A/N: This is post "Wormquake" and pre whatever is next. I couldn't wait for the new episodes to start, so this is what happens when you leave me without a steady diet my current ship. Basically, I have devised my own rendition of the inevitable conversation between Leo and Karai following the whole "Karai, I am your father" reveal. Please enjoy.
by isis cw
The first clang of metal against metal was the only alert that the others needed, but he still found himself shouting, "Foot bots!"
The robotic ninjas descended on them from the billboard top. The ambush couldn't have been set for long, they hadn't planned on taking this route. They'd been too noisy with the raid on the Krang lab. He knew they'd triggered something before Donnie knocked the out power to three city blocks.
"Ah, Fishface. They let you out of the pool for good behavior?"
Raph's taunting was enough to tell him it was already too late to just run.
Leo spun a bot around with a quick kick to its left hip, and managed to hack off three of its arms as it twirled. These things had seen so many repairs, they were barely functioning anymore. One more cut, and he turned to survey the rest of the rooftop battleground, realizing that may be all the luck they got tonight.
Mikey was being swung around by the wrong end of his kusarigama as Rahzar obviously got the best of his last throw. Donnie's assistance was to throw a split foot bot into the bone-dog's back. Raph and Fishface were rounding each other and mostly just warming up their trash talk at the moment.
His eyes darted the rooftop again, then the buildings beyond. He chopped through another bot more out of annoyance that it was blocking his view than from any sort of defense.
Come on. Come on. Wary, and on edge, his gaze searched every shadow and still he came up short.
Another bot down as he jumped from the roof to the access ladder of the advertisement. Higher now, he tried again, but a barrage of throwing stars sent him skidding down the catwalk and over the other side. He landed on an air conditioner compressor before he flipped over the top of the bot, neatly severing its head before his feet hit the roof again in a defensive crouch.
And then he heard it. The near silent thud that reverberated through his shell like a physical blow. He turned to his right, down the rooftop's ledge, to where she'd landed in a ready, half crouch position.
She was late. That was a first for her.
He hadn't escaped her notice either, as she eyed him back. Neither moved for a long second as the two regarded each other without a sound.
Leo had tried so hard to figure out what to say when this exact moment came. The next time he'd see her after he told her the truth about Splinter. He still didn't think she believed them. He supposed he didn't blame her. But what did he say? How did he make her understand?
He was still at a loss. Nothing he practiced sounded right, even in his own head. He hated not having a plan. If she'd just give him an opening of some sort….
And just like that the second unfroze and she turned away, taking off at a dead run for the battle spilling off the other side of the roof.
So he chased her, the two moving over the roof, skylights and walkway supports blurring her from his sight as they paralleled each other. At the opposite edge they both skidded to a stop to survey the fight that had tumbled onto the neighboring building. Nothing blocked his way, but he hesitated.
She hadn't unsheathed her katana yet.
Again their gazes locked and this time he swallowed down a very uncomfortable feeling. But it was gone again before he could think. She swung over the edge and into the fray beyond without another second's hesitation.
And Leo blinked, realizing with a weird twist in his gut that she'd just purposefully ignored him.
Donnie clipped Rahzar's shoulder with his staff, having aimed for his head, but it was enough to knock the furry skeleton backwards. From over his falling shoulder Karai bounded between them and knocked Donnie backwards with a kick he didn't have time to see coming.
He landed on his shell and rolled over, hitting his head against the guardrail of the building. He yelped, more from surprise than pain.
"Karai!" Mikey announced her as he jumped to Donnie's side in case she advanced. The short blade katana finally whipped into view as she pulled it on him.
Raph had the walking fish pressed against the elevator control shack and lunged in for a strike. His sai hit nothing but the building wall as Fishface ran straight up and jumped over his head to land on his hands behind him.
Two kicks with his robotic legs and a sai went pinwheeling into a water tower support beam. The switchblade came down in a blinding arc. The high pitched crash of metal to metal rang around them for a split second as it met Leo's katana, several inches over Raph's head.
Mikey figured out a little late that he wasn't helping. When his legs went out from under him, it was one thing, but the back handspring off his shell had ground him into the asphalt surfacing.
"Not cool!" he shouted at her as Karai's focus moved back to Donnie without a word, or typical haughty remark. Three spiked bone shards punctured the surface just in front of his nose, and Mikey squirmed backwards and clambered to his feet again, chucks swirling.
