Summary: Everybody knew that Leo wrote letters home while he was away on his training; but nobody knew that Raphael was writing letters back – not even Leo. Until now. (Post-CGI film).
A/n: I think I've set myself quite a challenge, here, and I just hope I can pull it off. I think this will probably go to about three chapters (so when I said 'no more multi-chapters' after SitC, I guess I lied). Feedback is very much appreciated!
Letters That We Never Meant to Send
"And even though the moment passed me by
I still can't turn away
Cause all the dreams you never thought you'd lose
Got tossed along the way
And letters that you never meant to send
Got lost or thrown away…"
- Name, the Goo Goo Dolls.
He was on his way in after an early morning rooftop run when Leonardo spotted the package nestled underneath the postbox in the wall of the Lair's garage. It wasn't entirely unheard of for them to receive postal packages at their mail address; Don had installed the post slot after contemplating what would happen if any of their confidential mail was ever stolen, but larger parcels that would not fit through the slot were often left there in the alley on the step next to the garage door. As far as Leo knew, though, they hadn't been expecting to receive anything, and his cautionary instincts (he refused to think of it as paranoia) kicked in immediately.
The city was still quiet at this early hour, so he dropped down to street level for a closer look at the parcel, approaching it slowly and listening for any ominous ticking noises or other suspicious sounds.
Up close, Leo realised that it was actually a bundle of envelopes thicker than a brick, tied tightly and neatly together with a few pieces of frayed twine. Simply puzzled now more than worried, he nudged it with his toe. When nothing happened, he bent down to pick it up and examine it more closely. There was a loose piece of paper tucked under the twine on top of the bundle. Leo pulled it out and unfolded it, revealing a short printed note. Glancing around the alley again to make sure he was still unobserved, he opened the garage door and ducked inside so that he could read the note away from prying eyes.
Leaning against the cool metal of the Battleshell, he read the message under the dingy flourescent lightbulb.
This mail has been held at the addressed Postal Office awaiting collection for a period of six months, after which time it is office policy that they be returned to the sender's address if such an address has been provided. The envelopes have been stamped with their receival date and have remained unopened. If you have any enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact your postal service using the details listed below.
There was a phone and fax number, and an email address. Leo stared at the note for some moments, perplexed. In the last letter he'd received from Master Splinter while he'd been training in Central America, his Sensei had regretfully come to the conclusion that his son was no longer receiving his letters, since they had gone unreplied to for so long. Leo could remember the day he read it.
'It seems that your training has forced you to travel unexpectedly, my son, and I fear that these letters no longer reach you. Indeed, this shall be my last; now I shall seek you elsewhere, in the connection between minds and hearts. Stay safe, Leonardo. Your brothers and I await your return.'
Leo had clutched the letter in his hand, standing there in the early morning forest light, and felt a swell of conflicting emotions. There was sadness, of course; regret that he had caused his father worry, that he would no longer receive the sporadic updates of news about his family and friends. But in equal measure there was relief, and for many of the same reasons.
Without Splinter's letters, he would no longer be able to tantalise himself with visions of his brothers and father, with longings for home. He did not deserve them, when he was failing so badly here, and they distracted him from his training. Also, if there were no more letters, he would no longer have to experience the twisting guilt that arose every time he picked up a pen to write a reply, and found himself unable to form the words. It was always difficult, anyway, scraping together an adequate disguise so that he could go in to collect his mail in relative secrecy. In that way it was a relief, knowing that he would never have to return to the tiny, run-down postal office at the edge of the small village. Once his father assumed that he had left there, it had not occurred to Leo that anyone else would be sending him mail.
And yet, apparently, someone had. A substantial quantity of it, too.
It was his normal ritual to sort through the mail over a cup of tea at the breakfast table, but he was burning with curiousity now. He pulled aside the piece of twine tied over the envelope on top of the bundle, and felt his eyes go wide with surprise at the sight of the address written in familiar handwriting. Unable to believe it, he quickly untied the other pieces of twine and let the full weight of the envelopes fall loosely into his hands. He sifted through them all with mounting shock. Every one of them was addressed in the same style as the first.
Leo knew that handwriting.
It belonged to his brother, Raphael.
Leonardo stared at the pile of letters that spilled across his bed, watching them as if they might leap up and attack him at any moment. He'd been that close to taking them straight to Raph and demanding that his brother explain what the hell was going on, and if this was some kind of trick. Instinct told him, though, that if his brother knew these letters were in the Lair then they'd disappear before he ever got a chance to read their contents.
