Patching the Trousers
Or: This is entirely Kay the Cricketed's fault, because yes, dammit, Leo needs babies.
Concept: Take other mutant turtles that have shown up in the various TMNT universes. Shrink them. Put them in a box. Put the box in Leo's room. Insist that the baby!turtles call him "mommy". Also, Leonardo does a lot of dimension hopping, so let's see how many plot holes we can chuck him through before he gets airsick.
Timeline: Patchwork, but mostly based on the end of Fast Forward and heavily biased towards the 2003 cartoon. The new characters that show up and some of the events described are taken from both movies and spin-offs.
Pairing: April/Casey, Raphael/Leonardo, Michelangelo/Donatello, some hints of OT4, and I wanna introduce Splinter to Casey's Mom. I think that I'll make Mrs. Jones/Splinter my new crack!OTP.
Warnings: Crack leik whoa, slash, turtlecest, mommy!Leo, and author insertions cleverly disguised as various OC's.
Summary: It was a bit sad that they had to leave Cody behind, but they were finally going home, back to their own time. Things were finally going right. But then well… you know the expression, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family? Thanks to the Dark Turtle Clones the Ninja Turtle's trip through time experiences some turbulence. They make it back home in one piece, but realize that something has gone awry. Leonardo's missing, he's been lost in Time and there's a pretty good chance that the Dark Clones followed him. So now Leo's lost who knows when, and he's trapped alone with their enemy. This cannot be a good thing. Oh, and Leo needs more tea if he's going to survive this madness with his sanity intact.
Sequence the First: Many Happy Returns.
"Uh, guys?" Cody spoke up as he walked into the living room, Donatello trailing behind him and grinning in the slightly loopy manner of all inventors running on too little sleep and the fumes of genius (and too much coffee), "I've got something to tell you."
"What is it?" Michelangelo piped up from where he had been attempting to convince Leonardo to forget about the history programme and let his favourite baby brother play video games.
"We've got the Time Portal working!" Cody grinned, "You guys can get home!"
There was a moment of perfect silence. And then it was broken.
"Oh thank goodness." Sterling carolled from where he had been picking up Raphael's discarded towels, "I'll finally have you miscreants out of my wiring!"
"Aw, don't be that way Sterling." Michelangelo pouted, "You know you love us!"
"Like a CPU crash." Came the dry retort. The four brothers grinned deviously at each other. Sterling was probably one of their favourite things about the future. He was so much fun to tease! And he could not escape them, because he lived in the tower too!
"Alright guys." Leonardo said, before they could get any more off track, "Let's get going."
"Goin' where?" Raphael questioned as his elder brother shut off the video screen.
"We need to pack." Leonardo said calmly, "But remember that we can only bring things with us that won't affect the proper course of time. So, no records of things that haven't happened yet, no holo games, no blueprints, and no anything else that could mess things up."
His brothers groaned in disappointment, and Leonardo cracked a grin, "In case you've forgotten, we didn't bring anything to the future with us, so I doubt we can take much back."
"Leo's right." Donatello sighed, thinking wistfully of the O'Neil Tech mainframe and all the wonderful technology he had yet to get a chance to study, "We've managed to work in a slightly higher morphic field, but anything in excess of about thirty pounds or more than five inches from our skin isn't going to be making the trip with us."
"So what's that mean?" Raphael asked, one hand resting on his belt.
"It means we can only bring our weapons and the environmental adjustment suits." Donatello replied, collapsing into a chair, feeling the elation of success fading away into bone deep exhaustion.
"So the clothes on our back, ya mean." Raphael groused, shaking his head, "Better'n nothin' I suppose."
"Mmrph." Came Donatello's incredibly articulate response.
Leonardo shook his head, sighing heavily. "Donnie, Cody, go get some sleep. The rest of us will start packing."
"But you guys are leaving!" Cody cried out in dismay, "I don't want to sleep through the rest of our time together!"
"Wait a minute." Michelangelo said at the same time, looking confused, "If we can't take anything with us, why are we packing?"
Raphael snorted at the exasperated look on Leonardo's face.
"Listen Cody, go sleep. Bunk with Donnie if you have too, but we need you both awake to operate the Time Portal." Leonardo explained calmly, "And as for you Mikey, we are packing because we are not going to leave Cody's home a mess. He'll be able to do what he likes with it after we leave, so we might as well have everything organized."
Cody and Michelangelo were both pouting, though for different reasons. Leonardo paused as he took in both of their expressions, "Cody, for the last time, go get some sleep. We aren't going to be leaving for another day or so, you'll have plenty of time to say goodbye to us. And Mikey, you are not getting out of helping with the clean up. Now move it."
