Title: Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye
Rating: PG13 ... Raph has a potty mouth.
Genre: Angst, Drama
Summary: A Fast Forward story! LE SHOCK! ... there is a SUPER spoilery author's note at the END of the story. You are warned.
The room was dark and still, and he honestly hadn't thought about anyone finding him here. If they'd been looking for him in the first place. This was the one place he would sometimes hide when he needed time away from the constant noise and motion that equaled his three younger brothers. The Trophy Room. Cody's trophy room. Filled with all manner of objects from their lives in the past, a whole century past for the people in this world.
Cody loved this room. When he looked at the broken bits of machinery and signs and pictures and trinkets, he saw artifacts. Treasures from the time that he'd heard so many stories and legends about. Leo hated this room. When he looked at these things … he saw his life. His brothers' lives. His father's life. He saw their past, their present … but nothing of their future … nothing of their fate … and there was the rub.
He pulled his knees tighter to his chest and tucked his head into the crook of his folded arms. There was so much here. So much to process and take in and learn. However it had been strictly forbidden for any of them to learn so much of a minute of the lives they had yet to lead. Master Splinter had taken great pains to instill the understanding that this particular knowledge would do more harm than good.
For the most part, Leonardo agreed, but there was something … something he wanted to know. Needed to know … but could never rouse the courage to ask. The answers would most likely be too painful. And so, the longer he remained in this future, the tighter and tighter his internal spring was winding. He didn't like it here. Not really. Walking right out in the daylight and conversing with the folk on the street … that was not his world. It was most certainly Mike's world. And Don's. And Raph's to an extent.
It had never been Leo's world. Hamato Leonardo was made for shadows and silence and stealth and solitude. He was trying to get along here. He truly was. The constantly tugging little strings of homesickness were often too much, however. It certainly didn't help matters when his views would clash violently with his brothers' opinions. Most decidedly, with Raphael's.
Their arguing had started up again. Far be it for an unexpected trip hurtled one hundred years in the future to hold the rivalry cultivated for 18 years off for long, but he'd enjoyed the comradery as it had lasted. Then the monumental tiff that had been set off today properly slammed the final nail into that coffin. Cody had been terrified, poor kid. No matter how many times Mike had explained that this was the norm, not the exception, the boy still had it in his mind that he'd done something wrong to anger Raph and Leo.
Then Raphael's final scathing comment, thrown haphazardly as he was walking away, had silenced even Mikey's excuses for their behavior. The baby brother had been trying to calm Cody with some lame reasoning that this was how Leo and Raph expressed their love. It had been a silly little comment, meant to diffuse the situation, and it had almost worked. Cody and Don had chuckled softly, and Leo had been about to, when tactless Raphael's tactless tongue had dissolved it instantly.
Don't lie to the kid, Mikey. There ain't no love lost between me and THAT brother. I'll be happy when he's gone.
Of course, the comment had brought about a stern lecture from Master Splinter, and angry words from Don and Mike, but from Leo … there'd been no response. No reaction. He'd simply turned on his heel and wandered off to find his secret sanctuary. There he'd stayed as the building had settled down and darkened for a night's rest. There he'd stayed eyeing the replica mask of the Shredder's and basking in the shadows and the silence.
Nice quiet moments were never meant to last. The squeak of shoes on the floor was the only sign he needed to know whom was approaching him in the darkness. Cody must have sensed that turning on the lights would only make the turtle vanish into the room and seek out another place to think. The kid was learning.
"Leo? Is that you?"
The ninja raised his head and sought out the boy's gaze with his own. Two little twinkling stars of light barely reflected in the dark, but the bright clothes were glaringly obvious. Leo smiled.
"Yeah, I'm here, Cody. What's up?"
The teen followed his voice and cautiously moved to sit opposite him.
"Nothing, I just … hadn't seen you since … you know …"
Leo widened his smile for the boy's benefit and made a dismissing gesture with one hand.
"It's alright, Code … like Mikey said, nothing new about me and Raph clashing. Maybe for you, but … it really is normal for us."
Cody nodded quickly but did not keep silent.
"I understand, Leo … I get it. But still what he said … about … he …"
For the first time the turtle observed the boy from the future unsure and unsteady with his words. Cody's gaze had dropped to his hands and he shifted uncomfortably, as if an internal struggle was waging itself full-force in his thoughts.
"… it's just … I know he didn't mean it … he really, you know…. doesn't. Mean it."
A realization came over Leo at that moment, and he had to struggle not to express too much excitement or nervousness. Cody had the knowledge he was desperate to gain for himself. The answers to the questions that prevented him from finding any kind of spiritual peace these last months. He just had to get the boy to tell him the truth … against Master Splinter's orders.
"Cody. I know. I know he didn't mean it. I do. I even have proof, if you can believe that, and I'll show it to you … but I need you to help me with something."
The teen's brilliant green eyes were once again boring into his and a slight smile spread across his young features.
"Sure, Leo, I'll do what I can."
Leonardo sighed and forced himself to find a calm center before he began to speak.
"Cody, I know that Master Splinter has strictly forbidden you to tell us anything of our futures, and I agree with him completely … save for one thing. I need you to tell me about that one thing."
The boy fidgeted and cast a nervous glance over his shoulder.
"Leo, I … I can't, Splinter said-"
"I understand that, Cody, but I swear, if you don't give me the answer I will go and do whatever it takes to find it out for myself … and in the process probably learn some things I REALLY shouldn't know. Lesser of two evils, Cody. Your choice."
He felt bad for pressuring the boy, but he wasn't asking on a frivolous basis. His peace of mind and perhaps even his sanity lay in the balance. Finally the boy gave a quick, nervous nod, and Leo leaned in close to whisper.
