Disclaimer: I do not own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of their friends, enemies, relatives or pets. They belong to Mirage Studios (I think). This story is for entertainment purposes only and is not to be taken internally. I make no money from this, I write these things for my own amusement. There. Now you can't sue my broke butt.

Chapter 1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Turtles? Absolutely. Ninja? Indisputably. Mutant? Always. Teenage? Not any more.

My name is Leonardo. I have no last name, my father never gave one to me, and I could not take his, for he did not have one either. His name was Splinter, and he was a rat. Now don't get me wrong, that in no way is meant as a slur or a derogatory term. He was a rat. He stood four and a bit feet tall, he had fur, a bald little tail, a nose that twitched and a taste for cheese that my brothers and I used to tease him about. He also could, and on a regular basis did, kick all of our tails either individually or in a group, depending how many pegs we needed to be taken down.

Now here's the second shock of this little story. When I say he kicked our tails, I meant it literally. Now our tails weren't as long as his, but that stands to reason, because the four of us, my brothers and I, were turtles, not rats. We stand around five feet tall, give or take a few inches, are green, and have shells. We're just as intelligent as homo sapiens, although in the case of my brother Donatello, I'd say he's got most humans I know beat hands down. I mean, how many humans do you know hold a double Mastery, one in genetics and the other in bioengineering? Last time we spoke, he was working on a thesis for his doctorate. But I digress.

Where was I? Oh yes. Our father trained us in the art of ninja, my brothers and I. I won't bore you with the details now, that is another story, and for another time. We fought many enemies, most we beat, some, we didn't. Through the violence and the pain we grew up. Michaelangelo never seemed to lose that air he carried of the prankster, the kid. He was the youngest of us, and delighted in reminding us of that fact, whether it was carrying a fire extinguisher to my birthday for the candles, or leaving whoopee cushions on all the chairs in the lair. For all of his goofiness, Michaelangelo was hell on wheels with a skateboard, and his nunchucks could send you into oblivion before you could say his name.

My third brother was Raphael. He was different. While Mike would laugh his way through life, and even Don, with his need to rationalize the universe could put his feet up and relax once in a while, Raphael would brood. He saw the darker things that hid in the shadows, he felt more at home with them than he did with his brothers. His emotions burned hotter, and were harder to control. He felt everything so strongly, anger, hate, loyalty, despair. It was sad that the dark emotions were the ones that reared their heads so often. I wonder if he knew how alike we are?

We both saw life in the shadows, and knew that it could touch us even if we didn't want it to. That was where the biggest difference was. He didn't know whether to fight it or court it, and all I wanted to do was protect my brothers from it. That was my job wasn't it? Oldest brother, their protector, the fearless leader?

God. Fearless Leader. What a joke. Michaelangelo called me that first I think, it was a joke, but apparently they thought it suited me as they all started it shortly after. Fearless? I wish. Most of the time I was terrified. Splinter was counting on me, to protect them, to keep them safe. Night after night we battled Shredder and the Foot Clan, aliens, punks, creatures from legend and ourselves. How could I keep them safe? Yet, somehow I managed. Somehow I kept them together, a team, a family. Or at least I did until that night ten years ago.

That's when we lost Michaelangelo. It wasn't like we'd had a fight, or anything like that. It had been a quiet week all around, the most exciting thing that had happened was Raphael spoiling a purse snatching a few days earlier. Michaelangelo was feeling restless, and he headed out of the lair to find some grub. Knowing him, he'd have gone hunting for pizza. The problem is, he never came back.

We didn't worry at first, I mean, he'd gone out for pizza thousands of times. The waitress and the cook at the Pizza Heaven both knew him by name, and had even figured out the species thing a few years before. They were cool with it though, I mean, he must have kept that place running through a few recessions all on his own, you know? But one hour stretched into two, then two into three, three into four. Splinter sent us out to find out what had happened, but there was nothing.

The lady at the restaurant said he'd picked up the pizza on time, paid for it and took off just like normal. Saying he wanted to get back to his brothers before the pie was cold. We scoured the sewers, the rooftops and the streets that night, but there was no sign. The next night we were at it again. This time April and Casey were helping, checking into some of the human connections we couldn't deal with. Day and night we searched, looking for any clue we could find, but it was like he had disappeared off the face of the earth.

We checked all of our old enemies, trying to find someone who took him out of revenge, but they came up clean. The Shredder, the Foot Clan, anybody we could think of. I think we finally managed to destroy the last of the Clan, but it didn't do us any good, for they didn't have him.

