Disclaimer - A one-shot dealing with what motivates one of the turtles. What are his fears, his regrets, his dreams? Who is it? Well, I wrote this to include any one of them. Who you think it is, is entirely up to you. I won't tell, because I really don't know myself. I tried to write ambiguously. I guess it's all up to the reader's preference, isn't it?

In any event, I don't own the TMNT's, I've only borrowed them to express my own thoughts concerning their take on life. And even though the title is Latin and Latin belongs to the world, I was somewhat influenced in using it as my story title from Paul McCartney's new instrumental album by the same name.

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Ecce Cor Meum

(Behold My Heart

by reinbeauchaser

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Chapter 1 - Sententia

Occasionally, I find myself here, roosting atop a skyscraper high above the city, and staring out across the expanse of concrete and artificial night light. I especially like this spot during the deepest darkest part of summer. That's when the wind blows warm, even late at night - like now. It brings with it a variety of scents.

Sometimes it's the ocean, its saltiness seasoning the air as it blows in from the east. I can even smell the teaming array of sea life as it swims along the coast, each one having a particular fragrance. From whales, to tuna, to anything that breaches the open water. I smile and wonder what it would be like to swim among them.

Then, sometimes the breeze carries with it grass and other growing things when it blows down from the north. I inhale deeply, then, yearning for another visit to Casey's farm. God, I love it when we go there, whenever we take leave of our self-imposed job of protecting the city from itself. For a moment, I almost entertain the thought of catching a train this very night, hiding in the baggage department, and heading north to Masschusetts, just to get away for a while.

But, I dare not. My family needs me. At any given moment, I could get a call, to join ranks, to come to arms, and protect - once again - someone's life and limb.

As I absentmindedly finger my cell phone, it reminds me that I have left the lair, again, and my family is unaware of my leaving. Well, by now they probably know, but they haven't called…yet, so I'm free to stay here a while longer.

I laugh inwardly. Ninja sneaking around ninja takes supreme skill and despite the odds of my family finding out, I managed well enough this night to steal my way topside unchallenged. Yet, it won't take long before they discover my absence and then…well…I'll deal with that when the time comes.

As it is, my father has become less and less observant about my unexpected departures. His worries seem to have abated a bit more these past few years, too, replaced with the aches and pains of growing older. At one point, we all knew that he would have to let us make our own decisions. After all, if we can't take care of ourselves, why oh why do we even go into battle?

I think about the wind, again, as the breeze plays with my bandanna tails, reminding me of where my mind was, before thoughts of home interrupted me.

Tonight, the wind is blowing in swirls and the mix of scents reminds me of fruit salad. I grin at my metaphor and take another deep breath. Yes, fruit salad, sort of like the millions of people living far below me, going about their lives, mindless to my family's existence, and acting if they know everything there is to know. So many people, with so many thoughts, beliefs, customs…and colors. A Homosapian fruit salad, if you will. I had to laugh again.

Personally, my favorite 'fruit' color is green and that's only because I am.

I frown, realizing that sounded so - bigoted. I really don't have a favorite and I do not care what color anyone else is. I'll help them, no matter what. But considering my clan's perilous existence with how we have to fight for every breath, every scrap of food, every minute to stay alive, I have to find favor with my kind or else just give up.

I believe everyone, every race at one point, has had to think that way, too, bucking the system, going against the flow and say, "Hey, look at me, I'm important, don't treat me as if I'm not. Don't ignore me as if I don't exist!"

Sometimes that attitude meets with violence and it's always sad when that happens, but - in the end - people start to listen and then the world becomes a little bit smaller, a little kinder, more accepting.

I hope for my family, acceptance can happen - eventually, but less violently, of course and I wish we could go against the flow, too, and announce our existence to the world.

Yeah, I know, a pipe dream, but - someone else years ago had a dream, didn't they?

Yep, sometimes that's all it takes, a dream, a hope, a plan - a prayer.

In any event, I can't give up. WE can't give up. Despite the odds against us, despite the fact that we are it as far as our species is concerned, we have to continue the fight, continue as we have done these past thirty years. Who knows how long any of us have to live? As it is, it's a miracle we're still alive. Maybe it's just fate that one of us hasn't fallen. I hope it never happens. Except for the fighting we have to do, we could live as long as any human - or even longer. Yet, because we fight, I know - my family knows - that unless luck is on our side, we'll meet our end under the blade of a sword, a poisoned dart, or even from a bullet.

