Chapter 6

Let Go

Years before the apocalypse, when the turtles were young and their biggest worry was deciding what game to play, Raph learned his brothers’ mannerisms. Leo’s penchant for humor to mask any emotions he didn’t want to express. Donnie’s twisted smiles and half-clenched hands to restrain his anger. Now, Raph could tell from the way Mikey tugged at his cloak, brow twitching, that his baby brother lost something.

“What’re you looking for?” He approached the mystic warrior who immediately jumped. “I can help if you want.”

“Oh!” Mikey laughed, something high and reedy and completely unnatural. “Raph! Hi! What’re you doing here?”

Raph quirked his brow. “Uh, Michael. I live here. We all live here.” He pressed the back of his hand to Mikey’s forehead. “You feeling okay, buddy?”

“Yes! Never better! So you can go back to whatever you were doing and–”

Leo burst into the cave they were in, cutting him off. “Dude, Junior is not here– Oh, fuck.” Leo ate shit, landing square on his face as he tried to stop himself the moment he realized Raph was also there.

Pure silence ensued. Mikey swore he could hear his blood rushing past his tympana with the rate at which his heart beat. Sweat began pooling across his body to counteract the nervousness taking hold. He pressed his pointer fingers together and offered Raph a smile.

But Raph wasn’t having it. His eye twitched. “What’d Leo just say?” he asked, even though he absolutely heard. “You didn’t lose my son, right?” He crowded Mikey, towering over his brother.

“Well, you see,” Mikey started, voice cracking, “what had happened was–”

“Dad!” Junior ran into the cave. He tripped over Leo’s prone body, tumbling forward. Raph and Mikey stared at him lying on the ground for a good minute before the kid bounced back. He rushed Raph, climbing his father to grab his cheeks. “I was just outside and–”

“Hold on,” Raph interrupted. He grabbed Junior by the scruff, pulling him away to look him in the eyes. “You went outside?”

Junior blinked owlishly. “Uh… No,” he said with false confidence. “Of course, I did…n’t…” Even Leo, who moments ago seemed like a splatter on the floor, raised his head to watch. Junior waved his arms. “That doesn’t matter! The kraang are on their way. We gotta go! Hit the bricks!” He swung his feet like he could run midair.

“Junior,” Raph reprimanded. “That isn’t funny.”

“You don’t believe me?”

The question took Raph aback. “I,” he started. Junior’s shining gaze distracted him. He shook his head. “I believe you have an overactive imagination.” He finally set his son on the ground, holding his shoulder.

Junior clenched his fists, tears of frustration pricking the corners of his eyes. “You don’t believe me,” he exclaimed. His voice cracked as the fear he tried so hard to tamp down reared its ugly head. “They’re coming! We have to leave–”

“This is our home,” Raph’s hand tightened in a reassuring way. “Donnie’s shielded us for years. There’s no way the kraang could find us here.”

“There’s no zero percent in science, Dad!” Raph shook his head but, before he could say anything, Junior broke out of his grasp. The rage on his son’s face seemed alien. “If you’re not gonna do anything, I will!”

The turtles’ calls for Junior to stop fell on deaf ears as he ran out the cave once more. This time, he had a purpose, a reason to go outside that wasn’t that damned humming. His breath burned his lungs, completely unused to this level of exertion. Junior didn’t dare stop. He had to protect his family.

The humming rose in volume, vibrating his very bones. Junior skidded to a stop, knees bent so he could brace himself. At the end of the street stood the two kraang. They were watching him, eyes like the lights blaring from Metro Tower.

Breathe in. Hold. Exhale.

Junior charged them. They raised themselves on their odd tentacle legs, preparing to attack. He was faster. At the last second, he dropped his weight, sliding under one of them. Not waiting to stop, he propelled his body forward, stumbling into a sprint. His left leg stung but he didn’t dare look down. He already felt his pants sticking to his leg and he didn’t need to know if it was blood or sweat. He needed to run.

The kraang followed close behind. Their tentacles slapped the ground with such force to shake the dilapidated buildings lining the streets. One of them squealed, striking the ground where mere moments ago Junior had been. They were catching up to him. He hadn’t made it far enough. He had to get further away from his home–

A tentacle wrapped around his ankle and tugged him back. Junior fell, his whole world turning upside-down as the kraang scraped him across the pavement. He looked up just in time to see a tensed limb, sharp like a spear, come at him. He had failed. Soon, they’d be done with him and make their way to the cave. His family was in danger. He had to protect them.

Beside them, an old telephone pole sparked.

Junior screamed.

A blinding light filled his vision.

And for a moment, he wondered if he had died. He hoped he took the kraang with him. But, all at once, the world crashed down upon him. Junior gasped, back arching. His body felt like a live wire. Above him, the kraang screeched in pain. A blur of purple knocked the alien off him. Then, it was all gone.

Junior gasped, air rushing into his lungs as he turned over to hack into his elbow. He raised his head to watch as Donnie attacked the other kraang in a purple light show that hurt his eyes. He tried to get to his feet but quickly found he couldn’t. Even pushing up on his forearms caused his whole body to tremble. That damp, sticky feeling on his pant leg made itself apparent now that he wasn’t trying to take on aliens beyond his capability.

Someone turned him onto his back. He blinked once, twice, before the spots dotting his vision cleared for Raph. Raph’s face was stricken with an emotion Junior couldn’t name. His father had never looked older. “Hey,” Raph tried for a gentle tone to ease his son. Hard to achieve with horror shrinking his throat. “Junior, it’s okay. We’re gonna get you outta here.” He picked up his son, cradling him in his arms.

“Dad,” Junior muttered, “‘m sorry.”

“Stop that.” Raph’s voice cracked. Junior looked impossibly small in his hold. “You’ve got nothing to apologize for.”

