A/N: Okay, I figured this one required something of a preamble since it's kind of weird. I watched the ends of "Worlds Collide" and during the episode I was on the edge of my seat the entire time; and then I was somewhat let down. I realize, yes, kid's show, but I didn't like how it ended all neatly, without even some uncomfortable discussion. So. Here's my take on it.
I thought that if I just closed my eyes hard enough, that something would happen. We have bad luck, but something always happens. Leo comes up with an idea, or I remember something, or Raph just gets fed up and kicks the hell out of everything, or Mikey pulls a miracle right out of thin air. Something always happens to help.
I heard Raph howling, heard the belts of his table rattling as he thrashed against it. I heard Leo chanting beneath his breath; some ninjutsu mantra maybe, or calling for Master Splinter. Something. Maybe he was even praying, I don't know. I searched my mind, tried to find a piece of leverage, some kind of information we could use to get Bishop to stop, something, anything-
The saw met resistance and grated- the blade's spin slowed a little, but didn't stop and the sound after was terrible; makes you shudder like hearing a bone get broken, or like metal scraping over porcelain. Like the tang of copper in your mouth. I could hear Mikey panicking, I could hear him hyperventilating over the sound of the saw, could hear his table jostle as he trembled against it. All of those sounds were terrible too.
They were nothing compared to when he started screaming.
I was going to open my eyes -my brother, my brother, what are you doing to my brother?!- but Leo shouted hoarsely for me to keep them shut. I don't know if he was trying to protect me...probably. I wanted to ignore him and look anyway, but the next scream was choked off like someone had bit it in half. Mike was trying to protect us too.
So I kept them shut. And the material of my mask around my eyes was soaked in a second.
I gritted my teeth hard, so hard I heard a crickle from one of my molars near the back of my jaw, didn't care. Please, something happen, something happen-
Something happened- the grate behind me scraped against the ground, Splinter snarled. An animalistic sound that I'd never heard from him before. There was a clatter; April cried out in horror and Casey shouted and I had to open my eyes. April was over Mike, Splinter and Casey destroying what little resistance presented itself. I'd never seen Master Splinter move so fast- he's always so gentle when he fights, like he's afraid of breaking something, but I think he wanted to break something now.
And break he did. Bishop hit the wall one last time, slid down against it. He didn't move.
Casey had let Raph out first (a wise move, since Raphael was struggling so hard against his restraints that he'd bruised himself) and he'd immediately gone to Mike's side. I couldn't hear much; April was murmuring something as she undid the straps, Raphael was reaching to touch Mike's head, but they were in the way and I couldn't see.
But I could hear Mike sobbing.
I shouldn't be so happy to hear my brother crying, but I was. He's alive.
Casey let me out last, and I joined the others next to Mike. Raph threw himself away from Mike to where Bishop lay unmoving, but Splinter caught his arm and began to talk to him in hushed tones. Leo was next to Mike, holding him, and I knew that Mike had to be all right if he was moving. I still needed to see though, so I nudged my way past April and Casey -who were looking extremely uncomfortable for some reason- and touched Mike's arm as he clung to Leonardo. Our older brother was whispering something I couldn't hear, but it looked like Mike couldn't answer even if he wanted to; his teeth were chattering too hard.
"Mike- Mikey." The shout got his attention and he looked at me, tears standing in his eyes. He didn't let go of Leo, like if he did he'd slump dead against the table and I think that's what made me the angriest at Bishop. I swallowed and took a minute to compose myself so that my voice didn't shake. "Let me see where he cut you. I want to make sure you're okay before we move." Mike's knuckles blanched as he strengthened his grip on Leo, but with both of us coaxing he eventually moved back.
'Tremors' didn't even begin to describe how badly he was shaking, but the injury didn't look fatal. The saw had moved through his plastron and into the skin below; the wound seeped blood, but nothing alarming. He must not have made it too far into the muscle or bone, otherwise Mike would be having a lot more trouble breathing. The worst of it so far is shock, and I could feel my mind and spirit calm down as I began to analyze the situation like a doctor rather than a brother. I could be terrified later, once we were safe and home.
"You'll be okay until we get somewhere safe to dress this," I told him and forced a smile. For the first time ever, Mikey didn't even try to return the gesture. I reached out and held his face in my hands and he hiccuped, but before I could say anything, Master Splinter was urging us toward the grate. He took Mikey's arm and murmured something, but I didn't hear it; Leo led the way and Raph told April and Casey to head down, that he'd follow once he made sure we weren't expecting any company.
It took him a minute to catch up with us. When he came back, his sais were red. Nobody said anything.
It's been two weeks, and Mikey still hasn't said a word. The lair's as silent as a tomb without him adding his noise pollution. I miss it.
Don called it "post-traumatic stress disorder," and April agreed. Something about how Mikey couldn't voice how he felt, so he opted not to speak at all. It was a coping mechanism.
