Ahaha ... yes, writer's block is evil. Up until recently I've also been working three jobs and attempting to make major life decisions as well as learning a whole new world of Latin and Japanese, as it were. (I'm sorry, readers! Do you still exist?)
Anyhoo, I present to you more Legacy. And hopefully it won't be as long before the next chapter. Enjoy! (Or throw things. One or the other.)
Michelangelo had spent most of his day being bored out of his mind, eventually deciding to risk The Wrath Of Raph by gathering the pieces of his Battle Nexus Trophy (carefully gathered on several unapproved trips to the old lair, and he knew he'd never get all of it back but he could improvise) and attempting to glue the thing together in some hideous mockery of its former self. It would never look the same, and he honestly didn't care that much – the whole exercise was designed to get on Raph's nerves, after all. But he remembered thinking, at the time, that it would be so much more interesting if their lives had suddenly developed a couple of bad guys again. Two months of boredom and he was about ready to lurk in alleyways in the vague hopes of finding an unlucky mugger to play with …
This wasn't what he had in mind.
He was carefully balanced on the edge of the bed, one arm latched around Leo's shell and the other hand balanced against the back of his neck, holding his big brother as still and gently as possible so that Don could get a good look at the head wound. Mikey watched Don's face as his brother removed Leo's mask and cleaned the blood away, then laid his thumbs feather-light on the area – took reassurance from the fact that Don looked more thoughtful than worried – and tried not to look at Leo's swords, placed on the nearby table with drying blood still coating the length of one blade.
At length, Don sighed. "His skull doesn't seem to be fractured. Which makes this just a split scalp and a nasty concussion, I think."
"So that's just bad instead of horrible, right?"
Don offered him a wan smile. "Well, he's not going to appreciate being woken up every hour. Help me settle him down."
Between them they lowered Leonardo gently onto the bed. The pillow had been swathed in clean towels, courtesy of April shortly after they'd arrived. April was in the living area now, talking in low voices with Raphael and Master Splinter. Being filled in on the night's events, he guessed. Mikey retrieved the warm cloth from the bowl to wipe away the grime on Leo's face and the flecks of blood from his neck. There were flecks on his face, around his eyes, that refused to come away. It took Mikey a few seconds to realise it wasn't dirt. There were tiny spots that showed up a dull, reddish-brown against the green of Leo's skin.
Mikey wondered stupidly, just for a second, how the hell he'd failed to notice that his big brother had freckles. Then he blinked, eyes shifting back to the welts on Leo's throat. "Don?"
"Don't worry about it." Apparently, Don had already noticed.
"It's just a side effect, Mikey. The brain starves for air, the body goes into revolt." Don sounded like an absent-minded professor, carefully unwrapping the makeshift black bandaging from Leonardo's thigh. Karai's headband was crumpled on the floor by Don's feet. "The first place you can see the effects of asphyxiation on a person is around the eyes. Stress - it's just blood vessels—"
"Exploding?" Mikey supplied helpfully.
"Maybe not as dramatic as that sounds, but you get the idea. It's just a different kind of bruising. They'll fade in a few days."
The dark cloth came away, revealed finally as a torn black shirt, Foot insignia and all. Mikey spent a moment trying to remember if Karai had arrived at the roof half-naked, and then did his best to backpedal from the image that brought to mind before it scarred him permanently. Instead, he dropped his gaze to the two parallel wounds on Leo's thigh, sticky and garish with half-dried blood. The air reeked of it; with a faint sound of distaste, Don wadded the sodden shirt into a ball and threw it aside, wiping his hands on a towel as he surveyed the damage.
"Got it." Mikey set to work, cleaning away the excess blood and feeling something tight unwind within him as he did so. The double gashes were too deep for comfort and would definitely need stitching – he knew from the sounds behind him that Don was getting ready to do just that – but the bleeding had stopped. It wasn't as bad as the scene at the construction yard had made him think. He'd had images of pulling off the black cloth and finding his brother's leg held on only by a gory piece of skin. Apparently all that blood really did belong to someone else.
