Never in his life had Michelangelo felt so tired and energy drained after a meditation session. His head pounded insistently, it almost felt like a woodpecker had crawled inside his skull and now was pecking his way out. Slowly he opened his eyes, wincing at the pain when he unconsciously tried to open his now non-existent left one; he blinked away the blurriness and immediately searched for his older brother in his Father's room and when he didn't see him, he panicked.
"What… what happened? Sensei, where's Leo?"
The ninja master drew in a breath before letting it out slowly, joining his youngest son back in the real world. The young turtle didn't understand how the aged rodent could be so calm after what they had witnessed inside Leo's mind and so he had to control himself to not tackle Splinter and demand answers.
"Master, didn't you hear me? Where's Leo? Did we bring him back?"
"Be patient, my son" Splinter said calmly, opening his eyes. "Patience is the key to everything"
"Sensei, I'm DONE being patient! I need answers now!"
As if on cue, the voice of their female friend rang through the lair. "MASTER SPLINTER, MIKEY! HE'S WAKING UP! LEO IS WAKING UP!"
Michelangelo's attention switched from Splinter to the closed shoji doors from where the voice had came and stared at it in shock; judging by the cheerful tone April had used, the miracle had actually happened: Leonardo had returned to the world of the living. However, for some strange reason, the young ninja doubted what he had just heard.
The aged rodent smiled in triumph; his youngest son had defeated Flynn and with him the demons that haunted his and Leonardo's souls. He was about to congratulate Mikey but his features changed when he noticed the shadow of disbelief and doubt creeping his way up to his son's mind once again.
"MASTER SPLINTER, MIKEY! HURRY UP!"
Although April's second call sounded more insistent, Mikey didn't move; he just stared at the door, unresponsive, like questioning reality and himself. He did flinch when Splinter put a paw on his shoulder and shook him gently, though.
The orange-clad ninja's blue lone eye looked up into Splinter's brown ones expectantly, questioning, hopeful.
"Is… is it true, Father? Did we save him?"
Splinter smiled and caressed the young turtle's head. "Come, my son. We must welcome your brother"
Heavy wasn't enough of a word for the blue-clad turtle to describe how he felt at the moment however he felt glad that he at last was feeling something other than pain and bitter cold. His skin was warm again and as he opened his eyes for the first time in so long, he saw light instead of that nagging darkness that had taunted him for so long.
He was finally home.
Body and soul reunited at last.
He had finally recovered complete control of his senses as well, he could feel the soft bed sheets covering him and the fluffiness of the pillow beneath his head and neck; he could smell the various medicines that he knew were part of Donatello's infirmary as well as April's sweet perfume.
'April's perfume? What?'
Focusing on controlling his other senses he heard his family and friends' voices and saw their reactions as his sight cleared out with every blink. Casey clung to his red-headed girlfriend tightly containing his desire to give his resuscitated friend a rib crushing hug, April cried and laughed almost hysterically and Leatherhead sighed in relief and smiled widely as the blue-clad warrior looked at his surroundings.
Another voice joined the scene, this time it belonged to the leader's youngest sibling who almost threw himself at him if it wasn't for Splinter who stopped his effusive welcoming call.
"Oh my god, we did it! Sensei, we did it!" Mikey beamed. "Donnie, don't just stand there! Come say hi!"
Leo tried to speak again but his mouth was so dry it was impossible for him to articulate words, let alone a full sentence. He licked his cracked lips in an unsuccessful attempt to moisturize them.
"Donatello, please give your brother fresh water" Splinter commanded.
When the order wasn't executed promptly, everyone in the room turned to glance at the silent turtle. Still dazed but curious, Leonardo looked around the room; in a barely lit corner, away from the crowd of family and friends stood Donatello, his arms hanging limply at his sides, a haunted look on his face as if he'd seen an entity.
Leonardo didn't understand… why did his brother look so scared? Was he in such deplorable conditions that Don couldn't dare look at him? Leo tried licking his lips again only to worsen the problem; the moment he parted them the little cracks began to bleed. It wasn't life threatening or too painful, just mildly annoying… and it made him desperate for some water to cleanse the copper taste lingering in his mouth after licking up some of the blood.
"I'll get the water. Someone make Donnie snap out of it, will you?" Mikey said before hurrying to the kitchen.
