HI NO DE - Chapter 17



Oh God…

Mike shot up from the couch and threw aside the blankets. Dizziness overwhelmed him, making him stumble into the table in front of the couch. He rose to his hands and knees, squinting through the snow to the other end of the room.

The flat line still rang out.


Mike crawled to him on his hands and knees. The sound of adhesive ripping from skin reached his ears. Relief took him when he saw a dark silhouette sitting on the mat.

Raph, he's not…

Mike reached his brother in time to stop him from pulling out the IV's. Raph tried to resist the grip he had on his wrists.

"Stop…please…" Mike's throat felt so bad, he couldn't talk. The vet said he shouldn't, actually. Weakness took over and Raph gave in. He and Mike looked at each other, briefly studying their bare faces.

"Fuck, I… gotta pee." Raph still sounded half-awake and whiny.

Mike swallowed to wet his throat, just nodding. The false alarm took longer to go away. Raph looked around the wires in disarray and the tubes hanging from his arms. "What's wit dis shit?"

Still shaking from the nerves, Mike messed with the screaming black monitor until he found a way to turn it off. "The vet thought… it necessary. Let's go." He swallowed again. He didn't like being teased with Death like that. After Mike unhooked the two intravenous bags and draped them around his neck, he held onto Raph to stand up. They managed to get as far as the hallway.

"No… no way… can't." The turtle stopped at the foot of the stairs, coughing.

What do you mean, 'can't'? Mike gave him a worried look. That cough didn't sound good either. He glanced back up the stairs hoping someone would come to help.

Raph turned for the back door.

"Ohhh… no… Raph? Wait…" He had no choice but to follow him. Not following could result in pulling out Raph's needles. Don't go outside…the snow…

"Mutha-fuckin'… shit…" Raph desperately fumbled with the lock and doorknob before finally pulling the door open.

"Gah… at least, not on the deck…"

Raph gripped the railing in pain. "Mhh… god damn blood in everything…"

Mike looked out the door, then to the snowy ground next to the deck. Damn… blood in his pee. That scared him again. He stepped out behind his brother and gripped his shoulders. "Raph, c'mon… it's cold…"

"I can walk…" he coughed while edging back to the door.

"Suuure you can." Mike followed him, closing the door behind. Raph had a limp in his left leg, making it hard. Then they met Ryan waiting in the hallway. Steve stood not too far behind on the stairs.

"I heard the EKG go off. Something wrong?" Ryan asked.

"Uhhh…" Mike grinned with much embarrassment. He had to go really bad… took off the monitor things.

Oh, I see…He turned around to Steve, reassuring it was okay.

"Are you certain?" she asked all of them.

Mike nodded. He didn't want to say more for Raph's sake.

Ryan reassured her he'll help them out, and she left. He moved in to help Mike get Raph from the wall to the mattress.

Sorry about the, um… Mike mentally whispered to him.

Ehh... don't worry. Maybe we could say the dog did it.

"What the hell did you guys…" Raph continued mumbling to himself.

Ryan could sense their worry anyway. He stood by as Mike knelt by Raph. Raph's not doing well, is he?

Bleeding inside still…what can we do?

The vet was afraid of that. Wondered if she could take Raph in for ex-rays and to do more for him. Leo decided against it.

"I'm gonna take these things out…"

"No, Raph. Don't." Mike turned back to his brother. "You need 'em."

"No, I don't"

"You do."

"No, I don't."

Mike sighed, his hand still covering the needle on Raph's arm. He decided to use one of Splinter's firm tones, being that now wasn't a time to loose this game. "You do."

The whole thing still bothered Ryan. He's been hurt bad before…? Leo seemed to imply.

"Mikey…let go…"

Yeah, the Foot beat him up a year ago. Concussion. We don't think he's recovered all the way from it. More mental.


Mike batted at Raph's attempts to get free. Mental… like, psychotic. Lethal Weapon material.

Ryan held his thoughts, deciding not to bother them any further. It must be tough for them to handle injures like that, with what little resources they have.

"It's this, or drinking water every 30 minutes, Raph." Mike reasoned. Why do you have to be so ornery, bro? I just want you to get better. As a way to repay you for saving my ass. His thoughts were only for Raph that time, even though Ryan couldn't help but pick up on them.

"Need anything more?" Ryan paused, before leaving them.

"Yeah, a glass of water." Mike spoke to make Raph think it was for him.

