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Burn with me

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The story follows the movie Turtles 2016. I'm not a fan of these movies, but it was a change to my usual stories. In this one, Don discovers that the purple mutagen could awaken their recessive genes and make them, humans.

Leo didn’t find it’s a good idea and forbid Donnie to talk about that to their brothers, but Mikey and Raph found out. Raph is really eager to be human. Mikey, too, but from Mikey, it's seemed to me its was more naturale. Why Raph is so driven to not be a turtle anymore? He didn’t seem to like the human world as much as Mikey does and he isn’t that bothered to be a “monster” At the end, Leo give the choice to his brothers and, then, they decided to remain turtles.

So, I decided to imagine an alternative sequence where Raph would not have smashed the sample but would have decided, with his brothers, to postpone their decision to a more opportune moment (after the invasion attempt). I tried to give a reason to Raphael to explain his desire to be human. Donatello have the formula now ready, but he still has reservations to use it on his brothers, not knowing the long-term side-effect. So, that's when our story begins.

 


 

BURN WITH ME.


 

Donnie stared dreamily at the beaker, which contained a substance that could open up a realm of possibilities but also had many risks. He’d calculated over a hundred times and had always gotten the same result, which was that the purple ooze could transform him and his brothers into humans.

Human. The word promised many possibilities: love, friendship, gratitude, success, comfort and above all, the sun, fresh air, snow and the wind’s caress. Maybe April would introduce him to a human girl, who was pretty and nice like she was, and they’d date. And maybe his brothers would be able to find lovers too.

Everything that had always been forbidden to them was contained in the beaker.  It was the original ooze and it’d been child’s play for him to make more. He now had enough to fill a vat and to completely cover someone. The genius bit his lip. The tricky part was that while the mutagen seemed a blessing and would turn them into humans, he didn’t know what the risks, medium-term effects and consequences were. He’d seen the effect the mutagen had on Bebop and Rocksteady and it didn’t give him complete confidence in the side effects of it. Mikey had told him that the mutants had probably been crazy before their transformation. That made sense, but…

Don was still hesitant and anxious. It wasn’t just anyone’s integrity at stake, but that of his brothers and Sensei, who were his only family. It’d be his fault if the mutagen proved to be harmful in any way, because he was the scientist on whom his family counted and he couldn’t afford such a serious matter to go wrong.

Leo hadn’t explicitly said it, but Donnie knew he had similar fears and was suspicious of the purple substance. He’d postponed the meeting for weeks, stating that it must be safe to use and that Don had to run tests on it to ensure it was. Don couldn’t bear to hear “I knew it and I told you so” until the end of their days if it turned out badly.

The problem was that they were in a bind. Donnie was convinced the formula worked, but he couldn’t tell Leo it was absolutely safe. On the other hand, Mikey and Raphael grew increasingly impatient. Saying they were excited about the possibility of becoming human was an understatement.

Leo hadn’t dared to interfere in his brothers’ desire, which meant so much to them. And Mikey and Raphael had pestered Don for over two months in his lab about when the precious goo would be ready.

It was ready, but Don still had reservations. The procedure was extremely painful and traumatic, according to his predictions. Was it worth it? Weren’t they all happy as they were, like Leo had pointed out?

Doubt still consumed Don, as he studied the beaker.

The only way of eradicating the uncertainty was testing it on someone, who had the same mutation as them. And there were only four specimens of their kind, who did.

He could have chosen himself, but the logical thing was for him to be the last to use it, because he had to monitor the results of his brother’s transformations. He’d thought about that during his countless sleepless nights.

The procedure demanded that Subject A would transform and would be tested twice a week for at least a month. Then it was Subject B’s turn, which would be two or three weeks before C’s turn. Subject A and B’s tests would continue.  It’d be his turn two or three weeks after C’s turn had begun.

That was the only possible protocol and consequently, he could suspend the process of humanization for his remaining brothers at any time.

It was the only possibility and yet he didn’t like it. And he knew for sure that Leo would like it even less.

Donnie was torn between his elder brother, who was so careful, thoughtful and protective, and the two others, who were impulsive, carefree and enthusiastic.

He knew that Mikey and Raphael were waiting for him outside of the lab at that moment. The leader had given the green light to a presentation of what the humanization protocol should be and he’d never felt so nervous before.

He and Leo knew they couldn’t hold it off any longer and their brothers had a right to know. Donnie sighed and opened the door.

Leo wrinkled his forehead in reflection after listening to Don’s explanations and trying to ignore Mikey and Raphael’s joyful cries.

“So, Donnie,” Leo said. “If I understand correctly, you’re asking me to let one of our brothers sacrifice himself and to serve as a guinea pig by testing a product you can’t guarantee is harmless.”

Donnie nodded. It was futile trying to rephrase what Leo had said. It was a concise and true summary.

Raphael saw the red flag, quickly turned to Leo and said, “Leo, stop actin’ like a mother hen. I’m tired of hidin’ in the sewers like a plague victim when we’ve saved the city fuckin’ twice! I deserve better. Mikey deserves better. He deserves ta make friends with kids his own mental age.” 