Because it was Raph. Raph didn't write letters. Hell, Raph hadn't even written Leo so much as a grocery list in all the years they'd grown up together. Leo was slightly surprised that he could recognise his own brother's handwriting, considering how rarely he'd ever seen it before. There were some things, he supposed, that you just knew about your family, and handwriting was one of them.
He'd taken the letters into his room before the rest of his family had laid eyes on them, and now he was steeling himself for whatever they might contain. He sat on the edge of the bed and gathered them all up in his hands again, sifting through them and examining the postmarks. The first was dated just a couple of weeks after the last of Splinter's letters, and the final one roughly a month before he'd returned to New York. Almost a year's worth in total, he calculated. And he'd never even known the letters were there. Why hadn't Raph said anything, after he'd returned home?
Leo recognised that he was just stalling, now; the only place he possibly might find the answers to his questions was in the letters themselves. He took the first one off the pile, carefully slit the envelope open, and removed the contents. It was just a single sheaf of paper, about two-thirds covered with Raph's scrawl. His brother's handwriting was messy, but large, and relatively easy to read – all sharp angles and blotches where he'd pressed the pen too fiercely to the paper.
Hey Leo, it began without preamble,
Splinter says you ain't returning his letters any more, so he reckons you've gone running off somewhere for more 'training'. I reckon that maybe you just think you're too busy and important to bother reading letters from your own damn family any more. Well, whatever. You'll probably never read this, at least, so I won't have to hear your smug comments about it. Works for both of us. But you ain't the one who has to see Mike's face every time he goes to collect the mail and there's nothing there, so ya might wanna think about that.
Personally I don't care if you wanna go all silent and we don't get another word out of ya until you get home. But for the others' sakes at least, you know… you coulda given them a bit of warning, instead've just disappearing off the face of the earth like that.
Pick up a damn phone and call once in a while, asshole.
Definitely Raphael, Leo decided as he finished. He could recognise the tone of it easily.
The date on the second letter suggested quite a gap, as if Raph had actually waited for a reply that had never come. This one was slightly longer, and Raph's writing spilled across the page as if he hadn't been able to hold it back.
Fine. I shoulda known that you wouldn't bother responding to that stupid letter I sent. If ya even read it at all, which ya probably didn't. I might as well've just folded it up into a paper airplane and thrown it off the top of a skyscraper, for all the good it's done. Would've had just as much of a chance of reaching you that way, probably.
I get it, though. You don't hafta explain it to me. I know your training period's officially over and you're meant to be back home already, yadda yadda. But if I were you I wouldn't wanna come back home either. It's a big wide world out there, right? Why would you wanna come back here, when you've got all of that to explore?
Not like there's anyone here worth coming back for.
Shit. You've got no idea how close I was to scribbling that all out. Or scrunching this up and setting it on fire, maybe. This is so goddamn stupid. But it's not like it matters, if you ain't ever gonna read it anyway. I could say whatever the hell I wanted here, and you'd never even know. I could write down every single insult I could think of to throw at ya. Or I could write what I really think, I guess. Yeah, I could do that. First time for everything, right? No one has to know. It doesn't friggin matter, anyway.
Leo, I want ya to come home.
There, I said it. So do whatever the hell you want. Laugh at me, for all I care. Just come home and laugh at me, already.
Leo held the letter tightly in both hands, feeling the months-old misery that hung heavy in the weight of its words, drowning out even the anger. It would have been better if Raph had just been purely angry. Leo knew that if he'd read this letter while he was away, he would have been heading for home in the next heartbeat. The need in it was unmistakable. What it must have cost Raph to put it into words…
Leo remembered Raph as he had been when he returned; the sullen anger and resentment, the depth of the unexpected antagonism. Of course, he hadn't been expecting an overwhelming display of happiness from Raph when he'd got back – that would never have been his style – but the cold welcome he'd received had taken him by surprise, and he had even been a little hurt by it. He hadn't understood, back then. He understood a little better now, and he had a feeling that these letters would go a long way towards explaining even more.
Raph wouldn't be comfortable with him finally reading them so long after the fact, if he knew. But they're addressed to me, damnit, thought Leo, and things would probably have been a whole lot easier if I'd read them months ago.
He sent a silent apology to his brother, opened up the next letter, and began to read.