Author Note: I had real problems with the epilogue to this story. I knew what was supposed to happen but putting it into words wasn't happening. Then I got distracted by my other chapter fic, my one-shots, artwork for the Stealthy Stories fan awards and that pesky thing known as Real Life. So I know this is late up and I apologise. For better or worse, this is the last time I'm re-writing this chapter! I still have no Word and I'm aware my grammar and spelling is weak. I have tried to ensure everything is correct but I may need forgiveness should I have missed anything. Leave a review on the way out and let me know how well it works, or if it didn't.
Do you believe in Karma? You know, what goes around comes around? I never used to. I always believed that you take what you want and to hell with anyone else. I changed a lot since then but I never thought about Karma or Fate or anything like that until yesterday. My first full day back in New York after over five years away. It's winter and bitterly cold, there are better times to come back to the city, but I woke up about six weeks ago with a little voice in my head telling me it was time I went home. I'd been living in Chicago of all places until then. I left New York - ran away again I sometimes think when I'm feeling low - the day after my rescue from the Purple Dragons. I didn't dare stay too long in spite of the protection I was being given by the Turtles. I didn't deserve their protection and they shouldn't have to risk themselves to look after me.
I had my wounds patched up by a redhead whose name escaped me the moment I left the city. She berated me the entire time, much to the amusement of her little green buddies and the vigilante. She couldn't do very much, she wasn't a doctor or anything, but I figured what she had done would hold up until I got to a place where I could safely visit a hospital. My broken fingers were taped up, cuts cleaned, all my boo-boo's marvelled over. There was some conversation about my next move but I was determined to leave the City. I just wanted to get away.
Leo drove me to the bus station in the green van they used and made me wait until the first greyhound pulled up before he'd let me leave its safety. When the bus did pull up, I had no idea where it was heading but I knew I had to be on it.
"Well, thanks for everything," I said casually, putting my hand on the door to let myself out. I hate saying thanks even more than I hate saying goodbye.
Leo put out an arm to stop me. "Wait, take these."
"Huh?" I looked down at the sunglasses he was offering me and realisation dawned. My face was still a mess even if I didn't feel quite as battered as I had before. I put them on and checked myself in the wing mirror. Not ideal, but less obvious than the way my eyes were bruised.
"Uh, thanks," I said, embarrassed. "I mean, for everything. Y'know, saving my life and stuff?"
"Yeah," replied Leo, looking amused for a moment before growing serious again. "There is one thing you can do to repay us."
"It doesn't matter where you go, there's gangs like the Dragons everywhere. I don't want to think I put my brothers lives at risks just for you to run off and make the same mistake again. So - no more gangs. No more crime."
I nodded. "Promise. No gangs. Believe me, I'm not anxious to go through all that shit again!"
Leo smiled. "Take care of yourself."
"I will. You guys too. I'll see you if I ever come back to New York." I opened the door of the van, jumped on the bus and bought a ticket with the money that the redhead had loaned me to the end of the line - South Carolina as it turned out. Far enough. The bus pulled away ten minutes later and as we went past the alley where Leo was parked, I saw the van still waiting. I waved tentatively but I have no idea if the gesture was returned.
Then I was gone, on my way to my new life.
I wandered around the country for six months. I'll admit, I did do a little pickpocketing to survive, feeling guilty every time. I was breaking my promise, but I had to eat. Still, I knew that was just an attempt to justify myself. More often I would do a little panhandling to pay for my next bus ticket. Occasionally I hitch-hiked, but it's hard to get lifts in this day and age. Dumpster diving is pretty demeaning, but a choice between that and starvation and I chose to live, live with some semblance of honour.
When I got to Chicago I hooked up with another kid who played guitar and we did a busking act, more lucrative than sitting on a street corner looking pathetic. But it was cold and we'd had enough of that life, the fear of sleeping on the street, the constant worry that our parents would locate us or the cops would pick us up. So when I saw a poster about a centre for teen runaways I pointed it out to him and we went there. They found us apartments, enrolled us on a training course, made sure we had enough to eat. It was strange at first, after so long of doing whatever the hell I wanted but it beat the hell out of any of the alternatives. It was then I was able to quit the pickpocketing and shoplifting for good and I haven't broken the law since.
When I hit eighteen I had a job, my own place. I sent my parents a postcard telling them where I was and waited for a phonecall at least, or them to turn up on my doorstep. I steeled myself for confrontation, reminding myself that it was too late for them to do anything now, but they never phoned, wrote or showed up. Screw 'em. I got on this long without them, who needs it?
And then one day I woke up suddenly homesick and I knew I had to go back to New York. The time had come. Even if the Dragons were still around, they might not recognise me,and even if they did, so what? I worked out, my weak arm almost as strong as the other and I'd been taking karate lessons twice a week - guess I remembered how easily those Turtles were able to defend themselves with all that martial arts stuff. This time the only things in my apartment worth anything were my weight bench and my TV, aqcuired legally and I sold them to a friend, handed my notice in at my job and apartment and blew town. I went back on the bus. It seemed right somehow. I got here the day before yesterday, having already found myself an apartment through a newspaper ad. It'd do until I found another job, it was clean and most importantly, way off what I remembered to be Dragon turf.
Yesterday I got up for my first full day back home. I spent most of it exploring, remembering how things used to be and where I used to go. And I remembered the shop where I was taken by the Turtles to be patched up, although the reheads name was long forgotten. Second Time Around. I'd sent the money I used for a bus ticket back there and put in a note saying I was doing OK and staying out of trouble. But that had been years ago and I hadn't written again.
