Author Note: Be warned about two things. This fic contains character death, lots and lots of it. The second is that I am now without Word and I've had to use an unfamiliar programme for the story, so if there are any spelling mistakes, typos or related problems, I'll need forgiveness!
The plot bunny for this fic bit me in the left cheek just as I was leaving for work yesterday and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'm not sure about it, but I want to get back into the writing groove and a one-shot seemed the best way. For anyone following my other fics, I can only apologise - my computer exploded. Again. Third one this year! But I now have my PC back and a back-up laptop, so hopefully no lags between writing. I hope to have the new chapter of 'Choosing Destiny' up Friday night and the epilogue of 'It Had To Be Blue' up over the weekened. Sorry for the delays there folks! Please don't give up on me!
Normal type is in the first person. Italics are in the third person and denote flashbacks. And hit the review button on the way out and let me know what you think!
I never thought I'd be the last one of us left.
The thought has crossed my mind a lot in the last four years, since I buried the last of my brothers and right now it's the focus of my thoughts. It's winter, cold down here in the lair and I think I've caught something. I haven't been topside for almost a fortnight and the food supply's getting low but I'm in no state to leave right now, even if I could be bothered. I'm curled on the old couch with a blanket over me, trying to keep warm. The TV's on, only two screens still working and one of them makes the characters look too bright, jaundiced. I could fix it, probably, but again I don't reallly have the energy. The last time I got off the couch I made myself tea in Sensei's old cup - hard to believe it survived all these years. It makes me feel better somehow, not just the tea but using his cup makes me feel closer to him somehow. . .
Master Splinter hadn't even seemed unwell, walking through the lair using his walking stick more than he used to perhaps but it had been almost twenty years since his mutation and no one knew just how long the life expectancy of a humaniod rat was. Certainly he had lived longer than a normal rat. He had been heading to his meditation chamber when he clutched at his chest and fell over, not uttering a sound. Donnie and Mikey dropped the game console remotes and dived in his direction, Mikey yelling in alarm for his other two brothers. Raph emerged from the dojo and Leo from his room and all them gathered around, Donnie desperately trying to perform CPR while the other three stood around, trying to find encouraging words for their Sensei, telling him he was going to be OK and asking them not to leave him. . .
It wasn't any use of course. Master Splinter died on the floor of the lair while we all begged him to get better. We buried him out at the farmhouse, Casey and April coming along and trying to find ways to help us through our grief. To this day, I swear I can sometimes still sense him at odd times, sitting in his chair and giving that look that was part exasperation and part pride. I know my brothers felt the same way too. It was obvious from the way they would sometimes glance over to the chair or the meditation chamber, as if they were expecting to see him. I glance over to the chair now, but it's as empty as it's been since the day he died.
We got over it. It sounds heartless now, thinking about it like that, but Sensei had always prepared us for a time when he wasn't around to protect us from the outside world and we were almost twenty by then, old enough to look after ourselves. We all missed him so much, but we still had each other and we made sure we didn't let the family fall apart. Not just because that's what Master Splinter wanted but because if we didn't have each other, we had no one. It took a long time, but we got back to some semblance of normality. We were changed but not broken. I was afraid that when Sensei died we would all drift apart, we were so different in so many ways from each other, but we got on with it. For a couple of years at least.
My eyes droop and for a second I think I see something pass in front of the TV, green and red. I open my mouth to complain to Raph before my brain catches up and I remember that Raph's been dead for years. My impossible, hotheaded, protective brother outlived Master Splinter less than three years. Opening my eyes wider and raising my head, I see a flash of something going into the dojo, where I haven't entered for almost eight months. The effort is too much though and I rest my head again. Great, now I'm delerious. But it's hard not to see the shadows of the past in the lair. I just need to turn around and there we are; five mutants, laughing, fighting, learning. Sometimes the memories take me by surprise a little is all.
Raph. Jeez, that was hard for everyone. I would have laid odds that Raph would be the first of us to go, but I would have given anything in the world to have been wrong.
Leo shouted, forgetting everything about the art of invisibility as he saw his brother. They had received the alarm from the shell cell less than five minutes before and had all assumed it was a fight, that something was really serious for Raph of all people to ask for help. But when they got to the scene there was no fight going on. There was carnage.
