The Greatest Gifts
This story is based mostly on the movies, with a small handful of elements taken from the original television series. I grew up on the original series, and I do not watch the new one.
What began as this author's "Spring-spiration" turned into a present. It's my boyfriend's birthday! Happy Birthday, Capt. Kablooey! I love you! (He's not an author here, but he does read and review under that handle.) This story is dedicated to you.
I plan to make this fic relatively short, with approximately 6 chapters, unless I find a reason to change my mind, and make it longer. (I don't want to make it too long, because I'm currently working on a BMFM fic.)
It all depends on the creative juices.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I merely borrow them so that I may write this non-profit work of fiction. I repeat, NON-profit. The story belongs to me, and cannot be used without my permission.
The Greatest Gifts
When you are a mutant ninja, isolated from society, you do not partake in frivolous celebrations on your birthday. You must continue with your nightly patrol, though laden with angst, reflection, and dangerous battles of the body and mind.
Chapter 1: Fearless Leader
A fretful wind swept across Leonardo's slick skin as he leapt through the moist air. His feet left subtle thumps as they landed on a cement rooftop. His powerful legs carried his large body with remarkable grace, as he nimbly avoided small puddles scattered amongst the uneven surface. He stopped at the roof's border, his sharp eyes surveying the grimy streets below. It was unexpectedly quiet night for a city that was supposed to never sleep. Nothing stirred, save for the occasional raindrop, and the only sound in Leonardo's ears was the lament of a troubled wind.
Leonardo walked along the parameter of the large square rooftop, scanning the scenery bellow. No sign of activity, let alone a hint of danger, or a whisper of crime. The unnatural stillness made Leonardo uneasy. It clawed at his sense of reason, for there were always crimes in progress in New York City. It was in a perpetual state of illicit activity.
For now, the city's momentary lapse from it's ruffled and dangerous character allowed Leonardo a still pause for quiet reflection.
He recalled Splinter's lecture from earlier that evening, just prior to the green ninjas' departure for their nightly patrol. He replayed the moment in his mind, escaping away into the memory...
Splinter wobbled slowly to the four turtles, the familiar click of his rustic wooden cane demanding a respectful silence from his excited sons. He silently looked upon each turtle in turn. His face was soft and affectionate, and his dark intelligent eyes overflowed with wisdom. Finally, he spoke, "Exactly eighteen years have passed since I discovered four helpless baby turtles crawling in fluorescent ooze." He then looked searchingly into their eyes, giving each turtle the sensation that their father was reaching out to their soul. He probably was. "Our lives must remain shrouded in obscurity. We dwell in the shelter of these sewers, in the safety of the shadows. This city can never learn the facts of our existence. Their world can never be ours. Their ways are different; the path of the ninja is one of deep honour and great responsibility. We have no need for wealth, no want for material objects. Luxury is a distraction that feeds greed. I have tried to raise you above such clouding desires."
Splinter paused to take a deep breath. He let his eyelids shut, and leaned forward onto his walking stick. When he reopened his eyes, the turtles could feel serene tranquillity radiating from their sensei's body, yet at the same time their was great gravity and majestic strength. They sensed that their father's next words would settle deep into their core, that they would reflect upon them during the next days that followed, and retain them forever. The turtles held their breaths in anticipation of the conclusion of Splinter's speech, which followed only after a brief pause. "I have never showered you with material presents on your birthday. Instead, I have delivered you gifts far greater than most of humanity has ever known. The art of ninjitsu, honour, and love. Yet, they are not the most precious gifts you will know. You four turtles... are more important to each other than anything else. Each of you offer your brothers more than you realise. On this day, your birthday, reflect upon the gift that is your essence, your being, your individuality. You are gifts to each other, and to me." Splinter straightened his back and nodded his head gently, as if agreeing with his own words. He then broke into a heartfelt smile, his eyes sparkling with love. He then whispered softly, "You make me very proud, my sons."
Leonardo snapped out of his flashback. He heard feet scampering in the streets bellow, and it demanded his immediate attention. A woman was running, her arms wrapped protectively around her torn blouse. Soft sobs leaked out between her gasping breaths. The sound of her suffering pierced Leonardo's heart, as he shared in her desperation and anguish. Heartless drunken laughter and pounding footsteps followed in pursuit of the woman. Leonardo heard a man's slurred yells, "Come back here sweetheart... Give us some sugar!" The sentence ignited incredible rage from within the blue-clad turtle, but the trained Ninja channelled it into the flames of his strength.
