Seven months after the finale of LIS, Leonardo finds himself in Tokyo, to complete a task set him by his father- and to embark on a personal quest that just might lead to something he has desired for a long time.....
(Spoiler Alert!! This tale contains some spoilers to the ending of LIS. You have been warned, )
He stepped onto the rooftop from the fire-escape silently, leaving the Tokyo city lights far below for the most part. She was here- he could already smell the fragrance of the flower that was her signature and namesake. She hadn’t sensed his approach; he felt a surge of smug satisfaction in knowing that even in his present form, he could still sneak up on anyone, even the world’s most skilled kunoichi. Technically, she was the world’s ONLY kunoichi, with their own currently side-lined by the limitations of carrying his baby brother’s children.
“You’re a hard woman to find, Lotus,” he said, breaking the silence of her vigil. She had been watching a hotel room window of the building across the street, and whirled toward the sound of his voice, drawing a tanto in one swift move.
“And who wishes to find me?” She asked warily, her long black hair swishing like a raven’s wing. “You court death by hunting me.”
He replied with a smile that was confident and filled with easy camaraderie. “I doubt that. Only a Master ninja can find another ninja. It’s funny that you mention courting, Lotus, because that’s why I’m here. If that means courting death, then that is something I will gladly do. I am Jonin now, by the way. Head of our clan. Our sensei stepped down as leader and handed it to me. I came here to ask if you would join us.”
“Who ARE you?” Her reply, simple, direct, was full of doubt; full of confusion. He studied her face, pale as porcelain, and as flawless. She was as beautiful and as deadly as the blade in her hand, her lithe body honed to perfection.
“Someone who would like to be your equal. The yin to your yang. Things are different now, Lotus. I can give you the things I couldn’t before. Unless you found them with someone else. If so, I apologize for bringing up past regrets.” He bowed and turned his back to her, standing still as he gazed out across the city. A stiff breeze blew the long black coat he wore, revealing a matched pair of katanas on his belt. She spied the blue wrapping upon the hilts, and gasped in astonishment. She knew those swords.
“Leonardo?” Her jade eyes widened in incredulity. He turned his head slightly toward her, and she caught the briefest hint- in the shape of his nose and jaw, the way he shifted his weight to one foot, his short, compact build- of what he had been. Kame. The neatly-combed, coppery brown hair tied in a short tail at his neck might mark him as human, but his eyes betrayed that lie.
“Yes. Surprised? We have Donatello to thank for this. It’s some of his best work. And Krang, too, I suppose. Donnie wouldn’t have been able to do this without his retro-mutagen formula to work with.” He sat on the parapet, patting a spot next to him in a gesture for her to join him.
Lotus replaced the blade in its sheath and sat beside him cautiously. If what he was saying was true, it would seem that his brother had found a way to turn him human, or nearly so. His eyes were still those of a terrapin. “This- is real?” Not merely an illusion?” She asked, still uncertain. Krang’s involvement made it more likely, yet…. “You are truly human?”
“For the next ten hours or so, yes. It’s not permanent- the effect wears off after twelve hours. Then I have to rest and recharge, as it were, before I can change again. And it shaves a few hours off my lifespan every time I shift, but it’s worth it.” She took that in, her sharp mind working over the situation, searching for the meaning of it all.
“We can do anything we want, now- as long as we remember to get out of sight before the change wears off. Mikey and Raph were the first to do it. You’ve probably even seen them on television and didn’t realize it. Mikey’s been setting records in the pro skateboarding world, and he even opened a restaurant with his first competition winnings. Raph went into MMA fighting. The audiences seem to love his bad-boy attitude. He eats it up.”
Lotus searched her memory, and realized he was right. She had indeed heard of two such individuals on the news. Though she didn’t take any interest in sports, she had heard the name Hamato mentioned in connection to not one, but two young athletes, whose names she had thought sounded oddly familiar.
“Why did you come here?” He had expected this question at some point; she trusted few, so of course she wondered about his motives. He knew she had been on her own- clan-less- for a very long time.
“You KNOW why. I want to start over. When you left New York, I felt- betrayed. There’s been an empty place inside of me ever since.” It wasn’t like him to be open about his emotions. Vulnerable. He was supposed to be the immovable one in the family. Firm, untouched by the world around him. A rock.