Edged blades scrapped against each other as Leo fended off the lighting fast jabs. He didn't remember the walking sushi roll being so fast before.
What did she suddenly have against him? Donnie wasn't even here the last time they faced Karai. He jumped, evading the sweep of her leg and twirling his staff up to a strike position but missed his chance as she rolled out of reach before popping back to her feet.
Raph stood oddly for a second and actually paused to take in the whole scene. "This is messed up," he muttered. Before he could shake the feeling of being out of water, movement at the fire escape caught his eye. Four—no, five—more foot bots were springing onto the roof and advancing. "Incoming!" he shouted, throwing himself into the pack with a growl and eight well-placed stars.
"Good Rahzar. Come on, boy. Fetch the—Aahhh! Bad dog! Bad dog!"
She did have the advantage. With an internal spinal structure and without the weight and immobility of a shell, she was more adapted to back sweeps than they were. But as her foot clipped him in the neck, Donnie wondered again how she could possibly be that flexible.
Karai rounded on him as he stumbled back, choking from the impact, but this time he didn't wait for her to get any closer. Letting his staff slid through his hands, he swung the full length of it at her midsection. Not leaving her any room to maneuver, the blow twirled her around as she barely managed to keep her feet.
Blade. Feet. Blade. Feet. The missing link didn't have a preference for which end was up apparently. Leo shrugged off the switchblade again with his left hand, only to have a robotic foot slice through the air to his right. Once both the fish's hands hit the ground, his spare metallic leg kicked with full force into this Leo's plastron.
He recoiled from the blow, stumbling several paces until he could stop himself. As he sucked in the breath that had been forced from his abdomen, he could hear the air whistle through him. At his side, barely two feet away, Karai corrected her stance and wheezed in a deep breath as well, a hand clutched to her stomach.
For that one breath, they stood side by side, facing their respective opponents. Neither turned. And both, pointedly, stepped away in opposite directions.
Raph had retrieved his lost sai and planted it deeply into the eye sock of the nearest foot bot to make it up to his beloved weapon. Couldn't let one get in more hits than the other. It just wasn't fair. His smirk curled as the robot fell away. But the opened view revealed that their company hadn't run out of friends yet. More bots hopped the wall, swinging their multiple arms into ready positions.
"Ah, sewer bunnies," he griped.
Leo quickly surveyed the field, and seeing the advancing bots, he let Xever's blow slide off his blade as he jumped backwards. They weren't getting anywhere, and he was so done with this.
"Raph!" he called before he could go barreling through the new wave. Spinning back, Leo raced around the outside of the battlefield, collecting Donnie and Mikey's attention. "Retreat." The two followed along, more from sight than from him needing to say anything.
Leaping from the building, he landed first on the balcony of a high end department store, and ducked behind the signage. Mikey and Donnie landed next, and following up the rear, Raph finally tore himself away and joined them. One smoke bomb covered them as they ducked out from the other end of the sign.
Across the way, the Foot piled up at the corner of the building, watching for where they may have gone. "After them!" Karai called. "They're going to ground, cut them off."
The Foot bots raced ahead, following orders without thought, and tumbled down, spreading out as they went. Bradford and Xever tagged along, each picking a different way.
"So this is what we're doing from now on? We just ignore her and run away?" Raph accused, crossing his arms stubbornly and glaring at their leader.
The four tucked themselves into the shadows of store's three story advertising banner at the height of the roofline. "We didn't run away," Leo defended.
"What else can we do?" Donnie interjected, leaning on his staff.
Raph uncrossed his arms and stalked towards him. "We can fight, just like always."
"Dude, she's our sister."
"We've been through that," Donnie wearily advised his brother with a sigh.
"Doesn't mean I was listening." Mikey stuck his tongue out in defiance.
"I don't care who she is." Raph turned on Leo again. "She's still Shredder's henchman, and as long as she's a Foot, she's an enemy. We don't run from those."
"I've always wanted a sister."
The others paused to blink curiously at him, and Mikey flashed a dreamy little smile.
"We're not running," Leo stated with finality. "We're just... giving her some space," he explained instead, which came out sounding much less commanding than he wanted it to.
Through the gap in the fabric ad, he could still see her. The others had dispersed, fanning out in a search pattern. They couldn't say here long. They needed to get underground. But still, Karai stood at the corner of the rooftop by herself for a moment longer before she glanced up at the banner. He froze, but just as suddenly she turned and quickly walked away in the opposite direction.