The woman ducked into a dreary alley, an unappealing and frightful place, but definitely a step up from the pursuing gang. The men saw her escape attempt, and ran faster. They were catching up quickly.
It was Leonardo's cue.
With a calm mind and fluent movements, Leonardo stepped off the edge of the four story building. His arms spread out wide to control his balance, as he plunged soundlessly through the air. When his feet hit the asphalt of the dark alley, his knees bent widely to absorb the impact. They dropped until his hands touched the ground, and one knee rested on the cool asphalt. He then stood up swiftly, putting himself between the drunken men, and the fleeing woman.
As the attackers and potential rapists approached the turtle, they halted their movements, and their eyes widened with unspoken horror. The masked turtle was partly shrouded in shadows, but it was clear from his ghostly silhouette that he was not human. Leonardo stared at them levelly, but remained still and silent. They seemed to be street gang, and all wore black bandanas with identical markings. The man closest to the turtle gingerly took a step forward; he appeared to be the one in charge. Leonardo didn't recognise any of them, nor the symbols they bore on their bodies. He assumed they were small players within the crime industry. They weren't even dressed impressively; the leader merely wore green camo pants, and a black hooded sweater. Although, his gruff facial features and wide frame rendered him intimidating to most people.
Leonardo was not among "most people."
The turtle's stillness seemed to bring the intoxicated man courage. He lurched forward, belting out a scream of rage. It seemed as though this man had suffered a very bad day. Still, that was hardly an excuse for his behaviour.
Leonardo side-stepped at the last moment, and the man face-planted into the ground. This released another gang member from his frozen stupor, and he started to laugh at the hilarity of his friend's embarrassment. The fallen punk stood up abruptly, and glowered at his laughing comrade. The laughter cut out immediately, replaced by a nervous gulp.
The rough leader then turned to glare at Leonardo's back. He had fallen behind the mutant, and was now isolated from the rest of the men. He spat out a cocktail of blood, grit, and saliva from his mouth. "What sorta freakish nightmare did you come from?" he snarled maliciously. Leonardo kept his gaze held forward, but listened to the gang leader's every word and movement. His eyes didn't seem to focus on any one man in particular, giving the allusion that he was blind. In reality, Leonardo was watching all the men at once, except for the fool who was still sputtering behind him.
The infuriated gang leader hadn't expected an answer to his question, but Leonardo's continued silence was becoming quite unnerving. He quickly gestured to his men, demanding that they all attack the strange creature that stood before them. He flicked out a butterfly knife, while the rest of the gang followed his example, brandishing whatever weapon they carried on their person. A few took out hand knives, another slipped a crowbar from his jacket, and the last man started swinging a heavy chain over his head. All six of them, the leader included, started circling the mutant turtle menacingly, sinister smiles creeping onto each of their faces. Their steps slowly drew closer, and the circle steadily grew smaller.
Leonardo was submerged in a trance-like state, and was prepared for the onslaught. With adrenaline coursing through his veins, time seemed to slow down in front of his eyes. He didn't merely see and hear his attackers, he could -sense- them.
Two knife-wielding thugs lunged simultaneously, one charging from the front, the other from behind. The blue-clad ninja took a brisk step to one side. He grabbed the lunging man in front of him by the same wrist that held the knife. He swung the man around, knocking him into the attacker behind him. Together, they flew past their standing comrades, and smashed painfully into a wall. Their dropped knives clattered onto the ground.
The remaining thugs blinked quickly, their minds barely registering the events transpiring before their eyes. The creature moved freakishly quickly, and doubt was once again prominent in their minds. Their steps grew hesitant, unsure of whether they should fight or flee. Their eyes darted between each other and the mutant they encircled. They quickly nodded to each other with unspoken understanding. Raising their weapons high, they lunged forward in unison, primal screams ripping from their throats.
Leonardo's arms flew to the back of his shell and grabbed the handles of his twin katanas. He spun quickly as he drew the blades from their sheaths, the slick metal gliding soundlessly from it's leather containment. Silver glistening surfaces sliced through the air as Leonardo continued to spin. A fierce clang echoed down the alley as the swinging chain was slashed in two places, and the discarded pieces tumbled to the ground. Two of the humans tripped over the broken chain, and in their drunken state, their steps faltered and they flopped onto the ground.
