That We Are in This Together

The fall seemed to last forever. Mikey kept launching his grappling hook at random, and several times it grabbed part of the surrounding structure, but it only lasted long enough to slow down their fall. They were way below the surface right now, and Mikey had to wonder who had dug such a hole without putting at least one warning sign before it.

To be fair, maybe there had been one and Mikey hadn't seen it. It wouldn't have been the first time.

Anyways, it was Raph's fault for driving the truck. Mikey could not be faulted this time. And if Splinter asked, that's exactly what he would answer.

It was too dark for Mikey to see anything since the truck and its headlights had passed them by, scraping the walls of the hole in a sound that hurt Mikey's sensitive ears. For as second, he had been afraid that the truck would hit Donnie, who was falling below Mikey and Raph, but luckily that hadn't been the case. Mikey knew because he could still hear Donnie's shrill yell while the truck was already deeper down the hole… and…

A resounding crash gave Mikey a hint about where the bottom of the hole was, and the following explosion almost blinded him. The warmth of the flames stroking his face gave birth to a new concern: where could he land that wouldn't turn him into a fried turtle? And how could he catch Donnie, who didn't have a protective shell, before Donnie hit the inferno?

Mikey was focusing very hard not to panic, but the situation wasn't being cooperative at all.

Raph wasn't offering very useful advice, either. He was yelling a string of profanities that would have had him grounded for sure, had they still been together in the lair. Mikey made a mental note of the few expressions he didn't already know and ignored the rest. He had to focus on finding a way to grab Donnie. Maybe he could try using his grappling hook, but then how was he supposed to stop their fall without his two human brothers getting flattened on the ground?

An outcome that wouldn't do at all.

Mikey had almost decided to use the grappling hook anyways–Donnie was approaching way too close to the blazing truck–when a shadow passed right next to him. They were diving faster than Mikey, using a grappling hook with practiced skill but without slowing themselves much, and soon they reached Donnie's level.

Mikey watched as both the shadow and Donnie suddenly vanished from his sight. He redirected his fall closer to the place where he had last seen them, and just before he reached the bottom and its inferno, he realized that there was a tunnel entrance slightly above the ground.

Mikey landed inside that tunnel with less grace than he would have liked. But at least his shell cushioned Raph's landing enough that Raph wasn't crushed. Mikey 1, inferno 0.

Mikey let go of Raph and frantically turned around, looking for Donnie. He would jump right into the flames if he thought Donnie was here–and of course Donnie would be waiting for Mikey with a fireproof suit or something, because that was how clever Donnie was.

"Are you alright?"

Mikey froze at hearing Donnie's beloved voice behind him. It sounded raspy, but very much alive, and very much inside the same tunnel as Mikey.

Mikey took a few steps away from the tunnel entrance, so the light was less blinding and he could see a little more. Donnie was looking at him with a concerned expression, and behind him…

Behind him, a man in a black outfit sat against the wall, his gloved hands wrapping a bandage around his right knee. At the man's belt, Mikey saw a grappling hook and a dangerous-looking gun. A governmental level of danger, if you asked Mikey.

It was Leo. Mikey wanted to smile, because of course Leo had jumped in to save Donnie, but his facial muscles didn't move.

Leo's eyes fixed on Mikey. Mikey stepped forward, the deep blue of these irises pulling on his soul. One of Leo's hands closed around the gun, and Raph staggered in front of Mikey.

"What do you even think you're doing?" he spat, his voice uneven–probably a consequence of their fall, although Mikey could have told him of all the times they had come close to death in their life–but still very determined.

"I'm being careful," Leo said, in this cold, emotionless voice that was never supposed to be directed against one of his brothers. "Something you're definitely not."

Mikey wanted to protest that there was no need to be wary of him, because he was a very nice brother at least 99% of the time, but it occurred to him that Leo might also be referring to their failed escape attempt. In which case, he rather agreed that it hadn't been the most careful thing.

Donnie raised both hands in a gesture of peace. "How about we come back to this conversation later? I believe we have more pressing matters to deal with."

Outside the tunnel, the inferno raged anew. It must have found another source of fuel to feed on. The smoke was starting to invade the tunnel, and Mikey remembered something Donnie had once said about smoke, that it was bad for people's lungs and that it could make them very sick, and even kill them. Mikey hadn't listened to the precise biological explanation, instead teasing Raph about his then pet turtle Spike.

"We should go deeper and see if there is an exit." Donnie pulled part of his clothes in front of his mouth to breathe through. "And then…" His eyes briefly flicked first to Leo's knee, then to Raph, then to Mikey. "I could help with any injuries you might have. I have very good notions of medicine."

Raph cleared his throat, and Mikey had a feeling it wasn't only because of the smoke. "No thanks."

"I'm fine," Leo said at the same time. He stood up, obviously considering that he had patched himself up sufficiently.

Mikey would have rolled his eyes if he could have.

"He's right," Leo went on, his gaze going from Raph to Mikey as he placed a mask on his face. "If we stay here, we're all going to die."

Raph hesitated, visibly torn. Mikey decided to nudge him towards the right decision, and jumped deeper inside the tunnel.

"Wait!" Raph exclaimed.

Mikey ignored him and ran until he turned a corner and the others couldn't see him anymore. Then he stopped to listen.

