A year passed; things in the lair were almost back to normal. The family's bonds had become more united and stronger. Splinter was proud of each of their students and their new style of life: Michelangelo trained more than fooling around but that didn't mean he had stopped pulling pranks on his brothers; he never abandoned his childish style. Donatello kept creating and stopped staying late at night; he still remembered Leo but only remembered the good times, those memories always made him smile and his brother's words gave him courage to continue with his projects and training. Even though both Mikey and Don had made Splinter to feel proud, it was Raphael who made the old rat felt proudest. The red masked turtle trained not only his body… but also his soul. He became wiser, skilled, a better brother for his brothers, a better son for his father and a great leader for his team. Leonardo had chosen well.
But not everything was perfect. There were days when Don or Mikey were haunted by bad memories, sadness and pain. Raph was always there for them, helping them to forget the past and remembering them their joyful moments. That seemed to calm them.
Since Mikey started having nightmares every night after Leo's death, Raph had to say bye to his hammock and get himself a bed so Mikey could stay. The orange masked ninja wasn't scared of embarrassed of asking his red masked brother for some company anymore. Now, Raph was more than willing to help and make some room on his bed for his baby brother.
Sometimes the red masked turtle's old behavior came back when Mikey was too annoying. He would chase his little brother around the lair and maybe leave him with a black eye or something. The old hotheaded Raph hadn't left yet.
All seemed to be perfect. Except for one thing: pain did never leave Raph's heart. He had made sure his family stopped suffering all this time that he had forgotten about healing himself. His nights weren't peaceful. He blamed himself for all the things he said and did to Leo. He wanted to tell him how much he admired and loved him but Leonardo was gone, he would never hear those words.
Leo's death's anniversary came and the family moved to the farmhouse where he was buried. Small tears ran through everyone's eyes, it couldn't be helped. The grave had been cleaned and decorated with roses and incense. The turtles and their human friends stayed the whole day sat near the tombstone and returned home when the night came to the farmhouse.
Like many other nights, Raph checked his brothers' rooms to see if they were asleep. Don and Mikey slept soundly and peacefully; that calmed Raph who moved to the eldest's room like he did now. But this time, sleep claimed him and Raph ended up falling asleep on his brother's futon.
Don started sweating and his breathing increasing; he was having a really bad nightmare. He wanted to scream his lungs out but he couldn't. Then, a warm sensation on his forehead and the nightmare was over. The feeling of a gentle caress on his face made the genius turtle smile. The curious thing was… the caress felt familiar, cold but still gentle and familiar.
Mikey wasn't doing so good either. His nightmare was as terrible as Don's…. maybe worse. He started to cry softly; he wanted to get up and call for his brothers but his body refused to move. A warm sensation on his forehead made the fear disappear; his tears stopped and the nightmare was gone at last. The young ninja could felt his tears being wiped away. The coldness of the touch made Mikey shiver a little but he felt comforted and safe.
Raph was also having nightmares, but it had become a habit for the red masked ninja so he didn't make any attempt to wake up. His head twitched to and fro and his hands clawed in the sheets. He felt something warm and comfortable on his forehead, a familiar action he knew very well. Immediately, his nightmare disappeared. Many questions came to Raphael's mind: could be him? Was he here? Or it was just a simple dream?
"You're not dreaming if that's what you're afraid of, Raph" A voice said. Raph slowly opened his eyes. A well known face smiled at him.
"Leo?" Raph said and sat up immediately.
"Hi, bro. You almost freaked me out when I didn't find you in your bed" Leo chuckled.
"Leo, you're back!" Raph said happily.
"Not exactly but if that makes you happy…" Leo shrugged.
"I can't believe it. I gotta call the others!" Raph laughed. When he was about to leave the bed, Leo grabbed his wrist stopping him.
"Raph, calm down. I'm not back and I can't stay for much longer" Leo explained.
"Why not?" Raph asked in confusion.
"Isn't that obvious?" Leo said mockingly.
"But you're here!" Raph insisted.
"Like I said, I'm not exactly here" Leo replied.
"So you're telling me you're a ghost?" Raph asked.
"Kinda" Leo smiled.
