Together

Chapter 12

'Mikey! Mikey, don't do this. Don't die!'

Huh...?

W-Who...who's calling me now?

'Mikey, please...I don't want to lose you, otouto...I don't want to lose you...'

Leo...

Wait...I can...still hear him...still...feel him...or is this a dream?

'Mikey, wake up. Please, you have to wake up.'

I...I'm...still alive...?

Leo, it's done. I ended this.

I'm dead.

I'm ready...but you have to let me go.

'Mikey...I can't. I won't.'

Why?

I'm...going away...like you wanted, Leo.

'Mikey, you're not...It's not over yet. But you gotta wake up. You can fight this.'

Leo's pleading...for me?

No...I must be dreaming...I have to be...

'No, little brother. It's not a dream. You have to fight this back, and come back to us.'

He's fighting just for me to wake up.

But...why?

'Because I have to make this right. I broke your heart, your mind, and your innocence. And I have to make this right, Mike.'

Innocence...me?

No. That's...that's not right.

I can't be innocent. I'm evil. I'm a murderer, Leo.

I...I am evil. A terrible son, and a dishonorable ninja...I am nothing...but trash...useless trash...something...that never...deserved to be...be created.

'Mikey...oh, God...why did...I'm sorry. Mikey...Mikey, no. You're not...you're not evil. You're Michelangelo...and you're my baby brother...our little light...'

Don't...don't say that...

Leo, no more. Please...Brother, I...I'm tired.

Just...let me die. Let me go.

'No. No, no, Mike. Listen to me...just listen."

Leo...you're crying...

And he feels...so close...I can hear his heart...

Am I really dead? Did...did I leave...? Why do I feel my brothers right now?

Unless...they...never let me go...they're still...holding onto me...

But why?

'Mikey, you're a ninja. An honorable ninja. You always have been. You're stronger than any of us can ever be because you express your emotions...you cry, you get mad, you smile...and you make us laugh.'

Me...strong?

No...stop doing that...stop lying...just let me die, Leo!

Please, Leo. Please...

I...I can't take anymore pain...I can't.

I just...I want it to stop. I want it to stop.

'Shhh. I know. I know you hurt...but just...hear me out.'

I wanted to just...go away...anything to make it end. But Leo and the others...they won't let it stop!

Why do they keep hurting me? I finally died...I finally made everything done and over with...and they...they keep hurting me...and they want me to hurt more...

Leo...Leo, please...I don't...I have nothing left. I can't fight you all...and I can't cry anymore...

Please...I have no strength left...

Just let this end...let me go...

'No, Mike. Just listen to me! Please, little brother...please...'

I...I...

'You were always powerful, Mikey. You...you're a teenager...but a child at heart. And that was what made you so strong. You're a typical teen who must have his comics and annoy his older brothers and cry when he's hurt and always ask the weirdest questions and...and just...'

He's...really crying now. Not...like all...all the other times...he's...upset.

'...just hold onto someone. Cling to us and let us comfort you, take your hurt away. Let us baby you because you're the youngest. Cause me to get ulcers worrying about your safety. Drive Raph up the wall messing with his bike. Make Donny want to kick your shell somewhere for blowing up his lab again."

I don't want him to make him cry...not them...

I don't like hearing them crying. I hate that.

I mean, I know they're strong, and I know they have to cry one day, but not over me...I told him that.

And...Leo, I don't...understand.

I'm dead...so why cry over me?

Why are you all crying over someone like me?

And why won't you let me die?

'Because...I don't think we'll ever get you to trust us after all this. And I don't want to let you die! You're still hurt, Mikey...you always have been...and none of cared to heal you. I don't...I don't want to let my littlest die so soon...especially since you did nothing wrong...'

But I...I did...I destroyed everything, Leo. You know that.

'No you didn't. You didn't do anything at all.'

He's warmer now...Leo feels warmer than before...what's going on?

I don't want this. I don't...deserve this...

'Mikey, you aren't alone. You aren't alone anymore. Just keep fighting this.'

I'm...not alone...? But...I thought...

'Fearless is right. Ya not alone in this, Mikey. Hang tight!'

Raphie? I don't understand...you're still here, too?

'Yeah. I'm gonna stay here until you wake up from this...and come home.'

Come...home...

They...they want me back there? No, that...that can't be true...it's a lie!

But everything feels different now...so I can't be dead...then where am I? In limbo?

"Wake up, Mikey. You have to wake up!'

Donny...you...you're still keeping me alive...all of you are still keeping me alive...

