Book One; A Light in the Dark

Epilogue; New Beginnings

The grave yard was quite as Theresa Colden walked up the slopping hill, past the marble grey headstones to the place where her brother lay. Her grey scarf whipped in the harsh wind, and beyond her she could hear the blaring of car horns and the tinkling of bells. Months, over two, had gone by since the night Theresa had been saved from the clutches of Ethan Shempski- only to learn that her brother had died at the hands of Benito Escobar. The memories, though laced with a few happy moments, were too painful to relive for long. But with the grave in front of her, plotting out her brothers short life in glaring mockery, she could not help but let her mind stray to that awful day.

She'd been deliriously happy, saved from Ethan (though the memory was harrowing) and held tightly by Raphael. Raphael ,who was telling her he loved her. Raphael, who was telling her he'd do anything for her, go anywhere with her. That he was hers, and he'd spent the rest of his life making up for the mistakes he'd made- as long as she'd spend it with him.

And then Leo, followed hesitantly by Don, had entered the room. Raphael had told her what they were off doing, retriving her brother and Corbin. She hadn't thought much of it then, but it had taken one look into Leonardo's remorseful eyes to know what had happened.

"…No. Leo, no." Her hands were shaking.

Leo stared at her for a beat and shook his head. Theresa could feel the tears welling, and she remembered trying to stand, only to be stopped by Raphael's strong hand holding her back.

"No… Leo…. Leo, not Tommy."

Leo, of course, did not bear good news. "…I'm sorry Theresa. Really, I'm sorry-"

Her wail had cut him off. The pain, worse than any of the injuries obtained by force earlier in the night, shocked through her like a knife. She clutched at her chest, shaking her head and crying over and over, "No… No, no, no."

Raphael held her close, rocking her, Leo apologized numerous times, and Michelangelo- awakened by her cries- rushed into the room from his dead sleep, keeling next to the bed and holding her shoulder.

The rest was a blur. Leo explained what had happened as best he could, explained how Donatello had entered the warehouse to find Tommy already dead, and Corbin near it. How Leo had come to his rescue just in time, and how Benito Escobar was currently growing cold in the abandoned warehouse on Third and St. Claire. His death had done so very little to warm Theresa's heart. It did not bring back her brother.

Leonardo and Donatello had taken Corbin down from his shackles and called 911, making an anonymous plea of distress. They had waited in the shadows until the ambulance had come, and then had slipped away with Justin Hunt, who they had dropped off back at the law office- left to pick up any loose ends and try to wrap his head around the events of the night.

Many things had happened after that. She'd gone to stay with Amy, providing not only and alibi, but constant medical attention and a reason to explain why she was not in her apartment when the pawn shop had caught fire. Amy had done an alright job at cutting the duct tape out of her hair, having to shorten it to a chin length bob. She'd worn long sleeves and liberal amounts of foundation, so that when the police officers had finally tracked her down at Amy's a day later, she'd looked a semblance of herself. And when they told her that her brother was dead, the cries of anguish were not feigned.

Tommy was buried in the fall, Theresa holding her father's hand as he cried for the first time she ever recalled, her mother a hollow and shocked shell beside him. The crisp October air- normally a welcomed by Theresa- would be marred for years as it carried the memory of her brother. And when Halloween arrived Theresa cried with fresh waves of pain.

In her Twenty-Six years, it was the first birthday that he'd ever missed.

Thomas Colden had been a mediocre Brother at best, but that had not lessened her love, nor her hurt at his passing.

Corbin, even all these months later, was still in the hospital- though- no longer was he in intensive care. It had been so touch and go for so long that there had been a time when Amy had come to the lair and told them to prepare themselves for the worst. But Corbin had somehow pulled through. However, with the granting of life there also had come a price. The man was barely recognizable in appearance. While the left side of his face held the same handsome features, it was overshadowed by the fact that his right side was a mangled mess. The blade Benito had ran from temple to chin down Corbin's face had paralyzed it permanently. When he smiled, only the left side of his face reacted. His lips would turn, his eye would crinkle and his cheek would dimple. But only on his left side. The rest was dead. His lips downcast and unmoving, his cheeks slack, his right eye blurred in vision and drooping slightly. All of this was punctuated with the deeply set scarring of where the knife had made it journey down Corbin's face.

It had horrified Theresa to see the man, though she'd hidden it well. He'd been told he'd need to walk with a cane, that he'd have a constant limp. He'd broken a number of ribs, his shoulder had been pulled out of its socket and the collar bone had been broken. He'd had a concussion and lacerations (he'd joked that he looked like Frankenstein's Monster- with so many stitches) and bruising was found all over his body. His kidneys had suffered from the continuous blows to it, and a knee cap had been all but shattered.

