out, angel face. 'Hi, Casey, how are you? Oh, that's nice. Me? I'm fine.'"

"'Hi, Casey,'" April recited in a bedroom voice, shimmying out of her skirt and reaching up to unhook her bra, "'How are you? Oh, that's nice.'" She kicked the skirt to the side, along with her heels.

"'Me? I'm ovulating.' Lose the pants, Jones."

"Hey," he'd said, feeling awkward, as she crossed the final gap between them, and started running her hands over his chest, looping one knee casually over his thighs to straddle him on his ugly yellow couch, "Hey, just – damnit, wait a minute."

He seized her wrists and lifted her hands away, suddenly feeling ill-used, and hollow. A flare of old jealousy flickered in his chest.

"That how you wanna play it, Jones?" April said, eying his grip on her wrists with a smirk, "Not your usual repertoire, but I'm game."

"Funny, O'Neil. That all I am to you these days?" he'd asked, trying not to sound too hurt, and mostly failing, "A means to an end?"

April's expression had softened at this. Her wrists still pinioned, she slowly leaned forward. At first he turned his head away slightly, indignant and not wanting to let her off the hook so easily, but he knew he couldn't resist that look in her eye, and soon surrendered to her tender, scorching kiss. Casey groaned appreciatively into her mouth, feeling his body give way to the old familiar dance.

They're playin' our song.

He brought her wrists behind her back, kissed her jaw, and nibbled his way to that part of her neck that drove her crazy. He wondered fleetingly if Donnie had found it yet, and decided it'd be weird to ask. She purred like a kitten, and ground her hips deliciously into him, her body already making promises for later.

"Atta girl," he muttered into her ear, taking the lobe in between his teeth, flicking her earring around with his tongue, "There you are. Slow down a minute. No hurry, no worry."

"Thank you," April whispered. He was surprised to hear the emotion in her voice, and pulled back so he could make eye contact with her.

"I mean it, Jones," April said, and the bald love and gratitude Casey saw beaming there in those baby blues made his breath catch in his broad chest. Suddenly, he wasn't a hulking beefy lummox anymore, he was a scrawny little kid in a spray-paint-stained hoodie, cupping his very first boob in awe, wondering how the hell he got so lucky, and April, always April, always two steps ahead, giving him that sexy little smirk.

"Thank you," she whispered again, and leaned in to place a kiss on one eye, then the other, "Thank you."

She kissed his jaw and his Adam's apple, "Thank you. Thank you."

He knew she meant more than just "thank you."

"Alright, alright already," he growled, a warm, bittersweet pang pooling in his chest, "Enough with the mushy stuff."

April smiled a crooked little smile.

"You know…we don't have to do this tonight, Casey. If you're having second thoughts, we can just have a nice night together, and maybe next time– "

"Woah, woah, hey – what? Flag on the play." Jones said, pulling her away slightly to glare, "Don't go puttin' words in my mouth, Red."

She sat back a bit, sinking onto his knees.

"I just want to make sure everyone feels right about this," she said, "This is a real person we're talking about making. I just want to make sure you're still…y'know. Enthusiastic about the idea."

"Hey. I got plenty of enthusiasm," Casey grinned cheekily, and ground his hips up towards her, straining against his jeans, but she just rolled her eyes.

"Hey," Casey insisted, "Look at me. Naw, hey – show me those peepers."

He looked into her eyes, and tried to show her as he spoke, willed her to read him, like an open book: "I want this. I want this for you, April. And for Donnie. For the both of yuz."

"But what about wanting it for you, Casey?" April asked, those piercing blue pools of concern breaking his heart, "This is a big deal. It's going to be your kid, too. You know that, right? You know how important you are to…us…how…"

She hesitated, and it made him smile to see that even after all these years, even sitting there naked in his lap, she was still shy. She and Donnie said "I love you" about sixty times a minute, they probably spelled it out in their Alphabits every morning, but with Casey, well – they said it in different ways, he guessed. It was kind of sweet, watchin' her struggle to get the words out.

