Chapter Twenty-One

Well, this is it, the home stretch. This is the final chapter for the story. I'd like to thank everyone for sticking with it and being patient these last five years. Especially ZeoViolet, my best friend, who has faithfully been my loyal beta reader and supplied inspiration many times.

I loved working on this story and while I hate to see it end, I am also relieved I've finally reached this stage. I am planning a sequel, but I don't know when yet I'll have it started. For now, please enjoy the chapter.

Leonardo yawned and stretched out on the cool grass he laid upon. He rolled on his back then and raised his eyes above him to the trees. The sun filtered through the lush leaves from a bright pale blue cloudless sky. The light was fragmented into dozens of gentle rays that touched the ground below.

He lowered his eyes after a moment and gazed out beyond the trees. An immense field was spread before him, hues of purple, yellow, and white peeking amongst the tall grass. The flowers waved softly as a warm breeze traveled across the land. Butterflies flitted seemingly carelessly to and fro while bees could be heard droning lazily in the background.

A small lake rested at the edge of the field and the woods. The water was smooth as glass, shimmering and sparkling as the sunlight danced over it. It was inviting and promised cool relief in the late summer heat.

He breathed in deeply then, exhaling in a long contented sigh. Coming to Casey's Grandma's farmhouse was always a treat for him and his family. It was a way to escape the city and enjoy the precious freedom they had here. This visit, however, was even more special because it was Alisa's first time.

Leo glanced over at the young woman still sleeping at his side and a fond smile played upon his lips. He turned towards her and gently placed a kiss on her forehead. Her mouth twitched into a faint smile as she gave a soft contented sigh in her sleep.

He brushed a stray golden-dark brown lock out of her face. He loved her more than words could ever express. Instead, he would soon show her as he was prepared to ask her finally to marry him.

For the past months, right into at present in early August, he had been thinking long and hard on this matter. At times, he'd grown frustrated with himself that he was waiting too long to approach her, but he wanted no fear, no anxiety to remain. When at last he had made his decision, he went to talk to Master Splinter to ask him to preside over the ceremony. The old rat was never happier to accept the honor.

All Leo wanted now was to find the perfect moment to propose to her, but when would that be? There was no elusive, special time in the universe set aside for such an occasion. Any moment could be the "right" moment if he would make it as so.

He breathed out a heavy sigh then and sat up, drawing his knees to his chest. He needed to figure out a way how to create that moment. What could he do to make the occasion all the more special for them?

He stared absently across the field to the lake as he settled deep in thought. Maybe he could prepare a nice dinner complete with candlelight and soft music, but it would be hard to arrange for just the two of them without his family getting in the way. This was to be one of the most important moments of his life and he could ill afford any distractions.

No, he felt a dinner simply would not be enough. He wanted something a little more romantic. He would take her to a place where few eyes have seen, hidden from the world; untouched, unspoiled, by man. A paradise filled with nearly unsurpassable beauty.

He'd never forgotten the place, even though the memory of his only visit was during the darkest time of his life. It was deep in the woods near the spot where he and his brothers camped over a year ago at the old saw mill. When everyone had gone to sleep that night after the alien woman Jhanna defeated her rival Moriah in a galactic battle, he'd snuck away.

Leo hadn't been able to sleep, being plagued by nightmares. He'd decided to take a walk to try to cure his restlessness and set off deeper in the woods. He hadn't planned to stray far from the campsite, but his sharp ears picked up a strange sound in the distance that prompted him to investigate.

As he had drawn closer to the source of the noise, growing louder and louder with each step, he began to smell water. He soon stumbled upon a clearing and then suddenly froze at the sight that was before him. A waterfall of a mountain spring roared over the cliff above him, the sound he'd heard, to a deep merrily bubbling pool below.

A fine mist created by the rushing water hovered in the air around him. The silvery-blue rays of the full moon illuminated the area in a near mystical light and he realized he was standing in a meadow. The grass was damp and lush beneath his feet. He could make out dozens of flowers and exotic plants, which seemed to glow in the moonlight, growing near the water's edge.

The place radiated with serenity and peace, two elements for weeks since that fateful night with the final confrontation of the Shredder he was unable to find. He kept reliving that night, always reminding himself what a failure he'd been. That he couldn't protect his brothers; couldn't protect his father, when they'd needed him most. And, what a fool he'd been to put any trust in Karai…

He then walked to the water's edge and waded into the pool to underneath the waterfall. As it pounded mercilessly over his body, it was difficult to tell where the spray ended and his tears began. It would be the only ones he would shed for months afterwards as his heart grew cold, bitter, and hard.