"Makes me piss like a race horse, dammit…"

'Cause it hurts? Ryan looked to Raph.

Raph shut up, only to give the kid a cold stare.

Ryan knelt down by Mike to face him. Can't hide it all, Raph. I know how you really feel about all this, so stop being such an ass.

The turtle closed his eyes and lay back with a groan.

Gets him every time. The kid turned to Mike, a fleeting grin on his face. But, let me know if something goes wrong… I'm in the hallway up there. He left to go up the stairs, only to stop halfway. "Oh yeah… the water." Ryan went back down to the kitchen.

Mike got up to grab the blankets and a pillow from the couch, then piled them next to Raph's mattress.

"What... are ya doin'? I don't need a baby sittah." Raph lifted his head.

Mike straightened out his makeshift bed. "I do."

Raph mumbled something under his breath.

Ryan silently came in with a glass of water for Mike, then left upstairs. Mike held his breath and gulped some well water in hopes of not tasting the bad iron flavor. Making a face about the aftertaste, he set the glass on the brick fireplace hearth next to the monitor. Nonetheless, something in him felt like having some fun. Raph seemed okay, despite some things. More simply, he wasn't too eager about going sound asleep. The threat of suffocating from his throat swelling up still lingered, especially if he missed taking the drugs during the night. At the same time, he didn't feel the same fear about Death as he had before. Something about breathing It gave him more insight on what it was. A respect.

But both of them had gotten too close to it for comfort.

"'You wanna be sick to have your butt kicked?'" Mike recalled something Leo told Raph weeks ago, just to bug him.

Raph only opened his eyes.

Mike smiled in a sly way.

"He's wrong. I kicked their ass… sick and fulla holes."

"No you didn't. Not Tatsu's. But…you weren't alone either…" Mike whispered, in a very serious tone. "Just want to... thank you, bro." He also owed much to Leo too, but Raph was a different case. He could see now what this was that made Leo and Raph more agreeable with each other, after the Last Time.

Raph looked at Mike with mixed thoughts, now that more of the grogginess left him. He didn't care who was the worse off right now. The fact that Mike had almost been dead settled in his mind. And he vaguely remembered someone telling him about Mike's heart stopping. Raph didn't know how he got that information, as all that happened yesterday came to him like a bad dream now. But then, could it be… was Mike telling him he'd gone out of his body? Only Splinter had been able to do that, especially when held captive by the Shredder. Could've also explained how the hell he was able to keep going for so long after he was shot.

His gaze looked away from his brother a moment. Being sentimental was something that rarely happened to him. Damn… you were almost dead. You, the bouncing, baby brother. It still felt hard to imagine. Except for the bandages on his arm and shoulder, Mike didn't even look hurt. But here he was full of holes with medical stuff stuck all over. But what was wrong with Mike was more on the inside. Raph reached out to touch Mike's arm.

"How are ya now?"

Mike was sensing something deep, churning in Raph, but couldn't bear that weight much longer. His instinct to hide behind merry-ment surfaced again. "Geez… they put me on steroids! Like, I'm gonna pump you up!" Mike half laughed, despite the strain on his lungs.

"Steroids? What the fuck? … That vet must cost--"

"Yeah. Somethin' about them keeping my throat from swellin' and suffocating me."

"Well... anything to avoid wakin' up and findin' yourself sucking face with Leo." Raph whispered in a matter of fact tone. He also recognized the other reason why Mike didn't feel comfortable being over on the couch, and decided to address it. "So, why don't you sleep with him instead?"

That made Mike burst out with laughter, ignoring Raph's point. "Oh no… but, that vet was like, 'Hel-lo nurse!'"

His laughter became contagious for some reason. Raph rose up on his elbow to take in a couple labored breaths to control himself. "Laughter's like medicine? Shit, it hurts…"

"Total babe-alicious! She even gave me a sponge bath!" Mike lay on his stomach, but he still shook from laughter.

Raph rolled to his plastron to look Mike in the eye. "Oh sure. She probably pumped you up so full of drugs, you dreamed that."

"Hah-hah! Jealous!"

"Mhh... she did me first, " Mike's flippant teasing just was enough to fire his desire to fight back. The faster Raph could wear the nervous giggles out of Mike, the better. "'Cause you're the wuss."

"Am not!"

"Pansy Ass."

"I am not."

