"Well, look at what the mutants dragged in."
"Very funny, MJ," I remark tiredly, closing the door behind me. I'm still wearing Cyclops' clothes, and there's nothing I want to do more than take them off, jump in the shower, and sleep for about fifteen years. "I'm gonna take a shower," I tell my wife as I pass by her on the sofa. "If I fall asleep, wake me before I drown."
MJ gently grabs my arm. Though she doesn't pull, the touch alone is enough to make me lose my balance and collapse next to her on the sofa. "Did you find out what was up with Donatello?" I stare at her blankly before realizing that, as far as she last knew, this whole thing was about a missing turtle.
"Yeah," I mutter, deciding to lean against her. "Found Donnie. Found Leo. Joined forces with the X-Men. Saved Don, Mike, and Raph from demons. Put Rogue, Kurt, and Leo in mortal danger. An evil Michelangelo blew up a hallway in Xavier's, then performed a ritual that fulfilled an ancient prophecy. Un-evilified Mikey. Got kidnapped by Apocalypse. Rescued by the X-Men. Trapped Apocalypse in the Astral Plane. Sent Don, Splinter, and Gambit to the swamp. Found out Kurt and Rogue are okay. Now waiting to see if Leo's life can be saved through the aid of biochemical gumbo."
MJ gawks at me for a moment before raising an eyebrow. "So, just another typical day at the office, huh?" Despite wanting to pass out, I laugh and nod my head.
"I'm gonna go take that shower," I tell her as I stagger onto my feet. "After washing off the blood and the muck, I'm gonna sleep 'til dinnertime. Can I expect another gourmet meal from Jack's Pizzeria?"
"Only the best for you, Tiger," she remarks dryly.
Inside the bathroom, I start taking off Cyclops' clothes. Boy, does it feel weird to think that, I say to myself. Somehow, I already feel less tense. Maybe it isn't so much Cyclops' personality that's defunct as it is that his wardrobe makes it seem like he's got a stick up his jeans.
Looking in the mirror, I can see the angry red burn mark from Apocalypse's energy blast to the back of my shoulder. I'm going to need MJ to rub some ointment over that later. Amazingly, it's the only battle wound I've got. I don't even have a bruise from Sinister's metal beam clamping down on me. Another example Spider-Man's superpowers, or plain old Parker's natural resilience? The world may never know.
Shower. Warm shower. I always feel relaxed when I'm in the shower. It almost makes me forget that Kurt is still bedridden and there are three traumatized turtles in the Institute and that Leo's life depends on swamp stew. Almost.
I dimly hear the phone ring in the next room, but I don't pay any attention to it. It's just hard not to think about the possible lasting consequences of the past night. What if Leo doesn't make it? Can the turtles really… really live without their brother? I mean, from what I've seen, Leo was the mediator, the leader, the one that kept them together. If he goes… what will the turtles' lives be like? Maybe they'll finally accept Cyclops' invitation to stay with them in the Institute, I ponder. Maybe they'll even become full-fledged X-Men. It'll take a while, yeah, and the training's probably going to be a whole lot different than the ninjutsu stuff that they're used to-
"Peter?" Turning my head, I'm surprised to see MJ's silhouette on the other side of the shower curtain. "That was Hank McCoy on the phone." I pull the shower curtain back just enough to look at her face. I'm not liking the straight expression she's giving me.
"He said a lot of stuff that I didn't quite get," she tells me. "You know how Hank is. Anyway, he thought you should know that Leo seems to be having an allergic reaction to the medication, and so the rashes don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon."
I apparently have a rather unhappy look on my face, because she quickly puts her hand on my arm. "Hey, no. It's okay. Despite the allergy, the antibiotics are doing their job. From what he can tell, it doesn't look like Leo's in any serious danger anymore. He'll be sick for another couple of weeks, but Hank's predicting that he should be fine after that."
It's all I can do to gape at her for a little bit. I hadn't put it past Fate to throw another curveball. Every time the danger seemed to back off over the past two days, there'd be a new twist to the situation. If it wasn't missing turtles, it was demons. If it wasn't demons, it was Apocalypse. If it wasn't Apocalypse, it was putting our faith in one of the most untrustworthy mutants to ever be called an X-Man. So though I kind of expected for Leo to have adverse effects to the meds at this point, I never really pinned much hope on him… surviving. Wow, it feels weird to admit that I underestimated a ninja. I thought I was smarter than that.
