A/N: Thank you SO much, every single person to leave a review for this. You couldn't possibly imagine how happy you've made me with your words. I'll look back on them years from now, re-living the feeling of having touched someone without even meeting the person. Thank you all for making that feeling possible. Also, I would like to point out that while writing this, Leonardo as a character has grown immensly on me. Getting inside a head of the unknown turned out to be quite the experiance. And please, before you leave, remember to drop a review and tell me what you thought. Thank you.


Three weeks later, October 13th; 1:26 a.m.

With his teeth gritted in indestructible frustration, Raphael swung another punch at the punching bag. A breath of withheld air hissed out between his teeth as his fist connected with the black, leather surface of his opponent, causing it to dangle restlessly from the bolt it hung by from the low ceiling of his sub car, squeaking in protest. Raph knew the bolt had to be tightened, or the bag might risk dropping to the floor, but due to his disappointment at tonight's eventless patrol, he simply attacked the bag with another punch, fist clenched in anger. The collision of his punch traveled all the way from the knuckles of his hand to the very core of his shoulder. He felt his sore muscles protest to his movements, but it felt good. It made him feel alive.

He had never been one to block out the pain; he embraced it. He treasured the feeling of physical sensation, awareness of one's body and its mortality. But no matter how much he loved pushing his body to its limits, he had never been one to deny himself water when he needed it.

Exhausted, he wiped his forehead clean of sweat with the back of his right hand, his plastron still heaving from the workout. He quickly scanned his room for a towel and found one from this morning, carelessly thrown over the open door of his wooden closet. Raph walked the three steps that parted him from the closet and snatched the camel colored towel; he rubbed his face with the slightly damp terry cloth, savoring the touch of the soft fabric against his skin. He lazily threw the cloth across his shoulder, draping it around the back of his neck to hang down over his plastron. Then, with the instinct of thirst mastering his mind, Raphael walked up to the exit of the sub car and grabbed its handles, pulling the two doors open with unnecessary force.

He stepped out into the darkened living room, absentmindedly taking in the details. The small lamp on top of the TV set was the only source of light, showering the quiet subway station with a dull, yellowish glow. A tattered, spruce green blanket laid thrown across the back of the old, brown plush-couch, and left on the wooden coffee table was his dinner plate, traces of ketchup smeared across the scratched surface of the porcelain. Apart from the kitchen and bathroom carriages, all sub cars were closed. And those two that were still left open had nothing but blackness to offer beyond their thresholds. However, there was a pale light seeping out from Donatello's car, indicating the sleepless turtle was still awake, but he had only left one of his windows uncovered, so the light did very little to illuminate the rest of their home.

Raphael aloofly continued on his path toward the kitchen sub car, pulling the two doors open with a short-lived racket. Hitting one of the two light switches on the wall to his right, the lamp above the kitten table lit up, hanging close the deal surface, exposing crumbs left by one of the seats.


Raph realized his orange masked brother must have already been up for his late night sandwich. He probably just missed him by a few minutes, but that didn't bother him - not at all. He actually preferred drinking his water by himself, because it wasn't like the two of them had anything to say to each other anyway. They would just be left sitting there across from each other, Michelangelo desperately trying to come up with something to talk about.

No, he definitely preferred being left to himself, Raph decided as he opened up one of the upper cabinets and grabbed a glass, turning on the tap in front of him. He stuck his finger through the jet, waiting for the water to turn cold as ice. Once the nerves in his skin pleaded for mercy, Raph quickly put his glass beneath the tap and filled it up to the point where it overflowed. Lifting the glass to his lips, he hungrily swallowed half of its containment, gulping loudly as he drank. Then, in thirst for more, he refilled the glass and turned off the tap.

Soundless steps led him to the rectangular shaped dining table where he pulled out a chair for himself, the solid wood scraping lightly against the floor. Once seated with his face pointed to the open door, Raph put down his glass of water in front of him, his fingers loosely curled around it. Even though his fingertips barely brushed the glass, he could still feel the cold of the water through it, its chilling force almost burning his skin. He lightly tapped his fingers against the glass, watching in mild amusement as clear prints were left on the foggy surface of the glass, leaving tiny windows in the thick layer of dripping mist.

