"All men must die." -George RR Martin
Hold The Door
It is a dream he has too often, but Michelangelo can never recall if it has signs of a premonition.
Some nights immediately after the dream, he deliberately reaches for Gaia, who immediately takes him dreamwalking, and sometimes they travel through space, sometimes they meet Greek gods – usually, Hermes and Pan, as a father-son act, will chase them with water balloons – and sometimes they make love over and over against the giant bonsai tree in the whiteness of the dreamscape. They sit propped against the tree, hands held, and talk about comics and movies and fandom theories.
And then Gaia is pulled away and the end of his nightmare glints like steel, and he is drenched in blood. Mikey wakes up either crying softly or screaming painfully.
This time it's painful screaming, and by the time he manages to slow his breathing from "choke" to "hyperventilate" Donatello is sitting with him, hands on his biceps, murmuring. He leans down all the way and presses a kiss to Mikey's forehead and whispers against his skin "you're okay" over and over until Mikey stops shaking. Donnie finally accepted his role as family doctor but became determined to make Mikey his apprentice, since someone had to doctor the doctor. And now that extra sense Mike gave Don will hum like a tuning fork whenever a family member is in pain, and because this is Mike himself, pain radiates through the walls like radio waves.
Michelangelo wriggles until he's sitting up, and he leans, exhausted, into his immediate older brother's embrace, head tucked under chin, like when they were children. Don's always been the tallest.
Mikey automatically grabs onto Donnie's logic and rationality and transforms it into sensation and wraps it around himself and it soothes him.
He still won't tell them. Gaia only knows because she sees everything with her long, long range, and the two of them have easily grown and braided into each other now, and she confesses that when she dreamwalks deeply she loses her ability to shield. So she knows. She promised not to tell, but she would leave snappy, snarky remarks in the back of his thoughts that Splinter would find out soon, if not Raphael, because who was the one who decided to give Raph a telepathic link to his own mind again? and Mikey would sigh and duck his head.
He decides he'll tell the family at mealtime, maybe lunch.
During morning training, Donnie keeps glancing at Mikey but says nothing. Mike struggles to keep a poker face. Leonardo was always better at that. Mikey always made himself giggle too easily. But now his face is like stone and that is unusual. After a while, Splinter is also glancing at him and Mike throws himself into his katas. But he's given himself away. When training ends he dashes off to the kitchen and concentrates on making breakfast, and before anyone can pin him down there are plates heaped with eggs and bacon on the table, coffee, tea, juice. He sits down unexpectedly heavily, and again he is being stared at.
"Talk to us Mikey," Leonardo says, and his voice is both an order and a plea.
He pushes his food around his plate and pouts. "Just nightmares."
He shrugs. "I don't think so. They don't have that fuzziness at the edges. But…you know how, like Renet and Gaia and people keep saying that futures aren't, um, set in stone? Like, there are lots of…branches? Tunnels?"
Donatello leans back, crunching on bacon. "So, something could happen, if we go in one direction, or it could change if we go in another direction."
Raph leans forward, silent, but his eyes are sparkling and growling. "So, what did ya see? Whose ass we gotta kick?
Mike flinches. "I think…I'm not sure…The Shredder?"
Silence is audible and tangible.
"But…" and here Mikey grimaces because it is hard to smile. "See, okay, like, sometimes I see Loki. And Hecate. And they…team up? Against Shredder? And it's not like they touch him, but he starts screaming, and it's like they're making him weak. I don't know. I tried to ask. Loki just said that he was protecting my family. Um, I think he's hurting Shredder's mind? Like, to show him that we shouldn't be messed with?"
Leo narrows his eyes. "Loki is an ancient trickster. I don't think we can trust him."
There is movement in the kitchen doorway. "He has helped save Michelangelo's life several times," Splinter says. "Trust may not be needed, but acceptance will."
"Well," Raph says. "Next patrol we can get information."
Mike just stares at his plate.
"Eat your food, Michelangelo," Splinter says. "You need the fuel."
