Chapter 5


“Where are you, Junior?”

Junior covered his mouth to stop the giggles from escaping–he didn’t want to give away his location! Shoved into a crack in the wall, he could only hear Raph’s heavy footsteps pass back and forth. Junior grinned. He never won the games he played with the others but Raph walked past his hiding spot multiple times without even checking. He shifted, legs going numb. A rock behind him fell loose, allowing sunlight to filter through. Junior felt drawn to it–he’d never been outside before.

Just as he touched the hole in the wall, Raph grabbed him by the scruff. “There you are!” Junior giggled uncontrollably as Raph tickled him.

“Mercy!” Junior shouted between frantic gulps of air. “Uncle! Uncle!”

Raph finally stopped, smiling at his son. “You almost had me there, Junior.” He ruffled the kid’s hair.

Junior beamed. “I did, didn’t I?”

“Yeah but,” Raph paused when Junior groaned dramatically, going limp against his arm. “Don’t give me that,” Raph chastised lightly. He poked his son’s stomach. “No hiding in the walls. It’s dangerous.”

Junior smushed his face against Raph’s arm, grumbling. “Everything’s dangerous.” He squeaked as he was lifted off the ground and deposited on his father’s shoulders. “Hey!”

“It is dangerous. If the walls collapsed and something happened to you, I’d be crushed.” Junior pouted, hiding his face against Raph’s head. “We have these rules to protect you. Because–”

“You love me,” he finished. Raph told him that ten times a day. At least. He tapped the turtle’s cheek. “Love you.” And he didn’t have to see his father’s face to know there was a big grin hurting his cheeks.

“Aw. Are you two being mushy?”

Junior perked up immediately. He recognized that voice anywhere. He clambered down Raph’s back and ran toward Casey. “Mama!” He jumped at her. She caught him easily. She kissed his cheeks as he wiggled in her grasp, finally settling on a hug after a few seconds. “Missed you.”

She tucked her face against his neck, her grip cast-iron. Casey allowed herself these moments quite often after becoming Junior’s mother. It was something to be cherished, held close so it wouldn’t disappear. Pulling back, she pinched his cheeks. “You’ve been eating well, huh? You can tell me if Raph isn’t feeding you enough. I’ll scrap him.”

“And you’ll win!”

The prospect of a fight made Junior’s eyes gleam. Raph placed a hand on Casey’s shoulder, a soft smile lighting up his features. “Missed you too, Jones.” He enveloped the other two in a hug.

Raph cherished such rare occasions during the apocalypse. Ones where he could hold his family tight against him. It gave him hope. For what, he wasn’t completely sure. A better future, probably, where the kraang no longer existed and he could spoil Junior rotten with any whim that crossed his mind.

“Ew,” Donnie droned from the entryway of the cave. “They’re hugging.”

Mikey poked his head out from his shell, looking at Donnie from his place in the scientist’s arms. “Gross. Tell ‘em to stop, Don.” He went back inside his shell.

“You heard Mystic Mikey. Stop being gross,” Donnie ordered, freeing a hand to point at the group.

Raph and Casey shared a look. They said nothing aloud but Casey set Junior down and Raph separated from them… to turn on his two brothers. He raised his arms, ducking his head like he was about to do a wrestler’s tackle. “C’mere!”

Donnie screeched. It split Junior’s ears but it was worth it to watch his dad chase his uncles out the cave, Donnie shoving Mikey’s head as it came out again before they were out of sight.

Leo walked in not long after, his gaze still turned toward his family causing havoc. “What’s up with– Oh, Casey’s here. Never mind.” He walked over to them. “Find anything out there?”

Casey reached inside her pack and pulled something out that Junior had never seen before. By the way Leo’s eyes lit up, it must’ve been important. Casey tossed it to him. “That of interest?”

“Oh, you’re good, Jones.” He inspected the thing from different angles. “D is gonna freak when he sees this.” Behind him, Donnie ran past them, closely followed by Raph. Their screams echoed in the hallway. “Or… I’ll show him later.” He pocketed the thing then, as if he just noticed Junior was there, smiled at the kid. “Hey, CJ. You want up?”

And it was an indisputable fact known to all that Junior was a very mature seven-year-old.

He raised his arms.


Leo and Casey laughed as Junior used blue bandana tails to lead them down the hall toward the ruckus.

Whenever Casey and April came back from supply runs, Junior felt calmer. It wasn’t that he played favorites. He was just happier with his family within reach. The adults tried to say he couldn’t go outside because he was too young, but he knew the truth. Every moment spent away from their base was a risk, a gamble, and sometimes it didn’t pay off.

