A/N - GAAH! I am SO sorry this chapter took so long to get up. I had this problem going on with this thing called "life" that was getting in the way of my doing any sort of writing. Also, this was, towards the end, one of the harder chapters to write, and even now I think I rushed through things in the end. Well, tell me what you think and please review nicely and give criticism whenever you think of it.
DISCLAIMER - TMNT belongs to Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Mirage Comics and 4Kids Entertainment.
CHAPTER 6 - The Truth
Master Splinter gently let the fragile porcelain cup rest on its decorative accompanying saucer, as Donatello finished recapping his version of events so far for his father. The remaining tea was more or less a tiny wading pool for the soggy brown leaf flakes that stained the white china. They swam and danced around slightly from the gentle jostling accompanying the grounding of their vessel.
Splinter's eyes remained closed for several moments after silence had fallen between the three that now occupied the lair. Raphael was impatiently twirling one sai between the fingers of his left hand, while Donatello sat across from his father and watched him, the nervous bulges in his throat and stomach never once softening his anxiety of the current circumstances.
Donatello had explained the physical details of their first encounter with Joss, nothing spectacular and no stretching of truths. He refrained from mentioning his association with the boy during the encounter, something that he was now certain his master had picked up on.
He had done what his father had asked and had been the first to tell his side of the story, although he was not sure he wanted Splinter to hear a recount from his other brothers. Right now, the only person in his family that was not mind bogglingly confused about the situation was Raphael, and even he did not have the full story. Don decided that it would be better for them all if he came out and told them everything before any more accusatory words were thrown about each other.
"My son," Splinter began, finally ending the deafening silence. "Why do you not tell me everything?"
Don silently cursed his father for being so intuitive despite the number of close calls that intuition saved them from. It always seemed to be sharpest when one of them wanted to keep a secret.
He held his head downward, not wanting to look his father in the eyes at that particular moment. "Father," he started. "Please, just trust me when I say that I have good reason for not explaining everything right now. I want you all to know what is going on, so I will explain when Leo and Mike get back."
Splinter opened his eyes and scrutinized his second youngest son. "Donatello, you know I trust your judgment in most circumstances, but right now, with your brothers and I as confused as we are, I do not believe that withholding information from us any longer is such a wise idea."
Don nodded in agreement. "I agree with that sensei, and I have every intention of telling you everything, but I want Leo and Mike here. They were the most confused and upset on that roof."
"All the more reason to tell me first," Splinter argued. He stood and took several steps away from either son, displaying the brown fabric of the back of his kimono as he seemed to watch the grain of the walls. "As much as I hate to think like this, I think your brothers may act rashly to anything you tell them right now, especially Leonardo. Whatever secrets you have kept have created an unfortunate wedge in our family, and, as our clan leader, and your father, it is my duty to make sure that wedge is not driven further. And so, I feel it is necessary that you inform me of the details so that I can contemplate how your brothers will react."
Don stared at his father's back, obviously a position he claimed so that Don could not read any of the emotion he must be desperately trying to hold back at this moment. "Sensei, I know how my brothers will react," he explained with as much conviction in his voice as he could portray. "I know that Mikey and Leo are confused, but they will trust me and change their minds when they hear what I have to say."
Their was a deep sigh from Splinter and a gentle swaying of his head as he reluctantly admitted to his two present sons, "I am not so certain they will."
Don could not say anything. He could only stare at his father's back, sadly as he contemplated what to say about that. He had not lied or embellished anything when he said he was confident about Leo and Mikey accepting things, but what he failed to mention was how uncertain he was of Splinter accepting what he had done. In truth, Splinter was the one variable in this that Don could not figure out.
Still, he wanted desperately to say something, anything that would relieve his father of the concern that was torturing him at that moment. It was clear how much anxiety he was feeling and there had to be some way for Don to help him, but at that moment, all ideas of comforting his sensei were lost to him.
Fortunately, Raphael had seen the concern too and had come up with just the thing to take their father's mind off of it. "Hey Don," he finally said after the long silence. Don's head snapped to Raph who was still leaning against a metal support pipe in their living area, although he had stopped spinning the sai and was now carefully inspecting the tip of the center prong. He stated the next words with a rare calm that was only heard from Raphael when he was trying to help comfort one of his brothers at an extremely stressful time for them. "Why don't ya show Master Splinter yer arm?"