"See? You scared him!" Raph was saying, his voice furious.

"Or he has more self-preservation than you," Leo retorted. "Let's go."

Mikey noted with glee that attacking him didn't seem in Leo's priorities right now. Such progress in so little time, very promising.

His three brothers started walking, and Mikey ran even deeper into the tunnel. The smoke was slowly gaining ground.

"We're going to need a light," Donnie said, his voice muffled by the cloth in front of his mouth.

A second later, Mikey heard a click and saw the distinctive ray of a flashlight.

"Nice," Donnie said. "I wish I had brought one, but…" He laughed nervously.

"And whose fault is that if we're not equipped?" Raph said matter-of-factly.

His voice was muffled too. Mikey was glad that he was listening to the voice of reason, aka Donnie.

"You could have stayed in the truck like you were supposed to," Leo pointed out. "You were safe in there."

"Nobody tells me to stay put and gets away with it," Raph said proudly.

Mikey nodded solemnly to himself. Raph was speaking the truth, and Leo should have known.

"Do you think that our mutant friend will be okay?" Donnie asked.

"He's not my friend," Leo retorted.

Mikey tried to ignore the sudden pang in his chest.

"Well, I definitely would say he's mine," Raph said. "He saved my life."

"He's a highly sentient life form, capable of amazingly elaborated behavior," Donnie said, his voice enthusiastic. "I can't believe I was lucky enough to meet him!"

"And he's highly dangerous, too," Leo added.

Raph snorted. "Are you serious? Anybody could tell that he's a sweet soul who wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Am I the only one who noticed that he's carrying at least four separate sets of weapons?" Leo said.

He sounded exasperated, and Mikey pictured him crossing his arms. He was tempted to go closer and have a look, but he didn't want to disrupt his brothers' current conversation.

Maybe something would come out of it? Maybe it would sparkle memories?

It was worth a try. Due to Leo's current and incomprehensible position, Mikey's presence would only antagonize them. However, if he just waited while his brothers talked to each other…

Donnie cleared his throat. "No, I noticed too."

Raph didn't answer, which must mean that he had also noticed. It would have been hard not to, considering he had clung to Mikey's neck during the entire fall.

Mikey was tempted to leave his brothers' weapons on the floor, but they hadn't seemed to recognize them, and he had other things to worry about right now.

The tunnel was becoming larger, and Mikey decided to hide near its ceiling. There was more smoke here, but Mikey could hold his breath for several minutes without problems.

Although it might only postpone the problem, because the tunnel abruptly ended with what looked very much like a reinforced door. He waited, hiding as best as he could while his brothers came closer.

They stopped in front of the closed door. Mikey was painfully aware of the way Leo was warily looking at the ceiling, no doubt looking for him.

"Look," Donnie said, not an ounce of panic in his voice. "It opens with an access card."

Mikey was extremely grateful to have him here, noticing such important things while Mikey himself was busy trying to hide from Leo's piercing gaze.

"Can Mister Agent here open it?" Raph asked.

"I don't have this level of authorization," Leo said behind gritted teeth, as if it costed him to admit it.

"Do you have another access card?" Donnie extended his hand as if he already knew the answer.

Without a word, Leo handed him a rectangular piece of plastic.

Donnie once more brought out his screwdriver and started messing with something near the door. Mikey could have sworn he saw Leo's eyes widen in surprise, but the smoke was starting to reach the bottom of the tunnel, so maybe he was imagining things.

"No pressure here, but I'd be deeply grateful to you if you could hurry." Raph coughed.

Donnie didn't grace him with an answer. After a few moments, the door turned upon its hinges, which didn't surprise Mikey at all.

Donnie was awesome at that stuff. Donnie was awesome, period.

"How did you learn to do that?" Leo asked, something very close to awe in his voice.

Donnie cleared his throat. "Well, you see, the interesting areas in a laboratory aren't always the most accessible." He motioned for the others to move forward. "Please continue. I'll close the door behind us, so the smoke won't follow us inside. It's far enough from the inferno that it shouldn't melt."

Raph and Leo seemed to hesitate, looking at each other for a reason Mikey didn't understand, then Leo moved forwards and Raph followed.

Mikey couldn't see them anymore, which was frustrating, but Donnie glanced at them through the door.

"Please move further away. I need room to work."

After a few more seconds, Donnie looked at the ceiling, not quite at Mikey but close enough. A valiant effort.

"You too, please," Donnie whispered. "You can't stay here, you'll choke."

Mikey didn't need to be told twice. He slid inside, so fast that Donnie might not have felt more than a rustle of air, and jumped to the ceiling once more.

Well. He tried to jump on the ceiling. This place seemed way higher than the tunnel had been.

Mikey grabbed grips on the wall and climbed up. And up. And up.

"What is this place?" Raph asked.

The door closed, and Leo, who had been using his flashlight to light Donnie, turned it towards the open space. It couldn't reach its end.

"Wait," Donnie said. "I think I've seen a switch…here."

Lights were suddenly switched on, and Mikey stopped in his tracks to check if he had been spotted.

But Leo, Raph and Donnie were too busy watching the place they were in. The vast, dusty, seemingly endless space occupied with prefabricated buildings and suspicious machines as far as the eye could see.

"Now that's unexpected," Donnie said.

Mikey could only agree.