"We're only going to have one chance to do this!" Donatello yelled over the din. Leonardo winced as the familiar voice pierced his eardrum through the microphone around his head, gritting his teeth as he maneuvered the Shellraiser through downtown traffic.
They'd gone over this a thousand times, and then a thousand times more when Donnie had been convinced they all understood what they had to do. Raph and Leo were to run reconnaissance while Mikey and Donnie were to wrap up the final preparations.
What they hadn't expected was for everything to go dead wrong from the get-go.
Now Leo and Raphael were stuck on the other side of town with Donatello and Michelangelo facing off against The Shredder and a portal to an alternate, hellish dimension howling in the background, disrupting radio transmissions and sending everything into a chaotic mesh of roaring winds, wailing from some undefined great beyond, and the stress of all of this going terribly wrong for all of them.
"Talk to me Donnie!" Leo yelled back into the mic, not sure but hoping either Don or Mike would hear and reply.
"We've got him!" Donatello yelled back, " – almost."
"What do ye' mean, 'almost'?" Raph hissed into the mic.
Leo cast him a glance over his shoulder from the drivers' seat. His younger brother's attitude wasn't going to help the situation – despite his appropriate feelings toward Don's unusually un-detailed description of their current dilemma.
"Check this dudes - " it was Michelangelo this time. He turned on the video feed for his headset which sent a very snowy image of Shredder to the Shellraiser's monitors. Their lifelong nemesis could be seen clinging to a small assortment of rebar just outside of the lip of the portal door; a portal door that was bound to close in three minutes, and never open again for at least another millennia.
"Can't you just throw something at him, Mikey?" Raph asked in exasperation.
The screen flickered in and out, but Mike could still be heard.
"Dude, I've been trying!" even Raphael could pick up the anxiety in his baby brother's voice at that last word. "I've run out of anything I could chuck at the guy unless you want me to start picking up whole sections of building!"
Leo sighed audibly.
"Do what you can, Mikey."
"See what Donnie's got figured out too." Raph added. "Maybe you two can put somethin' together."
The link went dead right after that. The brothers exchanged concerned glances as Leo attempted to make the Shellraiser maneuver through New York City traffic –not even remotely having dissipated despite the massive portal looming over the lower east side of the city.
"They'll be fine," Leo said – a poor attempt to ease both his as well as Raphael's worries.
A very terse 'yeah' came from Raph's seat. Leo settled back in his own seat, praying quietly that Mike and Donnie would be okay until they got there.
"Do what you can Mikey." – it was one of the last things Michelangelo heard his brothers tell him as the clock ticked down on the most important battle his family had ever fought.
They were on the precipice of successfully stranding The Shredder permanently in an alternate dimension. They would be rid of the menace that was him and his Foot Clan forever, or would have been if the devious master ninja hadn't found a bunch of dumb rebar to grab onto! Except now all the master ninja had to do was wait out the storm until the portal closed, and then Michelangelo and his brothers would be back to square one with this war all over again.
Unless he did something about it right now.
He knew his elder brother hadn't meant what he was thinking, but in the grand scheme of everything Michelangelo didn't know what else to do. Letting this near victory pass seemed so wrong, and as he watched the silhouette of the Shredder against a violent red and purple portal door, and an angry orange sky, Michelangelo came to the most important and most adult decision he had ever made in his very short life.
He watched as the Shredder placated himself on the rebar, already setting himself up for a retaliation strike. If that door closed, Mike and his brother would be in for a very short fight. Between the two of them the injures they had sustained getting Shredder there would not allow them to defend themselves should this plan not work. They stood no chance if this battle failed. Neither had informed their other brothers of this, hoping it wouldn't be a factor that would weigh in on the severity of the moment. Mikey wasn't so sure that had been the wisest of choices now, and he was willing to bet Donatello felt the same way.
Mike's heart was caught in his chest, thudding against his plastron as he calculated the risk versus the benefits of waiting this situation out and the likelihood of living to fight another day.
"Just a second Mikey - "
The youngest turtle wasn't surprised by this response. Donnie was no doubt working on a plan – on anything - to get the Shredder unhooked from the rebar. Mikey looked up, his eyes following the line of the elevated scaffolding where Donnie was racing back and forth doing who knew what.
"Donnie?" Mike's eyes returned to the Shredder's silhouette.
For a second he thought he saw the portal door shrink slightly and panic gripped him. If he was going to do this it would be now or never, and never might cost him more than he was willing to lose.
"Mikey, please just - "
"Donnie I know what we need to do."
Mike turned his gaze upward again just as Donnie whirled around to meet his.
"What is it Mikey?"
There was some hesitation, but his elder brother seemed genuinely curious as to what Michelangelo had planned. After all, there had been plenty of times where the youngest of the turtles had surprised each of them with an ingeniously hatched plan, usually out of left field…but this time was different. He tried to hide the quaking in his voice as he gazed into his big brother's eyes who, even from such a distance seemed devastatingly close for what he was about to do.
His reply was almost mumbled when he finally found the nerve to speak.
"I gotta throw everything I have at him, right?"
