By Donny's Boy
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor the plot relating to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I am making no money from this story. I mean no harm.
She stood stone-still as snowflakes landed lightly on her shoulders. It was bitterly cold, as the sun had set many hours before, but she did not shiver. It seemed, to her, that the cold had become her constant companion. Even months ago during the hottest part of the muggy New York summer, she had felt cold inside.
Despite the cold, she had had to come in the depths of night so that she and her friend wouldn't be seen. But come she must. It was one year ago today that they had died, and she was not going to miss this anniversary.
She knelt, her knees sinking silently into the damp ground. She looked briefly at the modest tombstone before placing a white rose next to it. Then she looked at the tombstone beside it. It was identical in everything but its name and dates, though the last date was the same. She placed an identical white rose next to this grave as well.
As she stared at the roses, at their cold white perfection, she felt a large hand brush her shoulder. Instinctively she reached up and grabbed hold of it. He helped her back to her feet, and she buried her head in his shoulder, suddenly feeling much older and very tired. She leaned into him, and he wrapped his large trench coat around her for warmth.
"It's okay to cry," he murmured.
"I'm tired of crying. I feel like, over this past year, I've done nothing but cry."
He considered. Then he nodded. "It's okay to not cry too."
Despite what she said, she felt a familiar sting start at the back of her eyes. "I miss him so much," she whispered in a voice made harsh from held-back tears.
"Of course you do." He paused. "We all miss him."
"He was a good man."
He nodded. "A great man."
"And she … she was so young." The woman sighed, and her breath hung visible in the cold winter air for a moment. "And she was so good, and she accepted me as her mother, and God I loved her."
This time he said nothing. Wise beyond his years, he knew that sometimes no words were needed. Sometimes, no words could help.
She tucked her chin into her chest, so that her cheek rested against his. "Donny?"
"I just … " She faltered.
Suddenly she clasped the back of his head, pulling him even closer and feeling the tears burn like ice-fire as they trickled down her face. "Don't ever leave me," she barked at him. "Do you hear me? Don't you ever even dare think about it."
He blinked, somewhat surprised. Though he was not as surprised as he had once been at her grief-induced mood swings, this new tone was different than anything else he'd yet experienced. "Don't worry," he told her soothingly.
"No!" She shook her head and felt as if she were now choking on her tears. "Don't blow me off, Don. I'm being serious. If I … I mean, if you … dammit, I've lost too much already—"
"I know you have." He pulled back so that he could look at April. His deep brown eyes glittered in the moonlight, and he gently wiped away her tears with the long ends of his mask. "I will never leave you," he said finally. Donatello had never meant anything more in his life.
He cautiously approached the grave, almost as though he expected an ambush. Being in the cemetery made him uncomfortable—he didn't like being reminded of death—but he knew he had to come. He had waited with uncharacteristic patience in the shadows for April and Don to pay their respects and leave. It made him feel a little ridiculous, hiding from those two of all people, but he had wanted to come alone. He didn't know why but he had felt it was important that he be alone, and he seldom questioned the reasons underlying why he felt the things he felt.
The two roses were now almost buried under the rapidly falling snow. He knelt, as April had done before him, and glared at the tombstone. An unexpected anger rose from deep within his belly, filled his throat with acid bile, and burned in his mouth. "Fuck you, Casey," he whispered. "Why'd you have to go and bite the big one?"
He sighed. He wasn't being fair, he knew. But he didn't feel like being fair. Life certainly hadn't felt a need to be fair to him. If life was fair, Casey would still be alive. If life was fair, the scum who did this to Casey would be the one dead. If life was fair, April would still have her family.
And some of it was Casey's own damn fault, too. Casey Jones had always been a rash man. Everyone knew that. But he had been particularly stupid that night. Casey had heard noise in the alleys below his apartment and went down to investigate. He'd found the typical punks, up to their typical no good. Casey took care of business, then … something, somehow, went wrong. Maybe the one punk had been particularly clever, or Casey had been particularly tired and careless. Or something. No one would ever know.
The punk had followed Casey back. Had broken into Casey and April's apartment and taken his revenge. Casey and Shadow hadn't survived, and April almost hadn't either. It had taken months for her injuries to fully heal.
