Goodbye, Father

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Goodbye, Father

Joined: 28 Nov 2007, 20:55

20 Jun 2013, 05:58 #1

Okay, This one is just a one-shot for my TMNT-verse. It came from a plot-bunny that's been running around in my head for the last couple of weeks while working on my other Turtle-tale. So I started working on it over the weekend- only to realize on Sunday that I was writing this story over Father's Day. Which makes it all the more touching, I think..... Anyway, be prepared- this is a 3-tissue story!!

“Goodbye, Father”

I felt something wrong the moment I entered the lair that morning. The silence was broken only by the rhythmic whump-whump coming from the dojo, the familiar sound of the new punching bag being pummeled. That in itself wasn’t unusual, but the lack of any other sound or activity made it seem ominous.

I looked around, and saw Leo sitting at the kitchen table with his back to me. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his mask, which was unusual for him. He didn’t even turn to look my way when I came up behind him. He just sat there cradling an empty teacup in his hands, staring down at it dully.

“Leo? Is something wrong?” I asked when I saw his face. I saw the tracks of tears running down the sides of his beak, and knew it must be bad.

“This was his favorite teacup. Did you know that?” He asked, without looking up.

“Leo, what’s wrong? Where is everyone?” I prompted, hoping to snap him out of- whatever this was.

“He’s gone. I found him in his room this morning. He just- never woke up.” The reply was barely more than a whisper, and he suddenly broke down in a fit of sobbing.

At that moment, I knew why the lair seemed so quiet. I moved over to pull a chair up beside him, and wrapped both arms around him, as he cried softly, head down low, holding the teacup clasped to his chest as if for comfort. He leaned into me, and I felt the tears dripping down his face to fall onto my shoulder.

“I’m so sorry,” I murmured softly, as he mourned the loss of his father. “At least he’s at peace,” I said, placing a consoling kiss on top of his head. He nodded against my neck between sobs, but said nothing. “Where are the others?” I asked, trying to pull him form his depression for a moment. I knew they would be hurting too.

He pulled away for a moment, trying to remain calm as he spoke. He seemed to regain a little of his usual composure, the natural leader in him taking over. “Raph’s in the dojo trying to beat up his pain. I don’t think it’s working- he’s been at it for over an hour now. Don’s in the lab with father- he said he wanted to do an exam. Cause of death or something. I didn’t stay to see. Mikey’s in his room and won’t come out. Kept saying that it was just a bad dream, that he was going back to bed and everything would be okay when he wakes up. I think he’s in denial.”

I nodded, understanding that they had taken the discovery hard. I decided that perhaps talking to someone might help the others; it certainly seemed to be doing Leo some good. At the very least, he was acting a little more like himself now that he had had a chance to share his grief with someone. “I’ll go talk to them. Don’t worry, we’ll get through this,” I said, patting him gently on the arm. He nodded weakly, still sniffing and wiping at his eyes.

“I miss him already,” he said softly, looking down at the teacup again. I took it from his hand gently, setting it on the table.

“I know. I’m going to miss him, too, Leo.” I rose, and walked to the door of Donnie’s workshop, taking a deep breath before I opened it to enter.

Inside, I found Donatello standing next to a table on which lay the still form of Splinter. He was staring down with a scalpel in one hand, his face an unreadable mask. The tattered old kimono Splinter always wore hung on a peg by the door, his furry body exposed. Donnie glanced up at me, and I saw that in spite of his attempt to bury his pain, his eyes were wet, and his hand trembled.

“Don? Are you okay?” I asked softly, moving closer. I gazed down at the unmoving figure of their father and mentor, and felt a pang of loss. His eyes were closed, as if merely in sleep, and I almost reached out to shake him awake, but caught myself, and stroked the top of his head instead. His fur felt wiry and slightly coarse with age, no longer the soft, smooth coat it must have once been.

“I couldn’t do it.” Donatello sighed and put the scalpel down on the table harder than necessary. “I thought if I did an autopsy, maybe I’d understand why this happened. But I just- can’t do it. I can’t-” He broke down, then, and I gently took him by the shoulders and hugged him as I had done with his brother. “WHY? Why did this happen?” He wailed, and I felt him trembling against me like an autumn leaf clinging to the last tenuous bit of life before being snatched away by time.

