"This is becoming an obsession with you four." Lotus pulled off her hood and stared at the Turtles.
Leo swallowed hard. Only Lotus would question his decisions seriously and actually not follow him if she didn't agree with it. "It's not an obsession. The Ronin's playing a game with us. She wants us to chase her and try to figure out who she is."
"But you do not have to play."
"Lotus, will you leave Leo alone," Raph growled. "We like bugging the Ronin."
"Lotus," Leo grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the others. "It's not what you think. The Ronin needs help. Why do you think she does what she's doing?"
"She is nokimono of a dojo."
"An outcast? The synthesizer could be disguising an accent. But her style is unlike any martial arts I have ever seen."
"Perhaps she comes from a secret dojo. They do exist."
"I don't doubt it. But that doesn't bother me. Why does she hate the Shredder so much?"
"If anyone deserves the hatred, it is Oroku Nagi."
"But what will that hatred do to the Ronin?"
Lotus paused, "You want to help her. I am sorry, I should trust your judgment more."
Leo smiled weakly, "Don't. It's nice having at least one person who doesn't follow me blindly."
Mike nudged Donnie and pointed down to the street. "Is that who I think it is?"
"Looks like our best buddies miss us."
Raph, Leo, and Lotus turned to watch the street Mike and Donnie had noticed. "Maybe we should go play with them?"
"Maybe we should," Leo commented as he vaulted over the side of the rooftop and onto the fire escape.
The four Turtles and Lotus dropped onto the street, surrounding the eight Foot Clan ninjas. "A little early for scum like you to be out, isn't it?" The ninjas answered by pulling out their weapons. "Well, if that's what you want." Leo shrugged.
The Foot Clan ninjas rushed forward and two managed to pull Lotus away from the main fighting. She gritted her teeth. Either they were uncommonly gentlemanly or they had something special planned for her. Lucky me.
The ninja in the shadows grinned to himself. He shifted the dagger in his hand as Lotus was forced closer. He raised the dagger and a hand deftly grabbed his wrist. He looked up; the Ronin hung upside down from the fire escape by her knees and calmly plucked the dagger from his hand. "Play nice, boys or don't play at all."
The ninja growled and tried to pull her down. Lotus saw this, grabbed one of the ninjas attacking herself and spun him into the ninja yanking on the Ronin. The momentum was enough to force them both against the side of the building. The other ninja rushed at Lotus and she obliged him by throwing her fist against his temple. She then kicked him to the ground.
The Ronin had flipped off the fire escape and just finished tying the ninjas when Lotus turned. "They're out cold," she announced. "If you'll excuse me," the Ronin marched past with flourish.
Lotus grabbed Ronin's arm and wrenched the ninja back to face her. "Of all the audacity. Stop what you are doing, now!"
"If I stop and your lover dies, how would you feel then?"
"That is not what I mean! I care nothing about your vigilante stance. The Shredder deserves all troubles anyone wants to heap on his head. I want you to stop toying with the Turtles! Stop teasing them with your identity! If you want them to know who you are, take off your hood and show them! Go ahead, take it off and show them now!" She released the Ronin and the ninja stood there, staring at her, not moving. "That is what I thought. Leave now, and remember what I have said."
The Ronin gazed at Lotus, then turned and ran into the shadows. Lotus turned her attention back to the fight. The Turtles had it under control, but she struggle with a few ninjas and the activity helped ease the pressure of her worries. Leo joined her, leaving the others to truss up the Foot Clan ninjas. "I thought the Ronin was here?"
"I did not notice her." Leo frowned. "Leonardo, I love you." He gazed at her in puzzlement. She never talked about this, not in public, and he knew it. "Always remember that."
"I will." He grabbed her black-gloved hand. "You're not planning anything stupid, are you?"
"No, I am not planning anything stupid." He squeezed her hand and turned
away. "I may have already accomplished it."
Zack let the punching bag swing back and he kicked it out again. If he practiced long enough, the movement would become second nature. That's how the Turtles fought, with reactions. If they thought about stances and moves at all it was subconsciously. "Zackery," from the door interrupted his meditation.
"Master Splinter!" The rat's appearance surprised Zack. This was his meditation hour and he rarely came out of his room. "Is something wrong?"
"Where are my sons?" Splinter asked weakly as he leaned heavily against the sewer wall.
"Mike's in the kitchen, Leo and Donnie are running errands with April, and Raph's out on a . . . Master Splinter!" Zack knelt beside the rat's crumpled body. "Splinter!" Something was wrong. "Mike! Mike! Miiiiike!"
