Author's Notes: Wow… I think that was the longest update I've ever had o.0! For quite a while I experienced massive computer problems where I ended up having to buy a new computer entirely, and then retype what I had done on this chapter. Then I had to start university where I had a shocking timetable that required me to make a number of sacrifices because of time restraints (serves me right for picking a science course :P). When I discovered that I had no time to update, I realised that although I was partly interested in what I was learning, I couldn't ignore my interests in other areas such as drama, art and creative writing. So I made a massive decision and dropped out of uni… basically all because of this fic! So now I'm going to try and see what life is like away from all the books and study, and see if I can land myself a job at the zoo, or in the acting, art or writing industry. Life is what you make it ;)

Chapter Seven: Greed.

These are the darkest of ages, in which the greed and ambition of men is finally equalled with their means of destruction and conquest - Anonymous.

The soothing and rather exciting melody flowed seamlessly through the eardrum, before being converted into riveting electrical impulses that stimulated Donatello's brain. It was often thought to be an odd taste in music. Yet as the turtle's fingers glided and clicked over the computer keyboard, Donatello couldn't think of anything more suitable than to listen to the classics of Beethoven while chatting to his Internet friends. Wearing headphones to mentally absorb himself into his electronic social event, he simply didn't hear or notice Michelangelo enter his bedroom.

"Donny?" Mike's voice croaked with despair and uncertainty. His lips trembled as a heart shattering sob escaped from his mouth. The turtle sniffled and tried to stop himself from crying when Donatello didn't respond. Michelangelo didn't know what to do. Irrational thoughts and solutions screeched and distracted his mind from achieving any useful action, but his gut instinct somehow came to the simplistic conclusion that it was time to leave the lair for good. He questioned whether he should approach Leonardo instead, but the ex-leader had been left out of the loop lately due to his injuries. Feeling as though he couldn't relate to his serious brother, Michelangelo's only option was to turn towards Donatello for help.

"Donny?" Mike asked again while taking a hesitant step forward. Sensing another presence in the room, Don swiftly glanced at his surroundings and did a double take when he saw the heartbroken expression on his little brother's face.

"Mike?" Don uttered in surprise, yanking the headphones off his head and swivelling around in his chair so he could completely focus his attention on the depressed turtle. "Mike, what's wrong? What happened?" Don was concerned. He watched in silence as a few more tears slipped effortlessly down Mike's face. The upset turtle sniffled again, and attempted to gather his thoughts.

"Don…" Mike started as he wiped his face with the back of his hand. He hated crying in front of his brothers, but this time he just let his emotions run wild. "…If I wanted to leave the city tonight… would you come with me?" Mike's body trembled as he said those words, as though he felt it was too surreal to even ponder the scenario of what he was suggesting.

Michelangelo wasn't the only one who was in a state of disbelief, as Donatello was also taken aback by his request. "But, but why?" Don uttered, desperately seeking the truth.

"Master Splinter, he…" Mike trailed off.

"Splinter, what?" Don urged him to continue.

Michelangelo crossed his arms and bit his bottom lip as he regretfully remembered what he had seen earlier. He felt so confused. So lost. But the raw anger he had experienced still lingered in every one of his muscles. "Splinter and Eve… They're together…" Mike murmured as he wiped away the rest of his tears, not wanting to go into details as he feared that he might emotionally break down again.

That was all Donatello needed to hear in order for him to piece together the facts. "Oh Mike…" he sympathised. "I'm so sorry."

"I can't look at him anymore, Don," Mike confessed. He lowered his gaze and stared at the floor, as though he thought of himself as being worthless.

"…I don't blame you," Don bluntly said. He cringed at the severity of Mike's emotional state and couldn't even comprehend how anyone could hurt his brother so badly, let alone his own father. Donatello sighed and rubbed his forehead, as though he wanted to prevent an oncoming headache. How could Splinter have done this to Mike? Splinter, the same man who had love and cared for them since they were hatchlings. A part of Donatello didn't want to believe it, as though he had been conditioned not to think of such horrible things about his father. Yet it was now clear to him that Splinter was no longer the man he had grown up with. He was now a stranger who had played and toyed with his brother in the most vicious of ways, as though the rat he knew had now been mutilated beyond recognition.

