a/n: Jeez, it's been how long since I posted on this fic? Guys, I'm so, so sorry for the long wait! In fact, I'd had half of this written before, and due to an oversaving accident, lost what I had, and that was thoroughly demotivating. I'd wanted to do more integrated scenes for these chapters, but, as that seems a little daunting right now, I'll be focussing in on each little group separately... Raph and Casey now, Leo and the duck next chap. Hope you enjoy Shasta... her accent has been a killer to write! (Anyone can do a Brooklyn accent... but try Queens! Oy!) Please excuse the Spanish... doing my best, crutched along by Google, but I don't trust either it nor my own Spanish, which is patchy at best and has mostly been supplanted by Dutch. Corrections welcome! R/s
Raphael and Casey ran through the crowds on their way to mock the fate of the Purple Dragons members, not looking back at the dismayed or angered shouts of New Yorkers as their route took them over the roofs of cars to avoid the congestion in the streets. They had gone a few blocks toward the Dragons’ usual stomping grounds when a weak cry caught Raph’s attention, the call for help triggering something in his protective nature. He skidded to a halt on his heels. “Case… Hold up, man…”
As the human teen stopped and backtracked to Raphael’s position, he caught the plea as well: the voice that of a late-middle-aged woman with a thick Queens accent. “Help! …Somebahdy… Anybahhdy… Please, help…”
“Down there!” he decided, pointing down the nearby alleyway.
“We hear you! We’re coming!” Raph called back. “Where are you?”
“Heeah! Ovah heeah!” The two traced the sound to the corner of a building, where the asphalt had crumbled enough to expose a little patch of earth beneath it. Rooted in it lay a wilted-looking mutant daisy. “Wuatah, please… So thusty…”
Raph knelt down beside the flower mutant, picking up the limp little body to support her, and looked back to Casey. “You go… I’ll stay here with her.” Casey nodded in understanding and rushed back out of the alley, running back the way they’d come to the nearest mini-mart, and returned in a moment with a large cup of cool, clear water. He began pouring it slowly on the white daisy’s head. She began spluttering. Raph tipped the cup up, stopping the flow. “Plants drink from the roots, dumbass!”
“Oh, right. Uh… I knew that,” the boy muttered, shifting the cup lower and pouring into the dirt. The daisy gave a relieved sigh, both from the cool water soaking into her roots and from her sudden shower ceasing. “Ahh. Thank you, boys. That’s much bettah.” She fell silent for a moment, concentrating on drinking. After a few minutes, she was able to pull herself fully upright to her full foot-and-a-half height, looking much healthier. “Thank Gawd you came alawng. I thawt I was done foah…” She wiped one of her two leaves across her face dramatically. “I haven’t had any wuatah since that little sprinkle middle’a last week! I cawled and cawled, but nobahdy evah came! I nevah even saw anybahdy payss this way… loike the whole woald just disappeahhed!”
“Well, that’s no wonder,” Raph quipped with an eyeroll. “Everybody’s been inside since the whole mutagen Megarift disaster. Whole city was quarantined for three weeks. Less people outside, less people getting mutated.”
“What? The what?!”
Casey looked over to his friend. “If she was here from the start, she probably hasn’t heard about anything that’s happened.”
“Awl I know is, I was woaking alowng the street out theah, then something wet hits me, everything hurts like the buhjesezus… next thing I know, I’m a goddamn daisy… I had tah crawl around fuh houahs, looking fuh some soil, until I finally found some ovah heah… Do you have any oydeah how paved ovah every damn thing in this city is?? I think I gawt lucky just foinding this spawt!” She shook her head and leaves about. “Nothing makes sense anymoah… It’s loike a noightmeah, but I can’t seem ta wake up!”
“Hate to break it to ya, but it’s no dream,” Casey explained. “There was this big portal that opened over the city from another dimension, and mutagen started falling out of it… it sort of half-turns you into whatever you last touched.”