"Maggot Munch."

"Neutered Swiss Cheese." Mike leaned in on the challenge.

Raph quietly laughed, but his innards felt like they couldn't take this much longer. He thought it was Mike with the bad lungs. "Think you can beat me?"

He rose up on his elbows. "Yeah, Obnoxious Fart."

"You probably won't live to enjoy the victory, Pussy Puke, 'cause I'm gonna strangle you with these damn IV tubes."

"Um, try harder, Queer Beer."

Mike started to laugh again, for no reason whatsoever. A part of him knew that Raph was getting fed up. He could see the pain Raph started to wear. Just what he didn't want to do, inflict pain, but his nerves still shook. If he didn't laugh or something, what he'd do would be a lot worse. And Raph wasn't big on tears.

"Roach Rot," Raph neatly placed his pillow in Mike's face, "Can it, will ya? You need to sleep."

Through the fog of how he spent the past few weeks, Casey momentarily thought about the directions to this horse farm again. It had been some time since he been out in the countryside. The last time was his parent's old farm in north Hampton, last summer. The guys wanted to spend the summer there, so he obliged them by offering a ride to and from.

Then out of the blue, his mother called to invite him to her place for Thanksgiving. He figured that she was feeling lonely, and scared, from the war going on in the Middle East. Other than being a landlord of an apartment near Central Park, she didn't have much else to do. That farm of theirs in North Hampton sort of marked the changing point in his life. After his father died many years before, his mother moved to the big city. He began a rebel from his family's lack of morals at that point too. The impressions his alcoholic father left in his mind became something he rather not think of. Then, a kid he befriended in the city fell into a street gang, only to die by that decision. Another infuriating thing he rarely mentioned to anyone, but instead used to fuel his vigilante motives. That came about after he failed to meet his dream as a hockey player due to an injury.

Casey gritted his teeth, clearing his head from the past again. His honed 57 Chevy at least gave a reason to think better thoughts. For a restored classic, it still handled well on these long road trips out to the middle of no-where. The farm in question came to view and he turned into the drive. After parking near the house, Casey went to the front door and rang the bell. A slight, Asian kid answered it.

"Hi. Um…?" Ryan held the door ajar, but wasn't sure as to who he was talking to.

Casey noticed the kid's black eye and bruised lip right away. "Wow, this looks like the place."

Ryan leaned on the doorframe. This man in a battered denim coat and worn out jeans seemed almost dangerous. "And uh, you're also 'their' friend?"

"Their…? My little green buddies? Yeah," Casey rubbed his hands together to lose some numbness from the cold. "An'… oh, I guess they told you April was coming."

"But she couldn't make it…?"

"Yeah." He nodded, looking around the porch. "Name's Casey Jones."

"I'm Ryan, the assistant manager around here." He finally decided to let Casey into the house. What with all the suspicious people he'd been running into lately, he wasn't sure anymore. "The guys are still asleep though. And… Steve, the owner, she's out in the barn right now."

He pushed back some of his long dark hair back in place. In the living room to his right, he recognized Mike and Raph at one end asleep on the floor. And the medical related items around them. "Damn… looks like they got roughed up good."

"Yeah…but they need the sleep." Ryan heard activity from upstairs, then looked to the rough-cut man. "The other two are upstairs. Leo's up."

Casey had no choice but to follow him up the stairs. He noticed the scents of liniment and soap from the bathroom lingering in the hall. Ryan knocked on the door to the guest bedroom before entering. "Your friend, Casey is here."

"Casey?" Leo sat on the couch. He just finished wrapping gauze around his lower leg.

"Yep. April couldn't come out. Last minute detail with your Master came up."

Leo didn't say anything, but got up to wake his brother on the other couch. "Donny, Casey's here. Let's get going."

"Is he okay?" Leo turned to Casey for a moment. Splinter sounded like he was coming down with something the last they spoke over the phone. He himself hadn't gotten much sleep last night. He heard all the commotion started from the machine, but Ryan told him to not go down. They'll handle it, and it did turn out to be nothing. Leo was still ready to spring when needed. He soon recognized the idle chatter going on between his brothers. And only then it came to a point he thought about getting up just to tell them to be quiet. Ryan had taken charge over much of their care, so he tried to not worry.