"I just… I can't stay here," Mike confessed, feeling so oppressed that he experienced an overwhelming urge to abandon his family and his duty to the clan. Donatello remained silent as he wondered whether Michelangelo was lying or over exaggerating the situation, but when he observed the crushed look of defeat in his brother's eyes, he knew that Mike needed his understanding more than anything else, and that it would be hazardous to allow him to wander the streets alone.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Don asked anyway, wanting to make sure that there was no other option. After waiting a few seconds, Mike nodded his head.

"I need… I think I need some time away from him. Just so I can… think things through," Mike admitted softly, his eyes still focused on his feet. Donatello sighed.

"Well then, just give me a few minutes to pack up my stuff, okay?" Don softly agreed. Mike nodded numbly and decided to do the same thing.

Leonardo was still sitting at the dining table when Mike returned to his own room. Leo knew something terrible had happened, though he didn't have the heart to ask. Witnessing the fight between Mike and Splinter for himself, Leonardo was also confused on where he stood in the clan, but unlike Donatello, Leo refused to immediately accept the truth and cursed himself for not being physically able to find out more. The ex-leader stared at his Master's door, hoping that it would slide open and that everything would be peaceful again in the clan, but Leo regretfully knew that Splinter would not make an appearance.

Minutes later, Leonardo watched in sadness as Michelangelo emerged from his room carrying a full black sports bag. It didn't take him long to guess what his brother was planning. To his surprise, Don joined him soon after. The two turtles stared at him as though neither of them knew what to say, and yet they already knew what his answer would be. "You're welcome to come… If you want to," Mike solemnly offered out of politeness. Leonardo sighed at hearing those words. He rubbed his left index finger and thumb together as though he wanted to distract his mind from the serious request.

"Where are you going?" Leo knew that there was nothing he could say to change their minds, so the least he wanted to know was if they were going to be safe. Stumped, Mike looked towards Donatello for an answer, but he was only faced with a similar look.

"…I guess wherever feels right. I don't really know yet," Mike nervously admitted when he realised that he didn't have any plans. All of a sudden, he felt extremely grateful that Donatello had agreed to go with him.

Leonardo didn't argue or force them to reconsider. Instead he continued to catatonically stare at his working left hand. "The keys to the Hummer are in the top draw of my bedside table," Leo instructed them. Mike and Don couldn't hide their shocked expressions.

"But Leo-"

"-Please. It's not as though I'm going to be driving anytime soon," Leo muttered. With a little nod, Donatello placed his packed bag down on the floor before entering Leonardo's room to search of the car keys. Michelangelo bit his lip while he waited for Don.

"Leo… I'm really sorry about all of this…" Mike apologised.

"It's okay. I'll be alright," Leo said with a weak smile. Mike didn't want to leave Leonardo behind, especially when he still wasn't completely healed, but he knew that the blue-wearing turtle simply wasn't ready to abandon Master Splinter's side. Leo was still loyal and the others knew that he'd be the last to leave. "Take care," Leonardo said softly when Donatello finally returned, keys in hand.

"We will, Leo," Don said. With that, the two brothers picked up their bulky, packed bags and slowly exited the lair for the last time. Deep inside, Leo wanted to run after them; protect them from the dangers of the outside world, but he knew that one day he would have to let them go and his injuries greatly helped him to obey his rational side of thinking. So he sat completely rigid in his seat and calmly watched as Mike and Don ascended the ladder. The sound of the Hummer's engine soon followed, before both turtles drove out into the dimly lit streets of New York City.

Leonardo didn't move. He had no place to go. No one to see. No one to talk to. His left thumb continued to fiddle with his other two fingers while he tried to make up his mind about what he wanted to do. Usually when major events happened, he would seek Splinter's advice on how to cope with the situation. But for the first time in his life, the aging ninjitsu master was unavailable; hidden inside his room with a new companion. Then again, what exactly would he say to the rat? Could he continue to confide in Splinter, or would he disregard his presence just like he had done with Michelangelo? Leo hated the fact that his mind was now challenging all of his past thoughts and preconceived notions about his father, as it made him terribly confused. One question would leap to another and another, until they swirled around in his head with a deafening sound, like how one drop of water would lead to a violent waterfall. Yet as he attempted to think things through, one thought kept on reappearing. Did Splinter even care?

