Three weeks after Raphael forced his brother to come home, he found himself running after him again, leaping over rooftops and occasionally vaulting over streets, using the moonlight to find his way. The rain had finally stopped, leaving the brightest stars in the cloudless sky, but it also left the rooftops slippery. He took out the tracking device and looked at the dot. Still hadn't moved.
It took five minutes to reach downtown. It took half an hour to scale the tall building without being spotted. By the time he reached the roof, he was panting for breath and leaning against the ledge, but there, sitting against an air conditioner unit with a large drawing pad, was his brother, staring without his mask at the sky. Raph walked over to him and sat down cross-legged.
Leo didn't look up or stop drawing. "How do you keep finding me?"
"Like I'm gonna tell you?"
"It's getting annoying."
"If I tell you, will you promise not to stop me from finding you?"
Leo put down his pencil and looked up. "Yes."
"Your communicator. Don's got a tracking device in all of 'em." He held up the tracker and showed his sibling the screen. "Follow the blinking dot."
"That's impossible," Leo said, frowning. "My com was destroyed in the game."
"Uh, hello?" Raph tapped the communicator tucked in back and to the right of Leo's belt. "You've had one since you came back."
"But..." Leo frowned. He honestly didn't remember picking it up and hadn't used it ever, thinking that Donatello was too preoccupied with his new gadgets to make new communicators. But apparently he'd had it for weeks and hadn't noticed. It was small enough to go unnoticed, durable, and probably he just never paid it any mind. "I think I know. When I first came home, I blacked out for a few hours. I don't remember any of that time. I must have picked it up then."
"And forgot all about it?" Raph asked skeptically. "That's sounds a little farfetched to me."
Leo glanced at his drawing, mostly darkness except for a few hazy clear lines. "No...not farfetched at all," he said softly. "Maybe I wanted to be found."
Raph thought about teasing him for being so hard headed about it, then let it drop. It had been a rough few months for his sibling, he could cut him a little slack. He reached into his belt and pulled out a small card. "Postcard. He sent it to April's shop."
Leonardo took the offered card and glanced at the picture of the Las Vegas strip, then flipped it over. Felix's handwriting, messy as usual, read "Still on vacation. Gotta love government jobs. Chanta's new face is on, looks like Marilyn Monroe now. Won a million at blackjack, gave half to Uncle Sam. Damn taxes. Later. P.S. Got called just now. Back to work."
"What're they doing?"
"Targeted assassination," Leo said as easily as if it were accounting. He noticed Raph's look and sighed. "They only go after bad guys."
"Uh-huh. And is that blood I smell?"
"Yeah, I ran into a girl gang knocking over a liquor store on the way here." He glanced at his sibling and noticed his look had darkened. "I let them live," he insisted. "Just a few shallow cuts."
Raphael's look didn't improve.
"Look, they limped away, okay?" Leo snapped. "In a few days, they'll be good as new and packing guns this time. Better?"
Raph held his hands up to mollify him and Leo went back to drawing. Raphael sighed. His brother was still testy about how he fought. Getting him to agree not to kill unless absolutely necessary had been easy enough. Getting him to agree not to mangle his enemies so they could never fight again was not so easy, and his idea of a few shallow cuts included slowly bleeding to death or even dragging themselves away screaming in pain. But apparently Leo was getting a little better. He looked over Leo's arm at the picture and frowned, unable to make it out.
"What are you doing?"
"Re-learning out how to draw light." They both looked at the ghostly white pillars in the middle of Manhattan reaching from the ground to the sky, fading amongst the clouds. "I'll never see the way I used to. But this, this I can see."
Raph looked from the light to the drawing and made out the shape this time, and he could even spot the technique Leo used to both blur the line yet make it straight and well-defined. "Your light looks almost as good as your water."
That got a grin out of his sibling. "Did you like it? It was my second attempt. I think I captured your splashing quite well."
"Some day when you're not expecting it, I'll push you into that stream," Raph said. "Of course, I could just grab you and throw you in. Not like you could do much to stop me."
Leo glared at him again. "Don't start that again."
"You've been skimping on your training," Raph said. This he wouldn't back down on. "I know, I know, you practice with your swords, but that's just to keep your speed up. You need to work on regaining at least some of your strength."
Leo didn't bother arguing. They both knew it was true, but if he would never be able to see like them again, he didn't know why Raph couldn't figure out that he'd never be as powerful as them again either. All his muscle was now tuned for speed, and in that none of them could match him, but as for strength...he had a hard time moving the heavier weapons racks. Even Mike could move the rows of spears without much effort.
"No matter how much I train, most of it won't come back."
"I know, but you still need to try." Raph smirked. "Either you get back to training, or I'll send you out with Don every day on his equipment runs."