“I don’t know, Donnie. Maybe it was just his time. It happens to everyone sooner or later. We just have to accept it and try to move on.” I said, as he slowly sank to the floor, his quivering legs giving out. I knelt beside him, still embracing him consolingly. I understood his confusion. As hard as their lives were, they had never experienced the death of a family member before, and now he found it staring him in the face. For all his intelligence and knowledge, this was one enemy he couldn’t defeat. No matter how much he might want to, he couldn’t stop death. The reality of it was hitting him hard, forcing him to face the fact that he was as much at the mercy of fate as anyone.

“What will we do without him?” He asked, looking at me sadly. “He’s always been there- who can we look to for guidance now?” I didn’t have an answer for him; I sighed and shook my head.

“You’ll get through this, believe me. I know what it’s like to loose a parent, and I know it’s hard, but it gets better. But you still have me, and Casey and April. We’re here for you whenever you need us. Don’t forget that, okay?”

He nodded, and I draped one arm around his shoulders. He rose after a few moments, still shaking, and I let him lean against me for support as he stepped toward the table and reached out to touch the cold, still figure. “Maybe it’s better if we don’t know,” he murmured. “I don’t think I can stomach the thought of treating him like a lab specimen, anyway.” I nodded agreement, and pulled away, turning to leave the room.

“Why don’t you come out and have some coffee? You look like you need it,” I said, as I moved toward the door. He looked torn for a moment, but then he sighed, and shook his head.

“No, not right now. I want to stay with him a little longer. Besides, I’ll need to prepare him for- later. We’ve never really talked about what he would want for his funeral. I guess that’s something we’ll have to decide on now, won’t we?” He said, waving me off. “I’ll be out in a little while, just give me a few minutes to pull myself together.”

“Alright. I’m going to see if I can do something for Raph and Mikey. They seem to be taking it the hardest.” I sighed, dreading my next stop in the dojo. Raph was not known for dealing with his troubles rationally or quietly. I was almost afraid of what I might find when I went to check on him.

I left the workshop, giving Leo another brief pat as I passed through the kitchen. He looked up with a half-smile, but I could see he was only putting up a brave front. His eyes told a different tale altogether, of deep pain and grief. I sighed to myself as I crossed the living room, knowing it would take time for them to come to terms with the loss. I hadn’t been part of the family long, but even I was feeling the loss, and I knew I’d probably find a quiet place to curl up and cry later. For now, though, I was more worried about helping the guys get through this. They needed to know that they still had people who cared about them.

I stepped cautiously into the dojo, and saw Raphael still pounding away at the punching bag, a look of anger mixed with anguish on his face. He kept hitting the bag with single-minded intensity, ignoring me completely as I moved to lean against the wall beside him.

“Go away,” he growled after several minutes had passed. “Don’t wanna’ talk to no one.”

I knew he lied. I could see the quivering of his lower jaw as he continued taking out his misery on the bag. His eyes were blood-shot, and his voice wavered slightly. “Bullshit. I know you, Raph. Beating up that bag won’t make this go away.”

“Yeah? Maybe not, but it’ll make me feel better.” He kept up the series of quick jabs, his fists thumping into the material with a steady thump-thump, like a heart-beat.

“How long you gonna’ keep at it?” I asked, hoping to get through to him somehow. He was starting to tire already, I could tell, yet still he kept on.

“Until THIS,” he paused for a moment, and thumped one fist against his chest- “Stops hurtin’.” He went back to pummeling the bag, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Your hands will be a bloody mess before that happens. It takes time, Raph,” I said softly, and moved to take hold of his hands to force him to stop. He yanked them from my grasp, and turned away. He didn’t want to show weakness in front of anyone, not even family. I stepped around in front of him again, and glanced down at his hands. They were already bruised and raw from the bag.

“How would YOU know?” He snapped, sounding like an angry child. “It’s easy to say that when it ain’t happenin’ to you,” he finished, shaking his head sullenly.

“Raph, don’t do this to yourself. I lost my father too, remember? I know how you’re feeling. We’re ALL going to miss him.” He looked up, and suddenly closed his eyes, his expression one of regret.

“I- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I guess I just forgot you’ve been through this too. How do ya’ deal with it?” He looked down, and sighed. “Guess it ain’t gonna’ go away, is it?”