Yet he hid a heart as tender and caring in its own way as any of his brothers. Mikey, with his friendly, outgoing charm and zest for life- who wore his heart on his sleeve all too often. Raph, who hid his behind a gruff, cynical, and sarcastic veneer, a wall of toughness that only rarely ever showed a crack. Or Don, whose quiet, gentle spirit was like a calm, deep pool that rarely rippled, even in the midst of a storm. Now each of them had found happiness, and now their small family- clan, he corrected himself- had grown, and would soon be larger still. Three new clan-mates, each different, each bringing her own gifts and strengths to their lives.
“I’d like you to join us, Lotus. The offer still stands, if you want it. We’ve found a new way of living. Taken a new path.” He waited for her reply patiently, though inside, his heart hammered fearfully. If she declined, he would know it was over between them.
Lotus considered his words in silence. It was not her way to act or speak without first considering her options. She understood that this was his last offer. She had turned away from him once; if she did so a second time, he would not return. That thought bothered her more than it should. “Leonardo, you of all people should know that I cannot give up my career, my life as a kunoichi.”
He shook his head. “I’m not asking you to. Our clan is growing, but we could use your skill and experience. There is so much good we could accomplish together. You said once that I didn’t respect your career, but the truth is that I believe you could do so much more. So much better. A kunoichi lives by grace and charm as much as by deception and stealth. I’ve taken our mission of aiding those in need to the next level, by forming an operation of troubleshooters who fix problems that no one else can- but only if the cause is just. We also do security and protection, and even retrieval, if we think it’s worthy. You could be a valuable asset, Lotus. But only if you WANT it.”
She knew what he truly meant. Though it had been nearly three years since they had last spoken, he still wanted her. Leonardo would never openly admit it, but he had been deeply hurt by her leaving. He was, in his own way, asking her to give him a second chance. She glanced sideways at him through the curtain of her long jet hair; the man he appeared to be was taller than she remembered him, yet still compact and well-muscled. He had a round face, with deep coppery eyes, a nose that was slightly hawkish, and a wide jaw that narrowed sharply and jutted just a bit further than would be considered attractive, but it was a good face. A strong, noble face. His shoulders and back were wide, with a prominent ridge along the back of his neck, and she suspected that he was much heavier and more solid than he appeared. Subtle hints of his true nature.
“Should you not be leading your brothers? What will your father think of you leaving your duties to come here?” She asked bluntly. Surely his father and sensei would not have approved his choice in coming so far for a personal quest.
“Actually, coming here WAS my duty. Splinter requested a special task of me some time ago, to bring the ashes of his Master Yoshi here, since he could not. He died last month, so now I’m fulfilling my promise to him. And my brothers can get along without me for a few days. They all have their own lives and concerns now. Donnie handles all our finances and tech missions, Mikey keeps an ear on the rumor mill concerning anyone who needs help, and Raph steps in when we find troublemakers who don’t respect the dictates of the legal authorities. Stalkers, estranged spouses, or violent relatives, mostly. He makes sure they behave themselves. Other than that, most of the clients are handled directly by me or our kunoichi.”
“There ARE no other kunoichi,” Lotus corrected, shaking her head. “None have been so named by any Shinobi clan in many years. I have no clan, but I was trained by the masters of five clans, and none ever took another as student.”
“There is now,” Leonardo answered simply. “Splinter adopted a young woman into our clan. She only began her training about a year ago, before we lost Sensei. Her training is incomplete, but I’ve been attempting to continue it with the help of the Scrolls of Takahachi. And some instructions our father left behind, as well. But that’s why we need YOU. You could help with her instruction, and we could work together to strengthen our clan and its operations.”
She listened quietly, hearing not only the words, but their deeper meaning, as well. She understood what he was asking of her, and it was a prospect that was not entirely undesirable. Yet he had said nothing of his personal reasons for seeking her out. She had yet to hear him speak of his true feelings.
“You make very good arguments for your cause, Leo-chan,” she began, using the familiar nick-name that few in his small circle would ever dare to call him. Even his brothers rarely ever called him that anymore. “But you have not said why you are REALLY here. You have not spoken to me of what you truly desire. You have yet to speak the words I wish to hear. If I should choose to join your clan, you must tell me the truth.”
He sighed, and rose from the parapet, turning to stare out across the city as he struggled against his fears. As a ninja, he feared almost nothing. No danger was too great to face, no battle too perilous to fight. But this…. To speak of what was in his heart terrified him more than anything- even more than his little known fear of snakes, or of heights.
Time seemed to waver on the verge of standing still, not quite frozen, but waiting as if for his answer to tick on. The moment dragged by so slowly, but he knew he could not take too long, or she would simply leave, assuming he refused to answer. At last, he turned back to her, and swallowed nervously as he attempted to form the words.