Turning back to stare at the open door, he soon noticed the towering weight of the silence; if he would focus hard enough, he could even mark the exact beat of his heart. But he never bothered to, because he didn't mind the silence. On the contrary, he knew it quite well by now. Like an old friend stopping by at night, it hung in the air of the underground tunnels, molding as one with the suffocating blackness, taking up most of the space in the lair. And like welcoming that old friend into his home, Raph willingly surrendered to the advancing darkness and allowed it to seep into his being, filling his mind with dull thoughts of nothing, numbing his emotions with feelings of nonentity.

Drunk on solitude, Raph aimed his impassive stare at the door and slowly lifted the glass to his lips, tipping it over as he drank a few mouthfuls. He vacantly licked his moist lips and set down his glass in front of him, the light of the lamp casting dark shadows across his slack features.

His expressionless eyes soon turned alert once he heard a sub car door opening outside of the kitchen; the noise was very subdued, as if not to attract any attention. Soon, he could detect footsteps tapping lightly on the concrete surface of the living room platform, almost like a child tiptoeing past his parents' bedroom to avoid waking them. A faint flicker of curiosity twitched at the corner of the red masked turtle's mouth as he tightened his hold on the glass and lifted it with swiftness, wolfing down what was left of the cool water.

Leaning closer to the computer screen, Donatello squinted his eyes at the pale light and absently scrolled down the page with his finger barely touching the mouse. Overstrained, chocolate brown pools traveled down the narrow text on the screen, trying to find the solution to his unexpected problem with the installation program of his virus guard. What merely should have taken a few minutes to install had instead turned into hours, and the cold cup of coffee sitting next to him on his desk did very little to keep him functional.

Finding nothing of interest on the page, Donnie clicked on another link for more information. The latest web page gradually unwrapped itself on the screen, uploading a long page of extended paragraphs and microscopic letters. Don sighed and leaned even further to the bright display, narrowing his eyes in forced concentration. In the midst of his skimming, a light knock on the metal doors suddenly interrupted him.

"Yeah?" he called, turning his attention to the door on the right, almost by the other end of the sub car. His shrunken pupils quickly dilated as soon as they were turned away from the glowing screen and found solace in the looming darkness.

Without an answer in return, the two doors were slid open, revealing a mask-less turtle on the threshold. "Got a minute?" Michelangelo asked where he stood in the doorway, the left side of his face illuminated by the dim light in the living room.

Don glanced at the text filled screen on his desk before turning back to his brother. "Sure," he said, turning his desk chair around to be able to face his visitor, the wheels of the furniture rolling with ease across the floor. "I was looking for an excuse to drop this, anyway," he briefly mumbled under his breath.

Hesitant steps led the smaller turtle inside the room, his eyes grazing the floor as he walked. "I uh.. I couldn't sleep, so I was kinda wondering if you would do somethin' for me?" he mumbled, looking up where he stopped three feet away from his sibling.

Donnie looked at his younger brother and soon noticed how red and swollen his eyes were; it seemed extra visible when he didn't have his bandanna on to hide them. He instantly felt a warm breeze of sympathy and grief blow up inside of him, tugging at his worn heart like a child would pull his daddy's hand for attention. "What is it?" he asked, his concern shining through in his humble voice.

Mike nervously rubbed his right palm against his thigh, his eyes darting sporadically across the floor until he finally found the courage to look up at his brother. "I thought maybe you could get me my Walkman," he timidly said. "You know, to help me sleep."

"Um.. sure," Don replied, slightly baffled by the question. He turned back to the computer screen and added the page to his favorites to be able to access it in the morning. "So where is it?" he absently wondered as he shut down the Internet window.

"It's uh..." Mike awkwardly cleared his throat. "It's in Leo's room."

Donatello's finger instantly froze on the clicker of the mouse, and his thoughts halted as if they had ran straight into a wall. With stinging eyes lowered to his keyboard, he finally parted his lips to speak, his voice a lot more hoarse than he had expected. "Why in Leo's room?"

Mike bit the inside of his cheek, insecurity quickly spreading throughout his body. "He.. he borrowed it earlier. He had trouble sleeping, so I-I offered it to him."

