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Cold Fire Rising

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Chapter One


It wasn't even a mission. Professor Honeycutt had let them explore this new planet with ease, like a vacation. Stretching, under a different sun, a new wind rushing at their backs. And they ran, taking in all the oxygen the atmosphere swirled with. This planet was so much like Earth. They didn't need suits, or breathers, or anything.

The living embodiment of joy, Michelangelo cackled and whooped, spinning inches from the sand, arms propelling him higher, his mouth wide in a laugh that echoed through the silver trees. Silver trees!

And Leonardo grinned and shook his head, watching Mikey do backflips and shout about the softness of the sand. He was feeling pretty exhilarated. The air was crisp. The sky had sparse clouds, even. And it all felt so familiar. He sat down and leaned against a tree.

Donatello gazed around, soaking up the sights and sounds, calculating in his head how fast the wind was, how close that sun was, why the sky looked so much like the sky on Earth. His hands worked carefully as he crouched. His brain moved too fast and his body too slow and he was nearly bowled over by his little brother, who was cartwheeling through them, "Watch it, Mikey, I need to take sand samples!" and behind him, Raph grunted.

Raphael was on high alert, twitching, waiting. Danger? What was that? No, trees rustling. Why are the leaves so gray? Why where they here, so alone? This forest... this... place, it felt abandoned, and he growled softly, turning there, punching out. "Duuude, relax! This place is so sweet! Sit down and breathe!" and Michelangelo whirled past him with a giggle. Raphael wanted to slap him. Nobody should be that excited about sand and trees.

"Okay," Leonardo said, "we are going to explore for a few hours and then get back. We're still on a mission."

"Hm." Donatello, distracted, finished collecting samples and stood. "I did see what looked like a bar or pub on the other side of the forest."

Raph let himself loosen. "I'm hungry, yeah. And I smelled good food when we passed that place."

They began walking back through the forest, keeping all eyes on their surroundings. There was an abrupt "Oooh, hey, what's that?" followed by an automatic "Mikey, do not touch anything!"

Donatello let himself relax and smile. This was normal. This was their family. This was-

"Mikey! Put that down! What do you think you're doing?"

"Aww, Leo, it's a rock! See? It's just a shiny stone. It's green. It looks like a turtle shell. Look!"

Don looked up, eyes narrowing. He didn't recall seeing any green rocks...

Michelangelo was holding it in both hands. It looked like a polished, perfectly smooth cabochon. Opal? Emerald? Fluorite? Serpentinite? Why was he comparing it to Earth rocks, anyway? He stepped closer. "Michelangelo, I'll take it. I can always run an analysis on-"

"Nope!" Raphael had pushed himself between them. "None of that. Mikey, just drop the rock and let's keep moving. I don't need to listen to you cooing over how shiny it is, or Donnie playing science geek with it. Put it back where you found it, right now."

Michelangelo blinked. "I... I can't."

"What...?"

Leonardo turned with Leader Face on as Raphael's voice dropped an octave. Donatello frowned.

"No," said Michelangelo, "I mean I can't. It won't let me. It's heating up. Guys? Something isn't right..."

Donatello saw it, opened his mouth, lunged to knock the suddenly glowing thing from his baby brother's hands, grabbed his right wrist – and then Mikey screamed. He screamed like the air was being yanked from his lungs, like his body was a puppet. He jerked back and forth, and then he was glowing, and the screaming rose in pitch, and Don felt Raphael's arm collide with his chest, shoving him back, and his brother was crying now, Mikey was sobbing in that way that indicated fear and confusion and pain, and everything was a painfully bright greenish-gold glow, and a final forced wail was expelled-

And Donatello found himself on his knees and hands, reaching toward Michelangelo, who was lying curled up in the sand, shaking and whimpering. The stone had fallen from his hands and was a lifeless gray with white striations. Just a rock. Just a simple, unassuming, harmless alien rock.

"Mikey!" Raphael had grabbed the younger turtle's face in both hands. "Mikey, it's okay, you're okay. We're here. It's okay. Breathe in. Breathe out. You're okay." Leonardo was gracefully crouched at Mikey's head, gently holding his left hand and massaging the palm.

Donatello coughed and blinked, shaking his head to dispel the pinpoints of light at the edges of his vision. Years of forced medical training snapped into place and he sat up. "Is he injured? Unconscious?"

Raphael was gently stroking the skin between carapace and plastron as his baby brother shivered. Raph was breathing harshly in that way Don knew was Raph's version of "calm yourself, don't fly off the handle." Raphael nodded. "He's breathing, he's not bleeding. I think he's scared. Maybe in shock."

Leonardo nodded. "There are burn marks on both hands. But beyond that he seems okay." Fearless Leader looked up and stared at Donatello with an odd expression. "Donnie? You okay?"

"Me? What?" Donatello rubbed his head. "I'm fine, yeah. I'm fine."

Raph raised an eye ridge. "Because you kind of... passed out for a minute after the glowing started.

"I... but... no, I just..." Donatello shook his head. He felt as though a soft electric current had passed through his arm when he touched Michelangelo, but he shouldn't have...

"Come on, braniac, let's stand you up." And Raphael was gently pulling him to his feet. Donatello's hands twitched. He blinked. "I'm all right. Really. I need to look at him. Raph, move, I have to-"

"Hold still and stop twitching."

"Oh. Oh." Donatello closed his eyes and reached for his ninjitsu training, the meditative exercises they performed when wounded or shocked. After a few breaths, he felt his brother's hands fall away. "Okay, then, I need to..."

A long, whining groan from the ground. Donatello instinctively crouched at Michelangelo's side, feeling all over for burn marks, bruises, cuts, anything. "Mikey, how do you feel? Are you badly hurt? Can you feel my hands? Can you see?"

"Yah...yeah...yes, Donnie, I'm...I'm okay." Mikey coughed. He wiggled his fingers and toes. "I work, I promise. It's all good." He wriggled his shoulders. Donatello helped him sit up. "Let me stand, dude, I think I'm cool."

"You were curled up on the ground, you were screaming and crying."

"Well, it hurt. Now it doesn't." Michelangelo looked at him and slowly blinked those huge summer-blue eyes, the smattering of freckles standing out against skin that had gone a shade paler. He smiled, turning on that Mikey Charm. Donatello automatically smiled back. On instinct, he leaned in and touched his forehead to his brother's, just like they had done as kids after Mikey's nightmares had sent him to Donnie's room for comfort.

"Okay, cool." Raphael's clapping startled them. "Let's go find food. Can the bonehead walk on his own?"

Mikey stuck his tongue out and strode forward, dancing on his toes like a gymnast. "Assholes first," he said, sweeping his arm out.

Raph grumbled, elbowing Mikey as he walked ahead. Mikey just grinned that brilliant sunny grin and softly howled, "Foooood!"

Leo leaned toward Don as they walked behind. "Wanna bet he'll ask for a pizza with jellybeans?"

Donatello grinned. "Or sour candy and chocolate bits."

"He might just barge into the kitchen and make it himself."

"Honestly, I wouldn't mind."

Donatello paused, then knelt and scooped up the dead gray rock that had been so mysterious and frightening. He dropped it into his belt pouch without a word. Leonardo simply nodded. Donnie and his tests, his urge to know everything. Especially on different planets.

The place was huge, bigger than most restaurants. There were sections, a massive curved bar, and empty tables everywhere. The only seated customers were a dozen black-clad reptilian humanoids around a long corner table, and toward the middle, three humanoids that looked like squids, dressed in space suits. The bartender was canine in features. Waiters, cooks, and other staff were a mix of what seemed like goat, cat, and bird.

Leonardo keenly, quietly, and carefully took stock of every face, claw, and foot. They chose a table next to a wall, and a feline waiter with a computer pad came swiftly, offering beverages. Donatello easily explained that they were off-worlders and did know about any food. They all noticed the waiter tap something on his lapel. "It's fine, we get that a lot," said the waiter. In English. "Whoa, cool," Michelangelo said, leaning over. "Is that, like, a galactic translator?"

"Yes," the waiter said, pleased. "The translator immediately recognized your specific language. We get so many off-worlders, because this pub is neutral, that we need translators that are powerfully efficient."

"Wait, neutral?" asked Donatello. "Like... like a neutral zone?"

"Exactly. If you have a beef with your rival, you squash it when you are in here. This is a place to eat and talk in peace."

A derisive snort came from the corner, where the dozen reptilians sat. The waiter rolled his eyes. "Anyway, let me get you some menus you can read. I will help explain the foods. We make sure none of the food here can cause allergic reactions. We are one of the few pubs in the galaxy that caters to as many species as possible."

He lifted his chin, smiled, and went to the bar, returning with four menus. "Now, for drinks, we have... hang on, please correct me if I am wrong. Sodda? Jweese..."

"Soda and juice!" Michelangelo said cheerily. He glanced at the menu. "See? Here. I want this soda." He pointed, and the waiter's eyes brightened! "Yes, okay! That says ginger ale! Good! How about the rest of you?"

"Got anything alcoholic?"

"Raph!"

"Oh stop it, Leo, we're on vacation!"

The waiter moved his eyes back and forth, amused. He leaned toward Raph's menu and pointed. "How about this one? It doesn't contain much alcohol, but it should satisfy you." The photo next to the description was a blue liquid tinged with pale orange. Raphael's mouth twisted. "Gimme that one, then."

Leonardo sighed. "Can I just get seltzer?" Donatello chimed in with, "Ginger ale."

The waiter tapped on his pad happily. "Two ginger ale drinks. One seltzer drink. One Sky Rider mix. Take your time on choosing your food!"

He spun gracefully and moved toward the bar. The turtles scrolled through their menus, and eventually decided to split a dish consisting of varied vegetables, rice, mushrooms, and oily fish. Michelangelo leaned back. "It's not pizza, but I bet I could make it when we get back. I think April will like it."

When the food arrived, they dug in and realized how hungry they were. The food was delicious and filling, and gone before they realized.

"Wow," the waiter grinned as he came to gather plates. "Either it was really good or you were all very hungry."

"Little of both," Raph smirked, patting his belly.

Michelangelo beckoned, and the waiter leaned in. "Dude, I'm the head chef of the family, and seriously, that was amazing. Kudos for the chef. Think I could get a copy of the recipe?"

"Mikey!" Leonardo admonished. "Don't be rude."

The waiter's smile was wide enough to show sharp teeth. "No, I think she would be thrilled that another chef would want her recipes. I will ask. I'll return with it and your check."

As he left, Leonardo counted out the credit bits that Fugitoid had given them. When it was time for payment, he added extra, which puzzled the waiter. "It's called a tip, where we are from," Leo said. "It means that you did a great job. It's yours to keep."

The waiter blinked. "Oh, I..."

"Take it, dude!" Michelangelo patted his shoulder, folding a piece of paper into his belt. You gave me the recipe, so we give you a little something."

The waiter was blushing. "I have never heard of tipping. It sounds very strange, paying extra just because I did my job. But... thank you. I accept." He bowed his head and wished them well, then moved back toward the bar and the kitchen.

"Well." Raphael drained the last of his beverage. "That was interesting. Wanna explore more, or head back to the ship, or..."

A commotion made them all freeze. Two of the reptilians were standing at the squid creatures' table. "Okay, then. Food's been eaten, fun's been had. Now we settle. Where is our money?"

"Oy!" the bartender growled. "Take it outside. At least twenty meters away from the building. Y'know the rules."

Weapons seemed to melt out of the darkness of the reptilians' cloaks, nudging two of the squids. "Up, then. Come on."

Silently, squid and reptile alike shuffled out through the door, which slowly closed.

Donatello looked at Leonardo. "Should we do something?"

Raphael narrowed his eyes. "Do we have to?"

Leonardo paused his eyes set on the door. From outside, there was a scuffling noise, and then a watery yelp. The staff turned their backs.

"Dudes, I think someone has to see what's going on," Michelangelo whispered. "The squid guys might be totally innocent."

Leonardo seemed frozen in place. Then he nodded. "Quietly." He beckoned and began weaving his way through the tables. The others followed, locking into their ninja stealth training. As they approached the door, Raphael glanced at Michelangelo. "Don't say a fucking word, loudmouth." Michelangelo stuck his tongue out and smiled.

Outside, the sky was just beginning to dim, spreading pale yellow light and making everything look old and dusty. The two parties, yelling at each other in English, were going around in circles. Weapons were drawn: Knives, swords, daggers, blaster guns. One of the taller reptilians, in a deep red trench coat in direct contrast to the black of his team, was a few steps away, watching carefully.

"We sent your payment a week ago, Alchemist!" one of the squids yelled. His hand, four fingers looking like tentacles with suckers cut through the air with a damp noise. The other squids angrily murmured in agreement.

The red-clad reptilian cocked his head. "Really? That is not what my accountant told me. Try again, Albelor."

"That is the truth! The payment was sent! I cannot lie about a truth."

"No, but you can bend the truth like a fountain!" One of the black-clad reptilians leapt and grabbed the squid's tentacles with both clawed hands, very large hands, with four fingers and a thumb, and Albelor squealed. His companions appeared too afraid to help. "No, sir, we swear it."

"Then why is it not in our account, salt creature? Why must you lie? The Alchemist has been very generous. He gave you exactly what you needed."

"Y-yes! I am so grateful. And... and perhaps the money... it didn't arrive on schedule."

"Because...?" There was a squelching sound. The squid winced. His hands were being bruised.

"Because he doesn't have to tell you, ass for brains!" Raphael yelled, leaping into the air and coming down hard on the reptilian. The squid gasped and stumbled back, clutching his hand. Raphael glanced at him. "You okay?" The squid nodded shakily.

The reptilian growled and twisted into a sitting position, throwing Raph to the side. Raphael gained his footing and held up his sai, taking a defensive stance. The reptilian's eyes narrowed. "You should not have gotten involved, alien turtle man."

"Too late!" Michelangelo worked his acrobatics and was suddenly right in front, balanced on his toes, grinning without humor. "Let the squid dudes go. I'm sure they'll pay you when they can."

"You think you know..." The reptilian pressed his snout to the turtle's snout before rearing back and headbutting him. Grunting, Michelangelo planted his feet and let his torso bend back, stretching his neck before bouncing right back. "That was fun. Do it again!" He butted the reptilian. His opponent staggered, but without the same agility the reptilian crashed to the ground.

"You do not belong in this fight!" One of the other reptilians rushed at blinding speed; there was a musical whirring in the air, and both Raphael and Michelangelo fell back. The long whip snapped and cracked the air like a snarl. "Leave us! Now!"

Leonardo rushed forward. "Not until you let the squids leave in peace!"

Yet another reptilian, this one with two swords, rose to meet him. "You know nothing of our conflicts, turtle man. Leave, or we will kill you."

The clash of weapons filled the air. Donatello whirled in a dance with his bo, knocking out two reptile men, while Leonardo faced two more against his katana. Raphael, not even caring who he hit lashed out spinning. Michelangelo whooped and sang, jumping and twisting above it all, handsprings and backflips taking down three more before he even swung his nunchaku.

The reptilians were extremely resilient, each rising up and attacking again, the full dozen, minus the so-called Alchemist, who stood a few feet away, arms crossed, smiling. During one of his aerial moves, Michelangelo noticed this and twisted his body, maneuvering and spinning until he landed, cat-like, right in front of the reptile man in the red coat.

"You're awfully quiet, scaly dude," he teased, hoping to get a rise out of him. "What, scared to fight?"

The Alchemist raised an eyeridge, dark golden eyes wide. "Ah, no, not even a little. I'm just... extremely entertained."

Mikey's whole body was itching and tingling to move, the thing Donnie called ADHD sparking in his brain, the parts of him naturally prone to acrobatics and athleticism burning and reaching out to attack with as many distractions as possible. Why wasn't this guy moving? What was so funny?

Mikey took a breath to soothe his overactive nerves, and gave the reptile his most dazzling convincing smile. "I bet I can entertain you a whooole lot!"

The Alchemist laughed. "Please, do, child. Come." He held out a hand and crooked a shiny talon inward. Michelangelo put his weapons in his belt and spread his hands, rocking on the balls of his feet. The Alchemist glanced down and his eyes went very wide. "Fascinating!"

"Heh. What? Am I that talented? You haven't seen nothing!"

A toothy grin. "Oh, child. You don't know, do you?"

Michelangelo frowned.

"Your hands, boy. I know that mark." And the Alchemist began to chuckle. Mikey felt himself shiver. That was not a pleasant sound. And yeah, so that rock had burned him. So what?

"Tell me, boy," said the Alchemist, reaching into his coat, "how did you feel when the stone's power surged through you? Did you cry? Did you scream? It has been a very, very, very long time since the stones have reacted to anyone. So I need you to be honest. How do you feel about it?"

Mikey frowned harder. "I... what? What the hell are you talking about? It's... it was... it was just a shock. Like... an electric shock. Like, all over, deep inside." He paused. Wait, why was he talking? Why couldn't he stop talking? "Like my whole body was... covered in energy. All my insides. And my head. Inside my brain. Energy. It..." He forced his mouth shut. He shouldn't be saying anything to this creep.

But the Alchemist was humming and smiling. "Very interesting! And you were conscious? That's new. Oh, this is delightful. And here you are, fit and whole and ready to fight me like nothing happened. Come, then. Show me. Entertain me."

Like lightning, he brought out a curved dagger and surged forward. On pure instinct and muscle memory, Michelangelo jumped back, curving and curling his body into intense angles and twists, his hands grabbing the nunchucks without thought. As the Alchemist jumped, kicked, rolled, and ran at him, Michelangelo's powerful born skills lifted him, moved him, curved him in ways human gymnasts would be envious of. If it weren't for the shell he could have contorted further. He landed multiple blows without even trying. The rush of adrenaline was so strong he could have flown, could have punched steel, and he crowed his triumph, nimbly dashing forward again with his beloved nunchucks spinning their soprano song-

He paused. Something had stopped him. He jerked, and a flash of pain flared through his torso. Wait, where was the pain? Why was he in pain? Distantly, he heard someone shout his name. He looked down to see two parallel, very long, very deep slashes across his upper plastron. He looked up to see a curved blade dripping thickly with blood.

"Oh..."

He drew in a cold breath. It hurt, it really hurt, like all the way into his chest hurt. Okay. Okay, but this wasn't so bad. He could technically still fight. It was just time for defensive moves, that was all.

There was a blur of red and black, and suddenly his right shoulder was on fire. Another blur, and his right cheek stung. "Stop it," he yelled, or tried to. His arms were stinging. His sides. And now his legs. His left leg felt like it was being ripped open. His right leg felt so exhausted and bruised. The fire along his left thigh was even worse. He felt himself sway. He swallowed, and it was thick, and he tasted copper.

"Hey... hey, slow down... you! Stay!" He struck out and connected hard, and there was a growling yell. "Hah! Not so tough," he called, but it was like yelling down a tunnel. Something was wrong. His hearing felt kind of clogged. "Hey! Hey Alchemist!" he coughed. He spat. Wait, was that blood? How did-

The reptile man in the red trench coat was right there, almost hugging him. He was smiling. So many teeth. So shiny. Oh, what big teeth you have... The Alchemist drew back his left arm. Michelangelo kept staring at that smiling mouth. The smile grew bigger, like a maw...

Something punched him below his rib cage, on his left side. It was a sharp punch, it was a cold, hard punch. It hurt. It hurt! Warm liquid spilled against his plastron. He sucked in a breath and wished he hadn't. Pain erupted and filled him like lava. He wanted to scream. He was trying to scream. He could hear faint screaming. Was it him?

Someone was screaming his name. Someone was shouting words that would have made sailors proud. He heard squelching sounds, crunching sounds, cracking sounds, growling sounds. The Alchemist was holding onto him.

"Yes, little boy, that was very entertaining. Thank you. You have an incredible stamina. You have so much kinetic power. You have a massive wellspring of potential inside you, if only you could learn to focus and direct it all the time. You could be the greatest fighter and athlete in the galaxy. You never will. But you could have been the best."

Mikey sucked in a shuddering gasp. "You... fl-flatterer... you. Does... this... mean... you give... me... roses... now?"

The Alchemist chuckled. "Oh, I enjoy your silly jokes. But enough is enough. We are done here. You, boy, you are done."

Someone was screaming, screaming his name. There were pounding footsteps. They were far away.

Michelangelo blinked; there was something glistening like glass in the Alchemist's right hand. He felt all floaty. Why couldn't he move? The Alchemist brought the object down and connected with Mikey's left shoulder. There was a sting, a very sharp and warm sting. He tried to pull away. "Sshhhh," the Alchemist murmured. "It will be over soon."

The Alchemist released his hold. Mikey felt his body crumble to the side. His right side. He lay panting, while half a dozen types of pain roared through his body. That warm sting in his shoulder was getting warmer. It bothered him more than anything else. In slow motion, out of the corner of his eye, he watched the Alchemist take his curved dagger, completely soaked in blood, drop the shiny glass thing – wait, a syringe, it was a syringe – and call to his men. The Alchemist ran at blinding blurry speed. The other reptilian men, the ones who were still able to move, followed. Someone was screaming.

"-et back here! You cowards! What did you do to my brother! What did you do?!"

Oh, that was... it sounded like Raphael. Good old hothead Raph. He loved shouting.

"Mikey. Mikey, can you hear me? Can you speak? Mike!" Hands on his face. Leathery three-fingered hands. "Oh... oh god, Mikey..."

He breathed, and it was so sharp and so cold. "D-Donnie?"

"I'm here, little brother. Just hold on. Just... oh god, Mikey, just hold on..."

He blinked. Donnie sounded panicked and terrified. That wasn't right. "Duude," he slurred. Something warm trickled down his cheek from the side of his mouth. Was he drooling? How embarrassing. "Don't... no... don't be... s-scared, Donnie?"

He looked straight up, and his brother's dark chestnut brown eyes, like red tiger eye stones, were wide and yes, filled with panicky terror. He felt so confused. He almost wanted to laugh. Donnie? Stoic, logical, rational, scientific Donnie, shaking in what looked like pure terror?

A gentle hand on his cheek. He moaned and leaned into it, blinking. "Leeeooo..." Oh. Oh, his face. His dark blue eyes. Leo was afraid, too. Leo looked so afraid. Horrified, even. Leo couldn't... no. Leo was leader. Leo kept himself calm all the time. This was Leonardo, come on. This was Fearless Leader. So why was-

"L-Leo, w-wh's... wrong? I got... smthin... on my... face?" He was so, so confused. Leonardo's sapphire eyes were so wide, his skin so pale. His mouth was trembling. "Easy, Mikey," he said hoarsely, in a voice that reminded Michelangelo of when Leo had woken up from his coma at the farmhouse. Thick and deep and raspy and tired. Shaky. "You...you've been hurt bad. Really bad. We need to get you to Honeycutt's lab. Just lie still. Don't move. You're gonna be okay. I swear, Mikey. You..." He choked. Mike frowned. Was Leonardo trying not to cry? "I promise, you'll be okay."

Michelangelo relaxed. His brothers were here. They were going to take care of him. He was hurt, but they could fix it. The burning in his shoulder was getting worse and it was spreading. He whimpered.

Immediately, Raphael's face was right above his, deep emerald eyes staring into his. "Mikey," he rasped. "Mikey..."

He tried to smile. "Raph... hey..." A cough moved through his chest, and with it warm liquid. Damn it, he really hoped he wasn't drooling. He kept eye contact. Raphael was staring at him definitely in horror and fear and worry. "S'okay, Raph..." and he tried to lift his arm to touch his brother's face. He felt his entire right arm twitch. Raph did it for him, grabbed his hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing it. Mikey tried to squeeze his brother's hand. He couldn't. His fingers twitched. Why was he so weak?

Raph let out a shuddering breath. "M-Mikey... stay with me. Please."

Michelangelo frowned. He tried. He tried to furrow his brow, raise an eyeridge. "Raph? I'm... right here, I..." he sucked in a breath that was agony. "I don't... unnerstan..." The burning. It was everywhere now. It was in his head. It was in his head. In his - burning - in his brain.

"He's in shock," Donatello said in his "doctor voice." "Whatever was in this syringe... Oh shit. His eyes. His pupils are dilated. Mikey, can you hear me? Mikey, focus on me..."

But the burning was too much. The world was moving away from him, twisting, shifting. His head was full of fire and cold. He blinked. He thought he blinked. Wait, why was everything so bright? Everything was so scratchy. And loud. And...

Wait, was he shaking? He couldn't think. He struggled to look at something. What was right near his face? Yes. His brother. Those tiger eye chestnut irises. It was Donnie. Donnie would help him!

He opened his mouth. "D... D, I...I'm...on fire...I don't...feel good."

The shaking. It was getting worse. He felt his muscles tensing and clenching. He felt his eyes roll back. He heard his own voice cry out and choke. The shaking. He couldn't stop. His brain was on fire. His brain was on fire! Somebody put it out! Help! Donnie, HELP?

The voices were nothing but air.

"What's happening! Mikey!"

"Raph, no, don't hold him down, he's having a seizure! Leo, I need-"

Silence. Just air. Suddenly, darkness. A deep, intense, thick molasses darkness. There was nothing else. He was floating in it and oh it felt so good. Something told him to sleep.

And so Michelangelo slept.

Chapter Text

 

Raphael remembered everything.

Every single bit, and he hated himself for it.

He remembered knocking down reptilian fighters and how they kept getting back up. Shell to shell with Leonardo, who was yelling at the squid-people to run. Sweat pouring down his face. Teeth clenched. Hearing Donatello cracking bone with the bo, then cursing "How the fuck are they still moving?" He remembered Michelangelo doing one of his gymnast moves, or parkour moves, flying and tumbling and taking down three or four at a time.

And then the bizarre fight between Mikey and the... that guy, the Alchemist. Mikey taunting with his usual show. The Alchemist making weird statements, laughing.

Mikey screaming. Oh, he remembered Mikey screaming.

White rage filling his brain, but still he had to fight through bodies with weapons, and he didn't care how bruised or cut he was getting, because his baby brother was in trouble...

Mikey screaming again.

And that sound. He was too familiar with the sound of someone being stabbed. He howled. He shrieked. He roared.

His baby brother was being stabbed.

That laughter, the words, they just ran together, but he saw the reptile man drop a syringe, and Raphael lost his mind. Only Leonardo wrapping both arms around him stopped him from giving chase.

Donatello scooping up the syringe. Raphael remembered collapsing next to his little brother, and there was so much blood, so much blood, no no no, and Mikey was coughing up blood. Blood was spilling out of him. He was covered in blood. And he didn't even know what was happening, he kept wondering if they were all right. His bright baby blue eyes were dulling. He was reaching for Raph.

And then his muscles were twitching, and it was like his entire body was in one massive spasm. And he cried out and fell unconscious, but his body, it kept spasming, and Raph grabbed him in a hug to try to... and then Donatello told him not to, because Mikey was having a seizure. And Raphael stopped thinking. He scooped Michelangelo into his arms and began to run. His brothers yelling after him, running after him. The little pod they had used to land on the planet was That Way, and Raphael ran like he had never run in his life, because Mikey was barely breathing and he was bleeding everywhere and he had been stabbed, and it was MIKEY.

On the Ulixes, Raphael had been shoved aside and Mikey firmly taken from his arms, and he growled and snarled and snapped until someone was hugging him. April. It was April. She was telling him to stop, that it was okay. He could barely hear her. But he allowed himself to be led to a couch, where someone was telling him to take deep breaths. He looked at himself, covered in his brother's blood.

So much blood.

April, telling him he should take a shower. Casey, asking if he needed help.

"Mikey," was all he could say. White haze. White noise. Mikey.

Someone was crying.

Someone was pushing him into the showers, muttering about controls and water. He felt the pressure of hot water, sloughing off the blood and the dirt. He didn't bother adjusting the temperature. He was clean, somehow. Someone was leading him back to the couch. He protested. A voice told him that Honeycutt and Donatello were doing everything, literally everything. He was not allowed in there. He fidgeted and growled. Someone had taken away his weapons. He needed to punch something. Someone leading him to the simulation room, holodeck, whatever they were calling it. Finally, he focused. Leonardo had built a simulation of their dojo.

"Have fun," Leo said, looking utterly exhausted.

Raphael paused. He stared at his brother, who was staring out at nothing.

"Leo," he said. "Stop. Stop blaming yourself. Right now. Cut that shit out or I will use you as punching practice!"

Leonardo gave him a blank look, and then he sighed. "Yeah. You... you're right. I'm... I think I'll watch some TV. Or stare out into space for a while."

Raph blinked, expecting a fight. "O-okay."

His brother left. He felt himself deflate. He stared at the equipment around him. He snarled. "Mikey..."

He lunged at one of the practice dummies, the heaviest. And he took out all his rage on it. Luckily, the holodeck was soundproof, so nobody could hear him sobbing.

 


Anywhere but here. Donatello wanted to be anywhere else. He was not really a doctor. He had been forced into it because of his thirst for knowledge and science, and medicine was science, and he and his family kept getting beaten up and wounded. He even learned basic surgery. But he was an engineer. And maybe engineers and surgeons had things in common, sure, but still.

This was new territory. None of them had been injured like this before. He realized how many debts he now owed Dr Honeycutt. It would never be enough. If this had happened at home... oh god. No, Donnie, don't think about that.

"Donatello? Are you all right?"

The lilting gentle voice of the Fugitoid – the human scientist brain in the android body – was very kind, and very helpful, and almost paternal. Donatello swallowed and took a shuddering breath.

"Donatello, I think you should sit down. Also, you are squeezing that damp rag extremely hard."

He blinked. Yes, there was a chair. Of course there was, it was his chair. Well... Honeycutt had created a lab room just for him, with the infirmary off to the side. And there was technology he never had on Earth, there were tools to play with, no wonder his family tried to coax him out, no wonder Michelangelo would just leave trays of steaming hot food outside the door...

He felt his body drift backwards.

"Whoa, Donnie! Easy, we got you." April. That was April. Oh, he loved her voice. Wait, was she wearing latex gloves?

Donatello hit the soft chair and sighed and looked at April. Her hair was pulled back, and messy, and her face was streaked with dried tears, and she was pulling off a pair of blue latex gloves. Why couldn't he remember her being in the infirmary? What had she been doing there? Was she helping with Mikey? Yes, obviously.

He turned his head and looked at Honeycutt, whose robotic eyes looked sad and compassionate. Donatello rubbed his face with his hand. "I'm so sorry, guys. I think I'm just tired."

"Of course you are," said Honeycutt, "we have just spent seven hours in surgery. I imagine that at this point, a part of your mind detached just so you would not break down emotionally from having to operate on your own brother."

Donatello exhaled. He remembered now, he remembered all of it, and he wasn't sure if that was a good thing. "His left lung. Did we successfully intubate and reinflate it?"

"Yes."

"His seizures have finally stopped."

"Yes."

"The dagger did not pierce any major organs but there was internal bleeding. That has been stopped. All the wounds have been freshly cleaned, bandaged, and wrapped."

"Yes, Donatello."

"He has been hooked up to the appropriate IV tubes, with saline, painkillers, nutrient fluids?"

"Everything is set up and running smoothly. His vitals are stable, though still very weak. Donatello, I insist that you rest."

"No." Donatello pushed at invisible hands, flailing at the air. April grabbed his hand in both of hers. "Donnie, you haven't slept. You could be in shock, you know. You know how Raph was almost catatonic until Leo got him to the holodeck."

"No. I need to analyze that syringe. I need to know what was injected into him."

Dr Honeycutt's white face came into view. "I have already begun the analysis. It will be a while. Donatello. You need sleep. I don't. I will monitor Michelangelo's progress."

April tugged at him. "Don, come on. Leo is watching TV. Let's join him. Casey will make some food. Come on. Please, Donnie."

Please. He looked at her, taking in her face, her eyes. He couldn't say no to April. He nodded. He let her guide him out, into the main area, with the huge couch and the huge play area and the huge huge television. Leonardo glanced up and nodded. Donatello nodded back. April deliberately nudged him into the spot directly next to Leo. They were practically leaning against each other. Donatello felt a rush of nostalgia, and dropped his head sideways until he was nuzzling Leo's collarbone. Leo carefully rested his head on Don's, and Don felt that nostalgic warmth spread through him. He sighed. He heard April whisper "Awwww!"

He closed his eyes.


Raphael had had enough. He had pounded, punched, smashed, kicked, and yelled at everything in the room. He was sweating and sore. He left the holodeck and went back to the showers. He was actually feeling a lot better. He stomped his way into the main area. On the couch, Leo and Donnie were leaning on each other, asleep. As were Casey and April. His mouth twitched into a smirk. He made his way to the infirmary.

He thought he could prepare himself for anything. He believed he could.

As he got closer to the large bed his brother lay on, his body shook so badly that the Fugitoid made a strange noise and grabbed a chair before Raphael crumbled to the floor.

Bandages. Everywhere. Tubes. In and out. Machines. Slow, stuttered beeping sounds. Oh god, Mikey. Raphael scooted forward and the wheels of the armless chair spin him. He steadied himself and the chair and grabbed the edge of the bed. His little brother was buried under gauze. An alarmingly thick-looking breathing tube snaked down Michelangelo's slack mouth while his body automatically shakily sucked in air. The only unbandaged parts were his hands and feet. They were so still. Raph gently held his brother's right hand. It was too cold. He rubbed his other hand against it. His brother needed to be warm. Why wasn't he warm? He was too still. Mikey was never this still. Some part was always in motion; a toe, a finger, his mouth, his head. Humming, dancing, spinning, giggling. No. He should not be so motionless.

Raph got up and went around to the other side of the bed. He cringed. A tube was sticking out of the left side of Mikey's chest. He remembered Honeycutt saying something about a collapsed lung.

Too many bandages.

In Raph's adventures, he had taught himself to care for minor wounds and stitches even, but he couldn't imagine this.

He glanced up at the screens. Heart monitor, sluggish and slow. He made a small sound. He didn't even know what kind of sound, but it shoved through his throat and out of his mouth, and then he was lying on top of the very still figure, his head on the very still plastron, and whatever sound he was making just kept coming. He stayed that way. Eventually, he lifted his head, breathing harshly. He brought his face to his brother's cheek, nuzzling him, the way he would when Mikey would wake up crying from a nightmare, and Raph would barge into his room, take him in his arms, press their heads together.

It's just a dream, Mikey. It was a bad dream, that's all. I've got ya. Don't you worry. Big brother is here. You're fine. I've got ya.

A hoarse voice was saying, "Wake up, Mikey. It's just a nightmare. I've got ya. Big brother is here. You're safe, baby bro."

Was that his voice?

There was that funny sound again. The one starting in the back of his throat. It filled his chest achingly, like dense fog. He exhaled, but the sound came with it. His eyes were burning and wet.

Oh. He was crying.

He hated crying. He struggled with all his emotions. He didn't even think Casey knew he cried. Splinter knew, of course. Sensei knew everything.

Sensei wasn't here.

Raphael cried. Tough, wild, rough, angry, stubborn Raphael.

He held onto his motionless, comatose, machine-breathing baby brother, and he cried, because he didn't know what to do.

Chapter Text

Of course they still hadn't found the pieces they needed. Of course the Triceraton black hole generator was scattered through many planets. Of course they needed their space suits to travel.

Leonardo missed the planet with the silver trees and golden sky, and the incredible food. He couldn't remember its name.

The only strong memory was Michelangelo's blood pouring everywhere, and the mystery injection, but Mikey had asked for that recipe and...

At some point during those seven hours in the infirmary, April had come out to the main area, her hands shaking, fingers gripping a blood-stained piece of paper. Shakily, she had asked if anybody had wanted to try cooking the meal that Michelangelo had so happily queried after at the pub. Nobody volunteered. Nobody wound up making the meal.

Everybody was going to wait until Mikey wanted to make it himself, because everybody knew Mikey was the chef, and nobody wanted to eat a new recipe that Mikey had not made.

Everybody was desperate for Mikey to wake up. Honeycutt said that was not going to happen, not for a while. How long was a while? Nobody answered. When Donatello muttered that due to the average turtle's need for hibernation when wounded, it could be as long as three months, the same amount Leo spent in the farmhouse bathtub after Shredder's brutal attack. But Leo's wounds had not actually been this terrible. For Leo, it had been about recovery, which was how he had been active the day he regained consciousness.

When Michelangelo eventually regained consciousness, he might be unable, incapable, of leaving the infirmary at all for a long time.

Leonardo swallowed hard. These lumps in his throat were getting harder and harder to push down. These tears in his eyes were getting harder and harder to stop from falling.

He had listened to Raphael angrily sobbing in the holodeck when Raph didn't know Leo was there. He had listened to Raphael fearfully crying in the infirmary, a completely different sound for Raph. The hothead hated to cry at all. Angry tears during a fight was one thing, letting out frustration and letting in relief. But crying openly, out of worry and fear and pain... Leo admitted that even he didn't like it. It felt too much like weakness. And warriors could not be weak. They were Ninja.

They had lost their sensei.

They had lost their home.

That day, they had cried. Yes. Not even hot cocoa helped, not really, even though the wide smile on Mikey's face was Leo's calming focus. For all the teasing, the insults, the irritations...

Leonardo shook his head, as a memory surfaced forcefully.

"I don't want him and I'm in charge!"

"Why am I always stuck with Mikey? Raph you take him."

"Over my dead body..."

"Y' know, I'm startin' to think nobody wants t' be with me. Fine! I'll just go on my own. Heh. That's a closet."

"And that's why nobody wants to be with you!"

Leo squeezed his eyes shut and a tear finally slipped out. They should never have been so harsh. Yes, Mikey was impatient, impulsive, often immature, impetuous, random, distracted, noisy, nosy, sometimes thoughtless. He did have ADHD, after all. But their words had been hurtful. Mikey was brilliant, joyful, stunningly intelligent in much different ways than they were, playful, agile in thought, consistently positive, managing to pull the family together with a joke or two, able to take the worst situations in stride. Leonardo recalled how Mikey was determined to accompany him during the battle with Mega-Shredder, how horrifying it had been to watch Mega-Shredder swallow Mikey whole. When Mikey emerged from that gigantic mouth, breaking teeth and howling victory, it was like exhaling a breath Leo hadn't realized he had been holding. Mikey was good at what he did. Mikey was the best at what he did. And what he did was magic.

Leonardo pressed his hands to the window separating him from outer space and whispered his brother's name.

"Leo...?"

Wait, how did get on the floor?

"Leo, do you need anything? Food? TV? Er... comic book?"

It was Casey. Crouched over him, staring at him. He was...sitting on the floor. He didn't remember sitting on the floor. He spared Casey a glance and went back to looking out at space.

"Ah, hell, Leo... c'mon. Work with me here! Raph's practically been sleepin' on top of Mikey, Donnie's wandering around like a zombie, and you're... you... I don't know what's goin' on. Leo, talk to me. It's been, like, six days and you haven't said more than a few words."

Wait, what? Six... days? But they just brought Mikey to the ship...

"Casey," he said.

"Yes! Um. Yes, Leonardo?"

"I'd... like to watch some TV. Do you want to...?"

He watched Casey's eyes light up. "Sure, sure, yeah! I'll get us some snacks, too! I'll see if Don wants to join us on the couch and-"

"Where is Raph?"

Casey froze. "Oh. He, uh, well, he's been sitting in the infirmary. He makes these scary noises when we try to make him leave. And..."

"I will talk to him." Leonardo pushed himself up. Casey offered his hand. Leo decided to take it rather than argue. He could be Perfect Leader some other time, he guessed.

"Leo, he... isn't doing good," Casey warned, his voice breaking.

Startled, Leonardo frowned. "What do you mean, Casey?" Because... wasn't Raph getting it all out in the dojo simulations?

Casey bit his lip and shuffled his feet. "I know you haven't gone into the infirmary in a couple of days and all, you haven't really been paying much attention in general, and I get that, I get that, because it is really hard to look at Mikey right now..." his words tumbling faster, "but Raph is, like, I don't know... obsessed with sadness? I'm really worried, Leo. I mean, it's like when he was watching over you at the farm, but not. He won't come out to eat so one of us has to bring food. Like, he's made himself at home. There's the bathroom in there, the sink, that little stove... he hasn't come out, is what I'm sayin'. And he keeps talking to Mikey, and the shit he says... I don't wanna listen, Leo. It's so private. It's really really dark. He..."

Casey paused and stared Leo right in the eyes with a dark look. "I think he really needs you."

Leo felt his eyes widen. Oh, he didn't like this. Casey knew how intense Raphael could get, but they all knew there would come a time when--

Leonardo did not remember how he came to stand at the infirmary doorway. On the other side, in the laboratory section, Donatello was relentlessly typing, the desk covered with paper and vials. The little tray table that would normally hold any food that Michelangelo brought was empty. Leo tightened his shoulders and looked away, to his right, where he could hear that distant, weak beeping that was unmistakable. He took a deep breath and walked into the infirmary.

Three empty beds greeted him with pure nothing as he walked past. He steeled himself and approached the fourth bed. Raphael sat on the other side, holding Mike's hand and staring at his face, which currently featured the oxygen mask instead of that awful tube. Leo cleared his throat. "Hey, Raph."

Raphael looked up, his face blank, yet tight and worn. Leo noticed the pile of blankets and pillows next to him on the floor. Gods and Buddha, what was happening? How could he have missed so much? Had it really been almost a week? Had really been so disconnected? This feeling of derealization was a hollow scream in his gut.

"Nice to see you, Leo," Raph croaked, and Leo's gut clenched in guilt. "I mean, I know we've all been out of it. I don't think Donnie's really slept, except at his desk, and when April forces him to his bedroom."

"Are you okay?" Leo asked, carefully.

Raph's eyes were slits. "Sure, Leo. I'm awesome. My baby brother almost bled out in my arms and he's barely clinging to life. I am the absolute picture of-"

"Okay! I get it. I just needed to make sure you weren't..."

"Goin' dark? Pfft. I can't leave Mikey. You know that. I'm okay. Really. I have a kid brother to look after."

Leo nodded. He took the other chair and sat. His hands automatically reached out to rest on Mikey's chest, the way Splinter would ease their childhood fears and illnesses. He remembered the healing mantras. He had no idea if they would even work. He was thinking too hard, wasn't he?

"You're thinking too hard," Raphael said, and he jolted. "Heh. Donnie said you might try a mantra. I mean, feel free." His laugh was dry and cold. "Doubt it'll do a damn thing, though."

Leo hated feeling hopeless.

But. It was so instinctual. He felt his breaths in and out. He heard himself chant. His shoulders slumped and his head dropped. He repeated the chant until his throat felt sore. His hands were shaking.

"Leo." Raph was talking to him. He was busy! Stop talking, Raph! "Leo, hey. Listen, I think his heartbeat is steadying out!"

Huh?

Carefully, Leonardo opened his eyes. Mikey's body hadn't stirred. But... yes, he heard it. That faint beep was just a little stronger. Not by much, but-

"DONNIE!" he yelled, standing up too quickly. His head spun. As he steadied himself, he heard furniture scraping, paper scattering, drumming feet.

Donatello slid, actually slid, into the room. "WHAT!"

"I..." Leo fidgeted. "I did Splinter's healing mantras on Mikey. It isn't much, but his vitals are a little better."

Eyes round, Don hurried to the bed, checking the monitors, Mike's pulse, the oxygen. "Yes. Yes!" he said. "A little! I mean, it is so much better than it was six days ago. Leo, that's amazing."

Panting, Leo grinned. "Just... don't expect me to do it every day. I mean, I am sure I could. I want to. But..."

"Bad idea!" That was Raph. He was standing, still clutching his baby brother's limp hand. "I saw what was happening to you, Leo. You turned a funny shade. You almost stopped breathing."

"What? Really?" Donnie's hands fluttered around him, grasping, patting. He grabbed Leo's face, turned his head to the side. "Do you feel dizzy? Out of breath? Sore? Does your head hurt?"

Leonardo waved him off. "A little. No. Maybe. No. No, Donnie, I'm fine. I feel... oh." And he pitched forward.

"Well, there's your answer," Raph grumbled.

Don's arms were comfortable. "Leo," Donatello said, "I forbid you to do the healing mantras every day, or every other day. You can do them once a week. Maybe."

"You're not my mom," Leo murmured.

"No, but I am your doctor," came a lilting voice from the door, "and I agree with Donatello."

"You're a robot," Leo slurred, feeling happily sleepy. "I'm a turtle."

"Um." Donatello hoisted him to his feet, gripping his shoulders. "Leo, when was the last time you slept? Like, really slept."

"When was the last time you really slept, Mister Genius?"

"Fair point. You need to go to bed."

"No, you." But Leo turned to Dr Honeycutt and shuffled out, trudging toward his bedroom. He was starting to sway and shake. How much healing energy had he used, anyway? He would have used it all up, given everything inside him, if it meant his baby brother improved even a little.

He felt the cool metal hand of Dr Honeycutt on his shell, guiding him. Ah, his bed. He robotically removed all his gear and belt, and faceplanted into his pillow.

"Sleep well, Leonardo," Dr Honeycutt said quietly.

Leo fell deeply, and his first nightmare was splashed with blood.


April kept constant time. The turtles were all so disconnected from reality they barely knew what day it was. Did it even matter, out in space? It mattered to the equipment keeping Michelangelo alive, she thought.

It has, she thought, been two weeks and four days. Should I bother with hours? Nothing had changed. They had to force Leonardo to stop doing his healing mantras. He was getting sick somehow. Now she understood what it meant to "suffer from exhaustion." Mikey was in a very deep coma, and the only thing the mantras did was occasionally keep his heart rate from dropping. But the toll it took on Leo was too much. Honeycutt had fretted over him and finally became angry enough to put him in an infirmary bed for a full day. Leonardo had grimaced and sighed the whole time, but he did drink a lot of tea, and he meditated carefully.

April kept pulling herself back to that moment when the turtles had burst into the main area screaming and yelling for help, Raphael ahead with a bloody Michelangelo cradled in his arms. Dr Honeycutt had been swift and clinical leading them into the infirmary and asking questions, a flood of words from different mouths. April had screamed and grabbed Casey by the wrist, chasing after. Leonardo had spun around to face them, his entire body pale and bruised, his eyes wide and dull.

And then the words flying from his mouth, his hands slicing the air, the description of the planet and the pub and Mikey's kindness to the staff, and the black reptile men, the battle, the syringe. And then, like a well run dry, Leo stopped talking, and his eyes got the look of someone thoroughly panicked, emptied, and shell-shocked, and he jerkily walked into the infirmary.

April followed, telling Casey to look after Leo and Raph. She was already grabbing surgical gloves and mask, running to the sink and scrubbing up, calling to Honeycutt asking what she could do, that she had medical training, was Donnie okay, how were Mikey's vitals...

Dr Honeycutt crisply thanking her and asking if she was steady with a scalpel; that Donatello's hands were shaking. And that was how April found herself performing a chest tube insertion on her baby brother. How her small hands and slender fingers worked through blood and fluid and raw flesh, how somehow she stayed calm and steady with tears streaming down her face. Donnie, sweet darling Donnie, standing close enough to touch, instructing her on mutant turtle anatomy and its differences and similarities with human anatomy. Their brains were human, their lungs and hearts and stomachs and a good portion of their bodies reacted the way human organs did. But they were still cold-blooded. And Donnie told her that he was going to prep himself to draw his own blood, and then Raphael was there too, calm and still as a stone, insisting Don take his blood too, and Leonardo, silent and determined, holding out his left arm, and April cried a little more.

Donnie had stopped shaking and became calmer than she had seen him in a long, long time after the transfusions. By her side, he worked tirelessly, mouth set, muttering things like "...lucky there was barely any head trauma, Raph, you need to back away, I can't see... April, check all his ribs for fractures and hematoma formation...okay, those three are bruised, those two are broken, are there hematoma - okay, that explains the lung. Dr Honeycutt, could you please check his pectoral and abdominal scutes for further bruising, I think he was– no, Leo, you need to move away if you aren't helping... okay somebody wipe my forehead please?" and his voice was monotone.

April learned quickly how to apply acetone, rapid polymerizing epoxy resin, sterilized fiberglass cloth. She moved on to his limbs, helped clean and stitch the multiple lacerations in Mikey's skin, but when she saw the massive horrific gash stretching down his left thigh, she realized she couldn't move. Her breath hitched. Donatello saw it and nuzzled her temple. "I got it, April. Deep breaths." And she was so grateful she let herself cry again. She watched closely as Donatello deftly cleaned the extraordinary wound until bone shone through. She watched as he began closing the flesh from the inside, thread and needle speeding through muscle and tissue, until he reached the leathery top layer of skin and the sutures tightly covered exposed flesh. She realized that Mikey might have some long-term problems with that leg. She found herself flashing back to when she broke her leg when she was twelve, how cumbersome and slow and long the recovery had been; even now, her leg ached before rain came.

There was no rain in outer space. They were alone. But they were on an incredible space ship. An incredible scientist was with them. If it were not for Dr Honeycutt... no, April, stop thinking. Look at the bruises and cuts elsewhere on his legs. Oh, Mikey, so many bruises...

She got a fresh, damp cloth and began cleaning his legs gently before helping Don wrap them in gauze. Belatedly, she wondered if arnica could help. When she next looked up, she almost cried out. A breathing tube down his - no, of course, they had to do that. Honeycutt caught the look on her face and explained that alternating oxygen therapies would ensure better recovery.

From what Leo had told her, Mike had barely been aware of how and where the Alchemist alien struck, he'd been so fast. Not just the two gashes in his pectoral area, not just the deep stab wound or the slice on his thigh, but all over his arms, his legs, his sides, anywhere skin was exposed. Oddly, his head and neck had been spared. Then again, the Alchemist had injected him with something painful and possibly poisonous. Mikey's head trauma was occurring from the inside.

Everything was still blurry, time speeding and slowing at random.

April felt so helplessly terrified. She had never felt so helplessly terrified. She wished she couldn't feel at all.

Chapter Text

April shivered as a new memory assailed her, this one a little more...more what? Pleasant? Easy? But it had at least showed them what they were dealing with, right?

She, Donnie, and Honeycutt had finished wrapping, suturing, dabbing, cleaning. The breathing tube was removed temporarily so they could check the patient's internal organs, replaced with nasal cannulas to keep his oxygen flow steady. Hours passed.

Michelangelo lay very still, breathing hesitantly. And then... chaos.

Mikey started screaming. He bolted upright, gasping, stuttering, sobbing. His baby blue eyes were wide, dilated, sweat shining on his face. For a few seconds, no one moved, the shock was intense. And then Don's instinct's as brother kicked in and he started to wrap his arms around his shaking brother. "Mikey! Mikey, bro, it's okay. It's okay. Easy. You're safe. You're on the Ulixes. It's-"

"No..." Mikey rasped, his chin dropping on Don's shoulder. "No, no, no, it's too bright... my eyes, stop it, stop stabbing my eyes!"

Honeycutt dimmed the lights, but the shivers increased. "S-something's wro- Donnie, my skin wants to fall off, Donnie, help me... it's all itchy... my skin's too loud, make it quiet!" And at that point, Leonardo and Raphael were there, making soothing sounds, touching Mikey's arms, and Mikey just kept shivering, stuttering about his senses being assaulted.

"Why's the room crawling?" he demanded. "Something's weird about this bed, make it stop moving!" He jerked, went still as stone, and stared directly at Raphael, who was gaping in confused fear.

"Raph, why's your face all weird? Stop doing that. Your face is all twisty. That's not my brother! I want my brother back!"

"Raph's eyes slid to Don's. "Um. Is he... going crazy?" he whispered.

Donatello was gazing at Michelangelo in horrified fascination. "He's hallucinating, badly. I think-"

"He has been poisoned with a combination of lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin, and multiple compounds such as fillers and binders, plus several unknown compounds I have never encountered."

That was the Fugitoid. Everyone, including Michelangelo, turned to stare at him. "S-silly drugs," Mikey chattered, twitching.

"Wait. LSD? Magic mushrooms?" Leonardo gasped.

"What do you mean, unknown compounds?" Donatello demanded.

"What - LSD? Are you fucking kidding?" Raphael yelled.

"Oh, shit..." Casey groaned from somewhere near the door. "This is gonna be a really, really long night, guys."

Everyone looked at him. "Case?" Raph stepped forward, eyes narrow.

Casey held up his hands. "Sorry, sorry. I... obviously I've never told you that story."

"WHAT story?" April said, and Casey flinched.

"Stop it," Michelangelo moaned. "Your yelling is too bright..."

"Okay, okay." Casey grabbed yet another chair and sat with a resigned look. "Before I met any of you, I had this friend. He... I wouldn't call him an addict. He did LSD and shrooms every weekend. I would babysit him - that's when a sober person looks after tripping people, makes sure they don't hurt themselves or get sick or wander off. He always had good trips, and he talked about what they did, how he felt. They would last around twelve hours, and then he'd sleep for a really long time."

"Twelve hours?" Raphael growled.

"There are snakes on the ceiling," Michelangelo informed them.

"That's normal," Casey muttered. They glared at him.

"Okay. So... one weekend, I decided to try LSD with him and we got another friend to babysit. Don't-" he held up a hand. "Don't judge until you've heard it okay? Seriously?" He leaned forward, hands clasped in his lap.

"He injected liquid LSD into gummy bears. No, Mikey, I don't have gummy bears for you, sorry. Anyway, I just had to eat one and wait, like half an hour or so. J put on some dance music in the background. And I watched the clock. And something like thirty-five minutes later, I started feeling this sort of...tingly sensation all over. It was nice. It felt warm and cool at the same time. And I started grinning. And J was like, 'Ha, you're feelin it, dude' and he dimmed the lights and sat in front of me. His eyes were... I mean, his pupils were taking over. I almost couldn't see the brown in his eyes. And all of a sudden, his face... it started, like, twisting? He told me to close my eyes. There were these shapes and colors. Like a.. what do you call it, kaleidoscope. But I had no control. I don't know how long I was like that, but our sober friend, Alex, he shook me and told me to sip some water. And J had gotten orange juice, he said citric acid made the trip smoother and it was hydrating. And like, we were dancin; around the room and the music took on this living quality, and it was amazing..."

He paused when Raphael snarled. "Look," Casey spat, "I am just trying to explain how Mikey might be reacting. Stop that. I mean, look at him!"

They turned. Mikey hadn't moved, but he was giggling at the ceiling, his limbs twitching. "The ceiling is a painting. Say hello to the snakes dancing!"

"So," Donatello said, "this is perfectly normal for a... an acid trip."

"That's what I'm telling you!" said Casey. "But, listen to me. It's gonna change in a few hours. He might start havin' a bad trip. You need to keep him hydrated. He won't understand what's happening, he might want to get out of bed and, like, run around. He won't necessarily hurt himself, but when he closes his eyes he'll see weird things. And he'll talk about weird shit. He'll tell you he's seeing things and hearing things. His sense of touch will be on overload. He might get clingy and cuddly, I mean, more than usual. I wouldn't let him look out the window. But someone needs to keep him occupied until the trip wears off."

Casey took a few breaths. April had folded her arms and was frowning, but her eyes were gentle. "Casey, what happened in the last couple of hours during your trip?"

Casey bit his lip. "It... felt like I was in a boat in a really calm sea, moving slowly toward land. When people talk about acid trips, sometimes they'll mention being washed up on a shore of reality. Your body feels creaky and crunchy."

"Lactic acid," Donatello supplied."

"You'll be exhausted, because your brain... the, like, the pineal gland, or pitu-whatever-"

"Pituitary."

"It just spat out a whole bunch of, you know, feel good chemicals. Like, when I woke up, I swore my hair was longer. My skin looked smoother. Like, it actually does shit to your body."

Leonardo nodded enthusiastically. "I understand. Your brain exhausts itself of serotonin, endorphins, dopamine."

"Yes," Dr Honeycutt said. "Michelangelo's positive nature may keep him in a, as you say, good trip, but he must be monitored at all times."

"Monitor!" Mikey suddenly laughed. "Like minotaur. Monster. Monitor lizards. There was a nature documentary on monitor lizards. Or maybe minotaurs. Nope, monitor. Heh."

Raphael was at his side, carefully gripping his face. "Mikey, buddy, you okay?"

Michelangelo smiled broadly, his eyes shining. "Dude. Raaaph. I am fabulous! Man, your eyes are so green. Really really green. Wow. Hey! Gimme a hug, bro, I love hu-" He coughed suddenly, wheezing. He froze, then jerked. His head snapped back. A mewl escaped his throat.

Raphael jumped back. "Uhh, is this... supposed to happen?"

Casey's eyes held fear. "Not - not that I remember."

"It's another seizure," Honeycutt explained somberly. Nodding, Donatello began carefully stroking his baby brother's head, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Mikey, sshh, it's okay. It's Donnie. Come on back. You're okay. You're all right, otuatu." Leonardo held his brother's other hand and squeezed. "Little brother. Mikey, if you can hear us, you're all right. We love you."

Gradually, the tension melted out. Mikey's faraway gaze cleared and he blinked. And burst into tears. All three turtles wrapped their arms around him. "I'm sorry," he gasped. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I d-didn't mean to, I didn't want ..."

Casey had paled. April leaned toward him. "With most seizures, the person comes out of it very emotional, they tend to cry and be confused and disoriented."

"Fuuuck..." Casey sighed. "On top of tripping his face off!" He stood up and approached the shifted to make room. Casey tipped Mikey's chin up with his finger. "Hey," he said, "hey, buddy. It's okay. It's okay. Remember, you're tripping. It's gonna last for a while, but you're not alone. We're all here. I've done this before and I can talk you through it. Would you like that?"

The turtles all stared at him. Casey was extremely solemn. Michelangelo nodded slowly, sniffling. "Y-yeah. Please. So... that stuff you said... it was real?"

Smiling, Casey nodded. "Yeah, it was real. You heard right. It did happen. So I can help. You thirsty? You need to drink often, because you'll sweat a lot."

Michelangelo nodded. Honeycutt was there with a large cup of water. "Straw," Casey said. "Put a straw in it. Is it cold?" A straw was procured. Casey held it to the shaking turtle's mouth. "Drink slow, Mikey. I'll hold it." Michelangelo obeyed, his eyes never leaving Casey's.

"Are you hungry?" Casey asked. Mikey shrugged.

"I... guess? A little?"

"Fruit," Casey said firmly. Something like grapes, bananas, orange slices..."

"Wait," Leo said, "didn't you say that citrus increases the LSD?"

Casey smirked. "It... well, it can help a trip last a little longer and go a bit smoother. In general, fruit tastes really good. Crunchy vegetables, granola cereal, umm... chocolate, cheese, bacon..."

"So..." Raphael cocked his head. "It's okay for him to eat? You sure?"

"If he wants," Casey said. "But I think we should stick to soft, cool foods. Yogurt, oatmeal..."

"Do we have oatmeal and yogurt?" Mikey asked hopefully, weakly. "I can make som-"

The very firm, loud "NO!" was echoed by several voices. He shrunk back.

"It's fine, Mike," Casey said. "Lemme do it. I'll give you yogurt first. Plain, simple yogurt, just to see how your body reacts. But are you hungry?"

When Michelangelo nodded, still staring at Casey, the human teen stood up and smiled. He looked over at the Fugitoid. "Doc, can you help me get yogurt?"

"Of course, Casey. The ship is well-stocked, and if we cannot find certain ingredients, we have a replicator."

They left the room, talking back and forth. April just stared after them, mouth open. "I... okay, I've never heard that story. I don't know if I should be grateful or pissed off."

"No shit," Raphael said, crossing his arms. "I wonder if-"

A half-giggle, half-wail interrupted him. Michelangelo had covered his face with both hands. "Oh god, you guys, the colors are really sharp! It's like needles all over my skin. I need to move around, I need to get out of here."

Faces crumbled in sympathy and worry. "Oh, Mikey," Donatello murmured. "You can't. You...you've been really really hurt, remember?"

Swallowing, Michelangelo nodded. "I don't know what the pain is doing or where it's going but it's everywhere. It's in my insides. My brain's on fire, D. Can you put it out? Can you hold me and put the fire out?"

"I can't right now, Mikey." Donatello sounded ready to cry. He nuzzled his brother's head. "You're just gonna have to make it through this. I'm so sorry. But I can hold you." He embraced his brother, who shook and shook.

Mikey seemed to shrink in on himself, even as pain and bandaged wounds made him whimper and hiss when he tried to move his legs. "Don't leave me..."

April felt tears dripping down her face again. Footsteps behind her, and Casey said, "We got yogurt and grapes. How is- oh, shit."

As April turned to him, he quickly pressed a long kiss on her forehead and rushed forward. "Mikey, hey, little brother, I got food for you. Can you try to eat for me?"

Michelangelo's arms reached out. Donatello stepped back. Casey put the containers on the bedside table and embraced him. "I got you, bro. We all got you." Pulling back, he reached for a cup of yogurt and a spoon. "Here. Try this." Mikey reached for the spoon and Casey helped him hold it, slowly dipping it into his wide mouth. Michelangelo swallowed slowly as Casey nodded.

Inhaling deeply, Mikey nodded. "It's good. Yeah. It feels good."

"Awesome, dude. That's awesome. We'll feed you yogurt, and oatmeal, and grapes. And water. We won't leave you, I promise. No matter what, you are safe." Casey grinned encouragingly as Mikey ate a few more bites. "Remember, no matter what you see and what you hear, you are safe. We're here."

Raphael was by his side. "Daaamn, Case," he whispered. He took his baby brother's hand. "Casey's right Mikey. It'll be okay."

With a look of tired satisfaction and something close to contentment, Michelangelo smiled his famous Mikey smile, looked around, and murmured his thanks.

April didn't bother wiping her tears away. "We love you, Mikey," she whispered.

The memory blinked, like a film frame. April took several deep breaths, not wanting to remember what happened next. She sat there on her bed, the lights in her little room dim, and she drew her knees to her chest and she shivered.

Michelangelo had appeared to be doing well enough. For the next six hours, he described his sensations and hallucinations, calm and centered and even a little happy. Casey shared more of his own experience. Donatello and Leonardo asked constant questions. Honeycutt surmised that the additional compounds in the poison had delayed the hallucinogenic reactions, then intensified them when they finally showed. Mikey ate more fruit. Raphael carried him to the bathroom and back. Mikey even asked about having a shower. Casey said that showers "felt fuckin' unbelievable" and Honeycutt wondered if it could physically calm Michelangelo's stressed body. They removed the cannulas. Raphael carried him into the bathroom, to the huge tub, and stayed. Bursts of laughter and murmurs could be heard over the hum of the pounding shower, and so it apparently was as Casey described. When the two returned after ten minutes, and Raph tucked Mikey in with a soft expression, Mikey looked refreshed and content, wriggling and giggling as his brother helped make him comfortable. The cannulas were placed back in gently. Mikey yawned and rubbed his beak against Raph's neck.

"Shouldn't he be kept awake?" Leonardo asked, looking at Casey but asking in general.

"Nah, let him sleep, if he's able," Casey said. "I mean, he'll still be hallucinating behind his eyelids. But it'll probably feel super comfy, especially after a shower. And he's eaten, so I feel better."

"You have really stepped up, Casey," Donatello grinned. He slapped the human teen on the shoulder. Casey blushed.

"Guys, it's nothing. You're my family. I'm just glad I've been able to help. Who knew that having a past with illicit drugs could be so useful."

An hour passed. Michelangelo slept on, his breathing harsh and rough but stable. One by one, the group had begun to yawn and show restlessness. April felt herself slumping, and she stretched. A very strange feeling was tugging at her. It felt like a psychic intuition. Wait. Something wasn't... something was wro-

"Guys," she said loudly, in a thin voice, "I'm getting a really bad feeling."

That was when the screaming started. That was when another seizure started. That was when the monitors began shrieking. That was when the wounds began bleeding through the gauze.

That was when Michelangelo began dying.

Chapter Text

Somehow, at some point, because there was no such thing as time, Raphael had slumped back in his rolling chair that had gotten cushions thanks to Honeycutt. He reached for the cold, limp three fingered hand, pretending he could use that motivation to sit up and forward. Mikey didn't twitch. At all. Nothing.

This was nothing like watching over Leo in the bathtub. Leo stirred occasionally. Leo showed signs of life even in hibernation. Michelangelo was barely anywhere and only because of machines.