She gaped at him for a moment, then nodded. “That explains it. Moy sistah gave me a new pawt of daisies foah my buhthday—she gives me one every yeeah, an’ every yeeah I manage to kill ‘em, finicky things! I was carryin’ ‘em and had just brushed some dirt off ‘em when that stuff hit me. Go figyah… I’m terrible with flowahs, an’ now I am one… Bayd kahma comin’ back tah boyte me.” She drooped a bit. “Proabably goanna suffah and doy just loike awl the plants I’ve killed ovah the yeeahs… Look at me, I’m stuck heah… Can’t even take keah a’ moyself…”
“We’re not gonna let that happen, er…” Raph paused, realizing he didn’t know her name yet.
“Shasta,” she filled in, extending a leaf for him to shake.
“Like the flower?” Casey realized.
The daisy rolled her eyes. “No, genius, loyke the soda-pawp… Of coase loyke the flowah!”
Raph grinned, acknowledging the inborn pique of a true New Yorker in her. “I’m Raphael.” He jerked his head toward his friend. “He’s Casey Jones.”
“Pleashah ta make yoah acquaintance,” Shasta replied, a little tersely, mind on her problem. “I don’t suppose you boys could do me a fayvah and get me outta heah?”
Casey folded his arms and tapped his chin. “Think we could transplant her?”
The turtle ninja considered. “Should be able to… Might have to break some more of this asphalt here, just in case… I don’t wanna cut any of her roots by accident, and who knows how far out they might’ve spread in three weeks? I can maybe break up the soil with my sai a bit, but getting all the way around her…”
“Didn’t we pass a hardware store a little ways back?” Casey asked, and Raph gave him an approving nod.
“We’re gonna need a shovel, a big flower pot, and some potting soil.”
“On it!” Casey popped his skates on and zoomed around the corner.
Raph, in the meantime, drew his sai from his belt, giving them a practiced little spin as he regarded the cracking pavement. “Eh, this shouldn’t be too hard,” he stated, plunging them into the asphalt with one hand and then the next, while Shasta looked on, with anxious cries of, “Be keahful! Yoah gonna huht yoahself! Oh deah…”
“What, this?” he smiled back. “This is nothin’. I was built for breakin’ shit!”
“Watch ya language, young man,” the daisy chastised with a pointing leaf. “So, this happened tah you too, three weeks ago?”
“Me? Nah… Me an’ my brothers have been around a lot longer.” Tossing chunks of busted asphalt to the side, the turtle smirked to himself with an amused little noise. “Funny, all these years, we expected anyone who saw us would scream and run away, like nothing in the world could be weirder than a giant humanoid turtle. Gotta say, you’re taking this pretty well, actually.”
Shasta reached forward to pet his hand with a leaf. “Sweethawt, yoah helping’ me! I don’t keah if yah a tuhtle oah a tarantula oah a can ah tomatah soup… yah savin’ my loife!” She looked down toward her roots. “Nawt that running would be much of an awption at this junctchah.…” She paused, looking around surreptitiously. “Though between you an’ me, I’m glad yah nawt the tarantula. Hahrrible things! Awl legs an’ heah…”
Raph yawned, patting his mouth as he did. He slid his shell down the wall of the building beside the little mutant plant. Funny, he hadn’t even felt tired before. “Saw this guy we know earlier… We call him Spider Bytez… He got turned into a mutant spider, though he just kinda came out looking like a ball of ugly… legs coming out the top of his head, spits acid… Honestly, might be an improvement on his looks from before, though…”
He found himself rambling, then falling into a doze as Shasta replied softly, the peace and warmth in the alley overtaking him.
His eyes snapped open as his friend shook him awake. “Dude, wake up, ya freakin’ slacker! You gonna make me repot the flower lady by myself?”
“Muh…” Raph groaned, taking a deep breath as he tried to regain full consciousness.
Casey stared down at him. “What, did you guys get high while I was gone or something?”
“We knew a mutant weed…” he said blearily as the human teen helped him to his feet. “Wonder what’d happen if we smoked him?” he giggled.
Glaring, Casey slapped his cheeks a couple of times. He was less than gentle about it. “What is wrong with you?! And the hell is all this yellow dust on you?”
“Eh?” The turtle brushed his shoulder, then looked at the golden specks strewn over his hand. He sniffed at the substance, then sneezed, wrinkling his beak. “Pollen?” He shook his head, trying to clear the urge to fall back asleep.
The little flower looked aghast. “Was that from me? Oh deah… Rapahel, honey, awh you alloygic?”
