My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless
Sunday morning. It came with the beeping of the alarm clock, but the occupant of that room had not slept at all that night. He had watched the numbers on the digital face count up the hours silently, and now he sat listening to the harsh crashings of the alarm in what had been utter, deafening silence.
He didn't need to look at the doorway to know someone was there. His back was to them. Already he was dressed in his black coat and black hat. In his hand was his dark sunglasses.
"You didn't hafta do this, y'know."
Silence. The figure at the door shifted his weight.
"Yes I did."
"Then why should we go?"
He donned his sunglasses and silenced the alarm clock with a touch. "You don't have to. In face, I'd prefer it if I went…alone."
He exited the room, walking right past his brother.
"At least tell me why you gotta."
Leo thought, then turned to his brother. "You know those westerns Mikey was watching for a while? The ones where the bad guys wore black hats, and the good guys wore white hats?"
"The bad guys were usually just as good as the good guys. Some of them were real nasty, but then there were some who, like the good guys, thought that what they were doing was just as in the right," he paused. "A good guy can't be a good guy without a worthy adversary."
His brother's face only shifted with the raising of a brow. "This isn't no movie, Leo. This is real life. We almost got killed. Several times."
"It doesn't matter. You see things how you want to see them, I see them differently," he paused. "I'm not asking you to come with me, or to care, but I understand how you feel, either way."
This silenced his brother.
He continued down the pathway, past his other brother's rooms. His hand rested on the red pole that led to the lower levels. No one else was upstairs. Just as well.
In the dojo, Splinter sat meditating. His swords sat to the side, polished and ready, but he made no move to take them. There was no need to this time.
He knelt before his master.
Silence befell the room. Even their breathing did not disturb it.
"Am I doing something wrong?"
"Do you feel pity?"
"What do you hope to accomplish by going?"
Splinter's eyes met the hidden ones of his son.
"I think I will know when I get there. I am too confused by what others say and think to know for myself."
Splinter gave a nod. "Then go."
"But first…Master…why does this victory not feel like a victory?"
The rat thought, then sighed. "Sometimes, despite our best efforts, some problems cannot be solved. Sometimes, despite what we say or do, those who wish to be lost remain lost, even if only in our eyes."
Leonardo stood. With a bow, he exited the dojo.
The lair was quiet. His brother had disappeared.
He left, exiting through the main door and walking slowly through the ankle deep rain run off in the pipes. His body acted without his mind, knowing the way to the manhole cover. He stopped before he reached it. Someone stood there, at the base of the ladder, waiting.
Will never awaken you
Not where the black coaches of
Sorrow have taken you
The figure hesitated, then walked forward so that light leaking from the holes in the cover could reveal his face…and the small bouquet of white orchids in his hand. "Thought you might need these."
Leo accepted the flowers. "How did you know I was going? And…why…?"
"You spent the whole night meditating. C'mon, bro. Even if," his brother paused, trying to find a way to word things without offending his brother. He decided to ditch his effort and go with something else. "Doncha think it's a little impolite to go and not, you know, bring something?"
Leo looked down at the flowers. "Yes, but this wasn't what I was thinking."
"But I'll take them anyway."
His brother grinned and let him by. As soon as he was on the surface, he heard his little brother run away, his feet slapping through the sewer water. He rested the manhole cover back in its place and looked up at the world.
The sky was more than overcast, and threatened with rain, already laying a thin atmosphere of drizzle. It was not yet dawn, at least not for another two hours, so the street lamps cast eerie soft light through the moisture in the air.
He could walk freely through the streets at this hour.
Angels have no
Of ever returning you
Wouldn't they be angry
If I thought of joining you
The concrete beneath his feet was cold. His mind raced as he walked along, once again letting his body think on its own to get him to his destination.
Why was he doing this?
There had been nothing final about what had happened only two days prior. The challenge had been laid out, and he knew that he needed to do it. There was nothing else he could do. He had set out to secure the future for his family, and no one was going to tell him not to.
He had set out to protect his family, or die trying.
Very few battles in his life had been fought with the weight of his life, solely his life, hanging in the balance. Most of the time his adversaries had faced not only himself but his brothers as well, and even their sensei, and did so without honor. They came in the night with hopes of crushing them with dirty tactics for their masters who were too cowardly to come at the brothers themselves.