 “Hey,” Mikey said, offended.

Raphael ignored his brother and continued, “Donnie deserves ta work with real equipment in a real lab with colleagues with whom he could discuss crazy theories. And ya deserve a lot better than the shadows too, Fearless. I want more than this life underground. I’m chokin’, Leo. Ya’ll let us take that risk, rather than us dyin’ here in the stench and darkness if ya love us.”

Mikey spoke and was pleading and reassuring and didn’t resort to threats and emotional blackmail, like the temperamental turtle had.

A dazed Leo finally gave in and said, “I don’t want to be an obstacle to your happiness, but I’ll be Subject A, so if anything goes wrong, it’ll happen to me.”

Raphael shook his head and stubbornly said, “I won’t let ya sacrifice yerself for somethin’ ya don’t even want, Leo. I don’t wanna feel responsible for the resta my life if somethin’ happened ta ya.”

Donnie nodded, even though no one was looking at him. He understood Raphael. Nobody wanted to live with the burden of having harmed any of his brothers. Not just Leo, who wouldn’t even blame them. But it’d be a hundredfold worse for the leader.

He let his brothers argue. He and Mikey knew from experience that it wasn’t good getting involved. They listened and said nothing, but when he saw that the arguing wasn’t going anywhere, Donnie intervened.

“You’re going to think about it,” Donnie said. “We must prepare for a life on the surface before we allow any of us to undergo the transformation process. We have to find a place to live and jobs to pay for food and bills. We can’t scavenge that much on the surface among humans. We must lead lives of people, who haven’t experienced that. All of that takes time!”

“So, what were ya doin’ in the lab all this time?” Raphael demanded aggressively. “I’m sick of waitin’….”

Leo made a gesture of peace and said, “I spoke with Chief Vincent about possibilities for us if such an eventuality arose. She promised to help and to ensure us a position in the police force if we wished to join their ranks and passed a program. So the job aspect’s already settled.”

Donnie folded his arms and ignored Mikey and Raphael’s cheerful shrieks. Then he said, “That’s an interesting offer, Leo, but I need to see what exactly the proposal is. We can’t rely on vague promises of support. We need to be able to depend on something definite and concrete. And personally, I’m not interested in being a cop. It’s you and Raph’s thing. Let me talk to April and….”

“You’re right, Donnie. Talk to April and then you can think about the possibilities and the ooze again. Maybe we could discuss this again in two weeks’ time?”

Don knew that wasn’t a real question and he had to submit to Leo’s desire to wait again, even if he’d worked on the mutagen for the past two months.

“Of course. Two weeks,” Don said. “This’ll give you time to decide who’ll be guinea pig A.”

Mikey and Raph voiced their exasperation and threw their hands up in dismay.

Don ignored them and continued, “What I want to know is how many of us want to become human, so I can make the preparations for our future lives on the surface, like false identity documents and housing, etc.”

Mikey, Leo, and Raphael looked at one another. Then a particularly taken aback Raphael said, “Yo, Donnie. It seems obvious ta me. We do that together. Isn’t that right, Mike?” Mikey nodded enthusiastically. “What ‘bout ya, Donnie?” Don nodded. “There’s only ya, Fearless,” Raphael said. “Ya won’t abandon us, right?”

Raphael’s tone was insistent, but distraught, rather than threatening.

Leo reluctantly murmured, “No. Of course not,” but the expression on his face said otherwise.

“Do ya see, Donnie?” Raphael said happily, not wanting to see Leo’s lack of enthusiasm. “It’ll be the four of us, like it’s always been.”

“Two weeks,” Donnie said, hoping the delay would help Leo make up his mind.

“I’m going to train,” Leo said, looking upset. Then he hurriedly left the room.

Donnie didn’t have to be a seer to see that the situation displeased Leo. Maybe he was still scared of the ooze and its unknown long-term effects? Leo was very protective of them as a good leader and big brother. Donnie was about to go talk to him when Raphael grabbed his arm.

“I won’t wait for two weeks,” Raphael said. “And anyway, I wanna do it before Leo knows. There’ll be nothin’ he can do ‘bout it if ya choose me for the first subject and don’t tell him. Don’t let Fearless do it if it’s potentially dangerous. His life’s more precious than mine. Ya know that, Don.”

Donnie didn’t necessarily agree, although he understood what he meant. Everyone was necessary for their family, but Leonardo was the support and protection for Raphael against his borderline personality.

 

Raphael continued, “I trust ya, Don. Ya’d choose yerself ta be a guinea pig if ya could, but yer also too useful ta be sacrificed. Just promise me that ya’ll watch over Fearless if it goes wrong. He’s gonna feel guilty and ya know what’s he like when he does. He doesn’t sleep, he constantly trains and he forgets ta eat. Prevent him from destroyin’ himself, because I stood up ta him for my own selfish bullshit.”

