Mike studied the form in front of him, the weapon he held. Too far off to jump at, and the gun would take Mike out before he could get to any hiding place.

His shoulders slumped, and he ground his teeth. Slowly, he held his hands up. "I surrender."


Mike glared. "You heard me. I surrender. Just tell me what you want me to--" He jerked his hand suddenly, drawing the shuriken from his wristband and throwing with a flicker of the wrist too fast to see.

The star buried itself in the wrist of the dummy, and Mike straightened, beaming. "Ha!"

Leo chuckled, but moved from behind the dummy. "Cheating, but it's effective." He looked at the embedded shuriken. "I think it's safe to say he would have dropped the gun."

"Of course he would."

"Still." Leo bit back a grin. "'I surrender?' Not much of a battle cry, is it?"

Mike grinned and looked over at Donnie, watching with a small smile from the mat against the wall. "We can't all think of something all Dirty Harry profound like Don over there."

Don blinked innocent eyes at him.

Mike struck a squint-eyed Eastwood pose. "Bet you can't shoot what you can't see, you dirty rat."

Don laughed and got to his feet. "It worked, didn't it?" He pushed Mike out of the way and took his place in front of the dummy.

Donnie's idea at the house of that teacher, Colin Prince, had been a good one: take away their ability to see, and most armed people wouldn't try to shoot. They fought outdoors so often that it wasn't an option they could rely on, so it was Leo's idea to concentrate their practices on other ways of dealing with criminals armed with guns.

And they found other ways. Don started developing more effectively blinding smoke pellets. They worked with weapons like the shuriken, small and long-distance, things that might take out a gun from a distance, or could help them get to cover to escape a bullet.

There was no perfect way to fight against a gun, especially when they refused the idea of even considering carrying guns themselves. But the fight to get their brother back had taught them that guns were hardly magical - a guy with a gun could be taken out just like anyone else.

Mike watched his brothers get into place - Don facing the dummy, and Leo behind providing the voice and actions. "I wanna be the bad guy."


"Leo, you said I could--"

"When you're the bad guy we waste ten minutes listening to corny lines about how the night is your ally and no prison will hold you. Honestly, Mikey--"

"I don't know, sounds a lot like the bad guys I've run into lately."

Mike turned, breaking into a beaming smile. "Hey!"

Raphael moved in. "You guys are too frigging loud. I can't hear the TV."

Leo came out from behind the dummy, concern creasing his face. "You should be resting, Raph."

"I've been resting for days, Leo."

"Splinter said if you don't take it easy that wound in your arm might--"

"Leo." Raph's smile quirked. "Lay off. Splinter's the one who sent me in here."

Leo blinked.

"He said I was ready." Raph went over to the weapon table. "I kinda think he wanted me out of there so he could watch Days of Our Lives." He reached out and took hold of his sai for the first time since they got him back.

Mike watched with a smile, warmth in his chest at the glow on Raph's face.

Don, who usually took the role of medic, cleared his throat. "Be careful."

Raph looked back at him, at all three of them. He nodded, that same small smile on his face. "Just doing some exercises. Getting the muscles back and all." He flexed his bandaged arm, wincing only slightly. "I'm not gonna sit around and atrophy."

Leo didn't argue again. He moved back behind the dummy, and Mike was the only one to see the proud look in his eyes.

"What the hell are you guys doing with that ugly thing?"

"He's being our gunman!" Mike went to the dummy, slapping his arm around the mostly shapeless 'torso'. "He's a bad-ass, too, but only when Leo lets me do the voices."

"You were right not to let criminals get away just because they carried guns," Leo explained more seriously. "We're working out ways to get around them."

"Jesus, did you just say I was right about something?" Raph gingerly extended the sai in his left hand, testing his reach with his still-healing arm. Getting shot was no joke, and Mike knew he was worried about it. Untended wounds could turn into permanent weakness.

Raph wouldn't let that happen, no matter what it took. Mike knew his stubborn brother.

"You'd better remember this moment, because it'll never happen again." Leo smirked.

Raph grinned.

Mike turned to Donnie, swooning. "My God, the children are getting along! And all it took was a couple of near-death experiences and a maniac teaching history majors how to steal cars."

Don rolled his eyes, but slung his arm over Mike's shoulder. "Enjoy it while it lasts."

"Nah, I'll bet it's like this forever now. They've been all tenderized by bad things and they'll never fight again."

Raph snorted.

"Jeez, Mike." Leo rolled his eyes. "If I let you be the dummy will you shut up?"

"He's already the dummy, Leo."

"Good point, Raph."

Don laughed. "Maybe you're right, Mikey. Maybe they'll get along forever as long as you're around to be the brunt of their jokes."

Mike shrugged, smiling sunnily. "Worth it. Bring on the insults, bros."

Raph lowered his arm suddenly. "You know…"

"What? I can take it." But Mikey only had to look at him to know Raph was getting serious.

Leo jumped, as concerned as if Raph had started spouting blood from his eyes or something. "What? What's wrong? Are you in pain? You don't need to push yourself so fast if--"

"Leo. Breathe." Raph flashed a faint smile, looking at them all in turn.

