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Balance

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Leo sat on a low cot in the barn, his cane propped against the wall beside it. After what happened with Raph and the Creep, he’d gotten the idea that maybe his medicine could be administered through IV as well. It clearly wasn’t meant to be drunk. Leo was currently getting an infusion of the medicine, salt water, and sipping on some strawberry kiwi juice. He didn’t feel much like eating but understood the wisdom in replacing fluids. Mikey would help out and bring soft foods for him - warm broth, oatmeal with bits of fruit, mashed potatoes with gravy and pieces of boiled chicken. Small meals throughout the day were better at this point for Leo, and Mikey was glad he could be useful. Leo, for his part, appreciated the gentleness and concern Mikey always showed him and did his best to eat most or all of the portions he was brought. Happily, he didn’t throw up again after the incident with Raph, and the food was easy on his sore throat and battered body. Plus, for what it was, it tasted quite good.

When Leo wasn’t connected to the IV and thus forced to remain relatively still, he and Raph would engage in makeshift physical therapy. It was a little embarrassing for Leo to be so weak, but Raph had complete faith in his full recovery. To Leo’s surprise, Raph was patient and compassionate, helping him up if he fell and never uttering a word of sarcasm. Leo tired easily, and though Raph wanted to push him harder, he also saw that Leo really was working as hard as he could manage. Leave it to Leo to push himself to whatever his limit was. Mostly they worked on walking for longer and longer stretches. Leo was rather frustrated at the slow progress, but he grudgingly had to admit it was really all he could do for now and he just had to keep at it, the way he used to train with all aspects of ninjutsu. He’d be what he once was again; he knew it. So he bit back the frustration and continued the routine.

Leo spoke as little as possible and kept as much distance as he could from April, Casey, and even Donnie. For one, he didn’t want to deal with their petty romantic squabble, but the deeper reason was that he blamed them for the loss of their lair, Master Splinter’s possible (probable) death, and a missed opportunity to bring Karai home. Yes, Leo knew this was not exactly fair, which is why he said nothing to anyone until about the third or fourth day after encountering the Creep. Leo could feel the negative effect his hidden resentment was having on his mood. He knew that it had to be dealt with somehow, but that required meditation and alone time. No disturbances until he was good and ready.

So after breakfast and another dose of medicine, Leo found Raph and told him he didn’t feel like working and could they do it in the afternoon? He explained that everything he and his brothers had lost was finally catching up to him and he was beginning to feel weighed down by sorrow and frustration. He wanted time to meditate with some tea and sort the emotions out.

Raph shook his head at the meditation comment but could certainly understand Leo’s emotional turmoil. He’d already gone through it three months ago. And while no one in the house was really dealing well, they were at least functioning again. How could Raph deny such a legitimate request? So he told Leo they could take the day off and resume the next day, to which Leo smiled gratefully and holed himself in the bathroom. He set his tea on the edge of the sink and began scrubbing the tub on his hands and knees. He figured if anyone wanted to actually use it, a thorough cleaning and disinfection was in order, and he didn’t think anyone had gotten around to it yet. He worked in stops and starts, sipping tea occasionally during breaks, and made steady progress.

A few hours later and Leo had finished with the tub and put the cleaning things away. He carefully sat on a cushion on the floor with his back to the tub, eyes closing as he let himself feel the emotions he’d been holding in.

First came overwhelming grief as the magnitude of his current situation hit him. He was beaten to within an inch of his life by both the Shredder and the Kraang; he and his family were forced to depend on Casey and April for shelter, food, transportation, and concealment; he now bore the additional burden of not only being team leader but also leader of the Hamato clan; he had no idea how to take Splinter’s place; and he just plain missed the lair. The house was too quiet, and while he did like the trees and the seclusion, the place just wasn’t home without Sensei. He also didn’t feel safe. However slim the chance, the wrong people could discover them.

Then came anger and annoyance. In the sewers, the family scavenged and cobbled together a home, but they could truly call it theirs. Maybe water and electricity didn’t technically belong to them, but since the city needed those things to function, no one really saw the harm in using it as well. And then April brought Kraang Subprime to the lair, he and Donnie wasted time arguing, and Casey was more concerned about goofing off than finding Karai. Leo hated that he couldn’t allow himself to be well and truly furious with all three of them because he owed them his life. Though it would have been nice if Donnie had just obeyed his instructions and gone with Mikey to find Raph without whining to him about April and Casey.