Donnie’s heart sank. He didn’t like the turn of the conversation.  The risks sounded more real with Raphael saying them. It also confirmed a suspicion he’d had for weeks. Raphael and Leo were no longer mere brothers. Without knowing the full extent of their intimacy, the longing glances and Raphael’s good humor the past few days hadn’t fooled the genius. The fact that Raphael wanted Don to watch over Leo and that he fiercely refused that Leo would be subject A was obvious. Their bond wasn’t only fraternal. But who was Don to judge? Raphael and Leo didn’t have many options for a mate, because they were turtles. Moreover, they were reliable and compatible partners for each other.

That wasn’t what worried Don right now, but rather that Raphael had asked Don to go behind Leo’s back. Don nervously bit his lip. He knew that it was the only solution. Leo was the least interested in the transformation and it’d be unfair to maybe sacrifice him. But Leo wasn’t the kind of leader to turn a blind eye on disobedience. Leo had never been mad at him, like he was with Raphael, and Donnie never wanted to experience it. But Leo’s approval would be a long time coming and he kind of doubted Leo would give his blessing. Leo would argue about something else in two weeks’ time and would ask for a delay again. They’d be at a dead end for weeks on end.

“I promise, Raph,” Don said. “Join me tomorrow night after Leo’s gone to bed.”

Raphael smiled in satisfaction and relief and said, “Thanks, Don. That takes a lot offa my mind. I’ll be there.”

Raphael left the lab, feeling elated. They were finally going to leave the hideous mess that was their lair. Sure Don had done a great job in setting up their few resources, but he wanted more: working as a cop with his friend, Casey, driving a convertible sports car, eating ice cream in broad daylight with his brothers and being able to visit temples in Asia with Leo had been things he’d dreamed about for the past two months. Everythin’ would be possible now, he thought, looking at his brother practicing his katas in the Dojo. Of course, Leo would let off steam in the Dojo when he was upset and wouldn’t stop until he was so exhausted that he couldn’t think. But as usual, Raphael was hypnotized by the fascinating spectacle of the leader performing his katas.

Leo was both a master and his masterpiece, Raphael thought, as he looked at Leo’s lithe body. He was sheer perfection with his powerful thighs, his toned legs, and firm butt. The leader stood in a fighting position, his muscles tense with the effort. Raphael wondered if Leo would also be attractive as a human. Probably, he thought, even though it didn’t matter. Leo would always be his soulmate, regardless what he looked like.

"Hey, Fearless. Wanna spar?" Raphael shouted.

Leo shook his head and said, “No, Raph. I was going to retire to my room….”

Raphael refrained from rolling his eyes. Leo was going to meditate on his leadership failure, being unable to prevent his brothers from doing what he thought was moronic.

“Good idea,” Raphael said. “I thought we could take advantage of our turtle bodies one last time and I could taste the purplish flesh of yer….”

Flushed, Leo dragged a grinning Raphael to his room to avoid being heard.

Leo sighed when they were in his room and said, as he looked down, “I’m afraid it’ll change something between us, Raph.”

Raphael smirked. Fearless was so cute when he was troubled, but it was Raphael’s job as a mate to comfort him. Anyway, Leo’s fear was irrelevant.

“Hey, baby,” Raphael said. “It won’t change a damn thing. I promise ya.” Raphael tilted up Leo’s face, his green eyes stared intently at Leo and he said, “I’ll always wanna do this.” Then he leaned forward to capture Leo’s lips with his own.

Leo stepped back because he wanted to get his point across. “Exactly, Raph. You….”

His words were cut off as Raphael approached him and then kissed him.

“Shut up,” Raphael said fiercely. “I only want ya, big dummy. Yer the only one I need.”

Turned on by Raphael’s words, his seductive tone, and his hot breath, Leo said nothing and allowed himself to be placed on the bed.

A proud Raphael thought he’d won the bet. He was going to distract Leo like he did so well, and in 36 hours’ time he’d be a human and would be living the life he and his brothers deserved.

Saying that Leo was furious after he’d heard the anguished screams, found the source of them and found out what had happened was an understatement. Unable to unleash his rage on a suffering Raphael, he shifted it onto Don.

“What did you do, Don?” Leo demanded.

Donnie knew his answer didn’t matter. Leo saw and heard nothing, his focus on Raphael writhing in pain, as his face became unspeakable. Don saw him approach the tank to try and get Raphael out and he grabbed his arm, trying to restrain him.

“No, Leo,” Don said. “Wait. You can’t do that. We don’t know what it’ll do in the long run. I can’t lose two brothers.”

Leo tried to free himself from his brother’s grip. His desperate cries for the genius to let go almost matched those of Raphael’s anguished screams and pierced Donnie’s heart. Although Donnie was sure that the transformation would have resulted in this scene, he found it unbearable and was emotionally shattered by the suffering. Raphael slid down into the tank. Donnie understood that it was worse for Leo, because he didn’t have the scientific guarantee that everything would be all right and besides, Raphael meant something else to Leo: a younger brother under his responsibility, his second-in-command and there was no doubt now that he was a cherished lover. Leo’s agonized shrieks eradicated all uncertainties. He wept for the person he loved and wanted to save him or to join him in the tank.