She wasn't staying with the others. She wasn't even searching for them. She was just leaving.
And she just completely blew him off!
Some strange possessive, defensive emotion twisted his stomach again and it irritated him.
"I don't need a lecture tonight."
So much for the silent treatment. "I just want to talk."
"I don't," she finally turned around to acknowledge his presence. "Leave before I decide not to forget I saw you."
Saw him? He'd followed her for a mile. She wasn't exactly trying to hide. There was no stealth in her movements whatsoever. She was basically just out for a stroll across the cityscape. If she really wanted to ditch him, she could have done it a long time ago. "I get that you're mad at me. I'm used to it," he shrugged, keeping to the upper level of the roofline for the time being. "But turning Donnie into your new favorite punching bag isn't going to change anything."
"Fine," Karai hissed. "I don't care which one of you I take down." Her hand instinctually rose to her katana's handle.
Liar. She had a personal grudge with him and he was fine with that. He could handle it. He'd almost say he missed it. And as she turned away and stalked off again, he was also very sick of being snubbed tonight. "What do I have to do to make you believe me?"
The glare she tossed over her shoulder spoke loudly, and Leo realized with a small gulp that he didn't like that look.
But no matter how harsh her eyes or her tongue was, her feet had stopped moving again. She was warring with herself, he could tell. He knew that internal battleground. Although it did surprise him to see it in her.
"I didn't get the chance to explain before," he reasoned calmly.
She wanted to yell at him, wanted to toss some sharp retort in his face, he could see it. But she didn't. She was stuck. And when she faced away, she still didn't seem to be able to walk off.
Finally seeing an opening, he jumped down to the lower roof and took two cautious steps closer. "Please hear me out."
There was nothing for a moment until he saw her shoulders droop. For the first time in weeks, hope sprung to his chest. "If you're lying…" her whisper faded out before she finished that threat, but he got it.
"The only one that's lied to you is Shredder. What he told you… it's all backwards." He took the chance and stepped forward a few more precious inches. "He took you as a baby. Master Splinter thought you were dead all these years. He's your real father. Your real name is Himato, Miwa."
He stood, on edge and feeling fidgety, but completely still as he waited for a reaction to follow. "It makes no sense," she finally responded. "Why take a baby that's not yours?"
"I don't know," he admitted softly.
Her arms crossed in front of her, and she paced forward to the edge of the building they stood on, gazing down at the dark alley that divided the block. "What good did it do him?"
The quiet slur confused him as he watched her. He'd been through a hundred scenarios and none of them sounded right. He'd planned out responses for disbelief, anger, revolution, hope, humor, just about everything he could think of. But as always with her, none of them fit.
"We can help you." He stepped forward again, skipping to the important part of his speech. "Join us," he very hopefully suggested.
She did turn to look back at him finally. But the expression of utter derision was what not what he wanted. Karai shook her head with a snort. "You really are just that idealistic, aren't you?" she mumbled, obviously confused with him. "That's adorable," she jeered, mostly to herself as she turned back to watching the building ledge.
He really wished she'd stop using that word.
Once again, all of his hopes were completely dashed to tiny bits. And now he was out of his best ideas.
"There's no reason for him to have taken me. If I'm not his daughter he wouldn't have bothered. I'd just be a…."
The thoughts emerged out loud, but Leo wasn't sure she remembered he was still here. They were quiet and very different from the sharp rebuffs she normally used. Standing silent, he guarded her back as she let the light breeze steal her voice away again.
Her arms dropped back to her sides, and her chin lifted. "Your Master didn't just take my mother, he took my father's heart. I've never been able to get that back. All these years, no matter what, I've never been anything more than a sad reminder of what he lost. If she was still alive, he'd be whole. …We'd all be whole."
Her words reverberated with conviction. The force of her confession was terrifying in its certainty. Her beliefs had been forged long ago and with every ounce of the fire that he knew her emotions commanded. And it was heartbreaking.
"I was never enough. I just wanted that to be someone else's fault." Without warning, she stepped up on the ledge of the building. Leo reached out in vain as though he could stop her from leaving, but instead of tipping over the side, she just sat down, feet dangling over the edge. "If what you're saying is true, I never had a chance anyway."