"Well, this is serious," Raph says, smirking. "Mikey doesn't want to eat? That's never happened."
Narrowing his eyes, Mikey takes a huge bite of his eggs and immediately washes it down. It tastes like sand.
The look in Raph's eyes tells him everything.
He sighs. Stop it, Raph. I'm not…it's not what you…
Save it, Mikey. I know you're depressed. I know you're not ready to reach for a stick. But it'll be there when you are ready. I'll be holding it.
When breakfast is over and they are digesting, spending downtime in creative endeavors, Mikey sits on the couch with his sketchbook and swiftly draws with no real goal. His nightmare slowly comes to penciled life, and he feels a stabbing pain in his rib cage. He finds his mind fading, his hands moving on their own, the sketch creating itself, and his breath catches, suddenly filling his lungs with a tingling shivering inhale, and then somewhere in the back of his fading awareness he is counting, and ten seconds pass before he exhales…
And Donatello comes running out of his lab, eyes wide, hands already reaching, and "Mikey, I felt something wrong. I'm here. You're okay." And Mike feels his brother's hands on his face, thumbs brushing over his cheeks, and he feels his eyes widen a little too much, and then he's staring at nothing and his body is quivering and he wonders if he'll fall off the couch but Donnie's arms are very gently around him and Donnie is kneeling so one knee is pressed against Mikey's side. His voice has slid into Doctor Voice and he's making those trilling cooing sounds that they fall back on in turtle language when one of them is too upset to talk, and Mikey feels his head fall against Don's plastron and the vibration of the trilling sounds is soothing, not like Gaia's purrs but familiar like childhood comfort. There's not much they can do during his seizures beyond comfort, anyway.
And somewhere in the back of his fading awareness he is still counting, and two minutes have passed, and he counts another ten seconds, and then his mind slams into itself and he gasps like drowning and clutches at his brother's arms, can't help it, and Donnie speaks and whispers "You're okay, it's okay, nothing bad happened, shh…" but Mikey still feels the tears burst forth and the "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I couldn't help it" litany makes him inwardly cringe. And Don rubs his carapace in circles and says "I know, baby brother." And they stay like that until Raph comes out of the weight room and sits on the couch, frowning.
Mikey pulls away and flops to the side, body betraying him. Raphael puts both hands on his shoulders and eases him down until Mikey is lying against Raph's thigh. Don grabs a blanket, then hurries to the kitchen. Mike has to strain to hear it, but Raphael is humming the Japanese lullaby Splinter sang to them as toddlers when they were frightened. Donnie comes back with an electrolyte drink and a plate of fruit and cheese. He has to feed Mike because the shaking is worse, but no one says anything, and Raph just props Mikey against his side and slides an arm around his waist. Michelangelo wants to burst into tears again, but he's already humiliated himself with the seizure – and then he feels Raphael nuzzle the top of his head, and Bro, if you need to let it out, go for it. And nobody knows better than Raph. So Mikey swallows the cheese with an audible half-choke and lets the sob break free, knowing he is ugly crying, not even caring. His brothers embrace him and he buries his face in Donnie's shoulder, breath hitching and stuttering and all he can think about is the smells of steel and blood and sweat mingling with ragged breaths and agony in his chest.
At some point, he begins to drift. His eyes close. He can't really move. It is normal, he reminds himself. He feels everything. He feels Raph pick him up and walk, and then he feels and smells his own bed surrounding him. Blankets are tugged and pulled up to his chin. A worn, still plush teddy bear is tucked into his right elbow. His two brothers murmur to each other but he can't make out the words. Then, he feels the bulk of Raph, definitely it's Raph, climb over him and settle onto the bed, under the covers; he hears the scrape of shell against wall. Raph's left arm rests lightly against his upper plastron, his left hand running a soothing flat palm rhythm against Mikey's right upper arm and shoulder, pausing to stroke the head of that old teddy bear in a powerful rush of affection. Emotions and wordless thought waves flow against Mike's seizure-fatigued mind in soft waves, nothing but concern and love secure safe protection compassion gentleness empathy love you little brother and inside he smiles because Raph is such a soft heart.