Leonardo shook his head then as if to dispel these memories. He did not want the reflection on the past to dampen his spirits. It was a time to look forward to the future and this time his visit there would be one of celebration. For soon, he would make the woman he loved his hanayome; his wife.

A smile crossed his lips suddenly and his eyes half closed as he began to feel delicate fingers trail over his skin. A moment later, he felt her arms slide around his shoulders, followed by a kiss on the neck. Abruptly, he reached around and pulled her into his lap facing him, a move that elicited a squeal of delighted surprise from her, as he repositioned himself to sit cross-legged.

His smile was now a playful grin before he cupped her face in his hands and tenderly pressed his lips to hers in a searing kiss. She moaned softly in her throat, reciprocating hungrily. She wrapped her legs loosely around his waist, her bare feet brushing against his carapace, and her pelvic region rested against his.

After a few breathless moments, he gently finally parted their lips. He slid his arms then around her as he drew her closer to his body. The hem of her pale blue sundress had gathered up to her hips and he could feel the soft cotton of her panties rubbing sensually on his crotch. He knew how fast he could have ripped those off and taken her right there in the open field, but rationality won out in his hazy passion-filled mind.

Instead, he continued to cuddle her, nuzzling in her long hair. She gave him an affectionate smile and turned her face to his until their foreheads were touching.

"Are you okay?" she murmured, softly, as her fingers curled in his bandana tails, "You seemed troubled."

"I'm fine," he assured, his voice low and thick with lingering arousal, "I finally know what I want to do."

He smiled at her confusion and gently tucked a stray lock of hair to the side of her face, kissing her temple.

"What would you say if we go on a picnic; just the two of us?" he continued, "I know of a place north of here near a lake that would be the perfect spot. My brothers and I camped there for a few days a year ago. You'll like it."

The bewildered expression on her face immediately dissolved into a wide smile and her emerald eyes sparkled with excitement.

"I think that sounds like a wonderful idea," she agreed.

"Then it's settled," he decided, with a soft smile, "We'll go tomorrow. It's a few hours' hike, but if we leave in the morning, we should be there by early afternoon."

He reached suddenly to cup her face in his hands once more. He gazed upon her with complete adoration before briefly touching his lips to hers in a sweet kiss. He then unfolded his legs from underneath him and pulled them both up to their feet.

"In the meantime, we should probably head back to the house," he told her, "It's nearing dinner time and you know how Mikey gets if a meal is late."

Alisa gave a soft chuckle in response. Yes, she knew the orange-masked turtle well and his love for food. She slipped her small hand into Leo's bigger one and the two made their way towards the farmhouse.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, the couple set out on their journey. They each carried a pack containing two large canteens of fresh water, enough food to last the day, and a sleeping bag. He wasn't expecting for them to camp overnight, but Leo decided they would bring one along just in case. If things did proceed as he hoped, however, they might not make it home before nightfall.

The woods were a thick, twisted maze of trees and vegetation. It was cool, dank, and dim as the sun was unable to penetrate through the closely knit treetops. Navigation would be almost impossible unless one knew their way or they would become hopelessly lost. At times the blue-masked turtle had to use a sword to clear the path of over-grown brush.

The hike was not an easy one. The terrain was rough and mountainous. They had to walk carefully or risk falling or twisting an ankle.

It was nearly noon when the trees began to thin and soon the woods gave way to a clearing as they stumbled upon a river. Not much had changed in a year, he quickly noted. It was almost exactly how he and his brothers had left it.

Leo led them to the remains of an old campsite nearby and here they stopped to rest. Alisa was thankful as she wearily sank down on a log. She searched for a canteen in her pack and took a few slow swallows of the cold, refreshing water.

Over a period of several minutes, she drained half of the container before she was satisfied and finally put it away. She gave a tired sigh, but then smiled faintly as she felt his lips brush on her flushed forehead.

"It's not much further," he told her, gently, "It's only a mile ahead through those woods."

"I can't wait," she replied, softly, "It must be a very special place if you're keeping it a surprise."