He lowered his hands and breathed out a sigh. He couldn't let her go like this. He was honestly worried about her but his mind just swam with words he couldn't put together.
"Join you?" she shook it off like it was just a silly idea. "I can't fight him. No matter what… I can't just betray him."
"You don't have to," he stated earnestly. It was only beginning to dawn on him just how difficult this was for her. It wasn't just about the truth that they were not her enemies, it was that her entire life and everything she knew up to this point had been a lie. Everything she had, everything she knew… Suddenly he realized that she was really just a girl who loved the man she thought was her father.
Of course she couldn't just walk away. How could he have been so stupid? How had he thought this would be easier on her?
But easy or not, she deserved the truth, and he resolved himself again that she should know it. At least now, she could make her own decision. Even if it wasn't the one he desperately wanted her to make.
"Really?" she scoffed at him. It was the closest thing to a laugh he had heard from her in a long time.
"I can understand that you can't fight him. I… respect that," he answered honestly. "But you don't have to stay with him."
"So you want me to abandon him and watch from the sidelines as you all destroy each other?"
Well, when she put it like that it wasn't all that appealing.
"There's no happy ending to this story, Leo," she stated quietly. "He won't stop until he's hunted down all of you. And you can't just run away."
She was right and it turned him cold. Their hands were being forced to violence none of them wanted. Someday it would come down to a life for a life. And now she would end up grieve for them, no matter who it was.
"You're right. And I'm sorry that you're trapped in this position." Straightening himself behind her, he continued sincerely, "But it doesn't matter where you are, you're still just watching. You can stand beside him or us, it doesn't matter, it's still the same fight. But someday you're going to have to make a choice. And if you remain loyal to him, you can't blame your actions on a lie anymore."
The wind whistled between them, cold and stark in the silence that stretched. As it roamed past the two, something changed between them. They both felt it, both knew it. Their instincts so honed towards each other it was impossible to ignore.
"So then, we're back to threats," she stated evenly, not turning, not moving, but completely on edge.
Leo stood firm and rooted to the ground in case the gentle breeze tried to sweep him away. "That wasn't a threat," he refuted. Right here at this pin point of their destiny he didn't want to be the one to tip them either way. "I don't want to see you as an enemy. I probably never will," he answered honestly. "But I will protect my family with everything I have. And if that means I'll be fighting you, I will."
He could see this war rage on. In his imagination he could see the two of them locked in the saddest battle he could imagine. And at the end, a blow would finally fall. And it wouldn't be anger or hated or even defense that reverberated through it. It would be simple remorse. They would mourn each other.
If this was the last time he had the chance to stand here and actually talk to her without a weapon between them, he'd better use it. "I'll give you every chance in the world, Karai," he said softly. "But I will respect whichever choice you make."
The tension seemed to ease some, though he wasn't sure if that was maybe just inside him.
"You wouldn't respect me if I didn't make one, would you?" He was confused and didn't know how to ask what she meant. She moved, if only to push her chin up a few inches to watch the sky overhead. "If I just ran away. Just left it to the rest of you? Took away your distraction. And his excuse." Her words were hollow like they were echoing through something already carved out in the middle. "I can't stay on both sides… maybe I shouldn't be on either."
If she left….
Wouldn't that be the easiest on her? Wouldn't she be safer that way? She could go anywhere, do anything. She was brilliant, it wouldn't be hard for her. His shoulders sagged and he felt her words etch a cave in his chest as well. Wouldn't she be better off without any of them?
Suddenly he felt very tired. Wanting nothing more than to sit down right now, he ignored everything and stepped forward. She didn't move, didn't say a word as he sat down on the ledge beside her, facing the opposite way.
"I wouldn't blame you," he finally answered.
To run away from all of this. No more mutants or aliens. No lies. No family struggles. No heartbreak. She'd be alone, but she was so self-reliant he knew that wouldn't hurt her.
"Would you hate me… for being a coward?"
He couldn't think of her like that. "No," he said simply, not knowing what else to say. What would Master Splinter say? To lose her again when she had been so close would devastate him. His wise sensei would know exactly what to tell her right now. He always did.
Softly he looked sideways at her, trying to memorize the way the lights dimly lit her face. If she left… this may be the last time he ever saw her. Worse than anything he had imagined to this point, he swallowed roughly and nearly choked.
