In his dream, he was back in the alley. He had just emerged from the manhole cover and was starting to walk towards the street when he saw a bright figure lying on the ground, close to the sidewalk.
He recognized the person immediately.
Mikey! he shouted.
A dark shape was crouching over his brother. A Foot ninja, with a very sharp knife, poised to cut.
He was already running. He was running as fast as he could, but the alley was stretching, the buildings looming taller around him, and he wasn't getting any closer. He drew a sai and threw it, but it didn't fly. It hung in the air in front of him, an arm's-length away, moving at the same non-speed as he was.
He put his head down and ran faster, pushing the pavement away with his bare feet. He ran for what felt like forever. Then he looked up and he was there.
The floating sai had vanished, so he drew the other one, preparing to strike. Before he could, the Foot ninja reached up and pulled off his own mask.
It was Don.
He fell to his knees. Donnie, why?
It's good for him, Don said. He needs this.
He looked down. Mike had been carved open from neck to waist, his plastron cracked in half like a cookie ready to be shared. His guts came from inside him like a red flower.
He automatically blocked the descending knife with the sai still in his hand. Donnie, no! What's wrong with you?
I'm doing the best I can, Don said, disentangling his weapon. It's your turn, Raph.
The knife fell…
He woke in a dark room, his pulse racing. He saw the young man and he screamed. Everything he had told himself before going to sleep vanished in the face of those images.
"These dreams!" he said, as soon as he was able to form coherent words. "You send me these dreams - you only come when I have a nightmare!"
"This is not truth," the young man said. The bottle was already in his hand. "You send the dreams to me. You call for me and I am manifest."
He breathed, calmed himself, let the thoughts come back. It was only a dream. I am in control. He sat up, glanced at the floor, saw the fishing pole exactly where he had left his crutch. "I looked that up," he said. "Manifest. And ineffable."
The young man held out the bottle. "You must drink this."
He wasn't ready. He needed more answers. "If you're part of me, why can't I understand you?"
"I am not you," the man said. "I have never been you."
"Then who are you?" He was done with these games. "Was I really dead? How could I have come back from that?"
"You were body-dead," the young man said. "Your spirit was pushed out, but it did not go far, and you were able to return."
"But when?" It wasn't making sense, didn't fit with his memory of events. "Between when I heard my brothers, and when Don got there?"
"You were –" He broke off. "It is difficult to say in your words."
"Mikey has that too," he said. "Try. I'll listen."
"I will show you," the man said. "I will show you what you do not remember."
In his mind, something opened.
He was floating above the sidewalk just outside the mouth of the alley. His body was lying on the ground, bloody and abandoned, a few feet away. One of the Foot ninjas was withdrawing his sword from the vulnerable place between plastron and carapace.
"No!" he shouted in a voice that didn't carry beyond his own mouth. After all I've survived, I'm not going to die here, now, like this.
He tried to move back towards his body, but the air passed through him frictionlessly and he couldn't go.
That's when his brothers arrived.
They came silently, like ghosts, their weapons flashing spinning striking. The Foot ran from them, and they vanished into the shadows.
He was going to try to shout for them, when he saw the glowing figure kneeling over his body.
"Get away from me!" he yelled. The words didn't fly, but the person heard them anyway.
"You are very injured," he said. He moved his hand toward the lifeless body.
"Don't you touch me." He growled voicelessly, completely helpless to protect what had, until recently, been himself.
"You are safe. Help is coming."
"What are you talking about?" he demanded. "I'm dead."
"No," the man said simply.
"Look, I'm dead! What the hell kind of doctor are you?"
"I am the angel," the young man replied.
"I'm not going with you." He crossed his arms, melted partway through himself in an extremely disconcerting way.
"You are very injured," the young man commented again.
He was going to reply, but his senses were suddenly overwhelmed. There was a flash of light, and the smell of dirt and the taste of clean water and the feel of wind in his face, and his brothers' voices calling his name, and he knew, some part of him had always known, that this was the web. He reached for it with translucent fingers.
"My brothers," he said.
"Yes. Help is coming."
"Do you feel them?" Multicolored light played around the shadow that was his outstretched arm. "How did you know before me?"
