Yay, my first TMNT fanfic, this is so exciting!

Disclaimer: character are not mine

Hope you enjoy this; just in time for Christmas.

Abby


Christmas Goodbyes

He was leaving them, again. Why did he have to leave them? He wanted to stay with them and protect them forever. He didn't want to ever leave their sides. He knew that this was the place he was supposed to stay for the rest of his life. So why was he being told that he needed to go off and learn something new for a while? Why did his master, his own father, believe that he had nothing left to teach him?

"It is for the best, my son." Splinter's voice interrupted his thoughts, causing him to raise his eyes from the mat covered floor and look into the wise eyes of the old rat. The shimmer of pride that they normally held when directed at him was almost unnoticeable, the only emotions visible in his eyes were disappointment and sadness. Had he done something to disrespect his father and masters wishes? He couldn't remember seeing his father that upset with him since he had sent him away last time.

With an undetectable sigh Leo bowed once more bowed his head in respect.

"If it is your wish father,"

'I don't want to leave'

"Then I will leave immediately,'

'Please don't make me go'

"Yes, my son. Your brothers and I will await your return to us in a few months."

'Say I don't have to leave, please'

"Yes father."

'I'll do anything, just don't send me away'

Rising to his feet Leo turned and exited his father's chambers without another word, his silent pleas falling on deaf ears as always. He let out another silent sigh as he closed the doors and allowed his eyes to sweep the main area of the Lair. Mikey was playing his video games and loudly yelling at the screen when he was killed off or managed to kill a particularly hard enemy. Donnie was sitting at the kitchen table, fiddling with the toaster again after it had fallen victim to one of Raph's sia's when he had been feeling a little too annoyed at Mikey who had been teasing him that morning. Lastly Raph himself could be seen pounding his punching bag, releasing his pent up anger at their youngest brother. Everything was as it should have been.

Taking a deep breath Leo pushed away from the door and headed for his room where he proceeded to pack all that he would need for the coming months, including lots of warm clothing as it had started to snow above ground. With a saddening thought he realized that he would be missing out on Christmas with his family. Reaching into one of his normally empty draws he pulled out six carefully wrapped packages which he held protectively in his arms as he picked up his now packed bag; slipping the single picture in his room into his bag he left his room without another thought.

Hiding his bag in the shadows of the entrance to the Lair he was almost caught when the doors opened and April and Casey entered, arguing as usual. Hiding the smile at his good luck Leo hid the bag before turning and approaching April and Casey who had decided to stop in the middle of the Lair and hold their yelling match.

"Hey guys," He called out, distracting them momentarily from their, probably pointless, argument.

"Wha-oh; hey Leo." April smiled at him.

"Yo… what ch'ya got there, Leo?" Casey asked, eyeing the presents in Leo's arms.

"Oh, well I was out a few days ago and I found these for everyone, so I thought I'd give them to you today." Leo said; a small amount of heat radiating from his face as he blushed. Silently he was glad that he had just wrapped them in brown paper in stead of the fancy Christmas paper that Donnie had offered him as it was far less suspicious.

"Leo, you shouldn't have, you know Christmas is next month." April lightly scolded.

"Yeah I know but I just really wanted to give them out now, ya know." Leo said, trying the innocent approach, something April could hardly ever resist. Sure enough she caved in and smiled sweetly at him as he passed out two of the wrapped packages.

"Awesome, Leo!" Casey exclaimed as he held up the new hockey stick Leo had managed to save up enough for.

"Oh Leo, its lovely." April said tearfully as she looked at the picture of all of them at Thanksgiving, sitting in the Lair on the couch talking and laughing as they exchanged storied they'd all heard hundreds of times over but still laughed at each retelling.

"Glad you both like them." Leo smiled a little sheepishly at their obvious gratitude.

"Like? I love my gift! Now I'll have to make sure I get you something extra special for Christmas this year!" April said hugging him.

Leo felt the smile on his face become strained and he swallowed the lump in his throat with difficulty.

'I wish I was home for Christmas'

"Yeah, sounds great." He said, his voice suddenly sounding hallow even to himself. April gave him a funny look as Casey continued to examine his hockey stick.

"Is everything ok, Leo?" She asked quietly.

"Yeah, everything's fine." Was all he said before he turned away from her slightly, not wishing to risk her seeing the pain that he was sure would be showing in his eyes'.

"I have to hand out these to my brothers as well, if you'll excuse me." He moved away and headed over to Mikey who was still playing his games. Placing three of the four packages safely on a small table nearby Leo sat down next to his youngest brother and smiled wistfully as the bubbly boy cheered as he defeated something or other.