"It is," he affirmed, as a bright smile spread over his face, "And I believe this day will be one neither of us will ever forget."

After a few minutes more of rest, they headed again into the woods to complete the final leg of their journey. As they drew closer to their destination, she began to detect a foreign sound unrelated to the woods. It was a roar that echoed dully in her ears like a rushing wind. She could also very faintly smell water.

In the distance ahead, there were patches of sunlight reaching the ground indicating there was another clearing. With each step now, the roar was steadily growing louder and the smell stronger. Leo suddenly took her hand in his and squeezed it tenderly.

She gazed up to see an odd expression on his face. It almost seemed pained, but yet there was a joy in his eyes that she'd never seen before. He gave her a warm smile and she smiled faintly in return, but was slightly worried in his abrupt change of behavior.

She had no more time to contemplate on it as they finally stepped into the clearing and entered a world that should've appeared to only exist in her dreams. Yet it was all very real. The roar was deafening now as the waterfall rushed over the side of the mountain cliff above her.

Clouds of mist rose over the clear pool, rainbows shrouded within as the sunlight reflected off the water. The grass was as green as the blue-masked turtle's skin and lush as a soft carpet. Exotic flowers grew near the water's edge and there were more other flowers spread out through the small meadow.

Alisa's eyes were wide as she drank in the scenery. For a few moments, she was at a loss for words. She had never seen anything more beautiful in her life. It was a hidden paradise.

"Oh, Leo," she finally breathed.

"I knew you'd like it," he murmured in her ear as he slid his arms around her shoulders.

She shook her head.

"No, I love it," she corrected.

He chuckled softly and kissed her cheek. They then shed their heavy backpacks and dropped them to the ground. She was hot and tired and the water looked so cold and inviting as she gazed towards the falls. In fact, the more she stared, the more she wanted to go for a swim in the pool. She didn't bring a swimsuit with her, however, but she was too hot to care.

She pulled down her jeans and started unbuttoning her shirt. Leo stared at her as she undressed.

"Um, what are you doing?" he asked, puzzled.

"Going swimming," she replied, matter-of-factly.

"You… you didn't bring anything to swim in," he pointed out, a little nervously as she removed the last of her clothing.

She smiled coyly as she stood before him naked now.

"I know," she answered, "Catch me if you can."

She suddenly took off in a sprint for the falls. He tore off his pads, belt and weapons as fast as he could and chased after her. She shrieked in delighted terror as he caught up and grabbed her from behind, plunging into the pool. They both hit the deep water with a splash.

When a few seconds later they surfaced, she slipped free from his grasp and playfully swam away. She dived back under the water and glided through like a fish, completely in her element. With a grin, he started to continue the chase, but suddenly stopped in his tracks as he noticed she had already emerged again and where.

She floated underneath the waterfall, letting the spray cascade in waves over her naked body. She appeared completely in euphoria, tipping her head back as the water ran down her hair and neck. Leo vaguely remembered stories of mythical mermaids as his heart pounded in his chest. This 'mermaid', however, was very real and she was his.

He watched the water trace tiny rivers around the curves of her breasts. The nipples were hard and aroused from the cold. The wet sheen on her body made her skin glow a rosy pink.

Never once taking his eyes off her, he swam the short distance to the falls and pulled her close to him. He nearly crushed his mouth to hers as he kissed her with a hunger that felt insatiable. She responded in kind, fiercely grinding her hips against his.

The water helped to make sensations stronger and as a result, his arousal was growing more quickly than usual. Already, the bottom of his shell was throbbing painfully. With a slight groan, he freed his hardened, fully erect penis from its confines.

A few moments later, their lips finally parted in a desperate need for air. She reached a hand down in the water then and gently stroked his penis. He trembled under her touch, giving a quiet moan.

Her lips trailed feathery soft kisses over his neck, shoulders, and plastron. He began to do the same to her in return, paying the closest attention to her breasts. She arched her back in pleasure and thrust her hips forward. The move slid his penis slightly inside her vagina.

She shivered with mounting anticipation. He needed no more prompting to know she was ready and continued the rest of the way in. She wrapped her legs around his in an attempt to be as close to him as physically possible.

He started his thrusts slowly, building into a rhythm. He cupped her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers more gently this time, but still with heated passion. Her own hands roamed to his sensitive sides and her wet fingertips brushed lightly along the skin.

