Bad Places

by KC

Disclaimer: Ninja Turtles belong to someone else. Not me.

Rain and concrete. His whole world reduced to just two sensations, the rough concrete beneath his face and the rain stinging his skin, washing the blood away. He lay still for a long time, eyes closed. Lights flashed over his eyelids as a car passed nearby and disappeared.

Finally outside again. He opened his eyes and found his swords in front of him, their wet edges gleaming. They'd never been so sharp before. He'd sharpened them every spare moment, often depending on them alone to save him.

With a groan, he pushed himself up onto his knees and tipped his head back, letting the water run down his face. His arms hung limp at his sides. Hard to believe he was out, really out, in a soaked alley, drenched, alive. Mostly uninjured, even. He lowered his head and watched the blood rinse off his hands, pooling around him. Alive. He laughed once in relief, but he couldn't stop, his laughter turning hysterical and hurting his throat as it turned into one long scream.

It trailed off and he gasped for breath, not knowing why he screamed. Not triumph or success, not despair or anger either. He put his arms around himself to make sure he was still there. A faint scream miles away answered him. His first true smile appeared as the scream passed through him, full of frustration and gore. It quickly faded again.

"He made it," he whispered. "We both made it."

He wondered if Felix was walking back to his home by now, but soon gave up that thought. The man could take care of himself. He was probably thinking the same about him.

Only as his body started to shiver did he realize he was cold. He gathered his swords and slipped them into their drenched sheaths, then stood and followed the route home, barely aware of his movements. After being hyperaware for so long, the mindless routine of walking back was a relief. He didn't think about his master or siblings beyond the fact that they'd have questions he couldn't answer. Yet.

The lair was empty. He closed the door softly and turned on the light, heading first to the shower and dropping his swords on the way. Though he passed the mirror, he didn't look in. He already knew he was still covered in blood. With the shower turned as hot as he could stand, he stepped in and stared at the floor, watching red rivulets run down the drain. He wondered why it wasn't stopping, then remembered he was still wearing his bandana and paddings. He tossed them out on the floor. They were ruined anyway. He'd have to get a new sheath for his swords, too. The old ones were stiff with dried blood.

Finally he came out again and looked in the mirror. He blinked and looked closer. Aside from a few bruises and one healing burn, there was no sign of all the fighting and killing. He looked as strong as ever. Even his eyes looked brighter. He reminded himself of his swords, tempered and honed by use.

His footsteps echoed in the lair. Odd for everyone to be out, especially when one of them had been missing. He thought about trying to contact them, then remembered his communicator had been destroyed a long time ago. He frowned. How long? Where he had been, time had lost its meaning. He went into the kitchen and found the calendar open to July.

"Three months?" he whispered.

The calendar boxes were filled with scribbles in each of his brothers' handwriting, Donatello's neat letters as he marked the sewer and street directions he'd searched, Raphael's long scrawls about uptown alleys and corporate backways, and Michelangelo's round bubbles detailing the wharves and ocean shore. Numerous notes mentioned April or Casey, and he was certain Splinter had done his own share of searching.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to no one, "you couldn't find me no matter how hard you looked. I was in a game." He laughed once. "And I'm fine. No need to worry anymore."

He turned away from the calendar. Although he wasn't hungry, he figured he probably should eat something and opened the refrigerator. The first thing he saw was an open box of pizza.

--the smell of burning skin as the laser struck her arm and cut downwards with a spray of blood and tissue and she screamed and screamed and screamed--

He nearly didn't make it to the bathroom in time.

Something cold touched his face. Before his eyes had opened, his hand closed around someone's wrist and yanked it aside as he sat up. He winced as the room seemed to tilt around him and found that, unlike a few hours ago, his whole body was sore.

"Owowow, hey Leo, y'wanna let go?"

It took him a moment to recognize his youngest brother's voice. He opened his hand and looked up. Mike rubbed his wrist with a grimace, but the look in his eyes was nothing but relief. Even with his mask, Leo could see dark circles under his eyes.

"You guys never stopped looking," he said.

Mike shook his head. "Not once. The first night you didn't come back, we just thought you got pinned down before dawn and couldn't get away without being seen. We went out looking the second night, all the routes you usually take. After that, we looked everywhere, and I mean everywhere."

"Yeah, I saw the calendar," Leo said.

"Uh-huh, that was Raph's idea. I think we broke into every corporation and lab in town, just in case someone had caught ya. Splinter was at April's since we didn't wanna leave him here alone." He looked over his sibling. "Around the second month he started thinking you'd died. He couldn't find you when he was meditating. And there weren't any traces of you anywhere."

"I was gone," Leo said. "You wouldn't have found me, no matter how much you looked."

"What happened? Where were you?"

"A very bad place," he said. "I couldn't get out. I had no idea how much time had gone by until I got back."

"And you didn't get hurt?" Mike asked.

A bitter laugh came out of him, but he managed to bite it back before he went into another laughing fit. "Not for their lack of trying."

He glanced around himself. The room was dark, but he made out the shape of the door and the edges of a bed. His room, then. That explained the blanket over him. Weird, he didn't remember coming here.

Mike noticed his look and nodded. "I helped you in here. I came home a couple hours ago and found you passed out on the couch. You woke up a bit and let me get you into bed. Looked like you needed it."

"I don't remember that at all."

"What do you remember?"

"Coming home in the rain. Taking a shower. I was going to eat something but..."

--gunfire right next to him as he pressed down on the gash but she wouldn't stop bleeding. She was starting to turn pale and Felix yelling "I can't hold 'em back"--

"I don't think I'll be eating for awhile," he said.

Mike glanced out the door at something. "Your sheaths are more blood than leather."

"Not my fault. I hardly used them."

"Don noticed your bandanna first. I had to calm him down, he thought you were bleeding to death."

"They're all home?"

"Not yet. Don was just closest. Raph's on his way, he had to swing by April's and pick up Splinter." He noticed how Leo's eyes were closing again and sighed. "Why don't you get some more sleep? I'll come by later."

Leo nodded once and lay down without a word, turning away slightly. He heard Mike stand and leave, closing the door behind him, and then Donatello's voice as the two spoke in low whispers. And beneath that, he heard the echo of heavy footsteps and the scrape of claws against stone. He knew it was only water moving through pipes and whatever machinery Donatello was working on, but his mind heard it as the familiar sounds of the white crawling monsters and brown demon things searching for him, separated only by an unlocked door.

When sleep finally came, it was thankfully dreamless.