The stress was getting to us too. Raphael was becoming harder and harder to handle. He and Michaelangelo had always been the closest, and it seemed that without Mike's constant banter and cheer Raphael kept slipping farther and farther into the anger that burned inside him. He became more violent, unpredictable. All of us continued the search, but Raphael was always the first to leave the lair and the last to come home. He refused to even contemplate what Donatello and I feared, that Michaelangelo wasn't only missing, he was dead.

For two years this stretched on, we searched for our brother, hopes dwindling as time continued. Then a second event shook our family to the core. It was winter in New York, and while the sewers never freeze, they do get cold and clammy. Splinter developed a cough, and it quickly developed into a raging fever and settled into pneumonia. Donatello nearly drove himself insane trying to come up with a cure, but nothing seemed to help. Our Master was dying, and all we could do was watch. It was surprisingly swift when it came, and I suppose if there is ever a good way for these things to happen, this was it. Splinter said good bye to each of us, lifting a shaking hand to wipe away our tears and silence our protests. Its my time, he said. I can say with honesty that this is the best it could have been, for I am surrounded by my family, my sons. With his dignity wrapped around him like a mantle, he died.

We took his body out to the farm, and there we cremated him, and interred his ashes beneath a huge oak tree. That was when our family truly schismed. Raphael didn't return to New York with us. Instead, he wished us good hunting, and turned his path south. April gets phone calls about once a month from him, and once he figured out that Don and I had mailing addresses now he started sending us postcards. Postcards, can you believe it?

Brazil, Argentina, California, South Dakota, British Columbia, Alaska, he's been all over the two continents, and his last postcard mentioned a desire to visit Africa. I have a sneaking suspicion that the next postcard I get will be from Zimbabwe or Egypt. But again, I find I digress.

Donatello and I returned to New York with April, but found the lair was too painful a memory to return to. I took up residence in a small apartment in April's building, and Donatello ended up following in Raphael's footsteps and leaving the Big Apple. He didn't go as far however. He ended up in Boston, and started taking courses at Harvard through correspondence. I don't know all the details here, but Don said that lasted about six months, then one of the professors figured out his secret. To Don's surprise, the prof wasn't upset that his star pupil turned out to be non human, just angry that Don thought something as minor as species should get in the way of his education. I believe he was quoted as "I don't care if you're a turtle or a purple kangaroo with orange spots and a hankering for goat cheese, with a mind like yours its criminal to let it go to waste. You have three days to hand in that term paper, and that's final!"

And so it was. Don's firmly ensconced at the University now, working on his Doctorate and as a research assistant for that same professor. Its funny how things can change.

As I write this, I'm surprised at how little paper it takes to cover the events of the last ten years. I'll be the first to admit I'm glossing over a lot of details here, but I picked up this pen and journal in an attempt to vent some of my feelings, my guilt, and get them where I can see them, fight them, where I can define them.

It occurs to me as I read this, I haven't told you what I'm doing now. I've talked about my brothers, and my father, but very little about me. Donatello isn't the only one of us who is living among humans now. Four years ago I started to teach. One of the humans we had rescued, I don't even remember the situation now, but apparently I pulled him from underneath a falling beam in a warehouse. He'd been a child, and was playing where he shouldn't when he got caught in a fight between us and Shredder. In the interim, the child had grown, but he never forgot us.

Mark managed to track me down, following rumors and gossip through the streets until he'd 'cornered' me. He didn't know my name, but he remembered the blue, and the katanas. He had only one request, and that was to learn. At first I said no, and the second time he asked, and the fifth (did I mention he was stubborn?) As I recall, I gave in around the fourteenth time. I figured what the hell? He'll go away as soon as he figures out its hard work.

But he didn't go away, and he was good. I mean really good, a natural. And for the first time in years, I was happy. Teaching filled a void I didn't know was there. So I taught Mark, and eventually a few others. We rent a warehouse space now, and I have a little apartment in the back. The floor is a training area. Mark teaches most of the classes, the ones for the regular students, but I still teach the advanced class. If the students weren't ready to be taught by a five foot tall talking turtle, then they aren't taking the Art seriously enough.

I can hear one of the classes happening below as I write this down. The rustle of bare feet on woven mats, the chi focusing yell as the students work through their katas. The place is named Turtle Dojo, and its here I make my home.