Donatello's entreaties, Leonardo's lamentations, and Raphael's howls of pain had, of course, alerted Mikey.

"What's going on here," Mikey asked, staring in dread at the scene before him,

"Stop asking stupid questions, Mikey, and help me to contain Leo," Donnie ordered, struggling to maintain his grip on the leader.

Mikey ran to help his brother and got there just as Leo managed to get away. That caused Mikey to stumble and to his brothers’ horror, he was unable to regain his balance and fell into the tank.

Master Splinter groaned and took a distraught Leo, who seemed to be losing his mind, in his arms. Leo fainted and Donnie realized that had happened because Splinter had used the magic pressure points.

“Donatello,” Splinter said. “You brother will stay in this state for only an hour. What is going on?”

The genius looked in distress at his two brothers in the tank. Mikey, who was the noisiest of them all, didn’t shiver or moan to Don’s surprise. All he did was wince and allowed himself to sink down into the ooze much faster than Raphael had.

“Sensei,” Don said. “Take Leo out of the room. I don’t know when this will be become bearable to look at.”

The rat immediately left the room with Leo and Donnie sadly watched them leave,

Donnie approached the edge of the tank, being careful not to fall in, and looked for Mikey. Raphael had been in the tank for almost ten minutes. Donnie knew that a whole body’s transformation wouldn’t be instantaneous, but he thought it’d been a long time and that worried him.

Just then an unexpected apparition appeared and made him so afraid, he fell onto his shell. A naked man, who was dripping wet, was getting out of the tub. His wet hair fell in front of his eyes and Donnie only realized it was Raphael, because of the curses he muttered.

“Damn, Donnie. Could you have warned me that it’d hurt so much?” Raphael said, shaking the hair out of his face.

Don was stunned for a moment. He didn’t know what to feel. Relief that he knew his brother or anger.

The genius composed himself and shouted, outraged, “I repeatedly told you that it’d be a painful process! Your entire body’s undergone a metamorphosis. Your genetic code, your bones, your organs. Everything’s undergone a new mutation. What did you expect? A Swedish massage. I can’t believe you dragged me into all of this. Now Leo will blame me, because of your impatience. He’s scared to death.”

Raphael looked up when he heard Leo’s name and his hair wasn’t in his face anymore. “You told Leo? You let him watch that? Shit, Donnie…You only had…”

“He knew, as soon as you stepped into it, besides I don’t understand why your screams didn’t alert journalists from all over the world. Mikey was more discreet than you,” Don said and looked into the tank. He noticed that a body was about to surface.

A young boy, who was about fifteen and whose hair appeared glued to him like a brass helmet, emerged and Donnie immediately forgot his feelings and went into scientist mode. He looked at the two men before him. Raphael was taller than Mikey and was almost as tall and as muscular as his reptilian body. He had more hair on his body than Mikey did, but maybe it was because Raphael’s were dark brown and Mikey’s were red. Donnie was sure that’d be the case when they were dry. Their irises had retained their original colors. Raphael’s were amber green and Mikey’s were sky blue. Mikey’s complexion was as white as milk with a few freckles on his face and shoulders, while Raphael’s was tanner, like a Hispanic complexion. But what was most enthralling, Donnie though, was that they seemed to have a nearly ten year age gap. While Mikey appeared to be barely 16, Raphael was a fully grown man. The hothead looked like he was around 25 or possibly older. They were so dissimilar. They didn’t look like they were brothers, or of the same generation or had the same ethnicity. This piqued Donnie’s curiosity and he eagerly asked them to follow him, so he could examine them.

“D, uh, can’t we have pants?” Mikey asked in embarrassment, covering his dick, which was now external, with his hands.

Raphael didn’t seem to feel embarrassed and cracked a dirty joke about Mikey wanting to cover himself because he was so tiny, but Donnie didn’t listen to him.

How could he have forgotten the clothes, Donnie thought? He hadn’t thought about them in the two months of reflection and planning! What a genius he was and where was Raphael’s thick Brooklyn accent?

Donnie tossed towels that hang on a railing near the humans and stammered, “After…I…mmm….I have to check your vital things and also check other things.”

Raphael shrugged. Then he looked around and said, “Where’s Fearless? You said he was here, right?”

That attracted Don’s attention. Raphael sounded the same, but different, and he realized what. Although his voice was the same, his articulation was slow and impeccable. How strange that his accent had disappeared. Maybe it was the trauma? Raphael had suffered from stammering when he was young and had adopted an accent to help him get over his speech problems. Now the accent was gone and so was the stammering. The Brooklyn accent was part of his irreverent charm but losing it was better than having lost a limb. Raphael’s passionate personality seemed to be the same and his brain functioning seemed fine.

“Uh. Leo was in shock when he saw you in pain. Sensei took him out of the room,” Don quickly explained.

 

Raphael frowned and Don was fascinated to see his usual expression on an entirely different face. “Yeah,” Raphael said doubtfully. “You’ll play mad scientist later. I’ll shower. I smell of chemicals and I don’t want Fearless to see me like this.” He paused, as a thought hit him, and looked at his body, feeling a bit worried. “What do I look like Donnie? Do I look hot?” he asked eagerly.