Don's eyes brightened in understanding as he realized just how perfect that suggestion was. He began to undo the bandages that were wrapped around his shoulder, a relieved smile now crossing his face.
Splinter, however, had turned to give Raphael a confused glance, which Raph promptly responded to with a pointed nod to Donatello. Splinter looked over to his bo wielding son and noticed the actions he was taking. "My son," he stated urgently as he rushed forward. "You mustn't remove the bandages for another…" His voice trailed off as he watched Don pull his hand away with the final bunches of gauze locked tightly in his fist.
After a quick swipe with the dry parts of the bandage to clear away the remaining stains of dried blood from his skin, Don turned slightly so that the full view of his shoulder was revealed to his sensei for critical inspection. There were no wounds anywhere on his arm. Splinter stepped forward and took his son's muscled bicep in his gnarled paw like hand, lifting it and twisting it gently so that the light hit the skin more clearly.
The arm was fine. The only evidence of their ever being a wound in the first place was a small clustering of nearly invisible pale green scars that meshed around his shoulder.
"Donatello…What…?" His father stammered, as his wide eyes desperately tried to comprehend the miraculously quick healing his son had undergone.
Don pulled his arm away from his father and looked at him confidently. "I can explain this, but Leo and Mike deserve to know as well, and the longer I wait to tell them, the more they will distrust me."
Splinter took a step back and glanced from Don's confident eyes to the now fully healed shoulder. "So this is related to the encounter you had with that boy?"
Splinter sighed, rubbing his hand over his muzzle and down that tuft of fur that fell from his chin like a beard. He closed his eyes in quick mediation as he pondered what his son was telling him and suggesting. "Alright," he finally agreed. "When your brothers finally arrive home, you will tell us all what it is that you know about this boy and what his relationship with you is."
Don smiled and bowed from his sitting position to his sensei. "Thank you for trusting me father."
Splinter waved off the show of respect. "Bah! Do not thank me yet. I am still uncertain that your judgment was wise," he admitted.
Don continued smiling, but he cast his eyes downward as he stood. "I have…wondered that for a long time myself sensei."
Splinter regarded him for a few moments as he contemplated how to respond to that. Unfortunately, he was never given the opportunity to respond as they were suddenly interrupted by the sound of the main entrance door slamming open and two figures came rushing in. One had matted and greasy black hair that fell to his shoulders, and the other had beautiful red hair that was neatly tied in a bun save for two locks that fell in front of her ears.
Casey and April rushed in, eyes wide and frantic with fear and worry. They were both breathing heavily, so it was obvious that they had been running for quite some time. "Guys…Foot…roof…Leo and Mikey…go….help," Casey began to stammer desperately.
A Friendly, yet not-so-gentle smack to the back of the head from Raphael shut Casey up. "Yo, either speak or breathe numbskull. We can't understand ya when you do both at the same time."
Casey just rubbed his head and looked at Raph somewhat bewildered. Thankfully, April had taken the time to catch her breath, and was now recounting to the room what Casey was trying to iterate. "Foot ninja attacked my building. Leo and Mikey went to face them. That was over twenty minutes ago. You guys need to help them."
A dissonant chord of three gasps rang out through the lair as the three mutants all took in the shock of what they had said. "But…Can they hold out that long?" Don stated nervously.
Raph shook his head with a passion. "Don' say that bro. Ya know they will. They'll hold out as long as they haff ta."
"Agreed," Master Splinter put in urgently. "But we must hurry. The sooner we arrive to help them, the less worried a father I'll be."
"R-Right," Don stammered. And then, gaining a new conviction, he pulled out a device from his gadget bag he left on a coffee table. "The battle may have gone over several buildings, so I'll track them through their shell cells." He fiddled with the device for a few seconds, mumbling as he worked. "I'll set the frequency for Leo and Mike's cells and then I'll display it on a map, and now we…can…" Don's voice trailed off as he stared in surprise at the map he had brought up.
