The first time Leatherhead had heard one of the turtles curse, it had surprised him. It had been during an altercation with Agent Bishop's men and the turtle in question was Raphael.
As he got to know them better, Leatherhead came to understand that Raphael cursed often, though not in Master Splinter's presence. The use of profanity was Raphael's way of releasing anger or frustration and it served as something of a pressure valve. That was in almost all cases a very good thing.
Hearing Donatello muttering expletives under his breath was another thing entirely.
Leatherhead looked up quickly from the circuit board he'd been working on, mildly shocked at both the tone and the few clear words he'd just heard Don use. The turtle, who had been cutting sheet metal, was at the sink holding his hand under running water.
``What is wrong, my friend?'' Leatherhead asked, walking over to stand at Don's side.
``The shears slipped and I sliced my hand,'' Don replied with a grimace. Blood mixed with water, turning it pink as it slid down the drain.
``How badly?'' Leatherhead asked, grabbing a clean towel from an overhead shelf.
``Badly enough for stiches,'' Don answered. ``A couple of them at least. Guess I'd better call for one of my bros.''
``That will not be necessary,'' Leatherhead said, taking Don's hand from beneath the running water and using the towel to apply pressure. ``I am capable of performing the necessary first aid.''
``Are you sure?'' Don asked, looking up at the crocodile. ``It's not a fun task and I hate asking it of you.''
``Nonsense,'' Leatherhead responded. ``You did not ask, I offered. Where is your medical kit?''
``In that cabinet over there.'' Don pointed at a storage cabinet that stood against one wall.
``Keep this tightly in place,'' Leatherhead told him, indicating the towel.
When Don pressed down on his towel wrapped hand, Leatherhead crossed the service bay to retrieve the medical kit. Upon his return, Leatherhead saw that Don had taken a seat on a stool next to the counter on which he'd rested his hand.
Snapping open the kit, Leatherhead found the items he required. With a deftness that astonished Don, his friend ran thread through the head of the sewing needle.
Almost as though reading Don's thoughts, Leatherhead said, ``I learned many things from the Utroms, one of which was how to perform delicate procedures with my large hands. It is not so difficult once you have learned the tricks.''
``I've encountered the same challenges myself,'' Don said. ``A lot of the regular household items we use had to be modified for our larger, three fingered hands. That's why our TV remote is so big.''
``Before we begin, perhaps we should see if the bleeding has stopped and assess the damage,'' Leatherhead said. ``It may be possible to use steri-strips if the wound is not too deep.''
Don slowly unwound the towel. ``Unfortunately, I've cut myself enough to know when it's bad enough for stitches.''
Together they examined the wound and saw that Don's initial appraisal was correct.
``It is not long,'' Leatherhead said. ``Six to seven stitches should suffice.''
``I guess I should be happy it wasn't deeper and in a spot where a tendon could be damaged,'' Don said, watching as Leatherhead sterilized the needle and thread. He grimaced when Leatherhead sterilized the wound.
``I am sorry,'' Leatherhead said.
``You have nothing to be sorry for,'' Don said. ``I was the one who wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. I started thinking ahead to my next project. Master Splinter calls me out for that during practice too.''
``We are much alike in that,'' Leatherhead said. He carefully pinched the wound closed and examined it to determine where the cut began and ended. ``Imagination comes with intelligence.''
Don chuckled. ``Don't tell Mikey that. He's got more imagination than ten people combined.''
``All four of you are quite clever. A pinch now.'' Leatherhead slowly pierced the skin to one side of the wound on Don's hand. The turtle winced, but otherwise kept his hand perfectly still.
``I guess we show it in different ways,'' Don said.
Leatherhead talked as he worked, keeping Don's attention focused on his words. ``I would say that Michelangelo is quite insightful. It is a gift that should not be underestimated. Raphael relies on instinct, and his are the best I have ever seen. Leonardo has an inborn aptitude for leadership and his skills are extraordinary. And you, my friend, are not only immeasurably intelligent, but what makes you unique is your gentle and caring nature.''
``Aw geez, LH, you're making me blush,'' Don said, his skin indeed flushing lightly. ``Can I just return that compliment? I've never met anyone as kind as you are, as smart or as temperate.''