Donnie blinked, thinking. Did Raph look hot with his shaggy hair and sticky body? Raphael wasn’t his type and without knowing the human standards of male beauty, he found Raphael had all of his limbs. He looked at Mikey, who shivered, his towel wrapped around him, and saw he had all of his limbs too. He thought Mikey was cute with his uncertain little smile and he decided that even though his brothers were now human, they were the same personality wise. Raphael was still a cocky brute and Mikey was an adorable brat.

“Yes,” Don said. “You’re both beautiful, but April will give you a more accurate answer. Why don’t you guys shower? Then come and see me. I want to be able to reassure Leo about your condition when he’s regained consciousness and to reply to all of his questions. That may save me from decapitation.”

Raphael showered. Then he was weighed, measured, scanned and had his blood taken by Don. And he still hadn’t seen Leo. Don was satisfied because he was even more curious now and keen to compare the numbers and data with his brothers. Raphael was 6’6 and 275 pounds and Don thought he was 25 or 26-years-old. Raphael had grinned when he’d heard that. Leo wouldn’t treat him like an incompetent child anymore and he could legally drink alcohol. Mikey was 5’7, 140 pounds and probably 15. It looked like they probably weren’t brothers. Donnie told them he had to run more tests to be sure. That had upset Mikey and also Raphael, even though he hadn’t shown it. It wasn’t that important. Mikey would always be his and Leo’s little brother.

Raphael swiftly left the lab, eager to show off to his lover, and bumped into Splinter, who didn’t seem unsettled by his new appearance.

“Where are you going so fast, son?” Splinter said. “It’s late. You need rest. Miss O’ Neil will be here before the sun is up in a few hours to get you. Inform Donatello.”

A feeling of unease overcame Raphael. He had no intention of sleeping without seeing Leo.

“Sensei,” Raphael said. “Where’s Leo? I’d like to talk to him first.”

“Your brother’s sleeping,” the old rat calmly explained. “He was deeply disturbed. I advised him to go to sleep like I told you. Your first human day might be a long one, Raphael. Here are some pants. They used to belong to me and they should fit you.”

The hothead had no desire to sleep. He had to see Leo, but he knew not to sass their master, so he took the pants and left. He’d do as he’d done many times the past few weeks. He’d slip into the leader’s room when everyone was asleep. He needed to have his Leo with him in his arms. Raphael knew that Donnie planned to separate them for several days. Maybe even weeks and he wanted to spend every minute he could with Leo before that happened. Raphael guessed his brother was angry about his disobedience and he was keen to clear that up and to beg for forgiveness.

Make-up sex with the young leader was always sensational.

It seemed like forever that he waited for his family to go to bed and he didn’t have the patience to wait for a fascinated scientist Donnie to go to bed. And anyway, Raphael was tired of the secret. He didn’t understand why he and Leo had to hide like they were guilty. He loved Leo and Leo loved him and if their family couldn’t accept it-which he didn’t see why- he didn’t care.

That was one of the reasons why he wanted to flee the sewers and the lair. He and Leo had no privacy. Raphael hated having to muffle his screams of pleasure when they romped between the sheets and felt frustrated that his beloved used to violence, so he’d stay quiet.

They weren’t doing anything wrong and were expressing their love for one another like other people did.

When they were humans and if they earned enough money, they could buy a house a few blocks away from Donnie and Mikey for just the two of them. Raphael didn’t want to move to another state. He just wanted them to have privacy.

Raphael got up after waiting for three hours, which was a feat in itself (patience wasn’t one of his virtues), and headed to Leo’s room. His heart sank as soon as he touched the handle. The door was locked, which hadn’t been the case for two months. Fearless must be more irate than he’d thought. He consoled himself by telling himself that sex would be better then. He knocked on the door and took the risk of softly calling his brother and lover.

“Leo. Hey, Leo.”

There was no answer.

Raphael frowned and knocked a little harder. It wasn’t like Leo to sulk. The leader generally hated unresolved conflicts. Okay. Leo was incensed, but he was starting to be. It was impossible that his brother hadn’t heard him. The knocking would have woken him up, even if he’d been asleep because Leo was a light sleeper and he must have known that Raphael would join him in his bed like he’d done for the past few weeks. The son of a bitch had purposely ignored Raphael!

As usual, anger clouded his mind and judgment and Raphael banged on the door and yelled, “Leo, I’ll break the door down if you don’t let me in.”

Raphael didn't care about discretion. He saw no point in keeping their secret relationship any longer. Everyone would now finally know about it and he could kiss Leo and could publically display his affection for him if he wanted to.

He kept banging on the door and Leo finally opened it. Leo stiffened when he saw Raphael and glared at him.

“Why are you trying to break down my door at four a.m.? “ Leo demanded and tried to keep his face neutral. Raphael wasn’t fooled. He knew his brother was fuming. The expected reaction didn’t unsettle him. He knew how to press Fearless’s buttons and how to infuriate him so much, he’d explode, he’d let off his steam and then they’d have incredible angry sex.