He remembered four weeks ago - four weeks ago exactly? Was it important to keep track? - when it felt like everything was going to be okay. Mikey had gotten hit with psychedelic acid, of all things. And magic mushrooms. And they way he spoke, moved, bantered, laughed, pointed out things that weren't there, lamented being unable to dance... Raph wasn't really angry. He wasn't angry at Casey, not anymore. They had been poisoned before, they had all been under the effects of hallucinogenics and wild delusions. But Casey's story had thrown him and shook him. It shouldn't have surprised him; Jones had been oddly tight-lipped about some parts of his past. It had surprised him a little, and he had felt a little guilty. He shouldn't criticize. He had been born from a synthetic chemical drug with unusual effects, after all. He couldn't fault anyone who decided to try a psychoactive substance. He just was angry at a system that turned them into criminals, he took that anger out in different ways.

Memory: A while back, the Foot Clan had gotten into making and selling a devastatingly potent form of crystal meth. People died. And he and his brothers had taken care of it. Leonardo had gazed in pure puzzlement at the empty, smashed chemical lab and wondered how in the everliving fuck could anyone want to put anything like that in their body. And Donatello had stepped up and said, very softly, "People with ADHD." Leo and Raph had both frozen and stared at him, but Mikey... Mikey had just tilted his head, a quiet serene look on his face, chewing on his thumb. Because Mikey had ADHD. He had it badly. And the only current medicine known was, well, derivatives of methamphetamine.

Leo had stammered an apology; it wasn't like that, he'd said, he'd meant bad people, people who were addicted, because...because pure meth was so dangerous, and and...

And Mikey had slowly taken his finger from his mouth and held it up.

There was an unmistakable white powder, nearly dissolved, covering the pad of his thumb.

Leonardo had exploded. What have you done? Don't you know how dangerous that crap is? You could get addicted! I can't believe you-

And it had been Raph who had put out a hand and said, Leo, stop. Look at him. Look at his eyes. Does he look like a crazed addict to you? Look how fuckin' calm he is. And Mikey had smiled and shrugged and said, Dudes my brain is nice and quiet. I feel like I could probably meditate. Leonardo had continued to stammer, perfectionist pure unflappable Leo, but he deflated. Donnie had giggled, a little, and went about examining Mikey, asking intense questions.

Long after they had left the building, and headed home, Michelangelo had walked up to Master Splinter, hands clasped, standing completely still in the most un-Mikey way they had ever seen, and explained. Splinter had listened with eyes narrowing and ears going flat. At the end, he had told them to come to the dojo for a meditation session. And for the first time in his entire sixteen years, Michelangelo had meditated perfectly, without a twitch.

It hadn't lasted, of course, and Raph was almost grateful. It had been unnerving to see his annoying, weird, hedonistic buoyant brother so calm and concentrated, almost scary. Donatello had called April's father, the psychologist. Kirby O'Neil had said that it was probably better to train Mikey with "stuff like biofeedback" rather than attempt medicate him. Although Kirby knew plenty of psychiatrists and neurologists from whom he could have procured Adderall and the like, he had observed the bouncy turtle enough times to know that what Michelangelo really needed was concentration therapy and maybe cognitive behavioral therapy. He spoke with Splinter, and had begun teaching Splinter how to apply such techniques when the Triceratons attacked and the planet had been destroyed.

Raphael blinked and shook his head. Right. Mikey in a coma. In this bed. The stillness. Raphael suddenly wished they had taken some of that powder, although what good would it do now? It would probably hurt him. It certainly wouldn't wake him up.

And now, that recent memory of a tripping Mikey giggling about the walls dancing sprang to his mind. His heart squeezed. Mikey had so wanted to get up and dance while he was hallucinating. So April had taken his hands and swayed, twisting and snaking her whole upper body, shaking her head and shoulders, and Mikey and let out the loudest laugh and followed her movements exactly; so Casey had brought in some music and selected an assortment of techno/electronica. Even the Fugitoid had joined in, whirling around the table. Donatello had gazed open-mouthed at April. Raphael had smirked and snapped his fingers to the beat; Leonardo had tapped his toes. Even badly wounded, Michelangelo's acrobatic body knew precisely how to dance to any beat. Nobody could move like Mikey.

And then, after they had rested, after Donnie and Honeycutt had fretted over Mikey's injuries, changed the bandages because of the sweating, hydrated him well, got him comfortable on the pillows. As Mikey began to yawn and give off a sweet scent of incoming sleep, as he slipped into swirling dreams. As an hour passed and he suddenly shuddered just before his eyes went huge and faraway. Then, that was when Raphael's heart had broken. Then, Mikey had suddenly let out a howling wail of agony, eyes rolling upward, whole body stiff and seizing. Donatello yelling "Not again! Not now! NO!" and the heart monitor shrieking, Honeycutt barking commands too rapidly for Raph to comprehend, Leo grabbing Raph's hand and squeezing. April bursting into tears, Casey holding her tight.

The machine went flat.

Mikey's heart stopped.

Donatello had let out an anguished cry, pounding on the suddenly motionless torso. Dr Honeycutt had brought forth a defibrillator and quickly slapped on the pads. A robotic scream of "CLEAR" as everyone scrambled out of the way. That thudding sound of the paddles rearing up and electricity surging. Nothing. "AGAIN. CLEAR." Electric whine. Thud. Nothing. April's sobs had become tiny screams. Honeycutt had turned it up. "AGAIN." Whine. Thud.

...beep.

Donatello had collapsed on the floor, gasping.

...beep.

Slowly, more beeps. Weak and unsteady. Everyone was shaking. Everyone waited for their baby brother to crack open his eyes and joke about how close that was.

Michelangelo remained stiff and motionless.

Four weeks later, one month later, he was still stiff and motionless.

Raphael shook the memory out of his head and realized he was silently crying. These flashbacks were getting worse. He knew what that mean. PTSD. He had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Not just from Mikey falling in battle, but from his cardiac arrest. And Honeycutt still had no clue what else had been in that syringe.

Fuuuck.

Sadly, Donatello was working himself into a frenzy. He slept in the lab, if he slept at all. He came out only for the kitchen and the shower. He shuffled instead of walked. When he spoke, his voice was raspy, dull, monotone. He drank too much coffee. He didn't eat much. Really, the only times he seemed alive were when April came to see him, to chat or drag him out for training sessions in the simulated dojo room. Even then, Leonardo would have to snap at him to focus. April managed to lead him to his bedroom for real sleep a few times, and when she left after making sure he was well and truly asleep, she would lock his door behind her. Casey would sit on the couch and fidget, watching all the films and television shows Mikey normally watched, reading graphic novels Mikey normally read. Since that day, when they'd assumed Mikey would make it to the end of his "trip" and slowly recover, Casey had been morose. He had trained with Raphael, gone on spacewalks with Leonardo, but he didn't smile. Raphael understood. Casey saw Michelangelo as a baby brother the same way Raph did. He'd been almost ecstatic to share his stories, to watch Mikey dance the way he'd danced. But he had frozen helplessly during the cardiac event, unable to do anything but hold April and not breathe, fear flowing off of him like steam.

Raphael gritted his teeth and struggled to unclench his fist, the hand not holding his brother. Gods and Buddha, he desperately needed to punch something.

So he closed his eyes, dropped his chin, and began to meditate. Mentally, he put himself in a dojo filled with dummies, punching bags, weapons, everything he needed. In his mind, Raphael allowed his berserk and terrified inner self to go wild. It was not the same as the satisfying crack or crunch, but it would do.


Donatello woke from a hazy, gray-fogged dream in which a figure covered in blood had staggered toward him. He was in his bed, in his room. His hands tingled, and he remembered April leading him out of the lab by both hands, guiding him into his own bedroom and ordering him to lie down, ordering him to sleep before she asked Honeycutt for Valium or a potent sleep aid. She had briefly left and returned with a tall glass of water with a straw - that had earned a smirk - and a plate on which sat a plastic zipper bag full of green grapes and whole mozzarella cut into chunks. Don had stared at her, and she had shrugged and said that it was what Casey had recommended. She had then brought forth a slice of toast covered in mango jam. "Eat it when you wake up," she said. "All of it." In that moment with that stern tone, she had sounded like Leo and Splinter both.

Blearily, Donatello scooted up and reached for the nightstand. He drank half the water, ate all the cheese and all the grapes, and half the toast. He dressed fully, putting on his mask last. Nibbling on the remainder of the deliciously mango-soaked toast, he made his way to the main area, to the couch. Leo, Casey, and April were watching a slasher film.

"Donnie, yay!" April chirped. He melted a little and grinned. "Do you like it? My aunt makes mango preserve and I made sure we had some here."

Donatello chewed the last bite slowly. "Wow, fresh mango jam? That's wonderful! It's really good, April, thank you." He sat next to her on the couch and gave her a hesitant hug. She rolled her eyes and leaned into him, squishing him. He felt himself blush. Casey's eyes were narrowed and Raphael snorted quietly. Donnie grinned sheepishly.

"So," April said brightly, "Anyone up for video games? I was going to play Skyrim, but we're all here, so..."

"Nah, you go ahead," Leonardo said. "Sometimes I like it when someone else plays so I can watch."

"So he can then review and criticize how they're workin' the characters," Raphael supplied.

"Hey! I don't really do that!"

"Bullshit, you almost made my character fall off a cliff! You pestered Donnie in Fallout 4 about what to build!"

"I didn't. Don, tell him."

"Mmm, nah, you did."

"Hey now..."

Casey and April winked at each other and got up simultaneously to go to the kitchen. The boys didn't even see them, probably. April stretched and sighed. Casey was already gathering ingredients to make dinner. He was getting good. He was no Mikey, but...

April bit her lip very hard. It was so, so quiet on this ship. Casey paused in front of the sink, turning to her. "What are you thinking about?"

"I...oh, I wanted to make popcorn for myself so I could play the game and have a snack."

Casey nodded, frowning. "Look, April... I know Donatello is, like, in love with you, and you might not... I mean, they're family. But, see, I like you too, and-"

April held up a hand. "Casey, I'm not ready for that. Please? I just want to make popcorn."

Casey nodded, and made her popcorn, adding olive oil and sea salt.

When they got back to the couch, Raphael was gone. Leonardo and Donatello were asleep somehow. April smirked and fired up the game console. Casey sat on the other side of the popcorn bowl and settled against a cushion, as though he were about to watch a movie. April played Skyrim for three hours. Her character was a High Elf named Michaela. She smiled when Casey raised an eyebrow. "Well, I think Mikey would love playing a High Elf, anyway."


Raphael was back in the infirmary, a thick large graphic novel in his hands. He had watched Mikey reading it several times, yet he never could remember the title or what it was about. Now he stared at it, realizing how old the publication was. X-Men, The Dark Phoenix Saga. Mikey had always babbled on about he wished they could be actual superheroes with actual superpowers. And after glancing through a few comics, Donatello stated that their mutant abilities as half-turtles were superpower enough; besides, the mutants in the comics were actually written to reflect the struggle for civil rights during a tumultuous time of...

Raph had tuned it out, but it hadn't escaped him that Michelangelo had been paying rapt attention, even arguing with Donatello about what was so "special" about the X-Men, Spiderman, and comic book characters in general. Raph had scoffed and sat on the couch with Leo to watch "Space Heroes" but every time he watched Captain Ryan and his crew, he kept turning his mind back to the heated debate between his science geek brother and fantasy geek brother about which geekdoms were more...geeky? Whatever.

As usual, he propped his elbows on the bed and held Mikey's hand. "So, Mikey, today was an interesting day. It started when Leo woke us all up for training at six in the morning. Even Casey. Who had been up late watching horror movies. It was pretty hilarious..."

Chapter Text

Cracking his neck again, Leonardo held his katana straight and moved his right foot further back, as the simulation of Karai readied herself for another attack. He had programmed her to be easier, more a training exercise than anything else. He imagined that when they finally got back to a restored Earth, six months before the black hole incident, that she could be cured of her mutation, that she could even defect from Shredder and their family could be whole. Splinter could have his daughter. Everything would be okay.

In his heart, he knew how illogical that was. But there was hope. He needed as much hope as the cold universe could give him.

He nodded once and Karai lunged, her sword in a direct line aiming for his chest. He caught it with his own pushed it away, swiping around. The satisfying clang of metal settled him. He grit his teeth, pushing his mind still and calm, a river in autumn, a quiet river gently rippling from a quiet breeze. He maintained his grace as he moved, spinning on his toes, dancing against Karai's force. After some time, he felt sweat break out on his brow. He needed to keep going. He needed to be perfect. He couldn't fail. Failure could mean death for his family.

He failed to see his baby brother fighting a dangerous alien alone.

Clang.

They hadn't known.

That was no excuse.

He should have sensed it. He should have been concentrating harder.

Clang.

He should have been paying attention to his peripheral vision. Those reptile men had been powerful but he had been defeating them. He'd had Raphael and Donatello in his sights, in the corners of his eyes. He should have been aware of Michelangelo leaping above the fray, he should have realized that Mikey might try to take on one opponent alone.

He should have watched him. He should have stopped him. He should have protected him.

Clang.

He was the Leader. He was supposed to guide his team, to head his clan when Sensei wasn't there. What would Master Splinter be saying if he were there? As sensei. As father.

Scrape.

Karai caught at his plastron with the tip of her katana, dragging down, leaving a mark. Another quick slash, and there was a small X across his right abdominal scutes. Leonardo growled and snapped for the simulation to end.

Karai disappeared. So did the rooftop, the moon, the cityscape, the sky. Leonardo exhaled roughly. She had caught him off-guard. That should not happen. He rubbed at the X; it wasn't bleeding, it was a scratch. It should not be there. Maybe he could buff it out. Casey probably had wax or resin in his backpack, or the infirmary did. No way he wanted any reminder of this failure, in this simulated battle exercise. Not when-

He sighed and it came out as a grunt. Grabbing a towel, he patted at his skin and walked out of the simulation room. No mistakes. No failures. But it had been hours. He would try again tomorrow. He could meditate on it later. In the showers, Leo lingered, running the simulation over and over in his head. He would focus more, pay more attention, so next time he wouldn't be hit. It was vital.

It was quiet. He went to his room, decorated in Japanese mats and scrolls, sticks of incense and candles. Kneeling on a tatami mat, he meditated, then concentrated on soothing the sore muscles and aches all over his body. Splinter had tried to teach them all; only Leo had the discipline. However, he had started to suspect that Mikey would have had enough raw talent to pick it up after a few tries. His brother was like that – he could watch a kata once or twice and perform it fluidly. It was why he was such an amazing artist, why his room was littered with sketches, colored pencils, slender paintbrushes. April would buy him art kits in exchange for Mikey cooking her favorite meals. Sometimes he took charcoal and drew on the walls outside the lair, later wiping them clean and starting over. The drawings were always different and depended on his moods. When Leo and Raph had one of their infamous fights, Michelangelo would disappear for an hour, and they would find a new mural of a landscape or animals, or even kanji. Every now and then, a quote from Master Splinter would be carefully drawn in huge letters on the wall across from the door to the lair.

Leo really missed that.

He finished the meditation and walked out to the sounds of laughter and good-natured arguments. April, Casey, Donatello, and Dr Honeycutt were in the kitchen, debating dinner. Leo's stomach growled; he had missed lunch. He strolled in, grabbing an apple and crunching casually.

"Oh, Leo!" April skipped over. "We were looking over types of pasta and if we wanted cheese or vegetables or sauce or what."

Leonardo joined them at the cupboards. Donatello was smiling at him and looked grateful. He had massive dark circles under his eyes; was he even sleeping? Leonardo wasn't sure he was even thinking of types of pasta. Smiling back, Leonardo suggested rotini with red sauce and red wine, a dish he'd watched Michelangelo make a while back. The others agreed after some talk. Honeycutt left the kitchen, satisfied that nothing would blow up or burn down.

"I'll get Raph," Leonardo said. "I assume he's with Mikey."

"He's been in there all day," Casey said. "He came out to ask if April could make him food, then he went right back."

"Of course." Leonardo walked to the infirmary and considered dragging Raph away for training tomorrow. He paused in the doorway when he heard Raphael talking softly, lightly. He slowed his steps, uncertain.

Raphael was sitting straight head down, mouth moving. He seemed to be reading something out loud. Yes. There was a large, thick paperback splayed across his lap. He raised his head to look at Mike, then noticed Leo and shifted position, chin rising. "Hey, Leo."

"Hey." Leonardo stood on the other side of the bed and patted Mikey's head. "Were you reading to him?"

"Yeah. One of his comics - um, graphic novels - that he asked Honeycutt to replicate for him. I thought... you know, I dunno if he can hear us, but if he could, it would be familiar. Plus it kinda calms me down." He cleared his throat, grabbed a nearby cup of water. Apparently he had been reading out loud for a while.

Leo grinned. Raph, you softy. "I think that's great. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that dinner is ready; April and Casey are making pasta with sauce."

"Awesome." Raph found his bookmark, closed the book, and stood, leaning over. "Hey, lil bro, I'm going to eat dinner. I'll tell ya about it when I come back."

"You tell him about the day?" Leo raised an eyeridge.

"Well, yeah. He should know what's been going on."

Leo liked that idea. If Mikey was too unconscious to hear his surroundings, maybe he would recall everything in dreams later on. "Did you do that for me?" he asked.

Raphael blinked. "Uh. Yeah, a little. There wasn't much to talk about, though. Donnie build shit, Mikey played with the chickens, oh, and one time he made friends with a bear..."

"Wait, an actual bear? In the woods?"

"Yup. Down near the river. We still have no idea how he managed to make a bear so calm. Probably found it berries to eat or somethin', who knows."

Raphael abruptly glanced down and said, "Hey, when did you get those scratches?"

"Oh!" Leo rubbed his abdominal scutes absentmindedly. I set up a battle session on easy mode, with Karai. She got a couple of hits on."

The bright green eyes narrowed. "As long as you're okay..."

"I am truly fine, I swear. My mind wandered, that's all."

"...huh. That's rare."

At the implied tone, Leo rolled his eyes. They reached the kitchen. "I was thinking about getting you to spar with me tomorrow morning."

"Oh, that could work!" Casey spoke up.

Raphael scoffed. "Eh, maybe. We'll see how grumpy I am."

"You're not sleeping in the infirmary every night, are you?" Leo asked.

"What if I am?" Raphael stopped, folded his arms, and set his eyes on the pot April was stirring; the scent of meat sauce and red wine drifted all over the room.

"Isn't it uncomfortable?"

"I got a mattress and pillows. It's cool. Besides, Donnie sleeps slumped over his desk, drooling on his equations."

"Hey!"

"Well, you do. Haven't you noticed when I've shoved a pillow under your face?"

"Oh." Donatello sounded startled. "That was you? I thought Fugitoid-"

"Somebody's gotta drive the boat."

For a few minutes, there was only the sound of bowls being filled.

"Thanks. Thanks, Raph."

"Sure. Yeah." Raphael swaggered to the counter, took an empty bowl, and politely took the wooden spoon from April, filling his bowl to his satisfaction. He smiled at her, grabbed a fork, and sat at the table, then leaned back, waiting for the others.

After everyone sat, April was the first to take a bite. "This isn't so bad," she announced. "I tried to add in spices and stuff that I've seen Mikey use, but I can't remember all of it. Is... do you like it?"

As they ate in turn, there were echoed hums of approval. "Yeah," Raphael said around a mouthful. He chewed and swallowed. "It's real good, A. I admit, it's not..." He blinked, paused. "But... I mean..."

She nodded. "I know. I get it. I'm happy you like it."

Raph grunted, shoveling in more forkfuls.

Leonardo leaned his head back, his first meal in many hours hitting his stomach warmly. "April, this is delicious. Maybe it's because I skipped lunch for training, but I swear it's the best pasta I've had in a month or so." She blushed at him.

"Well, Casey set the timer and mixed the sauce, but-"

"Nah," Casey interrupted. "Credit goes to you, babe. Hey, Donnie, you okay? You're quiet."

Donatello blinked, then yawned. He looked down at the fork in his hand, full of precisely speared pasta. "Oh, I'm fine. This is very good. I'm just a little tired."

"Well, no shit," Raph mumbled, but focused on his bowl.

"I was up late last night," Donatello said as he ate. "I still can't identify the neurotoxins beyond the psychedelics."

Casey bit his lip. "Um, does that even matter at this point? It's been just over a month. If it was gonna... I mean, if Mikey was gonna..." he trailed off.

Donnie nodded slowly. "Yeah. If it were meant to be fatal, he would be dead already. But, see that's the thing. I... I feel like it was meant to kill him, and for some reason it just... didn't."

Raph had stood, about to go for seconds. His eyes grew very wide. "Wait. Waait. You mean like, that guy could have given it to other people, and... and they probably died, so he had expected Mikey to die, and Mikey living means the poison didn't work?"

Taking a deep breath, Don tilted his head. "Something like that, yeah. The coma could mean his body and brain are actively fighting its effects. Maybe because of our mutated DNA, he survived because he had some sort of automatic defense that the other victims did not. I definitely discovered that this compound is meant to kill within a day or two."

Silence. Heavy, strong, upset silence. They breathed slowly, shakily. Raph walked stiffly to the counter, but just hand-washed his bowl and fork. Leo didn't feel hungry, either. He pressed a hand to his belly. Mikey had died. But they brought him back. Did that mean other victims weren't resuscitated? Or couldn't be resuscitated? He saw Donnie bite his lip, probably thinking the same thing.

Nobody moved. April and Casey gathered the empty bowls and washed everything. Muttering under his breath, Raph stalked to the infirmary, fists clenched.

After a few minutes, Honeycutt arrived and looked around. "Er... is everything all right?"

Donatello stood up. "I told them about the extremely high possibility of the neurotoxins' fatality probability."

Everyone suddenly looked extremely uncomfortable and nervous.

"Ahhh." The android scooted back and forth, looking uncertain. "Well, while I now know for certain that The Alchemist usually tends to aim to kill, I wasn't completely positive that was his intent with Michelangelo. But after speaking with a few people who have had skirmishes with his group, I can say that for sure. What I still cannot explain is why Michelangelo is still alive."

"Wait," April held up her hands. "W-wait... are you telling us that when he was in cardiac arrest, you didn't really believe he would pull through?"

The Fugitoid looked shameful. "I, ah, well. The thing is... the probability was extremely high that he... wouldn't."

The silence returned, chokingly thick.

A shout from the infirmary. "FUCKING EXCUSE ME?" And Raphael was stomping toward them, fingers curled. "You fucking WHAT?"

"Easy, Raph," Leo warned.

"No! NO. Fuck that. You didn't tell us that, Doc. You didn't say anything a month ago. You hit him with those paddles and you were expecting him to die? You assumed he would stay dead, that his heart wouldn't start? AND YOU SAID NOTHING?" Raphael was snarling, almost toe to toe with Honeycutt, who looked as terrified as a robot could look.

"I... I... I didn't think it mattered once his heart was beating! I honestly did not think that revelation needed... revealing! He survived! His heart began beating! He lived!"

Raph's mouth opened and his eyes glittered, and then a full hiss burst forth from his throat, the kind of hiss turtles used in rage or fear. Honeycutt kept backing up and beeping anxiously. But Raph stayed where he was, hissing and glaring.

"Raph," Casey said carefully and quietly from behind him. He walked very slowly until he was in front of his best friend. "Raphael? Listen to me. Honeycutt isn't implying anything. Okay? He would have done anything and everything to save Mikey and he did. Okay? He saved him. He brought him back. Mikey's alive. There's... there's no point in getting angry at Honeycutt now. Because Mikey is... well, technically he's okay. He's still alive."

Raph still didn't move. "He has been. In a coma. For a month."

"Yeah. Yeah, he has. But... he's trying to heal. He's been through a fuckton of trauma. He hasn't... I mean, like, he hasn't slipped or anything. His heart hasn't stopped since that day. So, I see where Dr Honeycutt is coming from."

Raphael just growled. At his side, Donatello very gently touched his shoulder. "Listen, Raph. I get it, too. I am a little upset that Dr Honeycutt didn't give us that information immediately. But Mikey pulled through and he lasted beyond the, um. The deadline. And he is recovering. And I trust that Dr Honeycutt knows what he is doing. We don't actually know that much. We need to give him a little credit."

Raphael closed his eyes and inhaled very deeply. As he breathed out, he brought his palms together in a wide sweeping motion that the other two turtles immediately, automatically mimicked. They all breathed together, Don and Leo watching their brother closely. After a few minutes, Raphael opened his eyes and looked directly at Dr Honeycutt.

"You are really lucky, Doc," he said in a very calm voice, "that my family can soothe me the way they do. I am still fucking pissed off at you. But I understand why you did not believe you had to tell us that our brother would have died. Because he lived. Living is good. We all enjoy living. Right, everyone?"

Everyone nodded enthusiastically and murmured assent.

Honeycutt beeped rapidly and began to back out of the kitchen. "Yes. Yes, indeed. Well. Er. Well, then. I, uh, should return to the controls, of course. Er." He slipped away and silence returned.

Donatello spoke up. "Raph, are you all right?"

Closing his eyes, Raphael tilted his head up to the ceiling. "I'm cool, Donnie. But... I think I'd like one of those, what're they, anti-anxiety drugs? Thatavan or whatever?"

"Ativan. And yes, I'll get you a pill. It's the same drug we injected into Mikey during his last seizure. It'll calm you down. Just sit and rest when it kicks in."

"Well, I'm gonna go read to him anyway, so if it puts me out I'll have pillows." Raphael stalked back to the infirmary, and the others stared at each other.

"So." April cleared her throat.

"Yeah. So." Leonardo looked at his remaining brother.

"I really don't know what to say." Donatello sounded so defeated. "I only just learned it myself, that the mystery alien compounds normally kill in a day or two. I mean, we are desperately, unbelievably, incredibly lucky that we had the ability to restart Mikey's heart. I just have this feeling that... well, maybe he's been the only one? I know it seems ridiculous..."

"But how many other people did the Alchemist poison with that compound?" Leo finished.

"Yeah. It most likely was not many, not if it is meant to kill so quickly. I feel like there is so much to The Alchemist than we realized. I wonder if we had stepped into the middle of a war and just got caught in one of many skirmishes."

Leo wrapped his arms around himself, feeling chilled. "We can't do anything, really, until Mikey wakes up, can we? And we're no closer to finding the next pieces to the Heart Of Darkness. I can only hope that this Alchemist isn't connected in any way."

The remnants of Raphael's shouting still echoed around the room. Even Ice Cream Kitty in her freezer had begun to yowl in worry. The group had been thrilled to find that somehow, some way, Honeycutt had managed to teleport her to the ship. Michelangelo had leapt into the robot's arms with teary eyes.

Leonardo went and opened the freezer door, pulling her box closer. "It's all right, Kitty," he soothed. "Uncle Raph is upset. You know how it's been."

The half-melted cat mewed and purred, stretching her strawberry-colored head, real concern in her dark eyes. Leo let her nuzzle him, leaving a cold streak, and he licked the strawberry ice cream off his beak. "Thanks, Kitty. Don't worry. Your Daddy will be okay. He'll wake up soon and he'll be ready to play with you when he's better."

She purred and trilled, looking content. He patted her head and closed the door, licking more ice cream off his finger. He was feeling an urge to fight, to train even harder, to keep watch over everything everywhere. He realized how impossible it was. But many things were impossible, and suddenly Leonardo just didn't care.

Chapter Text

Donatello woke from another nightmare in a vague but strong panic, his arms shooting out to the sides to keep himself from falling. No; no, it was okay. He was in bed. His bed, in his room, aboard the Ulixes. Did he fall asleep in his room? Wasn't he in the lab? Weren't there vials of liquid, and charts, and graphs? Had someone brought him to bed? The nightmare was-

Well, of course. Same as it…

Same as it never was, Donnie assumed. Mikey had been dead, really dead, gone. He had gone into cardiac arrest and nothing could bring him back. Raphael nearly destroyed Dr Honeycutt before Leonardo had stopped him, but he'd had to injure Raph in order to do it. Don had given Raph a tranquilizer. And then… Raph had started bleeding from his eyes. He was shouting. He struck out and grabbed Donnie by the throat, snarling that it was his fault…

Don reached for his throat. Only a dream. But he guaranteed they were all having nightmares. Sometimes he would wake up in his lab and hear Raphael crying out from the infirmary. Oh, Raph. PTSD.

According to the clock, it was 7:04 AM GMT. He couldn't go back to sleep but he wasn't quite ready to take on the day. Turning on the lights, Donatello stretched and began a few simple katas to warm up, then meditation. A half hour later, he headed to the showers, then got dressed and decided to try a dojo simulation before breakfast. Maybe once he set it up he could wake Leo, if his dutiful brother wasn't already in the holodeck.

As he approached the simulation room, he heard the clash of metal weapons. He had assumed correctly. What he hadn't assumed was Leo's opponent.

"Oh. Morning, Raph!"

Raphael glared at him blearily. "You wanna take over, brainy?"

"No no, Raph," Leo chided. "We're not done here."

"Dude, I'm pretty sure I worked out all my rage. I don't wanna stab or dismantle the Fugitoid anymore." Raphael ducked a hard katana swing, then blocked with a sai.

"I could join the two of you for a quick spar," Donatello suggested. "You could gang up on me."

Raph grinned and lazily spun his sai. "Tempting, but nah. I worked up an appetite. I need breakfast."

Leo sighed and stopped. "All right. Donnie, you wanna step in?"

"Yes, please."

Leo and Raph bowed to each other and Raph stepped out, winking as he passed Don. Readying his bo staff, Donatello stepped in and took his stance opposite Leonardo. They bowed, and Don struck first, feeling the instant rush of endorphins and adrenaline coating his nerves. Leo had barely slowed down from his battle with his other brother, and still had a slight crooked smile as he sparred back, positively glowing. He did appear a little more intently focused. Don kept note of how Leo's muscles nearly spasmed seconds before each strike, how his eyes glinted as he lunged. Either Leo was deliberately seeking an increased rise in dopamine and norepinephrine for pleasure, or he was methodically planning each move to the tiny details and his motor neurons were simply obeying. Don decided to try and take advantage: he swung his bo low behind his brother's knees and swept at an angle, knocking Leo off-balance. Leonardo responded with a frustrated growl and a hardened glare in his eyes. Yup, it was the latter. Leo wanted to get very very good at something very very quickly.

Donatello smiled. "You know, Leo, if you focus too hard on the destination instead of the directions, you're going to get lost."

"What?" Barely listening, Leonardo took a side stance and lunged left-handed. Donnie easily parried, spun the staff, then caught his brother under his arm, letting the bo flow upward, and applied momentum to keep the body moving. As a result, Leonardo was swept off his feet. Almost shakily, Leo flipped backwards and landed on his feet, his knees bent. "Was that to teach me a lesson, Donnie?"

"Yes." Don stepped back and stood straight, bo at his side upright. "You feel that drive and craving to excel, to perfect this kata or that executive strike. But you're looking all the way down the line at the end goal, where you've already performed. Shouldn't you be watching how you're placing your feet and hands, pacing yourself?"

Immediate understanding came into Leo's eyes. "Yes. You are correct. Yes."

"For example: I would love to be at the end point where I've discovered and broken down all the compounds in that poison. I realize I'm probably never gonna get there. Because, well, aliens. But at this point, it's much more important that I slow down and take in stock what I do have in my findings, because the more I have concretely, the better I'll be able to help Mikey in the long run."

Leo just nodded. "I understand. Good session, Donatello."

"I try."

They bowed, and Leo turned off the simulation.

"Oh, right…" As he stepped away from the holodeck, Donnie staggered, "coffee…"

Grinning, Leo caught him with one arm. "You need a coffee maker in your bedroom. And your lab."

"Do not. Kitchen's over there. Besides," and his jaw made a cracking sound as the yawn forced his mouth wide, "Mikey always brought me coffee."

"Um, Donnie, are you sure you're really awake?"

"Hmm? OH. Oh, shit. Shit! Leo, I'm sorry, I-"

"It's okay, brother." Leonardo slung and arm around his shoulders. "I get it. You know, Raph's been making coffee every day too. He says it helps get him ready to read to Mikey."

"You know, I don't ever think I have seen Raph be so… soft," Donatello smiled. "Like, really tender. He's like Opposite Raph."

Leonardo nodded, silent. As they walked to the kitchen, they found their human adopted siblings blearily sitting at the table with their own mugs of coffee, cream, and sugar.

"Whr-" April yawned magnificently, nearly dropping her head to the table. "Whr were yooo?"

Donnie poked her shoulder affectionately. "Training in simulation. Leo made Raph get up early for it."

"Mmmgmph," Casey said. "Tha's why thar was cawfee, okay. We made 'nother pot."

"Caffeinate before you speak!" Leonardo admonished, and retrieved two mugs.

"Whrglbargloh," came the answer in unison.

"I love this family," Donatello murmured.

"Friends! Good morning!" Dr Honeycutt, wearing his robot smile, whirred into the kitchen. "You will be going to a new nearby planet today, close to the Earth-like planet, but you will need your suits, and--"

Multiple grunts stopped him. April pointed at him sternly. "Coffee or death?" she asked.

"Er, excuse me?"

Leonardo and Donatello nearly fell over laughing.

Raphael ran into the kitchen. "What's going on? What's happening? Oh my god, more coffee. Move, metal-butt."

Donatello decided that if he hurt himself laughing, it would be totally fine.


This planet was beautiful and contained sprawling cities. As they walked down a main road, Leonardo stared at the architecture while Donatello took readings. "You know," Leo said, "this place feels weirdly familiar."

"Really. An alien planet feels really familiar." Raphael rolled his eyes.

"No, I just feel like… I should know something about this place…"

A bright blue ball bounced toward them. Leo stopped it with his foot and looked around. A little reptilian boy ran to them, his skin and scales black with multi-color iridescence. Leonardo felt frozen. Now that was familiar.

"Hey," Raph barked, "wait a second…"

"Hello!" the boy chirped. "Can I have my ball please?" Blinking, Leonardo nudged it with his foot and the boy picked it up with taloned, five-fingered hands.

"My name is Tirren," said the boy. "Are you aliens? Are you here to survey? We get that a lot. Cadran is a very mineral-rich planet and our culture is millions of years old." He almost sounded like he was reciting something. He grinned, showing a maw of sharp teeth. Beside Leo, Donatello tensed.

Breathing deeply, Leonardo smiled back and knelt to the boy's level. "Hi, Tirren. My name is Leonardo. These are my brothers, Donatello and Raphael. We're actually here to find a piece of technology that we need. Our ship is in orbit waiting for us. Do you know where your city's leaders or governments are?"

"Well, sure, but that's no fun." Tirren blinked aquamarine blue eyes up at them. "First, you should come to my house and meet my sister. She could probably help you, she's a really good scientist. Plus, if you came all this way, you're probably hungry."

The turtles stared at each other. "Well," Raph said gruffly, "I am hungry. And I could… rest. And… talk." The growl was implied. Leo tried to calm him down with his eyes. Not here to find the Alchemist's group nor pick a fight, Raph.

"Yay!"

"Tirren! What on Cadran's moons are you… Oh. I see."

A young reptile woman approached them, stopping right behind the boy, hands on his shoulders. "Turtle aliens? That's new. You don't look like surveyers. You look like explorers."

"We are, um, miss," Donatello said. "We've been traveling across the galaxy looking for pieces of a Triceraton black hole generator that de- well, that will des- I mean…"

She stared, head tilted. "I see. Your planet was destroyed after a Triceraton invasion with their Heart of Darkness, and you went back in time to locate the generator before those monsters could find your planet in the first place."

"Uhm. Yes?"

"Yes, that's happened to a couple of planets. Tirren, don't tell me you already invited them to lunch?"

"Of course I did, Sirra! You know me!"

Leonardo swallowed a lump in his throat. He recognized those wide, bright eyes, that childish hopeful grin; even as very young children, they could never deny the littlest brother…

Sirra looked at them and sighed. "We don't get many aliens who aren't here for culture or minerals or even social exchange, and the surveyors are usually distant about socializing. It would be nice to entertain visitors who actually want to be here for our people."

Donatello bit his lip. "Of course. We'd love to. Maybe you could even help us. Your brother says you are a scientist? So am I."

"I work in several fields," Sirra said with a hint of pride. "Engineering, biology, neurology, physics, chemistry…"

Raphael smirked out loud. They turned to him, halting their walk. "Something funny, angry young man?" Sirra made it sound like a threat. Wait, how did she even know-

"I dunno. Maybe our Donnie's finally met his match that's not April?"

Donatello blushed furiously. "Oh you should talk. Whenever we encounter Mona Lisa, you-"

"Shhut up, braniac, I swear-"

"Okay, enough." Leonardo went into Leader Mode, stance and expression and voice.

Tirren just giggled in delight. "I love weird grown up emotional stuff! Who's April?"

"Now, Tirran, be nice. You don't need to read them, we only just met them. Shield your empathic senses."

"But, sister!"

"Shield, I said."

"No fun." The boy pouted, but closed his eyes for a few moments. "Done. I cannot read their emotions." His sister patted his head, and they kept walking. "Good," Sirra said, as though they had gone through it a hundred times. "You know I shielded the instant I saw them."

"But you're stronger! You shouldn't have to shield if you have better control."

"Doesn't matter. Your intuition powers are weapons, brother, as well as defense. Control always, no matter what! Shield to strangers."

A sigh. "Yeah, I know."

Leonardo caught Donnie's muttered thought about asking Tirren and Sirra how psychic empathy worked on a scientific level.

Sirra said over her shoulder, "You are teenagers, aren't you?" They asserted that they were sixteen, almost seventeen. "Why are you dressed like warriors? Why do you have those weapons?"

Leonardo began explaining their mutant life, their training in ninjitsu with their adoptive father who was a mutated human/rat, how they themselves were turtles on the outside and human on the inside. They had reached the siblings' home, which was immediately startling. It was bigger on the inside. The outside walls had been painted navy blue and the house itself was unassuming, tucked into the end of a row of houses stretched across a long road. Traffic rarely reached this far, they noticed. The house had a backyard full of birds that looked like ravens.

Inside, it was like walking into Splinter's dojo stretched into a small two-story house. Science and technology merged with artistic creativity, esoterics, spirituality, ancient symbols carved into sculptures. The three turtles soaked in every detail, every painting and scroll and poster, every equation and sketch of molecules and neurons. Donnie looked ready to implode, or fall in love, same thing.

"You like it!" Tirren squealed, skipping in circles. "I will start on food. What do you like? Are you allergic to anything? Are there foods you hate? What sort of foods did you eat on your home planet?"

Raphael breathlessly mumbled "…pizza?"

And Tirren said, "Whatever that is, the computer will tell me how to make it."

"It's… a circular flat dough with sauce and cheese and toppings," Leonardo added. "It's sliced diagonally, so each piece of pie is a triangle."

"Oh! Pie! It's a savory pie! A flat doughy pie. I can do that. You wait here. I will call one of you if I need help." And he dashed off, veering to the right just before crashing into a wall. Sirra yelled, "Tirran, don't crash through the drywall again like last time. Did you take your hyperactivity medicines?"

"No, but it is still early! I will take them!"

"Now, please. Our guests don't need to see your footprints on the ceiling."

This time Donatello let out a choked cough. "Okay, now that's our brother."

Sirra was busy pulling out boxes and folding tables of equipment while the turtles perched on a long couch. "Oh, you too have a hyperactive little brother?"

Raph smiled. "Michelangelo. Mikey. He was like that when we were Tirren's age." He swallowed painfully. Sirra glanced up and frowned. "Oh, is something wrong?"

"I… well, he…" Donatello, defeated, told her the entire story.

Sirra's expression grew more and more concerned and finally fearful. "He… the Alchemist injected him with his signature neurotoxin? Oh, turtles, I am so, so sorry. Does he need to be buried? You can bring the body here. We will be very respectful…"

"What?" Tirren called out. "Their brother got hit by the Alchemist? Nooo!" And there were loud tears as he ran into the room and randomly flung himself, Leonardo catching him.

"No, it's okay," Donatello hurried. "I mean, Mikey lived. He did die, his heart stopped, but we brought him back and--"

There was a crash. Sirra was standing ramrod straight, staring open-mouthed. Tirren had gone completely still in Leo's arms.

"He…" Sirra could barely speak above a whisper. "He lived? He is alive? Your brother is alive? How is that possible?"

The turtles squirmed. "Actually," Leo said, "He had some seizures, and now he has been in a deep coma for over a month, and we aren't sure what happened."

"But he lived," he boy gasped. "He didn't actually die? You brought him back?"

At this point the powerful sense of What? was overwhelming Leo's senses. "Is this… rare?" He remembered Honeycutt mentioning the high unlikelihood that anyone could survive the Alchemist's "signature poison". But the way these two were reacting… it was almost reverent.

"It's… it has never happened!" Sirra had tears in her eyes. "The Alchemist rarely uses that weapon, and it never failed to overload the body and destroy the brain within forty-eight hours. There have been less than a dozen cases, and they all died. What is different about you? About your brother?" She sounded nearly desperate.

"Um, besides the alien Utrom mutagen that altered our DNA?" Donatello got up and walked to her, looking at her computer set-up and another table with microscopes and pipettes and petri dishes and labeled things.

"Yes. Yes. Aside from that. You must tell me everything that happened when you first landed on Risal. Did y- did Michelangelo touch anything?"

They all blinked. "Oh! SHIT!" Donatello yowled.

"The rock!" Raphael snarled.

"It glowed," Leonardo said firmly.

Sirra's eyes grew so wide that her sclera shone. "A…glowing rock. On Risal. What did it look like?"

Words coming out in a rush, Donatello explained. Tirren began to whimper and then gasp in awe. Confusion was everywhere.

"So…" Sirra blinked a few times, suddenly shaking. "Your brother held the stone and it responded to him by glowing, pushing its energy into him, and then… dying."

"Pretty much?" Donatello looked almost scared. "Do you know about it?"

Sirra began to laugh. The type of laugh reserved for those who had Seen So Much that their only mental defense was to break down or laugh forcefully. "Do… do you have a photo of the stone?"

"Oh! Actually I have the stone itself. In my pouch. I kept forgetting to remove it from my belt." Donatello, sheepishly fumbled at his gear, so he missed the stunned, almost gleeful expressions on the faces of their reptilian friends.

Sirra grabbed the stone like a geologist in ecstasy, with a wide, thrilled grin and sparkling eyes. "Oh gods of sand and wind," she whispered. "It's true. It's real." She shakily sat in her chair.

"Sis, is it really…"

"Tirren, get their food," Sirra was automatic, unmoving. Tirren squeaked and ran out, emerging with a beautiful thin pizza pie containing vegetables and cheese. The turtles ate quickly, glancing worriedly at the young woman, who was carefully studying the stone.

Food eaten, Raphael stood up, fists clenched. "Okay, lady. Enough spiritual gazing. What's up with the rock and why did it hurt my baby brother, and does it have something to do with why he is still alive?"

Tears in her eyes, Sirra continued to laugh. "Yes, Raphael. Oh, yes. This. This is how he survived the Alchemist's poisons. This rare, gorgeous, dead remnant of a lost civilization helped save Michelangelo's life. Yes. Yes."

They all looked at each other. "But," Tirren said, "It's a legend. It's always been a legend. A myth, Sirra. Right?"

"Apparently not." Sirra cleared off a table and grabbed a microscope, sliding the stone in. "Oh," she gasped, "how beautiful. Oh, oh, M'Kari…"

Leo's eyes narrowed. "Sorry, that word isn't translating…"

"It isn't a word," Sirra breathed. "It's a name. The M'Kari race that lived here thousands of years ago. This planet was theirs. They traveled to Risal, back and forth. And then they vanished. These stones… they were part of the technology, the science. The physics." She was breathing heavily. "The M'Kari merged science and paranormal activity. It became a brand new class of physics and neurology, because-"

"Wait, neurology?" Donatello paled.

"Let me finish. The M'Kari were a psionic race. But they applied it to all their technology and their sciences, they became one of the most powerful races in the galaxy. They were humble. They only wanted to help ease discomfort. They had so many weapons but they hated war unless there were no alternatives. No one stood a chance against them. They didn't even have to try." She paused for breath. She was crying softly.

"And then, suddenly, they vanished. All of them. Their societies, their machines, their technologies, their culture, thousands of years of progress wiped out. Our current scientists are still struggling to understand. A solar flare? Psionic technology gone wrong? Wormholes? We don't know. But our ancestors came, and settled, and colonized, and here we are." She giggled. "I always dreamed I might find a remnant of… of something. But this." She cradled the stone. "This is amazing."

"Sooo… what did the M'Kari look like? Don asked.

"Well, they… hmm. According to the records, very strange. They were bipedal and they had skin that was smooth and sort of pink-beige. Two eyes, in the front, noses that stuck out, wide mouths, blunt teeth, but they were omnivores. They had soft bodies. No hair. The females birthed live young. They…"

"Hang on, hang on…" Donnie scrolled through his T-Phone until he found photos of April and Casey. "Like… like our friends here? These are our human friends."

Sirra stared in fascination. "Yes, a little. That was the basic shape. The M'Kari were stretched longer. Their eyes were bigger. Human, you say? Yes, I suppose the M'Kari were somewhat… humanoid."

Everyone was very quiet. "So," Raph said tightly, "about the glowing…"

"Right. Well, they had these stones that contained psionic energy, like electricity. Since all M'Kari were naturally psychic, you know, sometimes accidents, or disabilities, dampened their powers. These stones helped draw out their powers. The stones would reach into the brain and grab onto neurons all over the brain, redirecting them to new pathways so the injured M'Kari could still use their powers. You see, in the M'Kari brain, the main seat of psionic power rested in the temporal lobes, in the pineal gland. Now, since temporal lobe epilepsy is common, many of them had to seek treatment for seizures while maintaining a psionic balance behind their shields, which needed to be strengthened often… have you heard of Ki? Yes, of course you have, you have cultures dedicated to it, your own ninjitsu alludes to it heavily…silly me… Because that, technically, is what was their science. The physics of Ki. The chemistry of Ki, neurology, biology, you get the point. So. Everything science was Ki." Sirra paused to take a breath. She grabbed a jug of water and a cup and drank quickly. She seemed so prone to rapid rambling that even Donatello was leaning closer to listen.

"Anyway! Yes, about the glowing. Your brother, having been trained in varied ki-related arts since, well, not birth, but mutation birth I suppose, from what you told me, he, like you, already had a slightly different brain structure just from all that training. But, and this is a bit slippery, you told me that in Dimension X it seemed like he fit, like he knew exactly the why and what and how of the land, which leads me to believe that his mind is uniquely open to receive the uncommon, the atypical, the unusual, the downright bizarre. So! It would appear that the last of the M'Kari stones reacted to him, realized that his brain did not have the capacity for psionics that it should, and, well… healed him."

Absolute silence.

"Uhh…" came from Raphael.

"Sooo." From Leonardo.

"Are you saying that when Mikey wakes up, he's gonna be psychic? Like April?" asked Donatello.

Sirra blinked and shrugged. "I honestly don't know. Maybe not. But it certainly helped counteract the Alchemist's poisons."

"Yay!" Terrin squeaked in the background. "Who is April?"

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight


The rest of their time in the city was a blur. They found what they needed: the city council, who knew Dr Honeycutt, also gave them several medical devices, liquids, and resins, explaining that it could speed up recovery time once their "brave young brother" was ready for physical therapy. It appeared that very few were able to fight the Alchemist one on one. Leonardo felt the muscle in his shoulders relax when one of the council members smiled and said that she was certain he would waken soon. They hadn't told the council about the so-called M'Kari stone, still tucked in Donatello's pouch; Sirra had stressed that they might be unable to leave the planet without a thorough investigation. She had given them fruits and vegetables, and said she hoped they contacted her again.

Back on the Ulixes Honeycutt had closed himself up in his lab with the M'Kari stone. April leaned against the ship's main console, nibbling her fingernails. In the three days that the turtles had been on the planet, Michelangelo's condition had slipped. So, Donatello had applied some of the Cadranian medicine, which strengthened his vitals considerably more than anything they had on the Ulixes, something that intrigued and perplexed Honeycutt when he wasn't working with the poison or the stone. Raphael, anger and somberness in his eyes, had gone off to beat things up. The very concept that they had found the homeworld of the Alchemist had still had them shaken.

There was a long discussion about staying near Cadran for a while or coming back to it later. Leonardo said that their mission was too important to stay for long, and everything would be easier once they were a full team again. Upon hearing that, Casey had quickly grabbed a very large, very heavy pillow and told Raphael to have at. After a few minutes of punching and swearing, the atmosphere had lightened up and they had had dinner while watching Space Heroes.

Two more weeks passed. Extreme restlessness was palpable. The three turtles spent more time in the dojo and space-waking, occasionally just yelling their lungs out. April and Casey began arguing about anything they could think of.

It was a very bad time for their patient to go into cardiac arrest again.


"Code Blue!" Dr Honeycutt yelled at full volume.

"SON OF A FUCK," Donatello howled, grabbing a syringe and epinephrine as he hurtled toward the bed.

"I thought the Cadranian stuff-" Leonardo was interrupted by Donatello snarling and hissing so deeply that even Leatherhead would have been terrified.

"IT DID. IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER." Donnie was biting off each hard word as he plunged the syringe into Michelangelo's chest, growling as the heart monitor beeped twice and went flat again. He shrieked and prepared the defibrillator paddles.

Everyone jumped back in fear.

Letting out a broken, anguished cry, Donatello hit his brother with the paddles. The beeping started instantly, and it held. "Yes," Honeycutt said. "There. Normal sinus rhythm."

"Really?" Donatello hissed again. "REALLY?"

"Yes, really. Yes." Honeycutt moved so close to the angry ninja that Raph and Leo stepped forward prepared to prevent a conflict.

"You've done it, Donatello. Please breathe deeply." And Honeycutt put his robot hands on the turtle's shoulders.

Everyone else cringed.

Donnie took a deep, deep breath. He closed his eyes. Upon exhale, he hissed loudly, but that was all. He seemed to deflate completely. Then he dropped to the floor and burst into tears.

There was an immediate dogpile. Leo and Raph threw their arms around him, hugging so tightly they almost seemed to merge. April shoved herself in and tucked her head under Donnie's chin. Casey draped his entire body over Don's carapace, squeezing as hard as he could.

After a few silent minutes Donatello rasped, "…guys…squeezing…hard…"

They let go, although Casey remained until Donnie put his hands over the human's and nodded.

"I am," Donatello announced casually, "going to kill the Alchemist."

No one said anything against it.


It was too dark. It had been dark for a while, but now it was the kind of dark that suffocated, that made moving difficult. He reached out for walls. Nothing. He wasn't afraid. He wasn't even worried. All his dreams had been similar, anyway. This was just a huge change, that was all. He was fine with change. He was practically made of change. Casey had once said, by way of explanation during a battle with the Foot, "Well, that's the thing. Never try to predict my bro. That's why he is a wild card." And the Foot ninjas had toppled unconscious, but at least they had gotten the message.

As he walked forward, he realized there was no ground. The darkness was solid. He changed his walk to a wade, using his arms to push out and tread, automatically assuming a familiar position. Turtles were really good swimmers, after all!

It felt like a very long time. He considered singing to himself. He was thinking of a song when tiny bits of light appeared in front of him, like stars across the sky after a cloudy night. That was interesting. They hadn't been there before, not since these odd run-on dreams had started. He struggled to move faster, reaching with both arms. The darkness slowly loosened and he found himself running. The dots of light grew bigger. They coalesced. They became a doorway.

Wait, a door? Was this a building? Wait, silly, this was a dream. Anything could happen. He shrugged and went through the door, as the light took over his sight and the only sound was pure white noise.

It was a Japanese tea garden. "Well," he muttered. "Not too surprising, slightly clichéd. Come on, dreamworld, do a little better."

Someone was sitting on one of the benches, feeding the koi. He approached her carefully. She didn't move, so he sat next to her, leaving room, and stared at the fish.

Most of the koi were black and white and orange and white, and there was one with a red spiral mark on its head. He'd never seen that before. He leaned in, and the koi in question swam up to him. He held out his hand until he could reach, and the koi nibbled his fingers.

"Here," said the woman beside him. "Give him some of this." Without looking up, she handed him some of the food, and he took it silently. The red-marked koi ate it with enthusiasm, and when the food was gone it remained, bumping against his hand.

A ripple went through the pond, and the koi scattered, except for the one with the red spiral. It kept watching him.

"Those ripples have been occurring more frequently," said the woman with the black hair. She sounded worried.

"What are they from?" he asked, glancing at her.

"The world has begun to change," she said. He blinked and stared at her. She looked up and met his gaze. "Hello," she said softly.

"Oh." He frowned, and then a memory of a photograph struck him. "Oh! It's you."

She smiled, the same smile in the photograph. "It's me."

He paused, tilting his head.

"Are you wondering why you are here?" she asked.

"I guess so," he said. "It's been a really long time since any of us have dreamed about you."

"Yes, your father has told me."

He stared. "Wait, he talks to you? In his dreams? You talk to him? But…how? You're-" He paused, swallowing the lump in his throat.

She laughed. It sounded like a gentle waterfall. "Of course! It does require an intense amount of meditation and knowledge of the spirit world, but my beloved husband was always an expert. Hasn't he taught any of his sons?"

He shrugged. "Well, yeah. But it's not often that we do anything about it. Especially me. My brain's too busy, always filled with stuff."

She smiled. "I like stuff. Is it useful stuff?"

"I don't know. Not really. Sometimes?" He sighed and stroked his finger along the koi's back. It wriggled happily. "My family doesn't really appreciate most of my stuff. My room is too cluttered. My head is too cluttered. I'm a mess."

She laughed again. "Oh, my sweet child, no. Never. You are not a mess. You are organized chaos! This is a highly sought-after trait in many warriors."

"Are you – are you kidding me?"

"I never kid. Well, maybe to your father, to make him laugh." She stood up, motioning with her hand. She was wearing a simple pale pink and white kimono, her hair loose to her waist. He followed her to a clearing.

"Show me," she said, "moves of Drunken Master."

He frowned, but shrugged and obliged.

"Oh, very good, my son, excellent!" She clapped. He felt himself blush. "Now…" And from her kimono she produced a bo staff, "use those moves to attack and defend."

Blinking, he barely had a second before she lunged, and he found himself dodging, ducking, and swaying around the lightning strikes she aimed. She didn't show mercy or kindness. Her expression was set, fierce and determined and concentrated. He saw that look on his older brother so often that he liked to call it "Leo Face." He continued to lightly dance around the woman, reminding himself that even thought it was her, to fling out his arms and force the bo away, to swing in lazy kicks, sweeping her feet out. She slipped and he caught her, like a dance. They stayed in that position and she began to laugh. He grinned widely.

"Ahh! There we go," and she patted the corner his mouth. "There is that wonderful famous smile."

Righting themselves, they stared at each other, still grinning foolishly.

"That was fun," she said. "You should do that in battle more often."

"Eh. The guys think it looks silly."

Folding her arms, she huffed. "Pah. Do I have to enter their dreams and scold them?"

He didn't reply, but he smirked.

"They know you are a natural master of mushin, don't they?"

At that, he laughed. "I am not! I'm distracted all the time!"

"Yes, but because of your brain, because of electrical and chemical impulses you cannot control without help. I mean the way you battle with your eyes closed, with music in your ears."

"Ohh. Right. Uh, I guess? Yeah."

"Stop being so humble and worried, my sweet boy, it makes you look so sad." She held her hand against his cheek. "Those bright eyes should not have to carry such heavy sadness."

He wanted to cry. "Does it make you sad?"

"Of course it does, little one."

His mouth trembled. "I don't want you to be sad."

She frowned and opened her arms. "Oh, my sweet bright one." He let himself fall to her embrace and cried on her shoulder.

After a while, he pushed himself away, sniffling, and looked back at the koi pond.

"Tell me your thoughts, sweet one," she said.

"I…" He paused. Something about this whole area felt strange. He couldn't explain why. "I feel like… like I don't belong anywhere. Like I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

"I understand," she said. "Your father believed that very much after we… after what happened with the fire. He was adrift for so long, before he found you. You four cemented his determination, you encouraged his strength and his will and his belief in himself. You will learn something that will do the same for you."

"Really?"

"Really. My dear, dear son, you see so much and you feel so much, and yet you dislike looking at yourself, letting yourself feel what is in you."

He closed his eyes, hanging his head, and felt her soft hand on his upper arm. "You need to know yourself. Not necessarily before you know others. Not in order to know the world around you. But to firmly grasp the concept of your place. Not everyone has goals, least of all immediate or firm. Many people travel through life, not settled, as a goal in itself. There may not be a need to find or be found, but to teach and be taught. One can spend all eternity being both student and teacher just by experiencing as much as possible."

He faced her. "So, you think I shouldn't worry about where I fit in a team?"

She smiled. "You don't worry. You feel. You have thoughts and beliefs, and that should be where you live. This is why I am concerned. Yes, worried, for you. You hide your pain and darkness for the sake of your family. Do you know the saying about how it is the ones with the most laughter who hide the most pain?"

He nodded.

"You shouldn't have to hold that pain." She took his hands; hers were so small. "You should speak to your family about what you feel, lest that darkness and anger build up. Do you understand?"

"I do." He nodded again.

"Promise?"

"I promise." He smiled and squeezed her hands. "I promise, Mom."

"My boy," she whispered tearfully, and hugged him tightly. He closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair.

When he opened his eyes, the garden was gone, and so was Tang Shen.

Chapter Text

Leonardo had sweated his way through every kata, and every fight sequence, he could think of without actually destroying the simulated dojo. He had switched to rooftops, to streets, to woods. He had programmed in single opponents, double, triple. He had exhausted his mind. He could no longer think. Shakily turning off all simulations, he collapsed to the blank floor of the holodeck and panted.

It wasn't enough. None of it was enough.

He sat and meditated for two hours.

He stretched and stood, cracking his neck. He returned to the controls and programmed in the weight room.

For the next three hours, Leonardo let himself go. He punched. He kicked. He lifted. He struck. He sliced. He yelled.

He yelled and yelled and yelled.

His mind was completely blank. His eyes had glazed over. He completely ignored the shrieking aches in his muscles. He didn't notice the bruises forming as punching bags hit back, as he slammed into objects, the walls, the floor. He programmed in a tall, thick wooden block and attacked it ferociously with katanas and body, screaming, howling, burning his throat. No, it had been too long since he had done this. Finally, he stood there, gleaming with sweat, gasping, growling. He stared at a part of the wooden block that did not have any marks on it. He bared his teeth and hissed at it. Something in the back of his brain broke free and surged forth, red and enraged and wailing.

Leonardo reared his head back and bashed his forehead into the wood. He screamed again.

And again.

And again.


Raphael was quietly pacing the back part of their living area, wondering what book he could read to his brother next.

A tingle shot through his spine, and a feeling he knew very intimately coursed through him like reverb from a good punch.

Without thinking, he hurried to the simulation room. He heard screaming. He heard Leonardo screaming. He ran, heart pounding. Oh, that was not good. He knew that sound. He made that sound. Especially when-

"Oh, fuck."

He skidded to a halt, and for precious seconds he stood there, wondering if he should call Donatello first, or intervene, and what would happen if…

"Fuck it," and he rushed full-speed into the simulated weight room and tackled his screaming brother with enough force to bring them both crashing to the floor, upsetting free weights and dummies which tumbled and clattered.

Leonardo was still making the most animal of sounds, blood all over his face, his navy blue eyes wide and filled with… with so many things it scared Raphael. He didn't seem aware of anything. He was howling, wailing, snarling, growling, and he twisted in Raph's arms, head thrown back until the veins in his neck throbbed. His eyes went almost stormy gray and suddenly they were boring into Raph's eyes, unseeing, unthinking. Teeth bared in a grimace. Raphael had just enough time to mutter "Well, shit," before Leo wrenched free and aimed a punch at his face.

Raphael ducked and rolled, wincing in sympathy as the fist connected with the floor loudly and terribly. Thinking quickly, he kicked out and struck the back of Leonardo's head, knowing it would make the head pain worse but also knowing how it felt to be in that state. "Snap out of it! Leo! Get a grip! Listen to me!" He was on his feet, realizing that those probably were not the best words, because he hated when he heard those words. But he couldn't think of a calming phrase. There was no time to think. He was under attack; he needed muscle, not mind.

He flipped to his feet, fists ready. Leonardo had staggered to his feet, swaying. He glared up, and Raph sucked in a breath at the blood pouring from his forehead. He glanced at the wood block he had watched getting beaten with Leo's head. It was smeared with fresh blood. He glanced back at his brother, who was drawing in gulps of air, gently swaying from side to side, arms limp. He waited.

Leonardo's eyes went back to their normal deep blue, like a storm receding from the ocean. He began breathing slowly and deliberately.

"Leo?" Raph put his hands down and took a step forward. "Leo, hey, can you hear me?"

Straightening, Leonardo stared at him, frowning. He was still swaying. "R-Raphael? When did you get here? Why does my fist hurt? And my head?"

Letting out a heavy sigh of relief, he walked over and put both hands on his brother's shoulders. "First, how many of me do you see?"

Leo blinked. "One. Why?"

"Okay, good. Where are you?"

"The weight room."

"Beyond that."

"Well, the Ulixes, Dr Honeycutt's ship. In space."

"Okay, great. Do you remember what happened in here?"

Leo's face scrunched. "I… was training. Then I meditated. Then I… I decided it wasn't enough. Something in me… I needed more. So I switched to the weight room, and-" He frowned, tilting his head. Raphael waited, knowing what was coming.

"I think I went crazy," Leonardo said softly.

"Yeah, that can happen," Raph smiled without humor. "But it doesn't usually happen to you, does it?" He hurried to a corner with a washbasin, wet a rag, and came back and began cleaning the blood. Leo was patient, standing still, eyes closed as Raphael mechanically wiped around his eyes. Raph had done this so often between himself and Casey, that it was like second nature. Cleaning up blood, basic wound care, even sutures. He sighed. "Damn, Leo. Never thought you would pull a me like this."

"Mm." Leo was suddenly breathing harshly, swallowing. Raph quickly recognized what was happening. He grabbed a nearby bucket, and after Leo had emptied his stomach, Raphael patted his shoulder and said cheerfully, "Now that's a concussion, huh? Let's go see Donnie!"

"Mmrph. My head hurts."

"Of course it does. You beat up a block of wood with your face. You go, champ!"

"Hush, you. You kicked me in my head."

"Only to snap you out of it. Dude, you were absolutely wild. Literally. I think you would've tried to bite me."

"No, I wouldn't!"

As they cleaned up and walked out, Raphael looked at him solemnly. "Yeah. You would have. You were absolutely out of your mind, Leo." Leo's shoulders sagged.

His arm around his defeated brother, Raphael maintained a cheery smirk as they walked toward the infirmary. "Hi, Donnie!" he called out sweetly. "Leo beat up his own face on a block of wood!"

"What? Oh, shit, what now!" Donatello looked up, followed by April, who blanched. "Leo, your head is bleeding!"

"We've noticed!" Raph's grin became even more delighted. Everyone shot him a glare. He sat in one of the chairs, feet swinging as he explained what happened. April was staring at him. "Raph, what in the world is wrong with you? Why do you sound happy?"

Clearing his throat, Raphael grew serious as he said, "Because it was obvious Leo needed to let a bunch of crap out. He's been holding onto all this grief and frustration and rage, and…" He paused. "Well, I have my ways of working out my issues. Obviously, his weren't working."

Donatello nodded curtly. Muttering curse words as he worked on Leo using some Cadranian medicine, he heaved a sigh. "Okay, this should heal up pretty quickly. Do try to not use your face as a battering ram for a couple of days?"

Leonardo rolled his eyes.

April hugged him from behind, sighing. "Oh, Leo. It's okay to let it out. You don't need to feel like you need such rigid discipline. You worry me!"

Leonardo turned to her, startled. "What? No! April, don't worry about me. Please." He held her hands. "This was… this won't happen again." He glared when Raphael snorted and muttered, "Whatever."

"Something you want to say, Raph?"

"Oh, I think your head says it well enough."

"Look, I was having a bad day!"

"A bad day. A bad day, he calls it! Fucking kidding me?" Standing, Raphael threw his hands up. "Leo, you were feral. You tried to punch me in the face. Do you understand? You lost control of all your precious discipline and rules. Order became chaos. And all because you've been holding yourself so stiff and in command for…" he paused, using his fingers to count, "two months, three weeks, and two days. That's almost three fucking months that Mikey has been unconscious. Do you know what that has been doing to us, Leo? To YOU? Are you hearing yourself? Have you looked in a mirror? You yell at me for letting my temper loose when I'm in a good mood, and you call that shit you pulled HAVING BAD DAY?"