``Unless I fall into a moment of rage,'' Leatherhead said, looking distressed.
``We all lose it from time to time,'' Don assured him. ``Even me. And that said, I want to apologize for my language earlier. Usually when I curse, I try not to do it in English.''
Leatherhead suddenly smiled. ``How often does this occur, Donatello? It seems I am seeing a new side of you.''
``That's right, tease the injured turtle.'' Don grinned in return and then breathed a sigh of relief when Leatherhead completed the stitch job.
After applying some anti-bacterial cream to the wound, Leatherhead covered it in gauze, wrapping it snugly around Donatello's hand.
``There,'' Leatherhead said, giving Don's hand a pat. ``I believe my first time at repairing someone else's injuries was a success.''
Don opened and closed his hand slowly. ``The stitches are perfect, LH. Thank you. I think we should make a pact to always help each other out and not try to doctor our own injuries.''
Closing the medical kit, Leatherhead replied, ``Actually, our first pact should be to try and not acquire any injuries.''
Chuckling, Don said, ``I second that motion.''
``Are you sure it was a camera you saw?'' Donatello asked, walking through a dark section of underground tunnels with Leatherhead.
``I am certain,'' Leatherhead answered. ``I have become quite adept at spotting them, though these did not look like the monitors used by the city to watch for flooding or other tunnel issues.''
Don's glance at him was astute. ``You're thinking more along the lines of that hunter who came after you a couple of years ago.''
Leatherhead's expression darkened. ``His was an obsession shared by too many people in this world. I will never understand the desire to destroy an entire species for sport or notoriety.''
``Or for power,'' Don said, thinking about the Shredder. ``Evil comes in many forms.''
His sudden stop brought Leatherhead to a halt as well. ``Do you see something, my friend?''
Staring at the readout on his handheld device, Don nodded. ``Something up ahead is emitting a two point four gigahertz signal. That's within the frequency range of a wireless camera.''
His eyes, adapted to seeing in the dark, quickly spotted a tiny, red dot of light several feet in front of them.
When Don pointed towards it, Leatherhead hummed his dissatisfaction. ``I see it too and I do not like this.''
``I've mapped out all of the places where the city has installed their cameras,'' Don said. ``This isn't on my map.''
``I am familiar with the model of wireless camera the city uses,'' Leatherhead said. ``Let us take a closer look.''
Together they approached the camera, both staying alert to any others that might be nearby. They avoided walking in front of the device so as not to be filmed.
``It's not a city camera,'' Don said.
``No it is not,'' Leatherhead agreed. ``Theirs are bulkier and less expensive than this model. Nor do I believe it is the property of a certain government agent whom we both despise.''
``Agreed,'' Don said. ``He uses the most expensive equipment money can buy.''
Looking at the back of the camera, Don saw a label stuck to it. ``'Property of P.O.C.E','' he read out. ``Pockee? Pocee? What the heck does that stand for?''
``Perhaps a scientific study or a university project,'' Leatherhead said. Then he noticed something in the water farther ahead. ``Though I would not think that university students would place bear traps beneath the water.''
Don saw the trap as well. ``That's just irresponsible. Anyone could step on that, including a city worker. Hang on, I brought my tablet with me. Let me look up this acronym and see if it helps us any.''
He dug the tablet out of his duffel bag. Leatherhead kept watch as Don searched the internet for information on P.O.C.E.
``Found it,'' Don finally sang out. ``It's an independent group calling themselves `Proof of Cryptid Existence.''
Leatherhead frowned. ``Cryptid? I am unfamiliar with this term.''
``It's short for cryptozoology,'' Don said. ``It's the study of creatures whose existence has yet to be proved or disproved by science. A lot of these so called creatures are pure hoax, like the Jackalope. But there are others like Bigfoot that people swear up and down are real. Mikey and I actually met the Green Man of the Woods up near Casey's farmhouse.''
``This group who call themselves P.O.C.E. are searching for cryptids beneath New York City?'' Leatherhead asked.
``Looks like.'' Don scrolled down the screen. ``Right now there seems to be about twenty members, but only two of them are active. The rest subscribe to the site from out of state. These two appear to be big fans of Dr. Abigail Finn, the Monster Hunter. We've run into her before too. She's a certifiable lunatic.''