 

“I wanted you to see my transformation, Leo, and for you to know that you’re going to have to shake your ass to keep the attention of a hot guy like me.”

It was pure provocation and bullshit. Raphael had no intention of fucking or loving anyone else. Besides, he’d seen himself and the boasting was just meant to make Leo react. Raphael had neither been satisfied or disappointed at his new reflection. Just intrigued. He’d been pleased that he hadn’t lost much muscle mass and he could now see his pectorals, abs, and trapezes without his carapace. His body was, therefore, more developed. He had no opinion about his face and anyway, what he thought about himself didn’t matter. Only what Leo thought mattered.

Leo raked his eyes over him and said indifferently after what Raphael thought was an excruciatingly long time, “I saw.”

The cold response wasn’t what Raphael had expected. He’d thought he’d get reproaches or a sermon and the reaction troubled him. He tried to hide it and to pretend everything was normal. He ignored the leader’s silence and changed the topic to a hot one.

He confidently strode into the room, flexed his muscles and said, “Fearless, did you know I’m a virgin again with my new body? How about punching my V-card?”

His lascivious suggestion aroused a disgusted look from the leader. Fearless had never acted that way towards him before. Raphael was shaken and stammered, “What? What’s going on, Leo? You don’t want me anymore?”

"No! Of course not! You’re a human now, Raph, and also a stranger. You don't look and sound like yourself. It’s unnerving! Not to mention I’m furious with you!” Leo retorted, his blue eyes flashing.

Raphael narrowed his eyes, the familiar anger he used to hide how hurt he was, igniting. Leo had just said that he didn’t desire him anymore. He’d gone through the painful process of transformation for them, so surely Leo was bluffing and didn’t know what he was saying. A vein in his forehead pulsed and he tried to calm himself down. Things were already heated and he didn’t need to worsen the situation by exploding in rage.

“Spare me the lecture, Fearless. I understand you’re mad at me and you don’t want me, because of my new body, but you’ll also become human and you’ll change your mind,” Raphael said fiercely, trying to convince himself because the opposite hurt too much to imagine. Leo stayed silent and Raphael said, “You’ll become a human too, right, Leo?” Leo said nothing and Raphael said insistently, “You can’t leave me like this! What’s the point of becoming human if you’re not with me?”

"Point? The point,” Leo snapped.” Is that I repeatedly told you that it was a bad idea, but it was your choice. You thought that becoming human was so important that you didn’t care what I felt about it or what my apprehensions were.”

“How can you say that? It was for you. For us!” Raphael defended himself, outraged.

“No, Raph. It was for you! You said you wanted to explore other possibilities because you deserved better. You can look for a new partner now that you’re human.”

Raphael was stunned by the insinuation. Leo had entirely distorted his words and intentions. And worst of all, the leader seemed to believe what he was saying.

He composed himself, and feeling indignant, he marched up to his brother, pressed his body against Leo’s and bent down to look intently into Leo’s eyes.

Living up to his nickname, Leo didn’t flinch under the intimidating gaze that’d have made many cower in fear and Raphael couldn’t help feeling a bit proud that he had a brother and a lover, who was so brave. It was one of the things Raphael liked about the Fearless Leader. He was the only one, who confronted him and who didn’t back off when he was intimidating. Leo after all also had as passionate a nature as his beneath his cool and controlled exterior. That’s what made them soulmates.  How could Leo believe someone else compared to him and that Raphael wanted them? Raphael had always known that no one could touch him like the leader could. They were made for each other. Leo knew that!

“Where’d you get the idea I was looking for someone else, huh?” Raphael growled. “You know I love you.”

Maybe Leo didn’t know that. He’d never told him before, but right now his emotions were like a roller coaster. He’d never quarreled like this with his brother before and he was completely shaken. Maybe Leo would be moved by the confession and everything would be okay.

Unfazed, Leo said, “Yes. You may have preferred me warming up your bed to Mikey or Donnie, but how do I know you won’t find anyone else? Anyway, you don’t really love me, Raph. You liked having sex with me because it was a different way of unleashing your aggressiveness when you tired of the punching bag. I was your sexual frustration outlet.” Raphael opened his mouth to fiercely deny it, but Leo cut him off and said, “There’s no love without trust. You proved that I couldn’t trust you. You lied to me and manipulated me and you manipulated Donnie into disobeying me. You forced everyone’s hand and you went behind my back. One doesn’t act that way with someone they love.”

Unable to contain his rage, which increased, as he listened to Leo speak, Raphael punched the wall that was two inches from Leo’s head a few times. Then he exploded and said to the stoic leader, who was used to his outbursts, “Fuck you, Leo. If that’s what you want, then you have it. April will be here soon to get me. I’m out of here.”

Raphael felt like his heart had shattered into what felt like a million pieces. He’d have liked to have said other things to Leo, like explaining that he’d only undergone the transformation, so he could give Leo a better life. And he’d have liked to have told Leo he loved him, how much he cared for him, that he was the most important person in his universe and that he was sorry for everything.

