(As of April 2017: This story was nominated in the 2016 TMNT Universal Fanfiction Competition in the category of Most In-Character Leonardo under General Ballot)

Follow through
Make your dreams come true
Don't give up the fight
You will be all right
Cause there's no one like you
In the universe
Don't be afraid
What your mind conceives
You should make a stand
Stand up for what you believe
And tonight we can truly say
Together we're invincible
And during the struggle
They will pull us down
But please, please let's use this chance to
Turn things around
And tonight we can truly say
Together we're invincible
Do it on your own
Makes no difference to me
What you leave behind

What you choose to be
And whatever they say
Your soul's unbreakable
And during the struggle

They will pull us down

But please, please let's use this chance to
Turn things around
And tonight we can truly say
Together we're invincible
Together we're invincible
And during the struggle
They will pull us down
Please, please let's use this chance to
Turn things around
And tonight we can truly say
Together we're invincible
Together we're invincible

-Muse, "Invincible"


Water And Oxygen: The Flow And Existence


Part One

It is not too long after the dark times, as he likes to call it. Or maybe it isn't so long. Does time even matter it situations like this? All right. Maybe it is a barely few months. Regardless, everyone is happy. When he meditates, he instinctively reaches around the lair just to touch in with his brothers, because of all the things they have gone through. April is around there more often, as if it is her safe space, after the constant horrific traumas that a human mind could not prepare for (except, he remembers, she's not quite human, she just acts human because she was always raised human...like us.). She spends most of her days in the lab with Donnie, learning the logistics and neurological focal points of her powers, when not in the dojo with Splinter.

Sometimes she stays the night, and after the third night in the guest room, for reasons she refuses to explain, she sleeps in Michelangelo's bed.

Leonardo will wake up instinctively between 6:00 and 6:30. After a quick morning kata, he will routinely check his brothers' rooms. Donnie is always first, and if he isn't away from his room in the lab, he is slumped over the desk in his bedroom. Paper will be strewn on his bed. A thick blanket will be hanging off the corner of a chair arm. Leo will carefully drape it around his beloved genius, sigh, and slide out soundlessly. Raph is always next, and the deep snoring will result in a quick peek, unless mumbling and twitching are involved. Leo will slip inside to look at his brother's body language, his eyelids, his gritted teeth. If needed, he will rest his hand on Raph's plastron and murmur a Japanese lullabye until Raph settles and snores again. Mikey, always always last, because Leo enjoys watching his littlest brother in slumber. He always moves some part of him, mumbles, giggles, whines. It is a little like watching a small child dream. Or a cat, maybe.

That third night after April began staying with the family, Leonardo is startled to notice her lying in the bed on her side, curled up against the wall, a smile draped on her face. When Michelangelo begins to whimper and shake, Leo's body snaps into pure instinct, hurrying to embrace him. But just as quickly, April murmurs, rolls over, and slides her arm against Mikey's neck between shell and shoulder. Her fingers gently brushes his jaw. Mikey's breath stutters a little before smoothing out. He curls up even tighter, like a kitten, and sighs happily. Frowning, Leo crouches and runs his hand down his little brother's cheek like he usually does, but stops as he touches April's hand. What is happening to make them share a bed like frightened children? Mikey has bad nightmares all the time, though, especially bad after that brutal assault several months ago; maybe April sensed it and automatically went to soothe him and wound up lulling them both to sleep?

Leo heads to the kitchen and makes himself tea before going to the dojo. Sensei is there sitting beneath the tree, deep in meditation. Leo joins him. Two hours later, so does everyone else.

After the morning spar, everyone gathers in the kitchen. Mikey makes breakfast: eggs on pizza with a side of bacon. They play cards, with Ice Cream Kitty winning. Raphael begins to nudge Leo about that night's mission, something about Purple Dragons. Leo isn't in the mood, and leaves Raph staring as he walks back into the dojo.


He stands just inside the doorway, frowning at the tree. Splinter is in his room. Don is in the lab. Raph, Mikey, and April are in the pit watching cartoons.

Spinning on his heel, Leo walks to the edge of the pit and calls, "Mikey, can you come with me?"

Mikey jolts, looking at him with big eyes that already plead with an "I didn't do it" expression. Leo softens his face. "It's okay, little brother. Nothing's wrong. I just want to spend some time with you."

His brother still has that awful reluctant expression and Leo winces inside; he remembers those times where they tossed Mikey and his use around, the Unwanted, the Unappreciated. They have grown up. Haven't they?

