A/N: Hello everyone :) First of all, I want to make a huge apology for taking 6 hours... days... months?! SIX MONTHS TO UPDATE?! I am so so so sorry I left this to moulder for so long! You are all so wonderful and it killed me to have to keep you waiting- some family stuff happened... and frankly it was a little bit difficult for me to get back into writing after such a long break from it. Second of all, I want to thank each and everyone of you who reviewed (I wont name all of you this time, but I adore you all!), favourited or followed this story, or just for reading it. It means a lot to me. Thirdly, this will be the last of the wierd chapters, I PROMISE it will be more straightforward from now on. Fourthly, (is that a word?) Merry Christmas to all of you! It is actually raining where I am- usually its 40 degrees C around Christmas for me! If you dont celebrate Christmas, I wish you all a restful and safe holiday :) AAAND on with the story :P this isnt my best chapter, but I promise following ones will be more interesting. Also I recommend that you go and read the last few chapters again if you have forgotten whats been happening... :P
The turtles had been motionless for three hours, as had Samuel. They simply sat there, 'meditating' as they had called it. But it had given Sam enough time to know what to do. He glanced from the turtles to the door, and he knew what was beyond it. He had made a choice, out of his own freewill... he could only pray that it was the right one. Silently, he stood and, clasping his gun, he left the room, leaving the figures to bathe in their own silence.
Through the mist they could see something... something too terrible. Donatello had just stopped Mikey from running into a huge chasm in the ground. The black mist that surrounded them seemed to be seeping from it like an infected weeping wound.
Mikey clung to Donny, shocked that he had almost barreled his way into the pit so easily.
"Don! How did you see that?"
Donny patted Mikey's shell a little. "I was looking." Mikey went to say something, but Don quickly put a hand over his mouth. "Shush Mikey! Stay quiet!"
Mikey struggled against Donny's hold, his orange banded eyes looking into Donny's, asking him so many questions. Why do I have to be quiet? What do you see? Where the shell is Leo? Didn't we hear him shout?
Mikey caught sight of Leo, and gasped a little. Donny nodded, but still gestured for Mikey to be quiet. Leo was halfway down the side of the chasm, crouched low on a small ledge. His eyes were shut, and his breathing heavy, but otherwise he was unmoving. He stayed still; it appeared that he hadn't seen Donny or Mikey yet. Why was he so still? What was he hiding from? It was heartbreaking for Mikey to be so close to Leo, yet so far away. Observing the very edge of the chasm, the black solidity of the floor had crumbled away a little, and Donatello could only assume that Leo had shouted out in surprise as he had fallen in.
Don froze too as he saw a red glow pass over Leo. A stomping noise grew louder, then grew quieter as they thing passed. The black mist swelled with the noise. Whatever it was, it was large enough to disturb a great amount of mist. Don took a hand away from Mikey's mouth, gestured for him to be quiet, and pointed at Leo.
"How can we reach him?" Mikey whispered, gesturing at the drop that separated them from their eldest brother. "I don't think he can climb up on his own."
"He needs a hand that's all," Donny whispered back. "Leo could make it if he had something to grab hold of." Donny quietly kneeled and looked down their side of the chasm at Leo. The red glow was further away now, and Donny decided to take the chance.
"Leo!" Donny whispered the loudest he could to his brother. "Leo, it's us!"
Mikey and Donny held their breaths, not daring to disturb the mist.
Leo had his eyes clamped shut, but he was sure that he had heard something, something other than the glowing red menace that was stopping his escape. Shaking from staying crouched on the ledge so still, but he decided to take the chance. He opened his eyes a crack and looked up…
Donny and Mikey smiled toothily as they saw Leo open his eyes and see them. Mikey hugged Donny out of sheer excitement. As soon as Donny was able to pry Mikey away from his plastron, he turned his attention back to Leo, who was now standing on the ledge with his shell flat against the cavern wall, his head angled up towards them. Despite the danger, they could see Leo smiling with relief and confusion. Donny mouthed to Leo, along with large gestures "Can you climb up?"
Leo understood what Donny was saying, but shook his head. "No footholds." Leo mouthed to them. Donny swallowed as the reality of their situation swarmed through Leo's eyes. Leo could suppress his fears almost as well as Raph, but his brothers could tell that something was scaring him. Did it have something to do with that red glow?