His eyes drifted back to the stained sword on the table. Leonardo had picked a fight with something big. And lost. And Karai had moved to …what, save him? Stop him bleeding to death, at any rate. Something was seriously weird.
He looked up to find Don had moved again, standing at his shoulder to readjust the lamp light. "Yeah?"
"Can you remember if Karai was wearing gauntlets?" Don hesitated. "You know, Shredder style?"
Mikey shrugged absently. "Dude, I can't even remember if she was wearing clothes."
Don gave him a long stare. "…Right. Well, I think we'd have noticed if she wasn't. But I'm not so sure about weapons. It was dark."
"Does it matter if she was?" The water in the bowl was clouding a dark pink; he shifted it to the table. "I mean, she never stopped being Shredder, anyway."
"I don't think she was, though. Those gauntlets kinda reflect and glint and look eeevil at night, you know? I sorta notice these things."
"This from the turtle who couldn't remember if she was naked," Don said mildly. "Not to mention it was a new moon. I don't think evil glinting would really be possible."
Mikey grinned back. Don making jokes was a good sign. He stepped back toward the table to give Don room to work, gaze drifting back to Leo's face. All in all, he decided with relief, his brother had been lucky. The sheer amount of blood at the construction yard had been terrifying, to be honest; not the sight or the smell of it, but the first horrified thought that it must all have belonged to Leo.
Lucky wasn't the right word. But Leo had been hurt worse than this in the past. Heck, they all had, by now. They pulled through; always did. A sliced leg and a concussion should be a cake walk, right? He opened his mouth to tell Don so, and then paused. Don was staring down at the twin gashes, mouth twisted into a frown. His newfound assurance vanished in a heartbeat. Trying to ignore the flip-flop of his stomach, Mikey cleared his throat.
He waited until Don blinked, lifting his head to meet his gaze, before he smiled crookedly. "You're not going to tell me he's poisoned or something, are you?"
Don looked startled. "What? No – well, I don't think so. I'm just trying to – Mikey, this injury isn't right. It's like he was hit with a hot knife or something, but that's not right either."
"What's not right?" Mikey edged back into the light, peering at the slashes. They weren't pretty in the slightest, but they seemed normal enough – in as much as maliciously inflicted wounds could be considered normal. "They're not hissing steam or anything weird, bro. You wanna enlighten me?"
"The edges are burnt."
"Here." Don lifted a finger to trace along the edge of the outer gash, across green skin. "Just a little, but you can see it if you look closely."
Mikey dutifully peered down, and then blinked, edging forward to inspect the injury at a much closer angle. Now that he was paying attention, he could see it himself – the cut skin that bordered the wounds was enflamed and slightly puckered. Burns. He stared. Images of burnt flesh the entire depth of the injury made him shudder. "Uh. That's …one hot knife."
"I'm not sure a hot knife would do that," Don said in a low voice. "Or gauntlet, or whatever he was hit with."
"Well, something obviously did. I can't see Karai or whoever laughing maniacally and trying to finish the job by trying to set Leo's leg on fire with … with candles or matches or something. Unless that was someone's really bad attempt to cauterise the wounds?"
"Is it a problem? I mean, now?"
"Not for stitching, no. I'll just need to be more careful. And it's …not much nastier than a bad sunburn, so I think it'll be …"
Don trailed off, then wiped a hand over his face tiredly. He smiled, though Mikey suspected that was more for his benefit. "I'd just really like to know what happened."
Makes two of us.
Mikey moved back out of the light without comment, retreating back to the chair near the head of the bed. He intended to take first watch, in any case. Once Don was done with the stitches, Mikey would pack him off to bed – being drugged on that roof couldn't have been a picnic for the guy, and though his hands were still steadier than Mikey's would have been, he could see the mark of exhaustion on Don's face. And Raph probably wasn't the best one to do the first round of babysitting, given his mood on the way back to the lair.