"I am the angel, Raphael."
Then the person was gone, and the manhole cover flew off, and Michelangelo launched himself into the surface world. "Please no," he was saying as he pelted the few yards to his brother's body and threw himself to his knees. "Please no..." He stuffed his fist in his mouth to stifle a scream.
He was carrying the web inside him, and part of it was missing.
Don was coming, and Leo. "He's dead!" Mikey howled in a strangled voice.
He needed to go back to them. He closed his incorporeal fist on the shimmering energy, and it reeled him back to himself.
He rose slowly into familiar flesh.
"What was that?" he asked, when he was sure he was in control of his own body.
"That is what truly happened," the man told him. "The other is what you constructed, to hide from the truth."
"I was dead the first time I talked to you?" He put a steadying hand against the very solid wall of his room.
"Yes. You wanted so powerfully to return, that I was called to you."
"So…" His head was spinning. "I have psychic powers, but they're not healing powers. They're – they're summoning powers. The healing comes from you."
"This is truth," the young man said.
"And you told me right from the beginning." There's no big plot. I'm not insane. "If I had just believed you…"
"You were afraid. You did not understand what I was."
He looked down. "I thought you were there to take me away." His eyes traced the contour of the blanket. "And I think you sort of did. How can I get back in the web?"
"You must finish healing. Only then will your spirit be able to move outward."
It was exactly what Master Splinter had told him. He held out his hand, and the man put the bottle into it.
"So what is in here?" he asked, popping off the cork.
"You already know," the man said. "You have felt it."
Cold. Falling. Pain seeping away and air in his lungs. The little reincarnation, putting his body back together.
This time, the world didn't immediately disappear.
"Did you call my brothers?" he asked, while he waited for the darkness. "The real ones. Not the ghosts. Did you bring them to me?"
The young man leaned over him, his brightness falling onto Raphael's chest. It was warm. He laid a gentle kiss on Raphael's forehead. "Be well," he said.
He felt himself vibrating from the inside out. He thought he saw the young man smile, but it was hard to tell. The world was shaking, harder and harder until it shook itself apart.
He woke in a dark room. His fist was clenched around nothingness.
He breathed deeply, extending his consciousness into every part of himself. He flexed his fingers and wiggled his toes.
He sat up, threw the blanket aside, and looked hard at his tightly bound ankle. Slowly, slowly, he moved the joint.
It replied with a satisfying crack.
He reached forward and pulled the bandage off, tearing it away in great loops, not bothering to roll it up as he went. When his ankle was laid bare he rolled his foot around, stretching it in every direction.
It felt great.
He paused for a split second, in case the Wrath of Don was about to burst in on him, before leaping out of bed. He landed equally on both feet, and they supported him equally. He jumped up and down.
His whole body felt like one well-oiled spring.
It was six-thirty Monday morning.
It was time to go to practice.
He put on his mask first, then his wrist-guards, his padding. His belt, tying it snugly around his midsection and tucking his equipment into the elastic straps that lined the inside.
Finally, his sai. He hefted them, flipped them in and out along his forearms, and slid them firmly into their familiar places at his hips.
He was back to himself.
He realized he didn't have any clothes to wear. Where his brothers merely found human clothes to be largely pointless, he actively disliked them. Hence, he owned no more than seemed strictly necessary. Which meant that at this moment, he owned absolutely none that weren't full of holes.
Fine. So he would borrow some.
It was time to be with his brothers again.
He went downstairs.
When he entered the dojo, Leonardo was already there, wearing his street clothes and stretching on the floor.
"Hey," Leo said. He switched sides. "Looks like you fixed your ankle."
"Sort of." He began hopping from foot to foot, building up his heart rate.
"Looks pretty fixed to me."
"It is." He bounced lightly on the balls of his feet, throwing a few punches into the air. "I'll tell you all about it later."
"Sure, we can -"
The Wrath of Don had descended.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Raphael boxed playfully in his brother's direction. "The same thing we do every morning."
"Oh, honestly." Don crossed the room, threw down his bo, and followed it to the floor. "Sit."
He didn't want to sit. He stuck out his foot, wiggling his toes in Donatello's face.