But while clenching his fists, his right hand’s knuckles bloody, he could only spit gall. He was suffering so much, he was unable to properly manage his emotions and to express them. He was only able to express hatred, even though he didn’t feel it, so that Leo suffered at least a hundredth of what he suffered.

“Fuck you, Fearless,” Raphael hissed. “I’ll follow your advice and will find someone, who’s less boring and who isn’t as high maintenance.”

Unable to bear the sight of his ex-lover any longer, fearing that he was about to burst into tears and to beg, he turned on his heels, feeling absolutely devastated and that his world had crumbled.

He didn’t see Leo’s eyes fill with tears or hear him murmur, “Raph, what did you do?”

Raphael headed to his room, taking great strides, and slammed the door behind him. He immediately threw up into his waste paper basket.

He’d felt intense nausea since leaving the tank and he’d only managed to ignore it by distracting himself with his excitement. Now that there was no promise of a happy new life with Leo, he was overwhelmed with anxiety and all he felt was bile and tears.

When it seemed like he’d finished puking, his hair dirty and his eyes red with his tears, he raised his head. His heart pounded and his forehead throbbed, unable to believe the reality that had hit him like a train.

Leo had broken up with him.

He gave a stifled moan, not even screaming his rage like he’d liked to have done.

Leo had dumped him. He’d become human to love Leo, like he deserved, and had suffered more than he’d ever done before to accomplish that. And Leo had broken up with him.

Leo had dumped him without giving him time to explain and without giving him the opportunity to tell him that he’d wanted them to become human so that he could bring Leo to Central Park to go for walks hand-in-hand, because Leo deserved to live and experience things in broad daylight. All his life, Raphael had seen his brother daydreaming when he’d read travel books. He wanted to give Leo the opportunity to touch the Great Wall in China or to climb Mount Fuji. It wasn’t about himself, but Fearless hadn’t wanted to listen and had ended their relationship.

Staggered, Raphael barely found the strength to throw himself into his hammock, wanting nothing more than curling up and dying there.

He’d been crazy in love with Leo for at least six years. His passion had gone through a wide range of emotions, ranging from denial to false indifference and through anger and depression. The night he’d had the courage, thanks to drunkenness, to make a rather transparent understatement of his feelings, Leo had taken him by surprise by confessing he felt the same way about him. The loving embraces that had followed had been the apotheosis of Raphael’s life.

He’d let the leader take control that first evening.  It wasn't a carefully thought out personal choice. He’d done it, because his emotions were so strong and because he wasn’t sure that he could sufficiently calm his nerves and give Leo a good time.

The first time had been painful, despite how gentle and tender Leo was. If it had been anyone else than his brother, a sore Raphael would have hit him in the face, but it was Leo, who he’d wanted for so long and he trusted him.

He was able to steel his nerves the next time and took the reins and he thought that nothing was so intoxicating as pleasuring his brother. Leo’s stoic look was no more. His face was flushed with pleasure, as he moaned and they gave into their animal desire. Raphael had never felt so proud knowing he’d caused his brother’s true nature to come out.

Raphael had been sincerely happy since then for the first time in his life. He and Leo had, of course, argued several times since, but Raphael thought that even the quarrels tasted sweet.

But Leo had broken up with him and he hadn’t found the wounds or gestures to make him reconsider his decision. Nothing made sense anymore and he couldn’t think of a reason for him to leave the hammock.

Ideas swirled in his mind and Raphael tried to convince himself that Leo would see things differently once he was human. The problem was that Leo seemed to be reluctant to transform. The sai bearer would be alone if Leo refused and remained disgusted by Raphael’s human form.

Raphael looked down, hating the pink skin that had turned his lover away from him. He gazed at his sai and suddenly had an urge. He needed to stab something. He was about to stab himself and to express all of the rage that consumed him, when a knock sounded on the door.

For a brief moment, his heart stopped, as he hoped to hear Leo’s soft voice asking for forgiveness on the other side of the door. He was bitterly disappointed when he recognized Mikey’s voice.

“Raph,” Mikey said. “April’s here. We have to go.”

Raphael angrily wiped his tears away with the back of his hand. Oh yeah. April. Leaving. He’d almost forgotten that a place on the surface awaited him. He didn’t know if it was for the best. He couldn’t bear to live with the leader if all intimate relations were now prohibited. But, on the other hand, leaving was blowing any chance of quickly making up. Absence is always wrong and he feared that Leo would drift away entirely from him during their separation.

But his brother would be human when they were reunited and surely the desire and love would quickly grow again in Leo’s heart. It had to. Meanwhile, Raphael would have done well topside and would have found some romantic places to bring Leo to and the leader would melt like butter.

Raphael opened the door for Mikey, his grief still etched on his face. Mikey asked about it and reminded him that everything they’d always wanted was now available to them and they could see a sunrise and could walk in the streets completely free.