Next to him, Leo was still as the dead. Mikey swallowed.
The fact that his brother's breath still whistled faintly, past the bruised flesh of his throat, was one that he found oddly comforting.
April paused by the door, rummaging through her purse for the van keys. "I'll stop by tomorrow. Ask Don to let me know if he needs anything?"
Splinter gave a faint nod, glancing at the dark circles under the young woman's eyes. At nearly four in the morning, it was no wonder she looked asleep on her feet. He smiled apologetically. "I thank you for collecting my sons at this late hour, Miss O'Neil."
She gave him a strained nod in response. "It's no problem, Master Splinter. I'm just a little worried."
"Leonardo will recover with time," he said. "Will you be all right driving home at this hour?" He doubted very much that the evening's events had made her a target – but given their nature, he made the offer. "I can have Raphael accompany you if you wish."
"Thanks, but I'll be okay." She glanced back to the living area – at the hunched figure of Raphael in the sofa chair, still scowling at the floor – and lowered her voice. "I, uh … honestly, I think he should stay here with Leo. And Casey'll probably be home soon anyway..."
"Drive safely," he said gently.
The door closed on her smile.
Splinter waited until he could hear the soft echo of the heels fade away down the tunnel, then turned his attention back to the living area. Donatello had been and gone, reassuring them about Leonardo's state of health before trudging wearily into the darkness of his room to sleep the last of the night away. If he listened carefully, the old rat could hear the low, cheerful tones of Michelangelo holding a one-sided conversation at his brother's bedside.
He sighed. Leonardo would come through this with rest and the care of his family; Donatello would be fully recovered with a good night's sleep. Michelangelo was already taking the night's events in stride. What had really happened to his eldest son tonight could wait for another time, when Leonardo was well enough to give an accounting.
The other matter, he would have to deal with now. Before Raphael took matters into his own hands and upset the balance worse.
Raphael lifted his head, gaze wary. Splinter settled back in the chair and observed him a moment, noting the tightly coiled tension of his son's frame. He knew where Raphael's thoughts were turning, and he would need to curb them.
"You've already told me what you found tonight," he said softly. "Your encounter with the Foot, and the condition of your brother. What do you think happened before that?"
"I'm not that sure, Master Splinter." Raphael shrugged. "Far as we know, Karai called Leo out. They met. They fought. But…"
He trailed off, looking doubtful. Splinter nodded his head, deliberately casual. "Give me your best guess, my son."
Raphael scowled. "My 'best guess' is that they beat the livin' snot out of each other, sensei. But after that… or during it, I guess… there had to be someone else there. Someone gatecrashed."
"You are sure?"
"Karai is one screwed up bi--woman," Raphael said flatly. Splinter hid a smile at the near slip. "But bein' a nutcase won't make her any stronger. There's no way she coulda flung Leo through a wall like that, an' there's no way she could lose as much blood as was on the ground an' live through it."
"I see," Splinter replied, watching him. "And of course, interference by another could explain why Karai felt moved to save your brother's life."
"There is clearly more to this than what is seen at first glance, Raphael," Splinter said. "Karai has very little love for any of us, especially Leonardo. Yet she did her best to avoid having him bleed to death with what materials she had to hand."
His son's gaze dropped back down to his hands, fingers curling into fists. "Don't matter," he said in a low voice. "She still needs to answer for this."
"Perhaps she does." Splinter took a breath. "But for now, I want your word that you will stay away from Karai."
Raphael's head shot up, eyes wide in surprise. "But—"
"Your word, Raphael."
"That's not—" Raphael checked himself, lowering his voice. "Master Splinter, why? She screws our brother over and we don't even get to question her? If the Foot hurts Leo – or any one of us—"
"I'm aware that what I ask is difficult," Splinter said evenly. "You are not alone in your anger in this, Raphael."
Splinter overrode him. "There is too much confusion in what has happened tonight. But one thing is clear – whatever Karai had planned tonight, her intention was clearly not to kill Leonardo."