The purple-clad turtle swallowed the fresh lump in his throat and proceeded with turning off the computer, shutting down one window at a time. The soft clicking of the mouse solely filled the air inside the narrow room.

"Donnie, I--"

"Just go back to bed, Mikey," Donatello said, keeping his eyes locked on the screen, focusing on his limited list of options on the toolbar window.

"Look," Mike began, taking a small step closer to his sibling. "I know it's a lot to ask, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it would help," he said, waiting for his brother to respond.

Donnie clicked 'yes' to log off the computer, plunging the entire room into darkness as the screen went dead, yet his stare didn't leave the black display. He could sense an invisible wall growing between the two of them, emotionally parting them in the shadows. "I don't think music will be able to help you, Mikey," he softly said. "In fact, I don't think sleep'll come to us at all… at least not for a while."

Silence followed his statement, leaving the two of them alone with their thoughts. Michelangelo's eyes silently traveled to the floor, resting on nothing in particular. Slowly, the wall between the two of them grew wider, something the youngest turtle must have felt as well, because he suddenly looked up in stubbornness.

"It might help," he insisted, locking his chestnut brown gaze on his brother.

Don turned his head to face his sibling, his eyes still getting accustomed to the sudden lack of light. Still, he could only make out the silhouette of his brother. "It won't make the pain go away," he simply said, staring at the bulky shape in the darkness.

Michelangelo stood frozen on the floor, as if contemplating the answer he had been given, yet his features showed no sign of emotion; they were blank. "Fine," he finally decided, turning around to leave the room. "Then I'll go ask Raph instead."

"You really think that's such a good idea," Donatello said in a low voice, still not moving in his chair.

The youngest turtle stopped in the doorway, his shell turned to his brother. "You don't think he'd help me?" he asked, his eyes traveling to rest on the platform floor.

Donatello sighed as he turned his chair around to be able to face his brother completely, tiredly rubbing his forehead with his right hand. "Honestly, Mike. If none of us wants to set our foot inside his room, what makes you think Raph would?"

"...I dunno" the youngest answered after a few seconds of silence, still staring at the floor. "I just thought..." he trailed off in defeat, blowing out a deep sigh. "I dunno."

Donatello glanced at his lap for a moment, thinking about the behavior of his hotheaded brother, his reaction to Leonardo's death. It certainly hadn't been easy for any of them, but Raphael had taken it the hardest, even if he would never admit to it. The purple masked turtle sighed lightly and folded his hands in his lap, fidgeting with his fingers as he turned back to look at the turtle by the door. "Just… Mikey, he's a mess."

Mikey turned back to look at his sibling with a mixture of confusion and concern plastered on his naked features.

"I don't know," Don said, shaking his head to himself as he worked to put his feelings into words. "With him… It's like nothing's happened. I mean, it's been three weeks and he still hasn't talked about it."

"Well, maybe that's his way of dealing," Mike suggested, standing up for Raph like the loyal brother he was. "You know, like when Sensei died? He didn't mention him for months.."

"This is different," Donnie interrupted, shaking his head in protest. "This time, he's not dealing at all. It's like…" he trailed off, loosing his train of thought. Looking up at his brother with urgent eyes, he fought to get his message through to him. "Mikey, he won't even flinch when someone talks about him." Staring at his broken baby brother, the sadness in Don's eyes suddenly transformed. It was a different kind of sadness, a look of sorrow that was almost tangible, and perhaps more than anything: contagious.

Mike tiredly leaned his shell against the back wall of the carriage, staring at the ceiling as if looking for answers. He furrowed his eye ridges in frustration. "Maybe… maybe he just doesn't wanna listen?" he offered, fixating his gaze on Donatello.

"Well, shouldn't he at least be affected?" Don insisted, his worry radiating from his emotional gaze.

Once again, the room drifted off into silence, and Michelangelo sadly broke their eye contact, sitting down on the floor with his shell against the hard wall. He drew his knees close to him and rested his hands on top of them, cracking his fingers in a sure sign of uneasiness.

"God, Mikey, he was our brother," Don desperately filled in. "Shouldn't that stir some sort of emotion in him? Any kind of emotion?"