"Do you know how much you mean to me?" she whispered, gazing at his chest, unable to look him in the eye.

Casey's eye roved over her body, nicely displayed for him, her slender wrists still firmly in his grasp. God, those freckles really did go everywhere. His eyes wandered down from her breasts to her bellybutton, wondering what that belly would look like, growing each month, growing with their baby. The thought was oddly pleasing, in a primal kinda way.

He knew that even though he would technically be the father, this baby was going to be theirs, really. Let's face it, he wasn't Father-of-the-Year material – loudmouthed and crass, scraping rent together for this shitty little apartment, vigilante-ing around town with Captain Charisma…hell, Donnie and April were a couplea bonafide geniuses: he only barely got his GED thanks to them. Truthfully, he was relieved that if he was gonna be doing this whole fatherhood thing, he'd have plenty of help so he didn't fuck it up too royally.

He thought about all the single fathers in his life…his own Dad, who raised him and his kid sister on his own – not perfect, but always doing his best. Kirby, who'd always been really cool to him when he and April were dating, even though he was pretty sure a meathead like himself was the last thing Kirby wanted for April. And of course, Master Splinter…hell, if he did half as good a job as a Pop as Master Splinter had done with the turtles, he'd be doin' fine.

He grinned and allowed himself to daydream a bit…about takin' the kid to his first Devils game, teachin' him to hate the Rangers…givin' him a buck for his first lost tooth...Christmas up at the farmhouse, sitting on the floor in front of the tree with the rugrat, unwrapping his first skates…April scowling disapprovingly from the couch, with Donnie's green arm slung around her shoulders, beaming at his weird little family.

Casey felt a sudden surge of affection for Donatello, much to his own chagrin. They'd wasted way too much energy over the years hating each other. Whatever else, Donnie made April happy – he always seemed to know just what she needed, just what to say, just when he needed to shut up and listen…Casey never knew what to say. Casey never knew when to shut up. Casey made things worse – Donnie made things better. And what he was doing – to see this whole situation for what it was, and to accept it – that took guts. And a whole lotta heart. But then, Casey'd always known, if anybody had guts and heart to spare, it was Donnie. Everybody thought it was his brains that made him special, but April had always seen what really made him special, and now Casey saw it too, through her eyes.

Those eyes…he wondered if the baby would have her eyes. He kinda hoped so.

"Earth to Jones," April flatly interrupted his reverie "Paging Casey Jones. We're kind of in the middle of a tender moment, here?"

"Hey. You wanna know something?"

"What?" she asked, cautiously.

He pulled her close again, and growled, "You talk too much. Let's give that pretty mouth something else to do, hm?"

"You're the boss, Mr. Jones," she murmured breathlessly, "By the way: Donnie says 'hi,' and 'have fun.'"

Casey chuckled darkly. "'Hi,' and 'have fun,' huh?"

He leaned forward and gave her a rough hickey on her collarbone.

"Hey, ow!" she snapped, leaning back.

"There," Casey said, waggling his eyebrows, "Now I'm sayin' 'Hi,' and havin' fun."

April pursed her lips in a wry grin. "Asshole."

"Not tonight, doll body," Casey smirked, "We're on a mission."

He laughed as her jaw dropped in disgust. She probably woulda slapped him and he was glad he still had her by the wrists.

He knew he'd never have all of her – knew that her heart would always belong to Donatello, but he also knew, knew before they'd ever sat down and said it out loud, that there was always gonna be a little corner of that heart that belonged just to himself. He felt it when her breath was hot and ragged in his ear, in that wordless, breathless moment of eye contact they made just as she came. That little moment, that wide-eyed expression of awe and gratitude in her face – the first time he saw it, he knew he was fucked, knew that from that point on, whenever she said "jump," he'd be there saying "how high?" He saw in the little glances she sent his way across the room…even in the way they fought. Nobody fought like that unless they really gave a damn. And it almost didn't matter whether he was this kid's "real" father or not – that little patch of heart already made them family forever.