Casey rested a hand against the doorway and looked down for a moment to find the right the words. Leo tended to get sensitive when in came to Master Splinter, something he learned from Raph. "He's not feeling too well. She's got him in her apartment right now. In between him and covering what she can on the horse crimes, kinda busy."

"She didn't have to--"

"April said to not worry about it. He'll be okay. Really worried about you guys, but he's doin' fine." Casey looked at Leo. There it was again, that damned look of concern they get for each other. He had to admit, they were teaching him to be the same way. To care more about his relations, at least. He also started to wonder just how bad Raph was.

"Splinter's sick?" Don muttered through a yawn.

Leo nodded, wishing they could get back as soon as possible now. He gathered up the rest of the blankets and folded them to make a neat stack on his couch. What little of their other stuff had been packed earlier.

"Well, um, I dunno. It's almost noon, so if anyone wants something?" Ryan offered the three, hoping to not be too rude by taking them off the topic.

Casey didn't seem to care. Leo looked to Don. Neither of them ate much since they came back yesterday.

Don slowly sat up, then shook his head in refusal. "Still don't feel too good. Maybe some coffee...thanks anyway."

"I'm going back down," Casey pointed behind to the stairs. Leo sensed what he was hinting at, and decided to follow.

Ryan followed suit as well. He paused at the door a moment to look at Don. "Coming down soon?"

"Yeah…" The tired turtle rubbed his arms and yawned. "Eventually."

On the way down the stairs, Leo told Casey what happened to the other two.

"You're tellin' me Raph got shot up?" He gasped. "I thought he learned to be more careful than that! Shit."

"Different situation this time."

Casey went with Leo into the living room. From the blanketed lump laying in front of Raph, he proved his suspicions about the two as correct. Raph lay on his side, the back of his blood encrusted, bandaged shell facing them. Even though his blankets had been kicked off in the night, he looked out of it now. And from the absence of the heart monitor wires, Leo guessed they also been up and about. That also worried him, as the activity may have harmed Raph's healing process.

"Mornin' guys," Mike's rough voice mumbled from under the quilt to them. He heard the voices when they came in earlier. Sweeping the blanket from his face, he rolled to his side so that his back was to his brother. "Hey Raph…"

"…mh-shuddup Mikey…" It was a command that came out of habit from saying it all night long. At least Mike finally grew tired enough to sleep when the sun came up.

Leo stepped around so he could kneel near Raph. "Casey's here," he added.

"…wha for…?" Raph barely opened his eyes. He felt Leo checking his pulse and things.

"To drag yer sorry asses back home, Butthead," Casey crossed his arms, but the mockery was evident in his voice.

He grew tired of being fussed over, and eased Leo's hands aside. Raph didn't quite want Leo to get emotional with him in front of Casey. "Leo… I'm okay," he pushed himself up from the mat, "I just feel like shit."

Mike stifled a laugh in the midst of coughing. "Smell like it too, bro." He got up before Raph could do anything about that remark.

"And there can't be nothin' wrong wit Mike." Raph informed Leo instead.

The back door closed, and the rustling of a nylon coat was heard before Steve stepped into the living room. "Hello guys," She greeted, then held a hand out to Casey. "I'm Stephanie Edgley. You must be their other friend, huh?"

"Yeah, Casey's the name," Her introduction came as a blur, but he went along with the smile and handshake. She looked over to the turtles.

Leo took that break as a time to ask her about what news the vet had. Ryan mentioned she called in a report that morning.

"Well, Diane made that call to another veterinarian that specialized in reptiles." Steve started, when she saw some concern from Leo. She knew what it was about, after hearing a bit from him about his fears of being made A New Discovery. "Don't worry, she left out the specifics, Leo. But the advice she got was to keep them under heat lamps - or in your case, stay in warm rooms. Around seventy, eighty degrees. Seemed to be concerned about the threat of pneumonia, especially for Mike. Make sure to take the antibiotics. And... to reduce physical activity, get plenty of liquids, rest up … that sort of thing."

Steve paused, and gave an authoritative look to Mike. "And Diane agreed that talking too much would irritate your larynx and airways more. Restrain yourself, eh Mikey?"

He promptly clamped his beak shut and returned an innocent look to her. She merely raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

"Splinter'll know what to do." Raph gave up on following what Steve was telling them. He felt more of a need to answer that certain call again. "Dammit… I gotta go upstairs."

"Be thankful she didn't plug you with those, um bags, down there." Mike tittered.