"Donnie, what's wrong?" April asked worriedly. "Are you feeling ok?"
While it was a non deniable fact that Donatello's body was present at the moment in the infirmary the same couldn't be said about his mind. The purple-clad ninja watched in awe at the brother who had just come back from a hellish place, escaping Death's bony hand. Don's heart hammered so fast against his chest he thought for a moment it would burst out breaking bones, tearing muscles, tissue and skin in order to escape.
'He's awake. He's awake… after all this time, he's awake!'
"Donnie?" A voice called him. He didn't know whose but he couldn't care less.
There were so many things that made Leonardo's return an impossible fact to believe, so many laws of nature and logic that screamed at the resident genius this was all an illusion, another creation of his broken, tired mind… a hallucination, part of his drunken stupor.
'Maybe it's a dream, a nightmare. Yes, it must be so'
But he was wrong, science and logic were wrong. Leonardo, his big brother, his leader… he was here.
"-Oi brainiac! C'mon man, you're scaring us"
'Alive. Leo… he is-'
"… he's alive" Don's voice came out like a whisper, his expression never changing. He was startled when a warm, silky hand took a hold of his. It was April's.
The woman smiled at him, her green eyes shining because of the unshed tears. "Of course he's alive, Donnie. And I think he wants to see you"
By the time Donatello decided to move, Michelangelo had arrived and soon enough he was assisting Leo so he could sit up straight and helping him drink.
"I can't believe you're finally here" Mikey almost squealed. "I mean, you were always here just not always. As in, you know and… well, you-"
"Mikey…" Leo interrupted as soon as he downed the entire glass greedily. Giving him with the most sincere of smiles, Leo took Mikey's hand on his. "Thank you, baby brother"
The orange-clad turtle couldn't contain himself and embraced the sword wielder tightly dropping the empty glass on the bed, a couple of tears of happiness snaked their way down Mikey's cheeks only to fall on Leo's neck. The latter, who had been observing Donatello's reactions from the moment of this awakening, held up his free hand towards his genius brother inviting him to join as well. Needless to say, the purple-clad ninja didn't have to be told twice.
"Leonardo, my child"
At the sound of their father's voice, Don and Mikey pulled away from Leo's arms almost reluctantly and allowed their father to approach the sword wielder and join their circle.
"Father" Leo breathed out trying to compose himself.
The ninja master looked so frail, so aged and yet so relieved and happy to see him. In the end his emotions took the best of him and as Splinter embraced him, Leonardo broke down. The time he spent in his prison he longed for his brothers and his father's presence, their different scents, their voices and feel loved and protected. Now, awake and in his family's arms, he finally felt safe. Complete.
Well, almost. If only Raphael hadn't left, this embrace would have been so much sweeter.
The Hamatos stayed like this until the last of their tears had been shed.
"Welcome back, my son" Splinter was the first to speak once the embrace ended. "Your ability to overcome great adversities never ceases to surprise me"
Leo shook his head. "No, Father. I believe everyone but me deserves the credit this time. Especially Mikey"
"You sure are tougher than Raph, pal" Casey said, giving Leo's shell and gentle pat.
At the mention of his missing brother's name, Leo grew desperate. "Raphael…no, he's… Master Splinter, Raphael, he-"
"-we know, Casey told us. We were just waiting for Mikey and Sensei so we could go get him" April calmed the bewildered Leonardo.
"Well, what are we waiting for? LH, Casey, help Donnie put Leo in the BattleShell. I'm guessing he's gonna need to stay in bed so see if you can get his cot inside too. April, you brought your van right? Cool, because-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Time out! Mikey, are you even listening to yourself? Leo can't leave the lair, he just woke up!" Don replied.
"He has to come with us! Raph needs to see he's alive!" Mikey argued back.
"But he won't be able to move in his condition!"
"We don't need him to fight!"
"And what if we do have to fight, Mikey? Then what do we do?"
"Don, we should be in the BattleShell looking for Raph instead of wasting more time. Let him come with us and let's go now!" Casey said, joining sides with Mikey.
"Leo stays here in the lair and that's it!"
"If you haven't noticed, he is awake! Therefore you are not the leader which means you don't get to order anyone around here!"
"Just because he's awake, Michelangelo, it doesn't mean he's fully recovered!"