And then April did that thing she did and he reflected that he was glad their relationship was a bit more than familial.

"Wipe that goofy grin off your face, ya perv, I know that look."

Candy's harsh voice brought him back to reality. Michael Jackson was on the jukebox, and grinning, he crooned along tunelessly in reply, "Ain't nobody's bidness…Ain't nobody's bidness but -

"MINE AN' MY BABY'S," Raph bellowed like a rhinoceros, "Hahaha! 'G'wan girl!' Ohhh shit, DUDE, wait, y'got…liss'nme."

Casey rolled his eyes apologetically at Candy, the bartender, as she mirthlessly cleaned glasses behind the bar.

"What if – what if issa GIRL, Casey?!" Raph sighed, his eyes wide with wonder, "What – whaddaya do wit…a GIRL?"

"Hey," Casey beamed, "I think we've established I know exactly what to do with a girl, amirite? That's what got us into this mess."

Raph suddenly scowled fiercely, and hammered Casey in the shoulder, hard.

"Hey!" Casey said, brushing his hand away abruptly, "Enough, already! You got me!"

"You – " Raph said, pointing a green finger in the rough direction of Casey's face, "Shoulda tol' me. And also you gotta clean – it up, mafren. No more," he waved a thick green arm around the bar, his ropey biceps flexing, "Of this shit."

"Hey," Candy protested, in annoyance.

"An also you shoulda tol' me, an also…you gotta… clean it…up. Your act. Clean up your act."

Casey snorted. Raphael telling him he had to get his act together. Right. He was about to retort when, to Casey's horror, it looked like Raphael might bawl again like a little girl.

"A baaaaaaaby," Raph sighed, and slung an arm around Casey's shoulders, "Fuckin' A, man, you an'…April an' Donnie, an'…with the kid, I freakin' – no, listen, CANDY!" he roared suddenly, "YO, CANDY!"

"I'm right here, Raph, Jesus," Candy snickered, and started mopping the bar in front of Raph, "What, baby? Just tell me, you don't gotta shout."

"I'm gonna be an uncle," Raph said, drawing himself up to full height on his bar stool. He half-turned and addressed the empty bar, "AN UNCLE!"

"So I hear," Candy said, eyeing Casey with an arched eyebrow. Casey squirmed a bit under her glance. She didn't seem too thrilled.

"An uncle…cuzza THIS GUY," Raph drawled, "This guyyyyyyy."

He tried to punch Casey under the chin, missed, and almost fell off the bar stool.

"Woah!" Casey said, laughing and catching Raphael, forgetting just how heavy he was. He felt the edge of his shell dig into his forearms and he knew that would have weird bruises later.

"See, Candy?" Casey said, with a wink, "All this and a floor show. What would you do without me?"

"Hmm, maybe actually go home at closing time?" Candace drawled, counting out her singles from the tip jar, "Clean up a lot less broken glass? Actually expect you two to pay your tab once in a while?"

"Naww, I think you'd be bored to tears, Candy Cane," Jones flirted shamelessly.

"Don't call me that," she snapped, and slammed the till shut. She leaned over it with her back to Casey, and suddenly hung her head. A few stray strands of stringy blonde hair escaped from her ponytail.

Casey frowned.

"Hey – you okay, Candace?"

After a moment, Candy sighed, turned to face him, and crossing her arms over her chest, leaned back against the till, a sad smile on her face. The Purple Dragons had been harassing her a while back, and he and Raph had put a stop to it. Unfortunately it meant Raph getting seen. But at least now they had a place to go drinking after they got off patrol in the wee hours. The fact that he'd been porking her at the time hadn't exactly hurt matters either. Casey, that is – not Raph. S'far as Casey knew Raph hadn't been porking anyone, for fairly obvious, mutant reasons. Most chicks weren't as…open-minded as April.