The following day, the three left behind learned from the news that a man driving a tanker had lost control after hitting a slippery patch on the road and ploughed into the side of an apartment building. Miraculously there were survivors, one ten year old girl swearing up and down that a green man had pulled her out of the way of the tanker seconds before it splattered her all over the wall. But that was for later. All they knew then was that the building was burning, bricks and mortar collapsing across the street, people screaming, sirens wailing - and their brothers signal from somewhere within the scene.
The police were holding back screaming bystanders and Leo took his chance, seeing someone moving weakly in a pile of rubble and leaping from the opposite rooftop, not caring if he was seen. Donnie backed him up by throwing an exploding shuriken in the opposite direction, hoping the new threat, minor though it was, would draw the onlookers attention momentarily. The smaller explosion occured as Leo escaped the building with a figure in his arms, leaping up to the rooftop seen by only two people and gone from sight as soon as they raised the alarm.
"Raph. . ." Mikey took one look at his brother and knew it was hopeless. Raph had been badly burned, his right side a mess of blisters. Something had broken his left leg and scariest of all for all of them, his plastron had been cracked deeply enough for blood to well up from the wound that lay beneath it.
"We have to get away from here," said Leo determinedly.
"But he. . . he needs our help NOW!"
Donnie looked at the floor. "Leo's right Mikey. Come on."
They used the rooftops to travel a few blocks from the fire, Leo carrying Raph as carefully as he could as they made their escape. As soon as he was reasonably certain they were far enough away and had gotten to safety, he stopped and laid Raph down, giving Donnie a pleading look that begged him to do whatever he had to do to save his life.
Raph's pulse was barely there and the blood loss from his chest hadn't slowed. Raph was mercifully unconcious, moving in response to the pain but he wasn't able to respond when they spoke to him.
Donnie didn't even know where to begin. The damage to Raph was total. If he tried to staunch the bleeding there was still the burns and if he saw to the burns there was still the physical trauma. Noticing something in Raph's hand, he took his wrist as gently as possible and turned it over. The shell cell was melted to the flesh.
"Donnie. . ." Mikey's voice was pleading, defeated. He already knew the truth.
"I'm sorry. . ." Donnie let his tears flow and when Raph let out a breath and didn't take in another, he broke down completely.
It's Raph's voice I hear most often around the lair when the memories take me unaware. All tough-guy insults and threats, but underneath it all he was good hearted, wanted to take care of us all even as he chafed at the thought of spending most of his life underground. That's why he escaped topside as often as he could with Casey.
Casey Jones. Old bonehead himself. I grin to myself, remembering the first time he showed up in the lair and Master Splinter almost took his head off before we explained who he was. Case took it pretty well. Most people being attacked by a four foot rat would be much more freaked out. If I raise my head, I could see the spot where I landed right on my shell when he walked into the lair for the first time and knocked the poles we were blaancing on flying - but when I try I start coughing and can't stop. Black spots appear before my eyes and I put my head back down again, feeling the pain deep in my chest. Definately sick. Just what I need when there's no one around to do anything about it.
I know what happened to Casey because April found out and told us, but to this day I feel bad because we never saw him before he died. He took what happened to Raph badly, really badly. He felt responsible for the whole thing, thinking he should have been there. We all thought that. He still came down to the lair though, after we took Raph to the farmhouse and buried him next to Master Splinter, he hung out with the rest of us, sharing our stories about stuff that Raph did and trying to remember the good stuff. Raph died saving some kids life and although I think he wanted to go out fighting, I think this way was more honourable. On one such night Casey left the lair late and went home, promising to stop by in a couple of days. We'd all been getting emotional and I think he wanted to avoid breaking down in front of us.
The following night, someone walking their dog found Casey lying in Central Park, a bloody mess. We thought he might have gone out looking for thugs the same way he used to do with Raph and someone got the drop on him, but there was no sign of his golf bag or his hockey mask. Maybe it was some random thing. The outcome was the same. He spent three days in Intensive Care before his family let them turn off the life support.
We couldn't take him to the farm, obviously. His family buried him and all we could do was go by when the cemetary was closed and say our goodbyes to a headstone. It felt all wrong. What came as most of a surprise was that Casey had made a will, leaving the farmhouse to April until she died, when it went back to his own family. Through her tears after the reading, April said that the Jones's thought that was strange but there was no disputing it. It meant that we still had a place to go, a place to visit our father and brother. A place where we could bury our dead.
