Disclaimer: I don't. We know I don't, but I still have to repeat myself. Sigh.
It's over!!! I can't believe my second story is actually finished! I'm pretty freaking proud of this one, and I hope everyone has enjoyed it. Sorry again for the wait between chapters, but the school year is wrapping up, and all of my teachers seem to want to cram as many projects, tests and papers into these last few weeks as they possibly can. . But I have triumphed, nonetheless:D Though I can't believe how short this chapter is…it's like short chapters are alien to me now. XD
Thanks very much to everyone who reviewed Chapter 10: BubblyShell22, greshunkai, Eridani23, and CelicaChick. All the support I've gotten from everyone throughout the course of this story has been amazing. It's been so great to know that you all like this, and to know that people are still sticking with me even when it's taken me so long to finish this story. Thanks so much for all your support!!!
Anyways. Like I said before, I'll be taking a little break from big stories for a while; I'll mostly only be posting one-shots every once in a while. I've felt really bad about how often I've left you guys hanging for weeks on end, and I'm beginning to see that posting during the year isn't going so well. So I'll probably be writing like crazy this summer, building up like a story buffer so that I can have finished stories to post during the school year. I'm going to be branching out a little bit too, so when I post, it might be in this fandom or in Naruto, which is quickly becoming another obsession. XD But don't expect anything else until after mid-May, because the end of the semester is practically here!!! I've only got two weeks of classes left, but then I've got a week of exams. . And then there's packing and moving back home and all such madness, so it'll be a while. I WILL keep writing though (like you could stop me XD), so no fear.
And as most of you have guessed, yes, there will be a sequel! XD Wooo! Lol. I'm not sure if that will be the next big story I write or not; it depends on which plot bunny bites me first and hardest once I'm home for the summer. But at least you guys aren't left with a terrible cliffy, I made sure I didn't do that to you. Other than that…yeah…that's all I can think of, so I'm going to stop babbling and let you guys read the last installment of What We Could Have Been.
A soft wind blew quietly through a silent cemetery in New York, chasing leaves through the alleys of grave markers and around a lone figure sitting quiet in the moonlight. A whisper broke the silence.
"It's been a month, you know. Since you died. Since…I killed you. It's so strange to think that you're gone, that our battle is over. I've spent so many years of my life fighting, facing one battle after another, that I don't think I ever thought we'd actually see an end. I wanted to, of course; that was always our goal, mine and the others', to bring this feud to an end and finally get to live in peace. But somehow…I don't think I ever expected it to come true. After it had already gone on for so long, I just…I don't know. I thought that battle was our new way of life."
The figure sighed, the end of the action breaking into a sad chuckle.
"Some life, huh? When pain and fighting are normal, and peace and freedom aren't."
Leo looked down at the name on the gravestone in front of him.
He sighed and traced his fingers over the carved letters. "Things are…quiet in New York now. The Purple Dragons have been lying low, trying to regroup after Hun's death. They don't seem to have the drive, brains or ability for the kinds of things Hun ordered when he was in charge; we haven't had to break up anything worse than the occasional mugging and a couple convenience store hold-ups." Leo snorted. "Rather, my brothers haven't had to; I've been confined to the Lair for recuperation. I'm all healed now, though…if you care…" He trailed off, staring at the headstone. "I'd like to think you do."
For several minutes, the sound of leaves and the wind in the trees were the only noises in the graveyard.
"I don't know how to feel about you. It seems like any emotion I have towards you is wrong in some way. I feel sad, because I've lost the one person I believe could understand me best in the world…but then I feel like that is wrong, because you attacked me and my family. You were our enemy, no matter what either of us wanted, and you would have killed us all, given the chance. I feel relieved about your death, for the sake of me and my family. But then for that, I feel sick, like I'm some kind of monster for being glad about the death of my…of you. I still don't know what to call you, how to explain what you are, what you were to me. Karai…I suppose that's the only way I can describe you with one word, is with your name. And if I miss you or feel guilty, I feel like I'm somehow lying to myself, that I'm only remembering the good things, and that I'm—letting you off the hook for what you did. But I can't do that; like I told you, Karai, I won't be responsible for anyone else's burdens anymore. I won't blame myself for your choices, or hate myself for doing what I had to do." Leo sat straighter, looking straight at the name carved in marble. "I regret what happened…but not what I did."
As though the words had cost him dearly in strength, Leo sagged back on his haunches and lapsed into silence. After a few minutes, he gave a quiet sigh and raised his voice. "You guys can come out now."
A series of muffled curses sounded from behind him before his brothers emerged from the nearby copse of trees.
Mikey gave a strained laugh and rubbed the back of his head. "Uh, hey, Leo! Um, fancy meeting you here…" he rambled weakly.
"It's alright, Mikey. I don't mind you being here."
Don walked up and laid a gentle hand on Leo's shoulder. "How long have you been out here, bro?"
"No more than a couple hours."
"That's not going to do your leg any favors. I told you it's still going to be prone to soreness for a while because of your injury."