Mikey is obedient, sitting soundlessly under the tree perfectly parallel to Leo. He looks at him, big baby blue eyes expectant. Leonardo's mouth dries. Donatello had mentioned, very casually, that Mikey seems to have "incredibly strong psychic potential; similar to April's, but possibly doesn't realize what it means." And the way Donnie's voice altered to a lower pitch, staying firm, made Leo realize what many things could mean. He thought back to watching April soothe him, like kitten siblings in a pile.

"Mikey..." he starts. "Sometimes, I notice that you...you know things. Sense things. You definitely feel what we feel. Can you describe that? Can you tell me how you do that?"

Mikey raises an eyeridge, head tilting. He doesn't say anything. Leo's gaze is drawn to the scars on his plastron. He swallows what little saliva he can gather.

"You had to pull me in here to do that? No offense, Leo, but you could've asked me out there. I'm missing some good Crognard."

The bland way Mikey says it takes him by surprise. So, he doesn't care about the noise? Everyone gathered around? The lack of peace and tranquility offered by the dojo and tree itself?

And Mikey laughs suddenly. "Dude...did you think it'd be easier with, like, dojo meditation? Man, Leo, you are so traditional." He sticks out his tongue and giggles, kicking his feet out and landing comfortably in a move Leo realizes he probably can't pull off without intense warming up and practice.

"But if this is how you like to relax, we can do it like this." Mikey grins sharply. And Leo realizes that he is blushing. Why the hell is he embarrassed? Is it because he's dragged his little brother, the one with ADHD, away from his home of sound and light, into his own home of silence and mist, as if everyone should be doing it this way? Yes, he decides. He is embarrassed. They all really needed to start taking Mikey more seriously. He knows things. Leo smiles to himself and settles into a more comfortable position.

Crossing his legs, Michelangelo presses his fingertips together downward, triangle. He inhales as deeply as Leo has ever seen, holds, exhales long and loud.

Automatically, Leo shuts his eyes, waits for the warmth and glow of meditation to start pulling him toward the astral plane. Something itches against his personal space field. Someone is humming. Leo cannot help but twitch.

Why is Mikey humming?

"Mikey," he hisses, "meditation is supposed to be quiet!"

A pause.

"Leo!" Mikey hisses back, a smile in his voice, "no it isn't!"

He opens his eyes and frowns.

His littlest brother is inches from his face now, crouched casually, huge eyes wide and sparkling. He is grinning.

"There's this thing, Leo," he says lightly, and pokes Leo's nose. "See, there's this thing about every person doing something to the best of their own ability, no one way, no right way, no wrong way. Meditation is a thing like that."

Frowning harder, Leo huffs and leans his head away. "See, this is why you never reach the astral plane when we meditate together. I hear you fall asleep all the time."

"That's because it's boring. I can't help it. I put on a show because I have to." Mikey's head tilts, like a bird's. "When I'm alone, I don't have to play a part. That's the best part of being alone."

Leo blinks. What part? Mikey's acting is always hammy. He huffs again and murmurs, "Just get back to meditating."

"You asked me to help you learn how I know stuff, bro. I can't do it like that."

Leo opens his mouth, then snaps it shut. Mikey has had attention problems his entire life, and now with access to the internet they know it's ADHD and learning disabilities. He cannot criticize a disability. But he can criticize a follow-through on a project. "Mikey, you must learn to rein in all your energy and extroversion, use it to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. In meditation, you-"

"Focus on breathing, focus on reaching a higher plane of thought, yada yada yada," and Mikey hold up a hand and pretends it is a puppet mouth. "I can do that, Leo, seriously, I can. Just…I can't do it your way. And you need to realize that. You can't force it. You need to go with the flow."

"My flow is perfectly fine-tuned and balanced and on a steady path," Leo replies, eyes narrowed. "Yours goes all over the place, like your fighting style. While that is great in battle to disorient the opponent, in traditional medita-"

"Shit, Leo, are your ears working? I. Can't. Do. It. Like. You. And you dragged me in here to ask me specifically about how I have this…this psychic intuition thingy, and you want me to demonstrate, and you keep demanding I do it on your safety net, with your rules, and god damn, Leo get your head out of your ass. I know firsthand that it can stretch a lot, but yours has gotta be pretty loose to fit that whole thick head inside. And here we all thought your ass was too tight. Did you bump up against that stick while you were in there?"

Leo freezes, mouth open, eyes huge. Not only did Mike mock and throw shade, he just made a crude joke referencing his horrific rape trauma. While poking holes all over Leo's ego and puffed up pride.

"Uhhh…"

"Yeah, kinda feels painful when you fall so far from your high horse, doesn't it?" Mikey smirks and shrugs, rolling his neck and shoulders. When he meets Leo's eyes, there is a flicker of fire, a snap of ice.

He's been hanging around Raph too much.