In one single moment, all of the unanswerable questions dissipated from his troubled mind. Leonardo stared at the turtle that had just entered the lair. Raphael had come home.

Raphael froze in his place when he saw Leo sitting at the dining table. He raggedly breathed in and out as he nervously wondered if Leo had heard the terrible news. The two turtles stared blankly at one another until Leo finally gave him a look of concern. Raphael was scared. "Raph, what's wrong?" Leo eventually asked.

Raphael avoided his brother's confused gaze, not wanting to answer the question. He tried to invent a lie that would explain why he seemed so traumatised, but his mind refused to work and all of his ideas were as blank as a white sheet of paper. His conscience screamed at him to come clean and to tell Leo that he had murdered Casey. What he had done was incredibly serious, and he knew that he couldn't pass it off under the mist of a made up story. Yet the muscles in his throat tightened and his words became choked, leaving Leo no impression of the catastrophe he had started.

As the lengthy silence continued, Raph's eyes darted around the lair, hopping from one place to another, looking at anything besides his brother's face. From his position in the living room, he gazed towards Don's carriage. The door was open, and Raphael was slightly surprised that Donatello wasn't sitting at his computer, considering that Don wasn't renown for leaving the lair. It wasn't long until he noticed that the keyboard and mouse was missing, while his computer hard drive had been removed, leaving only the case behind. "Where's Donny?" Raph uttered. His heart beat faster when his imagination flitted to the idea that Don might have gone out to search for him, and thus discover his terrible secret. The muscles in his gut tightened at the thought. How would Don react?

"He left with Mikey," Leo informed him with a saddened tone.

"Left? Did they go looking for me?" Raphael was even more worried now, though he wasn't thinking clearly because if his suspicions were correct, they still wouldn't have packed their belongings. Leo's eye-ridge furrowed while he shook his head.

"They moved out." Raphael fell silent while he allowed the words to sink in.

"Moved out? Why? Where? Are they staying at April's?" Raph rapidly blurted out a number of questions.

"I don't think they are… Why?"

"Well, where did they go?" Raphael demanded to know.

"I don't know where!" Leo raised his voice, getting frustrated because his lack of knowledge only made him feel even more useless. "Mike left because something happened between Splinter and Eve. Don went with him," Leo explained.

"…Is Splinter okay?" Raphael asked, fearing the worst, especially since the conflict between himself and Casey still remained fresh in his mind.

"As far as I know, he is," the turtle answered truthfully while he fidgeted in his seat. He loathed knowing so little. When he was the leader, it was an old habit of his to check up on his family members. There was nothing more he wanted to do than to knock on Splinter's door and find out for himself what had caused Michelangelo to flee the lair. Yet he was confined to his own body and naturally fell victim to his physical capabilities. It pained him to see his family so torn apart, so distraught, and there was nothing he could do to fix the tear that was gradually getting bigger and bigger as the time wore on. First it had been Mikey. Now it was Raphael. Leo couldn't help but wonder why Raph was acting so concerned. So worried. So scared.

Taking his gaze off Raphael's fearful eyes that seemed to constantly avoid the direction of the dining table, Leo scanned the rest of the room. He held his breath when he discovered that Raphael only had one sai in his belt. Not wanting to jump to any early conclusions, Leo continued to search for answers. A glint of red caught his eye. A bloody handprint had smeared the silver surface of the lair's ladder entrance. Quickly putting the clues together, Leo despairingly observed the large amount of dry blood on Raph's palms.

"What did you do?" Leo whispered. Following his brother's gaze, Raph's heart received a frightened, pounding surge of adrenaline when he remembered the blood on his hands. Speechless, he tried to hide them behind his back even though he wanted to confess. Leonardo kept his gaze fixated on Raph's face, though it chilled him when he saw that daunted facial expression again. It wasn't uncommon for Raphael to get carried away and kill an enemy every now and then, but this time something was terribly different. Something petrifying.

