Title: Fifty Shades of Green
Chapter 5: A Green, Friendly Face
That night I had so many dreams.
The first involved being stretched gently on a rack by Leo. He was kneading my flesh with his powerful, big green fingers.
"There, all better." He grinned at me, his face lighting up as I stepped off the rack. I stretched and looked at him appreciatively.
My dream scene shifted suddenly and I was in a dark forest full of frightening shadows. I called out to Leo but there was no reply from my saviour. Instead, I saw the foliage rustling as a big cat emerged, a Puma I think, and it growled deep and threateningly as it inched towards me.
I was rooted to the spot, my muscles clenched in agony as I tried desperately to move. The cat reached me and put it's huge black paws on my shoulder. I looked into the eyes - big, blue orbs - and suddenly the cat licked me. "Leo?" I gasped as the cat merely balanced against me, looking into my eyes intensely. "Is that you? What happened?"
The dream shifted into yet another scene and I recognised the farmhouse at once. Things seemed a little off. The clock on the wall was doing strange slow circles and didn't seem to read any time. I looked around as I wandered through the place, absorbed in a strange fearful sensation. Opening a closed door I discovered Leo sitting in the center of a large room, on a stark black chair, with a riding whip in his hand. There were various instruments of torture dotted around the room.
Leo hadn't looked up as I opened the door, but now he did, his gaze fixing on mine instantly. "You're late. I've been expecting you ..."
I awoke with a start. The bed was drenched with sweat and I kicked back the sheets, startled. I looked at the clock. Two-forty-five in the afternoon.
Holy crap! I'd slept half the day away. Where was Leo? I searched the room desperately, only to find shadows and afternoon sun playing games with each other - the room was empty.
I got to my feet and went padded across the hallway and into the bathroom. I looked a complete fright, my hair sticking up at various angles and my face flushed with exhaustion.
Although I had slept late, I didn't feel at all rested. The dreams had been too intense for me to relax and my muscles ached from yesterday's run.
Groaning, I tried to sort myself out before I went to find Leo. The last thing I wanted was for him to see me in this dishevelled state. I brushed my teeth and put my hair into a ponytale. Lastly, I washed my face and reassessed my appearance. My underwear was damp from sweat still, but I looked more presentable now.
Heading downstairs, I looked into the lounge and saw a green figure sitting on the sofa. My first reaction was relief, but something wasn't right about the turtle sitting on the couch. My senses flared and I found my heartbeat gaining speed as I ventured towards the figure sitting and swaying slightly.
For a start, he was wearing an orange bandanna. I thought Leo's bandanna was exclusively blue. Heart in my mouth, I scanned the turtle's body for more clues. He wasn't as muscled as my Leo, but he looked leaner and he seemed very at ease with himself. He had headphones on and was tapping out the beat to the music with his left foot.
I came to the conclusion that this was definitely not my Leo. I gulped. Who was this strange turtle on the sofa? Why did he seem so relaxed and carefree? Why wasn't Leo here?
I walked up to the intruding mutant and lay a hand on his shoulder.
His reaction couldn't have shocked me more. As soon as I touched him his arm spun up locking my hand within his own. He stood fluidly, flipping me up and over onto the couch.
For a moment, I saw the serious expression on his face and his arm rose as his training automatically kicked in and I closed my eyes, expecting a harsh blow. He had straddled me, all of his movements drilled in from years of training and I hadn't got a chance of defending myself.
I cracked open an eye when the blow didn't arrive and saw him looking down at me puzzled. He took the headphones off at once and got off me, looking a little put out.
"Sorry, babe. Wasn't expecting you to do that." His voice had a deep, thick tone that reminded me of surfing waves and blazing sun. His eyes softened as he looked at me, his expression melting from trained warrior to individual. It was frightening how that expression could change instantly, and I felt my pulse race with fear.
"Where's Leo?" I gasped, staying where I was in case this stranger attacked me again.
"He's been called away. You know, the Family Business." He was smiling at me in a rather goofy way, his mouth huge and his big teeth showing. "With Casey being so sick, our enemies are trying to take advantage. Jerks."
