1A.N: This is it, the very last chapter. The reason it took so long is because it was longer than I planned, but that's alright, right? But um yeah, last chapter, no more. Hope you enjoy.
Writing On The Wall
Stranger Than Your Sympathy
"Better than you,"
Leonardo closed his mouth. So Donatello was still pissed with him. He'd thought as much if the brutal application of antiseptic was anything to go by. At least Donny spoke to him, Raphael had pretended he didn't exist. And Michelangelo? Leo feared he wouldn't be forgiven for a very long time. That hurt shell of a lot more than a sprained ankle and a gash across the arm. Now he was thinking clearly, he realised what a hateful bastard he'd been.
"I'm sorry Donny, but I did do it for you,"
All at once, Donatello's anger dissipated as if it were never there. He could never stay cross at anyone, especially not his brothers. He let out a weary sigh and continued re-wrapping the linen around his sibling's arm a lot less forcefully.
"To think one person's death could cause all this," He mumbled. Leo licked his dry lips.
"I didn't mean for things to go this far," He smiled sadly, eyes fixed on his swollen ankle.
"Que sera, sera," Donny shrugged, finishing the knot on the bandages.
"Do you think everything will get better now Donny?" Leo asked quietly, watching his younger brother kneel to tightly wrap his ankle.
Donny hesitated, his eyes staring at a crack on the grubby floor of his lab. Who was to say things were going to get better? Sure the Foot was gone, but would their family recover from the hell Oroku Saki had forced them to endure? Being an engineer before a doctor, Don didn't know. They might regain their trust, love, life and become a family once more. Or they might not, each of them might be snatched by the darkness Leonardo could not seem to escape from.
"I don't know Leo," He replied truthfully. "Things are hard right now,"
"Do Raph and Mikey hate me?" Leo hissed with pain as Don pulled the bandage tight against the swelling.
"No Leo, they're just a little disappointed with you, they don't hate you," The purple turtle reassured wearily.
"I didn't mean to break my promise,"
"Yes you did," Donny corrected sternly. Leonardo didn't try to say anything otherwise.
Donny tightened the knot and straightened up, allowing Leo to lift his bandaged ankle onto the bed. The younger boy crossed the chilly room to fish an icepack from the mini-fridge. He tutted at the sight of Mike's cola stash. He let it slide however and returned to the bed, the ice numbing his fingertips. He tenderly laid it in place.
"Now remember, RICE, rest, i-"
"Ice, compression, elevation. I got it Donny, you hammered it into our brains when we were six," Leo rolled his eyes in exasperation. Donny smiled softly.
"You don't need any Valium, do you?" He asked in a result of Leonardo leaning back and closing his eyes as if trying to keep everything under control.
"No, I'm just tired, that's all," He murmured sleepily.
"That's good. I am proud of you,"
Despite himself, Leonardo smiled. Those five words filled him with happiness and fulfilment. For the first time in his life he felt genuinely at peace with himself, felt it was alright to be Hamato Leonardo, felt it was quite acceptable to be less than perfect. He didn't need their father's approval anymore. But he could still hear Splinter's voice in his head. He wasn't gone.
"Thanks Donny," And he went to sleep.
Donatello shook his head and gathered up the leftover bandages. He carried them over to their respective drawers, listening to his brother sleeping quietly. After putting the rolls away, he reached into his belt and took out the bottle of Valium pills tucked away in the pouch where his shell cell usually was. He had thought he was going to have to give the elder a couple. But for once he was glad his calculations were wrong.
Taking a deep breath, he tossed them into the rubbish bin with a clang. He was finished with those. He wondered if locking his cupboards now was necessary but decided it was better to be safe than sorry. He sighed yet again and rubbed his forehead.
He hoped life was going to repair itself now. There was no Foot threat to distract them from healing their family. He was going to try his damned hardest to help mend their wounded souls, they were his brothers of course, and if he didn't do his best, what sort of a brother would he be? A pretty rubbish one, that was for sure.
Donny knew their elder brother was onto the pathway to recovery but whether he strayed or not was an entirely different matter. All they could do was help him up when he stumbled. It was going to be hard work and they were probably going to tumble a couple of times themselves but Donatello was prepared.
They were his brothers and that meant everything to him.
"Maybe we should be thinking about getting home soon Casey," April suggested to her husband, standing before him with her arms crossed.