The Turtle rushed into the training room. "What is it . . . Oh God!" He knelt next to the rat. "Master Splinter!"
Casey hobbled to the room and looked in the door. "What's going on?"
"He just collapsed, Mike!" Zack's face was pale and pinched. "He was standing there talking and he collapsed!"
"Call Leo, Donnie, just call everybody! Tell them to get down here!" Mike finished checking Splinter as best he could and gathered him in his arms. He was so thin, so frail. How long had he been like this?
Casey followed Mike to Splinter's bedroom. "Is he going to be okay?"
"I . . . I don't know. He's still breathing, but his pulse is weak. ER isn't one of the shows I watch."
"What can I do to help?" Casey clenched his fist. Splinter couldn't die. Sure, he was old but he couldn't die.
"Help, Zack. I . . . I don't think I should right now." Casey retreated and
Mike focused his full attention on Splinter.
Mona tossed her hair back and smiled at Raph. "So, what do you have planned for tonight?"
Raph shrugged, "Maybe dinner and a movie."
"That's seems so tame after our last date."
"We could go without any disguises."
The Turtle Comm beeped persistently. Mona raised her mouth in a smirk. "That's going to be a big part of any relationship we try to have, isn't it?"
"I told them not to call me." He yanked it off his belt. "What is it!"
Zack visibly gulped. "Raph, I'm sorry."
"This better be important!"
"Why isn't Splinter calling?"
"Because he's sick!" Zack's eyes were opened wide. "Really sick, Raph. Mike said to get everybody down here . . . ."
Raph shut his Comm. He couldn't hear any more. Mona touched his shoulders, but he was so numb he could hardly feel it. "Who's Splinter, Raph?" Her voice was so distant; he almost couldn't hear her through the buzzing. "Who is he?"
"My father . . . sorta. I have to get down there."
"Raph, wait! You're in no shape to go alone!"
"Come with me then. Just hurry!"
Leo and Donnie had rushed back as soon as Zack had told them. Donnie had pulled Splinter out of the unconscious state he had been in but he wasn't sure how long it would last. Mike was only to relieved to leave Splinter in Leo and Donnie's hands, especially when the rat had given him a job. "I must speak to Allison. Bring her here."
Mike turned to Zack. April and Casey were with him, trying to help. They don't understand that Zack's just as upset as we are. Splinter means a lot to him, too. "Where's Allie?"
"I couldn't reach her. Her Turtle Comm's turned off," Zack realized Mike wasn't going to tell him anything, if he knew anything to tell. "Want me to try again?"
"I'll go get her."
"I'll go with you," April offered.
"No!" She stared at him with the intensity of his response. "Leo and Donnie might need your help." The explanation sounded weak, even to him.
Casey watched him leave. "That is one Turtle with a lot on his mind."
Allie glanced through her closet. She pulled out an electric blue turtleneck. The mirror--the enemy tonight--showed the dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes. She brushed back her hair and washed her face. She wanted to talk to Mike, to apologize for the shouting match, to make him understand how much this meant to her.
A knock sounded on the window. She unlatched it and turned away as Mike climbed in. "I've been thinking about the fight we had." She faced him nervously biting her lip.
Mike hadn't heard her. He always listened to her. But now he had withdrawn into his own worries. Worries that were probably about her. "Mike, what's wrong?" She reached out and tried to pull him close.
He shied away from her touch. "It's . . . it's Splinter. He wants you to come."
His attitude and Splinter, suddenly it fell into place. He wasn't worried about her. "What's wrong with Splinter?"
Mike turned back to the window. "I don't know. He's real sick. Are you coming? He asked for you."
"Just wait a minute, I need to leave Sammie a note." Allie scribbled out a message on a pad, joined Mike by the window, and grabbed hold of his shell.
If he minded the touch, he didn't let her know as they swung out of the window. They reach the ground and Mike tugged loose his grappling hook. Allie followed him to the Turtle Van. "Let's go."
She shook her head. "Scoot over, I'll drive. You're too upset."
"You're about to fall to pieces. In fact, you need to fall to pieces. I'm driving."
"I drove over here fine, Allie! I think I would know if I'm going to lose it! Or are you trying to say that I don't know myself just like I don't know you?!" He laid his head against his arms that covered the steering wheel. "I'm sorry, Allie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."
"I know." He eased away from the wheel and moved down the bench seat. Allie climbed inside and wrapped her arms around him. "I know you're hurting. I don't care if you have to take it out on me. I'm tough; I can handle it."
"Can we go? I wanna get back."
Allie started the van. "We're already there."