He listens to the air and the almost imperceptible brush of feet on the floor, and then the sense of Donatello is gone. He senses Raph awake and watching him but he's just too weary to open his eyes. He makes a low humming sound deep in his chest, and even his telepathy feels exhausted. Thanks, Raph. You don't have to do this.
Yeah, I do. Now, rest. I'll be right here.
Michelangelo sinks deeper, and the last thing he feels his Raph's beak nuzzling his cheek.
It's a week later. They're on a rooftop, facing an ocean of Foot bots. Shredder appears, out of nowhere, watching, watching. Michelangelo feels his gut turn cold.
Oroku Saki doesn't look good. He looks as though he has hardly slept. He is breathing heavily. He stares directly at Michelangelo with a glazed look that Mikey can only describe as uncertain paranoia. He wonders if Loki is responsible. His nightmares, still vague, had felt different, as if he were standing to the side. His dreams have been pulling him somewhere and then holding him, while something will happen but he cannot see, and sometimes he hears laughter mixed with screams. In this moment, his dream memories come rushing.
Taking down a half dozen bots in one capoeira move, he flips higher and lands on the very edge, balancing, gripping with his toes, rocking back and forth, the kusarigama chain still undulating while he observes his situation. His brothers are on the other side of the roof, beating down as many Foot as they can. Mikey decides to cheat and sweeps his right arm out, sending a few bodies flying, his mind muscles flexing with that flowing blue electric charge. He grins and softly murmurs "Booyakasha."
To his right, there is an energy disturbance. A mental breakdown. He frowns. The Shredder is crouched on an air conditioning unit, still staring daggers at him, Michelangelo. He is growling in a way no human should growl. Mikey feels an odd crack in the man's mental signature, like a broken door. He knows.
"Oh, fuck," Mikey whispers.
Shredder leaps at him, roaring.
Several things happen.
The others pause and turn, gaping. They are swiftly struck by Foot soldiers, collapsing with small groans, and the soldiers continue with blades and wood and punches, and Donnie starts to yell in pain and Leo is gasping and Raph is howling. From one side of the roof, Master Splinter appears, yelling Saki's name. From the opposite side, Karai appears, yelling Shredder's name. From an elevator behind the fallen turtles, April and Casey appear.
Michelangelo readies his weapons. He is cold now, and he is afraid, but he is brave.
Like lightning, Shredder strikes out with his gauntlet, panting and sweating and swearing and shaking. Mikey can see the burn scars on his face. His eyes widen. And then there is a great pain in his chest, in his rib cage. Someone screams his name. He draws in a breath and chokes. The pain, oh gods. He can't breathe. He glances down at his plastron. The blades from the gauntlet are stabbed through, the tips of two of the blades are stuck in his ribs, they could go deeper but the bones have stopped them, but the third, he can feel that third blade deep and free in his chest; blood is sluggishly bubbling up, dark like ink. Shredder's other arm lashes out and grabs him around the throat, and he is shoved against another box, the right side of his head slamming into a corner until he sees white burst behind his eyes. Again, his name is screamed. His left lung spasms and he struggles to keep breathing.
He slowly turns his head, his neck burning, to see the Shredder raise his leg and kick hard. Mikey realizes that Shredder's boot is pressing against his left shin, right below the knee. Pressure. Pressure, pressure, pressure and suddenly there is a crack and a crunch and Mikey cannot help but howl in agony, and he feels the bone snap neatly. It vibrates upward, into his torso, the blades in his rib cage almost singing and his lung spasms again.
Voices are screaming, roaring, sobbing, but Shredder is still choking him and no one has the strength to stop it without risking death…
Mikey feels his airway closing, feels oxygen struggle to pump, feels everything speed up and slow down all at once. His telepathy surges wide open and he feels the shreds of Oroku Saki's mental voice, blaming him. He feels horror course through him; Loki. Loki, what did you do? Why did you do that? He's dangerous, he's killing us! But there was no answer.