"Laugh it up, Magic Boy," Don said, shifting so he could prop Raphael's heel on his sweatpants-covered knee. "If this ankle is not perfect, I'm going to knock you unconscious and tie you to a bed for four months." He wrapped his hands around the joint, squeezing the muscle and feeling over the knobs of bone. "I absolutely do not believe this," he grumbled, and redoubled his exploratory efforts, working his fingers up and down, pressing deeply.
Leo had come to join them, hovering over Donatello's shoulder. "What do you think?" he asked.
Don ignored him and looked up at Raphael. "Does this hurt at all?" he demanded.
"I'm going to have to disappoint you," Raphael replied, "and say no."
Donatello flattened his leg, forcing Raphael to scramble for balance, and said to the universe at large, "How am I supposed to practice medicine under these conditions?"
It was at that moment that Michelangelo entered the dojo, took one look at them, shouted "It's outward!" and ran out of the room without any further explanation.
"What in the world?" Leo said, but Raphael was completely focused on the empty doorway.
"Well, at least it's different," Don offered.
"Are you certain?" Splinter was saying, just outside.
"Oh, Sensei, it's like a volcano." Michelangelo dragged their father into the room. "Please can I do it now?"
"Of course," Splinter said, fixing his other sons with an unfocused gaze. "Practice will wait."
Michelangelo launched himself at the empty place to Donatello's left, rolling his sleeves up, waving Leo down to the floor opposite. He didn't stop moving until he was a fraction of an inch from touching Raphael's hand. "Can I do this?" he asked.
"Mikey," Raphael said, "you can do this until the cows come home."
Mike needed no further invitation. He seized Raphael's hands, squeezed them hard, and expelled every last bit of oxygen from his body.
"What -" Don started, but Leo shushed him.
Raphael closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He felt like he was being inflated, his skin stretching until it was completely filled. He felt like he was sweating backwards. He felt like his organs had been fit together by a master stonemason, so tightly that nothing else was needed to hold them in place.
Then a valve opened, and the fullness began to drain away like a slow exhalation, until he was the right size again.
He opened his eyes.
"Guys," Mikey said, and stuck out his elbow. Don and Leo put their hands on his arm, and Mike started a low humming, which his brothers joined, matching the note.
Raphael could feel it vibrating somewhere around his solar plexus, making his senses blurry, acting like static to block out whatever happened next.
They held the note for one minute, two minutes - advantages of lungs built for diving - and then it faded away. There was a moment of stillness, and then Mike toppled over onto his back.
"Dudes," he said to the ceiling. "That feels so much better."
Leo looked at his hands. "Something feels better."
"I have no idea what we just did," Don said.
Raphael leaned over. "You okay, Mikey?"
"I'm somewhere on the 'awesome' side of 'okay'."
"So what was that?" Leo asked. "Semi-annual chi realignment? Every six months or ten thousand miles?"
Mike reached out limply, his fingers brushing over Raphael's arm. "You explain."
Raphael looked at his youngest brother, unsure how lucid he was. "Can I tell them?"
"Tell them everything."
He glanced at Master Splinter, kneeling at a respectful remove, but their father was keeping silent, recognizing that something was happening of which he could not be part. "Okay." He stared at his hands, thinking about where to start. "This is what Mike knows," he said, pitching his voice so that Splinter could hear, "and this is what I know that I didn't know yesterday.
"Last night I saw the guy again. I remembered what you said," he glanced at Leo, "but then it turned out that he wasn't part of me after all."
"Then what is he?" Leo asked in confusion.
"He's some other kind of thing. Something I can call when I need help." He leaned back on his hands. "Which he kind of told me right at the beginning, only I wasn't listening. I didn't understand until he showed me."
"I'm lost," Don said. "What 'other kind of thing' is he?"
"I don't know," Raphael said. "He isn't real or in my head. He's something else."
"Perhaps he is a spirit from the astral plane," Splinter volunteered.
"Wouldn't that mean that he's a projection of a real person?" Leo asked.
"No," Splinter said. "The astral plane is much more than a void waiting to be visited by spirits from other realities. There are things that live there, things that even I do not comprehend."