Grumbling at the unfairness of it all, Cody followed Donatello down the hallway towards the bedrooms. Michelangelo was rather dramatically lamenting his upcoming separation from the holo games. Leonardo looked at Raphael, who smirked, shrugged and wandered off to the garage for a slightly less histrionic farewell to his favourite toys. Leonardo shook his head, sighing again as he went up to the roof to tell Master Splinter the news.
Two days later they were ready to leave. The belongings accumulated during their stay had been either boxed up or (like Raphael's motorcycle) stored in appropriate places. They had said their goodbyes to friends like Starlee and allies like the Inuwashi Gunjin, and President Bishop had been informed that they would no longer be available for him to call on. For safeties sake, only Cody and Sterling were to be in the building, and especially the lab, to see the four turtles and one rat off to their own time.
"I'm going to miss you guys." Cody said, voice thick as he hugged his friends goodbye.
"Hey, cheer up, little ninja." Leonardo said, ruffling the boys hair, "We'll miss you too, but remember that you have other friends, and they'll help you out."
"Yeah." Cody said miserably, knowing that they had to leave and hating it.
"Our meeting was a happy accident, young one." Master Splinter said, brushing a wizened paw over Cody's head, reordering the mess that Leonardo had left it in, "We would never have met, if not for your curiosity. But now we must return to our own place, in order to ensure the proper course of events, and so that our meeting may remain a ripple in the stream of time."
"I understand Master Splinter." Cody sighed, "I just wish I didn't."
"Right enough mushy stuff." Raphael broke in with a growl, "I'll miss ya too kid, but we gotta go back to where we belong. April and Casey have been waiting long enough."
"Yeah, okay." Cody said, taking a deep breath and clearing his throat, "Let's get to it then."
"Finally!" Sterling carolled, "Oh happy day!"
"We're gonna miss you too Sterling!" Michelangelo crowed, from where he was leaning on the back of Donatello's chair.
"Oh, do shut up." Sterling sniffed, "Aren't you leaving yet?"
The purple masked turtle looked up from the final systems check, "The board is green, everything is go."
"Well, I guess this is it." Cody muttered sadly as he replaced Donatello at the controls. "Bye guys."
Cody activated the Time Portal. The four brothers and their father were highlighted in the swirling light, grinning and waving at their human friend as if preparing for a trip to the beach, and not a permanent separation. Cody bit his lip, trying to hold his emotions in check until after they were gone. The group of five turned to face the portal as it began to stabilize, grins on their faces, Michelangelo starting to bounce with excitement as the familiar-strange view of their new Lair in the water treatment plant came into view.
They were going home.
The ceiling and part of the outer wall proceeded to explode with impressive force, sending cement dust flying everywhere as the Dark Turtle Clones attacked with raucous war cries. Sterling shifted into combat mode and Cody scrambled inside as his Uncle followed the Dark Turtles through the hole.
"I want that technology!" Darius Dun roared as he clashed with Turtle X.
And then everything went pear shaped.
Something sparked, crackled, but then fizzed out. A partially demolished I-beam dislodged from the wall and flattened a mound of debris with a shattering crash, leaving the bulk of a black and red combat suit and its overweight operator pinned at a truly awkward angle.
Cody blinked dumbly from within the protective casing of Turtle X. The last few minutes had been a chaotic whirl of crazy fighting that the young heir still had not gotten used to, no matter how often his life degenerated into mass insanity while the turtles were around.
"Well." Cody said looking at the demolished Time Portal that had (according to April O'Neil's journal) gotten the four ninja turtles and their sensei safely back home to their own time, "That could have gone better."
Sterling made a sound of pure outrage as something in the mess that had once been Cody's home lab exploded, breaking the last of the windows, "Indeed."
Leonardo woke up and was very, very confused.
Then he heard the sound of footsteps behind him, bringing with it the sudden return of memory, leading him to spring upright and into a ready stance brandishing a ninjaken in each hand with impressive, if a bit dizzying, speed.
There was no one there.
Remembrances of the Foot Tech Ninja kept him on his guard as he slowly pivoted in a circle, swords at the ready, listening intently for another giveaway.
What happened next was not what he was expecting at all.
There was a scuff of stone to his right and he spun around in time to see his blue skinned clone tumble out from behind a rock. The clone looked up at Leonardo from his place in the dust, his pouting lower lip trembling as his yellow eyes filled up with moisture. Leonardo stared, arms lowering as he watched his clone dissolve into tears.
Leonardo's Dark Clone had shrunk.
