Turtles Forever... A Trilogy

Dimensional Ass-Kicking Crime Fighting Teams

Chapter Thirty-Five...

Road to Recovery

"Master Splinter?" Leo87 rasped. He had awoken to find a blurry shape sitting before him. "Is that you?"

"Rest easy, Leonardo. I am not your sensei. Do not be afraid for I am a version of your mentor." Splinter12 placed a furry arm on the small turtle's shoulder.

"Where are my brothers?" Leo87 asked in a panicked voice. "The fight. What happened?"

"Your brothers are safe. They are with your sensei in the dojo." Splinter12 reassured him gently.

Don12's eyes snapped open. He was on his feet in an instant, drawing a surprised gasp from April12. She watched as he darted across the room and checked his patient. "Hey, Leonardo. I'm here to help you. How are you feeling?"

Leo87 groaned. He coughed a little, and found his arm refusing to cover his mouth. He looked down and remembered the agony of losing his limb. "I remember everything. It hurt so much."

"Leonardo?" Mike87 bounded through the bedroom door, closely followed by his brothers and sensei. "We felt you wake up. How you doin', dude?"

"Guys." Leo87 weakly raised his good arm in greeting. "You were with me all the way. I felt you guiding me back."

"Ah, my son." Splinter87 felt a relief at seeing his oldest student conscious. "My dear, dear son."

Leo87 blushed at the term, still confused by the change of address. He thought back to their talk and felt a warmth settle over him. Son. He was loved like a son. "Thanks, guys."

Mike87 sat beside the injured leader. His face was still pale from shock, although his eyes had brightened considerably at Leo87's wakening. "Dude, I'm sorry I let you down. I wasn't fast enough to stop that evil guy."

Leo87 patted Mike87's shoulder with his good arm. "It's okay, Michelangelo. I don't blame you. I rushed in and got myself hurt."

Mike87 collapsed into a sobbing fit. Leo87 rubbed his arm patiently and waited for the tears to subside. "Missed you, bro." Mike87 choked tearfully.

"Missed you too, Michelangelo. Missed all of you." Leo87's face was paling with the effort of remaining awake.

Don12 noticed the waning turtle and ushered his family outside quickly amid reluctant grumbles. "Leonardo needs rest right now. He'll be fine. I've got him on morphine."

"How long will it take for Leonardo to recover?" Mike87 asked, his eyes shining brightly. The pull to go back into the room and be with his brother was very strong. He felt torn and wanted to keep Leo87 awake. He fidgeted uncomfortably. Splinter87 was smiling brightly as he hovered near the bedroom door. Raph87 and Don87 were high-fiving and hugging each other impulsively.

Don12 smiled. Positive energy was practically pouring from the excitable turtles and their sensei. "I'm not sure. This is a good sign, though. He's through the worst of it, I think."

"Dude, want to play against the Battle Nexus Champion?" Mike03 called from the sofa. "I've beaten everyone but you."

Mike87 grinned and leapt over to the sofa, jumping between Mike03 and Mike12. Mike07 laughed and grabbed Mike87 by the shell, pulling him onto the floor.

MikePrime groaned as the turtles fell into an avalanche before the screen. "You guys are weird."

Mike87 grabbed a controller and started to play against Mike03.

"I'm winning!" Mike87 whooped gleefully.

Mike07 winked at Mike12. Mike03 was deliberately allowing his dimensional duplicate to win, unusual for the fame-hungry turtle. Mike03 was being surprisingly sensitive to the little version of himself, purposely letting his game avatar be killed.

"He's the champion now!" Mike12 yelled in excitement. "Now, who's yer daddy?"

Mike03 grimaced as he held back. "Yeah, yeah. Har-de-Har!"

Mike07 looked up at MikePrime who was still perched on the back of the sofa. "Talk about a messy ending. Little Mikey sure showed how it's done."

MikePrime rolled his eyes. "Soft fools."

"You comin'?" Raph03 asked with a mischievous smile.

Casey03 followed Raph03 into the now empty dojo. "I'm gonna whup yer ass, Raph."

"Yeah, right. As if." Raph03 scoffed. He drew his sai as Casey03 twirled a baseball bat.

All the other Raphael's piled into the dojo to watch the friendly fight.

"I bet ten dollars Raphael is gonna beat that guy to paste." Raph12 said, watching the growing tension with curiosity.

"You're on." Raph07 shrugged. "Casey Jones is tougher than you think."

"Since I can't compete in a Turtle Tournament, gonna have to get my licks in this way." Casey03 grinned, edging towards the battle-ready turtle. "Ready to be pummelled, Raph?"

"Let's just get it on." Raph03 growled. He charged at Casey03 with his weapons drawn.

Casey03 dodged the first assault and hit Raph03 on the shell with his bat. Raph03 fell onto his knees, momentarily stunned, then adjusted quickly. He swept his friend's legs from under him and Casey03 fell hard. He landed on his back with an almighty thud.

Raph03 stood up, laughing. "Ya really got me on the ropes, Case."

Casey03 got to his feet and smirked at the turtle before him. "Hey, I only just started!"

The turtle moved forward quickly and attacked at a steady pace. His hands curled around the base of his sai's as he deflected a blow from the bat and hit Casey03 in the jaw with the handle of his sai. Casey03 grunted and hit the floor, his eyes wide.

"Dude. That's so unfair. You weren't this good before!" Casey03 stumbled to his feet and shakily observed the turtle before him.

Raph03 shrugged. "Or maybe you're getting sloppy, Case. Maybe you're losing your edge."

Casey03 growled and lunged forward. "Goongala!"