"It was late morning, hours since Usagi and Leonardo had traipsed in out of the pouring rain, both exhausted, both exclaiming for Karai's death. Raphael was too furious to make sense. Michelangelo wouldn't speak to his big brother and Donatello was annoyed because the elder had disobeyed doctor's orders, again.
Usagi recounted the tale whilst Donatello saw to their brother. April could hardly believe it. Everything that jeopardized her friends' existence had been totally depleted. They could live moderately normal lives. Well, if they all got over their brother's depression. April knew they were going to need her and Casey hell of a lot more than ever now. And she didn't mind a bit, because they were their friends and she owed them her life and she loved them. That was never going to change.
"Yeah, don't wanna put on 'em any longer," Casey agreed, cuddling his baby daughter close to his muscled chest.
There was a swift knock on the door, light and brief. The couple looked at each other in confusion, who could that be? April crossed the room and let the visitor in. The light outside streamed into the dark room and Leonardo stood in the doorway, wearing a soft smile.
"Leo, you shouldn't be up," April reprimanded him, escorting their hobbling friend to the bed in a very motherly fashion.
"I'm fine April, it's just a sprained ankle, no biggy," The turtle shrugged as he sat down almost carelessly. April harrumphed but didn't say anything.
She and her husband noticed he seemed as if he didn't quite know what to say. Casey gratefully handed his offspring over to the turtle as a result of his arms beginning to ache from the rapidly growing baby. Leo accepted her, locking eyes with the beautiful little girl. She gave him strength he did not know he had.
"I'm sorry for putting you guys through this," He said eventually, looking up at them.
"Don't be silly Leo, these things happen," April sighed, rubbing her temples tiredly.
"That's what Donny said," Leo smiled gently.
"How does it feel? Y'know, with Karai gone 'n' everythin'?" Casey asked curiously. Leo frowned in thought.
"Weird," He answered finally. "I mean, I've never really thought about what it would be like with her gone because she was always there. Now she really is gone, it does feel weird, because there's no reason to fear the Foot any longer. New York will always be in danger of course, and there will be trouble over this, I just know it, but things will be better in the end,"
April positively beamed at him and Casey grinned stupidly, causing him to laugh. He allowed Raven to curl her pudgy fists around his finger. There was an odd silence save for the baby's coos and gurgles and they felt slightly uncomfortable, as if they did not know what to do with themselves.
"We were thinking Leo, we should be getting home soon," April put in gently. Leo nodded, it made sense - they had lives to get back to.
"Are you guys thinking of having any more children?" He asked suddenly, taking them by complete surprise.
"Well, not at the moment of course, but maybe...later," April replied awkwardly, confused as to why he would ask such a thing.
"You do know they're all gonna be majorly spoiled, don't you?" He grinned mischievously. Casey groaned, one headstrong woman was more than enough to be getting on with.
"You better not Leonardo," April warned sternly, but she was amused all the same.
"You shouldn't have decided to have children then," Leo chuckled.
April rolled her eyes and flopped down on to the bed next to their friend. She wrapped an arm around his shoulders and smiled as she watched him charm her daughter.
"Things are going to get better now, aren't they?"
"You know what April, I think they are," He grinned at her and she chortled. "I'm gonna go check on Usagi, ok?"
He handed Casey his daughter back and April helped him limp to the door, despite his constant protests that he was perfectly alright. It was just mildly sprained after all, and he would be fine in a couple of weeks or so, but April Jones was April Jones at the end of the day, and she wasn't gonna change for anybody.
"Be careful Leo," She advised, opening the door for him.
"Stop mothering me, you've your own daughter to worry about now," And he left down the hall to his room.
She smiled as she shut the door behind him, She couldn't help mothering him and his brothers. She had been an only child craving younger siblings, they were motherless teenagers craving a female parent. Of course she had Raven now but that simply meant things stayed the same only they had a niece and she had four uncles. And April liked it that way.
Leonardo licked his lips nervously. He hadn't spoken a word to Usagi since the fight with Karai and he didn't quite know what to say. Thank you? You bastard? He had absolutely no idea, but he did know one thing, he owed Usagi his life and he had been wrong to doubt his motives, he had been a true friend right to the end.
He took in a deep breath, knocked then slowly opened the door, shaking like a nervous puppy.