Don looked back to Raphael. "So what did he show you?"
"He showed me what really happened in the alley. When I was..."
It was hard to continue, and Don suggested, "Unconscious?"
"No." He still didn't know how to admit to his family what Michelangelo had been hiding from them all week. "I was -" And then it hit him. "You knew, didn't you?" He looked hard at Mike. "You knew before you even saw me."
Mike turned away from Raphael, curling up on his side, wrapping his arms around his knees. "Yeah," he said in a small voice. "But I was praying so hard that I was wrong."
"What are you talking about?" Leo's frustration from the previous evening was filtering back. "What did you know?"
Raphael put his hand on Mike's bare arm. "That I was dead."
"No," Don said immediately.
"Yes," Raphael replied, just as fast. "I was really, really dead. And I didn't like it." He started rubbing Mike's arm, slowly, up and down. "That's when the guy came, the first time. He made the Foot soldiers go away, and he made you guys come. And I was trying to go back. Then Mike came, and I saw the way. I saw the web."
Mike rolled over, looking up at him. "You did? What did it smell like?"
"It smelled like dirt." He paused, listening to his own words. "How did I know that? I've never smelled dirt before."
"Because it wasn't smell," Mike said. He closed his eyes. "And it wasn't dirt."
"What was it?" Leo asked.
"It was you." Mike cracked open one eye, looking at his oldest brother. "It was your energy."
"My energy smells like dirt?" Leo was completely affronted.
"It's okay," Mike said. "It's good dirt." He poked Raphael's arm. "Go on."
"So I followed the web and I went back," Raphael concluded. "Then I was unconscious."
"That still doesn't make sense," Don said. "You were alive when I got there. You weren't exactly the picture of health, but you didn't have any mortal wounds."
"I did." His brothers were all wearing clothes, but he had only his usual minimal gear. His hand went to his side, where he had seen the sword slide out, and he twisted, trying to look. "I don't remember feeling it. But I saw it. Last night. Right here." He turned to show Don.
Don looked doubtfully, running his fingers over the skin. "No, Raph," he said. "There was never anything there."
"Don't tell me that," Raphael said.
Splinter cleared his throat, and they all looked over at him. "The mortal wound is the place where the spirit leaves the body," he said. "If the spirit re-enters, it must go the same way, and seal the portal behind it."
"So Raphael had to heal that wound in order to come back to life," Leo said. He looked at Raphael expectantly.
"I don't remember," Raphael said. "I don't remember coming back." He looked around at his family. "But I'm glad I did." He twiddled his fingers against the floor, waiting for someone to say something. No one did. "So. Um. Are you guys okay with this?"
"I'm withholding judgment," Don said, "until you tell me what happened just now."
"Oh. Right." He leaned forward. "See, I came back by following the web, but I didn't come back into the web." Leo looked shocked, but Raphael didn't wait for an interruption. "Which I didn't know until Mike told me. And I talked to Master Splinter and I talked to the guy and I figured out that my energy was busy with this other thing, and I couldn't come back to you guys until I was done with it. Which is why I had to keep seeing that guy, even when I didn't want to."
"And so -" Leo jumped in.
"And so what happened just now," Raphael said loudly, silencing his older brother, "is that Mike brought me back."
"That," Leo said slowly, "explains... pretty much everything."
"Except for why Mike didn't just tell us," Don said, "so that we could deal with it like rational individuals."
"Because it wouldn't have helped," Mike said. "You couldn't fix it. You couldn't go where he was."
"It would have been nice to know," Don said.
"It would have made it worse," Mike said.
Mike twined his fingers in front of his face. "Because it was all... and when you know, but you can't, it gets, the thing, you feel it maybe, and it makes it go but then you feel and it goes again, sort of..." He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I can't, Donnie. I can't make it a why that you can see. I want you guys to know but your brains aren't like that and it will hurt you."
"Donatello," Splinter said. "What Michelangelo is trying to say, is that energies do not answer to the logic you know. They have a reasoning that must be understood on their own terms. For him to describe this to you, would be as useless as for you to describe yellow to a blind person."
Mike nodded gratefully, and they were quietly thoughtful for another moment.