Raph opened and closed his mouth a few times while he tried to form some words, but instead of producing any sound, he stalked off into the bathroom. "Raph!" Leo yelled after him. "Raph! Please! Just tell me what's wrong!" he pleaded. Raphael slammed the door shut behind him in a panic, before grabbing and twisting the cold water tap on at the porcelain sink. He furiously rubbed his hands together under the gushing water, feeling slightly like Lady Macbeth while he did so. Slowly the red fluid spiralled down the drain, but Raph kept washing himself, trying desperately to get rid of the blood that had dried in-between his small reptilian scales.

He looked up and stared at himself in the mirror, allowing his hands to finally stop moving and rest almost peacefully under the open tap. Raph could barely recognise his own reflection. His eyes were filled with fear, uncertainty and guilt, while he could have sworn his skin was a lighter green. As his stomach churned, he started to look and feel ill. Swiftly turning, he lifted up the toilet lid nearby and vomited into the echoing depths of the porcelain bowl. He sighed afterwards. He felt only slightly better. Kneeling on the cold tiled floor, he tiredly lifted his left arm to press on the handle and flush the toilet. Groggily, he returned to the sink and started to wash his mouth out in order to get rid of the sickly acidic taste.

As he stood there, mouth open while allowing the running water to flow in and out, he wondered where his life would now take him. Oddly, his mind floated to Michelangelo and Donatello. He knew that Mike greatly enjoyed Eve's company, and he thought those feelings were reciprocated. While he didn't know the finer details, nor how far their relationship went, if anywhere, for some reason he felt he could relate to the orange-wearing turtle's current situation. However, Raphael didn't know how closely linked their stories were.

Both brothers had loved, and both had lost. Yet the main difference was that Mike's decisions were ruled by his morals, while Raph chose to be guided by his instincts. It was a common misconception in society that if one person decided to take the more ethical approach, like Mike had done, then their life should be consistently filled with happiness, otherwise playing by the rules would be perceived to be pointless. Yet life's hurdles are never lowered for anyone, even to the kindest of men, and as Mike discovered the hard way, obeying basic morals didn't make life instantly easy, but rather they made the healing process and decision making more bearable. Michelangelo had chosen not to physically love Eve, while Raph had given into lust. Although both turtles ended up at the same place with broken hearts, Raphael had lost a lot more on his uncontrolled journey of soul mate searching. Mike's emotional wounds were deep, but time would slowly heal them. Raphael on the other hand, had given his everything; heart, body, mind and soul. He inevitably became too involved and risked all that was important, only to be left with a bottomless pit filled with regret. It's a known fact that everyone must deal with the decisions they make in their lifetime, but by far Raphael had to face a lot more repercussions because of his choices, when compared to Mikey's problems.

Raphael sighed as he finally twisted the cold water tap off. The turtle closed his eyes and took in a deep breath as he tried to formulate a plan. Still thinking about his younger brothers, running away didn't seem to be a bad idea. Leonardo had already caught on that something was wrong, and Raph simply didn't want to deal with all the accusations and judgemental thoughts from his family at that particular point in time. Although he viewed himself as a murderer, Raphael still needed time alone to mourn for his victim, his friend.

Contrary to what his brothers believed, Raphael actually held a great deal of respect for Splinter. His master had always stood by him, and was the only one who attempted to reach through his rage infested mind when he was an adolescent. Considering that Splinter had invested so much time into correcting his reckless behaviour over the last few years of his life, Raphael hated to see that look of pure disappointment on the rat's face. Just recently Splinter had finally bestowed the honour of selecting the turtle to be the leader of the clan, and now Raphael was too ashamed to admit his inexcusable mistake. He really didn't want to disappoint his father again, not after so must trust had been given. He felt as though the terrible news would break Splinter's heart. In the end, Raphael didn't want to fail and dishonour his ninjitsu master. And so the answer was simple. Run away.

Raphael suddenly pushed open the bathroom door and determinedly walked towards his the train carriage that housed his personal bedroom. Yet for some unknown reason, he paused midway and stared at Leonardo once again. Raph expected to see anger in his brother's eyes, like he usually did when he was being anti-social, but instead he only saw sadness etched on Leo's face. The turtle helplessly stared from the dining table, only wanting an explanation, not an argument. "Is it really that bad?" Leo wondered why Raphael wasn't telling him what had happened.

"It is," the words barely made it past Raph's lips.