Junior was dazed, gaze unfocused. Raph lightly tapped his cheek to keep him awake. They needed a plan. The kraang were at their doorstep–they nearly offed his son. Junior somehow managed to down one of them but that certainly couldn’t be replicated. Raph surveyed the field, grasping desperately at threads. His thoughts scattered about like paper in the wind.

Donnie attacked the other kraang. It had been so long since the last time he fought. He mainly holed away in the medical bay, tending to their security. Still, the movements came easily despite the stronger force behind his enemy’s attacks. Leo battling alongside him certainly helped. They whirled around the kraang, trading blows. Donnie raised his bo staff to block a wayward tentacle. Leo appeared from behind, ducked under his arm, and stabbed at the kraang’s side.

The kraang swatted at them. They might as well have been gnats to him. Leo rushed him, portalling faster than anyone had ever seen him go. He slashed and stabbed at the alien while Donnie jabbed and blocked. For a glorious moment, watching his younger brothers working in tandem like they used to as teenagers, Raph wondered if they could kill the kraang. Then the alien let out an ear-splitting screech and the moment shattered.


The kraang swung at Donnie, sending him careening backward. He snatched Leo mid-air and threw him down. Held in one of his tentacles, the kraang swung at Leo with the sword previously stuck in his side. The sound of muscles tearing pierced the air. Raph tried to swallow around the bile that threatened to rise. Shock must’ve been the only thing stopping Leo from falling. Nothing else made sense. He held what was left of his arm, stumbling back. Donnie caught him.

“Oh. Woah. That’s a lot of blood,” he whispered. “That’s too much blood. Fuck.”

“We can see that,” Donnie hissed. He tore the hem of his robe off, tying it over the exposed end of Leo’s stump. “Raph?” He looked to their older brother for an answer.

But Raph didn’t have one. The kraang was too powerful–they could never outrun it. And, even if they managed to escape, he would simply follow them. They’d be hunted like animals. They could never rest. Junior and Leo would die from their injuries.


“Fuck! I got it. Just,” he trailed off, distracted by the glint of the sword still in Leo’s hands. He took it, putting Junior in Leo’s left arm. He looked back at the entrance to their cave. It was a clear line of sight. Honestly, it’s surprising it took the kraang this long to find them. “Leo, think you can handle teleporting with just one sword?”

Leo’s gaze, still wide with adrenaline, followed Raph’s line of sight. His hand sparked with blue electricity. That was about as good an answer as any. Raph reeled back, activated his mystic energy, and hucked the sword. He turned to his family, all of them holding onto Leo who stared at him expectantly. Raph stepped away.

“Raph?” Blue electricity arced across Leo’s body, jumping over Donnie and Junior. “Raph, wait, no.” He couldn’t reach out to his brother. “Wait, Raph!” They all needed to make their way home. “No, Raph! Raph!” Everyone was waiting for them.

Raph faced the kraang. It approached him with a deadly glare. He watched a bright blue flash across the alien’s eyes. His family would be safe.


That much, he would make sure of.

The moment they appeared back in the cave, Leo tried to rush back outside. Donnie grabbed him by the shoulder to keep him still. He couldn’t exactly break free using one arm, busy holding something else. That didn’t stop him from leveling Donnie with a nasty look.

“Don’t give me that. I’m not letting you out there,” Donnie said in his sternest, no-nonsense tone. “You’re injured and–”

“Holy shit.” The two of them turned to see Casey staring at them. Her eyes fell on Junior, barely cognizant in Leo’s embrace, then to the bloody stump of their leader’s right arm. “What happened?”

Donnie started explaining only to have Leo push past him. “Raph is out there alone. I don’t know about you, but I won’t let him fight the kraang by himself.”

“That’s not fair,” Donnie whispered, eyes glimmering with unshed tears. Were they from frustration? Sadness? Or perhaps some twisted combination of emotions that will haunt his nights. “I’m not letting you bleed out on me. Raph wouldn’t want that.”

“Raph would want to be with his family,” Leo bit out.

Donnie opened and closed his mouth, trying to scrounge up an argument that could placate his younger brother but they both knew there was no winning this. Suddenly, their communicators came on, the green light washing over their features.

“Guys,” Raph’s voice came through, staticky and rough, “what’d I say about arguing?” His laugh, a small, forced sound, still managed to soothe everyone upon hearing it. “Listen to me, I need you to escape. Find a new cave. Get as far away as you can–”

“We’re not leaving you,” Leo cut him off.

“You and Junior need your wounds looked at. That’ll never happen if this alien jerkface chases us across New York. He won’t stop unless I keep him here.”

Casey met Donnie’s gaze. Her face was stone, set in an expression tougher than she felt. They both knew what needed to be done yet neither of them moved. It would be accepting a fate no one wanted. Leo remained glued in place. He seemed frantic, grasping at straws.

“Raph, I– As your leader, I order you to retreat.”

Raph laughed, genuine this time. “We both know you can’t boss your big bro around.”

There was a final click Donnie knew meant someone turned off their communicator. He never expected to hear that sound from Raph. It never should’ve been Raph–he loved his family too much. In that sense, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Donnie. But he didn’t want this. It shouldn’t have been his big dumb-dumb brother with an even bigger, dumb-dumb heart.

“C’mon, Blue.” Casey tugged their leader toward a tunnel that would spit them out in the opposite direction of the entrance. A last-ditch effort at escape. Donnie took Leo’s right side, fiddling with his tech brace to have something to do. “This isn’t goodbye,” she promised.

It wasn’t goodbye, Leo told himself. Repeated it like a mantra as they went further and further away from the city. Not that it stopped the guilt from making its home inside him.

Art provided by Karday! Find them here and here.

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