Mike didn't answer the question, nor did he look up; he simply remained in the same position on the floor, cracking one finger after the other. But he didn't have to answer, because even though Donatello couldn't make out his eyes in the gloomy darkness, he still knew his words had hit home with his little brother.

Standing in the kitchen doorway with statuesque arms crossed over his chest, Raphael casually leaned his left shoulder against the metallic doorframe, the sharp edge cutting into his bulking muscle. A pair of static eyes peered right into the dark inside of his purple masked brother's sub car, directly across the platform; and protected by the shadows in the doorway, the kitchen light never reached the surface of his deep green skin, nor did the weak light coming from the small lamp in the living room.

He was stuck in a dark void between two worlds of brightness.

But even though the rays of light couldn't reach his face, it was quite obvious what knowledge hid behind his firm features. He had heard everything, everything from Mikey missing his Walkman to Donatello analyzing his behavior towards Leo's death. Either sub car walls were very thin, or the secluded silence in their home did wonders for eavesdropping. Whatever the reason was for Raph being able to catch his brothers' conversation, he was certainly glad he had. But most of all, he was pissed – and it was starting to show.

Straightening himself in the doorway, Raph took steady steps across the platform, his eyes locked on the open door to Don's darkened hideout. The dim living room light brought out the tense muscles on his body, speaking volumes of his growing anger as they contracted with his footsteps. The second he appeared in the doorway and were noticed by his younger brothers, he could feel the tension build up in the room like a hissing gas leak, intoxicating their senses with its sharp air. Even through the thick darkness, he could still see the sudden strike of fear in their eyes.

"What's the matta'?" he asked, sarcasm leading the way of his words. "Didn't think I was awake?" He shifted his gaze between his two siblings, the fire in his eyes nearly burning them in the darkness. Ashamed, Michelangelo lowered his surprised stare to the floor, while Don kept his eyes locked on the red masked turtle, never moving an inch in his chair, as if challenging him.

"What?" Raph insisted. "Juz a secon' ago, you couldn't stop talkin'. So, please, don't mind me."

Donnie remained in the same upright position in his chair, an overly causal expression posted on his face, unflinching at his brother's words. "If you came in here to fight," he said, calm and collected, "you might as well leave right away. I'm not arguing with you, Raph." The firm look in his eyes did nothing but prove the seriousness of his statement.

Raph let out a short snort of laughter, shaking his head in twisted amusement. "Shit, Donnie," he smiled loathingly. "Yer really somethin', ain'tcha? Too good ta give it to my face, but talkin' shit behind my back works juz fine." When locking his eyes on his brother, all signs of humor had been utterly abandoned, efficiently replaced with a look of strict anger.

"I didn't 'talk shit' behind your ba--"

"Don't fuckin' lie to my face!" Raphael outburst, his anger spreading through his body like cancer, corrupting it. "I heard ya, Donnie. I heard all of it, so don't tell me you didn't go behind my back." Raph icily bore his eyes into his brother's, but no matter how hard he tried to mask it, there was still a glimpse of hurt soaring within their angry depths.

"I'm not gonna apologize for being worried about you, if that's what want," Don said, his voice as calm as a spring breeze, the softness of his words barely brusing against his lips as they blew past them.

"Worried?" Raph snorted in disbelief. "That's funny, cuz from where I was standin', it sounded more like judgmental crap."

"I've never judged you, Raph," Donatello said, calmly certain of his words. "And even if you can't see it, those were words of concern."

"Yeah well, I don't need yer concern, a'right?" Raph snapped, squinting his eyes in resentment. "So juz save yer sympathy pains fer someone else; I ain't broken. "

"You should be," Don replied, disappointment visible in his stabbing gaze, piercing straight through the dense fog of darkness. "God, Raph, we lost a brother.. an-and if that doesn't just break your heart, I don't what to say. Have you even noticed he's gone?" he asked, narrowing his eyes in desperation.

"The hell's that suppose ta mean?" Raph asked coldly, standing stiff next to a seated Mikey, who worriedly observed the conversation from the safety of the floor, almost like a cub watching his parents argue. 'Uncomfortable' would only be the beginning to describe his body language.

"You tell me," Donnie provoked, none of his emotions showing in his flat voice.