"I don't believe you. I mean, nothing can be-"

"Leo, it is!" Raphael said sharply, cutting him off. The turtle instantly regretted talking in such a harsh tone. Leo simply didn't deserve that type of response. "Look, I know you're trying to help… but you can't. I've just… I've gotta get away from here." With that said, Raphael swiftly walked into his bedroom.

"Please Raph! We can work this out!" Raphael could hear Leonardo's pleads of forgiveness while he packed his bag. "You don't have to run away from your problems!" Raph sighed when he heard those words, for it was exactly what he was doing. For a split second he pondered on whether he should stay, as though Leo had managed to reach through to the part of him that hated being called a coward. 'I don't run from anything', Raph remembered what he used to say before an imminent deadly battle. The burning, guilty sensation of wanting to confess rose up through his body once again. But the urges subsided as quickly as they came. This time there were no opponents, no physical fights that had to be done. Instead, he was his worst enemy, and although he couldn't run from himself, he knew that he needed to be alone so he could piece together his life again.

"Please Raph!" Leo begged again. Raphael grunted, snapping out of his brief cationic state of mind. He hurriedly flung open a black sports bag and packed his spare pair of sai, his various extra belts and masks, a large wad of cash that he had taken from some drug dealers he had intervened, and also a few books that he had come to own over the years. He wasn't the sort of turtle who grew attached to material things, and Raphael couldn't help but find it almost funny that his whole life could be packed into a bag in a matter of seconds.

Raphael grabbed his few important belongings and swiftly walked out of his bedroom for the last time, making a beeline for the lair's ladder. "Raph! We'll work things out, I promise!" Leonardo continued to plead when he saw his brother again. Raph didn't stop. "Just don't leave me!" Leo cried out. Raphael stopped in his tracks, knowing that Leo was growing quite desperate. "First Venus, then Mike and Don… You're the only one left…" the turtle tried to reason with him. "Just don't leave me here with him. I don't… I don't want to be left here with Splinter," Leo confessed.

"…I'm sorry, Leo. I've failed," Raphael mumbled. Not wanting to look at his brother, he moved forward and started to climb the ladder. He stopped a few rungs up and sighed. "I should never have been leader," he whispered only just loud enough so that Leo could hear, before finally moving off. Leo's face remained stern for a few minutes while he tried to accept the new circumstances he was in, until he finally broke down.

"Damn you, Raph! Damn you!" he screamed from his seat. The Hog's revving engine could be heard from deep within the sewer lair. Leo's ears strained as he followed the fading sounds of the motorcycle until it disappeared altogether. For one of the first times in his life, he felt truly alone. He was a lost sheep who had no shepherd or flock.

After sitting completely still for a few minutes, Leonardo slowly began to regret not going with Mike and Don. Leo knew that Splinter would have definitely heard some of the exchanges he had between Raphael, and even then the rat didn't emerge from his room. Leo sighed and found himself feeling rather unwanted due to his lack of mobility. He was a vegetable that no one could be bothered to take care of; stuck at home as an ex-warrior who could only reminisce about better times. All of his physical goals in life had slipped away, and now his support network, his family, had also disintegrated right in front of his eyes. Now all he could do was watch.

As Leo continued to sit in one of the dining chairs, he realised that he no longer had to be loyal to his ninjitsu master. As of a few days ago, Splinter had told him that he had been discharged from his duties of being leader, and thus he technically was no longer a working ninja. There was nothing left for him in New York. Then again, what did he have left at all? He felt as though Splinter didn't need his services any more, and his presence in the lair would only prove uncomfortable now that his master seemed to be pursuing a relationship with Eve. Leo hated Splinter for that. Leo even hated himself for being like he was; a burden.

Out of frustration, Leo fidgeted and kicked his legs underneath the table. It was a furious movement which quickly turned painful when Leo's left knee twinged. The turtle gritted his teeth while he tried to hold back a scream, not out of agony but rather out of pure annoyance with himself. With his left hand gently massaging the knee cap, he sighed when he noticed the ticking hands on the clock. It was almost bedtime. He looked forlornly at his bedroom and felt as though it was over a mile away. Leo hated hobbling. It was tiring and slow, and at that moment he simply didn't want to bother moving at all. Stuck in the living room and feeling completely miserable, Leo came up with an alternative and rested his head against the flat surface of the table. It was only slightly comfortable, but he simply didn't care at that point. With his eyelids struggling to stay up, Leo sedately continued to try and stare at the clock on the wall. It wasn't long until he fell asleep due to boredom.

