The Art of Perfection
He stood there, hidden amongst the shadows, doing his best to remain unseen. His dark orbs moved back and forth, back and forth, keeping a keen eye on the target at hand. It was of the utmost importance that he retain his cover, at least for the moment.
A quiet sigh left his lips as he folded his arms across his plastron, double checking the time and upon seeing that roughly only five minutes had passed, decided that it was time to blow his cover. After all, he had been standing there for close to half and hour now.
Enough was enough.
Nearly three weeks had passed since Donatello decided to keep a quiet wrap on their older brother's behavior, Leo's ever increasing attempts to train making him curious, albeit worried as well.
Seemingly every time he saw the blue-banded turtle, he was training with Splinter, with his brothers, or by himself; managing to steadily lose himself in the art of ninjitsu. Which wasn't an entirely bad thing, but it was obvious that the teenager was wearing himself out.
Weight was vanishing from his muscular frame, the amount between his skin and bones steadily disappearing. If Donnie had to guess, he'd say his older brother had probably lost a good fifteen to twenty pounds. And even though it didn't seem like much, it still made him worry.
He knew Leo was hardly getting any sleep, judging by the fact that he'd still be in the dojo at two o'clock in the morning, right when the resident genius either passed out at his workstation or actually forced himself to lay in his own bed for a change.
After witnessing various incidents of apparent disorientation, the purple-banded turtle had made up his mind. He had to talk to Leo about whatever was going on. Just to be safe.
Chewing on his bottom lip, Donatello stepped forward warily, clearing his throat to get his brother's attention.
"Leo." The said turtle stopped the kata he had been repeating for the past forty-five minutes, a blanket of sweat covering his body. Donnie could tell by the look in his eyes that he was quite surprised but doing his best to pretend as though he knew Donatello had been there all along.
"What's up?" the katana-wielding turtle asked, wiping the film of sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. He was breathing hard, partly out of nearly being scared out of his wits by his little brother, and mostly because he was pushing himself past his limits.
"I...I need to talk to you about something, and it's pretty important," Donatello confided, glancing at the floor of the dojo, automatically knowing that Leo would take it upon himself to believe that something was wrong with one of his younger brothers instead of himself.
"Yeah, sure," Leonardo replied instantly, worry already flooding the back of his mind. Various scenarios were starting to play out in his head as he sheathed his katanas, inwardly going down a list of possible reasons why Donnie would be so afraid to talk to him.
The purple-clad turtle stared at his hands for a moment before continuing with their conversation. "Leo...look...do you think that maybe you've been training a little too much?" He was surprised at how firm his voice was, his brow narrowing a bit as his eyes met his brother's.
A gentle smile played across Leo's lips. "Donnie, is this really what you want to talk to me about? I mean, if there's something else..."
"No," Don cut in, shaking his head. He let out another sigh, only this one sounded much more frustrated. "No, look, Leo...I've just noticed that you barely do anything other than train any more. It seems like no matter what time of day it is, you're always in here or out on a run. It's just not...healthy," he finished, stunned at how straightforward he was. Usually that was Raph's job.
An unsure expression crossed Leo's features, an eye ridge lifting in slight disbelief. "Um, Donnie, thanks for being concerned and all, but I think I know what I'm doing. I'm alright," Leo stated, laying a gentle hand on his younger brother's shoulder, only to have the shoulder be shrugged away from him.
"No you're not, and that much is easy to see. When's the last time you ate anything? Because if I were to recall, it would've been a few days ago," the resident genius stated, answering his own question, a hue of anger laced within his tone.
Leo's jaw grew taut, his sapphire orbs starting to glimmer with fear. "Donnie, you've got nothing to be worried about," the eldest turtle explained, his features growing serious. "I just ate this morning." He was doing his best to justify the situation at hand, but it wasn't working, especially as Donatello nearly flung his wrist into Leonardo's face, the time on his watch stating it was precisely 9:02 P.M.
"Didn't realize it was so late, did you?" Don's voice was soft now as he stared down at the floor, unable to look his older brother in the eye, knowing he'd see guilt there.
"No, I guess I didn't," the katana-wielding turtle replied, his voice equally soft. "Sorry about that," he immediately apologized, glancing up at his younger brother. "I guess I just kind of got caught up, you know?" Leo stared at Donnie for a moment longer before continuing. "I'm going to go clean up, then I promise I'll go eat something, okay?" he asked gently, trying desperately to drain the sadness from Don's distraught face.
"Yeah, sure," the younger of the two forced a quick smile before turning and exiting the room. Somehow, he just wasn't satisfied with his brother's answer. The certainty that he was looking for just wasn't there.
A disheartened sigh left the blue-banded turtle's lungs as he wiped the sweat from his brow, inwardly trying to figure out how he had just spent over six hours in the dojo without realizing it.