Without Raph and Casey, things were a lot quieter around the lair. We still went out on patrols but it felt wrong without Raph. The three of us tried to hold the family together and stay together, but I could sometimes sense the distance between us. What can you do though? Lie in the grave beside your family and wait to be taken with them? I had lost my father and brother and a good friend, but I had two other brothers and April left and that was something left to live for.
As Master Splinter would say, time heals old scars. And as Raph would add, under his breath, then you just get new ones.
I glance at the screens to see that the programme has ended and I didn't take in a word. Groping on the floor beside the couch I find the remote and aim it at the TV. Nothing. I bang it weakly against the floor and try again. No luck. I'm stuck with this channel unless I want to get my shell off the couch and I reallly don't feel up to it. Instead I pick up Sensei's cup and sip at the tea. It's cold, but I'm not getting up to make any more and if I'm as ill as I feel I probably need the fluids. I can hear Donnie's voice in my head, saying you can't afford to dehydrate - tea or water and try to keep it down.
Donnie was always the one who repaired stuff in the lair, knew what was wrong when we were ill - one job he took over from Master Splinter. Since he's been gone, things break and don't get repaired. Neither of us had the know-how and to be honest, it felt wrong to try, as if we were admitting that Donnie wasn't indespensible.
But he was.
Out on patrol, trying to keep the city safe like they used to, only now it's just the three of them. It's been years, but it's still weird to be three instead of four, none of them liking the feeling.
It's Donnie who noticed the disturbance below. A bunch of kids, the eldest all of nineteen and sporting a vicious crop of acne on one cheek, holding up an all-night shop. It's a run-down neighbourhood, the guy behind the counter was all alone and the group, nine of them, are casually robbing him blind. A girl with impossibly black hair is waiting beside an old car, three guys holding guns on the clerk, the others dragging stuff off the shelves and throwing it into the vehicle. The odds didn't worry them - nine untrained thugs, the odds had been worse and they'd come out on top - but the guns did. It only took a little luck for a bullet to find its mark.
They stuck to the shadows, taking down the girl with the car first and the others as they came out with their haul. The three with the guns got nervous when they realised they were alone, turning their attention from the clerk and heading to the door - and that was when they were hit by green blurs that disarmed them in a hurry, taking them down.
Leo glanced at the terrified clerk. "You OK?"
"Uhhh. . ."
"Good. Call the cops." Leo sheathed his katana and went over to the door to check on the thugs outside. Donnie and Mikey exchanged high fives, almost unconciously searching for the one of them that was missing. None of them noticed one of the thugs was playing possum, reaching slowly for his semi-automatic and getting a firm grip on it before sitting up in one fluid motion, aiming at Leo.
Donnie snatched his bo and smacked the thug in the head, stunning him. Instinctively, the guy tightened his finger on the trigger and gunfire roared through the shop. Donnie's right arm vanished from the elbow down in a mess of blood and bone, the bo dropping to the floor.
Hardly aware he was screaming his brothers name, Mikey flew at the guy, a nunchuck already out, knocking the gun away and breaking the thugs hand. A second later he wrapped the same chuck around the guys neck and kicked him hard in the shoulders, snapping his neck cleanly.
Leo was already cradling Donnie's head, looking up at Mikey with fear in his eyes. Mikey took of his belt and looped it around what was left of Donnie's arm as a tourniquet, Leo taking care not to jolt or hurt his brother any further - but they were already aware of how much blood was pooling around them, spurting from the artery too rapidly for anything to be done.
Donnie opened his eyes and looked up at his brothers. They stared down at him, willing him to live, just let him live long enough to get him back to the lair and their medical supplies - then his eyes slipped closed and his breathing stopped.
If I turn my head, I can make out Donnie's computer in the corner of the lair. Sometimes I think I can see him sat there, messing around on some website or just using the spce to do something complicated with a screwdriver and circuit board. To look at him sometimes, you'd think he was off in his own little world but he could always follow whatever conversation we were having. Out of all of us, Donnie least deserved to die a violent death. All he ever wanted was a quiet life. But anyone who thought that made him a pushover was very, very wrong.
We took Donnie to the farmhouse too, buried him there. April came with us again, but she was different to when we buried Master Splinter and Raph, different even than when Casey died. She was inconsolable. The others, she was grief-stricken over, but Donnie dying broke her heart. They were always close and I guess this was the final straw. Another one of her friends, another senseless death. If she'd known what was going to happen a few months later, how soon she'd be with him, maybe that would have healed her wounds a little.
