Disclaimer: TMNT is the property of Eastman and Laird…
* Whew, here we go…*
"You don't consider this overkill?"
His head tipped, touching his neck to the blade angled over his shoulder. Another was braced from his other side, the two blades creating an X before him. A third lay across them, level with his Adam's apple. The three men wielding the katanas were motionless but for tiny adjustments made with his shifting weight.
"I'm here for my brother, not to assassinate you, Karai."
She turned from the technician connecting wires to a monitor and smiled. "Call it a precaution. As much as you hate to admit it, Leonardo, you've a temper to rival Raphael's. I'd hate for anything unfortunate to happen before this reunion."
"Unfortunate…" he said, eyeing the blank screen. A touch of unease coiled between his lungs. "What did you do, Karai?"
She studied him with one hand on her hip. "I'll tell you how this will work, Leonardo. You will watch your brother, first, just to ease you into it. Then, if you behave, you'll be given a choice, whether you want him back or not…"
"There is no choice," he snapped. "I thought we were done with games!"
"It is not a game, my friend," she said, her eyes lighting with delight. "This is a favor."
The screen suddenly winked out and came back with a strong picture. A single bed lay overturned, creating a fort-like space with a tattered blanket trailing from the within. In the opposite corner, about two feet away, sat a familiar form.
He couldn't stop the hopeful gasp.
Alive. Thin, bruised and probably shaken beyond measure. But alive.
"Don't start celebrating," Karai said, smugly. She went to a blank steel door and unlocked it. Leo ignored her, greedily taking in the sight of the brother he thought he'd never see again. Karai vanished through the door only to appear on the monitor a second later.
The turtle in the cell looked up and drew his knees to his chest, angling his shell so he could sink farther into the corner. Leo's smile went rigid.
"Good evening," Karai's light words broke from a speaker above the screen. His brother looked down, fiddling with something on his lap. She stepped closer and he flinched, shying away like a whipped animal. "Did you not hear me?"
"E-evening, Mistress Karai…"
The world shattered around him. The words came as broken remnants of a voice he had known his entire life. All the confidence and strength was gone, stripped away to a mechanical reply.
And Mistress? Never, never had they suffered themselves to call her that. Yet it had rolled too easily from his brother's tongue. His fists trembled.
Karai held out her hand and the prisoner dropped his head, obediently handing over the clump of rags he had been playing with. She leaned against the bed and began to pick through the long strips. She pulled one free and turned it so the camera, and Leo, could clearly see.
She held it up between her index and middle finger. "What does this mean?"
"I-it's Donatello…" Leo stared at the cloth, his brow furrowed. His breath sucked past clenched teeth at the next words. "Network hacking, espionage, arson, destruction of M-ma-aster Shredder's original headquarters. Suggested punishment: electroshock therapy."
"Hmm." Karai draped it over one the bed's angled legs. She pulled another free. "And what about this one?"
"Michelangelo." His voice changed, becoming the light and slightly raspy tone that Leo recognized instantly. "Thievery, conspiracy, defense of the Utrom enemy, resisting justice. Suggested punishment: reeducation screening."
"This one, you are sure?"
A small, exhausted grin flashed. "Heh. Positive."
"Raphael." Tears fell from Leo's eyes as Raph's deeper drawl appeared, reeling off a well rehearsed script. "Hijackin', vandalism, assault on yer employees, liar. Suggested punishment: psychophysical trea'ment."
Karai slowly ran the final cloth between her fingers. Leo closed his eyes, hot streaks gliding down his cheeks with her question. "And who is this?"
He ground his teeth at the quiet attempt of his own voice. "L-Leonardo. The worst of his kind. Assassin, cruelty, dishonor, murder, aiding the enemy, desecration of your father's memory. Suggested punishment: physical endurance testing."
"I see," she added it to the others and turned back to him. "And who are you?"
