A/N:The little sneak actually doesn't appear in this chapter - he had to wait until the next one - but I'm sure you'll see why - some things needed to be straightened out a bit before . . . well . . . before. ;)

'I'll tell you one thing – we ain't gonna change much.

The sun still rises – even with the pain.

I'll tell you one thing, we ain't gonna change, love.

The sun still rises – even through the rain.

Can we go on, like it once was? Can we go on, like it once was?

Everybody feels a little crazy - Like it once was - Everybody feels a little crazy

Like it once was . . .

Can we go on like it once was? – The Head and the Heart, from the song Another Story

Chapter 28 – Bonds Bleeding but Unbroken

Raphael stood, arms crossed, leaning on the door-frame as Leonardo strapped his swords on. He grimaced and gingerly eased the wide belt up and over his bandaged shoulder. He fidgeted inside the fabric sling and rolled his joint around, clenching his jaw and then straightened up. Irritated, he shrugged off the sling and tossed it across the room. Keeping his right arm close to his body, he shot Raphael a quick glance and strode past him, ignoring the look of distress as Raph eyed the sling and his arm. Master Splinter rose up from the chair in the living room as the brothers headed towards the turnstiles to leave.

"My son, a word."

Leonardo hesitated then turned. Raphael moved towards Splinter and their sensei shook his head. Raph nodded and pivoted back to the exit.

"Meet you topside."

Leonardo crossed the few feet to stand in front of Master Splinter. His palms grew sweaty as he placed one fist in the opposite palm and bowed. The motion made his right shoulder send a spike of pain up through the side of his neck, but he brushed it away.

They hadn't spoken since he'd arrived home, another failure hanging over his head, another dishonor brought before his father. He had not found Mikey's tormentor. He had not brought justice to the man that had injured his family so grievously. He had come home despite his master making it clear that he was unwelcome without results. Leonardo braced himself for a reprimand.

Hoping to assuage his father's obvious disappointment in him, he quickly started by saying, "I will not return home again without the man responsible having been taken care of, Master Splinter."

"I am sure you will fulfill your duty in this. However, before you go, I wish to apologize to you."

Leo started. He blinked as his mouth went dry, ducking his head.

Splinter's eyes were moist as he gazed up at his bewildered son. "I placed the weight of shame upon your shoulders, when it was a shame for my own inadequacies in protecting my family." He turned and motioned for Leonardo to sit.

Leo glanced over his shoulder to the exit of the lair then back as Splinter sat down. He remained standing where he was. "Father, you owe me no apology."

Splinter glanced up to interrupt him, but Leonardo would not allow him to. He went on in a hurried voice, "I-I have failed our family . . . I should have never left my brothers' sides that night. I was acting out of a selfish . . . a selfish desire. I have . . . learned a valuable lesson, one I will never fail to adhere to."

Here he paused and swallowed, fighting back the image of her on the roof, the strained joy that leapt in his heart when he knew she'd been so close the entire night, watching him, wondering if she was hoping to speak to him alone, maybe to plan another secret meeting. It had been so long since their last one. He had missed her terribly. When all along it was not he that she was hoping to see. Or was it? Things had become so tangled and confused that he wasn't sure what to believe any longer.

Bitterness and regret pinched his thrumming heart. He'd been such a fool on so many, many things. And somehow, without realizing it, his own private wishes and silly hopes had dragged Raphael under, involved him to a point of no return and then Michelangelo suffered horribly because of his interest in Karai. His father owed him no such apology. This was entirely his fault. It started with the mistake of falling in love. One he would never repeat.

"Leonardo," Splinter started.

But Leo continued on. "There is no room for anything but dedication to my family. I will never allow outside . . . distractions to compromise my loyalty or focus. Not ever again."

Splinter sighed. Leonardo was his most stubborn child. Once his mind became trained on something, he pursued it with dogged determination until the object or skill or interest was mastered or fully understood and under control. Even Raphael would eventually give up on a pursuit or interest in time. But not Leonardo. Not until he was satisfied with the conquering of it. He should have never placed blame wholly on one who would so readily accept it and carry it to its end. Splinter could not fix what had been set in motion. Leonardo would see this to the end. He only hoped that the cost would not be so great. Something else occurred to him then. Regarding the kunoichi, Karai. Considering his son's temperament and obsessive need to see things to their natural endings, love for this child would come as a disaster. An unrequited love for one such as Leonardo would be nothing short of devastation.