A few did ask for direct challenges. Duels of honor. Some died. Others were left in dishonor.
Sometimes, he was the one left in dishonor.
But this adversary was unlike all of those. This one struck with honor, despite who they served, and this one…many times he chose to leave them living. His second chances turned to third chances, and fourth chances…he didn't know how he had been so forgiving.
He supposed that, in his youth, he was merely naive.
He supposed that, now more mature, he didn't want to admit that their differences could never be resolved.
He saw something that wasn't there. A chance not for his adversary, but a chance for his hopes that any person could believe what he believed.
Because he believed in it so strongly, the thought of someone not sharing the same beliefs was so alien to him, it seemed wrong.
His feet stopped. He stood at the cemetery, at the gates. With two moves he could be over them and onto his destination, but a sudden heaviness settled on him, the same heaviness that had left him when he had left here the day prior.
The heaviness stemmed from the knowledge that the greatest enemy of his family had finally been defeated. They had struck like lightening, planning the attack and working out every kink. Four brothers, their father, and two human friends against a horde of expertly trained men and all the technology their filthy money had bought.
Frowning at himself for his hesitance, he leapt the black wrought iron gate and landed in a crouch on the cobblestone driveway beyond. Now he hurried, dashing past the headstones. If there was one place he disliked, it was the cemetery.
To be amongst so much death. He couldn't see it, but he could feel it. Where beggars and thieves and children and the everyday Joe were buried side by side.
Where one family's enemies were buried right across from their own mausoleum.
Death was uncompromising and indiscriminate.
With shadows I spend it all
My heart and I
Have decided to end it all
And yet, now, with the future open for them, the heaviness was uncertainty. For so long they knew who their foe was and for so long they lived with having someone or other at their throats; being free from threats and danger looming over their heads was foreign.
He knew they all felt it. The 'what now?' hung before them. Their lives had been so disrupted for so long, it was hard to remember what it was like before.
Before that day when the mousers came crashing through their first home. Before they met April and Casey.
Before the demons of their past dared to lay muddied feet at their doorstep.
He knew that, out of all his brothers, he was the one most frightened about the unknown that lay before them. They had defeated evils upon evils, and had managed to quiet a raging city beset by aliens, mad scientists, the very government itself, and all incarnations of the Shredder.
There would be new enemies, he supposed. New fights to be fought, and new strategies to form against strategies to dissect. If not from outside, there would always be enemies coming from within; doubt, anger, impatience, greed, envy…
Even he succumbed to those every now and then.
But all those enemies would never be like…
Like the hope he kept between himself and this adversary.
He paused on a hill, overlooking the cemetery. The drizzle was turning into light rain, and soon it would be pouring. Already the ground was damp beneath his feet. As his eyes gazed over the headstones and monoliths shadowed in the grayness of the morning, he thought of all the mourning cast about in this place like futile spells.
The ground was wet with tears.
A cemetery, he knew, was less for those buried there and more for those who knew those who were buried there. After they were dead, and after those who knew them were dead, then those beneath the headstones could truly have peace. They cannot hear their epitaphs, and they cannot read their headstones.
"A place of a million sorrows," he breathed, his breath fogging up before him.
After they had defeated the demon Shredder, a strange armistice occurred. Neither side wanted conflict, and all past sins had been forgiven. Even so, their purposes could not forgive. Their honor could forgive, their duty could not.
"It was like the Capulets and Montagues."
Leo turned. His brother came beside him on the hill, bundled up against the cold in full street clothes. Only his gentle brown eyes were visible beyond the scarf and hat. "The who?"
"In Shakespear's play of Romeo and Juliet…"
Leo raised a brow, frowning.
"The two families had fought for so long, generation after generation, that no one knew what they were fighting for. They just fought because they had to. Because each side knew they were right, and it was what they had to do, until their children were destroyed."
Leo looked away. "They could have stopped at any time, especially if they had no reason."
"Was their reason any different than yours?"
Leo thought. "Besides the love story, no." He looked up. "Why are you here?"
"To see if you'd actually come. Not that I thought you wouldn't, but…there are some things you need to see for your own eyes."