Leo finally had enough of Mike's childish behavior. "Mike…knock it off! And clean up these things." he growled, taking to one side of Raph to help him up.

Mike suddenly felt at loss as he watched the two go into the hall. Despite the company from Casey and Steve, he quietly went about the business of folding up his and Raph's quilts and tidying up that area.

"What's gotten into him?" Raph whispered with true concern. He leaned heavily on the stair railing to take the weight from his sore leg.

"Nerves. Still having trouble with what happened, my guess. " Leo kept his eyes on the stairs for the most part. Leaving those two alone were like the blind leading the blind. Neither one could have helped each other fully. They lacked that true understanding of what really happened, thus feeding each other on unstable rumors. Yet, he admitted there were still some things he didn't understand yet either.

"Major case of Nuts in the Head." He muttered under his breath. All the while, it felt nice to have a serious, level-headed conversation with Leo, or anyone.

"Should have stayed down there with you guys."

"No, you were tired Leo. Did a lot for us already, so you deserved to sleep."

"I couldn't sleep." Leo briefly interrupted to make his point.

"But Ryan did what he could, and Splinter… he'll help Mikey figure it out. He knows…"

Leo's blunt reality check was all Mike needed to get back to his senses again. All that it took for him to fight off the sleep in desperation of evading Death, only rewarded him with more fatigue. His head now hurt, and his muscles were stiff all over. Overall, a weakness that made it hard to fend himself from what he didn't want to think of. One, he had been a general, unhelpful nuisance to Raph. Probably could have worsened the situation a whole lot more. And Two, he really was acting like a sissy about everything. He stared down at the glass of orange juice set before him on the kitchen table.

Ryan went back to the far counter to finish making a sandwich.

He finally took a gulp, and carefully set the glass back down. The coldness from the juice helped sooth away some of the discomfort, but he decided the other half of the aches were whiplash. The turtle overheard some of the chit-chat between Casey and Steve in the living room, almost uplifting and comforting. Another part of him wished to go to sleep someplace warm and comfortable, but he wasn't sure about himself yet. He compared this to what it was like to be haunted by Freddy, from the Nightmare on Elm Street.

Ryan sat down at the table with his lunch. Before he took a bite, he looked at Mike with some concern. The turtle still stared at the juice like it was a wishing well.

"Is it catching up on you?"

Mike looked up from the orange juice, faking a smile. Just how Ryan said "it" unsettled him a bit, but he knew what he meant. Weariness. He just nodded yes.

Ryan ate in silence as Mike half dozed for a couple minutes longer. He guessed Mike's problems all the same, but he wasn't going to push it out of him. He felt responsible for some of his confusion, for giving the turtle insight to his spiritual world. But seeing Mike's brothers in agony pushed him into those desperate prayers.

He picked up his can of Coke, when out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw tears forming in Mike's eyes. Soon he heard sniffling.

The chair suddenly scooted back and Mike left the kitchen, wiping at one of his eyes with his hand. After grabbing Leo's black coat from the rack, he left through the back door.

"Mike?" Ryan went after him when he heard the door slam shut. Standing on the deck, he saw Mike walking briskly to the horse barn.

"What is it?" Don stood behind him now. He just came down the stairs when he also noticed Mike going outside.

Ryan turned around and slipped past him to get his own jacket. I think he's starting to work things out. Get your coat. He paused a moment, noticing that Steve had stopped talking to look in their direction. The truth in this case, they could do without, since they wouldn't understand. "We're going out, to say goodbye to the horses."

Leo squirted more iodine surgical soap across the top of Raph's carapace, and took to it with a scrub brush. Earlier, he started out removing Raph's IV needles and checking the wounds, but it soon turned into a complete clean-up operation. He decided to clean the crud off of Raph's shell, while Raph settled on soaking in a tub of hot water, for the sake of his legs.

Hot baths came as a luxury when they had been growing up in the sewers. Finding the hot water pipes weren't the problem. It was finding a tub-like container to put it in. Splinter preferred the baths the most, as he claimed the hot water helped stimulate blood flow, and thus helped ease aching muscles. Also prevented the likely-hood of blood clots with some bruising injuries. But nothing seemed to compare to the onsen (hot springs) Hamatto-sensei spoke of.