"The man I saw the other day? He didn't look sick." I relaxed a little, sitting upright and scooting to one corner of the sofa. The turtle smiled broadly at this display of trust and sat next to me, raising one foot to rest on his knee.
"He doesn't look sick. It's all inside." The turtle pounded his fist on his chest in explanation.
"You're Gia, right? I was wondering when you'd wake up. I didn't want to have to go into your room unless I had to. You know. Ladies and their rooms. Hate disturbing women in their own space. I was about to, though. I didn't know if you were even still alive up there."
He was chatting as if we were best friends! I flushed with embarrassment at the fact I'd slept so late. And I was in just my underwear! The turtle mercifully didn't seem to notice my lack of dress, "Who are you?"
"Ah, sorry. I thought you knew already." The turtle turned to me, his mega-watt smile brightening up the room. I swear I heard birds start to cheep at that moment right outside. "My name's Mikey. I'm Leo's baby brother."
"Baby brother? He said he had family. Just the two of you turtles, eh?" I smiled. He was very easy to talk to - his eyes sparkling with excitement and good humour.
Suddenly, his expression shifted and something dark settled over him. He examined me with intense eyes and I gulped. Had I said something wrong?
"Leo hasn't told you much about us yet, has he?" Mikey realised. "He's really guarded sometimes. I don't think he'd mind me telling you - we're two of four."
"There are four of you? Four turtles?" I gasped at the thought of four ninja turtles. I had known Leo had family, but not for one second did I think they were all like him. I thought some kindly human ninja master had found and adopted him. "Oh, wow."
"Yeah, four. We are all different - Leo's the leader, I'm the social one, Donny is a genius; he wears a purple bandanna and Raph is a maniac. He wears red. It really suits his personality." Mikey was chattering away in a friendly manner, nudging me playfully.
"Is Raph ... dangerous?" I asked in a small voice.
"Yeah! He's totally psycho. Sometimes I think he'll kill one of us in sparring." Mikey giggled. For all his bad-mouthing Raph, he didn't seem scared in the slightest. "If you meet him, remember these basic rules. Don't look him in the eye; he'll think you're challenging him. Answer any questions with only one-word answers. He hates being drawn into a conversation. Oh and don't talk back to him or get smart."
I gulped. I really didn't like the sound of this Raph. "So, you four train together?"
"Yep. The awesome foursome!" Mikey grinned widely.
"Who trained you in Ninjutsu? I bet he's amazing, you guys are so good."
"Master Splinter. He's our sensei." Mikey's smile became even wider. I didn't even think it was possible. His mouth was split so wide I feared it would break and drop off at any moment.
"Wow. Is he a turtle too?" My curiosity was mounting. Who was this mysterious Master Splinter who had trained my Leo? If these turtles, who were only his students, were this advanced I had to wonder how good this Splinter was. I had images of a turtle Bruce Lee flashing through my mind, beating off hoardes of unscrupulous bad guys.
"Not really." Mikey suddenly looked a little uncomfortable. He shifted his weight on the sofa and rose fluidly. "I should get you something to eat. Leo asked me to train you while he's away. You know, get fit stuff. None of the heavy ninja things - Leo wants to do all that himself."
"Okay." I watched as Mikey skipped over to the kitchen area and began preparing a hearty meal of cereals and fruit. "I brought some stuff in case Leo was being heavy-handed," Mikey chattered as he prepared breakfast (or should I say dinner? The time had really run away from me today.) and winked at me conspiratorially. "My secret bag has milk and sugar. Both things Leo told me not to bring." Mikey waved a white plastic bag with a large smile, "Had to sneak it in past your Protector With-A-Thousand-Eyes. You really owe me for this."
I smiled at Mikey as he danced around excitedly. He was so easy-going. He couldn't be more laid-back and relaxed about everything. If Leo had an opposite, then Mikey was surely it.