Blackness surrounds him. But he manages to lift his arms and swing the chain, and the kusarigama somehow is wrapped around the Shredder's neck, and that hand around his neck falls away; and Mikey has no clue how and what he is doing but he pulls and he shifts and his right leg pivots and somehow takes all the weight, and then the blades rip out of his chest in an eruption of white molten agony but he doesn't have time to scream, and then somehow he is lifting Saki into the air with the kusarigama chain despite the violent agony, and somehow he is throwing Shredder toward the very edge of the roof, and somehow he manages to resist being dragged, and he lets go of the chain. He releases his weapon. His precious kusarigama winds around the throat of the Shredder and stays and strikes his face like a final punch. Michelangelo's body responds, somehow shoving against Shredder's airborne body, and then Oroku Saki is falling, he is falling off the roof. Michelangelo hears a cry of pure pain burst from his own throat, but the stabbing pain in his chest, (the blood streaming down his plastron) the aching pain in his temple, (blood coating the side of his face) the shuddering pain in his leg (bones shifting and grinding), it is all becoming distant, and now he's falling and his knees scrape the ground hard as they hit and his left knee screams, and then he's falling onto his right side, crash, his head striking the ground again and he can feel the blood splatter and drip anew down his face and he is trying to breathe as hard as he can and his heart is stuttering, his heart is racing and weak and he is straining to listen.
The scream of Oroku Saki hovers long after the sickening thud.
Finally, time sets itself. Movement is known. The echo of his own name is still vibrating.
He sees the pool of blood under his head. He sees the feet and robe of his sensei, father, dad, daddy. Splinter collapses and slides an arm under him, gently turning him onto his carapace. Mikey can see the stars now. So many stars!
"My son," Splinter is crying. Splinter is crying. Tears are streaming down his face, his fur. "My brave, joyous, whimsical child. My hero. Oh, child, I love you. I love you, my Michelangelo. Stay. Stay with me."
Mikey's heart is breaking even as it is racing to keep pumping.
Karai's face comes into view. He blinks. Had she been helping them fight? His sister. She has a large cloth that she is ripping into pieces. She presses the biggest piece against his plastron, and he hisses. Oh, that hurts. Her voice is firm and final while her face is drained of color. "Hello, Michelangelo." She shudders as she is staring at him, and then she inhales. "You will be all right. You saved us all. You saved everyone. We are going to get you home, and we are going to fix you back up," she says, with frightening determination. "I have medical skills. I was taught many things as Saki's daughter. I will stitch you up and set your leg and you are going to be fine. You will be fine, Michelangelo." And the way she says it challenges the fates, the universe itself, daring to be defied or denied.
Splinter's voice sounds so shattered. "My daughter. Thank you."
Mikey breathes badly and coughs and he tastes blood. Oh, not again. It's filling his chest, but it's never been this bad. He looks at his father, whose chocolate gold eyes are wide and filled with horror. He manages a shaky smile. "It's...it's okay, Daddy. Everything…will be…okay." And he breathes again, blood splattering down his chin, and he commands his heart muscle to keep going. And Splinter takes a shuddering breath and nuzzles the left side of his face, whispering, "My beloved shining one, my little one..." And Splinter is so scared, so frightened, and Mike has never ever seen his father-sensei so afraid.
Mikey is still wondering when and how and why Karai had decided to help them, when he realizes he has closed his eyes and he is starting to drift. He feels his sensei, his daddy, always so strong, pull him up and cradle him. He feels Karai's cloth – satin, it's satin and cotton – pressed so firm against his chest, feels the leaking blood soaking it. He mentally whispers to his strange little healing factor to clot the blood. He doesn't know if it answers. He feels Karai's small hands on his left leg, and suddenly there is a yank and a crack and his scream is released as a whimper and a huff because his left lung is damaged, and he feels the leg bone settled against itself. He feels his telekinesis already flowing toward it slowly, like a funeral procession. Both his father and his sister hold him and soothe him. They hold him like a porcelain doll because he is dying, and he can't even reassure them.
