Heyyy it's me...

Everyone seeing this: *glowers*

Alright, to be fair I wrote this a long time ago. I'm still working on all the stuff past me stupidly decided to comit to.

Warnings: Contains some blood and major character death. Don't judge me and my poor life choices

After the Winters incident everything was supposed to get better.

Leo didn't expect them to forgive him immediately of course, but they were still brothers, and he'd just thought- not hoped, believed- that they'd warm up to him in time. That eventually, Mikey would start to laugh with him again instead of at him, brush casually against him as they ran, offer him some of his food and paint him breathtaking pictures of skylines and sewer tunnels. Stop glaring at him with those guarded, untrusting looks as if Leo were about to sprout wings and fly away. Donnie would ask him how he was, look at him, talk to him, smile at him. That Raph would go easy on him once or twice, try to understand, maybe even grow to respect him the way he used to.

It never happened.

Weeks slipped by, that turned into months, and eventually years. Every morning Leo woke up with the same mantra running through his head, pleading to every deity he knew of. Today will be better. Please just let today be better.

Mikey had given up on asking him why he didn't come back, although the heartbroken look almost worked the last few times. Leo wouldn't have been able to keep secrets much longer if he had to keep listening to the crack in his little brother's voice, watch Raphael try to mask the undeniable hurt, stare at Donnie's slouched shell as he walked away. But eventually they'd given up. They always did in the end. They were stubborn to a fault but when it came to him, they didn't care enough to keep trying.

Leo was mad. Really mad.

Donnie and Raph were shouting at him. Mikey was in his room. April and Casey only looked at him sympathetically, but neither made a move to help.

"You weren't paying attention-"

"-hurt because of you-"

"-if you were watching-"

Leo was watching, actually, just as acutely as always, but everything had changed. They'd changed.

"-if you even cared-"

"-wasted! And you-"

Leo had had enough. "I didn't know alright!"

The room fell silent, Donnie's mouth still open halfway through a sentence.

"If you guys had bothered to communicate with me-"

"It's not our fault you were gone!" Raph stepped forward so they stood beak to beak.

"Yes it is," Leo stated. The only sound was heavy breathing, though it was impossible to tell whose. Donnie looked at him blankly, furiously, but said nothing.

Leo spun around and walked away.

And more importantly, you are brothers. And brothers shall you remain, despite time... argument... and even... distance.

Yeah right.

The jungle was beautiful. Bright, colorful flowers, towering trees, roaring waterfalls, everything the sewer wasn't. Full of life. Chirping birds and rustling bushes. Majestic jaguars and enormous anacondas. So many fish- leaping in and out of streams and splashing up small waterfalls. There was delicious fruit and clear water. Rhythm thrummed through the tree trunks, comfortable and familiar. Nobody could criticize or judge him. In fact, the people loved him. They laid out sacrifices for him during the harsh winters, food and blankets. He was safe, and for the first time since he had been named leader Leo was happy.

Why should I go back?

He'd asked himself that on so many occasions. Too many occasions. There was nothing there for him in New York; sure he missed his brothers but after awhile it grew easier living without them. He didn't have to watch anybody's back but his own, and they wouldn't be suffocated by his "mother hen-ness". It really did seem like a win-win situation.

Maybe in hindsight he was hurting them more than he was helping them, but how was he supposed to know? When faced with the tantalizing beauty of the jungle, it didn't really feel like a choice. He was free. He belonged. And he kept telling himself one more day but after awhile he stopped counting.

A cough. Small, irritated. Mikey leaned silently against the doorway, eyes dark and distant. Leo looked at him and saw pain- how pointless it all was- and something inside him snapped.

"Central America was perfect," he told the younger turtle suddenly. "I wanted to leave so badly..." but I needed to stay.

Leo told him how sometimes he woke up and saw dappled light that wasn't there. He described the phantom feeling of frogs on his shell, the way he missed falling asleep to their happy croaks. The times he sat slumped against the toilet, vomiting and crying because the sugar was too much and not enough at the same time.

He told him about the seasons, the crisp winter fog, and the humid summer evenings. Climbing the tallest tree he could find, breathing in the fresh air and staring into the clouds. The exhilaration of running through the rain, splashing through the mud. Rainbows, big and bright, more vivid than in pictures.