He stopped to draw in a breath. Leonardo held a hand up, head hanging. "I know."

Raph stared at him, puzzled.

"I get it, Raph. I realize what's been going on. I honestly, genuinely did not expect to lose control. And you know what, it felt good for a while. I did need it."

Raph folded his arms, eyes narrow.

"But that is not who I am. I've never been like that. That's always been your domain, Raph. I have always been a warrior, but unlike you I strive for mastery and dominance over my entire self. No, don't scoff. Stop that. This is how I deal. This is how I handle things. This is how I conduct myself. What you witnessed back there, in the simulation room, that is a very rare thing. And it happened only because the dragging, heavy stress of waiting for Mikey to recover has been so great."

Leonardo paused, tilted his head back, an inhaled. "We have all been dealing with this in our ways. I guess today, something in me finally broke. That's all. That's it. Today, for a few hours, I completely crumbled. Until we solve this thing with the Triceratons, Earth is still destroyed and Master Splinter is still dead. Shredder still murdered him before our eyes." He didn't need to see the visible wincing around him. "It hurts like it just happened. And this, with Mike, we were on vacation. It was a good day. And then it wasn't." He opened his eyes and looked from brother to brother to sister. "Mikey has been in a poison-induced coma for nearly three months, and we have just barely touched the surface of why, and how, and what it means. We cannot really move forward with anything until he wakes up. And what if-" He swallowed, and a sudden sob burst forth. Instantly, Raphael was hugging him. Donatello choked and threw himself at them.

This time, April watched, fist in her mouth, until she bit her skin and tasted blood. It felt better than the sheer terror roiling through her gut. No, she thought desperately. He is going to wake up. He has to wake up. Please. He needs to wake up. Please.

Nearby, soft beeping sounds continued their slow rhythm.


There was less darkness, but no light. He found himself standing on what felt like concrete. Oh, these dreams were getting weirder. With a sigh, he picked a direction and walked, humming and twitching his fingers to the music in his head. It soothed him and he carefully considered his immediate surroundings. Were there any? Was it just concrete and dark? There, that was a crack. He probed it with a toe. New York City, maybe? Sure, why not. His mind loved to conjure up all sorts of randomness. It was how he kept other people on their toes.

He felt his belt pack and found his gear and weapons safe and snug. It helped him feel better, just in case. It wasn't like monsters and memories weren't hiding in corners. Were there even corners? He put his arms out, unable to feel anything. Okay, this was officially boring. He tried to vocalize that, but nothing happened. Wait, where was his mouth? Oh! He ran his tongue over his teeth. Okay.

Michelangelo stared out into the reddish darkness and tried to think of the city. Rooftops, to run across. Sidewalks, streets. Maybe some rain? No, sun. Middle of the day streaming sunlight. Birds singing! It could be empty. It could just be him and the city! He could run, and dance, and stare through shop windows.

Nothing happened.

Oh, come on. Are you fucking with me?

The darkness seemed to stir, to move around him, like mist. Wait, what? Can you hear me? Am I just thinking or am I talking?

Something shoved him forward. In utter confusion, Michelangelo began to run, grasping at mist, widening his eyes. Nothing but darkness. He was afraid to fall. But there was concrete under his feet. He heard the reassuring familiar slap of skin on pavement, he knew he was okay. But no. He was afraid. Something felt wrong. Everything felt wrong. He picked up speed. His breath hitched, his heart raced. He had to get to something. He had to get away from something. What? How? Who? It was like his memory was flickering. Where was he? Why was he here? What the hell was happening?

A whimper escaped him. He felt himself almost trip and flung out his arms, and he just kept running. His breaths were turning into sobs. What the fuck? What the fuck? What the absolute hellish fuck was-

The concrete shuddered and gave way, and crumbled directly under his feet. Yelping, Michelangelo grabbed for something. But there was nothing. Not even a concrete ledge. Nothing.

With the sound of thunder in his ears, Mikey tumbled down into the deep red darkness of his mind, and he screamed.


"Hey!" Donatello shouted. "Hey! GUYS! HEY! GET IN HERE!"

They skidded in to the lab, breathless.

"Look at this!" Donnie said happily, pointing to the computer screen.

They stared.

"Uhhhh…" Raphael squinted.

"Isn't it cool?"

Leonardo blinked. "Yyyee…noooo?"

Don threw up his arms. "Oh, come on! It is a breakthrough, people!"

"In what?" asked Raph. "Me not breaking through your computer?"

Donnie shook his head. "Argh. Stop. Okay, it's a complete composition of that M'Kari stone that affected Mikey! Don't you get it? I've broken it down. Dr Honeycutt can help me study any DNA and measure the stone's age, and we can find out what the planet Cadran might have been like when the M'Kari were there. That means we can get a better understanding of what the stone's energies did to Mikey and how they might uniquely affect his brain. Isn't that amazing?"

They just blinked. He blinked back.

"Oh!" April cried, like a eureka moment. "Oh, Donnie, that's fantastic! I bet no scientist has done that in a long long time!"

"Exactly!" He gestured to her like a magician. He sat back in his chair, typing with renewed vigor. "Once I get all the broken down individual components, I can set up a sort of potential simulation in which-"

"Wait," Casey interrupted. "You mean, like… fossils? Like dinosaurs?"

Donatello pointed at him without looking away from the screen. "In a way! But this will be more complex, as this was an entire civilization spread out, with entire cultures of intelligent peoples who had individual minds and…"

His voice lowered and he began mumbling so quickly no one could keep up. Only April leaned in, hands braced on the table, listening.

"This is nice and all," Raphael grumbled, "but I was kinda hoping he would have told us he found, like, a cure or an antidote to the poisons." Leonardo nodded. "Or… or that Mikey was awake…" Raph broke away awkwardly and stomped off into the infirmary. Leo nodded again, knowing where Raph's bigger priorities lay.

He shot a look at Casey, who shrugged, not knowing what to do. "TV?" Leo mouthed. Casey nodded and hurried out. In the common area, Leo said, "I'll be right back. I want to visit Mikey for a bit."

"Of course, man. I'll set up a game."

Leonardo nodded and went to the infirmary. Raph had propped his arms on the bed and folded them, his head resting on them, his eyes fixed on Michelangelo. Leo took the chair opposite and sat heavily.

"Hey, Raph."

"Mrph."

"So, I was thinking…"

"Nnrrgh…"

Eyeroll. "…maybe we could, I dunno, take a little trip into, um, Dimension X? Just for a bit!" He held up his hands when intense green eyes locked on his, predatory. "Just to get out of this headspace. I kind of liked it that second time, when we weren't so scared of everything and Mikey guided us everywhere like he was in perfect harmony with the whole world, and-"

He trailed off when those eyes flashed, turning a darker jade. Sighing, Leo slumped forward and rest his chin on the bed. "It was just a thought."

"Rnrl."

He glanced up. Raphael was sitting all the way up, arms still folded on the bed. "S'okay, bro. I don't… don't wanna think about that right now. Doesn't feel right." He tilted his head to the side, and Leo looked at Mikey and nodded. "No, I get that. But don't you feel like… like we should do something? Go somewhere? Just to relax?"

"Last time we did that, we got in a fight that wasn't ours and Mikey got stabbed a bunch."

Internally, Leo growled. Three months had taken their toll. His head hurt so much!

"Hey, Leo?"

"Yeah?"

"Wanna stay for story time?"

Blinking, Leonardo had to shake his head. "Huh? Oh. Oh. You're going to read to Mikey?"

"Actually," Raph smiled, "I figured that since you're here, you could do it. Start with telling him about the day."

Leonardo had to fight back tears as he smiled and nodded. "Sure. Yeah. Okay. So, hey, Mikey. So, when I woke up this morning, I realized I'd slept late, so…"


It felt as if he had been falling and screaming forever. He wasn't getting tired. It was just long.

A voice, somewhere, everywhere, snapped, "Will you shut up? What the hell do you think this is, a magic rabbit hole? Stand the fuck up, already."

Michelangelo sucked in a loud breath, jolted upright, and felt his feet touch…ground? Floor? It felt cool, like tile, but gritty, like dirt.

Another voice, much smaller and lighter, quivered, "Don't be so mean! He's been through a lot. Just walk over this way, dude! Don't worry, you're totally safe!"

Scoff. "That's cute. And very wrong."

In puzzlement, Michelangelo followed the voices until he came to a place that was deeply familiar. Raising both eyeridges, he pushed aside the red curtain and stepped onto the chess board tile. The lights were dim. He didn't see anything or anyone, but he expected that. He could feel them, of course. Shadows waiting to form, whispering and sometimes giggling. He recalled that dream – what he had thought was a dream – in which his brothers had followed him into his imagination to defeat a pair of Neutrinos from destroying his mind. He hadn't liked that they had been allowed in a place so deep, but it had saved his life. He still got teased by Raph about that song his traits had sung.

Speaking of. Another curtain parted, and there was Weird, looking extremely downcast. He said nothing, just tilted his head and stared at Michelangelo, and said in his odd voice, "I'm just sorry you're here like this." Somewhere off to the side, Anger growled. Hedonism laughed.

Shutting his eyes, Michelangelo pressed his hands to his head and yelled, "Okay! I only wanna talk to the little me and the one I don't recognize!"

"Hah!" came that gruff voice. "Doesn't recognize me. That's not surprising at all, nope."

"Open your eyes, Mikey," came the child's voice, and he looked around. There was Little Mikey, crown and all. He smiled sadly. "I can't stay, dude. But I wanted to give you some luck." And he reached up for a hug. Michelangelo picked him up, squeezing tightly, suddenly very afraid, as his childhood self shook in his arms. "Take this," the child whispered, and put something in his hand, closing his fingers. Michelangelo quickly peeked at it. It looked kind of like a shuriken made of gold. No, it was a five-pointed star, a pentacle…with a key poking out of one of the points. The circle around the pentacle was a snake biting its own tail. He didn't understand. He slipped it into his belt pouch.

"You'll get it later," Little Mikey whispered. "I have to go now." As Michelangelo put him down, the freckled, bright blue-eyed child, waved with a grin and ran back behind the curtains and melted into his own Self again, as everything around bled shadows onto the floor.

"And now. It is only us. Isn't that just delightful?"

The voice was his. It was all him, but it was a terrifyingly rare voice. It was the voice of all his pain, all his fears, all his rage, every nightmare, every attack from enemies, every moment of loss, grief, guilt, sadness. It was the voice of depression, anxiety, uncertainty, excessive worry, desperate panic. It was the voice he was too afraid of to even show his family. And it was here. All the way down here.

Where he shouldn't have to be.

Like his child self that was now gone and melted back to shadow, Michelangelo cringed and began to shake.


In his sleep, head resting on the edge of the bed, Raphael twitched and mumbled his baby brother's name. He knew he was dreaming. But he could see himself. But he was dreaming. He turned and ran out of the infirmary, down a long tunnel made of black and white tiles.

Wait. Okay, this is a dream. Right?

Blue darkness opened up in front of him. Something was roaring down it, coming toward him.

He was stuck. He could barely feel his legs. Shit. Shit! No! Come on, move! He yelled, but there was no sound. The roaring was getting closer. It sounded like both a train and an animal.

No! Move! Fuck you, legs, we gotta save Mikey!

He was staring at his feet, which looked completely frozen to the tiles, one foot on black and one foot on white. He worked his throat, but still no sound.

The roaring was on him.

Raphael shut his eyes and managed to lift his right foot. And then the thing struck him and he was thrown back-

Gasping, Raphael jerked up, eyes darting wildly. No, it was okay. It was the infirmary. The oxygen sounds continued soothingly. He was shivering. He grabbed one of the heavier blankets and draped it over himself. Why was it so cold in here?


"Oh, poor little thing, can't move. What's the matter? Scared? Worried? Confused?" The entity, which looked like him, but not him, stepped out and stared at him, head tilted. He stared back.

This Other Mikey looked pale and thin, eyes so dark it seemed that he didn't even have any. What appeared to be scars ran up and down, criss-crossing everywhere, long lines of black along each limb, spider-webbing around his face. His voice was raspy and harsh, on a sharp edge between wake and slumber, deep and thick and rough, as though every word he had ever spoken had been with a scream. His grin, slightly crooked, was toothy and leering; it looked the exact opposite of friendly. It was the grin of torture, torment, madness.

"Who are you?" Michelangelo found his voice at barely above a whisper.

The Other laughed. There was no glimmer in those eyes. There was absolute nothing. "Oh, that's funny. You're funny. Who am I. I love that. Who the fuck do you think I am!" It was not a question.

Inhaling sharply, somehow unable to calm his shivering, Michelangelo struggled to stay in control. This was his mind. This was his own sub-

His eyes grew impossibly wide and his jaw dropped. "Oh god, no. You can't be…"

"I can! I can and I am! Yay, you got it! Here's a prize!" A blow to his gut had him on his back.

"Stop that!" he yelled, and still he felt his knees drawing up, felt himself too close to tears. No. No, he would take control of this. He could do this.

He got up. The Other watched, smiling, head tilted like a bird's. He hadn't moved. He stood deathly still, hands at his sides, palms out and open.

"Now," the Other said with a long echo. "There a few types of Subconscious Selves, most usually a wide amalgam of many experiences a person has cobbled together in recent memory, in past memory, feelings, thoughts. The kid back there? He's sweet and safe, if you like sweet and safe. We get along okay. Sometimes we play chess. Or hide and seek, or tag." He grinned again, very wide and very bizarre. "I don't think you're in the mood for chess. Wanna play tag? I'll be it. What, no? Hide and seek, then? Don't worry, I'll count to ten. Very. Slowly."

He leaned forward, balancing on his toes, stretching his neck as long as it could physically stretch. "Why don't you get going? It's that way." He pointed behind Michelangelo.

There was nothing but swirling darkness, yet a silvery glint in the distance told him something was waiting for him.

"Go on," the Other said in a predatory voice. "Don't worry. I will find you. And then we can take care of what I am here to do."

Abruptly filled with strength and sense, Michelangelo turned, and ran like he had never run in his life.

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten


For Raphael, the latest dose of Ativan had finally started working. He didn't feel so cold or shaky anymore. But as much as the drug relaxed his whole body and mind, he felt that edge of worry and fear. Something was wrong. Was it Mikey? It had to be. Maybe he should ask April to – no, that was ridiculous. They had tried that once. April had placed her hands on Mikey's temples. Barely one minute later, she had tumbled back, screaming and crying, face colorless. She never did explain what she experienced. But of course, that had been nearly three months ago.

Three fucking months. This just… this wasn't right. Damn it, Mikester, you can't stay in there. We are falling apart here! Fuck everything, I don't care, I just need you back!

He couldn't cry. The drug had dulled that part. He sat there, in the cool dark, surrounded by medical equipment. Two months ago, he had taken over as his brother's nurse, instinct flowing naturally. Bandages changed. Sponge baths applied. IV bags changed. The nutrients via the G tube seemed to be doing a powerful job, as only a little weight had been lost.

During the sponge baths, Raph would take his sweet time, careful to gently clean every part, every crevice in every muscle, between fingers and toes, all over face and neck, between shoulder and shell, between thigh and tail, turning and moving and exercising his brother's limbs as he wiped and washed, working to prevent bedsores and further muscle atrophy. Then he would go grab fresh bedding.

He would run into the attached bathroom and scan the towel rack, finally grabbing the thickest fluffiest towel, and he would pick up his brother bridal style, wrapping him in thick fluffy bunny-soft towel, carefully patting away excess droplets as he let the magic of water sink into terrapin skin, extremely careful to not disturb the cannula tubes against Mike's beak or the G tube inserted into his stomach through his side. Mikey never moved and never made a sound, but Raphael knew he was grateful. And he would glance up at the reflective metal in the machines, seeing his green eyes pale like rough peridot instead of the usual emerald. The black circles under them. His skin, shiny and damp, like dark green tourmaline without light, looking stressed.

He would look over his brother everywhere. Fucking fuck, all those cuts and bruises and slices and holes. Michelangelo's complexion was poor, faded, far from its vibrant dark green turquoise. Those scabbed over wounds everywhere. Some of them peeled back open and shiny with blood and cellular fluid. Raph just got iodine and bacitracin and gently cleaned them. He touched his brother's face and pulled back an eyelid, expecting that dull rolled-back unseeing blue topaz eye. Sometimes he just did it to remember the summer sky brilliance.

And then, satisfied with his inspections, Raphael would bundle Mikey up in that towel, cradling the limp head against his shoulder, gently placing him on the other bedding Raph had made for himself. He would quickly strip the bed and change it, fluffing the pillows. And then, he would scoop Mikey into his arms again, remove the towel, lay his brother against the fresh sheets, careful to let his head sink into those cloud soft pillows. Then he would rewrap every bandage, change every tube and IV, chatting quietly the entire time about what he was doing. He would exercise Mikey's muscles again, rubbing them and flexing them, joking all the way about how Mikey was becoming more flexible unconscious than Leo was awake.

Raph still couldn't understand why this was taking so long. But if it was helping his brother heal, then whatever. Honeycutt had said something about the M'Kari process changing Mikey's neurology, blah blah blah, and it was taking a while to sort out, and shit happening in the brain affected how the body reacted and that was part of why the coma was so deep and so long.

Raphael was never a patient mutant. But this was his baby brother. He would go to the ends of the universe and back for Michelangelo. He even missed the jokes, the pranks, the annoying random questions that made no damn sense but somehow sparked Mikey's weird imagination. Oh, they were gonna have water balloon fights everywhere when he woke up. They were going to wrestle, and Raph would keep hugging the shit out of Mike, and then Mikey could prank him a hundred times and Raph could chase him a hundred times, and it would always end with a cuddle pile, always, always, he swore it.

"I just need you to wake up, Mikey," he rasped. "For fuck's sake, wake up. It's been too long. I'm breakin' here, brother. We need you. You have no idea. Yeah, we tease the shit outta you, we say you don't act like a good ninja, but you do and you are, and you need to know that. You just have different ways of… of living. Existing. Fighting. Doing. Knowing. I get that. You are an annoying little shit. I love you. I envy you. You have the weirdest craziest inner peace, dude, I mean that literally, like ADHD and everything. I want that. I want you as my teacher. I want to learn your kind of mushin. I just… want you to be here. Not like this. Not half dead. Not existing in medical machine embraces. I need your mind. Your wonderful, weird, hedonistic, gluttonous, annoying, crazy backwards mind." He took a huge breath. The last time he had said anything this deeply personal, it was to his pet Spike, before he mutated into Slash.

"Mikey, come on. Come on. You have to fight. Whatever is happening in your brain, I know you're strong. You can fight it, or embrace it, or, or whatever the fuck the Em-Kari people did, you can do that. I don't know even if you can hear me. I don't care. I'm just gonna keep talking. I love you. I need you. Come back to me, little brother. Please come back. Please come back, Michelangelo?"

Exhausted, he dropped his head to his brother's chest, shifting until his head lay on Michelangelo's left shoulder. A funny feeling was filling his head. He thought he heard his name, like a breath on a wind. He was tired.

He hadn't noticed Leonardo and Donatello in the doorway, who had heard everything, and were keeping each other from collapsing.


Michelangelo ran until his abdomen ached. He fell forward and crashed to the ground, panting, pain stabbing through his sides. A shining, glimmering thing caught his eye. He staggered to his feet and looked up.

"Oh dear god, what is this?" and his breath was lost; words failed. He was shivering again.

It… it looked like a network of branches, of webbing, stretching every direction. Electric currents zipped and zapped everywhere across silver branches. Some of those branches were barely connected, hanging by threads. Some were fully broken. And still the currents moved and jumped, unaware or uncaring that connections weren't there. That there were no pathways. Those branches, those webs, they were pathways, and they were failing. It was horrifying, and horrible. He could feel the web straining to rebuild itself, rerouting away from the obviously broken parts. But there was so much!

"Heey, you beat me here, good on you!" That. Voice. He couldn't do it. He was so tired!

He turned, feeling completely defeated. "What do you want and where am I?"

Subconscious Other Mike was standing barely a foot away, but this time something had changed. The creepiness was gone. He looked… filled out. His skin tone had darkened slightly to a soft tourmaline shade. The gashes and the blackened eyes, they remained. Now there were lightning streaks flashing through those gashes, electric storms appearing and vanishing into a void all over his body. But he looked… less menacing. He smiled, and it wasn't scary. It was just distressing.

"Sorry for scaring you back there," he said, in the same voice. "It's been hard on all of us. I wasted away trying to keep up, you know? I was also pretty angry. You didn't do a fucking thing except sleep and drift and be confused."

"You can't blame me for that!"

"I can and will, because this is my house." It was a command, and it was ferocious. "Look around. Look at my masterpiece. It's been invaded. It's been altered, snapped, switched on and off! Now I need to keep constant watch, I need to keep it from crumbling and shaking and rippling, do you know how tiring that gets?"

Michelangelo nodded, swallowing.

"Do you even know where you are? You're not even supposed to be here!"

"I-" He had a thought. It felt like one of Donnie's lectures. Or one of April's textbooks. He recognized the design from a diagram on neurology. Wait. Wait. This was…

"Is this a neural network?"

"Wow. Got it on the first try. Excellent." Subconscious Other Mike was right by his side, close enough to touch. Michelangelo flinched automatically.

"…this is my neural network." He ignored the sarcastic applause. "Something must be changing my brain around. It looks like… it looks like room is being made for something new. But it's hurting other parts, so… so those parts need to be, um…" he strained to remember April's textbooks, "rerouted, reconnected in other ways. It's shaking up the whole network." He snapped his fingers. "Like when a virus is introduced and the body sees it as an invader and tries to fight it!" There was impressed silence. "Or… or organ transplant, same thing. The body needs to grow and adapt cells to form around the new organ so the body doesn't try to reject it. So. So my brain is both trying to embrace this new thing in my neural network and at the same time it doesn't know what it is, so it's like 'get the fuck out of my house' and that's why…"

Blanching, he dropped to his knees, dizzy. "I've been in a coma. Really deep. Because my brain is trying to work around this thing. Is that what that weird stone was? The glowy thing? Is it… is it inside me now? Trying to bind to my… my… my receptors? Is it trying to become part of my neural network permanently? Shit, is it gonna kill me?"

A cold hand on his shoulder. "If it was going to kill you, it already would have. As it were, you've temporarily died twice. And that was from the poison and the stab wounds, not the M'Kari energy."

"Em Kari…I feel like I should know that word."

"Some people think that racial and cultural memories are passed down through DNA. Some people have gotten organ transplants that let them experience the memories of a dead person. The medical stones used by the M'Kari to help boost their psionic powers were very unique in structure, very… adaptive. Augmentative. You are one of the few cases in the entire galaxy, in thousands of years, to be a different species and be… selected… by the medical stones. They reached for your disabled psionic center. They realized you didn't even have a regular one. So, they just assumed you'd lost yours entirely."

Michelangelo nodded, chilled to the bone. "Like… like nanobots. They build me a new web."

"And I have been solely responsible for keeping your entire network intact while that happens. That is also why you've been having seizures, beyond the poison, which at this point probably doesn't really matter. The temporal lobe, the pineal gland, the amygdala, the limbic system. They will all be directly affected by this."

Michelangelo understood every word. He blinked. Usually when Donnie, or even April, started speaking science, he tuned them out. But this science was about him, his own brain. Somehow, everything was translating. Hah! he thought. I am so not stupid, I am not an idiot!

Other Mike laughed. "They need to stop calling you that. First of all, it's an insult to people with learning disabilities. Second, it makes no sense. Your mind works in wild patterns and embraces the art of unpredictability but there are patterns even in the most unpredictable chaos. You recognize those patterns naturally. You are the chaos center in the expanse of order and that's what I need to keep us going." He walked over to the giant shimmering branching web and gently touched a strand, which Michelangelo suddenly knew was a dendrite. Bright energy passed from Other Mike's hand to the dendrite and zipped across the web, which seemed to strengthen it. Axons seemed to stretch and search. In response, various neurons flashed in ways he knew were not right. Red, blue, yellow, white… what the hell? His heart hammered in his chest. The entire web rippled, the way the koi pond had rippled in his dream of Tang Shen…

It was happening everywhere. Horror flooded him. No. No. No. He had to do something. He had to fix this somehow!

"You can't fix it," his subconscious self said sadly. "Only I can."

Michelangelo stared at him, wringing his hands. Other Mike looked drained and fatigued, more like the creature he had seen earlier. "But you're weakening! There's gotta be something I can help with. What… what if I linked to you and gave you some strength or something?"

A raspy laugh, a cough. "You? Mister Three Month Coma? Really?"

He paused. Three months?

Three months.

But… that should have been enough time to start making progress in recovery, right? Right?

He took a deep breath. "Look. You know me. Us. Well enough. You know I can't give up. I don't want to stay in this coma. I don't want to die. I'm trained in ki, remember? Mega Meditation? I might not have the attention span or the patience, but my whole life has been about this, dude."

Those blackened eyes gazed at him. Electricity flashed in them. And then he realized.

There were no eyes. No eyes at all. Just empty sockets, with scars branching out just like…

Just like dendrites.

Holy fucking fuck.

His Subconscious Neural Self was directly linked to the strength and power of his neural network. Those gashes and scars represented every time he had been wounded in battle, every concussion. Every time his brain had to work to mend his body, his network had worked steadily, and his Other had taken the damage to make sure nothing else did. That was why electrical currents surged through those open black wounds.

He felt so cold.

"Very well," Neural Mike said, and held out his right hand. "You're the spiritual Ninja."

Michelangelo grasped it. Master Splinter. Raph. Donnie. Leo. Give me strength. I love you.

A violent surge of force and blinding energy crashed into him, cutting off his breath and sending his heart into a frenzy. He heard himself screaming, echoed, maybe it was both of them. Electricity crackled and crashed above him. He heard words and phrases he somehow understood, like saltatory conduction and signal connecting to the wrong place and blocked transmitters and then, after a very long time, the energy released him.

Gulping in air, Michelangelo fell on his hands and knees. He looked up. Neural Mike, though, was still standing, facing the network, arms thrust out like a conductor during a powerful concert. And it was a concert. Those colors, they kept flashing. But this time, parts were connecting in new and unusual ways. Sections broke off and reformed elsewhere. Axons glowed and electrical impulses leapt and danced, but patterns had altered. The whole web was different. Branches had grown smaller branches, connecting to each other dizzily. He got to his feet, wobbling. It was magnificent. He couldn't speak.

Neural Mike whispered, "Thank you. This is awesome."

Wetting his mouth, Michelangelo swayed in awe. "What… what does this mean?"

Smiling, Neural Mike closed his eyelids, and opened them, and while the sockets remained empty, the depths of darkness seemed… less deep and less dark. Light flashed. "It means we will be okay." He looked over at Michelangelo. He nodded. "Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Time to go now."

Michelangelo felt a strong wind push him backwards, lift him upwards, spin him in all directions. Bursts of light everywhere, pounding in his ears. He shut his eyes, unafraid and calm. Whatever was happening, of course it was a good thing!


Raphael blinked away another nap, hours and hours later, wondering why he felt so tired. Wait. No. Wait. He sat up. No, he felt energized. Like something had flowed through him and connected somewhere important. He looked up at Leonardo and Donatello on the other side of the bed. He looked at Michelangelo, again under the oxygen mask, pallor gone and complexion normal. Wait, hadn't the heart monitor been beeping like crazy? Hadn't the oxygen mask been working twice as hard? What happened?

His brothers had the exact same confusion on their faces.

Something started happening. Something-

Mikey's hand twitched in his.

Raph jumped, letting out a yelp. He held up his tightening grip to show the others.

More twitching. The hand in his turned and began to squeeze back.

As one, Leonardo and Donatello screamed, "MIKEY!"

None of them could breathe. As Donnie ran a hand down a pale cheek and lovingly removed the mask, Leonardo grabbed his baby brother's hand and held it tight. Don grabbed a pen light and lifted each eyelid. "Oh my god. There's a response. You guys. Holy fuck."

Trembling, Donatello pressed his hand against his brother's forehead. "Mikey? Mikey? Can you hear me? It's Donnie. Please. Can you… can you hear me?"

A low, soft groan filled the air. Tears were already in Donatello's eyes. "That's it. That's it. Come on, Mikey, wake up. Come back to us."

The others were squeezing Michelangelo's hands as hard as they could. He was squeezing back. Leonardo squeaked. He was squeezing back! Both hands!

Michelangelo groaned again, and Raphael trembled from head to toe.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, Michelangelo's eyelids lifted, revealing brilliantly bright blue topaz, like the clearest summer sky, shimmering, glimmering, tearful.

"…h…hey…"

They all burst into tears. Raphael flung his arms around Mikey's shoulders, great gasping sobs tearing through him.

"R-Raph… heeey… iit's… okay…" Michelangelo couldn't really move his arms, but it didn't matter. Only one thing mattered.

As Leonardo planted frantic kisses against Mikey's hand, then head, Donatello, dizzy and joyful, spun and screamed for the others, screaming that Mikey was awake. He barely cared who heard him. "Mikey…" he turned to his baby brother, holding his face in his hands. "You're gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay. We're here. We love you."

Michelangelo smiled, and it was the Mikey Smile, the one that made the sun shine even when there was no sun in sight.

A careful breath, like a whisper. "Hi, Donnie. Hi... Leo. Hi, Raph. I love... you too…" And that soft, sweet, raspy voice was the most beautiful sound in the whole universe.

Chapter Text

 


April hadn't stopped crying, her body draped over him, head under his chin. It had taken most of his energy talking to his brothers, so he just kept his bandaged arms around her small form and held her, wanting to speak but managing only sighs. That was tiring, too. Everything made him so tired. Keeping his eyes open was a struggle. But he did it because he needed to see them all.

Honeycutt had adjusted the bed so he was in a upward reclining position, which made it much easier for all the hugging. All the hugging. He hadn't had that much touch since he was a kid. He soaked it up like a balm, he held it like a gem, the corners of his mouth quirking up all on their own. It didn't matter that the fatigue was so fierce that he was battling it like an enemy. Their faces mattered. Their smiles. Their chattering and laughing, and yes, crying.

It was hard to talk. He felt so, so heavy. He wanted to sleep. His body wanted to get away from the world. He ignored it.

April hiccuped, mumbled something, before sobbing freshly. He felt her lips move against his neck and the vibration seemed to say that she missed him and she was so sorry and she tried to reach his mind and it was so scary.

Desperate, he lifted his very heavy right hand to drop against her head, feeling her hair slide over his fingers. He drew in a breath, let out a huff. Damn it. Stay awake! Talk to her! Answer her! It's okay, April!

April, stop. It's okay. It's okay, sis. You're awesome.

He felt her entire body stiffen, felt shock roll off her and tickle against him.

A heartbeat. Then. M-Mike? Was…was that you?

Wait. Was it? How was… how did… was that… did he…?

April? Can you hear me?

…yes. Oh my god, Mikey?

A-April?

Mike? What's happening?

Michelangelo blinked, heavily, and felt, deep down, a vibrating rippling feeling. The exact same ripple over the koi pond, over the changing neural network. His head was buzzing. His head was burning. His breathing quickened a little too much.

Immediately, there was a sharp, irritating beeping sound.

April pulled back her eyes wide, afraid and worried and confused.

Donatello's voice floated from somewhere. "Shit… shit, what happened? What – Mikey, can you hear me? Relax! Slow your breathing! Slow breaths!" Hands gripping his shoulders. What happened? What about his breathing? Oh. Ohhh. He sucked in air, realized it wasn't working right. He felt his body start to shake. Craaap. He gulped in more air, and it was like something was blocking it from inside his chest. He could feel his lungs spasm. He felt his eyes widen. Why couldn't he breathe? What the hell?

His eyes were blurring. No. Wait. Everything around him was blurry. He stretched his neck, tried to sit up more. He couldn't move.

Something was pressed over his face, covering his mouth. Suddenly, air. Air! Air filled his mouth and nose and he sucked it down greedily. "Easy, Mikey, easy." That was Donnie again. "Slow, okay? You're displaying signs of an anxiety attack, so you need to go slow. You're shaking. Slow breaths will help. I'm right here. I'm holding on to you."

Anxiety attack? What? No, no, it… wait…

Was it? Was he freaking out because he got telepathic at April? Was what Neural Mike said true? The M'Kari, the psionic web. Was he… did he have alien organic tech in his brain? Because of that funny green rock? Was he…was he psionic? Psychic? Holy shit. Holy shit! He was a superhero! He had superpowers! Gods and Buddha, he – okay, calm down, Mikey. They don't know anything. Go easy, right? He kept gulping in wonderful oxygen. He felt his body stop shaking. Someone was talking to him. He blinked. He followed the sound. He was looking straight into Donnie's eyes, which had gone huge and glimmery. Something told him that it would help, so he kept looking at Donnie, looking at Donnie, who was now smiling. "That's it, Mikey, keep looking at me. Okay, okay, we're good. I'm going to take away the oxygen now. Okay? Keep taking slow breaths."

Michelangelo was blinking, struggling to soothe his brain even as his body felt like stone. As the mask was removed from his face, he let out a strangled whimper that felt way too loud and long to his ears. Breathe, you buttface! he commanded his body. Stop whining! STOP IT!

Somewhere, glass exploded. He exhaled. Someone yelped. Voices in confusion. "What the fuck was that?" "One of the beakers just exploded!" "By itself? Are you kidding?"

A hand on his cheek. He looked. It was April. She was pale, mouth half open. It hit him. No! Please don't say anything! before he could stop himself. His mental voice was loud and bouncing in his head. April frowned, then nodded. She saw that he was afraid. He just woke up! This wasn't right! Was it a dream? Was he still asleep? He saw her reassuring smile. No, this was real, and he was awake. He was so tired.

Another whimper. Was that the only noise he could make right now? He lay against the pillow, staring at the ceiling. He had a headache. It was moving fast, everywhere, worst on his right side. He pressed his hand against his right eye. The world was too bright, too fast, too sharp, tasted too weird, felt too hot. He felt too hot. He could barely move, his breath was coming too fast, his heart was racing, he was sweating, he was dizzy-

"Fuck!" Wait, that was Raph. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, Mikey, no, no, look at me, look at me!"

What? Why? What was going on? Someone grabbed both of his wrists. "Mikey, it's okay, just look at me! Shit! Donnie, what do we do? He's… it's another…"

"I know, I know, hang on, I'm prepping the Ativan solution…"

"Hurry! He's tensing up! Mikey!"

"Raph, stop yelling!" That was Leonardo. "It won't help, it's already happening." Leo's voice sounded choked, thick with sudden fear. "Just hold him! Gently!"

He felt his entire body jerk and and completely convulse in a short, single bursting wave. He couldn't see. He couldn't see! A keening sound escaped his throat.

"It's okay, Mikey, it's okay, hang on, hang on…"

A cold swipe against the inside of his elbow. A sharpness. A needle. An injection! "Raph, just hold him, yes, just like that, just keep him from falling off the bed… okay, done, okay, the drug should take hold shortly…"

He felt himself collapse. He felt his eyes drift close. Someone was holding him. He rested his head on their shoulder.

He thought, sluggishly, Don't tell them… but he couldn't remember why, or to whom. Someone responsed. I won't, Michelangelo, not until you're ready. It's all right. You're safe.

The world was gray. His body kept twitching. He wanted it to stop. His brain kept burning. He wanted it to stop. He tried to call for help. Nothing happened. And then, abruptly, Little Mikey, his favorite representation, was standing in front of him, full of sympathy. "It's okay," he said. "Really, you're fine. Um, as it were. Do you still have what I gave you?" Frowning, Michelangelo reached into his pouch for the pentacle ouroborous key charm. "You use that every time you feel scared after the things happen. If you train and strengthen, it'll help you unlock all the parts you need to make the new stuff stop hurting."

Confusion furrowed his brow. "Okay, I really don't understand."

Little Mikey frowned and looked down. "The things, you know… the new parts. What you can do now. The abilities? You haven't gotten them yet. I must have messed up. I should've opened them up more. I'm really sorry."

Michelangelo crouched and opened his arms, embracing his little self. "It's okay, little dude. You didn't do anything wrong." He felt Little Mikey perk up. "I'm just super duper weirded out, okay? I heard April's thoughts. I made a glass bottle break. And I just woke up from a coma, and I am really really tired. It's not your fault. I just need to understand."

Pulling away, the tiny freckled turtle beamed at him. "I can help with that. But first I need to help Neural Mike fix a few things. Just keep that charm on you, it'll really help, I promise!" He grinned, like a light in darkness. Michelangelo grinned back.

The shift was abrupt and it was painful. He gasped like a drowning man, felt all the fear and worry burst like a dam, and couldn't help himself, began crying. He didn't know what he was apologizing for.

"Sshhh, Mikey, it's okay," Leo was saying. He could feel strong arms wrapped around him. "Don't be sorry. It was not your fault. Donnie helped get the seizure under control. You'll be okay now."

A mechanical voice was saying "…let him work it out. Postictal state is highly emotional and exhausting, and a bit painful. I imagine he believes he has done something humiliating. Now, keep in mind that his postictal state could last a couple of days, so-"

"Days? Days? But we just got him back! What if-?"

"That's not gonna happen, Raph. We are going to make sure of that."

He pulled in a deep breath and mumbled, "I'm okay now."

He felt himself laid back against the pillows, still slightly upright. He smiled weakly, meeting each brother's worried eyes with a careful nod. Without warning, Raphael lunged and grabbed him in a ridiculously tight hug. Pressing his cheek to Mikey's neck, Raph drew in shuddering breaths, but didn't speak. Resigned, and relieved, Mikey carefully raised his sore arms and wrapped them around Raph's shoulders. He didn't know how long they stayed that way. He didn't care.

At some point, his body began to feel like stone again. His mouth was dry. "H-hey, Raph?"

"Yah." came the reply.

"You c'n let go of me now."

"Nah."

"I'm thirsty."

A pause.

"Y'got a tube in your stomach and a needle in your arm, giving you fluids."

Relenting, Mikey just nodded and rubbed his head against his brother's. Raph's arms squeezed just a little tighter.

"Dude, are you ever letting go?" Michelangelo joked.

A long pause. He realized that his neck was getting wet. Ohshit, he thought. I didn't mean…

A sniffle. Raphael pulled back but didn't release him. He was smiling. "Nope," he said thickly. "Nope."

Michelangelo grinned. "That's cool." He pulled his exhausted, stone-like arms inward, and his brother pressed against him again, chin on shoulder both ways, and there was gentle silence.


Five days later, a shout rang out from the door to the infirmary.

"PARTY! PAAAARTY! LET'S MOVE, LET'S MOVE!"

Casey's call to action was met with swift response. In the kitchen, food preparations began. In the lab, decorations were made and music was chosen. In the infirmary, comic books, joke books, DVDs, and a small television were carefully set. As the patient and guest of honor directed the placement of everything, he reminded everyone about the strict importance of chocolate liquor in any cake or brownie recipe, how many eggs, how much butter, until a computer tablet was thrust in his hands with a "just write it down already!" huff. Michelangelo griped that it was not fair that he wasn't allowed to cook the cake or any of the food himself, but "that's the point," April reminded him. No crutches or wheelchair yet, either; his body was far too weak. Within those five days, it took two days before he was fully awake and aware and another three before he was able to move on his own and speak completely without fatigue. The G tube was removed and he got his first drink of plain water. But he was still confined.

He bemoaned such boring fate and settled for slinging around neon rubber bands from the bed until each imaginary target was perfectly struck.

Plus some non-imaginary targets.

"Ya know," said Raphael, rubbing the back of his head, "the minute you're well enough, we are having the biggest rubber band battle in history."

Michelangelo waved a finger. "Don't make promises you can't keep!"

Grinning Raph gripped the sides of the bed and said slowly, "Paint. Filled. Balloons."

"Ooohhhhhh, bro! You are so ON! You are gonna be pink and yellow in places you didn't think possible!"

"That's what you think. Booyakasha, motherfucker."

"Hey! No fair!"

"I will get you so hard there will paint in your ears, Mikey."

"You'll have to catch me first, Pinky."

They were nose to nose. A throat cleared nearby.

"If you two are done making threats for activities several months in advance," Donatello said, "we need to know precisely how much of that chocolate liquor goes into the cake mix."

Michelangelo rolled his eyes. "Dude, I wrote everything down exactly!"

"That's the thing, Mikey, you cook by feel, not exact measurements! A 'slosh' tells me nothing."

"Dude, it… it's a slosh! A splash! A… a giant sip?"

"I got it," Raph said, winking at him. He followed Donnie back out to the kitchen. Michelangelo could hear light-hearted arguing. No. No. Not just hear – he could feel it. A cool rush of… of something, shifting tightly over his skin, like a crisp breeze penetrating a layer of skin and flowing through his whole body. It felt amazing. He assumed it to be dopamine, like Donnie had lectured once. But no, this was beyond basic neurotransmitters. This was more. This was extreme. This was abnormal. It was-

Alien.

Yes.

Michelangelo's hand automatically reached for the bedside table, where his gear was, and went for his belt pouch.

There was something solid in there.

What…?

His fingers brushed against a familiar circle of gold. He felt the ridges of the snake head, the lines of the stars, and there, the tiny tiny key.

Holy shit.

His subconscious Little Mikey wasn't kidding.

And this was the real world. The woke-up world.

Son of a snapper, his life was never going to be the same, was it?


The food was brought in. To the tune of "Happy Birthday" they sang "Happy No Coma" and Mikey covered his face with both hands, groaning. April helped him cut the cake, chocolate with vanilla icing. He ate his slice shakily, nodding, complimenting the group effort. Raphael's smirk and wink, and the tang on his tongue, informed him of exactly how Raph had "got it". He wasn't sure if the others could taste it, but he found himself picking apart each ingredient on his tongue, in his nose, at the back of his throat. That was what made a good chef into a great chef, after all, but this was much different. This was powerful. This was not normal.

Ah, there it is again. Yay, I guess?

Sitting next to him, deliberately, April paused with her fork halfway to her mouth, and glanced at him. He subtly shook his head and pressed his finger to his mouth. She rolled her eyes.

Seriously, April?

Her eyes narrowed. Seriously, Mikey? I'm bursting here! I feel all alone, and aren't you the guy with no attention span who can barely keep a secret?

Yeah! But—but come on, this is so weird, dude!

Mikey! They already suspect!

Wait, wait. Wait. Wha?

She explained what they had told her after they had returned from the planet Cadran, after meeting Sirra.

Michelangelo lowered his nearly-finished plate to his lap. He swallowed. A surge of clashing emotions made him feel both cold and hot. The home planet of the Alchemist. The former home planet of the M'Kari. The stones. The psionics.

Yeah, okay, but... like… I haven't even done anything!

But you will!

How the hell do you know?

Because I can sense it, silly!

Michelangelo sighed plaintively. Immediately, he was accosted by a roaming Donatello. "What? What is it? Are you hurting? Can you breathe okay? How's your heart?"

"Donnie, stop, I-"

"Lemme just check your pulse. Are you done eating this? Do you want anything else? Are you even hungry?"

"I said STOP!"

The television flickered off. The stack of comic books crashed to the floor messily. Several DVDs flew into the wall.

Nobody moved. Eyes, all wide, were fixed on him.

"God DAMN IT," he seethed hoarsely.

"Okay, Mikey," April said, "what do you think now?"

All eyes turned to her. Then back to him.

Michelangelo pinched his eyes shut. A headache was forming. His head felt raw. "Yeah, okay. I'll tell them."

Donatello blinked. "About?"

Michelangelo looked at him, then his other brothers, already fatigued. "Yeah. I'm totally psionic."

Donatello blinked again. "…oh. Well, shit."

April kissed Mikey's cheek and hugged him. "See? Was that so bad?"

"Huh?" Donnie looked at them back and forth. "Oh!" she chirped. "We were communicating telepathically."

Donnie's eyes bulged. "Oh."

"Really?" Leonardo scrambled out of his chair. "Seriously? Sirra was right? Holy crap, Mikey!"

Raphael, frowning, was quickly standing over him, head cocked. Michelangelo stared up at him frowning. "What, Raph?"

"Read my mind."

Blink. "I…I can't. I mean… it doesn't… work like that? I can't hear anything. I-I think… maybe I need to reach for it? Or you need to think it at me?" He glanced at April, desperate. She frowned. "Yeah, I think that might be it. Raph, try thinking something loudly. A single word, or a phrase."

Michelangelo nodded hesitantly, at Raphael. "Yeah, that. Just try a-"

MELTED CAT.

"FUCK! Raph! Gaahh, not so LOUD. I get it, melted cat, I get it!" Michelangelo gripped his head with both hands, suddenly dizzy. Donnie's fingers were pressing into his wrist, Raphael was instantly apologizing, hands enfolding his against his temples. His head was ringing. His brain was too hot again. He shut his eyes.

"-ou okay? Shit, Mikey, I didn't… I'm so sorry, I didn't mean…"

"Raph, back away, I need to-"

"What the fuck was-"

"Leo, calm down!"

"April, stop pulling me!"

Words and lights and colors burst, and then… gone. Done. Hesitantly, he opened his eyes.

A pen light shone in his eyes. He was too confused to react, so he just let it happen. At his left, he could hear Raphael apologizing softly. He couldn't speak. He couldn't think straight.

Raph, it's okay. Stop apologizing!

"Wh-what? What did you say?"

"Raph, nobody said anything."

"No, Donnie, not you! Mikey! He told me to stop apologizing!"

Well, that does work, after all.

"Raph, Mikey hasn't said anything. See how he's shaking?"

"No! Not like that! Like… in my head. I… heard him. In my head."

A long pause. Michelangelo carefully adjusted and managed to stop his vision from blurring and bouncing. His brothers, April, and Casey were staring at Raphael, then at each other, then at him. Internally, he sighed. If he didn't do something, this was going to keep happening, and it was going to get frustrating pretty quickly.

So.

"Hey, guys?"

They all blinked at him.

"Can I… can I have a few minutes alone? Like, by myself? Please? I need to figure out some things."

Hesitation and worry rippled through the room and bounced against him, setting his teeth on edge. He could feel all of it. It was so much. Nobody was moving. Uncertainty and confusion rolled over him from all sides, outside of him, coming at him in broad waves. He felt his heart pound faster.

"Please, guys? Just a few minutes."

They all began to back toward the doorway. Except Raph. He was holding Mike's hand and staring into his eyes with an intensity that made Mikey pull back inside. He met his brother's stare without wavering. "Raph. I will call you back in when I'm ready. I promise."

When Raphael spoke, his voice was sleek obsidian, heavy and shining with intent. "I told you I wasn't letting go."

"I know. But I really need some time for myself. I'll stay awake. If that's what's worrying you, I'll just meditate. I swear. Come on. Raph."

"I read books to you. I talked to you every day."

He felt tears at the edges of his eyes. "I dreamed about that. I dreamed your voice."

"So you did hear me…"

"Raph. It'll be okay. I'm not going anywhere. I won't. I'm never leaving you. Please." He squeezed his hand as tight as he could.

Raphael hummed and stood absolutely straight. "All right."

Mikey smiled. "Thank you," he breathed.

"But! If anything goes weird, anything, you… you call out. I'll tell April to, um…"

"I get it, bro."

"Okay…" slowly, Raphael backed toward the doorway. Once last long look, and he left, shutting the door slowly.

With a huge, heavy sigh, Michelangelo pushed himself deeper into the pillows. This was already complicated.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve


Michelangelo found himself wondering if he should at least call for Dr Honeycutt to keep the oxygen mask on hand. He was starting to panic. Just a little. He was alone. He had wanted this. He had asked for this! He had probably hurt Raphael's feelings. Probably? Who's the empath here? Oh gods and Buddha, this was too confusing. What was he doing? What was happening to him? It was too fast. This was too fast! But it had been three months. But he just woke up! Five days ago. But shouldn't he at least be a little stronger? Leo woke up after three months in a fucking bathtub, put on his gear, and ran out into the damn woods to battle a freaky plant monster!

Leo hadn't tangled with The Alchemist.

But. Leo had tangled with The Shredder.

And. And. And. Gyargh! His head hurt so much. Okay. Okay, Mikester, think. You told them just a few minutes, right? You told Raph you would meditate. Okay. Do something.

Do WHAT? Be telepathic at myself?

He blinked. Wait. Waaait. No no, there was a better idea, yes. This telepathy thing wasn't much. It seemed pretty limited. The empathy thing, that felt fairly developed. But the telekinesis thing. Oooh. Yeah, he could play with that.

Straightening, centering himself, Mikey held out his arms, palms forward. He closed his eyes and began to meditate.

See, he had never enjoyed meditating. Sure, he could barely sit still, could barely focus his thoughts. But that was the thing. The way his family did it… that was just one way. He read books on it. There were lots of ways to meditate. You could do it standing up. You could do it moving around. Dancing. Even fighting! April's dad once told him that a lot of people with ADHD meditated while fidgeting and moving around, that dancing really was their meditation.

Mikey couldn't dance right now. He couldn't stand. He could barely move. His legs screamed with pain even though he didn't move them. His left thigh felt like it was covered in bees wielding tiny knives. From the inside.

He took a deep breath. He tapped his toes. He played music in his head – one of the techno songs from the party. It was called "Wide Open", it was The Chemical Brothers, and he found himself recalling the entire thing in his head. It was a slow, deep beating rhythm. His feet moved. He let his hands do whatever they wanted, sweeping like small birds and curling and flaring and his fingers were tapping and dancing, and his wrists were twisting, and his forearms were moving, and he was a conductor at a silent concert, and suddenly his mind went totally, absolutely still.

In that complete stillness, things stirred.

"Slow me down, it's getting away from me…"

That was the song. But that was also him. No. It WAS the song. On the MP3 player. It was playing. It was playing! Yes! Good! Okay!

His thoughts stirred like leaves in the wind. He turned them silent. He brought his arms inward, positioned them, flowed outward, a crippled kata.

Something was happening. There was a very heavy weight in his mind, and it kept pressing and growing. He had to keep it afloat, he had to keep it moving. Keep dancing. He continued his upper body kata. He felt his torso move, like when April had taken his hands and danced from the waist up. He thought of the wind when it was cool and cutting. Of the water when it was swift and rushing. Of the earth when it was rumbling and bursting. Of the fire when it was roaring and snapping. Inside his mind, he rolled them into a sphere of force. Very carefully, he leaned in and breathed Spirit, Essence, Energy, into the center of that sphere. He brought his palms together and dropped his head to his chest.

Bringing his arms in until his fingertips touched his mouth, Michelangelo murmured, "Issho ni!" and mentally commanded, Come together!

The heaviness in his head lifted. Something gently brushed his upper arm. Cautiously, he opened his eyes.

Everything in the room was floating around him.

Well, everything light enough for him to physically lift. Which was a lot.

He blinked. DVDs, one of which had bumped against him. The television. Comic books and novels, fluttering softly like wings. Medical equipment!

Ah, crap! He quickly pushed those back where they belonged. No more glass breaking, Donnie would be so mad! He looked around, grinning. So far, so good! Okay! Yay! Except.

Except the headache. And the weird tingling all over his body. Was it neurotransmitters again? He remembered tripping. He remembered Casey talking about what LSD did to serotonin and dopamine. It felt so long ago, but it felt like yesterday. He realized his heart was pounding, making that damn machine beep harder. He wasn't ready to stop, he wasn't ready to let the others see. Shut up, machine! Slow down, heart! His breathing was ragged. Shit. Shit. He couldn't help it. This wasn't good. He needed more time!

Calm down, kiddo, he thought. Just - just calm down. Um. Meditate more? Do the thing with the kata? He gulped, feeling his chest burn. No! He had to control this! It was working! What had Little Mikey said? He couldn't remember. The pentacle! In his pouch! He pulled his hands apart and looked around for his belt. There. Someone had put his belt on the bedside table. He leaned over, reaching, and he felt his mind clench, actually clench, trying to keep the telekinesis – the whatever – active. Things were still in the air, lazily circling. Okay, okay, that was good. Just keep the focus.

He found his pouch, he grabbed the pentacle in his left hand and gripped the hell out of it. Deep breaths, deep breaths. He felt his mind, his spiritual hands, reach for the charm. The instant there was a connection, his body and mind jolted and energy flooded up his arm, through his head, down his other side and everywhere. He clasped the pentacle in both hands, gritted his teeth, shut his eyes, and tried not to cry out. Something inside his brain started twisting and turning. It hurt. It hurt like a pulled muscle, like a weak muscle limp from disuse being yanked at, being forced to move. He had no idea what to do. He just kept breathing, hoping this new energy knew what it was doing. He felt like an infant trying to walk. Tears, hot and salty, were streaming down his face. Everything hurt. It felt like electric currents up and down his whole body, like tiny shocks deep deep down. His skull was vibrating. Little Mikey didn't say anything about this. Why was it hurting so much? He almost cried out… and then an image formed. The sphere of elements, including spirit. Wait a minute.

The pentacle, the five points. He had read enough comics and seen enough paranormal shows to know that they represented earth, fire, wind, water, and spirit. The snake devouring its tail, the orobouros, the symbol for infinity or eternity. A key, representing entrance and exit, the power to lock oneself in and out. Oh, Little Mikey, you are very clever. Fistbump when I see you, little dude!

Michelangelo held the image of that sphere in his mind. Above it, he conjured an image of the charm, and then lowered the charm, key first, into the elemental sphere.

Colored light, white noise, vibrating sensation, a sweet taste, a metallic smell. It all exploded, and imploded, and he felt his whole body become weightless. Still holding the charm in both hands under his chin, Mikey held his breath and hoped he wasn't killing himself.


"Okay," Raphael said, "time's up, I'm goin' back in."

They had been sitting in the kitchen, and half an hour had passed, at Leonardo's insistence. Several times, Raphael had asked April to "intuit or whatever" what was happening in the infirmary, and after the fifth, "No, Raph, he's fine" or "No, Raph, I'm not invading his privacy" she had stood and fixed him with a glare so fierce he had slunk low in his chair, prompting laughter from Donatello and Casey.

"Seriously, though," Donatello said, "I am certain that Mikey is totally fi-"

There came a crash from the obvious direction.

Raphael stood up, his hands flat on the table. "Objections?" Everyone was quiet. Raph turned and sprinted for the infirmary, the others, plus Honeycutt, quick to follow.


Raphael stood motionless in the doorway, mouth wide open, eyes bulging, thoughts screeched to a halt.

He had been prepared for many things. This was none of those.

A vast majority of objects were hovering several feet in the air, slowly turning and rotating. On the bed itself, his little brother was also hovering a few inches in the air, hands clasped under his bent head, his skin slick with sweat, face covered in tears, a faint blue glow shimmering off of his skin and extending around two inches from his body, like an aura. His legs were straight out, his torso was straight up, he looked deep in meditation, and the monitors were going wild.

Raph felt someone bump into his shell and mutter "Holy fucking what…" It sounded like Leonardo.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Donatello move forward very slowly, mimicking their ninja ways of sneaking on potentially explosive things. Donnie's face mirrored his own. His arms were out, palms up, as though prepared to catch anything that fell. Then what had been the crashing thing?

Raph's eyes quickly darted around the room, and there, in the corner: a heavy metal rack, probably an IV stand, was on the floor, bent in half. He gulped. Those things were heavy.

He looked back at the source. Michelangelo appeared both tranquil and distressed. But the heart monitor had dropped from "practically tachycardia" to "practically bradycardia" fairly quickly. His breathing was ragged and labored. His muscles were spasming. He looked both exhausted and elated, at least according to the strange smile on his face. And he was floating. Floating.

Raphael shifted his gaze to Donatello, whose face carried a huge mix of emotions that seemed ready to cause a brain explosion. Here was an incredible defiance of science in all its forms, a visible, tangible denial of logic and rationality and reason and explanation. And yet there were entire alien cultures and civilizations that relied on it as their own science. And yet, it couldn't be science, it couldn't be measured. And yet here it was. It could be measured. Right now. It was right there. Seeing. Hearing. Touching. Tasting Smelling. Everything considered pseudoscience was suddenly actual real science.

On instinct, Raphael moved up to stand behind his shaking brother, right as Donatello swayed backward. "I know, right?" he whispered, "doesn't it just blow your fucking mind?"

"It-it…" Donatello just stammered. "He… this… what… how…"

"Easy, brainiac. Don't blow those valuable brain cells, we're gonna need them."

Drawing in a huge breath, Donatello nodded. "Right. Mutants. Aliens. Space ships. Leo turning into you. Our baby brother displaying telekinesis days after emerging from a coma. Everything is possible."

"Hey-!" from behind them.

Donnie straightened, exhaling deeply. He looked, almost helplessly, at Raph. "I literally have no idea what to do."

Raphael bit his lip. "Maybe start with making him come down, I guess?"

Leonardo stepped forward. Raphael glanced, and did a double take. Leo's posture was totally relaxed, his face serene, his eyes soft and calm. It looked as if he were meditating with his eyes open. He casually walked to the bed like it was an everyday thing, a hovering brother. As if in slow motion, Raphael watched Leonardo put his hand out and touch Michelangelo's right wrist. "Mikey," he said softly.

Michelangelo's eyes snapped open. They were glowing. He sucked in a breath. He dropped like dead weight and slammed into the mattress. Every floating thing fell to the floor in a chorus of plastic and metal. At the last second, Casey dived for the television and grabbed it an inch from the floor.

Mikey's blue glow vanished. His hands fell, limply, to his lap, and if he had been holding anything, it had fallen to the side. Leonardo's hand encircled his wrist and Leo himself remained perfectly still, not even flinching as Mikey's limbs spasmed once and he slumped against the pillows. Confusion filled his eyes as he turned his head. "Leo?"

Leo smiled. "Hi, Mikey. You okay?"

Blinking rapidly, Michelangelo smiled tiredly. "Yeah. I think so." Leonardo's hand moved from his wrist to his palm, and Michelangelo wrapped his fingers around Leo's hand, looking grateful. Raphael felt his eyes narrow and made himself shake it off.

"So," Leo was saying. "That was… interesting."

"Was it?" Mikey asked. "I guess I was busy."

"Apparently. Are you sure you feel okay?"

After a long pause, Michelangelo shook his head, his baby blue eyes filling with pain and worry. "Not sure at all, big bro. I think… I think it worked, but now I just feel weird, and there's funny stuff in my head." He looked horribly sad and fatigued, and Raphael's heart strained. He felt himself move, and he was at Mikey's left side, hand on his shoulder. Michelangelo slowly flopped his head over to look at him, and the exhausted, pain-filled smile broke Raph's heart. Mikey just sighed. "S'okay, Raph. I just need… time. I guess." Raphael just nodded, his breath caught.

Michelangelo lifted his head. "Hey, Donnie, you can move now. The weird X-Files stuff stopped."

Raphael watched Donatello shake himself and hurry to the bed, expertly checking machines and wires, asking rapid-fire questions that Mikey answered promptly. And then, Michelangelo just held out his arms. Donatello's eyes filled with exhausted relief. His body fell into his brother's arms.

Raph decided it was a good idea to join them. When he felt Leo pressed in, he just smiled a little wider.

When Michelangelo's body began shaking, trembling, and jerking, Raphael was almost prepared. They kept their huddle tight, timed their breathing together.

"It's okay," Mikey managed to gasp out. "Just… need a… minute… just…" as his teeth chattered and he shivered, and they tightened their grip but not too tight, pouring their spiritual strength into their youngest brother, and that single convulsion had Don and Leo both putting gentle hands on the back of Mikey's neck just in case with Raph running his arms up and down Mikey's upper arms in a gentle rhythm; and almost one minute later, Mikey let out a distressed sigh and his whole body loosened, falling into their arms, which supported and embraced and stroked and loved, and lay him down and made sure he was comfortable; and Don had a cool damp rag for his forehead, and Raph had water mixed with an electrolyte drink that Honeycutt had prepared, and Leo had a personal set of instructions for breathing through the postictal state… and in the doorway, two humans and a robot stood and stared and decided that their whole lives had completely, permanently changed.

Half-hidden under the pillow, a small golden object gleamed.


(Author's note: This was a really fun chapter to write! And it's going to get even more fun once Mikey starts training with telekinesis.)

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen


Three months of coma, three months since awakening.

For the first time in six months, Leonardo felt really alive. He was smiling. He struck hero poses, like Captain Ryan on "Space Heroes". He laughed. He danced. (He danced in the showers.) He sparred and fought in the holodeck simulations with proud force. He barely picked fights with Raphael, who began doing it to him just for kicks.

Twelve weeks after Michelangelo came out of his coma, Leonardo sat in his bedroom, meditating, smiling. He heard the door open slightly and cracked one eye open. "Hey, April! Is it time?"

The door opened fully, and April, with a wide grin, gestured with a very silly bow and a sweep of her arm. "Your student is ready, sensei!" and then she burst into giggles.

"It's not that funny!" Leo stood, pretending to grump and sulk. He put on a fake pout. It only made her laugh harder.

As they slowly walked out, taking their time he said, "I mean, I really am, if this is what's happening, but it's only the second time. So I guess this is like the part of the second day of school where the teacher and students are still learning the curriculum?"

"Well, in your student's case, we as teachers are the ones learning the majority of the curriculum. I guess. Maybe you're supplying the wisdom and guidance part and I'm providing the literal support?"

Leonardo nodded. "I like that. I could write that on the white board."

She stopped, tilted her head. "You have a white board?"

"Well, Donnie has his, I'm sure we can find another…"

"You're serious!"

He shrugged dramatically. "April, I'm just going on gut instinct! I have no idea what we're doing. But what I do know is that this sort of thing needs precise control and balance, and like any martial art – or extreme ability – it needs to be guided. And I have no clue when we'll get back to Earth so we can reunite with Spl…" He paused. He sighed.

She squeezed his arm. "It's okay, Leo."

"Yeah." Exhaling, then rolling his neck, he put on a smile. "Let's play mind games!"

As they walked into the infirmary, they heard a very bored, and very grateful, "Took you long enough! I watched that new episode of Space Heroes, Leo!"

"Don't spoil it for me!" Leonardo said quickly as they walked into the room. All the lights were on, and electronica was coming from the MP3 player. Michelangelo grinned widely, waving both arms. The bandages were all gone, and the sutures had either dissolved or gotten removed. Every scar was painfully visible, but they could handle that. No more IV tubes or needles, although the oxygen was close by and the heart monitor was still connected. His eyes were bright. Leonardo felt his chest constrict. Oh, this was such a welcome sight. Hugs were exchanged. April asked if he had eaten. Mike said that Casey had made mushroom pizza, which the two had eaten over a discussion about the other kind of mushroom and it's particular "fun."

Leo and April pulled up chairs. "Okay," April said. "This is your classroom, Mikey. We're just here to help. What are we doing today?"

Nodding, Michelangelo wriggled his fingers and toes, took a sip of his electrolyte drink, then held up one finger with a flourish. "First! I have something to show you."

"Show and tell already, I love it!"

"Actually, yeah, April, you probably will. Can someone grab my pouch off my belt?"

Leonardo did so and handed it to him.

"Okay." Wiggling his fingers, Mikey reached into the pouch. "Now, keep in mind that there hasn't been anything in here for three months, right? So, voila!" He pulled out his hand, opened it, and Leonardo felt his eyes widen. April gasped. "Oh, Mikey, it's beautiful!"

It looked like a charm, a piece of jewelry. It fit neatly in Michelangelo's palm. A pentacle, surrounded by an ouroborous, with a short key sticking out of one point out the circle. It seemed to be made of gold. "Where did it come from?"

"Here," and Michelangelo tapped his forehead, "literally, my subconscious selves gave it to me, and it wound up manifesting in the real world. Neat, huh?"

April took it carefully in both hands, a huge grin on her face. "Wow!"

"Well, that is definitely something we can talk about," Leonardo said. "I know you briefly talked about being inside your mind, and you mentioned Little Mikey. Did he give it to you?"

Mikey nodded. "I guess he and Neural Mike thought it would come in handy."

"Who? Did you say… Neural?"

"Oh! Yeah. Uh. I'd… rather not talk about him. Yet. But I really did wanna start with what this pentacle does." Michelangelo's eyes skipped nervously between him and the pentacle, at which April was still staring, entranced. Leo frowned. He didn't recall meeting a character like that when Honeycutt had sent them into Mikey's mind after the Neutrino incident. But then again, maybe they hadn't met all of his personality traits and inner selves.

"So?" April asked excitedly, almost bouncing.

