Lotus tucked her feet underneath her thighs as she knelt on the straw mat. The training room was the only place in the Lair that she felt she belonged in. The other rooms were too American. She liked the simplicity of the training room and was comfortable there. So Leo never argued if that's where she liked to talk to him. "What is bothering Michaelangelo?"
"He says that he and Allie had a fight," Leo sat down next to her, then laid back with a sigh. It had been a long night. "But I think they broke up. No fight could depress Mikey this bad."
"Are you tired?"
"Yeah. Between fighting crooks and worrying about stepping on Mikey's toes, I'm beat."
"This fight, or break-up, has Michaelangelo very upset?"
"You know how he has so much spirit, gusto . . . ."
"Joy for living."
"That's it. It's like he has lost all that."
Lotus paused, "Do you think that could happen to us?"
"What?" Leo propped himself up with his elbows.
"Fight so badly that we break-up?"
"I don't know. It's possible; anything's possible. But I don't think it'll happen. We understand each other too well."
"Do we? Everyone said that Michaelangelo understood Allison, when she confuses so many of us, but they halted their relationship. Why should we believe that the same cannot happen to us?"
"It's human nature to believe nothing bad will ever happen to you."
"You are not human. Not to say that matters, but human nature only applies to one half of this relationship."
"I may not look human, but I think like one."
"That is not consoling."
"Sometimes you worry about the strangest things, Lotus. If you want a relationship to work, you have to fight sensibly."
"What is that?"
"Something I heard about on a talk show. The fact is people are going to have disagreements. To keep your relationship healthy, you have to respect your partner's ideas and not get defensive about yours. And when you fight, do it like sane people, not fanatics."
"That sounds reasonable, but what if it is not enough?"
"If you have love, it's enough."
"Yes, but . . . ."
Leo sat up and grabbed hold of Lotus's arms. He gently pushed her to the floor, his lips meeting hers. He finally leaned back, "Have I convinced you yet?"
She smiled up at him. "Almost, my kappa, but not quite."
"I guess I'll have to try harder."
Lotus raised her eyebrows in surprise as she stopped on top of the stairs. "April?"
The red-headed woman whirled around in the hallway. "Lotus! I never heard you."
"Being a ninja has that effect. Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong. I just wanted to talk to you."
"Come inside." She unlocked her apartment and ushered April inside. The living room was spartan, just like April expected. A futon was folded into a couch. A floor-to-ceiling was on another wall and a bonsai tree rested on a table in front of the window. "What do you need to speak to me about?"
"About the Ronin."
Lotus sighed, "Let me put on some tea. We will be here a while."
"You're enough to depress Little Miss Sunshine." Casey limped over to the couch with the help of a crutch and fell onto it rather than sitting.
Mike scowled. He was tired of everyone trying to make him feel better. "Aren't you well enough to leave yet?"
"Doc Donnie wants me to stay put until the limp's gone. Says I'll just go beat up some thugs and hurt myself worse if I leave now. He's probably right."
"Why are the ones who are so good at giving advice always right?"
"That girl really has you depressed."
"I'm going to the shrink tomorrow, does that make you feel better?"
"Mike, I'm your friend. Talk to me. Besides, I don't have anything better to do."
The Turtle sighed, "I just don't know what to do. I love her so much, but I can't reach her. Sometimes, I think it's because she doesn't want me to reach her. Maybe she doesn't love me anymore."
"I don't think that's it. I've seen the way the girl looks at you. If that ain't love, I don't know what it is."
"So what's the problem between us?"
Casey fidgeted as he leaned back on the couch and avoided looking straight at Mike. "Maybe the same problem me and April had, forgetting to tell and show just how much you love each other. Taking each other for granted just a little bit. Being too wrapped up in yourself and forgetting that the other is there for you."
Mike blinked in amazement, "That actually made sense."
"You're just saying that."
"No, I'm not. Is that what happened between you and April."
"Probably. The reasons we said out loud was that she hated my trying to get myself killed every night and I hated how she acted so high and mighty. I think the real reason was we couldn't let go of our pride long enough to say I love you more than anything and that scares me to death."
Mike frowned, "Before all this, I would have betted that Allie already knew that. Now I'm not so sure. That's how I feel about her; I don't know if she feels the same about me."
"The only way to know is to talk to her."
"You're right, Casey. Thanks."
Keno looked over his shoulders as he set the pizza down on the coffee table next to Casey and Mike. "Is April down here?"
"Haven't seen her," Casey answered. "What's the problem?"
"I think she want to go into reporter mode with me and I'm trying to avoid it at all costs."
"You got something to hide?"
"I don't like to think of it that way, but I guess I do. Here's your pizzas, Mike. Are you okay?"
Mike looked up, "I'm fine, Keno. Thanks for the food." He turned back to his brooding.
Keno shrugged. "How far can you trust April's discretion?"
Casey frowned, "I'll tell you as soon as you tell me what it means."
"Can she keep a secret?"
"She keeps the Turtles' secrets. What's wrong, Keno? You know something bad about something?"
"I have some ideas about something that would probably hurt other people."
"It's never good to keep it bottled-up. Spill it."
Keno glanced at Mike. "I don't think I should. I better go."
"Okay, but just remember I'll be down here for a while."
"I'll remember, Casey. Thanks."
April sipped on the herb tea. "I'm looking for opinions. What you think about the Ronin's fighting style, who she could be, things like that."
"I do not recognize her fighting style. It seems to be a mixture of techniques in it. If it were not for her vigilante stance and her hatred for the Shredder, I would say she was ninja."
"Why does that make her not a ninja?"
"It goes against ninjutsu philosophy. The ninja is a thief, a spy, a mercenary, and an assassin. The ninja never lets his enemy know who is causing the attacks. The ninja will do anything for money. I have a feeling that if someone tried to hire the Ronin to assassinate the mayor, she would force them to eat the money."
"But the Turtles call themselves ninjas?"
"The Foot Clan was originally a clan and training dojo of ninjas. But under the Hamato clan's influence, we left the ninja philosophy. Besides, by then, most people believed that the ninja was a thing of the past."
"If the Ronin isn't a ninja, what is she?"
"She seems to be an outcast. According to the Turtles, she only trust one other ninja, named Taro."
"And this means what?"
"Many things. Her hatred for the Shredder could have interfered with her dojo's beliefs. Or perhaps something else caused her to be separated from all she cares for."
"Why does she hate the Shredder so much?"
"Why should she not hate Oroku Nagi? Do not look to me for an answer to the Ronin's motivations. That is an enigma to me as well. The same way she toys with the Turtles is an enigma."
"Toys with the Turtles?"
"She deliberately lets the Turtles follow her, or did. She is a ninja, even if she does not follow its philosophy. She can use the shadows. If she did not want them to see her, they would not."
"I feel sorry for her. She's never going to be happy, even if she destroys the Shredder."
"If the Shredder does not destroy her first. But destruction never brings peace. The Ronin has forgotten this."
"Or never learned it." April shook here head, "What I wouldn't give for an interview."
"I would not wish too hard for that. You may discover something you never wanted to know."