"Mikey, can I talk to you for a moment?" Leo asked when nothing major seemed to be going on in the game. The pause screen came up on the TV and his brothers laughing blue eyes turned to him curiously.

"Sure thing bro, what did ya want?" He asked happily.

"I have a gift for you." Leo said holding out the package he had held onto. Mikey took it with a mixture of happiness and confusion showing on his face.

"Not that I'm complaining or anything, but why are you giving it to me now when Christmas is next month?"

Leo felt a freezing sensation in his stomach become more noticeable at his words.

'I want to be here, I really do'

"Just felt like it… don't worry, if Master Splinter says anything you can blame it on me." Leo smiled when Mikey's face lit up and his full attention turned to his gift. Ripping it open he let out a delighted cry before turning and, in an act even more childish than his normal behavior, he threw himself at Leo, arms wrapping tightly around his oldest brother.

"THANK YOU!" He said eagerly, slightly surprised himself when he felt his brothers strong arms wrap around him securely instead of pushing him off or sitting there awkwardly like he normally did.

Leo was surprised when his baby brother's arms wrapped around his shell and his head resting on his plastron, but he was even more shocked by his own arms coming around and hugging his brother back. He normally didn't do well with spontaneous physical contact, but here his body was reacting with his mind two steps behind. Pushing all other thoughts out of his mind for a moment he just closed his eyes and tried to memorize everything that was happening with his youngest brother then so that he would be able to remember it in the coming months. The obvious comfort and love his little brother showered him with making him feel slightly better.

As he let go he felt a small wash over him and found himself wishing he could have held on a just a little bit longer. But Mikey's attention had already turned to the comic that was held happily in his hands. Shaking his head at his brother's short attention span Leo stood up.

"I hope you like it, Mikey." He said softly before turning and retrieving his remaining gifts and heading over to the kitchen where Donnie still sat. Sitting down next to him Leo had to smile as his second youngest brother muttered something about metal and electric devices not mixing well and that, after the thirteenth time, everyone should have been well aware of that fact.

"Donnie, you got a few seconds?" Leo asked gently, no wanting to startle the turtle into shocking himself. Despite his efforts Don still jumped a few feet into the air when Leo spoke, but thankfully managed to avoid hurting himself.

"Gesh, Leo! You almost scared me out of my shell!" He said with a three fingered hand resting over his racing heart.

"Sorry Donnie, I really did think I was being loud enough this time. Anyway, now that I have your attention; I have a gift for you." Leo said pushing one of the brown covered objects towards his brainy brother.

"But, isn't Christmas next month?" Don asked picking up the package to examine it.

"Well, yeah but I thought I'd give you this now." Leo said, hoping Don didn't catch the slight hitch in his voice as he was once again reminded of the fact that he wouldn't be there for Christmas.

'I want to be here, really I do'

Shrugging Don asked nothing more, slightly surprising Leo as Don was normally very curious; but he supposed it had something to do the with remaining irritation at their other two brother's at having broken the toaster again.

"Wow… Leo, it must have taken you months to find all this stuff." Don said in awe once he had carefully pulled the paper off, making sure not to rip it at all. Beneath the brown paper was a simple black box full of bits of hard to find electrical wires, memory boards and other things that were extremely useful but hard to come by which Donnie could use in his experiments and inventions.

"Not really." Leo smiled. In actual fact it had taken him months of scavenging to find all those bits and pieces, but the look of happiness on his little brothers face was more than enough to have made all those late nights more than worth it.

"Thanks Leo, this is so great!" Donnie smiled hugely, looking as if his smile might just split his face in half, no matter the scientific laws that disproved the idea.

"If my present's this good then I'll make sure you to get you something really cool this year too!"

Sometimes Donnie was so much like April it was scary.

Leo smiled a little sadly at that, he knew he wouldn't find out what his brainy little brother had gotten him for a while. How he wished it wasn't true though; he wished he could be there to celebrate Christmas with all his family. Like they had always done, every single year since before he could remember…

He was shaken out of his once again saddening thoughts when his brother' arms found their way round his middle and he found himself once again embraced tightly. Like before with Mikey, his arms acted on their own accord and slipped around his brother, pulling him slightly closer. His mind was already trying to memorize the moment and commit it to memory; the happiness and joy coming off Donnie making his heavy heart just a little bit lighter.

"I'm happy you like it, Donnie." Leo smiled as his brother pulled away from him and turned his attention to going through his gift rather than fixing the toaster, something Leo was sure would not be appreciated by the others later when they felt like toast and had no toaster.