"But Leo you just need to-"Mikey began to say, but Leo gestured for silence.
"Shh," Leo whispered, and the brothers saw genuine fear in Leonardo's eyes. "Quiet, it hasn't seen me…"
"What hasn't?" But Leo just looked back down into the chasm. Donny could see that there was something that Leo was afraid of, even though he was unsure of the reason, so he thought quickly for a way to get him out. He looked around for anything that could help them, but there was nothing except for the lingering black mist. There anything useful here.
"Mikey," whispered Donny. "Give me your belt."
Mikey frowned. "Dude, I'll feel naked without it."
Mikey sighed and handed the belt to his purple banded brother. Donny set to work quietly and efficiently. He took off his belt and tied it to Mikey's, creating a long length of leather. With regular human belts this probably wouldn't have worked, however Donatello predicted that there would be enough length to reach down to Leo. The width of their shells meant that their belts had to be extra long. Handy.
Leo looked down into the chasm, searching for the red light, and then shrugging at his brothers.
"I can't see it." Leo mouthed at them.
Mikey shrugged. "What the shell was that thing?" He mouthed back with many exaggerated gestures.
"Raph machine," mouthed Leo.
"What?" Mikey mouthed back, but Leo waved a dismissive hand.
"Grab on, Leo." Donny tossed the length of leather down to Leo, and Mikey helped Donny hold their end of the 'rope'. Leo grabbed onto it and wrapped it around the palm of his hand slowly, watching the rope and the weeping mist at the same time. He turned his shell to the pit of the mist and began slowly climbing up the wall of the pit, carefully positioning his feet one in front of the other as he travelled closer and closer to his freedom. Donny and Mikey gripped their brother's lifeline with all their might, not daring to let up for second. Gradually, Leo reached the top of the pit, grabbing for the crumbling edge to pull himself up. Mikey and Donny pulled him up the remaining few feet to the relative safety of the blackened floor. Donny and Mikey helped Leo to stand, throwing their belts aside. "It's good to see you again Leo."
Leo smiled at his brothers. His eyes were dark underneath, as if he hadn't slept for a long time, and his broad shoulders were tense after being flooded with an amount of fear that Leo wasn't going to confirm. "The real you."
Leo laughed a little, the action causing his throbbing head to bring forth a wave of dizziness.
"Gee Leo," said Donny. "You look terrible."
"I've just been here a little too long." Leo whispered, glancing behind them cautiously. "We should get out of here. This isn't a great place to hang out."
Mikey choked back a giggle. "Hehe, hang out." He smirked. "It's funny, cos you were hanging-"
Mikey was cut off by a shift in the mist. The three brothers turned to see a red glow from the pit, its light seeping upwards with another weeping of the black filth, growing stronger and stronger, brighter and brighter. But this time it wasn't silent. It was accompanied by mechanical crunching, almost like... something was climbing up the side of the pit, just as Leo had.
"Uh, Don?" Mikey began to panic. "Which way to the nearest exit?"
Don and Mikey looked all around, not daring to stare at the red glow, but Leo couldn't tear his gaze away from the glow.
"Leo?" Don grabbed Leo's shoulder. "Leo what is it? What's wrong?"
"It's not going to leave me alone Don." Leo's whisper was so faint, the ghost of his voice catching in his throat. "Its Bishop's doing. It'll never stop chasing me."
"What wont?" Leo wouldn't look at him. Don grabbed Leo's other shoulder, turning Leo towards him. "Leo, look at me! What wont?"
Leo turned his gaze towards Donatello, and in his eyes were the reflections of so many questions that had strained the leaders mind. Why so venerable? ... Why was there fear in the leader's heart? Leo turned back to the filth to see a mechanical hand crush the side of the chasm. "... Raphael."
Donny and Mikey saw it too. The machine rose, a pulsating body of metal and hatred screamed down on them. Red glowed from its eyes, its pupils emitting the light almost blindingly. It was the colour among the band of brothers that was missing... and yet not the right colour.
"Bishop..." Mikey clenched a fist. "Is that what he's doing?"