Instead of looming over Leonardo, the Dark turtle barely topped the originals knees. He looked all of two years old. And was acting like it too. Although the clones always had acted a little off, but Leonardo had attributed that to them having been all of a few months old the first time they had fought. That was the problem with accelerated ageing, even with implanted memories there was just not enough actual life experience to provide mental and emotional stability. Now the blue turtle actually looked his emotional and chronological age. After the initial mutation, Leonardo and his brothers had grown rapidly to the appearance of toddlers, vocabulary and coordination much more advanced than those of their human equivalents. Donatello had hypothesized that it was because turtles hatched with the instinctive knowledge needed to survive and they therefore had more faculties available to learn other things like reading and writing and how not to fall on your ass while standing upright.
Leonardo was jolted out of his thoughts, the tips of his swords wavering for a split second before he made the decision and sheathed them. The little blue turtle drew in a shuddery, hiccupping breath and opened his mouth to let loose another forlorn peeping cry. Deep inside Leonardo's head, something hardwired to instinct went 'ping'.
"Shh, hush now, chibi." Leonardo cooed as he scooped the little turtle up into his arms, melting a little at the way tiny, three-fingered hands clutched at the edge of his plastron as the little head tucked under his chin. "It's all right. I've got you."
Holding his miniature clone close to his chest, Leonardo began a more thorough exploration of their surroundings. As he had suspected, his search uncovered the other three Dark Clones. They had also shrunk to appear their chronological age.
"Wonderful." Leonardo sighed, looking down at the four little turtles that were curled up in the scarce shelter of some rocks. "Just what am I supposed to do now?"
The question was rhetorical for the most part. So far the plan was to sit tight, survive, and wait for Donatello or Master Splinter to figure out a way to get him out of wherever he was. Leonardo looked around again, staring apprehensively at the dark red sky. Dark crimson, swirled with red clouds tinted in pink and lavender, the sky woke a feeling of dread in the blue clad turtle, and he really did not want to see what sort of creatures made their homes in such a foreboding atmosphere. It reminded him of Michelangelo's horror movies, of bloody skies and burning cities.
Leonardo brooded as he watched the clones sleep, they were small, and helpless, and Leonardo had to fight the urge to break into baby talk. Really. It was most unbecoming for a ninja of his calibre to coo over tiny little fingers and toes and itty-bitty shells.
More worrying was how much and what exactly they remembered. Hopefully Leonardo would really be able to help them this time, without anyone's stupid pride getting in the way. After all, blood was blood, and one had certain responsibilities towards family. You never gave up on them, never stopped caring, you never stopped trying. And yea, Leonardo was a stubborn son of a ninja, for had he not put up with Raphael's attitude for all this time? He could certainly deal with a few kids.
Small as they were though, he would need a safe place to hide them. And food, as well as water, would soon become an issue. Frowning Leonardo leapt to the top of the rocky outcropping they were sheltering by, pivoting as he looked out at the horizon. There. To what was, according to the movement of the sun, vaguely northeast. There was a haze on the horizon. That and the slightly increased presence of vegetation indicated a water source. Hopefully it was pure, and safe to drink.
Leonardo frowned pensively as he squinted into the distance, as if he could see further through pure willpower. The terrain was rocky desert tundra, with dark foliaged scrub bushes eking out a living on arid soil. It would not be an easy trip, not with the children. Leonardo looked down at a stirring from below, sliding over the edge of the outcrop and dropping back down to where the little ones rested.
The little red turtle jerked in surprise, hissing at Leonardo as he moved in front of his smaller brothers. Leonardo watched the actions of Raphael's clone with a wistful smile, had his red clad brother been so much bigger than the rest of them when they were little? He could not remember, in his memories his little brothers were just that, smaller than him somehow, something to protect. Had Raphael seen them the same way? Raphael was always the first to jump in front, to take the blows meant for his brothers, so he must have done, in some form or another. No matter what size they had been as children, Leonardo thought with a rueful sigh, Raphael was certainly the largest of them now. Michelangelo's focus was flexibility and speed, and Donatello's was momentum and leverage, while Leonardo strove for balance and precision, but Raphael's focus had always been on strength and force. And it showed, in the breadth of the sai wielding turtles shoulders and the depth of his chest, the hard cords of muscle and sinew in legs and arms. Leonardo laughed silently at his musings, his pride and despair over his little brother growing up to be bigger than him. Leonardo wondered if Raphael had noticed how his physical growth had outstripped the rest of his brothers.