Well. I could understand that. We all left that place in shambles...both the facility and ourselves.
Raphael immediately went out to kick the hell out of some street thugs as soon as everything quieted down, and I couldn't even muster the will to stop him. Sensei didn't scold me for it either; I think he agreed with me, that this would be better than him rampaging around the lair. He only came back to sleep, eat, and then leave to do it again. We didn't ask how his runs went. I'm not sure I wanted to know.
Things got uncomfortable when Casey had asked Raph -in that incredibly insensitive, boneheaded way that only Casey Jones could pull off- if he hated humans now. He'd looked so out of place when he posed the question; hand on the back of his neck, looking anywhere but at Raphael, corner of his mouth pulling downward.
The worst was that Raphael didn't answer him. Just gave him a guarded look before brushing past. Casey took it like a punch to the chest, and after the door to the lift clanged shut behind Raph he put a hand to his eyes and let out a breath. I came up next to him and patted his arm until he looked at me. "Give him time, Case," I told him, using my best 'big brother is here to fix things now' voice and hoped it worked on people older than me. "He doesn't hate humans, just...that specific one. Give him time to sort out his anger."
"What about you, Leo?"
I gave him another guarded look, but at least I was smiling for it. "You and April saved us. I think I'd be pretty stupid to hate you for it." Casey seemed to buy it though, and gave a weak smile of his own before shuffling over to the lift to take it back to the surface. I felt bad for him, but...well, I couldn't mend his friendship with Raph, much as I wish I could. There are just some things that need to be worked out on their own.
There were arms around my shoulders and a cheek against the side of my mask before I realized April was hugging me; I must have been pretty tired if she managed to sneak up on me. I relaxed and closed my eyes, lifting a hand to her wrist. "We never did thank you, did we?"
"Don't." Her face was against my cheek and I hummed, concerned. She continued, "Don't...thank us. I had the same question as Casey, but...I guess I know your answer. I don't blame you for it." Her voice shook.
I paused, then turned to look at her over my shoulder. Her eyes were wet. "April, you have to understand. Ever since we were little..." I hesitated, then plowed forward. "Since we were small, Master Splinter taught us to be wary. Not to be afraid, but to be cautious. We've known about this possibility ever since we could understand words...and it's saved our shells a few times, being cautious about this. So don't be like that." The smile I give her is a little more sincere this time, and judging by the warmth in her eyes she knows it. "We're just a little shaken up. We -Mikey'll bounce back better than ever."
She kissed my cheek and I had the decency to flush. "...thanks, Leo."
A dark veil had fallen over our home. My sons are quiet, drawn; they take little comfort in each other, in me, and it wounds me to the core. They give the pretenses of mending, but they cannot hide the wound of the spirit from their master and father. I...do not know what to do.
Leonardo approaches me first. He kneels before me, bows his head and I cannot help but notice the trembling of his shoulders. His bow is prolonged and I move to his side. Within moments, my eldest son is collapsed within my arms, fighting tears with a fierceness I have seen from him only in battle. His lapse in control is not long, and he removes himself from me with a sense of shame, the heel of his hand scrubbing angrily at his mask before he tears it free, clenching it upon his leg. "M...Master, I don't know what to do. I need your help."
My hand lights upon his head and he grits his teeth, screwing his eyes shut. He sucks in a breath as I take to a knee before him. "Leonardo, wounds of the spirit are much graver than those of the body. You cannot mend your brothers through sheer will alone...much as I wish it were so."
"But we can't go on like this!" he cries, and my heart aches. "Raph is gone almost every day, we hardly ever see him- Donatello locks himself up in his lab, agonizing over the Professor and what happened- Mikey hasn't said a single word since then! We can't let this happen Master, there has to be something we can do!"
His eyes are wide and I see before me the child he still remains. With every passing day, Leonardo proves himself a worthy successor; he grows wise, strong and compassionate. I often blur the lines between father and master, but I can see that he comes to me as a son, not as pupil; he comes to me as a brother, not a leader. "Father," he pleads, and I cannot meet his eyes a second time.
"Leonardo. You must learn the lesson I still force upon myself time and time again."
"Wh...what is it, Master?"
My hand lifts to his head again, and he bows it with sorrow in his eyes. He recognizes defeat. "That a father -and an elder brother- must rely on the ones they love to find the strength to mend themselves."
It wasn't enough. It wouldn't ever be enough. No matter how many teeth I break, they'll never be enough to make up for what happened. I could send a billion street-crawling lowlifes to prison and it wouldn't make anything better. The gangs, the mafia, the Foot, they could all be totaled and it still wouldn't do any good.
Did I hate humans? Fuckin' idiot.
The punk in my hands is switching between begging for his life and wondering what the hell I am. I answer him with a punch to the jaw that knocks him out; it feels good for a second, but the rush is gone and so's the satisfaction. I let him drop to the cement and turn to find the next batch.
Case intercepts me on the rooftops. "Raph."
