A/N: I've never done a word prompts challenge for TMNT before, but I've always wanted to, and it seems like a great way to work around writers' block. This is a 50 prompt challenge done with words randomly generated from the Internet. Taking this one ten at a time, folks. Hope you enjoy!
Nourishment. A concern that forced the ribs through his coarse fur and painted ghostly pallors onto his sons' tender skin in the days of old. He would feel the warmth of their bodies, calculate the energy in their movements, and then scoop food into the trembling maws of the less-alive, leaving the more-alive trembling hungrily against the heaps of garbage.
He looks at the table, flowing with meats and fruits and his sons, all more alive than less. He can withstand the hollowness of hunger, but his sons must never starve again.
"No." Leonardo held the costume out in front of him as though trying to keep it as far away from his eyes as possible.
"Oh come on, it'll be really cool! We can have catchphrases, and sign autographs, and—" Michelangelo's excited suggestion was cut off by a lovely spandex outfit smacking into his face, golden underwear painted on the outside.
"I am not joining the Justice Force as the Terrapin Terror."
"Jeez, Leo," Mikey grumbled as he pulled the costume off of his head. "It was just a thought."
It's because of the coughing and screaming and crushed ribs that his voice comes as a ghost in the burning air. Hours pass and the call is unheeded; the whispers of dawn hang on the sky, and still words can only haunt the night.
All his life, Michelangelo has been left in the dark about the skeletons hiding in his brothers' closets. He doesn't need to know why they are kept from him, or how long they have been there. He only hears their rattling bones at night and knows it keeps his brothers from sleep.
"Ugh...can...can you guys read me?"
"I...nrgh...yeah, m'fine. Think I...I hit my head, Don's right here though—"
"Quiet, Raph. Leo, we got tossed south of the wreckage. Just follow the smoke, the whole plane's still on fire."
"Yeah, I...I see it. Any survivors?"
"I doubt it. The entire place lit up like it was doused in cheap gasoline."
"Better them than the millions of civilians they were planning to smoke with those toys we found in their hold."
"No kidding. You guys alive?"
"I got away with a few scratches and bumps...but Raph's really been thrown for a loop, and Mikey's leg is broken in about three places."
"But you're alive."
"And stuck in the middle of nowhere."
"But mostly alive. Take care of them, Donnie. See you in fifteen."
And he disconnects the link.
There is a place, far back in the closet of his room, where a small wooden box sits, marred and splintered and always locked tight. It has lain behind shelves of scrolls for years, long before the biting cold of the lair melted away into something warmer. It is a treasure—a thing from a past life, an incomplete memory that never came to pass.
One day, when he believes his infant sons are all asleep, he finds himself upon his knees in front of the box, grasping the contents to his chest like a weak old fool. When he hears the soft swish of air at his side and feels small hands circle his arm in innocent, concerned curiosity, he cannot bring himself to meet the inquisitive eyes of his youngest son.
Michelangelo looks at him, tilting his head. "Sensei, those are girl shoes."
It is not a question, so Splinter does not feel compelled to answer. His child stares at the sandals in his hands, and then with the understanding of one who realizes the gravity of something without comprehending it, leans his head into his father's shoulder to join in his silent grief.
"We did it," April says, a watery grin on her face.
The grave says nothing back. The silence is deafening, but it allows her eyes to trail over every letter carved into the rough plank of wood standing before her. She makes it to 'T' before something tightens in her throat so violently she thinks she may not be able to breathe for days. April swallows thickly and crouches down on one knee, shrugging off the backpack.
"You should have seen the guys, Master Splinter." Her voice cracks on the sixth word, but she ignores it, shuffling around inside the bag. "I couldn't believe my eyes. It was just like old times. And Donnie..."
Her fist closes around four strips of cloth. She pulls them from the bag—red, orange, purple, and blue, keepsakes from a time she'd almost lost within the haze of gunfire and screaming nights and cold, empty beds. April turns and begins knotting the masks around the walking stick jutting up from the cold ground, and with ashen trees bowed overhead and the silence pressing in at all sides and the moisture on her cheeks grounding her to the sodden earth, the whole world seems to watch as April O'Neil lays to rest her four precious brothers.
"You would have been so proud," she finishes softly.
A cool wind whispers through the bandana tails, and she closes her eyes to listen.
"To boldly go where no turtle has gone before!" Leo proclaims as he swerves and mimics his favorite Space heroes gesture of holding one finger up in the air and beaming into his audience.
Michelangelo lowers the comic book from his face, his snout crinkling in confusion. "You mean, like...New Jersey?"
Leo wilts faster than a lily in the Sahara. "No, Mikey," he grumbles, turning back to the television. "Even Captain Ryan wouldn't go there."
"You," Donatello hissed, furiously paging through the book, "are lying."
Michelangelo lazily spun a nunchaku in one hand, considerably more lackadaisical about this new information than his high-strung brother. A grin stretched his face as he watched Don pore through the pages. "Deny it all you want, Donnie-boy! The people have spoken!"
"Impossible," Don insisted under his breath. He suddenly stopped, breathing a soft aha as he found the page he'd been looking for. His eyes stonily flickered up and down the columns.
Abruptly and with a shriek of frustration, he slammed the book shut and chucked it clear across the room.
"I can't believe they put 'bootylicious' in the dictionary!" He roared, arms flailing slightly as he stormed off in the direction of his lab.
Mikey called out after his retreating form, "Sorry, bro, but the American language is evolving!"
"Mikey," Leo admonished without looking up from his novel at the distant scream of rage, "stop enabling him."
Sometimes the screaming of his own brain keeps him up at night, and it's all he can do not to join the caterwauling that echoes in his mind like screeching metal lost in an endless maze of caverns. He climbs topside and runs, listening to the squealing tires and midnight sirens, every noise inside and out building to an explosion in his skull.
At two in the morning he crawls through the first story of Second Time Around, climbs the stairwell leading up to her apartment above, and tucks himself into the corner, clenching his eyes in the silence until the brain-noise fades away into the bleak darkness of sleep.
When he awakes to the dim gray light filtering in through a window high above, there's a blanket pulled over his shell and a note on the floor, teasing his ninja skills and inviting him inside for toast.
And next time, the note also says, written in April's grand, swirly handwriting, just knock on my bedroom window, tough guy.