"Look," Raph began, taking an abrasive step closer to his brother as he threateningly pointed at him in the darkness. "Don't pull yer psychological bullshit on me! What, ye looked up my symptoms on the computer and found the solution to all my problems?" he mocked.

"Don't be stupid," Donnie said, not the least bit amused by the cruel joke.

"No, seriously, Doc," Raph emphasized, standing a few feet in front of his seated brother, towering over his smaller form in the darkness. "Tell me. I wanna know."

"Raph, c'mon," Mikey carefully spoke up from the floor, nervousness beginning to stir his limbs. "Just stop," he implored.

"No, Mike, I wanna hear this," Raphael insisted, not even turning around as he addressed his little brother, ignoring him as though he was nothing but a buzzing noise in the back of his head. Instead, he stared harder at Donatello, titling his head to his right shoulder. "So tell me, Don. What's my diagnosis?"

But there was no answer from Donatello, only controlled silence – and that only added more fuse to Raph's fury. "You think I'm in denial, is that it?" he asked tempestuously. "You think I need ta cry more? Have a fucking breakdown?" he yelled.

"Honestly, Raph.," Don spoke quietly, sorrow swimming in his mild eyes. "What am I supposed to think?" he asked, sadly. "I mean, what would you think if you were in my position?"

"I'd mind my own business," Raph growled, speaking through gritted teeth.

"Raph, I'm serious," Donatello persisted, still not moving in his chair.

"So am I," Raph vowed, taking yet another step closer to his sibling, standing at a three feet's distance. "So juz back the hell off!"

"Lay off him, Raph," Michelangelo quickly cut in, stepping between the two of them with a pressing hand on Raphael's chest, guiding him backwards. "Seriously, we're just tryin' to help you," he insisted, searching Raph's burning eyes with his own, doing his best to calm him. "We lost him, too, y'know? And.. and it hurts like hell," he admitted, boring his sad stare into Raph's. "But Donnie's right," he sympathetically added. "If you don't deal with your pain--"

"Don't fuckin' talk ta me about pain, Mike!" Raph outburst, a new kind of anger flaring up in his eyes - a bitter kind of anger. "I was the one there, rememba'? Not you. He died in my arms," he cried, a flat hand pointing to himself. "So don't lecture me on pain, cuz you weren't there, a'right? Ye wouldn't know the first thing about i--"

"Jesus, Raph," Don shot up from his chair, pulling Michelangelo to himself and shielding him with his own body. "Get a hold of yourself," he urged, rebuking Raph with dark eyes. "None of us are against you," he ensured, standing close enough to feel Raph's frustrated breath on his face, their eyes locked with each other in the blackness, wavering back and forth because of to the short distance. "You don't have to convince us of anything; we know what happened. But unless you find a way deal with it, ther--"

"What?" Raph ballistically interrupted, creasing his eye ridges in outraged disarray. "You want me ta cry? Is that it? That make ya happy?" he violently questioned.

"I didn't say that," Donnie replied, his voice still low as he spoke, yet not as calm as it had been before.

"But that's what you want, isn't it?" Raphael angrily pressed, completely overtaken by his anger, suffocating in the sooty smoke of his own wrath. "You want me ta cry myself ta sleep like the rest of ya; wallow in my own self-pity. Would that get'cha off my back?" he wondered, lowering his bass voice to an almost unnerving level, his spite shining through in his piercing glare, nearly glowing in the darkness like the eyes of a wild predator.

"No one's asking you to cry," Donatello insisted, searching for his brother's buried humanity, trying to get past the thick veil of hatred he'd protected himself behind.

"No, you know what?" Raph suddenly lit up, his interest falling upon the youngest turtle, whose mask-less eyes instantly widened in worry. "I've got a better idea. How 'bout I get'cha that damn Walkman you complained about? Huh?" he sadistically suggested, his stabbing eyes locked on Michelangelo. "Turned his fuckin' room upside down! Would that be enough dealin' for ya?" he clamored, yelling at the both of them.

"Would you give it a rest, Raph!" Don exclaimed and stepped closer to his outraged brother to grab him by his shoulders, demanding his attention with physical force. "We don't want you to prove anything," he asserted, doing his very best to spell it out load and clear.