A small smile came to Leo's face. "Thanks. Only you would bust out some literature at a time like this."
His brother just smiled and let him continue his trek. Soon he was out of sight, searching for something he knew was there, but could not see.
there'll be candles
And prayers that are said I know
But let them not weep
Let them know that I'm glad to go
He knelt at the unmarked grave. It was small, too small for a human body, and too narrow. It was placed along the edge of the cemetery, away from all the other plots, close to the roots of a large tree so he knew that it would not be disturbed with future funerals.
No, this adversary's body had been taken away, and was possibly buried in Japan now. If it had been or not, he did not know, and he had no wish to know.
He didn't need to look around to know he was alone. His brothers respected him in his wishes to be here in private.
Sighing, he knelt at the 'foot' of the grave, and looked at the flowers in his hand. Sometimes his brothers acted more as an extension to parts of his personality that he refused to explore, and sometimes the things they accomplished astounded him. He would have never thought of flowers. He should have, but didn't. And this he was not surprised that Michelangelo knew he had forgotten, had anticipated it, and had had it covered for him. Out of all his brothers, sometimes Mikey had enough compassion to cover everyone.
He set the flowers against the roots of the tree and sat back.
That day, he could have easily not met the challenge. He had no need to lead his brothers into battle that day. They didn't need to go, but they did anyway without question. They knew, as his brother Donatello had just summarized, that the matter needed closure. All that fighting needed to end in an honorable duel, to show those with doubts and shady loyalties, the naysayers and renegades, just where the true laws of this conflict lie.
And to end it once and for all.
They had fought their way against all those odds to the top, where it was decreed that the winner of the duel would be the true victor in all their conflicts, and their wishes would be law.
If Leonardo won, the Foot would disband and leave America.
Out of all his brothers, sometimes Leonardo believed the one most perceptive to his true nature was Raphael. Through all their battles, he came to realize they were not wholly dissimilar. While Raphael said what he meant and acted on it, Leo was content to think it through, and filter it through his education and training. That didn't mean he thought it any less. And that didn't mean he didn't agree. Raphael knew at once that there was no hope for a true alliance between them and the Foot, no matter who donned the Shredder's mantle. Leonardo knew it as well, only he chose to refuse to believe it.
Why did he waste all that time, refusing to believe that despite everything he knew, everything he believed in, and everything he was taught, that she, of all people, could also just go against everything she knew and believed in and was taught?
Why could he ever hope so blindly?
He knew it had to end in death. He would not allow her to be defeated in dishonor, because he knew it was her duty to come at them again, seeking back her honor.
Either he had to be destroyed in honorable battle, or she had to be destroyed in honorable battle.
To quell the missions of their ancestors once and for all.
For in death I'm caressing you
With the last breath of my soul
I'll be blessing you
Both adopted children, each innocently brought into the call of duty of those before them.
Which they obeyed out of gratitude and love.
He sighed. "To say so many what if's, and know that things would be so different, and yet so impossible, would be foolish. If the things that led us each here had never happened, we would have never met.
"I know that without our duty, we could have been great friends. Or more."
He sighed. "Perhaps we were."
He thought of her standing there, in the Shredder's main hall. She did not wear the Shredder's mantle this time. They had defeated that evil, and there was no point to resurrecting its likeness. On her breast emblazoned the emblem of the Foot; the righted mark of the dragon.
She stood with katana ready. He had one also, and no medallion. About them sat the Elite Foot, and Leonardo's family. Hun was also there, although his ties with the Foot were nearly gone as it was. He was only there out of respect for his former master. They knew it took all his self control to not attack.
"If I am the victor," she said, announcing it to the room. "The Foot shall remain in New York, and continue operations in manufacturing and business acquisitions, as well as private contracts not of a petty nature. We will swear against the criminal ways of my master, but will require no interference of any kind."
Leonardo had weighed the consequence of his defeat. He and his family had no reason to trust that word, but if he lost, they would be bound to it.
"If I am the victor," he said. "The Foot must leave America all together, and cease all operations here."
Simple, yet costly to what was not only a ninja clan, but also a business.
Somehow, however, he knew she was less against his terms than he was of hers.