"Don't think the full naming thing scares me, Donatello"
"My friend, if the situation was different I would also suggest Leonardo to remain here but this is not the case" LH intervened "If you just gave them a chance to-"
"-DAMMIT LEATHERHEAD, WE ALMOST LOST LEO! I HAD TO SEE HIM DIE TWICE!"
If Donatello had ever sounded desperate in his life that was nothing compared to how he felt at the moment and had he had any hair he would be pulling it right now until his scalp bled but he had to conform himself with sending a single, firm punch into the cold infirmary wall as hard as his hand could resist. Nobody in the room expected Don- the gentle warrior, the pacifist and diplomatic turtle- to react so badly till the point of hurting himself but no one had the guts to approach him and talk some sense into him. Not even Leatherhead.
"Don, look at me"
Said turtle flinched when he heard his eldest brother call his name. He turned his back at everyone and made his way to the door, not wanting to hear or see anyone or anything at the moment.
"Donnie, please brother don't ignore me"
There it was… that a tone Donatello knew well. He knew he was weak, that he was and would always be Leo's most devoted follower. If he didn't stand his ground now he would fall and submit to his leader's orders for he knew, deep inside, whatever Leo's decision was it was the right one.
"I'm not letting you leave us again, Leo. We can't lose you! Not again"
"Donatello, I won't fight. I know I'm not in conditions to do it. All I'm asking is that you let me go with you and the others"
"-when Raph talked to me before leaving, he sounded so broken, so… defeated. Donnie, please. He needs me. He needs all of us"
Don's brown tired eyes met Leo's dark ones as he turned to face him. The way his brother looked at him made his heart clench and he felt his resistance slowly crumbling.
The leader made a very good point, for the last few weeks Donatello had noticed Raphael's strong will deteriorating at a quick rate and their latest encounter in the infirmary before the sai wielder's sudden disappearance had only made things worse. Don felt terribly guilty for the way he had behaved, driving his most volatile and impulsive brother to seek revenge no matter what the final outcome was. He owed this to Raph.
Again, Leonardo's fearlessness and devotion to his family had triumphed over Donatello's cautious, logical nature. Admitting his defeat, Don nodded before redirecting his attention to the rest of his family and friends.
"Casey, help Mikey get the extra cot in the BattleShell. LH, you'll carry Leo to the cot and please make sure it's perfectly secured. April, get me the first aid kit, blood bags and take them to your van. You'll follow us with Master Splinter and Casey. I'll start tracking Raph's shell-cell. Oh and Casey, one more thing"
Before the raven haired human could say something, the bo staff came down to his head with a loud thwack!.
"OW! What the fuck man?!"
"That was for calling me an egghead. Now go help Mikey or you'll get another one"
For the next fifteen minutes the once silent lair was everything but silent, people came and went carrying all kinds of medical equipment, tracking devices and even some snacks for the twelve hour car ride; April and Don had discussed about whether they could use the helicopter or not to save time, in the end they both agreed a helicopter in broad daylight could draw too much attention from the cops, unwanted witnesses and Flynn himself.
"What about the cops? There's gotta be cops around looking for that creep too, right?" April asked.
Don sighed. "Honestly I have no idea how are we going to deal with them. My advice? Avoid being seen, if that fails then don't get caught"
"And if that fails?"
"Run and don't get shot"
"Sounds like a good plan to me"
"Well, all packed and ready to go" Casey announced dusting his hands. "C'mon babe, Mikey won't shut up till we're on the road"
April clasped her hand on Don's shoulder and smiled. "We're gonna get him back"
"Yeah, I know" Don smiled back.
Casey and April moved to their assigned positions and went ahead with Splinter accompanying them. While on his way to the BattleShell the genius turtle then glanced at the cot where his eldest brother lied on; Leatherhead had made a good job securing him and making him comfortable enough for the long trip however he felt the necessity to go check on his brother one last time.
He stepped into the back of the truck and knelt beside the leader who welcomed him with a drowsy smile. "Hey bro, how are you feeling?"
"Sleepy" Leo's hoarse voice matched his answer.
"After taking a month long nap? I don't think so" Don teased.
"Ha ha, listen to the funny genius"
The brothers shared a smile. Then Don sobered up. "Remember Leo, you'll stay in the car no matter what happens and don't even think about playing hero or I'll personally make sure you stay in bed for another month. Got it?"