“No, I’m… I’m good,” he replied, snapping out of it. Getting to his feet, he looked over the shopping cart of things Casey had brought as the young man pulled the shovel out of it. Casey carefully broke the soil around the plant mutant, only earning one loud a complaint from Shasta when he got a little too close and cut a root-tip. Raph then used his sai to lever her out of the hole and Casey helped lift her into the 20” pot and pack it with the potting soil.
But once Shasta had been settled in and given another drink of water (just the roots this time), they found themselves at a loss. The boys looked at the now-potted daisy. “Now what do we do with her?” Casey pondered, packing a little extra dirt around her for good measure.
Raphael gave a noncommittal grunt, tossing the shovel into the cart and then lifting the heavy, full pot in after it. “Well, we can’t just leave her here…”
“You boys have done quoite enough… I can’t even begin ta thank ya! But I think I can handle moyself from heeah. Look…” Using her leaves, the Queens flower managed to take hold of the shovel leaning against her pot, maneuvering it through the bars of the shopping cart until the handle touched the ground. Leaning as far as she could and grasping just below the shovel blade, she managed to lever the cart forward a few inches, then she tilted the handle to another angle and pushed herself along again. The two teens looked on skeptically as she inched along. “Look at me go, I’m loike a little gawndoliah! Owh solow mioh…”
Casey snickered to himself at her caterwauling. Raph just rolled his eyes. “Shasta, where do you think you’re going, exactly?”
“Moy sistah’s place, a’coase. She dasn’t live too fawh from heeah.”
“How far exactly?” Raph queried.
“Abaout a moyle, offa Foaty-foath.” They watched the cart scoot three inches, then another three, as the little flower groaned, pushing her hardest. Raph turned to Casey, shaking his head, and the two began a muted conversation, not noticing the flower-powered shopping wagon beginning to pick up speed on a slight incline. Surprised by the sudden speed she was attaining, Shasta let out a startled gasp and tried to brake with the shovel, which was torn out of her weak grip by the cart’s momentum, then let out a yell for help as her wagon canted to the side and her pot slid around in the basket, crashing against its side and tipping it further.
Casey reacted with a little yelp, leaped two steps and took hold of the cart’s handle before it could tip any further down the driveway. “Ya alright there, Shasta?”
The daisy gave a relieved huff, a few tiny white petals drifting down around her as she shook herself. “Foine… Thank you, Casey,” she said resignedly. “Boys, I’m afraid Auntie Shasta’s gonna hafta impinge upawn yah hawspitality fuh a little loangah…”
It took longer than Raphael had thought it would to reach the brownstone apartment building Shasta directed them to… He wasn’t used to traveling on crowded daytime streets, especially not with a shopping cart in tow, and he was realizing the turtles’ usual route across the rooftops was much more efficient as the crow flies, or as the ninja leapt. But, with the roofs posing more risk than usual and not particularly wanting to have to carry the heavy clay pot and its occupant three quarters of a mile, the slow route it was.
Nevertheless, the trio finally reached the specified building in about 45 minutes. Raph leaned down and lifted the daisy mutant and her pot from the basket while Casey steered the cart around to the side of the brownstone’s steps. Then they entered the building, taking the stairs to the third floor.
“Three-oh-three, that’s her,” Shasta pointed out with one leaf.
The turtle started to step forward, but Casey blocked him with an arm. “Maybe I better go first… just in case. She might react better to a human being instead of a turtle and a talking houseplant… No offense, Shasta.”
“None taken,” Shasta replied lightly as Casey knocked on the door. A few moments later, he tried again. No answer.
“Noahmally she’s home this toyme a’ day…” the daisy mused, concern in her voice.
“Here, let me…” The turtle passed Shasta’s pot over to the human teen and pulled his lockpicks from his belt. Within a few seconds, he had popped the lock open.
“Raphael, honey, you awh one handy tuhtle ta know!”
The red-banded turtle threw a smirk her way. “All turtles know how to pick locks. It’s part of our natural skill set.”
“Go awhn…” the daisy flapped a leaf at him. He swung the door open, peeking inside and seeing no one in the immediate area: a kitchen with a pass-through and a living room setup. Half-closed blinds let a little indirect midday light in, but seemed to indicate that no one was home. He waved Casey and Shasta into the dim room.