"Okay. So, according to Little Mikey, the talisman was a way for me to help control the, well, the side effects of using the psionics. He didn't really explain much, but I figured out that in most cases, pentacles usually represent forces of nature."

Leo nodded as April gave him the charm. "Like fire, water, earth, air, spirit."

"Right. With the snake biting its tail, the ouroborous, representing infinity, and the key representing doors and spaces."

April tapped her lower lip thoughtfully. "All right. So, you could essentially use this talisman as a guide, or something to ground you, as you gather up your… your inner strength and force, unlocking or locking parts of the psionics as you go, with the ouroborous representing the fact that it's always going to be there?"

The two turtles blinked at her. "Yeah. That." Mikey smiled. Leonardo inspected the talisman, which was sturdy and might look good hanging from a chain. "You know," he said, "I bet we could put a rope or pendant chain through this, you could wear it around your neck while you practice."

"That's a good idea," April said. "I don't think I have any necklace chains that would fit you, Mikey, but there's plenty of smooth rope material." Michelangelo nodded happily.

"Anyway," Mikey said, "I'll be holding this during our session, just so you know. You'll have to tell me if this one does anything weird, because I'll have psychic the version in my head, and that's already linked up with this awesome element ball of energy I made."

"Got it," they both said. Leo handed him the talisman, which Mikey gripped in his left hand. April took his right hand in both of hers. They looked at Leo expectantly.

Leonardo took a deep breath and smiled reassuringly. Back when they had first walked in on Mikey's initial display of telekinesis, Leo had swiftly managed to bring his own feelings and reactions under control, forcing himself to pretend it was basically a very odd meditation session, which helped immensely when Mikey needed help at the end. It had given April the idea that Leo could potentially be his tutor, the way Splinter had tutored Leonardo in spiritual and metaphysical matters. Actually actual psychic powers that forcibly defied and denied laws of physics and nature, however, were a little out of his league; so a long talk with April, Dr Honeycutt, and Michelangelo had convinced him that he would really only need to guide his brother along paths rather than teach him how to use those powers. As Honeycutt had been slowly training April to focus her clairsentience, telepathy, and intuition, the scientist had decided it would be an ideal training exercise for April as well, letting Michelangelo practice sensing and communicating with her own abilities.

As it were, Mikey was already incredibly shy after he had realized how strongly he could sense emotions and direct thoughts. He would literally communicate with a tentative knock, knock before nudging at her mind. April found it adorable.

Their first experimental exercise, last week, had ended in an embarrassed Mikey curling up in a ball and begging them to leave the infirmary, which had led to Donatello trying to perform a full checkup and Raphael yelling at both Leonardo and April in confusion. Michelangelo's attitude and behavior had quickly changed to misery and fear, as everyone decided how to approach the subject again.

Three months after the coma's end, Donnie had declared Mikey fairly healed on the outside, just barely enough to leave the bed. He was eventually allowed to use a wheelchair until he was strong enough for crutches; Honeycutt delared that it would still be at least a couple of more months. The damage to his left leg was far too extensive, and his right leg had endured enough multiple cuts and heavy bruises, including bone bruises, that Donnie just didn't feel comfortable with any pressure being put on either leg; especially not after three months of disuse, no matter how often Raphael had given Mikey physical therapy during the coma.

Honeycutt, Casey, and Donatello had crafted a gleaming white electric wheelchair with a small motor that was so quiet it almost hummed, which Mikey and Casey immediately took out for a literal spin. Both scientists had yelled and fretted that Michelangelo was to return to the infirmary after every outing. That first time, Mikey had been out of breath and sore, which had earned Casey a smack from Raphael. It was going to take more time than they had thought to get his body back in condition. Possibly months, including time with a low level resistance training machine. However, for the time being, those with medical knowledge had given permission for gentle "outings" in the power chair.

The mystery compounds in that alien poison had weakened parts of Michelangelo's autonomic nervous system, making many ordinary tasks exhausting and painful. Donatello had expressed immediate worry that Mikey might have developed fibromyalgia, permanently upsetting his stress and pain reactions, causing his pain receptors to overload too easily and damage his muscles. However, they buoyant ninja had yet to show any true signs, and they were still early in his recovery process, after all, so it seemed reasonable. Unfortunately, Donatello's experiences as sudden family surgeon and seeing his baby brother die twice on the table had deeply affected his emotional reactions, and he now twitched whenever one of his brothers so much as scraped a knee. Leonardo didn't know how to reassure him.

Maybe Mikey could. Somehow.

Now, Leo bit his lip and met those shining pale blue eyes, whose owner was trusting him, hoping he could help, believing he could do anything. He was Leader, and he was Big Brother, and now he was Sensei. Leo recalled his near-psychotic breakdown in the simulated weight room, and gently nudged that memory into a corner.

He slowly ran his littlest brother through a basic Zen meditation, and decided to adapt it to Michelangelo's flow, to his need to adopt movement. He allowed and encouraged Michelangelo to fidget, to rub his new talisman between his fingers, to move his toes as though in a rhythm. Mikey was exhilarated and threw himself into his meditation, fingers already pretending to play invisible piano.

Opening his mind the way Master Splinter had trained him to, Leonardo felt for his brother's spirit in the dark, and immediately came across a brilliantly bright, powerful ball of orange-yellow light that bounced steadily. Mentally, he grinned. He couldn't help it. The sphere absolutely radiated joy, delight, humor, love, compassion, kindness, and a deep unwavering determination to help, to be with, to walk alongside, to offer hugs and laughs. Passionate creativity mixed with devious playfulness enveloped him.

Leonardo fell to one knee, head bowed, without realizing it. He honestly had no idea. On the outside, Mikey was… Mikey. The foolish prankster, the silly jokester, the light-hearted performer, the annoying nagging brother who made everyone laugh in spite of themselves, the awkward wild card who made mistakes and pushed too many buttons and got on too many nerves so easily.

It was a ruse. It was a mask. It was a smokescreen. Mikey was sensitive, empathetic, artistic, unpredictable, chaotic, nobody's fool.

Leonardo looked up when a sound came from the orange sphere. Images danced across the ball's surface: Mikey laughing after pranking Raphael, dancing nimbly across the lair with an ease that Leo himself had always envied. Mikey sparring with Donnie and moving too fast for the bo staff to land a hit. Mikey casually hanging from his knees off a fire escape, telling them all not to worry about the approaching battle, so casually that it almost seemed too light, yet it still relaxed them. Mikey performing strong flips and hard hits in battle with Foot Bots, cheerfully tossing out bad jokes, quips, and verbal distractions so the others could take down as many as possible. The way he turned, twisted, and angled his arms and legs to flow with his hips and torso, keeping his head tucked or stretched depending on how he wanted the move to end. The elation on his face.

The way Splinter would watch him, a particular smile on his face. Leo realized that it was a smile he only used toward Michelangelo. An expression that gave off pride, exasperation, appreciation, acceptance, and annoyance all at once. So often Splinter had stressed that if only Michelangelo could focus on his ninjitsu the way he focused on comics, he could be the very best of them. Leo smiled, shaking his head.

The images shifted again. This time, Splinter and Michelangelo sitting alone in the dojo. Wait. Leonardo frowned. Why would it show him this? He wouldn't have been there. He blinked as the words grew louder, as though a volume button had just been pressed.

"…cause I just hate sitting so still for so long!" Michelangelo was saying. "It's like I'm itchy all the time, Master! I really do have to move! That – that's not a problem, is it? I mean, Leo is so perfect at it! Why can't I be more like him?"

"My son," Splinter said, and Leonardo's heart twisted, "you are not like Leonardo, and he is not like you. As you all have very individual traits and skills, it can be difficult to train as a group, but I must stress it so you can flow together as one. However when it comes to each of you, personally, I know you all have aspects that can be applied just as skillfully in combat and in life. You do not need to follow the way your brother practices his meditation, or his katas. Any of your brothers."

"Wait, really? I don't?"

"Michelangelo, out of all your brothers, you have the most raw potential. Yet because you lack a certain attentive discipline, you will also need to work at containing your distractions, which will most likely slow your progress in reaching that potential."

As Mikey pouted, Splinter held up a clawed finger. "However, I do have an idea." And Mikey perked up.

"When your brothers are elsewhere, you shall come to me privately, and we shall use that time to meditate in your own fashion, according to your body's wants and your mind's needs."

Michelangelo blinked.

So did Leonardo.

"Wait," said Michelangelo, "so you mean alone with you, I can move around when I meditate?"

"Yes," the rat said firmly. "Move. Fidget. Tap your toes. We can even include your music. As long as your meditation rituals remain steady and effective, I see no reason why we cannot work your unique faculties into them."

"YES!" Mikey pumped his fist.

Leonardo grinned in delight.

"Wait! But I don't wanna let the others know. I want this to be our special thing, Master. Guess that means that when we're all here together, I'll just do what they do. And maybe you an' me, we could wink at each other, because we know we'll have this."

Splinter's smile was very wide. "If you wish, Michelangelo, then yes. We shall not tell the others. I shall be 'in' on the joke, as it were."

Leo folded his arms, impressed. The image began to fade out as Mikey grabbed Splinter in a hug. Leonardo found himself standing, the orange sphere moving away from him.

He guessed he was finished here.

He could not stop smiling. Oh, Mikey…

What is it, Leo? You okay?

Leonardo startled, blinking rapidly, on edge and wary before he knew it. He found himself on a wide, empty beach at the first blue edge of sunrise. Michelangelo was standing in front of him, one eyeridge lifted.

"Ummm," was all Leo could say.

Mikey waved at him. "What's up, bro? You look funny. Kinda sad. Sad and happy both."

Leonnardo stared. Michelangelo had that same blue aura shining off his skin. He looked completely at ease. "What's going on?" Leo asked in a hushed voice. "What is this place?"

"Oh. Yeah," and Mikey stretched, interlocking his fingers against the back of his head, "I come here a lot when I meditate. I made it. We don't get too see much during the day. But between movies and April's descriptions and sometimes sitting on rooftops right before dawn, well, I figured it out. Pretty, huh?"

Leo looked around, at the ever-present tip of dawn in a sky just turning pale blue, at the quiet, gentle water lapping against fine white sand. "Very peaceful," he said. "I can even feel a breeze."

"Sometimes I make a skateboard and a whole skate park right on the sand. It's super relaxing, it really loosens me up!" Suddenly there was a board in Mikey's hand. "You wanna try?"

Leo smiled. "I…maybe later, Mikester. Right now I just wanted to get into a steady meditative rhythm. Looks like you've got that down."

"Yeah, Master Splinter taught me how to, you know, incorporate my moves." The board vanished. The beach seemed to ripple a little.

"I know. I saw that memory. I'm so glad he did." Leo lowered his head. "I heard it. It was good to hear his voice!"

Michelangelo grinned, like the sun. "Ah, you found my sphere o' happy! Yeah, that's where I go to replenish and all."

Leo couldn't help but laugh. "I may one day request permission to draw from your sphere of happy."

Abruptly, his brother had stepped closer and they were almost nose to nose. "Really? Seriously? You would want to do that? With me? For real?"

Blinking again, Leo nodded. "Yeah, Mikey. Of course! You don't feel the… the pure joy, the delight, the tenderness, radiating out of that thing?"

Mike shrugged. "I guess I'm too busy trying to make it happen out in the world?"

Leonardo's heart clenched. "Oh, otouto. You really are our sunshine, the heart of this family."

Mikey's smile lit up the whole beach. "I love you too, nii-san."

Leonardo jolted in his body with a gasp. He was—

Sitting on the bed. In his little brother's arms. Michelangelo was pressed against his plastron, his arms tightly around his shell, sniffling happily. He heard April breathe "Oh my god, awwww! You guys! You are so cute!"

Against his plastron, Mikey chuckled. "Get in here, nee-chan. Mikey needs more hugs!"

Leo certainly was happy to squish them both until they squeaked and giggled. Whatever Mikey's telekinesis had for them today, they would approach it lit by sunshine.

Chapter Text

 


"So… are we ready for the actual stuff?" Michelangelo asked.

Leonardo shifted until he was sitting ramrod straight in his chair, hands folded in his lap. "I am ready, yup."

Mikey made a face. "Really, Leo? Slouch a little. You're making me nervous."

"He's right, Leo," said April, who had scooted her chair right next to the bed, was almost reclining, holding hands with Mikey, who was absently swinging his arm, and hers. "I'm going to start thinking of you as a drill sergeant or something."

Rolling his eyes, Leonardo slumped ever so slightly. "Better?"

Michelangelo held up his free hand and made a "come here" gesture. "Little more."

Leo scooted down a bit more. "This just feels uncomfortable."

"No, it doesn't," Mikey said cheerfully, "you're just not really used to it."

Leonardo wanted to sigh, but he realized that he actually was starting to feel relaxed and loose. "You have the oddest wisdom, Mikey," he said with an exhale.

"Yeah. I get that a lot." Grinning so broadly his eyes almost shut, Michelangelo sat up a little more, clearing his throat and lifting the hand that held April's. "Okay. First little thing."

Taking a breath, Michelangelo immediately reached for his uncertain nerves and soothed them. He could sense his brother's reluctance and his sister's excitement, but he himself had gotten a little nervous. He guessed the best thing was to just… get it right out there. He visualized his spinning ball of force, unlocked with the pentacle talisman and slowly pulled from him, letting the energy travel down his arm. After a moment, he felt April shiver.

"Whoa. Oh. Oh! Mikey? I didn't know how nervous you are," she said. "You project almost too much confidence."

He smiled at her. "So it worked? How did it feel?"

She tilted her head. "I…got a tingling feeling in my hand, and suddenly my mind was filled with a sense of anxiety that wasn't mine. I, um, I think you have a signature. There was this flash of orange light, while I was feeling the anxiety."

Leonardo said, "Huh," as Michelangelo said, "Ooh, that's interesting!"

"Mike," April nudged him gently, "stop hiding your real feelings so much; I know how it goes with comedic entertainers."

His mouth opened, closed opened again. A tiny huff escaped. Empathy! Gah! Splinter had always suspected he was an actual intuitive empath and Mikey would shrug it off until Sensei would bring up a character in his comic books who conveniently read people the way Mikey read his family. Now, he tugged lightly in an attempt to let go of April's hand. She refused.

"I mean it, Mikey," April said. "You like to hide behind jokes. And you play things up for effect. But I know you don't like it when we confront you about serious stuff."

Leonardo was watching them like a badminton spectator. He gripped his hands tightly in his lap.

With a long sigh, Michelangelo pouted. "Okay. You got me. I'm nervous and freaked out and kind of scared. I can feel things inside my brain, all heated up and tingling, and these headaches feel like a twisting muscle. And I just don't know what I'm supposed to do with it all."

"Well, isn't that what we are here for?" April asked gently, smiling.

Leonardo leaned forward, "Little brother, I can't promise anything. But I can assure you that I'll help you get back on your spiritual and metaphorical feet, as it were. I think we really need to get to the heart of his thing, though."

Blinking at him, Mike frowned, and then his eyes widened. "You don't mean – oh. Oh, not that. Nope. Not ready for that. Um. Um. Okay, we'll just start with me learning to, like, move stuff and control stuff. Easy stuff."

Leo narrowed his eyes. But he nodded. "That sounds fine. Let's started with…" and he looked around, eyes sharp, "…these books over here." He leaned down, picked up four random books and graphic novels, and held them in open hands, elbows bent.

Michelangelo tilted his head, then shrugged.

"You wanted something heavier, didn't you?" A smirk.

"Yeah, well…"

"Bro, if I have learned anything with all my strict training, it's that any untrained newly formed muscle will feel weak and atrophied when we first try to use it," Leo explained. "That first time, when you levitated everything in the room, that was most likely a fluke, a burst of power."

Michelangelo pouted. "So, you're saying that it'll be like a baby crawling?"

"Something like that," Leo said. "Just… just see what you can do when you focus."

April gave Mikey's hand a reassuring squeeze. He nodded, closed his eyes, felt for that swirling energy, that new pulsing force in his head that felt just like a muscle. As he reached out, he felt it quiver. He frowned. He opened his eyes and stared fiercely at the books in his brother's lap. They were just books! They were light! So why—

Like a weak muscle, atrophied…

He bit his lip.

It's all right, came April's voice in his head, You're really tense. Try to ease it.

Deep breath. Out through the mouth. She was right. He was focusing too hard. Let go. Be natural.

As he exhaled, the weak, shaky trail of energy pushed outward, like casting a line. He put more force into the spinning sphere and the line of energy continued. He felt it bump up against the top book. Okay. Lift the book.

He could feel a cold sweat against his skin. He could feel the bizarre chemical tingle of light against his skin. He could feel the cold throb behind his eyes. The world looked and felt extremely bright. He pushed just a little more.

That top book slid right off the pile, shot upwards, hit the ceiling, and fell toward Leonardo's head. Leo grabbed it and dropped it on the floor. "Good," he smiled. "Next."

Deep breath. Out through the mouth. Let go, be natural, cast the line, spin the sphere, extend the force. Second book shot up, narrowly missing Leo's chin, hit the ceiling, again fell, and Leo caught it. "Again," he said, smile widening.

Inhaling, Mikey glanced over at his "helper". April smiled and squeezed his hand. She looked pale. He could feel her supporting his energy. She was very pale. He shook his head, pulled his hand away. When she frowned, he whispered, "You don't look great, lemme do this." She just nodded and breathed deeply.

He turned glowing attention back to the third book, and abruptly everything surged. His torso snapped forward and the third and fourth books both took off like a shot, careening around the room, one on top of the other, whirling, before slamming into the ceiling, then a wall, then to the floor.

Oh. That was why April was holding onto him.

"Um," he said out loud. "Whoops?"

"What happened?" Leo asked.

"I let April go; she just looked exhausted." Mikey looked at April, slumped in her chair.

"It's fine," April murmured. "I'm fine, guys. It just…took more work than I had anticipated."

"It worries me!" Mike retorted. "You shouldn't have to be like… my…my channel!"

"Well, what if I want to?"

"What if I don't want to let you?"

"Guys," Leonardo said calmly, hands raised.

April stood up, a little wobbly. "Look, Mikey. This is my choice, this is absolutely my decision. Professor Honeycutt wanted me to work on my own abilities anyway. I really want to help you strengthen yours. Yes, I might get a little exhausted and drained, but I'm sure food can help with that. What I don't want is you worrying about me while you're working to control your powers. So can we come to an agreement."

Mikey's blue eyes narrowed at her. "Fine. Just get yourself some of that electrolyte juice while we do the things." As if to drive it home, he grabbed his own cup and drank forcefully, staring at her.

"Fine," she said. He handed her the rest of his drink, was she finished quickly. As he took it back, Mikey nodded, as if satisfied. "Okay, then."

"We good?" Leo asked, amused.

"Yep," they said in unison.

"All right! Now we take a break."

Mikey and April rolled their eyes. "April motioned to the empty cup. "Let's at least get more juice," she said.

"Yeah. Please. My head feels weird." Michelangelo pressed two fingers to his forehead. Uh oh. Crap. He wish he hadn't said that; something in his brain had perked up like a tiny flame. Was talking about it triggering it?

"Oh, no," April knew, "oh, god, Mikey, is there anything I can do?"

All he managed to say was "Mmrph," and flail for her hand; she grabbed it and squeezed, and "Maybe…maybe I could…"

He wanted to cry out No, April, no! but his mouth, hanging open, made no sound. Everything was foggy and also sharp. He thought he could hear a chair moving and a weight shifting. "April, is he…"

"Leo, go fill this and get another cup, please. I can stay with him."

"April-"

"Go, Leo!"

There were more words, but they were like needles along his arms and his neck and fuuuck, he couldn't move and his arms were spasming, and her hand was on his bicep, and her voice in his head, Mikey, Mikey, sweetie, can you hear me? It's okay, I'm here…

A-April, nooo, you have to…you have to get out…please…

And his brain was on fire on fire, neurons leaping, cliffs and mountains and thunder and storms and valleys, and he just wanted to curl up—

Mike, I'm here, it's gonna be okay. Take deep breaths…

He felt his breath sucking inward…

April, stop, I need you to get out, youhavetogetout…

And then there was a massive electric burst and April cried out, and he wrenched away from her, his arm flinging against his face, and for precious seconds he couldn't move, or breathe, or think.

"-il, what the hell were you trying to do? Are you sure you're okay? April! Say something!" That was Raphael.

April! Be okay! I need you to be okay!

"Mikey? Mikey, it's Don. Breathe, otouto, I need you to breathe…"

A sob escaped him and he clutched at it, managing a raspy, "April…"

"I'm okay, Mikey! I'm okay, I just got overwhelmed, I'm okay!" Her hand was on his cheek and he sighed, leaning into it.

He gulped in air greedily and felt the oxygen mask, and he felt himself relax. Someone told him to lie back, to not move. This felt good, this felt safe; he didn't want to open his eyes. He was so tired, was so so tired. The dark behind his eyes felt delicious and silky. Someone said his name again, sharply. Someone else said…something. Something about sleep? Yes. Yes, sleep! Do that! He fell, and silkiness covered him, cocooning and enveloping. Everything was now cool, and dim, and quiet, and he burrowed into the silk contentedly.


With a familiar yell, Raphael punched a wall.

"Please don't do that," Donatello said, fatigued.

"Look at him!"

"Yes. He's asleep. He's recovering."

"But I thought he was—I mean—the lessons. With Leo…"

"…were going just fine, Raph," Leonardo interjected. "He and April got a little overwhelmed, and we essentially expected all of this. Give us time. It's only the second workshop!"

Mouth opening and closing, Raphael blinked, looked at the bed, and stomped out. They could hear him continuing to stomp in wide circles.

"Everything is fine," April assured. "Really. It's all fine."

Stomp. Stomp. "Dude, Raph, will you knock it off? I'm watching 'Crognard' here!"

"I have a lot of feelings, Casey!" Stomp.

Then go for a space walk!" Go to the holodeck! You're blocking the TV!"

STOMP.

"Hey, fuck you too!"

April rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Donnie, how long do you think Mikey will sleep for?"

"Eh, a few hours, if not the rest of the day. You understand how intense that must have been."

"I certainly do. And he'll probably want to scold me when he wakes back up."

"I have no doubt."

Don scooted over to her and began a basic exam. "And you're totally sure you're okay?"

She smiled. "I am totally sure. Just a headache. I might just want something for that."

"Okay. I'll get you something. You should go rest."

"Yes, doc!" She couldn't help but giggle, and Donnie flushed and grinned his gap-toothed smile. He quickly went to a cabinet, pulled out a pill bottle, and gave her two. She took one of the filled cups from Leo and used it to wash down the pills. She took the other and brought it to the bedside. She leaned in and kissed Michelangelo's forehead. "Great work today, Mikey. We'll do it again soon. Maybe even without the seizures!"

"Yeah," Donatello said. "I need to come up with a medical protocol to prevent those, before we have to diagnose him with temporal lobe epilepsy."

April frowned and bit her lip. "When we get home," she said, "if it comes to…that…my dad could obtain prescriptions, unless there are meditation methods."

Leonardo nodded. "There are," he said, "but hopefully we won't need to worry about that until later." There was something hanging off his sentence, and they all felt it, though no one replied. They nodded, and Donatello hooked up his little brother to an IV drip for hydration, plus pain relievers. "I'll stay with him," he offered.

Leo and April nodded. "C'mon, April," Leo said, "let's set up a dojo simulation so we can train and meditate in style."

April gently pumped her fists with a soft, "Yay!" and they left the room with arms linked. Off in the distance, in a space suit, Raphael kicked and ranted at swirls of galaxies far away. The ship just kept moving forward, as ships do.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen


Donatello had finally taken to sleeping in his bed, at night, only mildly disturbed by nightmares and night terrors.

Professor Honeycutt, after assuring him multiple times, sternly, that he would take on some of the research, had practically ordered him to sleep in his room or he would "be bodily removed from the lab and dumped unceremoniously on the floor of the bedroom."

All right, then.

Donatello awoke, screaming, again, and in the dark he couldn't tell whether or not his hands were sticky slick with blood and mucus. Or sweat. It could be sweat. He rubbed his fingers together. Okay, it was sweat. So that had been a dream, and the surgery on his baby brother had been three months ago, and said brother had in fact been awake, active, and recovering for the last fourteen weeks. Also, said brother had psychic powers.

Also, his hands had been inside his brother, and he had no real idea what he'd been doing, except somehow his hands understood, and somehow he had stopped blood flowing and fluids building and fluids leaking and a lung from filling with blood and a lung from staying collapsed and how the absolute fuck had he done all that, he could barely remember.

His dreams remembered, so he didn't want to dream. But not dreaming would eventually result in a slow loss of sanity. So he kept sleep-inducing tea near his bed, tea that would knock him out, but the terrors still happened… just now with less intensity.

Donnie sighed and rubbed his face, and a tiny exasperated gasping sob escaped him. He wasn't even seventeen and there he was, performing desperate emergency surgery on his own sibling with an android and a human who knew less than he. Damn it, he was an engineer, not a doctor. He only played the family doctor because science was his baby and medicine came across most science. Hells, Raphael was probably better at wound care since he smashed things so much. Leo had learned how to suture after he took up needlepoint with Splinter and April, "for meditation purposes." And Mikey battered himself skateboarding enough that he carried his own mini first aid kit. But none of that compared. He had seen lung tissue, struggling. He had seen how bone had blinked at him through flesh and tissue. He had been shaken to his core and he was still surprised he had maintained himself. No wonder he had bits of lost time here and there. April had helped him drain the lung and intubate. His hands had started shaking. She had smiled at him through her surgical mask. He had not passed out. The whole time, he had been wishing he could close his eyes and lie down. But he knew he never could, never.

Donatello shook his head fiercely, grunting, his head clearing. He looked at a clock. It was eight in the morning. Really? All right, then. He got up, worked through some warm-up katas, meditated until he was able to disperse whatever gruesome images were still in the front of his mind, and got dressed, ready to science the day until his brain fell out.

First, breakfast. Then, video games. Then, maybe—

He had opened his door and stepped into the hallway right before he heard the heavy crash and the startled howl. Then,

"Not my fault! I swear!"

"It was floating, jackass, of course it was your fault! Why else would a frying pan float around and smack me?"

"I didn't mean it, Raph!"

"Intent is bullshit, Mikey!"

"Guys, easy! Raph, it was totally a misdirected thing, and Mikey, next time, swerve it away from people's heads."

In unison: "Sorry, Leo."

Don blinked. Michelangelo was already levitating things outside the infirmary? But…

He found himself running full speed and was in the kitchen quickly. The freezer door was open; Ice Cream Kitty was yowling. He reached in and petted her absently, then licked ice cream off his hand and shut that door. He looked at his three brothers, who all had varying degrees of exasperated expressions. Mikey, leaning back in his wheelchair (how long had he been out of bed, anyway?), looking down, hands folded; Raph standing over him, rubbing the back of his head; Leo, sitting at the table, glaring at both.

On the floor at Raphael's feet was the cast iron skillet. Don sighed. "So," he said, "Nobody's hurt?" When they all glanced up with frustrated and guilty expressions, he said, "No, then. Okay. I'm going to have coffee."

There was an odd, raw, cracking tension in the air, literally. He felt as if he were walking past rows of plasma lamps that were reaching out to him all at once. He stopped at the coffee maker and tilted his head, thinking, thinking.

"Er…Donnie?" Mikey's voice was small and uncertain.

"Yeah, buddy?"

"Can you…can you, um. Slow it down?"

Turning around, Donatello frowned. His baby brother had pushed the wheelchair slightly away from the table and into full sight, hands gripping the arms. He was tilting his head the same way, his eyes owlish.

"What…do you mean? Slow what down?"

Furrowing his brow, Michelangelo flitted his hands in the air, grasping for the right words. "Your…the…the flow. Of your. Your mind? It's…I can't really listen to your thoughts, but I can feel…I can hear all this…um…I can feel your mind, like you're talking underwater? And it's really fast, and it won't stop. And I can't shut it out. And, and…"

He paused, again struggling for words. Raphael, worried, touched his shoulders. "It's like…emotions," Mike said in exasperation. "But it's thinking. Like, feelings and words blend together. Uugghh. I can't find the words…"

"It's okay," Raph murmured, massaging his shoulders.

"No, it's not. I'm not great with science words!"

Moving toward him slowly, Donatello smiled. "Try art words, Mikey."

Michelangelo took a startled breath, blinked, and nodded. "It's like…painting in watercolor but you don't know what it's gonna be yet. You just let your mind guide the paintbrush. Except that as the painting forms, it's still an unknown splash of blotchy colors. You know it's moving through your mind and it wants to transfer to the canvas or the paper. But you can't see what it is or what it wants to be. And it hurts your head, because it's so big and raw, and… and…"

Nodding, Don crouched until he could touch the arms of the wheelchair. "That, I understand. I really do. And I'm so sorry. It's hard to turn off my thoughts. I'm always thinking."

Mike nodded. "It's what you do best." He sounded tired.

"Look, I could try and meditate, I could try to… soften my thoughts? Remember how Sensei taught us to block and build walls mentally? Do you think that would help if I did that?"

Biting his lip, Michelangelo frowned, looking at his lap. He looked at Raph, then Leo. Leonardo smiled encouragingly. "I could help you, little bro," Leo said. "Let's try a sixth session with April. Last time we learned about shielding and separating your telekinesis from your emotional state, right? Because you didn't want to keep dragging April into it? And hey, you didn't even have a seizure!"

"And that was awesome!" Raph rubbed his head. "You've got some good control, kid!"

Mikey nodded, hesitantly. He put his hands over Donatello's. "I wanna try something, Donnie, if that's okay."

"Of course it's okay, Mikey. We want to help."

"Okay," Mikey closed his eyes. "Um. Just… do what you were doing. Think. About whatever. Science stuff, engineering stuff, whatever."

"Loudly? Softly?"

"Normally."

Don settled into a more comfortable crouch, shutting his eyes, letting years of meditation and mental katas flow like a river automatically. He thought about being in outer space. He thought about the black hole generator. He thought about his latest engineering ideas with Professor Honeycutt. He thought about April. He thought about Earth, and home. He thought about the broken down compositions of the M'Kari stone.

Almost instinctively, a wall of fog surrounded him. He reached out to feel it, and pulled back when he realized it was more like a non-Newtonian fluid. Frowning, he poked it. It reformed, almost like gelatin or pudding. Wait, was he doing this?

Just keep it there. That was Mikey's voice. Huh?

Dude. Let it happen. Walk through it and then let it stay.

Walk through non-Newtonian fluid? But…

Don't try to science it. It won't make sense. Just…just walk through. Trust me.

He took a long deep breath, closed his eyes, and stepped through. Surprisingly, the fluid mist parted for him. He looked back. It sealed back up. Everything was quiet. He blinked.

He was staring into his brother's blue topaz eyes, which were twinkling with a smile. "See? We did it! Also, what's a non-Newtonian fluid?"

Donatello opened his mouth, snapped it shut, swallowed, opened his mouth again.

"It's quieter now, Donnie. I'm cool. You?"

Donnie stood up, a little shaky. "Um."

Michelangelo waved him off. "Go get coffee, then talk."

"Um."

"Leo? Help Donnie get coffee? I think I hurt his thinky logic engine."

Raph snorted. "Mikey, you never were one for standard logic."

Leonardo waited until the coffee had been fully made, then grabbed the largest mug, filled it, added sugar, and thrust it into Don's face. When Donnie didn't move his hands, Leonardo held and tipped up his chin, touched the edge of the mug to his lips, and said, "Here, drink." Coffee slid into Don's mouth. He swallowed on instinct, and then gave a small shudder and grabbed the mug in both hands. "Th-thanks." Leo took him by the elbow and guided him to a chair. "Sit. Caffeinate. Think."

"Yes." Donatello nodded, staring blankly, and sipped. "Those things."

"Donnie? I'm sorry if I broke your logic again," Michelangelo said softly. "I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm just doing what my brain says I should do. Sometimes it's cryptic."

Another, huge, sip, and Donatello looked carefully at his little brother, considering his next words. Mikey looked fragile and nervous, rubbing his palms against the chair arms weakly. Don had a flash of memory of blood spilling from his left leg and left side. He noticed Michelangelo's posture, back slightly arched as though his ribs were hurting too much.

"Mikey…" He paused. "I… it's okay. It's my fault for clinging to my scientific rationality in the face of pure implausibility. After all, we have seen too many impossible things. You suddenly gaining psionic abilities shouldn't rattle me so much. I just hadn't expected to hear you in my head. I mean, if April does it, this shouldn't faze me at all."

"Except that April has always been this way," Leo reminded him. "She was born with Utrom DNA. Mikey's psionics were acquired, which we know still weirds you out."

"And it shouldn't," Donatello countered. "Science is open to the impossible, even if it isn't measurable. But I am pretty sure psionics in this case can be measurable. I am an engineer, an inventor, which means that my mind should be able to accept these things as fact. Mikey's brain has been engineering and inventing its own revised neural network. And it's been fourteen weeks since he regained consciousness, and I've had plenty of time to process this."

"So," Michelangelo asked, "you're okay with this? With me?"

Donnie grinned. "Of course! There was never a doubt! I've just been fascinated, a little overwhelmed, a little overworked…"

Raphael rolled his eyes. "A little. Yes. Holed up in the lab so much that Fugitoid has dumped you at the door to your bedroom four times in a month."

"Hey, Mikey sleeps near there! It makes more sense for me to stay."

"Yeah, but dude," Mike chirped, "beds are so much more comfy!"

"Hmm," Don considered. "Actually, Mikey, would you be okay with sleeping in your own room again? You do have the chair that can you can get around in…"

"Dude, are you fucking kidding? Hells YEAH I would. My BED!" Michelangelo moved the wheelchair forward quickly and stopped just short of bumping into Donatello, opening his arms wide. Donnie hugged him tightly, feeling proud and relieved. He'd been thinking about it all week, especially after the last telekinesis session, which Leo had deemed the most successful. April almost hadn't needed to be there. Additionally, the muscles that had weakened during the coma were slowly, slowly healing with each session, something that Leonardo had quickly noticed and called Donnie in to check.

It seemed that when the telekinesis was being fully utilized, Michelangelo's physical body responded by actually rebuilding and slowly healing limp muscles and tendons, weary and worn and utterly fatigued. Three months after he woke up, after three months of bed rest, he no longer looked thin and weak. It shouldn't have been possible. It really did deny, if not shrug off, the laws of physics, biology, chemistry, nature. While he was still incredibly fatigued and in great pain, his new brain activity was putting his muscles through a unique inside-out therapy routine. Donnie had no idea how that would feel. He imagined sore. Aching. Burning. Bizarre in general. Mikey hadn't really moved. But every physical check-up kept showing muscle regrowth. Even as the brothers helped Mikey exercise lightly, there was a bizarre neurophysiological healing going on that Donatello found more spiritual than scientific. Mikey still registered pain, fatigue, exhaustion, homeostatic fluctuations. But they all seemed to coincide with whatever was happening during and after the telekinetic sessions.

His seizures hadn't stopped but they were becoming smaller and shorter with each session. He seemed to sense them coming. Donatello and Dr Honeycutt hypothesized that eventually the seizures might vanish entirely once Michelangelo gained full control of his psionics. Honeycutt, however, had noted that the headaches were still present, especially as seizure warnings. It was something to watch for, he said.

Donatello realized that there would likely be permanent side effects to the psionics and recalled Sirra's explanation of the M'Kari aliens' tendencies to develop epilepsy if their psionic centers became unstable. But even if Mikey had to live with small seizures or migraines each time he used the telekinesis, they would find ways to help. This new neurology, like any unused and weakened muscles, would take training and rest the way anything did.

Michelangelo ended the hug slowly, and as their eyes met, he winked, as if he'd sensed Don's thoughts on the long-term effects.

"We need to celebrate me moving back into my room, bros!" Mike chirped. "Who wants pancakes?"

"Aww yeah, Mikey pancakes," Raphael grinned.

They called in April and Casey, who cheered and bounced. The humans assisted in cooking, but every time Casey reached up to a cabinet, whatever he was about to take was already lifted and floated down to the counter. April and Leonardo both admonished the telekinetic ninja to "go easy" before risking more side effects. Mikey shrugged and let them mix the ingredients until he was satisfied, lazily moving his chair back and forth until he could take over. The resulting pancakes were startlingly perfect, and Raphael commented that Michelangelo must have done something extra to make each one come out so ideally cooked. Mikey shrugged and smiled, but the massaging he gave to his temples let Donatello know that telekinesis had been going on somewhere in the cooking process. He didn't say a word, and let the flavors keep his mouth shut. He could have his chat with Mikey after moving him to his room. This didn't mean the physical therapies would stop, nor the psionic sessions. But having it take place in a more comfortable, familiar place was much better. Besides, if those powers really were stabilizing and rebuilding a damaged body, Mikey would want to be surrounded by familiarity.

He kept a very close eye on his little brother while everyone ate. Mikey seemed all right. He was pale, and his left eye twitched every now and then. But when nothing else happened and Mikey finished his plate, declaring, "Okay, Donnie, I'm ready!" with a cheerful classic smile, Donatello could only feel relief.

Maybe he wouldn't ever truly understand any of this. Maybe this was one thing in his life that could be left alone, unburdened by his intellectual prodding. Maybe all he had to do was just listen to his brother, train with him, help him experiment with his abilities, and take that as enough proof. His brother was alive, recovering, and doing better than expected. Maybe patient trust was truly the best thing.

Maybe, just maybe, he could ignore his racing pulse and the steady, constant panic that something horrible was going to happen very soon.

Chapter Text

 


Knock knock kock. …April?

It was so soft and careful. Oh, Mikey, are we still doing this? You don't have to knock.

Pause. I know, but… I…

Frown. Mikey, are you… scared? Is something wrong?

Maybe. Maybe. I just… I can't sleep.

Oh! Is it your room set up? I mean, we did our best to accommodate the medical stuff and the wheelchair—

Shake of the head. No, no, it…it's Donnie.

Relaxing. Wait, is something wrong with Donnie?

I don't know. But I sense something. He keeps freaking out. Like anxiety, all the time. I'm really sore and it's hard to move and I don't know if Leo and Raph could hear me. Could you…

Absolutely. I got this, Mikey. Go back to sleep.

April sat up, rubbing her eyes. It was two in the morning. She grabbed a robe and slippers, ran her fingers through her hair, and left her room as only a kunoichi could. She found herself at Donatello's door and knocked extremely softly.

Putting her ear to the door, she could hear the sounds of blankets shifting, a hand striking a mattress. A small cry of distress. Shit. Donnie…?

She opened the door just enough. Donatello was gripping the pillows, his entire body trembling, his face scrunched up. He was having a nightmare, and it wasn't letting go. She realized what it was probably about, and took a deep breath. Carefully, so carefully, she let her power out into his mind, whispering, It's okay, Donnie. It's a dream. Can you hear me? It's April. I'm standing in your doorway. Do you need help?

Donatello jolted up with a gasp, clutching the blankets. His wide eyes connected with hers in the dark. His face crumbled. April rushed forward, climbing onto his bed and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. He froze for a second, then slumped, head on her shoulder. He didn't cry. But his rapid shallow breathing told her everything.

"Oh, Donnie," she murmured. "How long has this been happening?"

He gulped and pulled away from her, looking down at his hands. "I don't know. A few weeks. I don't know. Why did you come here? Is Mikey okay?"

"Mikey is fine. He called to me telepathically because he sensed you were in distress. He's too weak to get to you himself, so he asked if I would come." She took his large hands in her small hands, and in the dark she noticed his deep blush. "He's still really unsure about communicating with anyone but me. But he can feel emotions very strongly, you know. And you are really upset."

"I'm okay. It's just nightmares and-"

"Donatello!" she cupped his chin and made her look at him. "Will you talk to me? You know, I have nightmares too. About the surgery."

He drew in a breath and his eyes widened again.

She grinned. "I figured maybe you and I were the only people who could talk about it, anyway."

"I…" he hesitated, "I don't like really talking about my feelings…"

"I know," she said wryly. "But you have to. Remember, I am the child of a psychologist. I know how these things go. Raphael already has PTSD. Leo's guilt is tangible. And you…you hide everything behind your work. You aren't working now."

He stared at her, stared at her. She wondered what kind of engineering analysis was running through his head. When he began to talk, it startled her, if only because the sudden flood of words was so strong.

He talked about his fear of failure. About not really being a doctor. About how he thought he was going to mess everything up and potentially kill Mikey. About how grateful he was for her and Honeycutt. About how if it was anywhere else, Mikey might have died for good. About how much he missed Splinter. About how little he actually knew about surgery, and true medicine, and what would happen if his brothers were too ill or injured for him to save. About his feelings of pure inadequacy.

And then there was silence, and he was almost panting. April held his face in her hands, frowning, staring at him. His eyes held the darkness of terror and panic that his body refused to show. "What else?" she asked.

"W-what?"

"You're afraid. But it's not about any of those things, Donnie. Mikey sensed it. Now I sense it."

"I…" He swallowed, and she forced his gaze to remain.

"I just keep having these feelings that we are not out of danger," Donnie confessed. "Like something terrible will happen soon. But they're so nebulous they're almost not worth analyzing."

"Okay. Do you suspect they involve Michelangelo?"

"Maybe." He squeezed his eyes shut, opened them wide. "Maybe it's about a future mission. Fuck, maybe I'm on edge and skittish and jittery in general because of these nightmares, April." He gripped her hands. "You're the child of a psychologist. What do you think?"

He sounded so weak and unsure and worried. She gave him a half-hearted smile. "Okay. Right now, I think you are reacting to your nightmares and the massive stress you're under. Every time you look at Mikey, your mind automatically goes into that panicky doctor mode. I get that. You almost lost him. He's your baby brother. You are all still dealing with Shredder murdering Splinter. With the Triceratons destroying Earth. And you have been trying to keep it together because you're the brains, and you desperately want your family to keep together because it's all you have."

He blinked at her. "That… yeah. That makes sense. Thanks, April. Thanks."

She grinned. "I hope so."

A, is he better? Did your chat help?

A sigh. Mikey, were you eavesdropping?

Nope! But I could feel stuff happening. He is a lot more calm. And I… well… um.

Wait, was Michelangelo blushing?

Donatello was looking at her oddly. "April, are you okay?"

She shook her head. "No, it's okay. Mikey is talking in my mind again. He wants to make sure you're okay."

Releasing her hands, he nodded. "Totally. In fact, I'm gonna head over there. Thanks again, April. Thanks."

She hopped off the bed. "Any time, D."

They went into the hallway. April gave him a quick hug and returned to her room.

Donatello sighed, stretched out his neck, and went to Mikey's room. Before he knocked, the cheerful, sleepy voice inside called out "C'mon in, D!"

Inside, he noticed the tiny lamp on the bedside table and smiled. "Still need a nightlight, huh?"

"Well, I was asleep for three months in total darkness."

Michelangelo was sitting up against his pillows, clasping his hands together.

"Are you in pain?" Donatello asked. "Can I get you anything?"

Michelangelo gazed up at him with those classic puppy eyes. "Actually, Donnie… can you stay with me tonight? To…to help me sleep better?"

Donatello grinned and sat on the other side of the bed. "For you or for me?"

Michelangelo didn't answer, just held out his arms. Donnie got under the covers and put his arm over Mikey's shoulders, shifting closer until his brother's head rested against his plastron. "Thanks, Donnie," Michelangelo whispered.

Donatello smiled tiredly and nuzzled his baby brother's head. "Thanks, Mikey."

Michelangelo yawned wide and long, and in the midst of it, Donatello heard his voice inside his mind, Now we can both keep the nightmares away.

Mikey was fast asleep so quickly that it had to have been telepathy. Smiling, Donatello just snuggled closer and let his eyes drift closed, and when the bouncing sphere of orange-yellow light moved toward him in the darkness, he welcomed it gratefully.


Leonardo woke at exactly seven in the morning, as though he had been yanked by a string. He sat up, rubbed his face and yawned, and got ready for the day. Training, breakfast, more training, a telekinesis session with Mikey, a mission from Professor Honeycutt. His mind neatly fit everything into slots. He did some slow gentle katas and meditated for ten minutes. Time to wake up the guys.

He first went to Raphael's room. He checked on Raph – half off the bed and snoring heavily. He noticed Donatello's door half open and peered around it. Don wasn't there! Okay. Time to check on Mikey. He pushed open the door, expecting to see Donatello.

Yup.

His two youngest brothers were snuggled up, foreheads touching, just like when they were very little. He smiled softly and crept toward the bed, just to check on Mikey.

Donnie's eyes fluttered open and he muttered a sleep-filled "Hey, Leo. Wh' time is it?"

"Only seven," Leonardo whispered. "How is he?"

"Comfy," Don chirped, nuzzling the fast-asleep Mikey. He paused. "And hot. Wait a minute." He shot upright with both arms still around Michelangelo's waist. Mikey didn't stir. Leo hurried to the other side and perched on the bed. Donnie was already pressing a palm to the sleeping turtle's forehead, cheeks, neck. "Uh oh. Leo, he's got a fever and it's rising."

"Infirmary," Leo barked.

Donatello nodded and got out of bed, quickly getting dressed. As soon as his gear was fastened, he put one arm under Mike's knees and the other around his shoulders and lifted him. Mikey's head lolled against his arm. "Craaap," he muttered. "Come on, Mikey…" and the tall, sinewy ninja, accustomed to weights even heavier like his tech inventions, ran light-footed out of the room.

They rushed as fast as they dared to the infirmary, Leonardo yelling sharply at Raphael's door. Raph muttered back rudely, and a few minutes later, caught up to them, yelling Michelangelo's name.

In the infirmary, Donatello began to set up machines and Leonardo prepared IV drips. Raphael grabbed a giant bowl of ice water and a washrag. On the bed Michelangelo started shivering. His pulse rate was too high. His blood pressure was too low. His fever was already over 104 F. As Raph wiped him down over face and neck, Donatello waved off Leo's IV preparations. "Let's get him into water. Raph, prepare a full ice bath." He took a pen light and examined the light blue eyes. "Fuck, he's not responding… Mikey? Can you hear me? Mikey!"

The rush of water, the sound of ice pouring, Raph's growls coming from the attached bathroom. Don and Leo both gently lifted Mike and maneuvered him to the bathroom, slowly lowering him into the bath. Raph automatically began cupping water over his shoulders. He got in the tub and settled behind Michelangelo, propping his brother's head against his plastron. Grabbing a sponge, Raphael gently rubbed Mikey all over until he felt some of the heat begin to lessen.

Donatello crouched down with a thermostat in his hand. "Can you open his mouth?"

Raphael did so very gently, just enough to let the thermometer slide under the tongue. He kept cupping and washing cold water against his silent, motionless little brother, his eyes hardened and determined. No fear, just urgency and understanding.

At the beeping, Don removed the thermometer. "Okay, 101. Not great, but a little less freaking out worrisome. Let's get him back to the bed and get some IVs in."

Raphael said only, "I got this." He pulled the drain, and asked Leonardo for the third towel on the rack, which was yellow and incredibly soft. He rubbed Mikey firmly and fully dry, then himself. Then he bundled up his brother, just like before, cuddled him in his arms, and walked out to the bed, laying Mikey down carefully.

By that point, everyone else was up, and they were gathered at the door in concern.

"What has happened?" asked Dr Honeycutt.

"Not sure yet," Donatello said, as IVs were inserted, monitors connected. "We woke up around seven and found him with a high fever, completely unconscious."

"We just gave him an ice bath," Leonardo added, "but it only brought the fever down a couple of degrees. We're hooking up antibiotics now."

April, frowning deeply, came and pressed her hand to Mike's forehead. "I can't sense him beyond this…this dark cloak. It's like the fever is actively blocking him, or pushing him down. I hope it doesn't have anything to do with the psionics. I know they are still developing in his brain at a fairly high and fast rate."

"It could, it could," Leo said. "Remember during the last session, Mikey said it felt like something was growing inside his mind? Here, his body could be mistaking that for… I dunno, some kind of infection?"

"Entirely possible," said Dr Honeycutt. "Although his immune system should have already gotten clear messages that the psionics were there to stay."

"Maybe it's another part of the psionics comin' through?" Raphael suggested. "He said he felt like it wasn't done, wasn't everything."

Donatello bit his lip. "Okay, those are all plausible. Right now, all I care about is breaking this fever and getting him well as quickly as possible. We need to check all of his wounds as well. Raph, when you were bathing him, I didn't notice any swellings, but did you?"

Standing and looming over the bed, Raphael swept keen eyes over his brother's body. "I – wait. His left leg. It might have been outta your view in the tub. The gash is swelling a little."

Examining it, Donnie swore. "Yeah. It's red. I may need to lance and drain it."

April quickly went to a cabinet and got the necessarily tools. She and Donatello worked quietly, April applying the scalpel, Donatello supplying bowl, rag, and antiseptics. He re-stitched the wound and bandaged it.

They waited.

One hour later, the patient groggily opened his eyes, and before he said anything, Raphael had the straw to his mouth. Michelangelo drank the electrolyte mix gratefully, then lifted his head enough to look around. "Hey, Donnie, is this my dream or yours?"

"Neither. We're awake," Donatello pressed a cool washcloth to his head, smiling grimly. "Leo woke me up and I realized you were feverish. We got you to the infirmary and cooled you down. The wound in your leg was infected and inflamed."

"Ah. Bummer." Mikey blinked a few times. "Did you at least sleep well?"

"I did," Donatello said with a genuine smile. "You were very comfortable."

"That's our Mikey pillow," Raphael said, relieved.

Mikey rubbed the side of his face. "Sorry I keep getting sick, guys. It's probably no fun for you, huh?"

"We're okay with it," and Leonardo hugged him, "as long as you get better." He touched Mikey's face. "Fever seems about gone, too."

"Perfect." Donatello removed the IVs. Michelangelo sat up with massive effort, Leonardo holding him.

"I'll get your chair," Casey said, hurrying out. When he returned, Leonardo lifted Michelangelo and settled him in. Mikey asked if anyone had had breakfast. When they all said no, he gave them a dazzling smile.

"Omelets with white cheddar and mushrooms?" he suggested. "Casey, you help."

"No telekinesis this time!" Donatello said, following everyone out.

"Seriously, dude? Where's your sense of adventure and mystery?"

"Back there with all the IV hookups and the seizure preventatives."

Michelangelo laughed, but it was followed by a soft murmur of understanding.


Breakfast was made quickly. Michelangelo got permission to use telekinesis to crack the eggs, which Casey described as "freaking creepy." Once the meal was eaten, they went to the couch to relax before training. April had picked out an old comedy classic.

Later, Michelangelo leaned back in the power chair to watch his brothers spar and train in simulation. Leonardo glanced at him a few times, noting the wistful, sharp gaze. One of these days, he decided. As soon as they knew for sure that Mikey's legs could hold him.

He sensed Raph's sai whirring past his ear; Leo spun and went low, jumping up and launching himself at Raphael, who threw up both arms to block. Leo kicked, then quickly punched, sending Raph sailing into the replicated tree; he swiftly ran over and pinned his brother. There was a crack from above them. Leo and Raph looked up to see one of the branches falling. Before either could move, the air around them crackled like electricity, and suddenly the branch was hovering just above their heads.

Startled, they both swung their heads to stare at their spectating little brother just outside the room.

Michelangelo was holding his right arm out, palm up. He raised both eyeridges. "You guys gonna move, or what?"

They scrambled to their feet, eyes still on their brother. Smirking, Mikey lifted his arm a little higher. The branch rose back up and connected to its breaking point with a strange crack-snap.

"There!" Michelangelo grinned. "All better."

Donatello dropped his bo and ran to Mikey, instinctively checking him over. He cupped his chin, staring at his eyes.

"I feel okay," Mikey said. "Just a little headache this time. No shivery whatevers."

"You sure?" Donnie pressed. "Really?"

"Really for sure, Donnie. Swear. Just a throbbing headache, no pre-seizure feeling beyond that."

Reluctantly, Don stood up straight. "Fine, but you call for me immediately if you feel a seizure aura coming."

Mikey practically waved him off. "I know, dude. Thanks." When Donnie still didn't move, Michelangelo sighed. "Donnie. Come on. It's been almost seven weeks. And also, I've been practicing without Leo and April, on my own."

Biting his lip, Donatello rubbed the top of his head. "…okay, Mikey. As long as you feel all right."

Mikey nodded very seriously. "I know the drill, Doc." His fingers tapped and drummed on the arms of the chair, near the joystick and buttons.

Donatello smiled gently. "It should only be a few more months, Mikey. If that. Your muscles and connective tissues are growing and healing at an alarmingly fast rate. Soon enough you'll be able to use the crutches, and then we can start on physical therapy and light katas."

Sighing, Michelangelo nodded. "I know, I know, have patience, blah blah blah."

Leonardo took a deep breath and smiled at Raphael, who grinned back, his eyes twinkling. They had already started discussing looking for the Alchemist, anyway. And they were willing to wait until their baby brother was completely, totally healed.

After all, he would be the one to have the first strike back.

Chapter Text

 


After two more weeks, everyone on the Ulixes had become completely accustomed to the new Michelangelo. If an object lifted and floated randomly, say, one of Casey's golf clubs, Raphael would roll his eyes and move out of the way; if the object began to follow him, he would roar his brother's name and run to the bedrooms. Michelangelo would be either in his bed or in his chair, reading a comic book. He would glance up, the absolute face of innocence, and smile sweetly. Raphael would begin to growl something, and would be firmly but politely tapped on the back of the head. He would reach around, grab the golf club, have a brief tug of war while his brother giggled, and then the golf club would swoop in a dramatic gesture and fall to the floor. Mikey would let out a full belly laugh, and Raph would leap onto the bed and get him in a headlock, then start tickling, muttering idly about paint balloons. After a good-natured tussle and a few "Ow" sounds from Mikey, they would get Mikey in the power chair and join everyone in the common room, where various DVDs would randomly float in front of the couch until someone pointed at one.

Donatello was still stressing and worrying about potential headaches and seizures. And they happened. But at that point everyone had become skilled in soothing their resident psionic, from compresses to emergency anti-seizure pills to gentle touches. Once, when Casey was helping, Mikey trembled hard enough to fall out of the wheelchair, causing Casey to make a strangled terrified sound he'd never made before, catching Mike's weight and lowering him to the floor, keeping his arms around him. After that, there had been a debate over safety belts that Mikey had tuned out in favor of making a full meal in the kitchen without looking, and when April had gone for a snack, she'd squawked at the sight of chicken salad with avocado and celery on flatbread spread out on the table. She had stomped into the infirmary, munching on a sandwich, pointing at it, then Mikey, then at the sandwich, then back at Mikey, flailing her free arm and finally yelling "kitchen!" while Michelangelo laughed.

Lunch had been eaten silently, with great appreciation along with side eye stares and outright glares at a beaming telekinetic ninja.

The most recent migraine and seizure combination, however, tried to outright damage Michelangelo's heart, lungs, and brain functions, and gave Donatello a severe, terrifying panic attack. They both awoke in beds in the infirmary, frowning at each other and sighing in unison. Raphael stood between their beds, shaking his head and muttering "…the fuck am I gonna do wit' you two…" while handing out electrolyte drinks and cold packs. For two days, one was banned from practicing telekinesis while the other was banned from practicing science.

"See?" Michelangelo said as the second day wound down, "rest is good for ya!" At which Donatello rolled his eyes and twitched.

Michelangelo, however, still tried to be active, and when he attempted to sit up and swing his legs over the side of his bed, Donatello faced the doorway and hollered for their brothers. Michelangelo muttered "Snitch!" as Leonardo rushed in, gently bodychecked his baby brother, and lay him down, mumbling something about restraints.

"You know I'll just pop them open," Mikey said cheerfully.

"Not if we get Dr Honeycutt to knock you out," Leo threatened.

"You wouldn't!"

"Try me."

Mikey glared and would have retaliated his new favorite way, except that his still-going migraine was making it hurt too much. He huffed. Leonardo huffed back, and affectionately pressed a cold pack to his head, then asked Donnie how he was.

"Breathing is still slightly painful, but I no longer require an oxygen mask." Donatello coughed, hunching. "No more anxiety-driven delusions. I think April may have been right when she told me my restlessness and night terrors were caused mainly by the extreme stress I have been under these past four months."

"If she doesn't start studying psychology or neuroscience," Leonardo muttered, "I just might."

"I do miss Mr. O'Neil," Donatello said.

"Did you know he was thinking about giving Mikey psychotherapy for his concentration problems?"

"And I was just gettin' into them!" Michelangelo sighed dramatically. "Stupid black hole. Stupid planet getting destroyed." He lifted his right leg and kicked, almost experimentally.

Leonardo blinked. "Hey, that wasn't bad, little bro!"

As Mikey beamed, Leo grabbed his foot and bent his leg at the knee, the usual therapy. "Okay, flex your foot against my hand." As Michelangelo did so, there was an impressed "Hah!" from Donatello. Encouraged, Leonardo pushed again until Michelangelo's knee was against his chest. All three turtles grinned. Mikey wiggled his toes. Leo pulled the leg straight. Mikey winced, bit his lip, but nodded. Carefully, Leo rotated the ankle and massaged the shin and calf. He gripped the foot and pressed various acupressure points, which caused giggling.

Raphael came in, asking "What's with the laugh – hey, Mikey, good job! You couldn't do that on your own last week!"

"I know!" Michelangelo squeaked, "it feels really really good, too."

The grin that appeared on Raphael's usually sullen face lit up the room. "Leo, have you tried the left leg?"

Shaking his head, Leonardo moved up to Mikey's thigh and began deep tissue massage just above the knee. "I wanted to concentrate on each leg completely. But you're welcome to tag team. Remember to be careful of the thigh wound-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, man. I've been doin' this for, like, three months, ya know."

Raph gently lifted his brother's left leg, frowning. The muscles were not as defined as they should be. "Hunh. Hey, Mikey, how's this?" And he pressed and flexed the left foot, gently running his fingertips from toes to heel.

"What? Oh, it's okay, Raph," and Mikey waved at him in a way that deepened his frown.

"Mikey, no, come on. I mean, I need you to tell me how deep you feel this." He put on more pressure, more tickling. Michelangelo looked at him, looked at his foot, and looked back at him with a very strange expression. "Um. Well? I can like, feel it just fine, but not as deep as my right."

Leo and Don exchanged alarmed looks. Raphael grabbed Mikey's ankle in one hand, squeezing, and leaned against his foot, wrapping his hand around it, rubbing his thumb across the toes. Finally, Mikey said, "Ow!" but casually.

Raph sighed. "Okay, I'm gonna do deep tissue massage."

"Raph," Donnie warned, "You know you're supposed to start lightly…"

"Screw lightly, I gotta check," Raphael snarled. He pressed hard against calf, shin, knee, thigh, pressing his thumbs into the quadriceps muscles, pushing as hard as he dared while avoiding the massive scar that ran from just above Mikey's knee to just below the crease where thigh met hip. He glanced up and met Mikey's eyes. They stared at each other.

"Well?" Raphael growled.

"I can feel it," Mikey said.

"And…?"

"Um, it… kinda hurts?"

"Hurts how?"

"Like…like… pressure? Soreness? A little burning?"

"Mikey, stop answering in questions!" Raph's voice had risen slightly in mild panic. He shook his brother's leg, watching Mikey flinch. Growling, he ran his hands down again and grabbed Michelangelo's ankle, shaking hard until his brother yelped his name. Raph just glared at him, eye to eye, as he put all the pressure he dared on the ankle and foot, jabbing his fingers into pressure points, flexing foot and ankle as far as they would go. Finally, Michelangelo threw his head back and screamed. He cut off with a sob, gasping, "Stop, Raph, that hurts, stop it!"

A chair levitated and flung itself into a wall. Raphael felt an invisible slap against his face. He dropped his brother's leg and stared at him. "You slapped me!"

"You hurt me!"

"Good!"

They kept staring at each other. Donatello had gotten out of bed, and he and Leonardo were staring between them.

Raphael was breathing harshly. "Mikey, there might be something wrong with your leg, okay? I needed to make sure you could feel something, anything!"

Michelangelo lifted his leg slowly, bent it slowly, straightened it slowly. "It…it feels a little weak, but-"

"It looks a little weak. It looks smaller. It looks like the muscles are less developed." Donatello was now running his own hands over the leg, gently pressing. "Mikey, how well can you actually move this leg?"

With an exaggerated sigh, Mikey kicked out. It was very shaky. He made a frightened noise.

"Okay," Don said, softly. "Okay. I'm gonna help you stand. You ready?

Michelangelo just nodded, his eyes wide.

Donnie put his arms around his brother, muttering "at least you can feel it." Once standing, Michelangelo gripped Donatello's arms and planted his right foot on the ground, biting his lip. "Feels like it's on fire," he mumbled. Donatello nodded. Mike steadied himself. His left leg was trembling. He took a breath and pressed his left foot down.

"Fiery?" Donatello asked.

"Yeah," Michelangelo said. "But kinda numb, too. A little."

"Okay," Donnie said. "I expected that. "Think you can try to walk? Keep holding on to me."

With a whimper, Michelangelo lifted his right foot and moved it forward as the trembling in his left leg increased. "It's okay," Don said, "I have you, Mikey. Keep going."

Mikey lifted his left foot, nodded, stepped forward. Raphael was there, arms outstretched, like a goal. "Keep goin' kid. Reach for my hands."

"Donnie," Michelangelo whispered.

"I'm not letting go," his brother said firmly, an ache in his voice, "just keep stepping forward. That's all. Just step forward."

Panting, whimpering, Michelangelo kept moving his legs, trembling. One was burning, one was cold and trying to burn. Pulling in a deep breath, he relaxed his grip on his brother, who had one arm around his shoulders and the other hand holding his bicep. He reached inside for that sphere, still rotating in his aching brain. He could feel power flooding through his body now, and it was concentrated in his legs. But there was a blockage in his left leg. Around the scar.

A memory tugged at him.

He was taunting the Alchemist even as the gashes in his chest, through his plastron, made it hard to breathe, hard to think. He could feel his insides beating, crying out because the pain was too much and too sudden. He stopped talking, he couldn't find words anymore. The Alchemist was moving too fast, and the sabre moved too quickly, and he could feel new cuts opening up all over his body, he could feel blood running down his skin everywhere, all over; he felt sick. He felt that sabre dig into his left thigh, close to his hip bone, and he felt that blade dig until it almost struck bone, tore apart muscle and tendon and—pulling down, dragging against flesh, and blood was spilling and the blade kept dragging, stopping just above his knee, and his mind was white and blank and he couldn't move and his eyes welled up with tears, maybe even blood. He felt the reptile man grab his shoulder, whisper things. He couldn't move; he knew that he would fall if not for that hand digging into his right shoulder with claws. He couldn't cry out; something in his chest hurt too much. Or maybe he was making noise. Was he screaming? He could be screaming… the agony in his leg was casually wiping out his thoughts as they appeared. Thinking? Why would he need to do that? Bleeding and crying was enough.

Michelangelo shook his head. The memory faded. But the energy, it was like blood pulsing, it was trying to move. The scar was laughing at him! The casual tearing open of his flesh, connective tissue ripping apart flimsily, and the throbbing and the pulsating and the thick, soft gushing of blood spiraling down his leg, like paint down a canvas. Sometimes he would do oil paintings and let it just run down trickle and weave itself into the bumps of the canvas, make itself into something that he could work with later.

In his mind, he was dipping a thick, wide paintbrush into a pool of thick glowing blue liquid. He moved the brush carefully to his leg, and he moved the brush over the scar, and that seemed to awaken something beneath the scar, and a sluggish kind of energy stirred and moved, slowly moving downward like paint down canvas, like paint down a drain. The scar began absorbing the blue glow.

It must have only been a couple of seconds, because his body was still shaking and his brothers were still encouraging him. Mikey took a deep breath and moved forward again. Again. Again. His left arm was stretched out now. Step. Step. Come on! And then someone was grasping his hand. He looked up. Raph had such a wide smile on his face. He pulled Mikey into a hug, and Mikey found himself back with reality, and he reached up and put his arms around Raph's neck, and he let the realization float over him, that he had taken those last couple of steps on his own, because he hadn't felt Donnie's hands at all. So… wait… on his own.

So.

That meant.

"No more wheelchair?" he chirped hopefully against his brother's neck.

Raphael laughed, low and rumbling. "Don't think so, bro. What say you, Donnie?"