He let out a strangled cry deep in his throat, shivering violently. He was teetering dangerously close to the edge. He was unaware until now how powerful of a stimulant water could actually be. He knew though he would never look at it the same way again.

She bucked her hips in time with his as he pounded furiously in and out of her. She was holding onto him as tightly as she could, climbing quickly higher and higher to her peak. It would not be long before she reached it and her body was growing warmer as her hormones raced faster in preparation.

Vaguely, Leo wondered why suddenly the water around them felt heated, almost like a hot tub. Bubbles began to form and the surface of the pool appeared frothy. He would've likely been very disturbed by this fact if he were not currently in the throes of passion. As it was, he was concentrated on only one thing and it was Alisa.

"I'm falling," she breathed.

"I'll catch you," he whispered, huskily.

"Come with me," she murmured against his ear.

She cried his name, which echoed in the cove, as her orgasm ripped through her moments later. Her own name was shouted to the heavens as his release flooded into her nearly simultaneously. Together, they rode the waves of ecstasy until it gradually slowed and finally the seas calmed once more.

Still embraced in each other's arms, they rested against the rock face behind the waterfall before recovering enough strength to swim to shore. Once out of the pool, she immediately sank tiredly to the ground and lay on the sun-warmed grass to dry out. She gave a faint smile as he joined her a moment later and snuggled up to him.

He gently kissed her forehead and nuzzled in her wet hair. There were no words to describe what he felt right now. He was sure there would never be another more perfect moment than this. He could not let it slip from his grasp.

Leonardo began to feel there were a million butterflies churning in his stomach as he sat up on his knees. Alisa noticed he'd turned a slightly paler green suddenly and caused her to sit up with him in worry. He was again behaving so strangely. What exactly was going on?

She grew even more confounded as he lovingly clasped both of her hands in his. He then drew in a deep breath and finally spoke.

"There was a time I never imagined I'd be where I am now," he began, his voice low and soft, "To me, to my brothers, it was our biggest crux because of what we are. We knew there was no hope for us and when we died it would be alone, until I met you."

She could feel her cheeks grow warm as a touch of pink spread over them. He smiled and gave her hands a gentle squeeze.

"There is never a day that goes by I can't imagine my life anymore without you," he continued, "You've given me a reason to live again when I needed it most. You helped to heal my heart and my spirit."

He paused here a moment, exhaling a deep breath. Without a word, she leaned forward and gently kissed his cheek. He abruptly caught her lips with his in a brief kiss.

"You're my best friend, my koibito," he pressed on, "I don't know what I'd do if I ever lost you. I want to treasure you for the rest of my life. Alisa, my darling… Please, will you marry me?"

For a few breathless moments, her heart stopped. So that was it. That was why all the strange moods recently. He was working up the courage to propose; he wanted to marry her. He wanted to…

Suddenly, her vision blurred and the first real tears she'd shed in months cascaded in sparkling droplets down her cheeks. He wanted to marry her. She didn't know what he had in mind for a wedding or even how they were going to do one, but none of that mattered at the moment. She didn't even care he didn't have a ring and wouldn't matter not to have one either.

"I will, Leo," she whispered, "Oh, god, I do. I really, really do."

His own sapphire eyes glittered with tears and a few spilled down his cheeks. He pulled her in an embrace and she sobbed happily in his arms.

Four months later

"I feel like a monkey in these clothes," Raphael groused, "How the hell do humans move around in this stuff?"

He pulled at a black bowtie around his neck for the umpteenth time that morning. It wasn't uncomfortable so much as it was awkward. Along with the bowtie, he wore a crisp white dress shirt under a freshly pressed black tuxedo.

"Nah, you look more like a penguin," Michelangelo joked.

He was dressed in a matching tuxedo as well. Raph growled at the taunt, but said no more. He would not rise to take his younger brother's bait. Besides, he didn't think Leonardo would forgive him too soon if he fought on his wedding day. For today, his older brother was to marry the woman he loved.

Raph didn't think he would ever forget the day when Leo announced his engagement to Alisa. It was on the next evening after the couple's return from their overnight camping trip. Earlier that day, the family couldn't help notice there was a new change in them. There was this glow that surrounded them now.

They had just sat down to dinner when Leo cleared his throat and stood to his feet unexpectedly. The others watched in confusion as he reached for one of Alisa's hands to hold tenderly and a broad grin spread over his face. She smiled sweetly and a slight blush painted her cheeks a rosy pink.