Repressing a shiver, Leo tried not to imagine the hell of carting one box after another back to the lair, and some of those things were so heavy Don had to drag them... "Fine, fine. Whatever."
Raph grinned. This had to be the only perk of the job. "Y'gonna come home soon? I'm getting tired of running after you when you take off. And worried. No offense, but you're still not one hundred percent."
"Welcome to the Paranoid Fearless Leader club," Leo said unsympathetically. "You can be vice-president."
"Just a few more minutes," he said. "I've got to get this down. I'll need the technique for later."
Raph considered for a moment, then nodded. "I saw the mural."
Leo paused, then continued drawing. "Yeah?"
"Yeah...for your first time with paint, it's pretty good."
"It's not my first time," Leo admitted. "I never told you guys about the graffiti I put all over this city."
"What?" Raph sat straight, eyes wide as his jaw dropped.
"You can probably still see them, the owners and residents never take 'em down," Leo said, oblivious to his brother's reaction. "My first one's aren't so good, but I still like my first dragon better than the rest."
"Yeah, wasn't so easy working in the dark back then. Now it's easier."
Raphael leaned back against the air conditioner rumbling behind them. Had Leo faced this dilemma, too? To tell Splinter or not to tell Splinter, that was the question. He decided against it. If Leo was right and no one was upset, what was the harm? And doing the mural for April's front kept him out of trouble, he guessed. It explained why the Chinese dragon curling around her windows was coming out so good.
"Did April tell you the latest?"
"No," Leo said, looking back and forth between the sky and the sketch. "What's that?"
"One of her neighbors loves your dragon. He wants to commission a snake for his tattoo parlor."
Leo paused but didn't say anything.
"And," Raph continued, "if it works out, he's got a Hispanic friend who wants a huge Virgin and a tribute to soldiers on the back of his church." He noticed the doubtful look on his brother's face. "April says she's willing to go between for a cut."
Suddenly Leo smiled. "So I'd be too busy to train? Tell her she's got a deal."
"Huh? Wait, I never said--"
"I'll want the right to refuse commissions," Leo continued, "and she'll have to keep me in supplies. And I only paint at night, and the client absolutely cannot be there while I work."
"Wait a minute, you still have to train--"
"Sorry, Raph, too busy to talk. But think about it, we'll finally be able to pay for our own things instead of living off April."
Raph had to concede that point. "...Splinter ain't gonna like it."
"You're Fearless Leader number two, you can tell him," Leo said.
"Hey, you're Fearless Leader number one, you tell him yourself."
"Uh-uh, I only lead in a fight and when you need help."
"Okay, then, I order you to keep up with your training no matter how busy you are."
"Y'know, you're not half as good at this as I am. You really need to practice your delivery."
"I'm gonna practice throwing you off this roof in a minute."
Leo slipped his pencil into the clip at the top of the pad and tucked it into the back of his belt. "Okay, all done."
With a laugh, Raphael pretended to write a note. "Note to self: threatening to throw him off things works on Leo."
"That can go right next to my notes," Leo said, "teasing Raph makes him work."
They both stood up, Leo with a groan as he stretched out from his position, and they stepped close to the ledge. For a moment they simply watched the cars and people run by dozens of stories beneath them. From their vantage, New York glittered and sparkled and shone, as awake at night as during the day. Raphael could see it easily, but Leo winced slightly.
"They send you to get me?"
"Nah. I got worried." Raphael prepared to go down and slid over the side, glancing up at his brother. "You coming?"
"Just a minute."
He looked out over the bay at Liberty's torch, brilliant, blazing, a lamp in the night shining brighter than any star, and behind her a sea of darkness extending to the horizon. Without his mask, hers was one of the few lights he could stand, and with a sigh he slipped his mask back on. New York's light muted, turning from white to gold, but living in perpetual twilight was much more comforting than the constant shifts between night and day.
On his back, he felt his sketches more than he did his swords. His pencils and paints were becoming as important as his weaponry, a second way to define himself. Self-Portrait number two might be himself working on a large painting as it might be him practicing in the lair. Slowly he was becoming the artist, winning dominance over the mindless killer that would always sleep inside him. The outcome was not certain, not yet, but he had friends, he had family, and with their support, he did not think he would fail.
I want to thank everyone who read and especially everyone who reviewed. This would never have come out as quickly as it did without your comments to push me on. As I'm going into my next semester, I'll be drawing on your praises and few critical remarks to help sustain me as I begin and work on my master thesis. I've never had so many wonderful long reviews on one story, and I appreciate all of them, believe me. Despite the work, this has been a fun and rewarding project, and for better or worse, it's done.