I wandered past the shop just as it was going dark, checking out the closing times on the door, thinking it might be better to go in close to closing. I wanted to tell the Turtles I was back in town and the redhead seemed like the best bet. I didn't see her as I meandered past the window, but I did see a guy from the back with long dark hair whom I was willing to bet was Casey.
I went to a cafe some blocks away and warmed myself with coffee. Maybe I was making a mistake, maybe I should just let things lie. They'd gotten on this long without news of me after all. But I wanted to prove to them that I had been worth the risk, show Leo that I hadn't screwed up again. Oh yeah, and rub Red's face in the fact.
It got late and I finished my coffee and began walking slowly back to the antique shop. Remember what I was saying about Karma? I'd done a lot of bad things on these streets and I was about to get a faceful of fate. . .
"Gimme your money."
"Huh?" I snapped out of my reverie and saw two kids in front of me, barely older than I'd been when I first arrived in New York. One had ratty blonde dreads and looked ill. The other wore a hat and looked angry and scared.
"Gimme your money!" Dreads took a step toward me and I instinctively raised my hands, ready to defend myself.
"Calm down kid," I said, knowing I wasn't going to hand over my cash. "You're not getting anything out of me so just leave. Before you get hurt."
"Give us your fuckin money!" Hat reached into his pocket and pulled out a switchblade. OK, not good. I didn't carry anything around with me, all I had was superior strength and training. And the fact that I was calm while they looked like they were shitting bricks.
I stared down at the knife, not especiallly scared - some of the stuff I've been through, takes a lot more than a terrified kid with a knife to scare me - but certainly concerned. And that was when I noticed the kids hand. There was a Dragon tattooed on the back. A Purple Dragon.
I began to snigger. I couldn't help it. The street was free of anyone but the three of us, a kid was waving a knife in my face, I could see the antique shop from where I stood and I hadn't even been back in New York for twenty-four hours. . . I knew I was making things worse, pissing these kids off would make them more likely to use the knife and I wouldn't be as on guard as I should be if I was laughing, but I just couldn't stop.
"You think I'm joking?" Hat jabbed the blade at me and I jerked back, still grinning like a loon. "Gimme the money or I'll kill you. I mean it!"
He sounded more scared than I was, I thought. These were the people the Dragons were recruiting these days? Standards were slipping. The two kids were trying to muster the courage up to jump me and the third guy was. . .
I saw him literally a split second before he kicked Hat in the back, knocking him flying and sending the knife skittering into the gutter. Dreads half turned and met a fist, crumpling to the ground. After a few seconds he picked himself up and ran, Hat following close behind. I tried to gape and giggle at the same time. The third guy was dressed in typial street style with a hat and sunglasses in spite of the gloom. The laughter I had been trying to beat down welled up again and this time there was no stopping it.
He regardd me curiously. "Are you alright?"
Yeah, I recognised the voice immediately. "Gonna be fine Blue. Heh. Just let me get a grip."
His lips twitched into a cautious smile as he realised who I was. "You came back."
That set me off into another bout of laughter. My stomach was beginning to ache. "Deja vu, Blue. Hey, that rhymed!"
"You're hysterical," he said, taking hold of my arm and pulling me into nearby alley. "Calm down. And don't worry about it, lots of people behave oddly in stresful situations."
That at least managed to stop me laughing. "I wasn't stressed, I had everything under control."
"Looked like it."
"I did! But thanks for the help anyway. Jeez, every time I see you I'm having to thank you for saving my ass!"
"It's my job."
"Yeah, my very own guardian turtle." I gave Leo a sideways look. He seemed different than he used to, even more intense and serious if such a thing was possible.
"How long have you been back?"
"Oh, nearly a full day now," I replied. "Look, it's freezing out here. You wanna catch up someplace else? I got beer back at my new place - you drink?"
"Sometimes. You stay out of trouble?"
"Then let's catch up at your place." Leo pulled a shell-cell out of his pocket and began texting. I had to give a rueful grin at the sight of it, remembering how much trouble his old one got me into. I told him the address and added that he could invite his brothers along too, assuming Red was gonna behave himself.
We headed in the direction of my place, Leo quite happy to walk the streets when dressed from head to toe in baggy clothes and the sky finally gone all the way to darkness. I glanced off in the direction the two kids had run off in. "Purple Dragons are still around, huh?"
"Yeah. Hun's still in charge. But their power base is a lot weaker without the Foot to back them up."
"Casey still going after them all the time?"
"Not so often. April worries about him too much."
April, that was the redheads name. I'd forgotten. "Maybe someone ought to be out there taking them down. Maybe that way they'd be gone for good."
Leo gave me the stern look I remembered so well from his lectures about the company I kept all those years ago. "You're not getting any ideas are you?"
I returned his scrutiny with wide-eyed innocence. "Of course not! Just thinking out loud is all."
I knew he wasn't convinced, but he let it go. My mind however was working overtime. I hadn't had any plans in that direction when I decided to come home, but why not? I knew how they worked, where they hid, how much damage they could do. And I knew I was a match for most of them even back then in a one-on-one situation at least. Maybe I could atone for the life I used to lead back then. Or get revenge. Whatever. The wheel of Karma. What goes around comes around.
The Dragons were gonna get theirs.