"There is something I'd like to announce to everyone," he said, "Alisa has accepted and agreed to become my wife."

For a few intense moments, the room was so silent and still, the sounds of the summer night could be heard from outside. Then suddenly there was this immense explosion of joyous congratulations and a lot of hugging, much to Raphael's chagrin. While the news came as a surprise to him, it wasn't completely unpredictable. In fact, he thought it was about time even. He'd wondered what his brother was waiting for.

In his excitement, Mikey dashed to the telephone to call April and Casey to tell them the news. Donatello, on the other hand, had started talking to Leo about the wedding and gathering as much information as possible. Only Splinter knew of the impending engagement beforehand and all he responded with was a proud smile.

The past four months had been a blur as they worked to bring everything together. April and Casey also pitched in to help. The boisterous vigilante, along with Raph, had built a platform and a lattice arch near the pond in the middle of the lair. It was decided to hold the ceremony here at home as opposed to the farmhouse. It would be too cold with at least a foot of snow on the ground by the date Leo and Alisa had set for an outdoor wedding.

The red-head bought Alisa a beautiful gown and Leo and his brothers tuxedoes. However, both he and the young woman initially tried to refuse it. They didn't want April spending so much money, but the older woman insisted and to think of it as their wedding gift from her. They finally accepted with deep gratitude.

Most of the preparations were overseen by Donny, as the blue-masked turtle and his soon-to-be sister-in-law appointed him to. He was the best for the job and he didn't disappoint them either. The flowers, decorations, invitations and even the food were ordered precisely to the couples' preferences. He made sure that nothing was done without their consent and this helped to reduce the stress and headaches in the planning.

It was well worth the expense, however. Now, on this frosty December morning, the time was at last upon them. In only a couple of hours, Leonardo and Alisa would be husband and wife.

Raph wandered then in search of his other two brothers or Master Splinter; anything to get away from Mikey. They were probably around mingling with the guests. He could have too, he supposed, but he felt uncomfortable in such a formal setting. He was out of his element. If he could find Casey, they could hang out somewhere until the ceremony, but he hadn't seen him or April yet.

He found Leonardo first, but he wasn't difficult to spot anyway. Unlike him, Mikey, and Don, Leo was wearing a tuxedo that matched his bride's dress. It was a stark white with a light blue dress-shirt underneath and white bowtie.

Raph was amused to note also an ornamental sword accented in blue and silver attached Samurai-style at his waist. He couldn't lose the weapons even on his wedding day. Of course, neither could he, as was testimony to the two slight indentions under his coat.

"Gettin' cold feet yet, Leo?" the red-masked turtle quipped as he approached him.

Leo blinked at the question and then frowned slightly.

"'Cold feet'?" he repeated.

"You know, like those guys they show on TV at their weddin's," Raph explained, "Jitters, sweaty palms, dizziness; you feelin' any of those symptoms?"

The blue-masked turtle shook his head.

"No, Raph, I don't," he answered, "However, I am a little anxious. It may be the excitement is all."

It was true he was feeling apprehensive. It was hard waiting and perhaps that was part of the reason why he was nervous. He knew this day would change so much of his life; of Alisa's, but it was to be for the better. He was confident everything would be all right.

"Eh, I guess better you than me," Raph replied, "I'd be a wreck if I was in your shell right now."

"What, you don't think you'll ever get married someday?" Leo teased.

"I ain't aiming for it, bro," Raph said.

The blue-masked turtle gave a quiet laugh. He was beginning to feel more at ease now. Talking to his brother had really helped.

"I think I'm going to check on April and see how she's doing with Alisa," he told him.

"Oh, so is Casey here too then?" Raph asked.

"Yeah," Leo confirmed, "I think I saw him at the refreshment table a few minutes ago."

While the red-masked turtle went off to catch up with his human best friend, Leo ventured upstairs to Alisa's old room where the two women were. He proceeded to knock quietly on the door. A moment later, he heard April's voice filter through out to him.

"Who is it?" she called.

"It's Leo," he answered.

He then heard what sounded like a gasp and frowned as April began whispering something frantically. It was followed by an audible protest and he knew it was from Alisa. The two women briefly started to argue, but over what he had no idea.