"So," Raphael said. "Are we okay?"
"How can we be okay?" Don asked. "You died, only then you came back to life and recovered in a week when it should have taken months. You have some new ability that none of us can really know anything about, and... I don't know how to live with that. Should I ignore you next time you get hurt, because you'll just do your magic and be fine the next morning?" He looked around at them all. "How can we be okay in a world where the Foot actually killed one of us?"
They were all silent.
"If I may?" Splinter stood up and padded over to their circle. Leonardo and Donatello moved aside so he could sit. "We have always known that the Foot are capable of killing those we love," he began. "You have studied your entire lives in order to delay that moment as long as possible. It is disturbing that it should have happened so soon."
"I'm sorry." Raphael hung his head. "I failed."
"You did not," Splinter said. "When it mattered most, you transcended the bounds of your physical training and fought for life. I am very proud of you."
"But did he learn something?" Don asked. "Is this a repeatable event? Or have we only learned how vulnerable we are?"
"A weakness recognized becomes a strength," Splinter said. "We know now that we can be caught unawares, and that there are no limits to the dishonor of our enemy."
"I think we already knew that," Leo said bitterly.
"We have also learned," Splinter said, "that the web which connects you is so strong, that even death cannot completely break it. Michelangelo," he waited for his youngest son to look at him. "You are the steward of the web. It is more important than ever that you guard it well."
"I can't," Mike said. He sat up, wrapping his fingers around the toes of his sneakers, pulling himself into a circle. "I failed too, Master. I should have held onto him, but I didn't."
"You are still learning," Splinter said, reaching across the circle to touch Michelangelo's hand. "I know this is a great responsibility. Your love for your brothers helped Raphael find his way back, and it will help you to rise to your duties."
"So you think it could happen again?" Don asked, the question still not resolved in his mind. "None of us can really die, as long as the others are alive and want us back?" Emotions warred on his face as he tried to decide whether this was a good thing, or a false hope.
"Donatello," Splinter said. "Faith in the spiritual powers has always been difficult for you. I have told you many times that you must trust in them, even though you do not understand them, as your brothers trust in your ability to solve the puzzles of the mind."
"Yes, Master," Don said. "But this is literally life and death. Blind trust isn't good enough. I need to know."
"These are answers I cannot give you," Splinter said. "You must continue to practice meditation. The answers are waiting for you there."
"But in the meantime," Leo said, "Don and I are still completely chi-blind. What if something happens to Mike?"
"Then you guys would bring me back," Mike said.
"But -" Leo started.
"I don't have more of the web than you do; it's just that I can see it." Mike rubbed the soles of his shoes together, listening to the rubber slide. "All you have to do is be there."
"I want to," Leo said. "I want to be here for all of you. For a long time."
"There is nothing I desire more than to see all my sons safe and happy for many years," Splinter said. "How can we reach this goal?"
"By walking the path of the warrior," Leo said immediately.
"The path of the student," Don replied.
"Is always studying and never sated," Mike answered.
"Excellent," Splinter said. "How shall we proceed along this path?"
"Through disciplining our minds and bodies with constant training, yada yada, and not letting a bunch of creeps get the drop on us." Raphael stood up. "Come on. Somebody give me some clothes, and let's do this thing."
It was their custom, after practice, to gather in the kitchen and down large quantities of water. Today's training had been challenging, but Splinter had worked to keep it positive, and it had gone a long way towards making them all feel better about everything that had happened in the past week.
"So," Leo said, when he had finished his third glass. "If you're going to have a long and productive relationship with this guy, you should probably ask him what his name is."
"Actually," Raphael said, draping himself comfortably over his chair, "I don't think I'll see him again."
"Oh?" Leo refilled his glass and leaned against the counter.
"Yeah." Raphael set his glass on the table and wrestled Donatello's sweatshirt off over his head. "Last night, before he left, he said be well. But I think he meant goodbye."
"Bummer," Mike said, from his perch beside the microwave. "Just when you'd gotten things all figured out."