Leonardo had remained still where he had landed, thinking fondly on memories as he waited to the little turtle to calm. The red skin was lurid in the crimson light, but somehow the little clone looked… more natural. Less a freakish creation of alien science and more like how Leonardo remembered his brothers being as children. The spiky protrusions had shrunk down to nothing but little nubs, the awkward looking oversized jaw and painfully thrust forward stoop of the red turtles neck had corrected itself. Leonardo found himself hoping that the changes were permanent. The blue clad turtle knew that the red clone was prone to distraction when his appearance was brought up, and if growing up at a normal pace would fix the defects like the red one's hunchback, or the orange one's oversized tongue… Well, was it selfish to want these by-products of he and his brothers to be well formed? Was it egotistical for him to want them to grow up strong and healthy, and bring pride to the spirits of their ancestors?
Perhaps his father could answer that question better than he. Best to put such things aside for now.
As Leonardo held still, the little red turtle had inched closer and now stood less than a foot from where the older turtle crouched. Slowly, so as not to alarm the little one, Leonardo raised one hand and held it out, palm up.
"I'm not going to hurt you." Leonardo said quietly, patiently, as the little red turtle examined the limb held out to him and finally put up one of his own hands to compare the two. Leonardo smiled, "I want to help you and your brothers, but you will have to trust me. I want to keep you all safe, okay?"
The little turtle chirruped, nuzzling his face into Leonardo's hand and looking pleased when the older turtle stroked his head. Leonardo chuckled, sliding off the rock and, still moving with deceptively slow casualness, ushered the red turtle back to where his brothers lay. Three little heads popped up from the ground, blinking sleep heavy eyes as Leonardo approached with the red turtle scurrying ahead of him. Gently prodding the turtle tots to their feet, Leonardo was soon leading them in the direction he had decided that was most likely to have water.
As they walked on, Leonardo was struck by a sudden thought.
"You all need names." The orange one blinked up at Leonardo and cooed as he was helped over a loose patch of shale, "I can't just keep calling you 'the clones' or 'insert colour here'."
The little group travelled on silently for a minute or two, Leonardo wrestling with himself before sighing and calling a halt. Oh well, it was not as if they would be able to guess that he had already picked out names for them. That one instance with his clone tricking them into taking him in had given Leonardo hope that the clones could be brought into the family, and he had quietly picked out names for them.
"Do you guys want names?" Leonardo asked them, clearing his throat nervously when four little faces turned to him expectantly. "Well? Will you let me name you?"
"Name?" Asked his clone, clicking curiously, trying the word out. "Name. Me name!"
The other three took up the cry, toddler speech interspersed with clicks and whistles that Leonardo remembered from his earliest memories as a terrapin form of baby babble. Leonardo chuckled, and let loose a deep thrum. Four little beaks clicked shut and they looked at Leonardo in surprise. Surprised with the sound and its effects himself, although he did not show it, Leonardo took the silence as an opportunity to get on with things.
"All right, your name is Masaccio." Leonardo said, tapping his blue skinned clone on the beak, "Can you remember that? Masaccio. You try it now."
The little blue turtle wore a familiar expression of fierce concentration as he listened to Leonardo sound out his new name. "Math'co."
"Good try." Leonardo said with a smile, patting Masaccio on the head before turning to Raphael's clone, "Your name is Ghiberti. Okay? Ghiberti. Now you try."
"Gibber." Ghiberti grinned and Leonardo encouraged him to keep practicing.
"Your name is Uccello." Leonardo said to the purple one, "Can you try to say it? Uccello."
"Cello!" Donatello's clone cheered, clapping his hands.
Leonardo grinned and turned to the last turtle to. "And you're Botticelli. Okay? Botticelli."
"Bo'jelli." The orange turtle giggled gleefully.
Leonardo laughed and realized that it would take a little while before the turtle clones would be able to pronounce their names properly. Still, he was pleased that they seemed to like the names he had chosen for them. And if his brothers asked, he would admit to studying up on Renaissance artists. No need to tell them about daydreaming of a mythical someday where the long lost children came home. No, no need at all for that. Leonardo could just imagine the teasing. He got quite enough heckling about his so-called mother hen tendencies from his brothers; he did not need them adding anything about biological clocks or nesting to their repertoire.
"Alright kids, let's get going. We still have a ways to go before we can stop walking." Leonardo got them all to their feet and moving again.