Wait, nine o'clock? We should be out on patrol, or at least out for a run.
His mind was already buzzing with possible intersections for them to check out while he made his way out of the dojo and up the stairs to the bathroom, completely forgetting the talk he and Don had just had. Before he knew it, he was collecting his brothers, announcing that they should get ready for the five mile run he had planned for them.
"Aw, come on, Leo," Mikey started to whine, not wanting to be pulled away from the television show he was currently trying to watch. "They've almost gotten to Na-Mek," he tried again, only to receive a if-you-don't-come-on-you're-going-to-regret-it looks. "Fi-ne," he sighed, pulling himself up from the couch.
"Well, look who finally crawled outta the dojo," Raphael stated with a smirk as he came into the living room, his eyes gleaming with trouble. "Sure ya don't wanna stay in there a little longa?"
"Come on, Raph. We don't have time for this. Someone could be getting hurt out there." His tone was authoritative as he spoke, crossing his arms across his chest in frustration.
"Someone could be gettin' hurt in here too if they're not careful," the hothead hinted, the distance between him and Leo shortening.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Leonardo inquired almost sarcastically, his eyes narrowing, annoyance and anger filtering through his voice. He stood his ground, straighting his posture.
"Exactly what I said it means," the red-banded turtle answered, the gap between him and his older brother lessening to a few feet now.
"Weren't we supposed to be going out on a run?" Donatello piped up, wedging his way in between his older brothers, glancing at the slightly fearful expression that was ghosting Michelangelo's face.
"Let's go," Leo declared quietly, his eyes still on his sai-wielding brother as they left the lair. As soon as his feet hit the grimy sewer waters, he took off, ignoring the faint chill that was brushing against his skin. He smiled inwardly as he pulled out ahead of his brothers, despite the fact he had been using his body consistently for the good majority of the day. Hell, this was his third run in twenty-four hours, a fact he decided to keep to himself. No use worrying them.
As if they'd worry at all.
Donnie's words suddenly struck him, making the guilt that was the size of a teardrop grow tenfold. He'd completely forgotten about what the purple-banded turtle had said, too engrossed with their nightly duties to remember.
I'll eat when I get back, he thought to himself, feeling the familiar beads of sweat start to trickle down his forehead. He glanced back at his brothers, only to find that they were a fair distance behind.
"Come on you guys, I even gave you a break yesterday!" the fifteen-year-old shouted over his shoulder, climbing up the ladder that lead to the outside world.
"That's it," Raph mumbled, picking up his speed. There was no way he was going to let his older brother beat him tonight. His brow narrowed as his muscular legs carried him down the tunnel, letting him catch a glimpse of his brother's feet as they slid up and out of the manhole. "Not ta'night, Leo," the barely audible words tumbled out of his mouth as he flew up the rungs two at a time, leaving Don and Mikey to scramble after him.
"They're competing again, aren't they?" Mikey asked, glancing over at Donnie, his warm orbs showcasing their fear even in the dark.
"Looks that way," Don replied, not liking the feeling that was starting to grow in the pit of his stomach. Something just didn't feel right. But what it was, he had no clue.
"They're really going to hurt each other one of these days," the orange-clad turtle stated softly, wishing that things were like they used to be when they were younger, but he knew that would never happen. That was the past, and sadly, the past it would more than likely stay.
By the time the two youngest had made it out of the sewers, their brothers moving forms on the skyline were barely visible in the New York night, their bandannas the only trace of them flapping in the wind.
"Here we go," Donnie muttered, shaking his head as he and Mikey made their way up the side of the building.
"Maybe if you paid more attention in practice, you'd remember what Sensei said about improving your speed," Leo couldn't help but call out, inwardly knowing he was pushing his hotheaded brother's buttons.
"Maybe if you shut yer trap, we'd like you a little bit more." The words left Raph's lips before he could even process the thought of thinking them, guilt already welling as he took notice of Leo's slightly faltered steps when his voice entered his older brother's ears.
Leo sped up once more upon hearing Raphael's comment, heat flooding his cheeks. He wasn't sure if it was from mere anger at his brother's statement or embarrassment from his two other siblings hearing it. Silence chased him as his feet padded on rooftop after rooftop, his legs carrying him faster and farther than they should have.
Leonardo wouldn't admit it, but Raph's comment did leave quite an aftertaste in his mouth, the bitterness making him want to vomit. Or perhaps it was just stomach acid forcing its way up due to lack of food. Either way, it hurt.
"What's wrong, Fearless? Didn't like that last one?" Raphael continued, doing his best to catch up with his older brother, though it was seemingly becoming harder and harder as Leo got further away. He was almost an entire rooftop behind the blue-banded turtle, and that only increased his determination, but his steps faltered greatly as a wall soon separated the two.
A wall created by the Foot.
