Until Yesterday Is Here
He never went to that part of the park.
There just didn't seem any need to. His Sensei, his Father, was long gone. All that remained, if indeed there remained anything, was only dust and bone. To persist in visiting that symbolic marker was to indulge in some pointless ritual of clinging to the past, of what once was. What was no longer.
He'd escorted Angel half-way, as he always did, though she always protested she would be fine. And then, as always, he turned into the cracked and empty streets, once home to the most motley, thriving and unpredictable population in the world, and began his patrol.
He did not work in cohesion with April's teams in his efforts. He ignored them, for the most part, moving to different parts of the city whenever he came across them. They were more than capable in their reconnaissance and sabotage and did not require his help. April he visited only when he realised it had been too long between the last time and she would soon start resigning herself to the fact of his death. It was always so strange and surreal to leave the old library and go walking through the streets with her, like he was moving through the motions by route. They would head towards the edge of the river where they would sit and talk on a rooftop, staring out across the toxic water no one would risk going into anymore, not even to save another. Those who fell in were dead whether or not they were fished out, anyway.
He always visited her at a time they could watch the sun set or rise, tirelessly travelling until they got to the necessary spot. They were the last beautiful spectacles left to the city and it seemed right that he share them with her even if the ritual served no useful purpose; the beautiful wash of reds and oranges, complemented by extra dashes of pinks in the mornings and purples with the evening. In the softness of that light, she did not look so old nor so hard, her features made gentle by the warm, lovely glow of the sun's new birthed or last breathing rays. By day, its brightness was too pitiless, too easy to remember how many millions of miles away it was and whilst it continued to blaze, unchanging and uncaring, things down there on Earth relentlessly decayed and fell apart. That is, when it peeked through the endless barrage of noxious black smoke the Shredder's factories spewed into the sky.
These days his knees hurt so much it made moving along the rooftops more than a little difficult. But some last gasping remnant of pride drove him to continue doing it, remembering the proud and arrogant strength of his young body as it had so effortlessly swung and flipped and leapt, as deliriously moving him forward as it now doggedly did.
But remembering those times was pointless, too. They were over now, long gone and left behind.
All that mattered now, was now.
Like his ninjaken arcing through the air, severing the wires that fed the speakers, silencing Karai's monotonous recorded dictates mid-word, as abruptly as if he'd cut her very throat. The shuriken hissing across the street to crack the giant screens, splintering them into sputtering, crackling blank expanses of grey; raining sparks from their torn insides
They replaced them of course. His task was a never-ending one; constantly doubling back on itself and overlapping, an endless looping cycle of slashing and destroying only to come back to the same spot and do it all over again. Pointless, really. But he kept on doing it. Perhaps because it was the only thing he could do.
Perhaps because he was just petty and vindictive at the end of it all.
He paused beneath a twisted jumble of neon jutting out from the shell of a former porn shop and felt his shoulders sag downwards, the wind tickling the scars that stretched over his skull and down his face. Overhead, bilious grey clouds clustered together, signalling rain. He could smell it then, something that still smelled somehow fresh and clean – he would wait for the storm, and he sat down on a pile of rubble and ignored the twinge in his shoulder.
Perhaps because he couldn't acknowledge his own pointlessness in this bruised and heartbroken world.
It was getting harder to train, though he still did it, every day, exactly as his Father had taught him, exactly in the way his Father had praised him. But each and every day was an effort to begin at all. The quiet, repetitive sabotage of the Shredder's psychological warfare was as much an excuse to stay in shape as some pretence at a purpose.
"You are old, Leonardo." He froze at the sound of that voice, the one he heard constantly, echoing all around him in the macabre streets. This was no recording, though. "Do not make me do this."
He felt the cold sting of steel through the long black coat he wore, pressing down on his shoulder. He remembered a time, long ago, when every encounter with her had been exciting, a thrill that had him sleepless with guilt and struggling to hide it from his family. Now he just felt tired.
"You are old too, Karai." He replied and oddly, his voice sounded the same as it always did, though he used it so rarely these days.
He whipped around faster than he thought he still could and met her blade with his own, taking her off balance with the force of his blow.
But he had no intention of continuing the fight. He'd just been stopping her, automatically, as he always did.
He let his arm fall by his side, the blade pointed modestly towards the cement, straggling weeds growing up through the cracks in the wretched persistence of life. He raised his eyes to look at her, knowing his gaze was masked beneath the dark glasses. She didn't seem to have aged at all, apart from the fact her hair was now silver. No, carrying out the Shredder's horrendous brutality had not worn her down the way fighting against it had done to April. Karai was still beautiful, strong and composed, her grip on her weapon sure and steady.
He looked her over and realised suddenly how ridiculous it was, how it always had been, the childish attraction he'd had to her. The desperate desire to see her redeemed, the faith that she could be – that she would be. The excuses he'd made for her. Pointless, in the end. Utterly.
When he turned and walked away from her, she did nothing.
He disappeared into the maze of gutted and torn apart buildings that were the streets of Manhattan just as the rain begin to spatter down; fat, hot drops on his scarred head and shoulders, heedless of the Foot Patrol Ships and Utrominators that choked the skies above him. The streets were no longer lit at night; he had only to hide when they swept the space around him. Otherwise there was no point to stealth.
The rain steadily picked up pace, those few drops quickly turning into hundreds, heavily pattering down all over and around him. It felt sweet and he removed his glasses and tipped his neck back to feel the warm wetness run down his face in something that resembled enjoyment. In another time he may have sat down in the storm and meditated, but meditation was yet another exercise that seemed pointless these days. What good was inner peace when the entire world was corrupted, when there was never a chance of opening his eyes to find what he felt inside reflected there? So he'd just stopped.
Now and then he wondered what Splinter might've thought, to see him now. But Splinter was dead, so there was really no reason to wonder.
Raphael thought that he'd given up when they'd lost Splinter. His brother could not have known Leonardo had given up long before that. He had stopped mourning his Father many, many years ago. There was something else that continued to haunt him; that continued to drive home his utter inability to fulfil the duty he'd been trained to do – to protect the family. That hung over his head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles, or clung upon him like a brand, marking him as the scars on his face did – that made everything else seem so completely pointless in the wake of its simple reality.
Raphael was right. He was a failure. But not because of Splinter's death. No, long ago he had accepted the inevitability of that loss. It was the other one he had failed to hold onto. Had failed to find. Had failed to bring back. And in that failure, he had to acknowledge that everything he'd done to lead and protect them, to hold them together, had been irreparably useless, or else it would never have happened.
He had failed them all when Donatello had left.