Slowly, he gazed up at his son with knowing eyes. Reading the grief written in his son's posture, in his storm-colored eyes, understanding for the first time how much that kunoichi's death had affected him. Whether he approved or did not, his son had loved her. The poor foolish boy. His sincerest child. He knew not all the particulars but he knew enough of what had caused the terrible strain between him and Raphael. Leonardo had stumbled upon something impossible in his youth. He'd hung on to it with his obsessive, quiet nature, no doubt hoping for some romantic resolution, and some fruition of his deep longing only to have lost her. First to his brother then to death. Would the world and the fates ever be kind to his lost boys? Splinter knew the answer to that.

Splinter dropped his head and nodded his understanding to Leonardo. He trusted that his son's words were true, if only because he knew his son would not love another as he did Karai for the rest of his days. That sent a mixed wave of relief and sorrow through him. He did not want his children to be unhappy. Quite the opposite. He wanted their lives filled with purpose and satisfaction. Yet, they had to keep from the trappings of human affairs. They were like them but not entirely. Their place was in the shadows. It was just the plotting of destiny. They could never be part of that world. Not in the way his son may have hoped. Leonardo had learned this lesson in the most painful way possible.

"Go then, mend things between you and your brother as you hunt the man responsible for Michelangelo's suffering."

"I-I will try," he replied with dread settling in his heart. He was sure that Raphael hated him. Sure that Michelangelo and Donatello hated him as well. But unsure who of his brothers hated him more, thinking that of his family, no one despised him more than he did himself. Leonardo gave him a stiff bow and wheeled around and hurried away.

April sat in the computer chair, the seat worn to a comfortable lumpiness from Donatello spending more time there than anywhere else in the lair. With a determined focus, she kept her mind from traveling to the memories that this chair brought back to her. Of his long, toned thighs spreading open as she slid over the front of him, the way his breathed hitched in sweet anticipation, as she eased down to tease the rigid flesh already straining to meet her willing mouth, tongue, lips; hands eager to stroke and pet. His soft moaning pleas for her not to stop as she toyed with his beautiful body; the taste of him like renewal and salted caramel, like salvation and steel, like love and lust and forever.

April, oh April. D-Don't stop. Please. Oh, please, please, please.

April shook her head, cursing internally at herself. She was too tired to think like this. Felt so much older than that girl who had lost herself in Donatello's mysteries. And now what was left of her was aged and wary, brittle and fretful, something held together by repeated phrases that were slowly making less and less sense to her. Last night, April knew she had done a good thing for Mikey. Just being there for him, listening. But it was so terrible, the tale he relayed to her. So awful that she did not want to accept that it wasn't just a nightmare, that it wasn't just some story meant to warn or terrify, that it wasn't her friend's life for three days and nights. She gripped the sides of the hot mug and relished the sensation of the heat coming through her fingers.

She was too worn down about Michelangelo's confession. Too raw from absorbing his pain, too exhausted from taking the weight of the tale from him. Too numb from the horrors of it all. Thoughts of past sexual encounters with Donatello should be the last thing on her mind. She chastised herself internally. What is wrong with me? And yet. Those fuzzy memories hailed to her like a comforting presence, like an escape hatch slipping open, offering her freedom from the awful reality she found herself immersed in. What she wouldn't give to fall into his arms again and feel the totality of his adoration, feel the warmth of his protective love enveloping her, body and soul? When had she ever felt as safe? As at peace, than when they had finished, spent each other's energies out until they could only languish in the heavy, sweet satisfaction of just being together; bodies molded as though they could not be separated. Not by any hand of man or god. Not by any judgment or suspicious jealous eye.

