Floating upon the brink of consciousness.
It was nice.
No harsh lights from the cell burning his eyelids, no clanking of chains. It was heaven. Maybe he had died? No… His Master would not allow that to happen so easily… But he had been gradually getting bored of his games. Maybe, just maybe, he had finally let him die… Wouldn't that be something?
Blue could hear faint voices, whispers like those from the past. Tones holding love and concern as opposed to fear and hate… It had to be a dream… He longed to find out if it were truly possible that he had escaped his Master and the humiliation he felt every time he saw the man, yet he feared that the moment he dared to open his eyes he would be faced with the broken bodies of the ones he used to consider brothers. And that would mean facing his failures all over again.
As he continued to float just upon the brink of consciousness, the freak began to feel a dull ache in his body which seemed to grow stronger every second he focused on it. It started with a faint throbbing in his lower region – the memories of what the Master had done to him still strong – yet the pain seemed to spread through his body, touching his wrists and shoulders until it morphed into a horrendous burning sensation of his plastron which seemed to cut into his very being. With a jolt he recalled the image of the metal grid hovering above him, drawing ever closer and for a moment he was certain he could feel the heat of that grid again.
Oh gods... No… Not again…
Then, out of nowhere a hand touched his shoulder and the mutant snapped into consciousness, flinching from the touch. He hadn't escaped… He was still alive… No… Please… His eyes flew open and saw the blurry figure hovering above him.
"Please… Master… No…" He begged, his throat screaming in protest after the damage he must have done to it during the grid torture. He didn't want to be taken again. He wanted to escape, to die. Anything that would allow him to escape this hell. He was hyperventilating now in his semi-delirious state, of that much he was aware of, and he knew his Master would punish him for his reaction, but he couldn't calm down.
Then he heard a voice.
"You're safe now, my son. You are home. I am sorry we did not get to you sooner… Please… Be strong…"
Slowly, the turtle's gaze turned to the voice. He recognised it. But who… If not the Master?
It was Splinter…
Blue suddenly wished he was back with the Master now, the one he had called out for and submitted to. He couldn't face Yoshi like this… He was a failure to this being, unworthy of being in his presence when he had not completed the role Yoshi expected of him… What punishment would be sentenced upon him now?
"You're brothers are safe. You're all home." Splinter soothed, yet this made Blue tense even more. So they had been rescued? They had been taken away from the Master thus unleashing his wrath? And now the rat would be able to see what had happened to his precious sons because Blue could not protect them…
"I… I'm… No… Ham…ato…" He could barely form the words, yet the rat didn't seem to hear for he leaned closer, making the turtle long to pull away. Any thought of physical contact frightened him… Seeing through blurry eyes the puzzled expression of Splinter, Blue tried to make his message clear.
"No… Brothers… All… Broken…" The turtle breathed. He allowed his eyes to drift shut once more, the mere action of producing speech taking too much effort.
"Leonardo…?" The turtle felt the jolt of his old name and just about managed to shake his head as the exhaustion crept back upon his form.
"Not… Leo… Only… Blue…" He whispered yet before he could find out the rat's reply he found himself falling back into darkness, the disappointment in Yoshi's wide eyes all the proof he needed of how much of a failure his old sensei saw him as.
His hands hurt. For so long they had become numb that the sudden realisation that they hurt was difficult to comprehend. For a moment he was so shocked at this that he didn't notice his sore body was resting upon a soft surface rather than the cold concrete which had been his bed during his capture.
Then the realisation hit him that there was also no tightness to the skin around his lips. Cautiously he licked the inside of his lips, feeling the puckered skin where the needle had passed through, yet there was no evidence of the crude cotton used to silence him.
So it hadn't been a dream…
Splinter had found him…
Orange slowly opened his eyes, savouring the soft glow which he discovered, rather than the harsh lighting which had kept him awake for so long. But it was the sight before him which finally brought the overwhelming sense of relief. In a chair, watching over the four beds around the room, was Orange's old Master – the one he used to view as father – his gaze full of compressed rage.
This forced the turtle to turn away. That look was the same he had seen upon the Master's face before his punishments. The fear rose inside before he could control it and a faint whimper escaped his newly released lips. He heard the foreboding sound of footsteps rushing to his side and he prepared himself for his punishment at making a noise.
"Michelangelo?" Splinter's voice was gentle and a shudder passed through the young turtle's frame. Supressing his terror, he shut his eyes. Orange wasn't used to such soft tones, the last time he had hear such softly spoken words was just before his brothers learnt of how useless he was and had shunned him… And that was a memory he did not wish to re-visit.
"My son, are you awake?" Grudgingly, Orange obeyed. Never again would he resist the will of another. He was nothing but a lowly pet, he could not disobey for fear of punishment.
Before his face, he found the relieved features of the rat he had once loved. He nodded, not saying a word. He couldn't be permitted that luxury after the dishonour he had brought upon the Hamato clan.
"You are safe now, we're among friends. Your brothers are all here."
Orange closed his eyes at the last words.
How could he tell Splinter of how he had let them down? How he had been the weak link in the Hamato chain? That he hadn't been any use to those he once thought of as his family.
"Are you in pain, my son?" The mutant longed to deny it, to sound strong, yet he could feel the pain in his carapace now where his Master had taken away part of his shell as a trophy.
The rat's face fell slightly and Orange could feel the cold blow of disappointment. He was too weak. Even Splinter could see that.
The rat disappeared from sight for a moment to do something with the IV stand hanging above his bed and within moments Orange felt something enter his bloodstream, dulling the pain almost instantly.