Splinter lifts him in his arms. He feels like breaking. They're walking, almost running. Then he hears the groans and gasps and cries of his badly wounded brothers, April crying, Casey saying things. His brothers are calling his name, broken and terrified. He cannot open his eyes, he cannot answer them, he feels helpless. He is getting cold.
More movement. They are resting. They are in an elevator. He hears Donnie, and Donnie sounds so weak, Donnie is struggling. Karai snaps something at him, something about sitting back down and resting. His brothers are panting, whimpering, comforting each other. April is sniffling, her words punctuated by hiccuping sobs.
Running. They are running. His head is pillowed against his sensei's warm soft velvet shoulder, his blood is soaking into Splinter's robe. He is then slid gently onto a cold floor, wrapped in his father's arms, cuddled to his father's torso. An engine starts. Ah. The Party Wagon. He hears voices. Casey is driving. He feels Donnie's hand brush his arm and his leg. Mikey opens his mind and reaches for his brothers. Oh! They are so very weak. They are bruised, battered, fractured, barely conscious, covered in lacerations and abrasions. Heal them, his mind insists. Forget yourself, you must help your brothers! He feels the energy move sluggishly, and before he can pull back it is already pouring out from him and washing over them like a breeze.
Donnie's hand on his arm tightens and he sounds scared. "Guys. Do you feel that? Mikey's trying to heal us!"
"No, no…" and Leonardo sounds so exhausted. "He can't, he's too hurt…"
"Make him stop," Raphael snarls. "He needs to focus on himself. We're fine. He's dying! He doesn't have...he can't...Mikey, stop it! Listen to me! Mikey, don't!" And he is so panicked his breaths are short, and April murmurs something to him.
Mikey hears the words, he wants to do what Raph says, but the energy won't listen, and he is weakening, weakening; his lungs are twitching, and his heart muscle shudders, fluttering, stuttering. He knows they'll be so mad at him if he dies from overexertion. His struggle to pull the energy back results in a familiar feeling, and before he can stop it the seizure rips through him, and his father and sister are holding him, and Donnie is crying out in pure agonized helplessness, and then he cannot hear or feel anything at all.
There is a heavy iron door behind him, there swirling and howling darkness beyond, and he is trying to keep it out, pushing the door closed, and darkness is pushing back, growling with the voice of an ancient unfeeling uncaring void. And he is yelling from the strain, exerting every bit of strength and power; and it feels like years, and he knows he cannot stop, because the darkness will devour him and destroy him, and once that happens it will spill out and find his family and tear them apart. And so he keeps pushing, pushing forever, until the door is almost closed. He gathers the strength he does not have and he shoves his whole body one last time, and the door catches the edge of a shadow right as it shuts and the bang echoes. He shakily slides the locks on it just in time. He presses his back to the door and limply slides down, facing the white place with the tree, exhausted and hurting and completely uncertain. He is all alone and everything is quiet. But the darkness is on the other side, waiting. He feels it, he feels how cold he is, how that door might be ripped open again because he is too weak, how the darkness could take him if he moves too far.
All he knows is that he has to hold the door until the darkness retreats…however long that may be.
He sits and waits for a very long, long time.
Michelangelo slowly opens his eyes and recognizes everything. The nasal tubes resting on his face. The IV needles in both arms. The tubes in his sides. The brace on his leg. He can't move, his whole body feels limp and utterly brittle. He figures it's been at least a few weeks. He wonders if it was another coma. Inwardly he rolls his eyes and sighs. He's surprised he's not severely brain damaged. Then again, the M'Kari psionics probably already healed up most of that potential damage. He's lucky; he doesn't feel lucky. The edge of death isn't a lucky place.
