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The Blood in Our Veins

Chapter Text

“Hang on just a second, Leo. I almost have it...”

Donatello’s tongue was stuck out slightly in concentration as my dark haired human brother carefully and adeptly manipulated a massive assembly of wires in the newly installed panel. The twenty year old genius had forgone his usual purple kimono or battle gear, and was instead dressed rather casually in a (predictably) dark purple t shirt and comfortable jeans. He was wearing thick work gloves and had his goggles pulled down over his eyes as several tools lay in a tray beside him, organized neatly in a row.

I stood beside him, his ever faithful mutant turtle brother, holding up the flashlight so the light was beaming through the darkness and lighting up the panel for him. “I still can’t believe you managed to rewire the entire lair so quickly.” I commented, quite impressed.

Way back when Master Splinter and I had lived here alone, it had taken me months of work and sweat and frustration to cobble together a patchwork system that was barely sufficient to run a hotplate and a toaster at the same time. Donnie, on the other hand, had come down only and spent about a few days working on this, and already had taken the rachitic system held together by only prayers, duct tape, and paper clips, and transformed it into a neatly woven arraignment of cables capable of powering an entire apartment complex.

“Oh, just you wait, Leo. It’s going to make such a difference!” Donnie looked away from his work long enough to give me a warm, gap toothed grin, before going back to setting up the breaker box. “Though I still can’t believe that you had managed to get as much done as you did with your setup. It was actually pretty clever.”

“You flatter me unnecessarily.” I said dryly. “There is no need to spare my feelings, Donnie, I’ve accidentally shocked myself on the old system enough times to know how bad it was.”

I glanced around in the darkened lair, a few LED lights placed around and providing temporary light for my human family as they worked around us.

I still found myself in awe that life could be somehow end up so perfect. I was no longer alone. I was a part of a family, and an accepted member of the powerful Hamato Clan. I could scarcely believe it even now.

My new family of humans were as eager to learn everything about me as I was about them, so about two months ago, after I had recovered from Agent Bishop and the EPF’s ‘hospitality, and Master Yoshi was feeling strong enough to travel, I had finally brought my family down to see the lair where Master Splinter and I had lived for so long. Though, to tell the truth, as eager as they all were to visit my old home, I had been extremely nervous about taking them there. As the heirs to an internationally powerful clan, my brothers had grown up with almost unlimited resources, whereas my old sewer lair had been cobbled together with whatever I could scrap out of dumpsters and junkyards. Not to mention that it had, by that point, been abandoned for almost a year. I was going to be showing them a literal hole in the wall, and, as I constantly warned them as we approached, it was going to be a makeshift hovel compared to what they were used to.

But I didn't need to worry. The lair had belonged to Master Splinter and I, and that was enough. My humans had acted like I was showing them a grand palace, and not some dark and dank cobweb infested hole in the sewers.

At first, there had been a little hesitation on their part about touching or rearranging anything, as if this were sacred ground and all memories had to be preserved, no matter how moldy. But when I gave them my blessings to do whatever they wanted, and reassured them that Master Splinter would have loved to have us make this a true home, and to do that, they all needed to feel free to put pieces of themselves into it, they all dove in whole heartedly. Since then, it had become almost a sanctuary for us, a getaway for just the Hamato family members to hang out together.

Currently, we were still mostly in the clean-up stage, though a few ‘essential’ pieces of furniture had already been carried in. Namely, things a few small kitchen appliances (including a pizza oven!), a couch (carrying that in had been rather interesting), and a TV with all the equipment necessary for a proper movie night.

Hence, the reasons why the electrical system upgrade was a top priority.

Currently, Raph was off in the dojo, sweeping the floor, while Mikey was crawling around, clearing up cobwebs and dusting. Master Yoshi was sitting in his wheelchair at the counter, a collection of knick knacks and various household decorations lined up and waiting on the ledge for him as he meticulously scrubbed and cleaned each one with a rag.

I moved the flashlight a little to better illuminate the panel Donnie was working on. Things were peaceful for a time as we all concentrated on whatever we were working on.

Then the peace was interrupted by a loud crash down the hallway, along with several loud and course expletives yelped out. This was, predictably, followed by a wail for protection and snarled death threats.

I straightened up and looked around, noting that my youngest brother had abandoned the corner where he had been dusting out cobwebs, and was now suspiciously absent.

“Really, my sons?” Master Yoshi set down the trinket he was cleaning and facepalmed. “Here and now?”

“Don’t worry, Sensei.” I sighed and stood back. “I’ll get this.”

"Thank you, Leonardo." He looked at me gratefully.

Donnie nodded, then finished tucking some wires away. “I’m almost done here, Leo, and should be able handle the rest. Go ahead and make sure Mikey doesn’t get murdered.”

“Thanks Donnie.” I gave him a smile, and turned to stride across the room towards the hallway that lead to the rest of the lair, where the source of the cursing could be heard.

I walked back to find Mikey almost sobbing with laughter as he clung to the pipes up by the stone brick ceiling, while down below, Raph wielded an old, dusty broom like a bat, his body language a mixture of both rage and revolted terror.

“Mikey, what did you do?” I narrowed my blue eyes up at my blonde brother with the orange bandana holding back fluffy blonde hair.

“Leo! Bro!” Mikey looked down at me with wounded baby blue eyes. “Why do you automatically assume that it’s my fault?!”

I gave him a look.

“Okay.” Mikey admitted. “But in my defense, it was really funny!”

I merely sighed and held out my three fingered hand palm up to him, waiting.

Defeated but still obviously highly amused, Mikey reached over and deposited a fresh but obviously quite dead cockroach in my waiting hand.

I blinked, lowered my hand, looked at it, then raised an eyeridge. “Really?”

“I was just trying to give Raphie a new friend!” Mikey swung up to seat himself more comfortably on the pipes, his legs dangling down.

“My FIST will be your new friend!” Raph raged.

At that moment, there was a small ‘clunk’ out in the living room as Donnie flipped the lever, and the lights flickered on, fully illuminating the lair fully once more.

“Success!” Donnie’s voice called out triumphantly. “Good news, guys! There’s no longer any danger of anybody dying of electric shock from turning the lights on!”

“Good job, Donnie!” I called back. Then I glanced at my two brothers in front of me, and then down at the dead cockroach in my palm. Then back up at Raph, who was clutching the broom and eyeing the dead cockroach like it was the spawn of demons themselves.

And something inexplicable happened to me.

For just a moment, I felt a fierce, internal battle rage within me, the likes of which I had never experienced before. I hadn’t even known I was capable of such thoughts and impulses that flittered through my mind.

And, I’m ashamed to admit, in the end, the dark side won over.

Shrugging my shoulders nonchalantly, I tossed the dead cockroach in my mouth like a piece of popcorn and casually began chewing.

Raph dropped the broom to the floor with a clatter as both of his hands flew over his mouth, his green eyes wide and staring at me with a horrified, nauseous expression.

“Whoa, dude!” Mikey straightened up so fast that he bumped his head on the ceiling. He winced and rubbed his head, blinking at me, obviously not sure if he should be disgusted or impressed. “Did you really just...?”

I shrugged, shifting my tongue in his mouth as I tried to dislodge a leg caught between my teeth. “I am a turtle, you know.”

“Leo, don’t eat things Mikey found on the floor. It’s not sanitary.” Donnie came up, pushing Master Yoshi’s wheelchair, and he shot me a dirty look. “If you’re hungry, we brought snacks.”

“Sorry.” I sheepishly apologized.

“Hey, wait a moment... What’s that?” Mikey perked up, his attention caught by something off to the side.

“What’s what?” I blinked up at him.

“There’s a box up here!” Mikey scooted forward on the pipes closer towards the wall, where pipes intersected and created a shadowy recess up near the ceiling.

“Really?” I blinked, then realizing what it must be, I rubbed the back of my head with a shrug. “Oh. Uh... in all honesty, that doesn’t surprise me too much. Master Splinter always had this weird habit of hiding things in strange places. I once found twelve rolls of tinfoil behind the bathroom sink.”

Master Yoshi gave an amused laugh, glancing at me with warm, slate blue eyes. “Oh, he was still doing that, even after all those years?! I can’t tell you how many times Shen or I found buttons, paper clips, and other shiny trinkets hidden in our socks or under cabinets.”

“So what’s in the box?” Donnie glanced up at Mikey curiously.

“Dunno, lessee.” Mikey grunted, and there was a scraping noise as he pushed the box before him. He peeked down and saw Raph standing below him. “Yo, Raphie, heads up!”

“Got it.” my red brother grunted in affirmation, and held up his hands to carefully catch the old faded and stained cardboard box before it fell too far. He had to lunge back a bit, quickly shifting the box in his grasp as he had to quickly try and keep it in one piece. “Crap. It’s kinda falling apart.”

There was a slight thump as Mikey landed on my shell, but I didn’t protest, just leaning over to peek just as curious as my brothers as Raph set the box down on the floor in full view of everybody and, with a quick glance at me for silent permission, opened it.

“Oh.” I blinked when I saw what was inside the half decayed cardboard box, not expecting there to actually be interesting items in it. I was ready for there to be nothing but old magazines and newspaper clippings. I reached down to pull out a blue blanket with a yellow duck printed in the center, feeling the familiar worn and threadbare fabric. “These are some of my old childhood possessions.” I blinked, and looked back down into the box incredulously. “We didn’t move to this lair until much later. How on earth did he manage to keep them this long?!”

“Oh! Mikey gasped, and slid off my shell to quickly join his brothers in perusing this treasure trove. “Jackpot, then!”

Donnie reached in and pulled out few childish crayon drawings, mostly of a turtle and a rat, looking quite charmed as he examined them. “Did you draw these?”

I cleared my throat, a little embarrassed, and nodded. “I only had a few crayons, so I remember being frustrated I couldn’t get the colors quite right.”

“What’s this?” Mikey pulled a large black camcorder, a bulky and ancient relic left over from the early nineties, at least.

Raph noticed and lifted up one of the few old VHS tapes out of the box, turning one over in his hand curiously. He blinked in surprise, and looked up. “‘For the eyes of Hamato Yoshi and his sons only’?” he questioned, reading the handwritten label.

I reached over to take it from him, looking it over and noticing the faded masking tape labels numbering them. “I had forgotten all about these.” I glanced over at Mikey. “Uh, well, you see... Years ago, I found that old camcorder in the trash. It was still in pretty good condition, and as far as I could figure, somebody must’ve thrown it out accidentally or something.” I shrugged, and glanced down to glance over the vhs tapes, and suddenly felt my face heat up a little. “So....uh.... I decided to make some tapes for you guys, if we ever found you. To introduce ourselves, I guess.”

“Wait.” I gave a start as Mikey shoved the camcorder into Donnie’s startled arms and turned to grab my face, staring into my blue eyes intensely. “Waitwaitwaitwait. Leo. Dearest big brother... Are you seriously telling us that recorded on those tapes right there, there’s footage of a little adorable baby chibi Leo?”

“Possibly?” I blinked at him through compressed cheeks. “If the VHS tapes held up over the years?”

Mikey inhaled deeply, then slowly exhaled, his eyes wandering over to the old tape, whispering reverently, “Oh, heck yes!”

Raph looked incredibly interested as well, now holding the tape he held almost reverently. He looked up at me with hopeful hazel eyes. “We can watch them, right?”

I hesitated for a moment, my eyes darting over to glance at the tapes. There were only four tapes, with the numbers one through four labeling them. Master Splinter must have decided to not keep the fifth and final tape, which was understandable.

Well, as long as it was just the first four tapes...

I nodded. “Of course. They were made for you guys after all.”

“Oh, excellent!” I was started by the level of excitement in Master Yoshi’s voice, and glanced over to see him leaning forward in his chair, eyes shining. He noticed my look and sat back, giving me an amused grin. “Oh, I assure you, Leonardo, I’m delighted and eager to see adorable childhood footage of any of my sons.”

Oh. I blushed a little.

Mikey’s face was lit up in excitement, and he turned to Donnie. “Dee! This is the perfect opportunity to try out the entertainment center you set up!”

Donnie frowned, biting at his lip as he took one the of the VHS tapes unsurely, turning it over.

“Donnie?” Raph blinked at his uncertain look.

Donnie looked up, looking a little perplexed and embarrassed. “Er... I... um... don’t actually have anything that can play these.”

Everybody paused and blinked at him.

“Really?” Raph asked incredulously. “But... How can you not?! You even got crap that can read ancient alien holodisks!”

“Hey, I never needed to use a VHS player!” Donnie huffed defensively. “Everything piece of media I’ve dealt with so far has been digital or downloadable!” He then looked back and ran his hand through his hair. “I... Where would we even buy a VCR?! Who even carries them anymore?!”

Raph paused, then handed the tape he was holding to Mikey and stood up, brushing off his pants. “I’ve got this, bros.”

Donnie paused, then narrowed his eyes at Raph. “Is this going to be legal?”

“Of course!” Raph protested, wounded. “There’s this guy I know...”

Donnie groaned, and face palmed. “Of course there is! Raph! You’re one of the heirs to a multi-billion dollar global organization, and you keep coming up with ‘Well, there’s a guy I know’ kind of people!”

“Hey, sometimes the best sources of information are the people found in dark alleyways!” Raph said matter of factly. “And besides, that’s how I found Casey! You can’t complain about results like that.”

“Yes I can!” Donnie threw up his hands. “I complain about Casey all the time!”

“Guys!” Mikey had gathered up the videos with shiny eyes. “Less arguing! Chibi Leo awaits!”

Chapter Text

One adventurous trip to an extremely shady pawn shop later, we were all together in the lair’s living room, Donnie’s tall slender form awkwardly twisted around the television as he hooked up wires in the back, putting in the last touches for the VCR we had just purchased.

“Here Leo!” Mikey was draped over the back of the couch, and patted the seat in front of him, next to Master Yoshi. “You’re the man of the hour here, you need to be front and center for this!”

Raph was sitting on a cushion on the floor, already examining a large bowl of popcorn for the butteriest pieces. As I took my seat, I grabbed a handful.

I leaned back on the couch and sighed, eating the popcorn and resigned to fact that this whole evening was probably going to be somewhat humiliating and awkward.

Beside me, Master Yoshi gave me a fond smile and reached over to pat my shell.

I cleared my throat, trying not look too pleased at the touch. Okay... so my family was excited and happy. I guess I didn’t mind too much.

Donnie plopped down on my other side, and examined the remote in his hand. “Alright, so everything should all be set up and ready to go now.”

“I see you even managed to set the clock on it.” Raph observed dryly.

“Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I am known for pulling off seemingly technologically impossible stunts all the time.” Donnie boasted playfully, wrinkling his nose, then turned to glance at our orange brother. “Mikey, can you get the lights?”

“On it!” Mikey rolled off the back of the couch and darted across the room. In a second, the lair went dark, lit only by the glow of the TV screen.

“Everybody cross your fingers!” Donnie held up the remote. “Now’s the moment of truth. Let’s see if this tape survived all those years in less then idea storage conditions.”

Mikey leapt back up onto the back of the couch behind me, throwing his arms over me as he crossed the fingers on both of his hands while he breathlessly chanted, “Please, please, please, PLEASE!”

Donnie clicked a button, and the VCR gave a ‘chunk’ and whirred to life. Raph held the temporarily forgotten popcorn bowl tightly, Donnie leaned over and grabbed my arm, squeezing it tightly as he stared hopefully at the screen, and even Master Yoshi leaned forward, eyes gleaming in anticipation.

The TV screen remained black for a heartpounding moment as everybody held their breaths.

Then there was click, and suddenly the screen flickered to life, and we were treated to the view of a very young mutant turtle’s green snout, hovering inches over the lens and out of focus.

“Holy fuck, that’s adorable!”

The onset of squees was momentarily interrupted, and we all paused to turn and stare at Raph.

He noticed, and coughed and leaned back against the couch again, quickly turning back to the bowl of popcorn and trying to resume his air of macho-ism. “Well, it is.”

Master Yoshi didn’t even scold him for swearing, merely chuckling as if he agreed wholeheartedly while turning back to watch the turtle child snout taking up the majority of the screen.

“OhmahGOSH!” Mikey squealed, squeezing me tightly in excitement. “Look, it’s you, Leo! It’s little chibi Leo!”

“Yes, yes it is.” I chuckled fondly, gently moving Mikey’s tightly wrapped arms slightly so I could continue breathing.

“Look how CUTE you were!” Donnie gushed.

I wasn’t sure how they could make that judgement, as the view so far was pretty much just one of younger me’s nostrils, with the occasional shift to look closely at his chin. The young turtle mutant was deep in concentration, obviously channeling all his focus on fiddling with the camcorder half his size that he held in his lap.

Mikey leaned on me. “Aw, look at you, Leo! Little chibi you is concentrating so hard, your little tongue is sticking out! Ha! Just like Donnie does!”

Donnie was leaning forward and looking utterly charmed. He noticed something, and quickly pointed it out, elbowing me. “Look at your little hand holding that big screwdriver! It’s almost as long as your entire forearm!”

“If I remember correctly, this is when I first found the camcorder, and I was trying to get it to work.” I explained.

Raph chuckled, leaning back and glancing at me with twinkling eyes. “You were completely oblivious to the fact that you had somehow accidentally turned the camcorder on, weren’t you?”

“Didn’t have a clue.” I admitted dryly, then rubbed the back of my head sheepishly. “And, uh, just to warn you guys, this might not be the only time something like this happens. I had NO idea how to run a camcorder.”

“Hee. This is going to be great!” Mikey happily beamed.

We continued to watch the screen as this scene dragged on for an embarrassingly long stretch of time, where the blue eyed turtle child continued to poke and prod at the camcorder, clueless to the fact that he was recording himself. There was one particular point where Little Me set aside the screwdriver and lifted the camcorder up to squint a brilliant blue eye curiously into the lens, wrinkling his little snout and provoking ‘D’aaaws’ and playful elbowing from my brothers. Sometimes his hand moved to cover the lens, leaving a three fingered black blob across the screen, with slivers of light between his fingers. Other times, he turned it about, giving a dizzying view of the interior of an old abandoned water tower. Other then the occasional clunk and scrape, and the muted noise of distant traffic, it was fairly quiet as the tiny turtle focused all his attention on his project.

Donnie glanced at me curiously. “How old do you think you were you then?”

I pondered the question for a moment as I leaned down and snagged another handful of popcorn, almost knocking Mikey off balance. “Oh, this was probably only a year or two after we were mutated.”

“Hm.” Donnie turned back to the screen, studying the little turtle who’s brow was furrowed in concentration. “You look like you’re about nine or ten there.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully, then shrugged. “It’s just like we theorized, you mutated to fit your physical age, not your chronological age.”

“Shush, Donnie.” Mikey swiped down at him absently without taking his eyes off the tv. “No science-ing. Just squee’ing.”

“Oh? What do you have there, Leonardo?” A warm, accented voice spoke off camera, and all of us froze.

I had been caught with a piece of popcorn halfway up to my mouth, and I slowly lowered it, my heart skipping in my chest for a moment.

That... that voice...

Oh... the unexpected feelings that flooded through me at the sound of that voice!

Why didn’t I think of this?! Of course he would appear on these videos!

Beside me, Master Yoshi had straightened up, and he swallowed hard and slowly glanced at me inquiringly, as if afraid to ask the question out loud.

Mikey had no such qualms. All three of my brothers had frozen in place, and Mikey then whispered hoarsely, “Leo... was that...?”

“Master Splinter!” the turtle child on the TV screen answered for me, and his face lit up as he looked up from the lens to glance at somebody just off to the side. He proudly beamed, and suddenly the view spun about dizzingly, changing to point down to the floor, showing chibi green scaled feet with three toes as the camcorder was lifted up to be proudly shown off. “Look what I found! It’s a tape recorder! To make movies!” The screen became a confusing blur again as the camcorder was flipped around again, offering only a brief, tantalizing glimpse of a long rat tail peeking out from under the edge of a burgundy robe, before settling back down to focus on the bottom of a turtle snout once again as the turtle child peered down the lens again. “I think I can get it to work again?”

“Hm.” There was the sound of shuffling robes, and the little blue eyed turtle glanced up as a wrinkled, clawed hand rested gently on his small shell. “That is a splendid treasure you have found indeed, my little turtle, but our existence is best kept a secret. I’m not sure creating videos is a decision to be taken lightly.”

“Oh, I know.” the little turtle nodded, not at all discouraged as he turned back to the camcorder. “But I have a plan for this!” He reached over for something, and his tiny, three fingered hand came back grasping the screwdriver again. “You know how humans are always scared of us when they see us? Well... I thought that maybe, if we ever find the Hamatos again, we can sneak them videos to watch first, where we introduce ourselves!” The little turtle paused to beam up at his sensei, who remained unseen off to the side. “We can show them that we’re not scary monsters! Then maybe they won’t be scared of us when we meet them for the first time!”

I blinked, noticing that all three of my brothers had pressed into me just a little closer, and Master Yoshi had reached over to put a gentle hand on my shell. I couldn’t help but give a slight smile, touched by their efforts to show me that they were in no way afraid of what I was.

“Hm. Well now, that is a very clever idea, my little turtle.” the voice sounded thoughtful.

“I’m glad you think so, Master.” the little turtle looked delighted, and began twisting the camera around again. “I just need to figure out how to turn this thing-“

And then abruptly, the screen went black, as the young Leonardo apparently turned it off as easily as he had accidentally turned it on.

“Well, the good news is that I somehow got it to work.” I said dryly.

My brothers all gave an amused snort.

Any witty commentary my brothers might have come up with died in their throats as the screen flickered back on, showing the next bit recorded. At first, all we could see was slivers of light peeking through three fingers, but then the young turtle removed his hand, stepped back and examined the set up with a critical eye. Apparently satisfied by the camcorder’s placement, he gave a gleeful grin, then ran off to the side, showing a cleaned off wall of the water tower, with a single chair sitting in the middle of the frame.

“Come on, Master! Come on!” the young voice could be heard urging excitedly.

And then there he was...

The young turtle child reappeared, leading an elderly, grey whiskered rat by the paw. Though still stooped a little with age, Master Splinter still looked younger and healthier then he had been in those final years, moving fluidly and easily, with the carved walking stick more of an aid then the crutch it became later. His fur was soft and thick, and he was wearing a red kimono with the Hamato symbol on the back, almost identical to the one Master Yoshi was currently wearing.

“That’s Master Splinter?” Donnie whispered in amazement, unable to tear his eyes from the elderly mutant rat carefully taking a seat in the chair on the screen.

I nodded, biting down on a knuckle as hot tears threatened my eyes, too afraid to speak lest a sob escaped along with the words.

My sensei... my father...

“He’s so cool!” Mikey sounded awed.

Watching him allow himself to be led by a younger me, a gentle, amused chuckle shaking his whiskers... it was so bittersweet.

I heard a ragged intake of breath beside me, and I looked up to see a tear running down Master Yoshi’s face as he watched the tv screen with rapt attention. “Oh... my brother...” he whispered almost longingly.

Swallowing hard, I paused, then slowly, hesitantly leaned against him, watching his reaction carefully in case I was pushing boundaries too far.

He blinked and looked down at me in surprise, but then immediately and gratefully wrapped a thick sleeved arm around me, pulling me in tighter. Together, we turned back to continue watching.

The little turtle child with blue eyes helped the ever-patient elderly rat settle down in the chair comfortably. “Okay, are you ready?” he asked him, shifting around excitedly.

Master Splinter calmly set his walking stick across his lap, the very same one that Master Yoshi now carried, and nodded. “Yes. I believe so.”

“Right!” The little turtle beamed, and turned to dash towards the camera. “Just let me turn this on, and we can begin our introduction!”

And then he reached the camera, we got a nice closeup view of his as-of-yet unscarred plastron as he stood on his tiptoes to press a button, and then the screen went black

There was a moment, then my brothers all looked a me, blinking.

I exhaled, then raised a hand to very slowly facepalm.

“Uh... Leo... you... uh...” Mikey glanced down at my face, sounding amused.

“I am aware.” I muttered into my palm.

Raph looked at me, entertained. “So... how long did you end up talking to a turned-off camera?”

“Over an hour.” I admitted with a sigh as I sat back up. “I had written a whole script that we followed with pictures and everything. And we didn’t have a way to review the footage, so I didn’t realize what had happened until years later.”

“Oh man, this is going to be even better then I imagined!” Mikey delighted in this.

Our attention was drawn back to the TV screen as it flickered back on, once again showing a close up the underside of a turtle child’s snout as the young me worked on turning the camcorder on. Blue eyes peered into the lens, blinked, and then, obviously satisfied, the turtle child grinned and there was a small shift in view as the camcorder was set down on the floor. Child Leo scooted back, and sat down cross legged in full view of the camera.

“Hi Hamatos! It’s me again! Leonardo!” the green scaled child waved enthusiastically at the camera.

“Hi Leo!” Mikey cheerfully played along, waving back to the TV. I snorted, then couldn’t help but snicker.

Little Leo grabbed his knees and leaned forward to peek at the camera, looking both hopeful and excited. “So, like I said, I’m making these tapes to show you guys a little bit about us, and I want to show you one of my favorite things!”

The small turtle reached off to the side, then dramatically produced forth a stained and battered paperback book with the picture of a rabbit samurai riding a horse on the cover, which he eagerly displayed in front of the camera like he was showing off something rare and amazing.

“This is my favorite book of all time! It’s called Usagi Yojimbo!” He pulled the book back to start flipping through it. “It’s a manga, about a rabbit samurai named  Miyamoto Usagi, who travels around feudal Japan and does heroic deeds. It must be part of a series, but we’ve only found the one book so far, and it’s missing the last few pages. But it’s still pretty great!” The little turtle closed the book and hugged it tightly to his plastron, and then looked at the camera eagerly. “Do you guys like to read stories? Master Splinter said that Master Yoshi used to read to you guys all the time. Maybe... maybe sometime... if we end up meeting someday... you can show me some of your favorite books?”

He paused for a moment, then glanced back down at the book, before looking back at the camera almost shyly. “You know... Usagi is a great hero... even though he’s not human...” The turtle child bit his lower lip and looked down at the book, then nodded decisively. “I want to be just like him.”