He got up and kicked the door, then sat back down with a defeated sigh. What good was rage and blame? It didn’t really change his or his family’s current situation. And what could he really do about it? Nothing. He was, for all intents and purposes, disabled. For his warrior’s heart, that hurt most of all. He was the reason his family was stuck here and not already seeking Sensei or even his body.

A tentative knock and a hesitant, "Dude, are you okay in there?" made Leo smile despite himself.

"Come in if you want, Mikey," Leo called, not bothering to get up. "You need to use this thing?"

Mikey opened the door and stepped in. "Nah, dude. Just thought maybe you fell or some-" He spotted Leo on the floor and gasped, holding out his hand. "Oh, man. You need help?" His voice was tinged with concern as his eyes widened.

Leo smiled kindly and shook his head. "It’s all right, Mikey. I’m down here on purpose. Trying to meditate."

"Oh." Mikey shifted from foot to foot nervously and then looked at the tub. "Hey, did you clean up the tub? Raph said you were in here and didn’t want to be bothered 'cause you needed time alone to, you know, think. But it’s been some time and I thought you should eat and then I heard a thump coming from here."

"Can I eat in here?" Leo queried. "I still don’t really want to talk to people. And yeah, I worked on the tub. Figured since I was using it for so long, I may as well clean it."

"I would have helped, you know, or even cleaned it by myself. It’s not your fault you were stuck in there. And yeah, I’ll bring your food here. Want me to take the tea stuff, too, or make you some more?"

Leo smiled again. "More tea would be nice. And it’s okay. Cleaning the tub gave me a workout anyway. By my current standards, that is."

Mikey grinned. "I like your attitude, bro. I’ll be back soon." Mikey left the bathroom but left the door ajar, since he wouldn’t be long. Eventually, he returned with a tray containing a teapot, a mug, and a cold turkey sandwich. "Hope this is okay. I know you can eat by yourself now, and I guess you haven’t meditated yet, so I’ll leave you alone. Come get me or someone if you need anything, yeah?" Mikey set the tray on the covered toilet and backed out with a small wave, his other hand beginning to pull the door shut.

"Sure thing," Leo acknowledged, sliding himself toward his meal with a combination of hands and feet. "Thanks, Mikey, for all this service. You’ve been a big help."

"Don’t mention it, dude," Mikey grinned, closing the door with a click.

Leo ate slowly, happy to finally get some solid food. Much as he hated Mikey’s tendency to lose focus and be too spontaneous, he knew that Mikey also had incredible emotional intelligence and creative ideas. Leo finished his sandwich and drank his tea, feeling much more calm and cheerful and prepared for whatever meditation would bring. He needed to work out how they’d get back to New York and be safe there, whether he should send people ahead to check out what things were like, if they should all go together, if they should try to build a new home elsewhere first and then go back.

He immediately rejected the idea of building a home elsewhere without first trying to find everyone’s lost families. No one would be able to concentrate without having definitive knowledge of the status of their kin.

Sending people ahead to New York sounded good. Raph and Casey would probably want to be doing something physical, something that allowed them to move and not feel too much. Maybe he could send April with them. Her growing intuitive talents, honed by Sensei, could be useful to Casey and Raph. He, Donnie, and Mikey could remain here in case Master Splinter or Karai somehow found them. Wait, who was he kidding? How, even assuming both were alive, would they know to come to the house?

He really favored the idea of splitting up. If all of them went together, then it could be that all of them got hurt and no one survived to find family remnants or discover their fates. But much as he wanted to send people for answers now, he knew the reality was that to do so when he himself was in no condition to fight would be irresponsible and dangerous. No, for now, everyone had to wait. But he hated having no information.

Leo scooted back and reclined against the wall, legs crossed, one arm resting on the edge of the tub with his eyes shut. Having a rudimentary plan in place, he found it easy to shove aside all emotion and plunge into the familiar peace of the space between thought and instinct, where sensory filters disappeared and he was aware of the spiritual. He felt those in the house - Raph, Mikey, and April. He found Casey and Donnie in the barn. Good. Nothing seemed amiss. And then he thought of Sensei, of meditation sessions with him just because he enjoyed them. He and Sensei understood the value of holding still, of listening and sensing that which the physical couldn’t reach. To be a balanced leader, he knew, he had to pay attention to both his combat training and the disciplining of his mind and intuition.

Unbeknownst to Leo, his spirit had drifted far from home. The yearnings of his very core had taken him to the astral plane, a place he had been before, but not alone. Sensei had always been with him. It was dangerous to go without supervision if you didn’t know what you were doing. Leo held tightly to a mental image of his father, calling to him periodically. And then he was jolted back to reality as he heard Splinter answer, "Leonardo."