He blinks a few times, feels the softness and weight of the infirmary bed and blankets. He inhales and tries to say something. It comes out as a scattered rasp.
There is loud movement. After a few seconds, Donatello comes into view and squeaks. "You're awake! Mikey, you're awake! Finally! Oh god, you have no idea…hang on, I need to get Dad and Karai…oh, Mikey, Mikey, we…" There are tears in his eyes. He disappears from sight. Mikey blinks again and wonders how fun it was this time. Did he go into cardiac arrest? Lose brain function? Need surgery?
There are shouts and commotions. Suddenly he is surrounded on all sides, so many faces pinched with worry and fatigue and joy and fear and relief. And here is Karai. Karai just smirks and takes his head in her hands, turning this way and that, staring at him, staring and staring. "I guess you could call me Doctor Karai," she says. "I was the one who drained the blood from your left lung, fixed up the punctured part of the lung, wrapped up your leg, and stitched your head. Donnie kept protesting that he was supposed to do it. It was very funny, actually."
Mikey manages a tiny smile.
"You were comatose," she adds, as if knowing his questions. "You nearly died for good. Three cardiac arrests. You've been out for six months. I guess that is a record for you, eh?"
Well, fuck. No wonder. But his body does feel as though it's been worked out, so he knows he needs to thank Raph for the therapy.
Despite the IV and the gastro tube his mouth is dry, so he works on salivating. He thinks about pizza, and chocolate mousse pies.
And then that question comes into his head. He should know the answer; they all heard the sound. But, well, cockroaches.
He meets Karai's stare directly and pushes the question through his eyes. She pulls back a little. She nods. "The Shredder is gone. Saki is dead."
He closes his eyes, opens them. Are they sure?
She smiles and sighs. "I saw his body. But I also saw them take him. So...I do not actually know for sure. There is a very advanced medical lab, and I have...seen things. I don't know if I want to know."
He blinks slowly at her. Indeed.
She winks. "I stole some very advanced medical equipment just for you."
Mikey smiles widely, as best he can.
"I…I have processed many feelings in the last six months," she says. "It was hard. He was my father for so long. He loved me, in his way. I was Shen's child. But, he lied. He tormented and destroyed so many people. Father...Splinter...we talked often. I don't know if I will truly get past being Saki's daughter." She inhales deeply. "But I live here now." And she grins. "Got your wish, sweet otouto. I am home."
The joy and thrill on his face makes them all laugh. He opens his mouth but all that comes out is a sigh. He reaches for his telepathy. I love you guys. I love my family. This is so awesome. Now I'll need to read everyone's mind to catch up. Six months without Crognard and Space Heroes and new comics!
Gaia comes forward, smiling, tears streaming down her face. "Easy enough, Sunshine. I got all the comics and I saved all the episodes."
She looks so beautiful. He wants to pull her to him and never let go. She responds by leaning down and pressing her mouth to his. "There will be plenty of time for all the things, sweetheart. Right now, let's concentrate on getting you back to proper Mikey status."
It will take a while. He knows he won't ever be the same. They all know it. He killed the Shredder. Him. Mikey. Michelangelo. He's the one who did it. He cannot be the same.
He manages to open and close his fists, curl his toes. He turns his head to see Raph staring down at him, smirking. "You know the routines, little bro. No matter what it takes. And we'll be here." Leonardo is next to him, smiling that wonderful, sweet Leo smile, his hand on Mikey's shoulder. "We adore you, Mikey. You're our heart and our light. And you'll be fine."
Michelangelo winks. Damn right I will. I have you guys.
"And we have you," Leo grins.
Welcome to the end of "Cold Fire Rising 2: Ouroboros". The story is not over. I will be writing a third story, specifically detailing the six months lost during Mikey's coma, since many things change in their lives and they form closer relationships. It shall involve sex, polyamory, and mature themes. It's gotten so long and complex that it needs its own separate document.
I will also be writing side stories, some in the CFR AU, some in brand new headcanons.
If you'd like to see certain details, please let me know.)