Until the End of Days
A/N: Here's another one of my weird little character study oneshots. Be prepared for slight OOC ness according my interpretation of the character, and welcome to the dark imaginings of my strange, strange mind. This is painfully sad and character death oriented, so be prepared.
I always watched and they never knew, they walked right by like I wasn't worth it, like I had never seen the things they hide, the things they said when no one else was there to listen, all those little scars they hid behind their eyes. They thought I was too young, too naïve to understand and see the things they saw after the battles, like the blood didn't affect me too.
But watching your oldest brother disembowel a Foot ninja on a dark rooftop sticks with you forever. You have no choice. Sometimes, I can see it in my dreams, hear the sound, that awful pause as the steel ripped into flesh and the blood came pouring out.
God, I hate silence. It's the one thing that scares me more than anything; silence, and being alone.
When it gets too quiet, I remember a lot of things, fill my head with brightness until I can't help but forget the rest. Being kids, I remember the best, like laughing in the sewer lines, the sound of water pooling around our ankles, tag. I loved being a kid, guess that will never change. I guess that's just the Peter Pan in me.
I watched them ever since, watched them all grow up too fast, get hardened by the things we saw, the scars we carried after the battle was done, leaving me to keep them laughing, to keep that light bottled in their eyes.
But the day Donny died, a lot of that had changed. That ninja caught him in the stomach with a tanto blade, and he bled out right there on the rooftop. Raph was soaked in his blood by the time he had carried him home, and I followed the red drops in the sewer water.
That same night, I remember falling off the roof, and Leo looked so sad when he came to find me in the alleyway. I woke up fine, but Don was gone. We'd walked the whole way home in silence, following those little drops of blood.
God, I hate silence.
Sensei was heartsick, and even I didn't have the heart to cheer him up, he would never listen to me anyways. No one would. No one talked, no one practiced, no one laughed, just more of that silence that I hated. It scared me so much to see it in their eyes, the silence and the loneliness, my two biggest fears.
It made me want to scream when Raph would just stare off into space, flicking through the tv channels, but never actually stopping long enough to watch. He'd just sit and stare with the blue light of the television flashing across his face, and I would do the only thing I could do- sit right along there with him and think about the past.
Raph never had been too good with words. I just guessed that's what he would have wanted.
Leo was harder to figure out. He'd just sit there and stare, like Raph, but he'd be looking at the walls, watching them like they were the ones that had put that knife through Donny's stomach, like they were blaming him for not taking it instead.
I couldn't do anything about that. I guess sometimes, they were right about me being too young to deal with these kinds of things. I really was just too naïve back then.
The year we turned twenty two, one year after Donny died, Sensei got really sick, and I think that losing a son had a lot to do with it. He was old, we all knew that, he told us all the time, but it was easy to forget sometimes. He was just so strong not too long ago, then all of a sudden, bam, he's gone and fading.
I never left his side through those nights, those two weeks before he died, because I knew if I was dying, I'd hate to be alone.
Leo was there sometimes, and he'd cry like no one cared. It scared me to see him break down like that, just let it all hang out in the open. I think he cried for Don then too, because he couldn't blame those walls anymore. That could only get you so far.
Raph came and went like a shadow, not angry like he used to be, just brooding, quiet, standing there in the doorway and saying nothing, then turning to leave before someone started crying again.
That almost hurt more than anything; that dark, brooding silence.
I missed my brothers.
I wonder where they went.
I was there when Sensei finally passed. Leo had fallen asleep beside him, and I didn't have the heart to wake him. He just looked like he was finally peaceful after all those nights of staring down his ghosts.
I don't know if that was selfish of me or not. Sometimes, I still regret it.
But I hadn't slept a wink in days. It just felt like, after everything we've been through, I just couldn't do it, I couldn't let myself rest. I had to watch them, make sure they were ok, keep that light inside their eyes like I always did, even if it was getting harder after all these years.
Sensei talked to me that night, told me I was a good son for staying, and I promised him that I would never leave. How could I leave him to die there all alone? No one could wish that on their father. I could never do that to my father, the only one who ever cared, who used tuck us in at night with tattered blankets and sing old Japanese lullabies under his breath, pretending he didn't make up half the words. But we never cared. He was our father, and he could do no wrong.
I held his hand that one last time, when he smiled and his eyes tried to meet mine, but wandered, so unfocused before the light had finally come and gone.
I cried then, for the first time in a long time, but I knew I had to be strong, I had to keep that light. I made a promise that I would stay, and it was a promise I always intended to keep.
I think after that I learned a lot about life, and that death wasn't all that bad. It was just like falling asleep. That night, I didn't cry for my poor father, I cried for my broken, heartsick brothers that he had left behind.
Two years later, we found Raph in the shop he and Casey had built to earn a little extra money. The whole place was dirty, covered in rusted parts and axle grease in that old abandoned warehouse, filled with the corroded shells of old vans and motorcycles, a half-dismantled Chevy pickup sitting in the corner. That old truck was the last thing he and Don were rebuilding before he died. No one ever had the heart to touch it.
The place was eerie when we found it. Raph had been gone for days, and I could tell Leo had that bad feeling in his stomach when he woke up early on that Tuesday morning to the sound of that old motor running.
The door was closed, and Raph was gone. The hazy fumes of that old truck had sung him to sleep like memories of old Japanese lullabies.
I guess the weight had been too much.
