It had just been a sex game, nothing more. The kind of game that he and Leo had often played. As he tightened the blue scarf around Leo’s jade throat, his brain reminded him of a scene he’d witnessed that day. Leo and Raphael had been flirting in the dojo. At least, that’s what it had looked like to him. As he pictured their smiles, he’d applied more pressure than was necessary or wanted on the scarf.
It had only been a stupid accident.
At first he’d thought that his brother had lost consciousness. It was hard to judge in the dark, and it wouldn’t have been the first time. After a few strong slaps to Leo’s face, he understood that extreme measures were now necessary.
He’d tried to remember what to do in such a case. Donnie gave advanced first aid training courses every three months, in case something happened to the genius himself, but Mikey was rarely attentive (if it wasn’t about comics, video games or erotic stimulation). He’d tried the bits of what he remembered, pressing his hands onto his brother's breastplate over and over. In vain.
He should go get Donatello, he told himself, after trying unsuccessfully for a quarter of an hour. But going to the doctor would reveal that he and Leo were lovers, and both had agreed this was undesirable when their relationship had changed... Uncertain and panic-stricken, he’d taken the risk of turning on the ceiling light.
That was when he realized that it would be useless to get Donatello.
Leonardo was dead.
And Mikey was in deep shit.
Panic seized Michelangelo so hard that he’d fallen to his knees, curled up on the floor. Swaying from front to back, his anxious eyes scanned the room, hoping to see an unexpected emergency exit.
If his brothers knew he’d killed Leo, he wouldn’t have lost just one brother, he’d lose all of them. Splinter would banish him, horrified at his favorite son’s fate. All their friends would know what he’d done. No one would want to be around him anymore. He couldn’t bear their knowing, or the loneliness.
His eyes had focused on the two katanas on the bedside table. Grabbing them and his sports bag, which he used as a suitcase, he set to work: Mikey was now in survival mode. Since Leo couldn’t do anything to help, Mikey could at least try to save himself.
He had to get rid of the body, which had up until now been so warm, and moved with such sensuality when he’d stroked it. The carapace caused him the most concern. He couldn’t cut it in half. The blade was blunted now and Mikey thought that if Leo somehow saw it, he’d be furious at how his precious swords were treated.
Mikey shuddered at the thought and hoped that the afterlife didn’t exist. He tried to console himself by thinking that at least Leo had died having fun, his raging hard-on proving it. It was still a pretty sweet death, compared to a shuriken in the head or being stabbed. Leo was dead in his ninja prime. He’d never know what being old or sick was like. Yes. Leo had died slowly in his lover’s arms, while on the verge of an orgasm and his dick proud and erect. Mikey almost envied him.
He found a second bag and managed to place all the pieces of Leo inside. Then, he silently left the lair, and wondered where he could dispose of the remains. There was only one place he could go where it wouldn’t be devoured by animals, and also wouldn’t be detected by Splinter, who had a strong sense of smell.
He dropped the two bags into the huge tank and sighed in relief as they sank.
He would spend the evening cleaning his room of all evidence and would deny knowing where Leo had gone the next day.
Mikey tried to drown his conscience, like he’d done to Leo’s dismembered body, by adding two jade Buddha statuettes to the bags. He hoped that Leo wouldn’t resurface, along with his guilt.
That was the plan. It worked for the first few days. Mikey seemed pretty worried about what might have happened to the leader, and participated as eagerly as the others in the search. Then, one evening, two weeks after "the incident," everything went wrong.
Mikey had been avoiding walking past Leonardo's room. Leo had died in Mikey’s room, and since then he could no longer sleep there himself, and slept with his other brothers for "comfort." Leo's room was a similarly forbidden area for his guilty mind.
This wasn’t the case for Raphael, who frantically called for Mikey and Donnie.
“Who came in here?’ the turtle in red bellowed. “Who dared to touch his things, without putting them in their right places? If Fearless comes home, he’ll be furious!"
Mikey stood in the doorway and looked, trembling at what Raph was pointing at.
Leo’s sharpening and polishing equipment was lying on his bed. He’d used a variety of oil and stones to carefully maintain his katana. The Hamato brothers often joked that Leonardo liked his swords better than his own brothers. Nevertheless, the chief was obsessive in his care of them and refused to let anyone touch his swords or his polishing kit. Everything was left as if the leader had sharpened his beloved blades just a few moments before, in readiness for a fight.