Behind him, there was sniffling. He carefully turned, until his left arm was around Raph's shoulders and Raph's right arm was around Mikey's shoulders. Donatello was grinning and crying, crying just a little. "Yeah," Donatello said, "I think it's time for crutches."

Exhausted and relieved, Michelangelo rested his head against Raphael's shoulder.

He looked up when he heard April giggle. He saw her leaning against Leonardo, who was gazing at Michelangelo himself with so much love, adoration, and pride, yes, pride, that Mikey felt a little embarrassed.

"It's a Kodak moment!" Leonardo said, and this time Mikey did blush. Raphael swung his free arm wide. "Come on, group hug!" And when he felt all those hands on him, Michelangelo didn't tremble even a little, and his left leg started feeling a lot stronger.


The crutches were made of a combination of silicone and plastic and metal. Michelangelo whooped and giggled the first time he managed to hop in circles on his right foot. He wasn't allowed to put too much weight on his left foot, which was fine. He hadn't told anyone about how his psionics had started healing his left leg. He wanted to see if it would physically show, since the muscles were smaller and weaker. He wanted to see what would happen if he kept concentrating.

Of course, in order for that to happen, he had to keep up the telekinetic exercise. So, he sat patiently in his bed, with April and Leonardo, and listened carefully as Leo talked about meditation and spiritual feelings and astral projection. Master Splinter had talked about the same things. He just hadn't paid as much attention as he would have liked. Now, he forced his mind to stay focused, which was still hard, but for different reasons. He hadn't mentioned it, not even to April, but he was really starting to feel things working in his brain, like all over his brain. It was difficult to put into words. He realized that Donnie would understand, if he could just find the words. Maybe it was finally time to just open up, get Donnie in his mind, and show him. Unfortunately, that would mean a trip to Neural Mike's house. He still wasn't ready to show that part of himself. He didn't think Neural Mike would be too pleased. He knew Little Mikey would be a welcome and relieving sight. But still. Maybe… maybe if he planned on doing this, he should bring all his brothers in. That way, maybe Neural Mike would understand. Maybe.

"Hey, Mikey?" That was April. She was holding his hand. "You seem a little distracted."

Whooops.

"Oh! Sorry!" he rubbed his head with a sheepish grin. "I was thinking."

"Don't hurt yourself," and Leo winked. "Seriously, though, you were pretty focused. What were you thinking about?"

He bit his lip. No. No, he had to tell them all together. But his other idea, that was perfect! "I was… well, I was thinking of, like a sparring match. On the astral plane?"

Leo blinked. April blinked. Mikey grinned.


"Okay," Leonardo said in his authoritative voice, holding Michelangelo's hands, "I don't want Mikey over-exerting himself. April, you will monitor us and step in if there seems to be a problem. If something seems very wrong, yell for Donnie."

Mikey and April nodded.

Leo met Mike's eyes, solemn. "All right, bro, I need you to promise me you will be careful."

"Yes, Leo," Mikey said, struggling to push down his squirming excitement. "I promise I will be careful."

Leonardo grinned, winking. "I can see you're practically wriggling with excitement, so let's do this thing."

Mikey let out a tiny "Yes!" and Leo's grinned widened.

Everyone closed their eyes.

"Okay, Mikey," Leo said. "Can you hear me?"

"Yup," said Mikey, and suddenly the world shifted, tilted, and dropped away. He caught himself and balanced quickly. Colors, muted, swirled around him and began to shape themselves.

Can you hear me now? Leonardo asked.

Yup, loud and clear. Michelangelo blinked and adjusted. They were in the lair's dojo, of all places. He was impressed. Leo was good at this!

Great. Hang on, I'm coming toward you.

The air shifted. Leonardo materialized in front of him. His katana were already in his hands.

"Awesome!" Michelangelo breathed.

"Be on your guard, Mikey" Leo snapped. Mikey looked into his eyes and saw familiar determination. He gave a cheeky grin and grabbed his nunchaku, pushing them into a light spin. Leo shifted his stance. So did Mike. Leo moved forward just a bit. So did Mike.

Leo lunged with a cry.

So did Mike.

And then the thrill and adrenaline was high and strong and crackling and it felt delicious, as they clashed and moved and flipped and danced. Here, there was no pain, no stiffness. No aching. No fatigue. There was just him, and his brother, in the dojo, training. He caught one of the katanas in the chain of one nunchuck, pulling back. The katana was pulled back, and he smiled, a glint in his eye. He lifted and flipped back, yanking. There was a grunt; the katana came free and he called victory as he landed on his feet, grabbing the katana in his other hand. He saw Leo's expression switch from surprised to impressed, and he started clapping slowly. Mike bowed with exaggeration. He straightened and tossed Leo the sword. Leo snapped it out of the air easily and sheathed both. Mikey folded his 'chucks back into his belt. They bowed to each other. Leonardo came to him and they bumped fists. Leonardo winked. And then the whole world shifted again, dropped away.

Mikey blinked. He was back in his body, still gripping Leo's hands. Leo was grinning at him. "Very nice move with the flip!" he said. Mikey ducked his head, smiling.

April was glancing between them. "I could see the whole thing. That was awesome!"

"It felt awesome" Michelangelo beamed at her.

He moved in the bed and started to swing his legs over. Pain seeped in. And he remembered. He groaned.

He waved away their concern, and reached for the crutches propped against the nightstand. They lifted and moved toward him. Stiffly, he stood straight and headed for the door.

"Mikey?" Leo's voice was gentle.

"It's cool, dude. I'm just annoyed. It didn't hurt in the astral plane."

There was silence. He just kept hobbling, out into the hallway. His stomach rumbled. Time for lunch. He pushed aside any other concern and focused on what to make for a full meal.

Chapter Text

 


They all sprawled around the couch, watching a "Space Heroes" marathon as Honeycutt steered the Ulixes through an asteroid field. Michelangelo was sitting in his power wheelchair mainly for comfort, to give the crutches a break, to give space for the others, and to generally annoy and prod his brothers as he followed them around. Officially, it had been almost five months since he came out of the coma, and another month since his constant, ongoing, painful recovery yielded results that had him almost feeling close to normal. His body was stronger, save for his left leg, which continued to give out or register various pains too intense to walk with. He wasn't worried. Yet. But his dreams had started showing him a familiar face, and he desperately needed to punch something.

Casey and Raph had set up a training dummy in Mikey's room for when he felt like picturing the face of the Alchemist. From the wheelchair, he could beat it up contentedly. Leo and Don were still skeptical of Mike's strong desire to set up a holodeck program.

"Not the Alchemist," Donatello had said.

"Not anyone," Leonardo had said. "Except us. No simulations. We need to test your recovery."

"Spoilsports," Mike pouted.

"I'll do it," Raph said, cracking his knuckles and grinning.

"Maybe later," came the response from Leo and Don.

"You're no fun!" from Raph and Mike.

"What about me?" from April.

The turtles turned and stared at her.

She grinned and held her hands out in a shrug. "I'm smaller, I'm not as advanced, and I probably won't accidentally break him."

Michelangelo was already grinning and nodding, as the others looked at each other.

"Okay," said Leonardo.

"I'm fine with that," said Raphael.

"I agree…but just give it a few weeks," added Donatello. "Please."

April whooped and ran to the wheelchair for Mikey's hive five. She then jumped into his lap and he spun the chair in a few circles. Then he zoomed toward the kitchen, calling, "I'm makin' cookies!" while April giggled and kicked.

"Before or after she kicks your ass?" Raphael called.

"Both!" came the happy reply, in unison.

Turning to his brothers, Donatello lowered his voice. "I really am concerned about that leg. I've been thinking that there could be minor nerve damage, regardless of his walking."

"I know how eager he is to start fighting again," Leonardo said. "It has been a long time. Just…it feels too soon for my liking. Even with the psionics."

"It almost kinda feels like cheating," Raphael added. "Just a little."

"Should we say no psionics during training at all?" Leo asked.

Don bit his lip. "Yeah, I'd say for the first few rounds. I want to track his actual recovery, in real time. Not boosted."

"He isn't ready to take on anyone," Raph growled. "Least of all-"

"I know," Leo agreed. "We need more time. And real practice. And we should study the Cadranian fighting style – or at least that particular group."

"I feel like we should contact Sirra again," Donnie murmured. "Maybe even pay her a visit – with Mikey – so she can maybe give us some ideas."

Raph frowned. "That wouldn't make sense, unless we were willingly gonna find the Alchemist anyway."

Don's shoulders slumped and his head dropped back. "Okay, okay. So… we'll wait. We'll see how Mikey does in his round against April. We'll see how he does in a fight against each of us. Then we can formulate some kind of plan."

The enticing smell of cookies drifted toward them, and the napping Casey sat up. Mumbling something, he rubbed his face and wandered toward the kitchen. The turtles stared at each other.

"Guuuyys!" Michelangelo announced, "pre-fight chocolate chip oatmeal cookies!"

They raced each other to the kitchen. Mikey, on his crutches, was carefully setting aside plates of very fresh cookies. "Post-fight's gonna be chocolate chip peanut butter!"

"You charmer!" April giggled.

"Ow," Casey was saying, "hot."

"Yes, Casey," April said. "Hot cookies out of the oven are hot."

"Ooohh," Mikey said, "I wanna try something!" He came to Casey's plate and held both hands over the three cookies already there. The air crackled briefly. Casey blinked.

"See? I just sucked out the heat, that's all," Mikey grinned. "Oh, that feels good!"

Casey picked up a cookie and bit. "Damn, this is good!"

Michelangelo smiled and ran to Raphael and grabbed his face.

"Hey!" Raph growled. "Your hands are too hot, let go!"

"Told ya!" A mischievous giggle.

Donatello, already hurrying over, rolled his eyes. "Mikey, are you sure you-"

"DONNIE."

And there was a massive pause and silence as Michelangelo spun around and fixed Donatello with the exact opposite of a playful grin. Don took a step back, swallowing hard at the determined, focused, frustrated, exasperated, exhausted snarl directed at him.

"Ah…yes, Mikey?"

"Stop. Worrying. You're gonna keel over." Mikey's voice was strong and commanding and he sounded like Leo, or Splinter.

"…'kay."

And Don had his hands up, face suddenly neutral, but his eyes swept over his brother in a natural, instinctive, protective gaze. He couldn't help it. His baby brother was having migraines and seizures every time strong telekinetics were used.

And he should have known: A cookie flew into his mouth before he could say anything else. He bit into it, keeping a level stare with his brother. Autumn brown and summer blue fought for dominance, and then the chocolate hit his taste buds and he closed his eyes, humming.

"There!" came Mikey's voice. Little sneak, Donnie thought. Effective way to shut someone up. He ate his cookie, sighing, got a plate and added two more, and then stared at his baby brother again, moving to a chair. Mikey merely beamed the brightest of smiles, a little smug. But Donatello didn't miss the wince, the eye twitch, the way Mike's hand tried to not rub his head. There! Donnie wanted to mutter, but he knew better. As long as Michelangelo felt well enough to spar with April, he would let it go. And if Mikey came to his lab asking for headache medication, Donnie wouldn't say a word against it. Not even an admonishing look. Nope.


Raphael grabbed a pillow and held it over his head; it wasn't really the insomnia. But their voices still carried, and he wondered why they had to talk out loud; couldn't they just be telepathic at each other? Unless they were doing both? Gods, what time was it anyway? Finally, he made a noise and stumbled out of bed, and stumbled out of his room, and stumbled across the hall, and…

Aw, hells, I'm sorry, Raph!

And that stopped him just enough to make him grimace; wait, that was Mikey's voice in his head. He blinked and kept going, and unceremoniously shoved his brother's bedroom door open, and glared without even knowing why.

April was sitting cross-legged on Michelangelo's bed, Michelangelo was resting under the covers, and they seemed in the middle of a discussion, or a game, or a something. Raphael blinked a few times. Then he mumbled, "You're loud." And he stood, awkwardly, trying to remember why he was even here.

"Sorry, Raph," April said. "Are you okay? You can't sleep?"

Raph glanced at her; she genuinely looked apologetic and was already sliding off the bed. He felt a muscle in his cheek twitch. His little brother looked content, but also very tired. Very, very tired, and very very frail. Raphael, still without thinking clearly, raised his arm and pointed at him. "You. You can't sleep."

Mike bit his lip, looked from Raph to April to Raph. "No," he said softly. "Nightmares."

"I heard him screaming mentally," April said, still apologetic, "and I came in right away. I'm sorry if we woke you up."

"Whatever," Raphael said. He stomped toward the bed, still pointing, prompting a puzzled look from his brother. "Move over."

Mikey's eyes widened, and then he smiled, and he threw back the blankets and shifted. April smiled and carefully left, shutting the door. Once Raphael had settled completely, he reached out and pulled Michelangelo to him with an unneeded force, but that was just Raph. Mikey grinned, his eyes sparkling, as he rested his head on his older brother's shoulder, nudging the top of his head under Raph's chin. "Hey, onii-chan."

"What's up, otouto?"

"Can't sleep, huh?" Mikey grinned.

"Pfft. You can't sleep."

"No, you."

"Shaddup and go to sleep."

"You first!"

"Tell me about your nightmares, Little One."

Michelangelo paused, letting the old nickname wash over him like sunshine. He pressed himself further into Raphael's side, breathing deeply, inhaling the scents of intense emotion and hard battle, and protective love-driven ferocity. He deliberately wriggled and let out a tiny childlike grunt that made Raph's entire body loosen and relax; it was how he knew best to soothe his brother's beasts when they were cuddled. Raph was always soft around him ever since Mikey's first nightmares when they were toddlers.

"The Alchemist and I were fighting again," and he sensed Raph's heart speeding up. He lowered his voice, softened his tone, but he knew it wasn't going to be easy. "And the Shredder was there too…" and there it was, whether Raph knew it or not, that low tiny rumble edging on a growl. Mike began a slow open-palm massage on his brother's upper plastron. "And I could feel the knife in my leg. And then Shredder was behind me." And there was no movement at all, but he sensed the anger and the surge of fear and the flood of protective worry; he could sense a heavy red wall made of screams and blood and metal moving up and up, and he reached out and lowered that wall very slowly with nimble psychic hands. "And I could feel his gauntlets dig into my sides, like he was trying to lift me up. And I just felt myself start screaming and screaming. And everything turned white and then blue." He continued lowering that wall, releasing blue energy down and around.

Gradually, Raphael's breathing evened out. His head turned and his muzzle pressed to Mike's forehead. "You're doing something, in my head. Aren't you."

Mike nodded. "I'm keeping you relaxed. Is that okay?"

"It's cool. I've never felt it before. It feels a little like fresh air. Like… stretching." Raph's slow smile and chuckle vibrated against his skin. "I could probably fall asleep."

"Nope," Mikey said, and carefully nipped his brother's chin, "you will totally fall asleep."

"Gonna hypnotize me?"

"Don't need to." Mikey let his entire body relax and far as he could, and extended that sensation outward, like energy spilling through his skin, rushing over Raphael.

"What the—ohhh. Neat." Raph yawned. "Yeah, 'kay. G'night, baby bro."

Michelangelo smiled. "Good night, big bro."

His dreams were not scary all night and neither of them stirred.


Another day passed. Michelangelo sat out on a mission, and played games with April and Casey, testing his psychic skills just a little further. Casey realized the absolute futility of card games, especially poker, and so they played video games. Michelangelo still beat him, no powers needed.

The team returned, irritated and exhausted. Sensing this before they walked in, Michelangelo limped to the kitchen and prepared a quick meal starring avocado on pizza, before insisting that his brothers rest on the couch while he found a light-hearted movie. All three of them passed out halfway through "Kung-Fu Panda". Mike, April, and Casey watched the rest in silence, grinning.

That night, after Mikey was jolted awake from another nightmare, it was Leonardo at his door, and as the nightmare was particularly horrific and bloody, Mikey had barely recognized his surroundings until Leo had pulled him close, rocking him with a Japanese lullaby. Mikey had cried like a child, falling asleep clinging to his oldest brother, and Leo had stayed awake for hours, lying comfortably with a shivering asleep brother against his chest. He piled blankets on, wrapping them around his baby brother's shoulders, after taking stock of every scar. He traced the marks slashed across Mikey's plastron, letting his rage and fear rise and wash over him. Every whimper his baby brother made, every twitch and spasm, caused Leo's arms to reflexively tighten around him, as if he might fall, as if he might tumble away and disappear. The darkness in his brother's spirit was thick and raw. Leo attempted to meditate his way into that darkness, but was shoved out by an entity that looked like his brother and sounded like his brother but was absolutely not his brother. He didn't try again. He only hugged and hummed and soothed, finally falling asleep lightly, until it was morning.


"I guess it's time," Donatello said, hesitantly, at breakfast.

It was just over eight months post-coma, and exercises and therapy had been long and grueling. Michelangelo had not yet opened up about the psychological aspects, not even to April. The closest he had come was crying himself to sleep in his brothers' arms over several long nights.

Between his years of ninja training, athletics, and the new psionics settled purring in his brain, Michelangelo had managed somehow to shave off untold months of recovery and reconditioning and speed it to six months. Not even Professor Honeycutt could explain it. Donatello had eventually stopping his high-strung constant check-ups.

Now, after weeks of puppy-eyed stares and only using the chair, Michelangelo grinned, and he April high-fived each other. Raphael smirked. Leonardo looked slightly concerned.

"I've done a full check-up," Donatello continued, "with some physical therapy. Mikey appears to be fit enough just for a single sparring match. We're going to bring the wheelchair, in case something goes wrong. I will also have a first aid kit."

"Everything will be fine!" Mikey interjected, almost bouncing. Don sighed. He insisted that Mikey use the wheelchair until they were completely ready, to rest his muscles.

They programmed in the dojo; Michelangelo and April chose to use their regular weapons of nunchaku and tessen.

From outside the holodeck, the three brothers and Casey watched, fidgeting, as the two readied and faced each other with a bow. At Leonardo's sharp command, the fight began.

Mikey had asked April to not go easy and to use her full strength, and the concern about that was still etched on her face as she leaped at him. He quickly dodged and blocked, sweeping with his left leg and stretching backward as she flew over him. He was mainly applying defensive maneuvers, which made everyone relax. Until April landed back in her spot and Michelangelo unexpectedly launched high, 'chucks spinning, coming at her with his right leg out for a kick.

April rolled quickly, and Mikey, as he landed, spun on his heel, left leg bent. He carefully launched himself toward her again and she blocked, but the power behind his push sent her to the mat, on her back. A second before delivering a strike, Michelangelo suddenly blinked, jerked, and fell back as his left leg gave out on him.

"FUCK!" and his snarl echoed. He was shaking all over.

Quickly, April sprang up and embraced him. "No no, Mikey, that was amazing! You beat me!"

He sighed up at her, the look in his eyes harsh and sad. Donatello was right there, urging him to sit, his hands running up and down the leg. "It's okay," Don said, "no damage. Just weakness. We'll continue physical therapy, and you'll keep using the crutches, until-"

"Yeah yeah," and Michelangelo waved him off, hissing as he stood, leaning to the right. But he accepted Don's shoulder and hobbled out, to the wheelchair, while April shut down the simulation.

"Mikey," Leonardo said softly, "you know this wasn't going to happen quickly."

"I knooow," Michelangelo said slowly, almost with a growl. "I shouldn't be disappointed. I'm just…tired."

They understood. Leo took his hand and squeezed, and they headed back out to the main area, where television, snacks, and rest waited. They were not done.

Michelangelo had very angry tears in his eyes.

They were so not done.

Chapter Text

(Author's Note:
And here we come to a rather important reason why this story is so long and taking its time. This chapter his been floating around in my head patiently for quite a while. However, now I can finally cut loose and let all the really fun things begin!)


Chapter Nineteen


It was month nine, week two - over six months post-coma. Michelangelo had gotten permission to start walking without assistive devices; crutches, wheelchair. He had an adjustable cane now, white with orange flames, alternating between his right and left hands depending on which leg felt more fatigued. Alone in his room, the showers, and anywhere he wasn't observed, he taught his body to adjust and recondition in ways he realized most martial artists would envy. These acquired disabilities were merging with his natural abilities, boosted by the psionics, and he was almost able to fake sprinting, even. That single in the dojo had been gentle and light and whole-bodied. But it still wasn't enough. He wasn't satisfied. He chose a week that he figured would be easy. Maybe.

Each day for four days, Michelangelo woke early, rode his wheelchair to the simulation room, programmed in the dojo, and waited for his brothers. From Don, to Leo, to Raph, he fought and trained his legs to work with their apparently semi-permanent limitations – the constant soreness in his right leg that felt like deep bruises, the constant weakness in his left leg that felt like tiny burning spasms. Honeycutt kept reassuring them all that, in time, that would all go away. However, the phrase "in time" no longer held much meaning.

With meditation from Leo, therapy from Raph, studying from Don, Mikey managed to find new and highly creative ways to use his legs to new advantages. Too much force and weight no longer worked, so he invented new dance moves, new parkour moves, new gymnast moves, keeping himself more lifted, balanced on hips and balls of the feet with wider spins. He balanced on his hands more often. He incorporated more jujitsu, aikido. In the final session, he managed to knock Raphael completely off-balance with a single mid-air spinning kick to the hip while distracting with an upper body twist. During that match, Donatello kept trying to run in and grab Mikey every time he went down. But after that successful kick, Donnie could only drop his jaw and flail a little.

It didn't last.

It could not last.

It was a mistake.

Once everything was done, and Michelangelo had remained mostly quiet, he proved he was nowhere near ready for anything, nearly collapsing into his chair as the final sparring match ended. They had rushed him to his bedroom to put him to bed and make sure he was hydrated and his vitals were strong. He had desperately requested his own room, barely managing to utter "No, I wnt bedroom… pls… now…no hosp…nooo" before falling into a semi-conscious partial complex seizure lasting three minutes, in which his body knew exactly what to do while his mind was fully elsewhere. He cried out two names: Little Mikey and Neural Mike.


Michelangelo spent the entire rest of the morning asleep. Leonardo came to check on him shortly after noon. He was shivering in his sleep, which caused Leo to bring in extra blankets and curl himself around Mikey. When a nightmare started, Leo murmured in his brother's ear, tightened his grip, until Mikey relaxed. Leonardo left the bedroom around one in the afternoon, with Michelangelo still deeply asleep. Meditation into his mind remained impossible, thanks to the bizarre Michelangelo-entity that definitely was not Little Mikey nor any of the personality traits they had seen before.

At lunch, when Leo discussed that issue, Donatello perked up. "He mentioned something about his subconscious self when I was giving him a check-up!"

"Ohh, yeah," Raphael. "Said something like 'yeah, Neural Mike is a fucked up douche but he's been really helpful' and then kind of laughed, like a nervous laugh."

Donnie nodded. "Neural. Yes. It must be a part of his mind in the shape of himself that protects the deepest parts of his neurology. I have been itching to get him to talk about what he remembers during the coma, but he's been literally like a shut door. He closes up too fast."

Leonardo hummed. "What if…what if we tried journeying into his mind again?"

"With that creepy machine the Fugutoid hooked us up to?" Raphael cringed. "No, thank you."

"Maybe not," Leo said thoughtfully. "Mikey himself has become telepathic enough to reach us mentally when he wants to. More so than April. Maybe a group meditation is in order. I think we need to talk to this 'Neural Mike' and find out if he knows things that Michelangelo has been blocking."

Leo then paused, bit his lip, and struggled to recall the sight of "Neural Mike." Eyes that looked like dark empty sockets. Long deep gashes and scars all over. A wide skeletal grin and a throaty laugh that slammed horror into him. He thought he had heard sweet Little Mikey saying something in the background.

Right now, his shiver made his brothers sit straight and ask if he was all right.

He breathed deeply. "Have either of you…seen this Neural Mike creature?" When they shook their heads, he did his best to describe his encounters. Raph let out a low growl. "Why the fuck would our Mikey have someone so… hideously creepy living in his head?"

"I doubt Mikey had a choice," Don said. "Maybe Neural Mike is a compilation of all the fear and worry Mikey has had over the years."

"I don't think we know our little brother as well as we think," Leonardo muttered. The others mumbled.

LEO! DONNIE! RAPH!

The shriek reverberated through their skulls all at once, and they jumped to their feet in unison. Raphael snarled and hissed as sobbing came through, the kind of full-throated wail from a nightmare. He took off toward the bedrooms, Don and Leo on his heels, and he flung himself across the threshold of Michelangelo's room. He didn't stop until his body was on the bed, his arms flung around a shaking, keening turtle.

Leonardo and Donatello were kneeling on the bed, touching their little brother as best they could while he was rocking with his arms over his head, his head tucked against his knees. Raph pulled back slightly so Leo could lean forward and carefully pull Mikey's arms down, murmuring in Japanese.

Gently, Leo got both Mikey's hands in his, humming a lullaby. Mikey raised his head, aquamarine eyes huge and spilling tears. "Hey, Little One," Leo said softly. "It's okay. We heard you. We're here."

Mikey blinked and let out a howl, falling forward and grabbing Leonardo by the waist, his head falling on Leo's shoulder. The other two were soothing and petting him the best they could, but it was Leonardo he cried for. Leo made shhh sounds and again whispered in Japanese.

Finally, Michelangelo stopped shaking and curled up, leaning wearily on Leo's torso. "Sorry," he rasped. "I'm sorry."

"You got nothing to be sorry for," Raph said, palming the back of his brother's head. "You wanna tell us what happened? Nightmare?"

As Don grabbed tissues and began to wipe his face, Mike swallowed and nodded. "I was lost. I was hurt. There was blood everywhere. Someone was laughing…" He took a deep breath. "The last thing I remember is Leo hugging me. And then something yanked me away and it was all dark, and then I was with Other Mike and Little Mikey at my neural network, and something with claws came and… and killed them both, and came after me, and I could feel my body being torn up…"

"Wait, Little Mikey?" Leo gasped. "Our Little Mikey? From before?"

Michelangelo nodded. "He's been helping Neural Mike keep the neurological network in my subconscious steady, he's been helping with the psionics."

They all glanced at each other, eyes narrowing.

"Do you think it was the Alchemist?" Don was visibly struggling to hide a quiet fury.

Michelangelo nodded. "He knows."

They blinked at each other, horror spreading across each face identically.

"…knows what?" Leo whispered, holding him closer, already afraid.

"He knows I'm alive. He's trying to find me." Michelangelo inhaled and shivered. "He wants me dead. Again. For real. Because I'm the first to survive."

The silence was tangible.

"Okay, that's it." Raphael cracked his knuckles and neck. "We're doing this thing."

Mikey wiped at his eyes with his fist, like a small child. "What thing?"

Donatello smiled as kindly as he could. "We were hoping you could show us Neural Mike, so we can talk to him."

Mikey sat up, and leaned back into Raph's arms. "S'funny. I was gonna ask if you wanted to."

"Siblings," Raph grinned and squeezed him, nuzzling his cheek.


They all crowded around Michelangelo's bed, with Casey sitting near the door and April in a chair, the turtles on the bed close enough to touch.

Michelangelo looked at April. "There's gonna come a point where I'll need you to get out," he said.

"Mikey, my abilities have really come far, you know, just like yours…"

"Yeah, but my subconscious is kinda fierce, and it might try to hurt you, and I don't want-"

"Michelangelo." April glowered and folded her arms. "If you're all going in, so am I."

"Wait, April," Donatello said. "We may need an anchor back to reality if something goes wrong. And that anchor can only go so far."

April rolled her eyes. "Okay, fine. I do get that. But," and she pointed at Mike, "when you come back, you and I are gonna have a talk."

"Deal," Mikey grinned. Then he held out his hands to his brothers. Leonardo took one, Raphael, took the other, Donatello took theirs, and they held on tight.

"Okay, you guys…" Michelangelo lay back against the pillows and closed his eyes. He pictured the pentacle in his mind, spun it wide, and it opened up like a gate.

And then, abruptly, he was falling.


Screaming, three turtles flailed in the air before landing in a heap. Raphael, the first to stand up, pointed at the thick red curtain. "Well, at least that's familiar."

"We may encounter something completely different this time," Leonardo warned, reaching for it.

"Wait," Donatello grabbed his wrist. "Listen."

"…and why the absolute hell would you think bringing them here would help?" came from the other side of the curtain. "I'm not throwing a fucking party!"

The brothers froze in horror and stared at each other. That was Mikey. But not. It was a Mikey filled with rage, pain, terror, a Mikey torn to shreds by every despair, anguish, and anxiety possible. It was a pure nightmare with their brother's voice. Donatello let out a squeak.

Silence from the other side. Then, that voice said, "Oh. Oh, well, that's great. They're here and they heard. I hate you. Fine." The voice increased. "Hey! Brothers! Get your asses in here already! Sorry I didn't make cupcakes, I wasn't expecting fucking company."

"Oh, shut up already," came Mikey's regular voice, bored and annoyed and almost cheery. "You're creepy enough with the eye thing."

Cautiously, Raphael parted the curtain, and they walked onto the chessboard floor. Giggling and growling could be heard all around, and shadows shaped like Michelangelo stalked around the edges of the curtains. They saw their brother, standing to their right with his hands on his hips. "Shut up, all of you. We're busy!"

"Oh sure. We."

Raph really really didn't want to look to his left. He could feel how tense his brothers were. But as one, their heads swiveled. Raphael cringed.

Other Subconscious Mike, Neural Mike, whatever he was called, really did look like something out of a horror film and nightmare. Those epic gashes and scars, those empty eye sockets, flaring with forked lightning. He heard himself growl.

Neural Other Mike growled back.

"HEY!" a very familiar, small voice rang out.

"Awww!" their brother said in delight.

From behind the curtain, Little Mikey stepped out, fists on his hips, gold paper crown tilted on his head.

"Little Mikey!" Leonardo called. The child ran to him and they embraced tightly.

"What are you guys doing here?" Little Mikey asked.

Leo glanced over at Mikey – their Mikey, real Mikey – who had folded his arms and was smiling at them. "We needed to figure out what was happening here so we could figure out stuff that's happening out there."

"Oh, that," Little Mikey flicked his wrist. "That's cool. Don't let the scary guy scare you, bros," and here came another growl, "he's just mad because everyone got into his space again."

"We talked about this, kid," Neural Other Mike muttered.

"How about I make it up to you," Little Mikey chirped. "Later we can go sledding!"

The ragged, scarred corners of Other Mike's mouth turned up. "Fine. You can lead." He turned away and began to study something, arms raised.

Utterly confused, Raphael stared at their Mikey, who just shrugged. Leonardo had let Little Mikey down, and the child waved and vanished into the red curtain.

"I have no idea what's going on," Donatello muttered.

"I am utterly shocked," came that rasping horror voice, spilling over with sarcasm.

"Be nice," regular Mikey admonished. "They came here for answers."

Other Mike turned, glaring, and they saw what he was working on.

"Holy shit," Leo whispered. "It's gorgeous."

"Oh!" and Other Mike gave a more pleasant grin, still nerve-wracking. "Well, thank you. I spent a lot of time fixing it up-" with a glare at regular Mikey, "and making sure it's running. Except this asshole keeps doing shit to mess it up, and I'm getting really, really, really unhappy." Regular Mikey just rolled his eyes and tapped his foot.

"Wait, Donatello said, "You mean, like, the psionics or the side effects?"

"Both. It shakes the web. And I have been busy, thank you, trying to keep it all stable, and it isn't done. I need to finish it before anything big can happen."

"Whiner," Regular Mikey said. "You know the practice is good."

"And you need to lay off for a while!" Other Mike snapped. He began to climb the network web, and each dendrite he touched glowed blue. The electric currents running across his open scars glowed blue.

"Um," Raphael held up a finger, "what are you doing?"

Neural Mike stared down at them. "This is my house. I don't have to tell you." He casually hung by one arm, kicked at an axon, and Regular Mikey cried out, grabbing his head.

"Told you," Other Mike shouted out. "Can I finish before you play with it?"

"I am not playing and you know it, assface!" Regular Mikey rubbed his temples and came closer.

"You touch my baby and I'll fling all of you out of here," Other Mike warned. The other three just stared at each other, then at their brother.

"Mikey," Leo murmured, "what is really going on here?"

Mikey sighed. "He's super overprotective, because the Alchemist tried to tear apart most of my autonomic nervous system." Donatello blinked. "So, he really doesn't trust anyone coming near the neural network. That." He pointed at the web, where his subconscious character trait danced across dendrites and neurons, sparking blue glows where he touched. "Not even you guys, because you guys might have, like… ulterior motives. He's paranoid city, dudes."

"I heard that!" from above.

"Wait," Donnie interrupted, "Mikey, you know about neurology like this?"

Mikey shrugged. "Well, yeah. I read some of April's textbooks. And he knows a lot," pointing his thumb upward. "What? I'm not stupid."

"No, no, we know you're not…" Don bit his lip. "I just…didn't think you were interested in science."

"Hell yeah, I am! Guess you guys just never really noticed because all I've done is joke around." Mikey grinned sheepishly. Raphael stared at his shuffling feet. Leo cleared his throat.

"Anywaaay," and Neural Mike was suddenly in front of them with that disturbing smile. "You came here to ask me stuff."

Leonardo took a deep breath. "Does the Alchemist know that Mikey survived the poison, and what can we do to stop him?"

Other Mike blinked at him. And blinked again. And stretched his neck and leaned forward, forcing Leo to flinch back. "Yes, he knows. I have been trying to block him. Mr Prankenstein has been trying to block me. It is frustrating. You know what you can do to stop all this?" His eye sockets screamed endless darkness. "Let. Me. Keep. Working."

"What, is that all?" Regular Mikey asked, genuinely innocent.

"YES. My gods, you assholes are dense. You know the reason you've been getting fucking migraines and shit? Because you're doing too much too soon to this poor web, and you've been ignoring my signals to slow it down. Six months of this. I'm almost there, okay? Fucking fuck, get off my back. You will know when I am finished and you're ready."

"Wait, wait." Raphael glared. "So… any kind of telekinesis Mikey ever did since comin' outta that coma was bad? I don't understand. Wouldn't all that practice be strengthening him? Like new muscles?"

Other Mike sighed, grabbing his head and dragging his hand down his face. "Ugh. Yes and no. Okay, look. It's… okay. This might be hard for me to explain."

Donatello folded his arms with a snarky look. "Try me."

Another sigh. "Look, the subconscious mind is very fragile and strong at the same time. There are different neural networks connected to different parts. This is where that saying 'nerves of steel' comes in." He leaned toward the web and casually knocked on a dendrite, which solidly hummed blue. "Hear that purr? That's a healthy new connection right there." He lifted his head proudly. "That? That means we can do all the psionics we want and it's awesome. But it takes a long, long time to get all these brand new connections properly intact and actually, actively strong enough to hold up against anything coming at this particular network."

"Ohhh…" Donnie murmured. "So, this web here-"

"Hang on. This is not the only network. This is just one of the webs I take care of. This isn't the only subconscious section in here; you're only seeing a very tiny portion. What Cheerleader over there doesn't understand-" nodding toward regular Mikey, who frowned and looked upset, "is that this one small portion of the web is the part that sustains a hit both with those migraine seizure effects and the telekinesis practice. What he has been ignoring is this: It's not those simple dinky little moments of telekinesis that cause this problem. Those are okay. In fact, the more he practices, yes, it's like building up muscle. But you know what the only way to build muscle is. Right? Of course you do."

"Tearing it down and letting it rebuild," Raph whispered in horror. He stared at his baby brother, whose eyes had gone impossibly wide, fear spread across his face.

"That's riiight," Neural Mike grinned. "You have to damage yourself, again and again. Notice that after those seizures, you feel a little stronger, right?" Mikey just nodded, unable to speak. "That's all fine. That's not why I'm yelling at you. That's not why I'm angry. You wanna know why I'm angry?"

Mikey just nodded. Suddenly, Neural Mike banged, hard, against the same dendrite, which seemed to shriek, darkening its glow and sending that dark glow through a corner of the web. Neural Mike himself crackled with electric waves. Mikey screamed and dropped to his knees. Leo grabbed him and helped him to his feet.

"I have been trying to reach you!" Neural Mike hissed. "I have been trying to get you to stop pulling energy from this specific part of your network! There are a bunch more out there, you know. This one is critically damaged. It is badly injured. But it seems like this is the only part you care about. Because it's the one I was working on the first time you actually saw me. This web only part you seem to allow yourself to know. And the only way I can get to you is in your dreams, but even then you run away from any shape I take. Don't you get it? You have plenty of power built up all over, but for some godforsaken reason you keep coming back here, to the one part I keep telling you not to, and this web is starting to strain. You have to stop pulling from here. Do you understand? Do you get it now?" He advanced on them, and Mikey whimpered.

"Stop that," Raph snarled. "He didn't know. Okay? He must've blocked it out. That's why we came here. To find out the shit you know that Mikey doesn't know. For fuck's sake, you live here too! You must know all the torture and crap he's gone through."

Neural Mike's fists unclenched. "Yeah. Fine. I get that. My fault for being the inscrutable asshole that I am, huh? And it is my house. We'll change the board, then." He snapped his fingers. The room exploded in light, then reformed. They looked around, puzzled. The tiled floor was the same, as was the red curtain. But the web network… that had changed completely. It was shining proudly in deep electric blue, every neuron thrumming with force.

Automatically, as if by strings, both Mikeys stood tall, eyes glowing softly.

"Oh. I get it," Regular Mikey whispered. "Dude, I get it now. Awesome."

Neural Mikey slapped a hand over his chest. "Be still, my heart. Yeess, this is what I was trying to get you to see. Change your game, right? Move to a different web. Pluck on a different string. Turn it around. Like Little Mikey was trying to explain all along, yeah? Just because you came to that other place in your coma doesn't mean it's the only part. Right? Right?"

"Right!" Mikey chirped, his smile huge, and he looked as if he had been handed something deeply precious.

"…I am still so confused," Donatello said. "When did all this happen? This was going on for all these months? Mikey, why didn't you tell us anything about this?"

"I…" Mikey held his hands out like a plea, "I couldn't remember, guys! I didn't know! I just knew about bad dreams, and headaches, and, and pain! I swear, I had no idea!" He trembled, a tear forming in one eye.

"Oh! Oh, Mikey," and Donatello pulled him into a hug, "no, I didn't mean to imply you were ignorant on purpose! It was more rhetorical, really. But you did refuse to talk about your nightmares these last few months. That isn't healthy. Psychological trauma can quickly build up. You need to start opening up, okay? No wonder Neural Mike has been upset. You've been shutting down and bottling everything up, and that can be harmful and scary, worse than if you do talk about it. No wonder it's been so terrible." He squeezed. "Bro, I need you to talk to us. Obviously this is what we needed to learn."

Sniffling, Mikey nodded. "I understand. I promise I'll talk more, D."

"Listen to the alpha nerd," Neural Mike nodded. "He is wise in all things nobody wants to pay attention to."

"Hey! I am not that bad!"

Raphael couldn't help but snicker. "Yeah, man, you kinda are…"

"Stop siding with the creepy horror movie villain!"

A loud, raspy, unsettling laugh echoed around the chamber. It filled their ears as a massive gust of wind swirled around them, lifting them, turning the world gray…


And slammed into them into their bodies, eyes snapping open, adjusting themselves on Michelangelo's bed, clinging to each other's hands, sweat dripping from their faces.

"Oh my god, you guys!" April cried. "You're back! Are you okay?"

The turtles just gasped for air, staring at each other. Michelangelo was shivering. An extra blanket had been wrapped around him and April had her arms around his shoulders, staring at each of them in deep worry.

"Guys…" Mike panted, "I'm so sorry…"

"No," Leo gasped out, "we didn't know. It's okay. Now we know. We can work with this. It's gonna be okay, Mikey. You'll be okay!" and he leaned forward and held his brother tight, as April pulled back. Donatello reached out and put his arm around her, and she just stared at them all in confusion.

"It is a weird, creepy, interesting story," Donatello told her with a smile.


(Author's Note:
Hey, is it just me or you guys getting annoyed with April's psychic powers getting so intense in the show? Or maybe I'm just jealous!)

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty


Really, it was the water balloons that showed the proof more than anything. Later.

Later.

Much, much later.

After the despair, after all the horror of opening the floodgates, after days and days of screams and sobbing and denial and bargaining and reluctant acceptance, there were water balloons.

There was gentle, supervised acrobatic martial arts exercising. But nothing compared to the battle of the water balloons much later on.


Mikey and Leo had daily sessions in Mikey's bedroom, meditating, coaxing out the emotional trauma already sealed off by scars and sutures and walls. Mostly, it ended with miserable, anguished crying. But Leonardo was determined, and put all of his strength and power into it. Sometimes that meant lying flat on the bed with Michelangelo curled against him, shivering, discussing each nightmare word by haltering word, as hours went by and they eventually fell asleep wrapped around each other, the moon adding extra glow to the sun. Even in sleep, Leo traced the outlines of his little brother's scars, as if they were a map that could lead him to a key to break apart the scars inside Mikey's mind.

At night Mikey slept hard, and long, and reacted every time when he woke up. A gasp, a whimper, a wail, a howl. Walls and doors were slowly breaking, cracking, shuddering, crumbling. Part of him shrieked in pure adrenaline-driven fear, while part of him stood strong and prepared to face the explosions.

Later, Raphael, walking past his room, heard a long, low moan that rose in pitch and exploded as he rushed into the room. But.

Mikey was bleeding. Literally. Physically. Curled up, hands over his face, thrashing from side to side. Some of the small cuts on his arms and legs had somehow reopened, scars bursting fresh. Blood was starting to soak into his sheets. Raph howled for his brothers and grabbed a towel and wrapped it around Mikey like a cocoon, pulling him against his chest, desperate and frightened.

"It's too dark," Mikey gasped like he was drowning. "It's too dark, I can't see, I can't feel, I can't do this! I CAN'T DO THIS. It hurts! Make it STOP." And Raph could only rock him and murmur that he was here and he would help him. And then at Don's command, Raph carried Mikey to the infirmary, and they hooked him up again with the pads on his chest and his head and the IV lines in his veins and the oxygen mask over his face. Deep inside his own mind, Raph could feel his brother, crying, somewhere in a smoke-filled void, and he couldn't touch him. Whimpering himself, Raphael cupped his brother's cheek. I…Mike, I'm here, I am here, little brother. Please hear me. Please feel me. I will never leave you. I will never let you go.

After bandages had been applied, Raph gently lifted Mike's shoulders and head and held the younger against his chest, against his racing heartbeat. "I'm here," he panted, "I'm here, I'll do whatever it takes, I'll keep you safe, just please stay with us. Don't leave us again."

A voice cried, distantly, Help me! And Raph's muscles stiffened as something reached out and grabbed his mind and pulled him down, down, dark and deep, and all he could think feel, or experience was I AM COMING FOR YOU, MIKEY and so the universe tilted and he went flying, he went into freefall, and he was screaming, and he needed to get to the sound of the crying, and it wasn't far now.


Leonardo realized what was happening and sat on Michelangelo's other side, grabbing his hand in both of his. He launched into meditation and astral projection so forcefully that he lost his bearings. He barely had to think when the psychic implosion sucked him in and he went tumbling, stretching and twisting, falling and spinning, his mind instinctively reaching for the thing that wanted to grab him and he let it pull him down into the depths.

Toward the terrified sobbing, toward the screams begging for release.

He had moved – and thrown – mountains for his family.

Michelangelo, the baby, was instinctively and fiercely guarded; those big brother instincts kicked in hard whenever Leo saw Mikey hurting. He knew he would do anything, everything, to stop Mikey from hurting, even stabbing the universe.

Tearing apart spacetime to save his baby brother was what he did.

Psychotherapy be damned, this was an entire neuropsychology rewrite that no one would ever know.

Leo moved into a swandive and prepared to absorb whatever impact waited.

And then he heard Raphael howling their baby brother's name, and he knew he would make it just fine.

They would make it.

They would-


It was dark, and it felt like a room made of stone, so he wedged himself into a corner, under a square that let light shine through. It was moonlight. He shivered.

Michelangelo alternated between crying and screaming until his throat was bloody, and then he just panted, rocking, begging. Splinter had practiced some bits of Shinto religion, and Mikey enjoyed it mixed with some paganism, and so now he reached out to whatever old kami and Greek gods were around. Pan, Apollo, Athena, Hades, and Persephone (the original myth where she was never stolen and she went willingly out of love) were his favorites. He didn't care that they were just creative incarnations of representations of human interpretations of the world. He just needed something to hold on to.

In front of him, kneeling easily on goat legs, the great god Pan smirked. "You're cute when you cry for help."

From his curled position, Mikey sniffled. "I try."

"You need help."

"No. Really. How'd you guess?"

"Persephone has a gift for you."

"She has gifts for everyone. Wonder what she does when it's someone's birthday."

"Lots and lots of weird fireworks. Here. Take it."

It was a wooden box painted navy blue, with golden swirls. Michelangelo opened it, still unimpressed. Blue light spiraled up and out like smoke. The talisman was in the shape of a sea turtle, rainbow-colored with rose-gold edges. He looked up, sighing. "Did Little Mikey put you up to this?"

"We came up with this together."

Shrugging, Michelangelo picked up the talisman. It immediately stretched, molded, and changed form, becoming a long, wide wrist cuff decorated with tiny, multi-colored animals: butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds, ravens, dolphins, deer, panthers, coyotes, foxes; clasping around his right wrist and locking with a clasp shaped like an iridescent sea turtle, teal turquoise highlighting the shade of his skin. He blinked in surprise and shock. "Uhhh. Dude? It's totally gorgeous. But I don't do that whole spirit animal thing."

Pan scoffed. "I'm Greek. I don't either. These aren't spirit animals. They are patroni. Tutelar spirits. Latin. Means representative protective spirits for each individual. They're reminders. They represent and symbolize who you are and who you're meant to be. It's a good reminder to remember what your soul is about. Call it… Oh, I don't know, nature patrons. Guardian spirits. Or hey, shijin. Shinto does animism and shamanism, right? Personal patronus messengers. In animal form." His eyes snapped with urgency.

Pan then grinned, kindly. "After all, those creatures all represent your particular traits: joy and vibrancy, happiness and innocence, playfulness and wonder; of lust for life, of the ability to move through life and obstacles with grace, of lifting the negative and spreading the positive; of loyalty to family, of harmony and cooperation; of inner strength more powerful than any weapon, of trickery and deception and distraction; of ability to change directions easily, of lightness of being, of playfulness and brightness and hyperawareness, of ferocity to protect and defend, of sensitivity toward the spiritual lines between realms, of transformation and adaptation, of intuition and power to see the unseen and the impossible. Seriously, they're just shaped like animals. And those animals represent you. You, Michelangelo. Yeah, it does seem like a lot. But you are quite a handful, aren't you?"

He was still smirking in a way that could have been interpreted as either sexy or scary. His flirtatious tenor had dropped several octaves. He didn't take a breath and he didn't move; his eyes had been glowing amber.

Michelangelo stared in wonder and shock, blushing. Then he shook himself, blinked, and shrugged. "Y-Yeah, whatever. Okay." He stared at his new jewelry, running a finger over each animal gently. His frown deepened.

Pan slapped him upside the head. "You called. I'm here. Let me finish. You're slipping into a major depressive episode. We figured that this little decoration might shift your focus. All of these creatures are linked to joy, delight, tenderness, tricks, stealth, life, and love. That's you. Doesn't have to be animals or bits of nature. Could be anything. I'm a nature god, it's what I do. Work with it. And also with that." He tapped Michelangelo's chest. Mikey glanced down, and noticed that his ouroborus pentactle was around his neck held by leather string. Wait, when did that happen? Fuck it, never mind. He was supposed to be therapeutically working through what the Alchemist did to him.

Pan growled low in his throat. "Look. You called me. I'm just one of billions. You could've called Loki. Hermes. Shakti. Tara. Amaterasu herself. Quan Yin. Actually, why the hell shouldn't you call on Quan Yin? She does compassion like nobody else. She'd be good at this. I'll be right back."

Pan vanished. Michelangelo allowed himself a small smile, wrapped his arms closer around himself. He rocked back and forth again, smelling blood and sweat and defeat and terror. Nope.

The air rippled in front of him. A tall woman as pale as the moon with hip-length hair like midnight and kohl-lined eyes like space and stars appeared and then knelt in front of him. Her kimono was turquoise and blue topaz, the color of his skin and eyes. The bridge of her nose was dusted with freckles. Her full, wide, pomegranate-colored lips were smiling with pure tenderness. His hands twitched. The urge to get up and bury himself in her arms and sob was intense. He struggled. Tears ran down his face. She radiated love and simple, essential compassion, and he wanted to stay forever.

"I know who you are," he choked. "I know why you're here."

She reached out, her fingers stopping just short of his face. "You don't need to talk," she said, like crystalline bells in the night, "but I am here and I won't leave. We have our thoughts."

Morosely, Michelangelo blinked at her. "You mean like telepathy."

She just smiled. "Yes, in a way."

He looked down. "I thought I wanted to talk. I don't know if I can."

"It is difficult. It is a process. Time means nothing where we are. Do you understand?"

When he nodded, she shifted until she was sitting beside him, hands in her lap. "Your brothers are looking for you."

A shrug. "They won't find me. I made new walls."

"Yes, I saw. Impressive and powerful. I congratulate you. But they know you. They're on their way."

He hesitated. He sighed. He nodded. "I told Leo a few things." When the goddess just nodded, he took a breath. "Obviously it wasn't enough. I didn't wanna go deep enough. Maybe I can't do what Donnie wanted me to do."

"Why are you so afraid?" Quan Yin asked.

Startled, he looked at her. "I'm not!"

She said nothing, just stared straight ahead. A long time passed. Michelangelo realized she was listening to him, and he was talking to her, and neither said a word, but he felt lighter as his thoughts poured out of him, and Quan Yin absorbed it all easily, and he had a realization, an understanding, that even when he couldn't see her, she would be there, and she would be listening, and she would know.

Somewhere, maybe from the opposite wall, there was frantic banging, there was his name being screamed. He ignored it. So they came after all. But it didn't matter now. It wasn't enough.

But then something cracked and broke deep inside him. Suddenly he felt terrified again, and Quan Yin held his hand. She waited, ever gentle, until he unlocked his tongue.

"When…when the…t-t-the Alc-Alc-Alchemist… when he asked me ab-about the st-stone, and I kept telling h-him how it f-felt, I c-couldn't shut up…I d-didn't know how he could do that…it really felt like he w-was snaking inside my h-head…" Abruptly, he dropped his head to his knees and wailed, tears bursting forth, and it caused the opposite wall to shake and crumble with force, as someone kept hitting and hitting.

"Mikey!" they screamed. "Mikey!"

And he could only shake and howl and sob like he was made out of tears and fears and pain and anguish, and he felt Quan Yin embrace him and kiss his forehead, and as it sent waves of soft, sweet, happy warmth bursting through his entire form, he began to laugh, began to laugh through the crying, and it felt good, it felt like a flood of relief.


The wall came down in a cacophony of smashing.

Raphael and Leonardo stood there, looking around. They stared at Michelangelo, all alone, rocking and swaying, sobbing and laughing, and they ran to him, hearts in their mouths. They didn't know what to do, so all they could do was embrace him and sway with him, and Mikey dropped his head onto Leo's shoulder, breathing slowly and carefully until all his laughing tears had quieted. Leonardo stared at the strange new wrist cuff for a long time, jolted when Mikey made a noise.

"I'll tell you," he gasped, gulping, his voice hoarse as though burned. "I'll talk. I love you."

Puzzled, they stared over his head at each other. And then Donatello called to them from somewhere, everywhere. He sounded frantic. They held on even tighter. Michelangelo gave a small, short laugh. Forcefully, they were yanked away.


Leonardo and Raphael each found themselves on the floor; and in the bed, Michelangelo was half-crying, half-laughing. Donatello was embracing him, a syringe being placed against his elbow, a sedative pushing into his system.

"I will tell you everything," Mikey was whispering. "Just don't yell at me."

"Mikey," Donatello said, sounding exhausted, "Nobody is gonna yell at you. Or hurt you. It's okay. We love you."

"Heh. 'Kay. Love you, Donnie. Quan Yin and Persephone send kisses." The drugs were taking effect.

"Er. All right. Thank them for me?"

"N' prblm, broooo." Mikey fell asleep instantly, and Donnie had to tighten his grip, carefully laying him down.

He looked to his brothers who were wincing as they stood up. "Well?"

"We… er," Raph began. "He was in this tiny dark room and it looked almost like a dungeon, and he was just… laughing, and crying, laugh-crying. And he was wearing new jewelry."

Leo described the decorated wrist cuff as best he could, naming each animal's spiritual significance. Donatello took Michelangelo's right arm and frowned. "It must be only spiritual or psychic. I don't see on his arm."

"Thing looked like it could deflect bullets," Raphael contributed. "It went almost halfway up his forearm."

"Did he open up to you?"

"No," Leo said. "But I sensed that he had to someone else. I sensed a presence right before we broke through."

Donnie just sighed, a long impatient huff. "I knew the psychological and emotional pain would be worse than the physical. But this is much more complex than I realized. He is absolutely terrified. He might be attracting spirits, or interdimensional beings, or other parts of his consciousness, and confiding in them before he prepares to face us. I don't know if that's healthy or detrimental."

Looking down at his sleeping sibling, Donnie ran his hand down his face, blearily, and sat in his usual chair. "If the Alchemist really did get some kind of sensory signal that Mikey is alive, we're gonna need to be extra vigilant in the spiritual plane as well as around here. And we don't even know where the Alchemist is right now."

"We could at least call Sirra," Raph muttered. "She's really our only contact about this."

"Would she even remember us?"

"Leo. You kidding me? Those two have probably spent the last few months squirming about getting a call from us. And Mikey's okay now, so that'll make them happy." He glanced at the bed. "Relatively speaking."

"I'll…" Leo turned to leave the room. "I'll ask Honeycutt if we can change course and go back to Cadran's orbit. I just want to be cautious. If the Alchemist really did sense Mikey's presence, he might try a psychic attack."

Raph's fists clenched. "We'll be ready."

"That's a lovely thought, Raph," said Donnie, "but we need to be prepared, too."

"So? Prepare. I'll be in the dojo, preparing my fists."

Leo and Don both sighed.


Some time later, as they hovered as close to Cadran as they dared, the four turtles suited up. Michelangelo took his cane, just in case. Once they had landed in the same city as before, Mikey was immediately flanked by Don and Raph with Leo ahead. They headed straight for the dark blue house that was bigger on the inside. Before they could knock, the door opened, and a small form wrapped small arms around Leonardo's waist.

"So glad you're back!" Tirren crowed. He stepped back, grinning. "We really weren't sure…" And then he saw Michelangelo, stumbled back, and stared in pure awe.

Michelangelo blinked and stared back, amused.

"Um," Terrin said. "Um. Come in. Yes! Come in! Sirra is working on a project but she'll be so happy to… see you…" and as he skipped backward, he was still gazing at Michelangelo as though memorizing his face.

As they walked in, Sirra called out, "Tirren, who is it?" and when Tirren called back, "the turtle aliens, all four of them!" there was a crash and a pounding of feet, and Sirra slipped into the hallway, her eyes locked on Mikey's face, her mouth wide open.

"Oh," she murmured. "You're the surviving boy."

Michelangelo managed his dazzling smile for her, and bowed slightly. "Hi! I'm Mikey! You're Sirra the scientist! I love your house."

She blinked, swallowed, looked close to tears. "Yes. H-hello, Mikey." She stepped forward, arms held out hesitantly. Michelangelo didn't even question, just stepped forward and pulled her into a hug.

Sirra cried against his shoulder.

"It's okay," he whispered.

"It is now," she whispered back.

"I still am not quite sure how this happened," he said, rubbing her back.

"I'll explain," she said, locking her arms as if afraid he might vanish.

"Is anyone hungry?" Tirren asked.

"Starving, little dude," Mikey said.

"I could make your pizza again!"

"As long as I get to help!"

And when the hug ended, the hyperactive reptile and hyperactive turtle bounced toward the kitchen together, and the young scientist wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at the others, grinning. "We have much to catch up on."

"We certainly do," Donatello told her somberly. She frowned. They sat on a couch. Alternating, the turtles began to talk. As Sirra listened intently, the worry, confusion, sadness, fear, and horror on her face grew until her skin was so pale it was almost gray.

"That is a problem. You are in danger," she agreed. "Michelangelo must be protected until he reaches full potential, let alone physical recovery."

"Do you know where the Alchemist is?" Raphael growled.

"Right now? I believe he is on Risal, in one of his workshops, and will be there for several months."

"Well, how about that. A vacation planet where you can beat anyone up." Raph cracked his knuckles. The tiny smiles on his brothers' faces widened his feral grin.

Sirra held up a hand, just as Tirren and Mikey returned with a huge pepperoni pizza. "I suggest honing all possible skills first. I would be happy to provide you with information, as long as my name stays out of it."

Leonardo bowed his head. "On my honor."

As they ate the beautifully cooked pizza, Tirren looked up at Michelangelo and asked, "So tell me again about how you play a water balloon game?"

Instinctively, Sirra said up straighter, Donatello groaned, and Raphael threw back his head and laughed and laughed.


And later, in their backyard, the battle began.

Sirra's house had a replicator that could create small objects, and latex balloons were easy. Michelangelo taught carefully and in detail. As he limped out to the backyard with Tirren and Sirra, he grinned at his brothers gathered at different points. Leaning down to whisper something into Tirren's ear, causing the boy to grin, Mikey lovingly cupped a yellow balloon. And then, he threw it, no warning, no preparation.

As the projectile struck Raphael full in the face and the ensuing face of utter confusion had everyone laughing, something unexpected happened.

Michelangelo tossed his cane to the grass, and sprinted toward Raph, two water balloons at the ready.

Mikey.

Sprinted.

Mikey. Sprinted.

Raphael's shock was short-lived as his brother slammed into him, striking him down twice with two more balloons. As Mikey crowed victory, silence fell over the yard.

Frowning and worried, Michelangelo glanced around at the stunned faces. "What? Did I do something wrong?"

"Mikey," Raph muttered in shock, "get up. Get offa me."

Quickly Michelangelo fell back and then leaped nimbly to his feet, then spun toward each brother, confusion on his face. "Um. Guys? You okay?"

Their faces were filled with stunned, thrilled shock.

"Mikey," Donatello gasped. "You…you sprinted. Without the cane."

"Well, yeah. I needed to close the distance and-"

Michelangelo paused, blinked, and let it sink in. His eyes went wide. "Oh. OH."

He stood, and swayed, and his left leg bent in a familiar way. His brothers moved to support him, and he wobbled, straightened, and stood very very still. "This is…interesting," he said, a slow smile forming.

Before anyone could say a word, two more water balloons struck Leonardo and Donatello, and they never did figure out where Mikey had been keeping them.

As Tirren laughed in delight, Michelangelo grinned and waited.

As the three water balloons sailed toward him, he deliberately fell backwards, kicking his feet up into the air, and let out a full-throated laugh. He rolled into a shaky backflip, posed dramatically, and ran – RAN – around the circle of bodies, releasing projectiles too fast for anyone to dodge. The balloons that chased him never touched him. And with a final forward flip, landing steadily on both feet, Michelangelo declared victory.

And his brothers could only watch, as even as that left leg trembled, he was standing straight and true, grinning wildly, and there was a mad dash as three turtle bodies leaped onto a fourth, and they rolled around the grass, laughing wildly, hugged fiercely, hugging and crying and laughing in pure victory. It was not a small thing. It was no longer a small thing.

Their baby brother could run. Six months after waking from a devastating coma, their baby brother could run. Nothing felt better, on that day, cuddled up against that grass, in their alien friends' backyard, and at that moment, in those seconds, nothing mattered but that.

Chapter Text

Sirra had glared and grumbled for hours after Tirren had finished his run around the yard, throwing water balloons at everyone and everything, shrieking with laughter. But she smiled the whole time, and hugged Michelangelo randomly, and used medical scanning equipment on him.

At the kitchen table, Sirra showed them on the small screen where all that damaged had healed and was still healing. The left leg, she explained, might always be a little unsteady as the hamstrings had been affected just as much as the quadriceps. The sabre had in fact nicked his lung just enough to barely go unnoticed. Some muscles and tendons would be permanently scarred and the entire autonomic system was still going to be shaky. Mikey would struggle with chronic pain and damaged nerves after all, as Donatello brought up. Sirra suggested that his "vast shinobi skills" could mitigate the pain during battles. Leonardo mentioned consistent meditation, at which Michelangelo groaned while Raphael snorted.

"Would you like some of my hyperactivity medicine?" Terrin asked, rocking on his heels, standing next to Sirra as the turtles sat around the table.

Raising his head from his hands, Mikey grinned. "No, that's okay. I have my own ways."

Tirren's brow wrinkled. "But… it needs to be medicated! You can't pay attention or concentrate on your lessons. What other ways are there?"

"Tirren!" his sister hissed. But the four turtles just smiled.

"Well," Donnie said, "On our planet, we have medications, but they're only for humans – for now. The dominant species on the planet. We have to hide, remember. We're…mutants. They wouldn't accept us enough to give Mikey a medicine all the time."

"Plus, there are little mental tricks Mikey can do," Leo said, tapping the side of his head. "I know it isn't the same as medicine, but our father has many tea blends that are medicated."

Tirren pondered this. "My medicine tablets have plants and chemicals mixed together. I guess I understand. Anyway!" and he bounced in his seat, and the way Sirra and Michelangelo relaxed signaled that the topic was changing again. "Why are you wearing bandages? I thought you were all healed?"

The turtles blinked. "Oh," Mikey said. "Um. I don't know? I was having nightmares, and when I woke up, some of my scarred-over wounds had opened up."

"Oh, that isn't good," Sirra murmured, coming to inspect him. "Do you remember what happened in your dreams?"

Mikey pressed his lips together, glancing at his brothers, who shared a desperate expression. "I…I dreamed about battling the Alchemist. I dreamed that he hurt me all over, and each time, the blades were tipped with poison…"

Sirra's eyes welled up in sympathy. "I see. Considering that you're the only surviving victim, I guess you're the only one who could reveal that sort of thing. The Alchemist doesn't like loose ends. All of his clients are guaranteed their potions and elixirs to absolution. Even the…" She cleared her throat.

"The what?" Raphael snarled.

"Well, some of his clients are known assassins, is all I can say right now."

The silence stretched out thickly, heavily.

"I have some games we could play!" the little boy said loudly. Michelangelo grinned widely. "I'll play with you, buddy!"

"Sister, please?"

"Yes, Tirren, fine. But I need to look a little further at Michelangelo's injuries, all right? In my actual lab, not just with the small scanner."

"Okay! May I please watch?"

Sirra smiled. "Is this because you wish to be a doctor like you said?"

"A neuropsychologist!" Tirren corrected, folding his arms. "Knowing how my own brain works is interesting enough. I want to know how eveybody's brain works."

"Well," and Sirra poked his snout, "that will require a lot of focus and attention."

"It can be my hyperfocus! All us Cognitive Attentive Tempo Disorder people can hyperfocus. I bet Mikey can!"

"You make a fair point," said Donatello. "Mikey is a very talented artist and storyteller. He can beat anyone at video games. And, when we are practicing our ninjitsu, once Mikey falls into a particular rhythm, good luck snapping him out of it. You should see him out in battle. He can take down six people at once! He gets so focused that he doesn't stop until there's nothing left! But," and he winked, "sometimes he does get too distracted and will go back and forth, but that's still part of hyperfocus shifting his short attention span from one target to another."

As Tirren nodded in fascination, Donnie continued. "On our world, we call it Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Sometimes, instead of hyperactivity, there is Inattentiveness, which is the opposite of Mikey and you, very quiet, very daydreamy. But many humans don't think it's a real condition. And they don't realize what hyperfocus is."

He smiled at his younger brother, then grew concerned at the look of fear and confusion and almost betrayal. " Mikey? What did I say?"

"I…I…I didn't know that. Do I really focus like that? Is that what hyperfocus is? Do you really mean that about me in battle? I thought nobody wanted to team up with me because I get too distracted and I screw up all the time! Donnie, why are you saying this now? I thought I was the family failure because of my short attention span and my lack of discipline and now you're saying that… that… what are you saying, D?" His voice was close to breaking.

Both Sirra and Terrin sucked in deep breaths. The other turtles made tiny noises and grew pale.