They faced each other and bowed. At that moment, he knew that after then, they would no longer see each other. Someone would go home alive, and someone would go home in a box.
"Oruku Karai," he had spoken. "I have fought many foes. Out of all of them, you are the only truly worthy adversary." He had wanted to say more, but couldn't. Not in front of all those people.
She had smiled. "Likewise, Hamato Leonardo."
And then, they charged
each other. Dreaming, I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep
In the deep of my heart here
He grimaced and looked away from the flowers. As they had fought, their eyes met with determination mixed with mourning.
Mourning for each other. Mourning for their own hopes in making each other see their side. Mourning because they were doomed to fight that fight before they were born.
But he remembered most the sounds of their swords clashing in dead silence. Those who respected them the most – his brothers, Dr. Chaplan and her personal guard – could only sit and watch. They could do nothing to destroy what had to be done.
They fought knowing they did not want to fight each other. Textbook moves. And then he had caught the sight of his family sitting there. He remembered all the battles they had fought together. He remembered the time…they had nearly been defeated at the hands of Karai.
She had looked upon the symbol of the Foot, remembering that her father was banished because of them, and they had stolen the Heart of Tengu from her.
And Leonardo had left her time and time again in dishonor.
Their swords had met with one final, painfully slow KLANG .
And then the battle was truly on.
They went from perfect footwork and moves to testing with strength, each one crashing against the other's swords with power hacks and slashes, and then backing it up with speed…
They were of equal skill. Everyone knew this. What they didn't know as the battle would leave the center of the room and explore all facets of the space – ricocheting bodies against walls and soaring through the air, swords slicing into the wooden support beams, swords flying past heads.
Every punch he landed, she returned with an equal kick. For each slice she made in his arm or leg, he returned in her side or shoulder.
After they advanced or changed their technique, they paused and charged again. They were dripping with blood, running through it, smearing it on their faces and hands. Even the onlookers were not lucky enough to be saved from a flinging spray of blood flying from the tip of a katana.
If they had said anything amongst themselves, Leonardo had not heard it.
Hours seem to pass as they wore each other down. Soon they could barely stand, staggering here and there, their moves less flashy, more hurried, more desperate.
They closed in, the swords met, and slid apart.
Hers ran him through at the shoulder.
His sliced through her chest, severing her heart in two.
She was dead before he pulled the katana out.
That my dream never haunted you
My heart is telling you
How much I wanted you
Leonardo smiled and touched his shoulder. Underneath the black coat, he was stitched and bandaged. She had nearly nicked his artery. He would have bled to death, and their duel would have been a tie.
His body was marked with the scars from their many battles, and now bore new wounds that would heal into deeper scars.
His mind and spirit was also marked, but the scars were not so bad, and did not hurt. They were the kind of scars a person liked to have on his soul, the kind that developed what sort of man he grew into.
Her personal guard had awarded him with her sword, still stained with his blood.
The next day, the Foot were gone.
They never came back.
Karai had righted her father's many wrongs with her death, but he knew she did not just let him win.
But she knew all this and more. He knew she knew when he saw her green eyes flashing at his during the duel. For all the maturity she helped him gain during the time they knew each other, he had returned the favor.
He had felt compelled to provide for her a funeral, even without a body. He had come here and dug the hole, and placed the katana in it, wrapped in silk.
Leonardo stood. The weather matched his mood as it began to pour down rain steadily, but the only thing he felt sorry for was the things destiny could not allow. But he could not change that.
Only fools sat and dwelled on the way things might have been.
"Thank you, Karai," he said softly. "For everything."
At the gates he saw his brothers sitting on the sidewalk curb, waiting. They stood as he landed on the concrete near them. "You guys were here the whole time?"
"Basically," Mikey said.
"You alright bro?" Raph asked.
Leonardo looked them all in the eye as they stood there, green men bundled in mismatched winter finery. Donnie held an umbrella over all their heads.
They looked to him in question, as not if to merely ask how he was.
But also to know how things would be.
He could not let this cloud of uncertainty frighten him, and thus, frighten his brothers.
"Yes," he said. "Everything is fine."
They exchanged glances, relieved.
"Let's go home, guys."