At that, the turtle child was quiet for a long moment, as if deep in thought, then he quickly cleared his throat and glanced up, smiling hopefully at the camera once more as he hugged the book. “But I thought I’d share this. It’s a really good book, and Usagi is really cool. Maybe.... maybe you’d like him too? Anyways, I’ll talk to you again soon! Bye!”

And then he leaned forward, reaching for the camcorder, and the screen went black again.

“Huh.” I said with a wistful smile, leaning back into the couch. “I had completely forgotten about that book.”

“It wasn’t in the box.” Mikey observed, glancing at me.

I shook my head. “It got ruined not too long after this when the hiding place we were staying in flooded.” Then I noticed that Donnie had his cell phone out and was working on something.

Raph glanced up and also noted Don’s activities. He gave a knowing snort as he grabbed another handful of popcorn. “You’ve already ordering the complete series, aren’t you, Dee?”

Donnie nodded. “They should be delivered tomorrow.”

“Awesome!” Mikey glanced at Master Yoshi. “You’ll read them to us, right Dad?”

“Of course, my sons.” Master Yoshi looked pleased at the thought, and smiled warmly at us.“I... I would like that very much.”

“Well, we’ll have plenty of reading material for a while.” Donnie observed. “There’s well over two hundred books.”

“Really?” I perked up a little at that. Over two hundred books following the adventure of the rabbit samurai I daydreamed about as a kid? Color me intrigued!

Then the screen flickered back on, and our attention was pulled back to the TV. And there was little kid me again, carefully setting the camcorder in place, then grinning at the lens, before turning to bound back to a respectable distance, standing in a cleared area in the wooden room of the abandoned water tower.

“Hi again! It’s me, Leonardo!” the little turtle beamed at the screen.

“Hi Leo.” This time all three of my brothers responded together. I rolled my eyes and in response playfully elbowed Donnie, the easiest target as he was sitting next to me.

“So Master Splinter’s been teaching me how to be a ninja, just like you guys!” Little Leo rocked on his feet as he talked.  “He learned from you, Master Yoshi, and he’s a really good teacher!” He quickly glanced around him to make sure the floor was cleared, and back up at the camera eagerly. “So I thought today, I would show you some of the kata’s I know!”

Blue eyes sparkling and obviously eager to please, the tiny turtle child gave a quick and respectful bow towards the camera, and then took a stance. Carefully, his tongue sticking out a little as he focused, he began stepping forward, his small, somewhat lanky form running through some basic beginner katas.

“D’aww, that’s such intense concentration on your little face, Leo!” Mikey snickered. “Look at how your brow is furrowed!”

“Serious business is serious!” Donnie agreed, teasingly elbowing me.

“Still, you obviously showed promise, even at that young age.” Master Yoshi commented thoughtfully. “You had a very good grasp for the basics, even with so little training.”

“Oh. Uh... thanks.” I said shyly, the praise warming my heart.

And then, as if on cue, little child Leo almost lost his balance. His nose wrinkled in annoyance as he righted himself and immediately stopped the kata, muttering to himself. “Oh, phooey, I messed it up.” He turned and ran to the camcorder, and the screen went black as he turned it off, and then a moment later it flipped back on. And there was Little Leo again, smiling at the camera as if nothing had just happened. “Hi again!” He waved at the camera cheerfully, obviously restarting the segment over. “It’s me, Leonardo!”

“Uh... Hi Leo?” My brothers sounded confused this time.

Obviously not hearing them, the little turtle continued with his pre-prepared speech again, stepping back to the cleared area again. “I’m going to show you guys some of the things Master Splinter’s been teaching me. He’s a really strong ninja, which he learned from Master Yoshi, and I thought today, I would show you some of the kata’s I know!””

Little Leo gave yet another polite bow to the camera, as he had been taught, and then starting moving through the motions of the kata again.

And eventually made a minor mistake.

And quickly rushed to the camcorder to turn it off and on in an attempt restart the whole segment over once more.  

And, to my family’s growing amusement, this happened again.

And again.

And again.

Little Leo was obviously bound and determined to not show the Hamatos anything but absolute perfection.

I could only slowly facepalm again, an action I had the sneaking suspicion would be a common event this evening, as my father and brothers snickered and laughed, rubbing my head fondly and teasing me.

But, finally, Little Leo managed to get through the kata in a manner he deemed acceptable, though he was a little out of breath and sweat beads were starting to show on his scales by the end. He looked proud and triumphant as he turned back to the camera and bowed. “So there we go!”he panted happily, then rubbed the back of his head. “Though I bet you guys are way better then me. I... I hope one day we’ll be able to train together.” He straightened up and looked sharply off to the side, his eyes widening, and then he turned back to the camera. “Oh, I hear Master Splinter coming back! I gotta go now, but I’ll talk again to you guys soon! Bye!”



And thus the night went on, and the short segments continued along this vein for a while. Little Leo would chat amiably about whatever topic caught his fancy, show off the latest prize that I had managed to scavenge, or demonstrate the latest kata Master Splinter had shown him. There were a LOT of segments involving kata demonstrations, actually. So many, in fact, that I started to inwardly muse that maybe there really was something to my brothers’ accusations of me being obsessed after all. But my humans didn’t seem to mind the repetition, and seemed to be genuinely enamored by the antics of my younger self.

To my surprise, I found myself enjoying the videos almost as much as my humans did, as old memories and feelings resurfaced and kindled a feeling of fond nostalgia with each segment. I had been so enthusiastic and innocent back then, not yet jaded by the cruel world, and fully convinced that once we found the Hamato family, then the world would be amazing, that there were humans out there who would be willing to accept a mutant into their lives with open arms.

I glanced at my brothers and Master Yoshi sitting around me fondly, a smile creeping across my face.

And, oddly enough, it turned out I had been right after all. Go figure.

We made it through the first tape, and were just starting the second, when my attention was caught as the next segment started up, and a furry elderly rat’s face peering curiously into the camera lens, not the young turtle who had been taking up the majority of the filming responsibilities so far.

I straightened up, tilting my head a little. I... didn’t remember this?

As was the case with every appearance of Master Splinter so far, around me my family went still and quiet, each of us leaning forward, as if desperate not to miss a single moment.

“Hm,” The elderly rat mused, tapping at the camcorder carefully with a claw. “I believe Leonardo said that the red light meant it was recording, but...” He wrinkled his furry nose and peered closer at the side of the camcorder. “I see a small light on, is that the light in question?”

“Master Splinter was color blind.” I whispered to my humans in explanation.

“Ah.” Donnie nodded absently. “That makes sense, it is a trait from his rat heritage.”

“So... wait...” This obviously triggered a thought in Mikey, who tore his eyes from the screen to blink down at me. “Are turtles color blind too, Leo?”

“On the contrary,” Donnie answered for me, still watching the elderly rat trying to figure out how the camera worked. “Turtles have four types of cone cells in their eyes, compared to the three us humans have. Leo can see a whole spectrum of colors that we can’t.”

“Wait, what?!” Startled, Mikey shot up, mind obviously blown by this revelation. “How did I not know this?! What do these colors even look like, Leo?!”

“Uh... it’s... kinda hard to describe?” I shrugged. How did one describe colors? They were normal to me, and it felt weird that humans couldn’t see the same ultraviolet colors that I could.

“We are going to have so many discussions about this!” Mikey gasped in a strange mixture of delight and outrage.

“Shush.” Raph threw a piece of popcorn at us over his shoulder. “Watchin’ Master Splinter, remember?”

As if on cue, the elderly rat decided that yes, indeed, that must be the red light glowing off to the side, and that the camcorder was running. He smiled serenely into the lens. “Greetings, my dear master. I know the Leonardo has been working hard on his project for you and your sons, and I sincerely hope that it finds you one day, and that you are all in good health.” He bowed politely.

Master Yoshi gave a long, shaky exhale, then gave a respectful bow in return.

And then Master Splinter’s face wrinkled up in an amused smile, and his milky brown eyes sparkled mischievously as he eyed the camera.

Uh-oh... My eyes widened at that look. Just what was my master up to?!

“There is something that I must show you.” Master Splinter nodded at the camera, not reassuring me in the slightest that there wasn’t going to be some embarrassing footage of me coming up, and turned the camera around, showing a glimpse of sewer walls, not the current lair, but one of our many early temporary shelters. “Now let’s see if we can’t do this without waking him up...”

We were treated to a Splinter’s-Eye-View of the temporary lair we had been living in at the time as he carefully made his down a hall. “We have guests, you see, and I thought you might enjoy meeting them as well.” Splinter’s whispered as he he peeked carefully around a corner.

There, sleeping curled up on a blanket on the floor, was a little turtle child, covered in several little balls of downy brown and tan fluff.

A few sleeping ducklings were tucked protectively under Chibi Leo’s arms, another cuddled up in the crook of his knee, and several were comfortably sprawled across his shell, sleeping in a pile of downy fluff, tiny feet, and beaks. One of the balls on his shell gave a shake of a tiny head and blearily looked towards the intruder, showing a small peach beak and bright black eyes. It gave a few sleepy peeps at Master Splinter, then, unable to keep awake, its head slowly bobbed a few times, before finally touching back down to the shell underneath, the duckling nodding back to sleep.

All in all, there were probably about a dozen baby ducklings scattered over the small sleeping turtle, with a mother duck dozing nearby, obviously quite content to take advantage of a babysitter to grab a much needed nap, her head tucked backwards against her back and giving her the look of a fluffy feathered brown loaf.   

“Okay, time out!” I gave a startled grunt as Mikey lunged forward, basically clambering from the back of the couch onto my shoulders. “Donnie! Quick! Pause it!”

Startled, Donnie pressed pause on the remote, the screen froze, and we all glanced at Mikey inquiringly.

Mikey stared at the screen with narrowed eyes, and then looked at us. “Alright bros, here’s the plan. After Donnie converts these to a digital format, we’re going to screenshot that frame right there,” he gestured towards the sleeping turtle child and ducklings on screen, “and print it out so we’re all carrying a copy. And then the next time we fight a bad guy, we’ll whip out that picture, show it to them, and then they’ll either melt from the sheer cuteness of it, or instantly convert to the side of goodness forever, because that image there is like the perfect embodiment of everything pure and innocent in this world.”

“Mikey!” I scoffed, blushing a little as I shoved him back onto the couch.

“It is pretty cute, Leo.” Donnie snickered as he agreed with Mikey, then turned back to the TV and lifted the remote to push a button and resumed the show.

Master Splinter’s voice chuckled fondly from behind the camera. “These little ones fell down a sewer grate earlier this morning, and were almost washed away. Leonardo would not rest until every single one had been rescued, and as you can see, everybody is quite exhausted from the excitement.” He gave a fond chuckle and moved closer, his furry, aged hand reaching out fondly to stroke the smooth head of the sleeping green child, causing several of the little ducklings to wake up and sleepily peep at him curiously. “Ah, child, sometimes I worry for your brave heart. You’re always so determined to protect the world around you with your small shell.”

“Hm? Sensei?” the little turtle sleepily shifted, causing more ducklings to wake up with a chorus of slightly alarmed and complaining peeps.

“Ah! My son!” Master Splinter’s voice sounded just a little bit surprised and panicked as the camera was hurriedly shoved around behind his back, giving us a great view of his tail. “Forgive me, I didn’t mean to wake you!”

There was the sound of a sleepy yawn. “Were you talkin’ to somebody?”

“No, no, just an old rat musing to himself.” the floor moved slowly and steadily across the screen as Master Splinter edged sideways. “I just came in to check on you and our guests.” There was a close up view of a wicker laundry basket, which Master Splinter smoothly sidled up to, then there was a quick, deft flick of the lid and a subtle toss, and the camera went tumbling into the dark container to land in a pile of dirty laundry, safely hidden away from little turtle children so they would never, ever know that their parental figure was filming embarrassingly cute childhood footage of them.

The thing was, he never actually turned the camera off before doing so.

So for the next 37 minutes, we got riveting footage of the dark inside of a laundry hamper. I suggested we fast forward through it, but occasionally you could hear a snippet of noises in the background, the muffled, unintelligible sounds of little Chibi Leo and Splinter going through their day and trying to take care of the visiting waterfowl family, and apparently my family’s desire for anything to do with Master Splinter or I ran so deep, they didn’t even want to miss that.

So in the meantime, I told them the story of how we later escorted the duck family safely to a nearby pond in the night (that was basically the whole story, it wasn’t that interesting), of why we had a dirty clothes hamper when I obviously didn’t wear clothes (Master Splinter’s robes, towels, and blankets still needed cleaning), and then spent the rest of the time patiently trying to answer a ton of questions from Mikey about what ultraviolet looked like.

Finally the tape ran out, and after Donnie switched them, we started the next one, settling back once more to watch Little Leo try to share his life and dreams with his future family. There were tours of all the lairs we had taken refuge in, the usual demonstrations of katas, and other little slice of life segments.

At one point, the camera was once again turned on to show a happy little turtle child face, though this time he was whispering as leaned closer to the lens and greeted us. “Hi again, Hamato family!”

“Hi Leo.” We whispered back obligingly. By this point, even I had joined in the chorus.

Little Leo on the screen had almost an conspiratorial grin on his face, and he held up a finger to his lips. “We have to be quiet, Master Splinter is still sleeping.” He sat back and paused for dramatic effect. “So....today’s Father’s Day!” And with that, he turned the camera to show our makeshift kitchen, covered with a few scavenged baking supplies. “And I’m going to make Master Splinter breakfast in bed!”

My eyes widened. Oh crap, I remembered this.

“Uh... maybe we should skip this one...” I turned to Donnie, trying to hid my panic.

“I worked really hard, and got a toaster working, so I’m going to make him special breakfast toast, with eggs and cheese on it!” the chibi turtle on the screen said proudly.

I looked desperately around, trying to figure out where Donnie had put the remote. “It’s boring, nothing interesting happens!”

“We have some blueberries too, so I’m going to try and make blueberry jam. Master Splinter loves jam!” the Little Chibi Leo beamed, holding up a bowl with blueberries in it. 

"So, what, you were going to smash up blueberries and call it jam?" Donnie blinked, turning to me in confusion. “That’s not how jam is made.”

“I know, and we really don’t need to watch this!” My panic was rising.

The little chibi turtle was pushing a tall chair up to the counter and climbed up on it as he chatted. “Oh! And I’m also going to make homemade orange juice for him! See? I have fresh oranges and a blender and everything!”

“SkipitSkipitSkipit!” I squeaked, giving up on finding the remote and lunging forward for the VCR instead.

 “Don’t do it, Donnie!” Mikey argued, watching the screen with excitement. “This is going to be great!”

I was foiled as Raph tossed the bowl of popcorn up to Mikey and quickly lunged forward and tackled me.

There was a brief scuffle, with popcorn flying and Mikey cheering, and, at last, I was grumpily pinned plastron down on the floor with Raph sitting triumphantly on my shell, watching the events unfold on the screen with as much anticipation as my other brothers.

They were not disappointed.

The camera got knocked to the floor rather early on, when  Little Chibi Leo accidentally pushed over the chair while he was panicking over the blender spewing orange chunks everywhere. Thus the whole scenario unfolded with us seeing nothing but a sideways view of the ceiling, leaving much of what was happening up to the imagination. There were several loud crashes, the loud rattle of a blender completely out of control, and, finally, a quick glimpse of Master Splinter running past the fallen camera in a panic, as a thin plume of smoke began to waft through the air like a black ribbon.

After a few loud whooshing noises of an unseen fire being put out off screen (it had been the toaster), the blender was quickly silenced, and then there was the uncharacteristically panicked voice of Master Splinter trying to determine if little Chibi Leo was okay. A few seconds later, he came back on screen, now clasping a rather traumatized looking turtle child covered in eggs, blueberries, and bits of orange pulp to his chest. Little Chibi Leo was obviously somewhat in shock and clinging desperately to him, grasping his robe tightly in both his small hands with lower lip quivering, obviously still trying to figure out if he should be crying or not.

Master Splinter reached down and the screen went dark again, and my brothers broke down into raucous laughter. Even Master Yoshi was chortling.

Still pinned under Raph, I gave a ever-suffering groan and covered my face. “There’s a reason I don’t cook very often.”



The night went on long into the early morning hours, yet nobody suggested stopping. This was a precious gift, a chance to glimpse into the childhood of their turtle brother and actually see and hear their rat family member they never really got to met. As the hours passed and one tape was finished and the next put in, it was obvious that time was slowly passing between the segments. The backgrounds changed as Master Splinter and young Little Leo  moved from hiding place to hiding place, and if one looked closely, there were subtle signs of Little Leo growing up a little. Just a little taller, a little more lanky.

Little Leo chatted with them about his dreams about being a hero and ninja, and at one point excitedly showed them the wooden training boken that Master Splinter had given him. A good chuck of the third tape ended up being (to Raph’s slight discomfort) a long segment where Little Leo found a rather pretty looking beetle and followed its journey through the sewer tunnels for nearly half an hour, before it disappeared into a small hole. Then Little Leo had the thought that one day they might all get to play games together, so, to everybody’s delight, had Master Splinter help him demonstrate some of his favorite card games in hopes they would play together later. And he, of course, showed off his katas. Lots and lots of katas.

Eventually, though, the fourth tape clicked off, having run out of tape and sadly abruptly cutting short Little Leo’s latest boken demonstrations.

As if waking up from a nap, no longer held mesmerized by the screen, everybody automatically yawned and stretched, weary after sitting for so long and so late into the morning, but definitely treasuring the night’s events

Raph was still draped over Leo’s shell, having made himself comfortable after their tussle. He glanced down, and his face softened a little. “Huh. We’re down a brother.”

Underneath him, loosely hugging a throw pillow, Leo had fallen asleep. He was even drooling a little, he was so deeply passed out.

It was a rare thing to catch Leo sleeping, and even rarer to see him so deeply relaxed as this. Even in the middle of the night, if one of them got up for any reason, Leo already had one blue eye cracked open, and if they needed him, he was already awake and there. Their turtle brother was always alert, always ready to react.

But then, almost by accident, they had discovered his Achilles’s Heel.

To get a Leo to chill out, simply put a brother on his shell.
 
Apparently, doing so made him feel safe and protected enough to relax, turning into a happy, contented turtle puddle. Sometimes he even let go enough to allow himself become completely vulnerable, like right now.

Raph couldn’t help the fond smile that curved his face as he reached over and moved one of Leo’s blue mask tails that had somehow flipped over the top of his head so it wouldn’t keep tickling his snout.

Leo trusted him completely to protect him. If that wasn’t a damn humbling thought...

Donnie had mentioned that it might be a turtle thing. Normal turtles always seemed to be piled on top of one another, and Leo just might like the feeling of weight on his shell, especially one that was as naturally warm as they were, being warm blooded humans and everything. Plus, Leo obviously loved cuddling, though he would never, ever, in a hundred years, admit that fact to anybody. Raph honestly didn’t know if that was a turtle thing as well, or if poor Leo at times just needed physical reassurances that he wasn’t alone.  

At any rate, it wasn’t as if any of them minded.

“So, should we watch the next tape, or wait for Leo to wake up?” Donnie questioned, looking around. “It is pretty late.”

“Wait, next tape?” Mikey perked up excitedly. He was now wearing the empty popcorn bowl like a helmet, much to Donnie’s chagrin. “I thought we were done! There’s more?!”

Their father looked intrigued as well. “I only noticed four tapes?”

Donnie pulled up the old camcorder that had been saved over all these years, and popped open the side panel, revealing a tape still inside it. “There’s still this unfinished one to go.” He pulled the black VHS tape out of the slot and peered carefully at the clear plastic window in the middle, showing the two reels of tape inside. “It doesn’t look like they got very far on it. There’s probably not much left to watch.”

“Put it in!” Mikey said eagerly, happily snuggling back to watch. “Let’s see!”

“Should we wake up Leo first?” Raph wondered, glancing down at their sleeping turtle brother. “He’ll want to see it too.”

“Bah, it’ll just give us an excuse to watch it again with him later.” Mikey pointed out happily. Oh yes, these videos were going to get so many rewatches!

“Leo’s been working pretty hard lately, let's let him sleep.” Donnie mused, then got up to switch the tapes. “And there’s only a little bit left.” He glanced back at their father, and at his nod of agreement, popped the fifth tape in, and moved back to take his seat on the couch again.

As expected, the tape opened up, as the others had, with Little Leo greeting them happily, apologizing once again for the last tape cutting off (all the tapes so far had ended abruptly due to tape running out), and reiterating his hopes that one day they would meet.

And then the tape settled into what had become a familiar routine. Little Leo would share his lessons with them, along with sprinkles of every day life as Little Leo tried so hard to share their world. At one point, he and Master Splinter tried to teach them how to play a card game called durak, which actually interested Raph quite a bit. He had heard of the game, it was quite popular in Russia, but had never played it himself. It seemed more aggressive then the normal card game, and involved attacks and defenses

He leaned down on Leo’s shell a little and wondered where he and Master Splinter had learned some of these games. An amusing thought flittered by of an elderly rat and a young turtle peering intently through an opening in the curb by a park, watching old men play nearby and trying to absorb all the rules of play. He gave an amused chuckle, and waved the thought away. More then likely, they had just found an old book or something. He’d have to ask Leo later.

The tutorial ended, the screen when black, and the lit up again as the next segment started up. Raph settled back onto Leo’s shell, watching and waiting contentedly for Little Leo to show them the next glimpse into their life.

But, instantly, all four of them realized something was wrong.

The camera showed a different hideout once more, but this one seemed different. It was little more then a ramshackle ruin, a building which once may have been a house, but now was little more then a foundation with broken, partial walls. There was no sense of the care and love that had gone into each of the hideouts that Little Leo had shown off before, temporary camps which, nonetheless, had attempts to give it a feeling of a home. This forgotten shell of a building was filled with old, faded trash and dusty debris, and looked cold and drafty. It was a hiding place of desperation.

And then Little Leo walked wearily in front of the camera and immediately they all went stock still, all joviality and humor gone. He was covered in scrapes and bruises, and his left arm was wrapped in blood stained cloth, the dressing loose and looking very amateurishly done.

Swallowing hard, Raph automatically glanced down at the contentedly sleeping brother beneath him, studying that arm. There were so many faded scars among those scales, but one in particular seemed long and deep. Was that...?

Little Leo plopped down onto the floor, hugging himself tightly and not quite looking at the camera for a long moment. Then he gave a long, shaky breath, and turned to the camera, a forced smile on his so very young face, though it was obvious from the moisture building up in his blue eyes that he desperately wanted to cry. “H-hey Hamatos. S-sorry about the mess.” He paused for a moment, biting his lips hard, and when he spoke again, his voice was thick with held-back tears. “S-some humans found our last lair a few days ago, you s-see, and we... we h-haven’t had t-time to find a... a really good new one yet.”

He reached up and angrily wiped the tears that threatened to fall away, then tried to smile and sound cheerful as he turned back to the camera. “M-master Splinter was hurt, but don’t worry, he’s going to be okay!” Little Leo reached off to the side and pulled out a massively thick, ancient book with a faded yellow cover, the title 'Atlas of Practical Medicine and Human Anatomy' embossed in neat, rigid letters. “See, we found this book on medical care, and I’ve been using it to take care of him!” He lowered the book slightly, looking down at it and swallowing hard. “The... the words are kinda big... and I don’t understand a l-lot of them, but... but there are a few pictures... and I think I got it.” He exhaled shakily, and pushed the book to the side, before drawing his knees up to his plastron and looking at the camera again with a strained smile still on his face, though now he was sniffing, and gave a nod. “He’s sl-sleeping now, and he’s going to be okay.”

There was a long moment as Little Leo wiped again tears again, and was obvious struggling to say something. Finally, the forced smile faded away, and Little Leo swallowed hard, looking off to the side. His voice grew quiet. “Master Splinter says that you guys aren’t like other humans. That... that you won’t care what... what we are.” Little Leo pressed both of his palms against his eyes, obviously trying to keep those stubborn tears that wouldn’t stop back. “But... but I can’t stop thinking...” Tears began to stream down his cheeks, finally breaking free. "You're humans too... and we're... Wh... what if you..."

His shoulders heaved as a sob broke out unbidden, and then Little Leo curled up with his hands covering his head, as if trying to block out all the sounds of the world, great sobs shaking his body as he rocked.  “I’m not a monster!” he pleaded desperately, as if trying to convince the world and himself of the fact. “P-please! I-I’m not a m-monster!” His words became so thick and wet that they were almost became unintelligible   I-I a-am L-Leonardo! A-and I-I am n-not a m-monster!” He gave out a shuddering sob, and then whispered out, “Please?”

And the little turtle child sat there alone in the abandoned house and sobbed.

Finally, after a while, he sniffed, rubbed his tear stained face, and turned to the camera, reaching over to turn it off.

The four humans sat in silence, staring at the blank screen.

No more recordings came up. No more segments of Little Leo reaching out to the human world beyond.

That had been the final thing recorded.


**Hours later**

I sleepily drifted to consciousness some time later, feeling warm and safe, with the scent of home and family all around me. I drowsily noted that I seemed to be surrounded and pinned down by heavy but comfortable weights

Languidly allowing my eyes to blink open, I felt the top of my head pressed into something warm, and I shifted a little to glance up and see, to my sleepy surprise, that Master Yoshi was sleeping sitting up on the floor, propped up by a lot of pillows, pressed close to me with one hand resting lightly on my head. I glanced down to see that Raph was still there, only now Donnie had joined him as well, both draped over my shell and sleeping soundly. As for my third brother, at some point, somehow without waking me, Mikey had managed to wiggle himself under my arm, and was now snoring softly, the top of his head pressed under my chin

I smiled fondly at them all, amused by the sense of humor fate seemed to have. I had found the place in the world I belonged, and it was with the Hamatos after all.

I gave a sleepy yawn, and snuggled back down into the pile, letting myself drift back off to sleep.

Who would’ve thought it possible that, in a family of heroes like this, there was room for a monster.

Chapter Text

Premise: Mickey notices something during the Space Heroes marathon.

Reaching down to get more popcorn, Mikey quickly glanced at the human-sized turtle on the other coach. His hand froze over the over-buttered treat. Leo’s face was absolutely wide open. Or at least that was the best way Mikey could describe it. Leo had never looked more human than in that moment.