But he was alive, and happy to be so. Though he still, these months later, refused to look into a mirror.

Ethan Shempski remained a mystery to everyone but herself, the turtles, Corbin and Justin Hunt. Ethan's car had turned up in the river weeks later, but not his body. The entire law office had been questioned, including Theresa, but no detective or beat cop had ever hinted of suspecting her in any way to his disappearance, and Theresa found herself less and less worried about it. His case had been cold and untouched for weeks now. No one missed the man, and certainly no one missed the monster in him either.

Meeting Splinter had been a happy highlight in the sad months. He seemed so fail and worn, but he was a wealth of genuine happiness and comfort. He had provided her with welcoming arms, kind words, and a ready shoulder to cry on and ear to lend. She'd spent hours with him, both with and without Raphael. He listened to her woes, mostly concerning Tommy, and he'd relived moments in Raphael's past- telling her more of his childhood antics. Some of the stories had caused Raphael to turn a shade of red she hadn't though would be possible with his complexion.

Theresa learned that Splinter had been practically bed ridden for months now, plagued with a fever he couldn't seem to shake, and arthritis that had crippled his knees.

And that's when she'd added him into her plan for the future. She had spoken with him a couple of times already, asking his opinion and thoughts on the idea, and his response was the same. "If Leonardo will agree, so will I."

Theresa sighed and pushed these thoughts aside. They'd be decided soon enough. She touched the headstone with gloved fingers. A light dusting of snow had begun to fall, and Theresa could see her own breath as she exhaled.

Christmas. It was three days until Christmas.

This threatened to break her resolve not to cry. She held it together, though she'd needed to take several deep breaths to calm herself. She hadn't cried in weeks and something inside her willed her to keep it that way- at least for a while.

She leaned down and arraigned the bouquet of roses and poinsettias she'd brought for the grave. Then, with another sigh and a murmured "I love you," she was gone, headed back to her car (a new but gently used Lexus RX SUV) where Raphael waited for her.

"You alright?"

Theresa shrugged. "I guess, Raph."

Raphael gave her a sad smile, squeezed her knee, and pulled away from the graveyard. Theresa took his hand and let herself drift into an exhausted slumber, her head resting on his shoulder as he navigated the streets of Manhattan.

Michelangelo felt that so much had happened as of late, it was enough to make his head spin. The death of Jade and betrayal of his brother had been enough to keep him on his toes for quite a long time. And then there had come Theresa and her own plight, mixed with the new face of Corbin, the death of Tommy and Benito, and his own murdering of Ethan Shempski. He was sure he was due for a long period of his life to be stress free, and drama free as well. Say, maybe, the rest of his life.

But Raphael was leaving the lair. And so, apparently, was Splinter. Drama free was not in the cards for Michelangelo.

"Repeat yourself," Leonardo was saying, his hands gripping the kitchen table so tightly Mikey thought the wood may crack under his grip.

"Theresa bought April's farmhouse. … I'm going with her Leo… And I think Splinter should come too."

All the eyes of his brothers were on Raphael, either hostile or confused. Theresa sat next to Raph, her eyes carefully avoiding anyone else's. Michelangelo knew her hand was clutching Raphael's under the table, and he ignored the stab of pain that ran through him at the thought. He thought she looked pale and sad, but better- markedly better- than she had in the last few months. As much as he'd disliked Tommy, Michelangelo knew his death had driven a void into Theresa's heart.

"… Leaving? …Take Splinter. …Raph… What are you talking about? You can't leave."

Leo had gone from looking angry, to looking hurt, and Mikey visibly flinched at the sight. Leo was strong. He was the leader. Leo was never supposed to look like he did now.

"Leo… I'm not leaving you guys behind… not like April did. It's just a half hour or so away-"

Theresa's raised brow and look that clearly said, "Oh please," made Raphael amend, "Ugh, alright, so it's more like an hour. Point is, it ain't like I'm never gonna be here again. We'll both travel here, and you guys can come all the time. Once a week for each of us at least. But… we're leaving, nothin' changes that. And… Leo, I think you should consider lettin' Splinter come."

Leo, still working through what Mikey was sure he felt was a slap in the face, scowled at Raphael. "Why?" he demanded, his jaw working in what had now made its way to anger.

Raphael took a deep breath, and Michelangelo knew he was counting to ten, trying to hold back his famous temper. It almost made him smile, knowing his brother was doing this for the benefit of Theresa.

"Cause, Leo, he's sick. He's had pneumonia twice now, and the arthritis is spreading fast. The heat here hardly ever works, the air is stuffy, an' the water is grime. …Leo, you know he'd do better at the farm. He'd have his own area set up, and you know I'd take care of him."