Standing Leo moved over to his immediate younger brother, not sure how he should approach him and keep him in a good enough mood to give him his gift. He let out yet another silent sigh when standing near his brother failed to gain his attention so Leo moved up behind the punching bag and grabbed it as his brother continued to hit it.

"What d'ya want, Leo?" Raph asked in his normal gruff voice.

"I have something for you." Leo said simply, holding out one of the two remaining packages he held. Raph stopped punching the bag and gave Leo a look clearly saying that he wouldn't be taking it without some kind of explanation.

"Look, it's just a small gift is all… I've given everyone else's except Master Splinter there's so just hurry up and take it." Leo said, slight exasperation creeping into his voice. It never ceased to amaze him how just talking to Raphael could wear him out faster than any battle with the Shredder could hope too.

Still not looking completely convinced Raph reached out and took the package from his older brother and glanced at it curiously.

"You can open it… Think of it like an early Christmas present." Leo prompted quietly. Glancing again at his brother in suspicion he slowly tore the brown paper away from what lay beneath and felt his eyes widen slightly at what was concealed. Two beautiful hand crafted daggers lay in his hands. They were mirror images of one another with carved flames licking along the red handles; staring at them he noticed the way their blades flashed in the light of the Lair. As he looked a little bit closer at the daggers Raph realized that there was a small inscription along one of the handles.

'Protecting my family no matter what'

Looking up Raph found himself speechless for a moment before managing to clear his throat.

"They're great… thanks."

"I'm glad you like them; I was a little afraid I wouldn't finish them in time, but I managed." Leo smiled warmly, glad that his normally temperamental and hard to please brother liked his gift.

"Wait, you made these?" Raph asked.

"Yeah… Well I ran out of money using it up on some of the other gifts so I decided to make you some instead of buying them. I realize they're probably not as good as the ones you could have got at the stores or anything but I hope they'll do what they were made for." Leo shrugged slightly embarrassed as he suddenly started feeling very self conscious as his brother just continued to stare at him.

For the second time in five minutes Raph found himself at a loss for words. His brother; Mr. Perfect; Splinter Junior; the brother who seemed to do nothing but train and meditate; had gone to all the trouble to hand craft him some of the most beautiful weapons he had ever seen in his life.

"Thanks." Was all he managed to get out from his suddenly tightening throat. The two stared at each other for a moment longer and something seemed to pass between them. They felt like a weight had been lifted slightly and a peaceful feeling settled over the two for the first time in years.

"Well, I'm glad you like them. Make sure you do follow that inscription, ok?" Leo forced a smile on his face, reality setting in once more as his stomach clenched and twisted itself into knots until he almost felt physically ill.

"Yeah… but with ya around I wont need ta worry all that much," Raph smiled slightly, trying to make a joke. It normally would have Leo smiling and agree but it only made him feel worse as the fact of the matter was he wouldn't be around for a while.

'I wish it was true'

How could he tell his brother that he would need to come through on what he had just agreed too? He didn't want to lie to his brother.

Thankfully Splinter's voice cut through any kind of reply he could have thought of.

"Leonardo?" He called out from just outside of his room.

With a small smile and slight nod to his brother Leo turned and walked over to his father before holding out the last package. Curiously his father took the package and opened it without a word. The raising of his fizzy eyebrows was the only reaction his father showed as he viewed his own gift. Leo could feel everyone else's eyes watching him and his father at that moment and mentally shook his head. His family was so nosey sometimes.

"Did you do this yourself, Leonardo?" Splinter asked, looking up from what he held for the first time since he had laid eyes on it.

A sheepish feeling now accompanied the nervous one Leo was playing host too in his stomach.

"Yes, Master Splinter." He said quietly.

Splinter looked at his gift and back at his son a few times before allowing a smile to slowly show on his face.

"You are very talented, my son." He finally said, looking back at the drawings that rested in his hands. One was of his master Yoshi in a pose he recognized from the Hall of Past Champions at the Battle Nexus.

The second was a picture of his three younger sons, sitting together on the couch. Leo had managed to capture the excitement in Mikey's eyes as he held up one of his controllers for the Nintendo 64, obviously having just won the game he was playing. Next to him sat Raph with a grumpy look on his face, another controller was held loosely in his hands and his face was turned away from Mikey as if annoyed. But there was something in his eyes that said he wasn't as irritated at having lost as one would think. If Splinter wasn't mistaken it could have been pride shinning in his eyes for that one moment, proud that his baby brother had succeeded in something he truly enjoyed doing. Then there was Donnie sitting next to Raph, a book was propped up that he must have been reading, but it had dropped down slightly and you could just see his eyes sparkling with knowledge and amusement at his siblings antics as he subtly watched them, the top of a smile could also just be seen over the edge of the book.