But I can't go back there. Guys, I-

'We know you're scared. We know that. But try and wake up, alright?'

No...Leo, I have to...to go away...you all said so...

'I...I know. I know. But just wake up, otouto. It's okay; we're going to be here.'

I forced my tired spirit to open my eyes. And I could see my brother's tear-stained face in my wavering view. At that, I couldn't help it. I smiled a little.

Leo, I could die right now. I'm ready to end this.

I can finally end this horrible nightmare for everyone...so why are you pulling me back there?

Why do you all want to hurt me again?

'Stop saying that, Mikey. We don't want to hurt you anymore. We want to help heal you...like we should have done before. And because you never deserved this. You...you never deserved to suffer like you did.'

No...no...that's a lie.

Y-you wanna...you wanna hurt me again...Leo, please...I can't fight you guys anymore!

Just leave me! I can't come back there!

Please, guys...I don't wanna hurt anymore.

'I know, Mikey. But we will not hurt you like that ever again. Never again. We promise you that.'

No...no, you...you and Raphie and Donny...

'We will protect you. We will always keep you safe.'

They...really want me...back there? But...I...

My body feels weird, and I know the reason, but...why won't you let me die, Leo?

Why can't I die?

My eyes opened slowly, the light terribly bright above me. For a brief second, my head was throbbing, and I wasn't sure what was going on.

Wait...this place...was I back? Had I really woke up?

I moaned, my head still swimming, and tried to sit up. The next thing I heard was Donny letting out a cry and a thump. Someone came running in right after that.

"Mikey! Ya made it!"

I recognized his voice almost instantly, and turned to him.

Weird...why wasn't he...He wasn't yelling. He wasn't mad or angry and deranged or anything. He was...he was actually glad to see me.

I blinked, making sure I wasn't completely dead. Looking down, I saw the thick scars on my arms, the harsh needle marks that adorned me, and I quickly guessed that I wasn't dreaming. I can't if these marks are still so clear and visible.

Raph began to walk out of the room, I guess to get Leo, and Donny, apparently recovered from his collapsing spell, stood up and came over to me.

What happened next was sort of a reaction to that. No, it was more of a reflex. I hadn't meant to, but I let out a tiny whimper. Something's gonna happen now...I know it...

I'm still gonna hurt...and I can't fight against it this time...so if it kills me...

Donny looked at me for a second, and I think my head went blank. It was his eyes...they weren't flat and irritated and void of that spark I'd seen for the past few months.

They were worried, and had a slight tint of red in them...that natural dark chocolate color I never thought I'd see again. And I kept staring into them, searching for that hatred he was repressing, something to tell me I had died after all and this was a terrible, realistic dream. But I found none.

That was my brother...that was truly my big brother...my worried, extremely intelligent, gentle brother. It mainly jolted me with Donny because of that glare I was so used to seeing.

Those eyes...they were always so lifeless, so annoyed and flat and unfeeling...I always felt it tearing into my soul, cutting me apart until I wasn't sure I could face him anymore.

With Donny, he never had to speak for me to hear his disgust for me. All I had to do was look once and it told me everything.

The next thing I knew, Donny was tightly hugging me. And I still wasn't comprehending that at all.

He gave me something to make it all go away...I was about to do what they've always wished for me to do...he helped me to die...I was closer than I'd ever been.

So what was the point? Why bring me back when I was so close to Death? I'm not sure anymore.

"Don't you ever do that again, Mikey. You gave me a heart attack." he whispered in my ear.

I didn't say or do anything; with the way Donny had my arms kind of pinned, I couldn't. I sat there, kinda enjoying the feel of my brother's skin against my own, but also kinda fearing it. I just...I wasn't used to this anymore.

They haven't hugged me since I was young. I almost forgot how it felt having them doing that.

"I'm sorry, Mikey. And thank you...for fighting."

I tilted my head a little. Why was he apologizing?

Donny finally pulled away from me, and a tiny part of me wished he still held me for a while longer. But I couldn't bring myself to tell him.

He walked out, I guess to get the others, and I took a deep breath.

Everyone fought this hard to wake me...but I just don't understand.

If all I did was get in their way, why would they do it? Why would they put themselves in that position? I don't get that at all!

After a few more days, I was finally discharged from the infirmary. Thank the high heavens, because I was getting tired of sitting around in there. I had to use crutches for three to four weeks after, but other than that, I felt pretty good. Again, just physically.

As far as mentally and emotionally, I am still so confused. I sound like a girl who can't decide who she loves sometimes, but that's how I sorta feel right now.