The two other attackers, one armed with a knife, the other with a crowbar, still clambered toward Leonardo. The turtle ducked as a knife was thrust toward his shoulder. From the ground, he struck out at his opponent with a swinging kick. The human toppled as his legs were kicked from under him. He crashed backward onto the ground, and Leonardo heard a sickening thud when the man's head met the asphalt.
Leonardo raised his katanas and crossed them protectively over his head, just in time to block a crowbar from clobbering his skull. The iron collided harshly into the steel blades, and Leonardo's wrists reverberated painfully. The trained ninja swallowed his pain without a flinch. Still engulfed in his trance, Leonardo sprung up onto his feet, pushing the katanas forward. The man holding the crowbar was shoved backward. Leonardo swung the blunt handles of his swords forcibly down onto the man's head, and the human collapsed.
The two remaining thugs had recovered from tripping over the broken chain at their feet. Yet, instead of resuming their attack on the ninja, they stood rigidly, their feet unresponsive to their shrieking minds. Their faces distorted in terror. One still had a firm grasp on the stubby fragment of a once beloved chain, while the other fiercely gripped his knife as though it were his lifeline. They slowly managed to step backward from the mutant, their eyes bolting between the daunting twin katanas, and Leonardo's scowling eyes.
It didn't take them long to decide their best course of action.
Each turned briskly on their heels, and sprinted out of the alley and into the streets, fleeing from a sight that would surely give them nightmares for months.
With an approving nod for his job well done, Leonardo sheathed one of his katanas, freeing his right hand. He surveyed the groaning remains of the lingering gang members. The two who had received blows to their heads remained sprawled out and unmoving. The other two who had crashed into the wall were hardly in better shape, as they struggled to peel themselves off the ground. Leonardo kept this eyes locked onto the two labouring men, as he knelt beside the pair of limp bodies. He checked their pulses, and found both beating strongly. One of them even stirred slightly under his touch. They would both wake-up with horrible headaches, but they would be fine. Leonardo knew he hadn't badly injured them, for the art of ninjitsu was extremely precise and calculated. Leonardo had been in complete control throughout the entire fight.
Leaving the two men laying on the ground, Leonardo approached the other two still struggling by the wall. One looked up at him as the turtle approached, his face a mask of abhorrent fright. He recoiled from the ninja, and smacked his back against the brick wall lining the alley. The panicked man opened his mouth as if to scream, but no sound escaped. His legs wobbled and gave out on him as he tried to run away. He staggered to the ground, but quickly picked himself up and continued his desperate flight. With one last glance over his shoulder, he abandoned his friends and disappeared from the alley.
Leonardo kicked away the discarded weapons littering the ground, as he progressed toward the last man. It was the gang's leader, and he was busy hefting himself onto his feet. Before the man could turn his head and look at the advancing turtle, Leonardo vaulted forward. The turtle's free hand grabbed the thug by his neck and shoulder, and pinned the human against the brick wall. He raised the man so that his feet dangled loosely, then pressed the point of his left blade against the thug's fleshy throat.
The man clawed at the green hand clamped around his kneck and shoulder. His face paled and clenched in alarm, as he feared the worse. His lips worded his silent plea, repeating the word "no" over and over again. Leonardo's head leaned forward intimidatingly. "Next time a woman tells you 'no'," he spoke in a silent yet demanding voice, "remember this moment."
Leonardo let the man drop to the ground, and stepped back briskly. The human sat shivering and blubbering to himself, unhindered tears flowing down his face. Leonardo turned and jogged out of the alley, his muted foosteps rushing into the empty streets. Without looking back, he disappeared into the shadows. Behind him, he could hear the man's quiet whimpers blending into the groaning wind.
It would be a long time, if ever, before that man laid a harmful hand on another person.
It would be eternity before that man ever forgot Leonardo, and the lesson he had been taught in that alley.
Leonardo noticed a rusted fire escape hanging on the grey building next to him. With a graceful leap, he grasped one of the metal railings, and flung himself effortless onto the rattling metal. As soon as his feet met the protesting metal platform, his legs sprung again, and he bounded upward. He climbed the fire escape like a dexterous spider, promptly reaching the building's tin roof.
As he stepped onto the noisy slanted surface, he looked around for the poor lady who had been fleeing from that gang. He could not see her, but he wanted to make sure that she was safe. Hopefully, she wasn't stumbling around randomly in a state of shock.
Leonardo flicked out the Shell Cell strapped onto the leather belt around his waist. It was a sort of cell phone, or walkie talkie. Leonardo didn't know how it worked, that was Donnie's expertise. He merely used it. It was coloured green and yellow, and shaped like a turtle's shell. How original.