The machine lumbered forward gradually out of the pit, like a shockwave to the explosion of fear. The turtles stepped back, instinctively reaching for their weapons... but of course they weren't there.
"It's pretty slow," Mikey remarked, even though his comment bought the turtle brothers no comfort. "Could we outrun it?"
"Head back the way you came," said Leo. "I'll distract it."
"No way." Donny said. "There is no way I'm leaving you here."
"I'm trapped anyway Don. I'm stuck with Raph-"
"Leonardo, listen to me!" Don thumped Leo hard, as if trying to bring him to his senses. "That thing is not Raph. It's something made by Bishop, it's a pile of metal! I think it could be like a computer virus inside your head, trapping you from escaping, making your external body think that you are something that you aren't. But you need to remember that there is a real Raphael out there," Donny pointed to the machine, "and he isn't a thing like that. Don't you dare forget him, Leonardo."Leo tore his gaze from the machine and forced himself to look at his brothers. "And don't forget who you are."
The machine, now completely out of the pit, rose to its full height, bearing down on the turtles as if they were insects.
A new determination filled the wearied leaders' eyes, and grabbing his brothers they began to run. Leo looked to Donatello as he ran. "For Raphael?"
Donny nodded. "The real Raphael."
The machine roared, lowering itself to the floor, and, on all fours like an untamed beast, it began to push its hardened shell of a body after the turtles.
"Do you remember how you got in Leo?" Mikey ran, his footsteps encouraging his brothers to join in.
"All I remember was this light."
The red glow of the machines eyes pierced after them, gathering speed as the turtles continued to run. Suddenly there was a glow in front of them, and the red of the eyes was seemingly nothing against the new source of light. It was almost blinding to them, having spent their time in this realm in darkness.
"Kinda like that?"
"Go!" Leo pushed his brothers in front of him, lessening the difference between his brothers and their escape.
The machine was gathering speed now, and it reached out a fearsome metal hand as it neared them, grabbing onto Leo's ankle as he pushed Mikey and Donny through the light.
The three turtles landed hard on their shells, almost hitting their heads on the floor behind them as they toppled backwards from their meditative positions. Donatello opened his eyes and groaned, adjusting his purple mask so that his vision was not obscured by it. Placing his three fingered hand on the floor, he rolled himself over onto his side and looked around. They were in the light again, the light from above illuminating the surrounding bars of the cage. Back in the cage, Donny thought with a sigh. Well, at least they were free from one prison. Mikey sat up, rubbing his head.
"Whoa, what a ride." He glanced at Donny. "If that's what computers do to you, I'm never playing another video game again!"
"Too right." Donny and Mikey turned their heads to see Leo sit up, rubbing his face and groaning. "I'd be happy if I never saw another computer again."
"Leo!" Mikey grabbed Leo in the biggest hug he had ever given, a grin plastered on his face which made him look like he might explode at any moment. Shrugging, Donny joined in.
"It's good to see you guys again." Leo struggled to talk under the mass of arms that belonged to his brothers, and he hugged them back with the same brotherly affection.
"How do you feel Leo?" asked Donny, trying to pry himself off so that he could get a better look at Leo, only to find himself also caught in Mikey's embrace.
"Fine." Leo said simply, looking at his brothers and allowing a small smile of relief to show on his face. It hurt his muscles to smile, because he hadn't done it for that long. He hadn't had a reason to smile up til now. "In fact, I feel more like myself than I have in a while."
Leo blinked, and immediately noticed something wrong. The colour surrounding his vision was blue.
"Guys." Mikey sensed the seriousness of Leo's tone, and immediately released his brothers from his embrace. "I wasn't wearing my mask when I came in here... I was wearing Raph's mask, the red mask." Leo reached over his shoulder and pulled the trailing bandana ends towards his face, to clarify if what he was actually seeing was real. Yes, they were definitely blue. "How did I get my mask back?"
"Raph switched them," Donny explained, and he couldn't stop the concern for his brother being etched all over his face. "When he was here."
"He thought that it might bring you to your senses." added Mikey.
"Where is he now?" Leo's voice rose a little in pitch as he realised what was happening. Bishop now had the last piece of his puzzle. His machines could work properly if he had Raph's mind to power them. He didn't want Raph to go through it. He would gladly take his brother's place again if it saved him from that isolation, that pain. Leo knew about it all too well.