Or maybe this is just how Mikey is now, matured and forced to grow up after rising from the ashes of unspeakable horrors.

Leo swallows a lump in his throat. His sweet, kind, naïve, innocent baby brother, the precious child of sunshine whom he must protect at all costs. Who has been viciously attacked, excruciatingly injured, brought to the edge of death, emotionally tormented, and violated sickeningly. Guilt and heavy dark responsibility settles on Leo's shoulders and digs in bloody claws.

Mikey is frowning, very quiet. He looks just above Leo's head, squinting, and then he lets out a soft growl.

"It's dark," he pouts. "Shouldn't be so dark. You know better, Leo."

Leo pats the top of his head. "I don't understand. What do you see?"

"The color, Leo. Your colors. They're all over you. Some of them are dark on you right now. You're doing that guilt thing again, aren't you."

He hangs his head, breathes deeply. "Mikey, I'm your older brother and your leader. I have a job and a duty to-"

"I can take care of myself. Don and Raph, too. You can't fight all our battles for us. That's your problem here. You made your colors too dark because you don't wanna look at yourself. Turn all that around. It might take a while. Then we can start doing it my way"

Leo's brow knits as he rolls Mikey's odd word placement around in his head. He doesn't know how long he sits there in contemplation, but when he looks up, Mikey is gone. The television volume is louder, and Mikey's laughter is heard over it. Leonardo bites the inside of his cheek and feels as though he's done everything wrong.


Part Two

April and Michelangelo are alone in the pit. She's reading a book; he's playing a video game. Abruptly, he pauses and sits up very straight.

"By the way," he says, not taking his eyes off the screen. "I still remember what happened when I found Creepy Dark you after my comic book came to life. Or, like, you found me."

He says it so casually, a simple conversation starter, and she feels her heart and head turn to ice. She really doesn't want to remember.

"Lots of chaos," Mikey is saying casually. "You were really out of it, you just wanted the crystal back. Remember that time you started screaming at me? I mean, the other time. When the others weren't around. After you kept saying no one would ever take it away from you ever again and we went home. And a few days later, when you were leaving the lair after a visit, I pulled you off into a side tunnel so we could talk in private and I could really apologize in private."

"Mikey," April says, strained, "Where is this going?"

"You blasted me." He shrugs. "You blasted me full force and then said you were going home, and you left me in a sewer tunnel with a fried brain, and I wanted to let you know that when I came home, I didn't tell them anything. Didn't say a word. I said I had a headache and I went to my room."

She stares at him. "Why are you telling me this?"

Mikey sets down the controller, still not looking her way. "It did something. In my brain. It didn't hurt anymore once I got some sleep, but I could feel it."

She swallows, feeling nauseated. "What—how bad—was it bad?"

"I dunno. But Leo is starting to pick up on my energy vibes, man. He pulled me into the dojo to meditate. It didn't really work out like he wanted. He didn't see the colors. The energies."

April wants to crawl in a hole and die. She had utterly forgotten about hurting her adopted baby brother. And he is walking to her, sitting beside her, gentle and always so kind, and he takes her hands in his and tells her to close her eyes. When she opens them again, she's somewhere else, watching a movie of her life.

They're in a deep tunnel that branches off from the lair, deep enough that they cannot be heard. She is standing in front of Mike, her arms folded, a cold glare on her face that she does not recognize. Mikey is saying something. His hands are animated, palms up as he talks and talks, and Memory!April just scowls more and more. She says something with bared teeth, and memory!Mikey takes a step back, eyes wide yet unafraid. Eventually he is pressed against a brick wall and his eyes are impossibly sad and worried. Memory April is screaming now, although there is barely sound, just enough to turn shouts into whispers. Memory Mikey doesn't flinch. His eyes are steady. He says something quietly. Memory April screams and her eyes turn white and she begins to glow. She reaches out with both arms, pushes on Memory Mikey's chest, and suddenly the electric glow is pouring into him and he screams in shock and agony, and he grabs his head and slides down against the wall, carapace scraping. He is screaming in a way that shouldn't be. His cries are the cries of a heart shattering. This continues for a long time.