Raphael demanded that the culprit reveal himself, but Don stopped his cries by placing an arm on his shoulder, his expression sad.
"I understand, Raph,” Don said. “We all want him to come back.”
Raphael burst into tears and Mikey walked away, deeply disturbed. Donnie obviously believed that Raphael himself had pulled out the material, hoping that Leo, pissed off at the provocation, would return… and Mikey thought that it was it was possible.
Raph seemed inconsolable at the loss of his elder brother. Maybe they really had been having an affair? Anyway, Mikey couldn’t be jealous anymore.
Still shaking, Mikey went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, boiling water in a saucepan and taking out the vegetables to make the semblance of a meal that everyone would pick at, but not really eat. At least choosing and preparing meals occupied him and gave him an air of normality. Moreso, he wanted to take care of his brothers, who were suffering because of him. It was the least he could do.
He set out carrots, celery, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and beef, and opened the cupboard to find the pasta and soy sauce. He was sure that April had just bought them a new bottle. Cursing, he looked everywhere.
Suddenly, he felt a presence behind him and he jumped
“What are you looking for?” Donatello asked.
“Macaroni and soy sauce.” Mikey continued to search.
"They’re on the table, aren’t they?”
Mikey turned around wondering if he’d absentmindedly pulled out the items, and his heart skipped a beat.
The vegetables lay sliced on the counter, apart from the mushrooms, which Leo hated. Mikey studied the counter, panicked as if trying to convince himself that he’d chopped up the vegetables, but he couldn’t have peeled and sliced so many carrots without remembering them! The counter was clean with all of the peelings in another bowl. Mikey was never that organized and neat.
The beef, cut into thin strips, was on the cutting board, and there was no knife nearby.
Was he losing his mind?
He decided that seeing Leo’s kit on his bed must have been a huge shock and that it had made him forget what he was doing before. That, or he had post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Be careful, Mikey. The floor’s wet,” Donatello said. “You must have spilled water when you filled your pan.”
Michelangelo bent down to wipe away the water marks. Donnie was right. He must have done that himself.
Mikey lived in denial for days, even when he found his XBOX controller sliced in half. When his other brothers got involved, it became impossible to ignore.
"Shit. I was training and I saw Fearless in the dojo!” Raphael shouted hysterically one day, pointing to the place. “He was soaked from head to toe!”
Mikey replied that he’d probably trained too hard, and exhaustion was making him hallucinate.
"But the tatami mat’s wet right here!” Raph insisted.
Mikey wiped up the water. He guessed that one of the pipes in the ceiling of the dojo must have leaked. Raphael reluctantly agreed.
When something happened with Donatello, he was harder to convince, because he was a rational being.
"I was working at my desk when I felt a cold, wet hand on my shoulder. I turned my chair and saw Leo. I saw him! He was dripping with water!” Donatello was clearly upset about being unable to find a scientific reason for the vision.
Mikey blamed Donnie's lack of sleep. He decided he would accuse his brothers of drinking too much alcohol, or abusing medications if they saw Leo again. Splinter was fortunately away on pilgrimage; it would have been impossible to deceive him.
Then Mikey saw him too.
It was a full moon and they were looking for Leo, just like they’d done every night for over a month. They were jumping from roof to roof when he saw... it.
Standing on a moonbeam, a shimmering katana in his hand, Leo was recognizable by his martial posture. His skin, shining like polished jade. The moon carved its lines with the precision of an exacto knife, too sharp for it to be a hallucination. He wore his blue mask, but he was too far away for Mikey to see his eyes… but there were bruises and marks around his neck, where Mikey had strangled him.
Mikey was so shocked that he missed his jump, and he only avoided falling forty floors because Raphael caught him by the arm.
That night, neither Donnie nor Raph would let him climb into their beds. Frightened and convinced that Leo wanted to kill him, Mikey drank tons of energy drinks and watched TV. He was determined to stay awake.
Mikey woke suddenly in the middle of the night. On the coffee table, the TV’s flicker reflected off of the two Buddha statues that he’d used as weights in the bags containing Leo’s remains.
It was too much. He couldn’t live this way! He was going crazy. Was he seeing things because of his guilt? It was impossible. He remembered putting the stone figures in the bags, and he couldn’t have gone to get them back without remembering it. He’d have had to swim to the bottom of the tank and open the bags first.