No. The only thing that could have come between them, was her. And her choice ultimately broke the bond, severed it. Slashed it and rendered it irreparable. For here they were, what was once one was two. What was once identical in breath and thought and heartbeat and spirit was rent and shredded; pieces cast aside; fragments of their love caught adrift in the wilds and winds of despair and loss; to scatter, becoming in time, lost and beyond recollection and reparation.

She cradled a steaming mug of coffee between two hands, propped on her thighs. Her eyes felt raw from crying and though they burned with the sting of building tears, there were really none left to shed. She wondered if he missed her. Sitting here now, so close to him, she never felt his absence more keenly. And she missed him. She missed him terribly. She glanced up.

Head lowered, body positioned so that it was strategically as far away from touching her as possible in the narrow room, Donatello carefully tidied up around her. Neither of them had really said a word to each other since he led her from Michelangelo's room to the lab. He had indicated for her to sit and then shortly after, produced and handed to her a fresh cup of coffee from the small machine he kept plugged in on his work table. He'd muttered an apology about not having cream or sugar available, but April was still in the numb shock of the reverberations of Mikey's tale to really acknowledge that he'd said anything at all to her. He stacked a pile of schematics and tapped the edge onto the table before laying them back down where they originally sat. He cleared his throat and she dropped her gaze away.

But out of the corner of her eye she followed his movements. As if just realizing that it was something else he could do, he busied himself with gathering and then placing pens, exact-o knives and several small rulers into a bin, then he fidgeted where he stood. He seemed to have run out of menial things to organize. He glanced at her over one shoulder, then turned and crossed to the small cot propped along the bricks near his work table.

She raised her head and watched him over her shoulder. He stared at it for a moment and she wondered if he remembered those long nights that they lay tangled in each other's limbs on that very cot. Under each other, over, side to side. Elbows, knees, wrists, throat and chest, stomach and hollow clavicle. Lines of sweat tracing over curves and valleys, lingering in dips and running over creases to pool before being lapped by heated tongue or kissed away by swollen lips. Idly, she wondered if the mattress was the same. If the heady scent of their mingled sweat and lovemaking still lingered after all these years. If he relished that fading reminder of love languishing in lust and heat, of desire joined with exultation and discovery. Again, April banished the thoughts as her face grew warm and her eyes burned even more painfully.

He turned and sat heavily on the edge and braced his elbows on top of his thighs, tenting his fingertips together pointed at the floor. April bit her bottom lip and decided that he probably burned the old mattress along with all the other mementos that she had given him that were nowhere to be found among the tools, papers and general disarray of his lab. It was as though she had never stepped foot in this room before. And she never felt more oddly out of place in a room that was once held all the fascination and pleasure that life could offer her, than as she did now, sitting in his computer chair; only feet away from the one that she loved like no other, not before, not ever since. That forsaken love rose between them like a wandering specter, heavy and invisible, but oppressively there; a silent banshee howling for reunion with its long lost voice.

Using her toes she turned the chair around so she could look at him. While he kept his gaze to the ground she was afforded the opportunity to really look at him. And though she felt afraid for some reason, she wanted to take this chance to observe him. His shoulders were broader than when she last ran her fingers up and around the narrow curve of the musculature there, hidden by the frayed lab coat he seemed to often wear these days. The sleeves were bunched but covered the sweeping lines of his arms completely. Her eyes skittered over the curve of his calf and knee pad, up swiftly past his mid-section, not allowing herself, not trusting her eyes to linger too long there, but up again to his face. Her eyes took in the changes she noted. His jaw was fuller.

He seemed overall in good health, yet the last few weeks of stress and worry had given him a gaunt look, shadows played across hollows that she knew where not there before. Weary and resigned, he sat. She wondered what it was that he was surrendering to. The reality of what his brother had been put through? Maybe he wished to be alone. If her presence in his lab was a distraction and whether that in itself was a good thing or bad. April debated getting up and leaving him to his thoughts.

The phone buzzed in her pocket, making her jump. The coffee sloshed with her movement. He raised chocolate brown eyes as she fumbled and placed the mug near his laptop behind her and pulled the phone free. Seeing Casey's number lit across the screen, she shot a guilty look to Donatello who seemed to have guessed who was calling her. He dropped his eyes and turned his face a little to one side, an expression of polite disinterest masking the initial disgust that had flashed over it. She ignored the call.

