It's noon. We still have time. The time that is pressing down on us. Eight hours before our last mission. It's hopeless, I know. There isn't even a half a chance of success, whatever Donnie may think. But miracles happen. If Donatello managed to return to us after thirty years, miracles do indeed happen. If I believed in any deity, I'd pray for our luck to hold for these last eight hours.
But I've seen things in those years that killed any faith I had. I've seen hopes crumble and those dear to me suffer endlessly. I'm still mourning every loss. I don't let myself forget or forgive.
Shredders deeds cannot be forgiven, shall not be forgotten. They are burning within my soul, boiling like white-hot molten steel. They give me purpose.
Donnie's disappearance, Splinter's death, Leo's eyes, Mikey's arm... and Casey. I get up, calling their names. I lay down, whispering them. I live for revenge. Eight hours and my life will be complete.
I feel his blind gaze upon me and twist around to look at Leo. I am still angry with him. Yet my heart still clenches at the sight of him. I know he can see me on the spiritual plane, but he still turns his inseeing face toward me. A courtesy I don't deserve.
We were not needed. Don has as many assistants as he needs with all the refugee camp eager to help. No need to call for two angry crippled. Mike is also there, laying out plans with April. We are discarded.
I can't see his eyes behind the black glasses but I know that his thoughts are similar to mine. That slight tilt of his head, the way his left hand lays upon his knee - there is no hope in him, no desire to hope.
"Raph" - he sais so softly that for a moment I'm thinking that I imagined it - "I want to make amends". I bite my tongue not to say anything rushed. So many years I wanted for him to admit he was wrong that one time, but does it really matter now?
"I don't know if you were right the night Splinter died. I think I was too afraid that it might be so. I'm sorry for everything that happened to us. I'm sorry we split. I'm sorry I wasn't the leader you needed me to be"
"Yeah, you were a shitty leader" I can't help but say although I don't really mean it. It's just he's so pathetic at this moment that it makes me angry. My Leo should never be so pathetic.
He frowns and I know that in his mind he had a different scenario for this conversation. He wanted me to accept his apology and convince him it wasn't his fault. He knows he's not coming back and he wants to solve this while there still is a chance. Now I feel like shit for ruining this moment for him. Endlessly frustrating.
"I never asked to be led", I murmur. Over last years this phrase became my mantra. Now it sounds surprisingly lacking venom. "I just needed a brother. And you... you were.." I look away from him but I can still feel him shrink anticipating my next words. This is so unlike our usual snarls and fights. He doesn't hold a blow. It scares me.
"You were a wonderful brother" - I finish. "I couldn't wish for better. Everything that happened... was just too much for everyone"
We sit in silence for a while and I can practically feel knot after knot untie between us. "So... how has your life been all this time?" He asks in the same soft manner. It pains me to no end to see him so ethereal. It's like talking to a ghost. But if it is his endgame, I'll humor him.
"Missed your obnoxious obsession with training before dawn" - I answer with a smile and see the reflection of my smile on his face. I want to reach over and touch his hand, but I don't dare.
"I shouldn't have walked away from you" I whisper.
"I shouldn't have let you leave" - he answers.
"Leo. We set everything right today."
He wraps himself in silence, like it's a cloak that would protect him from everything.
Five hours to go. When he finally speaks up, his voice is distant. He speaks of old times, when we were still a family, of all the things we used to do together and of how it made him feel. About all the jokes and joy we used to share. About Christmas. About simple everyday joys like running rooftops or ninjaing in to watch wrestling. Spending time with friends and getting away to countriside. His voice is barely above whisper, but I catch every word. I drink them like they were a desert spring.
I remember it all, yet when I look back I see endless struggle against injustice and cruelty. I remember street fights and stealing and making a life on the scraps stolen from a dump site. I remember rejection and anxiety and a constant fear to be discovered. It's like a river of black evil water that washed away all the joy. Yet... yet there were some sparkles of bright in that darkness.
I recognize what he tries to do. He wills those sparkles to grow in his memory.
Suddenly there is something very important I need to tell him. Something I nearly forgot over time. I interrupt him without thinking.
"Leo. Ya remember that... crush thing ... we used ta have on each other?" It takes a moment and then he smiles and nods in recognition.
" I... I never told ya.. but it was kinda more serious than that" His head is still turned toward me and I get a feeling he is waiting for me to continue. So I continue "It was.. kinda important to me". He waits for few more seconds before answering: "Those were good times. I appreciated every moment of it".
I wanna tell him it still is kinda important to me, but my lips wouldn't move.
Instead, we talk about Splinter.
One hour to go and suddenly we are all over the place. Last minutes preparations, plan recaps and checking our weapons before we climb into the tunneler and are off. Leo is all about business now. When I don't see his glasses, I nearly believe he's my old Leo from back then.
I stop thinking about the past and focus on our mission at hand. Our last mission.
The tunneler easily cuts up the floor into Shredder's compound and we rush out to face the ultimate enemy. If anything, Shredder got nastier over the years.
Karai-bots got bigger. But it doesn't matter. We're not here to trample them. Leo and I hold off the bots. We may be not as strong as we used to be, but there is still enough left in us to hold our end in battle.
The bitch cuts Leo open, and I surge at her. Funny, but when her blade slashes through my flesh all I can think of is that I didn't dare to touch Leo's hand when I had time.
It hurts like hell, but I just need to touch his hand. My swimming vision focuses on his motionless form and I crawl. The fight grows distant and ghostlike. The sounds fade - all I can hear is my own breath and unsteady heartbeat. I half expect her to finish me off before I reach him, but she doesn't. I reach Leo and collapse across his plastron because I have no strength to keep myself from the fall. I squeeze his lifeless hand before everything drowns in white light.
I don't know if we won or lost, but it doesn't matter because Leo's hand squeezes back.