Finally, the door cracked open just enough for April to slip out, but she quickly shut it behind her before he could get so much as a peek inside the room. She wore a light blue bridesmaid dress that brought out her red hair and green eyes beautifully. She gave him a bright smile.

"Hi, Leo," she greeted, too cheerfully, "What brings you here?"

He raised an eye-ridge at her, suddenly suspicious of her queer behavior.

"I was just checking to see how everything was going with you and Alisa," he answered.

"Oh, everything is just perfect," she gushed, "So no need for you to worry."

"Okay," he said, slowly, a little unnerved now, "Uh, could I go in and see her for a minute, please?"

"Oh, Leo, I'm sorry, but no," April told him, appearing contrite, "Tradition forbids the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding."

Leo blinked in surprise. This was certainly news to him. He had never heard of such a custom.

"What?" he exclaimed, flabbergasted, "Why?"

"Well, it supposedly builds up anticipation of revealing the bride at the altar," she explained, "And there's less of a chance that way for the groom to get cold feet."

"That is ridiculous," he retorted, "I saw her earlier this morning. Why am I not allowed to see her now?"

"Traditionally, you really weren't supposed to see her from midnight last night," she replied, "But seeing how as she does live here, that couldn't be helped. However, from this moment on, you cannot see her until the ceremony."

"Well, this is one tradition I can live without," he stated, crossing his arms, "I will not be barred from seeing my bride. Now, let me through."

The red-headed woman still blocked the door, refusing to budge.

"Leo, you can't," she started, but stopped short once she realized how angry the turtle was becoming.

"April, move or I will move you myself," he warned, his voice dangerously quiet.

Immediately, she stepped to the side of the door to give him passage. He entered the room and abruptly paused halfway as he laid eyes on his wife-to-be. He never thought Alisa could be any more beautiful to him than she already was, but he was wrong.

The long-sleeved silvery-blue wedding gown she wore April had bought her was positively radiant on her. It shimmered like moonbeams in the light. The soft pale blue satin slippers on her feet matched perfectly. Her long hair was swept high on her head and styled to fan out at her neck. A silver and blue jeweled tiara comb was placed carefully in the center on top of her head. Attached to the comb was a white veil that flowed behind her head, partially covering her hair.

Upon his appearance, Alisa was surprised at first, but it instantly turned into immense joy. The smile she gave him surely could have illuminated the city of New York itself. He found himself able to move again and she closed the gap between them to melt in his loving embrace.

Leo gazed into her emerald green eyes and instantly lost himself to her. He reached a hand to her face and gently began stroking a cheek. He smiled softly as her eyes slid halfway closed and she leaned into his touch.

"You are so beautiful," he breathed against her ear.

She smiled, a light blush spreading across her cheeks, and stole a brief kiss from his lips.

"You are very handsome yourself," she replied, quietly.

It was his turn to blush now and her smile only grew at his reaction. She drew her arms around his neck and her mouth sought to capture his again. This time, she kissed him with insatiable hunger, to which he responded in kind.

It lasted for several heat-filled moments before they finally breathlessly parted. He cuddled her close to him as she laid her head on his chest. She listened to his heart beat beneath her ear.

"I don't know how much longer I can stand to wait," she sighed.

He knew she was speaking of the wedding and shared the same sentiment. He kissed her forehead softly.

"I know," he answered, quietly, "But we're almost there. The ceremony starts in less than an hour and then we'll finally be husband and wife."

The smile she gave him nearly melted him. If there was a way to skip a whole hour, he would have.

"I'm so happy, Leo," she murmured, "Nothing can spoil this day."

A throat suddenly clearing behind them interrupted the pair and they turned to the red-head standing there with her arms impatiently crossed.

"I hate to break this up," April said, "But Alisa needs to finish getting ready. As you said, Leo, the ceremony is set to begin in less than an hour and there's still work to be done. You'll see each other soon enough."

"Not even an overbearing bridesmaid," Alisa added, irritably.

Leo couldn't help give a small chuckle. He then kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand softly.

"Don't worry," he assured, "I'm sure she won't."

She smiled and straightened his tie before kissing him once more.

"I love you," she told him, softly.

He brushed his fingers tenderly along the soft skin of her cheek.

"I love you too," he replied, quietly, "I'll see you in a little while."