Leo awoke hours later after experiencing a burning sensation located around his neck. His muscles had cramped. While massaging his neck, Leo grumped at his own stupidity for being so lazy and sleeping in that horrible bent-over position. That's when he noticed another person in the room. He jumped out of shock when he first laid eyes on the fully cloaked figure as he thought it was a Rank soldier, but he immediately relaxed when he realised who it was. "You came back," Leo was surprised.

"I'm not staying for long," the female turtle replied.

"Don't worry. I'm used to it," Leo bluntly said. Intrigued by Leo's last comment, Venus looked around the lair and noticed that a lot of items were missing.

"Where is everyone?" she wondered.

"Gone. They packed up and left." Venus could tell that Leo was annoyed. She wisely decided to ask for more details, even though she was extremely curious as to what happened within the clan during her absence. Venus sighed and slowly removed the hood that was covering her face. Leo's eyes softened when he noticed a graze across Venus' cheek, as though she had barely avoided being shot in the head from a dragon's laser gun. "You're hurt," Leo stated with concern. Venus subconsciously touched her slightly burnt cheek.

"It's nothing."

"No… It needs to be seen to. It'll leave a scar otherwise," Leo assessed, motioning for her to sit beside him at the table. She was quite hesitant at his offer, but she eventually relented and allowed her small injury to be inspected. She hissed and titled her head away when Leo's left hand touched her cheek. "Sore?"

"It stings," Venus murmured. Leo gave her a small smile.

"I know the feeling." Venus giggled lightly at his honesty. "You should run some cold water across it. It's still quite hot," Leonardo finished his assessment. Venus nodded, and the two turtles fell into silence. "Why did you come back?" Leo finally asked the question that was on his mind. He stared directly into her eyes, but she simply turned her head and tried to avoid his direct gaze, as though she was embarrassed… or possibly shy.

"I wanted to warn you. There are about a hundred dragons currently searching the sewers, and in a few hours I think they're going to find our lair," Venus explained to Leo the bad news, touching her face as a reminder of her recent encounter with the enemy. "We have to get out of here now," her voice suddenly became filled with urgency. Although Leo felt that there was more to her story, he nodded in understanding and accepted what she had said. "…Can you walk?" Venus was curious as to how Leo had managed to make it to the table.

Leonardo gave her a smile. "Don helped me earlier today. I can move… but I don't know if you can call it walking yet!" Venus grinned, knowing that Leo was finally starting to cheer up. Yet she had no idea how much of a role she personally played in improving Leo's positive outlook.

"That's great, Leo," Venus congratulated him. "It's good to see that you're improving".

"We best be going soon," Leo reminded her.

"What do you want packed?"

"Just some books. A few of them are still in Don's room. Doesn't really matter what ones."

"Packing light, are we?"

"No… I guess I just don't need that many things anymore," Leo murmured.

"I'll be back in a minute," Venus smiled before entering Leo and Don's bedrooms. Although she felt slightly rude when searching through the male turtle's few possessions, Venus noticed that she felt a strange sense of satisfaction in helping him. Spending some time away from the boys only made her realise how much she enjoyed their company, especially Leo's. She had slowly been able to come to grips and accept her feelings for the male turtle, and now that she had a clearer view of her heart, she was now even able to pick up on Leo's reciprocal emotions which were shrouded in subtly.

As Leonardo waited, he recognised an unfamiliar sensation of relief dance through his body. It was as though he was excited to finally move on and leave the lair. Forget about Splinter. To even distance himself from his brothers. He wanted to abandon his old life and start anew. There was something about Venus that made him feel so innocent, as though he was revisiting his early childhood years again. Emotions he had forgotten about were suddenly resurrected whenever the female turtle was around. Leo desperately wanted to know why he felt that way about her, and he was curious to find out if there was a future. For some reason, Venus made Leo feel complete, and both mutants wanted to know why.

"Where's the keys to the Hummer?" Venus called out to Leo, thinking that they could use it as a fast exit from the oncoming dragon army.