Michelangelo rounded on Leonardo and Raphael. "What about you two?" he cried. "All that insulting and poking at my brain smarts. Making fun of my intelligence and my concentration out in battle. Do you actually mean that? Is it because you're just trying to push me to see if I can focus? Maybe you'd like me better if I were taking medication, huh? Less energy spent on pranks and jokes and leading the Foot right to us because I shout my war cry and get distracted? Do you even know what 'Booyakasha' means? It means 'love to the very moment, celebration to the hour'. I thought you knew that! I made it up to signal victory! Because I always know we'll win! Even if they beat us up! Because we're us, we're the Hamato clan, we are the Mutant Ninja Turtles, there's nobody like us, anywhere! And wherever we are, we need to celebrate, because we're together, us brothers." He took a shaky breath, squeezed his eyes shut. "Sometimes I wonder if…"

There was a pause so long and so intense that Leo hurried to his side and grabbed his hand. Michelangelo jerked away, but didn't pull out of Leo's grasp. His eyes snapped open, crystal blue shiny, his cheeks turned the dark green of a blush.

"No," he gasped. "Never mind. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I shouldn't yell at you. I can't. I can't say those things. I'm sorry. You saved my life. You watched over me. You healed me. You saved my life, I can't…"

"Mikey, wait," Leo said softly, and tugged on his arm. "Don't. You are right. We have been jerks in the past. And we're sorry. We mock and tease you as the baby of the family, but never because we think you're lesser than us. Never."

"NEVER." And Raphael was kneeling, grabbing Mikey's chin, turning his head, green eyes glaring into blue. "You hear us? We have never thought you were less for who you are. You're our annoying little brother, you're supposed to rile us up. You can't help being who you are, especially with a brain disorder. And we know that. And if we give you grief, it is only because we see your raw power and we really want you to use it. You get me?"

Mike sniffled frowning at him. "Really?"

"Really." Raphael took both of his sais and pressed them to his upper plastron at angles. "Cross my goddamn heart, Little One."

Mikey smiled at the gesture. "Nice turn of phrase."

"Mikey," Donatello breathed, grabbing his brother's free hand, "We mean every word we say here and now. We all get frustrated with each other. Annoyed. Irritated. Sometimes it can feel easiest to take it out on the youngest sibling, but with you it's also because you radiate happiness and joy and exuberance in a way I have never seen. It's like you're surrounded by an aura that just absorbs our worries and spins them into gold. But if our words punch through to you and hurt you, it's so important to tell us. In the heat of the moment, none of us may be thinking clearly. You light us up, you relax us, you remind us that it's all going to be all right. You are our heart, Mikey. Nothing can survive without a heart." There were tears in Donnie's eyes. "You know we adore and cherish you beyond all reason and rationality, right?"

Gulping through his own tears, Mikey nodded.

"Good. Because reason and rationality are not always welcome where love is involved." And Donatello came on Mikey's other side and opened his arms for a hug. All the turtles smushed together as much as their suits would allow.

A few feet away, Sirra and Tirren stood silently, holding each other and crying. Tirren whispered as quietly as possible, "Will Mikey be okay?"

Sirra managed to smile. "With family like that, he will be invincible."


 

Everyone gathered in Sirra's lab, where Donatello had to struggle to keep from exploring heavily. Sirra saw him twitching and laughed, saying that once Mikey was cleared for playing with Tirren, she would give him a tour. Leo and Raph decided they would spar in the backyard.

Michelangelo lay, half reclining, on a mattress placed on a metal table. His suit was off and a collar around his neck replaced the need while he was indoors. Sirra removed the bandages, caked with dried blood, then set up scanners around the bed, wirelessly linked to a monitor above the bed. In her hand was the portable scanner from earlier. Mikey joked that he felt like he was in an episode of Space Heroes. Sirra said that it sounded similar to an entertainment program they watched, about the crew of a spacecraft exploring the galaxy.

Sirra turned on all the scanners and focused the handheld at his skull. On the wall monitor, the images were far more detailed. Everyone winced at the extraordinary scarring and muscle tearing, the split skin and rebuilding nerves. It was a mess. It was a map of a memory none of them wanted.

"I can definitely give you medicine that will close these reopened wounds and keep your inner tissue along its rebuilding path," Sirra said. "I think you shouldn't have any trouble going up against the Alchemist, or anyone at this point. Although, from what I see on the brain imaging scan, there is a little more work that needs to be done with your new psionic center."

Michelangelo just nodded. "That is totally being taken care off. I have, like, subconscious healing crews helping out."

Sirra smiled. "Ah! Coping mechanisms in active form. That is good. However, if you wish I also have an injectable neurochemical elixir that might speed the process. Those of us Cadranians who have psychic abilities use it when we've burned out. And you have a lot of growing to do."

"I guess that's okay. Donnie, what do you think?"

"I can't see the harm." Donatello had picked up another gadget, turning it over in his hands. He missed the grins and light coughs his brothers didn't pretend to hide.

Sirra applied salve to the wounds, rebandaging only the largest or deepest. The salve would work as a glue-like bandage by itself. She injected the elixir, tested the reflexes on his legs, gave him a medicated drink for pain relief, and pronounced him well. Tirren practically pulled Mikey off the table, and Donatello shifted his weight impatiently until Sirra dismissed the others, the two scientists already disappearing into the vast workshop.

Leo and Raph glanced at each other, shrugged, and raced for the backyward. Mikey and Tirren skipped arm in arm to the playroom.

It had been hours. Once fully indoors, the turtles replaced their suits with the environmental collars. Leonardo and Raphael, shiny with sweat, received towels and were shown to the two bathrooms with showers. Donatello had not quite gotten into everything in the workshop, but close enough to have made Sirra laugh every time. She made them a version of coffee – similar beans from similar plants – and they sat discussing more neuropsychology than anything else. Donatello was keen to learn more about cognitive processing ever since Michelangelo first came out of the coma. His helplessness at being an actual doctor still showed in how his hands and voice shook. He wound up telling Sirra everything about their lives, their family, their city, their enemies. The choices he had been forced to make and the choices he had been forced to abandon. Sirra immediately sat him in a chair and gave a lecture, a class, really, on field surgery and how to use engineering and mechanical knowledge to be a rescue medic. Naturally, the best part was when she filled a large backpack with familiar emergency medical equipment and long term intensive care equipment, "For when you are able to return to Earth, for your infirmary. Gods know shinobi like you will need such things." Donnie flung himself at her in an awkward but happy hug, then apologized.

"Oh, this can't be about your April!" Sirra teased.

"She's not my April! I mean… we're not together… I mean… she doesn't like me back." Donatello rubbed the back of his head. "And I know why. It's unrequited and I understand."

Sirra smiled in sympathy. "The same thing happened with my friend Jarran, when we were young. A few years ago, in fact, when we were your age."

Don glanced up in interest.

"I was in April's position. We were best friends. Jarran couldn't help the way he felt. We both knew it. It took a very long time, but we learned to become even deeper in our friendship."

"So, did Jarren's infatuation ever go away?"

Her smile became painful. "I suppose. He was killed defending Tirren from a gang."

"Oh. Oh, kami, Sirra, I am so sorry…"

"SIRRA! Sirra, help!" came an anguished, panicked scream. The two bolted out of the workshop and ran into Leonardo and Donatello.

"What the hell…" Raphael drew his sai. Sirra held out her arm. "No. Tirren is afraid, but it's not an attack." She paused, eyes closed. She gasped and rushed back into her lab. "It's Michelangelo. Something's wrong!"

She grabbed the backpack she had made for the turtles and led them to the playroom around the corner. Donatello cried out and rushed forward until Sirra grabbed his forearm and held him back. "Wait. I need space!"

Tirren was sobbing, kneeling over an unconscious Michelangelo, his hands pressed to an unmoving plastron. "He… we were playing the hologram game and then we were playing with all my toys, and all of a sudden he was shaking, and he said he didn't feel good, and he just fell over. His fingertips are kind of blue. He's not breathing right, Sirra."

"This just happened?"

"Yes, I called you as soon as he fell."

"Good." Sirra had already taken several things from the bag; she attached an oxygen mask and IV, then placed her hand on Mikey's forehead, muttered a growl, and got her portable scanner.

Tirren backed up and stared up at the other turtles. They glanced at each other. Raphael was struggling to stay where he was. Leonardo was unconsciously clenching his fists around invisible swords. Donatello still had his hands out, eyes wide.

Sirra began growling in a language the turtles couldn't translate, then looked at her brother. "You did not hear me say those words and you are too young to use them."

Tirren just nodded, gulping.

Finally, Donnie broke free and crouched next to her. "What is it? Sirra, I need to know what is wrong with my brother."

Taking a deep breath, Sirra closed her eyes, pinched the skin between her eyes, and looked at him with deep compassion in her eyes. "He is very cold, but I cannot find the source, and he is slipping into hypothermia. His oxygen intake is very poor; we're lucky he responded to the mask at all. Tirren? Did he use telekinesis in any big way during your games?"

Tirren nodded, mouth trembling. "He was levitating my toys around the room and making them dance."

"Damn it," Leonardo muttered.

Sirra glanced at him. "Yes, but how would that cause such a severe drop in body temperature? Is cold a trigger?"

"We…don't know his triggers, other than the telekinesis," said Leonardo. "But his subconscious self told us that they were happening when he reached for a very specific part of the psionic network that is still damaged. I'd assume he wouldn't have done that."

Donatello was gently prodding his brother's skin, wincing visibly. "We need to get him warm, fast. Then we can worry about what caused it."

Sirra told Tirren to get all the heat lamps in the house, the heating pads, and the thickest blankets. Leo went with him. Tirren casually slipped his hand into Leo's and squeezed it.

"We have a lot of things to keep us warm," the boy said, as if trying to make conversation.

"That's a really good thing," Leonardo said just as casually. He took a few deep breaths, but he knew the child saw it. Tirren was unnervingly observant. As they gathered lamps and blankets and heating pads, Leo felt his hands shake. Something pressed against his mind, very gently, like a soft hug. He blinked when he noticed the shaking had stopped.

"Is it better?" Tirren asked quietly. "I only wanted to make your hands calm down."

Leo felt himself break into a smile. "Thank you, Tirren. It's better."

In the playroom, they arranged everything quickly. Michelangelo was panting despite the oxygen therapy. As Leonardo carefully slid a heating pad under his neck, dull baby blue eyes opened and managed to focus on him. "Leo…you're…you're okay…?"

He frowned. "Of course, Mikey. I'm fine. Everything's okay. Can you tell me what happened?"

But Mike's eyes had slid shut and the muscles in his neck tensed. Leo held his hand against the back of his head, frowning. "Could he be dreaming?"

"Not likely," Donnie said, adjusting the heaviest blanket. "Not if he just lost consciousness abruptly. Unless…" He froze, eyes growing wide.

"Donnie?" Raph waved a hand in his face. "Don! What is it?"

Donatello shook himself and stared at his little brother's face, which was scrunching up in pain. "Guys? When he talked about his nightmares, did he ever mention visions?"

There was a sharp intake of breath from Sirra. Leo and Raph looked puzzled. "Visions?" Leo asked. "Like, in meditation?"

"No. I mean, visions. Psychic visions. Clairvoyance. Precognition. Remote viewing. The…the way April does, but stronger."

"Oh." Leo stared down and smoothed a hand over Michelangelo's forehead. "Oh! He's talked about seeing things. I just assumed they were…oh, shit, Donnie, what if this was a psychic vision?"

"I haven't heard of this!" Raph said. "He would've said somethin' to me!"

"He may not have realized," Leo said kindly.

Raph stood there, hands hanging at his sides, looking lost. Tirren came to him and very carefully took one of his hands. Raphael blinked at him. Tirren just smiled. A soft expression flickered across Raph's face, and then he slowly nodded, eyes hooded.

"Tirren," Sirra said, "you know you're supposed to ask permission before using empathic therapy on an off-worlder."

Tirren just looked at his sister, determined. "They need it."

Michelangelo began to moan and twist under Leo's hands. "Donnie," Leo said, "should I get some warm damp cloths?"

Don nodded. "Yeah, that'll help. Sirra, how's his temperature?"

Checking her scanner, Sirra's mouth twisted slightly. "Unchanged. I'm unhappy with his brainwave pattern. He's deeply in theta, but there are small fluctuations toward alpha and long dips into delta. I'd say your theory about psychic visions is correct. He may still be experiencing a psychic experience. And from what I know about M'Kari neurochemistry, there isn't much difference between psychic episodes and partial seizures. The hypothermia, however, is utterly inexplicable. Beyond your cold-bloodedness, I have no idea why his homeostasis would be so specifically affected."

Leonardo returned with warm washcloths and handed one to Raph and one to Don. He settled back in his position at his baby brother's head and began wiping the cloth across his forehead and cheeks. Donatello motioned for Raphael to work on his feet and lower legs under the blankets.

Raphael grasped his brother's right ankle and flinched at the deep chill, like an ice kiss. He could feel the warmth from the larger heat pad beneath the thighs, and rubbed the cloth up and down quickly before wrapping it briefly around Mikey's foot, squeezing a little. He watched Donnie do the same with Mikey's left foot and bit his lip. Visions, then. Why wasn't he looking out for that? Of course Mikey would start having actual visions! What if those nightmares he'd been having…? He wasn't just telepathic or telepathic. And… he had called out for Leo. His vision must have been about Leo getting hurt, right? No. Raph clenched his teeth. He wouldn't let that happen. He looked up at his oldest brother, whose face was both serene and concerned, and growled his name. Leo blinked at him, frowning.

"He called your name," and Raph couldn't help the rasping frustration.

Leonardo just nodded. "Let's hope it wasn't a premonition." He began sliding the cloth to Mikey's neck, just as the seizure began, and suddenly both Sirra and Tirren had their hands on a twitching plastron…


 

He had adjusted his space suit and was about to jump to a larger rock when he heard Leonardo yell. It was a warning cry; fall back, more of those creatures are coming! He immediately twisted mid-air and grabbed his kusarigama, racing back toward the sound of a battle beginning. Damn it, why now? It was just the two of them here; Raph and Donnie were at least a mile away, exploring the planet, and hadn't heard the call.

Leonardo was gracefully holding his own against just over a dozen goblin-like aliens, katana blades shining and slicing as he danced toward Michelangelo. Without looking, he yelled, "Mikey, more are coming from the rocks behind you!"

Damn it, damn it, damn it! He leaped into the fray and an instinctive "Booyakasha!" tore from his throat, drawing their attention, turning at least some of them away from his brother. The aliens, half his size with arms twice as long, were gaining quickly, and their teeth and their claws were sharp like needles. They were making chittering sounds, long and song-like. Oh, fuck this!

He reached his brother and stood shell to shell; "Dude, did you call the others?"

"They're on their way. Just keep going!"

"There's too many!"

"Mikey, you can do this! Just hit them hard and don't look back!"

He dove into the small, hard bodies and began spinning his nunchaku as hard as he could, not counting or caring how many he took down. If he could just keep them off Leo, that was all that mattered. Sweat formed on his face; he started to feel oddly cold. A shout came in the distance. Raph and Don! They were flying toward the rock formations, and upon landing hit at least half a dozen; Mikey grinned with renewed exuberance and smashed down two more.

And then the scream.

He paused, ice starting to form in his veins. That was Leo. Leo had screamed.

Leo!

Mike ran, swinging, hitting, making a clearing; there was his brother! The leader was down, on his side, and Mikey's heart pounded – he had already failed, Leo was down!

He hurled himself on top of his brother, ready to drag him away. Quickly, he scanned him. There, a slice on his left outer thigh near his hip, blood pooling. "Shit shit shit," Mike muttered, yanking off a wrist pad and pressing it to the wound. "Leo, you okay, can you hear me?"

"I'm okay," Leo gasped, and the determination and defiance in his voice make Mike breathe a sigh of relief. The aliens had claws longer than his fingers!

"It's bleeding pretty bad, dude. Hang on, I need to get you away from here." And without thinking, Mikey scooped up Leo bridal style, his leader protesting, and he ran toward a darker corner near a pile of rocks, where the bizarre wind howled colder. Scraps of discarded cloth lay around, and he used them to create a make-shift bandage. He could hear Donatello yelling his name, yelling Leo's name, but he was too busy focused on the bandage. Sweat beaded his brow, his hands were suddenly freezing. Only when he heard Leonardo say his name, softly, did he look up.

"Mikey," Leo was saying, and had reached out to cup the back of his head, as though it were Mikey injured instead, and the blood was spreading like ink across the cloth, and Mike was so cold, and…


 

"Mikey? Mikey, hey… open your eyes. It's okay. I'm here, baby bro. Wake up."

He struggled. The strange planet was gone, the rocks, the goblin creatures… and Leo was talking to him. Leo sounded okay. Leo was…telling him to wake up?

A warm, deliciously warm cloth was against his neck, his cheek. He moaned and leaned into it; he felt so cold. Heat was pouring down on him and wrapped around him and he basked and bathed; he was lying on top of heat and heat was lying on top of him. He just wanted to fall into the wonderful bliss of it.

"Mikey, please, you have to wake up! It's been too long. You're scaring us!" Leo again, sounding worried. No. He didn't want to worry Leo. Heat be damned. His eyelids felt so heavy. He moaned again and reached out his arms; his hands were grasped, and he knew one was Raph and one was Donnie. Another hand suddenly pressed against his plastron, this one vaguely familiar. Scaly. A feminine voice was saying "…can remove some of the heat lamps and blankets now." Wait. Sirra!

Very slowly, the world came together. There was a hissing noise and several mechanical beeping sounds; oh, those were familiar. He felt something lying on his face. Air was pushing into his mouth. Yup. Oxygen mask. Oh gods, what had happened? He had been…playing with Tirren. He had been making the toys dance. Tirren had been laughing. And then, a flash of…something. Something loud and harsh. In his head. Like an electric scream full of pressure, about to burst. Something that felt like a muscle inside his brain had strained, stretched, wrenched, twisted. Something that felt like a gateway in his brain had flung wide open and cold had rushed in like an army, cold everywhere, cold piercing him like knives. And, like a movie screen, a different world had blinked into his sight. And he had been so cold.

He managed to drag his eyelids up juust enough to hear a gasp from his oldest brother. "He's waking up! Mikey! Mikey, come on, you can do it. Please. Please!"

Anything for you, Leo. Anything as long as you're okay.

He felt like a very heavy thawing block of ice. He managed to open his eyes all the way, and the first thing he saw was Sirra, both hands on his chest. She was staring at his eyes. And as he stared back, he could feel power flowing from her. It was startlingly strong and it reminded him of when he would soothe Raphael with a touch and a tender flow of empathic energy. This, though, this was both empathic and telekinetic… no, not quite telekinesis. Healing. Healing power.

He was lying on a bed. Blankets were wrapped around him. Wait, not quite a bed. He was in Sirra's lab workshop area again. The pillows were comfortable.

"Oh thank gods, Mikey!" that was Donnie squeezing his hand and leaning closer. "Can you hear me? How are you feeling?"

Michelangelo opened his mouth a little and tried to speak –- even his voice felt cold and heavy. Something wasn't working right. He couldn't make the right connections between his brain and his voice. He wanted to say that was okay, that he was warm and comfortable. All that came out was, "w-w-rm…kay…co'fy…" and he knotted his brow in pure frustration.

He watched poor Donnie's eyes go terribly wide and he felt fear radiating off him so strongly it hurt. Why fear? He was okay! Why afraid, Donnie? He wanted to lift his head and ask if Donnie was all right but it was too hard to move, and his words still didn't feel right. He growled low in his throat and tried again.

"Kay…Dee…ishaaa…" Damn it! He felt tears in his eyes. What was happening to his words?

"Shhh, Michelangelo," Sirra was purring. "It's all right. Don't try to speak until you're ready. What you are experiencing is a type of transient expressive aphasia. Between your seizure and psychic vision, your brain is having too much trouble connecting to what you want to say. Your language centers were affected. It will pass. Can you use thoughts to communicate?" When he nodded, she said, "All right, good. Tirren and I can hear strong projected thoughts, and I understand your family has gotten good at hearing your projected telepathy."

Mikey smiled, and then frowned when his brothers exchanged frightened glances.

"Wait," Donatello was saying, "you're not saying this was a TIA, are you?"

"A what?" asked Raph, sharply.

Sirra sighed and smiled the comforting smile of a nurse. "Transient ischemic attack. It's a brain event similar to a small stroke. It can happen when there's not enough blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which is probably what happened here. I still can't explain the incredible drop in temperature. But the seizure may have pushed something over the edge. It's also possible that his psionic center accidentally activated something else that tripped off yet something else, causing a sort of cascade or domino effect." She shook her head, laughing a little. "This is very fascinating, really. It would be honestly impossible to explain everything happening now that he's got an M'Kari psionic center!"

Raphael stood up and hissed. "That doesn't make me happy, y'know. Always wondering if my little brother's brain is gonna up and kill him one day."

"Raph, easy, I really don't think that will happen," Donatello said. "Look, from what Neural Mike said, the whole psionic center needs to be completely stable, and that there will be some… glitches. So to speak. Hopefully not as, um, severe as this, but…" He groaned, resting his head on the bed.

Mikey was terribly worried now. He lifted his heavy head as much as it would let him, and asked, "H'w lon'…was I…ouut?"

Sirra smiled at him again. "Two days."

Two days? Days? But…no! Shit, Raph must have lost his mind! He must have whimpered, because Leo stroked the side of his face, and Sirra bit her lip. "You're all right," she said, "I was able to stabilize you completely, no permanent damage. You should honestly be fine in a few hours." She patted his plastron. "Calm down, Mikey." And again, that empathic healing flow surged from her.

Donatello looked exhausted. "I'm gonna find something for him to drink." As he got up, a high-pitched voice said, "I got it!" and there was Tirren, holding a bottle of liquid to his mouth. Mikey drank it slowly; it tasted like limes. Tirren touched his plastron and another, gentler flow of energy moved over him. He managed a smile. Can you heal like your sister?

Tirren grinned. "Not quite, but my sister says I'm really good at calming the nervous system!"

"Wait, I heard that," Leonardo said. "I heard you, Mikey."

He rolled up his eyes at his brother. Well, I'd hope so. You've been teaching me!

"Oh. Yeah." There was nervous laughter all around, and at least Raphael looked more at ease.

I'm okay, dudes, I swear! I just need to heal a little. This was met with skepticism and mutters of "you can't even talk right now!"

But I will soon. I can already feel it. Look, I know it's scary. It's gonna be scary! But, okay, I can feel my own brain. I can feel what it's doing deep down. It's gonna recover. I'll heal up enough so that this brain damage stuff probably won't happen again.

"And the psychic visions?" Donatello noted. Mikey realized none of them had asked him about it, and he felt relieved.

They'll still happen, I bet. But I don't think my brain will go apeshit. I don't know what this was, but I know it's not going to keep happening.

Raphael smirked. "And all of a sudden you just know your own head that well, do ya."

Mikey scowled. You try having a whole construction crew in your head while you're using it!

"Good metaphor," Leo said. Mikey just grinned at him. Really, though. He was going to be fine. He knew it in his bones. His weirdly new, altered, psychic bones that were currently cuddled in warmth and family. He could handle two Alchemists and a hundred alien goblins with that strength. He laughed. He couldn't quite laugh with his voice, so he made sure they could all hear him anyway.

Chapter Text

"Sooo, we're not going back to the ship any time soon?"

""I'd say we have an ideal opportunity here. Mikey can work with Sirra, and we can take a transport to Risal when he's ready."

"Aww, awesome, guys! Leo, you're the best."

"Donnie, you're really not one for revenge like this, what do you think?"

"It's for Mikey. Also, the Alchemist killed him twice. Turnabout and all, you know."

"D'awww, D, you're the best!"

"Hey! Who read you comics when you were in that coma?"

"Okay, Raph, I have one more line on my Best Brother card here…"

Beyond the room, they heard giggling. "Come on in, Tirren!" Leonardo called, smiling.

Tirren skipped into the room, playing with a set of holographic spheres. "So, how long will you stay? Sirra says as long as you want. I say forever!"

Michelangelo pet him on the head and grinned. "Well, we gotta go back some time, little guy. We still have a mission to complete. Gotta save our home, right?"

"Yeah, but I'll miss you!"

"We'll miss you too, Tirren," Donatello said. "But we'll spend as much time here as we can, until Mikey takes care of the Alchemist."

"Okay, that's fair. Nobody's been brave enough to, anyway."

Humming, Tirren skipped back out, making the spheres dance around his head. The turtles looked at each other, looked at the four futons laid out for them in the huge room with a computer terminal, a bureau, a bookcase with science text e-readers that translated to any language, an attached bathroom, a huge window overlooking the backyard. They were going to stay a while, weren't they? They had already contacted Honeycutt, April, and Casey, who worried and fretted in frustration and fear but let their explanations win. They wouldn't be able to move on with someone actively attacking one of them.

Michelangelo flopped overdramatically onto his back, arms all the way out. "Ugh. I hate this. Maybe you guys could, like, go back to the Ulixes and I'll just call you when it's over. I mean, this is a really weird side situation."

Three stunned faces stared at him.

"Are you kidding me?"

"Really, Mikey? You really think we're leaving you behind?"

"Mikey, I know your brain is undergoing changes, but I hope you didn't mean that."

He pouted. "What? This is my thing, not yours. You have Casey and April, and April already is psychic. You can take on the Triceratons from here."

Donatello opened his mouth, shut it, and shook his head. "Unbelievable."

Raphael affectionately, but gruffly, knuckled his head. "Moron."

"Mikey," Leonardo said patiently, "I know we give you a hard time a lot, but trust me. We need you. You're our brother, our clansman, and we're all we have. So don't start thinking we don't actually need you."

Mikey gave him a look, eyes slightly narrowed, and Leo abruptly felt a twist of guilt. That was the exact same look Mikey had that day they all argued over who would take him as a team. "You know, I'm starting to think nobody wants to be with me!" "I don't want him, and I'm in charge!" "And that's why nobody wants to be with you!" Crap, why did they say those things? He knew Mikey had a powerful memory and an insight into people's emotions. He probably replayed that scene in his head every night.

Yeah, sometimes. And the voice, beyond the assertion, made him jump a little. He blinked back at Mikey, whose expression was now full of both sadness and compassion.

The other two hadn't seemed to notice. Leo realized that this was a private conversation and bit his lip. I really don't know how else to apologize.

It's okay, you know. I've done worse things, Mikey smiled inside his head. I was the one who befriended Chris Bradford and alerted Shredder to our entire existence, remember?

Leonardo shrugged. Yeah, but we were just kids, it could have happened to any of us, at any time, with anyone.

That's sweet, Leo, but I know how bad my mistakes were. I live with me.

Leo blinked, a chill sweeping over him. When did his baby brother become so frighteningly insightful of the more salient aspects of the team's relationships? Or had he always known and been quiet about it, thinking no one would be believe in him? It was so much more than sitting there reading comics while the other three argued. He was observant and almost ingenius about how they all saw each other.

Mikey, he asked hesitantly. Do we disappoint you?

Michelangelo suddenly got up and grabbed his wrist. "Hey, Leo and I are gonna take a little walk," he announced. Don and Raph, who had been chatting, glanced over and waved them off.

Leonardo remained silent while his brother led him through the house, out to the backyward and the small path that led off into a patch of woods at the edge of the property. Neither of them spoke until they reached a clearing. Mike sat down and looked up at him. He sighed and sat lotus style across from him.

"Okay, Leo, what the hell was that?"

Mikey's eyes were burning into him as he lowered his head.

"See," Mikey continued, "'cause I always assumed I disappointed you guys."

Leonardo closed his eyes, breathing in sharply and breathing out slowly. He opened his eyes on the edge of the exhale, staring into the sky. "I guess we all fail a little at honest interpersonal communication. We're too busy fighting to be really psychological with one another."

"And even if I were to try something, like that, you guys would look at me like I was insane, since I'm not supposed to be the smart one."

"Mm. Maybe. Maybe it used to be like that." Leo smiled. "Things have changed a lot lately."

"Really."

"Yeah. Really." He reached out and patted Mike's knee. "I don't see you as less intelligent, Mikey, I never have. We all have varied intelligences. You just never had the focus, discipline, and drive the rest of us had, and I guess over the years, we must have started resenting you for it. You were the wild card. You were free. You had the most natural potential but also the most natural laziness." He winked.

"Ehhh, yeah. Totally." Mikey leaned back on his hands, his folded legs lifting up off the ground in a natural pose that had taken Leo ages to even try to master.

"See? Right there! Like that."

"Like what?" Oh, such innocence in that voice.

"The way you're sitting, right now, off the ground like that. Do you know how freaking long it took me to get a pose like that right?"

Michelangelo stared at him, eyeridge quirked. "Really? No way, Leo, you're a master."

"That's because I worked so hard!" Leo tried, and failed, not to show exasperation. "You just…do it. You're in a flow that I'm not."

Mike thumped back to the ground, came up on his knees still in lotus style, and leaned forward. He squinted one eye and the other became huge and glinting with humor. "You saying I'm better than you?"

Leonardo gawped for a second. Michelangelo burst out laughing. "I knew you couldn't say it," Mikey crowed. "Okay, look, biggest bro. I'm not better than you. Nobody is. Precisely because you work so hard and tirelessly." He poked Leo's nose before sitting down, unfolding his legs, and repositioning to sit seiza. Leo automatically followed.

"As you say, I'm more natural. That doesn't mean I'm better. Or even good. It just means I see the most obvious way that it works and I follow that pattern." He tapped the side of his head. "You know, like in Dimension X. Backwards Crazy Land, Backwards Crazy Dude. It's all about technique and dedication versus potential and talent, y'see?"

Tilting, his head, Leo did see. "For the love of kami, Mikey, when did you get so wise?"

Mikey gave him a lopsided, sad grin. "Probably when I got stabbed by a maniac scientist who poisons people for a living."

Leo closed his eyes. "Ohh, Mikey."

Yeah. Me.

Leonardo propped his chin in his hands, carefully coming out of seiza, sitting back and bringing his knees to his chest. He heard a shuddering cry of pain and leaped to his feet, eyes snapping open, hand flying to the hilts of his—

Oh. Oh, no. Mikey was struggling to come out of seiza properly, trembling as he put weight on right foot and left shin. His leg wound, Leo realized in horror. The gash in his left thigh would have damaged the hamstrings, the tendons around the knee, the ligaments around the hip. What if that meant Mikey couldn't ever practice seiza correctly without pain? Before he could think, Leo was reaching out to help him, and then Mikey was…

…rising? Hovering. Leo gaped. It was as though strings were being pulled. Michelangelo's entire body lifted inches from the ground, and he slowly dropped his legs out to the ground enough to stand. He looked directly into Leo's eyes as he bent forward, breathing harshly, put his hands on his thighs, and began to rub his fingers over the scar. Leonardo's heart cracked in his chest. Tears were forming in the corners of his eyes. It was the way those huge baby blue eyes were holding back the pain. It was the way all the tiniest muscles in Mikey's sweet face spasmed in ways only the most observant could even guess at. Leo found himself reaching out and grabbing his brother's shoulders. Michelangelo blinked, completely startled, and stood a little too straight, abruptly. His whole body gave a shake that rippled across already tense muscles. Leo tightened his grip, staring into Mikey's face.

Leo…? Oh. No, no, it's not…I'm okay! It's not like… And then the image of Leo's concern over seiza position flashed over both of them and Mike's mouth dropped open. He smiled quickly, though, and shook his head quickly. "It'll be fine," he half-muttered. "I'll have to do more stretching exercises, that's all!"

Leo just frowned. "With all that scar tissue? You sure?"

"Hey, I'm a ninja," Mikey shrugged, "we're supposed to be scarred and ripped up and bruised. And we're supposed to heal from it."

Leo just breathed very deeply and wrapped him in a hug. Mikey's arms automatically went up and around him, but his puzzlement was broadcasted loudly. Leo still felt his mind twitch at the idea of his own baby brother with the ability to project his thoughts like this. It was just so weird. But good weird.

"We should get back," Mikey said.

Leo agreed, but held on a little longer. And when Mikey stumbled as they walked out of the clearing, Leo quietly offered his arm, and Mikey quietly held onto his bicep so he didn't shake.


"Donatello, really, you don't have to do this. I have a welding energy gun."

"I know, I just like to touch and feel what I'm working on. Besides, I feel helpful. It's not every day you get to fix an alien's broken sink on another planet."

"Orr, you coulda just let me go at it and it'd be done in a couple minutes, like how I fix my bike…"

"With everything covered in motor oil and blood by the end? Nah."

Donatello barely flinched when an old-fashion wrench was dropped on the floor near his head. Where the hell had Raph been hiding that, anyway? He stuck his tongue out and finished patching up the pipe, giving it a tap with his fist to listen to the satisfying clang. He scooted out from under the cabinet and sat up, smiling at Sirra, who was still cradling the energy gun, and at Raphael, who was grinning, hands on his hips.

"Is the sink fixed already?" came another voice.

"Yes, Donatello is finished, and lose the whiny tone," and Sirra turned and patted her baby brother's head. Tirren grinned cheekily and hurried up to the sink as Don shut the cabinet and left to put the tools back in the workshop. As Tirren filled his mug with water, Raphael grabbed a cup for himself.

"So, Squirt, what are your plans for today?"

"Oh, I'm going to a friend's house and we're playing her new hologram video game." Tirren drank half the water. "Do you want to come?"

"Uh, you sure? Neighbors will probably think it's weird, you housing a group of aliens like this."

"Nope. It happens a lot in our part of the city. Her parents might ask where you're from, though, and they won't know what pizza is."

"Hnh. Maybe."

The back door opened, and Leo and Mike soon came into the kitchen, both looking upset. "What the hell went on with you two?" Raph gulped down his water and noticed Mikey's limp. "Were you sparring?"

Michelangelo just gave him a tired look, shook his head, and sat down at the table. Leonardo brushed a hand on his shoulder, some unspoken communication, and asked Tirren to help make a pizza pie. Tirren happily obliged and began talking quickly. Raph realized it was probably a distraction. He sat down next to Mike.

"You okay?" he asked in a low voice. His brother shrugged, looking more tired. "M'fine. Just… had some leg problems."

"You look like someone kicked a puppy."

Another shrug. Donnie came back in, took one look, and sat down on the other side. Raph met his eyes and lifted one shoulder. Donnie and Mikey were incredibly close on a mental level that Raph knew he couldn't reach. One was always able to get the other to talk.

"Hey, Mikey," and Don gently poked his arm. "You look worried."

"It's not that bad, it's just silly." There we go, Raph thought, he was opening up. He leaned back.

"Can't be silly, you're not even smiling," Donnie encouraged.

"You'll think it's silly."

"I really won't."

A deeper sigh. "It hurts when I get out of seiza."

Oh.

Don and Raph glanced at each other.

"That's the opposite of silly," Don pointed out. "That's worrying."

Mikey glanced at him. "Like I told Leo, I'll stretch more. I had to float myself out. It's not that bad, it's just-"

"Upsetting," Leo interrupted, sitting and bringing a pepperoni pizza down while Tirren took another seat. "Annoying. Unexpected."

Mikey only shrugged again.

"Mikey, we talked about this. It's okay, remember? I won't expect you to sit seiza at all, and Master Splinter will understand when we get home. Just sit agura. Like you did in the clearing. Like that knee-balancing trick? Where the hell did that come from anyway?"

"Oh, that just felt more comfortable."

"What knee-balancing trick?" Raph asked.

"What is a seiza?" asked Tirren.

Leo answered Raph first, who looked impressed at Mike. Then, he turned to Tirren. "On our planet, we have a lot of different countries and a lot of different cultures. And in our family we have a specific cultural way of life, we told you that, right?" Tirren nodded. "So, when we're in the dojo, we sit two ways." He stood up, then knelt to the floor. "This one is seiza," and he demonstrated, letting Tirren see it from all angles.

"Does it hurt?" the boy asked.

"Not if you practice enough and stay flexible. It can make you tired if you're not used to it." He held out a hand when the boy began to kneel. "No, I wouldn't try it now. Maybe later. I'll show you how to step out of it and stand up." As he began, he saw Tirren's eyes widen, and the boy looked at Mikey, then back. "Oh, I get it. That would hurt if you had that much scar tissue."

Leo stood gracefully, and Tirren's eyes remained wide. "That was like water!"

He smiled a little. "It takes practice. We've been doing this our whole lives. Now, the other position is agura. It's also called the lotus position. It's easier and more natural." When he dropped into lotus style, Tirren giggled. "Oh, I can do that!" and he folded his legs across quickly. "That's just kihyo sitting, it's good for on the floor. Sometimes you need a pillow, though." He wiggled his ankle over his thigh. "Most people do it just for comfort, usually halfway. It's easier."

Leonardo nodded. "Same for us. So if we're injured, sitting agura might be better. If it's a permanent injury, well…" and he flicked his eyes his youngest brother, who was still expressionless, "That's fine. Nobody has to do something exactly the way culture demands it."

Mikey's face didn't change, but Leo caught the sparkle in his eyes. He winked back.

Sirra walked in, sniffing the air. "That smells lovely. Why are you two sitting kiyho on the kitchen floor?"

As Tirren jumped up and spoke rapidly, Sirra gave the turtles a sympathetic look. "I'm so sorry I can't correct the stronger damage, Michelangelo, I know how much it hurts you."

She didn't mean physically and they knew it.

"Thanks," Mikey said. "I mean, I used telekinesis to step out of seiza, but it feels like cheating. I guess telekinesis can't work on your own body."

A grim look passed through Leo, Don, and Raph, an imperceptible nod hardly executed. That was what was really the problem.

"Well," Sirra began, "no one with full telekinesis has really tried it, as far as I know. It takes unbelievable skill and training. We've got a couple of full telekinetics who can heal others, for example bone setting, blood clotting, preventing organ failures. It's easier since the energy flowing outward doesn't cause so much stress on the mind." She put her elbows up, folded her fingers together, propped her head on her hands. "It is much different than telepathic healing, which is about telling the patient's mind to do the healing."

"So that's what that was," Michelangelo murmured, and she smiled. "I'm not at all telekinetic," Sirra said. "It's psychological and a little neurological. But telepathic healing can feel physical because your own brain is being encouraged to activate your own body's systems. Complex, isn't it?"

"No kidding." Mikey exhaled, then took a plate and two slices. That seemed to be an invitation, and everyone else took slices.

They ate in silence. When the meal was over, Tirren begged Leo to take him out back to show off katas, which made Raph roll his eyes. Mike excused himself, saying he needed a nap. Don followed him quietly.


At the door to their shared bedroom, Donnie slipped in front and blocked the doorway. "So, tell me what's really going on?"

Mikey pulled up, teeth bared. "Don't ninja me like that! Fine, what part do you wanna know about?"

Satisfied, Donatello went and sat on the edge of Mike's futon and waited, just looking up at him.

Sighing, Mikey joined him, bringing his knees up. "I'm…worried about what I'm feeling and I don't wanna sound depressing."

"Or depressed," Don nudged him. "Think I can't tell?"

Mikey snarled. "Hey, I'm supposed to be the psychic." He dropped his head into his arms. "I can't keep up this thing for long, Donnie."

"Hey…" Don scooted closer and held him. "You know you don't have to do it alone. Besides, I know you're still holding something back."

Large, tear-filled blue eyes turned toward him; it was really all he could see. "Well…I let Leo see it in a meditation and he said he liked it."

"Yeah? I wanna see."

"Promise you won't think it's weird?"

"Buddy, you're already weird."

Half-laugh, half-sigh. Mike just held up his hand. Donnie grasped it and closed his eyes. He was quickly pulled forward and the blueness of sky rushed toward him. He felt his breath hitch.

Hang on, I'm turning us around.

Donatello shut his eyes. His shell thudded and his eyes flew open. He let out a small gasp and sat up.

A beach. He was on a beach. There was nobody around. Just a skatepark.

Wait a second…

To his right, his little brother shimmered into view. "Sorry, that took more energy than I thought it would." Mikey pressed a hand to his head. He held out the other. "You okay?"

"Are you?" Don let him pull him up. Mikey looked a little pale and very tired.

"It's just getting a little harder to go deep."

"I should think so, you're depressed. You're probably blocking yourself."

Mikey rolled his eyes and stamped one foot. "I'm not depressed! I'm-"

"Depressed. In pain. Struggling with psychological and psychic trauma. Suffering from PTSD and nightmares." Don held up both hands. "I've only got so many fingers."

Rubbing his eye, Mikey glared at him. "You win. Here. It's this. I wanted you to see this."

Between them, a large orange-yellow sphere manifested, like a tiny sun, glowing brightly. Images flashed across it. Peering closer, Don recognized them as memories. All of them happy, or good in some way. "It's beautiful," he whispered, staring. "Mikey, this is wonderful. It's… so full of joy!"

"Heh. Yeah. Leo said he wanted to borrow it some time."

"I think I do, too." Donnie's voice was hushed; he couldn't help it. The glow was enticing, like sunshine in a clearing after a storm. He felt himself relax in a way he hadn't felt in a long, long time. He reached out both hands; instinct rose up and curiosity galloped to the forefront. He felt everything in him relax, probably even some neurons he had stressed out.

He didn't know how long he stood, mouth open, almost drinking in the light, but abruptly the sphere…blinked. It wavered slightly and lost a shade of luminescence. Startled, he looked up. Michelangelo was just looking at him, smiling softly, but the exhaustion in his eyes was growing.

Oh, gods. This is…

"Mikey, hang on." He moved around the sphere, very careful to not look at it. He grabbed his brother by the arms and looked into his eyes. Mike didn't even blink, just serenely looked back.

"Is…is something draining you?" Don felt his head spin. He suddenly didn't feel okay. He desperately wanted to look back at that tiny sun that was his brother's essence, but this was too important. He had to say something. He had to convince him.

"Mikey, how often do you, um… make this sphere appear? Or, or come here, in your mind?" Somehow the words weren't shaping right.

Mikey shrugged, a little half-heartedly. "Whenever I don't feel well."

Donnie bit his lip. Okay. Okay. He could work with this. "I think… maybe you should stop for a while. Let this part of you rest."

"Huh? Why?"

"Because…" Damn it, how to put this succinctly and delicately… "because I think you're radiating out too much energy and it might be, well…attracting, attractive, like a magnet or a beacon. To certain minds?" Thaaat did not go well. Elegance is not my strong suit.

Mikey got the point, and Don winced to see the shock, fear, and raw horror wash over that freckled face. "Oh. Shit. Oh, shit. Donnie! I can't! I…I don't know…I don't know…"

"It's okay. We'll help, Sirra too. We may just need to…to close off some parts of you. Because, you know. Beacons."

Michelangelo's face looked so fallen it pierced Don's heart and he physically felt it. "So, it's my fault after all. I'm doing it by myself."

"NO! Oh god, no!" and it was Donnie's turn to be horrified. "Mikey. No. This isn't your fault. We didn't even know the Alchemist had psychic abilities. Let alone that he's strong enough to pick up mental signatures like this across space! It's NOT your fault that you shine so brightly, you hear me?"

Mike just closed his eyes. Don could feel the draining of pure energy. "Mikey!" he shook him by the shoulders, teeth gritted. "I need you to understand this! It's affecting your… it's hurting this place. Your essence. You are exhausting yourself trying to put up psychic blocks while simultaneously strengthening your powers. It would be difficult for anyone, but you've been recovering from some highly severe injuries. That's why your glowing sphere…"

"Sphere of happy," came the whisper.

Donnie nodded. "Yes. Why your sphere of happy is starting to drain ever so slightly. And when I say ever so slightly, I mean that it is going to take a very, very huge amount to drain you. So we need to take care of this. And the first step is-"

"Kill the Alchemist, duh, I know."

"No, the first step is to get you better from the inside out. That means getting you out of this depressive episode, healing you as best we can, revving up your powers, and then…" he paused.

A tiny smile. "Then we kill the Alchemist?"

Donatello grinned. "Then we kill the Alchemist."

Mikey's eyes opened, as brilliant as the sky, and the grin that shone was twice as brilliant. Donatello allowed himself to look back at the sphere. Still glowing, this time showing a memory of the two of them, sitting on Donatello's bed, Don holding open a large thick book, with Mike leaning against Don's shoulder as Don's lips moved. He remembered this! It was three years ago. Mike had come to his room after a nightmare. Instead of sleep, Mikey had requested that they read something together. Don had shown him to his bookshelf, not really thinking about his pick. But Mikey had chosen a textbook on astronomy, and they had spent half the night reading up on constellations, nebulas, gas giants. Mikey had soaked up every word, every photo, every diagram, and it had been Donnie who yawned first. In the morning, Don realized that Mikey had taken the book with him back to his own room.

"You still have that book, don't you?" Don asked breathlessly.

"I do," Mike said happily. "Sometimes I read it to help not get nightmares."

Turning back to his brother, Don didn't bother wiping his tears. "Mikey, that's…" he couldn't finish. Mike just wrapped him in a hug. Donnie barely felt the world tilt from around him.

When he opened his eyes, his little brother was still leaning on him. They were still on a bed. It was just that the bed was a futon, and it was just that the room was a guest room in an alien's house.

"Hey," Donnie said, "I bet Sirra's got some books on astronomy. Why don't we check out the local area this time?"

Mikey just grinned, like a tiny sun.

Chapter Text

Nobody expects the psychic inquisition. He knew he should have prepared. He was jolted straight up and out, and he could easily look down and see himself, see his brothers, fast asleep in their futons. He didn't have time for this.

"Fine!" he yelled, in a whiny tone. "Can we get this over with?"

"I really did miss your jokes. I missed you. Literally, actually."

And he couldn't stop that shiver running up and down his spine, probably would never be able to stop.

He couldn't form words, after that. There was something snarky and strong on his tongue and he was frozen. It might have been fear. Bravery is the art of having fear and still facing the adversary. But it could have been plain weakness, cowardice, desperation.

No, he decided. He remembered how it felt to die.

His tongue loosened. "No use crying over spilt milk, ya know? Just clean it up and move on."

"Ohh, but you are my spilt milk, as it were, my boy."

Michelangelo felt himself yanked through the walls, out into nothingness. The figure finally materialized in front of him.

"And as you suggest, I need to clean up my mistakes." His sharp teeth looked even sharper, his dark yellow eyes even brighter.

"Way to take it out of context, dude," Mikey muttered, reaching for his kusarigama. He didn't have weapons. Ohh, hooray hooray. Fine, then. He concentrated and focused – hyperfocused, in fact – and a psychic version shimmered into his hand. If they were going to do this, they might as well do it in style.

Neat, he thought. I love telekinesis!

Looking up, Mike saw that The Alchemist had a psychic version of his trusty sabre in his hand. And in the other was a blaster gun. Ah, fantastic. Damn it, how do you make armor in the astral plane anyway?

"Too late for pondering," his former killer yelled, and flew at him. Mike dodged and rolled backwards, leaping to his feet with a guttural hiss. The Alchemist hissed back, and they leapt at each other. Weapons clashed. The Alchemist cleverly used the bulk of the microbeam stun gun physically to block some of the attacks. Mikey wrapped his chain around it and yanked. The Alchemist grinned widely. Mike followed his eyes and noticed a red dot in the center of his chest

The gun went off, silent and unseen.

Michelangelo flew back, rolled backwards, and landed flat, arms and legs spread wide. He coughed. It was bloody. Well, fuck this. He wondered about the searing pain in his torso and lifted his head. The burn was in the upper center of his plastron, and there was blood. Fourth degree burn? It didn't look good. Was this happening in reality? Argh.

He got to his feet, casually ignoring the burning somehow. How? Hell if he knew, this was the psychic world. He threw three shuriken and struck the reptilian in the throat; the man fell to his knees gurgling. Blood there, too. Hey, a tie!

Mikey grinned, coughed up more blood, and spat toward the Alchemist's feet. "So, look," he gasped. "I hate you, you hate me, but I'm bored right now, so I'm gonna see if I can get outta here. Good luck with your throat thing." He hyperfocused as hard as he could, felt himself being pulled backward, felt the burning grow worse.

Before he could really think, he was slammed into his body so hard that his back arched and he was gasping, drowning in his surroundings, and the pain was still there, still there, he didn't want to look—

His name called, hands on him. He coughed again and heard Raph let out a string of curses.

"Mikey!" Donatello was gasping. "What the hell…we were asleep…"

Panting, sweating, Michelangelo sucked in a breath. "Astral plane… psychic… Alchemist… microbeam gun… ow…"

Slowly the world came into focus. Feelings of abject and complete horror. Feelings of absolute anger. Voices and words. Words like Seriously, a microbeam? and ...first aid kit and ...wet washrag and Mikey don't go to sleep and Should we wake Sirra and…and…

"Mikey, no! Stay awake, stay with me. Damnit, We'll have to move him to the lab…what time is it…"

And he was fading in and out, and he didn't mean to, it was just happening. He was being carried. More voices. Something something upper chest something. Something windpipe, airways. He tried to cough more, realized he had to have air to do that. He tried to suck in air, realized he need working parts to do that. Damn it, Mikey, you really know how to have a serious injury. The familiar press of a mask against his face and he let oxygen flow down his windpipe. It burned. The last thing he heard was Sirra saying words, like "…cracked open…sorry…windpipe…lungs…" before a metal copper taste filled his mouth and he couldn't keep his eyes open. A needle at his elbow, count to ten, and suddenly he wasn't hearing or tasting or feeling at all.


Worst. Unconsciousness. Ever.

He groaned feebly, just able to lift his fingers. Someone took one of his hands, pressed it between their own. One of his brothers. He considered the calloused roughness in different places on the skin. Donnie? Yes, Donnie. They each had a mental signature. Yes. This was Donatello. Gentle and flowing, smooth and soothing, easily churning rapid and raging when provoked. He closed his fingers around the palm and tried to squeeze, Hey, I'm here, but he didn't have much strength. It was like an absence of strength, strength leaving him in waves. This was frustrating. He needed to open his eyes.

"Mikey, I know you're waking up, but I need to go really slow," Don's voice was saying. "Sirra and I performed surgery to make sure the damage didn't extend too far into your respiratory system or heart muscle."

Oh. Well, okay. More surgery, fun. He hummed slowly, in hopes it was a response.

"You've got tachycardia and you'll have a hard time breathing for a while, but so far everything is somehow, amazingly, fine, thank kami and science, and probably telekinesis. Sirra has oxygen, plus a nebulizer, so we can monitor your airways. That microwave energy gun must have been on a narrow beam with a low setting. I'm not sure how it was able to manifest on your body, but I'm stunned you don't have major damage. Microwave energy is extremely intense."

Heh. Stunned, you said stunned.

Either Donnie heard him or just realized. "Heh, maybe stunned is the wrong word. Just…relax for a while, okay? Don't push yourself."

He was quiet for a while. Michelangelo strained to hear his thoughts but fatigue was powerful. "Well, Mikey, I mean, if the Alchemist just challenged you, in his own creepy way, we'd better get you prepared. If he can make an astral projection affect reality like this, we're in trouble."

Yeah, I wanna get this over with and go home too, buddy.

He felt Donnie lay his hand back down and brush a hand over his forehead. "I'll give everyone an update and come back to check on you. I gave you some Ativan, or Sirra's version of it, to keep your heart rate steady and to keep you from panicking. So just take it easy. You'll be all right." A deep, long, tired sigh. "If it weren't so serious, I bet we'd all be laughing. This stuff keeps happening to you! It's almost like your brain wants to prank you in the worst ways. At this point, I would so welcome back all your pranks, Mikey, I really would."

Mikey just barely heard the last sentence as sleep dragged at him again. But he knew he was smiling.


When he was actually able to open his eyes and sit up a little, his brothers and Sirra were sitting around him, and it was the lab, and he was hooked up again, and the first thing he said was "I am getting bored of this, dudes."

"At least he has a thriving sense of humor," Raphael said wryly.

"If my throat didn't hurt so much, I'd yell at you, dude."

"Nah, you love me."

"Damn it."

"Heh."

"Aand how long was I out this time?" Mike said, with a hint of exasperation.

"Well," Donatello said, "it was four hours of surgery including Sirra's healing techniques, and you were unconscious for two full days, so… that long."

Mikey made a growling sound low in his throat, then coughed. "Ow, that hurt. Seriously? Days again? This is pissing me off, I'm so bored!"

Sirra laughed a little. "Well, Tirren and Raphael brought home some films and video games just for you. We'll move you to the entertainment room."

"Oooh! Thanks, Sirra! By the way… how did you heal me? You're not telekinetic."

She grinned proudly. "No, but I was able to connect to your psionic center and ask it to apply your own telekinesis to assist with your immune system."

"Oh." His eyes widened. "Ohhhh. Cool!"

"It was pretty fantastic," Donatello agreed, "watching your own body patching up and sealing up the cooked tissue like that."

"Also," Leonardo added, "the three of us meditated our way into your mind to help. Raph finally got to spend time with your sphere of happy. I think his presence right there might have made it stronger."

Mike blinked up at Raph, who was smirking, but also blushing deeply. "You know…I am totally not surprised. How was it, dude?"

Raph shrugged and tried to be nonchalant but it wasn't working and they knew it. "It…it…ah, oh hell, Mikey, it was the best thing that's ever happened to me. It calmed me down, it made me feel whole, it made me feel… not alone, not a loser, not a freak, not angry, it made me feel really happy…" He choked on that last word and turned away.

Mikey quietly murmured, "Awwww, yay." He and Leo exchanged a high-three. Leo sent him a narrow thought: He fell to his knees and cried, like really really cried. And Michelangelo felt a lump in his throat. A very distant memory came, of his brothers staring at the Sphere Of Happy, of a flurry of Raph And Mike memories causing Raphael to lose his hold on himself.

Biting his lip, Raph turned back and came over to gaze into Mike's eyes. "I don't know if you had heard me, back when you were in the coma, but I said I would give anything for you to come back, that you inspired me. And I said I would never let you go."

Mike nodded, frowning, concerned.

"I…I said all that because you're the only thing in the universe that actually makes me happy, really happy," and Raph was whispering now, and Mikey's eyes had gone wide.

"S-so I'm with you, little brother. No matter what." He grabbed Mikey's hand and held on tight. "Whatever you need. O-okay?"

Mike just stared at him, stared at those emerald eyes shining with tears and agony and fear. Slowly, he nodded. He couldn't talk. But… I love you, Raph. I love you so much. And that thought carried more emotion, more hope, more joy, than his voice ever could.

The two wrapped around each other, and neither cried but they didn't need to. They were just there.


The most explosive moment happened hours later in the backyard.

Sirra and Tirren casually watched their ninjas spar and train, holding nothing back, eventually each trying to work through Michelangelo's psionics. Leo might have called it cheating. Mike winked and called it adaptation. He was using mind tricks and telekinetic distractions, and they were constantly on their toes.

The turtles, shiny with sweat, circled each other, weapons raised. Michelangelo, suddenly, flipped into the center, grinning, eyes flashing. Leonardo snarled and gave a short command. They rushed the youngest, howling, and as he spun on one foot like a dancer, bringing his arms in close, he levitated well above their heads. In a controlled pattern, he spread his arms out, grinned cheekily, and dropped down before Raph could yell out.

The pile collapsed, bodies spreading out, and Mike lay back with his hands behind his head, easing into his new wriggling couch.

Directly beneath him, Leo coughed. "Perhaps…we need to add...to the meaning…of ninja…"

Mikey giggled and rolled off them in a front somersault, laying on the grass directly in a sunbeam. "Ahhh, this is nice."

"It's not over yet, runt," Raph growled, grinning. He readied himself to pounce, when the atmosphere shifted, crackling, and a cry of pain and confusion cut through the air, and Michelangelo's prone body gave a single convulsion and lay still, eyes blankly staring at the sky. They ran to him.

"Wait," Donnie said, fingers pressed against his brother's wrist. "This could be a vision. We need to wait. His heart rate is too fast, his breathing is too fast. But I don't know what'll happen if we wake him up."

Michelangelo barely heard any of it. He wasn't looking at the sky. He didn't hear them.

He didn't hear anything.

But he saw.

Oh, he saw.


He floated over New York City. Moments before the Triceraton invasion. The moment all the team, plus the Shredder, gathered to watch the black hole generator descend. Thoughts circled his mind. "You betrayed us, Professor! How could you build the black hole generator? How could you give it to the Kraang!" Leo, going off on his own, being rescued, Honeycutt apologizing too late. The Fugitoid tossing them out of the Ulixes. Splinter, suddenly catching Shredder's advance, avoiding the blow! Their past selves, staring at their future selves. Honeycutt reappearing, taking the black hole generator into space, sacrificing himself. The Honeycutt from the past, coming to take them on adventures, their past selves trotting on board. Their future selves – their now selves – reuniting with their father, their sensei! Mike himself was crying!

Father!

Father!

Splinter. Splinter's alive. He's alive. He missed the killing blow! They made it home! They're home!


"Daddy," he gasped, and suddenly he couldn't breathe. "FATHER," he screamed with all the breath he had left. And there were hands on him, voices in his ears, telling him to breathe slowly, to calm himself; what was that about Splinter…?

It took a full minute. The world spun and swirled and his gut clenched. He was choking on random air. He had broken out in a cold sweat. A cloth against his forehead. Voices again, arms around him, a hand on his wrist, a hand at his neck.

"-key, it's okay, we're here, it's us, it's okay! Breathe, Mike, deep breaths…" That was Leo. He sucked in air. He was shaking. He struggled to form words. "D-dad," he rasped. "Alive. We…make it. Home."

There was silence. It stretched on, a sound by itself. His arms flailed, searching for something to hold, he couldn't see

Hands grabbed his hand held on. He blinked, kept blinking, shook his head until the fog and the lights faded. Raphael was holding his hands. Donatello, checking his pulse. Leo, pressing a cool damp cloth to his head.

Their faces full of delight, fear, hope, worry, despair, anguish, questions and questions.

After several more minutes, shivering in that beautiful sunbeam, resisting attempts to get him inside, Michelangelo gulped in air and began to speak.


In the kitchen, they were still shaking.

Leonardo opened his mouth, croaked out, "Hope."

Two pairs of eyes turned to him.

"This means…you guys, this means we'll win!"'

"We'll get to go home," Doantello said.

"The Fugitoid will betray us," Raphael grumbled.

"But in the end it won't matter," Leonardo said. "Home. Our sensei. Our father."

Yeah. They couldn't argue.

Shadows fell over them. In the doorway stood Sirra and Michelangelo, the latter looking utterly exhausted yet triumphant.

"Hey, guys, guess what?" he smiled crookedly.

"Now what? Raph scooted back his chair, ready for trouble.

Still grinning, Mikey pointed at the table. It rose to the ceiling and stayed there, spinning gently, for a few seconds before gracefully setting back down. Donatello stared at him, wide-eyed.

"Wait," Don said, "is this about that astral plane discussion you and I had? Does this mean…"

Mikey's grin sharpened, like a shark. "I am finally ready to take down the fucking Alchemist, dudes. I am ready to go home."

Chapter Text

"To help a baby bird fly, sometimes you must push it out of the nest" -Unknown

"Two paths diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by." –Robert Frost

"The Universe puts us in places were we can learn. They are never easy places, but they are right. Wherever we are is the right place, at the right time. The pain that sometimes comes is part of the process of constantly being born." -Delenn, Babylon 5

"I will tell you a great secret, Captain, perhaps the greatest secret of all time: The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside - that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star-stuff. We are the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. And, as we have both learned, sometimes the Universe requires a change of perspective." -Delenn, Babylon 5

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wildflower:
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."
-William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

"We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
- e. e. Cummings

"Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. Knowledge is not intelligence. In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected. Change alone is unchanging. The same road goes both up and down. The beginning of a circle is also its end. Not I, but the world says it: all is one. And yet everything comes in season. - Heraklietos of Ephesos

"Don't look at me. You're the one with the parachute!" –Unknown

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." ― Rumi

"Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free." ― Rumi

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. – Rumi

When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about." ― Rumi

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." ― Rumi


The hug Tirren gave him may have been one of the longest, sweetest embraces of his life. Michelangelo tried to not cry. Fuck it, he cried. He picked up the child and spun in a circle, and the tearful laughter both cracked and soared his heart. The embrace he gave Sirra equally hurt his heart, but there were a thousand thanks. She had saved his life.

In the end, he asked Donatello to give Sirra the M'Kari stone.

Goodbyes were solemn and sweet. Sirra had in fact made two whole backpacks of medical supplies, plus a pack of food and provisions for both the trip to Risal and back to the Ulixes. Her hug with Donatello lasted a little too long.

They took the pod to Risal as quickly as they could. The coordinates Sirra had managed to call up let them see what looked like a huge white dome from above. Specks of black were in front. They stealthily parked in a part of the woods, unseen.

It took half an hour to walk to the base. Guards stood in front. The ninjas melted into the shadows to discuss plans. Before Leonardo could complete his second sentence, Michelangelo grabbed his hand and made the others link, as he closed his eyes and exhaled.

The images in their minds were clear. Twisted concrete and marble hallways warriors walking about. The largest room. The Alchemist himself, at a long stone table, with computer terminals medical equipment, chemistry sets. Pouring liquids from flask to flask. Powders. Elixirs. An assistant, asking questions. Volume barely turned up. "This is for our largest client, and the quantity is unlike anything we've done before," the Alchemist snapped, "and I won't have mistakes." The vision shuddered, faded, and when they opened their eyes, Mikey was staring at nothing, tiny beads of sweat on his forehead, rage in his bright blue eyes.

They felt his mind link to theirs forcefully. No spoken words. His thoughts became theirs. Flashes of Neural Mike and the finally healed network web, thrumming. Neural Mike was laughing. Michelangelo was grinning a crooked, sharp smile they had never seen on him before. But he held something back. Raph mentally growled until Mike shot him a murderous look. He glanced at Leo, as if asking permission. The two sets of blue eyes gazed at each other for a long time. The huge baby blues darkened. Leonardo then nodded, lowered his eyes before standing tall.

Raphael was still snarling. Donatello was holding both his arms. Michelangelo cast them a sharp glance. You will not protect me and the images were too powerful. You will fight as you must, you will destroy the lab, destroy the base. You will keep each other alive. And so it was, because Leonardo suddenly gave his baby brother a sweeping, low bow, and Raphael sucked in a gasp of utter shock. When Leo whispered the words "Hai…Senpai…" Donatello stepped back in astonishment.

Mikey's grin became slightly feral. "Don't worry, bros," he rasped. "It's only for this." He winked.

And then he was gone.

The dust swirling in the air barely showed tracks as their baby brother became a speck in the distance, running toward the laboratory of The Alchemist.

Donatello had never, never, ever seen their little Mikey run so fast, so far, so intensely. He could have considered the telekinesis giving him a boost, but even that seemed to defy several laws. All he could do was push his head to the wind and follow, his brothers at his side, silent across the sand, until the guards came into view.

Leonardo held up a hand and they stopped. Two more reptile men had stepped out, four more at their backs, spears and swords in clawed hands.

"You," the main guard said, pointing at them. "Where is your fourth member?"

"We don't know," Leo said. "He took off running."

"Toward here?"

"Yes."

Spears were positioned, swords were raised.

"I don't believe you," said the guard. "He told you where he was going."

"No," Leo countered. "He only said he was after the Alchemist and then he was gone."

The reptile men murmured amongst themselves.

"The survivor boy," a different guard called out. "The child that lived."

There was growling and hissing. "The Alchemist will find him and kill him," one of them said.

"If he can catch him!" Raphael taunted.

Someone ran into the entrance of the dome. Minutes passed. Everyone shifted uncomfortably. A voice cried out, "there is no sign of the turtle!"

"Obviously not!" the main guard scolded. "He is a fahkpa shinobi! He would find places to hide! Go back in, tell everyone to look at every corner, every shadow, every ceiling!"

Subtly, Donatello raised his eyes to the domed roof. He couldn't see anything. Where had Mikey gone, anyway?

There was a sudden commotion from inside the dome. Screams, yells, guttural shouts. Reptile men were running out the door in panic. The sounds of battle could be heard from within. Bodies suddenly flew out of the entrance, propelled by nothing, twisting in unnatural ways before slamming to the ground. Random objects followed, flying at incredible speeds.

Michelangelo seemed to be having fun in there.

A reptilian roar, and the sounds of a dual began. Wood cracked against bone; hissing and growling exploded into a war cry. A confused, terrified shriek, and a reptile man in blue robes flew and then tumbled through the doorway. The Alchemist's second in command? He lay still, frightfully still.