Leo headed for the door and walked out of the room. He shut the door behind him and then breathed a long sigh. He was reluctant to leave, but he knew he too had last minute preparations to attend to. He finally set off back downstairs.

The hour passed far more quickly than anticipated and now it was just mere moments away before Alisa would make her walk down the aisle. Leonardo stood calmly and proudly on the platform in his appropriate position. To his right were his best men; all three of his brothers. He simply couldn't choose one over the others, so he decided to choose them all. This was an once-in-a-lifetime occasion and he wanted no disappointments for anyone.

Donatello glanced at his watch then and signaled Casey to start the music. A few moments later, the first strains of "The Wedding March" flowed from the speakers of the sound system Don had rigged. On cue, Alisa appeared at the top of the stairs and the crowd fell into a hushed silence. With great precision and carefully measured steps, she began to descend.

Leo felt as if his heart was in his throat as he watched her approach. The beautiful white and blue orchid bouquet she held complimented her dress perfectly. She was a vision of loveliness, floating before him like a dream. However, no dream could ever produce anything like this.

Upon reaching the platform, she gave her flowers to April to hold, who was serving as maid of honor. Her hands now free, Leo instantly took them in his. Alisa's smile was as wide as the ocean and her eyes gazed lovingly into his. He never wanted to look away.

The music was stopped and a moment later, Splinter began to conduct the nuptials. The traditional vows were recited and exchanged between the couple. Afterwards, the rat produced from his yukata sash a small piece of red ribbon. Smiling, he loosely tied the ribbon first on the smallest finger of Alisa's hand and then looped the other end on a finger of his son's hand.

"There is a belief originating from Chinese legend called 'The Red String of Fate'," he began to explain for all to hear, "It was said the gods tied an invisible red string around the men and women who were destined to be soul mates."

"The thread connects those who are destined to meet," he continued, "Regardless of time, place or circumstance. It may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. It is Enishi; the invisible bonds of destiny."

He now directed his eyes on only his son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. He had never been happier for his family than he was at this moment. He hastily wiped away a tear and quickly collected himself.

"You may repeat after me," he told them, "Unmei no akai ito de tsunagatteru n da oy. We are bound by the red ribbon of fate."

"Unmei no akai ito de tsunagatteru n da oy," the couple chorused, softly, as they gazed into each other's eyes, but loud enough for everyone to hear.

"And now, as they say, Leonardo, you may kiss the bride," Splinter said.

The blue-masked turtle smiled widely as he carefully lifted back the veil from Alisa's face. Amidst cheers and applause, he delivered a sweet, tender kiss to her soft red lips, wrapping his arms around her to pull her close to him. And with that, they were married. A mere eight months ago, he never would have believed this was even possible. They had come so far.

They finally parted and he looped her arm in his as they walked down the aisle together. This officially ended the ceremony and the crowd began dispersing to the area designated for the reception. No effort was spared here either. There was a feast literally fit for a king and queen. A gorgeous, three-tiered blue and silver trimmed chocolate-frosted cake made for the center of the banquet.

The luncheon began with a toast to the bride and groom led by Donatello. Each of the brothers took turns saying a few heartfelt words, which drew plenty of smiles. Even when Michelangelo threw in a joke, eliciting both groans and laughter. At the end, everyone raised champagne glasses filled with a sparkling white grape juice in accordance.

Following lunch was the cutting of the cake. This was almost like another ceremony in itself as it played a significant role for the bride and groom. It was a symbol of their unification, their first task performed jointly as husband and wife.

Alisa picked up a silver knife, whose handle was adorned with a sprig of tiny blue orchids and silver lace, and stood poised with it over the cake. Leo slid in at her back and placed his hand over hers on the knife. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and then carefully they began to cut the first slice of cake. They performed the act with near perfect harmony.

The piece of cake was deposited on a small blue china plate. A moment later, they were given two forks and proceeded to share it between them as their guests and family looked on. When one large bite remained, she suddenly gave a mischievous smile and picked it up between her fingers, carefully placing half of it in her mouth.

He looked amused as she then leaned towards him, but he immediately took hold of the other half in his teeth. As he bit off the cake, his mouth covered hers and he kissed her with light, sweet passion. Applause and a few catcalls followed from the table.

Afterwards, the rest of the cake was then sliced into generous pieces for everyone else. When most had nearly finished, Donny stood up and tapped the side of his champagne glass gently with a fork.