"I gave permission for Mike and Don to take it," Leo said. Venus remained silent as she zipped up Leo's newly packed bag. Carrying it in one hand, she walked over to the resting turtle and placed it down beside him.

"I think that's everything," Venus said softly. "Looks like we'll just have to walk on foot then," she sighed, raising an eye-ridge while she pondered on how Leo was going to move about.

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"Being a nuisance," Leonardo solemnly said. Venus sighed. She sat down beside him again, leaned over slightly, and held his left hand with her own.

"You're not a nuisance," she looked straight into his eyes, trying to convince him to think more optimistically. "I'll be more than happy to help you, Leo," she said softly, yet once again she suddenly looked away from his gaze. Leo could have sworn he saw a hint of a blush. There was a moments silence before Venus focused on the task at hand once more. "Now come on. We have to leave," she said, standing up from her seat. "What side do you need the most support on?" Venus offered to help.

"Probably my left side because of my knee," Leo admitted his weakness. Venus nodded before picking up her own bag and sliding the strap across her body, so that the main bulk of it rested just underneath her left hand. She was about to do the same with Leo's belongings, when the male turtle interrupted her. "I can hold that," he offered, stretching out his left arm.

"You sure?"

"It's the least I can do," Leo said. He was so thankful for all that Venus was doing for him, that he desperately wanted to find a way he could return the favour. Leo took the bag, and with some slight difficulty, he slipped it across his plastron, even though it felt somewhat uncomfortable having so much dead weight on his right side. Leo couldn't help but smile when Venus wrapped an arm around him, so that when he stood up, some of his body weight was supported. Together as one, the pair slowly moved forward one step at a time.

They faltered when they passed Splinter's door. "Should I tell him?" Venus offered, though it was blatantly obvious to Leonardo that she was uncomfortable in meeting the rat again. Instead of answering straight away, Leo kept thinking about the question, and in the end only spoke the truth that was in his heart.

"No point. Splinter abandoned us with Eve," Leo didn't lie.

"He left?" Venus was shocked.

"Yes." A short yet heavy silence filled the room. "In a way, he was the first to truly leave," Leo added softly. The turtle wasn't sure if he was doing the right thing, but he knew that over the past couple of hours Splinter had shown that he was capable of handling himself. His old master had made his choice in the lifestyle that he wanted, and now Leo was making a firm decision with his; to start again. Leonardo had no reason to be loyal to the aging rat anymore, and so he simply wished that they could go their separate ways. The crises with the oncoming dragon hoards was a problem that a ninja must face; a dilemma that Leo never had to worry about again. While over the years his brothers had teased both Leo and Splinter's alikeness, in the end they departed as unique individuals.

Leonardo looked towards the exit of the lair, knowing that as soon as he left, a new lifestyle would be born. With his eyes still focused in that direction, his gaze inevitably landed on the rack where the weapons were kept for easy access. His katana was the only one there. "Pass me my sword," he instructed Venus. Slightly confused by his request, Venus did what she was told and handed the weapon to him hilt first. She watched as he gripped the single katana firmly in his left hand while he slowly hobbled over to the start of the alcove which featured the ladder; a concrete corner which jutted out as a rather sharp ninety-degree angle. With a giant swing of his arm that almost knocked himself off balance, Leonardo smashed his katana against the wall. The sharp edge of the corner made the sword break in two. Venus blinked in stupor for a few seconds, until she smiled when she realised what Leo had meant by his actions. Being raised as an American ninja, Leo didn't know whether the reference came from factual accounts from Japan, or if it was just seen in cheesy, predictable kung-fu movies, but Venus still managed to decipher the symbolism behind his rash actions. When a leader's sword had been broken, it meant that the clan had been destroyed.

The burden of being leader finally lifted its weight off Leo's shoulders. He felt lighter. Happier. Being more relaxed than ever, he allowed Venus to wrap her arm around him again so he could walk with less difficulty. "Are you going to have trouble with the ladder?" Venus asked while staring at the foreboding, thin silver rungs.

"I should be able to get up it. That is if you help me."