I don't know anything about anything. I kept wondering about them, their actions, everything. I wondered about myself. I knew I could've stopped all this, but I didn't.

And they keep lying to me; I know it.

During those weeks, Donny comes in my room often to check on my legs, which need the most time to heal. Again, at least I can walk...with the exception of those stupid crutches.

I won't lie, I don't talk to him like I used to, but do I talk, mainly when he asks me something. I answer yes, no or maybe. I never go further than that.

A lot of the time, I'm zoned out, often thinking. Thinking about my life, what I wanted, that feeling of being so close to death. Thinking about them, what they want with someone like me, why they kept lying to me...why they are still lying to me.

Other times, Leo or Raph peeks in on me, I guess just to see how I'm doing. And to be honest, with those two, it's a bit harder to maintain a sense of control.

A lot of the time, especially while I'm falling asleep, I hear Leo walking in my room and sitting down on my bed to tell me something, mainly that he's sorry for everything he told and did to me. I don't know why he didn't just let me go...I know he wanted to. I know he did. And he could have...I was that close to finally making this stop.

Other times, he'd come just to hold my hand. He never speaks or anything, just sits there and holds my hand or rubs my shell. I try to block it all out, but it's not easy because he sounds so different than what I was accustomed to hearing.

I want to relax and let him take my pain away, like he always did for me as a child. But I'm...I don't know if I want to risk him hurting me again. I can't risk that...I can't.

Everything he tells me has to be a lie, but I can't ask him, or even look him in the face. It still scares me too much.

With Raph, I simply try not to hyperventilate. He still puts the fear of everything in me. I can't face him at all. And I mean it.

I know he wants me dead. I know he prefers I be somewhere, anywhere but here. So when he does come, I just curl up under my sheets and let him talk or whatever he wanted to do. Talking to him is pointless. He never comes too far in my room or stays too long, thank goodness.

Usually, they ask me if I'm alright, or if I want anything to eat or something like that. All I do is nod or shake my head. When I do try to tell them something, which isn't very often might I add, I choke up. My words never want to come out. I lie to you not; I completely freeze up.

And when and if I do talk, I tell them the same phrase...I tell them I'm sorry.

I don't understand what's going on anymore, but I make sure they hear that from me. It makes them go away sometimes, and then, like right afterward, I just cry. I keep my face buried in my pillow so they can't hear me, but my tears keep flowing, taking a little more of something inside of me that I no longer have...my heart.

I cry for a long while, then I fall asleep. I don't even dream anymore. They're all the same to me. I got so used to them, they don't faze me.

I don't get it. They know I'm not supposed to be here. I should've been dead.

And then that all changed one night.

I was in my room, not really doing anything. I was happy because Donny finally said I could get rid of those annoying crutches, and I felt better than I had in a long while.

But anyway, it was still pretty early in the evening, like eight. Usually, I'd be either reading a comic or playing my games until it was time for practice. But since Raph destroyed everything in my room, and I couldn't really practice for a while, I figured I could go to sleep. Nothing else to do, right?

I got up and took a shower, then went back to my room. Looking at my desk, I noticed my orange and black journals ,as well as my nunchucks and my mask. There was also a plate of food and a glass of water.

Huh. When did those get in here?

I shook my head, reaching out and gently brushing my nunchucks.

And all of a sudden, flashbacks began to replay through my head.

I remembered all the fun I'd have with these. My happiness when Master Splinter gave me my own special weapon that none of my other brothers could wield. I thought a lot about the enemies that I wished we could fight. We were still too young to go topside and truly protect the city, but I wondered what it would be like. Me and Raph always talked about that.

I remember that confidence I'd feel when I gripped them tightly in my hand, hearing the whoosing sound as I twirled them rapidly in my hand. Like nothing could stop me.

For that one moment...I wasn't weak and useless. I felt so powerful anytime I held them. I could fight just as well as the others, could defend my older brothers if anyone bad tried to hurt them.

Not now. I'm still a child. I never should have even bothered to train. I didn't advance like them; I went backwards. No wonder...

I shook my head clear of that incomplete thought. I decided to accept it all. Everything has changed, and I better begin to face the music before this whole mess happens again.

Opting not to dwell on that too much, I ate, then got ready for bed.

As I was lying in my bed, I heard clinking of metal floating through my slightly open room door. That was followed by a streamline of cussing from my temperamental brother, followed by some calming instruction from my more level brother.

It's nice to hear something coming back to normal between those two. I never thought they'd be fighting again, and to be honest, I really missed that.