Raph03 parried blows from Casey03's fists as the man descended on him. For their difference in height, it seemed that Casey03 had an unfair advantage. He caught the turtle in the jaw with a particularly vicious reverse punch and Raph03 sprawled on the floor. "Nice one, Case. I'll take that back about ya losing your edge."

Casey03 grinned and picked up his baseball bat from the floor. "Round two, Raph? Unless you can't take no more."

Raph03 rose to his feet and grinned at his friend. "I can take it, Case. Just dish it out. I'll give it right back."

The two combatants rushed at each other simultaneously. Casey03 ran straight into Raph03's fist as the turtle sidestepped deftly and the man went crashing to the floor unconscious.

Raph07 groaned and passed Raph12 a ten dollar bill. "Not fair. He's been in training recently. That poor guy didn't stand a chance."

"Case is a good fighter." Raph03 dragged his friend over to a practice mat. He lay the man on the rough surface in a foetal position. "He just can't take a turtle, that's all."

Splinter03 entered the dojo and sighed when he saw Casey03 unconscious on the practice mat. "My son, you must stop rendering Casey Jones unconscious. It's not good for his self-esteem."

Raph03 smiled widely. "Case can handle it. He's never beaten me, yet. He'll keep trying though."

Splinter03 shook his head with a fond smile and contemplated teaching his son a lesson in humility. Deciding against it, Splinter03 left the room and walked over to Splinter12. He had left the room at Don12's request and was meditating with April12 before him. "May I get you some refreshments?"

Splinter12 opened his eyes and looked fondly at the other rodent. "No, we are fine. Is it all right to remain here and meditate?"

"Of course." Splinter03 bowed respectfully. "May I join you?"

Splinter12 nodded his consent, and the smaller rat sat beside him.

Both rodents relaxed and reached a deep state of peace and reflection. Splinter03 felt the presence of Splinter12, he felt the energy radiating from the Master. There was something very familiar about the aura of this tall rat. Something comforting.

Splinter12 smiled, his eyes closed. "You wish to ask me a question?"

Splinter03 chuckled to himself. "Yes, I do. Your aura is oddly familiar to me."

"Do you know why that is?" Splinter12 asked.

"No. I confess I do not." Splinter03 felt himself blushing furiously. He felt very strongly about this Master, but he had no idea why.

"I have seen the photo of you with your Master Yoshi." Splinter12 said in a calm and gentle voice. "You were his beloved pet. What happened to Hamato Yoshi?"

Splinter03 felt tears rising in his eyes at the memory of his loss. "He was killed in front of me by an enemy. I have mourned for my Master my whole life."

"It must have been difficult to see your precious Master murdered right in front of you. What were you feeling at the moment of his death?" Splinter12 opened his eyes and looked at Splinter03 with a sad smile.

"For a moment, I lost the will to breathe and live." Splinter03 wiped at his eyes furiously. "I fell off the ledge and just lay there for what felt like forever. I had no desire to move."

Splinter12 lay a furry paw on the other rodent's shoulder. "Continue. There is something more. Something that weighs heavily on your mind."

"I should have been able to protect my Master." Splinter03 felt the words spill out in a rush. "I was not good enough to protect my Master."

"Were you an ordinary rat or mutated when you saw your sensei murdered?" Splinter12 pushed.

"An ordinary rat." Splinter03 spat the words as tears continued to fall from his eyes. He looked at Splinter12 with a wounded expression.

"Then you couldn't have protected Hamato Yoshi." Splinter12 sighed. "You feel a connection with me because, in my dimension, I am Hamato Yoshi. I now go by the name of Splinter, but I was a man before my transformation."

Splinter03 gasped. He looked wide-eyed at the taller rat and blinked in disbelief. "You are Hamato Yoshi?"

"Yes." Splinter12 smiled gently. "You are not to blame for what happened to your Master. It was your Master who failed to protect you. Do not shoulder any blame, little sensei."

Splinter03 nodded and bowed his head, deep in thought. "A cat approached me whilst I was vulnerable. It grabbed me in its jaws and ran off with me. At first, I wanted to die. I wanted to be with my beloved Hamato Yoshi. I was floppy and unresponsive. However, I felt an urge to defend myself. I drove my tiny paw into the cat's jaw - and it let me go. I ran away and grieved in the sewers where I felt safest."

"You fought back. You survived. I am proud of you." Splinter12 nodded encouragingly to the smaller rodent. "Your Master, wherever he be now, is proud of you."

Splinter03 nodded, his head bowed. He looked at Hamato Yoshi now Splinter12 with a hopeful expression. "I hope so."

Splinter87 had been listening intently as the two Master's talked. Sitting beside them, he patted Splinter03 on the knee affectionately. "I too am Hamato Yoshi. I am very proud of what you have accomplished. Do not mourn any longer. His spirit is connected to you always."

Splinter03 felt a gentle affection radiating from the two versions of Hamato Yoshi. He closed his eyes and basked in the warmth, allowing the two sensei to comfort him. For the first time since losing his own Master, Splinter03 felt protected. He revelled in the feeling of safety and remembered the glorious days he had spent with his own Master. Hamato Yoshi had loved Splinter03 so very much, and he felt the same love emanating from the two sensei sitting beside him. He was loved. They loved him as if he were their own pet rat. More than that, they were connected on a very deep and spiritual level.

April12 watched silently as the discussion between the Master's drew to a close. She smiled at Splinter03 encouragingly.

They all closed their eyes and continued to meditate. A calm, energised feeling passed between the Masters and April12, uniting them all in their common goal - enlightenment.

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