When we saved April and brought her back to the lair, she lay right where I'm lying, although I don't think she felt as old and tired as I do right now. She had a half smile on her face right up until she opened her eyes and realised she wasn't dreaming. She was the first human we ever met, making us realise that maybe the topside world wasn't as threatening and unaccepting as we imagined. She was our friend. And we had to find out about her death through a newspaper.
My brother went for some supplies and I stayed home. We curbed our patrols after what happened to Donnie, stopping altogether after about eighteen months. Every time we got into a fight I was afraid that was when I would lose my last living sibling and I know he felt the same. It got easier and easier just to make excuses. By that time the Dragons were long gone, fallen apart when Hun was killed in a police shoot out and Dragon Face arrested. I couldn't believe it when I heard the news, I always thought Hun was too goddamn tough to succumb to a something so mundane. I guess it's true what they say; bullets don't care who they kill.
When he came back to the lair he dumped the bags on the floor and gave me the stangest look I've ever seen on his face. Straight away I knew something was wrong and when he bent to retrieve the paper from the bag I knew it. It didn't occur to me it was April, not then. We'd only been at her place the night before last and it seemed impossible that something could have happened in such a short time.
It was the lead story on the local rag, a car accident. A guy lost control of his SUV, swerved into the wrong lane and hit her van head on. Killed April, killed himself and left his kid paralysed. I kept looking down at the paper, then looking over to Donnie's computer, remembering how he would be typing something and she'd be looking over his shoulder, both of them talking in jargon that I couldn't begin to understand.
We had never expected anything bad to happen to April. She was a normal human who ran an antique shop and just happened to know some odd people. But shit happens I guess. Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I wonder what she was thinking when the SUV swerved into her lane. Witnesses said she never tried any evasive driving. I wonder if she panicked, froze - or if she just gave in, took her hands off the wheel and covered her eyes.
We visited her grave too, in the dead of night when no one was around. Knowing that her family wanted her there was cold comfort - we wanted her with us too, at the farm with the rest of our family, her and Casey both. That would have been better. Not right, not when they should all have been alive, but better.
And then there were just the two of us.
I'm cold. I'm really cold. It makes no sense, I've managed to keep the heat and lights working if nothing else, but there it is. I think about going for another blanket, maybe more tea, but the mere thought of movement exhausts me and I settle for shivering, curling myself up to try to gain a little more warmth. My ribs ache and every breath hurts my lungs. I can't afford to get sick, not when I'm all alone with no one to help me, but it looks like I don't have much choice in the matter.
My brother and I could look after each other when there were two of us. There was less to worry about medical wise anyway, now that we weren't out in fights all the time. But we were getting older and both of us were secretly concerned with our biology. Neither of us knew how long our expected life spans were. I'd heard of turtles living for hundreds of years, but with the mutagen in our bodies it was anyoned guess. Master Splinter's lifespan had been longer than a non-mutant, could we expect the same thing?
I miss my family. I miss them more with every year, not less like I thought I would. We held it together though, after April died. We had something new to worry about. The terms of Casey's will said that after April died, the farmhouse went back to his family and when we went to visit our brothers and Sensei, there was a For Sale sign hanging outside. Maybe Casey thought, like we did, that April would outlive all of us. I guess we were lucky that over the years we hadn't been paying good enough attention to maintainance. We only went to pay our respects and having the place in a livable condition hadn't been a priority. It was going to be a tough sell - hell, it might be on the market for ages if we were lucky.
I guess we got lucky in that respect at least. Forgive me if I don't feel especially blessed.
It's been four years on my own now. The whole lair seems too quiet and turning up the TV or stereo doesn't seem to help. I'm more aware of how big the place is, how many chambers there are. Stuff we took for granted as teenagers lies around untouched and the place is getting filthy. I never was much of a housekeeper unless Master Splinter got on my case. Four years since my brother died. . .
Leo and Mikey playing a game of cards, trying to keep themselves occupied. They had both spent some time training, although they rarely used their ninjitsu skills for any practical purpose anymore they still felt the compulsion to remain on form. But both of them noticed things that wouldn't have happened a few years ago, their reflexes slowing. Mikey blamed what he called their 'old age', Leo thought it was because they didn't use their skills as often as they used to and only ever sparred against each other.
"Ug!" Mikey threw down his cards in disgust. "I know you're cheating somehow Leo!"
"I'm just gifted." Leo folded his cards and stood. "You want something to drink?"
"OJ." A thought hit him and he brightened. "Hey Leo - sci-fi night tonight! You up for it? I can make my famous super-special popcorn!"