"Thank you, Sensei." Leo said and bowed slightly.

"I am to assume that this gift was meant for Christmas?" Splinter continued, looking up at his son once again.

"Yes father… as I'm not here I thought it best to give my gifts now. That way I…" He trailed of, realizing he had just announced to the quiet room that he would be going away so now everyone would know. He had hoped to slip away without their knowledge and let Splinter tell them in the morning when he didn't come down for breakfast. He didn't want to see the disappointment, sadness and hurt that he knew would be in his family's eyes when they looked at him.

"WHAT!?!" Mikey suddenly yelled out; leaping up and over the back of the couch and rushing over to Leo and Splinter.

"What do you mean you're not going to be here, Leo? You mean you'll just be busy throughout the day and then you'll some home for Christmas dinner, right?" Mikey asked, practically begging his big brother to tell him that he was right.

Leo let out yet another silent sigh and closed his eyes in a way that was similar to Splinter when he was searching for some kind of hidden patience, a common occurrence when dealing with Mikey. But this was not the case; Leo was buying himself some time so that his brothers wouldn't see the pain shinning in his eyes.

Opening his eyes he forced a smile on his face and, noticing his throat was tight and burning slightly when he spoke, answered his baby brother.

"I'll be going away for a little while, that's all Mikey." He said as lightly as he could.

"How long, Leo?" Donnie asked, padding over to them as well.

"Just, a few months that's all." Leo said, hating himself the moment he saw their eyes fill with sadness.

"It'll be ok."

'I don't want to leave you'

"You'll be fine."

'I have no choice'

"I'll be back before you know it."

'Please, understand I don't want to go'

"Master Splinter, does Leo really have to leave so close to Christmas?" April asked as she and Casey moved over with everyone else.

"I'm afraid that I have already made the arrangements for him to leave." Splinter said; his voice emotionless.

The silence that greeted these words stretched out until Splinter let out a sigh.

"If you will excuse me; Leonardo, have a safe trip." With that he rested a paw on his oldest son's shoulder for a moment before turning and disappearing back into his room, no one noticed the way his grip on the gift in his hands tightened slightly.

"So, when are you leaving, Leo?" Casey asked sadly.

"I'm leaving now." Leo said softly, refusing to look at his family as he turned and walked over to the entrance of the Lair.

"Now?!?" Mikey yelped, following his brother.

"Yes, my plane leaves in an hour and I have to get onto it somehow." Leo said just as softly.

"But, we haven't had a chance to say goodbye or anything. We don't even know where you're going!" Mikey continued.

"Mikey if I stood here and let you all say your goodbyes to me we'd be standing here forever." Leo smiled gently, finally looking over at his baby brother.

"But… I don't want you to leave." Mikey finally said, the tears in his eyes causing Leo's heart to constrict painfully.

"I know Mikey, I know." Was all he said as he continued to try and smile reassuringly.

'I don't want to leave you either'

"We'll miss you, Leo." Donnie said from beside Mikey. Looking at him he could see the same tears shining brightly in Don's eyes as well.

"I'll miss you all too, but don't worry. I really will be back soon." Leo said.

'I'll miss you until we meet again, every second we're apart'

"Promise you'll write to us Leo, send them to me and I'll get them down here for you." April said, her eyes matching his little brothers perfectly.

"I will, I'll tell you everything that happens."

'I wish I wasn't leaving you at all'

"Don't be away for too long." Casey added with a half hearted smile.

"I won't."

'If I could I wouldn't even be away for seconds'

"So that's it, you're just up and leavin' us again?" Raph asked harshly from behind everyone else.

"I'm going to train." Leo said simply.

'I don't want to leave'

"Do ya actually care about us? Or do ya just come and go as ya please?" He asked angrily.

"How could you say such a thing Raph? This family means everything to me!" Leo snapped.

"Yeah, well ya could've fooled me!" Raph said nastily, his arms crossed and defensive.

Instead of continuing the fight Leo just let it go and attempted a smile at his brother.

"I know you'll look after the family for me Raph. After all, you already promised." Leo said softly, causing Raph to look slightly stumped at the unusual behavior of his big brother and the truth of his words.

Taking a deep breath Leo gave the Lair and his family a once over before, surprising himself, he managed to smile that same big brotherly soft smile.

"Goodbye," Was all he said before pulling on his bag and turning away from them, not looking back as he knew, if he did, they'd be able to see the tears in his eyes and he'd end up crying and then he'd never be able to summon the courage to leave them behind.

'I'll smile, because I don't want to cry saying goodbye'


Please review and happy holidays!