"What is it?" Raph asked impatiently. "Can't ya find 'em?"
"No, I found them," Don said urgently. "It's just…they're heading home…and…they're fast."
Splinter raised an eyebrow at him. "What do you mean?"
"I mean they just past Aprils place ten seconds ago, and they're already in central park and are going to arrive…now."
A sudden bang echoed as the main entrance door was thrown open once again, but this time it allowed through it a massive breeze that billowed and snatched at the clothes and bandannas everyone was wearing. Everyone shielded their eyes from the painful sting of the onslaught of air.
And then, just as quickly as it had come, the torrent died away and was replaced by Michelangelo, glowing orange with those mystic tattoos covering his body and a slightly unnerved and indignant Leonardo slung haphazardly over his shoulder.
"Mikey! Land! Now! Please!" Leo ordered, although the last word seemed to be thrown out more as an afterthought to appease his baby brother.
"Heh, right bro," Mike said as he effortlessly set Leo down on his butt with one hand. Leo seemed not to mind that he was not on his feet. In fact, he seemed to prefer the more bodily contact with the ground, as if he were assuring himself that it was not going to disappear from him again.
Mikey took the time to looks up and carefully scrutinize the bewildered stares he was receiving from the five other members of his family. "Uh, guys, I know it's hard to look away from the awe I inspire as the Battle Nexus Champion, but seriously, Yer startin' to creep me out here."
There was a series of stammering from everyone that mostly consisted of the question, "How?" being echoed by everyone, including Leo. Mikey just chuckled to himself. He loved seeing his family shocked like this, especially when Splinter and Donnie were at a loss for an explanation.
"Guys, calm down, I can explain everything," Mikey said, and the room quickly died away. "The answer is really simple." He swayed slightly, and his eyes fluttered for a second. "But first." He raised one of his thick fingers in emphasis. "I think I really need a nap." And with that, the glow of the mystic marks faded and vanished, and Mike crashed forward unconscious.
Everyone rushed to his side immediately, Donatello and Splinter taking their places as the healers on either side of his still form. "Leonardo, what happened," Splinter urged from his leader of a son.
"The foot attacked us," Leo explained. "Things were looking bad. I was…I was trying to make a deal to get Mikey out of there, but then Mikey brought up those mystic strengths and struck back. He brought down an entire army of foot soldiers, the foot elite, and Karai in a manner of seconds and with one hand." His words were spoken in awe, but there was a slight twinge in his voice that was slightly unfamiliar that Splinter, Raphael and Donatello all caught, although they could not figure out what it was.
"How the hell'd he manage that?" Raph wondered allowed for everyone.
Leo just shook his head in response. "I have no idea, but I'm glad he did. Don, is he going to be okay?"
Michelangelo answered for Donatello when he made a loud buzzing snore that echoed through the pumping station. Casey failed at suppressing a giggle, and was quickly rewarded with a sharp nudge to the gut by April. Don smiled and said, "Yeah, he should be fine. It looks like he's just exhausted."
Leo nodded. But then he remembered something and bent down next to Don. "Hey, Mike took several Shuriken earlier. Can you patch those up?"
Don looked at Leo for a second and then turned Mikey over on his shell to get a closer look, and sure enough, there were the several bleeding cuts still oozing the red life-blood from him. Don sighed exasperated. "Why did he pull them out himself?"
Leo stood up and turned to the bathroom. "I'll go get the med kit," he announced.
"No, wait," Don stopped him. Leo turned to him looking slightly baffled and just on the edge of going ballistic again, but he was still careful to keep it in check. Don would have to thank him for that later. "Don't worry. I don't need the med kit, not anymore, at least." He raised his head and gave his father a meaningful look. Splinter looked back at him, studying his son's face as the silent communication passed between them. Splinter answered with a curt nod and he shuffled back a few feet and took up a lotus position to watch.
Don turned his attention back to Michelangelo and set to work. Using his left hand, he pinched the opening in his chest plate closed so that it only revealed itself as a slightly bubbling red line amongst the drying blood. He then pressed one finger of his right hand at the base of the wound and gradually began to slide it up along the length of the cut. As he did so, his finger let out a bright orange-red glow, and a faint crackling could be heard emanating from between the finger and plastron.