Not that Mikey cared that his turtle brother was…well a turtle. But he was a little bummed that Leo couldn’t talk to them. Mikey wondered what Leo would sound like if he had learned English fast enough. While the orange-loving brother didn’t understand everything Donnie had said about speech or language development or whatever, the youngest Hamato brother understood that their turtle brother had grown up without learning to talk and so now he couldn’t. And Mikey felt like the world had been robbed of something special.

All his brothers were special. Donnie was a genius, and no one could beat Raph in a fight when Mikey’s big bro was really trying. And Leo was an adorable, human-sized turtle who was also incredibly good at hide-and-seek. Mikey lost count of how many times he’d stayed up trying to play “Where’s Leo” with the security screen monitors. One of these days, he was determined to win that game.

But how cool would it be if his newest big brother (because given how Leo acted, he was much more big brother than a little brother—and Mikey didn’t want to give up his baby bro spot anyway) could talk. If he could, what would he say?

Okay so obviously he would say that Space Heroes is the best show ever. Actually Mikey was pretty sure Leo would go on and on about it. Leo would also tell Mikey to sneak him out more gummy worms, and that no matter what happened Leo would have Mikey’s back as much as Mikey would have his.

Right now, Mikey was almost sure that it was possible. If he flicked popcorn or called Leo’s name loudly to get his attention, Leo would glare at him and tell him to be quiet so that he could find out if Captain Ryan really does save the new alien planet from the evil Mortu race.

Leo’s blue eyes were wider and clearer than Mikey had ever seen. He looked relaxed and completely unguarded. Would that change if Mikey startled him? Would he morph back into the turtle who watched them suspiciously from the shadows? Would he suddenly melt into a shadow and disappear? Why did Mikey always feel like Leo was one wrong action away from vanishing out of their lives completely?

Donnie worried about Dunn’s interest in Leo, but Mikey worried about Leo himself. He worried that the shadows would swallow Leo up and separate him from them forever. Raph said Mikey’s imagination was running away with him, but Mikey was sure that they could lose Leo at any moment. And not because Dunn did something, but because they did. Or maybe because they didn’t do something. Mikey wasn’t any good at thinking, not like Donnie was, but he knew he didn’t want to lose his brother.

With a quick flick of his wrist, popcorn sailed straight at Leo’s face. Without even a glance in the kernels’ directions, Leo caught them and than popped them in his mouth. Mikey blinked. Leo’s blue eyes slid away from the TV and stared at Mikey. He could almost hear words attached to the look.

“Nice try, Mikey. Now will you let me watch my show?”

“Sorry, bro. I couldn’t help myself. You looked so focused there.”

Blue eyes widened a fraction and then blinked and closed. When they opened again, they were like glass. The open expression was gone, and Mikey’s smile stretched hard against his face. Wrong move.

Leo’s eyes slid almost absently back towards the TV. His whole face was lax and unexpressive, as vague as shadows. Shadows that made Leo feel so far away. But then Mikey noticed that Leo’s posture hadn’t changed. He was still hunched over and very comfortable looking. And he wasn’t skittering away. Maybe it hadn’t been the wrong choice after all.

With a less stretched smile, Mikey’s gaze fell back onto the TV. He would keep trying, just like Raph and Donnie would. Leo couldn’t hide in the shadows forever, right?


 

Premise: After Leonardo reveals himself to his brothers and all is semi-peaceful in the Hamato household, Donatello learns his turtle brother isn’t bad with electronics in a shocking way. (Ignore any terrible puns.)

Donnie glared at the circuitry and wires spilling into a spaghetti-like pile.

“I am going to assume it was not supposed to do that.”

“No, it was not,” said Donnie. He glanced over at his turtle brother. “What are you doing down here?”

“Raph said someone needed to remind you dinner is not optional,” Leo answered. Donnie rolled his eyes at Raph’s obvious ploy. Of course he would send down the only brother that Donnie would feel guilty casting out of his lab. Leo stared completely perplexed at the mess on Donnie’s table. He moved closer to the tangle of technology that used to be Donnie’s attempt at a more advanced toaster. “How did it even do that?”

“To be honest, I have no idea. How a device created to toast bread perfectly almost literally unmade itself is beyond even my understanding.”

Without hesitation, Leo reached out to poke the tangle.

“No, wait!” Donnie cried. Too late. Leo poked a wire and then snapped his hand back. Donnie immediately hurried to his older brother’s side. He grabbed his brother’s hand and flipped it over to see the green fingertips that sported new dark green, almost black spots. Staring at the fingers in general more closely, he noted more burn streaks and spots on them. As always the sight of the marks curled burning heat deep in Donnie’s chest.

“Don’t worry, Donnie. I’ve had worse.”

“I noticed,” replied Donnie caustically. He almost absently traced on of the bigger burn scars.

“They were mostly my fault,” said Leo. The words caused Donnie’s head to snap up and stare at Leo’s face. An awkward half-smile decorated the turtle’s very human expression. “It took me a while to recognize live wires and how to more safely deal with them.”

“Live wires?” Donnie managed to say past the sudden tangle in his throat.

“Yeah. I had to work on some to get us, Sensei Splinter and me, some electricity. Sensei used to do it, but he was not very good at it. I was not much better, but I found some books and duct tape and managed some very simple rigging. It was not exactly stable all the time, but it worked. It ran the toaster and some other appliances I managed to find, but they would burn out quickly since the electricity fluctuated and had odd unpredictable surges.”

“You wired your old home yourself? Without any real equipment? Using duct tape?”

“Hey, never underestimate the usefulness of duct tape,” said Leo with a smirk. Donnie looked back down at his brother’s hands and then compared them to his own. He had a few electrical burns himself from some more ambitious projects, and he suddenly realized how lucky he was to not have more. He released Leo’s hand.

“Maybe, but I have better things to work with here,” Donnie said with his own smirk. He flicked a switch. “There. The power is now shut off, so no more live wires. Want to see if we can get this put back together in way that will not end with it resembling Michelangelo’s funky spaghetti?”

“You want me to help you?” asked Leo surprised. “Raph said it was not a good idea to come down here because well...you have been known to throw people out of your lab. Except maybe April, but then that is self-explanatory.”

Maybe it had not been Raph’s idea for Leo to come down here?

“I do not like when people interrupt my work by sticking their dirty, sticky hands all over my delicate electronics,” replied Donnie. “I do not know if you have noticed, but neither of our brothers are very good at being careful.”

“That is not entirely true,” said Leo. Donnie stared at him. Leo gave an awkward shrug and smile. “But I see your point.”

“Of course. But I am not opposed to some actual help,” said Donnie. “As our brothers would know if they were actually helpful.”

“Donnie, they do try,” said Leo in a voice reminiscent of their Dad. How could he be the most like their father when he had spent the least time with him? Leo then smirked. “But I understand that they could be more trouble than their worth in the lab. However if you think I could help, then I would be happy to.”

“As would I,” said Donnie. He grabbed his brother’s hand and dragged him over to the table with his blueprints. “So this is what I was thinking…”

“Wait, Donnie,” said Leo, shifting the grip on his hand so he was holding Donnie’s hand more than the other way around. “First dinner.”

“What?” Donnie said confused. “Dinner?”

“Yes dinner, Donnie,” repeated Leo with an eyeroll. “Let’s eat first, and you can then show me how this is supposed to work.”

Leo’s smile reached his eyes and fascinated Donnie. They were still getting used to Leo’s smile. Soft and warm, so like their father’s and yet unlike anything else. For Donnie, it had already become a smile he could not do without. His gaze fell to their joined hands and mentally compared their burns. Don’s borne out of curiosity, and Leo’s from necessity. And yet his brother was willing to risk more to help Donnie. Not that Donnie would let anything of the sort to happen. Just like Leo would not let Donnie starve himself.

“All right,” said Donnie, returning Leo’s smile with his own. “Dinner first.”

The two brothers exited the lab, leaving behind a pile of wires and random circuitry. Later two three-fingered hands would lace wires into circuitry while a pair of five-fingered hands would guide them through the tangle. No new burns would decorate either pair of hands.


 

Premise: In which Irma asked Leonardo out in the worst way ever and now greatly regrets it.

Leo had dropped into the general training room from the vent with a forceful thump. Given how silent he was pretty much all the time, Irma guessed that Donnie’s new duct security system was giving him trouble. Maybe Irma could ask Donnie to show her the plans for it later. Anything that could cause Leo trouble had to be interesting.

Leo’s knees began to bend, and Irma knew that a rare chance was slipping through her fingers. No one else was in the training room. Actually that was the reason Irma had been there in the first place. Donnie had banned her from testing out her Utrom weapons in any room with other people. Not that she would have after last time.

Putting down her Utrom blaster, she leapt out of her hiding spot (best to shoot at things from where they can’t see you).

“Hey, Leo!” cried Irma as she bounced towards the surprised Leo. She inwardly squealed at how cute he looked with that expression. He straightened up awkwardly, obviously trying to hide what he had been doing.

“Hi, Irma,” said Leo with a small wave. “What are you doing here?”

“Training, of course. Unless there’s a better reason to be in the training room,” she answered. She stopped right at the edge of Leo’s personal bubble that she’d learned the hard way to respect (various times). “Like meeting up with my favorite Hamato brother. What you up to?”

“Me?” he neared squeaked, and Irma’s smile grew wider. He was so cute! “I was…checking the newest upgrade in security.”

“You mean you were trying to crawl through the vents to test Donnie’s new security measures?” said Irma. Was that a bit of red coloring those handsome green cheeks? “How’d that go?”

“Pretty good actually,” said Leo recovering his normal cool and collected attitude. Did he know some of the female ninjas blushed when he gave them that half-smile? Not Irma, of course. She was not blushing. Nope. Not her. “He really did a good job with this upgrade. It is practically impassable now.”

“Practically?”

“I saw some distinct patterns that could be the key to getting through the system.”

“You do know that you can simply tell Donnie about the patterns?”

“Why tell him when I can show him?” asked Leo with a full smirk. He was in a playful mood. Good. Irma knew it was now or never. She took a deep breath.

“Go out with me!”

A beat of silence passed between them.

“…What?”

“Go out with me,” said Irma more clearly in case that was the problem. She ignored the rapid hammering in her chest. She gave him her best smile (which came out lopsided and less bright that normal). “Like on a date.”

Blue eyes pierced through her. Blue eyes that she wanted to understand better. But right now she could only get that they were trying to hide shock and confusion. She took another breath.

“I’ve kinda been wanting to ask you for a while, but I mean it’s hard to go up to someone you’re head over heels for and ask them out on a date. But I still had to try. You’re the most amazing guy I’ve ever met. There’s literally no one else like you! When the mutagen shifted your DNA, it gave you all the best features of both turtle and human. Like, you know, in the looks department. Not that you do nothing to look that good. You train remorselessly, and it shows. But it helps that the Utroms knew what they were making when they made that mutagen compound. It gave you all sort of wonderful advantages–”

"Yeah. That's great and everything,” Leo interrupted, and something was wrong. Irma could see it in the way that the brilliant blue eyes had become glass marbles. “You're a craz-nice, I mean nice girl. But I'm not interested in becoming a side project."

“Side project?” Irma repeated confused. Before she could make any sense of the comment, Leo had disappeared inhumanly fast into the vent. The vent then closed with a loud slam, and Leo did not reappear. Figures he would figure out how to get past Donnie’s new security measures to get away from her.

What had she done wrong? She’d only been explaining why she wanted to go out with him. Maybe that had scared him off? Did he not like to be told how absolutely attractive he looked? She knew he was shy but *that* shy? And why had he mentioned being a side project? What had Irma said to make him think tha—

And then her words echoed in hideous clarity.

“—the Utroms knew what they were doing—”

Why had she said that? Everyone knew she was obsessed with the Utroms, but this is one conversation she should have left them out of. It wasn’t Leo’s Utrom origins that had given her the courage to ask the boy out. No. If Leo had been another normal human being, Irma would have still been forced to ask him out.

She would have taken more time to notice him if he wasn’t an awesome ninja turtle, but she would have eventually noticed a sudden tendency to favor a particular shade of blue. She would have found herself more and more curious about how he seemed literally to warp space when he moved quickly enough. She would have nevertheless started to go over the top with her actions around him because his face looked best with expression rather than that serious look he thought he had to wear everywhere. She would have always envied and admired the bond he had with his brothers because she had no one who missed her back home. She would have still realized she had to ask him out when she spent a full hour contemplating how to get her computer blue screen to match his eyes because she wanted to know what went on behind them…

And now she would never know. All because she was a complete and total idiot. In tears, Irma ran out of the room trying to hold back any audible sobs until she was in the relative safety of her room.

An Utrom blaster lay forgotten on the training room floor.


 

Premise: Leo gets asked out on a date in a spectacularly terrible way. And his brothers try to be supportive. Emphasis on “try.”

The sword cleaved the dummy in half, and Raph whistled appreciatively. Someone was in quite the mood today.

“So what happened? Did someone go crawling through your vents again?”

No answer came from Raph’s turtle brother as he preformed another kata to hack another two dummies to literal pieces. Okay. So maybe it was something a little more serious than idiots climbing through the vents to peek on things they shouldn’t.

“I did enhance the security on the vents,” said Donnie entering into the training room. This room was much smaller than the dojo, but it was closer and in their own personal quarters. Donnie and Dad had had it set up when they realized that Leo liked to train a little too much for his own good. Like Donnie and his lab, it was too dangerous to leave Leo alone in the dojo too long. Especially after Dad started to show him some of the more advanced kata. Seriously. He was already leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of them. He didn’t have to train so hard.

But these katas were not Leo’s normal training-and-perfecting kata routines. No, this was an I-know-these-katas-and-I-want-to-use-them-to-beat-the-stuffing-out-of-something kind of workout. Raph could relate. He just didn’t understand the cause.

“No,” Raph said to his older brother, “I don’t think this has to do with the vents.”

“Really?” said Donnie with a lifted eyebrow. He leaned against the wall and watched as their oldest brother sliced through a few more dummies. Raph would bet his best pair of sai that Donnie was already coming up with new ways to make the dummies more of a challenge for their overly-skilled bro. “So what do you think it is?”

“I have no idea. He hasn’t said a word since I walked in on this about half an hour ago.”

“And where was he before here?” asked Donnie as calculations darkened his sharp red eyes. Raph shrugged.

“No idea.”

“Guys! Guys!” yelled an over-eager Mikey from the entrance to their quarters. Great. Exactly what they need right now. Raph’s baby brother sped into the room and barely stopped before entering Leo’s training “zone.” Leo wouldn’t hurt any of them, but enter into his “zone” while he was there and you might as well be asking to be his sparring partner. Leo’d knocked all of them out of his zone various times by now. Never hard enough to even bruise anything and usually playfully. But the stupid, training-crazed turtle could be terrifying when he was in the “zone.” Mikey turned around and grinned at his two not-training brothers. “There you are! Did you hear?”

“Hear what?” asked Donnie like he was actually interested. Mikey covered his mouth and giggled with barely restrained glee, and a chill suddenly struck down Raph’s spine.

“You’ll never believe this! It was so cool and terrible and hilarious!” cried Mikey. “Not to mention unbelievable!”

“You already said that, idiot,” said Raph. He took a sai out of its holder and started to spin it. “If you don’t get to the point soon, I’m gonna throw you in there with Leo.”

Mikey turned around and finally seemed to notice the vicious dummy dissection happening behind him. Sky blue eyes opened into wide circles, and Mikey’s usually open mouth decided to open wider than normal.

“Woah. I’d heard it was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad.”

“Wait. Does that mean you know why Leo’s creating extra work for me by taking apart all of the dummies I have ever made him?” asked Donnie. He pushed off the wall and leaned towards Mikey, now truly interested. “They were supposed to last for the entire year. You hear that, Leo?! The whole year!”

“Well I mean, I don’t blame him,” said Mikey glancing back at Donnie. “I heard Irma hasn’t dragged herself out of her bed in hours. April couldn’t even tempt her out with new plans for the Utrom tank.”

“Irma? What’s she got to do with anything?” asked Raph, trying to balance his sai on his fingers.

“She asked Le—” Mikey’s words were suddenly muffled by a three-fingered hand on Mikey’s ridiculously open mouth. Raph let his sai fall far enough to catch it and stick it in his belt’s holder.

“Mikey, would you like to see some new grappling techniques I’ve been working on?” asked Leo. Wisely (which was very unlike Mikey) their baby bro shook his head quickly. “Understandable, but if you change your mind go ahead and let me know by saying anything. Anything at all. Got it?”

Mikey nodded, and Leo released him.

“IRMAASKEDLEOOUTLIKEONADATEOUT!” Mikey burst out in one breath before yelping as he instantly became a very uncomfortable twist of limbs under Leo’s foot. “…ow…”

“Irma asked you out?” asked Donnie with complete astonishment. Raph absently noticed that it was a good look on his genius brother, and he would have appreciated it more if the same look wasn’t plastered on his face too.

“I refuse to answer that,” said Leo somehow twisting Mikey’s limbs into a different but equally awkward screw. Mikey gave a tiny pained cry. Raph determined to honor his baby bro’s sacrifice.

“And what? You scared of strong women?” asked Raph.

“What?! That is not it. I have no problem with strong women,” said Leo. He looked away and mumbled, “If they’re not completely crazy…”

“Look, Leo, I know she comes off strong, but she is a sound technician and a loyal friend. If you are not attracted to her, that is fine. But that is no reason to completely destroy and cause various weeks of work,” said Donnie, crossing his arms.

“It..as..ow..ee…as..t,” Mikey wheezed out.

“What was that?” asked Raph with a grin at the knot that was Mikey. The knot tried to repeat, but only wheezing came out. With an eyeroll, Leo kicked the knot out of his “zone” and to the wall where it rolled to a stop and popped back into a bleached blond with fewer brain cells than normal.

“I SAID,” Mikey wheezed out between deep breaths. “It was how she asked. At least that’s what Casey said.”

“How she asked?” asked Donnie. Raph crossed his arms this time. He was starting to share Donnie’s annoyance with this conversation.

“She said she was interested in me because I was the product of Utrom technology,” answered Leo. He picked up his swords which he had dropped to grapple Mikey. With a quick slash, he hacked at one of the many already sliced dummies. “She said she thought it was the coolest thing ever…”

“Um…that doesn’t sound so bad. So she liked you because you are a mutant turtle,” said Mikey with a shrug. “There are worse reasons.”

“Would you like it if someone said they liked you because you were Japanese and had blue eyes?” asked Leo as he kicked a dummy piece into the air and sliced it.

“Uuuuh…maybe?”

“The point is, Mikey, she said she only cares about what Leo is, not who he is,” said Donnie. “If that is all she thinks of Leo, then maybe I should consider lowering her clearance. Or maybe just go straight to firing her.”

“But bro, that doesn’t sound like Irma,” said Mikey. “I mean, I know she’s obsessed with all things Utrom, but she doesn't seem like she’d date someone because he’s sorta kinda related to Utrom stuff.”

“People can surprise you, Mikey,” said Raph. “And not only in good ways.”

“I know that. But Irma’s upset too.”

“So? She’s probably just upset Leo rejected her, and now she can’t go out with the closest thing she’ll get to an Utrom.”

“I don’t think it’s that, bro. April—”

“April isn’t always right. She obviously just feels sorry for her roommate and wants to side with Irma because they’re both girls or something.”

“Excuse me?” said Donnie in dark tone. “What did you say?”

“I said—”

“I wouldn’t repeat that if I were you,” said an all-too-familiar female voice.

“April! How’d you get in here?” asked Mikey. Raph noticed Donnie tense slightly.

“You left the door open, Mike,” April answered, and Donnie relaxed. Yeah, that wasn’t suspicious at all. April’s piercing eyes stuck Raph’s next words in his throat. “Just for the record, Raph, I did not ‘take Irma’s side because we’re both girls.’ In fact, I haven’t taken anyone’s side.”

“April, I don’t want to talk about it,” said Leo as he reduced a dummy into its most basic parts. One had to admire Raph’s oldest bro’s ability to dismember things.

“Great, because all I want you to do is listen. Irma didn’t mean what she said.”

“She was not lying.” And there is another pile of perfectly dismembered dummy parts. On the bright side, Donnie would have plenty of material to make his new dummy prototypes.

“No, she wasn’t. But she hadn’t finished when you cut her off. And now she’s convinced you’ll never give her a chance to finish.”

“I don’t see why he should,” said Raph.

“Another word out of you, Raph, and I am telling Casey you cheat during card night.”

How’d she know about that? Donnie shot him a smug look, and Raph glared at him.

“Come on, Leo. Give her one more chance to explain herself. I promise it’s not what you think,” said April.

“Yeah, listen to her, bro,” said Mikey. “You might be missing an opportunity to find your one true love!”

“You do realize that whole concept of an one true love is flawed?” said Donnie.

“Is it?” asked April with a scary smile. Now Raph shot a smug smile at Donnie who was paler than usual.

“I mean the way it is portrayed in storybooks and the kind of things that Mikey reads and watches,” Donnie quickly defended. “We know that true love is more complicated and, and…um…beautiful and amazing than those stories say. That’s what I meant. Really.”

“Nice recovery, idiot,” whispered Raph loud enough to gain another dark look from his genius brother.

“Look. Even if I did, it would not work out,” said Leo, his swords still and his back to them. “For obvious reasons.”

“Nope. You don’t get to just decide that, bro,” said Mikey. He went over to Leo with barely a glance at the unofficial line that separated Leo’s “zone” from the rest of the room. He put a hand on Leo’s shell. “Give her another chance, Leo. If it is what you think, then we go with Donnie’s plan.”

Leo looked down at Mikey and then back at them

“Do whatever you want,” said Raph, giving his backhanded approval. “Just don’t count on me to chaperone.”

“I will prepare for Plan B,” said Donnie. “But if Irma is the same person we have learned to trust over the years, we will not need it.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” said Leo quietly, almost too quietly. Good thing they had a lot of practice with listening to their absurdly quiet brother.

“Hey, I don’t think you fully know what you’re getting into,” said Raph as he stepped towards his brother and slung an arm around him. “She’s more than a bit on the crazy side.”

“She kinda has to be to hang out with us,” said Mikey as he threw his arms behind his head. “I think the least crazy thing she’s done is ask Leo out.”

“Leo does have a lot of good qualities that would make him an ideal boyfriend,” said Don as he moved closer to their makeshift circle. “So at least she has good taste.”

Leo rolled his eyes and grinned.

“Fine. One more try.”

“Yay! I can’t wait to come up with your couple name! Lerma? Ireo? Oh, I know. Leo X Irma!” cried Mikey. He put a hand to his chin. “Wait. That might be too old school.”

“I’m glad that’s all settled,” said April heading out of the room. “I’ll go tell Irma she’s got one chance and not to blow it. Oh, and Donnie?”

“Yes, April,” said Donnie with dull, enamored eyes.

“You’ll tell me what Plan B was later, right?”

“Um…yeah, sure. I’ll definitely do that,” said Donnie entirely too quickly and slightly squeaky. April gave him a wave and all-too-innocent smile as she left.

“Great,” said Mikey. “Now I don’t know who to worry about more, Donnie or Leo.”

“Donnie,” said Leo with a small smile. “Definitely Donnie.”


 

Premise: Irma gets a second chance.

Irma sat at the cafeteria table and tried not to drum her fingers on the wood surface. The Hamato brothers had cleared out the elite cafeteria so that Leo and Irma could hold their conversation in a neutral place (and so that Don could rework the cameras so the other three brothers could spy on the conversation). Irma’s stomach lurched as it threatened to evacuate all its contents onto the fairly clean table.

One chance, April had said. One more chance to get this right. Not to go out with Leo. Forget that. One chance to make sure he does not think she only seems him as some sort of project, experiment. One chance to fix this before it festers and results in her leaving the place she had grown to think of as home. One chance to continue being his friend.

Irma wove her fingers together, then stretched out her arms, then dropped her head into them. Her glasses tangled into her hair. What was she going to say?

“Um…hi?”

Irma’s head popped up, and her wide eyes took in the blurry form of Leonardo Hamato standing across the table in front of her. Of course she had not heard him. He was a ninja! And an awesome one at that. She should have kept her wits about her if she had wanted to know when he came in. Quickly she untangled her glasses and perched them on her nose.

“Hey,” she answered softly. She blew her hair out of her face and grabbed her elbows with her hands. She glanced at his face before focusing on his plastron. It was interesting and grooved and could not as easily display disgust or dismay. No sense beating around the bush. “So April told you what I meant to say came out all wrong?”

“Yeah. She did,” answered Leonardo Hamato (why oh why did her heart have to fall for such an unreachable person?). He sat in a seat on the other side of the table, and Irma caught sight of his rueful expression before focusing once again on his plastron. Nice, strong. Fairly flexible given what it was made out of—Great. Now she really was thinking of him like he was some sort of scientific curiosity. Maybe she didn’t deserve this chance… “Was she right?”

Irma’s gaze flickered to Leo’s face in surprise. His beautiful blue eyes, usually bright and intense, had a dark, muddy film changing their color from fathomless dark blue to a lighter greyer shade. She did that. Quickly she covered her eyes in an effort to settle her stomach.

“Would saying ‘sorry I’m a complete idiot who is way too obsessed with Utroms and totally undeserving of you ever talking to me again’ make a difference?” she asked.

“Depends,” his voice sounded expressionless and flat. “Do you really think of me that way?”

“Am I completely head over heels in love with you?” Irma answered focusing on a particular groove on his plastron. She then closed her eyes before lifting them. In one quick movement, she opened them and stared into Leo’s stupidly handsome face, refusing to register the expression on it. “I’m not going to lie. Yeah, yeah I do.”

She kept her head up and was rewarded by a outstretching of shock on her favorite Hamato’s brother’s face. Pink stained the green, and Irma’s stomach suddenly ceased all movement. Maybe…?

“Oh,” Leo said quietly. He rubbed the back of his neck and gave an unbalanced smile. “Um…I don’t know how to say this but….I don’t…” He took a deep breath and let it out. “I don’t feel that way about you.”

Doing its best impression of a pretzel, Irma’s stomach reshaped with her. It wasn’t like she didn’t see it coming. Despite their game of see-if-you-can-touch-the-turtle, there wasn’t much going on between them. She had been attracted to him from day one, but he still barely tolerated her touch the one time she managed to get hand on him. She had been a fool to think anything other than friendship was possible.