“No, but it will get easier, eventually. And you still have brothers who need you. They rely on you, you know. Especially Leo. He needs you to be HERE now, to help take care of the others.”

We stood in silence as the seconds dragged by. At last, he let out a deep breath, and glanced back toward the doorway. “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll go see if Don is done yet. You comin’?” He asked, slowly shuffling his way to the door. “And thanks for the talk. Guess I needed it.”

“You’re welcome, but I think I need to go talk to Mikey. Leo said he refuses to believe Splinter’s gone. Maybe he’ll listen to me. Donnie didn’t go through with it. He said he just couldn’t do it. If you need anything, Raph, I’ll be here. Just don’t beat yourself up anymore, okay? The Purple Dragons do enough of that already.” I gave him a light punch on the arm, and he tossed me a half-assed smile.

“’Kay,” he said simply, and went to join Leo in the kitchen. I turned and made my way toward the back of the lair, where I knew I would find the youngest and perhaps most emotionally vulnerable member of the family. I knew that Michelangelo’s tender heart must have taken a hard blow from the discovery that his father had died in the night. I wasn’t certain how to approach him, though- so far, the others had taken it hard, but at least they accepted what had happened. If what Leo had said was true, Mikey might well have retreated into a world of his own, unwilling to face the truth.

The curtain to his room was drawn closed, and a light was on inside. I rapped my knuckles on the wall at the entrance, but there was no answer. I pushed the curtain open a little, and found Mikey sitting hunched over the desk, his art kit open and his sketchbook open. His mask hung on the bedpost, forlorn and forgotten. He appeared deep in thought, fiddling with a jointed artist model figure stuck to a small metal rod with a wooden base. He kept adjusting it, and finally picked it up in frustration and chunked it across the room with a growl.

“Mike? You okay, sweetie?” I asked, slipping into his room. He only used it on nights when he wasn’t staying with me now, which was only about two or three times a week, but he still kept most of his things there for convenience. He had stayed with his brothers the night before, saying he wanted to play a few games with Raph on the X-Box. Though I missed him when he wasn’t sleeping at my apartment, I knew he still needed to spend time with his brothers, so I didn’t mind.

“Oh, good morning. Didn’t think you’d be down yet. I had a bad dream last night,” He got up, and moved over to sit on the bed, leaning back with his shell against the wall. He patted the mattress beside him, and I obliged by curling up beside him.

“Bad dream? Want to talk about it?” I prompted, leaning my head against his shoulder. He dropped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer, and began to run his fingers lightly up and down my left arm absently in a gesture of affection. I felt him tilt his head down to rest against mine, inhaling deeply of my scent. For some reason, it always seemed to comfort him.

“I dreamed I was makin’ breakfast, and Leo went to tell Sensei his morning tea was ready, but when he went into his room, Splinter was-” He didn’t finish. I wrapped my arms around him gently, and looked up into his warm honey-hued eyes sadly.

“Mikey, I’m sorry, but that wasn’t a dream. It’s true. I know it hurts, but you have to accept that he’s gone.” I reached up to touch his face, and saw the look of denial there. He shook his head, on the verge of tears as he spoke.

“No! He CAN’T be! He was just fine yesterday- He even sat up to watch me and Raph playin’ Halo 4 for a little bit last night. It just CAN’T be real!” He protested, beginning to tremble beside me.

“I wish it wasn’t, but pretending it was just a dream won’t make it any easier. Sometimes it just happens. It’s hard to loose someone you love. But he’ll always be here with you- in here,” I said quietly, pressing my hand against his plastron over his heart.

“But it- it’s not the same,” He croaked, and finally broke down, clutching me tightly as he wept against my hair. “How could he leave us? It’s not FAIR!” He choked out between sobs. “Please, just hold me. Don’t let go. Promise you’ll never leave me like he did. I don’t want to be alone.” He whispered hoarsely, holding tight to me as he let out his pain.

“I can’t make that promise, but I’ll always be with you. And so will Splinter. I know he loved all of you. Just remember that.” I gave in to the ache inside at last, and cried softly against his neck. We huddled together for a while, silently sharing each other’s sorrow. We held each other, until he finally raised a hand to wipe his eyes.