Donny shook his head. "Bishop took him."
"Three hours ago." Another voice interrupted them.
The turtles leapt to their feet, immediately taking defensive stances, standing shell to shell in the confined space behind bars, fists clenched with pulsating muscle power behind them. The figure of the guard Samuel stood just out of the shadows. They caught the glint of his large gun. As his voice subsided, the echo engulfed by the enormous space, Leonardo turned to face him straight on, standing slightly in front of his brothers. He wasn't sure if he trusted Samuel, he barely knew the kid, but something in the guard's eyes told him that they could trust him.
"It seems that you've finally come to your senses, Leonardo," He said, lowering the gun so that it hung by a strap on his right shoulder. "And... so have I."
Samuel approached the cage, and Donny and Mikey immediately stepped back from him, still keeping their defensive stance, but Leo dropped his hands slightly.
"Leo," Mikey asked, his mask crinkling as confusion overcame him. "What are you doing?"
"It's alright Mikey." Leo said. "I think."
Mikey glanced at Donny. They barely knew this soldier. Was he to be trusted? Or was he just another pawn in Bishops game of chess? But they trusted Leo's judgement; he was their leader, after all.
"You guys made me realise what I was doing," Sam took out a set of keys. "I was wrong to follow orders and keep you from each other, I'm sorry." He turned the key in the lock, and his eyes met Leo's. The hardened soldier was no longer just one of many, he was becoming human. His eyes, previously so hard and emotionless, were close to tears. "There's nothing in the world I wouldn't give to see my own brother again."
He pushed the door open, its metal hinges screeching as he did so. Leaving the door wide open, Samuel stood aside, showing the turtles that their gateway to freedom was now open before them.
"You've shown me that family is worth fighting for." He produced a bag, and out of it protruded their weapons.
Leo left the cage first, cautiously stepping from the illuminated concrete to the shadowed floor outside the cage. He gently took the bag from Sam and looked inside. Indeed, all of their weapons were there, even Donny's Bo, a majority of which protruded from the top. Leo threw the Bo to Donny, who caught it in one hand. The sturdiness of the familiar wood under his fingertips was enough to make him smile with confidence.
"My chucks!" Leo tossed Mikey's chucks to him. "Did you miss Daddy? You did, didn't you? I missed you too, my darlings!"
Leo grabbed out his own Katana blades and the belt. He put it on, the familiar weight on his shell, but somehow it didn't feel right. Then he remembered that Raph had been wearing them, so of course they felt different. They had both been is such different shoes for such a long time, it was going to take some getting used to.
He took Raph's Sai also, holstering them in his belt as they had been before.
"Come on guys," he gestured for his brothers to come out of the cage. "Let's go get Raphael."
"I know where he is," said Samuel. "It may not be easy to get there unnoticed." He glanced at their weapons. "But I take it you guys can hold your own in a fight."
All three brothers smiled. "Let's go." Leo said, gesturing for the group to venture forth. "Sam, lead the way. Mikey, cover him, then Donny, then I'll cover the rear."
"Come on Mikey," said Sam. "I don't think we'll have long till they discover you aren't here." Samuel and Mikey made for the door, the pair clasping their weapons in hand, moving stealthily and silently.
Donny hesitated though, shifting a little as he felt some discomfort down the back of his shell. He had just remembered the tracking device that he had shoved down there for safe keeping. He realised that he hadn't actually had a proper chance to locate Leo's exact position back in the Battle shell, and that he would only have rough co ordinates at the moment. He knew that they were roughly 200 miles, but he needed more specific details. He just hoped that it hadn't been damaged at all. Maybe he wouldn't need it, and they could find a computer that could tell them where they were.
"Don," said Leo. "We have to go. I'm worried that we have left Raph for too long..."
"Of course." Leo and Don made their way after the others. Donny guessed finding their way home could wait until after they found Raph... but then he had been wrong before.
A/N: And Leo is back to normal! Hooray! Let's go find Raph! Someone reviewed asking for more Raphael hurt... so be warned for future chapters... *evil cackle* Have a very Merry Christmas everyone! I will try to update when I can- sorry in advance if I keep you waiting again.