Shasta had no qualms about stealth. “ESTELLE!” she shrilled at a pitch and volume that had Raph’s panicked eardrums trying to vacate his skull. Casey, too, winced, not expecting such harsh sound to come from the little flower. “Estelle, awh you home?!”
Another moment of silence followed, and Casey decided, “Think we can count that as a ‘no.’” He set her pot down on the coffee table as he began poking around while Raph did a quick check of the bedroom, bath, hallway linen closet, and a second bedroom that was being used as a sewing room. Casey meanwhile moved to the kitchen, possibly looking to raid the fridge. He opened it, then hastily slammed it closed again, coughing and waving a hand in front of his nose. “Man… Doesn’t look like anyone’s been here for a while.”
“Like about three weeks, ‘a while’?” Raph called back.
“Yeah,” the teen nodded morosely. “You alright, Shasta?”
The daisy’s eyes were locked on a wilted houseplant at the other end of the table she’d been set on. Raph could practically read her thoughts. “Case,” he muttered, and once he had his friend’s attention, looked toward Shasta and then jerked his head toward the hallway while he blocked the flower mutant’s view with his shell.
“Right.” Catching on quick, Casey took Shasta away from the flopped-over plant while Raph carefully examined it.
After prodding the limp leaves a bit, Raph let out a relieved breath. “It’s okay… it’s not h—it’s not a mutant,” he quickly amended.
“Oh thank Gawd,” Shasta’s voice carried back as the boy returned with her. She regarded the plant again as she was set down, but clearly her thoughts were on her missing sibling. “I was counting awn hah bein’ heeah so she could take keah ah me…”
“Any other ideas where she’d be?” Raph asked, and the flower pondered.
“Befoah I left, she was kvetching that she had tah retuhn some shoes. If she went out royt aftah I left… She’dda been cauwt in that mutagen rain thingie too… Theah’s no telling wheah she could be…”
“Or what,” Casey added. Raph whapped his arm. “Ow! What?”
“Don’t make me beat some sensitivity into you!”
A sob from Shasta stopped any sensitivity training in progress, as both boys looked over to her. “I just don’t know what ta do…” she said, choking up. “She’s the only family I had heeah… awl the rest ‘a the family is eithah in Washington state oah Awkansaw… Hell, I can’t even take keah’a moyself in moy own home loike this! What am I gonnna do?”
“Don’t worry, Shasta,” Raph called. “We’ll figure something out.” He stepped into the kitchen, motioning for Casey to follow. “What do we do here?”
“You’re asking me?? You gonna take her to the lair? Maybe Splinter’s bonsai could use some company…”
The turtle shook his head emphatically. “Splinter’d have my shell! We can’t just bring every random mutant we meet to the lair… we’ve got enemies that could and would torture the location out of them or use them to bait us out.”
“Yeah,” the teen agreed. “I’ve been on the receiving end of that a time or two.”
“Could you put her up?”
Casey looked dubious. “I guess… but…”
“Joneskitty kinda likes to sit on our houseplants until they break…”
Raph grimaced and let out an annoyed sigh. “Keep one of them in your room with the door closed, then!”
“Dude, that cat can freakin’ teleport into a closed room. She’s sneaky… I’m surprised you’re not related, the way she ninjas around! She’ll find a way in or just storm the gates when I go in or out! At least Ice Cream Kitty tends to stay in the freezer.”
The turtle groaned. “All right… I guess we go ask Master Splinter.” The two reemerged from the kitchen. “You get her, I’ll relock the door.”
“Right. Let’s go, Shasta.”
The flower looked up at him with concern. “Wheah to?” she said as she was carried out.
“We’re gonna check with Raph’s dad to see if you can stay with them. Chateau le Jones ain’t the most houseplant-friendly.”
“Muchly appreciated… theah’s nawt a whole lawt I could do ta defend moyself loike this, ya know,” she replied as Raph finished locking up and slipped his picks back in his belt. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Raphael retrieved the shopping cart and Shasta was placed in the basket again. When the cart was wheeled back onto the sidewalk, the turtle steering it turned north.
“Whoa, whoa, Raph… you lose your bearings? The lair’s back this way…” Casey corrected, pointing south.