``Then perhaps it would be best to destroy this camera,'' Leatherhead said. ``We do not need anyone with this type of obsession wandering through the tunnels. I am afraid both you and I would qualify as a `cryptid'.''
``Wait,'' Don said, stuffing the tablet back into his duffel. ``If we break it, they'll know something was down here. They won't think it was a person either. If they're anything like Dr. Finn, they'll be certain it's proof that creatures exist in the tunnels. They'll keep coming back.''
``We cannot leave the camera here, Donatello,'' Leatherhead said. ``They must somehow be discouraged. We know about this camera only because I saw it. They may plant others that we will not see in time.''
Don scowled. ``True. I don't really want to be their proof of existence.'' He snapped his fingers. ``Got it. What's the one thing the tunnels have a lot of besides darkness and dirt?''
``Considering we are standing in a storm runoff channel, I believe the answer you seek is water,'' Leatherhead said.
``Of one thing I can be certain,'' Don said with a grin. ``Water and electronics don't mix. The second thing I know, there's no such thing as truly waterproof.''
Taking some tools from his bag, Don carefully opened the camera just enough so that Leatherhead could dump a double handful of water into the inside. The components immediately sparked and the red light went out.
Just as cautiously, Don closed the camera. ``There, no tool marks to show it was tampered with. Now what to do about the bear trap?''
Looking around him, Leatherhead located a pile of debris that had caught on a turn in the tunnel. Sifting through it, he found several broken pieces that had once belonged to a wooden chair.
Taking two of the thicker pieces over to the trap, Leatherhead shoved them into the center, causing the trap to snap shut.
``Setting traps is pointless if tunnel debris will become caught in them, do you not agree?'' Leatherhead asked.
Don had no chance to answer as voices echoed through the chamber, the sounds coming closer to their location. At Don's signal, Leatherhead followed him into a dark side tunnel.
``I'm telling you, Zeke, I saw a huge shadowy shape go by the camera,'' voice one said.
``That camera has been there for five whole days and all you saw was the shadow of a really big rat, Luke,'' Zeke said. ``I say we move it. We're losing subscribers. Nobody wants to watch an empty dark tunnel.''
``If we had more cameras, we could do a better job,'' Luke said.
``If we don't get more subscribers, we can't buy more cameras,'' Zeke said. ``My mom isn't loaning me anymore money for this project. The other day she actually told me to get a job.''
He sounded quite aggrieved at the very idea. His friend however had just reached the camera and his distressed groan took Zeke's mind off of his parental issues.
``The camera is ruined!'' Luke yelped. ``There's water all up inside of it!''
``Damn, some junk got caught in the trap,'' Zeke said, splashing his way over to the bear trap. ``This whole project is a waste. I say we go with my first plan. Dr. Finn was sure she saw something in those woods. That's where we should be hunting.''
Luke took down the camera and Zeke gathered up the trap. ``Okay, we'll do that,'' Luke said. ``But we're gonna have to bum rides to get there and back. And we can't do anything until we get a new camera.''
They headed back out of the tunnel. ``Maybe we can post the video of that dark shape you saw,'' Zeke said. ``Might snag us a few more subscribers.''
When they were gone, Don and Leatherhead stepped out of hiding.
``Mission accomplished, my partner in crime?'' Don asked, smiling up at his friend and lifting a hand.
Leatherhead slapped it lightly. ``Most assuredly.''
Michelangelo stood in the doorway of Donatello's lab, watching as his brother slid the strap on his duffel bag over his shoulder.
``Going out to meet Leatherhead again?'' Mikey asked.
Don looked up, noticing him for the first time. ``No, he's meeting me here.''
``Then why the duffel bag?'' Mikey's stare was intense.
``We're taking the van to the junkyard,'' Don told him. ``LH needs some supplies and a new television.''
``You're headed topside? I want to go,'' Mikey said excitedly.
``I think not,'' Don replied, shaking his head. ``We have some very specific goals and a small timeline for completing them. You'll be a distraction.''
Mikey's bottom lip stuck out in a pout. ``That's just rude. Why is it whenever Leatherhead's involved in one of your projects you pull a Greta Garbo, `I vant to be alone'.''
