Title: Running Return
Setting: During Series 7 of the current series, which I've had difficulty catching up with as it's not airing in the UK. This is more of a 'what-if' fic; I have a suspicion that Leatherhead is soon returning because I've seen his new design. I prefer the old one, but still, I was wondering when he was going to come back because he's been on his own for an entire year and I figure Don could use his help retrieving Master Splinter's data bits.
Disclaimer: Don't own the TMNT and I never will. Bah humbug.
I'm open to any feedback that anyone can give; it always means a lot. Tell me what you think and be honest. I haven't written TMNT fanfiction for years and so am trying to get back it into the habit. But after seeing 'Good Genes' again and reading what little fanfiction there was of him, I simply couldn't resist writing something about Leatherhead; he's my favourite non-turtle character on the show! The story-writing will seem a little stiff because I'm writing it from LH's POV and you know how the guy talks...
Not all the turtles are in this story because I decided that there wasn't any real need to put the other two in for quite a short piece as it might have 'crowded' the fic. It might seem a bit odd but that's just the direction I wanted to take. So enjoy!
Once more, he runs.
Chased through the darkness of his own mind, Leatherhead sees nothing ahead but light, light that he simply has to reach because then he'll be safe. He does not have to look back because… because…
And then he gets frightened because he tries to remember what Splinter told him but something is telling him, Splinter is dead, dead…and there's nothing you can do because you were the one who killed him, you –
And just like that, he sees the thing he fears the most coming towards him with ripped purple ribbon and a vile, hostile tongue that even now is hissing threats and vile obscenities that he never thought Donatello could be capable of. But this is not Donatello and the one he knew – the gentle, honest, intelligent one – is gone and replaced by this depravity.
He tries to turn his head away, to stop looking and finds himself staring into blank dead eyes covered by dirty brown that was once orange. But he knows this creature too; it was once someone who loved to laugh – admittedly sometimes at the wrong moment – and who became his friend first, who cared for him first. But the Michelangelo who once jumped up on Leatherhead's shoulders and demanded endless rides all around the lair died long ago.
And it occurs to Leatherhead that he is exactly the same, that he is no different from these monsters because when the moment of rage becomes too much he dies in himself. But it is not just him: the people around him could also die and never come back. And when he comes back to himself and discovers what he has done, then he too will die completely, with grief, with shame at what he is: a monster.
The turtles are gone – because of him – and he is alone with these creatures that even now surround him and abuse him, physically and verbally, raining down their hate for him and then -
'Come on, Leatherhead…'
But would creatures like these actually say such things with such gentle voices that sound so… normal? It doesn't seem right…
And then there is a shock of cold and his eyes snap open and he coughs and splutters as he stares at the ceiling, trying to place his surroundings but realising first and foremost that he is safe at his home, that he fell to sleep - exhausted from hours of scientific experimentation in the laboratory - on the sofa and it was just another nightmare.
And he is wet. Quite wet.
And tonight, the turtles are actually here, inside his lair. For a terrifying second that overshadows the growing joy, he wonders if he is still in his nightmare or that those terrifying turtles have appeared in his dreams so many times that they have actually become real and are now truly going to hurt him…
…But then Klunk jumps up onto his chest and nuzzles him, meowing and revealing the source of the squeaking. Leatherhead, in the realisation that he is safe and sound, picks up the cat with one hand while hurrying to sit up and staring at Donatello and Michelangelo, who are standing in the dim light of his lair and staring straight at him, although their facial expressions are of a questionable nature in his darkened home. Yet he is somehow not surprised to see that Michelangelo is holding an empty, dampened jug in one hand while the other innocently waves at him.
It is that one small wave which leads to an overflow of emotions: relief that they are safe, joy that they are back, hurt that they abandoned him and left him to fend for himself for an entire year and ultimately, the need to embrace them and confirm for himself that they are definitely real, the genuine article.
'My friends.' He realises too late that his voice is little more than a choked sob that he cannot hide but then he throws his head back and lets out a great booming laugh which echoes around his home as he holds out his arms and watches as they both run to him.
They are alive. They are back. And they are definitely, honestly, truly one-hundred-percent real.