"Of course I'll help," Venus whispered with a small smile on her face. Leonardo sighed as he started to get used to his new way of life. For some reason, with Venus around, he no longer felt bothersome, but rather content. Just hours earlier he felt that he didn't have the heart to live another day in his condition, and now he was leaving with a girl who seemed to ceaselessly fascinate every inch of his mind. Both turtles had experienced the worst week of their lives, but through patience and persistence, things were starting to look brighter for the two of them. Although he hated to admit it, Leo realised that in order to truly make a difference in his life, sometimes you had to leave everything you knew and start again.

Grooved tires rolled ceaselessly across the road's surface in an almost sedated dream-like motion. Michelangelo sucked in a deep breath of the cold early morning air while allowing the wind to flap, flicker and play with his orange bandanna tails. Everything was so new; the atmosphere, the scenery, the mood. He looked to the right and watched as trees, shrubs and a few farms scrolled by. Far off into the distance, only the faintest hint of a purple and pink hue in the clouds signified that the sun was going to rise soon. Not a soul could be seen. Everything was so fresh. So peaceful.

"So where are we going?" Mike asked for the umpteenth time.

Donatello sighed as the clutched the steering wheel, checking the rear-view mirror in case another car decided to follow them. "I dunno. You just wanted to start driving," Don reminded him. He wasn't exactly annoyed at Mike's lack of planning, but rather he found amusing. "I guess it doesn't really matter now," Don shrugged.

"Yeah… No point in turning back now," Mike murmured, not wanting to return to New York so soon. "We've come so far…" he trailed off.

"If we keep going at this speed, we'll reach Buffalo soon," Don said while he eyed the speedometer.

"…What's at Buffalo?" Mike pondered. Donatello shrugged once again.

"I don't know… but for some reason I keep thinking of chicken."

"…It's probably the buffalo wings."

"Well then I guess that answers our question. Buffalo has buffalo wings," Don commented as he took a left turn. Mike giggled at his rather inane conclusion.

"How long will it take the locals to figure out that we're from New York?" Mike asked with a big grin on his face.

"I'll give them ten seconds," Don betted, smiling as well.

"You know," Mike's voiced turned more serious again. "I'm really glad that you came with me," the turtle meant every word.

"Well I couldn't let you have all the fun," Don said. The two mutants fell silent as they listened to the continuous rumbling drone of the Hummer's engine. Donatello glanced at Mikey and smiled. "Guess what?" Don suddenly asked.


"It's your turn to drive," Don stated with a wicked smirk.

"What!" Mike exclaimed. "But Donny…" he started to whine when the vehicle pulled over to the curb.

"Well I did say that I'm not going to let you have all the fun," Don reminded him, and was cheeky enough to give his brother a wink. Sighing, Michelangelo stepped out of the car and switched places with Don. After clicking his seat belt in place, Mike slid his hands ever so gently along the rim of the leather coated steering wheel. As though he was meditating, he took in a deep breath and released it in one long, calm motion. Freedom was at his fingertips. He had driven the Hummer numerous times before, yet he always had a destination and an obligation to get there. Now he could travel to wherever he wished, and the uncertainty of the event exhilarated every muscle, tendon and bone in his body. He was finally free, and his best friend had come along for the ride.

Donatello fidgeted in his seat while he waited for Mike to move back onto the road. "Mike?" Don asked, just in case his brother had been lost in thought.

"You know… I think having buffalo wings in Buffalo sounds like a great idea," Michelangelo decided on a whim. Donatello chuckled at the notion and nodded his head in agreement while the Hummer slowly turned back onto the road. Although the clan had self-collapsed, life still found a way to continue on.

Author's Notes: Yes, davewriter, as you predicted, this is the final chapter. I'd like to thank everyone who's reviewed… and everyone who bothered to read through this ridiculously long chapter o.0! Writing this fic has meant a lot to me, and I'm really looking forward to continuing on with this hobby. Unfortunately my parents don't like me writing fan fiction and now they'd like to see me write an actual novel (I'll have the last say on that decision though :P Muahahaha!). I have heaps of ideas for numerous fics (actually I have too many ideas and now I have to sort through them all o.0!) including a possible sequel to Mary Sue or the Prison series, along with new TMNT storylines altogether. So I'll probably do something naughty and write an original novel and a number of fanfics all at the same time o.0! Anyway, once again thank you very much for reading and reviewing this fic, and I hope you all enjoyed it.