"You always make too much," began Leo, then winced.
Mikey pretended not to notice the comment. They both made slips like that sometimes. "Come on Leo, you know you can't resist. Popcorn and movies, what could be better for a couple of old bachelors like us?"
Leo smiled. "We're hardly old Mikey. But yeah, movie sounds like a. . ."
He stopped, an odd grimace coming over his face. Mikey wasn't worried, not at first. "What's up Leo? You not feeling well or something?"
"Mikey. . .Be. . ."
And then Leonardo collapsed.
If I wanted to take my cold arms from beneath the blanket, I could lean over and touch the spot where my brother died, cause unknown as they say on TV. I haven't a clue what happened. One moment we're thinking about food, the next BAM! He's on the floor and I'm trying to get him to answer me, breath, anything. One moment alive, the next gone.
I took him to the farmhouse alone. The battleshell had seen better days, that's for sure. The engine grumbled all the way there and once I got there, something was amiss. I couldn't tell what it was but I could sense something different, a change in the atmosphere. Maybe it was just because I'd never been there alone before. I'd never been alone in my life until then.
I buried Leo next to the others and said a few words. It was the hardest burial I ever did and not just because I had to do all the digging alone. My last brother, the only thing I had left in the world and I was leaving him here. At least they were all together now.
All together without me. There's no one left to make sure I get buried beside my family. When I go, I'll probably be down here in the lair and no one will ever find me. All alone, even when I die.
I've been musing over Leo's last words for years. "Mikey, be. . ." Be what? Be careful? Be-hind you? At the time I thought he had a bee sting or something, like maybe he was allergic, but I know he wasn't. One time he got stung out at the farmhouse and Donnie had to get the stinger out of his arm, me and Raph laughing at the fuss he was making. No allergic reaction then. Besides, I didn't see a bee in the lair, it was the wrong time of year for them. What was he trying to tell me?
It haunts me. I know it was important, but he couldn't tell me and now I guess I'll never know.
I went to the farmhouse again at the beginning of last summer. I wanted to speak with them, let them know I loved them if they were watching. But when I got to the farmhouse, the forlorn For Sale sign that had hung there since April died was gone. The whole house had been painted, repaired. It looked almost new. Someone had moved in.
Through habit, I had arrived at night and I took advantage of the shadows and the lightless windows to stealthily make my way to where my family were buried, my heart beating wildly. We had always made sure the graves were deep so the bodies wouldn't be disturbed if this happened, but what if it hadn't been enough? What if someone had dug up the skeletons of four mutants and my familys graves desecrated?
Someone had been near the graves as it turned out, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. A layer of turf had been laid over the whole area that had been previously covered in wilting grass and the struggling wildflowers we had planted in an attempt to make it more pleasant. A swing set had been erected, there was a slide nearby and a few signs of kids - a discarded bicycle, a go-cart with stickers on the doors. All in all, there were worse monuments to the place where they lay.
That was the last time I went there. When I got back to New York, I parked the battleshell in the warehouse and locked the whole place up tight. Somehow I knew it was the last time I'd be driving the van anywhere. I use the sewers to go out of the lair now. The warehouse could have been burned to the ground right above my head for all I know. Or care.
I start coughing again, igniting a pain deep in my chest. I wish my brothers or my father were here. I could use a little TLC right about now. Sensei would be fussing around with blankets and tea, Donnie would be going through his medical book sand asking about my symptoms, while Leo and Raph hung about in the background looking concerned. And I would lap up the attention, no matter how bad I was feeling.
And as the coughing finally tapers off I think I must be delusional because for a moment I think I can see everyone, just the way they used to look back before everything started going wrong. Sensei, from the corner of my eye, sat in his chair with his walking stick lying across his knees. Leonardo stood beside the TV stack, now mostly blank and unworking, arms folded, a slight smile on his face. Raph and Casey arguing about something, exchanging punches to the arm. And Donnie and April, laughing at their antics, rolling their eyes. But it's only for a second, replaced by the same view as before; the broken TV's, the mess, the emptiness. Especially the emptiness.
I'm cold and tired and afraid. Mostly afraid. I don't want to be left down here when I die. I want to be at the farmhouse with the rest of my family, want us all to be back together like it used to be. I don't want to be down here in this empty chamber, cold and surrounded by the broken remnants of our old life. I just want my family back.
I'm scared of dying here alone.