“That’s fine,” Irma replied in an almost steady voice. Because she was not lying. It was fine. She knew she had no chance going into this conversation. “But I wanted to make sure that was out there. Didn’t want to regret not saying anything. Not that I don’t regret how it all came out. For the record, I would think you are amazing whether or not you were a giant mutant turtle made from Utrom ooze or not. You are an amazing ninja, an awesome big brother, and you stole an Utrom tank for me. How was I not going to fall for you?”

“I stole that tank for our clan and to rescue my brothers,” Leo pointed out. His blush returned. Irma’s traitorous heart threatened arrhythmia, but Irma ignored it.

“You let me keep it,” Irma retorted. “Same thing to me.”

“The clan kept it,” said Leo, his blush fading slightly in challenge. “You do not get to keep it if you decide to leave the clan.”

“Do I have to leave the clan?” Irma half-joked back. Please say no.

“I do not see why you falling for one of the clan head’s family should force you out of the clan. If it did, then I doubt April would still be here.”

“No offense, but if anything it was the other way around there,” said Irma. A sharp gleam in Leo’s eyes had Irma lean forward a little and whisper conspiratorially. “All of those close to either of them could see that Donnie had a crush on April from day one. Seriously he was one part adorable, one part awkward, and several part hilarious to watch. You got to ask Mikey for details. He tells it the best.”

“I think I will,” said Leo with a mischievous grin. Irma attempted to grin back. This was fine. He would let her stay in the clan, and it even looked like he would let her be friendly with him. This was better than fine. It was more than she could have hoped for. Her stupid heart could sink all it liked. Her head knew better.

“Well better get back to work then. I’m kinda behind,” she said standing from the table. She kept her eyes away from his. “I think Donnie will steal back that blaster if I don’t get it to work soon. And there is no way I letting him take one of the rare examples of Utrom tentacle-held weaponry. But I’m really glad April and the others organized this talk. Now everything can go back to normal.”

“Normal?” asked Leo. She glanced back at him halfway out of her seat. He stared at her with wide-open blue eyes. “But I thought you wanted me to go on a date with you.”

“Yeah, but you just said you weren’t interested,” replied Irma trying not to snap the words at him. She mostly succeeded.

“I never said I was not interested,” muttered Leo, blushing and tilting those potent eyes downwards. His own thick fingers drew a line on the table. “I only said I did not feel the same way. I was also going to say that I do not know much about dates or dating in general, so maybe we could try something else?”

“Like what?” Irma asked in a slight daze. Is he seriously implying what she thought he was implying? He peeked back up at her, and breathing ceased to be an option for a moment.

“To be honest we have not spent much time together outside of missions or in large groups with my brothers, so maybe we can hang out just the two of us,” said Leo as his gaze slipped down again. In other news, Irma could breath again. “I would like to get to know you better before I made any serious commitments.”

“You do know that most people do not consider going on a date as making a commitment, right?” Irma said. Why did her cheeks hurt? “Also do you know what a date is?”

“Hand-holding, cuddling, possible kissing,” Leo recited evenly. His blush remained. “I’m not…” He cleared his throat to stop the squeak. “I’m not ready for any of that. As for the whole commitment thing, you do know who I am?”

Only the guy who spent about three weeks around your brothers before speaking to them because he wasn’t sure about them, and of course he wasn’t going to disappear on them after revealing himself. Apparently he had reverse commitment issues, if that was even a thing.

“Maybe I need to get to know you better too,” Irma teased. Her whole body wanted to soar off the ground. She plunked back down into her seat. “All right, so what are we going to do to hang out? I assume we’re not going to ‘hang out’ now since I really do need to get back to work.” Also she would like to have some time to prepare for this “hanging out.”

“No, not now. But I do not think asking me what we should do is a great idea,” said Leo. His blue eyes met her briefly. “The only people I have hung out with are my brothers, and I am not sure you are up to what we do.”

“Try me,” she challenged. Irma was no tomboy, but she would not shy away from physical escapades either. Leo smirked.

“Are you sure?” he verified.

“Can an Utrom change DNA on a molecular level?” she said. At his blank look, she clarified. “They can. You’re a prime example of it.”

As the implications of her words sunk in, Irma nearly hit her head on the table at her own stupidity. However Leo’s smirk deepened.

“How about a training run? Tomorrow morning. Just the two of us,” he said slowly. He leaned back and crossed his arms, so sure he had proven his point. That she would say no. That she would suggest something else. He did say he wanted to get to know her better. No time like the present.

“Sound like a plan. What time?” Irma asked with her own smirk.

The bewildered expression on his face would likely be worth whatever pain this training run would inflict. She hoped.

A note: Leo went easy on her, but she still ended up collapsing and nearly retching halfway through it. However the experience woke up the teacher in Leo, and he is now determined to up her endurance. Irma’s fairly okay with that, except when he tries to drag her away from analyzing (playing with) Utrom technology to do so.


 

Premise: Leo and Irma hang out and do not date, and Leo slowly becomes not okay with that. Or alternatively, Leo’s love life through the eyes of his bros. (Mikey edition).

Mikey reached into the popcorn and bumped against Leo’s hand. He wouldn’t have noticed, except this was about the third time during their monthly Space Heroes marathon that Leo’s hand had collided with Mikey’s. It might happened once, but never twice let alone three times. Mikey’s oldest brother was too careful for that.

“Um..are you okay?” asked Mikey. Leo’s gaze had been fixed on the TV, but his blue eyes turned towards Mikey at his question.

“I’m fine,” said Leo. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you aren’t,” said Mikey. He caught Leo’s hand as it went into the popcorn. “You keep bumping into me with this, dude.” He waved Leo’s own hand at the stupefied turtle. “And that’s not like you.”

Leo looked at their hands staring at them with unmasked confusion. He slipped his out of Mikey’s grip, and Mikey let it go. He sat up straighter as he waited for his brother to get past the whole I-don’t-need-to-talk-about-my-feelings thing. Given Leo’s eyes looking around back and forth at nothing, that struggle might take a while. Mikey paused the episode they were watching. Leo didn’t have to be frustrated about missing the episode too.

Finally Leo breathed out loudly, loud enough that Mikey could almost hear the sound.

“…do my scales feel weird?”

“What? Why would you think that?” asked Mikey. He almost grabbed his brother’s hand again, but he decided to throw himself onto his oldest’s brother’s shell instead. “Your scales feel awesome. They’re like warm sequins!”

“Sequins? I don’t sparkle, Mikey,” said Leo, his tone already fond and much less small.

“But you could,” said Mikey. He placed his head on one shoulder of his big brother’s shell. How a hard shell could be one of the most comfortable places to rest, Mikey didn’t know. But he would definitely take advantage of the comfort. “Just let me polish them until those scales of yours shine.” The shell shook slightly as Leo chuckled and then shook his head. Bummer. “So what’s got my big bro worried about how his warm sequins feel?”

“Please do not call them that around other people. Please,” Leo repeated, his green tingeing pink. He looked back at the paused TV. “I was just wondering.”

“You coulda just asked, bro,” said Mikey, marveling at how his brother didn’t slouch under his weight. Leo really could carry the world on his back. But that didn’t mean he had to. “And you could just tell me what made you bump my hand three times while I was getting popcorn.” Popcorn…that was importa—“Wait. Wasn’t your ‘hang out’ with Irma this week a movie marathon?”

Leo slumped slightly under Mikey’s weight, and Mikey slid off a bit. Scratching his cheek and still focused on the TV, Leo mumbled, “Yes, but that doesn’t have anything to do with this…”

“You’re a terrible liar,” said Mikey getting off Leo’s shell entirely to force Leo to look at him. When his oldest brother kept avoiding his eyes, Mikey grabbed Leo’s cheeks and turned the stubborn ninja towards him. “What happened.”

“Nothing,” Leo answered quickly. He fidgeted and tried to release his face from Mikey’s grip, but Mikey quickly turned on his puppy eyes. “Really. We were watching the new remakes of the Space Heroes films, you know the ones with Wiz Oak and Zack Quarterly. We started to argue about it because she thought Wiz Oak did a better Captain Ryan than Kevin Laird. It might have devolved into a popcorn fight, and then when we went to clean up, my hand might have brushed against hers and she might have yanked hers away extremely fast, like if my touch hurt her or was gross or something like that maybe and well, it just made me wonder…”

Leo’s voice had gotten super quiet at the end, but all that practice listening to his older brother let Mikey catch all Leo said. He let his brother’s face go and then stared at Leo. Leo fidgeted and brought his fingers up and tangled them into each other.

“So you wanted to check and see if your hands bothered other people?” asked Mikey. Leo did not nod, but Mikey knew by the red cheeks that the answer was yes. “Aw!” He threw his arms around his big brother. He then pushed his brother gently to arm length. “Dude, I doubt she pulled back her hand away from yours because she thought you were gross. Honestly this is the girl who said she was head over heels in love with you.”

Deep blue eyes glared into his, and Mikey let his brother go to scratch the back of his head sheepishly. Right. Donnie and Raph had said not to mention that they had been eavesdropping on that conversation. It’s not like Leo didn’t know they were listening, but yeah, not a good idea to bring that up.

“Really,” said Mikey quickly. “I bet she was blushing worse that you are now.”

“I am not blushing,” said Leo even as the redness returned to his cheeks.

“Did you even look at her to see how she reacted other than pulling away her hand?” asked Mikey. The red faded from Leo’s cheeks as those deep blue eyes narrowed in thought. They blinked and widened again.

“No, I didn’t,” he said softly.

“I bet she was totally blushing,” said Mikey. “I mean this is the girl who loves to play try-to-touch-the-ninja-turtle.”

Leo shifted, and his straightening shoulders curved down again as if they were frowning along with his mouth. He sunk into the couch slightly. Mikey blinked in confusion at the shift. Why would—?

“She doesn’t play that anymore,” said Leo sulkily. Hm. Mikey thought back and suddenly realized he hadn’t seen Irma lunge at Leo since before the whole asking-Leo-on-a-date fiasco.

“Did you ask her why?” asked Mikey.

“Why would I ask her?” said Leo fiddling with a loose thread on the couch. Mikey better tell Donnie before the whole couch fell apart. “I did not start the game in the first place.”

“Seriously,” said Mikey frustrated. Where was his awesome problem-solving big brother? “If you’re going to sulk, you should at least ask her what’s up before. I mean maybe she isn’t playing it because she’s still scared of pushing you away.”

“She didn’t mind before,” Leo muttered.

“She hadn’t nearly forfeited her friendship with you before either!” Mikey nearly yelled. Leo perked up at the words enough for Mikey’s rarely roused temper to cool. “Come one, bro. You know Irma better than that. If she stopped playing, then she had a reason. Just talk to her bro.”

“Okay, I will,” said Leo.

Reaching for the remote, Mikey pressed play and the episode of Space Heroes resumed. Giving his brother one last look to see Leo settling more comfortably to watch the show, Mikey stared at the screen as he made a very important decision. When Irma restarted her game of try-to-touch-the-ninja-turtle, Mikey would be on her team.

-break-

A wide green finger pushed the lever forward as other pressed the buttons in a very particular order. One last button push, and then the words “YOU WIN” flash across the screen. A grin underlined sparkling blue eyes, and brown eyes shone satisfied across the couch from the blue.

Taking a deep breath, Leo lifted up a hand. Irma’s brown eyes widened, but then the girl put up her own hand and reached over to slap his with hers. He instantly pulled his hand away.

“Too slow,” he said with a cheeky grin. “Also did you forget the ‘Minimal Touching’ clause? Because I don’t remember repealing it.”

Her brown eyes were wide enough for Leo to see his own reflection, and then they narrowed and glinted dangerously in a look Leo had seen before. The challenge had been reaccepted.


 

Premise: Leonardo ends up unconscious and in recovery after an encounter with the EPF. His brothers have come to the conclusion that he has the survival instincts of a Lemming, and they are going to have to do something about that.

“Is he going to be okay?”

Donnie sighed as he turned away from double (triple) checking his big brother’s vitals and towards his baby brother.

“Yes,” he said in a sigh. It soon turned into a growl. “Barely. Again.”

“Fearless over there apparently has a death wish,” said Raph. He was nearest the doorway. His green eyes burned in the direction of their idiotic turtle brother. He smashed a fist into an open palm. “And at this point, I’m wondering if maybe I should just help him out with that.”

“Raph! Don’t say things like that!” cried Mikey as quietly as Mikey could. Still loud, but somewhere in lower decibels of his range. But something Raph said turned wheels in Donnie’s head.

“Actually Raph might have point,” said Donnie.

“Not you too!” said Mikey. “Come on, Donnie!”

“No, listen to me, Mikey. We do need to help Leo,” Donnie explained. “If we continue to do nothing, he is going to keep doing this. So we are going to stage an intervention.”

“A what?” asked Mikey.

“You seriously want to corner a highly skilled ninja who has some kinda aversion to being the center of attention and force him to listen to people talk about him? You sure that’s a good idea, braniac?” said Raph.

“I don’t see you coming up with a better one,” said Donnie.

“Wait. So is an intervention us getting a lot of people to tell Leo how much they love him and how sad they would be if he got himself killed?” said Mikey.

“That’s not exactly—” Donnie started to explain.

“Close enough,” Raph said cutting Donnie off.

“That’s a great idea!” said Mikey as stars sparkled in his eyes. “I’ll go tell everyone!”

With all the ninja speed he possessed, Donnie caught the collar of Mikey’s sweater to keep him from running off.

“First,” Donnie said, “we should wait until Leo wakes up before making any concrete plans. Second, we need to keep the group relatively small, but we can get statements from others to read at the intervention. Third, we should probably tell Dad first.”

“Tell me what?” said a voice from behind Raph. All three boys jumped, and there their father sat in his wheelchair in the hallway behind Raph. How can their father still sneak up on them with that thing?

“Oh, Dad, you’re gonna love this,” said Mikey quickly recovering.

“I am listening,” said their father. All three boys wore identical grins.


 

Premise: Leo’s brothers stage an intervention.

It had been about a week since Leo woke up sporting new injuries courtesy of the EPF. His brothers had come out with barely a scratch, so any new scars would be worth it. Besides he had almost completely recovered.

Donnie kept insisting that he needed to take it slower, but Leo knew that he could not waste time getting back into shape. No one knew when the EPF would attack walking for too long did still tire him. And he could not do more than three or four katas without taking a fifteen to twenty minute break. But he was fine.

Right now though, he was following Hamato Yoshi to the meditation garden to do exactly what the title dictated. He had learned to enjoy meditating with Hamato Yoshi in the last few months. It was not the same as meditating with Splinter, but…but it was not bad. He turned his attention away from the yawning chasm left by his father’s death and continued behind Hamato Yoshi’s wheelchair.

As they entered the meditation garden, he instantly felt uneasy. He scanned the area for enemies or traps even as Hamato Yoshi rolled his wheelchair further into the garden area.

“Are you feeling all right, Leonardo?”

“I am fine, but…Do you not feel that, Yoshi-sensei?”

“Sometimes your sensitivity to your surroundings astounds me,” said Hamato Yoshi with a knowing smile. “My brother trained you well.”

“What is going on?” asked Leo suspiciously.

“An intervention!” came the cry of Leo’s baby brother. The bleached blond leapt out from behind the door and instantly closed it. Leo became torn between bolting and finding the quickest way out of this enclosed (if still spacious) room and indulging Mikey’s latest whim. He decided on a compromise and grabbed Mikey in a headlock.

“Going to tell me what is going on, or do you want me to remind you of what certain pressure points do when pressed?”

“I already told you, bro. An intervention,” said Mikey smiling up at Leo from his position in the loose headlock. Leo blinked having expected some resistance. “You’re going to love it!”

“An…intervention?” Leo repeated. He had heard the word, but he was not sure what it meant in this kind of situation. To intervene meant to get in the way of someone’s plans or to force yourself into those plans. Was Mikey coming to meditate with Leo and Hamato Yoshi? To interrupt their daily session? Why would he have to close the door for that?

“Come this way, Leonardo, and all will become clear,” said Hamato Yoshi. He rolled his wheelchair deeper into the garden. Releasing Mikey, Leonardo followed. Mikey bounced along behind them.

Soon enough they were in the middle of the meditation garden, near the pond that Leo had grown quite fond of. There next to the pond lay a blanket and on it sat what looked to be a picnic of all of Leo’s favorite foods. Even some authentic taiyaki sat in a basket. And around the blanket sat all the rest of Leo’s favorite people: his remaining brothers, Casey Jones, April, and Irma.

“Now that the guest of honor is here, I welcome to the intervention of Leonardo Hamato,” said Donnie from his position on the edge of the blanket.

“Come on. This way, bro,” said Mikey as he bounced, grabbed his brother’s hand, and dragged Leo to the conveniently empty spot between Leo’s other two brothers. After they sat down, Mikey raised his hand eagerly. “Can I start? Can I start? Oh please, let me go first!”

“Mikey, we agreed to go in a certain order. First the letters from the clan, then Casey, Irma, and April. And finally us and Dad. You have to wait,” said Donnie.

“Aw man,” Mikey sulked. He crossed his arms and grabbed his hands, and tucked his feet together. His whole body vibrated with reigned-in excitement. Leo’s bad feeling grew.

“What is going on?” asked Leo, very, very uneasy.

“Torture you so that you understand never make us go through the last few days again,” answered Raph.

“What happened to you in last few days that was so terrible?” asked Leo, genuinely confused. A sigh mixed with a growl escaped Raph’s lips, and he looked away from Leo. Leo turned his gaze on Donnie who was rubbing the spot on the bridge of his nose and then at Mikey whose vibrating had stopped in order for him to glare at Leo. It was not a good glare, not the least bit threatening, but Leo’s stomach tightened and pulled down at the sight.

“I think we should just start,” said Donatello tiredly. “April, you have the letters?”

“Yeah, there here,” she answered holding up a brown burlap sack. She stuck her hand and half her head into it, rifling what appeared to be variously sized envelopes. “Where is it? I thought I put it near the top…Ah, there it is.” She pulled out a regular-sized mail envelope and placed the burlap sack back beside her. She flipped the already unsealed envelope open. Clearing her throat, she began to read with a determined look.

“To Leonardo Hamato: you are one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I will never forget being stuck behind that crumbling barricade thinking that it was my mother’s birthday and that instead of the surprise I had planned for her she would receive news of her son’s death. But then your voice came through the vents and changed everything. I was able to surprise my mother, though it was two days after her birthday. But in this case late is infinity better than never.

“Just so you know, I had never seen a plan so effectively change the course of battle before, though having followed you and your brothers into battle since, I have seen several more. I know I speak for most of us Hamato ninja when I say we have felt safer in the months since you came into our clan. We would not only greatly mourn your passing, but we would lose a sense of safety that has lingered over us since your arrival. Please do take yourself into account when you make your ingenious plans. Sincerely, Peter Eastman.”

Shifting uncomfortably, Leo stared from the letter in April’s hand to the bag at her feet.

“Are they—” his voice came out squeaky, so he cleared his throat and started again. He could feel the little heat he naturally produced head towards his cheeks. “Are they all like that?”

“Yep. And you are going to sit there and listen while we read every one of them,” said April with a hard stare. Leo broke eye contact with the redhead to send a silent plea to his brothers. Only unyielding stares met his gaze (though Mikey’s was more amused than firm).

“I do not think that is necessary,” said Leo as firmly as he could.

“Unfortunately for you, you do not get to decide what is necessary today,” said Donnie. “And I believe about 97% of the clan’s ninja and 83% of the civilian personnel answered Mikey’s request to supply a letter to you for this intervention.”

“I told you we were gonna torture you,” said Raph with a smirk.

“Just relax and enjoy it, bro,” said Mikey throwing himself over Leo’s lap. Leo could swear that Mikey could read his mind and knew he had been planning to make a break for it. “Feel the love wash over you!”

“I get to read the next one!” cried Irma as she dove towards the bag.

“Why do you get to read the next one?” Casey whined from his splayed position. He had already given up on the cross-legged position he had been in before.

“Because I said so first,” said Irma, sticking her tongue out at Casey. She pulled out a large envelope. “Oooh, this one looks good.”

Bracing himself, Leo sat back and listened as Irma read a rather long letter from a man with two children who had chosen to draw Leo pictures to show their gratitude for keeping their father safe. On and on went the letters. Each of the people present took a turn reading, and outside of one strange letter from the boy who had pretended to be Leo offering to do so again if Leo ever needed a break, they all said the similar things: gratitude for saving the person, hope that Leo would continue to help lead the Hamato clan, despair at the thought of losing such a valuable and effective leader.

Finally Mikey finished the final letter, “‘So please do not get yourself killed in any way. It would be a terrible shame to miss out on the sight of your demonstrations during training. Love, Shirley. PS My number is 555-432-5565.’ Alright, that’s the last one.”

He began to place it down on the pile of opened letters near Leo’s feet. It barely made it onto the pile before Irma snatched it up.

“And that one goes in this pile,” said Irma as she placed it in a sizeable pile next to her. Aside from exchanging amused glances, no one stopped her. All those letters had been from some female ninja or another who had decided to include their phone number, email address, and on at least three occasions their instagram account. The strange boy’s letter had also ended up in that pile, along with a few others with oddly worded offers tacked on the end.

Having been drained by the influx of the normal letters, Leo had seen no problem with Irma dealing with those. He had no idea what he would write in answer to such weird requests. Also he now dreaded the next time it was his turn to run the clan ninja’s through their exercises. He had not known that so many of them had taken such an…interest in his demonstrations.

“So what do you think, Leo. Do you get what an intervention is now?” asked Mikey nearly wiggling in excitement from his place strewn next to Leo. The head on Leo’s thigh angled baby blue eyes into an optimum position to see every sparkling thought flying through Mikey’s mind.

Leo looked down at the pile of letters splayed in front of him. Several crayon drawings peeked out behind written words, and dozens of pictures of people and their families dotted the white pile of gratitude and well-wishes. People and families that he was attributed with saving.

“I think I do,” said Leo with a half-smile, both glad that the so-called intervention was over and grave at its implications. He picked up a photo closest to him. A man stood next to his little sister, and both grinned out of the picture and straight up at Leo.

Mikey shifted further into his lap while Donnie leaned heavier onto his left shoulder. Raph readjusted his position and had more of his back lean onto Leo’s right side. A bit beyond Raph, Hamato Yoshi sat in his wheelchair smiling softly in their direction. Irma gave him a big grin from her position across from him, and April scooted closer to Donnie to take his free hand. An audible snort came up from Casey who did not bother to get up from his prone position half on the grass and half on the now fairly empty picnic blanket.

Reverently, Leo placed the picture of the brother and sister back into the pile of papers. He spread the letters out further so he could see more of the pictures and drawings of families. His heart grew heavy, but only because it was so full.

“So our intervention worked then?” asked Mikey brightly.

“Yeah. It worked,” said Leo softly, eyes still on the countless words and the people behind them. “I thought I understood what it took to be a Hamato, to be part of this clan. But I see now that I only thought I got it.”

“But you get it now, right?” said Donnie in a teasing tone.

“Yes,” said Leo. His three fingers spread over the pages, trying to touch as many as he could. “These are our people. And we need to do whatever we can to protect them.”

A shift in the atmosphere caused Leo to look up. Seven pairs of wide, unbelieving eyes stared at him. Leo blinked. Had he missed something?


 

Premise: Leo learns exactly what an intervention is.

“Alright, that’s it. I’m done,” said Raph as he stood up from where he had been leaning on his idiotic big brother. He had always thought that Mikey was the dumb brother. Donnie had plenty of dumb moments for a supposed genius, but none that matched Mikey’s. But no, the brother Raph had least likely thought would be the idiot of the group (even when he was playing at being a normal turtle) apparently had decided to be the dumbest of them all. He walked away and muttered, “I knew this was a dumb idea.”

“Come back, Raph,” cried Mikey from where he still lay sprawled on Leo’s lap. Baby blue eyes hovered between desperation and despair. Raph didn’t move closer to the door, but he didn’t return to his spot next to Leo. If he did, he might give into the urge to pound his oldest brother’s head into the ground various times to see if that would get through into stupidly thick head of his.

“…I am guessing I misunderstood what an intervention is supposed to be?” asked Leo in a quiet voice. His eyes darkened into stormy seas from the bright starlit oceans they had been moments ago. Raph crossed his arms. He refused to wrap them around his stupid brother. His fists still itched to punch him.

“Yeah, you totally missed the point, bro,” said Mikey so quiet and flat that Raph had not been sure it was Mikey talking. “You were supposed to see how many people care about you and don’t want you to die.”

“Die?” asked Leo. His stormy sea eyes filled with dark forming clouds. Or you know some strange metaphor like that. He looked around at everyone in the garden as if searching for something. When the cloudy confused eyes landed on Raph, he made sure to harden his own gaze into a glare. His brother did not return the glare as he finished his search by staring at their father. “Why would they be worried about that?”

Raph’s blood boiled. “Why do you think, numbskull?!” he yelled, turning his idiotic brother’s attention on him (along with everyone else’s). “They literally spelled it out for you! Did you miss all the letters we read?!”

“I heard them, Raph,” said Leo, his darkened eyes narrowing onto Raph. Raph could deal with that. “I understand why they prefer I stay alive. What I do not understand is why they would think I am in danger of dying.”

“Maybe because you were unconscious for three days after the last battle with the Krang,” said Donnie with enough sarcasm to make Raph proud. Donnie had pulled away from Leo to stare at him and was also full on glaring at their turtle brother now. “Maybe because after helping us fight back the Purple Dragons from our area, you fought off that new big blond leader and could not move for two days afterwards. Maybe because when that podiatric-based ninja organization from another dimension broke into our compound, you chose to act as decoy and ended up with a broken arm and leg that you decided to walk off after two weeks of recovery time. Maybe because after this encounter with the EPF, you were unconscious for five days during which I had to restart your heart twice.”

“But—” Leo started before he was interrupted by Mikey.

“Why don’t you get it, Leo? They don’t want to lose you.” Mikey snuggled into Leo’s chest. He then whispered so quietly Raph almost missed what he said. “We don’t want to lose you.”