At a gesture from Leonardo, the turtles advanced and flew into the fray, if for nothing else than to find their brother. As they managed to knock out and cut down most of the mass, there came a laugh, deep and extreme, from the doorway. They skidded to a halt.

A tall, red-robed figure appeared shadowed in the center, casually walking out, hands at its sides, palms out. A blurry figure rushed past, sailed through the air in somersaults, and landed like a cat.

"MIKEY!" all three turtles cried out.

Michelangelo looked different. He stood prouder. His skin shade seemed both deeper and brighter. His huge eyes sparkled, filled with electricity. His mouth stretched into a creepily wide grin. "Gotcha," he said in a deep, guttural voice.

"You are adorable, then," the reptilian murmured, smiling. "Attacking me while I'm working. You are in luck, though. You can be my first test subject for my brand new serum!"

"Ohh, you wish," Michelangelo snarled. "You have no idea."

"Oh?" The Alchemist tilted his head. "Enlighten me."

The three other turtles circled to the left, prepared to give backup. But when The Alchemist made a complicated hand gesture and held out his arm toward them, Michelangelo turned and flung out his arm at the same time, panic and worry on his face. At first it felt like being squeezed, or crushed, and then abruptly there was a release, and there were shimmers all around them. Raph kicked out and hit some sort of wall, which shimmered at him.

"It's a force field," Donatello mused. "The Alchemist tried to kill us, so Mikey put a force field around us."

"Is he crazy?" Raph gasped. "He can't take that guy on alone! I don't care how telekinetic he is! We need to back him up! We're supposed to help him!"

Leo was oddly silent, his gaze calm. It angered Raph enough to grab him, snarling in his face. "Leo! Leo, what the hell do we do?"

Leonardo just gazed past him at the final two combatants. "We wait."


 

"Aww, what a mean trick, cutting me off like that." The Alchemist was still smiling. "I'm hurt."

"Poor baby," Mikey said. "Want me to kick your wounds?"

"Clever. I like you. When you are dead, maybe I'll give you a memorial."

"That's sweet. I prefer wildflowers over calla lilies." Michelangelo pulled from the swirling air, gathered force, and vanished. The Alchemist grunted at the powerful punch-kick to the middle of his back. He was on hands and knees, and before he could rise, the bulk of mutant turtle was on him, hitting hard, becoming a blur.

Leonardo positioned himself, staring at Michelangelo, who flicked his hand at them. The shimmering faded. The lab! came Mike's voice, get to the lab, go go! And Leo pulled his team and they melted into shadows into the inner sanctum of the dome.

Michelangelo decided to dance lightly, causing stressed and pained grunts from underneath him. If he was in a battle to the death, he could still have fun.

Roaring, the Alchemist swept an arm and tossed him off, but Mike anticipated that and backflipped, slowing his fall until he landed on his heels, rocking back and forth. "Man, you are slow! Guess all you're really good for is poisoning!"

Roaring, the Alchemist pulled his stun gun. "Do you recall how I killed you!" he howled. "My speed is unmatched, you overconfident pup!"

"Reeaally? Because I ain't seein' it, lizard breath!"

There was a black and red blur, and Mikey once again felt that familiar sting, the flash of metal and spurt of blood, as the Alchemist grabbed his knife and slashed at his plastron in a single motion. They jumped away from each other. Mike quickly felt for the wound, not taking his eyes off his opponent. The gash was lower this time, and still deep, but not like before. No, this was play. He grinned. Well, fine. He was great at playing.

When the Alchemist fired that microwave beam gun, even with no light or sound, Mikey sensed the heat and force and jumped out of the way, rolling to the side, running chest down, headfirst, butting into the Alchemist's abdomen to knock him down. He flicked his wrist and the gun flew forward and rolled across the ground. The knife was wrenched out of the Alchemist's hand, bent and twisted. The muscles in Michelangelo's brain were stretching and flexing and it was wonderful, he didn't want to stop!

At the same time, a tremendous explosion rocked the dome. Ahhh, my bros did it! Go them! Go ninja, GO! And Mikey pounced, grabbing The Alchemist by the shoulders and flipping him up and over, slamming him into the ground again. The Alchemist twisted, cursing, shouting, screaming about his life's work being destroying, and Mikey laughed at the cliche.

As the three turtles ran at full speed outside, the Alchemist howled and reached out for them again, and they swayed and screamed. "No you fucking DO NOT!" Mikey shrieked, and threw his force field at the last second. He saw his brothers crumpled on the ground, struggling to breathe, and he poured more energy into the shield.

He wasn't paying enough attention to...

The Alchemist grinned nastily and jammed two clawed hands into his sides. Michelangelo screamed in startled fury, and fiery pain blazed through his body. Getting to his feet, still holding on, the Alchemist hissed, exposing his teeth, lifting the writhing turtle in the air as blood splattered onto the sand and screaming came from behind that energy shield. "Yes I FUCKING DO," the reptilian howled, lowering his head and sinking his teeth into the turtle's left shoulder, just to hear more agony. He roared, rising Michelangelo over his head and slamming him to the ground, ripping his hands out, watching the wounds gush blood. His opponent lay on his carapace, rocking slowly from side to side, jerking in unexpected agony.

"You see," The Alchemist growled, "I didn't bother mentioning that I had carefully coated my own claws in my new serum, little whelp." Shouts from the force field. "Which means we're done here. You are my test subject. I WIN."

He slammed his boot heel against the turtle's plastron, and there was the snap of bones, drawing out another raspy screech. "And now, all we have to do is wait for you to die. It should only take, oh, twenty-four hours. So why don't you release your friends and we have a merry tea party while this new poison courses through you, yes?"

Silence filled the world. A void made of silence, of despair, of hopelessness. Michelangelo's harsh breathing broke it, and the Alchemist tilted his head. "Oh, you want to speak? By all means, please. Tell me how you feel, child. And be honest. It's for posterity, you know."

He removed his boot and kicked Michelangelo in his gashed and torn up side, listening to the thick howl ending in a sob. He stepped back. He glanced at the shockingly strong force field, at the three turtles screaming, sobbing, pounding, hollering their brother's name.

He looked back at the victim, lying so still, eyes still fixed on him, the brightest blue he had ever seen, filled with youth, with love, with somehow optimism and joy. They hadn't faded. He frowned. Why hadn't his eyes faded?

Michelangelo opened his mouth, blood-stained teeth bared. He choked out a sour laugh. "You...are a...fucking sadist...and this shit...burns...like the inside...of your nightmares."

The Alchemist smiled pleasantly. "I don't have nightmares." And he kicked him in the other bloody side. This time there wasn't even a scream. The body jerked and arched. Those glimmering jewel-toned eyes rolled back and closed. And he smiled again.


 

Deep, deep inside his mind, Michelangelo floated.

Voices called to him. Voices begged him to wake up, to move. Nope. He was way too comfortable here. He floated face down, limbs limp and drifting. The darkness was welcoming. The deep, thick, rich, sinking darkness, where there was no pain or fear or sadness or hurt.

You have to get up! You have to get back out there! They need you!

Hah. Nobody needed him. He was useless. He still could barely walk. So he had psychic powers, so what? Those didn't make him a good ninja, they just gave him a cheat code.

You're going to go home! Yoshi needs you! Please, child!

That caused a shiver to wrack his body. No. No. The others could handle it. Splinter would understand.

Michelangelooo!

Shut uuup, he mimicked, but he was too tired to open his eyes.

A new voice, filled with arrogance and confidence, cut through him.

Oh for the Allfather's sake – wake the fuck up! What about that little present we gave you? You're just gonna die and let that go to waste? Really? Well fuck you. A bunch of gods do something nice for a guy and he doesn't even take the time to — seriously, fuck you, man. That's a high quality wrist brace, you know. Hephaestus and Thor got together and forged it. Persephone even breathed her rare powers of life and death into it. Hermes delivered it to me and then I delivered it to Pan because he was the one you called for and everything. But I? I was the one who first met with your subconscious self and discussed it in the first place. ME. How fucking dare you throw it away because you are beat down and tired. My whole family has beat me down and then kicked me around! I know you know how that feels.

He stirred. Damn, Loki was persuasive. What a charmer. Groaning, Michelangelo forced his eyes open, and as he did, power and memories and LIFE flooded into him. He gasped like a drowning man and began to scream. Someone supported him as he thrashed, someone took his arms. "Sshhh, easy," a woman murmured. "We've got you. Rest yourself. You're all right."

All right? There was poison running through him! He was dying!

The supernatural wrist brace hummed with light and electricity.

You know the fascinating thing about poisons? He didn't recognize that voice either, but he did recognize the thrilling burst of light, music, and the sudden desire to dance until he laughed.

Wait. Waaait…

Apollo!

Yes! Hello, Little One! Anyway, the fascinating thing about poisons is that they can always be taken down if you really have knowledge and power. Yeah, even the bacterial ones, even the amino acid poisons. I mean, I don't know how the platypus came about, but wow, that one was the hardest to treat. But there isn't an illness I can't treat. Except death. Hades is great at that. Want me to get him? He can be the nurse!

Mikey just furrowed his brow in utter confusion.

Sorry. I like to talk. Just let Hecate and Quan Yin pull you out of that dark muck.

Someone held him from behind. Someone held him in front. They were moving. There was light ahead. Slowly, blearily, he opened his eyes. Quan Yin's face stared back at him. She smiled. "Calm your heart," she said. "You are too afraid."

Something solid brushed against him. He was lain down on a surface. Another face came into view, pale as moonlight, black hair falling over him. Hecate, then, Greek goddess of healing, pathways, magic, night and shadows. Her smile was like a soothing pain reliever. Ahh. He felt the burning subside as she held him. He panted, whined, gritted his teeth. What was happening?

"Look," Apollo said, "I promise you this is not one of those… oh, what's it called, deus ex machina? Yeah, that, one of those things, from stories. I do love human stories, they're so imaginative, they think a god actually made them. We're busier than that. Look at us! Anyway! It's just that… when you are very psionic and your supernatural meter goes off the charts, and you are somewhere in outer space, let's just say that you're a magnet for a lot of people like us. Some call us gods, some call us spirits, some call us cosmic entities, or hallucinations of the higher brain. I don't even know what I am. But we are formless. We are old. We came from everywhere. We have always been, ever since the first observant sentience was around to notice us. We didn't create this universe, or any world within it, but we like to peek in and see all the interesting bits of life floating around. You're interesting. We like you."

In front of him, a human male form surrounded by gold light appeared, bright blue eyes twinkling. "Lots of people think I look like this, so what the hell, right?" He bent down, inches from Michelangelo's nose. "Okay, here's the thing. I'm going to remove this venom from your system. It will hurt. It won't be pretty. I can't promise anything else. But I don't want you dead just yet. There are a lot of afterlifes and underworlds not ready for that."

Mikey frowned. "I am still so confused."

"It's okay," Apollo said, "we all are, all the time."

He reached out and grabbed Mikey's sides, his palms fitting over the claw marks. He was glowing. Mike was glowing. Everything was glowing white and yellow. It burned. It burned. It burned. He screamed, and cried, and screamed, and sobbed, and Quan Yin and Hecate held him and murmured at him and sang to him and soothed him, and he screamed and screamed and he wanted to die, the pain was unbearable, please please make it stop—


 

He was still screaming, still sobbing, when air moved over his face and he sucked in a breath, eyes snapping open. His wounds had stopped burning. His body had stopped burning. He was still bleeding, ribs still broken, the blood-gushing claw marks still deep against his sides. Panting, he got to his feet, swaying. He ignored the horrific scrape of bones, the bruising spreading across his chest indicating internal bleeding.

"Well," The Alchemist said with mild surprise. "This really is fascinating. You really don't give up, do you?"

Michelangelo swayed and steadied himself, staring right into those amber eyes. "You know," he said conversationally, "I am going to kill you."

"That's very sweet. But you'll be dead soon anyway."

Grinning, Mikey put away his weapons and spread his hands. "Nah. I don't think so. I'm better than that."

"You're arrogant, I'll give you that." But there was confusion in the reptile man's voice, confusion on his face.

"Nah, that's just knowing myself," Mikey said breezily. "Knowing what I can do. And what you can't do."

There was a wild crackle of electricity. The winds picked up and began to howl. As Leo, Don, and Raph still pounded at the force field, said shield suddenly dropped. But the wind pushed them to their knees. Their voices, hollering their brother's name, were snatched away and torn apart. The Alchemist was yelling, teeth bared, struggling to maintain a fighting pose.

Michelangelo brought his hands together, palms pressed and fingers clasped, index fingers pointed up. His blue eyes lit up in electric glow. That same energy cascaded over his skin, stretching inches away, stretching so wide and so far that it swept across the three turtles and suddenly they could see, they could hear.

Michelangelo lifted, moved his legs into a lazy half-lotus. Casually, slowly, he moved toward The Alchemist, who backed up toward the curved wall of the building, eyes wide, real terror flashing in them. On pure instinct, Leo drew his weapons and the others followed, as the last few remaining reptilians spilled out of the entrance. The turtles quickly took them down, just as the sands lifted and gathered and began to spin but never touched them, the grit never got in their eyes, and blue electricity shrieked across the air in branches and fingers, galloping with the blazing scream of dragons.

The Alchemist was screaming now. Mikey was hovering close to him, that sweet freckled face twisted with a desperate rage and the memories of torment. On his right forearm was a brace featuring a dozen figures, all glowing white. Around his neck was a talisman framed by a snake eating its tail, also glowing white.

"Hey, Alchemist," Mikey called above the wild elements, "You know when you said I had the potential to be the best warrior out there?"

As he drew ever closer, the Alchemist slid down that curved wall, bellowing.

"See, that's not really my style, to out-warrior anyone," Mikey said. "I'm better at dodging, at moving beyond the fight to the endgame, at using my enemy's force against them. I do my best not to kill." Michelangelo took on a gentle but firm voice. "I recognize when it's time to make those impossible choices. But the thing about me?" He raised his clasped hands, touched the middle of his forehead, spilling purple electricity down his hands. "I remember. I regret. And now? Now, thanks to you, I will always sleep with one eye open." He snapped the last few words slowly, bringing his hands apart, pressing his fingers to his forehead, as the purple electricity thickened and swirled, igniting the wrist brace, igniting the glow in his eyes, the waves of power swirling around his body.

The gust was so thick it was impenetrable, and the only visible thing for a few seconds was a booming crash of purple and blue electricity. Then there was screaming, the Alchemist was screaming, and Mikey had his hands on the sides of the Alchemist's head now, and the Alchemist's screams were ripped away by the wind, and the burst of light was so intense that Leonardo threw himself against his brothers, closing his eyes, and even then there was pure whiteness flashing over his eyelids.

When the three of them finally opened their eyes, there was only silence. Nothing moved. Nothing breathed. Nothing made a sound. Nothing penetrated everything.

Gasping, Leonardo stood up, blinking. Somehow, his sight and hearing were fine. He looked back at his brothers, who looked exactly as puzzled as he. Donatello was already looking at something, already moving past him. "Donnie?"

For a second, all he heard was his taller brother's harsh breathing. And then Donatello breathed, "Mikey," and began to run. Not even thinking, Leonardo ran after him, and heard Raphael growling on his heels.

Two bodies lay motionless several feet from each other in the sand. The Alchemist, robes torn, was crumpled in an unnatural position against the wall. His eyes were closed. He didn't appear to be breathing. Don was checking for a pulse. "He's…alive," he said, his voice emotionless. "He's got a pulse."

"So?" Raphael crossed his arms.

"I hear something," Leo said. "Very distant. "Could be reinforcements."

"Fine," Raph said, "they can pick him up."

Donatello was examining the slack face, the dulled eyes. "Guys? There's…more. I don't think he's in there."

Leo blinked. "Huh?"

Donatello stood up. "I mean…I think his mind is shutting down. I don't think he'll ever wake up." His tone was casual, almost emotionless. Leonardo, oddly, felt no actual sympathy.

"Well," Raphael said, "good on Mikey. That douchebag deserves it."

He turned. He sucked in a tight breath, and hurried to the other body, collapsing next to it. "Now get your ass over here and help our brother!"

Michelangelo lay on his back with limbs spread out, blood pooling around him. He was covered in bruises and minor burns.

He wasn't breathing.

Leo felt his heart stop.

Donatello skidded to his knees, checked for a pulse, and immediately began CPR, pushing so desperately hard against the thick bruised bleeding plastron that the veins in his arms stood out. He didn't care that ribs were already broken, he might just break another one, he couldn't care, they were too far away from the medical supplies, he had to do this, he had to do this! After fifteen, he took a beat and continued. They were all sweating, not caring if tears were mixed in. Leo and Raph had taken positions by Mikey's head and each held a hand against his forehead, pouring their thoughts and energy into Breathe, Mikey, damn it, breathe, come on, we know you can do it. Mikey! Where are you! Get back here! Come back to us! We won! Mikey! We need you! PLEASE! MIKEY!

Donatello's counting became desperate, then sobbing, torn from the depths of anguish, and then distant. Raphael growled deep in his throat and then threw back his head and screamed—

And suddenly he was tumbling through red darkness spotted with white light, and he yelled his brother's name over and over, and the darkness was beginning to swell, and it was as though a wind tunnel had been created and he fought against it, screaming, and he howled "FUCK YOU, MIKEY, I TOLD YOU I'D NEVER LET YOU GO! GET BACK HERE AND LIVE, YOU LITTLE RUNT. COME BACK TO ME. I LOVE YOU. I NEED YOU I NEED YOU I FUCKING NEED YOU, MICHELANGELO!"

And he was falling, and he didn't care where he landed, and he was sobbing hysterically—

And something caught him. Someone.

Someone wrapped a pair of thick, streamlined muscled arms around him and caught him, spinning him in the nothingness.

"I'm here," a tenor voice rasped, almost unrecognizable. "I heard you. I found you. Oh gods and kami, Raph, I found you!" And the figure's head was buried into the crook of his neck, and…

"Mikey?" Raphael's arms reached up and he felt a familiar carapace. "Oh gods. Oh my—Mikey. It's you. I got you. It's okay, baby bro. I got you!"

Crying against each other, they pushed up, kicking, treading darkness, and suddenly all around them there were lightning strikes and crackling energy, suddenly there was a crack in a ceiling and it kept widening, and there was a sky above, and his baby brother was crying in his arms mumbling his name, and he kept pushing them forward and up, and they were almost THERE…

Michelangelo GASPED, breath ripped in and out of him explosively, torso jerking up reflexively, and he began coughing, hacking, sucking in air greedily, and Raphael's arms were still around his shoulders and Donatello's hands were still on his abdomen and Leonardo's hands were still on his head and they were all yelling, bursting into tears, shivering, and crying Mikey don't do that again Mikey how could you Mikey never leave us again we were so scared Mikey you weren't breathing Mikey what happened?

And Michelangelo couldn't speak, not yet, and his throat was still raw from his own energy bursts, his entire body felt chafed, excoriated, stripped apart and eaten from inside out by pure power, his whole brain was still sparking and flooding with energy, and he could hardly even think let alone move, but there were his brothers, and his enemy was down and would never get up again with no more active brain, and his own power rushed through through him gently like a river, and there were his brothers, and he was safe, he was safe, he was SAFE, and the only thing he could really do was laugh and cry in their warm welcome arms until his exhausted body gave out and shut off and he slid in to that deep welcoming healing warmth of sleep.

>


"Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free." ― Rumi

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. – Rumi

When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about." ― Rumi

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." ― Rumi

Chapter Text

"What happens when people open their hearts?"
"They get better."
― Haruki Murakami

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." ― Rose Kennedy

"Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can't change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others. From this point you will finally be free."
― Shannon L. Alder

"As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation - either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course."
― Martin Luther King Jr.


Back on the Ulixes, there was shouting, there was anger, and April's fury was a whirlwind. Crowded around the unconscious Michelangelo's infirmary bed, the turtles considered waking him up just enough to create a force field just against her rage.

A week went by. Michelangelo remained in his deep healing sleep as machines breathed for him. Oxygen mask working overtime, dozens of stitches along his sides, somehow the scar along his left leg had burst open again; more stitches and also panic. There was no poison or venom in his system, and they assumed the psionics pushed it out somehow. They assumed the psionics also must have pushed his heart to pump and work again, because Donatello had been getting so tired and Raphael had dropped into a trance and gone into Mikey's soul, they had to assume the psionics made him alive because they had been so scared...

April was still upset, but once the story was told, she calmed herself. She went to the kitchen and took a folded-up, blood-stained sheet of paper from a box on the counter. She laid it out as neatly as she could, and she waited.

Mikey woke up, and carefully eased back to consciousness with Donatello's help, fully aware of everything. He sensed the clashing emotions of everyone on the ship and called them in for a chat, a long long chat, in which he recounted everything. How he had taken down as many reptilians as he could just by flinging them against walls. How he had run up against a soldier so strong that it had taken both nunchucks and telekinesis to bring him down, dragging Michelangelo's own strength. How that final battle with The Alchemist had been a knowing risk, a completely aware sacrifice, as the scars along his body had ripped open and his own power had tried to burn him from the inside out before the strange, new, purple energy swept in, protecting him while giving him strength to rip The Alchemist's very mind away in a fit of pure wrath.

April relaxed as soon as she was able to register Mike's puppy eyes, the raggedness of his breathing, the pallor of his skin, the knowledge that he had technically died on the battlefield. She burst into tears, threw her arms around him. The voice of professor Honeycutt pulled them back. They still had a huge mission to finish. Mikey nodded, pressed his hands together, took a deep breath, and began glowing.

Afterwards, after the cold sweats and trembling had passed, he hopped off the bed, unhooked himself from the machines. Barely taking in the stunned looks, he shrugged. "What? We have a job to do. I wanna see Dad again." And he strolled out of the infirmary, head high. He went straight into the kitchen, and finally made the special dish they had been served in the Risal restaurant so many, many months ago.

It was delicious.


Hours and hours and hours later, the group stood on the familiar, beautiful concrete of New York City, buried in the robes of their sensei and father, exhausted and cried out, promising a grand story once they had gotten sleep.

The four turtles, April, and Casey slept for nearly an entire day.

Splinter made his rounds twice, gently, silently, checking each room, as though somehow his children might disappear on him again. He stood the longest in Michelangelo's room, the last room, sensing extreme, extraordinary changes swirling deep inside his youngest, like electric storms constantly waiting. He knelt at the boy's bed. Resting a hand on his forehead, Splinter swiftly slipped into a light trance, just to check, just to—

Oh. Oh, my Michelangelo.

Hunh? Wh—Daddy? Father? What… what are you doing in here?

My child. What happened to you? What has happened to your spirit, your essence?

Heh. Long story, sensei. Long, weird, crazy complicated story. Can we talk about it later? I'm so tired…

Echoes of Leonardo's plea from the day before, but with that jovial undertone that was forever and unequivocably Michelangelo. Of course, my son. I have all the time in the world.

A sob. Yeah. Yeah. We do now, sensei. We do.

In that psychic state, Splinter embraced his baby boy, who clung to his robes and cried until he was empty. Something reached out and washed over Splinter like a wave, and it was filled with brilliant light, the essence of joy, the very heart of happiness and love itself. He didn't want to let go.

I love you, Daddy. None of his children had called him that since they were toddlers. Tears fell from his eyes.

My sweet, wonderful Michelangelo. I love you too.

When he returned to his own room, Splinter curled up on his bed and cried.


It felt like a dream. It had to be a dream. He was home. He was home. But this was a dream.

He stood in the dojo, his dojo, the real dojo, staring up at the tree, and his breathing was soft and steady. Someone appeared next to him. He didn't turn his head, but he caught a glimpse of long, straight, strawberry blond hair and blue eyes as bright as his own, and gold armor that glinted by itself in the shadows.

"You know," came a slightly accented voice – Norwegian? – "when my father told me of my true birth heritage, I was furious for so long. My brother, who was not my brother, laughed at me. My child, who was my father's steed, did not look at me the same way. I felt fully out of place, alone, even in a world filled with my own kind."

Sighing, Loki turned to Michelangelo and pinned him with a long icy blue stare. "You are very lucky. You belong in your family with no question, no matter how different you might be now. Treasure that. Hold it close. You and I? We are one of a kind, we are creatures of mischief and trickery, deception and distraction, chaos and delight. I will be watching you. Try not to do anything stupid, please."

He was gone before Michelangelo could open his mouth.

Another figure appeared, and he didn't have to guess. He wanted to suddenly grab her by the hand, apologize for struggling against her. She raised that moon pale hand, turned to him, smiling, and her black eyes and her black hair shone under the shadow of the tree.

"I am a watcher and a warrior and a healer and a mediator, like yourself," Hecate explained. "I stand at the crossroads and I watch lives pass, I only step in when needed. I'm only here to offer you my guidance and my advice. You have two brothers who fight, one brother who shuts himself away, a parent who both sets you free and clings to you, friends who would give their lives. You alone are on a path that is unique. There are forks in your path that only you know how to travel. But don't be hasty, don't be risky. You will be overconfident and arrogant."

"I will not!" Mike snapped, finding his voice.

Her eyes snapped with laughter. "Silly boy," she said. "Call on me when your pain reaches a peak." And she was gone.

He stamped his foot, whining out loud. "Anyone else think they can tell me how to live?"

"Hah!" came a familiar, bitter rasp. "And now that you're all better, you wanna be king of your little world. You're not king of anything."

He didn't materialize, but Mike shuddered all the same. "You—you're s-supposed to be w-working on on on those webs," he stuttered.

"With you being all pouty because we kept you from dying? Dude, your entire brain can hear you complaining. These deity manifestations are sticking around just so you don't get in trouble and fuck up my house again."

"SHUT UP," Mikey snapped, close to tears, and for once Neural Mike was silent.

"Mikey?" someone else called, but this was much different. This voice shook the dream.

"Mikey? Dude, are you okay?" Pounding. Pounding. A door?

He struggled, swam up toward consciousness, broke through with a long deep cry. He found himself tangled in his bedsheets, punching out at nothing, moaning. His door opened. A body pressed against his own, hands on his wrists. "Mikey, easy little buddy, it's me, it's Raph!"

He whined, whimpered, gasped. "Nnn…Raph? Raph? Wh-wh… I was…"

"You were dreaming, bro. Just a dream. It's all right, it's over. You're awake. Okay? You're awake, I'm with you. We're in your bedroom, Mike. Open your eyes."

He lifted heavy eyelids, focused on shiny emerald irises. "H-hi, Raph…"

"Hey," his brother said with a smirk. "Are you okay now? Can you stop trying to hit me?"

Mike frowned, pouted, trembled…and burst into tears.

Raphael jerked back, jaw dropping. "Whoa! Hey! Easy, Mikey! Shit, what happened?"

There was clamoring at the doorway. The voices of Leo, Don, April, and Casey filled the room. Raphael just turned and stared at them, mouth open, completely lost.


In his dreams, Splinter slipped into a deeper trance, and below him was something intensely familiar: a bright, bouncing sphere of orange-yellow light, a tiny sun, dancing with images, radiating joy and delight, love and compassion, laughter and happiness. He reached out to embrace it, smiling, when it dropped and nearly vanished. Splinter cried out. But a pair of hands grabbed his, and he looked into the face of Quan Yin, kami of compassion. He was immediately soothed.

Quan Yin shimmered and shifted, and he saw several faces: Pan, Greek god of joy and the wild. Loki, Norse god of mischief and chaos. Apollo, Greek god of medicine and music. Hecate, Greek goddess of magic, crossroads, knowledge, life, medicine, healing, choices. She stayed the longest. She was smiling, and Splinter was flooded with a sense of calm and purpose, of pure love and admiration, of pride and determination. Hecate suddenly embraced him. "He will be all right," she whispered, and her voice was the sound of soft bells on the wind at midnight. "Love him with everything you are and he will thrive."

Somewhere in the distance, Splinter heard a child crying. Not just any child. He turned abruptly, kicking at the darkness. "I am coming, my little one! Do not be afraid!" Worry was a stone in his gut; his baby's cries grew more frightened. As a child, little Michelangelo had been terrified of the dark.

Splinter found ground, and began to run, silent and swift. Someone appeared out of the shadows in front of him, someone appeared from the shadows. He drew to a halt, hissing in that way that angry, scared rats did.

"Don't bare your teeth at me, Daddy," the voice snarled, and Splinter drew in a sharp breath, a growl low in his throat.

"I've faced worse," the creature that was not his son shrugged, and he smiled, his cracked, scarred lips curling up. "I won't hurt you. But you're in my house now. Be nice."

Splinter blinked. The darkness faded, replaced by thick red curtains, black and white tiled floor…and a network of webbing that was shining blue, purple, and proud. "Of course," said the Not-Michelangelo, "he keeps plucking at the most random strings at the most extreme moments, and he keeps hurting himself. Can you tell him to go easy? We're still working out the arrangements here."

Slowly, Splinter sized up his companion. This…version…of his youngest was covered in oozing scars and gashes, eye sockets empty and dark, skin nearly gray. But he didn't sense any true animosity. "Why am I here?"

"Oh, because you need to see what's happening, of course. He's not out of the woods, you know. See how the psionics have altered his neural network? He's gonna start thinking he's practically immortal, just because he came back from death a few times and retained his telepathy and telekinesis."

Splinter tilted his head, his eyes widening. His baby was psychic? More than April O'Neil? He knew his children still had to explain their incredible space adventures…this, though, struck him to the core.

"Yeah, it really is an exciting story, though…" Not-Michelangelo tilted back on his heels and locked eyes – sockets – with Splinter. And Splinter's mind was suddenly flooded. Images of his sweet child being stabbed and injected by an alien reptile. Michelangelo wrapped in bandages, machines keeping him alive. Donatello and the robot endlessly working. Raphael sobbing as he watched over Michelangelo's comatose form. Leonardo losing control of himself. Michelangelo waking after three months. April helping Michelangelo work with his telepathy. Two reptilian friends helping the turtles. Michelangelo's long long recovery, his left leg failing him. A final battle, Michelangelo's body and mind bursting with pure energy; the monster called The Alchemist being stripped of his powers and his mind, at the cost of Michelangelo's own life; Donatello reviving his body, Raphael reviving his mind. All his children sacrificing so much just to keep the youngest from falling...

Splinter collapsed, panting. "STOP."

"Yeah, fascinating, huh? He did good, though. I'm proud of him. And hey, now you know some of the story! Anyway, Dad, why don't you get on back to awake. Your kids need you."

And a gust of wind picked him up, blocking all his senses, and he was jolted awake, his youngest son's name torn from his throat.

Something was wrong.


"One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path. It is not so cheap, to reach to the ultimate realization of truth. You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you. It is just like the sky: the birds fly, but they don't leave any footprints. You cannot follow them; there are no footprints left behind."
― Osho

"If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill."
― Rumi


Chapter Text

 


"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." ― Kahlil Gibran

"I have walked a stair of swords,
I have worn a coat of scars.
I have vowed with hollow words,
I have lied my way to the stars
-Songs of Sapphique"

"Time heals all wounds. But not this one. Not yet." ― Marie Lu

"The best relationships in our lives are the best not because they have been the happiest ones, they are that way because they have stayed strong through the most tormentful of storms." ― Pandora Poikilos


In the early morning, Splinter waited in the dojo. When no one appeared, he went out into the lair and past the main pit to the stairs. He jerked to a halt and stared at the scene presented, not sure whether to smile or worry.

Four turtles and two humans were piled in a huge makeshift burrow of blankets and pillows on front of the couch and on the couch. The television was on, set to a random episode of "Space Heroes." Low voices thrummed from within the pit. Carefully, silently, Splinter slipped down and looked around at his little family. Again, love and worry fought for dominance.

In the exact center was Michelangelo, curled in a fetal ball, exposing the long, deep scars along his left leg and side. Immediately on either side of him were Raphael, curled close around his shell, and Leonardo, tucking him close to his plastron. Donatello was huddled above, knees to his chest, both hands on Michelangelo's shoulders. April and Casey were on the couch itself, covered in blankets, heads touching.

Splinter's ears tilted and turned. It was Leonardo and Michelangelo who were speaking, almost sub-vocal, and Splinter called on both his rat hearing and ninja senses.

"…promise, we really are home, really," Leonardo was saying, very gently, as though handling fragile glass.

"There was sand in my eyes," Michelangelo whispered, in a raspy sob that nearly broke Splinter's heart.

"It was just a dream. It's over now. Remember? You woke up in your bed, Mikey. Your own bed, in the lair, at home. You were crying. We couldn't get you to go back to sleep, you said there were too many nightmares. And then we all gathered up every blanket and pillow, and Raph carried you down here on his back, and we set up a whole sleeping pile. And we watched three episodes of Crognard and then we started Space Heroes, and then you fell asleep. And then the rest of us fell asleep because you… kinda covered us in sleep just by snoring? Remember?"

Splinter couldn't help but chuckle inside.

Michelangelo's voice was shaking. "…yeah. Yeah, I remember. But why does it hurt, Leo?"

Oh, my baby, Splinter thought, crushed.

"Oh, Mikey. It's going to hurt for a while. It's post-traumatic stress, remember? Raph got it after you were hurt the first time. You're gonna be haunted. Even I have PTSD."

Sniffle. "You do?"

"Yes, from when Shredder almost killed me, when I was in my coma."

"Y-you don't talk about it much."

"That's because reliving the memories is painful. I work it out by training. You, know, I wouldn't be surprised if Donnie has it, because he did your surgery and kept bringing you back to life."

"Hmm? Hnzwhanow? What do I have?"

"Morning, Don. PTSD."

"Oh. Well, yes, of course. Hey, Mikey. You okay now? How do you feel?"

"Tired. Sore. Like I'm gonna start bleeding everywhere."

"Y'ain't bleeding, runt," came a muffled voice. "Y'can stop shaking now." And Raphael's arms tightened from behind.

A loud snore from behind. "Hgnwha? I'm up, I'm up!"

"Ow, Casey! That was my ear!"

"Sorry, April. Hey, everyone's awake!" Casey was blinking, looking around blearily. His face turned to Splinter. His eyes snapped open. "Uhh, Master Splinter! Morning!"

Suddenly there was a loud shuffling scramble of bodies, and Splinter held up a hand. "It is all right, my children. Do not get up on my account. Casey, may I sit next to you?" And Casey leaped sideways.

"But Sensei," Leo said, staring at him, still embracing Michelangelo, "did we miss training?" at which Raph snorted.

"It is fine, Leonardo. In fact, you all have today off. And, perhaps, tomorrow." There were stunned looks and murmurs.

"Uh," Donatello said, "you okay, Master?"

Splinte gazed at him. "I am fine. Are you okay, my sons?"

The four of them exchanged looks. Unexpectedly, Michelangelo began to cry again.

Amidst the startled cries of "Mikey!" and "What the hell, bro?" Splinter gracefully slid into the mess of blankets and gathered his youngest to his chest, rocking him, humming that old lullaby. But it only made Michelangelo sob harder, quieter, digging his way deeper into robes and fur, nuzzling for warmth and safety. The rat's arms tightened, one hand pressed against his head, one hand closed around a white-knuckled fist, arms almost hiding him. He nuzzled the top of his child's head, murmuring.

"Father," Donatello pleaded, so young, so vulnerable. "Please." His voice was breaking. "I-I don't know what to do, he's been through so much, his scars run so deep… please, how can we help him?"

Splinter looked at his most intellectual baby, those spicy chocolate eyes trembling, and realized that no one knew that Splinter himself had learned of the psionics. "My son, try to relax yourself, you are much too high-strung. Would it comfort you to know that I have spoken with Michelangelo's shattered subconscious entity and I know a bit of his extraordinary psychic abilities?"

Gasps and murmurs all around.

"I do not know the whole story," Splinter amended. "The Not-Michelangelo showed me just enough to break my heart. I need all of you to tell me of your adventures. This is why I am allowing so much time." In his arms, his baby stirred, whimpered. "I can show you, Father," and Michelangelo's voice was soft, high-pitched, like a child's. "I can show you faster than we can tell you."

"Mikey, no," Raphael said, scooting forward. "It'll wear you out. What if you have a seizure?"

"Don't care," and that baby voice was petulant.

"Seizure?" Splinter snarled. "Michelangelo has been having seizures?"

"Only a little," Michelangelo murmured, as if it was no big deal.

Splinter sighed, long and hard, and looked down at his youngest, resting his palm on that round green head. "Very well, my Mikey," and the use of the nickname brokered no argument. "Show me everything you can. If something happens, I will take care of you."

The images and words came slowly, starting with the planet, the glowing rock, the transfer of energy that started the psionics gifted by the M'Kari. The battle with the reptilians, the Alchemist gaining control. Michelangelo bleeding nearly to death, kept alive by a terrified Donatello and April, and a soothing Honeycutt. The poison taking hold, causing hallucinations and then deep coma. Fast forward to the inside of his subconscious, meeting Neural Mike and the new web. Dreaming of dear Tang Shen! Awakening finally, telepathy with April, seizures following every attempt at using the abilities. The talisman, the meditation sessions with Leo. The wheelchair. The struggle to train with his permanently disabled leg. The nightmares. Landing on what was The Alchemist's planet. Sirra and Tirren, who gifted them with medical supplies and knowledge of the ancient vanished M'Kari, Sirra and Tirren who later opened up their home. Mikey struggling with hypothermia, with fevers, with migraines and nightmares, with more cardiac arrest. Donatello nearly losing his mind after more surgeries. Everyone rallying around each other, as a family would. And again, that final battle, Mike knowingly risking his own life to stop the enemy from ever rising again.

When it was over, Splinter and Mike rocked in each other's arms. Splinter was slowly murmuring, "Nen-nen yo okororiyo suya-suya to oyasuminasai nen-nen yo okororiyo yasashi hito ni sodachimasu you ni kami-sama arigatou, enjeru mo arigatou nen-nen yo okororiyo mama no mune de oyasuminasai…" And the other three swayed, completely relaxed, nearly entranced. They looked ready to fall asleep all over again.

April and Casey glanced at each other.

Leo was the first to shake himself out of it. "Sorry. Really old lullaby. It always calmed us down when we were afraid. We don't have a mother, but close enough. Mikey and Raph always responded the best, it soothed their overactive emotions."

A huge yawn came from Raphael. "Eh, yeah. Good memories."

April leaned in closer. "Is…is Mikey asleep?"

"Nope," came the sweet chirping voice from within the folds of Splinter's robes. "I just feel better." Slowly, he separated himself from Splinter and slid back into the pile, bumping against Donatello on the way down. Donnie playfully yanked Mikey's bandana tails.

"Seriously, though," Don said. "Are you feeling better?"

"Yes, Donnie, I promise. In faaact… who wants breakfast? I can make omelets!" And he was suddenly up and skipping toward the kitchen, calling out, "Splinter gets to decide what type of cheese! Oh! And I gotta say hi again to Ice Cream Kitty!" There was a pause. "HI, ICE CREAM KITTY! DADDY LOVES YOU, NUM NUM NUM!"

Raphael stretched. "Good, he's fine, I'm hungry."

As they all made their way to the kitchen, Leo said, "And don't worry, sensei, we will tell you absolutely everything that happened."

Splinter smiled and put his arm around his oldest's shoulders. "Which is why I have given us the time. I can already tell this will be a very long, very fascinating tale."

"Oh, man, Sensei, you have no idea, it was incredible! Literally, at times!" and Donatello's eyes sparkled.

Mikey was already hard at work. Splinter requested white cheddar, and his eyes went round as the fridge opened and a block of cheese floated out, toward the stove. Mike was already heating up a pan and cracking eggs in a bowl, and it was like watching a ballet of inanimate objects.

April sidled up to Splinter, eyes on the action. "Did I mention the time he was in the infirmary and somehow made sandwiches without setting foot in the kitchen?"

Splinter's jaw dropped.

They really did have a lot to talk about.


Gathered in the comfortable main pit, the group took turns telling the story, and hours went by. Donatello, Casey, and Michelangelo filled in with sound effects. April interrupted to make sure the stories didn't veer too wildly off-course. Splinter asked questions. Michelangelo and Casey went to get snacks and pizza. By the time Leonardo and Donatello began to wind the story down, the light was fading, and Michelangelo had wandered off to the kitchen again; the smells of pasta and sauce filled the lair.

Exhaling, Leonardo drank half the bottle of water in front of him. "I did get a little carried away when Honeycutt told us that he was the one who invented the black hole generator."

"Although," Donatello said, "Mikey's precognition-"

"Yeah, but that's the thing about futures. There's a lot of them. I've come to realize that." Leo smiled, looking almost bashfully up at Splinter.

"Dudes, it's over already? Maaan." And Mikey was there holding three bowls of pasta while four more carefully hovered around him. With a wide-eyed hiss, April and Donatello grabbed at the floating bowls, giving him a Look.

"Whaaat?" he muttered. "I like using my brain muscles, okay?"

"Yesss," Donatello said, "but remember what happened when you overused them?"

Michelangelo shrugged. "Maybe it won't happen anymore." Don just facepalmed at that.

Ten minutes into dinner and conversation, however, Michelangelo abruptly sat up, dropped his fork into his bowl, and scooted backwards toward the couch, eyes extremely wide, face pale. A low keen erupted from his throat. Donnie, who had been sitting right next to him, sat up on his knees, sighed as if he had expected this, and took him by the shoulders.

"Not to say I told you so," he muttered, "but I told you so."

Everyone else froze, and Splinter rose from his chair. "My son, what is wrong with-"

Donatello held up his palm. "It's all right, Father. It's a seizure. I just need to get him to lay down. Somebody hand me a pillow and a bottle of water or Gatorade?"

And just as Mikey's eyes went faraway blank and Donnie had eased him down, there came a soft, tiny spasm of every muscle, not a convulsion, more than a twitch, then limpness. Stuttered breathing that paused every few seconds. Nearly imperceptible twitching of muscles in the hands, the arms, the neck. Eyes that saw only what was within the mind. And through it all, Donnie whispered, murmured, stroked and soothed.

Leonardo glanced up at the clock on the television and counted out the seconds, Raphael was holding his brother's hand and murmuring "It's okay, it's okay."

Two minutes and four seconds later, Michelangelo sucked in air, let out a tiny wail, and blinked several times.

"Okay now?" Donatello said. Mike looked at him and nodded. Already, tears were in his eyes.

"Water?" he whispered, as if afraid to speak. A bottle was tilted into his mouth and he drank slowly, greedily. Raph nodded and put the bottle back on the floor, massaging Mikey's arms and shoulders. "I'm sorry," Mikey whispered, and they all just smiled. This was the routine, after all.

Raph and Don carefully helped him sit up, supporting him and hugging him, nuzzling his face and murmuring that he had nothing to be sorry for.

"I saw things," Mikey whispered. "I felt things. I thought I was dreaming."

"That's your neurotransmitters at work," Donnie told him. "Remember? Your brain is misfiring. It's an electric storm."

"I was fighting the Alchemist," Michelangelo squeaked. "I touched his brain. I felt like I could crush it just with a thought..."

"Shh," Don said, "you don't have to think about it right now. Focus on us, okay? Focus on being right here, right now, with us."

Splinter watched all of this with tears in his eyes. He would need to permanently alter and tailor Michelangelo's personal training from now on.

Everything, everything, all of them, would be permanently different from now on.


"This life is for loving, sharing, learning, smiling, caring, forgiving, laughing, hugging, helping, dancing, wondering, healing, and even more loving. I choose to live life this way. I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, 'aw shit, he's up!" ― Steve Maraboli

Chapter Text

 


"Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone." ― Fred Rogers

"The trauma said, 'Don't write these poems. Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones." ― Andrea Gibson

"The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma." ― Judith Lewis Herman

"Sometimes loneliness makes the loudest noise." ― Aaron Ben-Ze'ev


One month after their epic return home, everyone had settled, and routine had sunk back in. Leatherhead visited more frequently, surprising everyone else and absolutely delighting Michelangelo, who climbed all over his huge friend as they watched old B movies together. Leatherhead was intrigued by the Cadranian medical equipment in Donatello's lab and brought over some things of his own. Hearing of his best friend's crisis seemed to worry him desperately, and over the turtles' objections, he was determined to make sure that the lair was not only equipped with long-term care faculties, but that all the turtles were brought up to speed on basic emergency and intensive care. The entire time, a teddy bear was clutched in one paw while Mikey sat comfortably in the other paw, nearly blissfully naïve of the lectures and discussions between Donatello and Leatherhead.

After Master Splinter had cleared them for patrol, Michelangelo was the first to dash out of the lair yelling in pure excitement and tossing poor jokes back at his brothers. Leonardo, deliberately slow, glanced at Donatello with intense worry, their usual signal for We need to talk about our family member – but was quickly shoved aside by Raphael, growling and determined to tag their youngest brother by the heel.

Along rooftops and fire escapes, they were giddy, the wind whispering over their thick skin and happily ruffling their mask tails as if just as thrilled to welcome them back. Leonardo paused first, crouched at an edge, hand held up in that universal signal. On the roof just one jump away, Foot-Bot soldiers swarmed, around two dozen, maybe more.

"Plan?" Don asked.

"Smash!" Raph grinned.

"Booyakasha!" Mike breathed.

Silent, Leo gestured, steady, steady… GO.

The four leaped directly into the mass of black and began their no-holds barred, all-out brawl. Their whoops and cries of delight were soft, low, adjusting to the low howl of the wind and the total silence around the surrounding buildings. Ten bots were quickly down.

"This is too easy!" Raphael yelled out, the first raised voice.

"Don't say thaaat," Michelangelo teased. "It always gets harder when someone says that!"

Half a dozen more poured in through a rooftop door.

Raph just spun his sai and said firmly, "YAY."

Mikey backflipped, vaulted off a soldier's back, kicked out, spun, sent three of them flying. Oh, this was so much easier than fighting—

He landed in a crouch near the roof's edge. He paused. His head suddenly hurt. The world quickly grew fuzzy and distant; he felt almost underwater; he felt suddenly, frighteningly separated from everything. He squinted, all his senses throbbing in confusion. Wait, what? No. But…no! The black-clad soldiers shimmered, they became scaly with a translucent sheen. They had claws. But…no. But…

They had claws.

He shook his head violently.

Stop. This…no. They're not…they're Foot…they're Footbots...

Their masked heads altered, stretched. Muzzles. Teeth. No. No, no, no. One turned its head and looked at him.

NO!

Teeth!

Still in his crouch, Mike felt his heart speed up, gulped for air. Okay. Okay. He didn't know when the reptilian gang had arrived, but…but…

He let out a fear-laced, shrill war cry, rising into the air and spinning his weapons as hard as he could. He connected with skulls and felt two of them crunch. They began to move toward him, like a small wave. The Alchemist had to be here somewhere. He was alive! He survived! No! How?

Michelangelo kept screaming, panicking now, diving into the mass of black, dodging and weaving snapping jaws and grabbing claws. He had to keep them away from his brothers. He had to knock them all down. He had to find the Alchemist! He lashed out with the muscles in his brain, he felt cool, pulsing waves expand around him and push through black bodies, tearing at limbs, cracking at skulls. Circuitry burst apart. Why did they look like robots? He shoved out more energy, pushing bodies off the roof, his head beginning to throb. They were heavy. This was so heavy! Voices were yelling his name, yelling things at him, asking questions. No time, there was no time!

A low, pained cry made him whirl around. Leonardo was crouched down, blood dripping from somewhere on his leg. Leo! Mikey didn't think. He flew toward his leader and scooped him up, running for the hidden safety of a chimney stack. Leonardo was yelling at him, asking what was wrong, saying he was fine, it was a scratch. Mike felt blood run down his own leg, Leo's blood. No, there was no time. He set them down and examined the wound. It was on Leo's thigh, too close to the hip, fairly deep. Out of the corner of his eye, Mike spotted large scraps of black and red cloth. He grabbed them with his mind, and with his hands he tied them together and began to press them to the wound, wrapping and pressing.

"Mikey," Leonardo was hissing. "Mikey! I'm okay! What are you doing?"

Shaking his head, Mike pulled the makeshift bandage tight, clenching his teeth. "Can't let them get you," he panted, head pounding and pounding and his sight wasn't so steady, "you're the leader, you're my leader, my biggest brother, they'll wanna take you down hardest, they'll wanna kill you, the Alchemist will want to poison you…"

"What? The—Mikey! Are you okay? Mikey! Look at me! What are you talking about?"

He snarled in pure exasperation. "The reptilians, Leo, duh! Everywhere! I dunno where the Foot went, but the reptilians are here! I almost got them all, but you got clawed, and I gotta keep them off you!"

He didn't look up. He didn't see the alarmed dread on his brother's face. "Mikey," Leonardo said slowly. "There are no reptilians. Those are the Foot."

"Don't worry, Leo, you'll be okay. It's bleedin' pretty bad but I think I can…I think I can stop the bleeding."

"Mikey! Mikey, stop! Listen to me!" Hands were on his shoulders, lightly shaking him. He didn't have time for that. He pressed his hands against the cloth, watching it soak up the blood, darker cloth with dark blood...

"Mike! Michelangelo, look at me."

Leonardo's Authority Voice was so intense that Mike's head snapped up out of sheer automatic instinct. Leo was cupping the back of his head with one hand and gripping his shoulder with the other. His ocean blue eyes were huge, shining, full of…concern? And...fear? Was that fear? Why was Leo afraid?

"Mikey," Leo was gasping. "Do you know where you are?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Manhattan rooftop, fighting the Alchemist's gang."

Those deep blue eyes turned dark, like a midnight storm. "No. No, Mikey, not the Alchemist's gang. Look around. Turn your head. Look!"

Reluctantly, he did so. His head was aching so badly. His vision wavered. Wait…Foot-bots. But…just a minute ago…

He turned back to his brother, mouth open. "But…the Foot, they disappeared…they turned into…"

Leo was shaking his head firmly. "They were always there, Mikey. I promise. You're having a flashback. I need you to focus. Focus on me, okay? It's just us and the Foot. Raph and Donnie are taking them down. I'm okay, I got slashed with a sai. It hurts, but I'll be all right. No claws. No teeth. Do you understand?"

His lower lip trembling, Michelangelo shook his head. "But…I saw…"

"That was your mind, Mikey. It's the trauma. You'll see things that are actually memories. It's…it's not quite hallucinations, but your brain is reliving your memories. It isn't actually real. It's not happening the way you think. Do you understand?"

Michelangelo's pulse was stuttering and he realized he was hyperventilating. He had to calm down, he had to calm down. For Leo. Leo was hurt. His big brother was bleeding. His big brother was telling him something important. Bleeding. Important. In his brain. Wait, I know this. Did I dream this? I remember this. But it wasn't a memory, it was—The planet. The goblins. Wait. That was a premonition. Did that mean that it only was a representation? That it would still happen, just not the way it had in the vision? He shook his head again, panting. His brain hurt.

"Mikey, stop pressing so hard!" And Leo's voice shook him back. His hands were curved into his brother's hip, leaving bruises. "Mikey, I need you to breathe. Breathe with me. In, out. Like this." In through nose, out through mouth. Right. Okay. Yeah.

Footsteps behind them. "Leo? What happened? Are you guys okay?"

"That depends, Raph. A Footbot stabbed me with a sai. Mikey grabbed me out of nowhere and carried me here. Problem is that he's having flashbacks. He thought the Foot were the reptilians. He's not making much sense right now."

"Oh, no…" That was Don. "Leo, how is your wound?"

Leonardo was still staring at Mikey. He shifted and leaned to the side. "Mikey wrapped it up, but it's pretty deep. I'm pretty woozy."

Michelangelo felt a pair of hands on his upper arms from behind and he startled, tensing. "Easy, Mikey. It's Raph. Let go of Leo, Don needs to look at him. Mikey, come on!" But Michelangelo stiffened, leaning forward, staring at the cloth turned damp and darker than black. "I can…I can help, I can do it…"

"Mikey…" That was Donnie. A familiar pair of warm, worried spice brown eyes were staring at him. "I'm taking your hands away from Leo's leg, okay? I need to examine his wound. All the Foot are down. We won. We're safe. We won. Okay? No more enemy here." His voice was extremely soft and careful. Mike just shivered and allowed his arms to be moved to his sides. Raphael still held onto him gently. His brothers' voices started sounding distant.

He thought he heard Leo say something like "...his eyes are glazing over...I think he..."

In a daze, fuzzy, Michelangelo watched as Donatello carefully peeled away the cloth. Leonardo hissed and clenched his fists, but he was still looking at Mike with a focused, almost meditative gaze, and somehow it helped Mike slow his breathing even more.

"It'll need stitches," he heard Don murmur. "I need to find something else to stem the blood flow…"

"Me," Mike panted, and something in his brain flowed forth, cool and insistent. "Me! I can help. Lemme touch-"

Raph's voice. "Mikey, do you even know where you are right now?"

"Yes!" he snapped, the haze lifting just enough, anger springing up like something with teeth. "Yes! I'm fine! F-fine!" He wasn't. He knew it. But his leader, big brother, was losing blood and there was no time.

He pulled himself out of Raph's grip and took Leo's leg. Leonardo leaned on his other hip helpfully. Pulling in a breath, head swimming, Michelangelo put both hands flat and firm against the cleanly cut slice in the skin. A jolt of energy, cool and swift, rushed up his arms, to his head. It swirled behind his eyes. The force in his brain answered, reaching out like grasping hands, slowly spiraling down the link until it filled up his hands. He sensed, with his body, physically felt power flowing from his body into Leonardo's body, that cool swift rush. He felt that power brush against the clean edges of the wound, and he went deeper, past the dermal layers to the swaying capillaries, seeing the stretch of muscle and tendon. Just stop the bleeding, he told the energy. Just stem the flow, become a…a coagulant. Just enough. Just enough to... He was starting to feel exhausted. But the energy knew what to do and it pooled out and slowly, carefully covered everything in a mix of blue and purple light, almost indigo. It was like watching solid ice crystals form and grow and extend over a perfectly transparent lake, wrapping around tissue and and blood vessel and skin layer. He realized, abruptly, that he was holding his breath, and that it was beating against his lungs.

The images, the energy, and the power cut off unexpectedly. Michelangelo fell back, gulping in air, feeling his whole body tremble. He felt weak, light-headed. His vision went fully gray for a few seconds.

Leonardo was calling his name. He blinked. He blinked again and focused. He was lying on his back and his brothers were staring down at him. He was too tired to move. "Leo," he breathed. "Did…did it work? You…not…bleeding?"

He watched his oldest brother swallow hard; his pupils were tiny. "It stopped bleeding, yeah. Mikey. What did you do?"

He could feel himself sliding down in his mind. He made his mouth form a broad smile, and then everything went gray. His muscles tensed and clenched, and darkness slammed into him from above.


Donatello sighed miserably, curling up as much as he could in his desk chair, letting his hands limply fall against his computer. This just wasn't right. It wasn't fair. He knew everything came with a price…but why did Mikey have to keep paying it?

He was so tired. So tired. He had known, as they had become teenagers, and as Splinter started preparing them for the world, that his keen interest in the sciences would have to lead to medicine, since the world was harsh and unforgiving and designed to kill as much as create. But it took him too long. He didn't give himself time to read all the textbooks, anatomy and biology and neurology. Hamato Yoshi was an expert in field medicine and in palliative care, of course, having cared for his clan and family back in Japan, and his adopted little New York family throughout their childhood, able to somehow heal all their wounds and sicknesses. Donnie hadn't really thought he would have to shoulder being a doctor, if not just a medic. But he knew he was a fool, and there were too many close calls.

Barely two years ago, he had hastily arranged the lair's infirmary in his lab without really considering long term care, and it had taken too many nasty falls, too many bruises and cuts and fevers before he found himself scrounging for perfectly good used medical equipment around the city.

The medical devices given to them by Leatherhead and Rockwell, and recently the alien Sirra, had come a long way in helping Donatello advance his medical knowledge. But damn it, he was an engineer, not a doctor! Machines were easier than living beings and that was his truth.

But this was his family.

Family. Home. He spun lazily in the chair, squeaking to a stop when it faced the infirmary. At least the hospital beds and cots were updated, as were the monitoring computers and the equipment. They had plenty of fluids of varying types, of needles and syringes and stitching polymer thread and resin and paste, drugs, antibiotics!

He stared around at all the shelves and tables cluttered with things, but he knew what it all was and why it was there…and his family called his little brother's room messy when it was the same type of organized chaos. Hah. Sometimes he and Mikey would just wink at each other and fistbump behind their backs.

And finally, he stared at the brand new main bed, the one with the most pillows and blankets, the one reserved for the intensive, the critical, the long-term; and it pretty much looked just like the one from Professor Honeycutt's infirmary on the Ulixes. Except the newly fresh bedding was light green. It just was.

Its new and first occupant was sleeping almost peacefully. It had been four days since they had tucked him into those sheets, propped his head gently on those pillows, attached the EKG pads to his chest, inserted IVs for the latest bag of electrolyte fluids and the latest bag of liquid nutrients. Nasal cannula tubes helped keep his oxygen flowing, since sometimes he would randomly just stop breathing. He wore soft wireless headband for brainwave monitoring, another gift from Sirra. So far, the EEG screen had shown not just seizure activity, but warnings of a slip into a coma state. That alone had made Donnie want to hide under his desk and weep. They had come so far. He felt as though he was slowly losing a war he hadn't even known he was fighting.

When they had gotten home, Leo limping badly against Don's shoulder, using his katana to pierce the ground as a cane, Raph holding Mike's limp body in shaky but tense arms, the procession into the lair might as well have been followed by death itself hovering back patiently. Splinter had taken his youngest into his arms, curling him against his chest, ears and whiskers drooping, gazing worriedly at his oldest until they got to the new infirmary. Mikey on the main bed, Leo on a secondary bed. Splinter had treated and stitched Leo's wound with the craft and skill of a long-practised artist. He had assisted Donatello with making sure Michelangelo was settled, connected, wired, injected. No one had said a word. Raphael, sitting next to a prone Leonardo, holding a crutch, one hand resting on his brother's ankle, had watched everything with keen, wide eyes, as if he could absorb it all physically through his eyes and ears.

Donnie had brought out a bowl of warm water and a washcloth, dabbing at Mikey's skin. And then he had paused, staring down at his only little brother's flushed face, the scary stillness of his limbs, the too-slow rise and fall of his upper plastron. He had set the bowl down and pressed two fingers to his only little brother's neck, nodding jerkily, counting in his head, not bothering to even glance up at the obvious triple-digit number on the screen with the disturbingly rapid waves and peaks next to it. He had simply said, in a loud, harsh whisper, "Please, get out."

And not even Raphael had voiced a protest. He had scooped up a struggling to stand Leonardo, whose eyes bulged in surprise while he grabbed the crutch, as Raph adjusted his grip and walked calmly out. Splinter lay a hand on Mikey's cheek, then nuzzled Donatello's cheek, before quietly leaving, shutting the door firmly enough to echo. Donatello then pulled up a chair, fingers still on Michelangelo's pulse, and stayed there, not moving, for three full minutes.

He moved his hand up, resting the backs of his fingers against Mikey's freckled cheek, leaned in until his mouth was right near his brother's ear slit, and murmured, "You are not staying away from me, Michelangelo. You are the only little brother I have. You will not leave me here by myself. If I have to fight like hell to drag you back from whatever depths you're sinking in, I will do so with a war cry and blood in my eyes. But you. Are. Not. Leaving. Me."


By the morning of the third day, Donatello finally allowed his family in, had stopped snapping and growling at them to go away. By then, he had given himself a dose of Xanax and injected Mikey with Ativan through the next saline bag.

Electrolytes finally balanced, heart rate finally lowered, finally. It wasn't merely exhaustion and dehydration, no, it was practically neurological burnout from the psionics building and releasing. Four days. It shouldn't take four days. If Mikey had been a machine, parts of him would have been on fire, rusted, smoking black.

Donatello snarled again, staring at the screens, as if they could just tell him everything, as if they could tell him the future.

"Ah, Donnie?" Leo was staring at him from the second, smaller bed, the crutch by his side. "You all right?"

Donatello was silent, and Leonardo followed his steely gaze. "That's the brainwave, monitor, right?" Leo asked gently, softly.

Donatello heaved a sigh. "His beta waves are beginning to decrease. See those little flat lines there? And then those little spikes interspersed? That's burst activity. Alpha-beta, alpha-beta, alpha-beta. Pretty soon it'll start dropping to alpha-delta, alpha-delta…delta, delta. Delta will mean the deepest sleep state, and then… Leo, I don't… he could drop into another deep coma. And it shouldn't even happen like that, but now he's got this alien part in his brain and maybe it's burning him out and I...it…" He dropped his head into his hands.

Leonardo just stared at him, a frown on his face. "Another coma," he said. "But... we don't know for how long. Or how deep it'll be."

Don didn't say anything, just nodded miserably.

Leonardo swallowed. "Is…can…could these wave rhythms actually affect how deep or how long he stays unconscious? I mean… I know they do already, but… could they be, I don't know, manipulated?"

Don raised his head, blinking rapidly as though coming awake, the dullness in his eyes vanishing. "M-maybe. Maybe. Maybe! If someone could telepathically link in and push them, pull his consciousness up. We'd need to make sure it's mostly beta rhythms, slowly, though. We'd need to pull him from delta to beta without disruptions. It's…well, it's similar to how Master Splinter taught us to meditate." Leo nodded, looking fascinated.

"When we enter meditation," Don continued, "we start off in beta, of course, thinking, alert, awake. We slide into alpha, dreamy and passive, receptive, spacey. Theta is deep relaxation, where the mind gets creative. We slide a little more into alpha. Then, if we can, we slip into delta, which is the unconscious state, intuition, meditation, reaching higher planes. But we, we still hold on a bit to alpha, to a little bit of beta, so we know we're meditating, so we know we're still there and we can pull ourselves away. And then the process reverses to bring us out." He was starting to pace, hands chopping the air, words coming faster. He didn't see Leo's wide grin.

"So," Leo said, "we need to meditate all the way in, find Mikey, get him in that state, and meditate out, but also keep him in the same state as us so he actually gains full consciousness. Like we've been doing without even realizing! Like what Raph did after Mikey defeated the Alchemist, or what I tried to do during my sessions with Mikey." He was swinging his good leg back and forth. "We need to be actually aware of everything. And someone would have to monitor those brainwave rhythms the whole time."

Donatello was nodding vigorously. "Yes! That should keep him from slipping into a coma too deep for anyone to reach. And now we have Master Splinter! Plus, the three of us have gotten good at being linked into Mikey's mind when he initiates. He may still have enough of a neurological response that we can get him to link us even in this state."

"…and we are absolutely positive this is gonna work, yeah?"

The two jumped, turned toward the doorway, as Raphael sauntered through, chewing on a lollipop. He looked down at Michelangelo's still form, frowning, eyes narrow and filled with worry he didn't bother hiding.

"How much did you hear?" asked Don.

"Enough. Most of it. So he's, like, slipping into delta or whatever and that's gonna maybe push him into a deeper coma, right? And we gotta get him to beta?"

"Pretty much," Leo said. "We should bring Splinter in and explain it."

"I am here, my sons," and Splinter stepped in right behind Raphael, who smirked and crunched his candy with a satisfactory snap. "I overheard your plan. Let us prepare to bring our Michelangelo back to us."


"After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom." ― Arthur Golden

Chapter Text

"I'm here. I love you. I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it—I will love you through that, as well. If you don't need the medication, I will love you, too. There's nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me." ― Elizabeth Gilbert

"Pain is a pesky part of being human, I've learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can't be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces." ― C. JoyBell C


Michelangelo felt happy. He felt like he could be happy. He didn't know how long he had been doing this, hauling each little black square from the pile and adding to the neat stack in the corner. It felt like no time and forever. It didn't matter. The cubes glimmered with rainbow iridescence that called to him, and he found that he could ignore the thrumming as long as he focused on something positive. Anything. Even Raph catching him after a prank.

The little dungeon-like room was starting to feel comfortable. The rectangular cut in the ceiling, into which moonlight shone, had gotten bigger. He liked it. He hummed gently while he worked. If he could just stack as many blocks as he could, he would be able to, well, block it all. He could spread a happier light, maybe sunshine. All he had to do was stack them up, hide them well, shut the door, lock the door. Then happy. Happy happy.

Behind him, two voices coughed in unison, and he had whirled around and blended with the shadows before he realized.

One voice, low and androgynous, said, "You don't have to hide, you know."

The other, a rumbling sexually charged baritone, said, "What in Hera's name are you doing anyway, Sunshine?"