Everyone watched in shock and awe as the wound seemed to vanish after his finger had left the area. Don moved on to the next cut, and then the next, and then the next, all the while, his family was watching him, enraptured by the fact that he was healing his brother merely by touching him.
After a cool five minutes. Don had the last of the seven shuriken wounds sealed, and Mikey was sleeping contentedly, the small sleeping smile he wore affirmed that he was in a pleasantly peaceful dream. Don sat back, wiping away the sweat that had formed on his brow with a bloody hand. "Okay, now we just need to wash him up a bit," he said aloud.
Leo needed no more motivation. He was off and cantering to the linen closet to go and fetch some clean rags and paper towels. After wetting some down in the bathroom, he returned and took over care of Mike as he washed off the latent blood that had pooled around him. "Let's get him to the couch," Leo suggested as he finished wiping the blood off his baby brother.
Raph helped Leo carry him to the couch and everyone followed. Once they had him situated under a warm blanket with a soft down pillow under his head, everyone stood back to relax for a little bit, and eyed both Leo and Don the whole while.
"Well," Casey began, trying desperately to fill the uncomfortable silence. "That was a trip, wasn't it?"
There were a series of groans from everyone, but Casey indignantly held his ground. "Hey, it was, and now we got a couple o' neat stories ta look forward to, right?"
"Yes, Mr. Jones, we certainly do," Splinter agreed as he looked from Leo to Don once more. "However, they will both have to wait until Michelangelo has awoken, for he deserves to hear and tell both stories." And that meant that the subject was closed for the time being.
They didn't have to wait long. Michelangelo was notorious for never staying down long, whether it be from sedative, or knock out, and with Don's added healing affects, Mike was up and awake in less than an hour. He perked his eyes open to look over at an off TV screen and his brother Leo meditating in front of them. He could hear everyone else in the lair, Raph at the punching bag, Don with April tapping away at his computer, Master Splinter in the kitchen making tea, and Casey just over his shoulder, sitting in the arm chair, munching on the last of their potato chips. "Aw man, I was saving those," Mike cried indignantly.
"Whoa," Casey exclaimed as he fell off the arm rest portion he was using for an actual seat. "Yer awake. Hey guys, Mike's awake!"
"Yeah, and yer eatin' my potato chips," he announced. "I was saving those for when they blossomed into the stale rubbery goodness from my special vinegar coating."
Casey glanced down at the bag in his hand, his cheek bulging outward from being stuffed with potato chips. "So tha's why they tasted sour."
A thunderous symphony of foot steps, mostly April's considering everyone else kept their steps quiet from second nature ninja-ing, surrounded the small couch as everyone quickly gathered around the now wide awake Michelangelo. Don was kneeling down at the side and staring intensely into his brother's eyes. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
Mikey shifted uncomfortably. He was always one who begged for attention and always had to be in the center stage, but this sort of attention was not to his liking. "I'm fine," he insisted, and it was true enough. Aside from the usual grogginess from having just woken up from deep unconsciousness, he was feeling pretty good, better than that even. His right side no longer burned and stung him. Don must have taken great care of him while he was out. "Thanks for stitchin' me up, bro. Now just give me the bad news of how long I'll have to be in bed." Mike smiled warmly at Don as he sat up from his prone position, forcing many of the onlookers to step back and give him some space.
Don was the only one who did not move. "In my professional opinion Mike," Don said in a strange monotone. "You are perfectly healthy and can do anything you normally do."
Mike looked genuinely baffled, but then something seemed to dawn on him and he just scowled slightly. "Dude, don't get my hopes up like that," he growled. "Listen, I know you and your medical jargon, and you usually say stuff like, 'Stay off that leg,' or, 'Don't use that arm until it's fully healed.' And after these shuriken wounds, I know your not…gonna…" Mike lost his voice the second he looked down at the arm he was gesturing too. It looked fine. There were no bandages on it, or stitches where he had been hit. In fact, there was not even a mark where he had been hit.