“I don’t want to lose any of you either,” said Leo, bending down to nuzzle the top of Mikey’s head. Raph tightened the grips on his elbows. “But I don’t know why you were so worried. I knew I would wake up.”

“Hate to break it to you, Fearless,” Raph bit out, “but amazing turtle healing powers of not, you’re not invincible.”

“I know I am not invincible,” said Leo calmly. “That is not why I knew that I would wake up.”

“Oh, so I guess you had some sort of spiritual vision when you were meditating that let you know exactly when you are going to die, so as long as you don’t die that way, you’ll be fine, is it?” demanded Raph, jaw tight and teeth clicking between words. “That’s a load of bull, and you know it.”

“Raphael, language,” said their father, but Raph ignored him. It wasn’t even a bad word. And if it was, it didn’t matter in this situation. His gaze remained solely focused on Leo.

“No,” Leo answered with his own bite to the word. “I knew I would be fine because you guys would not let me die.”

…What? Wouldn’t let him die? What in the world did he mean…? Of course they wouldn’t let him die, but that didn’t mean he could throw himself straight at death!

“No matter what anyone tries to do to me, you will get stop them and bring me back home. Even if Death itself tried,” said Leo without any doubt tainting his tone. His blue eyes shone like sunlit seas. He pulled Mikey up and nuzzled him further. Mikey nuzzled Leo back the best he could from his position.

Placing Mikey next to him, Leo reached out with his free arm, grabbed Donnie, and dragged him into a tight side-hug. April let go of Donnie’s hand so that he could better return Leo’s hug. Leo nuzzled Donnie too and then said in that same assured tone, “I have the best brothers, the best family. So I can go all out against those who threaten us.” He stretched out the arm no longer holding Donnie towards Raph. “I know I will not die.”

Without thinking about it, Raph leaned towards Leo, towards that hand, wanting to grab it and hold on forever. But if he did, it would slip out of his fingers.

“No. Nope,” Raph said stepping backwards, away from the trap of basking in his oldest brother’s steadfast trust. “You are not going to use your big brother powers to get out of this!”

“Big brother powers?” asked Casey. He folded his legs under himself. He leaned forward and pressed his cheek against his hand. “Good try, Raph, but I think you mean his awesome powers of persuasion.”

“Persuasion?” repeated Raph with a cocked eyebrow. “Using that Word-a-Day calendar Donnie got ya?”

“Just saying you ain’t gotta be his bro for them to work is all,” said Casey.

“Ooh! Ooh!” cried Irma as she raised her hand. “Can I hug the adorably cute turtle in Raph’s place?”

“Sure,” said Mikey with a wide I’m-about-to-prank-someone grin that usually set Raph on edge. He pulled out of Leo’s hold enough to make room for another person. Leo’s blue eyes widened into whirlpools.

“Yes,” Irma squealed and moved to take the empty spot. Raph stepped forward and grabbed the collar of her sweater to stop her.

“This is not becoming a hug fest,” said Raph. “This is an intervention to keep him,” he pointed at Leo as he held Irma up off the ground, “from getting himself killed.”

“Hey, let her go,” said Leo. He stoop up too fast, and Mikey let out a yelp as he slumped to the ground. Donnie caught himself and stayed sitting where he had been glued to Leo’s side. Leo looked back at Mikey and cringed. “Sorry.”

“I’m okay,” Mikey said as he sat back up and rubbed his side. He waved his brother in Raph’s direction. “Go back to arguing with Raph.”

Leo turned back to Raph with narrowed blue eyes. “Let her go, Raph.”

“What? Secretly wanting that hug?” Raph taunted.

“I’m fine,” said Irma cutting off Leo’s response. She hung limply from her sweater’s collar. “My sweater’s going to stretch out, but I needed a new one anyway. Besides I agree with Raph.”

“You do?” said Raph, barely catching his oldest brother echoing his question.

“Sure,” said Irma as she shrugged as best she could with her sweater stretched around her ears. She focused on Leo. “You shouldn’t be allowed to use your impressive persuasive powers to get out of what your brothers are trying to tell you.”

“Then why’d you ask for a hug?” asked Raph.

“Because I am not going to pass over a chance to hug my favorite Hamato brother,” said Irma with a grin. Raph returned it with one of his own.

“As I already explained,” Leo interrupted abruptly. “I am not going to die.”

“You don’t know that,” said April in her hard tone. She stood up and poked Leo’s chest. Leo stumbled backwards a little. “And even if you are right and your brothers will not let you die, do you know what you put them through when you get hurt? Donnie doesn’t sleep. And I mean he doesn’t sleep until he’s absolutely out of danger of dying. No sleep. At all. And Mikey barely smiles. Not to mention he barely comes out of your quarters when you’re on bed rest.”

“And Raph is especially intense in training,” added Casey, straightening in his sitting position. “The whole clan dreads training under him while you’re out. Doesn’t help that he won’t take any of Angel or mine invitations to go out and bash some heads while you’re hurt.”

“Seriously, the whole clan feels it when you’re injured,” said Irma from where she still dangled. “That’s on top of worrying about if you’ll get better. So consider it less about you knowing you won’t die, and more about the rest of us not being as sure.”

“Look, if it comes down to completing a mission effectively with me being injured and knowing I will survive or the mission going wrong and major casualties occurring, I will pick a few minor injuries every time,” said Leo.

“Your injuries are never minor!” cried Donnie standing up next to his girlfriend. “Never. Do you even know what minor injuries are? Minor injuries are injuries that do not end in prescribed bed rest. Do you know how often I have not had to prescribe you bed rest? Once. Once!”

“Bro, do the injuries always have to be yours? Can’t one of us get injured instead?” asked Mikey getting up and standing next to Leo.

“No. Never,” said Leo barely letting Mikey finish his question.

The sound of a clearing throat cut through the resulting responses. All eyes turned to their father.

“I believe this intervention has gotten out of hand,” said their father. “Let us all sit down.”

“I’m way ahead of you, Hamato-sensei,” said Casey, reclining back in his seated position.

“No one asked you,” retorted Raph. He dropped Irma who hurried back to her position across from Leo. Leo himself sat back down in his original spot with Mikey fidgeting and sitting near him. Donnie sat further away from Leo and nearer April. Raph plopped down exactly where he had been standing.

“If you do not mind, I would like to take the lead in this intervention from this point forward,” said their father. No one protested. Like anyone was going to stop Dad. “From what I have observed, we are at an impasse. You do not want to see your brother injured. And your brother does not want to see you injured.”

“But it isn’t fair,” said Mikey. “Because since Leo’s come to live with us, he’s never had to see us really injured.”

“Is it?” asked their father. He had that maddening twinkle in his eyes. “I believe your brother has worked hard to make sure of that. Should not his efforts be rewarded?”

“But it isn’t like we haven’t…tried…to….” Mikey’s words trailed off at the same time his baby blue eyes lit up like the noon sky. Raph felt his lips curl into wide smile that mirrored the one on Donnie’s lips. The three younger Hamato brothers exchanged determined glances. They then turned towards their oldest brother. His normal leaf green color had paled to a more sickly green as evening blue eyes glared at them.

“What are you thinking?”
“Let’s put it this way, Leo,” said Raph. “Next time you come up with a plan, you had better make sure that the casualties you are working so hard to avoid include yourself or you’ll see how hard we can work to keep from seeing our oldest brother hurt.”

“In short,” said Donnie with a wicked grin that usually proceeded a mad scientist moment. “If you keep flirting with Death, we will try start flirting with it too.”

“And I happen to be excellent at flirting,” said Mikey. “You can ask any of the girls in the compound.”

Irma snorted, and April bit back a chuckle. Raph stood up and smacked the back of his little brother’s head.

“Ow,” yelped Mikey. He rubbed the back of his head. “It’s true you know.”

“They only indulge you because they think of you as an adorable mascot.”

“No, they don’t,” mumbled Mikey.

Ignoring him, Raph turned back to his oldest brother. He was puke green. The blue eyes had glazed over into glass marble. Raph frowned. He knelt down in front of Leo and place a hand of Leo’s shoulder.

“All we’re saying is that we’re going to have your back like you have ours,” said Raph. He pressed his forehead to Leo’s. “From now on when you run out into danger, you have to remember that we will be close behind. So you just have to take that into account in your plans, and I have a feeling there will be less injuries all around. Got it, bro?”

A breath puffed out of Leo’s lips, and Leo’s forehead bumped Raph’s.

“Got it.”


 

Premise: Leo argues with a music cube.
(EchoKazul Note: This takes place during Chapter 18: Prayers, after Leo ran away. I had mentioned that I had originally planned for Leo to argue with the music cube, and the music cube responding with songs. KuraiArcoiris attempted her hand at the scene with the songs I mentioned I had planned on using.)

The cold air pressed harder on Leo’s shoulders. He had awoken to yet another sound of screeching brakes. He would never get any rest like this. Maybe if some other sound was to cover the other noises? Not loud enough to block any sound incoming intruders might make, but enough to settle his nerves?

He reached into his pillowcase and took out the music cube that Donnie had made him. For a moment he took in the intricate details of the device. He could almost see the purple brother’s hands skillfully pulling apart and reassembling it to change some use or add another ability to the device. Or to block any polka music from erupting out of it.

With a wane smile, Leonardo pressed the button. A soft mournful tune slithered through the air, and piano notes trickled behind. A voice crooned out in a mournful tone a few seconds into the song.

Lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely
I have nobody for my own

Wrinkling his beak, Leonardo glared at the music cube as the song continued to play. He considered touching the button again, but he decided to look away. He made sure not to give the cube any attention that could be interpreted as interest. The words however wormed through his brain.

Now I'm a soldier, a lonely soldier
Away from home through no wish of my own

His heart squeezed at the words, but he did not look at the cube. He would not give the stupid thing the satisfaction. One song worth of disinterest, and the thing should shift to different music.

That's why I'm lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely
I wish that I could go back home

He bit the inside of his lip. The song had nothing to do with his situation. He had no home to go home to. Those three brothers and their father had a home, but it was not his.

Letters, never a letter
I get no letters in the mail

Letters. Okay, so he planned to write letters. But he wanted to be more awake to write those. And so what that he might not get letters in return? That was fine. That was safer. For those brothers and himself.

I've been forgotten, yes, forgotten
Oh how I wonder, how is it I failed

His whole body stiffened at the words, and as the chorus started up again (he was ninja not a soldier) he near kicked the button on the cube to change the song. Piano music, again soft and sad.

When I was young
I never needed anyone

Nope. He knew this one. Wasn’t going to happen. He did kick the cube this time. Tinkling, music box notes gently floated in the small space.

I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here the room's pitch dark

Wait? This was the same artist again. How did the cube interpret hitting the button to change the music as an invitation for more of the same? Okay. Maybe letting it run was the right choice then. He made it through to the rest of the first verse. Mostly stupid romantic stuff about how the singer missed her guy or whatever. He could deal. Then the chorus was belted out:

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I—

He tried hitting the button twice instead. Didn’t need to hear how that song ended. Nope. She definitely learned to live as happy without him as she had before. Guitar music replaced piano as a country song twanged in the air.

I can take the rain on the roof of this empty house
That don’t bother me

Another depressing song apparently. Well it was country music. He would let this one play out. Better than the mournful song from before. Besides this one sounded like it had nothing to do with him. Not that the others had anything to do with him either.

There are days every now and again I pretend I’m OK
But that’s not what gets me

Country songs were pretty predictable when they were being ridiculously sad. He could do this.

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And watching you walk away

Yep. Still had nothing to do with him. He stared at the wall away from the cube. No one walked away from him. He walked away. No matter how he tried to push them away, the brothers kept coming closer to him.

And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was tryin’ to do

Almost reflexively he pushed the button with his foot. He did not need to think about staying. About sneaking back into his pet turtle cage and actually talking to the brothers. Telling them the truth about himself and making a plan to protect them that did not involve midnight flights to Central America. No. No what-could-have-beens. And especially no could-bes.

The words of this song started immediately. The pace a bit quicker than the other songs and had a more hopeful feel.

You know I want you
It's not a secret I try to hide
I know you want me
So don't keep saying our hands are tied

Leo tried to listen to the music, not the words. The brothers did not want him. Not really. He was too much trouble. And he…he did not want them in harm’s way because of him. His hands really were tied.

You claim it's not in the cards
Fate is pulling you miles away
And out of reach from me
But you're here in my heart
So who can stop me if I decide
That you're my destiny?

Mikey might sing this. He would say something about them being destined to be bros. Raph would snort but agree. And Donnie would say he does not believe in anything as ridiculous as destiny.

You'd be the one I was meant to find
It's up to you, and it's up to me
No one can say what we get to be
So why don't we rewrite the stars?

“They should never have found me,” whispered Leo. His legs tucked themselves under his chin. He sounded the words out loudly blocking out some of the song. “I cannot be part of that family. You cannot rewrite fate.”

No one can rewrite the stars
How can you say you'll be mine?
Everything keeps us apart
And I'm not the one you were meant to find

Leo nodded at the song.

It's not up to you
It's not up to me
When everyone tells us what we can be
How can we rewrite the stars?

“It is not up to us,” he said a little louder. He squeezed his eyes shut. “It is far beyond us.”

All I want is to fly with you
All I want is to fall with you
So just give me all of you

Leo wished he could. He wished he could be part of that family.

It feels impossible
(It's not impossible)
Is it impossible?
Say that it's possible

“It is impossible,” said Leo. He glared at the cube and pressed the button with his foot as hard as he could without making it fall over. The song cut off as the melody and notes were about to crescendo. He then turned and covered his head with the blanket before the next song started. Enough was enough. He would get through this next song just to show that he could, and then he would face the broken silence without any ambient, unnecessarily sad music. Speaking of which, more piano music. Great.

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea

A guitar joined the piano, and blankets slid down Leo’s head and folded into a wrinkle along the top of his shell as he turned to stare at the cube. This song was not like the others. Where was it going? He sat up.

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

He could see the boy, dressed like the Peter Pan he had seen in a storybook once. But shy instead of cocky. He had liked Peter Pan because he had worn green like he did, sorta. He began to enjoy the song.

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings

Leo could imagine the boy standing on a man’s balcony and talking to an older man. The old man and him smiling and enjoying each other’s company.

This he said to me
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

The words snapped Leo out of his imagined scene. The piano and a guitar continued to play, and all his mind could see were three brothers standing in front of him, holding out their hands out to him. Faces he knew would never fade or lose color in his memory. Just like the picture of a grayed rat with wise eyes and a solemn smile. And maybe even the image of a man with kind, blue eyes that shone with love for his sons. The words sang out again:

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

He turned the cube off before the last few piano notes tinkled into silence. Almost too harshly, he huddled against the grate he had been using for warmth. But even with it and the blanket pulled tight around his shoulders, he felt no warmth. Only cold. Cold to the center of his soul. Cold so filling that it trickled out his eyes and down his face. Tears were supposed to be warm, right? Had his reptilian body even altered that? Apparently if he wasn’t warm, than neither were his tears. Great. Now everything about him was cold. His whole existence was cold. And no matter what he did, it always would be.


 

Premise: Leo managed to make it to Central America. Over a year later, his brothers may have found a trace as to where their turtle brother disappeared too. In probably unrelated news, the music cube may have gained sentience.
(EchoKazul Note: This was written before the brothers knew that Leo could talk/Dun showed his hand)

As Donnie stared at the screen, Raph kept looking around at all the trees and plants, peering through their shadows and trying to catch a glimpse of anything turtle-shaped. He doubted that they would actually find anything in this place, especially their brother Leo. Mikey hadn’t found Leo once in all his times playing “Where’s Leo” with the security monitors back home, and Leo had been confined to one room then. How would they find him now when he had a whole jungle (a whole world) to hide in? Leo only appeared when he wanted to, and he apparently didn’t want to, which was fine with Raph. Donnie and Mickey were just being stubborn.

Speaking of Mikey, Raph took a break from straining his eyes looking for idiotic turtle brothers who could and did disappear without a trace and glanced back to check on his youngest brother. He could see that the boy was struggling to remain quiet as he all but bounced on the jungle floor, but he never strayed more than a few steps away from their father.

Dad had insisted on coming with them on their search for their brother. He claimed to be fully recovered from his long years in a coma, and while he looked and sounded much better than he had, he wasn’t the strong ninja Raph and Donnie remembered from their childhood. Sure, the knowledge was all there. He had already knocked them on the backsides a couple of times in training, but he usually had to sit down right after those bouts. And while his footsteps were definitely quieter than Mikey’s, Dad’s breaths were getting louder and louder the further into this ridiculous jungle.

Why would Leo even come to place like this? Raph rubbed his left arm where Donnie had administered the ridiculous amounts of shots required to come to this insect and disease infested country. Why would Leo pick this place of all the places in the world? And he came here without shots or anything too. Leo’s probably dead. Died stupidly of some disease only found in this disgusting country.

…He hoped for Mikey’s sake that they wouldn’t find a corpse.

Scowling and grumbling inwardly about brothers who trust anonymous computer sources than their own brother’s instincts, Raph stomped over closer to his so-called genius brother. Donnie immediately glared at him, but Raph just glared back.

“Are we done? Can we go home now?”

“No, Raph,” said Donnie in his best you’re-being-stupid voice. He adjusted the straps of his large brown jungle backpack. How much stuff did Donnie bring with him, anyways? “We have not reached the location of the signal.”

“So? I still don’t get why you’re so sure that this ‘signal’ will lead to Leo.”

“I…I,” started Donnie hesitantly. He took a breath and peered through the trees in an unfocused way that was completely unlike Donnie. The self-proclaimed genius then scowled and turned back to Raph. “I just know, okay?”

“You just know,” Raph repeated in a growl. Since when did his big bro “just know” things? Everything Donnie knew came with at least half an hour of explanations full of terms and words Raph couldn’t hope to make sense of. This wasn’t like Donnie. Why was Donnie really dragging them all on this obvious goose chase? He opened his mouth to give his big bro a piece of his mind for keeping secrets when Mikey suddenly piped up from behind them.

“Hey, you hear that?”

“Hear what?” demanded Raph spinning around to aim his scowl on his baby brother for interrupting their conversation with his nonsense.

“Quiet down, bro, and you’ll hear it,” said Mikey with a finger to his lips and a semi-serious look on his face. Raph growled, but then Dad put his own finger to his lips.

“Your brother is right. Listen.”

Reluctantly Raph did as he was told. Green eyes blinked. Was that music? Donnie perked up and hurried quietly but fairly carelessly towards the sound. Without much hesitation, the rest of them soon followed. Words began to be audible through the once silent jungle, and Raph struggled to string them together. Something about belonging? Belonging to something and something else. Who was playing music this loudly in the middle of a freaking jungle?

Another sound soon became distinct from the music. A voice. And it sounded like it was yelling. The words of the song had stopped for a moment before starting up again to the annoyance of whoever was yelling at the music.

Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream
Clear your mind and do your best to try and wash the palette clean

“Stop it!” the voice clearly said. “Come on, Three. We’ve talked about this. We’re hiding! You never know what’s in this jungle. I don’t want to unplug your power source again!”

The music kept going:

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we've both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

Donnie stopped in a clearing and without even glancing down at his tracking device, he looked up into the trees. Raph quickly took his place beside his brother and looked in the same direction. There in a tree far above them was a distinctly turtle shape holding a clearly lighted cube at arm’s length. The music, most likely coming from the cube, slowly quieted and stopped. The turtle shape seemed to slump its shoulders a bit.

“Thank you,” said the turtle shape in a voice Raph hadn’t heard before and yet sounded perfectly familiar. The turtle shape suddenly tensed and looked down just as Mikey and Dad caught up to them. Blue eyes, somehow still clearly visible despite the space between them, widened, and the turtle figure drew the cube closer and hunched into a crouch several yards above them in thin-looking branch. For a moment that took forever and not long enough, they stared at each other. And then the cube beeped and started a song right in the middle:

Baby don't go
Pretty baby please don't go
I love you so
Pretty ba—

The turtle shape slapped the cube, and the music suddenly stopped. He then sighed visibly, though not audibly, and sat on the branch instead of crouching on it. He then waved.

In the self-same breath, both Raph’s brothers said the word Raph himself was too scare to say.

“Leo!”

“Um, hi?”


 

Premise: Leo managed to make it to Central America. Over a year later, his brothers may have found a trace as to where their turtle brother disappeared too. In probably unrelated news, the music cube may have gained sentience. (Part 2)

Donatello could not believe what was happening. Leo sat in a branch far above them, and he had waved and even said “hi.” If Donnie did not recall the treacherous journey they took to get here (Donatello had spotted at least five different lethal species, and those were just the mosquitoes), he might have believed this was a dream.

He did have some very detailed dreams, but they normally did not last anywhere near this long. He doesn’t get enough REM sleep for dreams this long. He had to be here. That had to be his turtle brother he’s been looking for for over a year. That stupid message had to have been right.

His turtle brother broke their unintentional staring contest and slunk stealthily and smoothly out of the tree. He headed straight for Donnie, and Donnie couldn’t move. Well, he could. He understood down to a near molecular level exactly how his muscles worked and in an entirely practiced physical manner how to use them, but still his mind clung to the thought that any sudden movements and his brother would be back up that tree. And then an oddly rounded forehead suddenly pressed against Donnie’s shoulder.

“Leo?” Donnie repeated in an almost inaudible breath.

“You’re here. You’re really here,” muttered Leo, and Donnie marveled at how right the sound of his brother’s voice felt. How could a voice Donnie had never heard sound so right? “I’m sorry. I thought this plan would be best. It would keep us all safe. And I guess it worked. You all look good. Healthy and everything even but…I hate it.”

Donnie opened his mouth, but so many thoughts raced through his head. Leo came all this way to keep them safe. The plan had worked since Dunn lost EPF support once Leo was discovered missing. Casualties had been minimized. It was actually a very clever plan. But Leo was miserable, and so were Donnie and his other brothers.

Without warning, Donnie’s medical knowledge brought several new scratches and gouges into focus. And what was that indent in the middle of Leo’s shell? Were Leo’s scales a more yellow-pale green than before? Was that because of the climate or was Leo suffering from malnutrition? Maybe parasites? Oh wait, Leo’s talking again.

“It’s always damp here. It feels weird on my scales. And Three only plays certain songs on repeat because he thinks I cannot already tell how much I want to go back to New York and the Hamato compound and that stupidly comfortable turtle cage,” said Leo. Donnie began to refute the idea that the meditation garden was any sort of cage, but Leo suddenly nuzzled him. A sudden burst of air indicated that Leo was taking in Donnie’s scent as well. He rested his chin over his shoulder. “He was wrong. I realized I made a mistake after the first month here. I am ready to accept my fate. Please take me back. I will stay in the garden, I promise. I won’t ever escape again. I’ll be the best pet turtle ever. Just please, please. Take me back. Please, please kidnap me again.”

Leaning his cheek on the side of his brother’s head, Donnie sighed. Despite the unscientific nature of the explanation, Donnie believed their father’s story of a turtle willing to carry the world on his back. A turtle who had climbed steep spiritual cliffs to bring their father’s spirit back to them. This special turtle thought that they wanted to keep him as a pet?

But again, Leo spoke before Donnie could (and what had happened to Mikey to keep him quiet this long?).

“Also, I got into a scuffle with some drug lords a few weeks back, and now I have a few bullets lodged in the middle of my shell that I cannot figure out how to pry out. They are kind of itchy and bothering me. So if you could help with that, I would be grateful.”

“You what!?” cried Donnie as he pushed Leo away only far enough to twist him around. Sure enough there was that indent he had noticed in his shell. He could now clearly see the shine of metal. “Why did you not start with that information?”

“Did not seem importa—”

“While it is great to learn that you can communicate, now is not the time for this,” Donnie said. He looked over his shoulder and locked eyes with a paling Mikey (who looked to be in some form of shock—so that is why he had gone silent). “The emergency kit, Mikey!”

“Got it,” said Mikey pulling the heavy-duty med kit out of his pack. Donnie would get the one in his own pack but that would require releasing their super-sneaky brother, and Donnie was not ready to do that just yet. Mikey handed Donnie the kit and moved to Leo’s other side in one fluid movement. “So what’s that stupid stuff you were saying about a turtle cage and being our pet? You know that’s a pretty stupid thing to say. And that’s coming from me, bro.”

Their father moved slower but soon stood beside Mikey. The two started to take turns explaining the difference between pets and family, but Donnie tuned them out in order to better focus on removing the bullets from his brother’s shell without causing greater harm to it.

He vaguely noticed Raph adding to the noise with some semi-necessary cursing (at their idiotic turtle brother of course) while Raph took out some water and food out of his pack. He gave it to Leo (and Donnie made a mental note to thank his younger brother later since Leo did look in dire need of actual sustenance, -again-) and then kept silent as to allow Mikey and Dad’s arguments to fill the air and hopefully sink in.

As Donnie worked on digging out the last bullet from his brother’s shell, he quickly took a second’s break to look up at his brother. He could barely see it from this angle, but he was certain that a small smile curved Leo’s lips. Refocusing on the stubborn bullet, Donnie decided to save the realization of the mirror smile on his own lips for after his brother’s shell was bullet-free.


 

Premise: Mikey wakes up on a plane on the way to bring their turtle brother back home from the jungle to the sound of music. (Set in the Found in the Jungle AU)

A soft twinkling swam through the air, and a tremble echoed it. Mikey snuggled into the moving sound. The source was hard and cool and rough, and Mikey couldn’t immediately figure out what it was. All he knew for sure was that he didn’t want to move. Something about now was beyond good, complete, wonderful. The cool, rough surface vibrated next to his ear and under his head. The notes cheerfully swirled and rumbled, soft, solid and warming up. But why did he feel so perfect?

Mikey pried his wet and sticky eyes open. Green blurred in front of him, and Mikey blinked. Nope. Green was still there. But now he could see beyond the green to dark shades of purple with bits of blue. Oh. He was in the Asagao. Mikey chuckled quietly. Raph had been far from happy about naming their private plane after the family flower, but Donnie hadn’t cared and Dad was pleased with it (or back then they thought he would be—they were right), so Asagao it was. But what was the green?

