Chapter Forty Two:
As days wore by, the family began to settle and adapt themselves into their new roles.
Mike was still insecure about his new position, probably the pressure and all the expectations we've placed on his shoulders.
I fully understood the role of leader might have been just a bit too much, but we believe and have faith in him, I'm sure he wont let us down.
His first task was to help Don, who depended on him to help with the lair's new adjustments.
I was no longer available to help him set things in place like I used to, Leatherhead sort of took too much time going back and forth from his home to ours, and we dearly didn't want to trouble the crock with the trip. Sensei wasn't into technology and April was still nursing injuries, we didn't want to stress her with work, especially when she is supposed to be resting.
Not to forget that Raph is blind so that didn't help get things in motion faster, too.
Although Raph's strong point came to physical mechanics and not advanced statistical technology, his knowledge in mechanics would help design the system's disguise and hide it better within the environment of the sewers. Raph was the best when it came to camouflaging things, hiding them in the open, and Don just had to get what was needed to pull it off.
I hope Mike knows how to hide things like Raph used to, cause he's got the knack, he just never used it before.
Well, aside that time Mike and Casey pretended to be Cocky, to throw off some crazy she-man doctor, I think.
Our brainy brother had set a new security system inside the lair, a part was inside my room like an intercom of sorts, just in case I needed assistance in anything, and outside through the labyrinth of the sewers to detect any possible unwelcome lurkers. Also, just so to ensure Bishop didn't implant any tracking devices on me, to locate where I am or where the lair is at.
After what had happened to the farmhouse, Donny didn't want to take any chances.
None of us wanted to move out of yet another home.
Once sure I was device-free he worked on a signal scrambler, just in case the madman tried to track us through any other way.
Mike admitted to me he was lost and confused while he helped Don, I smiled for I knew Donatello's technical stuff was a bit over our head. Even when Don and I would work on similar things, I only had a bit of basic knowledge to what he's doing and would still puzzled and completely out of the loop, whenever Don decided to go into techno-mode and explain the task for me.
Also, I'd like to mention Raph sort of started a new attitude, he tried to catch up to the lost time and pretend to be as funny as Mike used to be. Although Raph being the funny one is an odd sight, I do admit it might just need a bit to get used to it. He just needs to work about the kinks, because he can be pretty funny when he really goes about it the right way, and not be sarcastic.
He wasn't a clown who's just outwardly clumsy, most of his jokes were just word-play or puns, but though they didn't have us cracked up with laughter; mostly because my body can't handle the pressure, at least it brought smiles to our faces.
Amazingly, it even improved his temper a great deal. Once the angry, cynical and short tempered one, now he's a bit mellower, but his temper isn't as sharp, or as easily triggered as before.
Also, Don and Mike had gotten back on terms, not that they ever fought as fiercely as Raph and I used to, anyway.
I think since that time in the forest when Don accused Mike if not being serious, Mike kind of latched on to that accusation with a bit of a grudge, because it hurt him deeper than he'd care to admit. Don did his best to voice out his apology, and thankfully Mike mellowed out and got back to his normal self, and now they're best buds again.
More days wore by and everyone got comfortable as winter came and gone.
First time that ever I spent Christmas in bed, but I guess I ought to get used to it.
After two years from that terrible incident, Casey and his mother finally got around and reestablished the farmhouse. Of course, Casey oddly requested that Don would take a look at the old house's blueprints, with help from April since she's going to live there. Casey wanted the farmhouse to be the same as before, but secretly to be stronger, to add a hidden fortress underneath its old frame.
Future precautions, just in case Bishop ever attacked them again so it'll be ready, he said.
After that by another year, three years after the incident, the farmhouse was complete and Casey and April finally got married.
April was a bit disappointed they couldn't do it at the farm with a real ceremony, mostly because of my still, heavily handicapped condition. I could sit up in bed and move my arms by then, but I couldn't move my legs yet though I could feel them better than before. Also, the gaps to my body have been sealed and slowly healed enough to let me move, but they were still very weak and extremely fragile and tender.
I kept the restrictive gauze on, mostly because it's what kept my muscles tight and pressed together. Whenever I take the leathery restraints off, my body would slack and it would take more time to try and move them. The restraints sort of supported my weak muscles and made my movements easier. By the end of the first year of my rehab, I was not ready to take them off yet.