“Did you see him? Donnie said he was gonna’- gonna’ examine him to find out what happened. I don’t wanna’ see him all cut up.” He complained, clearly upset by the idea.

“It’s okay. He couldn’t do it. I don’t think he’s going to, either. He said he couldn’t treat Splinter like some lab specimen.” I assured him, and hugged him close. “Hey, why don’t we go join the others? They should all be in the kitchen by now. We can sit down and talk about what to do next. I’ll make you some coffee.”

He nodded sadly, and sighed. “Okay. Coffee sounds good. I guess we might as well get this over with, huh?” He said, as I got up, went over to the small bookshelf, and picked up the figure he’d thrown. I placed it back on the desk, and held out my hand to him.

We left the room arm-in-arm, leaning on each other for support. When we got to the kitchen, we found Raph and Don sitting at the table with Leo. They glanced up briefly when we entered, but no one spoke. Probably because no one knew what to say. Mikey sat down with the others while I started the coffee; then I joined them at the table.

“So, uh, what should we do with- y’know?” Raph asked, jerking his head toward the workshop. No one needed to ask what he meant- it was simply his tactful way of referring to the body. We all looked at each other for a few seconds in silence, the only sound in the room that of the coffeemaker softly percolating.

After what seemed an interminable hush, Mikey finally spoke up, startling everyone. “This is stupid. We gotta’ do somethin’- I mean, we can’t just LEAVE him in there like that. Leo, you were closer to him than any of us; what would he want?”

The eldest considered for a moment. “I- I’m not sure. He never really told me. I guess he’d want to be buried under a tree somewhere, or something. Maybe on a hilltop or near the shore- someplace with a nice view.” He shrugged, and bowed his head sadly at the thought of doing what would soon be necessary.

“I’m not entirely sure burial is a good idea,” Donatello piped up. “It would have to be somewhere very isolated to avoid being found by humans. If anyone found his grave, they might get curious, and dig it up. That would be bad. Even dead, we can’t risk anyone finding out about him. The humans would have too many questions, and they might try to dissect him.” Trust Donnie to bring up the practical difficulties involved. His keen mind had likely already played out a dozen different possibilities for Splinter’s discovery, none of them good.

“I hate to say it, but you might be right, Donnie. But what else can we do?” Leo said, for once not having all the answers. The responsibility of taking his mentor’s place as head of the family was already weighing heavily on his shoulders, as he came to grips with the reality of what they now faced. They were adrift, their training left unfinished, their circle no longer complete.

“What about cremation?” Raph suggested, looking at his brothers anxiously. “I know it ain’t the best solution, but at least no one would mess with the grave that way.” The other three seemed to consider that for a moment, before Leonardo shook his head. He stole a glance at the lab door, a look of regret in his eyes.

“No, It just doesn’t seem right. I don’t know about all of you, but I for one would like a ceremony of some sort, not just standing around staring at a furnace. Besides, where would we do that? We’d have to sneak into a funeral parlor or something, and that’s too risky.” The eldest rubbed his eyes, and for a moment, I thought he might break down and cry again. I got up to go pour the coffee for everyone, mulling over the various suggestions.

I came back with three cups and put them down before Leo, Raph, and Don. No one seemed to have a solution to the difficult dilemma before them. I thought for a few moments about what Leo had said, about wanting to bury Splinter somewhere safe and scenic. Then an idea struck me. “What about that old farm of Casey’s? I asked, you said you’ve all spent time there after April’s shop burned down. Why not have it there? No one’s likely to find him there, and even if they saw the grave, they might think it was just part of a family plot, or maybe for a pet burial.” I said, as I brought back the remaining two cups for Mikey and myself, and took my seat beside him.

They seemed to think about that for a moment, before Michelangelo suddenly perked up. “Hey- I think I got it! We go up to the farm, and build a funeral pyre. Y’know, like what Luke did with Vader? We could have a little ceremony like Leo said, and it wouldn’t leave a body for anyone to find. I know he always liked it out there; it’s pretty, and secluded, too. It’s perfect.”

Leo turned to his younger sibling with a thoughtful frown, and finally nodded. “You know, Mikey, you might be right. That DOES sound like a good idea- though I wish your inspiration hadn’t come from Star Wars. But at this point, I’m willing to consider anything. What do you guys think?” He said, glancing from Don to Raph and back.