Raph sat hunched over in the tub, resting his elbows on the sides. The intense warmth lulled his senses into what felt like a state of meditation. He felt stimulated and alert, but also at ease - he had no complaints, except maybe having to get out of the tub right away. Leo seemed to be in a hurry to leave this morning.

"Leo…" he still watched the clouds of brownish, red water float up around his legs. "Now it's twice I owe you."

His brother seemed particularly engrossed in cleaning out crud from one of Raph's old shell scars. He hadn't gotten down to the real wounds yet. "For what?"

"For saving my ass, O Not So Wise One. And I gotta do something about that." Raph raised a hand to notice the number of briar scratches on it. "Like, saving your ass for once. Mebbe even listening to you."

Leo paused to squirt more soap on the brush. His mind flicked back to a fight they had before finally heading off the Shredder. "I'll keep that in mind the next time you throw me through a barn wall."

"Was that a tone of sarcasm?" Raph glanced over his shoulder.

Leo just smirked.

Raph raised a hand to proclaim, "Look, you wanna war? You wanna war? I'll give you a war!" He made the water slosh a bit on the last exclamatory.

"I'll just take a rain-check on that…" He kept his focus on scrubbing for the most part.

"Sorry, don't do that."

Leo didn't return the rally, he finally reached the laser holes. Dark scabs had caked around the holes as well as the inside. He also had been advised to pick away at the scabs in the early healing process, to prevent most of it from healing from the outside in. This basically was a puncture wound magnified, since it went all the way through. He felt as though he would've been better off not listening to the vet tell him all the hazards of those sort of wounds.

Then the turtle froze when he recognized the location of the bottom hole. If it hit two inches more to the right, Raph would have had spinal damage -- paralyzed, even shot dead at that point. He finally let out a breath. Don't start … it didn't happen. Be fortunate.

Raph noticed the break in scrubbing, along with the long silence. He glanced over his shoulder. "Having fun back there?"

Leo rocked back on his heels and rested his arms on the edge. He looked at the yellowed brush as he turned it in his hands. "No… but you really don't need to owe me anything. I'll get you out of trouble no matter what… I hope you'd do the same for me."

He gritted his teeth, that stubborn streak in him wanted to protest against the last remark. How his brother sounded more worried in that statement changed his direction of thought. Raph pulled in a leg so he could turn to Leo. He could still see what was left of intense concern.

"You okay?"

Leo raised a soapy hand as to say something, but changed his mind. He gave Raph the brush and the Bentadine bottle instead. "You do the front. I'll be right back with the gauze and stuff." He rinsed his hands off in the water before leaving.

"It's always been 'my problems are your problems'. But… your problems are mine too."

Leo paused outside the doorway. "I'm just… worried about you."

"Mhh, Leo… don't worry. We're gonna be okay. Chew on that instead."

Mike ducked slightly when he saw Mick in the arena lunging one of the horses. He didn't want to be seen, and used his stealth tactics to slip inside nearest stall. The turtle sunk down in the front corner of the big stall, furthest away from the door, to hide. His mind was not thinking too clearly either. He noticed the gray horse in the shadows, and assumed it to be Jontondo, even though the stall he went into had been Delilah's. The cold settled around him, as all he had on was a coat. Mike pulled in his legs to hug his knees, closing his eyes and pulling his head in his shell to muffle himself. At least he could hide from the others, but Cold and Death were another matter.

Not much time had passed when he noticed warm breaths falling across the top of his head. Something nuzzled the sleeve of his coat, and it didn't seem like that of a big horse. The turtle came out a little, to see the small, dark nose of a foal. He blinked, as it stepped back.

Damn! It's a baby!

Mike came full out of his shell, his hands gripping the straw under him. The intimidated colt dashed back to hide behind its mother.

"You… what? No, it can't… and you're not Jon. Ohh wait…"

He closed his eyes and leaned forward to rest his head on his arms, catching his breath.

No… it wasn't a dream. It was…it was for real. I didn't die? Was I really a ghost? Damn… what…?

Mike started to remember bits from yesterday. About the horses on the way back, about how he didn't remember seeing a gray one. Danza was there. He could remember that. There were gray horses somewhere else, however. This mother was one of them…

What happened?!

Mike turned toward the wall, huddling up again. His head ached too much to even reason, but everything felt too crazy to believe.

Don wasn't sure what was going on, since he pretty much slept like a log all night. He guessed Mike was having one of his moments again. He followed Ryan into the barn, no questions asked. Ryan helped fill him in a little, on the fact Mike couldn't sleep last night. He decided to save the interrogations for Mike himself.

