Leo pushed himself to top speed in order to keep pace behind her. They'd long since stopped looking for criminals and were now just racing along the rooftops. Over surfaces Karai's serpentine for was lightning fast. She'd dart over the top of a building, rapidly metamorphosed human to make the leap and instantly revert to her snake form. He had to say that he was impressed with the near flawless control she now had over her mutation.
There were limits though. Ultimately she could only ever exist in one of the two forms or some blend in between. Her snake form was incredibly versatile but her human form, the one she was most interested in altering, seemed locked in place. As a human, she would always wear the same fierce make up of her younger years, the same piercings and the same two-tone, short hair.
Although her inability to update her style was a nuisance for her, the real problem was her attire, not really clothing and armor but her body, styled the same as what she'd worn while serving the Shredder. She'd tried wearing clothing over it, but it looked a little off with the shape of her armor underneath in addition to the unchangeable gloves and footwear. At least she hadn't been wearing her facemask at the time of her mutation.
She bitterly lamented having to spend the rest of her life dressed as the Shredder's lackey, noting the irony that when she finally would choose to dress differently she couldn't. In truth, he didn't mind all that much. If he didn't appreciate it, she probably wouldn't have found it so easy to render him a stuttering fool at the start of their acquaintance.
And even if it had been difficult and cruel, her past was and would always be a part of her, molding her into the extraordinary and powerful woman she was now. The woman that he had always known she was meant to be. The woman that he loved.
She jumped a particularly far gap, carried mostly by her own momentum, and he needed to dig deeper for the extra burst of speed necessary to push him across, absorbing the landing in a roll as he kept going after her. Not that he minded the chase. There was nothing wrong with a little extra endurance training.
But it was late, or early depending on how you looked at it, and she'd shown no sign of returning home. Getting caught on the surface after sunrise would be much more problematic for him than for her. He trusted Karai, but she did have a wicked streak to her sense of humor.
It was the longest day of summer and the sun would be rising particularly early. The only consolation was that humans, having discovered electricity, lived more by their clocks than the sun and weren't especially likely to rouse so early. As April said, that's what room darkening drapes were for.
Although the requirements of secrecy and shadow had forced his own family to live according to the sun, in a nocturnal pattern, there was a time before their first venture up to the surface when the presence or absence of light hadn't rule their lives.
Living underground had made them barely aware of it, generating an odd sense of creating their own time. If Sensei hadn't mandated their training schedule, they probably would have abided by their own and completely separate versions of what a day should be.
He actually preferred his father's schedule, but he suspected Mikey's ideal day would have been a handful of hours filled with manic activity, punctuated by nap length sleeps to recover his burned energy, whereas Donnie would have chosen fifty hour days with nights only occurring when he had to collapse with exhaustion, lasting the bare minimum necessary for him to be able to function again.
Still, light wasn't always completely irrelevant. Leo could still remember a time, before Donnie had gotten the electricity working, when there was something almost magical about watching the sunlight filter in through the grate above the dojo tree, though each passing year made it more and more difficult to recapture that feeling.
Karai finally skidded to a halt atop a dock warehouse, seating her now human shape at the edge overlooking the ocean. Curious, he followed and positioned himself beside her.
"What are we doing Karai?" She gave him a sideways glance with those honey colored eyes that still made his heartrate double even after all this time.
"Something I haven't done in a long time. Watch the sunrise." Leo froze with indecision. His concern for keeping them safe screamed a very loud no, in conflict with his rather powerful inclination to do whatever it took to fulfill her wishes.
"You've never seen it before, right? Your first sunrise should be over the ocean. It's pretty amazing."
"Relax Leo. There's almost no one here now and there won't be a shift change for a while yet. We can travel home underground before that happens. Just…let me share this with you."
Leo felt the tension in him slip away and wrapped an arm around her. No one could quite make him ignore his rational judgement the way she could. They sat in companionable silence before she took a breath to speak and he realized there was more to this than just watching the sunrise together.
"I've been watching a lot of international news lately."
"I have noticed that."
"It kind of makes it seem like the world collapsing into fire and chaos."
"Well that is their job. Although I think the state of the world has been a source of fear for generations. There's always some reason to suspect that the end is nigh."
"But people are suffering." Leo frowned and nodded.
"Another unpleasant but enduring reality."
"And I contributed to that suffering." Leo raised an eye ridge at her.
"I know that I've only ever been here or Japan, but my work supported the Foot clan. Their multi-national crime ring added heavily to the burden of injustice people were already enduring. It's not right."
"I don't deserve the life I have now. It's too good after the things I've done. I can't just walk away from the havoc I've caused and be forgiven because I'm sorry. Being sorry isn't good enough. It doesn't set anything right."
"I can't live with this. I have to go out and atone. To do what little I can." Before he could attempt speaking again, she turned fully to him, cradled his face in her hands and leaned her forehead against his.
"You taught me what it means to be a hero. Now I have to put those lessons into practice."
There was a pause as he waited to make sure it was finally his turn to speak. She was bracing herself, expecting him to be hurt or angry. It never ceased to amaze him how sometimes she could know him better than anyone and other times failed to see the obvious.
"You're right." Her eyes locked on to his, wide in shock.
"Without the Foot clan or the Kraang, New York isn't in any particular danger, especially with Angel's new take on the Purple Dragons. Heroes aren't needed here the way they are elsewhere."
"Then you understand?"
"Completely. We'll talk to Sensei and Aunt Amaya as soon as we figure out where we want start."
"You know I'll follow you anywhere."
"I'll be there for my brothers if they ever need me, but without a threat that requires us to take it on as a team, we're starting to follow our own life paths now. And mine is with you."
For a second her expression was an unusually vulnerable mix of awe and affection, before her normally wicked smile returned. The one generally served as a warning. A warning he just as generally ignored.
He felt the coils of her partially transformed body slid around him with a shiver of anticipation as she pulled them off the ledge and back onto the roof. Even if he didn't see it, it was still the best sunrise ever.
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