April feels herself sobbing. No. Oh no. No no no no no, I couldn't have done this, it wasn't me. Oh god, Mikey why? Why did I do that? Why? I couldn't ever, I couldn't… No! Why! And then it all stops. Memory April says something. It sounds like Let that be a lesson. Never mess with my crystal or me again. Now, I am going home. Don't follow me. Don't talk about me. I'll destroy you if you touch my crystal. She turns away and walks into the shadows, unseen. Memory Mikey is huddled against the wall, pale, shivering and trembling and shuddering. Tears are streaming down his face. Blood is pouring from his nose. His chest is heaving; his mouth wide open, from it coming animalistic noises, groans and whimpers and whines. He coughs forcefully and blood runs down his chin, splatters on his hands. His eyes appear dull from shock and agony. He seems to be elsewhere, beyond his body. He remains that way for ten minutes. And then, slowly, he gets up. He staunches the bleeding from his nose. He takes deep, meditative breaths that rattle, until suddenly they are clear, and when he coughs again there is no blood. He breathes again, deep in a strange meditation that clouds his eyes and ignites a sheen of light against his skin; this goes on for twenty minutes. And then he walks, shakily, to the lair. He calmly, with practiced acting, says that April is safely on her way home and that he has a headache and that he is going to lie down. He goes to his bedroom and shuts the door. His brothers and father shrug at each other.

April is yanked out of the memory, and she drops her head into her hands, weeping openly. Mikey's arms are around her and she whimpers, struggling to pull away, why, why would you hug me, I hurt you, I hurt you, I threatened to kill you, I hurt you, little brother, I hurt you! And his embrace tightens.

"Shh," he says, "it wasn't you. Remember? It wasn't you with Raph and Donnie either. You saved Donnie in the end. It's okay. But I thought we both needed to remember."

She wails against his shoulder. "Why? Why?"

"I can't forget what happened to me a couple months ago," he says quietly, and she freezes in horror, because oh god the rape, and she wants to hold him and not let go, "but you need to remember what happened to you, too, and maybe we can both learn. You got possessed by a creepy vile alien monster when you had that crystal, and I got violated by a creepy vile human monster when I got raped, but we're still here."

April shudders and pulls back and stares at him. "Th-that's some…intresting w-wisdom."

"I'm trying to teach Leo that it's not about setting up specific paths and boundaries. When you flow, you'll wreck the paths and knock down the boundaries anyway. He wants to know why I'm so good at reading people and healing and stuff. And…and some of it I kinda picked up from you."

"M-me? What? How? Why?"

Mikey lowers his eyes. "You're kind. You're tough. You've dealt with so much shit and…and you're still you, you didn't crumble completely. Maybe the psychic alien powers helped, I dunno. But when you blasted me that night, I felt something in me open up. I don't wanna tell the others what happened, there'd be no point, it's in the past. But if Leo and my bros really wanna start getting in my head, they're probably gonna eventually sense the, you know, the residue you left."

She stares at him. Oh. Ohhhh.

He smiles halfway. "I can say you psychically thwacked me for stealing your crystal and that jumpstarted the thing. It's part of the truth. I just wanted to make sure you're on the same page."

She nods, dumbstruck.

"And you don't need to apologize," he added. "You already did. Donnie seems fine. We're all cool. Right?"

She nods again, still afraid to speak.

"Awesome. Just wanted to clear those things up." He pats her shoulder, then gets up and returns to his game.

April sits there for a long, long time, watching him.


Part Three

Another day. Another war. The world shifts violently and yanks one way and the other. Leo is struggling to hold onto the bizarre flailing machine, bigger than a tank, bigger than Mega-Shredder, metal octopus tentacles reaching out and slithering inward, and how they got into this mess he's still asking himself, but Kurtzman and the Mutanimals pointed it out first… and it was the Utrom Bishop who pulled them into action before the military could be alerted.

And so here Leo is clinging with swords and shuko and feet to a mechanical creature out of control, screaming commands to Raph over the headset, Donnie's voice screaming in his own headset, Mikey's screams echoing, well, all over the place. Mikey was always overdramatic.

Donnie is down down down below, working on some internal mechanism to stop the rampage and he is riding the platform like a disc-shaped surf board. Mikey is hanging upside down several feet away, giving Don suggestions that half the time sound like practical jokes. But Leonardo knows his little brothers. Several months after Michelangelo revealed psychic sensitivities that rival April's, Donatello is still assigning him Assistant Whatever Science tasks and Mikey is actually taking to it incredibly well. He still has trouble processing certain sensory and communication functions, but Don has slowly developed incredibly gentle patience. It helps that Mikey acknowledges his lack of understanding and waits for Don to catch up so he can explain it on Mikey's level. Leo has been flushing with pride.

Raph is outside, stabbing various parts of limbs and eyes. Leo inches his way across the curved metal wall, snarling at every tiny electric shock. In his headset, Don yells "Almost got it! Yes! I've set up a self-destruct sequence that'll make this thing implode."

"How long do we have?" Raph asks.

"Ten minutes!"