He quickly glanced down at his leg and saw the exact same conditions, or rather the lack of any sort of condition. He felt his chest and found no cracks in his plastron. He even fumbled around his side, sure he would find a gaping hole there that he could stick his fingers into, but all he brushed against was rough scaly skin.
His eyes slowly raised themselves to look into that calm gaze his brainy brother had kept on him. He opened his mouth several times to say something, but closed it each time as the words he wanted to say escaped him.
"Nice fish impersonation Mikey," Raph snorted. The comment earned him a silent chuckle from April, a loud guffaw from Casey, and an indignant glare from Mike. Raph considered all those reactions sufficient recompense for the hard rapping he received on his head from Splinter's cane. After a quick scold from his father, Raph went back to watching Mike and Don, rubbing his head and smiling ruefully.
"Now that everyone is here, I believe there is something that needs to be explained to everyone, wouldn't you agree Donatello?" Splinter announced to the room.
Don nodded and gestured for everyone to take their seats. Casey and April took spots on the couch together with Mike, Casey swinging his arm over Mike to drag him into a headlock hug. Raph decided to stay standing and leaned against one of the many pillars. Splinter took his favorite recliner, sitting lotus position on the high cushion.
Leo was the most reluctant to move. He seemed perfectly fine with maintaining his position as a silent and stiff gargoyle hovering behind Mikey and the couch. He eventually relaxed and took up his meditative post by the TVs again, giving Don a somewhat cold stare of interest.
Mike looked around at everyone from his position under Casey's reeking armpit. Everyone had on a serious face and seemed to be waiting for Don to say something, and having no clue what was going on, Mike started to feel a bit annoyed about his position, both physically and socially. "Okay, One," Mike announced struggling under Casey's steel cord bicep. "I actually took a shower today, and I don't want to need another one so soon, so let me out of here." He finally shook the arm off his head, receiving a chuckle and quick apology from Casey. "And two, what the shell is going on? Why is everyone so serious all of a sudden?"
"Mikey," Leo spoke, and all eyes suddenly turned to him. It was the first word he had said since he got back. "Apparently, somehow, Donatello was able to heal your wounds just by touching you." Mike stared slack jawed at his leader brother. "And the reason he can do that is apparently related to a certain teenager we met only a few hours ago."
When Leo finished detailing the small preamble Don had given everyone else earlier, Don decided to take that moment to get everyone's attention before more of Mikey's questions suddenly popped up. He made a coughing noise as he cleared his throat and all the expectant eyes turned to him. He looked down at his hands resting on his thighs as he sat lotus style on the floor in front of everyone, thinking through what he was going to say. "This story will be…detailed to say the least, and so it is sort of difficult to know where to begin," he said.
He raised his head and noticed a series of candles lit on the central coffee table. "I guess that is as good a start as any," he announced, pointing to the candles. "Keep an eye on the flame," he instructed as everyone's gaze focused on the candles. He flicked his hand so that his palm was facing up and only his index finger pointed towards the flickering light. Raising his finger, he twitched his hand and the flame from one of the candles rocketed up and into the air several feet until Don's extended finger paused and focused on the flame. Sparks began to fly from the nearly still fire and spiral around and down below the flame in an intricate pattern of orange and red flakes. Then Don opened his whole hand. The response from the flame was to flare into a small fireball, less than a foot wide, and then dissipate into nothing.
Don dropped his hand and looked at the stunned looks on everyone's faces. "This is called pyromancy," he explained simply. "It is the manipulations of fire and biological energies that it controls. I am also skilled in hyrdromancy which controls water and heat energy manipulation. Both of these are skills I learned from that boy, Joss, as Raphael called him." Several people gave Raph questioning looks which the hotheaded turtle answered with a shrug. "I've been studying these two forms of magic from him for several years now."
"Years!?" came a stunned cry from his father.
Don flinched slightly. "Yes, years. The past seven years to be exact. He has taught me how to control them, because, apparently, he saw potential and need in me to harness these skills. I think he saw what kind of life we were living and decided to help, in a way."
"When have you been doing this training," Splinter asked.