Despair filled his little brother's face. He looked, desperately, to the cloths and back at her. He swallowed. "I, uh…"
"It's a simple question. Tell me your name."
"I…I don't know, Mistress. W-who do you want me to be?"
Red lined the edge of Leo's vision.
Karai smiled, sweetly. "That is exactly right."
She pulled the cloths from the bed and he extended a shaky hand. She ignored him, crossing towards the door. Terror filled the prisoner's face and he scrambled to his knees.
"W-wait! D-don't take those! Leo! I'm Leo! I'm sorry, Karai! I never meant to hurt -"
She spun and slapped him, cutting off his words. He stumbled back, too weak and disoriented to do anything but stare.
And Leonardo snapped.
His heel jammed down on the foot to his left even as he drove an elbow into the gut on his right. He barely felt the nick of the blades as the men flinched, falling away. The third man shouted and lunged forward, but Leo threw himself back, allowing the sword to swing over his head as he hit the ground. His feet closed around the man's ankle and he jerked to the right, snapping the frail bone. The man howled as he went down.
Leo rolled to his feet, bringing his bound fists upward into the jaw of the second man. He caught the katana as it fell from a limp hand and swung around, his foot catching the final guard in the chest. He heard the wood crack as the man hit the wall.
He spun as the door opened and closed, lunging as Karai's eyes widened. He slammed her against the steel, the blade pressed against her throat. Black rage danced in his ragged face.
"Leonardo, don't!" she snapped so forcefully he obeyed.
Then, a cold circle touched his temple. He jerked to his right, where the technician stood, a gun shaking in his hand. He had completely forgotten about that one.
"Get off of me," Karai said. His eyes narrowed and he did not move. "I warned you, Leonardo. You said you had no choice. I see plenty of choices facing you right now."
His arms shook as tears continued to fall. He bared his teeth.
"You can let me dispose of that waste in there, go back and tell your father and brothers that you were too late. You can take him back with you and pray there's something salvageable left. Or, you can kill me and my men will kill you, him, and the two fools sitting outside in Miss O'Neil's van. Is that really what you want your father to go through, Leonardo? More death?"
"Don't you lecture me," he hissed.
Bring him home, Leo. And bring yourself back too…
She lifted her chin. "I thought you would be pleased. You took my father, I took your brother. Yet, you have a say in your loved one's fate. You don't deserve to feel my pain, so I gave you another. It's your choice how you will bear it.
"Besides, if you take him, you'll be getting him back as a clean slate. With a little work, some training, he could become the perfect ninja. A second you, if you will…Isn't that what you always wanted for your brothers? He certainly imitates you well en-"
The blade pressed tighter and she gasped at the thread of pain. The gun pressed closer. He ignored it. "Stop. Talking."
She lifted her hands and he stared at the rags still in her hand. With a growl, he finally stepped back. The technician kept his weapon aimed at the turtle, but helped his mistress up with one hand. She stood, gracefully, wiping the slight trickle of blood from her neck. Leo let the katana fall from his grip and he looked down, his shoulders falling in defeat.
"So, what would you like to do with it?" Karai asked mildly.
"He's coming home."
Her eyes curved with a smile. "I thought that's what you'd say." She pulled a knife from her side and cut his wrists free. Then she turned and opened the door. "He's all yours."
Leo hesitated, scowling at the heavy steel door. Karai backed away, indicating her technician to do the same. He went forward, trying to keep his skin from crawling as he walked into a cell they could easily close on him.
His eyes stung as the reek of the room hit him. It smelled of bathroom and sweat and that closed-off stink which basements sometimes get. His brother had returned to his corner, his hands over his head as he stared into his lap. Leo approached him, cautiously, unwilling to scare him, but unsure how to get his attention. He crouched before the whimpering form and gently lay his hand across the shrunken shoulder.
The prisoner flinched, looking up wide-eyed and innocent. They stared at one another and Leo smiled through his tears.