"I know I know. I won't leave this truck" Leo groaned. "How come you do a great job as leader now but couldn't do it the past two years?"
"Don't make me hurt you" Don threatened lightly. A loud and insistent beeping coming from the truck's cabin interrupted the moment.
"Duuude! Move your lazy butt now!" Mikey yelled. "We can't let that bastard turn Raphie into a zombie!"
Shaking his head, though still smiling, Donatello walked over to the driver's seat and started the engine.
"I see you're finally awake. I was starting to worry"
The throbbing pain in his head made him clench his already closed eyes. The smell of dirt and decay hit his nostrils making him gag or maybe it was the dizziness altogether with the horrible headache? He wasn't sure.
Was that… blood he smelled? Yeah, it smelled like blood and fresh too. Who was bleeding?
He'd heard someone talk, maybe that other person was bleeding.
Slowly Raphael opened his eyes. He had hoped to see a clear sky, a shining sun but instead all he saw was grass and a couple of bloody shoes; those were Flynn's he recognized them. Oh now he remembered! He was in Flynn's domain, after chasing him around the ninja had somehow been overpowered by the twisted man; he remembered the blade going deep into his guts, the warmth of his blood leaving his body, the darkness that followed the wasn't that feeling pain? Was he dead? Was he in hell with Flynn?
And since when had Flynn learned to walk upside down? Maybe this was hell after all.
"Remember this place? This is where you and your brothers left me to die. Once a beautiful garden and now, my friend, it will be your grave" Flynn continued.
Grave? So he wasn't dead, good. That would explain the headache and the whole place around him but that didn't explain why the fuck wasn't he feeling the stab wound and Flynn walking upside down.
"What? No witty remark? Oh I know! You're sad because your beloved Leonardo and the young and innocent Michelangelo are dead. Don't worry, you'll join them soon. Well, not too soon. I still want to play a little with you"
The world around Raph spun, literally. He felt like throwing up but only blood dribbled down his chin. Or should he say… up his chin?
Now feeling a little more awake thanks to that spin, the red-clad ninja realized he wasn't delusional nor in hell and Flynn was definitely not walking upside down, the man had hung Raphael upside down, both legs and arms tied firmly together to prevent any smart moves. To add insult to injury, Raph had been stripped from his gear and mask leaving him naked before Flynn and his weapons were nowhere to be seen.
The red-clad ninja squirmed, he groaned when he felt the burning sensation coming from his middle section where he had been stabbed. He looked up the best he could and saw a tight bandage soaked with blood in the middle; Flynn hadn't let him die but the thought of what this sick man could do to him now had Raphael wishing he had.
"Now I need your opinion about something" Flynn's voice came from behind Raph's shell. "How does this feel?"
All air left his lungs when he felt Samuel hit his left side with the cane. His ribs would sure feel that later.
"Nothing, Raphael? Perhaps like this then"
Another blow came from his right side now. Raph groaned but didn't scream; he wasn't going to give Flynn the pleasure of seeing him surrender to the pain.
"No screaming either. Why, you must be broken already! Either that or you're just really stubborn… and stupid" Samuel mocked him.
"…fuck you" Raph muttered.
The man knelt and brought his face close to Raph's. "What was that, my boy? I cannot hear you"
Raph spat a mouthful of blood hitting Flynn straight between his eyes. "Fuck. You!"
Calmly, Samuel wiped the blood and spit off his face with the sleeve of his shirt then backhanded Raph with such force he made him spin once again.
"I do think you are in need of someone to teach you manners" The man said straightening up. "But do not worry, my child…"
From behind his back and to Raph's horror, Flynn pulled the pair of sai.
"…I will enjoy being your mentor"
The first thought that crossed Raphael's mind once he saw Samuel's maniacal grin was that really, really, wished he was dead.
And then the sais came down.
Thank you guys for being so extremely patient. Life has been getting in the way plus writer's block and so many other shitty problems that are now solved.
Also, thank you for nominating "Falling" for Best Multichapter, "Race against Death" for Best Villain and for nominating me for Best Established Author.
I honestly didn't think I would make it because of the lack of updates plus the amazing new authors that showed up after I disappeared but like I said before, I never leave anything unfinished!
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