He saw Splinter hover above him for a moment longer as his vision began to swim. Just as he allowed himself to drift back into unconsciousness he saw the rat's lips move.
"We shall get through this… Together…"
Orange could only shake his head.
He wanted to explain to the ninja how their brotherly bonds had been broken, how they were not the sons Splinter had once known, but the darkness was pulling him away leaving him with the fading image of the rat's saddened expression as he watched Orange's denial.
The darkness surrounded his mind and, at last, everything dropped away.
The first thing Red gained awareness of upon regaining consciousness was the fact he no longer felt the oppressive pressure of the muzzle he had been forced to wear for so long. He blinked awake groggily, confused as he took in his surroundings.
No collar pressed against his neck, no chains held his limbs tight… Something was up…
He wished he could lift himself up and find out what was happening, but he felt too weak. Besides, if the Master was there he would…
"Raphael?" The hopeful cry pierced Red's sluggish mind and he turned slowly to the voice.
He was home…?
No. This wasn't the lair…
As Red looked around he saw two beds to one side of him and another to the other side. The ones he used to call brothers… But that was before they betrayed Mikey and before the Master had made him care too much about his own mortality.
Now he was hooked up to various tubes and wires, plastic full of clear liquids and blood snaked their way into his wrists, supposedly keeping him alive.
Their presence was reassuring.
"You gave us quite the scare. Your wounds were very severe, my son. You and Leonardo both were in a very precarious condition…" Red screwed his face up at these words.
The names sounded so foreign. Surely the rat knew that they were Red and Blue…
Red frowned. He wanted to explain how strange this all was to the rat, yet his throat felt too thick as if he had been swallowing sawdust. His hand moved to the wires attached to him and the Rat placed a hand upon his own, halting all movement.
"You need those. I know you're warrior's spirit yearns to get rid of such aids but –"
"No…" Red finally managed, straining at the effort it took to keep a hold on the wires. "More…" He begged. "Don't… don't want…. To… die…" He breathed as his eyes rolled back into his head as he felt himself slipping further away from the brief period of clarity he had gained. He was exhausted. His eyes just wanted to close.
"Oh my son…" He heard Splinter breathe softly and he heard the horror in the words. "What happened to you…?"
That did it.
Red released the wires and allowed his hand to fall back to the warm sheets as he drifted away.
He was no warrior anymore. He had let everyone down. He was too weak…
That much was clear to everyone…
The pain in his back woke him with a jolt. He gasped then stifled his cry as he remembered the way the Master would react. He gritted his teeth before he realised soothing was amiss.
He wasn't laying on the floor of a cell. He was in an actual bed.
Wait… Was that…?
Splinter's concerned face appeared at his side, Purple winced.
"I am sorry, Donatello." The voice bore clear traces of shame. "The infection to your back was severe and I had to remove sections of your shell to allow you to heal…"
Purple looked away, unable to meet the rat's gaze.
As shocking as this news was, it meant nothing in comparison to the thoughts of what he would say if he learnt how Purple had made a deal with the Master… He knew that Splinter would love to tear apart all the pieces of his shell from his back if he knew the truth. Purple had betrayed the clan and brought shame upon their name.
He couldn't face the concern he was receiving. He didn't deserve it.
Purple opened his mouth, forming the words with great difficulty through his parched throat.
"Rest, my son. You must gather your strength."
"No…" Purple finally managed. "No pity… Give it all… To your… actual… sons…"
With the fateful words spoken, the turtle turned so his weight was not resting upon his back before he closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off to sleep, leaving his old Master looking down upon him with a broken expression.
"Oh my son…" The old rat whispered to himself. "What did that monster do to you all…?"
Since their initial awakening, Splinter had managed to coax very few words from his sons, their only words when they finally did use their voices being to request water, more pain controlling drugs or to deny to acknowledge their names. It was this last point which troubled the poor father the most.
From the little they had seen when they had rescued the four brothers, the group had realised that this Master had tried to "tame" Splinter's sons and from what the rat had witnessed from being by his sons' sides, he had succeeded.
Every time Splinter had talked with his sons, he had gained more of a sense of what his sons were feeling, and it filled him with horror. They were all guilt ridden, full of self-hating and – worst of all – certain that they had let down Splinter and were no longer part of the family.
But this was before they had all had a chance to sit down together to discuss what had happened to them all. Thus far the turtles had all been awake for short periods of time and alone. Not once had Splinter found more than one of his sons awake at a time, and he had a feeling that as soon as he could, he should bring them all together to talk.
He had seen hatred and humiliation in their eyes, and his fear was that he was the cause of such strong emotions. He had been the one who had failed them. He had not found them sooner and had left them in the hands of a monster.
Splinter doubted his sons could forgive him, yet he longed for a chance to apologise, to spark a heart to heart session and try and get them to open up about their experiences.
The only trouble was the dull lights in their eyes.
He had seen such a look before, many years ago when his precious Tang Shen had been murdered and his beloved daughter taken from him. For a long time he had lost all hope and had given into his despair, and that was the exact look he now saw in his sons' eyes.
He needed to help them, he just hoped he could…
Sorry for the long wait. Been another hectic week, but I shall try and get this thing moving a little faster soon!
A little look into their minds before we dive into the plot.
-Will they heal?
-Will Splinter eventually get through to them?
-When shall the Master reappear?
-Will the guys open up easily?
Thank you so much to you amazing people who have already reviewed and shown your support, please keep it coming! Things should get more interesting next chapter.
I'm going to see my favourite band at the start of next weekend so no clue if I'll be in the mindset to write a full chapter then, but I shall try. :)