The eyes flicked back and forth between his. Glazed eyes, drugged eyes. Then, a trembling hand came forward and lifted the bandana tail that had fallen across the leader's chest. He rubbed the silky fabric between his fingers. "Leonardo…"
"Yeah, I'm here."
A frown creased his brow. "The worst of his kind. Assassin, cruelty…"
The words hit Leo's gut like a punch. He caught his brother's hand. "No. No, look." He pulled the mask over his head and stuffed it into his sweater. "There, see? I'm just Leo."
A blank stare.
Fear dried his throat. He reached out and cupped his brother's cheek, right where Karai's slap was still reddening. "Who are you, little brother?"
"I am Leo, not you." He hated doing this where Karai could see. He dropped his voice to a whisper. "Look at me. I'm Leo. Who are you?"
He looked around, helpless. "Uh…Michelangelo. Thievery…"
"No, don't do that."
"Donatello? Network hacking, espionage…" Panic filled his face as Leo drew back, sadly. "Raphael? Uh, uh, hijackin'…"
"Stop," Leo said, quietly, taking his shoulders. "It's okay. You did good. Really good. I'm getting you out of here, okay?"
"Come on," Leo gently wrapped his arm around his brother's back and helped him up. The prisoner fell against him, weakly, and Leo did his best to take as much weight as he could. "Walk with me, bud, show her she hasn't beaten you."
They eased out into the main room, the younger turtle wheezing at the small exertion.
Karai stepped forward and Leo froze, snarling. His brother whimpered in his ear. He hated that sound. Hated it more than he'd ever thought he could. She looked at her "guest" and then to the leader.
"He always saved you for last. The other three he would rearrange. But you were always last. I'm not sure if it was flattery or disappointment, but I thought you'd like to know."
He snorted and started away. Then her hand caught his elbow. Leo bristled at the contact, but she only pressed the cloths into his free hand. "In case he gets lonely."
Leo looked down at them and to his brother, who was staring before them. He shoved them into his front pocket, with the two masks and pulled a Shell Cell out, pressing it to his ear.
"Leo?" came the anxious voice.
"Bring the van, we're coming out."
He hung up and pulled his brother towards the exit, feeling her eyes on his back with each step. As they reached the door, Karai called, "It was a pleasure seeing you again, Leonardo."
He all but ran, dragging his stumbling sibling after him, as the van rumbled before the warehouse. The back door slid open and a worried face appeared. A smile appeared over their brother's name and Leo handed him up into welcoming arms. The prisoner collapsed onto the seat and Leo jumped into the front passenger side.
"Is he okay?" the driver asked, looking in the back.
Leo caught his shoulder. "Get us home. Now."
The van's old engine squealed as it shot into the freezing night. When they were far from the docks, Leo pulled the tattered cloths from his pocket and shuffled them between his fingers. Fresh tears of agony fell upon the four tattered strips that his brother had clutched so dearly. He twisted in his seat and held them out to his broken sibling.
A green hand snapped them and brought them to his nose, breathing in their scent. Leo looked up into the confused frown of another younger brother.
"So…what's with the dirty white rags?"
* Wait! Wait! Please, lower the torches and pitchforks, I have reasons! I did have a reveal, I really truly did. But when I looked at the story as a whole, it felt like a cheap ending and took away from Leo's story. Plus, I'd like to think that he would have taken this action no matter which brother was missing. That being said, I did have a specific brother in mind (whose story this originally was, but Leo waltzed through that rotating door and totally took over). And now what was going to be a one-shot has turned into a multi-chapter recovery story that's coming together nicely, I think. Anyway, all that to say the story will continue and you will know who our prisoner is by the end of the first chapter. That is, if it's wanted and my Norwegian/German butt can outrun anyone I've angered! That story will be called "Colorblind" when it's posted.
** Seriously, I hoped you guys liked it! Do you know who the prisoner is or am I just not with the sneaky at all? Thank you so much for reading! Please, please let me know what you thought! We'll see ya!