Not listening, Raphael didn’t reply and was about to walk past Mikey. The youngest gripped his arm and said, “Yo, dude. Don’t you find it weird that you’re so brown and I’m blond? We don’t look like we’re brothers. Donnie said it’ll take him two days to analyze our samples and that there are physical differences among siblings, but to such a degree is rare. He said that we can’t be from the same family and it’s only a nought point seven chance of that being the case. It hurt me, Raph. I mean, you’ll stay my brother, right?

“Yeah, yeah. This won’t change a damn thing,” Raphael whispered, his mind elsewhere, but feeling his little brother’s pain.

“D also says he looked at my bone structure and everything and thinks I’m fifteen. I can’t work and help with bills. I have to go to school, otherwise, we’ll have problems. Can you believe it? I’m going to school and I’m going to meet sexy human girls everywhere I go!”

The boy’s sudden enthusiasm briefly touched Raphael. Yes. Mikey would surely be happy. Raphael clenched his fists when he arrived in the living room, determined that he and Leo would be happy too.

Mentally planning how he’d seduce Leo, he barely listened to the information April and Donnie were telling him and Mikey.

In short, Raphael understood that Chief Vincent had kept her promises. The city of NY, owned a triplex of which the former owner was in prison for fraud. One in three units was empty. The brothers could stay there and collect rent from the other two tenants. The rent was signed.

“We’ll have a free roof over our heads and money to start our new lives on the surface,” Donnie said enthusiastically. “The only problem is that Chief Vincent didn’t think about Master Splinter. Our apartment only has four bedrooms.”

April said, “You have no idea of the cost of rent. It’s expensive for four bedrooms and three bathrooms like you’re going to have. You’ll just have to take turns on the futon.”

Raphael looked up and said, “I’m not sleeping on a futon. Fuck that. Leo and I’ll share a room!”

Silence followed and Leo entered the room.

To Raphael’s immense relief, he didn’t voice any disagreement about Raphael’s daring statement.

“We’ll see when Donnie and I are there,” Leo simply said.

But that in itself was great news, Raphael encouraged himself. Leo had confirmed he’d transform and he hadn’t refused his offer of sharing a bed.

Raphael tried not to look too thrilled, so he wouldn’t displease his brother.

Lost in his positive thoughts, Raphael didn’t listen to Donnie until Donnie called him out for it.

“Raph!” Donnie said. “It’s important you listen. You’re Mikey’s legal guardian for at the moment. You have to register him for high school tomorrow and enroll him in grade nine. He’s old enough to be in tenth grade, but he knows nothing about geography, literature or algebra. We have to give him a chance to keep up the pace. You’re equally ignorant, but you’re too old to attend school. You’ll start at the police academy tomorrow. Chief Vincent’s made arrangements to make it a lot easier for you and Leo. You have to undergo general training for a month. Then they’ll give you an aptitude test to know what unit you’ll best perform in. Then you’ll undergo one month of specialized training. She didn’t think it’s necessary to extend your training beyond that because you’re experienced fighters and you morality’s flawless.”

What Raphael especially remembered from this speech was that he and Leo would work together. He nodded, satisfied with the idea and Don believed in his approval and understanding of the situation.

"Why don't you and Leo come with us right away? Why wait, Donnie?” Michelangelo asked and whined, “We’ve never been apart before.”

Raphael agreed with him. He didn't want to gamble on Leo and Donnie's health, but it was still painful. It’d always been the four of them since their mutation.

Donnie sighed and said, “I’ve already explained the situation to you, Mikey! We don't know the long-term effects of the mutagen or its stability yet. That’s why you had to wait. I have to finish my tests here and to look in on you guys twice a week to see if there are any variables in your new genetic code. These things take time. You don’t want to endanger mine and Leo’s lives, right?”

Mikey shook his head and April urged them to hurry before too many people were on the surface and they were spotted leaving the sewers. Mikey, who was extremely affectionate, hugged his brothers, who’d remained turtles. Leo hugged him for a long time. Then he pulled away, kissed him on the forehead and told him what to do at school, even though he knew nothing about it.

Raphael briefly hugged Donnie. Then he turned to his older brother. He yearned to press his body against Leo’s and to kiss him.

He hugged Leo, who although he returned the embrace, was stiff.

Grieved by Leo’s coldness, Raphael murmured, “See you topside, Fearless. And I swear I'll find a way to get you back. I won't give up. What I said earlier was pure bullshit.”

Leo gently pulled away and his blue eyes shone with tears.

Raphael would have liked a whispered tender answer meant only for him, but Leo didn’t do that.

“Be careful, Raphael,” Leo said. “Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re in trouble,” Leo added and put something in Raphael’s hand and closed his fist around it.

April tugged Raphael by the hand, spoiling their moment, and said, “Put on this T-shirt, Raph, and hurry up. We have an appointment with Chef Vincent at seven a.m."

After shooting a last pained look at his brother, Raphael followed, regretting with all his heart that he was leaving his brother behind.

Not giving a damn about the pseudo-secret about their relationship, Raphael shouted, “I’ll wait for you, Leo!”

It was only later when he opened his hand that he saw what Leo had placed in it.

It was a red bandanna.