After a moment, he risked looking at her. "Don't mind me. If you need to take that, by all means," he said and his voice held no hint of sarcasm.

"It . . . It wasn't anything important."

He leveled a look at her that held a slightly curious glint. The blank mask returned. "Did Mikey ask for the pills again?"

She straightened up and rubbed her hands on her thighs, holding the phone between them. She nodded as she sucked her lips. "I told him that he needed to ease off them. It was getting out of hand."

"Four a night. Sometimes more." Donatello sighed.

She nodded. He gave her an appraising gaze.

"He told you what happened to him." It wasn't a question.

She closed her eyes. "Yes," she breathed. Her shaking hands played with the phone between her fingers. "It's bad. Really, really bad. He . . . He told me everything that was done to h-him. Don, it was awful. Horrible." Her stomach rolled and she had to stop talking, instead she focused on breathing more steadily.

Donatello dropped his head into one hand and rubbed his forehead furiously. Thinking. Without looking at her he said, "I guessed as much. He's been healing on schedule. But . . . his attitude. He hasn't been the same. He's been so angry," he huffed a bitter laugh, "More like Raph than himself."

"He needs help."

"I know. I know that," he spat with more than a little frustration lacing his brittle words. He stood up abruptly. He crossed his arms and paced. Tension filled the air and April chewed on her bottom lip. "What can I do? I can set bones, stitch arteries," he shook his head. "This is . . . beyond me. And it's not like we can hire someone to come down here and talk to him. A therapist . . ." he shook his head in dismay and swore under his breath. "Maybe . . ." he stopped, thinking hard. "Maybe, Master Splinter can . . . I don't know, meditate with him, or-or talk to him about it. Help him deal with it. Come to some leveling out between his physical recovery and emotional . . ."

April was already shaking her head. "No. No, Donnie. He didn't want you guys to know."

He shot her an exasperated look. "How can we help him then?"

"I don't think you can."

He slapped the sides of his legs in irritation. "That doesn't help anything, April."

She visibly flinched at him saying her name. It had been so long since he'd spoken it aloud. Echoes of the past, his murmuring it over and over, his voice thick and panting, repeating it in her ear as he ran his hands over her, as he drove deeper . . . She dropped her forehead into her palms and dragged her fingernails through her hair. She refocused.

"He talked to me. I can try to help him. I have some experience with therapy and therapists." She paused and allowed the words to permeate the air between them. She kept her eyes carefully trained away from him. If there was anything in his look, in his body language, she didn't want to see it or hear it. Not now. Thankfully, he made no comment. But she wished she could read his mind. Even if it was bad, then at least she'd know. She'd know what she already understood. He had to hate her. She hated herself for what she'd done to him.

His face was blank as he stared at the cot that he'd just vacated. "He opened up to you, April, because he feels safe with you," Don said quietly, still staring at the cot. "I understand," he added and turned his face towards her. "You do that . . . to people."

She felt her heart jump and stumble as the intense sorrow and yearning was unveiled to her as well as all the terrible cost of what she'd done to him. Suppressing a cry, she stood up and took two steps before falling into his arms. He caught her but turned his face away as her hands moved up to cradle his cheeks. His body went rigid and cold.

"Don, I-I -" she started in a panicked, hurried, breathless voice. Knowing that she'd gone too far, already he was pulling away from her. The words were tumbling forward, too fast to make any real sense of what she wanted to say, too entangled in her confused longing and conflicting emotions to emerge clear and free of such self-imposed burdens. She only knew she wanted to make this better. To ease his pain. She only wanted to escape from all the hurt she was feeling for her extended family; but she wanted to flee from it in his embrace, to take him with her where it was safe and the world was at peace. Like before. Before everything fell apart. Before she became the implement of her own undoing and his.

But her heart stopped as he shook his head and took one large step away from her, still holding her elbows awkwardly for a moment before releasing them. He dropped his hands to his sides, stuffing them into the deep pockets of his coat. His shoulders slumped and he ducked his head. He shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. It was a rough sound. Almost painful. He took another step away from her as if needing even more distance between them. She watched as his throat worked and he pressed his mouth into a tight line.