He visually traced the green down and noticed three oddly-shaped toes. Green toes. Ones that belonged to only one being Mikey knew of. Slowly so as not to disturb the gentle humming, Mikey flipped from his side to his back. He stared up. Green scales (that were more pale than leaf shade) overlapped each other, squished together in a comfortable way under a drooped chin. The vibrating tremble originated from that direction, and Mikey had a distinct longing to hear the humming make the transformation into true singing. And then words dove in to join the music.

Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies above the sky

Huh. Japanese. Mikey hadn’t been expecting that. Though now that he was more awake and listening closer, this song sounded a little familiar. And those were definitely classic Japanese instruments.

I look up when I walk
So the tears won't fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I'm all alone

The music didn’t match the words at all. How could the music sound all happy and the words all sad? The guy was even whistling now! What a weird song—Wait. The vibrating humming shift into something lower pitched and distinct. Scales sagged and stretched slightly in tandem with the shift.

Remembering those happy autumn days
But tonight I'm all alone
Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

The sound above Mikey’s head gained more distinction, and mumbles that could almost be words pitched and lilted with the song’s melody.

I look up when I walk
So the tears won't fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I'm all alone

The whistling returned, as did the humming. The music somehow faded away before jarringly restarting the wordless melody. This time the mumbles came back without the outside words, and they were very clear.

Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies above the sky
I look up when I walk
So the tears won't fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I'm all alone

How often had this song whispered around Leo that he was singing it in his sleep? In Mikey’s head, a turtle sat in a tree staring up at the night sky in a jungle surrounded by nothing but plants and dangerous animals. His blue eyes filled with stars and darkness and salt water while those words sagged out of a tight throat and escaped into an uncaring night.

Mikey slapped his forehead quietly. That was only Mikey’s imagination, right?…that wasn’t really Leo. Donnie and Raph said his imagination was way too wild all the time. They had to be right. Leo…Leo couldn’t be this…this…sick in his heart. He was already bad enough in his body.

And the song was all wrong now. Leo wasn’t alone. He was with them. His heart couldn’t be filled with sorrow. It couldn’t be. And even if the song was even a bit true, they were in the sky. They were above the clouds. That’s where the song said happiness was. Couldn’t Leo feel it? Couldn’t Leo feel how now everything fit? How it had all come together now that they had found him and were bringing his home?

Mikey flipped again and then flopped himself further onto his turtle brother’s lap. He snuggled further into the front of Leo’s shell. More cool, hard surface rubbed at Mikey’s face, but Mikey smushed his face against it. Soon the cool warmed as the other part had. He then wrapped his arms around Leo’s shell as far as he could, warming all the cool, hard shell as much as he could. Just in case his brother had any doubt that Mikey was here.

A slight sigh came down from above Mikey’s head, and any vibrations stopped. Even the music had changed to something entirely different, filled with flutes and strings and pretty happy notes that went with no sad words. It made Mikey feel warm, and he hoped it did the same for Leo. With one last squeeze, Mikey settled back into the soft happy fullness from earlier. Knowing his brother was there made it ten times as good and complete and wonderful and –warm-…


 

Premise: Donnie wants to check if the music cube has gained sentience, but Leo is a bit overprotective of the object. (Set in Found in the Jungle AU…again)

Leo visibly struggled to hold back his suspicion. His face twisted and untwisted from unsure expression to outright hostility. Finally his eyes narrowed but did not turn white.

“Why do you want Three?”

Donnie sighed. He had hoped his brother’s attachment to the music cube would have waned as Leo recovered and spent more time around actual people. None of them had felt up to introducing Leo to the rest of the clan yet, but Leo had spent plenty of time with Dad, Mikey, Raph, and Donnie himself. Surely Leo did not still need that over programmed music box (though Donnie was beyond words to describe how happy he was that Leo liked Donnie’s work that much).

“To check its batteries. I did use Krang technology to power it, but I did not expect them to last this long.”

Donnie was lying through his teeth. Those batteries should last decades with how he designed them. But something about that music cube did not sit well with Donnie. Especially after that message.

“Try again,” said Leo flatly. His eyes remained narrowed, his face tight, and his grip on the cube like iron. Donnie bit the inside of his cheek. How come this brother of all of them had to come with a seemingly in-built lie detector?

“Look, Leo. I just want to look at it. I promise,” said Donnie holding out his hand for the cube. Leo’s face relaxed a fraction, and his grip slackened. And then that cursed cube, which had been blessedly silent, decided to break that silence.

And I am telling you I'm not going
You're the best man I'll ever know
There's no way I can ever go

Leo’s grip instinctively tightened around the malfunctioning device.

“Seriously!” cried Donatello throwing up his hands. He decided to try playing to Leo’s delusion (because that is what it had to be). “Can you tell that thing that I am not going to take it apart?!”

The song switched mid-note.

We can't go on together
With suspicious minds (suspicious minds)

“I do not think Three believes you,” said Leo with a smirk.

“I just want to see what is up with its programming!”

Another near screech as the music changed in a nanosecond.

I know when,
Somebody's lying,
I know when somebody's lying.

“I told you, I am not going to take you to pieces!” Donnie near yelled directly at the device. “I just want to make sure you are safe for my brother!”

The music abruptly stopped. Leo’s blue eyes widened. Donnie inwardly fumed, though he tried to keep it off his face. Did it still surprise Leo that they worried about him? That they did not want to risk even the smallest chance that they might lose him again?

Suddenly Raph’s voice crackled into the room.

“Listen, Donnie—there’s something—you need—to know.”

The words were disjointed. Taken from different sentences from various conversations. Now Donnie stared wide-eyed at the device in Leo’s arms. He had not programmed it to record sound. Mikey’s voice came next.

“Hey, Leo. Why’d you name it Three?”

“What? The music cube?” a recording of Leo’s voice answered. “Um…that is because for a while there all it would play was like three songs, so I just took calling it that. You know how it goes. It took various times before it went from ‘these three again’ and ‘come on, not these three’ to ‘Three, stop that’ and ‘Three, something else please.’”

“That makes sense. But I bet that isn’t the real reason.”

“Really? And what is the real reason?”

“Easy. You missed us. So you named the cube ‘Three’ because it reminded you of your three awesome brothers.”

“…”

“Wait. Are you blushing? I didn’t know your cheeks could go pink like that, bro! Pink is so your color. It looks great with your natural green tone.”

“…shut up.”

“…to tell the truth, Leo, I just wanted to think you missed us enough to name your cube after all of us. But…is that really the reason?”

Silence filled the room for a minute, long enough for Donatello to note the shade of pink on green that Mikey had mentioned.

“…yes.”

For a few minutes, the two stared at the cube. That one word echoed in Donnie’s mind. Leo had missed them. Donnie had thought he had gotten that fact from the way Leo had all but cuddled up to him in the middle of the jungle. But Donnie had not realized how much he needed to know that Leo had thought of them. That Leo had not spent over a year choosing to forget everything about them. Had not chosen to leave them entirely behind.

The music cube (Three) started up a new song right in the middle of the chorus.

It still feels a little bit scary
But I want you to know
I'll be ok now, Daddy
You can let go

With a grimace and pinked cheeks, Leo stretched out the cube to place it in Donnie’s hands. Donnie held the cube with the care he would give a living thing. He bit the inside of his cheek again before locking eyes with Leo.

“I found you because someone send me an email with a GPS tracker attached.” Leo tilted his head, and Donnie gave him a smirk and then looked down at the cube in his hands. “It said ‘Please come get Daddy. He misses you.’”

Donnie looked up in time to see complete shock scroll over Leo’s whole face.

“So don’t worry,” Donnie continued. He gave the cube a fond little pat. “I will take care of Jr. for you.”

Note: For the record (since I'll never be able to explain this in a drabble), Three is basically this universe's Nano. If you've seen the 2003 TMNT cartoon (and it sounds like you have), you'll know the sad fate that AI had simply by being attached to the wrong person. In this universe, he's attached to the right one and is now a sentient music cube rather than nano technology. I could explain in detail how that came about, but I'll leave it with Donnie has access to more technology in this world because he's rich. Including new nano technology programs that he may or may not have being tinkering around with. I like to think Nano is happier being Three.


 

Note by KuraiArcoiris: Onto this chapter’s scribbling... So it’s still inspired by this story, because there is very little chance I would have thought about and wrote this any other way. But this scribbling is about Nano and 2k3!Leo. Yay, the 2k3 universe. Is it weird that I have literally never written anything in my favorite TMNT universe before now? Sorry that it isn’t directly related to your fic, but maybe close enough?

Premise: Nano escapes a little earlier and falls into the sewers. Wet and short-circuiting, he’s found by Leo who decides to bring him back to lair for Donnie.

He had tried to get up, but all of him felt hot and full of static. He couldn’t think straight. Maybe he should have stayed. Maybe he should have not used the parts to escape. Shock didn’t hurt as much as wet shock.

“Oh. What do we have here? Are you some sort of toaster?” came garbled words that he could still use programing to decipher. Wet moved and dripped off. Shaking threw more wet off. “A tiny robot?”

He dared to go to move some of him to the outer shell he had been using.

“Woah! It is moving!”

He could feel hands. He used dozens of tiny eyes to input data about what was holding him. Green. Had eyes like human. Not human, had shell-like structure around torso. Had puzzled expression, or as best he could tell. Had three fingers on each hand. Nonhuman status confirmed.

“Okay. So you are definitely not a toaster. I bet Donnie would like you. Looks like you are coming with me.”

Movement occurred soon after, and his shell’s limbs flapped insecurely. He wrapped them around the three-fingered hand to ensure he would not fall.

“Holding on there? No need to worry. I will not drop you.”

He let out a little confirming chirp. He loosened his grip. The unknown creature did not let him go. He liked the creature.

Using his sensors, he noted the speed at which they were going. 31.25 miles per hour. They were going fast. The creature did a flip, and the sensors were momentarily overloaded. He chirped again.

“Heh. Liked that did you? How about this?”

The creature did another flip and then bounced off the wall before using the wetness to slide down at a faster rate. He beeped and chirped. The parts of him on the loose limbs enjoyed the overload of sensory information. He decided immediately that this new creature with a firm grip and enjoyable speed would be his…his… He searched his files for the record of the boy whose metal object he had used as a shell. He had called his larger human a name…Daddy. This creature would be his Daddy.

More sensory filled movements occurred, but too soon they ceased. They entered an area that was better lit than those they had run through.

“Donnie,” called Daddy. “I found something interesting during my run.”

“Really?” came another voice. His dozens of eyes took in the image of another creature like his Daddy. Perhaps there were dozens of them that lived in this underground like humans lived over-ground? If so then these creatures might be kinder than the humans. “What is it?”

“I am not sure. That is why I brought it back for you.” Wait. Did that mean Daddy was going to give him away? Did Daddy’s give their boys away? From what he had observed that did not seem to occur with the humans. Maybe these creatures were less kind than humans. Or maybe Daddy did not know he was Daddy yet.

“Let me see,” said the other creature. No. He would not let Daddy give him away. Daddy had already given him good data and proved that he was kind. He did not know about this other creature.

“Sure. Her—hey!”

He shifted his shell to fit the three-fingered hand in a way he could not be pulled off.

“How did it do that?” asked the other creature.

“I do not know. I knew it could move, but I did not know it could reconfigure itself like that,” said Daddy. Silly Daddy. He could do so much more than that.

“It is not hurting you, is it?” asked the other creature. No. He would never hurt Daddy. Why would this other creature think that?

“No. It is snug, but it is not constricting blood flow. I do not think it wants to hurt me,” said Daddy. He was pleased. Daddy understood.

“Maybe it got attached to you?” said the other creature. Perhaps he was smarter than he had thought.

“But it is a machine of some sort, right? Why would it get ‘attached’ to anyone? How can it have feelings?”

“Bring it to the lab and let us find out,” said the other creature. Daddy and the other creature moved to another part of the well-lighted area. He did not move from Daddy’s arm. A lab. It did not look like the one with the mean humans. But it did not look like a place he would want to stay. Especially without Daddy.

“Put your arm here.”
“Be careful. I think it is scared.”

“Scared? Fifteen seconds ago you were wondering how it could get attached, and now you are attributing emotions to it?”

“I…I do not know why. But I feel like it is scared for some reason,” said Daddy. He had chosen the right Daddy. He understood. And he would be the best little boy for Daddy. If Daddy wanted this other creature to look at him, he would let the other creature examine him. But only if Daddy stayed. “I think it will let you examine it now.”

“Will it? If it could get under my microscope it would be helpful and more effective than what I was going to try.”

“Can you do that for Donnie?” Daddy asked. His arm bounced a miniscule amount when he stretched out a metal wire with part of him and placed it under the microscope. The rest of him stayed on Daddy’s arm.

“Okay. That happened. So let us see what you are,” said the other creature called Donnie. He was as silly as Daddy. He knew what he was. He was Daddy’s best boy


 

 

Premise: Hamato Yoshi never went into a coma and mourns the loss of his pet rat and his sons’ pet turtle. Then strange people come around asking questions about possible mutated turtles, and the Hamatos end up looking far deeper into the inquiries. And Yoshi ends up rescuing a young and very scared turtle.

The wrapped blankets shivered violently, and Yoshi pulled the bundle closer. His small strike force of elite ninja would arrive at the location of the safe house soon. Given what the Hamato technicians (and Yoshi’s own son) had found about the organization they were attempting to escape, the safe house would only be safe for a few days at best. A few hours at worst.

He freed one hand from supporting the cocoon of blankets and lifted it to give his elites their orders. A quick, hard nod from each confirmed their compliance. The group split, and all six elite ninjas took off in a different direction.

Yoshi took an equally random seeming direction and then used a deeply shadowed alley to slip under a manhole and disappear into the sewers. He then ran down the sewage tunnel. He took several sharp turns until after yet another tight corner he saw the small etching of an asagao. Slowing to a stop, Yoshi pressed the etching and then pushed. The wall gave way and opened like the door it was. Yoshi slipped into the opening and then instantly let the wall close up behind him.

Another etching of an asagao was carved into this side of the wall, and even in the dim light Yoshi quickly found it and slid it sideways. Several lights flickered on and a quiet but definite click came from the wall. Should the EPF find this place, they would find it near impossible to open. Eventually they would find a way to break through the walls around the door, but not without alerting him of their presence with enough time for him and his precious cargo to escape.

“We’re safe,” Yoshi told the small form in the blankets. Small, three-fingered hands clung to his uwagi, and Yoshi covered one with his much larger one. “Let us look you over.”

The thick green fingers hooked themselves deeper into his uwagi, and Yoshi’s father’s heart lurched at the trembling shaking his chest. He moved over to the couch set not too far from the door (because one must always prepare for the possibility of wounded). He sat down and set the bundle down as gently as he could.

The hands remained tangled in his clothes, and so the blankets that Yoshi had hurriedly stolen to cover his…this child slipped off. Immediately Yoshi’s temper rose as he took in the sight of scratched (no gouged) shell and arms covered in small, precisely deep cuts. No hair hid the darkening bruises along the small child’s neck. The head itself looked to have some very troubling puncture wounds. Both to comfort and to hide the view for a while longer, Yoshi placed a hand behind the little one’s head.

“I need to know,” said Yoshi quietly. “Does anything hurt?”

The head shook, and Yoshi’s hand gave the small head a slight affectionate squeeze. The child’s whole body shuddered at the pressure, and Yoshi pulled the hand away as if it burned.

“No,” a quiet voice squeaked. “No…please—”

The desperate words cut themselves off, and Yoshi could not stop himself from enfolding the child’s whole form in his arms. He pulled the child close enough for the small head to press itself against his shoulder instead of Yoshi’s chest. Yoshi then picked him up and cradled the child. The child was so light for his size. He looked to be Raphael’s size, but he weighed less than Michelangelo.

Small sobs hiccupped into Yoshi’s ear, and moisture collected on his uwagi. Gently but firmly enough to keep a hold on the shaking child, Yoshi rubbed the battered shell. He murmured no assurances. He made no promises. He held the child and let him cry.

The image of the child (not much older than Yoshi’s second son) strapped to a table with a whirling doctor’s saw looming over him haunted Yoshi. The carved crevices that snagged at Yoshi’s fingers brought other probable nasty images to Yoshi’s mind. The deep scabs on green flesh that Yoshi could almost make out from the corners of his eyes conjured other equally horrifying visions. Despite not having any true confirmation, Yoshi could say one thing because regardless of blood it would now always be true.

“I have you, my son,” Yoshi whispered into the turtle’s small ear. He carefully increased the pressure of his hold, just enough to reassure the child and himself. “No one will take you away from me without a fight. And they will find the price of even partial success only leads to complete and crushing failure, courtesy of me and mine.”

The crying subsided at the words, and then deep, dark blue eyes met Yoshi’s.

“…everything hurts,” the quiet voice murmured. Yoshi had to use a quick meditation technique to keep from crushing the turtle in a tighter embrace. Instead he softly pulled the turtle to arm’s length in order to get a better view of the damage.

A nick on the child’s plastron boiled Yoshi’s blood. Several scabs that matched the ones scarring the boy’s arms and ran across the boy’s legs made Yoshi see red. He took several subtle deep breaths, but the child-his child noticed his distress.

His child shuffled and nearly fell trying to get out of Yoshi’s grip. Readjusting to hold his child and keep him from falling off the couch, Yoshi caught those dark, blue eyes again. They resembled scattering marbles: bright, glassy, and skittering every which way.

Yoshi reflexively pushed his forehead against his child’s. He caught the boy wince and then suddenly still. He brought a hand up to the back of his child’s neck and gave it a gentle squeeze. A battered breath sighed out of his child’s mouth.

“I know this is difficult,” Yoshi whispered. “But we need to take this time to heal what we can before heading out. The EPF has made a dangerous enemy today, and the Hamato clan must prepare for war.”

“War?” his child’s quiet voice questioned. Yoshi nodded and hummed an assent. “Because of me?”

“No,” said Yoshi firmly. He pulled away to look straight into his child’s dark (so dark) eyes again. “Because of them. Because they dare to treat one of ours as nothing more than research. Because they dare harm one of mine, one of Hamato blood.”

“Me?” his child whispered back. Those blue eyes glimmered through their darkness.

“You,” Yoshi confirmed. He pressed his forehead against his child’s again. “Because they dared hurt you, my son.”

His child pressed his forehead back. “…my shell hurts most.”

Yoshi’s eyes burned with anger and sorrow. The EPF would pay. He pulled away from his child slowly and then gave his child his warmest smile. At the sight of shining blue eyes, that smile came easily.

“Lay on your stomach, I think I have a technique that will help with that shell of your.”


 

Premise: Hamato Yoshi and his boys found Splinter and Leonardo shortly after they mutated. Donatello is fascinated by Leo’s rapid growth.

“And what is this?”

“Circle,” said Leo.

“And this?”

“Square.”

“And this?”

“Octodan?”

“Octagon. Close enough.”

“Donnie, what are you doing?” asked Raph as he entered the kitchen. Donnie stood in front of their newest brother who sat in his high chair. Flashcards with differing shapes separated the two.

“Testing his intelligence. Can you believe he can identify most of these shapes despite only being mutated three months ago? I mean that he can speak so clearly so quickly is already impressive. But he is not supposed to be identifying shapes for another three years. Even Mikey still has trouble with shape recognition!”

“Yeah. So? Maybe that muta-matu-green yucky stuff made him smarter. It couldn’t be hard to make someone smarter than Mikey.”

“Mikey is only three. Besides you had trouble with your shapes for the longest time.”

“I did not. I just didn’t want you shoving flashcards in my face all the time. Like you’re doing to Leo,” Raph moved to his brothers’ side. “Stop it. He’s gonna get bored. ‘Besides’ he wants to play with me now.”

“No he does not. He appreciates my stimulating his mind. One day, he will be as smart as I.”

“Pfft. No way. Leo is gonna be as strong as me!” Raph reached down and flexed his baby turtle brother’s arms. “Right, Leo?”

“We do not need another brother who thinks more with every other muscle but his brain!” cried Donnie, trying to snatch his turtle brother out of his hot-headed brother’s grip.

“Boys, what are you up to so early in the morning?” asked a firm voice from the door of the kitchen.

“Nothing, Dad,” the two boys said in unison turning to their father with absolute innocence as they let Leo go simultaneously.

“That is good to hear. And how are you doing, Leonardo?”

“’ine, Dad,” chirped the tiny turtle tot. “’onnie show me shapes.”

“Oh did he?” said the man with a raised eyebrow. He turned to his oldest. “And how is he doing with those?”

“Really, really well, Dad. At the rate he is going, he will reach my level of intelligence by the end of his second year!”

“I am glad he is doing well, but beware of putting too much expectation on your brother. The mutagen might be enhancing his growth in intelligence only briefly. His learning curve may level out to become somewhere around your brothers’ levels as he grows older.”

“I know that. That is why I want to stimulate his growth now while he is still under
the mutagen’s enhancing effects,” said Donnie gesturing to the cards sharply. He then glared at Raph. “But Raph wants to waste time playing with him.”

“A child needs both mental and physical stimulation,” the man said solemnly. “Let your brother play with Leo for a while. Besides it will soon be time to wake your other younger brother and stimulate his mental growth.”

“But Daaaad,” whined his oldest.

“You heard him,” said Raph, pulling Leo out of his baby seat and lifting him into his arms. “It’s playtime with Raph, Leo. We’re gonna play ninja and try to sneak up on Uncle Splinter.”

Leo’s large blue eyes stared at Donnie, and Donnie sighed and crossed his arms.

“Just go.”

Sticking out his tongue at his older brother, Raph did just that carrying a quieter-than-usual Leo out. Donnie squeezed the inside of his elbows and recalled pi to the 20th digit. As he arrived to the 14th digit, a hand settled on his shoulder. Donnie looked up automatically at his dad.

“Do I have to teach Mikey? He does not pay the least amount of attention.”

“You do, but Mikey’s hyperactivity can wait. I believe we need to discuss why are you so focused on Leonardo’s growth.”

“Well…,” Donnie started, trying to put his thoughts together. Why did his dad want to talk about that? “I want him to be smart. Like me.”

“Would you love him more if he were smart like you?”

“No! No, that is not it. I will love him no matter what. I mean I love Mikey and Raph a lot, and they are not the least bit smart!”

“Donatello,” the man said in a low tone.

“I meant they are not math and science smart,” Donnie quickly explained. He fiddled with his fingers. “Both of them are good at doing physical exercises. Raph can already defeat me in a single match in the dojo. Mikey is really good at things like climbing out of his crib and up walls, and he follows Raph around everywhere. You can already tell he is physically inclined. I just…I just wanted a brother who would be smart like me…Someone who will listen to me when I talk about science and math…and won’t walk away or get distracted…”

Oh. That is what Dad wanted to know.

“My smart boy,” said the man with ocean blue eyes warm and bright. “Whether or not your brother Leonardo becomes as smart as you or not, he will listen to you.”

“Why do you think that?” asked Donnie, barely daring to look back into his dad’s eyes and check for lies.

“He listens to you now, does he not? During all of the times I have seen you try to aid your brothers’ education, I have not seen either of your other two brothers stare at you with the intensity I have seen from Leo.”

“True. He always looks at what I show him, even if he does not always get it at first.”

“And I have a feeling this will be true for the rest of your lives.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.”


 

Premise: Mickey didn’t have a favorite brother. But if he did, it would definitely be Leo. Set in the Found at Mutation AU. (Because now I have started naming these…)

Setting the block carefully on top of the others, Mikey giggled at his super tall tower. He looked around to see who he would show his creation to. Catching sight of his biggest bro, Mikey got up (very carefully so as not to know over the tower) and then ran over to his tallest bro.

“Donnie! Donnie!” he called excitedly. Donnie looked up from the mess of wires and metal he was working on. Mikey briefly imagined what his bigger bro was making, but then he knew that he would never guess so he gave his bigger bro a huge smile. He knew Donnie would be proud that Mikey made something just like he always did. He waved his hands back to the tower he built. “Look! I made a tower!”

Donnie looked at the tower only a little before looking back at his mess of stuff.

“That’s good, Mikey,” he said in his I’m-not-really-paying-attention way. Mikey’s arms drooped. Okay, maybe it wasn’t wow enough for Donnie. Mikey could make it more wow.

Fifteen minutes later, Mikey stood up again. His tower was now a cool castle. Donnie would have to say it was wow now. Before he could get to his bigger bro, Raph came into the room carrying Leo like a plane.

“Vroom, vroom!” Raph yelled. Leo giggled, and Mikey looked at his two smaller bros. He wanted to do that.

“My turn! My turn!” cried Mikey, throwing up his arms to Raph. Raph put Leo down.

“Well, that depends. Are you going to take Spike out of his aquarium again?” asked Raph. Mikey bit his lip. Raph knew he took Spike out again. But Spike looked sad in his glass box. Mikey didn’t think Leo would have liked to be in a glass box if he had stayed a normal turtle.

“Spike doesn’t like being in the glass box.”

“Spike likes being in his ‘aquarium,’ Mikey! It’s his home. He only likes it when I take him out!”

“But Raph—”

“No buts, Mikey. Since you took Spike out, you don’t get airplane rides. Go back to playing with your blocks.”

Mikey’s eyes got hot, and he bit his lip harder. He looked straight at Raph.

“Go ahead and cry. I don’t care,” said Raph, looking back at Mikey before turning away. He kept talking quieter. “Spike could have gotten hurt.”

“What did you make, Mikey?” asked Leo. Mikey turned to his smallest bro. Leo was looking at Mikey’s block castle. It didn’t look so wow now.

“A castle,” Mikey mumbled.

“Wow! That’s so cool, Mikey,” said Leo walking over to the blocks. He pointed to gap in the towers. “Is that where the drawbridge goes?”

“Where what goes?”

“The drawbridge. Donnie told me about them last time we talked about castles.” Leo turned away from the pile of blocks and towards their biggest brother. “Donnie! Can you explain drawbridges to Mikey?”

“Drawbridges? What for?” asked Donnie still not looking up from the whatever-he-was-making. Donnie’s tongue stuck out of his mouth a little, so Mikey felt his shoulders squish near his head like he was a turtle. He wished he could hide his head in his shell like Leo could. Donnie would never look at his castle now…

Leo’s blue eyes grew sharp like Dad’s swords, the ones Leo always looked at when they went into the dojo. Leo stomped over to Donnie. How Leo could stomp without making almost any noise, Mikey didn’t know. He pulled on Donnie’s sleeve. The part Donnie was working on nearly fell to the floor.

