By Aubretia Lycania

Description: Old masks come back to haunt, and it's time for the brothers to let one of the most important things go; time for a wedding, a funeral, a reunion, growing up. Sequel to Of Honor and Innocence and What Cannot Be Fixed.

Author's Notes: This IS the sequel to Of Honor and Innocence, and third in the trilogy begun with What Cannot Be Fixed, so if you haven't read either of these stories, you will need to go back and do so before proceeding, as you will be confused. I am sorry that they are to be found in what is apparently the other TMNT section... whatever. If you are curious, click on my profile link and you'll find them. As for those following me, thank you! As always, I will be referencing and keeping in continuity with the 2007 TMNT movie prequel comics from the notes of writer-director Kevin Munroe. I'd like to thank everyone who stuck with me through the two proceeding stories and have made it here to the third, and I hope for this to be the best of the three. Special thanks to Gadoken King, my think-tank pal—please also read his story, as his characterization of Leonardo has helped mine greatly and had a great influence. Please enjoy, and I really, truly do appreciate, and need, feedback, so all constructive criticism is welcome.

Disclaimer: If I owned these turtles, I would not live in the space the size of a third-world cottage with five other college-age girls. Raphael would have bitch-slapped them all with the business end of his sai by now.

Walking the Line

For Michelangelo, life with his brothers was a long stretch of existence that felt as though it would never end, though he often posited to himself—fearfully—how it might. If anyone would be left at home while the others were gone, it would be he, remaining in the empty nest to care for Master Splinter, long into his twenties, while the others went on with whatever their lives might look like; if they decided to separate at all. Mikey held furtively onto the ideal that they would stick together—providing, of course, that his older brothers didn't kill each other.

He could imagine himself: staying at home, drawing comics for newspapers or small comic book companies, going out as a clown, selling freelance photographs under strange names, making people laugh. He'd stay with Master Splinter. That was a given. He knew he would grow in common sense, and be a good adult, content with life. Then he would hold down the fort until his brothers came back—Mikey, at least, understood that he was stuck with them, and there was no changing that.

He could imagine Donnie: earning degrees online and publishing under false names in scientific journals, giving the world all his crazy findings without a scrap of credit, operating out of cellars and secret labs until he grew old, a mad scientist, and come home again, to keep his brother company. Mikey could count on that much. Donatello would live to a ripe old age, even if he went half-insane—at least he'd be entertaining, an eccentric old bat. Mikey had even drawn a few cartoons of this to tick his brother off, though Donnie had later taped them up in his alcove, secretly fond of them. They were a good likeness; minus, of course, the fro of Einstein hair above the purple ninja mask.

He could imagine Leonardo: continuing to travel the world over his lifetime, mastering various martial arts and philosophies, studying in monasteries under his giant cloak, a ghost again, flitting through lands like a legend. He would grow old, and very wise; he would write, and paint, and do great things, without anyone ever knowing it was him. He would carry the world's weight, like Atlas, alongside his own burdens on his shoulders. He would then return, to home, and his brothers, as he had before, a wise old geezer, to chuckle at Donnie's eccentricities and write his memoirs.

The fear set in when he could not imagine Raphael, at any age beyond twenty-five. In fact, if Mikey could imagine a Raphael beyond twenty, he considered it hopeful. Perhaps it was because his brother would live, but always be young, somehow immortal, a force unto himself—perhaps this was just his view, baby brother, looking at his tough older sibling who couldn't possibly die. Or perhaps it was because he knew his brother, and knew the danger of the world, and knew that Raphael would be the first to take a blow—a deadly blow—for one of his brothers, one of his friends, or even a complete stranger. Mikey knew that he, Donnie, and Leo would be old together, and always have each other; he also feared they would also have grief, and that coldness, when Raphael's warmth left them. This was how a world could end.

But Mikey was the youngest. It was not in his sphere or his power to stop any of this—he could only watch, and wonder, and keep it to himself, and enjoy his life as it was, so that one day he would have something fond in his heart to miss. He practiced shinaii with Raph and their little refugee, Lizzie, and laughed, and joked, and made them smile, led them not to think of any of these things. These things that Mikey thought of now, ever since walking forward in that sewer, and looking down at the murdered body of a woman. A little girl's mother. A little girl who had been protected, and had to watch her mother die—powerless.

This was the specter. This was the power. This was the mighty force he was up against, that Mikey had never before known. He suspected his brothers had—Leonardo and Raphael—by those haunted looks that sometimes wandered into their eyes, when the TV came on, and murders, muggings, rapes, overseas genocide, warfare, and corporate backstabbing appeared on the news. That weight of the world they kept away from their youngest brother so charitably, that Mikey sometimes tried to find ways of relieving them of—jokes, and laughter, and distraction. He wished he could make things better, make them little kids again, make his brothers more like himself. He did not realize that even that self had been changing, altering, since looking on that still, cold body. Something was slipping, and there was no foreseeable way of holding onto it. But he was still Mikey, each day when he woke up and each day when he went to sleep, never worrying too much at a time. He never gave himself that time.

Himself, against the specter, with his brother's faces in its hands. He wondered what a clown could really do against that power—sometimes, before he slept. Dreams of painted masks turned from comedy to tragic, broken glass—ghosts, clowns, marionettes—and the dark. Always the dark.