"Get some rest," he said brusquely to the wall and turned away from her still outstretched arms. With his back to her, he went on, "I need to talk with Master Splinter and then check on Mikey." With that, he fled from the room before she remembered how to breathe again.

The snowstorms had given way to periods of heavy gray sleeting, covering the mounds of snow in a coating of slick ice; glimmering in long dagger-like icicles off every telephone pole, gutter and overhang around the city. Leaping rooftops was dangerous at the best of times, now it was like playing Russian roulette. Raphael gripped Leonardo's wrist and hauled him up over the parapet of an apartment building that they had landed on shortly leaving the lair. They had run in silence for the past hour, but now Raphael, his mind circling between what Master Splinter had ordered him to do and worry over Mikey and the exhilaration of finally hunting down the man responsible for his little brother's injuries, stopped to regroup. It seemed to Raph that they'd been going in circles. He needed to talk with Leo and not just about their mission. He stood shuddering as the icy mix poured down around them.

Leonardo was slightly pale and looked sick. Raphael could only guess that his brother was in pain from the exertion on his shoulder.

"You know, I could just do this alone," he said over the roar of the rain. He didn't mean for it to come out as harsh or condescending as it had. Even when he wasn't trying to be an ass, he still managed to come across as one. "Er, what I mean, is, if you need to, uh, if your arm is hurtin'." He shook his head. Why did he even try?

"I'm fine."

"Course you are."

Leonardo shot him a glare but it lacked teeth. He stared out over the roof line. Leonardo pointed out across the eastern boroughs where Purple Dragons stalked. "I've already exhausted any possibilities of Purple Dragon involvement."

Raphael shook his head in surprise. He gave his brother a double take. "You been bustin' Purple Dragon heads all this time instead of lookin' to the Foot? Leo," he snapped. "What the hell were you thinkin'? You know that she . . . er, sh-she –" he faltered and fell to silently stewing over his disagreement with his brother's tactics. What the hell was Leo thinking? Was this his way of avoiding thinking about Karai? Cuz if it was, Leo was allowing his feelings to cloud his judgment once again. Unable to stop it, Raphael's temper flared to life.

"I know, Raph. I wanted to be sure. I couldn't fail Master Splinter. I couldn't leave any possible lead unchecked."

Raphael bit his tongue. But then, temper getting the best of him, he blurted, "Gimme a break. You know it was one of her men. She said so, herself. What the fuck, Leo?"

Leonardo took in a steadying breath. He continued as though he hadn't heard Raphael, "Tonight we head out to the Foot headquarters. We'll capture one of them and make them tell us what they know of Karai's regiment. Who worked under her. Who was out with her that night."

"Nuh-uh. Fuck that," Raph replied. His fingers were tapping along the edge of one of his sai. "You've had a month to go about tracking this guy and all I find out between Casey's messages and now you, is that you've been avoiding the one place you shoulda started with."

Leonardo's temper sparked, "Oh? The Foot headquarters isn't the right place to go? Despite now knowing that one of the Foot had to have had Mikey. Without a doubt." Leonardo gnashed his teeth as Raphael continued to shake his head in disgust at him. "Then why don't you enlighten me, Raphael."

"We need to go back to that house we found Mikey at."

Leonardo stiffened as a look of pure panic stampeded over his face. His eyes widened and he tried to compose himself. But too late, Raphael caught it; shocked to see it. It should have made him angry. It should have spurned a scathing insult against his brother for being so weak, so fearful, but nothing but a sense of compassion enveloped Raphael. He understood why his brother had been avoiding that place. He was afraid. And Raphael did not blame him.

He didn't really want to go back to the scene of their brother's torture and the place of her murder. But he knew it was where they'd might be able to find some clues. If anything else, Raph wanted to get Mikey's nunchucks back to him. The poor kids looked so gray and petrified when he'd offered him the spare set a few weeks ago that Raphael had decided to at least try and return his little brother's possessions to him. He was sure it would help him feel better. But his older brother had his own demons to work through and Master Splinter wanted him to mend things with Leo as they hunted the man down. No matter how uncomfortable it made him, he had to try. He owed this to Leonardo. It was past time they talked about what had gone down between them.