Usagi was perched, cross-legged, on Leonardo's bed, his delicate pink nose buried deep in a few old scrolls he must've found in the bookcase. He peered up as Leonardo entered, his facial expression unreadable. He watched in silence as the door was shut and the turtle knelt on the floor before him. Nothing was said for a few minutes and Leonardo wouldn't meet his eyes.
"I ask for forgiveness," The younger warrior whispered eventually, head hung low.
His heart was hammering so hard in his plastron he was sure Usagi could hear it in the stillness that followed his plea. He didn't know what to expect? Was he going to forgive or attack him? He felt frightened, knowing he was at risk of losing the best friend he was ever going to have, all over one stupid woman and their fathers.
Usagi sighed and laid aside the scrolls wearily. He was tired and was not in the mood for skirting around formalities and superior respect. He was going to be blunt and straight to the point. His young friend needed a serious wake up call and he was certainly going to receive one!
"Does our friendship seriously mean that little to you Leonardo-san?" He demanded, folding his arms. It amused him to see Leo's head snap up like that.
"What do you mean?" The turtle spluttered, eyes wide.
"I mean, I thought I meant more to you than this. You do not trust me, you swear and speak disrespectfully, you're not the Hamato Leonardo I once knew. I understand you are grieving the loss of your father, I can sympathise, but in doing so you have abandoned those that still live, too wrapped up in your sorrow,"
Usagi paused and moistened his dry mouth. He let out a saddened breath of air, watching the saltwater drip down his friend's cheeks in a result of realising the extent of his actions. He smiled slightly and brushed them slightly away.
"Your father is dead Leonardo-san, you must accept this now before it is too late,"
"I have, I know he won't come back," Leo croaked, voice cracking from holding back the tears.
"So you come to me seeking forgiveness, when there is nothing to forgive? We all make mistakes Leonardo-san, and loved ones will continue to perish no matter what we do. It is a part of life. You have avenged your master now let him go," Usagi stressed, letting his paws fall to his lap.
"I have! I just told you, I've accepted his death!" The younger boy snapped, rubbing his eyes angrily.
"But you haven't let him go. His voice still lingers inside your head and you still listen to him, even though it's not your master, it's your grief controlling you like he used to do. Why is it so hard to let him go?"
There was silence as Leonardo sat and mulled everything over, gnawing his lip. Usagi was right, he couldn't let Master Splinter go, he couldn't get him out of his head. But why? Everything was over now, why did he still feel like it was all wrong?
"I don't know," He whispered finally. "I just...can't,"
"If you can't let him go Leonardo-san, you will never recover," Usagi said solemnly. Looking at his friend's downcast face made him feel a little guilty, so he added "When you told Karai you didn't deserve heartache and death, I've never felt more proud of you,"
Leonardo smiled softly, feeling content and calm for the first time in ages.
"It's weird, knowing she's gone," He murmured.
"It will do, for a while. You know at first, I didn't feel shamed, but now I do," The rabbit admitted shyly.
"You shouldn't. She was as evil as her father. I know now I wouldn't have had the guts to finish her, even after she has done to us. You saved New York Usagi-san. And my family," He added as an afterthought.
"That consoles me. I understand you are free now, you could move homes, become a sensei, anything you want to do," Usagi mused lightly. Leo shook his head almost unhappily.
"I do what they do. Even if Master Splinter doesn't tell me to anymore, I will still take care of them. Someone around here has to," He explained.
"What about taking the easy way out?" The samurai wondered softly.
"What easy way?" But the ninja already knew.
"You know what it is,"
"I hope that path will fade soon,"
"I'm sure it will,"
Michelangelo sighed and held the two plushies to his plastron as tight as he could. He sniffed and wiped his emerald eyes again, even though they were red and sore. He leaned back against his pillow and looked down. His body was terribly scarred, and he hated those scars more and more with each passing day. They would always remind him of the terrors the Shredder had caused his family.
They used to be so close, so together. But that had gradually disappeared thanks to one evil alien and his psychotic daughter. Mikey had never thought it possible to hate someone so much, but he found it most certainly was.
But now their sufferings were over and Oroku Saki and Karai had finally been served justice, although it cost them a father and maybe even a brother. Mike didn't know what to feel, relief, happiness, fear, anger? He felt all of those emotions at once and wondered if he should. He glanced up at the swift and light knock on his door. He knew who it was and he wasn't speaking to that person. He just felt too upset with his oldest brother right about now. He had a feeling Leonardo knew this anyway.
"I'm coming in Mike, whether you answer me or not," Came the voice. Mike pursed his lips together hard as he was tempted to answer alright!