"I'm going to hide the sugar in a place only we know about," Mikey continued, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "If Leo finds it, we're both toast." He looked around himself and I could see the training return to his expression. He was carefully assessing the whole kitchen area for a safe spot. He wandered around momentarily and then smiled brightly at me, "Got it. There's a loose floorboard by the wall over there by the window. I can sneak the sugar under there."
"Won't the whole place be invaded by ants?" I asked, chuckling to myself.
"I'll put it in a box. A plastic one. No way ants are gonna smell through that." Mikey decided.
"Can't do much about the milk though. It needs to stay in the fridge. We'll just use it up and get rid of the packaging before Leo get's back."
"Wow. What do you think Leo would do if he found our secret stash?" I asked with trepidation.
Mikey turned serious. His eyes hardened and he returned to making my breakfast, with the new addition of milk and sugar. "Better not to even think about such dire things, babe."
Then, the smile was back, radiating even brighter than ever. He bounced over to me with a dish full of food. "Here you go. Eat up. We're gonna be in the barn all day."
"Okay." I couldn't help but smile at his ever-present optimism. "What were you listening to, you know, before you flipped me?"
Mikey was bouncing around the whole area, looking out of windows and trying unsuccessfully to keep still. "You mean earlier? Oh, your music. Don downloaded them all for my keep fit routine."
"My songs?" I looked amazed. "How did he get hold of that?"
Mikey looked uncomfortable for a moment. He stopped his bouncing and returned to the sofa, watching me eat with a wary expression. "We went through the stuff at your apartment. Sorry, babe. We had to check on you, make sure you were who you said you were. Leo's a bit vulnerable right now ... what with Casey being sick."
"Vulnerable?" I couldn't believe my big-strapping Leo was fragile. The whole idea left a very bitter taste in my mouth, even with all the sugar.
"Yeah, Leo needed something to focus on. You." Mikey shuffled uncomfortably. "You do know you're the first person he has ever chose to teach, right?"
"I can't believe I'm the first student he's ever had. He's amazing." I munched on the cereal and looked at Mikey with wide eyes. "Why me? Why now?"
Mikey looked up at the ceiling, deep in thought. "I think it was essential for Leo to have another human in his life at this time. We've only ever had Casey and April as our human friends. We've known other people, but they've come in and out of our lives and never stayed for long. Casey and April are our connection to the human world."
Wow. Mikey was really insightful.
"Anyway, with Casey being so sick, Leo felt vulnerable. Casey was really ill. Worse, there was no evil master-mind behind it. Leo couldn't just attack and kill the thing that was making Casey sick. I think it triggered some huge need to protect and pass on his legacy to another. When he saved you, he found someone equally vulnerable as Casey, but in a different way. He could make a difference; give you the skills you need to protect yourself. He can't do that for Casey. Casey's life is in the hands of doctors and specialists."
"How is April handling Casey's illness?" I was gobsmacked that Mikey had shared all this with me. I began to realise he might have an ulterior motive behind sharing this story.
Maybe he wanted me to realise that Leo needed my help as much as I needed his? That Leo was vulnerable and emotional and in a desperate state? I had no idea of how close Leo was to Casey, but I could see the pain in Leo's eyes when he talked about Casey's condition.
"Not good. She's falling apart. They only just got married." Mikey sighed. "Oh, don't worry about April. When she's not at the hospital, her shadow is following her around everywhere."
"Shadow?" I asked.
"Raph," Mikey explained.
Wait? What!? Big tough scary Raph is following April round like a shadow? That doesn't fit with my image of Raph. I had a mental image of a scowling beast with claws, not someone who cared for others.
Mikey watched my reaction carefully. "Raph is a softie really. He just doesn't show it well. He can be really sweet. He's been helping Casey and April since this whole thing started. Practically lives at their apartment doing all the chores and stuff so they can get on with planning treatment. When you meet Raph, don't let him know I told you this stuff. He'd be really embarrassed."
"Wow." I had nothing really to say. I had developed a picture of Raph in my head and the truth was far different.