Leonardo flipped open it's cover, displaying an inactive little screen on the top, and a few dozen buttons on the bottom. He pressed a tiny switch labelled "911" in tiny letters. Again, Leonardo couldn't comprehend why his Shell Cell could call emergency services, yet couldn't dial ordinary phone numbers. It couldn't even call pizza parlours. Again, that was Donnie's field of expertise.
The ninja walked along the roof, his eyes searching for the fleeing young woman, while he distractedly spoke to a friendly 911 operator. He couldn't just leave those gang members behind in the alley. Not only did they deserve to be arrested, but two of them were still laying unconscious with unknown amounts of alcohol ravaging their system. Leonardo gave the friendly operator the location of the alley, and explained how the gang had attacked a young woman, until a "concerned individual" had intervened. Leo hung up before anyone could ask questions. He hadn't lied, and he felt good about the fight. Master Splinter would be pleased.
Leonardo quickened his steps, the tin roof rattling it's high-pitched harmonies with the turtle's every movement. With sinuous grace, he leapt from the noisy roof. His feet landed securely on the more appealing brick surface of the neighbouring building. Without a pause, he continued running toward the next building, roughly steering himself toward the direction the woman had fled. His gaze quickly panned the streets bellow, as he skipped and hopped rooftops.
His habitual movements allowed his mind to wander.
He couldn't help but brood. The leader of that gang... that despicable man... he had people who looked up to him, and he had led those people into danger. He showed them irresponsibility, and introduced them to heinous crimes. He was far worse than the "common" criminal. Even the Foot Clan weren't as shameless.
Leonardo was well aware of what it was like to be a leader, but he took care of those who followed him. He doubted that poor excuse for a man ever felt guilty when his men were injured, or shared in their tears, or felt their pain. He doubted that the gang leader layed awake at night, haunted by restlessness, his mind consumed with worry when one of his men went missing. He doubted that thug would willingly give his life to save the others.
Leonardo was well akin to such emotions, such responsibilities.
It was at that moment when Leonardo remembered his sensei's words from earlier:
...reflect upon the gift that is your essence, your being, your individuality. You are gifts to each other...
Leonardo nodded to himself quickly, before leaping into the air once more. He rolled his body as he landed onto a roof that was deceptively low, hastily saving himself from a painful impact. He surged back onto his feet, and continued his running without skipping a beat.
He understood the meaning of Splinter's words, now more than ever.
His gift to his brothers? Could such abstract dedication be enumerated? Perhaps he could place it to words... He would try.
It was the first thing that leapt into his head.
He was the "unofficial leader." He tried to be modest, but more often that not, he found himself adopting this duty. Unfortunately, his commanding actions were often mistakenly interpreted as pretentious. Did his brothers think he wanted to be a prized-pupil, because he strove to feel superior? Did they think he trained hard with Master Splinter so that he could suck-up more attention? Did they think he manipulated his way into becoming a leader-figure? Did they think he made all the tough decisions because he was arrogant?
Everything he did, he did it for them. For his brothers. Yet, how could he tell them that? How could he make them understand? His words never seemed to be enough.
Raph would laugh and mock him. He would call Leo a "softie," as if expressing one's feelings was a character flaw.
Michaelangelo would tell Leo to "chill out," reminding him that none of his brothers had asked him to take on such a responsibility. That Leo didn't have to do it, if he didn't want to. Didn't have to? Didn't have to! If Leonardo didn't, who would?
Neither Raphael or Michaelangelo understood the gravety of Leonardo's position.
As for Donatello... actually, Donnie probably understood Leo best. The two of them were the only brothers who weren't afraid of deep inner-reflection. Donatello was even more level-headed than Leonardo, and often found himself playing the role of "ninja peace keeper" on far too many occasions.
(See? Leonardo could admit he wasn't perfect. He had faults. He wasn't the best at everything.)
Still, Leo kept these feelings and thoughts silent. For now. It didn't bother him as much as it used to; they were all growing and maturing with every passing day. He was their unofficial leader, and they were all gradually accepting this. No length of sibling rivalry could change this fact.
Only Leonardo chose to bear the added weight, but he accepted the responsibility with open arms. He yearned for it. Ever since he was younger, he sought that extra bit of responsibility. He was a natural-born leader, and the most focused ninja amongst his brothers. Leonardo always made the hardest and toughest decisions without batting his eyes, no matter how much it pained him on the inside.
Aside from Master Splinter, if anyone could lead the turtles to safety, it was him.
