Thank you everyone who has been reading and reviewing my fic thus far. As always, you guys are awesome! XD And if you haven't reviewed, please do! I love hearing from my readers, and I do allow anonymous reviews, so don't be shy! XD Please note that all flamers will be pelted with snowballs!
Disclaimer:I do not own any of the cannon characters in this fic (unfortunately), and am making no money from the writing of this fic...unfortunately. I do however own Tara, Kirby, Samantha, Angelo & Bella. Anna belongs to fellow FF/net member, Second Daughter of Eve.
…Nine months later…
Sitting on the floor, Raphael sat in the family room of the manor and watched Monet, Degas and Yoshi toddle around while he held his baby son, Asher, securely between his legs. The small baby watched his cousins in fascination through amber eyes that were exactly like his father's.
"They're really getting' the hang of walkin'," Raph said with a fond grin.
"Yes," Leo said with a proud smile as he watched from a distance that allowed him to be close enough to rush to his children should they fall over and hurt themselves. Though his three boys no longer needed to use a wall or a piece of furniture to hold themselves up while they moved, their legs were still nevertheless still a little on the shaky side. It did not take much to set them off balance.
As was soon demonstrated when Kaylee lightly touched Yoshi's shoulder as she toddled over to him—sending the turtle toddler toppling over with a small squawk of surprise.
Leo moved to help his son up, but stayed his movements when Yoshi slowly and determinedly pushed himself up to his hands and knees before carefully getting back to his feet again. "Did you see that?" Leo asked proudly.
"Yeah…your little boy just got his tail beat by my little warrior princess," Casey said with a proud grin as he chuckled.
Leonardo threw a throw pillow at his human friend. "No, I mean Yoshi got up all by himself without any help." He smiled proudly. "They'll be running in no time."
"Yeah, just like my little munchkins," Mikey said with a grin as he watched Zoe and Chloe crawling quickly after their toddling cousins.
From his seat in his favorite recliner, Splinter chuckled softly. "When the time comes, Leonardo, you will school them well in the ways of the Ninja they way you have been doing with Angelo and Bella."
Though Leo smiled at his father, he could not help the deep-pitted sorrow in his heart. All the adults of the family knew the aged rat was approaching the end of his days. He was moving slower than before…sometimes needing to be carried when his aching joints stiffened too much, and his brown fur had long since shifted to grey.
"I will make you proud, father," Leonardo said with a small bow of his head.
"We all will," Raphael said.
"Yeah," Mikey added with a nod.
Splinter smiled softly at his three sons. "I know you will."
Asher soon began fussing—squirming in his father's hold as he reached towards his cousins.
"Easy kiddo," Raphael said with a chuckle. "You'll be chasin' after them in no time."
"I think it's almost bottle time, dudes," Mikey said as he looked at the large clock on the wall. "Want me to bring one back for Asher, Raph?"
"Yeah, thanks, bro. He just had one an hour ago, but this little guy's got my appetite," Raphael said with a grin.
Casey grinned and tossed the pillow back at Leo. "I'll give ya a hand, dome head," he said as he led the way out of the room—fully comfortable in the knowledge that his little girl would be safe with her two uncles.
"Hey rugrats," Mikey said with a grin as he passed Angelo and Bella as he made his way through the door.
"Hey Uncle Mikey," they said as they made their way to their father and plopped down on either side of him.
"Hey you two, what's up?"
"Daddy, when's mommy gonna be done?" Angelo asked.
"Dunno," Raphael said with a small shrug. "You can't rush these kinds of things, Angelo." He looked around. "Where's Hikari?"
"He wouldn't leave Auntie Tara's door," Bella answered as she lightly touched her baby brother's cheek with her fingertips.
"Yeah," Angelo said with a nod as he let Asher grip his index finger in his small fist. "We kept trying to get him to come with us, but he wouldn't move."
"He knows something's up with his mommy," Leo said with a smile as he gently directed Zoe and Chloe apart before they could collide into each other. "Animals can sense these kinds of things."
"Can we watch a movie, daddy?" Angelo asked.
"Sure," Raph said with a nod. "Why don't the two of ya go to yer movie shelf and pick somethin' out?"
"Okay," the twins said together before rising to their feet and padding over to their designated shelf before perusing its contents together.