"Lookit you," Candy drawled, "Mr. Responsible all of a sudden."

Casey squirmed uncomfortably, "Ah, come on, blondie. Don't start that shit with me now."

Candace shrugged and shook her head. "Look, I always knew you'd end up going back to that redhead, just…I didn't know she'd up and…domesticate ya."

She looked tired, and not just because it was nearing dawn. Her eyeliner feathered into the tiny wrinkles under her eyes, and her cheeks seemed thinner and more drawn than he remembered. It can't have been easy running a business as a single woman in New York. Didn't exactly leave much time for dating, and the kinda guys you met in her line of work weren't usually marriage material.

"Guys like me," Casey thought.

"You jealous, Candy Cane?" Casey drawled, waggling his eyebrows, "Cuz I gotta say, it looks good on you."

Candace smirked in spite of herself and rolled her eyes. "You're an asshole, Casey Jones."

"Hey," Casey murmured, more seriously, "We had fun together, huh? Good times?"

Candy smiled, and put her hand over his. It was warm and a bit damp from washing glasses. He could smell the glass cleaner that was a permanent fixture of her skin. It brought back sudden memories of those hands wandering other places, and he felt a bit nervous.

"Yeah," Candy smiled, "Yeah, good times. Look, don't mind me, I'm pushing forty, still single, and wondering when the stork is gonna swing by my little nest, that's all. That whole mess with you and them, and what you're doin' for 'em – honestly, I think it's kinda nice. Real nice, Jones. I didn't know you had it in you."

"I'm pretty sure you knew I had it in me, Candy Cane," Jones smirked, and she took her hand off his, to poke him in the shoulder playfully.

"Don't be vulgar," she smirked, "Ya shithead."

"Hey, maybe I should rent myself out, huh?" Casey teased.

"Pfft. 'Casey Jones, professional stud services.'" Candy laughed. She had a scratchy smoker's laugh. "Christ on a cracker. Well, you could sure use the cash."

"Any time you're ready, babe," Casey flirted, "You got my number. Hey, speaking of cash."

He started reaching for his wallet, but she waved him away.

"Naw. You know you guys don't pay here."

"Hey, ain't you heard?" Casey teased, "I'm a responsible-type adult, now."

Candy just shook her head, "It's only because of you two that I'm still in business. Besides, you're celebrating. I'll buy."

Casey smiled at her, briefly remembered lying next to her in her apartment upstairs, queen mattress on the floor, no frame, the neon light from the bar flashing on and off through the blinds, making dancing red stripes over her body while she smoked a cigarette.

"You're kinda pretty, you know?" he said, before thinking.

"Easy there," Candace rolled her eyes, "You'll pull a muscle."

"Hey, I'm just sayin' – it'll happen for ya, Candy. The right one, he's out there."

"Hrm," Candy offered, noncommittally. She obviously didn't believe him, and also obviously didn't wanna talk about it anymore.

Casey felt something wet on his shoulder, and looked over to realize Raph was drooling on him, probably passed out. Casey sighed.

"It's almost dawn. I better get handsome here to a couch."

Candy smirked and jutted her chin Raph's way.

"Good luck with that."

TMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmntTMNTtmnt

Leo surveyed the lair. It was so much quieter than he was used to, even for this hour of night. He padded silently to Master Splinter's room, years of habit making his motions stealthy even when there was no particular need.

Splinter lay with his hands folded neatly on his chest, the adjustable bed holding him halfway up – it made it easier for him to breathe at night. The oxygen tank hissed softly. Donnie had designed a special cannula to fit Splinter's rat-like snout and stay in place over night. Leo checked to make sure it was well adjusted, and leaned in close to watch the reassuring rise and fall of his furry chest. Lightly, he placed a hand over Splinter's folded claws.

A quiet rumble started deep in Splinter's chest, and slowly he opened his eyes.

"Miwa?" he murmured.