Raphael stood abruptly. He stared hard at the graves. "I love you," he said in a low growl, "but that don't mean I'm about to forgive ya. Not yet. Maybe not never."
The two had decided to come during early dawn. A hint, really a mere suggestion, of sunlight streaked the otherwise darkened sky. It was an odd hour, a moment that was not quite night and not quite day. A time of nightmares and limbo. But they had wanted to give proper space to April and Raphael, widow and best friend respectively. They had correctly thought that neither would approach at this late hour of night.
The first of the two figures, after arriving at the tombstones, sat down in the snow in the lotus position. He said a silent prayer for the well-being of his fallen friends then began to meditate. The second figure approached Shadow's tombstone and placed a small stuffed bear beside the rose already there. Then he too sat down.
Long minutes dragged by. The younger of the pair began to shift his weight in discomfort. It really was cold sitting in snow. Especially while it was still dark out. "Stop fidgeting," the elder finally hissed.
"But it's cold."
"Yes. Of course it's cold. It's January."
The younger heaved an exaggerated sigh of frustration. But he fell back into their former silence. Finally he piped up again. "I don't understand why we couldn't just come with April and Donny," he complained.
It was now the other's turn to sigh. "I already told you," he said, trying not to let irritation overwhelm the peaceful of his meditation. "April can tell Don things that she can't tell other people. It was good that they could be together tonight without our interference."
"Whatever you say."
The elder shot a warning look to the younger, which was steadfastly ignored.
"It's so cold, I can't feel my butt."
"Please! Can't you show just a little reverence?"
An eye roll. "C'mon, this is Casey. He'd be confused if I was all reverent and stuff." He grinned and glanced at the tombstone. "Casey, you were the man. Hurts that you aren't around anymore, bashing things up."
The other also looked at the tombstone with steel in his dark eyes. "You were a great friend to us, Casey Jones. Know that you died with honor and that you are missed."
"And poor Shadow … "
"It was very unfortunate that the girl died too."
"Before her time, bro, before her time." Again he addressed the tombstones. "Shadow, I've been missing you like crazy, little girl. Hope you're not giving your old man too much grief, wherever you both are."
They both sat looking at the tombstones, lost in their own thoughts. Then, when he noticed the darkness had begun to dangerously lighten, the elder cleared his throat. "Mikey?"
"It's starting to get light. We better go."
Michelangelo nodded and stiffly stood up. He held out a hand, which Leonardo accepted. They slowly traced their steps back through the cemetery, to the entrance. Mike paused and looked over his shoulder. "Leo?" he said quietly.
Leo paused also, waiting for Mike to continue.
"Leo, I love you." Mike looked down, smiling. In the golden glow of early morning, Mike's smile shone like heaven. "I dunno if I say that enough. But, well, I do."
Leonardo tried to respond but was surprised to find his voice gone. So instead he reached for his brother and pulled him into a tight hug.
The old rat held the teacup up to his lips and blew across the hot liquid to cool it. Tentatively he took a sip. Still too hot. He set the teacup down on the table beside him.
He had brewed the tea in hopes that its caffeine would help keep him awake. In honor of the one year memorial of the deaths of Casey and Shadow Jones, he had decided to keep a twenty-four hour vigil. He had hoped to spend some of the vigil at the actual cemetery, once it grew dark enough to venture safely topside, but his sons had insisted that their elderly father stay out of the cold and snow.
So instead he had remained within his own room, lit several candles, and allowed the soft candlelight to guide his meditation. He had not really known the girl, at least not as well as his sons had. Nor had he known Casey quite as well as the boys had, but still the rat had always had a deep affection for the human. Casey had always been a loyal friend to them, had always treated them as equals, and had always protected them. Casey had especially, in a perverse way, been a good influence on Raphael. They indeed owed much to Casey.
However, he had to admit that his thoughts were not focused solely on the two deceased family friends. He also thought of his sons—his precious, beautiful sons. Casey had lived violently and had died the same way. So too lived the four turtles. They did not seek violence nor want it. But being who they were, their lives would always be at risk. That is, after all, why he had trained the boys to be ninja from such a young age. That didn't mean he had to like it, however.
He sighed deeply and set down his teacup. Fathers should not outlive their sons. Splinter could only hope, wish, and pray that he did not outlive his.