I chuckled at the sound of Raph yelling at Leo again, that clinking sound of metal against metal. The sounds of friendly scrapping was actually starting to make me even more tired. I don't know why; I just liked it.

I laid on my bed, looking up at my poster, growing more and more sleepy, yet still listening to them sparring.

After a few minutes, though, my eyelids starting drooping, and before I knew it, I was knocked out.

I thought I'd be asleep for the rest of the night, but of course, that was not happening.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I was hearing something at my door. I opened one eye and took a quick peek at the clock.

It was two-thirty in the morning.

I groaned, turning on my left side and getting comfortable again. It was too early to be bugging me.

As I dropped back into Dreamland, that sound was at my door again. At first, I thought Leo and Raph were getting physical outside my room, and tried to block it out. Why on Earth were they still going at it, I don't know.

But after some time, I realized that wasn't what I was hearing. Someone was knocking, and it was getting rather annoying. I decided that I wasn't going to get anymore sleep tonight, and opted to answer the door.

"C-Come in." I said sleepily, sitting up.

My door opened, and Leo walked in. I blinked, still half asleep.

"Hey, Mikey. You feeling okay?"

I nodded, kinda annoyed he woke me up so early in the morning. Then again, this was usually about the time when he'd still be up. Guess he finished his training for the night.

For a minute, Leo looked at me. Then he walked over to my bed and sat down.

I shook off my sleepiness and sat up some more, now finally noticing Leo was actually in here and on my bed, and backed up into the corner, pulling my legs up to my chest.

Leo sighed. "You still fear us, huh Mikey?"

I wasn't sure if I was supposed to answer, so I said nothing.

"At least you're still with us." he muttered under his breath.

Sitting down on the edge of my bed, Leo got himself a bit comfortable. I was getting nervous, but I was still too afraid to speak. I just curled further into the corner.

He moved closer to me, and I had a mini-panic attack. He was way too close. That was all I paid attention to; he was so close.

"Listen, Mikey. I know what we all did...what I did...it was unforgivable. And I...I can never begin to forgive myself for what I put you through, for what everyone else put you through."

For just a split second, I heard his voice wavering, but kept my mouth shut. Leo kept talking.

"But you're my baby brother. You are our baby brother, and that's something that will never change. And I know you don't want to hear this, but-"

He stopped. When he spoke again, his voice seemed a lot more stable, like the Leo I know, or used to know, or whatever.

"Mikey, I...I'm sorry. I truly am. We all are."

I let that hang for a moment. And at the same time, I decided something.

I can fear him all I want to, but it's now or never. I need to know.

"L-Leo?" I said quietly.

"Yeah?"

I didn't move in case he would have a sudden change of heart and try to hurt me; I didn't even look at him as I asked this question.

"I...I wanted to ask you something."

"What?"

My fear, for the time being, almost vanished. Almost being the key word.

I mean, for once, my words actually tumbled past my lips, and I was actually talking to him instead of stuttering and freezing up in defense.

But I want to know. I want someone around here to explain to me why I deserve to be alive, what they want with me this time. At least, if they decide to continue this, I...I'm not sure what I'll do. I'm not even sure if that's really a option at this point.

But I do want to know.

Leo tensed. He seemed rather off guard.

"About what we did to you?"

I shook my head. I'd get there later.

"No, not that. Leo, why...why did you save me?"

Leo looked at me like I'd slapped him. "Wh-what? What kind of question is that?"

"Why did you do it?"I asked again, my voice level even and quiet. I felt eerily calm, yet my gaze never met his.

I just want to hear him say it. That's all.

I want to know the truth.

"Mikey, it's because you're our brother." he said, evident shock in his tone of voice.

I shook my head."No. That's not true. That never stopped you all from hurting me."

Leo rubbed his face in exasperation. I knew this was going to be difficult, but no one said it was going to be easy, right?

The truth always hurts. I learned that the hard way.

"You're right. But I...I don't..."

I looked up at the ceiling, titling my head to see something that wasn't really there.

"I don't understand why you can't tell me the truth. Why did you all save me after you wanted me to go away and die?"

I saw Leo flinch at the words I used. "I don't really know." he said quietly.

"Yes, you do. Leo, you don't have to spare me, you know."

I almost took back what I said when Leo didn't say anything for a long time. I knew it...I should have just shut up...

"Mikey...you're right." At that, I let a huge, silent breath of relief.