It was his natural talent that led his brothers in battle, making the life or death decisions and accepting the consequences of each action.
As humble as Leonardo desired to become, he had to acknowledge the sacrifices he had made. The extra hours of practice... All that time spent alone in deep meditation...
His life was dedicated to ensuring his brother's had the best leader the art of ninjitsu could offer. It wasn't as though Leonardo has missed out on his childhood, but he did find himself growing up quicker than his brothers. While the others had watched movies all night, he had sat with Master Splinter, exploring the deep recesses of his spiritual mind. While his brothers had played their video games, he had spent countless hours in the Dojo room, perfecting his sword-work. From a very early stage in his life, him and Master Splinter knew why Leonardo trained so hard. It was the beginning of their unspoken agreement. The sensei was preparing to pass the torch down to his blue-clad son.
It was his greatest joy, offering his shoulders to bear most of weight of responsibility, so that his brothers could carry a lighter load. He sacrificed for his brothers, he sacrificed for everyone. And yet, it hardly felt like sacrifice. It felt more like... love. Loyalty.
He loved his brothers so much, that he was sometimes overwhelmed. He wept inwardly when any of his brothers so much as shed a tear. He berated himself every time one of his brothers was hurt, punishing himself with guilt. Every night, before he slept, he vowed to himself that he would do his best to see his brothers to safety, to make all the right decisions, to pave the road for them all during the worst of times, and to lead them valiantly through the best of times.
Responsibility, sacrifice, loyalty, love; it all spelt his leadership.
It was his gift to his brothers. The greatest gift he could offer.
Leonardo was yanked from his thoughts, and his steps slowed in response to the sight in the streets below. He had finally found the woman who had been fleeing. She was safe. She had found her way to a pair of police officers. Leonardo flattened himself against the roof, and crept up to the ledge in order to gain a better view. The lady was far younger than he had anticipated. She couldn't be more than sixteen years of age. Leonardo pursed his lips, and narrowed his eyes with anger. What if he hadn't been around to help her?
Well, the young woman was safe now. Leonardo was satisfied. A female cop held the young woman while she wept on her shoulder, and the male officer spoke into a hand-held radio. Leonardo slunk away from the ledge, and ran in the opposite direction. He still had an hour left to patrol. Leaving the woman behind in good hands, Leonardo resumed to leap roofs, his conscience cleared.
While his muscular body settled back into it's repetitive routine, his mind was again free to drift.
It was such a quiet night. A little too quiet. Despite the assault Leonardo had interrupted earlier, the city was still unusually inactive. Leonardo finally realised what the silence implicated; somewhere, likely in the bad parts of town, something significant was occuring in the world of crime. Something substantially big. Like a vacuum, it was attracting New York's worse. Perhaps a gathering amongst mafia and the Foot? Maybe a territorial gang war? Whatever was happening, he knew one of his brothers would soon tumble upon it, and warn the others. They all knew they weren't to get in over their heads, not without calling for back-up.
Leonardo felt dread surfacing in his stomach. Sure, all his brothers knew they weren't supposed to get into fights too hot for them to handle. However, that wasn't to say all of them would obey that principle. He knew for a fact that Raphael wouldn't heed such precautions. "Please, oh please don't let Raph stumble upon trouble tonight..." he prayed to the starless night.
Leonardo stopped suddenly in his tracks, so abruptly that he almost tripped and fell. What was he saying. Raph was a magnet. Trouble would probably find him, and it wouldn't be any ordinary trouble. No small gang dispute, or woman's purse being snatched. No, not on a night like this. The worst kind of trouble would worm it's way to Raphael. It always did.
Leonardo tore his Shell Cell from this belt, and rapidly dialled Raph's number.
There was no answer.
Leonardo quickly made his decision. He was going to abandon the route of his patrol, and head toward the area of town Raph was surveying, which happened to be deep into the heart of Harlem. His instincts were too overpowering tonight. That wasn't a good sign. He knew something was wrong. He was ninja; in the art of ninjitsu, such feelings weren't to be brushed off as superstitions. Leonardo's keen ninja instincts were warning him. Every fibre of his body was shouting out in alarm.
He would go seek out his brother.
"Hold on, Raph," he implored, wistfully hoping that the wind would carry his message.
Perhaps it would.
To Be Continued...
I hope you all like this new fic! More will soon follow.
Please Read and Review! All criticism is welcomed! This is my first TMNT fic.
Happy Birthday, my love.