Mick greeted Ryan when they came in. The trainer worked alone as he brushed down the black filly, and made no other mention abut Mike. Ryan assumed then, that Mike sneaked inside. He offered a quick suggestion to Don, to keep down suspicions. Don, I'll keep him distracted here. Go over to the stalls and check 'em.

"I like to visit the horses one last time, Mick." Don went along with the game, before leaving the two.

He was right in guessing that Mike wasn't being picky, and found his brother in the first stall. But he didn't expect how he would see Mike. He saw him huddled in the corner, and his head retracted. Don hadn't seen Mike that way since they took refuge at Casey's farm after the Foot stormed April's apartment. He decided that Mike's hiding, along with uncontrolled physical tendencies, came as a result from the pain of defeat, and the fact that Raph lay comatose in a bathtub. At the time, Don was the only brother available to just be an ear for him. To be solid ground.

Don knelt by Mike, touching his arm to get his attention. His brother flinched, muttering denial.

"Mikey… s'okay. What's the matter?" The words were quiet and slow. It felt weird now talking to a headless brother.

He didn't say anything at first, but when he did, he said it to his shell.

"Can you come out? I can't understand. Mikey?" Don knelt in the straw next to him. A few moments passed before Mike stretched out with a groan.

Don put a hand on his brother's shoulder to welcome him. But his gaze held long on Mike's sullen features before he spoke. "Just tell me… I don't bite, remember?"

Mike wiped one side of his beak once, his eyes still on the straw. He decided to start with the guilt. "They put their lives at stake, and I acted stupid. Ungrateful. Leo's mad at me. I didn't want to bother Raph… I didn't want to -- I dunno... "

Don waited for Mike to say more. Nothing. He decided to slip in a little of what he knew. Leo just came across as being really taxed out lately. He didn't think it was true anger. Leo had snapped at him a few times the night before too.

"No… Leo's tired. He does care. He cared so much, he gave so much for you back there. Wasn't going to quit." Don paused, thinking once with remorse that he wanted to give up. He couldn't believe he thought like that now. He usually was known for having steadfast patience and endurance. They all had been falling back on their weaknesses lately.

Don swallowed. "I couldn't believe… how bad the both of you got. But, you were, were… almost -- just, don't expect to be perfectly okay, already."

The mare moved restlessly, catching Mike's attention. But it was brief. He looked back to Don, and after unfolding himself, locked him with a hug. He needed to hold onto someone real. "Did I go away?" he buried his face in his brother's coat.

A long silence followed as Don sought a good answer. It wasn't clear-cut. Mike's heart stopped for what seemed like a long time. He didn't have a watch handy, he didn't know how long for sure. But some people consider that dead. Mike came back though. Leo's attempts worked, as crazy as it seemed. Don decided Mike wasn't dead.

He raised an arm to cradle his brother's head for reassurance. Mike couldn't have Been Gone. He refused the thought. "No, never."

The delayed response did not convince him. "Then… why -- how come I can remember things that happened there?"

Don held his tongue again, this time from confusion. He started stroking Mike's cheekbone subconsciously. "What things?"

"Them." Mike didn't lift his head, but pointed to the horses behind Don. "Or knowing about Tatsu, what he was doing, how he beat up Raph… and that Jon was dead…" He ended his list with something he told Don's coat.

"Hmm?" Don stopped stroking. Despite his false reassurances, what Mike told him sounded very chilling. No one told Mike about any of that, really. Even Ryan seemed to stay hush-hush about the past events.

Mike took in a breath and lifted his head slightly. "I was a ghost. I saw it all. Heard people's thoughts. Went through walls… and I heard Splinter too. But I didn't see him. I still don't know…thought it was another dream."

"Splinter probably took you out--"

"No, he didn't." He could still remember asking Splinter the very same question about Astral Planes. Mike looked up into Don's unmasked face for emphasis. "It was like Flatliners."

He closed his eyes with a small laugh. "Mikey, that's just a movie."

"But what if--"

"Mike," Don brought a hand around to rest it behind his neck. "Then make it something to learn from. Don't worry about it."

Mike held his gaze with Don. The caring gentleness in Don's expression struck a chord somewhere. Mike realized just how worried Don had been, combined with a helplessness to not be able to do all that was needed to ease his pains. Just feeling left out. His eyes flooded over again.