There is a staticky jumble and feedback whine that hurts Leo's ears. He cannot hear Donnie anymore. He calls for Mikey and gets choppy words. But the loudest and most important are "Donnie" and "Falling" and Leo's chest restricts in slow panic. His katanas slide through deep gashes in the metal and he lets himself plunge further, while Raphael screams obscenities in his headset.

And then he sees it, Donnie tangled up in wires, skin sliced and bleeding, falling very slowly, consciousness fading in and out; and Mikey has firmly lodged his scythe into a wall, the kusarigama chain stretched to near breaking, and Mikey is tumbling like an acrobat, left hand outstretched, arm muscles straining, and Leo can see the stress point where his shoulder is close to dislocating and still Mikey is falling, reaching, and Donnie is falling, tangled and tired, but his right arm is suddenly thrusting upward and Mikey's left hand closes around weak fingers, and then Mikey howls in pain and there are crunching cracking noises, and he yanks as hard as he can and Donnie's body is flying, slamming into the wall next to Leo, his own shuko digging in while he dangles, confused and hurt and blinking at Leo with glassy eyes. "Mikey," he rasps, and Leo looks down and hears the sound of a grappling hook, which clings right between them, and with a whirr, Mikey comes into view. He looks up at them, grinning, but it's a grimace and he's covered in burns and scrapes, and exhaustion fills his triumphant blue gaze.

"I got him, Leo! I got Donnie! He's okay!"

And as Raph breaks through and hauls Don up by the shoulders, Leo waits until he can grab his youngest in one hand, maneuvering him onto his back. He uses his katanas to climb, assured by Mikey's ragged breathing on his neck.

They're on the ground away from the collapsed mechanism, and Leo doesn't even care anymore. He crouches, panting, and Mikey slides off his shell bonelessly. Raph is cradling Donnie against him, patting his cheek. Donnie is coughing and whispering what sound like instructions, and Raph lunges for his medical duffel. There's blood pooling around Don's poor body.

Leo wipes cold sweat from his brow. He glances over at Mike, who kneels with his head nearly touching the ground, clutching his left arm tight to his plastron. When Leo cups the side of his head, Mikey looks at him, eyes glazed, smile still bright. He inclines his head toward his shoulder and rasps, "I'll try not to scream too loud."

Leo bites his lip and helps Mikey lie down, taking his left arm, holding it, rotating, bracing, pushing. The POPCRACK is louder than sirens and Mikey's teeth clamp down hard against a roar. But all he says is "Ow" before fainting.

Back at the lair, Donnie is more bandages than skin and still insists on no painkillers. He's sitting on a cushion and lecturing the family on the absolute dangers of what they had gone through and why the hell couldn't they have just listened to his initial plan. A couple of feet away, Mikey lies on a pile of bean bags and pillows, left arm strapped desperately to his chest, gauze pads slapped on his limbs and face, groggy and silly from pain and painkillers flooding his system. And he's looking at Donnie like he's the greatest thing in the world, and when Don pauses to side-eye him with a soft adoring grin reserved only for him, Mikey just offers a sun-filled grin and declares he's going to make them both monogrammed lab coats. Donatello mutters something about training Mikey in medicine as a way to keep him from touching all the canisters that beg Mikey not to touch them.


Part Four

Leo has begun to learn that Mikey's methods of…anything, really…are not predictable most of the time, and come from a place where illogical nonsense translates into logical sense from a very particular point of view. He occasionally wonders if he should approach his brother like one would a child just growing into the world. But Mikey is far too intellectual and sensible. He knows things, but he chooses the things he knows. Leo has finally realized that Mikey's habit of taking sarcastic remarks somewhat literally are a cover for being able to apply his odd logic to his satisfaction – Mikey needs time to process his friends' ideas in a way that matched his bizarre brain. Leo now feels his hands twitch in a desire to rub his baby brother's head, just for being so bizarrely cute. They can't truly fault his screw-ups when he reacts so intensely, can they? He just needs to keep learning from his mistakes.

Leo sits in the dojo, repeating something Don had told him months ago, when Mikey had instructed Donnie. "Let everything come into you and just breathe. Just breathe. Let go."

After a long time, he begins to see what might be colors forming into shapes, each with a different sensation. Something clicks, and he realizes that this is what Mikey must have meant. He rises into the astral plane, letting the colors swirl around him. They're hard to catch. Is he even supposed to catch them? Mikey mentioned colors, sensations, smells. How can he translate a spiritual sense into a physical one? Leo furrows his brow until his head begins to ache.

He feels a finger very gently poking him between the eyes. He swats it away. The pressure returns, the finger locked onto his forehead, and then it's like opening an eye he didn't know was closed. Each of his senses explodes, and he's able to feel everyone in the lair, everyone except—

Wait…Mikey? What? Where are you?