Donnie's face folded into a frown. It was clear by his expression that he was thinking how he didn't have time for these kinds of games.
"Mike I think Shredder's good until we can figure out a way to dislodge him-"
"That's what I mean man! You're not listening!"
The brother's connected gazes lingered for a longer period of time.
"Mikey I don't know what on earth you're talking about."
"There's only one thing left we can do. I have to do this otherwise this whole thing will have been for nothing!"
Donnie was silent for a minute. It was clear he had no clue what Mikey was talking about. The younger turtle sighed.
Seemed he'd have to spell out his goodbye after all.
"Donnie, I'm going to do this. I'll get the Shredder out of there and send him away for good."
That was it.
Mikey could almost hear the gears in his brother's head come to a screeching halt. If Mikey hadn't been so scared he might have laughed.
"Don't be stupid Michelangelo!" Donnie snapped through the mic (the roar of the portal was making it impossible to hear each other through any other means). "We'll figure this out; it's not worth throwing yourself into hell for!"
"Dude if we don't do this NOW we could spend the next twenty years fighting Shredder! We could both die tonight if I don't!"
"DONATELLO! You know I'm right about this!"
"It's not worth dying over!"
"If I don't do this now we might all die because of him!" Michelangelo knew he was right, and what made it worse was that Donnie knew he was right, but that wasn't going to stop him from stopping his little brother as best he could. "Donnie...I can finally do something right. Let me do this!"
Of all the problems and situations Donatello had expected to endure, today was a day of utterly unexpected firsts.
First, there was an actual opportunity to stop the Shredder once and for all. The one cause his family had been fated to stop time and time again, the evil that his family had dedicated their lives to eradicating, the opportunity to do so had finally arrived.
Then there was everything going wrong. Donnie not stopping to think how unpredictable and dangerous the process of finding and opening a portal to hell would be, what it would cost, and that it wouldn't cooperate just as he had thought. It wasn't his normal science that he was used to, more a combination of magic and science (kudos to Mikey for pointing that out), but it had worked, and for a temporary time the turtles had their very own portal to hell! (Come one, Come all!).
Not least of all was that they had all been separated for far longer than intended in the process of bring this plan to fruition, leaving Donnie and Mikey to deal with Shredder alone. It hadn't been all bad, but it had taken everything they have to get the massive man over the lip of the opening and rocketing toward the portal below their feet. Both had deep injuries that would leave permanent scars, but the deed was nevertheless done.
Now the simple matter of some construction clutter was preventing them from obtaining their final goal.
Finally, he had a brother suddenly willing to throw himself into the pit of hell in hopes of finalizing their master plan and keeping his family safe.
Not a great day in the history of Donatello.
"Mikey I'm coming down there!"
"Bro we don't have time!"
"I'm NOT LETTING YOU DO THIS!"
"I'm not asking PERMISSION!"
Donnie heaved himself down the scaffolding in a panic, praying that hesitation would stay Mikey's feet long enough for him to get there and the severity of his own injuries would not slow him too much.
"Mikey! Please!" he wheezed.
There wasn't enough time.
There was too much distance between them.
Michelangelo knew it.
Donnie knew the apology was genuine but didn't care. He heard in his brother's voice how much Michelangelo didn't want to do this, and for all of his fear Donatello was genuinely surprised to see his brother's usual upbeat and positive demeanor so succumbed to this most final of solutions to save his family.
"Mikey please just wait!" he begged. Donatello ran until his lungs were about to burst. Tears stung his eyes as air burned his throat, but still he pressed on. Even has he watched Michelangelo leap and land amongst the rebar, dislodging the Shredder and sending them both spiraling toward the open abyss that would lead to who knew what was waiting on the other side.
His eyes widened and the tears fell shamelessly as Donnie witnessed both enemy and brother slipping through the opening of the portal locked in each other's grip, and then the portal closed, damning both of them to a hellish eternity and leaving Donatello standing broken and alone staring into a wide expanse of nothingness that reflected everything he now felt inside.
The first thing that was established was the mic connection between Leonardo and Donatello.
When Leo heard what he thought was ragged breathing on the other end he first became excited, elated to be able to speak with his brothers again. After a few seconds, however, his fear began to return. His long experience with leadership and ability to read his brothers was sharper than ever before. The silence on Don and Mikey's side told him all he needed to know but didn't want to: something was wrong.
There was nothing for a few seconds.
"Donnie? Donnie what happened? Is the portal gone?"
A very tentative "yes" was his brother's reply.
A hesitation that left Leo on edge drifted on the connection for a period of time. The eldest brother felt his heart begin to sink and speed up as he took into consideration that now Donnie and Mike were alone with the most powerful adversary they had ever faced. A whirlwind of plans and strategies started up in his mind as he choked down his sheer panic, but came to a screeching halt at Donnie's next reply.
The brothers exchanged glances. There was a flicker of excitement in his Raphael's eyes. Was it really done?
"As in through the portal?"
It took a long time for Donnie to reply.
Something squirmed somewhere in Leo's chest. Was it excitement? Relief? Pride? His family had finally rid themselves of The Shredder!
Next to him Raphael's grin widened far beyond anything Leo could ever recall having seen before.