"Leo!" the cry immediately parted Raph's lips, fear ablaze in his cinnamon orbs as he searched wildly for any trace of his older sibling, without any results. Gone was the taunting tone from his voice, replaced with definite anger fused with a slight tinge of guilt. If they hadn't been concentrating so hard on besting each other, they would have noticed the shadows that were not their own.
It didn't take long for the two youngest of the group to catch up, concern written across their worried visages.
"What are we gonna do?" Mikey exclaimed, his emerald eyes gleaming in the moonlight, panic flooding through his veins.
"What do ya think we're gonna do? Let's go!" Raphael ordered, charging ahead, sais already in a defensive position.
Glancing at Don, Michelangelo received a nod, the gesture giving him the okay to follow their hot-headed brother, even though the bo-wielding turtle thought better of it. Now he knew where that feeling in the pit of his stomach had come from.
Wait a minute, wasn't he just behind...me?
As soon as he heard his name being called, he knew something was wrong; and as he turned to stare at the spot that he thought had been occupied by his younger brother, he realized just how wrong he was.
His sapphire orbs widened as he traced their heads, one by one, a count of at least fifty coming to mind. Mentally, he was kicking himself, not understanding how he could have been so damned blind.
That's what you get for not paying attention. What kind of a leader leads his clan right into the middle of a trap? He was inwardly screaming at himself now, but ultimately, he knew it didn't matter. He'd deal with his incompetence later. Right now he had to deal with the present.
Alright, fifty, give or take a few. That means roughly...a dozen a piece. That's alright, it's nothing we haven't done before—no, we can't let our guard down or underestimate them. There's no telling what they're up to.
The fifteen-year-old took a deep breath, silently knowing that they were already in over their heads. But that's what he was there for—to get them out of this mess. The one he himself had gotten them into.
Sweat trickled down his forehead as he made his way towards the ninjas, his katana drawn and ready. Letting his body go into battle mode, he went ahead with the attack, seeming at ease the way he was kicking and slashing at the Foot. One by one, they were starting to fall, giving him just enough visibility to be able to see his brothers who were still on the rooftop adjacent to him.
Panic teased him as he saw Michelangelo nearly get thrown off the building, his heart practically seizing in his chest; but luckily, the orange-banded turtle was able to steady himself before his feet could slip any further.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he continued the fight, trying his best to knock the enemy down; but it seemed as though when one hit the blacktop, another sprang right up. Gritting his teeth, Leo pushed on, trying to ignore the pang of dizziness that was threatening to impair his eyesight.
He could feel the sweat streaming down his brow now, darkening the blue bandanna he wore so proudly. And slowly but surely, his breath started to become visible, the air suddenly growing colder. Giving the sky a quick glance, he almost cringed when he saw the violet clouds that lay overhead, the last of the moonlight fading into their thundering depths.
"Shell," the fifteen-year-old muttered, cursing inwardly. It wasn't as though he disliked the rain, he just didn't care for the occasional downpour that had a happenstance of disrupting their fights and making it harder for them to engage their battle tactics in.
Lightning lit up the otherwise darkened sky, streaking across the velvety clouds that were growing more ominous by the minute. It didn't take long before the heavens opened up, sending a torrential downpour upon their heads.
The instant the transparent liquid hit his skin, the blue-banded turtle wanted to shiver, the droplets stinging his jade-colored flesh. Gritting his teeth, he fought against the wind that was starting to gust past him as well, the tails of his bandanna fluttering violently in its wake. He narrowed his brow, determination set deep within the sapphire orbs that were attempting to take in too many things at once.
Glancing over his shoulder, he could see that his brothers had finally made it over to the rooftop he'd been confined to, and even though that made him feel slightly more relieved, that feeling was soon abandoned as he took notice of his purple-banded brother's struggling.
Donatello was surrounded on all sides, and from the looks of things, lacking his weapon as well. "Hold on, Donnie!" Leo shouted, diligently trying to make his way over to his younger sibling. His eyes turned to slits as his feet slid across the slippery rooftop, the balance he worked so hard to attain malfunctioning on him.
He grunted in frustration, forcing himself to retain his perfect posture, but as he neared his younger brother, he neglected to see the Foot soldier that was patiently awaiting his presence just out of the corner of his eye.
It only took a fraction of a second for him to see the weapon that was currently being drawn on him, but before he could react, the sound of something cracking below his right knee caught his ear.
It didn't take long before he hit the ground, the hilt of his katana clasped tightly within his grip as pain started to electrocute his limb.
His leg was broken.
Great. Just great.
It took all the strength he had to keep himself from screaming.
Author's note – Sorry it took me so long to update everyone. And I apologize if the ending's kind of crappy, but it felt like the right place to end it so... :D Thanks to everyone for your reviews. They pushed me to finally finish this chapter. Hopefully, the next one won't take as long, and there'll probably be a bit more angst as well.