Leo smiled slightly and rested his hand on top of his brother's. "I know, Don. This isn't going to become a regular occurrence, I just…I needed to come here. It's the first time I've been able to." His smile turned sarcastic. "Or rather, the first time I've been allowed to."
"Hey, fer all the times you've babied us an' been a freakin' parole officer every time we get hurt, ya better believe it's yer turn ta get the same treatment," Raph pointed out with a smirk.
"Oh, so your concern has only been in the name of payback?" Leo joked wryly.
Raph frowned. "You know that ain't true—"
"I know, Raph. I was kidding. I do appreciate everything you guys have done for me, how you've been there for me since…"
"Since your battle with Karai," Don supplied carefully.
"Yeah…" Leo glanced down at his hands. "Did…did any of you watch the funeral?" he asked suddenly.
The three younger turtles glanced at each other uncomfortably.
Leo turned to look at them with a slight smile. "I'm not asking because I expected you to watch it. I was just wondering."
"No, we didn't," Don answered.
"I only saw the very beginning and end when I was takin' care of the tape," Mikey said.
Leo nodded and turned back to the headstone. "It was closed casket."
Raph rubbed the back of his head. "Kinda had to be, didn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess so." He was silent again. "They said it was heart complications."
"Heart complications. That's why they said she died."
"Well, they couldn't really give people the truth. And when you think about it, having your heart stop is definitely a complication," Mikey joked weakly, trying to lighten his brother's melancholy.
Don and Raph both punched Mikey.
Leo gave a sad smile. "I guess you're right. It felt so wrong to see that funeral. There was no one there for her to speak for her, no one who really knew her. No friends, no family…she died alone."
"No, she didn't, Leo," Don spoke up suddenly.
"She had you."
Leo's hands fisted. "I loved her," he whispered softly.
There was nothing anyone could say to that.
"We should go, Leo," Don said finally.
Leo nodded and coughed slightly. "Could…someone help me up?"
His brothers chuckled, glad for the easing of tension. Don helped Leo to his feet, sighing good-naturedly.
"As a brother and family medic, I could claim the right to say something about your current loss of mobility and your stiffness," he remarked mildly as Leo stretched out his leg and winced. "But since I believe in being the bigger person, I won't say it."
"Say what, Don?" Mikey asked innocently.
Don grinned at his brother for the desired lead-in. "Oh, nothing, just…I told you so."
Raph and Mikey snickered while Leo sighed.
"Thanks, Don," the blue-banded turtle said dryly. "You're an example to us all in humility."
The four of them began their walk out of the graveyard, keeping to the nighttime silence until the older turtles noticed that Mikey had stopped a few feet behind them.
"Mikey? You okay, bro?" Don asked.
Mikey shrugged, his eyes fixed on the cityscape. His brothers followed his eyes and easily picked out the form of the Saki building, the old Foot headquarters. The youngest turtle glanced at his brothers.
"It…it's going to start again, isn't it?"
"Yes. Not for a while, but yes, it will start again. For now, though…we're free." Leo gave a weary smile, gazing up at the star-studded night sky. "For now, it's over. For now, we have peace."
The four of the lapsed into silence, the full import of their victory finally sinking in.
"Wow…" Mikey breathed.
Raph shook his head, slightly dazed. "I gotta say, I never thought we'd actually see the end of it," he admitted. "No more Shredders, no more Foot flunkies…"
Don smirked. "Whatever will you do with your time now, Raph?" he asked dryly. "No more ninja to beat up—"
"Except, you know, for us," Mikey pointed out. "I doubt Raphie's gonna lay off of that."
"No more midnight outings—"
"Except, you know, for going after Purple Dragons," the youngest interrupted again cheerfully.
Don sighed and rubbed at his temples. "Despite those admittedly good points, it will still be a step down from Raph's usual propensity for violence and rampant destruction."
"Hey! Don't talk about me like I ain't here!"
"I'm not. I'm fully aware that you're listening, but you can't deny that what I'm saying is true," Don pointed out. He sighed. "For that matter, I can hardly imagine what I will do now. I'll have so much free time now that I'm not going to be bandaging people up and fixing demolished equipment…"
"So instead you plan to build more equipment?" Leo asked knowingly.
Don grinned. "Hey, a turtle's got to stay busy. Which brings me back to my previous thought; how are we going to keep Raph occupied now?"
"Raphie-boy could take up knitting!" Mikey suggested cheekily. "You know, get some culture, expand his horizons, get in touch with his sensitive side—ack!"
Raph had cut off Mikey's words with a rough headlock, scowling at his youngest brother. "If I knit anythin', shell-fer-brains, it'll be a muzzle or a noose fer you."
"Not that I don't think it's a good idea, Raph, but neither of those items are traditionally knit," Don inserted.
"Whatever. I'll just choke 'im with the thread, then."
"Knitting uses yarn."
"Geez…Raph, you…really do need some culture…" Mikey wheezed with a grin.
"Just as I believe Michelangelo needs some air, Raphael," a quiet voice pointed out mildly.
All four turtles turned at those words to see Master Splinter standing behind them, cocking an amused eyebrow at Raph and Mikey.