"No, I'll go and get it for ya," Raph reiterated, his brother's urgent words falling on deaf ears. "Where'd he put it?" he asked, stepping past Donnie to be able to look at his youngest brother properly, standing by himself in the darkness, dread painting his naked features.

"Raph, c'mon," Mikey said, almost pleadingly. "You're being ridiculous."

"Where?" Raph rigidly repeated, threatening his brother with his eyes while at the same time ordering him with his voice.

A few undisturbed seconds passed in the darkness - each brother staring intently at the other - not even exchanging words with their eyes, as if the moment had truly been frozen in time, suspended.

Finally, Mikey broke down with a stern voice, his eyes radiating the bitter look of defeat, "…his nightstand."

It didn't even take a second for Raphael to storm out of the room, his strong footsteps echoing down the platform to the fallen brother's untouched sub car; and left in the darkness stood Mike and Donnie, exchanging weary looks of sorrow.

With anger reaching all the way to his fingertips, Raph violently pulled the old sub car doors open. A heavy sound of rusty metal erupted in his ears once the shaky doors connected with the old walls of the carriage, as if the entire ceiling would collapse. The car was parked closest to their entrance, which also meant that it was the furthest away from the small living room lamp, leaving it in thick, pitch-black darkness.

Raphael blindly flicked the light switch on the wall to his left, watching as the fluorescent tubes weakly flickered to life, only two out of six staying lit once the blinking finally died down. However, it was enough to illuminate the inside of the rectangular shaped carriage, which looked just like it had before he was killed, apart from the layers of dust that covered every surface. A majestic although slightly splintered mahogany desk stood on the wall to his right, and on top of it stood a neglected plant, cruelly left to its withering fate, its only company the pile of yellow, dry leaves that surrounded it. Lined against the other wall were three sets of narrow bookcases, filled with the late leader's belongings. Two of the shelves carried books and Japanese ornaments, while the third had a portable stereo player on its middle shelf, surrounded by a few stocks of burned CDs. Lying on the upper planes was his stack of ninjistu weaponry; tons of shurikens scattered across the worn, pinewood surface.

In the left corner of the carriage, directly under one of the fluorescent tubes, a wide mattress laid against the wall. Old, light blue covers were neatly spread across the bed, with two white pillows buried underneath it. The eldest had always made his bed. In fact, he was probably the only brother to have done so everyday – and apparently, his last day had been no exception.

Standing next to the mattress, only a few inches from the bed, was Raphael's reason for coming – the nightstand table. It was a small, black painted furniture, shaped like a miniature table with a single drawer placed underneath the plane top. Standing on top of the bedside table was a flat digital clock and a large, mint green candle, rooted to its porcelain plate by the frozen puddle of candle wax.

Raph passively approached the furniture and bent over to look for the Walkman, but the only thing he could find next to the alarm clock was a tiny box of matches. He grunted in annoyance and pulled the delicate drawer open, almost unlatching it from its track. The things inside the drawer clattered chaotically once it was forced to a violent halt. Irritated, Raph began to rummage through his brother's belongings. He found several sets of pencils, a deck of cards and a few batteries – but no Walkman; and just when he was about to give up and slam the drawer shut, a neatly folded piece of paper instinctively caught his eye. While willing to admit that it sounded incredibly weird, Raph felt like he'd seen that note somewhere before, almost like a déjà vu.

Unable to stop himself, as if drawn in by an invisible pull, Raph reached inside the drawer and grabbed the slim note between his thumb and two fingers. He curiously turned it over to survey the other side, discovering the following words written in blue ink:

To my Beloved Brothers

That sentence alone struck a chord so powerful, Raph was forced to sit down on the mattress next to him, because he suddenly knew where he'd seen the note; he knew.

It had been eight months ago, almost eight months to the date, and the note had been lying on the floor of his dead Sensei's sub car – right in front of his big brother. And that was all it took for his memories to attack him, charge at him like a pack of hungry animals that had been waiting for him to drop his guard and leave himself vulnerable to their crushing teeth. He was then destructively assaulted by visions of the night Leo had attempted to kill himself, visions he would rather erase altogether.

But he couldn't. He was completely paralyzed, and the only thing working was his mind's eye.

