Arcos and Aries arrived back at the Lair before Splinter’s turtles, and he had to admit, he was torn about it. His meditations had been interrupted by frantic thoughts ramming through his ordinarily quiet brain. Years of honing the skill, to calm his fears when the boys were little, to quell the rat that always fought to emerge, and sometimes did, made falling into trance easy. But he was having trouble even getting his mind to be noiseless enough to even begin meditation properly. His monkey mind would not shut up.
What was happening to Raphael? Why had The Mutanimals stolen him? He knew it was at Shredder’s bequest, Slash would not have harmed Raphael should his own life depend on it. He knew this. But what did Shredder want with his son? Besides dead?
Was this a trap for the other three? To draw them in so they, too, could be captured? Would Shredder kill them slowly, plucking them out of their shells? Or would he tear them to shreds, as he did Tang Shen? And all because of Oroku Saki’s hatred of him, his sons were in a kind of danger that he had never dreamed Tang Shen would have been in…before her death.
He opened his eyes with a sigh, his gaze resting on the photo of his family on the butsudan. Looking sternly out at the world, he and his beloved held their baby between them. How many times had he looked at that photograph and longed for his wife? How many times had he closed his eyes, only to see that image in his mind’s eye, that and many more, of the woman he loved? How many times had he spoken with her, confident that she heard his words, because she was now one of his families beloved dead, the ancestors? How many worries had he laid at her sepia visage, clothed in her formal kimono and hairpiece? And why could he not bring himself to lay this one at her ghostly feet?
The one that lay on the hospital bed in Donatello’s lab.
He swiveled his ears, listening for any sound that came from that direction, but none did. She was still unconscious, caught in a fever that didn’t seem to exist. The Phoenix…Phoebe, her name was Phoebe. Having a name, an actual name rather than a moniker, made her more real, and for some reason, he did not like that. In his memory, that time in The Burrow was almost like a dream, so separate from everything else that it could not have really happened. It could have easily been a product of his imagination, dreamt up by the rational side of his brain that was displaced when he’d lost his mind. It could have been a place for his personality to reside while the animal broke loose to scrounge in New York City during The Kraang Invasion. But the woman in the other room proved otherwise. It was a real thing. It had happened.
And all the feelings that he had hoped were fevered dreams came rushing back, threatening to crush his chest. For a moment, he had trouble taking in air and he suppressed panic.
He hadn’t told Tang Shen about any of that. She knew, of course, it wasn’t as if he could hide it from her. But he could not bring himself to speak with her about it. It seemed too close to a breach of their relationship.
And now Arcos and Aries had stomped back into his home, louder than even his four sons, and Splinter had no gotten any calm from his meditation.
He moved to stand up, and gasped at the twinge of pain in his back that zipped down his old wound in his hip ending at his toes. His meditations had given him no reprieve from his injury either. The thought irked him. Did the woman in Donnie’s lab distract him so much that his meditations were useless?
The pungent smell of garlic hit him as he approached the lab, the door of which was wide open, Arcos and Aries already inside, without so much as a “Hello!” or “Anybody home?” Entering the lab, he saw Aries great mouth moving in an exaggerated manner, as if he were a cow chewing his cud.
“Where’d everybody go?” Arocs asked.
Splinter sighed, the fist over his heart squeezing once again. “To Shredder’s Lair.”
“Why?” the bear asked.
Aries, with a swift motion, whipped the covers off of his mother, and hiked up her nightgown to her ribs.
“What are you doing?” Splinter asked, voice edging on anger.
Both young men looked at him like he was crazy.
Aries spit a great, green glob into his hand, turned it over and threw it on his mother’s stomach with a splat. The smell of garlic was almost overwhelming. “Applying a poultice,” the ram said, before reaching in the plastic bag near his side. He took out a handful of green stalks and stuffed them into his mouth, chewing once more.
“We’d ask you to help,” Arcos grumbled to Splinter, “but you’ve barely got any teeth.”
“Mff lffmff nuffm?” Aries asked in between chews.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Arcos scolded.
“Mfffldff!” Aries punched the bear in the shoulder.
“Enough!” Splinter’s voice echoed through the Lair.
“You gonna help, Old Man?” Arcos growled.
Before Splinter could answer, a rukus flowed into the Lair, the sounds of happy voices drifting to his ears. Relief flooded through him, the tension he was trying so hard to release finally left him at the sounds of his son’s voices.
“Sensei!” yelled Michaelango. “We’re back! And everyone’s with us!”
He turned his back on Arcos and Aries without so much as a nod, and did not feel badly about it one bit, to enter the living room of the Lair. Indeed, just as Michelangelo said, all of them were back, Raphael included, the Mutanimals intermingled with his four boys. Slash walked closed to Raphael, his head down in a shameful fashion, as if he were a puppy that had chewed on a table leg and knew it was about to punished. Despite his annoyance at what had been happening in his home and his thoughts, Splinter felt a moment of pity. As Raph’s pet, Spike had been privy to many a reprimand. He obviously feared one again now.
