Gritting his teeth, he drew two breaths, let the finality curl in his gut, before he forced himself to climb the rungs to the palmed the manhole cover, shoved it out of place and quickly soared into the flip upwards from the sewer to the concrete of the human landed, quickly righted himself, and quickly darted back into the shadows. The alley was deserted, except for a piece of newspaper skittering over the hard, feeling as if he were attending his own execution, Leo strode forward into the wan glow of the streetlight, in full view, his pulse thundering in dull didn't turn towards the falling footsteps, or acknowledge the ambush that was about to take place.
Leo didn't trouble himself to grace Karai with anything more than a glare as she materialized, rising out of the dark and gliding like a panther.
And with the graceful silence of leaves falling, he was suddenly surrounded by her henchmen.
The trash cans, the abysmal forms of abandoned boxes, and slivers of undecipherable piles of garbage, all of it had the air of an abandoned grave.
Leo gave the bricks a scathing glance, and eyed the high, vacant walls of the dilapidated buildings, and the snatch of starlight high above the filth. He swallowed back the choke of tears, and tried to focus on anything, anything but being beaten to death and bleeding out his last in this forgotten hell of the city.
Even here, Leo's death would be problematic. The corpse of a giant, humanoid turtle, outfitted with weapons would not escape notice, not even here. Leo scowled at his very limited options. Bolting would be futile, if there was nowhere to run. Fighting would make sure he at least took a few of his enemies with him, but that was pointless, now.
Leaving a pile of human corpses along with his bloodied body would only increase the scrutiny and the danger to his family being discovered. There wasn't enough time or distance for him to lead anybody away from the Lair…not if Karai already knew where his home and loved ones were.
As long as he was alive, there was a chance that he could do something. If he died here, everything was lost.
There was nothing he could do but wait.
His hands flew and clutched the familiar reassurance leather of his katanas, and he unsheaved them, two long, silver lines across his plastron.
Leo exhaled a slow breath, and forced the snarl to hide the tremor of helpless fear and rage.
"Leonardo." Karai breathed his name, as her lips curled into that bitter smile.
She stepped forward, casually and unarmed, obsidian eyes gliding over Leo's weapons. Only troubling herself to give them a glance, her soft chuckle fragmented without mirth.
"Leave your weapons. You will no longer have use for them." Her words slithered over him, as he coiled his fingers tighter over the handles of his katana.
Karai drank in the minute tremble of his blades and drew a long, patient breath.
"You have sacrificed so much to keep your loved ones alive, Leonardo. Would you betray them, now? I gave you a simple order."
Leo glared back, the katana fixed and rooted in his hands as concrete. He swallowed hard, warring against the instinct to slice her head from her neck and kick the hated thing down the alleyway.
Karai stiffened as she saw the hatred flicker in his eyes. "Perhaps you need an incentive."
She abruptly barked out an order to the nearest man, and the faceless, formless thing hastily bowed and placed the cell phone into her hand.
Smiling coyly, she tapped a few buttons, and dropped the phone to the concrete. She nudged it hard with her boot, and sent the phone sliding, only coming to rest at Leo's feet.
"You kept your word, Leonardo. I am giving you the chance to say your final good-byes."
Bewildered, Leo sheaved one katana, and quickly scooped up the phone. His hands were shaking so much that he could barely clutch the thing as he stared at the small screen in renewed tears.
The familiar gray stone of the Lair's walls came into grainy view, lit by the familiar wash of Don's computer screen and Splinter's candles.
All three of his brothers and Master Splinter were in Splinter's room, standing over the bed of bloody, wadded sheets, and the remains of the restraints that had held Leo down.
Splinter was holding the loose sheet in shaking paws, turning it over and over again, before he cradled it to his heart and buried his face in it.
Michelangelo was fighting and losing a battle to keep a smile as a very worried Donny clutched at his arms and shook his head, anxiously.
And a few feet away, Raphael stood, viciously alone, fighting the familiar rage as he glared down at his bandaged wrist and clenched his wounded hand into a fist. Leo stared in disbelief as Raphael hastily scrubbed away the betraying tears.
"Look well at what you have already inflicted upon them, Leonardo. Would you add to their suffering by forcing them to watch each other die?"
Her voice hardened as she narrowed her eyes.
"Your weapons, Leonardo. Now." The hideous promise behind the soft words gave Leo the perverse strength to finally loosen his rooted hands from his blades.
Leo shut his eyes, and scraped up every image he had left of his brothers and fathers.
I have to. For them, I have to.
The katana fell from his fingers, and clattered to the concrete. Karai kicked them away and one man dove to collect them.
Leo ignored everything but the tiny flicker of the cell phone, and the invasive warmth of Karai's fingers as she snatched the phone away, and crushed it under her heel.
"I hope that the last days you shared with your family were well-spent, Leonardo."
Leo recoiled at the shock of her warm human hand ghosting over his skin and coming to rest on his shoulder. He yanked his shoulder free of her grip, snarling and backpedaling the precious few feet of distance the narrow alley would allow.
"If you hurt my family, I'll kill you." He spat through clenched teeth.
Karai merely shook her head. "You already have hurt them, Leonardo, in ways that no blade or weapon ever could. If only they knew what a loyal son and brother that you are, to spare them the pain you will soon bear alone."
She paused, relishing Leo's tortured, barely restrained anguish and rage.
"And now, you will not even leave them with a corpse to bury."
The strike from behind happened so fast that Leo didn't even have time to cry out.
It was nothing more than a dull piercing throb of ice being shoved through the skin at the back of his neck. Leo's hand flew to cup the wound, and only felt the slight indention of the injection site.
A dart? An injection? What in the hell have I been drugged with?
From behind, he heard the high whine of a cackle, as somebody shoved him. He staggered forward, drunkenly, and barely able to stay upright.
From his faltering vision, he saw the gleam of the syringe as the man disdainfully flung it away.
Leo's thoughts blurred along with his vision, as the ground beneath his feet suddenly swayed
He tried and failed to at least tilt his head so his skull wouldn't bear the full brunt of the fall.
His knees buckled, as he fell forward, scraping concrete. He lay, sprawled, and stunned, too woozy and drugged to even tremble.
Awareness fell away, dribbled off his failing senses like water. Leo fought to keep the heavy weight of his own eyelids from sliding shut, as he felt the hated human hands gripping his arms and legs.
He swayed as they lifted him, his limbs dangling, head lulling, the thin line of drool collecting at his gaping jaw.
He was abruptly tossed to the floor of something metal, and he heard the heavy clang of a van door being slammed shut. Somebody viciously rolled him over on his back, and he could only stare in tortured helplessness as the city lights outside the filthy windows started to fade from view.
He tried to scream, to pray, to run, to do anything but lay there like a broken corpse, but his limbs were as flaccid as string, and he couldn't even keep his eyes open.
The velvet dark rose and gently covered him like a warm blanket as Leo swallowed back the whimper.
Splinter..Raph, Donny, Mikey…I'm sorry. I'm so damn sorry…..
Leo's eyes slid shut as the darkness fell, and gave way to an oblivion as deep as the grave. Leo knew no more.