Leonardo looked lost, the anger fading back to the hurt look Mikey so hated. "But Amy… Amy looks after him. Amy gets his medicine…"

Even to Michelangelo this sounded like grasping.

Raphael looked like they had come to the part he'd dreaded saying the most. "Leo… I've talked to Amy. She knows she can come any time, and me too. I'll still get him all his medicine." And then, as if to add salt to the wound, Raphael said, his voice full of compassion and understanding, "Leo… you know I'd take care of Dad."

Leonardo looked utterly beat down, his eyes wild with desperation and worry, trying desperately to think of a way to grab the strings of logic that were slipping through his fingers. "But… I take care of him… I-"

He went to continue, but Donatello cut him off. "Leo, no one is saying you're doing a bad job, but maybe we should think about this. Studies have shown that rural living, like what the farm provides, keeps the ill healthier. Plus, Raphael is right. This is no place to try and recover. No matter what you do, it's not going to help when you're down here."

As if to punctuate this point, there was a rattle and screech right before the heat abruptly stopped working. Donny raised his eyeridge at Leo as if to say, "see." And then he was up and off to fix the ancient and decrepit heating system.

Michelangelo decided then to put in his two cents. "Leo, as much as I hate to agree with him," Mikey nodded towards the retreating Donatello, "Splinter isn't getting' any better down here. And… Leo… everyone moves out. You can't expect them to live like this forever." He gestured abound the lair to accentuate what he'd said. "This is what starting a life is, bro. Not stayin' in the sewer forever."

There was quite that followed this, Theresa still looking at her lap, worrying her bottom lip as it stretched.

Finally Leonardo stood. "… I'll think about it. I need to talk to Sensei."

He left then, his shoulders stiff with tension as he walked away and disappeared into Splinter's room.

"That went well, yeah?" Michelangelo asked, grinning at the two and tipping back his chair. Theresa finally looked over to him, her short hair (now shoulder length and framing her face) suiting her just as well as her long locks had.

"Oh hush you," she said, scowling at him. But her lips twitched as she said it, and Mikey was happy to see her joke with him after so much misery.

Raphael groaned and laid his head on the table. "I hate this. I hate hurtin' Leo like that."

This admission was so out of character that Mike sat upright, the smile clearing from his face.

"Dude," he began, "You're right. Sensei shouldn't be here. … He'll see. And we know you'll come visit. … I'm gonna miss you two."

Mikey smacked his brother's arm in a gruff show of affection, and Raphael lifted his head and smirked.

"Yeah, Theresa wants to tell you somthin' too."

Mikey raised an eye ridge and looked to his brothers' girlfriend (and it helped to keep thinking of her that way). "Oh?"

Theresa threw a sidelong glance at Raphael before saying, "Mike… I think… Well, I mean, I want you to move into my apartment. … If you want."

There was silence that followed before Michelangelo finally broke it. "…What?"

Theresa laughed nervously. "You can pay me rent when you can. I'll take care of getting everything to the landlord. But I wanted to keep it anyway, for when we visit. …And, I think maybe you'd like being away from here."

Raphael, though he seemed reluctant to encourage her, added, "As much as Leo would hate it right now, she's not gonna let you say no. She knows you hate it down here bro. And Mike… I mean, she really will just be paying for an empty apartment, even if you don't live there. You might as well…" He left the last bit hanging in the air, shrugging his shoulders.

Mikey's head swirled. Leave? He could leave?

"I don't know Theresa-"

He was cut off by her sliding a set of keys to him. "It's yours Mike," she said. "I'll be moved out in a week. Come whenever you want. … Just promise me you'll at least think about it."

Michelangelo stared at the silver set of keys in front of him. Freedom was in his reach.

"I'll do it," he heard himself rasp, touching the keys lightly before grapping them into his palm. He looked up to Theresa. "I'll pay you. I promise I'll figure out a way to pay you."

Theresa smiled and stood, walking around the table, and Michelangelo stood as well and pulled her into his arms.

"Thanks, kid," he said softly, holding her tightly, the keys clutched so tightly that he was leaving an indentation in the palm of his hand.

"I know you need this," she said, pulling back. "Consider it a Christmas gift. … Along with what I actually got you."

"Oooh, wha'd ya get me?" Mikey waggled his brows, and Theresa snorted and shook her head.

"We'll leave before you tell Leo," Raphael said, standing and taking Theresa's hand. "Maybe wait a day or two before you tell him?"

Mikey laughed, and it was full of happiness and humor. "Will do," he replied, and he smiled as they retreated.

It was then, as the door shut behind them, that Michelangelo realized he could start living.

That he could breath.

The End of Book One; A Light in the Dark

Authors Note; Dear readers, I thank you. Errors to be fixed later. Look for Book Two to come soon(ish). Until then, reviews are loved.