"Yeah, well, anyway. You finished? We need to go out to the barn before it gets dark." Mikey took my empty bowl and danced over to the kitchen area. He placed the bowl in the sink and then gestured for me to follow him.
I got up, knees quaking, and followed him out. "Don't I need to get dressed up in the black pajamas first?"
Mikey turned back to me and tried not to laugh. "You can do, if you want ... but you'll get really hot in that. Underwear is just fine, don't worry, I won't look."
We reached the barn and Mikey guided me over to some loose pumps. "Put these on."
I put them on clumsily and stood awkwardly, watching as Mikey fiddled with a huge stereo system.
"That wasn't here yesterday." I mused, pointing to the giant boom-box.
"I brought it up here." Mikey explained, fiddling with the buttons. "I have an order of songs for different exercises if I can make the damn thing work."
"Cool." I relaxed a little and looked around. Mikey had a mini-fridge by the stereo which sported energy drinks and bottles of water. On a hay bale were several towels and a bowl of water.
"Got it. I think. Here goes nothing." Mikey pressed a button and the sudden plod of a familiar classical piece started to play.
"I know this one." I gasped. It was on my MP3 player. Pavane by Faure. One of the only classical pieces I'd ever liked. The version I listened to was mainly strings, giving it an ethereal quality that made goose-bumps prickle all over my skin. It had a sad, sincere beauty that made me want to cry.
"You'll know all of them. We got the playlist from your MP3 player." Mikey explained.
"We?" I asked.
"Me and Donny. Donny mainly. I just picked the order, he did the rest." Mikey turned away and lugged a practice mat over from the far corner. I hadn't seen that and I watched as he placed the mat right next to me and then stood before me.
"Aren't you going to have one?" I asked, noting he had only got one mat for me.
"Naw. I'll be fine." Mikey cracked his knuckles, his expression shifting to a serious one instantly. "We are gonna stretch out, babe. Get those muscles moving. I want you to copy what I'm doing. Think you can do that?"
"To start with, we must bow to each other." Mikey instructed.
I bowed awkwardly, imitating Mikey's movement as he bowed deeply.
"Good. Now ... follow what I do and try to keep up." Mikey ordered. He stretched his arms high above his head standing on tiptoe. I followed awkwardly, trying not to teeter over. It was hard. Balance was definitely not one of my strong points. After a few moments of this, Mikey relaxed and looked at me intently as I relaxed also. "How was that?"
"Okay. I was trying not to fall over though." I confessed with a slight blush.
"Okay, then. Here we go." Mikey began to stretch various body parts for a few seconds and then relaxed. The music kept a gentle rhythm and I copied his movements and tried my best to keep my balance. Pavane ended and the clear voice from Hunger Games Daughter's Lament began to soar through the barn. I stretched and felt my body coming alive from the beautiful slow music, my muscles popping and expanding with every slow movement. Daughter's Lament lasted only a few minutes and Hans Zimmer Now We Are Free began to play. Mikey's movements followed the beat closely, and I copied, feeling the music penetrate my every pore. I felt powerful and beautiful, and I felt tears in my eyes as I saw Mikey's intense concentration. He was thoroughly involved in the music. As the climax neared, the beat intensified and Mikey's movements sped up. I followed him closely, captivated by his interpretation of the music and he ended with a few lengthy stretches.
"How you feeling?" He asked, his voice raw with emotion.
"Amazing." My skin was singing with expectation. I didn't even feel tired, just a little breathless.
"Good." Mikey strode over to me and stood before me. He was taller than me, but not by much. Switchfoot's Only Hope began to play and he grabbed my hands inside of his. "Let me see how far you can go down into The Splits."
I followed his example and let him balance me as I moved my legs outward and sank as far as I could manage. I wasn't impressed. I had so far to go.
"Does it hurt?" Mikey asked gently. I nodded a little. "Stop right there. Just stay where you are for a moment." He started to hum along with Switchfoot. "These songs are beautiful, babe."