"Who is the last, Cody? The last of us?"
Whatever the child had been expecting to hear, it most certainly wasn't that. He blinked a couple times before bolstering his courage with a strong intake of breath, then his hushed whisper escaped his lips.
"Raphael. Raph's the last."
It was Leo's turn to be a little shocked with that answer, but he managed to recover quickly.
"Really? That's … surprising."
Cody chuckled softly and scooted a bit closer to his turtle friend.
"Knowing him personally now, I think so, too. Actually … actually, he was still alive when I was born. Mike was too, for a time."
A heavy weight began to lift off of Leonardo's shoulders and he found himself grinning with more force.
"What happened? I mean … old age?"
Cody nodded and relaxed more into his tale.
"With Mike, yes. With Raph … well, we could never really be sure."
The weight settled down again.
"What do you mean?"
The boy's smiled turned a little sad as he spoke again.
"Raphael was the closest to my grandmother back then. He never really involved himself with the rest of the family, especially after Mike was gone. She told me, my grandma, that one day she'd taken him out to visit the grave markers … and he just … disappeared. Never returned. Grandma said she'd been waiting for it. Told me he was stubborn and impatient, and wasn't prone to wait for fate to find him. She said he went looking for it. So she carved him a grave marker and mourned his death."
They were silent for several moments, the turtle and the boy. One reliving the sadness in his grandmother's eyes and voice. One imagining his younger brother disappearing into the woods and fog, and inevitably … the world. He didn't mean for his voice to break when he spoke again, and it took him more by surprise than his young human friend.
"C-Cody … thank you. I know you didn't want to tell me, but I really thank you."
He bowed his head and chuckled warmly under his breath. Cody gave him an odd look. He was most likely incredibly curious as to the reason behind the question, but how do you tell a boy still so innocent and naïve that you just didn't want to be last living member of your family? He wouldn't understand the responsibility that Leonardo felt for his brothers.
"So … are there any pictures of four toothless, geriatric turtles sitting around and harping on the 'glory days,' then?"
When the mirth in his voice wasn't answered, Leo sought the boy's eyes again, and the dark emotion that swam in their depths caused the smile on his face to wither and die. Cody's searching gaze had the wisdom of those with thrice his years. He spoke so softly Leo had to strain to hear the words.
"Not four. Only three."
Only three. Only three old turtles sitting around and enjoying each other's company. Only three left to pass peacefully of old age. Only three. At first, he wanted to ask after Donatello, but the look of ageless knowledge in Cody's eyes told him all he needed to know.
"I'm not there. I'm not with them."
Finally, Cody's solemn gaze broke from his, and they both turned their eyes to the cold stone floor that stretched between them. Leo's mind was racing, but not with upset. Not with anger or a sense of being cheated somehow. It was racing with all the possible outcomes that could have brought about his downfall. All the possible reactions his brothers would have at his loss. It finally settled on a mental image of the three of them sitting together, smiling, happy … telling April and Casey's grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the Uncle Leo they never got a chance to meet. He could hear Mikey's voice soaring in volume and over-exaggerating each of his big brother's accomplishments. He could hear Raph smacking his head and bringing up all of Leo's faults. He could hear Don … the happy medium … speaking kindly of oldest brother, allowing his eyes to mist a little.
He could see it all in his mind so clearly. It brought another chuckle to the surface, which startled the somber boy across from him. Cody's eyes met his, swimming in questions, but Leo only reached over to pat him on the shoulder.
"That's okay then. That's as it should be."
Cody blinked and his jaw dropped open just a touch.
"Okay? Leo, do you understand what I … I mean…"
The turtle grinned again and squeezed the boy's warm shoulder just a touch.
"I understand perfectly, Cody. It means I did my job. It means I kept them safe. That's all I've ever wanted."
With a swift grace, Leonardo was on his feet and pulling Cody to his.
"Leo? How can you be so calm about this? I mean… this might change things, you know … me telling you?"
The ninja's head shook slowly and he dusted imaginary dirt from his legs.
"I won't let it. Don't worry, Cody. I won't tell anyone you told me these things. Ever. I just needed to know for myself. For my peace of mind."
He put a hand on the boy's shoulders as if to steer him towards his bed in the early morning hours. Cody locked his knees in place and halted their movements.
"Leo? You said you had proof? About what Raph said earlier? You know?"
The turtle laughed a little, and smiled brightly.
"Oh… yeah … I found it one of our first days here with you."
Slowly, the ninja untied the blue mask he wore and held it out between them. Cody watched in fascination as Leonardo carefully prodded what appeared to be a small pouch sewn right into the blue fabric. A stray bit of white seemed to appear from nowhere, and Leo deftly snagged the corner and pulled it from its hiding spot. He gingerly placed what appeared to be a rolled up piece of linen into Cody's hands.
Intrigued, the boy smoothed out the softened cloth and words appeared written haphazardly on the surface. Raphael's handwriting was always the easiest to recognize. Cody quickly scanned the words and couldn't keep the grin from his lips. Leo chuckled again as he was returned the cloth and carefully slipped it back into its secret home.
"So … you think I should answer him?"
Cody couldn't help himself from responding to Leonardo's mood.
Leo replaced his mask and the pair strode silently from the trophy room.
Neither ever spoke of the night. To anyone. Although the bit of hidden worn cloth with its sweat and blood smudged words never left its secret home again.
You may have been a stupid, stubborn son of a bitch,
But I loved you. And I miss you. Never doubt that.
X FIN X
SUPER-SPOILERY-AUTHORS-NOTE-OF-DOOM!! : I'm writing a collection of stories that all weave together from different timelines. This is one of them. Another is "HEAVEN ENOUGH" ... so that can be read as a companion piece to this. There will be others!! 8D