And I'm still amazed that it hasn't happened yet. More to the point, I'm surprised and then, the more I think about it, I am disappointed that we continue to struggle and against a seemingly endless line of enemies, too. You would think that they would eventually come to terms and leave us alone, go somewhere else, but - they don't - and we can't. Honor just won't let us.

Honor, it's all we know, it's all we've been taught. We live for honor and will probably die for honor. And there are times I wonder if it's all worth it, if the price paid - our deaths - will mean something. When that happens, no one will know of us, other than April, Casey, and Angel - and our enemies. No one will write our autobiography or sing songs about us. We'll die as we lived, fading away without a trace.

I sigh and think again about home, Splinter, most especially.

He is aging more each day and it's only a matter of time before we pay our last respects. Yet, I hope that when it happens, that it's natural and in the care of us, his sons, and not that of the enemy - or scientists.

I shudder at both those thoughts and a deeper resolve grows within the pit of my being to make sure it never happens - to him or to any of us. My expression grows harder and my body stiffens resolutely at that thought. I ignore the wind, now, with its varigated fragrance swirling around me, and focus instead on the sounds of the city far below, listening for any alarm or threat that I should be aware of. Although many become the very victims we save, we're all too aware of the fact that they could and probably would alert the authorities to our existence, if given half a chance. Despite our dedication to keeping the city safe, they are our greatest threat to our freedom.

And then I think about how long I've been so wary, so paranoid, so afraid of losing this freedom. We've had many close calls, many battles that could have, should have taken us to the grave. Maybe it's that, the sobering reality of how tenuious our existence really is. The skills Splinter taught us was to ensure our survival, but over the years it has become more than that. His personal quest for vengeance, to bring honor back to his mentor Yoshi, threw us into the hell-fires of an endless blood feud that won't end until one side destroys the other.

For a moment, I wonder what life for us would have been like had we not succumbed to his pressure for revenge.

And, in that same moment, I allow a little bit of resentment for my father.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I love him with a fierceness that borders on insanity. I practically worship him, and, yet, I still wonder if we could have found a better life in the country, rather than the limited one that we have here in the city. A peaceful coexistence with nature in all its glory. Maybe we could have moved to Florida with its nearly impregnable forest of swampland and mangroves? Although there might not be much left, we could still find some corner or back-woods where humans wouldn't find us. If not there, then certainly somewhere else. Not all of this great land is as populated as New York is. Just the same, I'd love a chance to experience a life carefree from combat, with our only worry about what to have for dinner.

I sigh wistfully, then, wondering if maybe we can retire someday, to live out the remainder of our years, before one of us dies prematurely.

My throat suddenly constricts with the imagined grief of such an event, about a loss of that magnitude. Any one of us falling before our time would deeply affect the remaining members of the clan. How could it not? Dying of old age is one thing; but death by someone else's hand is completely different.

I can't imagine living through that.

Funny isn't it? I was just thinking about the dismal chance of our surviving to a ripe old age and yet, here I am, grieving about the probability of it. I can't help but shake my head in amusement with myself.

Thinking more about my family, my brothers, and my father, I realize through the years, each of us has come a long way with how we interact with one another. The tempers have cooled, the arrogance has softened, and the clowning around has stepped aside for a more serious perspective on life. With the way we live, we had to grow up at one point. Can't forget the genius either, but thankfully, that has become finer tuned and more pronounced. I then consider that thought.

Intellect will always grow and become more than the sum total of what it was in the beginning. If not, I think we would have all perished long before now. We had to be smarter, quicker, stealthier in order to survive. Even Humankind has had to rely on its ever-increasing brilliance to improve its place in the world. Yet, oftentimes, it has proved itself smarter than it should be, too. I think about the war that rages against my family here in New York, yet there are bigger and uglier wars across the globe that would make ours pale in comparison and all orchestrated by those who deem themselves 'intelligent'. Sometimes I think humans try too hard to be the dominate species on this planet called Earth.