"I like them." I blushed. Will Young's Evergreen was beginning to play. I was really uncomfortable, my legs throbbing, but I was anchored by Mikey's hands in mine. Mikey's head swayed as he listened to the beat, momentarily distracted by the emotional voice of Will Young.
"What's your favourite line of this one?" Mikey asked, gently swaying to the beat.
I blushed. "The first lines. Ice like a sunrise, like a rainfall down my soul. The way he sings it ... it's powerful."
Mikey nodded. "Yeah. I hear that too. He's got a wonderful voice. Really get's under your skin."
"Yeah." I suddenly realised my legs were no longer throbbing. "Mikey, I think my legs have gone numb?"
"Don't worry. They're just getting used to the position you're in. Try bobbing your lower half up and down a little. Don't try too hard though. Take it easy." Mikey gripped my hand and watched as I bobbed up and down a little. I felt my thighs burning with the effort but managed to sink down a little further. "That's enough for now." Mikey instructed. He stood up and gripped me by the waist, bringing me to my feet.
He let go of my hands and walked over to the mini-fridge. He pulled out two bottles of water and then hesitated. "Heads up!" He lobbed the bottle in my direction and I yelped and side-stepped the fast-moving object. "You're supposed to catch it." I could see the smile light up Mikey's face as he opened his own bottle and took a deep glug.
"It came at me like a missile." I grumbled, leaning over to pick up the bottle which was now covered in dirt and hay. When I looked back, Mikey was watching me intently. His eyes had the same dark, hooded look Leo got when he was aroused. "Mikey?"
"Huh? Oh. Sorry. Maybe some clothing would be better next time. You're a bit distracting in your undies." Mikey turned away uncomfortably.
"Of course if you had a shell and a touch of green, then you'd be perfect." Mikey grinned at me and walked over to the boom-box. "Now for some aerobics."
He had chosen the music to match our workout perfectly. At times, I forgot I was meant to be exercising as my adrenaline flowed with fast-paced moves. Mikey was a very elegant turtle when he moved, although Leo's graceful way surpassed his younger brother easily. It was easy to see that they both excelled in a different area and contributed to the overall team.
For example, Leo was serious and focused. His mind was planning strategy and was moves ahead of his opponents. Mikey was a fighter who focused on the present situation and relied on little thinking to see him through the fight.
I idly wondered how the other two brothers contributed to the team. I could understand Donny's role instantly. Having someone with technical abilities would be instantly useful in a variety of situations. Getting into locked rooms and dealing with electronics could help the team.
Raph troubled my thoughts, though. I could imagine him being the black sheep of the family, always getting into trouble and leading the others astray. His personality was the complete opposite of my own. I avoided trouble and went out of my way to mediate instead of confront. I couldn't imagine getting on with someone so rash and Mikey's description of him didn't give me any reassurance.
"What you thinking about, babe?" Mikey asked. I suddenly realised I had zoned out thinking, no fretting, about Raph.
"What does Raph bring to the team?" My voice was small and unsure.
Mikey gazed into my eyes, his expression guarded for a moment. "Raph's the toughest, strongest turtle. He's always got our shells covered in fights and he is a lot smarter than anyone thinks. He's very protective. Sometimes he acts mean to distance himself from us. He is a specialist in throwing techniques and has mastered the sai - really useful when you're up to your shell in sword wielding Foot ninja."
"Oh." I gulped and felt disappointed in myself. After all, I hadn't even met Raph yet. How could I judge this turtle without having met him in person? The description of him was intimidating, but he did have a softer side. Helping Casey and April was a gentle and loving thing to do.
"He's not a bully." Mikey said softly. "Don't be afraid of him. He wouldn't think twice about dying to protect any of us. Even you ... and he hasn't even met you yet. You're important to Leo. That's all Raph needs to know."
"I'm sorry, Mikey." I whispered sincerely. Mikey nodded, smile back in place and radiating throughout the entire barn.
"Don't be. I kinda made him out to be Godzilla at first. I was kidding around. Raph wouldn't really hurt us. At least not deliberately." Mikey shrugged and stretched with a yawn. "I think we're done for today. Don't want to put you through too much, too soon."
