Author's Note: I do not own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of their companions.

The Thaw
By KameTerra

She always expected him in the springtime.

As the season approached she would take to wandering the city, never knowing exactly when or where he might find her—but he always did. She was careful never to seem as though she was waiting for him, yet after so many years, they both knew it was an act.

Always, as it had from the very first time, it began with a battle. Each one was different, but the pattern was so familiar it may as well have been choreographed. Narrowed eyes, cautious, circling steps, then a flurry of movements lethal in appearance but something else altogether in intent.

They didn't even bother with a show of weapons anymore—blades would only be tossed aside in the end, and it was better to have them at hand should they be taken by surprise. Only in this unspoken arrangement did they reveal any trust in one another. To an outside observer, they were opponents. In their minds, they were enemies. But in their flesh, they were merely animals—biological mechanisms fitted with complementary structures, all that was necessary to bridge the gap between them. Clan, loyalty, history, species… none of them a barrier after all.

In the springtime, that is.

She never knew when he would stop seeking her out, but before the summer heat had begun to fade, he always did. She would continue pretending not to look for him for weeks before accepting that he was no longer coming. Then, through the acid of her self-loathing, she would vow that next year—next year, search though he might, she would not be there.

But by the time spring returned to resuscitate the ice-locked city with its vitalizing breath, she was desperate for any semblance of warmth, no matter how fleeting or superficial. Anything to impel her clotted blood to liquefy and flow, to force her frozen limbs into pliancy, to coax her dormant heart to resume its ineluctable walk to the grave—to defy the cold, however briefly.

For in Karai's life, there was little respite from the brittle hollowness of winter.

And without Leonardo, even the springtime would fail to induce a thaw.

A/N: This ficlet is just something that came to me, completely spontaneously, while I was TRYING to write something else. Hmph, go figure. So I sketched it out quickly in order to appease my muse and get it to leave my head. When I was done, I read it over, and something about the simple, detached style really appealed to me. So there you go.

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