"Ashes to Ashes"

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.

Warnings: Mature language, violence, torture, and depicted and non-depicted character death.

Author's Notes: This story is the prequel to (and, of course, canon to) "Eye for an Eye," but it isn't necessary to read that to understand anything here. Enjoy!

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"Death comes for us all, Oroku Saki, but something much worse comes for you. For when you die, it will be ... without honor."
—Hamato Splinter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

Chapter 1: My Name is Leonardo

My name is Leonardo, and I am going insane.

I have now been imprisoned for seven-hundred and forty-six days. I know because I've kept count. She doesn't know that I count, of course. It's my secret. Though I can feel the madness creeping in at the edges of my mind, I keep count so that I can hold on. Hold on to the numbers, with their firm edges and clear boundaries. Numbers are beautiful that way. I've grown very fond of numbers. And of counting.

Counting helps me forget. I want to forget how she … no. No, I will not remember. I won't. My mind is not gone yet. My mind can control this, it can.

Sometimes, to pass the time, I try to think of what death she has planned for me. Each of my brothers has died a different way, so perhaps something novel awaits me. If Splinter were still alive, I'm sure he would say that I am being morbid. And perhaps I am. I don't know. I don't know anything anymore.

Seven-hundred and forty-seven.

Feeling that she must be coming soon, I wait. I have calculated out that she visits twice a day, without fail, which is the only way I can keep track of the days. There are no windows or clocks in my cell, and deprived of sunlight for so long, my body has lost most of its ability to track time. Even so, I can always sense when she is near, and she is very near.

Sure enough, I soon hear the footsteps outside the door. As she enters, she flips on the overhead light. My eyes scream in pain, and I quickly shut them. Except for her visits, which aren't very long, the lights are never on and I live in total darkness.

"Good morning, Leonardo."

I don't answer. At some point, not too long into my captivity, I realized that she grows bored when I don't respond. I take a small measure of satisfaction from the fact that, even in my current state, I can deprive her of some of her fun.

Eyes still closed, I hear her approach the rear of the cell, where I am shacked to the wall. With surprisingly gentle hands, she lifts up my head. She pries my mouth open with one hand and uses the other to slide a tube down my throat. Just as I have learned things, so too has she learned. Among other things, she's learned that unless force-fed, I won't eat. But she insists on depriving me of even the slow suicide of starvation.

Seven-hundred and forty-eight.

Odd. I hear someone at the door, yet I don't think that it's her. I do not sense her presence. But I don't understand. No one else but her visits me here. As far as I know, no one else knows that either I or this room exists.

The door opens, and a shadowed figure creeps in. A flashlight clicks on, and I blink rapidly at the sudden burst of light. When my visitor finally reaches the spot where I am shackled, I can just barely make out his face in the dark. I know him. He looks different. He's been badly hurt, and his wounds have scarred over, leaving his skin an unhealthy ashen gray. But I recognize him nonetheless.

I try to remember his name—it's the first time I have tried to remember anything in many months—but I find that I cannot.

"I never forgot about you, Leo," he whispers, voice thick with emotion. "Never."

He sets down the bag he is carrying and takes out some sophisticated-looking tools. Once he's unlocked my restraints, he wraps an arm around my waist and hoists me up. But I immediately go limp in his arms. I have remained motionless for years now, and my muscles have wasted away to nothing. Unfortunately, my rescuer did not seem to anticipate my full weight, little as it is, and he drops me. After a short fall I find myself back on the floor.

"Oh, geez! I'm sorry!"

The truth is, I don't really mind. The floor is nice and cool against my skin. Gazing up at the concerned face hovering above me, I ponder the mystery of this man. He looks like me and not like her, and I know this means something. But I can't quite figure out what. Finally I find my voice, weak from so much time of disuse, and ask, "Who are you?"

He blinks in surprise.

"My apologies," I add quickly, afraid that I've been rude. "I know we've met before. I just can't remember."

With glistening eyes, he reaches down and gently cups my face in his hands. Then he kneels beside me and rests his forehead against my plastron. Though he is perfectly quiet, I can still feel his body shake with his sobbing.

I try to lift my hand, so that I can reassure him, but I'm just not strong enough. I am a failure. I failed to protect my brothers. I failed to escape from this prison. And even now, I am failing. I cannot remember this man, though he obviously remembers me.

Looking up at me, my would-be rescuer shakes his head. "I tried," he gasps through his tears. "I spent the last two years trying to find where she'd hidden you. I've done nothing but eat, sleep, and look for you."

It is has been so long since I'd even entertained the thought of freedom. Now, that freedom lies within reach, I find myself baffled. I do not remember this man, this poor man who apparently has gone through so much effort to get to me. I do not remember anything outside this room.

Perhaps all that time wondering how she would kill me was ill-spent. Perhaps this was my intended death all along. Perhaps I am dead even now.

I study my new companion for a moment longer before I come to a decision. "Kill me."

"What?" His eyes go wide with shock. "You don't know what you're saying."

"I'm not strong enough to go with you," I point out, very reasonably. He doesn't argue with this; he can't. "I have nothing left. Not even myself. Please, just let me die."

"That isn't true, Leo. You have me."

I stare at him in confusion. "But I don't even know your name."

Frustrated, he slams his fist into the floor. "Donatello! I'm your brother Donatello!"

That can't be true, though. My brothers are dead. I smile sympathetically at my friend. He must be confused. I feel bad for him. I understand what it's like to begin to lose one's mind. He must be losing his mind too.

Then something changes. Like the ebb of the tides, the frustration slowly drains from his face, leaving behind a placid expression. He smiles back at me. "You're not Leo," he says, in the awed tone of a scientist making a new discovery. "Not anymore. Not really."

I don't think that's true, but for all I know, he might be right. At any rate, I don't think it would be polite to disagree. Rather I watch in silence as he calmly puts away his tools and rifles in his bag for something else. His hand comes back out with a small dagger. It's beautiful—the handle is dark, intricately-carved wood. I watch with interest as he, still kneeling beside me on the floor, leans forward.

A second later, I feel him lightly kiss my forehead. "She will pay for what she's done to you." His voice is no more than a whisper. "I love you. And I'm sorry."

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Author's Notes 2.0: Slight revision 1/10. My thanks to Jessiy Landroz for pointing out my mistake!