Raphael's day came an unexpected winter morning. He had popped out for a mid-morning snack when he arrived back with a huge smile.

"So, what's up?" I asked as he blushed deeply and walked away without telling us anything.

The four of us had spent the last evening immersed in the Die Hard films, even Donny had participated in our action marathon.

Since we almost lost Raph, we had developed a stronger bond and had been spending much more time with each other. Even Raph was spending a lot of time within the family folds, and was more relaxed than he had ever been before.

"Nothin', Fearless. Just went for a bite to eat." Raph mumbled and disappeared into the kitchen.

Donny looked over at me and fought to keep the smile from his beak.

I wandered into the kitchen and found Raph pouring some cereal into a bowl. "So, you went out for something to eat ... and now you're having cereal."

Raph paused as he chomped his way hungrily through the cereal. "Well, I got side-tracked. I was gonna go to the Breakfast Bar over on tenth."

"And ... ?" I was hanging off every word.

"Mugging. I intervened." Raph confirmed, tucking into more cereal.

"So, you came back straight away?" I looked at Raph incredulously. It was unlikely that anything could stop him from visiting the Breakfast Bar.

"Well, I had a coffee with the vic first." Raph explained looking thoroughly uncomfortable.

My interest was peaked. "Coffee? Was the vic a woman, Raph?"

Raph blushed and turned away. "Maybe ..."

I smiled at his reaction.

This could only mean one thing ...

"Are you going to see her again?" I prompted. Raph watched me warily, chewing on cereal and looking slightly put upon.

"Can you quit it, Leo? Nothin' happened." Raph turned away, his shell facing me.

"I think it'd be nice if you met a girl, Raph. All these years pining for April has just left you bitter." Donny was standing in the door frame looking at his older brother with a hint of admiration. With Raph's inexperience, none of us had expected him to meet someone so soon.

"I think it'd be nice if you guys shut up." Raph snarled, stalking out of the kitchen towards his bedroom.

That was the last we saw from Raphael that day. He snuck out later and disappeared for the night, probably to patrol.

The days turned to weeks, and we forgot Raph's mystery girl. The dojo had seen a sudden increase in business, and I was working flat out all hours trying to take on new students. I have certain standards, and had decided to delegate teaching roles to my most advanced students. This gave me the opportunity to focus on the most talented of the new students, giving them the attention they needed to advance quickly.

There were twelve students that I was personally focused on training. The majority were young men, but there were a couple of female students who were excelling beyond my expectations. I was proud of their progress, and often went for drinks with them after workouts. I hadn't seen much of my brothers for some time, although we passed and exchanged pleasantries all the time.

Donny had been expanding his business at a terrifying rate. I think his talk with Raph had made him realise how lonely he felt generally, and he had concentrated on his work to forget his troubles. I hoped that one day, Donny would meet a good man.

Meanwhile, I was getting closer to one student in particular. Her name was Jenny and she had shown aptitude for Ninjutsu that few possessed. Training her was a pleasure and I began to realise my feelings for her had changed from mentor and friend to romantic. She had never shown any interest in me at all in a romantic sense, so I closed off my emotions and continued to train her as normal.

Mikey had been dating generally, as usual. He was happy in the company of many others, not just one significant other. For Mikey, I don't believe that will ever change.


Three weeks on and the 'vic' Raph had saved from a mugging was snuggled beside him on the sofa, watching the Death Wish film series on the box. His arm was lightly draped around her shoulders, and he seemed completely relaxed and content. We had decided not to pry him for any further information on his new love interest as he was uncomfortable speaking about anything of a romantic nature.

Donny had been internet dating and had a string of first dates. He hadn't expected much and had been pleasantly surprised when he met a gym fanatic and personal trainer called John. They had just shared their first night together and I bumped into them as I prepared myself for the day ahead. Donny seemed a little embarrassed, but John was beaming with joy.

I smiled as I headed over to the dojo and began an intense workout for my most advanced students. We ploughed through the exercises and then immersed ourselves in meditation for half an hour.

By the end, most of the students had disappeared off to the changing rooms, but Jenny remained loitering around the dojo, looking uncomfortable.

I was sitting, cross-legged on the meditation mat, trying to find inner peace. "Everything okay, Jenny?"

"Fine, thanks," came the reply.

I allowed myself to drift into the astral plane and felt my spirit soar as my body became warm and fuzzy from the lack of spiritual presence.

It was, with great shock, when I felt lips press themselves suddenly against my beak. Fighting back to mental awareness, I opened my eyes in shock and looked at the retreating figure with a slight smile.

I wasn't always right about the intentions of others. For, at that moment, I knew Jenny had feelings for me.

She had disappeared into the changing room with the agility of a panther and I closed my eyes again, my soul singing with expectation.

Our lives may have been static for a long time, but now they were full of hope.

Leo


- THE END -