It took them the better part of two days to make it to the watering hole. And as the time passed Leonardo noticed something strange about the four small turtles. The unnaturally bright colours of their skins had begun to change, muting and shifting as dark lines appeared. The patterns appeared on their skins and shells, dark swirling lines of green overlaying the original colours. But even before they had started changing colours, Leonardo had found himself carefully removing Masaccio's bionic eye as pressure had built up under it, and was startled to find a slightly bruised, but otherwise quite healthy organic eye underneath the metal. Uccello's neck brace quickly followed, as had the oversized tail. It still made Leonardo queasy to think about how the little turtle had cried as the tail had slowly detached. But Leonardo always made certain to carry clean bandages and disinfectant wipes with him, so he was at least able to clean and cover the scab to keep the grit out. Uccello was none the worse for wear after losing the oversized flesh, and a normal sized tail had been discovered as the underlying cause for the detachment. Kind of like how human children lost teeth, Leonardo had reasoned, and then had to distract himself from the image of tails being left under pillows. He had a sick, twisted imagination sometimes.
But getting to the water had been their first priority. Leonardo had never been so relived to see a brook in his life. The little stream was in the foothills of a small mountain range, and the clear water trickled down through the rocks. They travelled upstream until the brook widened enough to be worth wading into. Leonardo had dipped a hand in to test it, bringing up a handful to smell and taste, a lifetime of being surrounded by befouled water lending him expertise he would not have otherwise had. The water was fine, pure and fresh, and the first thing he did was wash the children. Checking them over for cuts and scrapes and cleaning the grit out of all the places it had snuck into. Leaving the children to splash around, Leonardo washed himself, sighing happily as his dry skin sucked up the liquid.
"I'm an amphibious being." Leonardo groused happily as he was finally able to dislodge the sand from under his shell, "I shouldn't have to put up with deserts."
The little turtles laughed at his complaints until he flicked water at them. That started off an all out water war. Leonardo escaped and stretched out on a sun-warmed rock, basking like he had been unable to do for most of his life, until his journey to see the Ancient One. Keeping one eye on the playing turtle tots, Leonardo let his mind drift in the quasi-meditative state that basking always produced in him.
As pleased as he was that the clones no longer resembled twisted mockeries of his family, it was kind of worrisome how the children were changing so rapidly. The children's bodies had rejected the bionic implants that Sh'Okinabo had used to fix the problems caused by accelerated aging. What Leonardo had suddenly realized were the markings of Red-Eared Sliders had appeared on all of them. The children were mutating in small amounts every day. Already their vocabulary and comprehension had reached that of human five year olds. Leonardo did not know if it was because of their age, or a side effect of whatever had regressed them, or if it was the fault of the alien DNA used in creating them, but Leonardo could only hope that his family found a way to get to him soon. Otherwise, there was no telling what would happen to them.
A rumbling began to shake the rock Leonardo was lying on. The adult turtle slid off, pressing the side of his face to the ground as he listened. The rumble of an engine moving treads or tires. Some kind of vehicle was heading their way. Leonardo snapped to his feet, scanning the area. They needed a place to hide, a cave or a crevasse, the rocks were too unstable to hide them properly.
"Masaccio! Ghiberti! Uccello! Botticelli!" Leonardo snapped out, the little turtles staring at him in shock at his tone, "Come here, now! We need to hide!"
Something in his voice must have gotten to them, that or the quickly growing rumble that was shaking the rocks. They scrambled towards him as he continued to scan the horizon. But the rocks were wet, and sick, and rolling, moving under unpractised feet. Uccello fell down with a little cry of pain, still unused to balancing without the counterweight of his heavy tail. The other three stopped and clustered around their brother trying to help him up. Leonardo cursed, giving up on keeping watch and leaping to the little turtle's sides.
He had just lifted Uccello up from the ground when the vehicle crested the rise of a hill to their immediate left. Giant tank treads supported the round, white main body of the fortress (and it was too large to be anything but a mobile fortress). A giant painted eyeball was at the top and a lurid red footprint on the front. The little ones screeched in fear and clung to his legs, immobilizing him, but Leonardo's attention had been caught by something else for the moment. About two thirds of the way up the fortress was a deck or platform, on which a battle was taking place.
Leonardo was frozen, staring in shock. His brothers! For a moment all Leonardo wanted to do was shake off the small arms clinging to him and leap across the space dividing him from the fight. Those were his brothers, fighting the all too familiar helmeted figure of the Shredder and the black clad legions of the Foot Clan. But two things stopped him. The first was the knowledge that the children needed protection more than his brothers. And the second was a blue masked figure leaping for the Shredder with a flash of twin blades.
