Chapter 3


“Lou Jitsu?”

“Compelling but no. Maybe Shredder?”

“Absolutely not. That fool nearly killed us.”



“No way.”

“Ghost Bear?”

“I love you but no.”

“Leonardo II?”

“Now you’re pushing it.”

Casey rubbed at her brow in frustration. None of the names they came up with were working. It was bad enough that she had to call the baby “Kid” until they received a name, but they had actually started to respond when called. Like it was a perfectly acceptable name.

The little runt was playing on the floor, surrounded by the team. They paid no mind, dragging dust around with their hands like nothing could be more enriching. They blew raspberries while smashing a pebble into the ground. Particles flew up and around them from their movements. It forced them to stop and shake their head.

“We’re not naming them King Kong.”

Ignoring her friends arguing behind her, Casey knelt beside Kid. She tugged on her sleeve, rubbing their face. Once clean, they thanked her by blowing another raspberry. She tried to muster some form of disgust at the spittle that landed on her but, to her horror, she had become used to it.

“I still think Rascal is a fine name,” Leo’s voice came through louder than everyone else.

Donnie shoved his brother’s face away. “No, it sounds too much like Pascal. We can’t involve Disney.” He visibly cringed at the mere mention of the old film corporation.

“Disney is dead, bro.”

“Mazel tov.”

It felt odd fighting over something as arbitrary as a baby’s name–and she would never let the others know it–but Casey enjoyed the petty squabbling. It reminded her of simpler times. Of the years between Shredder’s defeat and the Kraang invasion. When she and Raph first found that they shared more similarities than differences. How April reached out to her after discovering they lived on the same street, inviting her to Friday night dinners with the O’Neils. Or simply Splinter sitting her down for Lou Jitsu movie marathons that always ended with him getting her to spill every single worry she’d ever had. It all left Casey with an odd weight on her chest.

Nothing could compare to those years. Splinter died protecting Donnie from an attack on his shell. They couldn’t seek his guidance or comfort. The memories of what they had ached like a scarred heart. And, while April and Raph were both alive–Casey held them in her arms, pulling them away from the caved-in lair as they called out. No one responded–they no longer had their characteristic energy about them. The invasion had taken something from everyone. Children lost their parents, parents lost their children. Friends and loved ones perished easily but there was nothing easy about it.

A soft tap on her leg brought Casey to the present. She shook off the weird feeling–not that that did anything. Everyone had a ghost or two hanging over them. Another tap, harder this time, forced her gaze downward. Kid looked at her. She didn’t expect them to say anything but their stare always unnerved her. Repressing a shiver, she cocked her head and asked, “What? I don’t know what you want.”

“They want you to sit,” Raph explained, moving closer to the two of them. He added, “They don’t like big things,” as if that answered everything.

Upon hearing Raph’s voice coming toward them, Kid stumbled to their feet. They wobbled, still unused to walking despite their age, but managed to stand upright. Raph reached out for them and met them halfway. Kid blew a victory raspberry as they fell into his arms, giggling boisterously when he swung them up into the air. Casey raised a skeptical brow at the scene before her.

“They seem to like you well enough.” Raph spun Kid around to their–and everyone else’s–enjoyment. “I should just save myself some time. Name them R.A.P.H. Short for Red Angel of Preventing Harm.” Casey knocked her hip against his, causing him to stumble which made Kid giggle harder. She tickled under their chin. “You like that name, Kid? You wanna be little Raphie?”

“Casey!” Raph squeaked–honestly squeaked–and pulled Kid away from her. “You–”

“What?” She took Kid from him when they reached out for her, setting them on her hip. They clutched her shirt, stretching out the neckline. It barely bothered her anymore. “You’re gonna tell me what to name my kid?” Casey waited for a response but they only stared at her. “Why are you all looking at me like that?”

Leo coughed to clear his throat which quickly turned to hacking. Mikey whacked him on the shell a few times. Just as he finished his fit and opened his mouth to speak, April jumped onto his back. He fell on his front but April maintained the grin splitting her face.

“You called them your kid, Case!”

“No, I didn’t. I said Kid, like their name–”

Donnie piped up, “We clearly heard you say they’re your kid.”

April nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah! You know what that means?” She got off Leo to grab Casey by the arms, spinning her in a circle. “You’re their mom!”

Casey sputtered. “I– they’re not–” All the spinning made it impossible for her to form coherent thoughts. She forced her weight down, stopping April from moving her. “Enough! I am not their mom!” She crossed her free arm over her chest. Kid looked up at her then turned and crossed their arms, a big, ridiculous frown wrinkling their chin. The others smiled stupid, goofy grins. Casey cursed under her breath. “Ugh! Forget it. Kid needs to eat.”

She ignored the loud teasing behind her. The walk to the food stores was filled with grumbling and moaning in aggravation, accompanied by the occasional coo from Kid as they kept patting her shoulder. She blamed Raph for that one. They definitely saw him doing that whenever she was upset. Casey fixed them with a displeased expression as she set them atop some boxes. They babbled nonsense at her, their inflection a question.

“You know what?” she muttered while searching for their softest rat jerky. “If anything, you’re Raph’s kid. You love him, he loves you, he’s good with kids–it’s perfect.” Kid tilted their head. “Oh, don’t play dumb.” They pointed at themself. “Yeah, you.” Casey groaned, scrubbing her face. “And now I’m talking to a baby. Man, I need a hobby.” She leaned against the boxes and broke off small pieces of jerky for Kid. They happily took what she fed them, babbling at her. She didn’t bother speaking until they finished chewing. “Kid, listen.” They looked at her, tongue sticking out and saliva coating their chin. She cleaned their face while she spoke, “I’m not your mom, got it?”

Kid leaned forward, reaching out for her. “Ma?” The sound froze Casey where she stood which allowed them to successfully use her to propel themself up. They wobbled but held her with their strong grip. “Ma!”

That snapped her out of whatever trance she was in. “No,” she hushed them. “No. You’re wrong. Not me. Anyone but me.” She cradled them as they started toppling over. “I can’t raise you right. Choose someone else.”

They smiled at her, patting her cheek. “Mama!” Casey couldn’t stop them from giggling and squealing so she resigned herself to resting her head on their shoulder. Her arms tightened around them as they played with her hair. “Mama,” they smoothed her hair down with clumsy movements. “Mama.”

At the entrance of their food storage cave, there was movement. Casey turned slightly to see Raph entering, thankfully alone. He raised his hands in a placating manner that should’ve pissed her off but only dampened her spirit even more. “I’m not here to argue with you,” he started, tone soft. “I’m here to name Kid. Since you seem to think they like me best, that I’m their favorite, I’m gonna put my foot down. My name goes, got it?”

Casey opened her mouth, ready to argue, to fight because Kid was her–


She shut her mouth. It felt like she swallowed cement and it filled every empty space inside her.

Why did it hurt so much being hollow?

“I’m gonna name them after the greatest warrior I’ve ever known. The most badass, clever, coolest person in the history of… um… the universe,” he pressed on. He seemed more determined than he had in years. Kid did that for him–gave him a purpose, something that made him want to see a better future for this world. Raph was what Kid needed–no, deserved. He’d raise them right. “Cassandra Jones.”

Casey laughed dryly. “No need to full name me, Red. Name Kid Ghost Bear. I promise not to kick your ass.”

“No.” He made his way to her, staring at her like she created the unknown universe. “I’m naming them Cassandra Jones. Their friends can call them Casey.” She looked at him. Moments passed as neither of them spoke. Then, Raph’s brow furrowed and he held her face, wiping at something wet on her cheek. “Oh, Case.”

Why? What was wrong?

It took her a second to realize she was crying.

Why was she crying?

Her chest lurched and her throat felt tight.

Why was she laughing?

Kid tapped the skin next to her eye, babbling to her. She looked at them. At their face that was slowly gaining some baby fat back a little bit every day. At their skin and how it gained a healthier color since they met.

She grabbed them. She couldn’t hesitate. They were just a kid and they were alone. She never wanted to let them go.

“Oh, Raph,” she croaked, voice completely shot. “Casey Jr. I love it.” She smoothed down their hair, a wobbly smile on her face. “You’re perfect,” she told them. She wanted to tell them so much more but she couldn’t form the words. Raph stayed by her side, hand on her shoulder.

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