Nearly losing Mikey forever had impacted him in ways he never thought; leaving him shaken and terrified of losing any of his family. Even if it was over some stupid fight rather than the helplessness of physically losing them to the cruel hand of death, Raph wanted no part of that agony. Not anymore. He'd had enough with watching helplessly as Mikey was taken, rescued and returned to them, battered, mangled and changed. He wanted his family back. Whole and as they once were. He needed Leo to be back to normal, even-keeled and quietly peaceful, with that quick smile, gentle and reassuring, even when he was being teased by Raph; like he used to be; like he needed Michelangelo's joyful smile and innocent playfulness to return.

It was as if the lights were turned off in the lair and no matter how many times he hit the switch nothing would happen. They remained in the dim shadows that blurred everything to a point of nearly being unrecognizable. He couldn't stand it anymore. Not anymore. Things had to start getting better, right? Master Splinter was right. It was time he took some control.

"Leo," Raphael stepped towards him and he remained fixed in place, staring hard at the ground, looking slightly sickened, dripping and shivering as the sleeting sheets drove against him and his brother's bodies and heads. "I know what you're feelin'. I know it's the last place you'd want to go."

Leonardo shook his head in denial, but knowing all along that Raphael was never more in the right than he was at that moment. Raphael sighed and covered his head with his arms then swore as he wiped the stinging sleet from his head. He moved to an awning that gave him partial shelter beneath the doorway of the roof access shed. Leonardo remained standing in the icy downpour. After a moment, Raph huffed and stormed back into the sleet to retrieve Leonardo. He grabbed his brother by the sleeve of his dark coat and ushered him under the awning. There wasn't much room, but the brothers stood, shoulder to shoulder, shivering and shuddering; teeth clattering in their skulls.

He glanced at Leonardo, then back out into the darkness punctuated by the hazy yellow glow of the street lamps below. Beyond the strange melody the ice and rain made against the roof, a siren cried out and then faded away. He looked again at his brother, then fidgeted. It was now or never.

Here goes nothing. He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry. For everythin'."

Leonardo turned his head and then brought his eyes up. They looked haunted and filled with guilt. Raph searched his brother's red rimmed eyes and felt his chest tighten. The end of his snout was still being pelted and Raph pulled his arm around the front of his brother's chest and moved him further under the protective awning as he stepped aside to make more room for the big stubborn idiot. The ice made a tiny drum beat along the ridges of his shell, tickling him as it turned to frigid water and ran over the back of his neck and shoulders. Leonardo blinked at him.

"I never slept with her, Raph."

Raph stiffened. He blinked the rain from his eyes suddenly feeling nothing but numb. He dropped his head. He crossed his arms and shook his head. He believed him. All this time thinking that he'd been played. When it was only partially true. They'd both been fools to that woman's games. As much as it stung him to be the physical portion of the activity, it was better than where his brother was positioned. Because at least he'd have the memories of laying in her arms. The sound of her moaning his name to cling to in the long lonely nights of his life ahead.

"But . . . why?"

Leo blinked at him in some confusion.

"She wanted you. Leo, I know she loved you. It was always you."

Leonardo's face broke into a smile filled with sadness and regret, baring his fangs, more of an anguished grimace than a smile, really. The breathy chuckle that emerged after it was a painful thing to hear, filled with so much bitterness. Raphael stared at him in disbelief.

"I don't think so. But it doesn't matter." He laughed again and it sounded just as awful, just as forced and painful as the earlier chuckle. He pinched the bridge of his eyes and snout and dropped his hand. When he looked at Raphael again it was with that same resigned sorrow, that same weighted guilt. "I just wanted you to know. You asked me before and I didn't give you a straight answer. I was angry. But, Raph, I never . . . I never -" He shook his head unable to say anything further.