"Thanks, MJ," I finally tell her. "I think I'll rest easier knowing that."
MJ gives me a small laugh as she replies, "Don't rest yet, Tiger. Hank says that, according to Donatello, Leonardo's allergy to the antibiotics is so severe that it's even worse than when Mikey had the flu, whatever that means. Emma claims that it's your fault the turtles are even there in the first place, so she feels like leaving you with the cleaning bill." Oh. That Emma.
With a chuckle, I respond, "Miss Frost knows where she can stick her stupid cleaning bill."
"Knock-knock. Anybody home?"
Raphael jumps as I swing into the lair, almost spilling his can of soda. "Jeez, Spidey," he growls. "Give a guy directions to your pad, and he just marches on in without even knockin'. What the heck do ya think you're doin', you maniac?"
"Oh, you're calling me a maniac," I tell him, crouching on the back of the easy chair. "That's rich, Raph. Besides, if someone really wanted to stop me, I'd have tripped off some alarm, just like every other time I've ever set foot in the sewers. So I'm guessing that Don considers mine to be a friendly face." Glancing at the abandoned workstation in the corner, I ask, "Hey, where is the little genius, anyway?"
"Sittin' up with Leo," comes the answer. "The stupid gumbo's still managin' to do crazy things with his stomach, and it's Donnie's turn to clean up the mess. Personally, I think Mikey should have to do all the cleanin'. That way he'll know what we felt like durin' the big Mikey Flu of 1999."
"Your kindness and empathy never cease to amaze me, my friend," I tell him. Flipping onto the floor, I start heading up towards the bedrooms as I take an envelope out of my jacket pocket. "I'm going to drop in and say hi. Got this get-well card for him that some of the X-Men sent me. You guys should really look into getting a P.O. Box for all of your fan mail." Raphael mutters something as he turns back to the video game he had been playing.
Upstairs, I peek into the partially-opened door of Leo's room. I can see Don sitting at Leonardo's bedside, and it looks like he's passing a damp cloth over Leonardo's forehead. It's been almost two weeks since Leo's been supposedly "cured" of the septicemia, and he's still ill. Hank let him go home after three days, stating that he's no longer on the verge of dying, but… I really wish they had a good healthcare program down here in the sewers.
"Spying, buddy?" I look back to see Michelangelo directly behind me, watching me as I tried to listen in on the soft murmurings between his two brothers. "I would've figured you one for privacy instead of—hey! What'cha got there?" He points to the envelope I have in my hand.
"A get-well card," I tell him. "Kitty sent it over, but it's signed by most of the people you guys interacted with during our little demon-y excursion. Even Gambit jotted something down, according to Kitty's letter."
"Yeah?" Mikey asks, somewhat hopefully. "So, uh… that Gambit guy… he really Rogue's boyfriend? I mean… they didn't seem to get along much, and she, uh… you know…."
It takes me a moment to get what he's trying to say. When I finally do, I smack my forehead with the heel of my hand. "What, you too? Man, those X-Gals must've put something in the water." Looking at him seriously now, I tell him, "Mikey, you know it'll never work, right?"
"Why not?" Mike protests. "She's a mutant. I'm a mutant. We already have more in common with one another than we do with the rest of the world!" I'm about to consider his point, but I quickly come to my senses.
"Mikey, you can't touch her," I tell him firmly
"Why not?" Mike asks.
"Because if you touch her, she'll absorb all your energy."
I blink at him, thoroughly amused by the fact that another turtle would take a liking to one of the X-Men. Of course, I'm attributing it to the fact that Rogue possibly unintentionally left behind a bit of herself in Mike's psyche, but I'm not going to tell him that so bluntly. "Mike," I say gently. "How are you going to have a relationship with a girl that can kill you with a single touch?"
He seems to think about it for a moment, then gets a wizened look on his face. "Very, very carefully," he answers. I can't help it. I burst out laughing. Mike joins in, and I can see that he was either just jiving me or he understands why him and Rogue would be a no-no.
"Sounds like a party." Mikey and I turn to see that Donatello had been alerted by our laughter and is now leaning against the doorframe. He looks thoroughly exhausted, but I'm happy to see that there are no obvious signs of any real shock or trauma from his recent experiences. "Someone want to let me in on the joke, or is it all a conspiracy to drive me crazy?"