“Leo! Careful! This is important!”

“So’s showing Mikey what a drawbridge is. Dad said you had to watch us today, not make stuff. You can make stuff later. I’ll help you later,” Leo said in his serious voice. He grabbed Donnie’s sleeve again, but softer this time. “But first we are going ta show Mikey what a drawbridge is.”

“He’s got you there, Donnie,” said Raph with a rough laugh. The kinda laugh that Donnie called a kinda candy bar.

“And you are going to help us too, Raph,” said Leo.

“And why am I going to do that?” said Raph in a growl. Mikey stretched out his neck to look at his bigger bro. He didn’t look happy, and Mikey shook his head at Leo. But Leo smiled very sharply. Swords again. His big bro was scary when he was out of his shee—shai—shoth thing? What were the things where swords rested called?

“Because if not I’ll tell Dad and Uncle Splinter who poured out all their favorite green tea just so he did not have ta drink any more.”

Raph got very straight, and then he frowned very darkly.

“Fine.”

Leo’s smile grew bigger, and then he looked happily at Mikey again.

“We’re going ta show you what a drawbridge is, Mikey!”

Mikey smiled back at his wow big bro. His arms shot up, and he gave a happy cry as all three of his brothers came to see his castle and make it so much more wow!


 

Premise: A little Leo stumbles upon a very enthusiastic child who follows him home.

“Sensei, sensei!”

Slowly but gracefully rising from his meditation position, Splinter headed to the entrance of the small lair where he and his son lived. His heart threatened to give out.

There standing next to his little green son and holding his three-fingered hand was a small Asian human boy about 8 years old. Leonardo wore a large smile as he pulled the equally smiling boy towards Splinter.

“Sensei, this is Mikey. He was lost, but I found him. Can he stay here for a little while?”

Words failed him. Where had he gone wrong? How could his son have brought such danger into their home? Leonardo had always been a level-headed child who seemed to understand the peril their very existence brought. Where had he gotten the idea that bringing some random child into their home was anywhere near safe?

“Hi, my name’s Mikey. I’m 7 and three fourths. My bros and me are visiting New York because Donnie said we needed to find something that would help Dad. I don’t remember what the something was, but I was trying to help my bros find it when I got lost.”

“You got lost after nightfall near the sewers?” asked Splinter, shock being overwhelmed by confusion.

“Yep,” answered the small Asian boy, the smile on his face growing wider. Splinter felt all the weight of his age in one instant. What would the family say once the boy was discovered to be missing? What if they sent search parties? What if those search parties followed his trails into the sewers and found a giant rat and turtle caring for him? They would certainly not assume that the giant mutated rat and turtle had found the boy and were just taking care of him until they could find his family. And they wouldn’t take what they considered mutated vermin to court or jail either.

“He said he fell from one of the piers and washed up in one of the tunnels. Or that’s how I understood his explanation.”

“Where were you and your brothers when you fell into the bay?” asked Splinter, a little worried for this poor boy. If he fell into the polluted Hudson near enough to a sewage drain to wash up in it, then he might have been exposed to all sorts of harmful substances and bacteria. The boy was lucky that there had been an unusual combination of high tide and weeks of rain, otherwise the whole situation could have been worse.

“Um…I don’t remember. I don’t think it was somewhere that Dunn-san or Bradford-sensei would have wanted us to be. But I dunno if they would be mad was because it was dangerous or because we’d find something to wake Dad up.”

“Wake your father? Is your father a heavy a sleeper?” asked Splinter in an ironic tone. This child was making little sense.

“Well he hasn’t woken up since I was very little, so I guess you can say he’s a really, really, really heavy sleeper.”

“How can someone sleep for that long?” asked Leonardo, looking very confused at the small boy in the orange shirt.

“I dunno. Donnie says that he in something called a combo or something…”

“Coma,” Splinter corrected as he realized exactly what the child was talking about. He grabbed his walking stick. “So perhaps they were somewhere near the pharmaceutical district.”

“That sounds like something Donnie would say,” the boy commented.

“Let us head in that direction then,” said Splinter as he started towards the sewer tunnel that would lead to the dock nearest the pharmaceutical district. Suddenly a figure burst out of the shadows of the tunnel and attempted to slam into Splinter. The trained ninja stepped left and allowed the hurtling figure to charge past him. The figure turned and attempted another lunge, which Splinter blocked with his walking stick.

“Run, Mikey!” yelled the figure. “I’ll hold him off.”

“Ack!” yelped Leonardo. With panic and anger coursing through his veins, Splinter knocked the charging figure aside to speed to his son’s side. Another boy, older than the small Asian boy who had brought deadly danger into Splinter’s son’s life, held a bo staff to Leonardo’s neck. With a harsh backhand, the older boy sailed across the room and landed on the battered sofa and near broke it. Splinter sensed the other figure (a boy as well) dive towards him as the giant rat grabbed the staff dropped by the first attacker. It would do more damage than his stick. He swung the staff at the attacker, but he halted the strike as the small Asian boy lunged between the two.

“Stop! Stop it! They weren’t hurting me!” yelled the child named Mikey. The attacking boy barely halted before slamming into the small child. The small child turned towards Splinter with large blue eyes. “Please Mr. Rat Man, don’t hurt them! They don’t want to hurt you!”

“Speak for yourself,” said the diving figure as he tried to move around the small Asian child. Now getting a closer look at the intruder, Splinter estimated he was between the first child’s age and the one now trying to stand up from the couch. Without taking more time to observe their opponents, Splinter sprinted towards Leonardo, dropped the bo staff, and scooped up the child-sized turtle before hurrying towards one of the pre-planned escape routes our of their lair.

“Wait!” the first child yelled. “We want to say thank you! Don’t go!”

“Like I said speak for yourself!” said the other boy, and Splinter disregarded the pleas. He would not risk his son to sate one little boy’s nosiness. He hurried into the sewer tunnel.

“Michelangelo, let them go!” said a new voice. “They could be dangerous.”

His whole body stilled. Michelangelo? Mikey was a shortened form of Michelangelo. And there were two more boys who were his brothers. And they were all of Asian descent.

It could not be. He should keep running. He should run until he finds a place in this maze of sewers where he and his son could rest and recoup. He should not be entertaining the thought that the only human children in the world that he considered with equal fondness as his son could have found their way into Splinter and Leonardo’s sewer home.

“No, they aren’t, Donatello,” said the first voice harshly, and Splinter flinched at the name. Leonardo stared up at his father with curious and concerned blue eyes. He looked back in the direction that the voices were drifting from.

“Look, that giant rat threw me across the room like I weighed nothing,” the newest voice explained in clear exasperation. Donatello if the youngest child was correct. “I didn’t even have a chance to hold onto my bo staff. He could have really hurt you.”

“Yeah, but only ‘cause you hurt Leo.”

“Leo?” asked the possible Donatello.

“Uh huh. The cool big turtle you slammed to the ground. His name was Leonardo, but I thought it’d be fun to call him Leo for short.”

“…that’s not funny, Mikey,” said the other boy’s voice, and Splinter fought back his hope as it suggested a name to go with the gruff child’s voice.

“It’s not a joke! Leo liked it when I called him that. He said his dad always calls him by his full name and that he’d never had a friend to call him anything else. And then you had to go off and scare him away and now he’s lost his first friend and is gonna get scolded a whole lot by his dad for trying to help me!”

The child sounded genuinely upset about the prospect of Leonardo getting in trouble over him. Allowing the hope to grow stronger than caution, he took a few steps backwards though he stayed in the shadows. Leonardo did not move the slightest in his grip, seeming to sense that Splinter needed him still. The ninjitsu master did not want to take any unnecessary chances, but if…

“Mikey!” said the one who might be named Donatello. “What are the chances you would find a turtle named Leonardo in the sewers of New York City?”

“Really high seeing as I already did.”

“Stop making things up just because we chased off your new friends,” said the other boy who Splinter’s mind wanted to label as Raphael. “Come on, we need to get out of here before they come back.”

“It is unlikely that they will return. They seemed fairly intelligent given the set up of this place, and if they can talk like Mikey says, then they will know better to return to a place where people have already discovered them.”

“I’m not making stuff up. Those two were really trying to help me, and you two hurt them.”

Silence followed the youngest’s statement, and Splinter dared to peek back into their lair. The older boys stared at the youngest with semi-guilty looks on their faces, though the middle child quickly morphed his face into annoyance.

“Look, either way they’re gone,” the gruff child said. “So let’s get out of here. I don’t like the look of this place or the thought of the things that crawl around here if those two are any idea.”

“Take that back! They were nice! Nicer than you anyway,” grumbled the youngest (“Michelangelo,” Splinter’s hope whispered).

“What’d you say?” demanded the gruff child (who might be named Raphael). He quickly caught the youngest child in a headlock and rubbed his knuckles over the smaller boy’s skull. “I’ll show you nicer!”

“Ow! Let go!” squealed the youngest child as he tried to wiggle out of the older boy’s hold. Splinter could see six ways that the younger boy could have thrown the older boy off, but whether because of lack of training or lack of desire, the youngest child remained trapped. “Come on, Raph! Let go!”

Raph. Almost all doubt fled at the shortened name. Leonardo seemed to sense the shift of Splinter’s belief and squirmed out of the rat’s hold. He stood beside Splinter and gazed at him with questions in his eyes. With a sigh, Splinter stepped out of the sewer tunnel and back into the lair that had been his and his son’s for years now.

He stood there in the light for a full three minutes watching as the two boys wrestled while the third looked on in a mix of annoyance and relief. Leonardo stood next to Splinter in patient but fascinated wonder. The look on his son’s face solidified Splinter’s decision, and the ninjitsu master cleared his throat.

The reaction was near immediate as the two tousling on the ground stopped, and two of the three boys tensed and adopted battle-ready stances that now looked all-too-familiar. The third bounced up with a giant smile and wide arms.

“You came back!”

“Yes. This is our home after all,” said Splinter calmly. “And I appear to have forgotten my manners. I would like to welcome the esteemed heirs to the Hamato clan to our humble residence.”

Three pairs of wide eyes silenced any lingering doubts, and Splinter looked down at his son with a warm smile that blossomed out of hope fulfilled.

“Would you make tea for our guests, Leonardo?” said Splinter, nudging his semi-stunned son towards their makeshift kitchen. “I believe they have many questions, as do we.”

“Hai, sensei,” Leonardo said out of habit rather than any real thought and walked mindlessly over to the kitchen. The youngest child (Michelangelo—his hope shouted victoriously from his soul) nearly split his face with his own grin and literally bounced to Leonardo.

“So your dad knows our family?” asked Michelangelo, his voice brimming with joy and excitement.

“Um…I think Sensei thinks we are family,” answered Leonardo.

“Woah,” Michelangelo gasped his mouth wide open before returning to that face-splitting smile. “That’s a hundred times better, dude!”


Note from KuraiArcoiris: That whole “magic turtle” comment kinda went with a scribbling I had been playing around with in my head, soooo…between watching Crimes of Grindelwald and that comment, the scribbling forced itself to be written. You don’t have to be a Wizarding World fan to enjoy the following since a lot is conjecture, but there will be quite a few Harry Potter references. I hope you like it despite it being a bit of a crossover.

Premise: In Japan, breaking the statute of secrecy is considered a crime of the highest degree. So what can three brothers do when their turtle brother shows no signs of magic? Go back to school and sulk?

Mikey stared despondently at the computer. A slight pressure touched his shoulder. Baby blue eyes slid to the side.

“Oh, it’s you Craney,” Mikey muttered. He slumped further into his seat. The charmed paper crane on his shoulder fluttered to keep its balance. “Long time no see. Sorry I’m not more happy to see you, but you’re part of the stupid school that is keeping me from my big brother.”

“Actually given how long he has been fluttering around here, I think it safe to assume he is more part of the Hamato family compound than Mahoutokoro.”

“He still came from Mahoutokoro first,” grumbled Mikey. He rolled his head back and tilted the chair he was sitting on dangerously onto two legs so he could look at his second eldest brother. “Are you sure we can’t sneak the laptop into school?”

“As I have already explained 6 times, the high concentration of magic will fry it,” answered Donnie. He took a few steps and tilted Mikey’s chair back onto its four feet. Mikey opened his mouth, but Donnie cut him off. “And no, I cannot magic proof it. Toriyama-sensei charmed my robes to change to puke green if I try to sneak in modified technology again.”

“Can’t you uncharm your robes?”

“And risk activating the safeguard charms he has undoubtedly also placed? No. Perhaps with the magic programming class I have this year, I will better be able to analyze spells without the use of invasive spells,” said Donnie as he batted the paper crane off Mikey’s shoulder. “But I am sure Toriyama-sensei will take my classes into account.”

“Why couldn’t we go to one of the other wizarding schools? I heard the one in England only makes you go for seven years. That means you could stay with Leo.”

“Mahoutokoro has a long tradition of making sure their students are prepared for the ningen-ko-filled world. And to today’s board of education that means a full eleven years of education,” answered Donnie. A grimace crossed his face. “If I had started when I was supposed to, then I would already be done.”

“Yeah, stupid Dun,” Mikey agreed, his frown deepening at the would-be murderer of all his brothers. He was really glad that horrible man was no longer running their lives. Mikey’s gaze returned to the computer. “What do you think Leo would be like as a mahōtsukai?” He brightened at the thought. “I bet he would be great at Quidditch!”

“Seeker or beater?” Donnie said. Mikey caught the amused glint in Donnie’s mahogany eyes. Donnie liked the idea too.

“Keeper,” said Mikey. “Nothing would get past him.”

“Makes sense. And I bet he would have a good handle on advanced ancient runes. They are not too unlike circuitry, and he has shown himself more than capable in that regard.”

“Leo would do good in all his classes. His robes would be silver at least.”

“Definitely,” Donnie said with a grin that mirrored Mikey’s own. “He would have made a good Quidditch captain too.”

“What are you two talking about?” asked Raph as he strode into the room. Craney immediately perched on Raph’s head. Raph made no motion to indicate he felt anything land on his head. Probably because it always rested there when Raph was nearby.

“What Leo would have done if he had magic,” said Mikey.

“He would have joined our dueling club,” said Raph. “And he would have made an awesome Vice-Captain.”

“You wish. Leo would have totally been straight-up Captain,” said Mikey. Raph scowled but didn’t argue. They all knew it was true. “Maybe it’s a good thing he doesn’t have magic. I mean can you imagine how overpowered he would be with magic. He’s super strong without it. With it he would be a monster.”

“The same could be said about us,” said Donnie. “The Hamato clan has always been known as one of the few mahōtsukai clans that is as deadly with magic as without. To the point where the few seishin-ko in our family tree are as feared as our magical members.”

“Like Leo,” said Mikey. “I bet he’s the most feared out of all of us already.”

“Among the ningen-ko, for sure,” said Raph. “The mahōtsukai clans should be glad they haven’t met him.”

“And unless the headmaster agrees that Leo is a true Hamato by blood, no mahōtsukai clan ever will,” said Donnie. The good mood popped like a much loved party balloon. Mikey crossed his arms and lifted his legs onto the chair so as to curl into a ball. He wished he had a shell to hide in like Leo.

“It’s not fair,” muttered Mikey. “Leo is family.”

“Yes, but given what happened last time we revealed our powers without express permission to, we need to talk to Headmaster Oda about revealing the magical world to Leo.”

“But Leo is the only one in the Hamato clan in New York who doesn’t know where we actually are,” whined Mikey.

“Do you want your robes to turn white again?” asked Raph. Mikey groaned, and he almost said yes. But his brother knew him too well. “Remember that this time Dad is around to see it.”

Mikey’s mouth snapped shut. The shame brought by dishonored heirs might end up making their Dad look older than he already did. They did not have to add to his collection of gray hairs. No more than they usually did.

“Fine,” Mikey grumbled. He pushed his crossed arms towards the front of the laptop and shoved his head into them. “But I still don’t like it.”

“None of us do,” said Donnie. “Now move over so that I can set up our final goodbyes to our brother for the next four months.”

Letting out another loud grumble, Mikey moved over enough so that Donnie could reach the keyboard. Minutes later, the Skype page was set up and the images of their Dad and their fourth brother appeared on the screen. Dad was turned away from the screen and talking to Leo.

“—sure it’s working?”

“Considering I can see Mikey sulking in the corner of the screen and Donnie and Raph trying not to strangle him, I am definitely sure,” said Leo as he pointed his hand towards the screen. Mikey’s head shot up and turned around to look at this two other older brothers. Neither of them appeared to be reaching for his neck.

“It was more of an inward impulse,” Donnie explained with a grin at Mikey’s expression. Mikey turned back and frowned at Leo.

“Not funny, Leo,” said Mikey.

“Plenty funny,” said Leo. He shrugged a shoulder. “Plus now I can really see you, so win/win.”

“It’s only funny because it’s true,” said Raph with his own grin.

“Leo, Raph’s being mean to me again!” Mikey whined playfully. “You can’t leave me here alone with these two! I won’t make it!”

“Just for the record, if Mikey does not survive until the next time we see you, it was his own fault,” said Donnie in an almost serious tone.

“You all survived most of your lives without me. You will be fine,” said Leo. Mikey felt his brothers tense along with him.

“Really not funny, Leo,” said Mikey. “Really really not funny.”

“It is true though,” said Leo, his smile lopsided and hurting. He didn’t get why they were leaving him behind. Mikey would have reached for his wand if it had not been in his suitcase. His dad wouldn’t get too many gray hairs from one dishonored heir, right? Mikey might get in trouble for illegally apparating under the age of fifteen, and breaking the stupid international statute of secrecy, and he might be spliced for trying to apparate over a thousand miles (Donnie would definitely know the exact number of miles), but it would be worth it to make that slump in Leo’s shoulders go away.

A sudden flash of white blocked Mikey’s view of his oldest brother.

“Hey!” Mikey cried. He batted at the piece of paper flapping in front of the laptop screen. “Craney! Craney! Back off!”

“Is that a paper crane?” Leo asked. “How are you getting it to fly around like that?”

“Leonardo, would you please fetch me some of that medical tea your brother left? I believe I find myself in need of some,” said Dad. A hesitance silence occurred on the other side of the screen, during which Mikey caught the frantic crane and hid it under the table. He saw his brother’s shell disappear to the left of the laptop screen. Another awkwardly quiet minute passed, and then Dad looked straight at Mikey. “Your brother is in the kitchen. Release the crane.”

Immediately after Mikey let Craney go. The folded crane flapped at the screen as if trying to phase through it and reach Dad. Dad lifted up a hand and said in clear and precise Japanese (instead of the English that the conversation had been held in until now), “I, Hamato Yoshi, am prepared to listen to your message. Please read it out loud, and I will dictate my reply.”

Craney cocked its tiny folded head, and then like the crane that had once appeared to Mikey (and his two older brothers) it unfolded itself into a large scroll written in beautiful kanji. A voice that sounded a lot like Toriyama-sensei dictated out of the scroll:

To the esteemed Hamato Yoshi
Clan leader of the great and prestigious Hamato clan
Lifetime member of the Order of the Seven Sages
Recipient of the Heavenly Peach (Three times over)
Holder of the white-blossomed Sakura wand
Member of the Jade Emperor’s court;

This is a notice of conditional entry for a Hamato Leonardo into the unequalled and internationally esteemed Mahoutokoro, your alma matter. As he is of your blood, the condition for his attendance is that he would come and take up residence with your clan for the duration of his studies. As he is under the age of eleven, he may take the provided storm petrels to the school until he is old enough to board.

Hamato Leonardo currently resides in America, but the American school of Ilvermony has rejected his application due to, as they have put it, extenuating circumstances. And so they have passed the application to us, as is always the case when a child from one country has claim to schooling in another. We found his application to be more than pleasing and are eager to accept him into our school with the simple condition that he reside in Japan and not America while he studies in our school.

We eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

Assistant Headmaster Toriyama Yoshihiro
Doctor of Charms, Enchantments, and Ofuda
Order of the Clow Second Class
Member of the Jade Emperor’s Court

The voice faded and silenced, and the scroll levitated noiselessly in the air. Mikey scanned the kanji thoroughly to check that what was written matched what was said. It did. A grin split Mikey’s face.

“I always knew Leo was a magic turtle.”

A slap hit the back of Mikey’s head. Mikey yelped, but the grin stuck fast on his face. They would not have to leave their brother behind. They could be four again. Like they were supposed to be. Only now with magic! Mikey could barely wait. Maybe he could apparate without his wand? Worth a try.

Vocabulary used (because I (KuraiArcoiris) am now using made-up words):

Mahoutokoro – word not made up by me, it is supposedly the wizarding school in Japan.

Mahōtsukai – word I also did not make up. This is an actual word. It is supposed to be Japanese for wizard, sorta. It isn’t a direct translation, but I like it more than the direct translation and it matched the school better so…

Ningen-ko – Magical Japanese slang for muggle. Yes, I made this one up using the words for human and child respectively. Because mangling my own language is not good enough I suppose.

Seishin-ko – Magical Japanese slang for squib. With my luck, this actually means something in Japan. Something terrible. And here I am thinking I made it up from the words spirit and child. Poor poor Japanese language.

Chapter Text

Mikey silently grinned to himself as he pressed himself further into the corner of the ceiling, biding his time as he watched the doorway below him with laser like focus.

So... Which one of his brothers would be the first through that door frame?

He couldn’t help a wide grin with a little wiggle of anticipation as he could hear familiar voices approaching, his sneakers pressing just a little more firmly against the niche he was using to brace himself up.

And then there was movement, and he pounced!

And YES! It was a turtle shell he landed on!

Mikey, of course, was quite happy to land on any of his brothers. Raph’s startled curses and Donnie’s huffs of indignant surprise were always a treat, and he would continue to enjoy provoking those responses whenever he could, but there was just something so satisfying about landing on that solid green carapace.

Plus, y’know, if one thought about it, he had years of pouncing on his new older brother to catch up on!

“Oh! Hello Mikey.” Leo’s blue eyes glanced up at him fondly. He didn’t seem all that startled by an orange brother dropping down on him as he walked through the door. Probably those magic turtle ninja senses.

“Ha!” Raph snickered behind him, walking next to their purple genius brother. “And that’s why Donnie and I were letting you walk in the front.”

It had been over two weeks since the whole crazy Hostile-Take-Over-Attempt/Turtle-Brother-Kidnapping fiasco had gone down, and Mikey still sometimes couldn’t believe that all that had really happened. How life could turn so awesome so quickly?! Dun and his goons were gone, Dad was awake after all those years, and, just to top off this metaphorical chocolate-caramel-and-jalapeño life event sundae, they had a new amazing big brother! And Leo could talk! How mondo incredible was that?! He was starting to take over their training (with Dad’s blessing and guidance), and was a waaay better teacher then Buttface Bradford had ever been. He was also protective and strong and loved gummy worms and Space Heros and had the coolest shell to hitch a ride on and was always willing to let Mikey hug him. It was like they were now all living in the most incredible dream ever!

For his part, Leo, bless his precious big turtle heart, was so adorably awkward and shy, obviously wanting badly to be a good big brother but always acting a little unsure and worried about possibly overstepping unknown boundaries. He was like a rescued puppy who had always spent his whole life outside in the cold, looking longingly in, and now, for the first time in his life, not only was he invited inside, but, to his surprise, he was being told that, yes, of course you can crawl up onto the couch with us and get all the happy snuggletimes, you adorable muffin you!

It was strange to think about, though. It had been less then two months since they had found Leo, (and it had only a few weeks where they knew he could even talk!), but now, Mikey couldn’t even begin to imagine a life without Leo anymore. It felt like they had always been together! They had always been four brothers, because that’s the way it was supposed to be! The stars were finally put back in place, and fate had at last been set right! But while Mikey, Donnie, and even grumpy Waffie loved their new brother dearly, and it was clear that Leo whole heartedly loved them in return, their relationship was still very new. In truth, they were all still gradually getting to know one another. Baby steps, man!

So Mikey had plans for tonight! Brotherly Bonding Activities were to be had!

“Leo! Bro!” Mikey grabbed his new turtle brother’s head and leaned down to touch his nose to Leo’s snout, doing so mostly just because he enjoyed the feeling the warm scales. “Game night!”

“Um... what?” Leo’s snout wrinkled in confusion as he blinked cross-eyed at his enthusiastic brother’s face.

Mikey straightened up on Leo’s shoulders. “Dad’s napping, you’re obviously feeling lots better, and we’ve got some brotherly bonding to catch up on! So let’s play video games together tonight!”

“Hm. It has been a while since we’ve played.” Donnie mused over the suggestion as he tapped his chin. “We’ve all finished up with most of the training and homework already, and we could all definitely use a break.” He nodded, giving Mikey an approving smile. “So yes, I’m up for a gaming session, if everybody else is.”

“Sure. Sounds fun.” Raph agreed amicably.

Leo reached up and rubbed his arm a little shyly, glancing around at them. “I’ve... um... never played a video game before.”

Mikey knew that look. It was Leo’s ‘I’m actually quite willing to partake of this activity, especially if you, my beloved brothers, enjoy it and will be with me, but I’m warning you now that I unfortunately might be less then absolutely perfect in my attempts to join you.’ It was a very specific precise and facial expression that Mikey had learned to read. Leo often chewed on his lip a little while making it, it was pretty endearing.

Raph merely snorted, and gestured for Leo to follow him. “Well, good. That just means I get to thoroughly kick your butt at something.”

“A-hem.” Donnie imperiously cleared his throat, bringing his hand up against the chest of his purple kimono like he was offended. “And just who, might I point out, is the current holder of the Most Excellent Diadem of Eternal Honors?”

“Uh... the what?” Leo blinked as he followed.

“It’s a crown that we made for when we win at video games.” Raph explained as he started to lead them towards the elevator. “The name was a collaboration.” He paused. “Mostly Mikey, though.”

“Ah.” Leo nodded, understanding now.

“I used to be the champion at, like, everything. I’m an expert at video games!” Mikey complained. “But Donne’s been winning it all the time lately, because he found this super nerdy game based on actual physics, and that’s all he wants to play.”