Leo opened the door slowly and stepped inside, gently shutting it behind him. He offered his younger brother a smile which wasn't returned and Mike turned back to the plushies in his lap.
"Mikey, please don't be like this," Leo begged quietly, taking a seat on the side of the bed. Mikey said nothing, just fiddled with the Splinter plushie's cane. Leo sighed.
"I had to do it Mike. She was killing all those people, I had to stop her before she killed you," He mumbled, taking Mike's hand.
"But you broke your promise," Mikey whispered, finally breaking his vow of silence. Leo smiled in understanding.
"Mike, is this less about my going after Karai, and more about breaking my promise to Raphael?" He sighed, watching his brother's eyes glisten with dammed tears.
"You never break promises," Mike muttered, rubbing at his eyes again.
"Don't rub, they're sore," Leo gently guided Mikey's hand back to his lap. "I told you Mike, I had to,"
"Yeah, but if you broke this promise, you might break others," The younger turtle argued, fumbling with his plushie's nunchaku this time.
"Like what?" Leo urged, squeezing the smaller hand.
"Like you promised never to self harm or take Valium again," Mike explained with a sniff.
"Mike, I know things are hard for all of us right now, not just me. If it's my ability to keep promises you're doubting, then I won't promise you I'm going to get better instantly and this family will be what it once was, because it's not that simple. But I shall promise you I shall try my hardest Michelangelo, whether you choose to take heart on that promise or not is entirely up to you,"
Mike let out a defeated breath and felt his older brother's calloused fingers gently wipe away his tears, and to his surprise more didn't follow. He looked up and offered the tiniest of tiny smiles. Then, shyly, he reached up and cautiously traced the three pale claw scars running down Leo's cheek, then allowed his hand to fall.
"Karai loved you," He murmured eventually.
"I wouldn't exactly have called it love Mikey. Maybe she was just as drawn to me as I was to her because we were so different to one another. I guess she just never had that feeling before," Leo shrugged. He'd wondered about that himself.
"It feels strange knowing it's all over now," Mikey mused thoughtfully, laying his plushies to the side and sitting up properly to face Leonardo.
"I know," Leo breathed, rubbing at the scars on his wrists out of habit. "Strange,"
Mike patted the space beside him on the mattress, smiling. Leo smiled in return and moved over to settle down next to his baby brother. Happy, Mike curled up against Leo's plastron, listening to the calm beating underneath the skin. He closed his eyes and breathed out in satisfaction. His big brother was back.
"Will ya watch the Teen Titans marathon with me later?"
"Of course I will Michel,"
"Dude! For the last time, it's Michelangelo!"
Raphael raised the brown glass bottle to his lips and took a swallow. The bitter liquid ran down his throat, displeasing him. With an annoyed grunt, he flung the almost full beverage into the bin. He wasn't even thirsty! He was just drinking it to give him something to do with his hands.
He leaned on the counter top, sighed wearily and shook his head. It was late. April, Casey and Raven had gone home. Usagi and Don were fast asleep in their respective rooms. Mike was conked out snoring on the couch. And Leo? Raph knew exactly where he was.
He wondered if he was ready to talk with their elder brother yet. He'd just been far too pissed to even look at the 'Fearless Leader'. He'd simply pretended Leo wasn't there, that way he wouldn't risk venting out some of that anger on their depressed leader.
Raph clicked his tongue irritably and glanced at the clock. If there was a time for such a confrontation, now really was the time, when everybody else was asleep. And he knew his brother would be calm and willing to listen, because he was tired and finishing his recovered meditation. But Raph's temperament at the moment was a dangerous unknown.
Yet he knew he had to speak to Leo. He had to tell him of their understanding. He couldn't put it off any longer and he knew Donatello or Michelangelo could never talk to him about it, they'd end up breaking down. Raph knew it had to be him and he was dreading it.
Well, it was now or never. He made his way down the corridor, wondering what the hell he was going to say. He hadn't prepared anything, hadn't thought about it at all. He feared if he did, he'd lose courage. And what he was about to do required more bravery than he had ever needed before of he was to do it right.
Their Sensei's door wasn't closed, only slightly ajar. Candlelight dimly shone through, illuminating the edges of his tired face. He psyched himself up, then pushed it open, standing inside their father's room for the first time in long months. It gave him an odd strength, a resolution that allowed him to embrace what was about to come.