Raphael frowned. This wasn't what he wanted. He didn't want Leonardo's confession of propriety. No, he'd much rather think that his brother had gleaned some shred of happiness off the woman he loved so desperately. To know that on top of everything - that, as he'd once thought so furiously out of spite, that he'd won her affections over Leonardo - his brother remained without even that small comfort; it was too much. It was beyond wrong to Raphael. It wasn't fucking fair.

If his brother loved her and she loved him then why the hell was he dragged into the mess? Why did Karai do this to them? If she loved Leonardo as he believed she did, how could she have hurt him like this? Using him as the knife that she stabbed Leonardo in the back with.

Raphael clenched his jaw. This was worse than he could have ever imagined. God, if he could only go back to that night she approached him. He would tell her to fuck off. No, better yet, he'd tell her to go find his brother. That's what she wanted, wasn't it? But he'd been running on empty for so long, he just . . . he got caught up in her. It seemed so real, so unexpected that he suspended disbelief and allowed himself to be duped. Maybe . . . maybe he knew all along. But god, didn't it feel so good to be wanted, to pretend and fool himself that he was loved like that, even for a little while? His eyes snapped to Leo and the guilt was a leaden presence in his twisting gut. If Leo wanted him to bleed, then he would bleed. Whatever it took. He didn't care.

"Leo, you gotta believe me. I-I never meant ta hurt you or anythin'. I-I swear to you, I thought you were over her. Long over. Ancient history. I-I woulda never, if I knew you still felt somethin'. I wouldn'ta' . . . never. I-I swear. Leo, I swear."

Leonardo looked at him, eyes bouncing between his as he absorbed what Raph was saying to him.

"I mean, what I'm tryin' ta . . . what I'm tryin' ta say is . . . I didn't mean any of this to happen. I would never hurtcha like that, not on purpose. Leo . . .?"

Leonardo's gaze did not drop, his chin wavered as his hand shot up and he clutched Raphael's shoulder in a tight grip. "I know," he croaked. After a moment of furious blinking, Leonardo said in an even, forced voice, "It's okay, Raph."

"No. It ain't okay. I'm sorry, Leo." Raphael lunged forward and gripped him into a fierce embrace. "I'm so sorry," he choked into the side of Leonardo's neck and face.

And bracing himself against the stabbing pain of his right shoulder being squeezed so furiously, Leo felt the hot tears of his brother's remorse against the chilled flesh of his cheek and neck. His throat worked as a lump formed. His heart hammered, his eyes stung with tears. He brought his arms up and returned the hug. Weakly at first, then stronger as he placed his left palm against the back of Raphael's head. He turned his face and placed a kiss on top of his younger brother's head, then braced his forehead against it. Raph shuddered and heaved a huge sob that wracked both their bodies.

His voice muffled, mouth pressed against his sobbing sibling's temple, Leonardo said, "Shh, it's okay. It's over . . . b-behind us. It's okay. Raph, really."

After another minute of squeezing Leonardo with a vice-like grip, Raph abruptly pulled away. Then, sniffling and rubbing his eyes swiftly, lest his brother catch on that he was blubbering like a baby, he cleared his throat and coughed. He took another step back and then jumped as he felt the dark coat fall across his shoulders. Leonardo stood in the sleeting rain, looking down at his brother, one hand clamped securely on his shoulder as he pulled his arms through the sleeves, slightly stunned at the offering.

He stared with clear azure eyes hard into Raphael's gold until nodding he said, "We good?"

Voice thick with emotion, Raph replied, "Y-yeah, Leo. If you say so . . . we're good."

Leo nodded once and clapped his shoulder before he turned and looked back over the city. "Let's get the van and head to that house, then. It's time we find this bastard and serve him justice for what he's done."

A/N: If someone once told me I'd be able to write a story about two brothers so betrayed by one another and still manage to have them mend in such a beautifully emotional way, I would have told them they were crazy - just plain crazy!

Is it wrong for me to be jumping up and down, crying my eyes out and saying YES! Raph and Leo! YES! Make up, you two crazy brothers! if it is...well, just ignore me.

Oh man . . . next chapter is gonna be rough. I'm just gonna drop that little warning here and go lay down for a while like Snoopy on his doghouse, contemplating life.