“Lotus, I-” He began uncertainly, but the next words seemed caught in his throat, strangling him with their weight. “I’ve never been good with- feelings. My position always meant keeping them in check, keeping a clear head so I could make the hard choices that would keep us all alive. But beyond that, I just…. It’s hard to take that risk, putting myself out there in the open. Exposed. It’s against everything I’ve ever been taught. I always believed that to be truly of the shadows, I had to hide any trace of weakness or sentiment.” He paused, noting her expression, which appeared to be mixed between impatience and acceptance. She was waiting for him to get to the point.
He steeled himself, and continued. “I guess what I’m saying is this. I’ve known since the moment we met that there was a- a connection. When you defeated me that first time, and left the flower behind, I couldn’t believe what it might mean, and I tried to tell myself it was my imagination. Was it?” He gazed at her expectantly, wondering what she would do.
“No, Leo-chan, it was not. I would not have considered your offer if this were not true.” She said simply. That was here way, though. Simple and direct, only using guile when it was needed. Much like his own code.
He took that in, hardly daring to hope that his dreams had been real after all. “I see. Fair enough, then.” He took a moment to collect his thoughts, before inhaling deeply of the crisp night air. The stiff breeze blew the wisps of hair framing his face back, blew his coat again, as he leaned out over the edge of the roof, supporting his weight with his hands on the low crenellation. He straightened and turned to face her again. “Lotus, would you- I mean, I want you to come back with me. Not because it makes sense, or because we could use your skills, but…. Be- because I love you.”
There. He’d said it. Now that the words were out, he didn’t quite know what to do. He’d gone over it in his head a million times, planning this meeting, but somehow things had not gone the way he had expected. What now? She was everything he could want in a partner- no, in a mate, his mind reluctantly admitted. Intelligent, skilled, beautiful, courageous, bold, and honorable in her own way. But what did he really have to offer, even now? There was the sense of purpose, of course, belonging to a clan, however odd and misfit it might be, and there was the chance to hone and pass on her skills. But beyond that?
He had not lied about the new operation. Hamato Security and Protection Services. His own personal brain-child, created with Donatello’s help. It was discreet, professional, and he screened every client before taking any job. His brothers added their talents when and where they could, but it was mostly just him, and their two newest female clan-mates, of course. Mona and Irma were instrumental in running “the corporation” as he jokingly called it. What it really was, though, was a way to legitimize what they all still did. Within limits, of course. Mikey’s mate had been part of it, too, when she could take time from running the camera for April at Channel Six. But now she was relegated to only the safest of jobs for the time being.
He still couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that he would soon be an uncle. Uncle of four, no less. And Raph and Mona Lisa were expecting, too- another surprise, and even more unexpected, given that Mona could still shift back to her mutant form, though she hadn’t done so since discovering her condition. Another three new additions to the Hamato family, which seemed to be growing in leaps and bounds, now that the floodgates of possibility had opened for them. All but Donnie, of course. He still felt badly for his brother, knowing that he alone of them all would never share in that joy. Not that he hadn’t considered other options, to be sure. He had at least managed to partially “cure” his condition, by creating his own regimen of hormone treatments and diet that allowed him to at least experience physical intimacy, if not fertility. It was a small victory, at least.
“Very well. I accept, Leo-chan,” she replied at last, cutting into his thoughts. He had almost gotten lost in his reverie, and was startled by her voice. It took him a moment to register the words, but then a smile began to bloom on his lips, an expression of pure joy. “I had long wished for us to be more than allies, but-” she gave a slight nod, almost a bow, to tell him what she could not say. Of all the regrets they both had, the greatest was that things had remained unfinished between them.
“Then, you’ll join us?” He asked, wanting to hear it again, just to be sure he had not been dreaming it.
“Yes, but on one condition. You must defeat me to win my hand. I will not give myself to one who cannot best me in a duel.” He stared for a moment, unsure if she was joking. But no, she was not one to jest about such matters. She had meant every word.
“Alright, but I’ll have to change first. Can’t call it fair if I’m not at the top of my game, now can we?” Leonardo said with a lopsided grin.
“No. You must do it like this- I wanted an equal, remember?” She replied, smirking. She was teasing him now, he realized, but in her own way. “If you cannot do it like this, then how can I truly respect you as a warrior?”