He took another deep breath. "I...I didn't realize...I didn't realize how far away we pushed you. How badly we hurt you. I didn't realize it...but I know why. It was because of you. I mean, when we first started out, it wasn't that bad, but...when it came time for you to train, and you almost never did, and we had to allow you to train with us...you were nothing more than a...a burden. Extra baggage. And it was so damn annoying, having to deal with a fool who was putting our safety at risk."

I didn't say anything to that, just looked down and resumed fiddling with my blanket corner.

There wasn't any reason for me to say anything. Everything he was saying was true. It was true.

As I got older and we began to go topside for training runs, I almost always skipped on training, and when I did train, I never put my all in some of the sessions. After all, to me, life was one massive comic. When the time came for me to perform a certain kata or a run a certain route, I never knew what was going on.

And it was because of that simple act that we were all without our father.

"I guess...as we got older, your antics...it got under our skin. Raph couldn't stand you half the time; he was always fuming about you, and Donny...you know he wasn't going to say anything about it, except when you blew up something in his lab. I pretty much accepted the fact we had an idiot for a younger brother. And I think...no, I know-it only took this whole incident to trigger that hatred that built up over the years."

He sighed heavily. "We hated you, Mikey. We really did, and now, I'm not even sure why."

"Because I was weak. And I still am."I stated under my breath. I guess Leo heard me, because he shook his head, not trying to comeback the statement.

For a good few moments, neither one of us said anything. Another question formed in my mind, and I was itching to hear the answer to this one in particular.

"Leo?"

"Yes?"

"If I was really this bad, why didn't you all get rid of me before?"

"We would never do that!" he exclaimed, looking almost horrified at the very thought.

I said nothing to that. Leo went on.

"But yes, I did wish on numerous occasions that you were never born. We all did."

"So why not kill me then? You knew I was just as weak back then as I am now. Why didn't you do it?"

Leo shook his head firmly. "It never crossed our minds. Not like it did now."

I accepted that.

"Tell me something. Was it better for you guys? You know...when I left."I asked softly, my fingers fiddling with the corner of my blanket.

Leo hesitated. "Mikey, I-"

"Was it?" I insisted, actually looking at him.

Leo sighed. "Yes. I finished my meditation in peace, Donny finished all his projects and Raph seemed a lot more...calmer. We all got a little peace and quiet around here for once, and I think we would have continued to gone on with life, too. So I guess you can say that things did get better without you."

Just as I figured. "So why would you allow me to come back and ruin that?"

"It was more out of our guilt. We knew what we were doing to you. And for whatever reason, we didn't stop, didn't try to hear your side of the story. And when Donny tracked you, and I saw you, actually physically saw your blood-covered body in that hellhole, I just...I knew. We had pushed you so far away, and we never got the chance to tell you how sorry we were. I didn't even know if we'd ever get the chance."

I frowned for just a minute. "You should've left me. You didn't have to wake me."

"Don't even think like that. I...I was scared you truly died there."

He paused for a beat, then went on, his voice taking on a thoughtful tone. "I didn't...I didn't think you'd even let me get so close to you. That light...you were so content there...it scared me senseless for awhile."

"Leo."

"Hmm?"

I tilted my head slightly to the left. "It wasn't so bad. You know, being there. It was actually kinda nice."

"What?"

I shrugged. "I don't know why it was. I guess I'd been going back and forth there for so long...I'd gotten used to it. But it was actually kinda nice being there. I wasn't...I wasn't in pain over there, and I was ready. I wanted it to be over."

"Mikey, I-I-"

"I wasn't afraid to die that night, Leo. And I wasn't afraid to die alone. Not anymore. I wasn't really excepting you all...to do that. To fight for me like you did. And...that's why I wasn't sure why you were crying so much." I said, keeping my gaze on my hands.

"But you shouldn't have to be! You should never have gotten used to that. We're your family, and for whatever reason, we forgot."

I let everything Leo had just said slowly sink into my mind. It was a lot.

What shocked me even more was this whole conversation in general. I was talking with Leo just like the good old times. He was still comforting me, still trying to make this right. That didn't mean I wasn't scared out of my shell.

Leo moved even closer, but I didn't flinch. I just kept looking at our hands. I wasn't sure what I should have done next.

"Mikey."

I didn't say anything.

"Mikey, I want to ask you something." I nodded.

"Were...you were really going to do it that night? Were you really going to end it?"

I was pretty sure that explained itself, and I wondered why he would ask that.

"Yeah, I was." I answered, looking back down at my hands.

Leo hooked his finger under my chin, tilting it upward to meet his gaze. It was so long since I had to look at him, my heart was about to burst. I mean...I was sure it was going to be the same with Donny...the hate, that rage that he was doing a very good job of suppressing. But it wasn't. And I was sure for a brief moment I was dreaming. I had to be.