``I do not,'' Don protested. ``It's just that usually we're working on something that's delicate in nature.''
``I can be delicate,'' Mikey said. At the look Don gave him, he admitted, ``Okay, maybe not. Fine, I'll leave you two to your own devices. But later on, when you want someone to warm your bed, don't come looking for me. You probably wouldn't anyway, `cause you've got Leatherhead.''
He stomped off in something of a huff and Don watched his shell, brow furrowed. It was probably his imagination, but Mikey had seemed a little jealous, especially considering the sound of that parting sentence.
Don exhaled heavily. Later, when he was finished helping Leatherhead, he'd find Mikey and have a long talk with him.
``Greetings my friend,'' Leatherhead said, arriving as Don was pouring gasoline into the moving van.
``Hey LH,'' Don replied, screwing in the gas cap. ``Do you have your list?''
``It is all up here,'' Leatherhead answered, tapping the side of his skull.
``We're gassed up and ready to go,'' Don said, jumping into the driver's seat.
Because of his size, Leatherhead had to climb into the back, taking a seat in one of the larger chairs Don had installed in front of a wall of monitors.
They had traveled together a number of times, making trips to the junkyard or various warehouses to acquire equipment that both of them needed. While Don drove, Leatherhead worked the security equipment, making certain that they weren't followed or observed.
It wasn't long before they reached the junkyard and pulled into the area where most of the discarded tech supplies could be found. Don easily picked the lock on the shed where monitors, keyboards, and old computers were housed.
The pair sorted through the items in silence for a time and then Leatherhead cleared his throat. ``Donatello, I saw your brother Michelangelo as I entered your home. He seemed . . . upset and did not return my greeting. Do you know if I have done something to offend him?''
Don rubbed at his forehead, not sure how to answer the question. ``He was mad at me actually,'' he finally responded. ``Mikey wanted to come along and I told him he couldn't.''
``I would not have been averse to his company,'' Leatherhead said.
``I love Mikey to death,'' Don said. ``It's just . . . when I'm working on something with you, I can't deal with distractions. Mikey has a hard time focusing on the task at hand, especially when we come to the junkyard. You know how annoying he can be.''
``Still, I would not want him to think that I have chosen to monopolize you,'' Leatherhead said, staring meaningfully at Don.
``He's said something to you, hasn't he?'' Don asked. ``Not tonight, but some other time?''
``Michelangelo may have mentioned in passing something to the effect that you and I appear to be very close,'' Leatherhead said slowly, choosing his words.
``Well we are,'' Don said. ``He goes traipsing off with Silver Sentry and Nobody all of the time. I don't begrudge him lone outings with friends.''
``Perhaps because you do not view them as a threat to your relationship,'' Leatherhead pointed out.
Don put the circuit board he'd been eyeing back on the shelf and turned towards his friend. ``To be honest, he did say something tonight that made me wonder if he was . . . resentful of our connection. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it and he really is just peeved at being told no. He doesn't like that word.''
``Donatello, what you have with your brothers is very special,'' Leatherhead said. ``I know that the intimacy the four of you share is unique and beautiful. Because of that, I think you understand Michelangelo's moods quite well. Do you truly believe he is merely aggrieved at being left behind?''
For a long moment, Don didn't answer. Then he sighed. ``No, I think he's jealous and I don't know why.''
``I believe that I do,'' Leatherhead told him. ``It is because he is very perceptive.''
Frowning, Don said, ``I don't think I understand.''
Leatherhead looked away to gather up an armload of equipment. When he glanced back, he said, ``Talk to your brother when you return home. I believe it will prove to be enlightening.''
``I was planning on doing that,'' Don said. They walked to the van to drop off the items they'd collected. ``If you know something that would help, I'd appreciate a hint.''
There was a look in Leatherhead's eyes that Don hadn't seen before. It almost seemed to be a longing of some sort.
``What I can tell you is that you should assure Michelangelo of his welcome on any of our future excursions,'' Leatherhead said. ``I think he will appreciate knowing that.''
``O~kay,'' Don said, still puzzled. He knew Leatherhead well enough to realize he wasn't going to learn anything more. At least not from him.
For once, it seemed that Mikey was going to have to fill in the blanks on Don's education.