I've got the mind to just run right past him or maybe even clock him so I have some getaway time, but he beats me to the punch. Literally. I almost clothesline myself on his fucking bat when he swings it like he's aiming to take my head off. "Casey, what the hell?! Are you trying to kill me or what?!" I barely have enough time to stand up straight when he comes after me again, this time with a hockey stick. The swings are pretty uncoordinated though, and after a few dodges I get bored and knock the thing out of his hands. Another kick sends him to the ground -well, the roof- and I glare at him. "And what was that s'posed to be?"
"Raph," he groans, and gets up on a knee. "You're supposed to keep attacking me, that's what."
He's stumped me on this one. "...what?"
"You could beat up every scuzz bucket in this city and we both know you ain't gonna feel any better about what happened to Mike." This time he stands, but I can already feel my shoulders bunching up at the mention of my brother. "So I figured if I gave you a decent brawl, you'd get your blood back down to a simmer and we could head back to the lair."
"You call that a decent brawl?" I snort.
"Yeah, well I guess I wasn't tryin' too hard." He kicks his hockey stick like some pissed-off little kid. It clicks then, and I growl low in my throat before brushing past him.
"You're a dumbass, Casey Jones."
"You're the dumbass, dumbass."
"No, you listen." I take a deep breath; my fingers curl into a fist and my jaw aches before I figure out that I'm clenching up all over. I take another breath and let it out, force myself to relax -"Breathe out your anger my son; watch it leave your body like smoke,"- and try that talking thing again. "I don't hate humans, you stupid moron. I hate scumbag humans. I hate any scumbag, but...I mean, nobody cares if some purse-snatchers end up bruised in a back alley." I can feel the rage stir again, and I punch my fist against the side of a nearby chimney, knuckles bruising against the brick. I do it again, just to make it hurt worse. "This guy- the government hired him. You get that Case? The US government. Ain't no way we can fight that."
Casey shifts behind me. "...Raph..."
I laugh, but I don't mean it. "You know, I always had this dumb idea. Like maybe one day we'd just be all right, y'know? Like one day, somebody'll go, 'hey, we got serial murderers and rapists running around. Big crime-fighting turtles ain't so bad after all!' But that's just...stupid." I punch it again, and again before Casey grabs my wrist to make me stop. I look at him, then follow his gaze; my fist is bleeding.
I shake it before sucking on my knuckles. It doesn't bleed after that. "But I get it now, I think. There's never gonna be a day there ain't someone out there who wants to cut us into little pieces. See what makes us tick. And it's always gonna be the people we just can't fight against. Hell, one day we'll probably have to go somewhere else...maybe a different country. Live in the jungle like some kinda wild animals." I laugh again and Casey cringes. I ignore it. "'Cause we are, y'know? Animals. Just a buncha stupid...s-stupid animals." Casey reaches for my shoulder and I shove him hard. He stumbles back, but he doesn't try to come over to me again and instead bends down to pick up his hockey stick.
"...I dunno, Raph."
I was expecting a lot of things, but not that. I blink. "Wha?"
"People...y'know, you can't just put people in boxes like that." He glances up at me, and this time I don't look away. "It never goes down to just 'this guy is nuts' and 'this guy is wrong' and 'this guy is stupid.' It's the same with you guys, right? So...I dunno, maybe somebody out there wants to take you guys apart." He looks away at that, but he keeps talking. "And maybe some guy out there wants to shoot me in the head." And he looks up again. "But that don't mean I stay inside and lock the door, and that don't mean I ignore my family 'cause of it. You ain't never gonna make a friend out of the world, Raph...you just gotta take the ones you can."
Something tight wrenches in my chest and my eyes burn for a second. Casey lowers himself to a knee and checks his hockey stick, like he's trying to give me privacy. Take the ones you can.
I reach down and grab the other end of the hockey stick, wrench Casey up to his feet. Then I pass by him and shove his shoulder. "You're a douchebag, Casey Jones." He protests, but I talk over him so I don't hear what he's saying. "So you gotta help me get some takeout for everyone and lug it all back."
I know what they all get by heart, so we don't even have to call.
I know that tomorrow I'll feel better. Just a little bit. Tomorrow, I'll want to eat a little bit more. Tomorrow, I'll stay out of bed for a little bit longer.
Maybe tomorrow I'll play some of my games. Or draw something, or maybe write something. Maybe tomorrow I'll ask Master Splinter if I can make him something to eat. Or I'll work out with Raph, or I'll bother Donnie in his lab. Maybe tomorrow I'll try and get Leo to break his meditation. Tomorrow I'll flirt with April and watch Casey get mad over it. Tomorrow I could even pick up my 'chucks again, or maybe go skateboarding, or maybe even go topside.
I think maybe tomorrow I'll even go on a run.
And a lot of tomorrows from now, I'll run my finger down my scar and I won't be scared.
So tonight I'll stay in bed. I have to.
Tomorrow's gonna be a big day.