Don and Mike sort of helped me with some basic rehab training, moving my legs and doing simple exercises to ready my muscles, so when I do finally get to take the restrains off, I won't need the supports and I'll just need to work with my body more freely. Thankfully there hadn't been any damage to my inside, nor difficulties during the exercises.
Amazingly the nanos sort of adapted my body to the needed movements, to rotate my joints in an angle I never could do before.
Now that my arms and legs were lengthier, I could reach to farther objects and my strides are now wider. Plus a new appendage, namely the tail, I'll need to work with and learn how to maneuver my self with it around. I do admit it felt really weird having such a long tail, feeling the air blow against it gave me the feel of nakedness, it was very uncomfortable.
Sensei and Leatherhead helped me with that, though; after all they do have long tails and know how to use them. But of course my tail is shorter than the croc's tail, and much, much thicker than sensei's tail, so it would need a lot of work.
And regarding my body and the physical damage, most of my shattered frame was torn muscles, broken shell and ripped tissues. After I was finally allowed out of bed on my own, I had to wait for a while longer before the nanos allowed me to move my legs again. Relearning how to walk was a completely different stride than using the tail, because I could move my legs, but I couldn't feel anything past and below my knees.
The good news, by the time Casey and April got married, I could walk at a painfully slow pace and couldn't stay standing for long, so I had to sit through the little special family gathering they had after the wedding. By then they have come back from the church and were officially husband and wife, and April looked absolutely gorgeous in the wedding dress.
I still remember how wonderful it felt to have that grin tugging on my cheeks, I was so happy for them.
Especially when Mikey took April for the next dance while Casey danced with his mother, Angel yanked at Raph who was more afraid to step on her toes than the actual dance. But when Mike mischievously switched Raph with Lorelei, Don was then yanked out of his chair to dance with Angel and April asked sensei for the last dance, while Raph and Casey had their own last dance.
Casey had a bit of trouble to keep his demeanor in check, he didn't want my short tempered brother to figure out who he was dancing with. Only when my brother got uncomfortable and tried to adjust his hand on Casey's hip, and then with the flustered and mortified look of the realization that washed over his features, did Casey burst into laugher and hooted at Raph.
Of course, Casey didn't get to taunt him any more than that, because then they instantly tussled on the grassy ground, once Raph realized he was tricked into dancing with the vigilante.
Usagi was invited to the special occasion but he declined, he said that the Green cubs had grown comfortable in his home world, so he was busy training them to ready them to the time he sent them home.
They might have been safe in his home world, but they didn't belong there.
They had to be sent home once they were old enough to care for themselves, not to mention that the samurai exclaimed how they seemed mature enough to want to find mates, he didn't want them stranded in his home world.
Clearly, they were well taken care of and would probably stay there with Lord Noriyuki and Tomoe, unless my brothers and I find the cub's colony, if they originate from one, anyway. According to Mike and Don, the cub's mother might have died, but the father ought to be out there somewhere, and the father must've come from a mother and father, so there ought to be a colony out there someplace, too; right?
Of course, after the wedding and after the third year, we didn't get around searching for the cubs' family, because things… happened.
I can't explain it because I wasn't exactly there, not while I was conscious as how my brothers described it.
My brothers sort of refused to tell me, especially the part where Raph had mysteriously and almost magically got his sight back, so I just let it go in favor of other more important things that were going on at the time. I'm not sure what happened and I didn't bother ask them about it, because I had the feeling they didn't know the answer either.
But you know something? Sometimes, some questions are answered along the way, it's how life works, I guess.
It didn't take long before I found the answerers, and I wonder if it was really worth the wait.
Three Years Later?
A pair of sad, brilliant blue eyes shone in the hazy and blurry mists of blue.
A golden tiara gleamed as locks of silver draped over its length.
'Seraph would pray, six stars shall fall from the heavens, the beast of earth unleashed, soon they become eleven.'
The voice old and exhausted, but was also confident and wise and whispered softly. With the sound of silver bells in the depth of the darkest night, as cold chilling air swept by, but nothing could be seen, nothing but darkness.
In the pitch and blinding blackness, a pair of bright golden yellow eyes flashed.
Soon followed by the bright gleam of a cheshire cat smile. A set of a might pearl white maw shone despite the lack of laugh, and a sinister eerie laughter echoed and grew louder and louder in the dark. Silver chops and sharp white fangs gleamed in the darkness, as a long sleek pink appendage hung from the open jaw, before it was rolled back and in.