He scowled, hating that she had just tossed that in his face, though he had to admit that she was right. It was the entire reason he had come here, after all. To prove himself to her. Prove himself worthy OF her. He drew one of his katanas, and nodded. “Alright. I warn you, though, I won’t go easy just because of my feelings.”
“Good. I do not expect you to. And nor shall I.” Leo caught the hint of humor in her eyes, and grinned. She was challenging him to do his best, knowing that both of their futures would be determined by the outcome. And it was a challenge he was more than willing to accept.
She drew her own blade once more, bowed, and fell into a ready stance. He bowed back, then shifted into one of his own and waited. Several long seconds passed, with neither one moving to attack. Leo smirked, chuckling softly. “You know, we’ll never get anywhere like this. One of us has to make a move,” he remarked dryly.
“It is you who must take the test, Leonardo,” she countered, a ghost of a smile on her lips.
“True enough. But I’m also a gentleman. Ladies first,” he shot back, his smile growing into an easy grin.
“As you wish,” she replied, and lunged toward him to strike.
And just like that, it was game on. He blocked the first strike so easily, it was almost a joke. He countered with a sweep of his blade that swished past her cheek. She leaned away from the strike and countered with a punch to distract him from the thrust she aimed at his left side. He blocked both. They traded blows for a few moments, steel clashing with steel, ringing out in the cool night air.
Minutes passed as they fought, each seeking the right moment, the opening needed to achieve victory. Her tanto stabbed upward, but was thwarted when he spun away, her blade finding only air. She stepped back, and pivoted to kick out at him. He ducked it, and dropped into a low crouch, legs coiled like springs to launch himself at her head first. It was a tactic he and his brothers often used against opponents, pulling their heads in to slam their shells into the enemy. It had become almost instinctive- except that now his head took the brunt of the impact. He had forgotten for the moment that he was no longer in his true form. Though she fell back a few steps, gasping from the blow to her midsection, he found himself slightly dazed by the contact.
Dumb move, Leo, he chided himself, as she slammed the hilt of her tanto into the top of his head in retaliation, further compounding the dizziness swimming in his skull. It sent him to his knees for a second, shaking away the cobwebs. Lotus took advantage, and attempted to kick him in the gut, but he felt it coming. He rolled away and came up in a flash, his blade coming straight down at her head. She blocked it instinctively, and both moved back for a moment to study each other.
“You are as good in this shape as your real one,” she commented, nodding her approval. “Though perhaps a bit predictable.”
“Oh? You think so?” He asked, quirking one brow. “I’ve learned a few things since we last met.” As if to demonstrate, he made a charge at her, gleaming blade raised high as if to slash down in a savage cut. She moved to dodge aside, but instead of striking, he side-stepped and tangled her blade with his, then stepped in MUCH too close, his free hand snaking around her waist to draw her against his chest. Still holding her sword arm up and out with his own, he leaned in and captured her mouth in a hard, hot kiss.
She froze, and stiffened in the unexpected embrace, her arm slowly slipping down as she began to reciprocate. He drew her arm down until her tanto fell to the rooftop with a clatter, unnoticed. At last, he shifted his weight, sliding one foot between hers, and without ever ending the kiss, took her legs out from under her. She tried to pull away with a startled gasp as she toppled backward, but he held fast, going down with her. They found themselves on the hard surface, Leo’s bulk pinning her down, as he finally released her lips.
“Still think I’m predictable?” He asked, a glint of amusement dancing in those cool coppery eyes that marked him as so very NOT human. Somehow, she found them almost hypnotizing, like the gaze of a deadly serpent. And she was the mouse, caught in his clutches.
Lotus glanced around worriedly, realizing that she had completely fallen for his trick. “Perhaps not as much as I thought,” she conceded. He grinned.
“Oh, just thought I’d mention this, but…. You lose.” He grinned again, and leaned in to kiss her once more. This time, she didn’t even try to stop him or pull away. This was ONE battle she didn’t mind losing.
Author's note: For those unfamiliar with the character of Lotus, she was a character in the TMNT 80's-90's cartoon, who appeared in only two episodes, but left a very lasting impression on Leonardo. There is occasionally some confusion between her character and that of Karai, the Foot Clan kunoichi who has appeared in the Mirage comics, FoxKids cartoon series, 2007 CGI film, and now the Nick series and IDW comics. This is understandable, as Karai was created AFTER Lotus's appearances, and is speculated to have been based around the earlier character. I used Lotus here because Karai didn't exist at the time I originally started LIS (back in 1990), so I wanted to keep my story consistent with what had existed at that time.
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Only good and fantasy stuff.