Yet, the pranks and jokes, along with the anger and the pride, not to mention the genius, have defined who and what we were and are, and how we live as a family. The core value of our personalities will never change and we will continue to be as we have always been. Yet it is in how we use those qualities, both the good and the bad, that defines our maturity, our adult status, our very essence, and our intelligence.

The breeze distracts my thoughts again as it finds the pages of my journal. They crackle with the crispness of fresh lettuce and for a moment, I have to smooth them down a bit. I shift on my haunches and turn my back to the breeze, just so I can jot down my last few thoughts, before I tuck my book back into my belt and return home.

My journal. A diary. A collection of my personal innermost thoughts. My heart, really, for it is here within the lines that I have written, where I reveal the true me.

And who is the real, true me? Well, the real me wants this war to end. The real me wants the seemingly endless struggle to survive to cease. I want to stop the fighting. I want to live to a ripe old age, whatever it is and however long it might be. I want to live the way my kind is meant to live, without conflict, with no more worries than to find food and happiness and to mate.

And then, I pause, taken aback with my last word.

To mate? Someone to love, someone to have children with? For me, for my brothers?

Again, equality is more than just having certain rights. It's enjoying life the way we were meant to. And, when I think about endangered species, I believe that my family and I are the most fragile. We can't produce, we can't beget, we can't make little copies of ourselves.

We. Are. It, and I am saddened with that reality.

Then again, considering my earlier comment about wanting the struggle to stop, I know it won't, not ever, not so long as we breath air, eat, excrete, and so long as there are those determined to snuff out our very existence and the true definition of an honorable life.

Maybe it is better that we are all of one gender and cannot mate. Maybe it is a God-thing that we are sterile and are not compatible with human-kind. Maybe it's just as well, because when the last of us takes our final breath, when we close our eyes to the slumber of eternal sleep, that is when the fighting will cease. We won't have the worry of leaving behind descendents with our kind of legacy, shackled with a never-ending blood feud. That would be cruel and unusual punishment and honor would not allow that. Why should we damn another generation to the kind of hell my brothers and I have had to live in these past three decades?

And maybe honor is what keeps us going, even though our time here is limited. It's possible, but - I believe the need to survive, to greet one more sunrise, is stronger, but not as strong as the love I have for my family.

Suddenly, my cell phone rings. I smile, already hearing the worried concern in the caller's voice, even before I unclip my phone and activate the receiver. It will most likely be one of my brothers, asking for my return.

Then, when I bring the device to my ear and acknowledge them, I listen to their reply and cringe. Not the least bit surprised by the voice on the other end, I am still somewhat disappointed with their message.

As always, another battle is a'foot, and I allow a small chuckle for another of my metaphors.

"I'll be there before you," I promise into the mouthpiece and then quickly end the call. I hook the phone to my belt again and smile, imagining the effect my challenge had on my brother. Before leaving, I take one last look across the city, watching and listening as it bustles with an endless drone of noise and blinding color. In a surreal way, it mirrors the kind of life my brothers and I lead, the drone of battle, the color of shed blood. In that moment, I wish I could stay up here forever and take it all in, to drown in its simplicity.

Ah well, we all need a purpose, I guess.

I quickly tuck my journal and pen into my belt before I depart my perch for the side of the building. Working my way down quickly, but sure-footedly, I soon reach the uppermost part of the fire escape. Born from years of experience, instinctively I hesitate for a second and check the windows, and making certain no one will see me. Confident that no one will, I plunge down the switchback of stairs and into the foul air of New York City,

Suddenly and unexpectedly, a sweet fragrance of flowers and grass swirl about my head, filling my nostrils with an enticing aroma. It's alien to the grimy stench of New York and so I sigh deeply, eagerly allowing one last inhalation of heaven. Then, I smile with my next thought, After this, I'm insisting on a little vacation…to Casey's farmhouse in Massachusetts. We deserve it.

As I speed my way down to the ally below, remembering the race I had created with my sibling and the challenge that I would be first there, another thought came to me and I can't help but smile. I am more determine than ever, now, to survive another night. In that moment, before I finish my slide down the ladder to the ally below, I make a promise to myself, And maybe this time, we'll stay!