Eleven glowing dots flashed within the darkness, three of blue, three of red, three of green and two in a blaze of hot white. Sharp blades of silver flashed close behind, soft and low shrill squeaks shuffled through the blackness.
Determined and strong the tired blue eyes closed, the tiara gleamed once more before everything went still.
Pitch blackness lingered deep…
It was only a matter of time…
She would wait…
'Beast of Earth dwells in the shadows, with eyes of gold and jaws of steel, stars shining through like light from the heavens; but as mighty as a tyrant and as small as an Elf, when the Earthly beast falls, they would then turn Twelve.'
Yes; she would wait, until the time is right…
And then, it would be all over.
Ten Years Later…
"… and that, Shadow, is why I often stay home and rarely go out." I stroked her black hair.
"Whoa!" she blinked wide with her brilliant blue eyes, amazement and fascination shone bright.
"So you had wings? Six wings?" she asked in enthusiasm to confirm what I just told her, and after I nodded she practically hopped in my lap from the sheer excitement, "And Uncle Mike was goofy? Really?" she inquired and I nodded again.
She furrowed her thin black brows for she could not believe Mike was once a silly-dilly turtle. She had grown so used to the serious Leader, it was hard for her to think Mike was once a happy-go-lucky imp, and quite honestly I don't blame her.
He had grown a bit of a hard side, but in some way he is still the mellow and impish brother we know.
Sure he doesn't spend hours upon hours in the dojo like I used to, mostly because my ninjutsu came through hours and hours of training, to perfect my skills while his talents were natural grace. He didn't have to spend as much effort as I did to hone and perfect his skills, because his came more naturally and it was just easier for him. All he had to do was go through my war-history books, to read through tactics and how to plan battle strategies and such, but even then he relied on videogames to help him set them into motion.
To test them out and see if they really work, he said.
One of those videogames was something he called World of War-Craft, I think.
I tried it once through a laptop April got me on a previous Christmas, since I was still mostly bedridden and in need of entertainment within my interest. My brothers would scold me if I wore myself out with exercises.
I can't help it; I miss being able to move around as I wish and do as I please.
But I admit the darn thing was addictive and Mike was a frighteningly fast learner.
He struck my dumbstruck more than once when he actually managed to combine two or more strategies together, and though some were pretty obvious, it was clear they were woven together perfectly.
He infiltrated and penetrated my base so many times, I can't help but smack my head and curse myself for falling for his plan.
For a while, I envied him because I never thought of combining some particular strategies together, mostly because the results were pretty obvious, and I knew the enemy would easily notice them and counter them in some way, that might work to our disadvantage. I took my strategy and tactical knowledge for granted, but did he razz me about it.
He drew me out and made me think he was using an easy basic plan, only to swallow the bait and walk right into his traps.
The little imp! He was too damn good at this.
Through days of preplanning, he practically pawned my fortress three times in a row!
"Uncle Leo!" Shadow whined as she sulked cutely in my lap. She is the type who doesn't like to be ignored and though it was not intentional, I guess I daydreamed away, I forgot she was there.
Sheepish, I ruffled her hair and, I picked up where I had stopped as if the earlier conversation never actually stopped, "Many things changed since ten years ago, Shadow." I told her gently and stroked her head where she sat comfortably in my lap, soothing it back, "Mike was silly, Don used to talk more, Raph used to see just fine and I weren't so big."
She paused for a moment to process that bit of information, before she gave a small smile before she perked, "Ne, Uncle Leo?"
"Yes?" I smiled and picked her up, slowly pushed out of my armchair and paced towards the bed, careful not to strain my back. Even after ten years the kinks still hurt if I've sat for too long, but at least I can walk again and my legs need the exercise.
"Is that why uncle Raph has odd colored eyes?" she cocked her head quizzically.
I gave a small smile and fingered the dream catcher over my bed's hear support.
I watched it rotate slowly and gently, the black, white and orange feathers brought back memories, the pleasant and the painful ones, but that didn't take away the smile that shone on my lips.
"No, sweetie, that's a different story. I'll tell you about it some other time." I let her nestle comfortably on the bed before I sat down next to her, "Uncle Raph wears goggles now to protect his eyes, because they're sensitive to light. But in the past he used to wear a red mask, and bright lights didn't hurt him at all." I told her gently, and then suppressed a distant memory that lingered in the back of my mind.