"It's just- every time I thought about leaving I realized it was the last time I was ever going to see it..."

It hurt. It felt so real. Impossible to leave. Because once he left, that was it.

"New York is great and all, but it's nothing compared to what's out there." The freedom was unreal.

When Leo looked up Mikey was gone. Forcing down the tight pain in his chest, he laid back on the headboard. Shouts rang in his ears, cries of the people he'd abandoned to rejoin his family. Was it worth it?

Leo wasn't sure he could say it was.

He found Mikey splayed across the couch.

Five inches taller than he'd looked against the doorframe.

Raphael was gone first. Jumped into a fight too fast. Leo remembered screaming for him to stop, running in behind him. He remembers the earth-shattering thud of a shell hitting the concrete and the angry cursing of his youngest brothers behind him. Shoving his way through a crowd of darkness, pushing aside the bodies as if they weren't there.

He remembers the countless cuts and bruises. He doesn't remember fighting back.

Blood soaking his hands, slippery and wet beneath him as he slid to his knees. Vivid, sharp, and metallic. The taste of bile in his throat.

"Raph, Raphael you can't do this do me. Please..."

Their foreheads pressed together. The feeling of the vigilante's final breath, ghosting across his neck.

I'm better than you.

"I love you..."

I hate you!

"I love you so much..."

Time does things to the body. Too many sleepless nights and hits to the head take their toll. Slowly but surely, they add up. Chronic illness, weakened immune system, mood disorders.

Donnie died less than three years after Raph.

They didn't cry. Not together at least. His funeral was quiet and modest. April was there. Casey never showed up. It started to rain as they stood in a ragged semicircle around his grave.

Leo turned around and left halfway through. No one tried to stop him.

He never looked back.

"Dude you are absolutely no fun."

Leo rolled his eyes as he trailed behind his orange clad brother.

"What do you even mean?"

Mikey snorted from up ahead. "You gotta keep up bro!"

Leo almost fell off the roof in shock. It was first time anyone had called him that since... since he left for Central America. Mikey turned around with a laugh, which slowly began to fade when he saw his brother's face.


Leo swallowed and tried to force a smile. "I'm fine."

Mikey looked skeptical. "Ooookay..." They stood there awkwardly for a few seconds before Leo shifted uncomfortably, prompting Mikey to spin around and start running again.

This time Leo chased after him, smiling and laughing like he was whole again. Their gleeful shouts echoed against the skyscrapers surrounding them. Leo didn't question it when Mikey asked to play ninja hide-and-go-seek. He was just happy they were friends again. The elation he felt was such a burst of pure relief, free after nearly a decade and a half of painful isolation. He was excited to be it, feeling ready after two years of practice. Trailing and hunting was practically second nature to him be now.

Which was why it was strange when he never found a trace of his youngest brother.

There was a cove in the back corner of their living room, covered in lines of different colors. Blue, red, purple, orange. Fifty-three of each- all parallel to the ground and erratically spaced.

Leo's first instinct, for some off reason, after hours of desperate screaming and pleading, was to go there of all places. The nostalgic feeling of a warm childhood with his brothers surrounding him drew him in until he was just standing there. Staring. The ability to breath had been ripped away from him when Mikey didn't answer his cell, solidified by a rough twist in his heart and he knew.

His last brother was gone, and he was alone, and he knew with an undying certainty that there was nothing left for him here.

He reached forward with a hand that wasn't his own, and drew one final orange line on the wall.

Somewhere, deep in a jungle, the sun hit the point right before it completely dropped below the horizon. Golden beams sparkled on the dew of lush green leaves, and a lone cricket began to sing. Somewhere, surrounded by the whispers of the sunset, four little boys rolled together in the mud, laughing and chattering without a care in the world.

And brothers shall you remain, despite time...

Somewhere, a sleek black bird glided and dove above them, alone.


Somewhere, a pair of deep blue eyes watched them unblinkingly, staring through the fading mist of a waterfall.

And even distance.

Some possible questions you might have:

"Why was this so bad?" A: It's nothing new my friend. I was born like this

"What just happened?" A: I wish I knew.

"Aren't you supposed to be working on that essay that was due 3 weeks ago?" A: Definitely.

So yeah, that's that. Please review! It doesn't even have to be long or insightful, literally anything would make my day. I hold your opinions in the absolute highest regard