He knows straight away that Donatello has started crying because he can see his shoulders heaving, feel the damp tears against his torso and he is unsure why exactly, but nevertheless embraces the two turtle brothers just as they embrace him. He catches Michelangelo beaming up at him and cannot help but return the smile; it has been a whole year since he last saw it, so why should he not smile back?
'My friends,' murmurs Leatherhead again, as Klunk jumps up on his shoulder, purring happily. 'It has been a long time.'
It is Michelangelo who pulls away first and stares back up into Leatherhead's eyes. 'Yeah. Boy, have we got a story to tell you! We missed you, LH.'
At those words, Leatherhead relaxes. He was afraid that they were going to tell him that they wanted to get away from everything for a time, including him. He has heard nothing from them for an entire year and gradually began to think, around the time of six months after their disappearance, that he was the root cause of their seemingly self-imposed exile. It was that, more than anything, that worsened his nightmares and brought on that fear of himself in larger quantities as he slept. Of course, not knowing where the turtles were or what had happened to them was certainly of little assistance to his mental agony.
'We couldn't help it,' Michaelangelo is talking fast, stumbling over his words as Klunk winds around his legs, desperate to explain. 'It's just – there was this big flash in the lair, see – and then we lost all our clothes, yeah? – and then we turned up in this totally awesome future and it was wicked! – and hey,' he adds, staring down at his purring cat, 'Have you been looking after Klunk?'
Leatherhead, having learned by now not to be surprised at Michaelangelo's somewhat unorthodox method of speech, merely nods, giving a slight smile as he stares down at the innocent little creature.
'He has been good company for me.'
After all, having once been neglected and abandoned himself, Leatherhead was not going to inflict such cruelty on another innocent animal. Klunk had run straight to him when he arrived in the lair to see his friends and the poor creature had been so hungry and so lonely.
And anyway, without knowledge of the turtles' whereabouts, no matter how much Leatherhead had ransacked the place for clues, what other purpose could he serve?
Now, on hearing Leatherhead's reply, Michelangelo's face lights up and he takes a run at him yet again as the crocodile readily holds out an arm – the other one still placed on Donatello's back – to accept the new embrace.
'Man, thankyou! I was so worried about him!' Michelangelo crows delightedly.
Leatherhead smiles and pats his shell gently. 'Think nothing of it, friend. Where are Leonardo and Raphael? Are they alright?'
Michaelangelo nods. 'Oh yeah, they're chillin' back at the lair 'cause they're kinda tired but they want you to come back with us. We've had so much on our minds we only got round to seein' you now.'
Leatherhod nods back, satisfied now that he has heard all the turtles are alive and well. 'And what of Master Splinter?'
Michaelangelo's face immediately falls and he looks down. 'Ah...' He glances at Donatello and realising that his answer lies with his fellow scientist, Leatherhead turns his attention to him. Donatello is still quietly sobbing and like an older brother tending to a younger, Leatherhead kneels before him to even the difference in height, registering his friend's face with increasing concern: the tear-streaks, the dull eyes and the large bags underneath them.
'Donatello,' he says softly, unable to hide both his happiness at seeing his friend again and his concern for his current state (Michelangelo, in a display of somewhat unusual tact, departs the scene to play with Klunk).
The intelligent young turtle rubs his tears away, leaving swollen eyes behind and offering the crocodile a shaky smile before resting his head in his hands, a look that is well-remembered by Leatherhead who recalls the days when he often came forward to calm the quietly frustrated turtle on the occasions that a highly-anticipated experiment failed to succeed the first time. However, unlike Leatherhead in times of turmoil, Donatello actually managed to keep his temper.
But he can never recall seeing his friend cry and that makes it even more distressing; that one of his gentlest and closest allies should appear so unhappy and discontent.
'I need your help, Leatherhead. M-master Splinter… is…is…' Donatello shakes his head and tries again. 'I can't do it alone... please...'
His weak, imploring words reveal so much; the extent of his exhaustion, the many days and nights working on something that is clearly crucial, something involving a loved one, something that is too intellectually challenging for even Donatello to handle. Suddenly a lot of the puzzle falls into place for Leatherhead and he is immediately on his protective guard, even though not all has been explained. But Donatello is not required to say anything else because in his mind, the part of him that remains sane, Leatherhead has already agreed.
After all, when somebody is glad to be reunited with cherished and loyal friends like these, they will do anything to keep them safe and happy.