His eyes...they were different, yet so familiar.

I'd gotten so used to seeing nothing, seeing no expression in my brother's cinnamon eyes, I'd almost forgotten what my eldest brother's eyes were truly like. There was none of the hatred, that emptiness that took him over and settled there.

Leo's eyes were so firm and determined, yet soft and caring. I could never get away from them, from that gaze, even as a child. They always seemed to bore into my very heart, mind and soul. I swear to you, at times, he could read me like a book.

And that gaze was holding me here now, forcing me to admit what I think he knew.

Only Leo could manage doing that without freaking me out.

"Mikey, you're not telling me something. What is it?" he softly asked.

"N-N-Nothing...nothing..." I stuttered. Leo held my face a little firmer.

"Michelangelo, I know you have something else to tell me. What is it?"

I opened my mouth, intent to talk, but my fear of what he was going to do overtook me for those few seconds, and I told him I couldn't say it.

"Mikey..."

And Leo pulled me to his chest, hugging me tightly. Just like all those times before...my big brother still protecting me. "Please, Mikey. Tell me what's wrong."

For a while, I seemed to be taking in too much too fast. First Donny, now him? I don't get what's happening, and if it was a dream, I had to be dead. I hoped so...because this just can't be real.

I wanted to push him away at that point; I was still scared out of my shell! But once I started hearing that heart housed inside of him, I thought about it.

And I realized that that heart, although his...was mine, too. It was a part of me, a part I knew I could never let die with me, no matter what. That was the part I wanted to shield from the world...the part I knew I'd lost the night our father passed.

Leo's heart...it beat for the both of us. And I thought about Donny, about Raphie. Their hearts are mine, too. I had a piece of them all...of my father. I didn't have to be scared to die because I guess...I'd be able to protect their happiness.

So what did I have left to lose?

I wasn't afraid. It wasn't the fact that I was going to die. It was...it was more of a comfort. I knew I'd see my dad, and I knew I could protect them; at least, try to protect them. It was all I wanted, and I figured that was why I was so content that night.

But Leo knew that crying would break me, if that was even possible anymore. All of them cried for me, and I didn't want that. I wanted them to live and move on. But they wanted me to live...and they wanted me...as their brother.

Even now, Leo was still the pillar we all needed, that pillar I felt I never deserved in my life. And it's truly amazing how we all managed to keep ourselves together this long, him especially.

I know I hurt Leo the most. Out of all of us, I put Leo through the worst of it after our father died. I put so much responsibility on his shoulders. He had to take care of us since we were thirteen...and I know Leo trains in order to protect us, but...I forced too much on him. Not to mention that he was the closest to our father. I took something from him that I knew I could never get back, something that would always leave a...a larger void in his own heart.

This whole mess is my fault because I'm such a damn child. And it's because of that that everyone wanted me to go away.

It makes sense. I can't change. I can never change.

So why did they want me? Just what purpose could I serve by being alive?

"Leo...Leo, I didn't mean to hurt you guys...I...I didn't..." I stuttered.

"Mike, how did you hurt us? You were still too young; Master Splinter wouldn't have let you fight regardless."

"But I could've done something! I was thirteen, Leo! I could have fought harder, could've at least tried to help him, and I...I just...I stood there...I was so damn useless!"I screamed.

Leo said nothing, just nuzzled my head gently. I knew he would do that.

I closed my eyes, taking deep, shuddering breaths. I won't believe that.

He doesn't have to lie. He knows I'm to blame. He knows that.

"Is that what's troubling you, Mikey?"

"Leo, I...I could've done something...I messed it up. I hurt everyone...and I...I hurt you the most..." I mumbled in his chest. Leo shook his head.

"No, Mikey. You didn't. And I wish so much I never said that. It was never your fault. It was never your fault, Mike." he whispered to me.

I didn't say anything more. I was trying to keep myself strong, trying to keep him away, but Leo was slowly exposing my heart, taking my shield down. And I was afraid about what would happen once he did.

"To be honest, I think our father knew he might not have made it home that night. And even after that...somehow, you knew we couldn't handle it. We couldn't take handling something so traumatic, and yet...we still pushed you away."

Leo started to stroke my head, and I let out a quiet breath. "I don't know why you don't hate us. You have every reason in the world-"

"Leo, I told you." I stated quietly, cutting him off. I began to draw random patterns on his plastron. I hated talking about this. I told him already, but I'll tell him again.