"The meal wagon has arrived," Mikey said with a chuckle as he and Casey came back into the room with several warmed up bottles.
"Thanks, bro," Raph said as he accepted the bottle Mikey handed him—making sure to test the temperature of the contents before putting it to Asher's mouth. "That's it li'l guy," he said with a chuckle as his son latched on immediately to the nipple. "Eat up."
Mikey handed one of the bottles to Splinter before scooping Zoe into his arms and placing her on her grandfather's lap. Once she was happily settled and drinking her meal, Michelangelo scooped Chloe up into his own arms and popped the bottle into her mouth.
Casey in turn helped Leo hand out bottles of juice to the four toddlers. Though they were able to hold the bottles themselves, both fathers kept watchful eyes on them in case they choked.
"We picked out a movie," Angelo said as he held up the DVD.
"Uncle Casey, can you put it in?" Bella asked.
"Yeah, sure, I can do that," the dark-haired man said with a smile as he made his way over.
"You may want to hold off on that."
All eyes turned to the doorway to find a smiling Kirby, Samantha, Anna and April standing just inside the room.
"Mommy!" Angelo's entire face lit up in a smile as he ran to his mother and threw his arms around her waist and buried his face in her abdomen. He had become only a little clingy since Asher had been born, but both Kirby and Raphael had taken extra care to assure both him and Bella that they were just as loved as they had been before the new baby.
"Hello, angel baby," Kirby said with a smile as she lifted Angelo into her arms—an increasingly difficult feat since the small boy seemed to be growing with each passing day.
"Well?" Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Splinter and Casey all asked in unison.
Still smiling, all four women parted to reveal a tired but smiling Tara holding a small bundle in her arms as a beaming Donatello wheeled her into the room in a wheelchair. Hikari trotted along beside them 'smiling' as he wagged his tail.
"Say hello to the newest member of our family," Donnie said as he wheeled his wife to the recliner—allowing Splinter to see the tiny, baby girl sleeping in Tara's arms as the others gathered around.
"She is beautiful, my son and daughter," Splinter said with a smile as he took in the sight of the peacefully sleeping child. Her full head of red hair was exceptionally striking against her green skin, and her tiny fingers twitched a little in her small fist as she dreamt.
"So beautiful," Leonardo breathed softly.
"I know," Tara said softly as a single tear rolled down her cheek. "So beautiful…the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
"Just like her mommy," Donnie murmured softly as he tenderly nuzzled his wife's temple before kissing it—his thumb exceptionally gentle as it caressed his sleeping daughter's forehead.
"What's her name?" Raphael asked softly before putting Asher over his shoulder and burping him.
"Joy," Tara and Donnie answered softly together.
"It's a good name," Mikey said with a smile.
"We thought so too," Donnie said with a smile.
"What color are her eyes?" Bella and Angelo asked together.
"Hazel," April answered as she picked Kaylee up from the floor and cradled her against her hip.
"Just like her mommy and daddy," Anna said as she picked up Monet.
Samantha gently took Zoe from Splinter's arms and took over in feeding her—allowing the wizened rat to reach his arms out for the new baby. Though she was reluctant to part from the baby she had wanted for so long, Tara nevertheless handed her precious daughter to the beloved family elder.
Joy stirred a little in the shifting, but did not awaken.
It was with painstaking gentleness that Splinter smoothed Joy's coppery tresses with a wrinkled hand. "Hamato Joy…we have been waiting for you for quite some time, little one. It is with great bliss that I welcome you to our family at last," he said as he gently brushed a finger along his new granddaughter's cheek.
Though her eyes were still closed in slumber, Joy nevertheless grabbed a hold of the gentle finger and held on as tightly as her little hand would allow—joining both old and new generations in a bond of familial love that was a long time in the making.
The circle was now complete.
A/N: I would like to take this time to thank all of my loyal readers for sticking with me during my telling of this tale. However, as with all things, this saga must too come to an end. Please know that your reviews and kind words have meant the world to me, and though this is the end for the characters you have grown to love, please rest assured that it is not the end of my writing. I do hope that any other stories I write in the Turtle-verse (or any other verse for that matter) will find special places in your heart as my 'Life Changes' saga has.
Once again, I thank you all, and I hope we meet again on another page of another story. *Bows*