Right here, bruh. Right in front of you. Feel my finger?

Leo frowns. Yeah, but…why can't I feel you? Like, the sense of you?

Because of my inner shield, duh. The others don't bother to use theirs because we haven't had any reason to need them. But Master Splinter and April and I have been practicing!

Leo quickly descends back into his body and opens his eyes, blinking. He can count every freckle and he can see the hint of gold in those summer blue eyes, that's how close his brother's face is.

"Inner shield…do you mean the part of yourself you keep hidden?"

"Mmm, yes and no. It's…it's like…this wall. Or bubble. Or egg. Or whatever. You just wrap it around your inner mind." Mikey sits back on his haunches, but winces a little. Leo's mouth twists; the rape trauma hasn't entirely gone away. "And it's not supposed to be total peace and serenity for everyone, because not everyone works that way. You work that way. Good for you."

"So I build a wall."

"Nnnyes and no. You build layers, you test yourself. Then the layers become the wall." Mikey inhales purposefully. "You've been building lots of layers, but that's all you've been doing. It smells like phylo dough."

Leo has no idea what phylo dough is, but he assumes it has to do with baking. He closes his eyes again and pictures layers of thin material working up to a wall that reaches impossible heights. It is quick, and sudden, and startling. Outside his head, his little brother whistles. "Dude. I'm kinda jealous. No wonder you're Splinter's favorite."

Leo opens one eye. "Yeah, but you're the one with the natural raw ability. You don't need to work as hard and meticulously as I do."

"That's all on you, dude. I'm not forcing you. And you can't force me, or any of us."

Good point. He feels pinpricks of guilt and deflated ego.

"Um, Leo?"

He looks up. Mikey sits there, still bandaged up with his dislocated shoulder wrapped. "I, uh. I need to know. And you gotta tell me the truth. No more cutesy stuff. Am…am I stupid? Am I useless?"

Leo freezes, pure fear and pure sadness enveloping him. "No," and it comes out in a choked whisper. "God, Mikey, no. Never."

"Then…why do I feel that way? When I screw up missions by being too loud, or getting distracted, it might as well be a neon sign over my head! And don't even try to lie. I feel it. I feel lots of things. April and I have been talking."

Leo does not want to think about April. Part of him still fears what she can do. But this is Mikey, and he's…Mikey.

Leo reaches out and grabs his brother's hand. "You are not stupid. And you are not useless. You have skills and talents that are invaluable to the team. And the truth…the truth is, Mikey, is that you have so much energy unbound and unrestrained. Your ADHD complicates matters but it's not hopeless. You have a unique brain. When we scold you for messing up, what we're really hoping is for you to understand and learn what's appropriate for different situations. I've noticed that since you've been meditating on your own, you seem less prone to outbursts and you've been paying attention a lot more."

Mikey ducks his head. "Guess I need to buy Donnie a thank you fruit basket."

"Huh?"

"He lets me hang out with him as long as I promise not to touch anything. He started answering all my silly questions and he says they're not silly, they're scientific. And it helps him remember things, when he tells me what things are and why they work."

Leo smiles. "The teacher, upon teaching the student, continues to learn."

Mikey nods vigorously. "Yeah, that. He's been so great. I just kinda want to do that for you, but I'm not a great teacher."

"You can be, though. The more you teach, the more you learn!"

Mikey grins. "Keep practicing. Imma check on Don and help change his bandages!" And Mikey sprints off, leaving Leo with an adoring smile and a lightness in his being.

The next day, everyone is in the pit, watching movies. Don is stretching slowly now with the new bandages, and Mikey is gently massaging his lower legs. They are feet to feet. From the couch, Leo can make out the sounds of giggling and muttering. Ah, sibling bonding.

Abruptly: "Oh, don't you dare, Mikey. Don't start with that! None of it was your fault. Besides, you caught me."

A loud sniffle. "I'll always catch you, Dee. Except when I'm scared I won't."

"Mikey, shut up and rotate my ankle."

Raphael makes a sound between a huff and a groan. "You saps." But he smirks at Leo, intense relief in his eyes. Chompy is on his shoulder, grinning.

There is movement at the turnstiles. April comes in, and she stands there and waves awkwardly. "The battle is being covered up by the government," she says. "How are you guys?"

Leo flinches a little, but Don and Raph smile at her. Mikey, however, watches her sit on a couch with wide eyes, then ducks his head, fingers twitching against Donnie's foot. Leo frowns at this. Quickly, he slips into meditation and pushes his mental senses outward to his baby brother. He can see the odd glow around Mikey's hand, the same glow around his head and between his eyes. Something else catches his senses, and he shifts his gaze to see April, looking at Mikey and grinning. Something is going on.