My limbs were starting to ache dully. As we walked back to the farmhouse, I saw the van parked up by the front door. My heart leapt at the thought that Leo might have returned and I picked up my pace as my excitement grew.
"Dat you, Mike?" A gruff voice sounded from inside the door. I stopped in my tracks and immediately one terrifying thought came to me. This wasn't Leo.
"Hey, Raph." Mikey winked at me and strode confidently before me. I slowed my pace to prepare myself for my introduction to Raph. "Didn't hear you pull up."
"Not surprisin' Mike. You had dat stereo on full volume."
I edged past the front door and looked into the living area cautiously. Mikey was bounding around the room like a whippet chasing a rabbit. On the sofa was another turtle, a heavily built turtle sprawled with a blood-red bandanna and deep piercing eyes. I gulped and took a deep breath. Then I followed Mikey into the room.
"Hi, nice to meet you." My voice was trembling as I crept into the far corner of the room and watched Raph warily.
"What'ya been tellin' her, Mike?" Raph's eyes narrowed as he turned to Mikey, a scowl appearing on his face and his muscles tensing. "I aint gonna hurt 'er!"
"I know. It's okay. I'm fine." The words slipped out too fast and I turned away in embarrassment.
Raph made room for me on the sofa by lazily throwing his legs over the edge of the couch. "Ya can sit down, girl. Not gonna bite."
I trembled as I approached the sofa and sat beside Raph, my body tensed and ready to run if I needed to.
Raph reached across and took my nearest hand in his and patted it reassuringly. It seemed like a gesture he had made many times before. Perhaps to frightened victims he'd rescued from attacks.
"Is Leo okay?" I asked suddenly. Raph's hand gripped tighter over my own.
"Leo's fine. He's doin' his thing wit' Donny. I just came down to check on ya both." Raph let go of my hand and relaxed onto the sofa. I found myself automatically mimicking his movement and I relaxed for the first time since meeting Raph. He was being surprisingly gentle with me, nothing like the beast I had expected. I felt a little bad for thinking the worst of him.
"How's fearless leader doing? Missing his girlfriend?" Mikey teased with a huge grin.
"Mike!" Raph scolded. "Shut ya beak!"
My face flushed bright red and I dropped my eyes to the floor in humiliation.
"He is, y'know. Missing ya." Raph said softly, and patted my knee. "Gonna get this kid some clothes, Mike?"
I hadn't even realised I was shivering. The sweat drying on my body from the workout was really cold. Mikey danced off to grab me some clothes and when he returned I disappeared behind the sofa to put on jeans and a t-shirt.
Sitting back beside Raph fully-clothed made me feel more empowered. I smiled at him suddenly and he smiled back. Yes, he was still an intimidating presence, but his gentle nature with those weaker than himself made me feel easier around him.
"I gotta get back to New York." Raph stood up and flexed his mighty muscles. "Gotta tell Leo everythin's okay."
"Sure, bro." Mikey saw his brother to the door. "Oh, and tell Leo to stop sending you over to check on me. We're doing fine."
Raph gave his brother an indulgent smile and headed back to the van. As the vehicle roared away, Mike stood at the window and watched with his eyes narrowed.
"You okay, Mikey?" I asked.
"Sure." Mikey said, his voice distant as he watched the van disappear into the distance. "Raph was checkin' on me. Sometimes, I think they don't trust me much."
"I'm sure that's not the case. They just want to make sure you're okay." I stretched a little, allowing my muscles to pop and a sudden relief swept over me.
"I'll order us a pizza and we'll call it a night." Mikey headed over to the phone.
"Won't Leo hate us having pizza?" I asked.
"Sure. But, what Leo doesn't know doesn't hurt." Mikey ordered for us both and we settled on the couch to watch what had to be the worst television in history. It was old; it sparked every few minutes and it didn't even have colour. My eyes felt heavy and I vaguely heard the pizza man delivering the food as I drifted into a heavy sleep.