No. It was impossible. And yet it was either that, or else someone knew what he’d done and was trying to torment him, or Leo himself had returned from the dead to haunt him.
He considered that Don might know his crime and want him to crack. What if he had installed security cameras? No, that was an insane idea. The genius couldn’t have done that because he was too devastated by Leo’s disappearance.
It wasn’t Raphael either. If the emerald-skinned turtle had known what he had done, Mikey would be in the tank too.
The most likely explanation, as weird as it sounded, was that Leo’s ghost had returned.
But why would Leonardo haunt him? Leo knew it was an accident! They’d had consensual sex, and Leo had always been into erotic asphyxiation. He’d only squeezed a little too hard and a little too long. It was just a sex game gone wrong! After all, Leo didn’t know that it was Mikey’s jealousy that had briefly made him lose control of himself. Leo wouldn’t blame him, right?
Mikey could no longer sleep at night. He jumped at every sound. His eyes were lost in dark hollows.
"Man," he thought. "At this rate, if I don't actually see his ghost, I'll hallucinate it."
Exhausted and unable to live this way, Mikey borrowed Donatello's laptop and went online to research ghosts. After a while, he became convinced that Leo was dissatisfied with his burial and was demanding a more ceremonial one.
Mikey had no choice. He had to act, and appease Leo before his brothers became suspicious. Before the apparition began to speak, and reveal how he’d caused Leo’s death. He’d read that Buddhists should be cremated, and he regretted not having thought of it before. Ashes would have been easier to hide and they wouldn’t smell.
He found a pretty brass incense urn in their Sensei's room. Leo's spirit would be appeased, his remains contained in an oriental urn, smelling like sandalwood mixed up inside. It was safe for Mikey too. Nobody would think of looking for Leo in there.
But to do this, he had to dive into the tank and recover the dismembered body of his brother and lover.
Mikey went to his own room for the first time in more than a month, grabbed his diving goggles and resolutely walked to the reservoir.
Once in front of the tank, he hesitated. He didn’t know how deep the reservoir was, but he could hold his breath for nearly ten minutes. The brothers had often challenged each other to the game of “who could hold his breath the longest” when swimming, and also he’d done that during his erotic games with Leo. There had to be enough time to dive, find the first bag, bring it to the surface, and then do the same thing with the second bag.
He put on his goggles and dived down to the bottom. Fortunately, the water was still pretty clear, and he spotted the red and blue sports bag quite quickly. He reached the first bag. Before he grabbed it, he turned his head to see if he saw the other one, so he would know where it was. He didn’t see it. Maybe if he burned the contents of just one bag, it would be enough to mollify Leo?
He grabbed the bag’s handle and tried not to think about what it contained. He pulled on the straps, but the bag was very heavy and didn’t move at all. Mikey pulled harder. Maybe the water added weight? He’d always heard the opposite, and Donatello wasn’t there to give a scientific explanation. He was now pulling with both arms but the bag still didn’t budge.
Mikey was starting to need air, his lungs beginning to burn.
He decided to go back up. Maybe the second bag would be lighter. If it wasn’t, too bad. He’d tried. Leo’s spirit couldn’t say that he hadn’t.
As he swam to the surface, something cold gripped his leg, pulling him back down. Had he put his foot in the bag’s loop? Mikey was paralyzed with fear when Leo appeared. His brother clutched his calf tightly, and his gaze was as intense as it was inscrutable.
Michelangelo hysterically flailed his feet, trying to disengage himself and stamp on his brother, but the specter didn’t let go. On the contrary, Leo seemed to be squeezing harder and harder.
Mikey’s lungs were on fire, deprived of oxygen. He had to go back NOW.
Leo was now holding his calf with both hands, slowly pulling Mikey down until the two were eye to eye. The youngest looked at Leo pleadingly, begging to be released.
Maybe the look Leo had had for him before he died...
But Leonardo's eyes didn’t express anything now and were as dark as the bottom of the tank.
Mikey’s temples were throbbing. Pain coursed through his body before the nothingness could take him. He knew it was too late. He was dying, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Leo, smiling, offered a kiss. Mikey accepted, before he too sank down into the darkness of the tank, never to resurface.