"I couldn't hate you all. You had a good reason to want me dead. A very good reason."

"Never! There is never a 'good' reason to want your little brother dead! We went too far this time, and we could've lost you!" he exclaimed.

"It would've been okay. It would've ended everything, so..it wouldn't have mattered." I calmly responded back.

I could feel Leo's unbelieving expression staring at me, but I didn't look up, a bit engrossed in my random imaginary patterns. I knew Leo was probably waiting for me to explain myself.

When I didn't, he stuttered, "You...you really would've...would've been okay...with that? With us killing you? With us ending your life?"

"Yeah." I answered, content with that simple word. I felt there was no other reason to explain. I stopped my hand movement and left it over my brother's heart.

He tensed for a moment before he left the conversation at that.

Yet another, longer moment of silence passed between us. While I did feel better about telling Leo what was on my mind, I still felt kinda scared that all this was just a show, a horrible trick. I couldn't help it.

I don't know when that feeling will ever go away. I want it to, but I know it can't happen overnight.

Leo nodded, his hand moving to softly rub my shell. I relaxed more into his hold.

After a few more silent minutes, Leo started talking again. "Your journal told me everything. I read the entire thing. Mikey, I...I don't...how did you do that...just take it all and continue to live?"

I shrugged. Leo was really starting to feel comfy, and my eyes were starting to droop again. But I wanted to keep talking to him.

"I...I can't say. I just thought that if this was what I caused, if this was what it took to make you all happy again...then you all had the right to heal. I wanted that. I wanted...to see you all smile again."

I smiled to myself. "I didn't care about myself anymore. I was ready to die the night I ran. And...I wanted Karai to kill me. I was ready for it."

Leo's arms tightened around me. "Don't think like that. And don't ever say something like that again." he said in a low voice. If I wasn't half out of it, I swore Leo's voice had a ping of fear in it.

Leo sighed. That wasn't good.

"Mikey, you have no idea how much fear I had running through me that night. I found you, but you were covered in so much blood...so much of it. I thought you were dead..."

He trailed off, his entire body going rigid.

"I know, Leo. I thought I was, too."

After all this time talking, I realized this was the first time in a long time that my oldest brother smiled. I never realized how innocent he looked when he did that.

"I'm going to tell you the truth right now: I really thought about letting you go right there. You deserved some kind of peace...especially after this."

He chuckled softly. "I wanted to stop trying to wake you; it was that damn scary. But you still came back to us. It was a miracle you even bothered to stay awake. All you could tell me...was that you were sorry, that you still loved me, and that...that you screwed up."

He stopped. I closed my eyes, trying to remember what I had said or did when Leo found me.

He woke me...and I know I said that I was sorry...but...I can't seem to...

"Mikey?" Leo asked, worried about my sudden stillness.

I told him...that I loved him...and I asked him...if I...screwed up?

Now that I'm thinking about it with a clear head, I don't remember much of what I said outside that night. I mean, other than the apology, all I remember was what I was thinking before I passed out. And a lot of flashbacks hitting me a mile a minute. And the amount of pain my body was wracked in. After that, whatever happened, I either refuse to remember or I can't.

When I woke up in the lair, I still couldn't remember too much; that time, I was hopped up on pain killers or something like that. But I do remember looking at Leo and telling him not to cry for me.

And there was something else I remember, although at the time, I was so disoriented. I remember seeing his pain, his guilt, written all over his face.

The third up I woke up, I was so petrified of them...I honestly knew at that point, if I was going to be kept alive...I was going to be tortured until I truly broke. If such a thing could even happen anymore.

I had fallen silent because I didn't know what else I could've done or what I could've said. All I remember telling them was how sorry I was. I knew that was all I could say. It was all I could tell them...

Just before Donny gave me that medicine, I remember Raph breathing heavily over top me, and he had the same look Leo had in his eyes before...guilt and pain. He just kept breathing over me, kept telling me to calm down.

Once Donny gave me that needle, I honestly did not want to wake up again. I was so tired of trying to do anything, and Donny had taken it away...I was thankful. I really was.

But Leo...he wouldn't let me go. Even when I was 'dead', none of them stopped calling me. And I just didn't see why they never let me die like I was supposed to.

I was so confused...and I was so scared. I didn't know what was gonna happen to me afterward...and even now, I still don't know.

"Mikey? Are you okay?" Leo's urgent voice asked me again, snapping me out of my thought.

I opened my eyes and looked up at him again. "Y-yeah. I just...I remembered something, that's all."

"What?"

I smiled. "Everything."