"Hey, that feels really good, Mikey," Donnie says. "Whatever you're doing, keep it up!"

And Leo draws in a heavy, uncertain breath.


Part Five

Over the last week, Mikey has been having violent nightmares and waking flashbacks to any one of his past attacks. Don and April say it's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Splinter agrees, likening them to his own flashbacks of the fire, Tang Shen's death, Miwa's disappearance. He sits with Mikey by the dojo tree and they meditate for hours. Sometimes, Leo can hear Mikey crying in that loose, wild, free way of a small child.

Sometimes Mikey falls asleep right after. Splinter has brought in a slender mattress and buckwheat pillow for him, and he will sleep like the dead. Several times, Leo will sit with him, meditating just to watch his brother's colors. Mikey will awaken confused, breathing heavily. Sometimes he will have a seizure, and Leo will hold him, and after a while Leo begins to see that same warm gold-orange light around Mikey's hands and in the center of his forehead. If Mikey grabs him during the seizure, Leo will feel a bizarre sense of deep peace and healing.

Leo goes to Donnie the day after and mentions this. Donnie nods, and thinks for a long, long time.

"I just realized something," he says. "Remember how Mikey alone understood Kraang tech, how in Dimension X he practically knew the whole place like he was born there?"

Leo nods, folding his arms.

"April and I talked about this a while back. What if…what if Mikey is a Dimension X being?"

Leo's jaw drops. "Wh-what does that mean?"

"I mean his mentality," Don says. "The way his brain works. We always figured it's ADHD, and it still is, but…but what if the Utrom slash Kraang mutagen did something to Mikey, something unique as April? I mean, he's already far more flexible than us. And he reacts to everything in his own unique way. It's like part of him constantly tries to defy the laws of physics. Think about it. He's constantly making and reacting to sound. His acrobatic movements are unique. He senses direct danger and subtle danger in unique ways, like a completely extra sense that is almost alien. He somehow understands chemistry as well as I do, in his own way. He understands his environment, his sense of self, and his sense of other people in ways that are almost telepathic! And from what I've heard, he seems to be slightly immune to alien tech that acts as mind control. Think about the wasp bites; it took him longer to be affected, enough to inject himself and save us. Plus, remember when he was captured by the Triceratons? That psionic extractor made him high as shit. It explains why he can be soothing and healing."

There is a long, long pause. Don's eyes are very wide, his breathing rapid. Leo thinks back to when Mikey touched him and he felt peaceful, as though Mikey could transfer loving emotion physically.

"So…" Leo bites his lip. "Mikey's mentality could be similar to a creature from Dimension X, and that could be where these new mental abilities are coming from."

"Yes. I asked April her thoughts on it. She froze up and sort of looked cagey, but then she agreed. Pretty vehemently." Donnie shrugs nonchalantly, a small smile on his face, and turns to his computer.

Leo narrows his eyes. April is hiding something.

Mikey is sitting on his bed meditating when Leo walks in. Ice Cream Kitty is next to him, eyes shut, purring. Music plays from the stereo. Mikey's feet are tapping.

Carefully, Leo sits on the other side of the bed, slipping into meditation enough to see colors. Mikey's colors are normal and steady, shimmering like a spinning chrome wheel. Even Ice Cream Kitty has colors, strangely enough. He is so fascinated that he doesn't notice when Mikey begins to stare at him.

"Can I help you, bro?"

Leo jumps.

"Ah, uh, right. Yeah. Um." Leo rubs the back of his neck. "Mikey, how often do you hang out with April alone?"

Mikey shrugs. "A lot. She lets me paint her nails and play with her hair."

"Um. Was there ever a long conversation you had? Like, about her Kraang powers?"

Mikey's whole body stiffens up.

Aha, Leo thinks.

"No," Mikey says with a rising inflection.

"Really? Not even after…after that whole dark period? You'd stolen her crystal, and you must have apologized, and she must have forgiven you. You had to have that talk, right?"

"Noooo?"

Leo sighs. "Mikey…"

"I can't tell anyone about it!" his brother suddenly cries. "I promised!"

Leo's eyes widen. "Promised what? Why?"

Mikey is shaking, looking down at his hands.

"Mikey?" Leo leans in, slides an arm around his shoulders. "Mikey, what is it? What's wrong? You're terrified."

"I…" His brother takes a deep breath. "Okay, yeah…um. I did take her aside to say I was sorry. And, um. She…she changed."

"She…the crystal? She turned dark and creepy?"

"Uh huh. And she. She did something. Touched me. It hurt my brain."

Leo feels a white anger coil inside him.

