Author's comments: FunkyKiwi, I'm so glad that you are actively reviewing this neglected tale and if for no other reason than your audience, I am determined to finish it. ;) Thank you!
Disclaimer: I don't own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any names, characters, places or events therein covered by the copyright. My only claim to this is my OC 'Madeline'. (See comment above Disclaimer in chapter 1 for why not to sue me)
-- CHAPTER 13 --
By the time the eldest brother returned to the station lair it was late enough that Leonardo felt the need to employ stealth. If he were lucky enough that the others weren't waiting up for him then he was in no mood to rouse them otherwise.
Descending the few rungs down the metal ladder, he tossed a glance over his shoulder and found that most of the overhead floodlights had been switched off, leaving the platform in relative dimness. The television was dark and silent and the table near the train car actually cleared off, lacking dirty dishes or random junk cluttering its surface. It looked stark, like someone had made an obvious attempt to clean up. And the blue-banded ninja could not help but feel it was a gesture made for him.
With deft ease Leo slid down the rest of the drop, hands slipping over the outer struts of the metal to drop him quietly onto the cold concrete without a sound. At the bottom, he shrugged out of his wet parka, the nylon material whispered against itself as he removed it, hanging it over a small valve wheel protruding from the pipes lining the alcove edge before he emerged onto the stairs.
One step at a time, until he reached the bottom and still no sign of occupation. Finally, the turtle allowed the grin to break out onto his features and his shoulders sagged in relief. His smile was full-blown showing all of his straight, white teeth against his dark complexion, the silly look bellying the caution with which he padded over the platform towards the box car parked on the rails.
Passing the table, an irregularity in the dark caught his eye and when he turned to inspect its surface he found that it had not been cleaned off as completely as first thought. Folded up into a long rectangle was a sheet of paper, his name scrawled on the surface facing up with a familiar hand.
Only Raph wrote like that: sharp and jagged strokes, as if impatient to finish one word and move along to the next. His script was like his fighting style- wild and sometimes unfocused.
The memory of his last interaction with his brother reared in Leonardo's mind and he almost left the missive there. But a step away and his curiosity got the better of him. Brows creasing in contemplation, the swordmaster turned on his heel and swept it up into his hand before heading into the carriage and to his bedroom at the end.
Not until the sliding door was shut carefully, very carefully to avoid the panel knocking against the frame, did Leonardo try to light the lamp in his room. It took only a moment in order to find the matches on his bookcase, even in the dark and another to pluck one out between his blunt fingertips. He lit the prayer candle on the shrine at one end of his room and snuffed out the taper, quickly unfolding the letter in his grasp to read it. The paper scraped against itself as he straightened it out and read the words by the glow of the tiny flame shining through the layer to reveal their outline.
Surprisingly, for an entire page, there was very little printed there.
Sorry about the chick. I know you're gonna miss her.
Left you some pepperoni pizza in the refridgerator and a dr pepper.
Splinter wants us to train first thing. All of us.
See you there.
"Huh, well, what do you know…" Leo murmured wistfully to himself as he re-folded the letter and slipped it onto his shrine table. It was maybe the closest thing to an apology he could remember coming from his hot-headed and stubborn sibling. Which made it something to be valued indeed.
Considering what to do about the letter, the ninja quietly went about undressing for sleep: first unstrapping his katanas from their harness across the back of his shell and then working on the thick pads as every joint. Last went the bandana bound tightly across his eyes, the knot unworked with his thick digits and the cloth wound into a heap atop the small but orderly pile of equipment in front of his bookcase.
I know you're gonna miss her, he had written. If only Raphael knew, the turtle mused, a smile returning to him as he relaxed bonelessly onto his mattress. The worn springs groaned faintly with his weight as the turtle tossed a leanly sculpted arm above his head, splayed across his pillow heavily and cocked a knee to lean it against the wall.
His memory inorexably returned to hours before, in Madeline's apartment, when he had indulged that crazy impulse that hammered inside his brain. When he had been so afraid she had liked another man that he had been prepared to squander his last moments with her to storm out like a child. When he had pulled her against him and kissed her… And she had not only let him, she had actually kissed him back!
Am I going crazy? Please don't let that be just a dream… Leonardo silently pleaded to whatever deity would listen.
Just as his eyelids had begun to grow heavy and the memories of that human girl began to blur in his mind's sight, three distinct taps sounded above his head against his doorframe. Leo's gaze snapped wide awake and he sat up to stare over his shoulder at the threshold, watching as the panel was slid open.
Mikey stood there in the few inches exposed by the open door. He was without his garb also, obviously having already turned in some time ago, the brown eyes of his little brother unfocused from sleep.
"Hey, Leo," his sibling croaked, his usually jovial voice scratchy. Absently, Michelangelo also scratched at where his neck met his plastron. "You up?"
It was a redundant question, but Leonardo humored him, nodding silently in the dark.
"Listen, man..." the other began softly, pausing as if he wasn't sure how to say it. "I… I liked her a lot too… And even though Splinter says it's better this way, I wish she coulda stayed… Watched cartoons with me and shit… Erm, well, listened to 'em… Whatever, you know."
The elder managed to tone the smile that crept onto his lips, wary that despite the shadows he was still being watched. The corners of his mouth twitched, just a little, in what he hoped could have been more of a grimace. Mikey shrugged and shook his head.
"Anyways, if you wanna talk, you can always come to me, aight? I'm here for you, bro…"
"I know, Mikey." Leo whispered as softly as he could, feeling as if his breath barely passed his lips. "Thank you…"
"Cool. See you in the mornin'."
And with that the door shut behind him, muffling the slightly shuffling steps as Michael went back across the hallway and into his own room once more. Leonardo listened for the -clok!- of his door shutting behind him and when it came, he sagged against his knee, letting out a tense exhale.
It felt wrong to lie to them, no matter how he tried to justify it. Technically he had done just what Sensei had asked and taken Madeline home. But that fact was followed up by the promise he had made to the young woman herself to return tomorrow night. Master Splinter had not told him not to go back, not exactly, but then the whole idea of the excursion had been to sever his ties to the human for good and that very intention went against the concept. It would be a poor defense if he was caught.
As Leonardo drifted back towards sleep one half of his moral fiber complained at the dissemble of his plan while the other half was excited by the thought of breaking the rules…