"It's just Mike being… Mike," I reply. Holding up the envelope, I add, "Got a card for Leo from the X-Men. According to Kitty, they wanted to send along their well-wishes and all of that kind of stuff. She asked after you." I add in the last part just to see his response, even though it was actually true.
"She did?" Don asks. "Really? I mean, that's nice." Michelangelo chuckles at him, causing Donatello to flush. "Yeah, laugh it up, Mikey. At least I can actually touch her." Muttering now, he throws in, "And so can her colossal boyfriend."
"Nice pun," I offer.
"Thanks," he answers. In a voice that's almost a whine, he asks, "Why is it that out of the few girls I actually take an interest in, every single one of them are taken by huge, bulky guys than can rupture my shell without even trying?"
With a sigh, I clap my hand on his shoulder and tell him, "Welcome to the life of Peter Parker, circa the teenaged years. It must be a budding genius thing. Don't despair, buddy. Maybe you'll end up with a hot redhead by the time you're my age, just like I did."
"Should I tell Casey that he's got competition for April now," Michelangelo questions jokingly, "or should I wait until Donnie's irresistibility blooms into full maturity?"
"Let's see who you expect to turn to the next time you break one of your gaming consoles," Donatello replies dryly. As I slip past them to head into Leo's room, Don asks, "Hey, speaking of April, Peter, are you going to her Halloween party? She said she sent you and MJ an invitation."
"Sorry, buddy," I tell him. "Not likely that I'm going to want to hear anything about Halloween for a long time, and that includes ghosts, spooks, spirits, werewolves, vampires, and most importantly, demons. The only thing might influence me to go is if April's chocolate chip cookies are going to be making an appearance." I blink, then give them both a glance. "Are they?"
"She's putting orange M&M's in them this time," Michelangelo tells me, as though relaying a sacred event.
I think about it for a moment, then proclaim, "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to make a cameo. Maybe drop in while patrolling. Halloween is one of the most dangerous nights of the year, and I need to make sure that everyone's safe, right? Besides, then I'd have a costume at the ready, anyway." I smirk as Don and Mike high-five one another just before I enter Leonardo's room.
"Hey," the sick turtle says in a voice that he's obviously trying to keep from wavering. "Thought I heard you out there. What's up? And please don't tell me that it involves more missing and/or possessed mutants."
"Leo," I laugh, stopping besides his bed, "even if it did, I wouldn't tell you. You're the type that'd still manage to jump up and grab your swords in the hopes of saving the day, no matter what you feel like." He gives me a weak smile in response.
His eye mask is hanging on the bedpost, since it looks like he still has a case of the sweats. I gingerly reach out a hand for it and quietly tell him, "To be brutally honest, I didn't even think I'd be talking to you two weeks after that whole mess. I did some research once I got home; septicemia and stomatitis are two of the deadliest diseases a turtle can have… never mind getting them in conjunction. Hearing your voice right now… I consider that something of a miracle. I just don't know whether to thank science or the Man Upstairs."
He stays quiet for a moment. I suddenly realize that I don't really know what these guys think of religious concepts. I mean, their very existence kind of points to most of the common religions getting something wrong, since none of them account for turtles mutated by extraterrestrial ooze.
Leo surprises me when he answers, "Well, no matter how you look at it, one of those must have given rise to the other. Spirituality and science are more interconnected than most people tend to believe. I mean, my brothers and I were possessed by both supernatural entities and corrupted genetic material. And that stuff that Dr. McCoy and Leatherhead fed me was a prime example of alternative medicine proving to be more advanced than its backwater roots would make it seem. The point isn't to know who or what to thank; it's to know that you have something to be thankful for. Just like when I went after Logan after seeing what he did to Kurt. I didn't know who or what I was fighting against… I just knew that I needed to fight someone for the sake of everyone else in the room."
I don't say anything right away. Leonardo looks at me, expecting some response. Finally, I run a hand through my hair and say, "Wow, Hank was right. You really do have a martyr complex." This gets a laugh out of him, so I change the philosophical conversation into a more straightforward one. "Dropped by to hand deliver a note from the X-Folks."
I give him the envelope, which he accepts with a shaky hand. I debate with myself whether or not to offer to open it for him, but I decide that he wouldn't accept my assistance anyway. Nice guy, that Leo, but a bit on the stubborn side.