“Eh, you’re not wrong,” Raphael conceded with a for-all-I-care shrug, and kept going.
“But…?” Casey prompted.
Raph smirked at his friend. “Master Splinter’s out, meditating in Central Park. First time he’s been able to come above ground in daylight for sixteen years, you think he’s gonna miss the opportunity? Leo probably went back to join him after we left.”
“Masteh? I thawt ya said he was ya fawthah!” The daisy bent herself around to shoot a curious and somewhat concerned look at the turtle. “’Masteh’ sounds like yoah a slave, oah something’. Oah a pet.” Her eyes suddenly widened as Raph’s expression scrunched up. “Oh, honey, I’m sahrry… I didn’t mean nothing’ buy it…”
The red-banded turtle gave a heavy exhale. “ ’s fine, Shasta. It’s just… that’s the second time today I’ve been reminded without the mutagen, I’d‘ve been nothing but a little terrarium turt.” He schooled his face to a more even expression and turned his eyes back to the street. “But our father raised us as children, not pets. When your pets mutate and start crying like human children, that’s not just something you can easily ignore,” he said, the smirk creeping into his voice. “But we call him Master Splinter, because he’s a master of ninjutsu. From age five, we started our ninjutsu training. He said that if we were gonna study under him, we had to show respect for him at all times, so we all started calling him Master or Sensei pretty much full time. Well, Donnie’s got a gap in his teeth and had trouble saying either for a couple years … came out more like ‘Maft-ther Thplinter’ and ‘Thenthei’ when he said it.”
Casey snickered beside him, chocking that tidbit up as anti-Donnie ammo for later. “Nice! I can’t wait to—” But he never got to say what he couldn’t wait to. At that instant, a large, mangy, but panicked-looking shepherd mutant came stumbling backward and sideways into Shasta’s chariot from the intersecting street. Shasta slid across the cart’s bottom with a dismayed yell, and Casey immediately leapt in to keep it upright as the mutant continued his fall against it. The dog cowered, throwing a hand up to shield himself, and not a moment too soon, as the business end of a broom came down at his face repeatedly.
“Whoa whoa whoa whoa!” Raph interceded, catching the broom handle in a sai before too many strikes had been delivered. He looked up into the enraged eyes of a Middle-Eastern shopkeeper, and meeting aggression with aggression, put on his most defiant look… the one he usually saved for Leo when the leader was being an intolerable, smug ass.
“Filthy mutant!” the man shouted, pointing at the scrawny dog, hardly acknowledging the fact he was talking to a giant turtle. “He steal from my store! He not pay! Shoplifter!”
The dog continued to shrink against the shopping cart, trembling in fear, its ears back. “Lo siento… lo siento, por favor… Necessitamos la comida…”
“He says they need the food,” Casey translated, causing Raph to blink at him.
“You know Spanish?”
Casey gave a shrug that was all gangly arms. “Took a couple semesters for my fallback plan. Gotta know the lingo if you’re gonna chase bounty heads cross-borders.” He looked down at the whimpering shepherd, and the few items it cradled in the arm it wasn’t using to fend away any oncoming blows: two cans of tuna, one of beans, a small box of dogfood, a sack of dog biscuits.
“We speak Eenglish in this country!” the shopkeeper spat at the dog mutant in the meantime, trying to yank his broom from Raph’s grip. But the ninja was having none of it, whipping the handle away from the man and snapping the flimsy plastic handle over his knee. He fixed a threatening glare on him, lower jaw jutting. The man took a step back, intimidated, but still railing about his lost goods.
“He take them! He no pay! You want, you pay! Stupid, filthy—”
“ENOUGH!!” Shasta shrieked angrily, stunning the man to silence. Up until this point, he had not even noticed her, but she was certainly making herself known now. “This city’s been toined upsoyde down, people’s loyves been ruined, animals suddenly gettin’ human intelligence and you think they know awl sosoyety’s ins an’ outs?! Wheah the hell is a dawg sapposed ta get money, ya Neandahthawl?! You oughtta be ashamed ‘a yoahself… He’s stealin’ food, ya insensitive schmuck! People awh stawvin’ in the streets out heah, an’ yoah warried about bein’ out seven fifty foah some Kibbles an’ Bits?! Fuh the love a’ Gawd… Shame… awn… you!”