“Sounds good to me,” Raph said, shrugging. “Actually, little bro’s suggestion is the best I’ve heard so far. I’m in.”

“Well, it’s a long trip, and he’s bound to get a little ripe on the way. But I might be able to do something about that. Sure. I vote for Mikey’s idea.” Donnie nodded. He glanced toward the workshop and sighed, before taking a sip of his coffee.

“I agree. I think he would have liked that,” I added, and Leo nodded.

“Then it’s settled. I’ll go call April and Casey and let them know. They would want to be there, too. Donnie, do you think you could use your dimensional portal to talk to Usagi? I’m sure he’d want to know, as well.”

Donatello looked al little uncertain, but finally nodded. “Well, you know that thing’s never worked all that well- there seems to be something I’m missing in the schematics I got from the Technodrome- but I’ll try. It WOULD be nice to see Usagi again. As long as SOMEONE’S not trying to set up a fake contest.” He looked pointedly from Mikey to me, and Mikey looked around innocently, while I raised my cup to cover the grin I tried unsuccessfully to stifle.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said casually.

Leo turned to flash me an annoyed grimace. “Yeah, right. Like we’d forget that little prank you two pulled. You’re almost as bad as Mikey sometimes, sis. Still can’t figure out what you see in him, but at least he’s been less of a pain since you two got together. MOST of the time.”

That seemed to break the pall of depression at the table. I sighed, and rose to put away my empty cup. “Well, I wish I could stay with you guys today and help with arrangements, but I still have to get to work. April’s doing an interview with some rich tycoon, and I hear he’s a real jerk. Wish me luck, guys.” I leaned over to give Mikey a quick kiss goodbye, and he grabbed my hand for a moment, squeezing it gently. I could see he was still upset, but He seemed to be doing better now that he’d come to accept the loss of his father. I knew it would take time, though- for ALL of them.

Two days later…..

The country air was warm and sweet; a light breeze blew from the east over the old farm. The sun was just setting, the perfect scene for what we’d come to do. Casey, Leo, and Raph had hauled up as much deadwood from the woods nearby as they could find, and used old boards, leftover plywood, and whatever else they could to finish the pyre. Donnie had wrapped the body in an old but clean sheet, while Mikey, April and I had worked in the kitchen to set out food for after the ceremony. We had decided that we should have a wake rather than a traditional Japanese-style funeral; Leo had argued against it, saying that Splinter would have wanted his send-off in the tradition of his homeland, but the rest of us had finally convinced him that it was better to treat this as a celebration of their Sensei’s life, rather than a lament for the departed.

Leonardo lit the pyre just as the sun began to sink below the horizon, and we all stood in a ring around it and watched in silence as the flames began to rise. Mikey and I held each other and cried softly, while April and Casey just stayed close together and held hands. Raph was trying hard not to let his grief show in front of his girlfriend Mona Lisa, and Leo simply stared into the fire with a look of deep sadness. Donnie bowed his head and stared at the ground, unwilling to look at the remains of their father being consumed by the flames. Even Usagi- whom Don had managed to contact and had agreed to attend. The only others present were Irma, Angel, and the giant mutant ’gator-man, Leatherhead. I was a little surprised that so many had come, but it seemed that Splinter had been well-loved by all who knew him. I was glad of that.

Leo gave a short eulogy, and after the pyre had burned down, we all returned to the house and had dinner. Raph had somehow snuck a bottle of sake to the farm, and at his suggestion, we all had a cup in honor of Splinter’s memory. Everyone offered a toast, but it was the words of his four sons that moved me the most.

“Farewell, Master,” Donatello said quietly, downing his cup with a grimace.

“So long, Sensei. We’ll never forget ya’,” Raph added, tossing his back.

“I’ll miss you, dad,” was all Mikey said as he sniffed back a tear and drank his.

“Goodbye, father. We love you.” Leo whispered, downing his cup. Then he grabbed the bottle and walked out into the gathering night. When I went out to check on him an hour later, he was drunk, and crying softly on the porch.
"Well, this is another fine myth you've gotten us into..."
-from "Myth Directions"

"Where Science ends, magic begins." -Spiral, Uncanny X-Men #491