So Junior preferred his family where he could keep an eye on them. Like now, he had a cave full of people he loved with his whole heart. April raised her arm as he dangled from it. Their laughter was infectious and soon the whole team joined them.

Eventually, because Junior never could keep still, he fell and landed on his back. Dust flew up in a big cloud. As it settled, Junior opened his eyes, blinking slowly. Then, like he hadn’t just fallen on his ass, he reached for April’s arm. “Again! Again!”

“Actually,” Donnie interrupted, “we have a surprise for you.” He shared a smug grin with Leo who leaned down to present a package. “You’re getting big, CJ. It’s important to give you the adequate tools to–”

Mikey shoved Donnie’s face away, scaring Leo enough to drop the parcel… right into Junior’s hands. “Just let him open it, D!”

Donnie huffed. “Well,” he said dramatically. “I didn’t know the apocalypse made us barbarians incapable of simple gift-giving shenanigans.” He acted peeved but he still gave his younger brother’s head a pat.

Junior stared at the package in his hands. It didn’t weigh much. “What is it?”

“Open it and find out.”

He hesitantly picked at the paper, tucked neatly to shroud his present in mystery. It came undone without much fanfare, revealing a beige pile of fabric. Upon taking it out, he could see the massive D emblem on the collar. He tilted his head. “Is it a shirt?”

“A shirt? Scoff!” Donnie pointed at different spots on the fabric. “This is an invisibility cloak. Made possible with some Donnie tech. Trademarked, of course.”

Everyone could practically see his head growing in real-time. Still, Junior didn’t get it. “Invisibility?”

“Try it on,” Leo suggested, cutting Donnie off before his brother went on another tangent. He helped Junior with the cloak. “There you go.”

Junior twisted this way and that, trying to see himself. It reminded him of Raph’s scarf except longer in the back. He leaned down to grab the tail to inspect it but it moved away. He spun around for a good minute before admitting defeat. “Thanks, Professor Donatello.” Not that he understood the gift. But new clothes were a rarity so he might as well be grateful.

Donnie jumped, arms flailing around. “I thought you’d be causing mayhem by now. You’re still here?”

“Huh? Yeah.” Junior frowned, not getting the joke. “I’m right in front of you.”

Raph chuckled. “Junior, we can’t see you.”


“Really. That’s what invisibility means.”

Junior looked at his hands, turning them over. They were still pink, not transparent like the others were implying. “But I can see myself.”

“Why, of course! Interwoven between the fibers–”

He tuned Donnie out. The scientist’s explanations usually flew over his head anyway. Instead, he waved at the others but no one responded. They weren’t kidding–they couldn’t see him.

“D, you’re gonna bore the kid to death,” Leo teased. “Stop stalling and give him his other gift. He’ll love it.”

“You have another gift?” Casey seemed just as surprised as Junior felt. Raph also looked at his brothers curiously.

“Yes, well. This one has been in the works for a while,” Donnie admitted. He appeared hesitant. It was an odd expression for the scientist. He fumbled through his robe’s pocket. “Eureka!” He pulled out a small metal cube, holding it above his head for a dramatic flair. He sat on the ground, his silent call for Junior to come close.

Junior sat across from him. “What is it?”

Donnie reached forward to tap the cloak’s emblem so he could witness Junior’s reaction. “A pacemaker,” he explained, tone unexpectedly soft. “It sends electrical pulses to your sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes.” He must’ve seen the confusion plain as day on Junior’s face because he added, “Hypothetically, it should regulate your heartbeat.”

Junior stared at the metal cube. It didn’t have a glamorous appearance but, if it did what he thought it did, his eyes widened all the same. He met Donnie’s gaze. “No more check-ups?” He tried not to sound too excited.

“Ah, ah, ah. Fewer check-ups. You’re still a growing child.” Donnie handed him the pacemaker.

It felt simultaneously like the heaviest and lightest thing in the world to him. “Do I eat it?”

That question seemed to knock the wind out of everyone. They stared at him in awe before finally giving in to the tickle that threatened all of them. Raucous laughter bounced off the walls, luring Junior in until he joined. He wanted to hold onto this moment forever so he clutched it in his hands, safe from the world.

“You’re doing great, Junior.” Raph squeezed his son’s hand.

Junior gave them a thumbs-up as his eyes fluttered. “Still think I should drink it,” he mumbled, voice slurred. “Easy access.”