"You don't know that, sensei," Raphael shot back. "No offense. An' before, you said interference—"
The words were quiet. Raphael shut his mouth, eyes narrowed in thought as they stared at each other. Then he stood up, slow realisation dawning on his face.
"You know more about this than you're tellin' me," he said flatly.
Splinter sighed, reaching down for the cup of tea long gone cold on the coffee table. "No, I don't."
Raphael was no fool. "Then you suspect somethin'."
Suspicion. The only thing he had, the uneasy thought of an unforseen flaw in a plan long past. He should have been wise enough at the time to realise there could be repercussions to what had been asked. Splinter peered at the cup in his hands. He supposed he had been too worried about the dream at the time.
The thought occurred. The Ancient One should have known.
Perhaps the Ancient One had taken precautions. Or perhaps Splinter was reading too much into events and worrying over nothing.
The wounds on Leonardo's leg told him otherwise.
Splinter glanced up. Raphael looked concerned, now, the anger gone out of him. He smiled. "It is something I need to meditate on, Raphael. Suspicions can be groundless. I need the time to think this through."
Raphael sighed. "You don't want us messin' around until you know for sure whatever it is you – uh, think you know."
Splinter chuckled at that. Raphael's smile was fleeting, there and gone with an awkward shrug. "If she tries to finish what she started, I'm makin' no promises," he warned. "But until then … "
"I understand." Splinter rose to his feet, still cradling the cup. "I will accept those terms. You should sleep, my son. Tomorrow will no doubt be a long day."
Splinter took a sip of the tea and grimaced, padding quietly into his own room and sliding the door shut. He heard Raphael's heavier steps travel across the floor, crossing to the sickbay area to speak gruffly to Michelangelo and take a seat next to the bed. He suspected morning would find them both sprawled uncomfortably on the floor. He couldn't blame them.
He drank the last of the tea; cold or otherwise, he wouldn't waste it. Then he drew paper and pen from the small desk drawer and began to write; neat, careful strokes addressed to his mentor's mentor, long returned to Japan.
Sunset had brought with it the insects, which was normally his cue to seek shelter. Unfortunately, he'd been pressed into service as a pirate, and the captain – giggling, pointing at the trees – clearly had no intention of going inside. At least, not before dinner was ready. He smiled ruefully. All the training in the world, and he still couldn't avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes. He slapped one away from his jaw, and chuckled as he felt the small hand slip down over his head and follow suit – though whether Josh was trying to help him get rid of the pests or was just being a brat was up for debate.
The small boy shifted on his shoulders, swiping at another mosquito. "Bugs!"
He grinned. "A mighty foe indeed. How many, Cap'n?"
Josh didn't answer right away. He shifted the boy's weight to hold it more firmly, stepping over a fallen palm frond and winding his way through the property, moving closer to the back door. Sunset was more beautiful here, close to the ocean – the trees stretched taller, casting long shadows through the gold that constantly waved with the breeze. Even here, away from the beaches, he could smell the fresh tang of salt. He considered, not for the first time, the idea of moving down here permanently.
"Three million!" Josh declared triumphantly.
"Wow, you count fast! Think we can take 'em?"
He laughed outright. "Josh, nobody can take on three million bugs."
They were close enough now that he could hear the unmistakable chimes of the clock. Seven o'clock. Dinner time. He could just make out the sound of cutlery being set out and raised his arms, plucking his nephew down from his shoulders. "Your mom will call us in soon. Time to wash up, kiddo."
Josh pouted. "But I want to stay up on the crow."
"The crow's nest," he corrected.
His nephew brightened. "So I'm a crow?"
"If you really want to be, you can. But I'm not sure you can be a captain and a crow at the same time."
"I bet I can," Josh said proudly. "Then I can be as tall as you any time I want."
He tried not to laugh; child logic was at work in there somewhere, he knew. "Sounds like you've got quite an ambition there. Think you'll make it?"