"Ok, now I know I've gone mad" Raph sighed.
"You haven't gone mad, Raph" Leo laughed.
"Leo, I… I know this is not the right moment but… why did you break your promise and left?" Raph said. He had wanted to say those words long time ago.
"You think I would have left you without saying bye as I promised? I would have loved to talk to you one last time but… I didn't have another choice. But before I left, I did say farewell. You were sleeping, that's all. I had to came back to leave that clear so you could stop hurting yourself because of me" Leo said.
"How do you…" Raph managed to say before was interrupted.
"Maybe I died but that doesn't mean I'm not watching over you" Leo smirked. Raph blushed a little, ashamed of being discovered.
"Sorry" Raph said sadly and lowering his gaze.
"For what? For being a great brother and leader? For being my best decision ever? Raph, you don't need to be sorry and most importantly, you have to stop killing yourself the way you're doing it" Leo said
"It's just… it's hard, Leo" Raph said, his voice breaking a little.
"I know. Being big brother can be…" Leo started.
"No, not that" Raph interrupted.
"Then, what's hard for you Raph?" Leo asked in curiosity. Raph met his brother's gaze, some tears on his eyes.
"Seeing you here now and knowing you won't stay" Raph said with a shaky voice. Leo knew what his brother needed. He approached to him and hugged him like he did before. Raph didn't hesitate and returned the hug allowing himself to cry.
"I need you, bro. I'm not strong enough" Raph sobbed.
"You are, Raph. You have to believe it… like I did" Leo said receiving a confused gaze coming from Raph.
"I always envied your strength, both physical and spiritual. Your strength kept us together and is still doing it. I'm very proud of you" Leo said proudly.
"Well, I had a great master" Raph smiled.
"We all had it, Raph" Leo added breaking the hug.
"I was talking about you" Raph commented. Leo smiled warmly and hugged his brother again.
"Love you, bro. Take care of you and the others, ok?" Leo said. Raph nodded.
"And stop crying over me, it's not…" Leo continued.
"…healthy. I know" Raph completed his brother's phrase. Leo knew his time to leave had come. Raph could feel it too.
"Leo, can you do me a favor?" Raph asked.
"What is it?"
"Stay a little longer, please" Raph said tightening the embrace. Leo chuckled.
"I wish I could, bro"
"It's ok, I understand. It was nice to see you again" Raph said breaking the hug.
"Same thing, bro" Leo said standing up and walking away from his brother.
"Leo…" Raph called.
"Yes?" Leo turned around.
"I wanted to let you know that I never hated you. I always admired and loved you" Raph said. Leo smiled.
"Raph, I knew that. I always did" He said.
"Anyway, I needed it to let it out. I…I better stop talking and let you go already" Raph chuckled but he still felt sad. He didn't want to let his brother go but it was necessary.
"Love you, bro" Leo said hugging Raph again.
"Love you, too" Raph hugged him back. After that, Leo disappeared. Suddenly, Don and Mikey opened the door in one fast move.
"He was here!" Don said almost yelling in excitement.
"He was in my room!" Mikey said with a big smile.
"I know, he was here too" Raph smiled.
"You think… he came back to… you know, say bye?" Mikey said sitting beside Raph.
"He already said bye, Mikey. He just came to check how we were doing" Raph said.
"Will he come back?" Don asked sitting beside Mikey and hoping the answer was a yes.
"Don't think so but… y'know what? He's not suffering anymore, I could notice it" Raph commented surround Mikey and Don with his arms.
"Did you see him?" Mikey said with a sparkle in his blue eyes. Raph nodded.
"I did. He's ok and he wants us to be ok too. He's watching over us now till we reunite again" Raph said hugging his brothers who returned the embrace.
"I love my life but… I hope we reunite soon" Mikey said with a sigh.
"Well, if you keep pulling pranks on me I'm sure I'll send you with Leo soon!" Raph teased. The three brothers laughed like they did in the past. Sadness and pain were now erased from the Hamatos' hearts. They would still be a team… but now they would have a guardian angel looking for them.
Well, it's finally done ^^
Stay in touch for more stories coming soon!
Your friend Who says "Sayonara!"