Leonardo opened his eyes and looked at him curiously. The candles around him flickered and jumped, sputtering in the silence. He unfolded his legs from the lotus position and simply crossed them, perched among the many ornately faded cushions. Nag Champa incense, Leonardo's current favourite, burned and smoked, the ember gently smouldering away.
"I thought I'd find you here," Raph mumbled, coming to sit with him.
"Do I exist now?" Leo asked passively, playing with the tassels on one of the cushions.
"Y'always existed, I was just too angry with ya t'acknowledge ya," Raph shrugged, offering a light grin.
"It's ok, I understand why you did it, you just...didn't listen to me. I guess I know how you feel sometimes now, when we don't listen t'you," He looked up and a sad smile graced Leo's lips.
"Now do you see why I'm so jealous of you Raph? When you're angry, you can yell and go crazy and go outside and let it all out. I can't. I have to keep it all inside, pretend it doesn't exist, because that's what a perfect leader does Raph," Leo explained softly, sorrowfully.
"He's gone now Leo, you don't have t'be perfect anymore," Raph whispered, watching one of the candles so he didn't have to see his brother's mournful eyes.
"He's not gone Raph. He's here," Leo gently tapped his own temple. "And I can never get him out,"
Raphael took a deep breath. This was it, what he had been waiting for. He drew up his strength and held his brother's hand nervously. It felt bizarre, like he shouldn't be doing it, like it should be Leo holding Raph's hand because he was the big brother.
"We know that Leo. That's why Don and I made a decision, and Mike agrees with us. He's not very happy about it, but he agrees. We realised forcin' you t'suffer through each and every day wasn't makin' you better, it was makin' you worse,"
Leo didn't answer but he knew it was the truth.
"At first we thought you were doin' great, but then we found the Valium and everythin' just went from bad to worse. Not only were you depressed, but you were abusin' drugs, regressin' back into childhood, goin' catatonic. Don feared you might even have the early signs of schizophrenia, sometimes it's like you're a whole different person, you're hateful, bitter, disrespectful. And then, next minute, you're you again. It's scary bruv, I won't deny it," Raph gave an involuntary shudder.
"What are you saying Raph?" Leo breathed, feeling his heart hammer in fright.
"What I'm sayin' Leo, is it was wrong of us. We just wanted you back with us so badly, we didn't realise we were losin' you more 'n' more each day," He was crying now, and he made no attempt to hide it. " We decided that, if it's what you really, really, really wanted to do, we won't stop you if...if..." Raph closed his eyes, his throat constricting and catching his voice. "If you wanted to...to...go,"
Leo gulped, suddenly feeling sick. If he wanted to commit suicide, they weren't going to stand in his way, they were going to let him be at peace if everything genuinely became too hard to bear. It was absurd. After everything they did, they were giving him the choice. He got to decide for himself.
God he loved them.
"What made you change your mind?" He asked quietly.
"I don't know, it was gradual I guess. I realised I wanted you back to yer original self and if didn't give you the freedom, and carried on pressurin' ya, we weren't gonna get you back," Raph wiped his eyes dejectedly.
"Thank you," Leo smiled, drying his own eyes.
"I know he never gave you a choice before, it was always his decision. Now it's up to you," Raph returned the gesture. Although it was such a dark and serious situation, those smiles helped a lot.
"It's nice to have a choice," Leo agreed.
He wasn't sure how hard or easy things were going to get, and he wasn't sure how he was going to cope. But it was reassuring to know he didn't have to worry about his brothers stopping him from doing what he really needed to do.
He knew it must've took a lot for them to accept this, and a lot more for Raph to come and tell him, but it also took a huge weight from all their shoulders. Sure, life would be Foot-free, give or take a few rogue ninjas, but there was still that soft, commanding, unrelenting voice in the back of his head and he knew that wouldn't go away anytime soon. And if it did, it could always come back.
But he promised Mikey he'd try his hardest, and that was what he was going to do. He was going to prove to Mikey he could keep his promises. He was going to try. He didn't know if he would succeed or not, but he was definitely going to try, and no one, not even Splinter, could ask for more.
"We love you bruv,"
"I know, I love you too,"
"Use your choice wisely Leo,"
"I will, I just hope I choose correctly,"
"You will. You usually do,"
A.N: That's it! Wow that feels weird. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and I shall see you guys soon! Remember to review and check out my other stuff! Love you!