"It hurt. She kept blasting me, and she said that if I told anyone, she'd kill me. But—but that was a long time ago! She wasn't herself, Leo! Remember?"

Leo closes his eyes. "She threatened to kill you?"

"Yeah, but it wasn't her, it was the crystal! It was that Za-Naron demon or whatever! Leo! Don't freak out!" and Mikey grabs Leo's other arm, because the one around Mikey's shoulders has tightened considerably. "Leo, it's okay, I was okay. I came home, I went to sleep. I just had a headache. But…I think it did something."

Leo swallows, struggling to control himself.

"I think maybe it, like, kickstarted these new skills, okay? Like, me being able to read you guys."

Leo sighs, long long breaths. "Donnie thinks that maybe your brain is connected to Dimenson X. That's probably why you were so good with Kraang stuff."

Mikey just swallows. "Yeah, I kinda figured that out myself. I've been having dreams. About Dimension X. I feel like I know things."

Leo rubs his hand up and down Mikey's arm. "Mikey, I…I don't want to forbid you from being alone with April, but…"

"Dude, she's helping me! Come on! And she's not dangerous! She didn't mean to hurt Donnie-"

"She meant to hurt you." And Leo's eyes glitter. On Mikey's other side, Ice Cream Kitty mews and puts both paws on Mikey's thigh.

"Leo…"

"I need to meditate alone for a bit, Mikey. Please take care of yourself?" And Leo hugs him, firm and intense, and feels as if parts of himself are starting to break off.


He and Raph are sparring fiercely, and when Raph slams Leo down for the second time, there is a long pause, before Raph reaches down to help Leo stand.

"I think we're good for right now. What's with you, Fearless? You looked distracted."

Leo looks away. "Just thinking too much about stuff with Mikey."

"He's been havin' nightmares a lot." Raph's eyes are sad. "Poor kid."

"Are you doing all right?" Leo asks. "I mean, you were traumatized in that ambush too. You watched him get…violated. You killed the Foot."

"I'm fine," Raph dismisses. "I…I'm moving past it. Sometimes I take Chompy into Mikey's room to sleep with him. Chompy's a great cuddler." And he blushes a little.

Leo feels a wide grin stretch across his face. "Thanks, Raph. That's really good to know. Thanks for doing that."

Raphael shrugs. "It's Mikey," he says simply.

It is.

Leo refuses to confront April about what happened in the tunnels; it wouldn't matter anyway. But he does call his family for a meeting, while Mikey is in the shower, and says that Mikey had been "affected" by April's psychic waves through the crystal's enhancement, unlocking something in his mind. Donnie merely nods solemnly. Raph narrows his eyes, as does Splinter, but Leo is spared interrogation. When Mikey makes his appearance, Splinter simply requests that they meditate together, as Splinter has been sensing new energy within him. Mikey smiles, excited.


Part Six

It is one month since Leo asked Mikey to show him how to meditate in Mikey's way. During their battles, Mikey makes no secret of using his abilities to predict the enemy's movements, glimpse thoughts and emotions to use against a more intimidating foe, pull them out of danger that would have killed them. Leo feels swollen with pride. His baby brother hasn't changed too much – he still yells and dances, drawing attention. He still irritates them all and gets smacked and chased, and this time it's impossible to catch him because he senses them. But he is calmer now, quieter, more mature. His one-liners and quips have started making more sense, bringing a strange, oddball wisdom that Leo appreciates. His laughter is genuine and raw and especially Raph is struck, smiling when he thinks no one is looking. Raph has started meditating with Mikey, has started talking about the colors. Even Don does it now, although he's using his equipment. Mikey doesn't mind wearing funny headgear and sitting for hours while their brainiac calculates. He makes jokes, and sometimes Donnie messes up a calculation when he groans or laughs, and he becomes anxious and shakily angry. Mikey makes a petting motion in the air with his hand, and Don is instantly tranquil.

Casey has decided that Mikey is a superhero. Mikey happily encourages this.

Splinter and April, separately, will take Mikey alone for long talk and long walks.

Leonardo sometimes feels jealous when a family member has Mikey alone for the day. He waves it off, accepting it. Sometimes the Mikey-less peace and quiet lets him train or watch "Space Heroes" uninterrupted. But when it comes to meditation, Leo finds himself automatically reaching out for his littlest brother, hoping to forever connect with that wonderful flow, and he feels joy whenever Mikey connects back to him, reminding him that everything will always been in flow.


Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep
Everybody's worried about me
In too deep
Say I'm in too deep (in too deep)
And it's been two years I miss my home
But there's a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong (I'll be strong)
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Know I've still got a lot of fight left in me

-Rachel Platten, "Fight Song"