The first time I posted this I did it all in one chapter, but since it is pretty long and seems to be a bit jumbled without breaks, I am dividing it into four chapters.

Originally posted under the name AJ3 on 10/9/00



There. Just beyond the edge of the darkness, that is where they hang. They watch us, waiting... expecting a move from us. Anticipating an attack...

And why should we let them down?

I give Raphael a silent signal and he slides into the shadows. I see the light glint off his sai for a second as they are drawn from his belt. Michaelangelo goes vertical, climbing onto a fire escape, above - out of sight. Donatello stays by my side, his hands tensing around his bo. I draw my own swords, I make certain they make no noise as they leave the sheath.

They know all this, they know our strategy. They know from what angle we will come in, and still we come. Because we have to, because there is no other logical path... because this is the way they expect us to come. I nod towards Don and he stops, crouching in the darkness. I step into the light alone, holding out my swords - challenging them. They accept.

A star comes out of the pitch, I dodge it easily. They knew I would. I knew that they would know. There is no mystery in this battle, it's a game of tic-tac-toe. Easily anticipated, no way to win. But I intend to win. I make my first X, a slash into the night. I can't see him, but he's there. He dodges my blade and comes back with his own. Ah... there's his first move. His first mark, his first mistake. As I duck I thrust and feel the resistance as my blade pushes through his body. He doesn't cry out - a true ninja until the end.

I stand and bow to the darkness. Will no one else challenge? I have my answer in the sound of my brothers' battle cry. The fight has begun, the war commences. The night is still new.

Four attack me at once and I jump above two, the others are ready when I land, they come at me with paired nunchaku. Young and foolish. I run my blade through one of them and he falls back, screaming. Not so much the ninja as the one who had come before. I leave my sword in him as I reach for the other, he swings the chuck at me clumsily. I grab the end and wrench it out of his grip, brining it back around at his head. There is a hollow thump as it contacts his skull and he collapses to the ground. Two away, two more to go.

I pull my sword out of the ninja's belly and spin, kicking out to where the other two stand. I hit one, the other hits me and I fall to the ground. But only for an instant. A second later I am back on my feet and my blade has slashed through his skin, he clutches at his chest and I hit him in the head with the hilt of my sword. He's down. Maybe not dead, but two out of four isn't bad. Number three is writhing on the ground, holding to his side where my foot met. I pick him up by the arm and pull off his hood.

"Leave here," I tell him. "Or die in dishonor."

He falls back onto the ground and scrambles away into the night. I don't know if I should pity him or what.

Around me the sounds of battle have ceased. One by one, my brothers step out of the darkness. They're bloody, bruised... victorious. Raphael spins his sai and thrusts it back into his belt, wiping the human blood off of it as it passes the leather. He smiles. I knew he would. I turn to face Michaelangelo. He is kneeling beside the ninja I had knocked in the head. Mike looks up at me and nods. That one will survive. Maybe.

I hear Donatello run the end of his bo along the concrete and I look over at him. Someone is standing beside him. A stranger. I step forward with my swords tight in my grip. Don doesn't make a move towards the man, but he's there - he must be able to see him.

"Don!" I yell. "Watch out!"

Donatello looks around him then back at me. He shrugs. "What?"

The stranger looks at me and then turns to Don.

"Don't you see him?" I bound forward.

"See who?" he looks around him again. Jesus, he's looking right at him and he doesn't see.

I swipe at the stranger and Donatello ducks.

"Hey, watch it!"

What? I didn't hit him... where did the man go? I look around but he is gone. I didn't just imagine him... I couldn't have.

"You okay, Leo?" Mike walks up to me and puts his hand on my shoulder.

"Didn't any of you see him?"

"See who?" Raphael asks.

"He was here! Beside Don... he had a green jacket on... didn't you see him?"

"Leo, there was nobody beside me," Don says.

I turn to look at Donatello. He's there, right there... standing behind him. The stranger glares at me and puts his hand on Don's throat. Can't he feel it?

"Don! Behind you!"

He spins in a full circle, the stranger is gone again. Don looks at me and tilts his head. "Leo, are you sure you didn't get knocked on the head?"

"He was there! He touched your damn throat, didn't you feel it?"

"I didn't feel anything."

"And I didn't see anything," Raph says. "And I was looking right at Don."

Mike walks up to me and looks into my eye, feeling the top of my head. I push him away.

"I didn't get hit in the head!" I yell.

I put my swords back into their sheathes and look at the worried faces around me. They think I'm crazy. I wave my hand and they follow as I lead them back into the darkness. But wait...

I spin around, I sense something. My heart quickens and my muscles tense. My brothers feel it, too... they are battle-ready. There is something there, something in the dark... someone left on his feet. This one is good, we nearly missed him. Maybe it's the stranger... maybe I'm not crazy, after all. I look at Raph and then Mike. They look back and signal with their eyes - the enemy is not within their area of reach. Don is not so certain - he takes a step forward then turns to face me.

I see a flash of a blade... too late for me to react, I'm too far away. A ninja leaps out of the darkness behind Donatello and puts the knife to his throat - he pulls it across. Blood pours out of my brother's neck and he falls forward onto the ground.

"Don!" Mike yells as he launches himself towards the ninja. Raph is there first, stabbing the man with his sai, running him through time and again, each thrust digging deeper into the man's stomach. I see him pound the sai into the ninja one last time and the blade goes clear through his back. Raph throws the man to the ground and kicks him in the head.

I make it to Don's side, Mike is already kneeling, flipping him onto his shell. Oh, Jesus... Donny's throat is sliced clean through. I can see the hollow tube of his trachea, the raw red of his muscles. Blood sprays out from the open arteries, pulsing with each slowing heartbeat. He looks up at me, his eyes filled with pain... he tries to speak. Oh, good Lord... his mouth is moving... he can feel it. He can feel everything. A tear rolls down his face and I pull him up into my arms.

He's not going to survive... Jesus, he's going to die. There's nothing we can do, the wound is too severe, the cut too deep. I hold him tightly to my plastron and his blood pours over me. He's dying in my arms. My brother... I'm losing my brother...

"Die, Don..." I whisper. "Don't hold onto this, please... let go..."

He looks up at me one more time and closes his eyes. I watch the blood spurt once from his veins then it flows, unaided... he did as I asked. He obeyed one final command. He died with honor.

I look up at the others. They're heads are hung forward, bowing to our brother. Raphael is holding tightly to his sai, he's covered with the ninja's blood as I am with Don's. He is shaking - that's the way he cries. Mike is gripping Don's hand, squeezing it tightly. Mike is the one to show the most pain, the tears roll down his cheeks freely, dripping onto the bloody concrete. He takes a shaky breath and looks up at me.

"Let's... let's get Donny below..." he says, choking on the words.

I stand, picking our brother up in my arms. His head flops back, tearing what is left of the skin on his neck. I adjust him so he leans forward, his cheek against my shoulder. He's heavy, but a weight I will bear. This is a weight I will bear for the rest of my life...