Leo shook his head. "Mikey?"

I looked up at him. "Do...do you still think about dying?"

Now at that, I froze again before answering. "Yeah...I do. It's really hard, and I try not to, but I...I'm so confused right now."

I must sound so pathetic to him, but I could not stop. Once I opened my mouth, everything came tumbling out.

I shuddered, and nestled more into Leo, thankful for his presence more than anything.

"I...I know you all are my brothers...and I know you're my family...but..."

I shuddered, and more tears fell. Wow...I didn't think I could cry anymore.

"I...I try not to think about it...but it...it hurts, Leo. And...I keep thinking...no matter what...I'll always be hated...I'll always...be dead to you all...and even now, I still think that this is a really long dream. And I..I know that it isn't, but...but I just don't...I don't want to...to..."

I started choking up, and when I felt Leo rest a gentle hand on the back of my neck, I forced myself to keep going.

"I tried to think that there was a reason for you...you all wanting to keep me alive...to let me live. There had to be a reason, and I...I didn't know what to do...I was scared. I didn't know what was going to happen to me...and I...right now, I still think this is nothing more than a horrible nightmare...and when I wake up, you will all still wanna hurt me...and finally kill me."

I let out a sob. "I'm so tired of it all. I'm just so tired of trying to fight against anyone or anything. I have nothing left, Leo..." I finally muttered quietly.

"I know, Mikey. I know you are. But you have to believe me...I don't want to see you hurting anymore. None of us want to hurt you; we want to help heal you."

I nodded. "I just want it to end..." I whispered.

Leo sighed, wiping my face. "I know. And I don't blame you for your actions. It'll take some time to believe us, but you'll see...we will protect you with everything we have."

I titled my head. I still had one more important question I wanted to ask him...and this time, I wanted the truth.

"Leo, tell me the truth. Do you still wish I wasn't born?"

"NO!" he stated loudly, causing me to jump a bit.

Looking up at my poster, he said in a much quieter voice, "No Mikey. I can't really imagine life without our littlest brother...our little innocence. And I don't know what I thought life would be like if you weren't here anymore."

'Leo, am I really that important to you all?' I thought to myself, letting out a yawn as I cuddled even closer, if such a thing were possible at this point. Above me, I heard a low chuckle coming from him as he pulled my blanket around both of us.

While the others usually allowed me to sleep with them whenever I had a nightmare, Leo was the only one who let me do this.

He was the only one who let me curl under him, let me cry and cry and cry some more until I either wanted to pass out or I felt I let everything out. Allowing me to tell him what haunted me so badly and not feel pathetic about it, always protecting me, holding me so close...letting me feel his warmth, letting me hear his heart beat.

And even now, even after everything that happened...it was this that I missed most.

I missed my brother's warmth. That was something I wanted more than anything.

"I'm sorry, Mikey. I'm so sorry...and I hope you can forgive me someday." I heard him mutter.

I just nodded, feeling more and more sleepy as I laid there on Leo's chest, thinking about...stuff. I still have so much to tell them...and I wait for the day when I can.

I let out another yawn, this time followed by a soft one from Leo. I could only guess what time it was. We must've been talking for hours, although it didn't feel like it at all.

It's weird. I don't feel afraid of my brothers now, or at least, as afraid of them as before. Granted, I still feel some sense of fear. I don't know what's going to happen after this. I don't know if I made the right choice or what. I don't know about the others.

All I know...is that I want to heal with them, to be a family.

"I love you, little brother. We all do. And we always will." Leo whispered, his head resting on top of mine.

My eyes closed, inhaling the scent of my brother, barely registering anything else.

"I love you all, too." I mumbled quietly.

The battle's over, and now...I think we need time. A lot of it. I realized now that all four of us carried some type of scar, and might carry them for a long, long time. I guess...mine were just ripped open more often than not.

I never thought we'd actually heal until tonight. But...I think we can. It's a step in the right direction. I know it's how our father would like to see it.

I can't begin to count how many night I've cried, how many nights I've gone to that darkness, each time closer and closer to the point of no return.

I hated that helpless feeling, but...I didn't know what else to do. I feared them even though I wanted to change. I just had so much...so many mixed emotions within me...and soon, I broke through. I didn't know what else I could do, if I could do anything.

After awhile, I just gave up and waited.

'Leo...I think I'm ready to finally do it.'

I know it's going to be slow, and probably painful, but I wanna try.

I wanna try to heal with them.

But for tonight, I'll just stay in Leo's protective arms.

'Arigato...Nii-Chan.'

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