By the time they pulled up to Mikey's house, the rain had stopped. The sun was peaking through the clouds as he popped open his door and smiled over at the driver.
"Thanks for the ride home," he said, "and sorry you had to go out of the way! I didn't realize LH was gonna be busy tonight."
"Don't worry about it, I don't mind," Bradford replied, even waving a dismissive hand at him. "Besides, once I graduate, the only time I'll ever get to see you is when I get to drive you home."
"Unless I follow you to NYU," Mikey replied innocently. Bradford scowled, but he was also trying not to grin.
"You don't have to threaten me, Hamato."
He lingered at the driver's side window to make sure Bradford would be able to find his way back to Astoria, then stood back and waved until the car turned the corner.
It was a little strange being half an hour outside the city. Great Neck was much quieter than Queens, and sensei's property in Kings Point rested on a full acre that they had all to themselves.
The house was 80s contemporary, white with sleek angles and wide windows, and it sat on a hill at the edge of the waterfront, overlooking the Long Island Sound. The ocean was gray and beautiful after the rain and under the brightening sky, and the view from the backyard of the Manhattan skyline was the kind of thing that belonged in brochures.
Mikey grew up there, sure, but he was still getting re-accustomed to the concept of so much room.
His phone vibrated in his pocket as he made his way up the walk, and he smiled when he saw Leatherhead's name. Putting the phone to his ear, he said cheerfully, "Hey, dude. Way to ditch me today."
"It's not my fault you forgot what I told you five times," Leatherhead replied dryly. "And it really was five times, Michelangelo."
"Yeah, yeah. So how's it going? Is the therapy helping any? That doctor Angel helped us find looked really cool."
"She's amazing," Leatherhead told him. Mikey pushed open the gate to the backyard – there were way too many unpacked boxes in the foyer to try using the front door – and let his steps slow as his friend talked. The air was cool and fresh, and he wasn't in any hurry. "I think we're making some real headway. It helps that I'm allowed to sit in on the sessions."
"Yeah, I'd imagine. Is he still there? Tell him that I said hi, and also that I said no."
"There is no possible way you could have known he asked about adopting your cat again." It sounded like Leatherhead was grinning.
"It's my Spidey-sense. I told you I had one." Mikey climbed the steps up to the deck, and tugged open the sliding glass door. "You're still coming over for dinner tomorrow, right? Tell me about everything, okay?"
"I will. I only called to make sure you got home okay. Oh, and Spike says hello."
Leo looked up when he came in, and smiled. Everything about Leo was lighter and brighter these days, like the air was somehow cleaner and the weight on his shoulders was gone. He lifted an arm, and Mikey dropped his bag in an armchair and crossed the room to join him on the couch, tucked warmly against his big brother's side.
"Who was that on the phone?"
"Leatherhead. I just wanted to make sure he didn't forget about tomorrow."
"The last thing he would forget about is you," Leo said, amused. But he turned his attention back to the book in his lap. Mikey recognized it as the photo album from sensei's shrine. Leo's fingers brushed every page softly, like this whole thing was a dream he might wake up from if he pressed too hard or touched too much.
Mikey didn't blame him a bit. Just sitting in the living room felt too surreal to put into words.
"Where's Raph?" he asked. He knew Don was with April and Casey, taking a tour of their new college campus; he kept texting Mikey pictures throughout the day, so happy and excited he couldn't contain himself. Even though he had been at work, Mikey made sure to reply to each one with gratuitous exclamation points and emojis, so Donnie wouldn't feel discouraged in his happy enthusiasm.
"Out with Al. I think she could tell it was driving him a little crazy, being stuck in a wheelchair with all these boxes in his way."
"Yeah, we really ought to get to work on that," Mikey said, not moving. Leo didn't move, either, except to flip another page in the photo album.
For the last two years, the house had been carefully packed up and untouched. Books, clothes, toys, useless clutter – all of it was still here. And the huge, furnished basement was still outfitted as sensei's dojo, even if most of the equipment and weapons had been put into storage.
Mikey had outgrown most of what used to be his, but his heart had ached in a good way to realize that someone had been kind enough not to throw all their things away. He had a pretty good idea who that someone was, too.
"Have you heard from Uncle Saki?" Mikey asked. Leo went still, just for a moment, then shook his head.
"No. I sent him an e-mail, though. Saying thank you."
Mikey smiled. "Good. Maybe he'll come to Thanksgiving."
Leo snorted, and it turned into a laugh that he struggled against. Mikey grinned at nothing in particular, and Leo managed, "Karai would be thrilled."
"Have you asked her to move in, yet?"
"Not yet. Think she'll say yes?"
"Dude," Mikey said, deadpan. Leo laughed again.
"I know. I'll ask her tomorrow."
Leo was so different now, for all that he was still the most familiar thing in Mikey's whole world. He stood taller, and smiled more, and loved with confidence. He had lived so long being weary and heartsore, that Mikey honestly hadn't realized what a difference it would make to see him so happy – but now that he knew, he would never settle for less again.
"I just – I just can't believe we're here," Leo added, a little softer. "I can't believe we're home."
And Mikey thought of that apartment he could barely remember, the one with long yellow curtains and light blue walls. He thought of their little apartment in Flushing, with the broken elevator and thin walls and rowdy neighbors.
Then he thought of sensei, a stranger who had found them, and loved them, and gave them everything he had. He thought of Mr. Murakami, and warm meals on cold nights when they were young and hungry and alone. He thought of April and Casey, as much Mikey's siblings as his actual siblings were. Leatherhead, scarred and damaged and the kindest person Mikey had ever met. Mr. O'Neil, who advocated fiercely for Leo in court, when Leo was sixteen and desperate to keep his brothers together. Karai, proud and strong and not lonely anymore.
Mikey thought of the family that had always surrounded them, no matter where they were, and said, "We've always been home, Leo."