He saw flashes of his brother's shadow as it danced across the sub car wall, swaying back and forth in tune with the flickering candles, and he saw the sharp gleam of the wakizashi that laid unsheathed in front of him. He saw his brother's shameful expression once he turned around to look at him, and he remembered his tired words of apology.

I'm sorry.

You weren't supposed to see this.

He saw Leonardo's fleeing form exit the sub car in panic after he'd confessed he didn't want to live anymore, and he remembered to sound of water splashing around his calves as he chased him down the dark sewer tunnels.

Leo, stop!

He saw the look of complete and embodied hopelessness on his brother's face, and he remembered the sensation of slamming his fist into it, an aftertaste of justice coursing through his veins.

The hell's wrong with you? You've got people that care about you! You've got a family; people that love you. I love you! How the fuck can you stand here in front of me and say somethin' like that?

Clutching the note in his hand, Raphael remembered his offer to help his brother, and – perhaps more than anything – he recalled the feel of Leo's wet hand in his own, gripping it as he allowed Raph to help him stand. He had never felt closer to him, and relief had never tasted any sweeter than it did in that moment. Because there had been a silent agreement made between the two of them that night. His brother had promised to pick himself up from the bottom and fight for his life, for his will to live.

He'd promised not to ever give up.

Then why the hell did ya? Raph silently asked himself, his eyes burning with banished tears, tears he wouldn't allow to fall, even now. Because his brother didn't deserve them, he didn't deserve his pain and his thoughts. He had given him so much already – and all of it had been for nothing.

He had done everything for him! Everything!

He had kept his damn secret, even after he died, and he had given him his unconditional support and understanding. He even babysat him for seven months, seven long moths of mind-boggling worry, fearing he would slip back into his old thoughts and do something stupid. And in the end, Leonardo had thrown it all away the instant he stepped in front of that gun.

But what hurt the most - what really drove the knife through his heart - was the sense of peace he saw in his brother's eyes just before he died. It had been the look of restored honor, as if he hadn't cared that he would die… as if it hadn't mattered. Of course, Raph knew his brother had done it for him. He'd unselfishly given his own life for him, and there was no shame in that. But he was damn well allowed to be angry with him for doing it!

Feeling as though his chest was collapsing under the crushing weight of a truck, Raph turned back to look at the folded piece of paper in his hands. He knew what was written inside of it, he knew the big picture of it, but for some reason he needed to read the exact words, if only just to hear his brother's voice one last time.

Swallowing the growing lump in his throat, he slowly slid his thumb inside the note and flipped it open, exposing Leo's handwritten words at the very center of the clean sheet of paper.

It was a waka poem - a suicide poem – one that was essential to the rather complex ritual of seppuku. It was no longer than five units long, and it was important that it didn't mention the fact that the man holding the pencil was about to take his life. The poem was meant to be graceful - not gory, and as soon as Raph read its first word, he realized he was fighting a loosing battle.

By the time he reached the end of the poem, hot tears already streamed down his cheeks, some of them even staining the clean sheet of paper in his hands. The salt in the tears quickly sunk into the thin material and molded with the blue ink of the words, disfiguring them.

Sobbing silently, Raphael dropped the poem to save it from being tainted by more of his tears, leaving it next to him on the mattress. Then, with eyes squeezed shut in desperate search of control, Raph did his best to choke his sobs, burying his heated face in his hands. But no matter how hard he fought to hide his sobs and his tears from the world, he still couldn't keep his shoulders from jumping, his twitching muscles absorbing the pain he'd done his best to suppress.

It was useless now; the gates were kicked open and there was nothing left to do but to empty them, nothing left but taking that first, giant step of grief.

Lying on the bed next to him, unfolded on top of the light blue sheets, was the cause of all his tears - the key that had unlocked the gates and unleashed his emotions. Donatello and Michelangelo had cried and begged for him to open up, screamed at him in search of his soul – all to no avail. Yet all it took was a few words from the oldest turtle. Even in death, his big brother had managed to take his hand and guide him back into the light. Those words had truly been his savior. But it was up to him and his remaining two brothers to live up to them, because they only had each other – and that was something neither of them could afford to lose.

The warmth of the sun
Can dry your tears tomorrow,
Where whispers of love
Will echo of yesterdays
And you shall stand united

- Leonardo


The End