Leonardo watched, a feeling of calm disassociation falling over him as he gathered the little ones into his arms in preparation to run. The battle was ending, Leonardo noted, unable to not watch to ensure his brothers safety. A flying red Cadillac piloted by three humans with completely insane hair flew by, the four turtles leaping from the deck into the vehicle. The Shredder and an Utrom in a fleshy pink exo-suit stood at the edge and shouted curses and threats at the fleeing turtles. In the back of his mind Leonardo noted that both the Shredder's armour and the uniforms worn by the Foot ninja were wrong, subtly different in design than what he was used too.
"Curse you Turtles! One day I'll make you into turtle soup! Mark-" The Shredder froze mid death threat and Leonardo knew he had been spotted, even kneeling among the rocks as he was.
"Look down there!" A shout from above drew his gaze up to where the flying car was circling as his double pointed an insistent hand in his direction. For the first time, he met his own gaze without the aide of a mirror.
The fortress was turning, Foot soldiers churning over its surface like a disturbed ant colony.
The by-now familiar sound of reality twisting inside out came from behind him, and he nodded once to the turtles in the air car before he spun and dove through the portal with the four little ones in his arms, feeling the tear snap shut behind him.
Leonardo landed hard on his shell, his arms too full of small, fragile bodies for him to roll with it. For a long moment he lay still, just breathing, listening to the thunder of his heart as the last few minutes of adrenalin caught up with him.
His eyes closed, the first thing Leonardo noticed was the scent. The smell of incense and tea filled the air. Familiar, comforting smells. Except it was the wrong type of incense, the wrong type of tea. Orange blossoms where it should be sandalwood, oolong instead of jasmine.
Leonardo opened his eyes, staring up at a plain wooden ceiling before rolling to his feet and placing the children on the floor. They huddled together, silent and wide-eyed.
"Have no fear." A soft voice spoke from the far side of the room, and Leonardo spun, ninjaken whistling out of their sheaths into a guard position. The speaker was a Chinese man, hair and beard all gone to grey, seated on a leather-bound chest. "I am Chung I. I will not harm you or your little ones."
"How did we get here?" Leonardo asked warily, "And why aren't you surprised to see me?"
"I am a Sorcerer of some small ability." Chung I said modestly, "And I must admit that when I sent out the call, I did not expect such an answer."
"What call?" Leonardo demanded, and Chung I chuckled and gestured to Leonardo's feet. The sword wielder looked down. He was standing in the middle of a magic circle. "Ah. I see."
"So you do." Chung I said thoughtfully, levering himself to his feet with the aide of a cane. "Please, come with me and hear why I have called you."
Leonardo was silent for a moment before sheathing his swords. "Very well. Lead, I will follow."
"This way." Chung I led the way out the door.
"Come on boys, let's go." Leonardo herded the children out the door and into what he recognized as a traditional Chinese courtyard. Looking around, the place was obviously grand, though it had fallen into some disrepair. Down the path, over a small bridge and into a smaller yard, Leonardo followed the sorcerer into what was immediately apparent as a living space. This was where the man lived from day-to-day.
"Mei Pieh Chi!" Chung I called out, opening the sliding door to the hallway and let loose another string of Chinese before repeating what Leonardo recognized as a name. The soft pad of footsteps echoed down the hallway and the sorcerer reached out the draw a small figure into the room. "I would like to introduce my daughter, Mei Pieh Chi."
"It is an honour to meet you." Leonardo was proud that his voice never wavered, as he bowed politely to the little turtle in Chinese robes. "I am Hamato Leonardo, of the Hamato clan. And these are Masaccio, Ghiberti, Uccello and Botticelli."
"Nihao." She said shyly, ducking behind her father's leg after returning his bow.
Chung I smiled, "Why don't you show the other children the garden, my daughter? I must speak with Hamato-san about grown up things."
"Yes, Baba." Mei Pieh Chi said, looking at the other four turtle children with awed joy.
"Go on boys." Leonardo said when they looked up at him, "Just remember to behave and play nicely."
"We'll be good! Promise!" So saying the five little turtles were out the doors and laughing joyfully within five seconds of leaving the adults sight.
Leonardo shook his head and laughed ruefully, then turn to the human, "So what is it you wanted to speak with me about, Chung I-san?"
"May I be blunt, Hamato-san?" Wearily taking a seat on the mats next to a gently steaming kettle.
"You may." Leonardo said, accepting the teacup with a murmur of thanks.
"I am dieing." Leonardo looked up sharply, and Chung I smiled wanly, "And I will not leave my daughter alone."
"I see." And he did. Now that he was looking, Leonardo could see the strain and shadows hanging on the human sorcerer, in the sag of his shoulders and the grey of his face. "So, why call me? Surely you had other options."