“Hey, MechaSeige is fun!” Donnie protested. “We can build our own battle bots in it! Raph likes it too! Right Raph?” He turned to the muscular teen in jeans and ripped red t shirt, obviously looking for validation.

Raph shrugged. “I just like it because I can use my mech to blow up trees and rocks and buildings and shit.”

“See?” Donnie gestured towards Raph, as if that settled the point. “Best game!”

Mikey scoffed. “I didn’t say it wasn’t a fun game. I’m just saying that Dee’s too good at it!”

Leo shrugged agreeably. “Well, I’m willing to give your games a try, whatever ones you guys think is best.”

“Oh, just you wait, Leo!” Donnie rubbed his hands together. “MechaSeige is awesome! It has a little bit of something for everybody’s playstyle!”

“And don’t you worry Leo!” Mikey chirped cheerfully, still happily draped over his big brother’s shell as they moved. “Like I said, I’m, like, the ultimate gamer, so I’ll teach you all the tricks I know! You’ll be pro in no time!”

“Thank you, Mikey.” Leo’s blue eyes, brought out vividly by his blue mask, glanced up at Mikey fondly. “Hopefully I don’t disappoint.”

“Psh. Never.” Mikey scoffed, waving that off, then paused, and leaned over to look at Leo’s face seriously. “Though bro, that reminds me. I need to tell you the first rule of video games. It’s by far the very most important rule that you should never, ever forget!”

“Oh? What’s that?” Leo looked curious.

“Have fun!” Mikey emphasized his point with gestures, throwing up his hands in the air while keeping his balance expertly on the shell. “They’re games, after all!”

“Ah.” Leo nodded sagely, turning back to the hallway ahead. “I shall endeavor to keep that in mind, then.”


 “So welcome to our gaming room!” Donnie opened the door and bowed with a flourish.

Mikey peeked down at Leo’s face, eager to see his expression. Yup, their gaming room set up was pretty sweet! Against one wall was mounted a giant tv in front of a huge super comfy couch, with a few beanbag chairs. Every console imaginable was lined up on a shelf below the TV. And in the middle of the room, several small computer stations were arranged in a circular position, a mass of wires somehow connecting them all in a fashion only Donnie understood.

Hm. In Mikey’s expert Little Brother opinion, he would judge that Leo seemed to be a little intimidated by all the complicated set ups, but at the same time he seemed more then a little curious, layered with an almost imperceptible undercurrent of eagerness. So, despite being unsure, he still appeared willing. Very good start.

“So that’s what this room is for.” Leo mused, moving around to poke around and explore a little, looking only the slightest bit hesitant, like something might suddenly combust at his touch. “I had never actually gone in here. With all the electronics in here, I had surmised that it was some sort of surveillance room or something.”

“I could see how that judgement could be made from the tiny view of the vents.” Raph noted with some amusement.

Leo blushed a little, but continued exploring.

Donnie had moved over to the computers, and was already started to boot a few of them up. “Well, this is actually the communal game room. We let the other cadets use it as well, though one can sign it out, like we are now. I’ve gone ahead and signed out the room for the night, so we shouldn’t be bothered.” He finished turning on the forth computer, then moved over towards a cupboard on the wall. “But first we need this. My dear Leo, this is the grand prize we’ll be battling for tonight!” Donnie said, dramatically pulling out a cardboard box that had been lovingly Bedazzled.

“Hang on!” Mikey held up a hand, halting him as he quickly thumbed through his tPhone with the other. “Let me get appropriate mood music first!”

Donnie waited patiently while Mikey found the perfect song and held up his phone. Very dramatic and ceremonial music began filling the room.

Donnie cleared his throat, then opened the box for all to see.

Leo raised an eyebrow, half amused, half incredulous. “Very... very nice." He finally said diplomatically, then cleared his throat. "What’s with the dinosaur?”

Raph reached in and picked up the glittery dollar store costume tiara with a small t-rex plastic figurine tied to the top with a twist tie. “I made the mistake of complaining that it was too girly.” he admitted, examining it with a critical eye. “So Mikey fixed it.”

“Ah.” Leo said no more. Mikey knew that he would see the logic behind that! Of course dinosaurs made everything more manly!

Raph shrugged and turned to Donnie. “Yer highness?” he said in a semi serious tone, relevantly placing the crown on Donnie’s head.

Donnie regally tilted his head in acknowledgment. “Tonight, I will defend my honor and my title!” he declared dramatically. “May the battles be many and glorious!”

Leo snickered at that, obviously amused by the whole thing. Mikey grinned widely, glad to see his brother enjoying himself.

And thus, eager to get the night started, they showed Leo the tradition of carefully arranging drinks and snacks to be enjoyed, spending a few frustrating moments getting that one stubborn controller to connect, and finally, when everything was perfect and they were all set, they finally sat down at their stations to begin the game.

At first, they spent some time showing Leo the basics. Mikey had been a little worried that the controller wouldn’t work with Leo’s unique hand shape, but it turned out that he didn’t need to fret. His bro was adaptable! Plus, you mostly only used the thumbs for the buttons and joystick, plus occasionally the shoulder bumpers, so having only three fingers turned out to be no big deal. Donnie then gave him a basic tutorial on mech building.

“So, as you can see, you can customize your mech in quite literally hundreds of different ways!” Donnie finished. “You just have to be careful, because it’s quite easy to make something that doesn’t function. If you want it to fly, you have to balance it right, and make sure it has enough lift to counter its weight. It can get pretty complicated, so I’d start off with something simple to start out with.”

“I like to make mine small and quick and adorable!” Mikey informed him helpfully.

“Whereas Raph likes to put as much strength and weapons in his, so he always ends up with the biggest, clunkiest block on wheels that you can imagine." Donnie rolled his eyes.

“I made the strong mecha possible!” Raph said proudly. “Ain’t nothing surviving more then one hit from my beast of a tank!”

“The problem with that, is first you have to hit something!” Donnie gestured in annoyance. “Your mech is basically a primitive train! It’s so heavy and awkward to control, it’s hardly maneuverable!”

 Raph huffed defensively, “Hey! My mech can go plenty fast!”

“But you can’t turn easily, so it’s basically just in a straight line!” Donnie pointed out. “And it’s so heavy, it takes you the length of a runway to build up to maximum speed! You'll never hit anybody like that”

“Hey, trees and buildings aren’t going to dodge my attacks, and that’s my main concern in this game.” Raph gave a wolfish grin, rubbing his hands together as if that was all part of the plot.

“If you would just let me help you balance it...” Donnie muttered, obviously twitching to help, then sighed and shook his head. This was a much debated point of contention between them, and Donnie apparently decided to let it go tonight. He instead cleared his throat and redirected his attention back to Leo. “Anyways, since I often have so much of an advantage in this game, we often like to make up rules for some of the rounds to try and even the playing field. Mikey and Raph will often come up with thing such as I can’t use flight during that particular battle, or I can only use melee attacks, or things like that. Some of them get pretty creative and fun, and I'm more then willing to play along! You’re more then welcome to make up some of your own, Leo, as long as they’re reasonable!”

Leo nodded, looking thoughtful as he continued building his mech.

“Put flame decals on it.” Mikey offered sagely, looking over his shoulder. “Everything looks cooler and faster with flames on it.”

"That is a scientific fact." Raph agreed.

"No, it is not." Donnie sighed, then pointed at Leo's screen. "But you can make the flame decals blue, if you'd like."


 At last, they all had their mechs made, and a temporary pact of non-aggression was called so they could examine and admire one another's creations.

“So Leo, meet Tiny Tinkerblade!” Mikey said happily, and his tiny, rabbit like robot hopped around the feet of the much large mech. “This is mah boi!”

“He’s... so small.” Leo blinked, looking at the mech that was a fraction of the size of the others.

“It just means I’m that much harder to hit!” Mikey scoffed, showing off some of the backflips he was able to nimbly do in the game. “Agility is the name of the game!”

“Ah.” Leo blinked, and then glanced up at the large, long rectangular box on tank treads that made up Raph’s mecha, dwarfing by far the rest of their mechs. “And do you have a name for you mech as well, Raph?”

“Psh, no.” Raph scoffed. “It’s a metal box that bulldozes everything in it’s path. It doesn’t need a name.”

“I call it ‘Big Red’.” Mikey leaned over and whispered conspiratorially.

“He does not answer to that name.” Raph was quick to point out, playing along amiably in his own way. “No matter how many times Mikey tries to make it a thing.”

And, of course, Donnie’s mech was some complicated yet elegant perfect war machine, able to seamlessly move and adapt to almost any situation. It looked a little like a giant dragonfly, and had wings and guns and claws that helped it climb and grapple.

Mikey was most curious to meet the fourth mech, and looked over Leo's creation. Hm, not bad! Not as big as Donnie's, it was a very ninja-like mech with long blades and springs on its legs to keep it agile and mobile. Donnie had helped him, it being his first time playing a game ever, of course, but it was definitely a Leo-like machine.

Mikey voiced his most sincere approval, and watched, delighted, as Leo's cheeks colored a little as he gave a small but pleased smile.


 

So! It turned out that Leo caught on really quickly!

Mikey was rather impressed. Leo was already naturally nimble and quick in real life, and video games were often just a matter of quick reactions and pushing the right buttons at the right time. With Mikey's carefree playstyle, and Raph's indifference, most matches ended up being Leo and Donnie going head to head. Mikey had the sneaking suspicion that he might have yet another brother who might challenge him when it comes to being the game champion, if Leo so chose to pursue the Art.

But, despite Leo's best efforts, the status quo remained unchanged. As the night continued to unfold, Donnie’s superior mech and knowledge of physics continued to serve him well, and he had won every round so far. Leo tried banding Raph and Mikey together to face him as a united unit, but no matter what they tried, no matter what challenges they threw in front of him, he always seemed to figure out a solution, and come out ahead. The Most Excellent Diadem of Eternal Honors remained firmly perched on their genius brother's brow.

But winning or losing didn’t matter, as long as they were all having fun. Right? After all, that was the whole point of tonight, having fun together as brothers.

Mikey took a moment to stealthily study Leo’s face.

His older turtle brother’s brow was slightly furrowed in concentration, and he was studying the screen with those brilliant blue eyes, his attention fully on the task in front of him. Namely, as currently the sole surviving mech, trying to avoid Donnie’s death machine.

Hm...

Well... it didn’t look like Leo wasn’t having fun.

At any rate, Mikey could, at least, definitely say that their turtle brother didn’t look bored. So... yay? Was this a success? Maybe?

Mikey gnawed on his lip a little. He knew (mostly Raph’s fault here) that underneath that calm and collected exterior, Leo actually had a surprisingly deep competitive streak. Thus, one thing Mikey had been a little worried about going in tonight was that constantly losing would just leave Leo frustrated, and make it so he wasn’t having fun. But video games held so much potential! Mikey really wanted to share one of his favorite things with Leo! But... if he wasn’t having fun...

Mikey pondered the situation. It wasn’t as if he could have pulled Donnie aside beforehand and asked him to throw a match or two, just to placate Leo’s sense of pride. If Leo figured out that they tried something like that (and he most definitely would find out, being the magic turtle he was), then he would actually get annoyed and hurt. He would not appreciate a pity win. Not at all.

Erg. Maybe they should’ve started off with a co-op game instead. Though, knowing his bros, those could end up just as competitive and just as chaotic. Maybe even more so. Mikey knew how Raph got when there was only one health pack left and Mikey took it, even though Mikey was only missing a sliver of health and Raph’s character was down to a few hit points. Raph never seemed to see the humor in such actions, even if Mikey found it hilarious.

On the monitor screen, Mikey noted an explosion and a small fireball billow out of the trees off in the distance, and realized that this round of battles was now definitely over. Leo set his controller down with an annoyed huff.

“Ha!” Donnie crowed in triumph, and shot Leo a playful, triumphant look as he sat back in his chair. “Good run, big brother, but, yet again, the laws of physics are mine to master!” He tapped his fingers together with the cackled of an evil genius.

“Nice try, bro.” Raph reached over and patted Leo's shell. “You’ve already broken our record for lasting the longest against Dee, so you have that going for ya at least.” He shrugged as he sat back up and picked up his controller again. “Don’t feel too bad, this game is just his home turf. I’ve long since come to terms with that. Kinda like mingolf.” He paused, then held up a finger warningly, turning to give Leo a serious look. “Speaking of which, here’s a tip, Leo. Never play against Donnie in mingolf.”

“Ooh, I second that motion.” Mikey nodded sagely.

Leo’s shell made his gaming chair creak a bit as he leaned back. He was tapping his chin absently with a knuckle for a minute as he stared at the screen, then he reached down and picked up his controller again. “I’m going to redesign my mech real quick, if that’s alright.”

“Of course.” Donnie nodded, adjusting the crown on his head. “Did you want some help again?”

Leo shook his head. “No, that’s alright. I think I have an idea on what I want.”

Mikey glanced around. “Or... if you’re getting tired of Donnie showing off his engineering smarts, we could try another game as well. There’s this really cool racing game that’s really fun to play!”

Leo paused and tilted his head, giving it thought, then shrugged and went back to manipulating the controller, continuing his build. “We can play that next. I would like to try just one more round of this game, if that’s okay.” He paused for a moment, then glanced at Donnie. “And, if I may, might I propose a challenge this time?”

“Of course Leo!” Donnie nodded eagerly, obviously happy to see Leo taking such an interest in his favorite game. “What did you have in mind?”

“My terms are this: You have to defeat us in a certain order.” Leo’s attention was fully on the screen as he quickly put together his new battle bot. “My battle bot first, then Raph’s, and then finally Mikey’s. If you go out of order, you lose the challenge.”

“Oh, is that all?” Donnie scoffed confidently. “Of course, then. Challenge accepted!”

Hm. Mikey raised an eyebrow. Y’know, now that he thought about it, it would seem like Donnie might have a bit of that competitive streak in him as well. Why had he never noticed that before?

“Are any of you going to change your designs as well?” Leo wondered absently as he continued editing his player.

“Change the perfection that is Tiny Tinkerblade?!” Mikey gasped. “Blasphemy!”

“Nah, I’m quite happy with my death train.” Raph agreed. “Those rocks, trees, and other environmental props aren’t going to bulldoze themselves.”

“Trying to destroy every tree on the map before I destroy you isn’t the point of the game, Raph!” Donnie informed him with narrowed brown eyes.

“Hey, you have your goals, I have mine.” Raph stuck out his tongue stubbornly.

Leo paused and tilted his head, obviously studying his battle bot for a moment, before nodding. “Alright, I think I’m ready.”

Donnie gave an eager, predatory grin as he leaned forward. “Okay! One last round. Everybody in position! Let’s Battle our Bots!”

Mikey picked up his controller, hunching over and determined to do his reputation as a video game wizard proud. Even if it was on Donnie’s turf.

There was the spinning robot on the loading screen as the game loaded up the map, and then screen was filled with the pixel forest, the four crates containing the players were air dropped down, touching the ground and opened, revealing...

“What the...?!” Mikey stared, and then immediately straightened up in his chair, squealing in delight. “Leo! We’re twins!”

An almost perfect replica of Tiny Tinkerblade came racing over to greet him, and the two tiny, adorable battle bots hopped and spun around one another playfully. Ohmahgosh! Leo could even mimic his movement style perfectly! This was so awesome!

“Ha!” Raph burst out in amused laughter, realizing immediately what Leo’s game was. “So if you accidentally paste Mikey’s bot instead of Leo’s, you lose the challenge!”

Donnie frowned, wrinkling his nose as his bot moved over and studied the two identical tiny battle bots playfully bouncing at his feet. “Oh... very clever, Leo.”

“Best... idea... ever!” Mikey exhaled. He had not been expecting this twist, but he immediately completely and whole heartedly approved of this plan!

“Welp. Good luck with that, Dee.” Raph chuckled, and moved his cumbersome death train away towards the most heavily forested part of the map. “While you’re doing that, I’ve got a map to decimate.”

He looked amused and happy, and Mikey realized as well as he must’ve that he was probably going to have all the time in the world to beat his previous record of indiscriminate demolition.

“Come, Michelangelo.” Leo said almost playfully, obviously enjoying his role in this plan. “Let us frolic together through these fields!”

“Right beside you, bro!” Mikey was more then happy to follow along, as the two bots bounced and spun and then sped off side by side, giving no indication which bot was controlled by which brother. “We shall tiptoe through the tulips together!” He paused, then clarified, “Uh, that was a song reference, by the way.”

“Never heard of it.” Leo admitted with a shrug, his sharp blue eyes still on the screen.

“Then I know what theme song we’re going to be frolicking to on this adventure, bro!” Mikey beamed cheerfully. “T-Phone, play ‘Tiptoe through the Tulips’ by Tiny Tim!”

The screen of his phone on the table lit up as it processed the voice command, and then a second later, a ukelele started playing.

Leo listened for a moment, then raised an eyeridge, obviously not expecting the song to sound the way it did. “Hm. Well, it seems... oddly appropriate, I guess?”

“Come my brother!” Mikey was quite enthusiastic about how this unexpected round was shaping up. “Adventure awaits us in yonder field!”

Donnie’s mech stomped right after them, unable to take the offensive in fear of striking the wrong target. “Trust me, Leo.” Donnie vowed darkly. “This is just delaying the inevitable. You’ll slip up eventually, and when you do, I’ll be there! I will figure this out!”


 

And thus Mikey found himself having a grand old time frolicking with his brother bot in one of the most amusing battles he ever remembered having in this game. As trees and buildings and boulders were felled in the distance to Raph’s maniacal laugher, Leo and Mikey made trails through digital flowers and chased pixel butterflies through meadows. All the while, a frustrated Donnie followed closely behind, muttering ever more frequent dire threats under his breath. His poor, heavily optimized war machine was reduced to the lamentable state of trailing behind two frolicking, adorable, tiny little cube critters, obviously hesitant to get too close for fear of stepping on one before he could figure out which one was Leo, and which one was Mikey.

As wildly amusing as this all was turning out, Mikey found himself growing rather curious. Leo wasn’t being patently obvious in leading him across the game map, after all, either one or the other of the Tiny Tinkerblades taking the lead would clue Donnie in, but his clever turtle brother was definitely surreptitiously nudging Mikey in a certain direction. Mikey was quick to pick up on the subtle hints he was being given, and he was more then willing and delighted to follow his big brother’s lead.

But that had him wondering. Was there more to this then met the eye? He had originally thought that this whole ploy was merely just a delay tactic, an amusing game to postpone the inevitable and troll Donnie a little in the last battle. After all, Donnie’s mech was the superior one by far, thanks to his freakishly robust knowledge of physics and how they could be applied to creating the ultimate war machines. There was no way Mikey could see that they could actually beat his mecha, even working together, and Donnie was so careful that there’s no way he would strike without being absolutely sure that Leo’s bot was actually Leo’s.

But now, Mikey wasn’t so sure about that this was just Leo’s attempt at going out with an amusing flourish.

Leo’s expression and posture remained... tactical? Was ‘tactical’ a scientific term for a facial expression? Mikey was pretty sure it could be, seeing as he could almost visualize the wheels continuing to churn in Leo’s brain. The jovial and almost playful movement of his tiny in-game clone of Tiny Tinkerblade all seemed to be more of a strategic ploy then merely an act of Leo playing and just being whimsical.

Hm. Mikey narrowed his eyes as he studied his brother’s movements. He was getting the sneaking suspicion that Leo had a plan.

Just what was his brother up to?

Raph must’ve caught on to something being up as well, because Mikey suddenly realized that he hadn’t heard the background noises of destruction and wanton deforestation recently. In fact, Raph had suddenly grown unusually quiet for some reason.

Mikey’s attempts at trying to figure out what was going on was interrupted as Donnie’s mech pounced in front of them, cutting off their path of frolicking and sending them scattering in opposite direction to avoid it.

Donnie had a look of determination stamped all over his face as his mech quickly started moving towards one of the Tiny Tinkerblades. . “Ha! I figured out your game! This one is definitely yours, Leo!”

“Are you suuuuure?” Mikey sang out gleefully, sharing a glance with Leo. As he spoke, the targeted tiny mech that Donnie was after bounced playfully in place a few times.

“If you guessed wrong, then you lose the challenge.” Leo pointed out, and the opposite, non-targeted Tiny Tinkerblade bounced a few times as well as he spoke, as if taunting him. “So you’ll need to be absolutely certain of your choice.”

Donnie paused, uncertainty creeping back in to his features. He turned from one of the cloned mechs to the other, before he he finally exhaled in frustration, absently blowing a strand of hair out of his face.

Mikey cackled in delight as both he and Leo sped away to group up once more and dash across the meadow towards the forest.

“This is just delaying the inevitable!” Donnie vowed, stalking after them stubbornly.

They had just crossed past a hill into a clearing, when suddenly there was a clatter in the real world, coming from Leo’s station. Mikey glanced up, surprised by the noise.

“Shoot!” Leo winced, hurriedly picking his controller back up. “I dropped it.”

Mikey blinked. How on earth had Mr. Super Ninja managed to do that? Perhaps the controllers didn’t fit his hands as well as Mikey thought?

“Haha!” Donnie crowed triumphantly. “Gotcha!”

Mikey realized with a start that his character had kept moving, but Leo’s had stopped when he lost his controller, giving Donnie just the clue he was looking for. Oh, that was low, taking advantage of Leo’s mistake like that!

“Ack!” He gasped in mock horror. “Run, Leo!”

“To the cave system!” Leo gamely ordered him, his thumb tapping madly on the controller as his mech dodge rolled past the missile launched at him. “We can still salvage this!”

“Not this time, Leo!” Donnie cackled evilly, his highly superior mech easily bearing down on Leo’s tiny mech. “I’ve got you now!”

“He’s too fast!” Mikey yelped, warning his turtle brother in vain. “We’ll never make it!”

And then the smallest of grins crossed Leo’s face.

“Choo mother fukkin Choo!” Raph cried out triumphantly, and Mikey could only watch, startled, as one minute, Donnie’s mech had been prepared to pounce on Leo’s mech, and then there was a streak of steam and red metal across the screen as Raph plowed head-on and full force into Donnie’s mech, carrying it off in blur of fire and mech parts. In a blink of an eye, they were gone. All that was left on Mikey’s screen was a quiet, empty meadow, Leo’s calm and unworried Tiny Tinkerblade left seated and unscathed on the grass.

Donnie had been so focused on Leo, he had completely neglected to note Raph’s whereabouts. This meadow next to the forest was flat enough for Raph to have plenty of room to build up to full speed, and, rather suspiciously, Leo had just so happened to have lured their purple brother right into his path.

“HA! YES!!” Raph threw up his controller in ecstatic jubilation. “You just got PWN’d by this primitive train, Donnie! Haha!”

Mikey was now down for the count, almost sobbing with laughter with tears forming in his eyes as he collapsed across the table, gasping for air.

“Wha... But... He... You...” Donnie sputtered in disbelief, slumping back in his chair and looking a bit shell shocked.

And then it happened.

Leo threw back his head and actually began to laugh! Out loud!

Oh...

Em...

Gee!

Leo was laughing!

Mikey suddenly realized that he had never heard Leo really laugh before. True, his big brother often gave out an amused chuckle now and then, couple with just a little bit of sass and snark that would peek out if encouraged, but he had never outright laughed. Not like this, anyways, with one hand plastered over his face as if trying to keep tears from running down his face, and the other arm pressed across his middle as his whole body shook.

It was a genuine, warm laugh full of mirth, a clear, happy, rich sound , with just the occasional involuntary yet adorable little snort thrown in, because yes, Leo had just that little streak of adorkableness hidden deep down inside.

And, there and then, Mikey also suddenly realized that from now on, he would personally do everything in his power to hear that wonderful sound as often as he could. Leo Laughs were addicting! Heck, all of his brothers’ laughs were! If there was some sort of soundtrack in heaven, Mikey was sure it would sound like his family when they were happy and having fun like this!

By now, even Donnie was giggling, then finally he couldn’t resist, and broke out in full laughter as well. When he finally caught his breath, he pointed at Leo in mock accusation. “You set me up!”

Still laughing, Leo sat back in his chair and wiped away a tear. “Such accusations, Donnie! I just was playing innocently in the fields with Mikey!” He beamed at both Mikey and Raph with a crooked, proud smile. “It just so happened that Raph happened to notice the opening that left for him.”

Raph was too busy howling with laughter into his keyboard to respond.

Donnie continued to snicker with amusement, covering his face and shaking his head. “Oh man, I fell for that hook, line, and sinker! I did not see that coming!”

“Hm, if I recall the rules correctly, though,” Leo eyed the crown on top of Donnie’s head with a grin and a raised eyebrow. “I believe it is tradition for the vanquisher to don the coveted Most Excellent Diadem of Eternal Honors?”

“Oh, of course!” Donnie good-naturedly lifted the sparkling crown with the dinosaur up off his head. “You deserve it.”

“Me?” Leo raised both eyebrows in mock surprised. “But it was Raph that won. He should wear the crown.”

Raph finally slowed his heaves of laughter enough to push himself up, wiping the tears streaming from his eyes. “Nah, Leo. We both know this was your doing. You take the crown, you deserve it.”

Leo shook his head. “No, I insist. You were the one who dealt the deciding blow, you should take the honors for it.”

Mikey gave Leo a crafty look. “Besides, there is the fact that next time we play, Donnie’s just going to focus all his energies on the crown bearer in hopes of winning it back.”

Leo cleared his throat guiltily, which only caused Raph to break out in a fresh round of laughter.

“Fine then.” he leaned back in his chair, obviously amused by the whole thing. “Give me the damned crown. It will be good to have it for once!”

Mikey was already on the move, taking the crown that Donnie handed him, and shuffling over to dramatically hold it over Raph’s red spiked hair. “And thus we have a new King! Long may his reign be!”

Raph snorted as Mikey lowered it down onto his head, and reached up to adjust it a little. “Not bad. Might get used to this.”

Leo only chuckled, and reached for his controller. “Now can we try that racing game that Mikey mentioned?” He asked, turning towards them with hopeful eyes.

“Dibs on Kirby!” Mikey inwardly cheered as he leaped into his seat and eagerly grabbed his controller.

He could barely contain the happiness he felt in that moment. The night was still young, and there was still so very much brotherly bonding to be had! Mikey couldn’t wait.