“For the last time,” Donnie removed a dart from Junior’s thigh, rolling his eyes at the kid’s antics, “you can’t drink tranquilizer fluid.”

“But I like where your head’s at,” Leo said. He placed an oxygen mask over Junior’s mouth. “Don’ll come up with something once we finish, ‘kay?”


Junior finally stopped responding after a few more seconds, his body succumbing to the tranquilizer. It wasn’t the best option for general anesthesia but better than nothing. Leo took a deep breath to calm his nerves before steeling his gaze to look at his brothers.

“Let’s do this, Mad Dogs.”

“We are not having Dr. Delicate Touch in here.”

Upon awakening from the surgery, Junior was greeted by everyone’s heads pressed against each other, staring at him. They stared in silence until Casey broke it.

“You look awful, kid.” She tried to sound easygoing. The croaking quality of her voice didn’t let that come across as such. She cleared her throat, looking away in embarrassment. Raph shoved her, shaking his head when she turned to glare at him. “What? I’m being honest.”

Just as Raph opened his mouth to argue, Junior groaned loudly. They all waited with bated breath to see what ailed him. “Head,” he grunted. He pressed a hand to his brow. “Is full of sand. Want it out.”

Everyone paused, baffled by his behavior, then collectively let out a sigh of relief. They lined his cot, offering soothing words and encouragements. Junior allowed himself to nestle further into the cot while his family babied him.

“Where are you, little warrior?” Mikey crooned.

Junior lay on his stomach, wedged behind some crates. Fabric swished as Mikey floated around, searching for his nephew. It was only a matter of time before Junior would be found. Mikey was the best hide-and-seek player ever.

Suddenly, a sound rang in Junior’s ears, catching his attention. A whisper hung in the air and pulled him to his feet. Entranced, he double-tapped the emblem on his cloak. He walked freely through his home, unencumbered by the adults that cared for him. He followed the noise, an almost dreamy look in his eyes. The sound drew him in like a vortex, both completely foreign and like something he always felt within himself.

It led him to the cave’s entrance, loud but still distant and that was when Junior realized it was coming from beyond his reach. He wasn’t allowed outside. It was dangerous even for his mom, the greatest warrior of all time–what chance did he have?

Another sweet note filled Junior’s ears, lulling him. It went against everything he knew, everything his parents taught him. He went outside.

His cloak hid him, he reasoned. That was part of the reason why his uncles had gifted it to him in the first place. It felt like his uncles were right there with him as he walked down empty streets, guarding him. The more distance Junior put between himself and the cave, the louder the noise became. It filled him with a great sense of elation despite the compulsion stringing him along as if he were a puppet.

A loud howl broke him out of his stupor. Somehow, he didn’t notice a kraangified beast crouched about one meter in front of him. It reminded him of the pictures Mikey drew to teach him about animals that were commonplace before the apocalypse. A dog, Junior thought to himself, or perhaps a hound. It couldn’t see him, he reminded himself. Partially because it couldn’t, there was no way, but also because if he didn’t, he was afraid the roiling in his gut would consume him whole.

“What is it? Did your beast find something, sister?”

Junior could only watch as two kraang turned the corner. They towered over him, their faces set in scowls. Their eyes scanned the deserted city, searching for something. They must not have found it because the sister glared at her hound.

“It yaps at nothing,” she hissed. “Honestly, what use do I have for a beast that can’t hunt.” Sensing her displeasure, the hound cowered. Junior mimicked it, trying to appear smaller despite being invisible.

The first kraang kept moving forward. His gaze remained firmly set on something on the horizon. “Soon, the armor piece will be returned to us, sister. Those filthy vermin shall disgrace us no more.” He grinned wickedly, the odd sounds of his body filling Junior’s ears. “Do as you please.”

Junior watched the alien. He couldn’t blink, fear seizing his heart in its clawed grip. This is what he heard. A nearly melodious hum that the alien exuded simply by existing. It compelled Junior to meet him. Behind them, Junior heard three things in rapid succession–a chuckle, low and guttural, akin to a growl, A sharp whine pierced the air followed by something splattering on the ground next to him.

He slapped a hand over his mouth before he even realized what he was doing. His body knew, it knew he couldn’t make a sound and that the sob clawing its way up his throat would give him away. He walked, slowly at first, then broke out into a sprint once there was distance between him and the kraang. The murderous kraang headed straight for Junior’s home.

Art provided by Karday! Find them here and here.

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