"None that would ensure my daughters safety." Said the old man sadly. "She is all I have, and I know of no others like her."
"So you called out to others like her." Leonardo mused out loud.
"Yes." Chung I took a deep breath. "This summer, in the midst of the shortest night of the year, I used my magic to destroy an ancient demon. But I was too old, and my strength is gone. I will breath my last before midwinter."
"You are certain?" Leonardo questioned, wondering why he believed the old man even as he failed to doubt the truth of the story.
"Such is the price of using magic to the extent I did." The old man laughed dryly, "It is both blessing and curse to know when death with come for me."
They were silent for a minute, sipping quietly at their tea and musing on the variance of fate.
"You are certain you wish to give me your daughter, master Chung I?" Leonardo asked quietly, voice not breaking the stillness of the room so much as merging with it.
"I am." Chung I sighed, "She deserves to be raised among her own people. To not be looked on as a freak or demon. This is why I used the last of my strength to draw you here. I know that it is much to ask, as you already have children of your own to care for, but if you could please, care for my daughter, raise her well. So that she may be happy, and look back on her life fondly."
"It would be an honour, to call such a wonderful girl daughter." Leonardo said, smiling at the thought of the little girl turtle in pale blue and white robes.
"I thank you." The sorcerer stated, bowing formally to Leonardo, "For honouring my selfish request, you have my eternal gratitude."
"No thanks are needed." Leonardo replied, returning the bow, "Entrusting such a treasure to me make both joy and honour mine."
"Please, come with me." Chung I requested, rising slowly to his feet, "I have much to show to you. Many things you must have for Mei Pieh Chi as she grows. Much to gift to you, as a sign of my gratitude."
"I need no gifts but the one you first offered me." Leonardo demurred as he followed the sorcerer out into the hall.
"That may be so." The old man rejoined, "But I need to give them too you, to ease my own mind."
"Very well." Leonardo conceded, "Please lead on."
The gifts were few, but expansive. A set of enchanted wall scrolls that when hung on the walls became doorways. One to a library, one to a dojo, one to a treasure chamber, one held clothe and clothing, and the last was a weapons room.
"I cannot accept these." Leonardo protested, gesturing helplessly at ancient treasures and mounds of silk, to fine gleaming blades and heavy tomes, all of which made his inner brat start up a chant of greed.
"You must." Chung I stated simply. "When I die, all that I own shall be brought into these scrolls. It is my daughter inheritance, and you cannot deny her that."
"You are correct." Leonardo said after a moment, accepting the scroll case, "I will guard these for your daughter, until she is of the age to claim them."
"Thank you." Chung I sighed, "The scrolls are yours, to do with as you please. Beyond what I have marked as Mei Pieh Chi's, you may do what you wish with the contents. The case is enchanted as well, none but yourself may open it, unless you give them permission. And even then, they may only open it under the conditions you state, so please avoid giving anyone permission to 'open it at any time they please' or similar."
"That would be rather poor security." Leonardo agreed, with a faint smile that faded quickly. "How long do you really have?"
"A week, perhaps two." Chung I smiled wanly, "Thank you again, for taking in my daughter."
"And again," Leonardo said quietly, "It is my honour, to have a daughter such as her."
The last act Chung I took before taking to his bed was to place gleaming gold cuffs around the ankles off all six turtles, explaining as he did. "I do not know hat will happen to you once I am gone, these will tether you all together so that where one is pulled, the others go also."
"So that she does not get left behind, when we leave this world?" Leonardo asked the old man as an aside, while the children admired the shiny metal.
"Exactly." Chung I answered.
The week passed swiftly, Chung I was bedridden within three days. Mei Pieh Chi was distraught over her father's worsening condition and cried often. Leonardo found himself in the roll of comforter, night after night, trying to slow the little girls tears long enough for her to slip into sleep. Although her grief over her father's deterioration did not lessen, Mei Pieh Chi found peace in the thought of her new parent and brothers, and the larger family she would have. Leonardo told her of his father and brothers and friends, and Mei Pieh Chi was looking forward to her new life, thought she wept that her father would not be coming with her.
And so the great sorcerer Chung I faded quietly away on the tenth day. He was buried with solemn dignity beneath the boughs of his favourite flowering tree. Mei Pieh Chi placed white blossoms on his grave, and then gave into her grief.
Leonardo picked her up and did his best to sooth her, but there was little he could do. The pain of loosing a father, of loosing the only family she had ever known, it was seeing his longest held fear happening to another. What words could he find that would ease her pain? None.
So he just held her, and let her cry herself out onto his shoulder.