He still seemed weak to Mike. Not so much hurt, but…low on energy. Slow. He had been since they got him out of that basement and brought him back home.

He'd managed some energy and cheer for Splinter, and for Casey and April. But he'd spent more time in bed than Mike would've believed possible for restless Raph.

He didn't talk about what happened, but they all knew it had to be rough.

Mike could still remember the cold anger even he himself had felt, seeing the basement, the cage they kept his brother in. Coming down those stairs to see Raph, defiant to the end, outnumbered and beaten and still ready to spit in death's face.

If Prince wasn't already in jail, with a college-class-sized group of witnesses ready to lay blame on him for everything they ever did wrong, Mike would've been inclined to hunt the guy down.

"What's on your mind?" Donnie asked quietly as Mike shook the dark thoughts out of his head.

Raph set his sai on the table. "That guy, Prince. He gave me this whole speech about how it was more honest to just rob people than it was to defend them." He hesitated, turning back towards them and leaning against the table.

Strange, Mike thought suddenly. He might've never been there again. He might have died in that house, and just been gone.

It wasn't something he could wrap his head around.

Raph's hand came up, toying with the bandage on his other arm absently. "He said people were raised to hate each other, and that if I had been born human I'd be worse off than I am now."

Mike blinked. Born human?

This must be more of that strange talk Don and Leo had mentioned him doing. Who wanted to be born human?

Raph hesitated, looking unsure. He wasn't a big talker, really, and he tended to get awkward looking for the right words to voice important thoughts.

Don spoke, no doubt to encourage him. "In a way it's true. There's a lot of evil in human history. Most of it comes as result of one group of people deciding to alienate another, to claim superiority."

"Yeah, that's what he was talking about." Raph flashed a grateful smile. "That kind of thing. Racism, sexism, all this deep crap I don't know much about. But I thought about it when I was alone in that…" His smile vanished.

Don and Leo both took a step at the same time, as if to go comfort the memories away. But neither went more than a step.

That was Mike's job. Raph got so prickly so easily, and Mike was the one who could get closest without sparking it. But Mike knew it wasn't time yet, so he hung back.

Raph shook the thoughts away on his own. "Maybe he's right. Maybe there's thousands of years of hatred inside humans. Maybe it's almost impossible for them to accept or like someone who's different. Maybe any kind of coexisting is fake and just done out of some sense of…I dunno, civility or something."

Mike frowned.

"But I gotta think of April, and Casey. And how easily they accepted us, and how much they've done for us. And most people in this city…I mean, I know there are slimeballs. Too many of 'em. But I'm not blind. Most people are more like April and Casey. They're trying their best. They care about each other. They take care of their neighbors, even the ones who're different."

He frowned, obviously searching for words. "Before this thing with Prince I was getting to where I hated them. All of them. The ones who grabbed wallets, and the ones whose wallets got grabbed. I thought we didn't belong and never would. But they try, you know? They try hard to get past all this history and genetics that tell them they should hate each other. And maybe…I don't know. If they can get past that maybe most of them could accept us, too."

Mike smiled at that. " I always thought maybe they could."

Raph looked his way, and the tension in his shoulders eased. He relaxed, straightening off the table and stretching his arms experimentally. "Anyway. Screw it. I sound like a frigging after-school special."

"Does this mean you're not questioning why we go out and fight anymore?" Leo spoke with a small smile, but his words were serious.

Raph snorted. "Way I see it, even though most people out there are trying to live together and manage some kinda happiness, there are always gonna be guys like Prince. The real freaks. The ones who go out of their way to kill everything good about people. And as long as those freaks are out there, I'll damn well keep taking them down."

"Hear hear." Mike grinned, moving across the mat to slap Raph's good arm. "Anyway, sounds like that Prince guy said one thing that made sense."

Raph blinked. "What's that?"

Mike grinned at Raph, and over at Don and Leo. "We would've been worse off. We coulda been born human, and by now we'd be in college or getting careers and driving our sedans to work to pay our bills."

Leo smirked. "It might beat living in a sewer."

"Nah, Prince said it himself. We're better off, 'cause we've got each other." Mike grinned. "The bad guys keep changing, and topside everything gets turned around from one day to the next. Down here? We've got us. I for one would take that over a screechy wife and dirty diapers and a desk job any day."

Raph pushed him, rolling his eyes. "You're an idiot, Mikey."

"Yeah, but I'm right."

Raph grinned.

Mikey saw the agreement in that grin and he beamed. Don came up on Raph's other side, checking out his bandage but Mike knew that was just a cover. Don wanted to get close, to reassure himself Raph was alright.

Leo reached out and lay a hand on Mike's arm. His eyes and his smile were on Raph, though.

In a moment he'd break off all the talk. He'd get Don and Mike practicing again, and send Raph to bed, or to his corner to exercise his arm. But for just a moment he was content to share a little bit of peace with them.

To seal in the idea that even if all the four of them ever had was each other - and a weary old rat of a father - it would still be enough. More than enough.

Yeah, Mike thought. He was right.

He was always right.