“Welcome back, my sons!” he said happily, his ears pulled forward in pleasure. “I shall get some tea,” he announced, his eyes sweeping the troupe. Slash avoided his gaze. “It appears that it is needed.”
As the rat mutant prepared the hot water, he heard the loud creaking of large bodies sinking into chairs and leaning against walls. “It stinks of garlic in here,” Raphael’s voice called. “What are you making in there, Sensei?” Splinter paused, regarding what to answer, but was obviously saved from doing so by the source of the smell. “Oh,” Raph’s voice sounded fully disappointed. “It’s you.”
After a spitting noise, Aries answered, “Yeah, it’s me.”
“That’s gross, dude,” Raph replied as Splinter re-entered the room, carrying a tray of tea.
Slash looked up sheepishly, finally catching Splinter’s gaze. “I am so sorry, Master Splinter,” he said.
“There is no need for an apology,” the rat ninja master said, placing the tray on the table that the large mutant dwarfed. “You were not yourself.”
“We could have killed you all,” Rockwell said, his voice filled with shame, hands to the sides of his head.
“You didn’t kill anyone,” Arcos growled, walking up to Rockwell and slapping him on the shoulder.
“Next time,” Aries huffed, stuffing another wad of garlic in his mouth.
Raphael glared at the ram, but before he could reply, a small noise came from Donnie’s lab, something in between a squeak and moan. Aries golden eyes flared wide as his ears swivelled behind him. Arcos disappeared to the lab, with the group of mutants following him.
Aries spit the glob of green onto the floor, running to his mother, who stirred on the hospital bed. “Mama,” he said, the ‘a’s having a heavy bah in them.
“You’re cleaning that up,” Donnie muttered loudly enough to be heard by everyone in the room.
She opened her eyes, blinking slowly, taking in the motley group that was gathered about. “Wha?” she asked, her voice sounding soft and far away. “Lamb’s Ear?”
Raph chortled, “Lamb’s Ear?” he mocked.
Aries ignored him, bending down so he was close to her. “Hi, Mama.”
“You’ve been eating garlic,” she noted with a breathy voice, before swallowing hard. “Where are we?”
“You are in my home,” Splinter came forward, his yukata swishing as he walked, the others making way for him to come to the cot. “Safe.”
Her emerald green eyes furrowed beneath her blonde eyebrows, she frowned in confusion for a moment. Then she smiled. It lit up her face with a pale light, though her eyes were bright with recognition, her cheeks held no color, a stark reminder of her blood loss. “I know you,” she breathed.
Splinter leaned toward her, a small smile on his own muzzle. He reached out, as if he were going to stroke her head, but drew his hand back, curling his fingers into his palm. “Yes,” he replied.
“Your name is Yoshi,” she said, the smile still on her lips.
It was Splinter’s turns to furrow his brows. Had he ever told her his name?
“You love the smell of cherry blossoms, but you don’t ever tell anyone, because you don’t want people to think you are a softie.” she continued, her voice slightly sing-song.
Fear grabbed at Splinter’s chest, squeezing his heart in a tight grip. He stood up, his golden eyes wide, his ears plastered to the top of his head.
“Sensei?” Leo asked from behind him, voice filled with worry.
“Your favorite flavor ice cream is strawberry,” Phoenix went on, and she chuckled. It didn’t sound like her, though, but another small laugh, one he’d grown up with years and years ago. “You like the way water feels when it runs over your feet.”
“No,” Splinter moaned.
“Sensei?” Leo put his hand on Splinter’s arm, and it was all the rat could do not to shove his son away and run.
“And you--” Phoenix’s face changed from the soft, faraway look to one of malice, twisting as her lip curled, her green eyes blazed with hate. “You stole everything I love from me!”
A/N Hello! I'm back, after a very long time, I know. Thank you so much to those of you who have stuck with me this entire time, and who are reading this now. I do plan on bringing this story to its conclusion (which should be pretty obvious, now that the series is over). So don't worry there-it might take a while, but the whole story will be told.
Now, for the winners of the drawing for a paperback copy of The Other Side of the City Season 1. The winner of the random drawing is...drum roll… ! gets a copy, of course, because she has provided us with the cover. gets a copy for her lovely edits. and get copies for being feirce cheerleaders in this ongoing monster of a story. Congrats to the winners!
If you did not win a copy, but would still like one, PM me, and we can arrange something.
There are so many mutants in TMNT2012 whose stories will never be told. This is one of them, both before and after the Turtle madness came on the scene in NYC.
<--The Other Side of the City--Chapter 160