"Really? How?" she asked eagerly.
I yawned a bit inwardly then offered her a smile, "I'm afraid I'm a little tired, I'll tell you that story some other time, okay?"
She sulked but nodded, pushed up and wrapped her arms around my neck, before she pecked my cheek, "G'night Uncle Leo! Take care!" she chirped, "Love you!" she hugged again and I cuddled her, before she exited the room as lightning speed.
It didn't take long before Raph walked into the room, black goggles over his eyes and a weasel over his shoulder.
"G'morning sunshine, ya've been asleep all day." he leered and pretty much trotted into the room, before he tugged at the goggles and adjusted them over his eye ridges. Odd colored eyes of fiery red and emerald green shone brightly, he narrowed them a bit to prevent my room's lights from prickling at his eyes too much, "What took you so long, another dream walk?" he inquired.
The furry creature over his shoulder yawned and flashed her bright fangs, not interested in the conversation.
I gave a negative shake and smiled, "Not really, just the usual dream stroll." I paused in afterthought where I sat on my bed, then remembered something, "I saw Mirage the Oracle, though. She said Core was looking for you." I informed him and ignored how the weasel perked at the name.
"Yeah, well that dog is barking up the wrong tree, I already said no." my brother sneered, then coked a brow when the weasel gave a squeak. He paused for a moment and then shrugged, as if answering a question, before he addressed me again while he tenderly scratched the weasel's head, "So anyway, ya up for the trip? Don and April said the farmhouse's new security system needs new upgrades, to make sure no government agent can get us while we're there." He smirked and shifted his weight to one leg.
I nodded with a smile, "I will, it's about time we went out of the city for some fresh country air." I grinned, but it faltered for a moment, "I just hope sensei would- you know." I lowered my gaze to the floor.
Though ten years had passed, I hate to say sensei isn't getting any younger.
The cocky smile on my brother's face fell, "Don't worry, it's just the weather making him look ill; he can handle the trip." he assured with a weak smile, and then strode and sat on the bed besides me. His weight sunk into the cushy mattress and for a moment, he just put his hand on mine and squeezed it gently, "It'll be alright, Leo. Sensei might be getting old, but he aint gonna take the big dirt nap, not now anyway."
The weasel hopped from his shoulder and perched over mine, she nuzzled my snout tenderly in a comforting manner.
I nodded and tried to be optimistic, that it was really just the weather change that made father feel, ironically, under the weather, but there was so little to be optimistic about when your father is growing old in spite it all.
"Mike made him proud, he made all of us proud, the past few years." My brother murmured softly, his ruby red and emerald green orbs stared at my larger, dull-clawed hand for a moment.
"But when dad does leave, at least he would leave knowing we're together no matter what, he would leave in peace." Raph added before he petted my hand and grinned, "Well, I do hope that time never comes, not for a long time from now. He might look old but I assure you, sensei is anything but old." He grinned wider, then pushed off the bed and petted my shoulder, "So don't think about it, bro. Just get some sleep because we have a long journey tomorrow." The weasel hopped from my shoulder and back to his.
"Right. Goodnight Raph." I smiled and he grinned back before he left.
The wind chimes jingled softly after my brother left and I remained on the bed. I thought back on all that had happened to this family the past ten years, ever since this predicament started and up till now.
A fallen leader, a fallen brother, a fallen angel, a fallen star; I guess… I guess I'm all of them in some form.
But- I might have fallen as a leader, but I have found someone dependable to take my place.
I am still their brother and when father leaves, I will have to take his place despite of my physical state.
I will continue to be their guardian angel and their guiding star, even if I can no longer be their when they need me in the physical state. All I can offer is the mental state with assurance and advice, if they ever need it.
At least- the least I could do is be here for them so whenever they need me, I'll be here.
I know things change with time and I understand that though I can not be what I was, I have become something else, but that will not prevent me from being who I was in heart despite the odds.
We are a family and no matter who of us might fall, there is always someone there to pick us up, to help us through.
That is what makes us strong, for we are a piece of whole as Mike has said, and together we are one.
That's all I need to believe that nothing, and I mean nothing, would ever make this family in its essences fall.
Nothing at all.