"I don't know." He spun his glass, watching the light reflect off the water. "Apparently I'm a summoner. For this, I needed the guy with the fishing pole. Maybe next time I'll get someone else. Which reminds me." He balled up the shirt and threw it at Donatello, who was still staking out a prime bit of territory near the sink. "You owe me a serious retraction."
"Technically, you weren't -"
"Oh, fine." Don put his glass down and bowed low. "I apologize, Master Raphael. You have much more spiritual resonance than the average barbed wire fence. Your chi reverberates like a bell and shines like a thousand stars."
"And I am a loser who can never hope to be your equal in the matters most mystical."
Don straightened up. "That was completely humiliating. But on the plus side, Leo smells like dirt, and I'm never going to let him forget it."
"I do not!" Leo complained. "I cleanse my spirit at least twice a week! Tell him, Mikey."
"Well, fine," Leo said to Don, "but you smell like, uh..."
"Thunderstorms," Mike supplied.
"Yeah, you -" Leo's ears caught up with his mouth. "Oh, come on, Mike. That's not a good insult."
Mike shrugged. "I'm just telling it like it is, bro. If Don's chi has a smell, it's thunderstorms."
"So there," Don said.
Splinter came in then, having concluded his own post-training exercises. He had obviously been listening to their conversation as he approached.
"This sounds like a most interesting discussion," he said, lowering himself into his usual seat. "You all seem much restored to yourselves."
"I've decided to look at this as a Plan B," Don said. "Plan A is obviously to avoid dying. But just in case, we have this safety net. It might be a net with really big holes in it, but a small chance is still better than no chance."
"We're going to need those small advantages," Leo said. "The Foot are distracted now with trying to grab all the alien tech, but sooner or later we're going to be facing them again."
"We'll be ready," Mike said, sliding down from the counter and bouncing into a fighting pose. "Every time they think we're dead, we just come back and kick their butts harder. This time, we'll be so awesome, they'll just give up and go home."
"That would be nice," Leo said. "Though it would be fine by me if we didn't see them for a long time."
"We should do something in the meanwhile," Raphael said. "While we can." He looked at his family. Mike, who carried the burden of their lives and almost always made it seem weightless. Don, never content with the unknown, always striving for something better. Splinter, simply enjoying the presence of his sons. Leo, whose practical mind had just turned to the matter of breakfast. "You know what? Let's go to Massachusetts."
They did. It was full of crazies.
Notes on the Timeline
Revelation takes place in NT Season 3 between "Hunted" and "H.A.T.E." Here's a list of in-story references to NT events, in the order that those events occurred in the cartoon.
What about that time Hun got me? Remember, when the invisible ninjas tried to follow me home? – "The Way of Invisibility"
I got Casey's house. – "Tales of Leo", with additional implied reference to "The Shredder Strikes Back", in which Leo gets beaten up by the Foot clan.
I was scared of heights until I thought Master Splinter was in danger. – Splinter relates this story in "Tales of Leo".
When you were blind. / …way back when Splinter was missing. / …that kid. Tyler. – "Lone Raph and Cub"
Zog - brave, honorable Zog – whose sacrifice had been in vain. – "Rogue in the House"
…a stiff discussion of local news, mostly centering around the on-going clean-up from the alien invasion. / Professor Honeycutt, who had fried his circuits to end the senseless war. / Don didn't believe in telepathy until the Triceratons tried to tear his mind apart. – "Space Invaders" and "Worlds Collide". (Several episodes after this story takes place, in "Mission of Gravity", Honeycutt downloads his remaining consciousness to Don's PDA.)
Mrs. Morrison – "Touch and Go"
Maybe I'll step on a land-mine. / Leatherhead, only just saved from the hunter.- "Hunted"
Revelation takes place here.
"Let's go to Massachusetts." They did. It was full of crazies. – "H.A.T.E."
He was playing chess … and playing it badly. – Three episodes later ("The Lesson"), the guys tell April about the human kid they taught to fight. They also taught him to play chess, before they started to just use the pieces as projectiles.
But Stockman had these really interesting notes on some new robotics... – These will become the Karai-bots in "New Blood".
This time, we'll be so awesome, they'll just give up and go home. – Which is exactly what Shredder tries to do in "Exodus".
And that's the end for real. Thanks for reading!