He finally manages to open the card and reads it. Looking at the cover, I see a lot of blue and purple, both of which I know to be Kitty's favorite colors. Note to self: remember to use that in an elaborate joke against Donatello. Note to self, part two: remember to let Mikey in on the joke.
"That's sweet," Leonardo says as he finishes reading the card. Putting it down on the nightstand besides him, he adds, "Please be sure to thank them for me. It'll probably be a while before I'm in any mindset to send an appropriate reply."
I nod. "No problem. But hey, you need to get better soon. How do you expect to live it up at April's Halloween shindig if you're going to need your brothers taking care of you the entire time?" He cringes a little, as though not believing that I'd actually mention Halloween after the entire fiasco with that stupid store.
"It's funny," Leonardo suddenly murmurs. "This is the first time I've ever gotten a get-well card. I mean, I know I'm not invincible or anything, but… it's just funny how quickly the tables turn sometimes. One minute I'm running into a laboratory ready to take my three brothers back from a madman's clutches, and the next… I find myself having more and more unwanted intimate encounters with the contents of my stomach."
"How poetic," I smirk.
"I agree," he says with a smile. "But seriously… this has definitely been a growing experience for all of us, in some way or the other. I'm dealing with frailty, Don's learned to deal with fear, Mike—despite whatever I try to tell him—is coping with guilt, and Raph… well, Raphael never really learns from his mistakes. That may be why he continually eavesdrops on conversations, thinking that no one notices."
Peering behind me, I see Raphael standing by the doorway. If he had been trying to hide himself before, he clearly decided to come out once he picked up that Leo was on to him. "Har, har," he grunts, taking a small step into the room. "It ain't like I do it all the time, y'know. Especially not to you. Ya ain't that interestin'." Pointing to the card that Leonardo put down, he asks, "That from the X-Men?"
"Yeah," I reply. "By the way, Wolverine's been asking about you. He's still convinced that you broke something in your body and are just way too proud to admit it. After all, even he would need medical attention if a giant metal man started pummeling him just before he takes a beating from Apocalypse. So yeah… any snide remarks you want me to send back to him?"
Raphael looks at me for a moment, then glances down at Leonardo. After a while, he meets my eyes again. "Yeah," he tells me. "Tell 'im… I said thanks." I ask him what the thanks are for, but he's already slipping out of the room. "He'll know," is the only answer I get.
Leonardo and I remain in silence, staring towards the doorway. At long last, Leo proclaims, "Well, I think I now know what Raphael's managed to glean from all of this."
"What's that?" I ask.
I look down at Leonardo. He looks me in the eye. Could it be that two of the most bloodthirsty, psychopathic mutants I've ever met have actually formed a close enough friendship with one another to help one of them learn about humbleness? Could Logan's age and experience really have shown Raphael what he stood the risk of becoming if he didn't learn to control his rage? Without missing a beat, Leonardo and I both say, "Nah."
With a wave, I tell Leonardo that I had to get going. "Gonna look into spending some actual time with MJ this weekend. She bet I couldn't spend more than two nights without changing into uniform and disappearing on her."
"What do you get if you win the bet?" Leonardo asks.
I cough and offer him an awkward grin. "You're too young to know. Maybe when you're older, yeah?" Either because he had overheard my conversation with his brothers about their newfound crushes or because he's not as innocent as he'd like the rest of the world to believe, Leo rolls his eyes at me, knowing full well what I'm talking about. "I'll keep in touch, buddy. You just focus on keeping your gumbo down from now on."
Leaving the room, I jump down to the main floor. Mike and Raph are arguing over whose turn it is to play their video game of choice, and are now a tangle of green flesh and controller wires. Don spares them a quick glance as he types in some kind of long code in his computer, using a system that I've never seen before in my life. I can smell burning incense from behind a traditional Japanese sliding door that I assume to be Splinter's room, and I know he's going to get pretty upset if his sons distract him from his meditation. Yeah, for the first time in a while, things are starting to get a little normal down here.
Now if only I can convince MJ to wear that "special" costume to April's party….
Author's Note: And thus ends the story that took more plot twists than... something that has a lot of plot twists. Thanks to those of you who've managed to read through this complex little tale of mine ("little" might not be the best of words, since it's one of my longest fanfictions). I think I've actually found a little crossover niche, so there will probably be more TMNT/Marvel stories from me in the future. For now, I hope you enjoyed this one. Take care!