Raph sighed and dropped his youngest brother on the ground.
Splinter shook his head and gazed at his sons. He then turned and stared in the same direction they had. "I must say, I still struggle to come to terms this course of events as well, my sons. After every war, peace often seems too good to be true. But we have it now, thanks to you." He faced the four quiet teens behind him once more. "I did not think that my burden, my quest would have become yours like it did. It is not what I wished for you."
"I don't think we coulda avoided it, Sensei," Raph said with a shrug. "Turtle luck an' all that."
"Perhaps," Splinter acquiesced. "Still, I did not want you to be the ones who would have to end things." His eyes then drifted towards Leo, who had glanced back up the hill at Karai's grave. Splinter sighed. "I did not want you to be the ones who would have to suffer for it."
Moving forward, the ancient master padded quietly to his eldest son's side. "Come, my son, let us go," Splinter said gently, laying a paw on Leo's shoulder. "This is a place for the dead, and our place is in the land of the living. No matter who we have lost, they have gone where we cannot follow. It is a painful lesson, and one I had hoped none of you would ever have to learn in such a way, but sometimes continuing to live is the hardest part of life."
Leo let his father's words sink into his soul, allowing them to join with his brother's similar attempts to relieve his pain. As each day went by, he could feel himself healing, slowly but surely. And now at last, the balm of his family's support had closed the wound. As for the rest, Leo knew only time could ease the pain of what had happened. Slowly removing his eyes from Karai's tombstone, Leo took a deep breath and nodded hesitantly. "You're right, Sensei; let's go."
His family turned away and began the trek back home, leaving Leo a last minute alone. He lingered for only a moment, looking back and whispering quietly to the headstone before he turned and followed his brothers and father.
Another breeze blew, rattling the leaves of the cemetery and waving the branches until everything seemed to whisper the same word…
Don sighed as he walked towards his room, the evening's affairs running through his mind. Leo had been the first of them to be in love, and even beyond that, his situation was so difficult and still so raw that none of them had any words for him.
Not there are really too many words anyone could say in a time like this.
A glimpse of blue caught Don's attention as he gained the living room, and he glanced up to see Leo standing alone on one of the metal walkways. The purple-banded turtle hesitated only a moment before changing his course. He padded up the stairs quietly and approached his brother. Leo kept his position, staring silently out over the Lair, though Don could tell that he was seeing something far beyond the brick walls of the foundry.
Hoping that he wasn't intruding, he took up a position next to Leo, joining him in leaning against the railing. The two turtles spent several minutes in silence before Don spoke.
"There's this old quote, a very famous one, by Alfred Lord Tennyson," he said quietly, afraid to break the silence or his brother's peace.
"What is it?" Leo asked, his gaze never wavering.
"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'"
At those words, Leo finally turned to glance at his brother. "He said that?"
Leo stared at his brother for a while before once again turning away. "And did he ever love?"
Don nodded and continued in a soft voice. "A lot of people have disputed his words over the years, taking both sides. Some people agree, saying the good outweighs the bad; others disagree, saying they'd rather have spared themselves the pain that their memories caused rather than having had the chance to make those memories in the first place." He turned his head to look at his brother. "What about you, Leo? Do you think it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?"
Leo stared ahead into nothing, running his memories of Karai through his head. He remembered the things he'd learned, the things he'd lost, and everywhere his relationship with Karai had taken him. Don's question echoed in his mind until he felt he'd found his answer.
"No…I think I'm going to have to disagree with Lord Tennyson," he said softly. He pushed off of the railing and began walking towards his room. "So many months of pain, for a minute of love…"
Leo's last words wafted back to his brother, tugging at his heartstrings.
"I think I would prefer never to have loved at all."
Don sighed to himself. They'd done everything they could, but this pain, this wound was one that only time could heal. As Don watched Leo's door close, a handful of lines softly came from his lips.
"From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end…nought could remove."
A/N: It's done! My second story is officially done…and really depressing. XD While I was sitting here typing this, I was actually thinking of having Leo's answer to Don be "yes", but then I thought about it and I'm like "am I insane? This is a really crappy deal! Only a masochist would think it was worth it!" So you guys got this ending instead. I think it fits better anyways. This isn't meant to be a happy story, and as such, it doesn't get a happy ending. I think it's a fitting ending, though, and hopefully you guys will agree. I also hope that no one thinks the lines there at the end from "Romeo and Juliet" are too hokey or cliché; with all the parallels between the two stories, and just how nicely final those lines are, it seems good to me. I wasn't even going to try and put the "Never was there a story of more woe", because that's just off the cliché charts. (I will, however, admit that I did actually sit here and admire how well "Never was there a story of more woe/than this of Karai and Leonardo" fit and matched the actual words.) And just as a note, the chapter title is also a line from "Romeo and Juliet"; I thought that was pretty fitting too. Please like the ending:D
Once again, I would like to thank all of my readers and reviewers SO MUCH for their support. I can't tell you guys what it means to me, so thank you all very much. I hope to see you again at my next story, and thanks for bearing with me through this one. Please R&R, take care, and God bless.