Whether it was to console or assure him, he wasn't sure, but she moved her hand and set it lightly over his. "He would never understand," she whispered and he wondered if she was just talking to herself. "He would never even offer me the choice. If he even knew that I found out he would… he wouldn't hesitate," she finished instead.
The icy feeling swirled through him again, but without thinking his hand turned under hers and wrapped around her. If Shredder ever hurt her, ever retaliated against her for this, he would… Resentment built in him at the very thought. She sat here, heart torn in two, wondering if she could return to her real father, knowing the very cold and simple truth was that the man she had lived all these years with wouldn't care. All Shedder would know was that she left his army.
How had her heart managed to survive around that man for so long?
As much as he hated him right now, he felt in awe of her. How could she be so strong and still call herself a coward?
In the light of the streets around them, her eyes turned to look at his and the sorrow in them chased every emotion out of him. Quietly, she whispered like a secret, "I'd make it worse. He'll come after all of you harder than you've ever seen."
Shredder's need for revenge. Leo didn't think the man had any other emotion or desire.
"Would he go after you too?" he asked in kind as though the words would summon that impending doom by themselves if overheard.
If she ran… could she actually outrun him? Shredder had crossed the ocean and half the planet on the chance that his rival from years ago was somewhere in this city. How far would he go to get a hand around her neck for leaving him?
Karai looked away, the same thought obviously racing through her mind.
She could run. She could make the non-choice. But she couldn't be safe. She would never be free from this decision.
His heart sank, watching her as her thoughts turned sadly in her eyes. What had he done? He'd only wanted to help. Only wanted her to…. It was selfish. He should have thought this through better. He looked down, ashamed with himself for causing her this pain. It didn't matter if it really wasn't his fault, right now he felt like it was. He didn't want to hurt her.
Slowly the haze of his thoughts cleared from his eyes for a moment and he blinked. With sudden shock he realized that he was holding her hand.
Leo stared down at their hands in confusion and an even weirder sense of accomplishment. When…? Oh, right.
Now that he noticed, nervousness climbed steadily up his arm and he hesitantly glanced over at her face again. She still sat there, lost in thought. Was he holding her hand too tight? It was sort of an odd angle, was she comfortable? Could he move? He didn't want to move. Should he loosen his grip? Did she think his hand felt weird? She had gloves on, she probably didn't even notice. Her hand was so small, were they always like that?
Was it suddenly hot out here?
"Did he…" she trailed out, but the sound of her voice startled him. He snapped his eyes back to her face instead, trying to focus himself again. She hesitated, possibly the most uncertain he had ever seen her look before. "How did he know?"
Leo swallowed uncomfortably. "Shredder told him." She snapped her head up to look at him and he could see the shock and confusion on her face. "The first time they faced each other. Apparently, Shredder must have thought the shock of the news would give him an advantage." He tipped his head before mumbling, "Really bad idea." Facing her again, he ventured a thought. "He didn't tell me, but I think there's more to it than that."
She shook her head just enough to say that she didn't understand, and he quietly mapped her face.
"Maybe he recognized you," he shrugged a little. "You do kind of look like Tang Shen." It was hard to tell from the one picture he had seen of the woman. Miwa was just a baby in the photo, and in Master's memory. Leo wondered too what it was that made him so certain.
Karai's eyes widened, and she looked away, her eyes moving back and forth with thoughts so fast he couldn't possibly keep up with what she was thinking. Her breath caught, and he held his out of sympathy, hoping desperately that he hadn't said something wrong.
When she finally exhaled in came out in a staggered rush. She slowed as the kunoichi in her purposefully fought for calm. And he sat silent and waited, scared to move, and scared to squeeze her hand too tight.
"What… what happened to her?" she whispered, taking several breaths to get the words out.
Oh, he was an idiot. Nice Leo. Bring up her mother. Not like you don't already know it's a sore spot.
It had to come out, and he tried to bite back the bitter self-lecture. Taking a moment to think through his words this time, he tried to be gentle. She'd given him the short version of Shredder's lie to her, he supposed he would need to be the one to correct it. "She passed away in a fire." He hesitated again, finding it hard to find a starting point. "Shredder broke into their home one night and there was a fight. A fire broke out and in the confusion, she didn't make it out," he quietly confessed. "Master Splinter found her body," he added. "But he never found their baby. He assumed she was gone too."