"If I may have your attention, please," he said, "I would like to announce the dancing will commence shortly. The first dance will go to the bride and groom."

Smiling, Leo and Alisa walked together to the area designated as the dance floor. He encircled one arm at her waist and the hand of his other arm entwined hers. A few moments later, the lights were dimmed and a prismatic glow from crystal cylinders on the table illuminated them. The colors shifting and changing like a kaleidoscope as the flame of waterfall mist scented candles flickered within.

There had been a few curious looks when Leo picked the scent during the planning. Even when Mikey asked why, all the blue-masked turtle gave in reply was a knowing smile. The reason behind it was his and Alisa's alone.

The opening sequence of the song soon filtered through the stereos' speakers and the wedded pair began to glide across the floor. The music swept them away and carried them to a place only known in their hearts. Every one and every thing around them seemed to disappear, while the words of the song penetrated through sharply.

"And there ain't no way

I'm lettin' you go now

And there ain't no way

And there ain't no how

I'll never see that day

Because I'm keeping you forever and for always

We'll be together for all our days

Wanna wake up every morning to your sweet face-


As the last musical chords began to fade, Leonardo leaned in and captured his bride's lips with a sultry kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck to draw him closer and their feet stilled under them as they were briefly lost in one another. They barely heard the loud cheers and applause that erupted at the banquet table a moment later.

There was soon much fun and laughter as the rest of the family and guests joined in to dance. Alisa found herself whisked away to dance with many others in the wedding party. Her second dance was with Splinter and then she danced with each of the turtle brothers. Even Usagi, the off-world rabbit samurai who was Leo's best friend, asked for a dance with her.

The morning had transitioned to early afternoon and the wedding festivities were slowly drawing to a close now. There were only the gifts remaining to be opened, which left a pile of ribbons, bows and enough wrapping paper to populate a small forest. Among the many practical gifts such as cookware and bath towels were also very strange ones. No doubt from some of the more 'humorous' members of their family.

Very shortly after, the guests began trickling out of the lair on their way home, showering more well wishes and congratulations to the newlyweds as they went. In nearly ten minutes later, the underground dwelling was empty, save for the turtles, Splinter, Alisa, Casey and April. The red-head and the vigilante would later take Splinter and the others to April's apartment to give Leo and Alisa the night alone in the lair. First, however, they started the task of cleaning the place up and even despite protests, the blue-masked turtle and the petite young woman pitched in to help.

The cleaning and the dismantling of the stage took almost an hour, but at last, everything was back to normal. Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo changed, much to their immense relief, out of their wedding attire before leaving for April's. As the six of them finally departed, there were three who did not go so quietly.

"Don't stay up too late," Mikey called, with a wink.

"That might not be a problem," Raph interjected, a lopsided grin on his face.

"Depends on who wears who out faster," Casey added.

Both Leo and Alisa seemed to turn red to even to their toes at these rather uncouth comments. She ducked her head embarrassingly into his chest. Splinter didn't look too happy either and Donny could only sigh and shake his head.

"That is enough out of you three," April scolded, blushing fiercely herself.

There was a low grumble of complaining, but they were silenced as a few moments later they all disappeared into the elevator to the warehouse. With a sigh, Leo wrapped his arms around his wife in a hug and touched his forehead against hers. He then felt his lips quirk into a smile.

"It's just you and me now," he breathed, softly, in her hair.

She smiled and reached up to cup his face in her hands. She gave him a gentle kiss, but behind it was a powerful need; an insatiable hunger.

"It is," she agreed, quietly.

She planted a series of feathery kisses on his neck this time and he shivered lightly. She began unbuttoning his tux coat.

"Make love to me, my shujin," she murmured.

Leo gathered her own face in his hands and kissed her hard. He reached to behind her head and undid the knot holding her hair in place. He watched the golden-dark brown tresses tumble in beautiful waves down her back.

"Endlessly, mai kanai," he whispered.

He picked her up then in his arms and carried her upstairs to their room. As they crossed the threshold, he knew their lives were beginning in a whole new way. The future had never looked brighter to him, each day so full of promise. Although there was the constant lurking of danger, not even their enemies could tear them apart.

For what they had spanned the physical realm and could not ever be damaged or spoiled. It was a place simply called 'forever'.


End Chapter Twenty-One

End Waiting For You