"At night," Don admitted. "He gave me this." Don removed his bandanna to reveal a thin golden circlet wrapped around his head that was hidden beneath the mask. "Whenever I wear it, it helps to keep my mental and physical exhaustion in check, as well as increasing the recuperative properties of REM by three times the norm." He sighed the second he saw the confused looks he was getting from everyone, save April who had palmed her face at the confused looks as well. Don translated, "I need less sleep."
"And so you all wouldn't notice my absence, I left an eidolon in my bed to make it look like I was sleeping," he continued.
"So…What's an eidolon?" Casey asked the question that was on everyone's mind right then.
"This," Don said as he gave a sharp whistle. From the upstairs balcony, and striding from Don's room, came another Don. It did a quick and agile running flip as it landed silently and effortlessly next to the source of its visage. It stood straight and unmoving, its face an expressionless empty mask that stared blankly at the rest of the room. "This is an eidolon. It's a repository made from magically infused clay to represent the person who created it. It can perform simple instructions, or I can meditate and use it as a repository for my soul, making it perform complex actions and absorb senses as if it were me."
"So you can actually walk around as if you were in it?" Mike asked trying to piece together what he was being told.
Don nodded. "Precisely."
Splinter shook his head. "So you go through all this trouble to hide this from us. Why? Did you think we would disapprove?"
Don shook his head too. "No, not so much disapprove. Joss wanted me to only use these skills if absolutely necessary, and so I thought it would be easier if I did not mention them in case we all began relying on them too much. As it is, I think I relied on them too much anyway."
"That is sensible my son," Splinter asked. "And I find your reasoning acceptable, but when was it that you used these powers?"
"All the time," Don explained. He then thought for a few seconds, before looking back at everyone. "Does anyone remember the last time any of us was seriously injured?"
There was a sudden silence as everyone pondered that question. To say they did not expect it was a bit of an understatement. They seemed genuinely taken aback, first at the question, and then at how difficult they found it to give him a legitimate answer. Surprisingly, it was Casey who broke the silence. "Yous guys never got hurt b'fore. You guys 'er all, like, mad skill warriors so ya know how to keep yerselves from getting' really badly hurt, right?"
"Mr. Jones," Splinter said calmly. "It is true that my sons and I know how to handle being hit so that we can make the injury that may result less severe, however, we are none of us invincible. We are mortal and can be killed. Please tell me you realize this."
Casey flushed from embarrassment and hung his head, not saying anything.
"Hey, there was that time I was first trying to ride a skateboard," Mikey suggested. Everyone looked at him then. "I fell off and hit my head. Got a concussion or something, right? You guys actually thought I might not make it."
There was a soft crackling sound as Splinter's grip on his walking stick tightened at the reminder of one of the worst memories of his life. Things went just as Michelangelo had said, except that Splinter had actually resigned himself to losing his playful son then.
"Mikey, that was seven years ago," Leo put in. "And we were all nine then. There must have been something since then, like a broken bone, maybe?"
But Don shook his head in response to Leo's reasoning. "No, as far as you guys should remember, that WAS the last time any of us was seriously injured," he explained. "I know, because it was the exact reason that I went searching for Joss so I could ask him to heal Michelangelo."
The room got quiet all of a sudden. Mikey was the first to try and piece things together. "So, because I got hurt, you ran off and that guy found you, and then he taught you magic?"
But before Don could confirm or deny anything, Splinter interrupted with his own account of what happened. "No, Michelangelo, Donatello said he went searching for the young man. In other words, he had already known the boy, isn't that right, my son?"
Don nodded slowly, confirming his father's suspicions. "I had met him before. I actually remembered him from a few years before then." He looked at everyone, taking in the attentive eyes that were waiting for the final pieces. "Do you all remember…when I got lost in the sewers?"
"Ya mean when we we'e six?" Raph said. "Are ya sayin' tha's when ya first met tha kid?"
Don nodded once more. "The thing is though, I never really got lost in those sewers," he admitted. There was a beat of silence as Don steeled himself just before he let out one of the biggest secrets he had kept from his family. "I didn't just get lost looking for spare junk to play with. I ran away."