He looked at her face to watch for her emotions, but she was purposefully turned away and wouldn't look at him.
"That's what he told you?"
He wasn't sure whether to try to continue, or leave it like that. He had the urge to tell her the whole story, tell her everything he knew, just spew it all out. But part of him, for the first time, realized that it wasn't really his place. "Yes," he confirmed in kind.
"And you believe him."
He stopped, searching what he could see of her face for an explanation for that statement. It wasn't a question, and although it sounded a little bitter, he wasn't sure it was an accusation either. "Of course I do."
It lit something in him to have her question Sensei's story. Although he could never blame her for being skeptical, he wanted her to know just how dearly he believed in his father. She needed to be able to put her faith in something again. But exactly what proof did he have? There was nothing he could hand her, not really. He knew the truth because he knew the man that said it.
Leo sat and searched his memories, his heart, for a way to share that.
"I know all you have is Splinter's word against Shredder's," he began, trying to name her hesitation. "But that's all there is. Neither of us were there. You were an infant. I was… an egg," he oddly shook away the weirdness of that thought. "But I have heard these stories all my life," he pressed on. "I've watched him mourn for his wife and daughter all these years. I know what they mean to him." He looked at her again, willing this to sink in. "What you mean to him."
A centimeter at a time, her face tilted back towards him and he sat and waited hopefully for her eyes to meet his again.
"I know he wouldn't lie. He's told us these stories countless times. He's used them as examples, coached us with them. I mean, you've met the four us. Can you imagine how many times we've heard about what happens when two brothers let their arguments tear them apart?" he snickered at the idea himself. "This is my father, Karai. I've never had a reason not to trust him."
The silence hung loud in his ears and the longer he waited, the more convinced he was that she didn't believe him. And for some reason the fact that she doubted them was unnerving. Logically she had no reason to trust Splinter, or him for that matter. She'd spent months miffed at him for botching up their truce against the Krang. And although he wasn't ready to admit wrong in that matter per say, he did know that he'd broken something very delicate that day, and he was still paying for it.
That was the last stupid time he let Raph goad him into something just to shut him up.
But this was different. So different. He was desperate to make her believe him.
She still didn't face him, but her voice slowly filled the void between them. "You were… an egg?"
The bemused note to it somehow punched the air out of him. And Leo sat and stared at her dumbfounded for a moment. He was pouring out a lifetime of father/son, master/student emotion and that was what she'd dialed in on?
He spitefully left the questioned unanswered until she finally had to turn to look at him. "You guys started out as turtles?" she seemed to feel the need to clarify. "Like little, green, crawling turtles?"
Leo about rolled his eyes, but something finally dawned on him. "Oh right. Every other mutant you know started out as a human," he mumbled, half to himself. Great. Just in case he wasn't enough of a freak to her before, let's make sure she knows you hatched! "Um, yeah," he finally just washed it off.
"So… when you call him your father…" she trailed out, the question begging an answer.
"No!" he snapped without thinking, quickly raising both hands to wave away that idea. "Not, you know, like that," he tried to cover. "Actually, Donnie's first big science project was a DNA test he titled 'am I really related to you guys,'" he chuckled nervously at his attempted explanation. "Master Splinter bought us… from a pet store," he slowed as he found relating their mutation story to her suddenly embarrassing. "Our human DNA counterpart, or parts, could have come from anyone that had ever touched us."
He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the odd sweat that had formed there. "Pet store?" she repeated in a whisper.
His shoulders sagged lower. So smooth. "Yeah. When he came to New York, Sensei decided to try to open a dojo. The place he rented had a huge aquarium in it already, but… we were cheaper than fish," he mildly complained and hoped it came out sounding funny. "He was on his way back with us when he ran into, what we know now was, a Krang droid and, well, one vial of mutagen later, Master was a rat and we were… us," he finished pathetically, but tried to sound upbeat.
"Fifteen years ago."
"Sixteen," he corrected. "Almost." That's right. It had been most of a year. Hey, maybe they'd get a real cake this time.
"So, you guys were baby turtles." He dared to raise his eyes to see her perplexed expression. "An-and all this time…"
He wasn't quite sure why she was having a hard time processing this, but he sucked in a deep breath and tried to shrug off the uncomfortable cloak he was under. "Yeah, we were tiny when it happened. I don't remember any of it." Thinking clearer now, he fought again to make her understand. "For fifteen years, it was just the five of us. We didn't come to the surface and we'd never met anyone else. You can't hide much when you live like that," he teased.