“Shasta!” Raph exclaimed, trying to chastise, but coming off as impressed instead. The little flower-lady really knew how to turn up the drama! She seemed pretty proud of her little tirade too, her stem bent slightly back as she crossed her leaves defiantly.
The shopkeep scowled, looking as if he was about to start in again when Casey pulled his wallet and yanked a few rumpled bills from it, throwing them at the man’s face and stalking away. “Choke on it. Cheap bastard…” The man scowled at him, hesitating to pick up the money, as accepting it would also be accepting the insult, but did as soon as he thought none of them were looking and retreated wordlessly and sulkily into his corner grocery.
Raph glanced around, noting the troublesome mutant had slipped away during Shasta’s lecture. But he hadn’t gotten far, crouched meekly, tail tucked, ears down, and shivering, huddling up against the wall of an alley across the street with his small cache of food in his arms. The turtle shifted his eyes sideways to his friend. “He’s not eating it.”
Casey replied without meeting Raph’s eyes, also watching the shepherd. “He said, ‘we need it.’ He’s takin’ it back to someone else.”
“Not right now, he isn’t…” Sure enough, it seemed that rather than going anywhere, the dog was waiting for a panic attack to subside after his bad encounter.
A look of concern fell over the flower-mutant’s face. “Casey, take me ovah tah him, wouldja?”
“You sure, Shasta?” the teen asked as he lifted her out of the cart once again. The flower bobbed her head once resolutely in response, and Casey obediently carried her toward the terrified mutant.
She motioned for Casey to lower her down, and when she found she couldn’t lean far enough, he also angled the pot a bit so she could reach the mongrel’s head with her leaves. The dog didn’t seem to like his space invaded, baring his teeth at the intruders, but began to calm as Shasta spoke in a soothing tone, even if he couldn’t understand her language. “Theah, theah, honey… everything’s gonna be awl right now… Don’t you warry. That’s a good dawg. Yes.”
The mutant’s whines tapered off, becoming sighs instead. His body began to relax, the tension leaving his limbs as he responded to Shasta’s words. His eyes even glazed a bit, looking like he was about to fall asleep.
Raph looked on, suddenly noting the yellow specks on the black fur of the scrawny dog’s shoulders. Then he noticed some drifting down from Shasta’s petals as she shook her head, emphasizing her calming words. “It’s her pollen!” he declared.
“Moy what?!” she exclaimed.
“That’s what had me so knocked out earlier! It must work like some kind of soporific or something…”
“Sopo-what, now?” Casey queried. “That’s a Nerdatello word if I ever heard one.”
“Like, uh… something that makes you calm or sleepy. Like warm milk.”
“Oy can do that?” Shasta asked, disbelieving.
Casey grinned back at her. “Congrats, Shasta! You’ve got a freaky mutant power!”
“Huh,” grinned the daisy. “How d’ya loike that?”
The dog mutant shook himself and sat up a bit, slightly pulling out of his pollen-induced stupor. “Amigos, gracias. Venid conmigo, por favor,” he said, gathering his small bounty. He gave a sideways nod toward the street. “Vamos!” he called and beckoned encouragingly when the confused group didn’t move.
“He, uh… he wants us to come with him.”
“Debemos ayudarnos unos a otros. Ustedes me ayudasteis. Déjame hacer lo mismo,” the dog grinned, wagging its tail.
Casey looked dubious. “I… didn’t catch all that… it’s a bit above my level… but I think… We helped him, so he wants to do something for us now.”
Raph rolled his eyes. “Alright… What’s one more detour?” Casey settled Shasta in her cart again, and the trio set off, following their new acquaintance.
“Hey, uh, amigo!” Casey hollered toward the leading mutant. “Como se llama?”
The shepherd spun around, walking backward to answer him. “Poquito!”
The teen scrunched his brows together. “Poquito?” he mused to himself. “Who calls a guy that big ‘Poquito’?!”
Walking Dead - Player Two - ch12
TMNT - Legend of the Nightwatcher Lives (Prologue)
So sorry for the long hiatus on this one! See author's note above; hopefully I'll be able to concentrate on this fic exclusively for a while now!