After that, even I was heartsick, and I never really had the urge to talk anymore. I'd just wander through the Lair all day and night, never eating, never sleeping, just watching like I always have, remembering us as four, together, kids laughing through the sewer lines, unscarred, unbroken, whole.
That was over sixty years ago, but how could I even dare to forget?
April still comes by some days and stops to leave us groceries. Her hair is turning grey, but I still think she won't forget. She knows too much of what we once were.
We were all just kids.
She still tries to talk to Leonardo, just little things that never met too much. She'd ask him about his day and smile this sad smile that could rip your heart in two. It still rips mine apart every time.
She never talks to me anymore, but I guess I shouldn't blame her. A lot has changed since then, and I'm barely the kid my mind tells me I once was. I just watch now, silent and alone because Leo's been long gone for a while. He still stares at those dojo walls, but he never cries, never even tries to break down like he did the night our father died.
Still, I can tell, his heart is slowly breaking.
But I promised I would stay. I promised Sensei I would do that much. I think it's funny that he would even think I would leave.
Leo's in the dojo, talking to the walls again, but silently, with his eyes. I can tell inside he's just screaming at himself, but he's too ashamed to admit it. He doesn't want me to know. He's so lonely, I can tell. I can see it on his weathered face. It's been a long time since we were kids, and we've seen a lot of death, a lot of violence, and way too much blood.
We always knew it would take us in the end.
I sit down beside him on the dojo floor, and slowly, he closes his eyes and breathes. I watch him for a while, trace the lines of age and scars that mottle his worn skin. He looks so old and pale for sixty-six. I don't even remember what I look like anymore, but I hope it's nothing like that. The grief hasn't treated him well. He looks sick and weak, but I pretend I didn't see it.
I can't help but smile for a moment when that number strikes me again. Sixty-six, and I still don't feel a day over seventeen. I guess that's just the Peter Pan in me. Me and Leo, we'll never die.
I almost start getting up to leave when Leo stops me, his voice so much older, so worn and full of gravel and scar tissue. It's ugly and it makes me cringe. "Mikey…"
He hasn't opened his eyes, but I turned to look at him, my heart fluttering in my chest. I don't remember the last time he's talked to me, but I know it's been a while. It makes me want to jump for joy. Maybe this means he's feeling better, maybe this means he'll stop talking to those walls.
"Mikey, you have to leave."
Now that hurt, I can feel everything breaking inside of me like shards of glass. It sinks into my stomach and I can feel myself pale. I can't find my words.
"Please… just leave me here." Still his eyes are closed, but his hands are shaking. I reach out to touch them, hold them in my own. They are so cold, and he gasps when I take them, try to keep them from shaking.
This is Leo, big brother, o-nii-san. I can't just let him shake like that, I can't let him be weak, be old, be feeble. But after so long, I'm starting to find that life is far from fair.
"I… I don't want to die," he sobs pitifully, but only once, gathering his strength again. His hands stop shaking and he opens his eyes. "I knew you were there," he whispers, his eyes look clouded in that searching gaze. "I saw you in the sewers, the night we carried you and Don home. You were following the blood…" He swallowed, then continued. "Raph thought I was crazy when I told him, thought I had finally lost it, and he had me convinced for a while."
And there it was, a chuckle, a small sad grin when the light returned into those sad old eyes.
"But you were with me that night when Splinter died, he talked to you, thanked you, and that's when I knew, you never left us after you died… you… never…"
There were tears in his eyes now, but he held them back with one sharp inhale and stared steadily ahead, that same old Leo I'd always known.
"I saw you in the garage when I found Raph, when I had to bury him that night in the park. I knew you were there. I could feel you."
For a moment, I was startled, I blinked, but waited. I haven't spoken in so long, and I guess now isn't exactly the perfect time to start. If time has taught me anything, it's that silence isn't always bad.
His brown eyes searched the air like he just couldn't focus them, so blood shot and tear stained; it reminded me of Master Splinter not so long ago. "I'm dying, aren't I," he said gravely, finally settling his gaze. "That's why you're here."
At first I was surprised, but then another part of me said yes. I do know. My eldest brother was almost gone. He'd been sick for months, but there was no way to find out what was causing it. Something in me whispered cancer, from the mutagen that made us what we are. I can remember now, all those mornings my poor brother woke up vomiting blood. But now I was here. I'd made my promise to stay, and that was a promise I would always plan to keep.
But he was the last, and I haven't slept in days, or months, or years. Maybe it was time for us to go.
Leo's voice was far away when he spoke again, holding on to my hands for dear sweet life, the great release of dreams and sleep, that final leap into the end. "You never left us," he whispered, "ever since you fell off that roof, you never…"
For the first time in forty-five years, my brother gaze met my eyes, no longer blind like he had been, talking to the shadows on the walls. He could see me, and I smiled when I saw the light come back to those dull eyes.
Finally, I had my brother back.
"How could I ever leave you guys?" I laugh and jabbed playfully at his arm. He grins and laughs at me, chuckles like he did when we were kids. It's the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.
We just sit there and laugh for a while on that dusty dojo floor, never letting go for ages until something tells me it's time to leave this place, time to go curl up somewhere warm and finally sleep. I haul my brother to his feet. "Up and at 'em, O Fearless Leader, the others are waiting for you," I beam, and he follows me without a question, without a doubt. He follows me to the ends of the earth like I always promised I would do. I vowed once to my dying father that I would never leave this place until the day we could be whole again.
And as we step into the great unknown, all I can do is think about the past and smile, because I kept my promise, Sensei, and now we're coming home.