Melting out from the shadows, Michelangelo stared. "You guys? What are you doing here?"

Loki pierced him with those icy blue eyes and raised a slanted slender red eyebrow. "You first."

Sighing, Mike stepped in front. Loki was much, much taller than the first time he'd seen him. Maybe eight feet? He craned his neck. "Putting away the bad memories, duh."

"Seriously?" Pan rumbled, stepping in front and glaring. He was maybe an inch taller than the turtle, and had lowered his head so his ram horns were in a threatening position. His bushy brown eyebrows were raised, his furred arms were crossed, his goat legs were tapping a frustrated little dance. "You really think that works?"

Michelangelo shrugged. "It's always worked."

The two trickster gods stared at each other, then at the pile, then at the stack, then at the turtle.

"Mmm…nah. I don't think so." And Pan suddenly reached behind his back. Mikey tilted his head.

And he blinked. Wait…why was he drenched in cold water? And why was Pan laughing?

Another splash, and again, water dripped off his plastron. He didn't even have time to—

Ohhh.

Loki was laughing now, and they were both backing up, toward the door, hands casually behind their backs. Mike gasped and coughed, blinking, looking around, trying to find what he needed…

"Last one to the woods has to prank Zeus!" Pan yelled, and ran.

"Oh, not that again!" Loki snarled. "Now Hermes will be waiting!" and ran after him.

Mikey dashed after them, hearing goat hooves to his left. To his right was a wall, and stacked against it…

Water balloons. Floor to ceiling water balloons.

There was an empty sack at his feet.

Grinning, Michelangelo filled the sack and hurried after his new friends.


The scene changed. He was at the edge of a wooded area, and there was a flapping sound from above. He ran to the nearest tree and leaped to the first strong branch, then the second, until he was halfway up. He could see the figure now: Winged helmet, winged sandals, pale gold tunic, a mess of blond curls. Green eyes winked down at him, and slowly, Hermes perched on the branch next to him. "Tag team?" he suggested.

"You bet!" and Mikey swung down, silently, melting into the shadows again as Hermes whipped like the wind through leaves.

When they reached their fellow pranksters, they unleashed the balloons. The battle was on. Pan huffed and snorted, shaking himself dry, pointing his horns in all directions. Loki was scanning the treetops, blue eyes narrowed, red hair dripping. Hermes dropped four more balloons, Michelangelo hurled two. Loki managed to catch them all in his hands while Pan knocked them away with his horns. As Loki threw back an arm, Mikey jumped down from a branch and landed at his feet in a crouch. He quickly grabbed onto the god's leg and scaled him, and before the Norse god could blink, Michelangelo was sitting on his shoulders. Mikey glanced over at the hovering Hermes and winked. "Hey, Loki," he giggled, "You wanna go for a... horsey ride?"

Loki's eyes widened. Pan fell on the ground laughing. Hermes was already looping through the air with whoops of joy.

But then, Loki smiled. "I like you. You're a clever little sunshine child." And his body rippled. Mike sucked in a breath and grabbed the flowing red hair at the base of his head. The body under him flowed like water, changing, dropping down, and for a second Mikey was horizontal in the air. He held his breath…and then he dropped, his legs hitting muscle.

Loki was a horse now. A large, shiny, dark red stallion with pale blue eyes.

"Hey!" Hermes said. "I thought you were supposed to be a mare!"

"That myth is so old!" came a voice from the horse.

Mikey grinned and cupped his hands around his mouth "How old is it!"

"So old that Pan's grandmother made love to it twice and couldn't tell if it was in her!" And the horse reared, while Pan's jaw dropped. "HEY! No mom jokes!"

"Is it because you're all related?" Loki sneered.

"What'd he say about my mom?" Hermes yelled.

Mikey laughed so hard he fell off Loki's back.

Hermes swooped down and grabbed him. Still laughing, Mikey smashed a water balloon in his face. Hermes dropped him. He rolled and jumped to his feet, two balloons in each hand.

"FREE FOR ALL!" he yelled.

From out of nowhere, they were grabbing and throwing water balloons until everyone was thoroughly soaked. Somewhere in between, Loki had returned to his human form and was using his height as an advantage, deepening his voice to call out "Selective rainstorm!" as he dropped balloons randomly. Hermes was able to hover nearby and yell "Water slide!" as he slid down on pure air, tucked and rolled, and threw balloons high into the air, where they dropped precisely on satyr and turtle, who fell in a giggling, flailing heap.

"Okay. Okay, then! Done!" Pan called out, sitting up. The game stopped. "All right, Sunshine Child. You need to go back home. Your family's been calling you."

"Huh?"

Pan smacked him upside the head. "They're here, silly. They're back in that little room. Trying to find you."

Mikey paused, frowning. "But I like it here."

Hermes dropped and crouched in front of him. His boyish face and grin were hard to look away from. "Sorry, kiddo. You can't stay. You're sliding too far as it is. We only did this to keep your spirits up, literally. You have to go back, or it'll be a lot harder soon."

Michelangelo got to his feet, pouting. He stared up, and up, at Loki. The Norse trickster merely smiled and snapped his fingers. They were back in the small room, with the shimmering cubes that Mikey immediately turned away from, still pouting.

"Stop that," and Pan had him by the shoulders. "It's not healthy to hide them away." Mikey just shrugged. "I mean it," Pan insisted. "I may be a god of joy and life, but I know damn well what happens when even the brightest stars shine too hard against an infinite darkness. Maybe your coping strategy is to put the memory away and fill your life with joy and happiness as much as possible. And that's fine. That's a good strategy. But every now and then, you will need release. Relief. A way to let the darker negative energy flow. It's vital, you need it. You can't let it grow stagnant, no matter how much you wanna stack it neatly in a corner."

Michelangelo bit his lip hard. He could hear his brothers calling his name, talking to each other. He looked up and could see them, transparent as if through a veil, and his father was also there, looking sad. They couldn't see him.

He looked at the three entities in front of him, who had deliberately made a game just so he could feel better. He sighed. "Thanks, you guys. That was fun." Then he broke out his genuine Mikey Smile. "Really. I had a great time."

Hermes was grinning right back. "Go be with your family. Go be Sunshine Boy. But don't hide it all from them. Let them help."

Feeling much lighter, Mikey nodded. The gods vanished. He heard Donatello yell his name.

He looked up, and there they were, staring at him, staring at the piles of black cubes. "Mikey!" Donatello ran to him, hugged him. "Are you all right? What are those things?"

"I…" Michelangelo realized he was completely dry and decided to not bring up the water balloon fight with a trio of mischief gods. It was a little too absurd. "I'm okay." And not the memory cubes, either, that was a little absurd as well. It wouldn't be right to burden his family. He was the one the family was meant to take out their frustrations on. He was meant to take in their burdens and smile them away.

Splinter rested a hand on his shoulder. "Come, my son. We must bring you to consciousness. We have managed to link to your mind, and now you must link back to us."

Nodding, Mikey took his hand, then Don's. Leo and Raph held hands and they connected in a circle. Mikey closed his eyes. Something shoved him upward.

Slowly, he opened his eyes. The lair's infirmary looked a little different. This bed was very comfortable! "Hey guys," he rasped, and realized how fatigued he was. "How long this time?"

"Just over four days," Donatello said. He was already disconnecting and unhooking Michelangelo. "Can you sit up?"

"Maybe," and Mike felt his limbs tremble. Raphael supported him. "Man, I'm thirsty. And hungry. We got any pizza? With olives? And jelly beans?"

His family just smiled.


It was two months after the flashback on the roof, the four-day almost coma, the telepathic plunge into his brain by his family together. Somehow, something had…changed. Reset, maybe. No sudden seizures. Or, at least, only very small ones, and he was awake for them; and there were migraines, but by that point everyone knew what to do. The "Care And Monitoring Of Michelangelo" manual was firmly set in the family's collective mind. Mikey himself put on a brave face, literally brimming with positivity, ferociously determined not to lose his spirit. It was admirable, and adorable, and it was completely, utterly, absolutely Mikey.

It was the new normal. They were almost used to it.

The nightmares, though… nobody got used to those.

The sky exploded and he screamed again, only this time it wasn't just in his head…the burning electrified face was coming back and the darkness was dripping with blood. Someone called out to him and the shadows retreated…cold talons snapping him back into a sunless reality…

And then someone was holding his hands, talking to him. A hand stroking his forehead. He almost cried, and then he realized what was happening and opened his eyes. He had to keep smiling, after all.


"Another nightmare?"

"Yeah. He's asleep again."

He lowered his voice. "What was it this time?"

Raph shook his head. "He wouldn't tell me. He just won't talk about it. Closed off completely, just sat there and shook for ten minutes until I made him go back to sleep. And then he just laughed and shrugged it all off like it didn't matter. Like there wasn't ever any nightmares, I don't think we need to guess what they've been about."

Closing his eyes, Leonardo wrapped his hands around the mug, staring at the tea inside. "What time is it?"

Shrugging, Raphael glanced at the clock. "Five-fifteen, maybe?"

"I think we should let Mikey sleep as late as he needs," Leo said firmly. "It hasn't been that long since-"

"I don't think I like it though," Donatello cut in. "It's a regression. He's put up that positive front for far too long."

Leonardo glanced at him. "He needs time to heal, Donnie. That's how he does it. He pushes it all down, he says he's happy, he acts carefree and silly, but his subconscious is vicious. He's—it's been traumatic. I know, I've been there."

They sat in silence for a few minutes, the three of them, listening to the ticking of clocks and the stillness of the air. Then Raph's head whipped around toward the doorway and he scraped back his chair. "Shit…"

"What?" Don stood up.

"Another one. Be right back."

Raph pushed open his brother's door and ran to the bedside. Mikey was curled into a tight ball, arms over his head. Raph touched his arm carefully.

"No-" Mike jerked, his voice a high shudder. "No…go away…"

"Mikey, it's me again. It's Raph. It's okay, just relax…"

"No…make it go away…just make it stop…"

Feeling a tightness in his chest, Raph sat on the bed and pulled his shaking brother into his arms.

"I'll try, Mike. Can't guarantee it, but we'll try…it's gonna be all right…we'll make it be all right again, I promise…"

It was another fifteen minutes before the shaking subsided. Raph wasn't even sure if Mike had heard him anymore.

"Better?" Don asked when he came back out.

"Not really." Raph sat down and put his head in his hands.

"What?" Leo asked.

"Nothing," Raphael whispered.

"Raph, don't you start…"

"No. Leave me alone. Leave him alone. I can't…"

Leaning over, Leo put a hand on his arm. "Are you in his head?"

Raph didn't answer, just kept his head pressed into his palms. "Not like that," he whispered finally. "He…it's like he calls me and doesn't realize. Like it's automatic or something…like he's pulled a part of me into his head and kept a piece of me in him." He exhaled. "He looks up to me. I just didn't realize, y'know, how much."

Leo looked at Donnie, who looked back. Raph opening up like that…did he actually want to talk?

Donnie shook his head, struggling with understanding. No…he doesn't even realize he is doing any of this.

"It'll be okay," Don reassured.

A shadow appeared in the doorway. They looked up.

Mike was standing there like a sleepwalker, something dark all over his face.

"Shit!" Raph gasped, jumping up, eyes wide. Leo and Don were on their feet in half a second.

Red rivulets ran down Mike's cheeks, down his jaw. He held up his shaking hands. They were covered in blood.


April got up, went to the window and pulled back the curtain. It was raining; dark clouds rolled across the sky. But there was no thunder. Rain poured down in sheets, splattering the dark pavements. She glanced at the clock radio. Five-thirty in the morning. Her dad was still asleep, but suddenly she wasn't.

Something's wrong, a tiny voice in the back of her head piped up.

The storm, she thought. The weather…

Something's wrong, her mind whispered again.

She went to her desk and picked up her T-phone.


Something cool and wet against his face; stinging. He flinched, hands clenching…

"Sorry," Donatello's voice murmured. "I'm trying not to hurt you…"

He sucked in a deep breath. Something hurt…his eyes. Face. The cloth touched again and he made a weak noise of protest. Couldn't remember.

A hand was closed over his own. "It's okay," Leo said in his ear. "It's okay, just relax. Can you open your eyes?"

He opened them slowly; focused. Stared into Donnie's face. Gentle Donnie. Tired Donnie. Smiling reassuringly Donnie. Overwhelmed Donnie. Is this my fault? Oh, Donnie, no.

"Can you see me?" Don asked.

He nodded. A little out of focus. His eyes felt as if they'd been pressed, pushed…and something hurt…

He put a hand up to his face. Blood. "What did I do?" he whispered hoarsely. Nightmare…

Leonardo's phone rang shrilly, startling the dawn silence, startling Raphael next to him. Leonardo fumbled to answer it.

"Hello?"

"Leo?"

"April? It's six in the morning. Thought you were asleep."

"Though you'd be too," she said.

He frowned. "What is it?"

"I could ask you the same thing. I woke up, and it felt like something was wrong."

Leo closed his eyes, sighing; was everyone suddenly turning empathic? "Mikey…had another nightmare. He sleepwalked again."

April paused just a heartbeat. "What happened?"

"He scratched his face up pretty bad," Leo whispered. "I think…I think he was trying to tear his eyes out."

Stunned silence. "My god…" April breathed.

"He's okay," Leo added quickly. "He's just starting to come out of it now."

"Why?" she asked. He knew what she meant.

"Maybe…he doesn't want to see the nightmares anymore." He leaned his forehead against Raphael's shoulder, closing his eyes. "I don't know." Raph just put an arm around him.

"But his inner sight is stronger," she said.

He nodded. "I know. But terror makes you do crazy things…"

"Do you want me to come over?" she asked.

"You don't have to," he said. "But it might calm him down if we were all here…"

"I'm on my way," she said curtly, and hung up. Leo did the same, trying to count up how many times she had said those four words. Too many. He rested his head against his brother again, a nudge, then turned and went back to the kitchen.

Splinter was there now, hand against Mikey's temple. Mike was breathing hard and fast, almost panicky. His eyes were closed, his jaw trembling. The marks from his own fingers, right above and below and in the corners of his eyes, were shining open and red.

"What did I do?" he whispered again. "Donnie?"

"Scratched your face up," Don replied quietly. Mike's hand groped for something; Raph automatically grasped and held it.

Mike was shaking his head, his eyes open now. "I did that? I…" He pushed them away; got up trembling on his left leg and all but hobbled into the bathroom. Leo glanced at the others, then followed.

Mikey was standing at the sink, staring at the mirror, his hands on his face and his eyes huge without his mask.

"Mikey?" Leo asked softly. "You okay?"

"Leo…" he gasped. "I…oh god, I…" He started trembling again; and Leo immediately rushed forward. "Hey...otouto, don't worry…it's okay…"

His brother turned with a choke; blood drying under his eyes, mixing with the darkness, and his blue eyes deep with fear. "No," he whispered. "No, it's not…it's not…"

"Shh…" Leo put his arms around him. "You'll get through this, Mikey, I promise. We won't let you get hurt."

Uncertain arms went around him, and then Mike was holding on tight. "Onii-chan…sorry…"

"It's all right," he said, closing his eyes. "You'll be okay."

A few minutes later, there was a commotion, and he heard April run into the pit of the lair, calling out that she had brought some of her father's psychology and neuropsychology manuals.


Splinter sealed the wounds with salve, and chanted, and the bleeding stopped quicker than expected. Mike just sat there the whole time, eyes closed, breathing so slowly and focused that Donatello figured he was fixing it from the inside.

Michelangelo finally came out of it around eight. He curled up on the couch, cross-legged, and ran his fingers over his face again, an expression of confusion and fear haunting him. Don sat down next to him and lightly touched his shoulder. "How you doing?"

"Better," Mike said quietly. He took his hands from his face and dropped them in his lap. He was staring at Donatello, worry on his face. Don could hear it, the thought projection was uncontrollable. Mikey was scared of making Don worry. No, Donnie, don't worry about me! But he couldn't voice it. Don almost nodded.

Michelangelo merely smiled. "Thanks."

"Any time," Don said, although inside he was still shaking. Self-mutilation…and he didn't even know he was doing it…he has no control over his dreams anymore…

"It's not like that," Michelangelo said softly, and Don almost jumped.

Mike bit his lip. "Sorry. Didn't mean to…to listen…"

"No, it's okay, your telepathy is a little uncontrolled, I get it. What is it, little bro?"

Sighing, Mike played with his bandanna tails. "It's not that I don't have control. I just…can't make them go away."

Don nodded slowly. "So you strike out the only way you know how…try to fight them off…and the only thing close by that you can fight is yourself…"

Closing his eyes, Mike exhaled. "So I end up hurting myself…and I don't even realize it till I wake up…"

Don's hand closed over his wrist. "Mike, what are you thinking? Sleep drugs?"

His brother just shook his head. "No. I can't. If I take something and I dream, I'm scared won't be able to wake up enough to stop myself…to stop…"

Don felt something inside him tighten. "Mikey…"

"I can't go to sleep, Don." Mike turned and looked at him, and his eyes were brilliant sky blue fathoms. "I can't let myself fall asleep…"


Crouched on the roof of an abandoned building, Raphael watched the city below, the darkness, waiting for a wrong movement, a sudden jerk, a scream in the night. So far, it had been quiet. Enough for him to start thinking. He wasn't sure if that was such a good thing.

Sometimes, now, thinking made him remember. And there was one memory in particular he didn't want to relive. Felt like my heart had just been ripped out, that's how bad it was...seeing him lying there, broken and dead, Donnie pushing on him...an' I thought I was gonna die too, just fall down and give up. My brother... my best friend...he was dead, goddammit, he was dead, and I couldn't do anything to-

And then the psychic connection between them, surging, thunderstorm, driving him onward and inward, and he had felt it, had felt his little brother's fading soul and stilled heart...how they had grabbed each other, held on for dear LIFE…

And it had hurt. Even when Mike had started breathing again, it had hurt. It still hurt. Just the knowledge that it had happened, that one of them had really died in battle-that the one who really meant anything at all to him had technically, essentially, died, even just for a few minutes-that had been a knife in his gut.

Nobody was immortal. They all bled. They died too. He had never really thought about it so intensely, so severely before. But that was before it happened to his otouto, his favorite person in the world, the baby brother who irritated the living hell out of him while being the only one who was really able to soothe his rages. The coma had been bad enough, had them all on their toes thinking that cardiac arrest could happen again and this time nothing would work. But in the aftermath of that battle, the very adrenaline and electricity that had resuscitated Mikey was the very stuff that stilled his heart, and somehow Donatello had almost dislocated both arms with the force of the CPR, and somehow Raph himself had been pulled into Mikey's mind, and somehow, he had managed to bring their dear little sibling back from the dead, and none of them understood how the hell they had pulled it off, it shouldn't have been possible, but psionics was such a strange thing...

We can die if we're not careful. We can get ourselves killed so easily...and here I am, pulling off all these hair-raising stunts; Mr. Look-Before-I-Leap...and Mikey's the one who gets it. It could have been me. Damn it, it SHOULD have been me! Mikey didn't deserve it, he doesn't deserve it now...I should've been there to save him, I-

But beating himself up about it wasn't going to change anything. Every time he looked at the scars lining Michelangelo's skin, guilt was a bitter blade in his chest, but feeling guilty wasn't going to do anything. A killer for hire was dead, at least brain-dead, a life avenged and restored. And yet, every time he closed his eyes and saw the blood on the sand, all the blood and the motionless body...

I should be there for him now. Dammit, Raphael, he's your best friend!

A cry pierced the darkness and he jerked, eyes scouring the shadows. A struggle down below. He began to smile.

He may be a lousy caregiver, but at least he could protect people. That was all that mattered.

Like protecting your best friend from his own demons? From your demons?
He gripped his sai, shoved the tiny voice into the back of his head, and hurried down to do his work.


Donatello had walked for a long long time, just feeling the wind on his face. Dawn would come soon. He went back down to the sewers, took his time getting to the lair. His skin tingled as he neared home.

He walked in. His family was sitting at the kitchen table, Raphael, bruised, looking like he'd just returned from patrol, Leo looking just woken up; and as Don took it in, Splinter pushed a mug of what looked like very strong stuff in front of Michelangelo.

"Um, hi. Did…I miss something?"

Leonardo glanced up, looking exhausted. "Hey, Donnie."

Don pulled up a chair and sat. He looked across the table. Mike was gingerly sipping the drink, making a rather horrible face as he swallowed. "Gahh…Master, I don't think now's the best time to get me drunk."

The rat merely cocked a bushy eyebrow. "Whiskey does have a strong flavor when mixed."

Raphael blinked. "You gave him whiskey?"

"Splinter has whiskey?" Leonardo added.

"Could someone please tell me what's going on?" Donatello asked.

Mike choked a little as the drink went down the wrong pipe, and coughed, spluttering.

"'Kay…kay, I'm okay now. Aghh. Damn, that's strong."

"What else is in there, anyway?" Raphael asked.

"Herbs, spices, broth, sake…an assortment." Splinter took the half-empty mug and set it aside.

"Sake! I knew it," Mikey groaned. "He's tryin' to get me super major drunk. Splinter's a closet party animal."

The corner of Splinter's mouth twitched. "I am sure. How do you feel?"

"Um, confused?" Michelangelo said. "Ask Raph, he's the one who smacked me."

Raphael rubbed a hand over his eyes. "God, you really don't remember…Fine. I came in and you were lying on the floor looking dead. Eyes wide open. Do you know how freakin' badly that scared me?"

"Umm…I got an idea…"

"Then you started…talking. Or something. I mean, one minute, you were gone, next minute you were…it was like a trance."

"Wait…gone?" Mike's head snapped up. "Oh. Okay, I get it."

"Astral projection? Seizure?" Don asked, catching on.

Mikey shook his head. "Uh, not really. I just…go somewhere else. Not out there. In my own head. You know, like a different…uh, perspective."

"Telepathy? Premonition? Remote viewing?"

"Jeez, Donnie, since when did you become J.B. Rhine?" Raphael looked up. "Well, Mike? Are you going to explain or what?"

Michelangelo reached for the mug and looked down at it, his jaw clenched. "I. Don't. Fucking. Remember."

"Is it me," Donnie asked suddenly, "or is that stuff boiling?"

Leonardo's eyes widened. "Um…Mikey…"

"Oh. Sorry."

(Stop that, dammit! Stop it, brain!)

The bubbling inside the mug simmered.

"Kami! Calm down, kiddo." Raph shook his head. "I just asked you a question."

"And I gave you an answer. I can't help it if I don't remember."

Splinter touched his hand. "You don't have to say anything, Michelangelo. We are just concerned about-"

"Yeah…I know." Scraping back the chair, Mikey stood up. And promptly slumped to the floor as his legs gave out.

"Oh man-" Raph leaped up and crouched, putting his arms around Mike's shoulders.

"I'm fine," Michelangelo murmured. "Let go, I'm all right."

"Not from where I'm standing," Donatello said, coming over.

"What happened?" Leo asked.

Mikey squeezed his eyes shut. "I don't…I don't know, okay? I just…"

He clenched his fists as the feeling shuddered over him, then pushed Raph away and stood up.

Something's wrong,
his mind whispered.

I don't want to dream, he thought harshly. Don't make me dream!

"Why don't you go rest or something?" Donnie asked.

"I'm fine," he repeated. "I think I'll take a walk."

He looked back at Splinter, who met his eyes with a dark look, and stepped out.

Raphael watched him go, felt the crossfire of emotions whirl inside. Damn it Mike, where are you? You're getting worse than me.

Don touched his shoulder, as if reassuring him—or both of them.

"I think we know when this started," Donatello murmured, like a ghost.

Raph closed his eyes. "Can we not share a memory, please?" he muttered. "The Alchemist is dead, we're on Earth, we are all home, that's all I care about."

"We can't hide from pain," Leonardo said from behind him. Raph just felt like punching him. He took a few steps and punched the wall instead. He turned around, gritting his teeth.

"I am gonna make our baby brother be happy and fun and shiny again even if it kills me," he said, and the looks on their faces satisfied him.


"Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real." ― Cormac McCarthy

"Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us." ― David Richo

Chapter Text

"The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares." -Henri Nouwen

"We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion." –Max de Pre


 

"Really? Just like that?"

"Yah. Just like that."

"All of them."

"That's what I said."

There was a long silence.

"Dude," Casey muttered. "You…you can't. Nobody can."

Michelangelo gave him a sarcastic look. "Gee, Casey. And you're the one going on about how I have no brains."

Casey held up his hands. "I only tease, okay? I didn't mean it, I never did! Look. Mikey…" He paused again, leaning against the edge of the roof, staring into the night. "The whole time I've known you, you've been this happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, carefree, sometimes careless, goofy prankster. You're happy the way some people are left-handed. And I've always envied that. And I've always wondered how you do it, how you keep it up."

He sighed and stared his friend in the eye. "You know it's not possible to just bury all the bad memories like that. You know."

Michelangelo's left eye twitched. He wasn't smiling at all. "Yeah? Yeah? How do you know I know?"

"Because I...!" Casey started to snarl, then thought a lot better of it and took a deep breath. "I know that you should keep on being your silly bright self and not this...hardened war-torn sullen type. It's not you, Mikey, and you fucking know it isn't!" Aaand he hadn't mean to raise his voice, but there it was. So he just stared and kept staring, upper lip curled only a little. He'd had plenty of stand-offs with Raph, and this was Mikey, this was nothing.

Mike stared right back, his huge eyes narrowing slightly. "Oh? Tell me."

Casey, not used to his best friend's little brother sounding so…pissed off…sighed and hung his head. "Okay. You know about my dad, right?"

"Yeah. That he beats you when he's drunk."

"I take those beatings for my little sister," Casey said. "I try and get her to run off when I see the signs. But I know she listens. A while back, I asked her what she ever remembers, and she said she just wanted to make all those memories disappear so she would never have to think about them. But when she tried, she just got nightmares. So, she told me that she accepts that the nightmares are part of her life, and that she just wanted to focus on being alive and at least being cared for. Having a home and food and warm clothes. She loves butterflies."

He stopped. His hands tightened on the dry tar, making dents with his fingernails. Mikey didn't say anything. They stood there, leaning on the tarred barrier between the roof and the street. Sirens came and went from every direction. People yelled. Cars honked. Manhattan slept fitfully and full of loud dreams.

"I love butterflies," Mikey said breezily. "Donnie says they were actually called flutterbies and then some writer mixed the word up and got it backwards. I always liked that fact. I'd rather call them flutterbies, it makes so much more sense."

Casey just nodded.

There was more silence. Casey glanced at his friend without making it obvious. Mikey looked…well, not older. He had always looked too young. Mikey looked his age now. A wiser, harsher teen whose competence and capabilities were blatantly obvious rather than cleverly hidden. There was more intensity in his eyes. Mikey would probably never admit how much he actually felt, but Casey knew those eyes. He got them himself after he learned how far his father would go, how far he had to go to protect his sister, himself, innocent people around him. He'd never really planned on being a vigilante. But too many people were his father, and if he couldn't take that old man down, he'd have to try the others. The way Michelangelo stood now, halfway between proud and shattered, reminded him of too many friends who were gone, either walked away or carried away.

He hoped Raphael was seeing it too.

This was the consequence of burying the bad memories, of insisting that nothing really hurt, of grinning like a sun through the pain, struggling to spread that light over the most darkest, obvious traumas. His best friend's little brother was only now just catching up to the bare reality of realizing that eternal optimism was a lie and that a positive force could only stretch so far before something snapped it just hard enough, just intensely enough that it hurt like screaming on fire when it came all the way back to hit you that much harder. And you were the one who had lit the flame.

Mikey had opened up to him about his subconscious adventures with a group of gods that may or may not have been real. Casey had seen stranger things. He just nodded, and he laughed during the play by play of the water balloon fight. He asked Mikey about the possibility of seeing healers like Hecate or Apollo again. Mike had only shrugged.

Moonlight swept over the roof and Casey trailed his eyes over the scars tattooing Mikey's body. He wasn't going ask if they hurt, if anything hurt. Mike wasn't going to tell him. They were going to stand there, and bathe in moonlight and watch the city, and maybe take on a crime if Mike felt like it, whatever Mikey wanted to do. He had called Casey an hour ago and met him on his apartment building's rooftop, and had started with a bright smirk and the phrase "Ever been pranked by a god before?" And now Casey realized he had more than a little sister whose protection, innocence, and smile lay partially in his hands.

Ah, hell, I never thought I'd get this close to the little goofball to make him open up like this. Did I ever want him to? I always made fun of him. Because…Raph did. But, like, Raph's his brother, that's the rules. Right? And I'd get smacked when I did it. Except I don't get smacked so much anymore. And I don't even feel like making those insults. Not since…what happened. I mean.

Casey shifted and his thoughts trailed off. He realized he was staring very hard at the gouged-out claw marks on Mikey's side between plastron and carapace. Mikey was staring at them too. Because Casey was staring at them. He lifted his eyes right to Casey's. He didn't blink.

Casey didn't want to blink either. He really does have the hugest eyes. Mikey's eyes were always very bright, matching the color of the sky, of robins' eggs, of baby blankets, of cyan. Now they held a hint of gray, exactly like clouds before a light storm. And Casey couldn't remember if he had ever seen Mikey angry enough for that.

Mike didn't feel like the baby of the family anymore.

Casey blinked first and tried to think of something to say. His turtle brother just stood patiently.

"You know… your eyes are a little dark…maybe grayish," was the first thing he blurted out.

Mikey blinked very slowly. One eyeridge raised. A muscle at the corner of his mouth twitched, like a weak attempt a smile. All he said was, "I wonder if Leo's eyes do that when he's stressed." And it was fair and obvious that Michelangelo knew exactly what it was about. So Casey didn't say anything else about it. He just wanted Mikey to talk. He wanted him to be Mikey. Throw a weird joke. Pull a prank. Ask an absurd question. He had no idea what to do when his best friend's baby brother started acting gloomier than his best friend. But. The thing about trauma. He knew the thing, and it was a big thing. Maybe that was why he was here, doing nothing but listening.

Donatello warned him that Mikey refused to sleep. Casey had casually explained some memories of his sister's terrifying bouts of forced insomnia, including falling ill to the point of hospitalization for three days. Mikey had seemed to get the message. But it was hard to tell what he was really thinking.

"You know what hurt most?"

And the question was so random and out of the blue that Casey startled, his back muscles spasming involuntarily, and he almost fell backwards. He had to catch himself on the edge of the roof, and his heart actually pounded.

After composing himself and trying to seem nonchalant, he said, "What did?"

"Getting into his mind and yanking it all out."

Casey, still a little shaken, took a deep breath and worked to process this. Had Mike told his brothers? His father? April, even? Was…this a confession? Casey startled feeling uncomfortable, but it was the sort that warned you that something huge and unstoppable was around the corner, something you didn't know how to prepare for. He was feeling oddly relaxed. Again, thoughts of his sister floated through his mind. Back when she would talk to him about everything. Everything.

"Yeah, Raph…told me what happened. Like, he said he didn't care what happened to that Alchemist dude, he just wanted to make sure you were okay because it took a lot out of you. But I know Don and Leo have been super curious. Um. So, what did you do?"

Mikey was staring at the tar bubbles, poking one with his finger. A very tiny smile played on his mouth. "I just…went in. I felt around for all the places that had power, and there were a lot of those. And I just grabbed them all. Like…wires. And I yanked at them until they broke. And then I just threw a bunch of energy all over. Covering everything I could. And I knew, just because, that it would all explode. And I got the hell out, but I must have still been holding onto a thread, because the explosion caught me. Or maybe that was just both of us. At the same time."

Casey nodded. He had created enough small explosives to know how that worked, with or without timed booms. Being caught in the backdraft of your own tiny bombs wasn't fun.

"So, um. Were you able to tell if it…killed him?" he asked softly.

"Well. Not his body, not…not really. Unless I hit that part of the brain, which probably not. But I made a huge mess in there. I know I exploded the parts that gave him abilities, probably all the knowledge about making his chemistry sets. I guess it doesn't even matter now; we're not even in that galaxy anymore."

Casey realized it was probably time for that discussion to end, but he found himself too heavily wrapped up in it. "So, do you remember what happened after that? The guys said you died and that it was literally unbelievable that Donnie was able to CPR you all the way back."

"Oh, yeah? Heh, interesting. I…remember a huge electric flash of light and power. I didn't feel anything, I just remember floating and trying to find something to grab on to because I was starting to sink. Like in an ocean, except it was darkness. Nothingness. And then I heard Raph screaming and calling for me, and suddenly he was right next to me. And I was freaked out because I thought he was dead too. And then he started pulling me somewhere and I realized he had come to get me out. Which meant my body was working. So I put it together. And then I remember breathing. Literally, that was all I could do. It was so painful. Who knew breathing could hurt so much? Oh, and crying. That too. It was like burning." He suddenly giggled and almost sounded like himself. "And then I learned I really was covered in burns, because all my power was, like…burning, that's what it was supposed to do. Duh."

And suddenly, Mikey threw back his head and laughed, a full, rich laugh, and Casey felt himself smile widely and he began to laugh, too. But his laughter died out when Mikey didn't stop. He was wrapping his arms around his sides, as one often did, laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. Casey was suddenly worried; this was not Mikey just laughing.

There was a movement of shadows, and Casey's heart began pounding. He grabbed his trusted hockey stick. And then three figures stepped out and he relaxed. Sort of. They had desperate, worried looks on their faces. Raphael put his finger to his mouth. Casey nodded nervously, eyes darting to Michelangelo, who was now sitting on the floor, hands over his face, throatily laughing in a way that sounded like it was stealing his oxygen.

Casey wondered how much the brothers had heard. Leonardo slid to him without noise and whispered, "We got here after he started telling you what hurt most," and Casey blinked. Huh.

Donatello was sitting on ground pressed right up his brother, arm around his waist. Just holding him. But the look on his face said he was calculating, analyzing, working out in his head how long the laughter was lasting, what type, the force of Mike's breathing, probably even the pressure of blood throbbing through the veins in his head. Mikey had stopped, and was now gasping, slightly whimpering, his head on Donnie's shoulder. He was grinning and grimacing at the same time; it was the kind of thing Casey recognized as just laughing so hard that it hurt, that you couldn't help but cry, as laughter kept forcing itself through your belly and out your throat until your insides ached and your chest was sore and something in your head burst, that all the "feel good neurochemicals" released and dumped out all at once because it was like a safety measure. He'd heard that sometimes people fainted. Or died.

Don probably knew all of that. So he must have known what he was doing when he motioned to Raph, who crouched and helped him lay Mike on his side. Mikey immediately curled up and grabbed his head, dragging in harsh breaths and letting out scratchy whining noises. Casey suddenly felt chilled. Leo glanced at him. "He'll be… all right," he said, and Casey wasn't sure what "all right" meant in this case. Raph was murmuring to Mikey about breathing slowly, Don was taking his pulse. A few minutes passed. Casey's chilled feeling stayed.

Don glanced up at Leo and nodded. Leo turned to Casey. "You should probably get home, get some sleep. We need to get Mikey home. But we really appreciate you being his sounding board tonight."

Casey bit his lip. "Ha-hasn't he talked to you guys?"

"Not about this specifically," Raph said in a gruff tone, and when Casey looked at him his eyes were flashing. "Least now, he talked to somebody."

Casey wanted to squirm and blush, make a quip, but he could only nod curtly, swallowing, with a humorless smile. He had no idea what made Michelangelo open up to him, of all people.

Then he remembered opening up to all of them about hallucinogenics. He'd probably saved Mikey's sanity that day.

Was…was this is way of repaying me?

After all, having wild psychic stuff happening wasn't far off from being on LSD. He supposed.

Leo just looked at Casey, his mouth in a thin line. "He'll sleep. We'll help him. He will be okay, more or less. Thank you, Casey."

Casey breathed out, almost deflating, and just stared at Mikey's shaking body; he looked almost on the edge of sleep. Casey wished he could do something more...

He didn't leave until he knew for sure that they were gone, only a slightly more aggressive gust of wind to prove it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty


"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller

"Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it." - Tori Amos

"I'm touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful - collecting these shards of spirituality - that we may be helping to bring about a healing." - Leonard Nimoy

"Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn't you - all of the expectations, all of the beliefs - and becoming who you are." - Rachel Naomi Remen

"If there's no breaking then there's no healing, and if there's no healing then there's no learning." - One Tree Hill

"Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion." - Buddha

"Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy." - Sai Baba

"Humor is healing." - Brad Garrett


Sometimes, he wanted to just let go. Let it all go, and break loose, go into the wind, and not shoulder any responsibilities. But it wasn't in him. He had been born to lead. Instinct. Natural. Environment shaping and nurturing. He couldn't stop.

But he could rest. Resting was easy.

He rested.

His brother was understandably very confused, poking and prodding, making snarky comments, taking shots at his skills. He just sat on the couch, comfortable, watching his favorite show. Finally, the tirade stopped and he felt his brother sit next to him with a huff.

"You need to teach me that."

Not taking his eyes from the screen, Leonardo asked, "Teach you what?"

Raphael gestured. "How to stay so calm like that. You could've stood up and challenged me."

"I told you, I'm resting." Leonardo flicked his eyes over, then back. "When I'm resting, I'm not fighting."

"You're always fighting."

Leo closed his eyes and smiled. "True. But inner peace is never made without inner war."

"Ugh. Thank you, Sun Tzu."

He opened his eyes to see Raph staring at him, arms folded, mouth in a pout. "Anyway. Our geek brothers went out to get pizza. I got bored. We should try that new game Casey got and try to beat Mikey's score."

Leo snickered. "Good luck. Mikey even beat Donnie at Tetris and that was only because Donnie kept throwing words over his head so he took it as a challenge."

"Oh, I remember that. They both refused to sleep and we had to literally feed them every few hours. That was epic."

Raph was already on hands and knees, searching the pile of video games.

The sounds of arguing hovered in the air near the lair's entrance and echoed around the turnstiles.

"Yes, you are a geek! You're a comic book nerd, you're an otaku, you memorize the most absurd facts and tidbits that relate to nothing but trivial fantasy stuff-"

"Hey, my knowing stuff about Tolkein got very useful when we were fighting off Dregg, thank you!"

"But it was too trivial!"

"Will you stop saying that? Okay, fine, so what makes me a geek and you a nerd and why can't we both be, like, gnerds? Neeks?"

"What?"

"You heard me!"

"Don't drop the boxes!"

"D, I have never dropped pizza in my life. Here, watch this!"

"No, Mikey don't—how the hell did you do that? That's not fair! Hey, wait up?"

Familiar giggles grew closer, and Michelangelo came into view holding three pizza boxes, leaping gracefully over the turnstiles and sliding down the stairs. He held the boxes above his head and began dancing. Donatello muttered, shifting his two boxes. As Leonardo came and took one box, Don grumbled something like "nerdy gazelle". Leo blinked at him shrugged, and took the pizza to the table, tapping Mikey on the back of the head. "We get it, Misty Copeland, put the pizza on the table."

Mikey struck a theatric ballet-style pose, then slid the pizza boxes down his straightened arm and toward the table. "Hey, Leo?" His voice took on a lengthened, child-like tilt.

"Yes, Mikey?"

"Am I a nerd or a geek?"

"You're a geek, Mikey."

"What about Donnie?"

"He's both, Mikey."

"Told ya! Gnerd!"

Don, sitting at the table, propped his face in his hand. "Could you use a different word? Gnerd makes me think of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Which something the toppings you ordered might give all of us. Which I don't wanna consider."

"Nah, I like it. Gnerd!"

"Mikey, just eat your pizza."

"Fine, I'll just take all the jalapeno pepperoni cinnamon candy slices for myself."

"No you won't, runt, shove over."

"Raph, stop using your sai to eat your food!"

"Make me."

Leonardo stood back for a minute, watching his brothers happily eat and bicker. He felt the air behind him shift with weight but remained still, waiting until the brush of silk and fur on his carapace had moved. He turned his head just enough to nod at his sensei.

"I believe I will join you," Splinter said. "What are the toppings?"

As the turtles quickly made room, Splinter carefully, elegantly selected a slice of six cheese and mushroom and folded it, not taking his eyes off Raphael and Michelangelo while they were arguing about comic book battles. When a can of soda threatened to spill, Splinter caught it while his tail nudged Raph's tilting chair back in place. Leo smiled, remembering when this would happen. Leo smiled and remembered all the times this would happen in their childhood, and none of them really paid attention. He grabbed a chair next to Donnie and took a slice of green pepper and olives, letting himself fully relax. It had been a while.

As casual chats and banter happened, Leo became aware of metal against metal, wood against wood. Splinter, as well, frowned and twitched. It was coming from the dojo.

Leo pushed his chair back. "What on earth is that?"

"Sshh," a whisper cut across the table. "I'm sparring. I need to concentrate."

All eyes fell on Mikey, who was leaning back in his chair, arms behind his head, eyes closed. He was smiling.

Raph stared at him. "You're not—but—what—what?"

As one, they ran into the dojo. Two katanas, a naginata, two sai, and two nunchaku were dancing in the air, clashing against each other randomly. Donatello rolled his eyes, turned around, and yelled, "Mikey, this is not an excuse to get out of training!"

"Awwww!" came the reply, "but I'm working so haaard!"

"Mikey, get in here," Leo called, folding his arms.

"Can I still-"

"No!"

"Awww!"

Michelangelo joined them, looking flippantly dejected. Don and Leo sighed. Mikey raised his eyes to them and smirked. The weapons floated back to the wall, to their proper places.

"My son," Splinter said, head tilted. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

"I totally am, sensei."

"Would you like to spar against me, then?"

Mikey blinked.

They all blinked.

"With," Splinter added, "your telekinesis."

Jaws dropped.

"Uhh, Master? You sure that's-"

Splinter held up a hand. "It will be fine, Raphael. You and Donatello with spar together with Leonardo when we are finished."

The three looked at each other.

"I kinda want to see how this turns out," Donnie said with a very small grin. Leo just slapped his hand over his face.


Michelangelo had been feeling confident and cheeky up until this point.

Wait, he what?

A flash of a dream, perhaps a memory.

You will be overconfident and arrogant. Hecate had told him that. Damn it!

He worried his lower lip, looked into his sensei's eyes, and nodded.

"Mikeeeyy…" came Raph's growling purr, and he held up his hand, breathing deeply.

Splinter, nodding back, held out his hand, Mikey gave him one of his nunchaku. He sat carefully on the floor, cross-legged, mindful of the throbbing in his left leg.

Master Splinter, taking several steps back, began to slowly work the nunchuck, whipping it and curving it around his lithe body. Mikey took the other one and released it, letting it hover. He pushed, feeling that unique bizarre brain muscle tighten and flex, feeling that cool rush of energy flow outward. He let the 'chuck spin. His sensei remained completely silent.

Splinter rushed quickly at a familiar angle, and Mikey had done this trick before, when Daddy learned of his littlest son's alarming speed and agility, when the little one had jumped gracefully away from reaching arms, giggling. His hands clenched and unclenched as he felt that strike of wood on wood, felt his father's own spiritual energy push against him. Oh. Oh. So, like that.

He closed his eyes, and the world fell away as the indigo outlines of weapons and bodies shimmered. He fought as precisely and fluidly as he could, but the strikes were getting faster and stronger, and Dad really wasn't pulling punches. Screw precision, then, this was time for performance.

He spread out his arms, palms outward, and clenched his teeth, pushing more power, more muscle, into the force radiating. His weapon spun and spun, struck and slammed and hit, and he sensed how his master was wordlessly dancing across the dojo with his energy swirling around him. He flexed and stretched and contracted that absurd muscle as many times as he could…and slowly, the headache grew, branching out from the base of his skull and wrapping like branches and fingers around his head, closing in toward the center of his forehead. The pain, burning, beginning to stab, was getting worse the closer those fingers got to each other on every side of his skull. He felt his teeth clench, he felt sweat streaming down his face. The rat wasn't slowing down and the dance became a whirlwind. Michelangelo felt warmth seep into his power, or perhaps coolness bleeding out. His fists gripped nothing but air. A sudden whine escaped him.

The battle slowed. He felt Splinter stalk toward him, still hitting his weapon, but gentler and gentler as those fingers reached his forehead. He felt tears in his eyes, spilling and mixing with his sweat, he felt his lungs start to ache. Someone, suddenly, screamed. He could hear both nunchucks drop to the floor, and the outlines faded into nothing.

The fingers, the branches, closed their circuit, gripping his forehead, and his head burst into hot and cold, and someone was still screaming, and the space behind his eyelids went white.


There were voices fading in and out. He couldn't move. He didn't want to move. It was too comfortable, here in this soft whiteness, so different from the darkness. He blinked a few times. In the middle of the whiteness, a bonsai tree was twisting up, leaning toward him. He circled it, and every time, it seemed to follow him, leaning. When he looked up, he couldn't see how far it went.

A presence stirred, somewhere to his right, but he had forgotten where his right side was. He turned, and turned, and the tree turned with him. Still, it was comfortable and comforting, and he looked back at the tree.

"I told you about overconfidence."

Finally he figured out where right side was, and looked at her, and he sighed. "But I wasn't being arrogant, at least?"

She smiled, hands on her hips. "Not this time, no. Paths, remember."

Hecate looked very dark in all of the white, very pale and dark and covered in shining glimmering light the way distant planets and galaxies littered the sky. "Come here," And she opened her arms, and he leaned into her, resting his head on her shoulder, and she held him very tightly, smiling against him, and "Silly boy," she said, "I told you I would be here when you came."

His headache which he hadn't even noticed, flared and burned and bit, and he felt her whisper something in very old Greek, and coolness, night time, swept through his head and the pain vanished.

"What did that mean, what you just said?" he asked.

"Healing and love in the very moment," she said. "Similar to your victory cry."

They separated. He massaged his temples. "Thanks. Um. Are you…like…always gonna be here, in my head, like this?"

Hecate shrugged. "Right now I am here until you recover, or some aspect of me is. Remember, this is all in your mind, and none of this might even be real. I can't really give you a straight answer. I could be a god from myths and stories, I could be an invented simulation in your consciousness, I could be a dream."

"Stop confusing him," a familiar raspy voice called out, "that's my job."

Michelangelo sighed and rolled his eyes. The goddess just smiled and vanished.

Neural Mike appeared in front of him, arms crossed, grinning.

"Now what?" Mikey sighed.

"Oh, so just because the shiny deities get to you first means I'm not welcome? How hurtful. Come on, you need to see something."

He grabbed Mikey's wrist and snapped his fingers, and they were in the red darkness, surrounded by webs of neural network, indigo flashes lighting up synapses everywhere.

"Hey, check it out. Your arm brace is reacting!" Neural Mike pointed, and Mikey raised his right arm. The carved animal shapes were pulsating blue and purple, like heartbeats.

"Seriously though," he asked, "what does this brace do?"

Neural Mike gave him that look of incredulity, the "weren't you paying attention in class because I'm not giving you my notes" kind of look.

"Don't you remember what Pan said? The animal figures represent aspects of you. The brace is a symbol of protection, against yourself and against the world. Also a power amplifier. Like that pendant the kid gave you. Your higher psychic consciousness merged with your subconscious is a powerful force by itself. It created a connection to these gods just so you'd have someone to talk to who knows about ancient talismans and junk. I mean, you know what happened to Perseus and all those Greek heroes who used literal gods-given items to defeat monsters. Most of it is allegory, since gods and monsters are a human idea, only known if there is an observer to know them and make stories. It's like the cat in the box. You know the cat in the box. Funny how people forget that it's satire about chaos theory."

Mikey let him ramble. He glanced at the massive neural web, impossibly high, spiraling like a spiderweb wrapping around a staircase with no stairs.

"For example," Neural Mike went on, "say it's true that there really are creator gods, like Raven, and Gaia with Ouranos, and Odin and Yahweh and Pangu and Krishna and Atum and Flying Spaghetti Monster, and dude, do you know how many creator gods are crammed into one dimension? It's like little kids fighting over who gets to make the biggest sand castle. Anyway, pretend you're one of them, and…"

"Beg pardon? I'm a who with the what now?"

"Just…just go with it. Okay? And suddenly you're able to make huge huge things, like planets and stars, I guess, although that just seems so fucking weird, you know? But you can. You create things and with that comes the ability to destroy. So, after a few billion years you get bored, and you decide to peek around various other dimensions and universes to see what else is going on with your buddies, and there's this one young universe that has this particular specific tiny planet that seems insignificant until you realize that the inhabitants are weirder than the Greek pantheon partying at Ibiza, and you hang out with them for a while. And maybe some of them find out about you and decide to form a cult around you, and maybe it turns into a religion because they really want you to stay and be close to them, and they're already full of the arrogant idea that they can talk to you, and you're bored anyway and their worship feeds you and it's less boring and it's a very happy feeling. But after a while you miss your home dimension, and soon your followers are needy and whiny and blaming you for all the horrific crap they're doing to each other, like you even bother to talk to them. So you leave messages for a few that you really liked, and their brains kind of implode from it anyway, but you're too busy packing for the trip to the interdimensional wormhole. And by the time you're almost ready to leave, you realize that this whole planet is the most fucked up mess you've ever seen and you think, well, hey, maybe I should stay and see if they clean themselves up and get better, but they don't, and they keep killing each other, saying you made them do it, and they even call your best friend the bad guy when he's not even in the same place you are, like what the fuck. So you decide to destroy the entire planet and just make a new one, completely identical, except that these new people have more common sense and also, ta daaa, psionics built in! And you step back and see what happens. And they thrive for like a million years, and then they realize that they're going too far, too fast. So one day, a bunch of the strongest psionics get together and call you long distance and you're like, "the fuck do you want and how did you get this number?" And they're all like, "Hey, so, we're done here, we're tired, we don't want to exist anymore, and can we live with you?" And so you wipe out their whole civilization and stuff except for a few bits of technology because it's funny to watch historians and anthropologists wring their hands, right? And the planet itself does its thing, it keeps growing life because it doesn't need help. And so on and so forth. And you just sit back in your dimension and drink pina coladas with your best friend, and you watch everything grow, and you figure that smaller gods can check in and maintain."

Mikey frowned. "So that was Cadran? The M'Kari?"

"Yup. And Earth is very similar, except it's been wiped out and destroyed a lot already. The current batch of humans are exactly like Cadran's first batch. But more stubborn. And really, they're just children. Someone needs to keep them from sticking forks in electrical sockets. All the gods like randomly watching and sometimes playing with Earth. Humans are absurd and absolutely arbitrary. They invent different versions and incarnations of gods to pretend they have invisible comforting parents and they invent the weirdest religions to try and hold their deity incarnations close, while yelling at each other about what's better and more true. It's like the greatest reality show ever. Or that game about sinking battleships, I guess. So of course your subconscious would let in incarnations of bored small actual gods, since that's the best way for gods to poke people when they're bored. And they like you."

"Yeah, I picked up on that…"

"Okay. I'm not saying that a god has anything to do with your M'Kari powers, but they had a lot to do with M'Kari history and I figured you should understand where that part of you came from. You are now part alien in your brain. I mean, beyond Kraang mutagen, which was already alien. So I think you deserve to know what your brain is. And even with your Shinto upbringing, you seem to get a kick out of Greek and Norse deities. And they picked up on that. Watch what you think about." Neural Mike lowered his voice to a hissing whisper. "They can tell when you think hard enough about them. Sneaky bastards."

Mikey just stared at the glowing webs around him. Some looked dull and weak. He wondered if he had been stressing them too much. He wondered how intensely and how often he could pull power before it became too much and he stressed himself. This was very finite, even with recovery.

"Yeah," Neural Mike said, "forget about saving the world. Unless you want to sacrifice your brain."

"I like my brain," Mikey said in a small voice.

"I'm glad, because I like living in your brain. But here's what you need to keep in mind, kid: The M'Kari were unbelievably, unfathomably wise, they realized they could be their own downfall. Psionics isn't a toy or a game or a test. It's an ability, and it has limits. Burnout comes easy. This is why you have random imaginary friends checking up on you. I had a chat with Apollo and he's genuinely worried the way you keep stressing the temporal lobes, the amygdala, and eventually maybe the entire damn limbic system. You gotta stop being excited and arrogant. You'll only make the intuitions and visions that much more painful to bear."

Mikey whipped his head around, eyes narrowing. "I am not arrogant! I'm learning!"

"That's adorable, keep thinking that. Slow down a little. How long did it take for you to master all your shinobi moves and poses and whatnot?"

Mikey bit his lip. "Almost fifteen years."

"And you're still learning. See? Same thing applies. You have to go slower! Lesser! Making food and clashing weapons together and healing a wound is all excellent, but it drains you. You're nowhere near where the M'Kari were. You're a baby. You can barely walk in psionics, let alone skip merrily down telekinesis road. And since there are no M'Kari around to teach you, it falls to me, and maybe Hecate since she has perfect memory of the M'Kari."

"What, wait, what? How?"

"I told you, different incarnations. Different names. Time is a river. The thing about being a supernatural entity like a deity is that you get to travel in spacetime if you know what you're doing. Hecate's really good at that. When she was very young, she observed Cadran during M'Kari rule. Near the end, but just enough. You can ask her stuff."

"But…she's not real, right? Loki, Pan, Apollo, they're in my own mind."

"Technically yes. But you might as well have fun with it."

Mikey inhaled sharply and swayed a bit. Kami and spirits help me, I have no idea what to do.

Neural Mike patted his hand, as if in solidarity. "Hey, wanna go web climbing with me?"

Mikey blinked, shook his head, stared at Neural Mike, the web, Neural Mike, his own hands. "Um. Sure?"

"Trust me, this web is stable and super solid. We'll be fine. It's fun! And you get to play with how fast the neurons jump between synapses."

Mikey shrugged, unable to think of anything else to do. He watched Neural Mike get a foothold on an axon and then a handhold on an axon and then Neural Mike glanced at him. Mikey came up behind him and grabbed an axon. He paused, eyes wide, not prepared for the steel cable strength. "Told ya," said Neural Mike.

They climbed and climbed, not race or competition, and Michelangelo was grinning at the humming that spread through his feet and hands, thrumming up and around his body, spilling into the center of his forehead, the supposed third eye, branching up into a tiny whirlpool that he assumed was the crown chakra. He recalled his last words to The Alchemist, about sleeping with one eye open. He knew he had been talking about the third eye, and now wondered if it would always remain open.

He barely realized they had reached the supposed top of the web. Neural Mike casually sat on a glowing axon, careful not to disturb the myelin sheath and the gentle rush of neuronal activity. Mikey did the same, next to him.

"So, now that I've explained how you work a little better, how do you feel?" Neural Mike asked.

"Mmm," Mikey mused. "A little less puzzled. Thankful. Weirded out because now I can't stop thinking of gods as aliens from other dimensions or other universes."

"Yeah, it's getting weirdly spiritual. It shouldn't but there ya go. Aliens helped reshape your brain, kid. Just go easy on it. That's all we want."

Mikey looked down at the glittering web. "So what happens now? I assume I'm asleep, so I assume I'll wake up."

"Yeah. You'll wake up. Don't blame me if you're all weird and foggy for a while. Transitioning between various states back toward reality will leave you will a fuck of a headache."

"So, would Apollo or Hecate-"

"Not in reality, nope."

"Bummer. Okay, I'm ready to wake up."

Neural Mike smirked "Have fun!" And he shoved Mikey off, and Mikey fell down the web, breath slow, arms out, until he felt the wind that was not wind, and the gray shining light that covered him, and very very slowly, he became aware of a piercing, pulsating pain in his entire head, and fought his way toward a hole torn in red darkness, a crack in a ceiling that led to a bright summer sky, the color of his own eyes.


The heart monitor had done odd, fascinating things. Tachycardia for a whole day until Donatello managed to increase the Ativan dosage, especially after a unique tonic clonic seizure that had caused various objects to fly around the room spinning and dipping in dances, followed by several partial complex seizures that gave them all headaches. Brachycardia for hours after that, and so Donatello didn't eat or sleep, just stared at the heart monitor and tensed all his muscles so tightly that Raphael had to help stretch him out.

Splinter, with the help of April and her quick thinking, managed to obtain a three-month prescription for an SNRI prescribed for both depression/anxiety and chronic pain. April had tried to get an ADHD medication, but the process was too intense and controlled. The pharmacist did, however, tell her that the anti-depressant was often prescribed off-label for ADHD and in many patients it did help.

Donatello took the orange bottle that read "April O'Neil" and put a sticker with his little brother's name on it. He put it in the lab on his desk, before checking on his unconscious little brother. He thanked April, and Kirby, so much that April said "If you don't stop being thankful, Leatherhead will grab you by the face again. We're family. My dad's a psychologist. It wasn't hard. I just hope it helps Mikey." Donnie then asked her what she wanted in return, as payment. April just smiled. "Mikey's home cooking, and you helping me with my computers and my homework."

"But we already do that," Donnie said.

"Exactly," April said. "He's my little brother too, you know."

Raph settled on the couch with a huff. "Are we really sure Mikey should be on anti-depressants? His brain is, like, the polar opposite."

April smiled tenderly. "Oh, Raph."

He narrowed his eyes. "Oh, what?"

"Do you know the saying, 'The funniest people are sometimes the saddest'?"

Raph shook his head. Then his eyes widened. "Wait, you saying the kid's actually depressed? Even though he's, like, organically happy?"

"That's just it," April said gently. "You can be happy and depressed. You can be bouncy, full of joy, making jokes, pulling pranks, laughing at the world, and you can still be depressed. It's not about feeling sad. It's about feeling sad stretched out into an actual sickness. In the brain. Like, well, seizure disorders and migraines. And it's not so much feeling sad as it is feeling… worthless, useless, empty, hollow." She looked down, twisting her clasped hands. "And that's Mikey, don't you think? He often feels worthless."

Raph growled. "And we don't exactly deny or discourage that feeling, don't we. I don't." Leonardo put a hand on his shoulder. Raph tensed up, then reluctantly leaned into Leo's arm. "I call him pointless, stupid, a waste of time. He smiles through everything, he's always hopeful and so chill about every fucking situation we're put into."

"Which" Leo said, "is probably the reasons why he chooses to shove all that bad negativity into a tiny corner of his mind, so he doesn't have to think about them and we don't have to worry."

Leo shifted and draped both arms around Raph, dropping his head onto his arm that hung from Raph's shoulder. "We fucked up, guys."

Don was picking at a thread in the couch padding. "We're going to make it right. We'll make it…more okay for Mikey. He was doing really well at letting out his emotions from the trauma; the crying helped purge it. But now he's withdrawing and putting on more fake smiles just for us. I just want our Mikey back. Annoying and weird and absurd and chaotically brilliant. But mostly perpetually joyful. I miss him."

Silence stretched across the living room.

"I miss him coming into the lab and annoying me," Donnie continued. "But when he was done poking me, he'd sit and ask questions, and he'd sometimes help me with experiments. He's really good with chemistry, because he's a cook. And he's good at seeing several things at once, pointing our errors just by feel, correcting me when I calculate a formula wrong, which sounds amazing, but to him it feels obvious."

Leo nodded. "Sometimes he'll come to the dojo and watch me to katas, and then he'll come over and do them better than me. I have to pretend I'm not jealous."

Raphael snorted, and Don covered up a giggle, April too.

"I just miss watchin' TV and playin' games with him," Raph shrugged. "He doesn't bother me unless he wants me to talk about how I'm feelin'. And ya know what? He's an awesome listener. He sometimes takes me to the kitchen and takes out Ice Cream Kitty and puts her in a bowl and makes me tell her my deepest thoughts. She's kinda like Spike was."

That earned surprised, grateful smiles all around.

Raphael pulled his knees to his chest and rested his chin on them. "Don, any idea when he'll wake up?"

Don could only shrug. "His mind is working to replenish the exhausted energy, plus he had multiple seizures, status epilepticus, which sometimes means coma. Or…or death. So I don't want to take him off the respirator just yet. He'll come back when he's ready."

"I can try to talk to him, see how far down in his mind he is," April said.

Donnie bit his lower lip. "I'm more worried about Neural Mike hurting you."

April rolled her eyes. "He won't hurt me. I'll be fine." The other turtles merely smirked.

Minutes later, April sat by the infirmary bed, watching Michelangelo breathe slowly under the oxygen mask. She placed on hand on his forehead and held his left hand in her own.

Taking a deep breath, April grasped and readied her power, but immediately stopped when she sensed something powerful and rapid rising from Mikey's mind. Blinking, she leaned over. "Mikey? Is that you?"

Eyelids twitched. April yelled out, "Guys! He's waking up!" And they spilled into the infirmary followed by Spinter.

Mike slowly opened his eyes, squinting. "Hey, April," he smiled, "What's up?"

She caught a glimpse of his mind and grinned. "Ceilings and skies and bonsai trees."

He winked. "Damn right."


They gathered around the television, a nest of blankets, pillows, bodies, pizza boxes. Mikey in the center, Raph and Leo on either side and Don directly behind. Donnie's arms were wrapped around Mikey's shoulders, his chin on his little brother's head. Leo and Raph were both pressed against their baby brother, sharing their warmth. April was on one end of the couch, occasionally tossing popcorn at the boys just to see who could snatch it up quicker. Casey was in the middle of the couch, watching the current movie intently and occasionally looking at Mikey whenever he thought of his little sister. On the other end of the couch, Splinter leaned forward and gazed lovingly at his sons, cuddling and happy. His keen senses kept track of his youngest boy's breathing, his heartbeat. His baby was happy, snuggled against the only family he'd known, the only one that mattered. Splinter had a flash of Neural Mike and Hecate, and realized that his baby's mind had its very own personal guards. That was fine with Splinter. His boys were growing up, after all. That was all he could ask for.

"Hey, Mike," Don said, nuzzling him. "Wanna try the duloxetine drug April got for you?"

"Mmkay," Mikey said cheerfully, with a hint of excitement and hope. "Hope it works." Don separated, shifted, and stood to go to the lab.

Donnie shook out one blue and green capsule, refilled Mikey's water bottle, and got back into the pile. After handing Mikey the pill and the water, he went back to hugging him from behind.

Two weeks later, Mikey was somehow much less bouncily annoying, his pranks more clever and interesting, even for Raph. He became more active in training, more focused, less distracted. When he played video games, his focus and solemn attention meant slightly less excited yelling and bragging. He seemed happier in a different way, his eyes sparkling brighter, his expression no longer hiding something. In patrol and battle, he was silent and stealthy, crying out "Booyakasha!" only after victories. A few times a month, Michelangelo would have powerful visions or intuitions that crime was happening, often Foot or Dragons. He would know exactly when and where to lead the group. Sometimes the group didn't have the leap into action; sometimes Mikey took great fun in telepathically terrifying Purple Dragons and telekinetically destroying Foot robots. The turtles began taking bets on how long the news would reach Shredder headquarters. Mikey smiled like a bright young sun and laughed with the ease of a flowing river.

His small seizures and migraines were treated easily now that Splinter and Donnie both helped with meditative and medical therapy, and Don eventually found that the SNRI had cut down the seizure activity. Mikey just smiled, as though he already knew. He even said that his new intuition and empathic sensitivity told him whenever Don got excited in the lab, but Mikey had promised to never peek unless his family wanted.

Nightmares and night terrors struck him less frequently, and with less intensity. But regardless, all three brothers raced to get through his doorway and jump onto his bed, throwing their arms around him and reminding him that they were all there and safe, he was safe.


One afternoon, during a horror movie marathon that had Mikey and Raph yelling at the television, Donatello and April were thrilled the anti-depressant was working and were already discussing how long he should be on it.

Splinter, upon hearing this, went to the freezer, fist-bumped Ice Cream Kitty, and got a cheesicle, carefully yet happily licking Ice Cream Kitty before he shut the freezer door on her delighted meow.

His four sons and two human children stared at the trail of strawberry ice cream along his rat nose. Splinter smiled and deftly licked it off. He winked. "You are correct, Michelangelo. She is indeed delicious."

He smiled even wider when his youngest child's squeals of delight made the whole room laugh.

And this, Splinter thought, satisfied and proud, was healing.


"Healing requires us to stop struggling, to enjoy life more and endure it less." - Darina Stoyanova

"The sun shall always rise upon a new day and there shall always be a rose garden within me. Yes, there is a part of me that is broken, but my broken soil gives way to my wild roses." ― C. JoyBell C.

"I want to be the best version of myself for anyone who is going to someday walk into my life and need someone to love them beyond reason." ― Jennifer Elisabeth

"Wounding and healing are not opposites. They're part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they're alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. " ― Rachel Naomi Remen