Leo's heart tugged in chest. It had been years since any of them had seen Karai. He'd written to her in Japan when Splinter had started to get sick, but…well, she'd made her choice. She'd sent a polite, formally worded reply, hand-brushed, praying for his return to good health, and wishing them all well. It hung on the wall now, next to Splinter's bed. He imagined it was too painful for her, that she preferred to forge her own life instead of always being haunted by ghosts from her father's war…both of her fathers' war. He wondered, not for the first or the last time, if she was seeing anyone, if she'd found the freedom and peace she was seeking. He thought back to the last time he'd seen her, the day she'd told him she was leaving…standing there on the rooftop, her silky black hair blowing around her face, slipping through his fingers, the almost blue sheen of it in the moonlight…

"Ah," Splinter murmured, now fully awake, "Raphael."

Leo smiled, and turned on the bedside lava lamp, purloined from Mikey's room for its soft light. The room was bathed in an orange glow.

"Leonardo, sensei."

Splinter leaned forward and squinted.

"Ah, so it is. I'm sorry, my son. My eyes…"

"I know," Leo said, softly, patting Splinter's hand, "It's okay."

"Where is Raphael?"

Leo frowned. He had guessed Raph hadn't made it home tonight. He was glad he decided to check in before going to bed. But at the same time, seeing Splinter like this…he had a feeling he understood why Raph had been patrolling and partying a bit too hard, lately. He made up his mind to talk to him about it, though he wasn't sure how much good it would do. Talking to Raph never seemed to do much good. Maybe he'd ask Michaelangelo to do it. Raph didn't always take him seriously, but at least he'd let Mikey talk, and maybe the idea would take root.

"Did you take your medicine?" Leo evaded.

"Hrm," Splinter grunted, noncommittally. Leo knew he had no idea. He sighed, and checked the marble notebook next to Splinter's bed, perched haphazardly on top of a small sea of orange pill bottles. Yep – Raph had meticulously written everything down. Leo's heart softened a bit towards his brother. He was trying.

"You didn't use your puffer before bed…do you need it now? Or do you want to wait until morning?"

Splinter shook his head.

"Morning, then. Did you eat?"

Splinter shook his head again. "I was not hungry."

"Otōsan," Leo said sternly, closing the marble notebook, "You have to eat. Even when you don't feel like it. You're not supposed to take this stuff on an empty stomach."

Splinter coughed delicately, and leaned back into his pillows again, closing his eyes. Leo rolled his eyes. His father was no fool, and had come to realize a well-timed coughing fit was a good conversation stopper.

"Gabriela is leaving her husband."

"Really?" Leo smiled, playing along with the misdirection, "Even though she'll be cut out of the will?"

"Mm. For Ronaldo, the pool boy. He doesn't know that she lied about the baby."

"Was he the one that had amnesia?" Leo squinted, trying to remember.

"No," Splinter chided, "You are thinking of General Hospital."

"Ah," Leo smiled, softly, "I'm going to bring you some toast and an Ensure."

Splinter wrinkled his nose in disgust.

"I know. But it's good for you. Chocolate or vanilla?"

"Tea," Splinter said, weakly.

"Ensure, then tea," Leo replied firmly, "It'll wash the taste away. A ninja takes care of his body."

There was a low rumble in Splinter's chest. Leo held his breath, worried this might be an actual coughing fit, but instead, a soft laugh burbled its way to the surface.

"I am not…ninja anymore," Splinter smiled, "I am just…an old rat."

Leo smiled. He was tempted to tell Splinter he was going to be a grandfather, knew how happy it would make him, but figured Donnie would want to – it was only fair. He leaned down, and kissed his father on the head.

"You're still our sensei."

"Vanilla," Splinter murmured, in defeat.

Leo nodded, and stood to go, and Splinter grabbed his wrist.

"Thank you, Raphael," he murmured, "You are a good boy."

Leo paused.

"Love you, Dad," he said, swallowing hard, and went to go make some toast.