Karai blinked at him, her thoughts again stormy in her eyes. And once more his determination edged up in him.
He also noticed that he'd lost her hand somewhere in that mess and he was annoyed with himself for it.
"You may not have any reason to trust Splinter, but I do. And I guess I just want you to know why." Leo lowered his eyes from her and looked out across the rooftop at the cityscape around them. "He didn't have to keep us," he stated quietly.
These were thoughts that he'd never spoken out loud. Even between his brothers, he'd never wanted or needed to voice any of this. He didn't really expect any of the others to have thought about this. Truthfully, he probably wouldn't have either if Karai had never entered the picture.
"Splinter had lost everything. His wife and daughter, his clan, his home, his country, his language. And suddenly, with no real explanation, he'd lost his humanity too. He had nowhere to go, nothing he could fall back on, no one to turn to for help. And here were these four, tiny green… things," he used the word with a shrug. It was fair, what else would someone who knew nothing of mutants or aliens think?
"He could have just walked away. He had enough things to worry about on his own without trying to figure out what to do with us. In some back alley in the middle of the city, we wouldn't have lasted long. One dog, or cat, or large bird," he waved the thought off, "and we would have been gone." Leo met her eyes again as she sat watching him, and for the first time got the sense that she was soaking all of this in.
"But he didn't. He picked us up, and found a safe place for us. Slowly he built a home around us and raised us. He taught us ninjitsu as a method of self-defense in case we were ever discovered." He mildly cringed at the thought. For so long he was certain that if they were ever found by humans they'd all be dissected in a lab somewhere. A fear that still seeped in from time to time. "And besides, what else are you going to do with four boys that are always beating up on each other," he shrugged.
"Give them weapons and teach them to do it right," Karai offered.
The smirk on her face made him smile as he nodded. This may be a nightmare conversation, but for a moment he reveled in that humor in her eyes, and knew for certain that he'd never just imagined the good in her. It was real, and she was worth it.
The two lingered over that humor until she finally turned away to watch the building lights. "He's lucky he had the four of you," she quietly told the city. "He's better off with you than he would have been with me, anyway." Leo opened his mouth to protest, but she shook her head just enough to quiet him. "I make a lousy daughter," she tried to chuckle but there was no humor in it. Bowing her head, she moved her hands to grip the ledge and scooted to the edge. "Would you tell him that for me?" she softly asked.
"That's not true," he refuted. He turned towards her more, wanting to just grab hold of her and not let go.
Karai picked up her head and looked at him. The knowing expression in her eyes stilled him and he was struck with how much she believed what she was saying. More than that, there was pleading in her gaze, and he swallowed his complaints. He nodded once in grudging acceptance.
She graced him a small smirk again for his promise and raised her knees to place her feet flat against the side of the building they sat on. "I'm still not good at saying thank you," she shook her head.
Leo had to chuckle at the reminder and turned to face the roof, dreading the long, lonely trek back home with all of this on his mind. "No need." A thank you. That would be the last thing he deserved in all of this.
He wasn't prepared for her breath on his ear as he heard her whisper, "Arigato."
Before he could turn his head, she had hopped off the ledge and he was left watching her fall the story and a half to the fire escape ladder beneath them and then flip over its railing and down into the dark of the alley.
Alone, the gentle breeze cooled his flushed cheeks. With a gulp he pushed himself upright and then moved into a light run in the other direction.
Over the uneven rooftops, he picked up his pace until he was pushing a breakneck speed. Dropping suddenly from the skyline, he plunged into the dark of a back street, grabbing a rain gutter and a stray cable line to slow himself just enough to make it to the ground unharmed. Scrambling under the nearby sewer cover, he vanished.
A/N: Oh yeah! From my brain to yours. No give-backs! I realize that this is way too long, and over-explanatory for how this inevitable piece will fit into the series, but I'm so hoping there is something like this in the coming episodes. To be honest, I'm not sure which way I lean on where Karai should end up yet, but I love what the creators of this series have done with it. If I could hug everyone on their writing staff I would! I love you for this, Nick!
And to any of my regular readers who are wondering what the heck I'm doing writing TMNT instead of GW, um… *sweat drop* sorry. I had to! It wouldn't leave me alone! It's not my fault!