Don brought his thumb across his brother's cheek to wipe away some tears. "There's no pain we can't face, okay. 'Possess the right thinking'." He said the words to remind himself just as much. They were forgotten too many times yesterday. His eyes started getting watery too.

"Death can never touch, where there is love." Don added, after lightly kissing Mike's forehead. A small gesture Splinter often done to them for consolation.

The two remained in a silent huddle, quietly sniffing back on tears. They hadn't done anything more that seemed the slightest bit alarming to the colt, and so he ventured his way back over. Would it jump again if he bothered it too long again? Something he had to find out. He'd seen a lot of weird things lately, like that moving, dark stall. This, however, was just… amusing. They also had a smell not like the other tall animals that were around earlier.

The dark colt nuzzled the back of Don's hood, breathing in the scent deeply. The turtle stiffened a second, until he realized what it was breathing down his neck.

Mike also felt Don's tension and looked up. He had to stifle a laugh when the colt started to mouth the hood. The little guy seemed to be just what he needed to lighten up the mood now. Don, however, looked like he was about to swat him off.

"No, don't." Mike whispered, before slowly shifting over from Don to see the baby. "I watched him get born…"

Don slowly turned to see it as well, but held his silence as he wiped the wet from his face. His brother's gentle actions with the baby gave him relief Mike seemed to be accepting something.

"Remember me, buddy?" Mike brought his hands up for the colt to see before he tried to pet him. The colt took a step back to evade his hand. Mike persevered to touch its face and neck, and the colt finally let him. He started to feel happy the little dude ended up here, instead of somewhere else, or having to live the dreaded life it was first bred for.

"Is Danza okay?" He addressed Don. The colt nudged the Turtle's hands from his nose.

"Think so."

The baby scampered away to let out a playful buck.

"I wanna see him too, before we go… home." Mike stood up and offered Don some help.

"Yeah, a herd of wild horses wasn't going to drag them away." Ryan greeted Casey waiting in the driveway. Don and Mike followed close behind, in contention about the big mare Mike accused Don of liking. Mike seemed to have forgotten his promise to not talk as much again.

The Bel Air had been running some time to heat up the interior. Raph already got into the back seat and made himself comfortable. Don decided to take advantage of the situation, and get a front seat while he could. The hood on his coat offered him the chance too, without feeling too exposed.

"You gotta promise me you're gonna write and tell me about the little guy." Mike faced up to Ryan.

Ryan merely returned a non-committal sound. Writing came to be one of his least favorite pastimes, all things considered.

"Then pictures, at least send pictures!" Mike shook a finger.

"Sure." Ryan brought a hand to Mike's shoulder to confirm it as he went by to Steve and Leo. They came out of the house, with the last of the Turtles stuff.

"Mikey." Steve called out to him. She held her stern look as she made a zipping action across her mouth.

Mike drooped his shoulders, and just mouthed the words of his protest. But then he stepped up to Steve for a hug. "Thanks for putting up with us. Sorry about the… horses." He whispered near her ear. She seemed pretty quiet about the horses, but he had a feeling the death of Jon was bothering her more than she let on.

"That's okay. It was a favor I won't forget." Steve stepped back.

Mike raised an eyeridge. "You sure?"

She smiled. "No, get out of here."

"Aww…" Mike decided to take that remark both ways. He noticed Leo come around from the back of the car.

"Hey Leo…" he caught him in a hug too. A hug to express an apology and gratitude to his brother at the same time. Leo could pick up on that without words.

"Yeah, we'll be okay." Leo whispered to him.

Casey grinned, looking at them over the top of the car. "Oh, enough with the Hallmark commercials, guys. Are we going or not?"

"Yeah, hold on, Casey." Leo turned to say goodbye to Steve and Ryan, before going to the car.

Jars of Clay, Sinking

It's not my problem anymore
You see, it never really was
So you can stop caring as you call it
And I'll be fine right here

You see that I can play a pretty convincing role
So I don't need you, I don't think I need you

But you see through my forever lies
And you are not believeing
And I see in your forever eyes
And you are forever healing

You can't hear what I'm not saying
And I can hold out long enough
Treading water I keep from sinking
I'm not one for reaching

But you see through my forever lies
And you are not believing
And I see in your forever eyes
And you are forever healing