At dinner after the funeral she was quiet and subdued. When she left, Leonardo set the boys to clearing up the table and followed after her, still needing to find some way to ease the little ones pain. He found her in her bedroom hugging a small statuette of Kuan Yin.
"Mei Pieh Chi?" He said from the doorway, "May I come inside?"
"Uhhuh." She sniffled, rubbing at her eyes with one hand.
"What is that you have there?" Leonardo asked gently as he sat down beside her.
"Baba gave it to me when I was little." Mei Pieh Chi answered, holding the figure out to Leonardo, "I broke the arms off one time when I was practicing my qui-gon."
Leonardo took the small statue and examined it. Indeed, the arms had been cleanly broken off. In fact, it reminded him of another statue. Another Goddess.
"Mei Pieh Chi?" Leonardo hesitated, wondering how to put this delicately, "You know that your father asked me to take care of you now, right?"
"Yes." She said, managing a smile for her new parent, "Baba told me that he used his magic to find me a mother."
Leonardo's next words froze in his throat, jaw working soundlessly. That old, magic-using bastard! Now he had to explain gender rolls to a three year old! Nevermind, worry about wither ninja skills gave one the ability to strangle the spirits of the departed later, for now, back to business.
"Right. We'll have other things to talk about later." Leonardo coughed, "But I was wondering if you wanted to take on my family name."
"You would do that?" Her eyes were wide, wondering, "You would give me your name?"
"Of course I would." Leonardo smiled, she was so cute, "Your Kuan Yin gave me an idea about what it should be, would you like to hear it? If you don't like it we can always think of a new one."
"Yes!" She exclaimed eagerly, "Please!"
"Well then, what do you think of Venus?" Leonardo asked, "After the Venus de Milo."
"Venus?" She asked, sounding out the name curiously.
"Yes." He nodded, "Hamato Venus."
"I love it!" Venus cried, throwing her arms around Leonardo in a hug, "I promise to bring honour to my name. Thankyou, Mama!"
"You're welcome." Leonardo grinned, glad to have distracted her from feeling sad, "Now, about this mother thing…"
"Yes?" Venus tilted her head to the side, "Should I call you mother instead?"
"Er…" How to put this? Especially with her staring up at him like that? All earnest wide eyes brimming with newfound devotion… Leonardo did not want to embarrass the poor little dear.
"Oh no!" Venus's hands flew up to her mouth as she cast a horrified look up at Leonardo's face. Leonardo blinked, what now? "I should not be so disrespectful! Please, honoured foster mother, forgive me. I will remember to be more courteous in the future."
"No. No, Venus-chan, that's not what I meant." Leonardo halted her frantic bows with a growing feeling of doom, "You may be as familiar as you like. All I meant was that I'm-"
Of course, that is when the earth decided to open up and swallow them both.
It was typical, Leonardo thought as he grabbed a shrieking Venus by the hand and pulled her close as they fell through the rip in space-time that had opened up under the futon, now he would never be able to convince Venus that he was not her mother.
Maybe he could convince his brothers it was a term for father from a little used dialect of Mandarin?
(He was also thankful, in the corner of his mind not devoted to dreading his brothers upcoming teasing or trying to anticipate where he would land next, that he had strapped Chung I's magic scrolls to his belt and that the boys would be dragged along with him. Really. Taking care of five children was hard enough even without throwing random bouts of inter-dimensional time travel into the mix. Had he offended some Chinese god in a past life or something?)
Sooo… what do ya think? Leo's not done yet either. He's still got a few more worlds to visit and at least one more kid on the way. And in case anyone out there was wondering, Venus (I'm actually quite proud of how I worked her English nomme de gurre in there) is about the size of a human three year old, but has a mental development of a mature six or seven year old. The clone-quadruplets are physically about two and mentally around five, five and a half (they had a jump start because of their implanted memories. They've already learned talking, fighting, survival before, so they're picking stuff up again quick. But seriously, the Dark Turtles act like cranky five year olds ANYWAY. Yes, even before they got shrunk.)
My take on mutant turtle kids in that they physically mature/grow slower than humans, but because they grow slower, they don't have as many issues with things like "the clumsy stage" or growth spurts. Which means that their coordination is much better than that of a human toddler or child. Mentally they grow faster. I mean, genius or not, how many sixteen year olds are building fully functional hover vehicle out of junkyard parts? (Yeah. I'm looking at you Donnie.) Their emotional development on the other hand… About on par with human. (TEENAGE ANGST AHOY!)
OMG, I just realized. Leo's a teenaged mom. Splorfle!
Please R&R my darling readers! Concrit and comments are all much appreciated!