"Holy crap," Raph whispered, it sounded like air escaping a balloon filled to its breaking point. "We did it. It's done!"
Leo afforded himself a small laugh.
Raph sat up and started flipping through the monitors for no particular reason other than as an outlet for the collected nerves he'd been accumulating over the past few hours.
"Mikey, when we get over there I'm going to hug you until your head frickin' explodes man!"
Leo laughed. That was right; Mikey was the one who had been trying to dislodge The Shredder. He'd be damned, their little brother did it.
Neither one of them gave a thought to the uncharacteristic radio silence at addressing their little brother. Raph kept laughing as he called out again.
"Hey Donnie, did Mike break his headset?"
"Maybe that's what he threw at him?" Leo joked.
He heard Raph chuckle in reply. The banter was refreshing, but as the radio silence continued Leo began to feel like something was wrong again. For all the happiness that Leo and Raph were feeling, the hush on Donnie and Mikey's side made something feel…off. Something had happened, and Leo wasn't sure he wanted to know just what it was.
It was almost like they'd jarred him out of a deep thought.
"Did you hear Raph?"
It took Donnie a little while to reply again. A very tense "yes" was all they got.
"Donnie, where's Mikey?" Raph laughed. "He's got to be gloating up a storm right now."
More radio silence. Leo swallowed. Hard.
"Donnie. Where's Michelangelo?"
Leo reflected momentarily on how amazing it is that so quickly happiness can be snatched away.
When the reply came over the microphone headset neither Leonardo nor Raphael could believe it. There had to be a mistake. There was no way their little brother was gone. Through tears and sobs Donnie assured them that he'd watched the whole thing, powerless to stop or save Mike from his fate. He told them how he had tried to reach Mikey before he leapt after Shredder, what he had said before taking his suicidal dive into the unknown; all in the name of saving his family."
"Well…we can open it back up right?"
Raph was in denial. He knew as well as the rest of them that it couldn't be done, but he had to ask. The cracking in his voice said as much.
"No." Donnie came back succinctly. "We can't open it back up, Raph. We didn't really even open it to begin with. It was an accident, and it won't open again."
Leo pulled the Shellraiser over into the nearest alley.
"What are you doing?" Raphael snapped. He'd moved from denial to anger fairly quickly. "We need to get up there!"
"That's what we're doing," Leo replied flatly. "C'mon."
For once, Raphael didn't have a retort.
Both of them navigated the rooftops with pressing need. Now that the equipment in the Shellraiser was no longer necessary they could return to it later.
It was hard to believe that Donatello had made a mistake, but wordlessly they both hoped that that was the case. Perhaps Mike had been caught halfway in his fall – like the Shredder – and was waiting for them to find him?
Leo wanted with all of his heart to believe it, but something inside of him knew it wasn't true. There was no way this battle could have ended so easily. One of them was always bound to be lost in this battle. Leo had always prayed it would be him – it would be the easiest, the most appropriate. Raphael would have been second if only for his emotional nature because Leo knew that next to himself, Raph would not be able to handle the loss of a brother and remain untainted from the experience.
Michelangelo had never been a thought in this instance. How could Leo have never been prepared to lose his baby brother?
It didn't take very long to reach the construction site where the portal had been opened. Donatello hadn't left the roof, sitting cross legged with his head in his hands at the lip of where the portal had been opened.
Raphael looked as though he were stuck between saying something and exploding and unsure which was better suited to his current emotional state. Leo placed a hand on his brother's shoulder, but Raph shoved him away and ran to the lower levels of the construction site, probably in hopes to find Michelangelo there. Leo knew better, but wouldn't stop him. He took his place next to Donnie instead and extended a hand to his brother's shoulder who shuddered under the touch.
"This is my fault," Donatello whispered into his hands.
Leo sighed. "It's no one's fault, Donnie. You couldn't control Mikey any more than we could. He made this choice. Not you."
"You weren't there," Donnie breathed. "The look in his eyes, Leo…he knew what he was doing and he didn't want to go."
The eldest brother sighed and clamped his hand tighter around Donatello's shoulder.
"Donnie…this wasn't you. No one's blaming you."
"I'm blaming me."
Silence for a moment. In the distance Leonardo could hear Raph fumbling around in the lower levels, once in a while crying out for Michelangelo with no response.
"I can't believe it."
Donnie sighed, and Leo could feel a little bit of his brother dissipate with that breath underneath his hand. It was heart wrenching. This was a loss the eldest brother wasn't sure his family might be able to come back from. Listening to Raphael downstairs drove that sensation home just a little bit further.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this." Donnie sniffed and wiped his nose against the back of his hand. Tears were still free flowing down his face. "Of all the things, of all the…people…"
"I know." Leo was beginning to feel like a broken record. "Mikey was the last person I ever thought would…"
It was Donnie's turn to place a hand on his brother's shoulder and truth be told Leo was grateful for it.
"Come on," he whispered with a shaky voice. "Let's get Raph and go home. We have a lot we need to take care of."
"Father won't handle this well."
Leo sat with that statement for a very long time before finally replying; "I don't think any of us will."