"Yup." Set on his feet, the boy peered up at him. "Hey, Uncle Adam?"
"How come you're so big anyway?"
Adam grinned mischievously, slapping another bug away from his neck. "Lots of broccoli."
Josh stared at him in horror. Adam took pity, ruffling his nephew's hair. "Just messin' you around. But I tell you what. If …"
He trailed off.
The sun was dipping beneath the horizon, now; his brother's house was painted in shadows, the gold mixed between a darker shade than five minutes ago. It was quiet enough here that if he listened hard enough, he could hear the waves coming in at the beach, miles away.
"If?" Josh prompted.
Adam dropped his hand to the boy's shoulder, squeezing briefly. "I need you to go inside, Josh."
Josh gave him the stricken look of a child sentenced to a long night of boredom. "But Mom hasn't called us for dinner yet!"
He smiled, crouching down to meet the boy's gaze as best he could. He really was too large for his own good. "Yeah, but I need you to do me a favour. I forgot to get something from my car for your dad, and it's kind of a surprise."
"It's his birthday tomorrow," Josh said with a smug grin. "I know."
"Yeah," Adam said after a moment. "Good kid. I just need to sneak off and get it. Cover for me?"
Josh saluted him gravely. "Leave it to Captain Crow."
He waited until he was alone. Then Adam straightened once more, lifting his gaze to the tree line, the dying light no longer bright enough to hinder his eyes. He moved away from the house. Joshua was a great kid. He was also only six years old. Hopefully, young enough that Josh wouldn't stop to think that getting something from his car meant Adam would be walking in the opposite direction.
The sunlight was almost gone. He couldn't hear anything but the beach. Adam stepped between the palms, hands in pockets, voice deliberately casual. He could, after all, be dealing with something as innocent as a lost tourist. He doubted it. "Whoever you are, this is private property. Come on out."
Silence. He knew something was there. Could feel the weight of its regard, now; a cooling, prickling sensation of being watched. Behind him.
Adam kept perfectly still, eyes closed against the final rays of light as the sun sank fully over the horizon. Instead, he listened. The soft, clicking sound against the bark of the tree. The palm did not shift under its weight. The thing was light. Not human, either. He would be seriously embarrassed if it turned out to be a feral cat—
It jumped. He heard the scratch of claws across the slender tree trunk and spun, eyes open, fist hammering his attacker aside into the dirt. The blow jarred, and Adam felt a cold chill uncurl in his stomach. The thing was much, much heavier than its presence in the tree had led him to believe. In the blues and greys of twilight, he caught a glimpse of feathers and hooked features before the creature twisted to land lightly on its feet, sliding on the ground.
He didn't have time to process the strangeness of it before it struck. Too fast, springing at him like an uncoiling snake, he barely had time to ward it aside with an arm. Claws – cold, strange - raked across the flesh and he bit his lip hard, not willing to cry out and draw attention from the house.
The wounds burned.
"Demon," he said softly. An affirmation, nothing more. His hand reached for the medallion he kept, even now, tucked away under his shirt. The creature landed lightly on its feet, circling around to face him. He caught the faint glow of green, oddly familiar to him. Too bright for the darkness. Feathers fluttered outward. The thing hadn't made a sound. It watched him.
Blood trickled down his arm, warm and unseen in the dark. Adam narrowed his eyes. "What are you?"
He wasn't expecting an answer; was really only stalling, trying to centre himself enough to draw on power he hadn't needed in months. Yet the thing settled back, its gaze settling on his chest as its features worked, trying to form words with a mouth that would never be described as human. Adam took a breath, focusing, feeling the medallion grow warm under his fingers.
The demon spoke. A voice, far too familiar, twisting mockingly upward into the treble of a small child.
"I'm Captain Crow."
Adam's concentration shattered.
I'll do my best to be back before too long; but as I've neglected other projects as well I should dedicate some time to them. I'll definitely be back, though! :D Have a good week.