Author's note: S'been a while! Sorry about the lull, but i guess i'm one of those folks who has to walk away from stuff for a while in order to keep juiced about it. But yes! Writing! Here we go! (And thanks for the nomination to the fan fic awards--and DOUBLE thanks to the folks who have reviewed my work!)

Attempt Number 007:

Mary Sue gave up on making a spectacular entrance to the bustling metropolis of New York City. She opted, instead, to have been born there. This, however, did not make life easier for Mary Sue! No, the poor thing was an orphan. She was shuttled from foster home to foster home: beaten, misused, misunderstood, punished, beaten, beaten, given a basic education so that she would not complicate the plot by not being able to read, beaten, and beaten again.

She imagined that a life of suffering made her the perfect fledgling phoenix—she would rise from the ashes of her past, radiating glory and beauty! So she waited, running away from home in half-hearted attempts to stumble into a family that would take care of all her problems for her. She packed no food, saved no money, and generally walked right back to the abusive foster home when the weather got too cold.

Without the benefit of psychological counseling, and made stubborn by a perverse need to have herself rescued and not actually attempt to improve her situation by reporting the abusive string of foster parents to the police, Mary Sue deteriorated. The harsh reality of being starved, degraded, and physically and emotionally broken proved too much.

When she was finally turned out by her last foster family on her 18th birthday, she lived on the street for months. False hopes of a rescuer and a divine intervention only sustained her misery. After nearly freezing to death, she gave up and sought real employment.

With her mental and physical damage from her traumatic childhood and her minimal education, she could only secure work at the local Goodwill store. Struggling and alone, with only years and years of the same to look forward to, Mary Sue eventually jumped in front of a commuter rail train, blaming the heroes that never showed up for her miserable life.

Attempt Number 007: FAILURE

Lesson Number 007: Sometimes you need to be your own hero.

Meanwhile, back at the lair…

Leonardo could not help the smile tugging on the corners of his mouth. Michaelangelo had not noticed his presence yet. It was truly a sight for the record books. Mike sat on the floor of the dojo, surrounded by dusty books and tattered scrolls. Leo's grin broke through at the look of shear concentration on Mike's face, but Leo laughed out loud when the tip of Mike's tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth.

"Wah!" Mike nearly jumped out of his shell. The lair was empty! Well, obviously not anymore. Leonardo leaned with a smile in the doorway to the dojo. Mike felt his cheeks warm with embarrassment. Ninjas don't get snuck up on—especially by brothers who were clearly not trying to sneak up on them. "Heh. How long you been standin' there?"

"Long enough. I didn't think you were into this kind of thing." Leo gestured vaguely. He did not want to offend Mike, but studying anything besides video game hint books seemed unusual.

Mike rolled his eyes. "What? 'This' like, reading? Or 'This' like, being in the dojo when it's not practice time?"

Leo shrugged, Raphael may be the touchy brother, but he knew Mike well enough to read the tension that sprang up in his shoulders. Leo raised his hands in front of him. "I come in peace! Really. I meant, 'This', as in studying what looks to be…" Leo got closer and squatted down next to Mike amid the pile of books and scrolls, "Martial arts diagrams. Not in English either." Leo settled in, bumping his shell on Mike's as he sat with his back to Mike's side.

Michaelangelo grinned. "Okay. You got me there." As quickly as Mike had braced for ridicule, he relaxed again. Leo wasn't going to rib him about this. He didn't comment on the scrolls though. "So. I thought you guys were all at April's for the night. Don for fixing the hot water heater, with you and Raph for heavy lifting." Mike flipped open a dingy book with browned pages and stared at the diagram.

Leonardo unrolled a fragile looking scroll. "Are these all Splinter's?" he mumbled. "Huh? Oh yes. But Don's finished, Sensei and April are having a 'chick-flick' marathon, and Raphael lost a bet, so he's stuck there for all of it as well. I think Don stayed just to study the effects of that much televised estrogen on our brother."

Mike guffawed. "RAPHAEL. Is stuck watching 'chick-flicks' with Sensei and April?"

Leo's grin was one of unmistakable triumph. "Yup." The paper in front of him showed the outline of a man with points marked on his body. Each point had a line out to the margin, where a string of kanji characters explained the damage that resulted from a sharp blow to each point. They all looked lethal. Leo's smile dimmed and he shot Mike a look out of the corner of his eye. "What brings all this up, Mike?… This stuff. It looks like it's all acupuncture, moxibustion, and martial arts strike points."

Mike wound down quickly, the unasked question about Raph's lost bet died in his mouth. "Leo? Promise yer not gonna think I'm morbid 'er nothing." Leonardo frowned but nodded. Why would his sunny little brother suddenly be studying lethal points and killing strokes? Leonardo's natural ability to worry kicked into overdrive. Mike continued after a deep breath. "So. Don's our medic, right? But Splinter's always there with his teas and his soothing massages and stuff. Don sets bones and sews us up, but Sensei—I know you remember when we were little and Don didn't know half enough to patch us up. Splinter always knew right where to poke or put pressure to make the hurting stop. An' it occurred ta me, that none of the rest of us KNOW that. We already know the killing strikes, and where to hit to do damage to internal organs, but didn't Sensei always say that 'To know poisons is to know medicines?'"

Leonardo just stared at his little brother. Mike was trying to learn the Master's brand of healing from these charts? "Mike…I…"

Michaelangelo ducked his head a bit. "It's silly, but Sensei won't be with us ALWAYS. An' we're trying to learn everything else he knows. It seemed a waste to only learn the stuff that hurts people. I talked to Sensei about it, an' tomorrow he's gonna start teaching some of it during practice. Heh. I guess I was just curious though. So I thought I'd see what I could figure out for myself. He said it'd be okay. That he'd make sure I had privacy. Guess he figured you weren't gonna rib me about this too hard." Mike cast a side-long glance at Leo.

"Michaelangelo…I…" Leonardo shut his mouth and looked across all the books before turning back to his little brother. "You have the greatest ideas sometimes!" Leo's smile and admiration flicked a switch in his little brother, because suddenly Mike was beaming!

"You really think so! Aw, thanks! Lookit! I think I figured something out, gimme your hand!" Mike had already snagged Leonardo's arm and was squinting at charts, poking spots near the crook of his arm.

"Ouch. Ouch. Hm. Yeah. Okay." The tension Leonardo hadn't known was there drained out of his neck. "Was that supposed to relax my neck?"

"Uh… No. It was supposed to make your liver function better." Mike consulted the books again. "Oh! Right here! I get it!"

Chuckling, Leonardo suffered himself to be prodded until well after midnight.