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Gilded Sentiment

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Leo took a deep breath as he squared his shoulders. His brothers were waiting for him by the entrance to the Lair, however, there was one thing he had to do first before they left, something he had been putting off until the last minute.

Lifting his knuckles, he rapped them against the wooden frame of Splinter’s door, waiting with bated breath until he heard the rat call for him to enter. He didn’t look behind him but could feel his brothers watching him as he slid the door open, slipping in through the opening before closing it once more.

“You are going to the surface again?” Splinter questioned.

Leo nodded his head.

“Hai, Sensei,” he said, keeping his eyes focused straight ahead of him, not looking at their father as the rat stood, his cane hitting the floor with each step forward.

“Avoid the streets, stay away from populated areas,” Splinter said, the warning identical to the one he gave every time Leo and the others left the lair. It was a warning none of them, not even Raph, dared to ignore, because no matter what harm would befall them from human hands, Splinter’s wrath would be far greater.

“Hai, Sensei,” Leo said again. “We should be a few hours. Donnie located another Kraang facility that seems to still be operational. We’re simply going to make sure it’s shut down, and that they aren’t trying to infiltrate this world again.”

Splinter narrowed his eyes and Leo continued looking on straight ahead. Finally the rat nodded and turned his back to Leo once more.

“You are dismissed.”

Holding back a sigh of relief, Leo bowed to Splinter, before turning and leaving the room. He joined his brothers at the entrance, none of them saying a word as they left.

Leo, however, did notice Mikey looking back, almost worriedly, until Splinter’s door was fully out of sight.

“What did he say?” Mikey asked, looking to Leo.

“The usual,” Leo stated. “Stay away from humans, don’t be seen.”

“Like we don’t know that already,” Raph huffed, his hand fisted on the sai in his belt. “Ya think he’d give us a bit more slack, we ain’t kids anymore!”

“Raph,” Leo warned, glancing behind him.

“What? He ain’t gonna hear us,” Raph scoffed.

“You don’t know that,” Leo hissed.

“I have a map to the building,” Donnie interrupted, getting their focus back on why they were even leaving the lair that evening.

Leo nodded. “Right, Don, you take the lead then. We’ll follow,” he instructed.

The trek through the sewers was quiet after that. The three turtles followed their purple-clad brother as he led them to the manhole cover closest to the building they were aiming for.

Raph was up the ladder first; being the strongest, he could easily lift the manhole cover up and out of the way without making much noise at all. Lifting his head up and looking around, Raph motioned that the coast was clear before climbing up the rest of the way.

His brothers were quick to follow. Leo went next, Donnie followed with the map, leaving Mikey to take up the rear. The smaller turtle climbed out, his hands going to grip his nunchucks as soon as he was free of the hole.

The building didn’t look like much, covered in boards, bits of it looking as if they were falling off. The whole feel of it screamed ‘condemned’, however, that seemed to be what the Kraang did to blend in; they disguised their bases as old buildings, unwanted or unappealing places, and any human who dared wander into one simply became part of their latest experiments.

“There should be a secret entrance,” Donnie said, walking over to a solid looking wall, looking it over, brow furrowed.

“Looks like a wall ta me, Don.” Raph chuckled. “Ya sure that egg-head of yours ain’t cracked?”

“Cracked or not, my brain clearly gets more oxygen than yours,” Donnie quipped back, ignoring Raph’s responding growl, Donnie pressing his hand against the wall, grinning when it fazed right through it.

“That’s still massively creepy when things do that.” Mikey shuddered.

“You’re just a scaredy-cat,” Raph teased.

“If you had any sense you’d be scared too, bro,” Mikey shot back, and he was running through the wall after Donnie before Raph could come back with a retort, or perhaps just a punch to the head.

“That little...!” Raph growled.

“Leave it, Raph, let’s just go and get this done so we can get home,” Leo said, indicating for Raph to go in ahead of him.

Raph narrowed his eyes at the blue-banded turtle. “Why ya in such a hurry ta get home?”

“Because the less time we’re away from home, the less time there is to make mistakes that we’ll be punished for,” Leo reminded him.

“And if ya didn’t report every damn little thing that happened ta Splinter, we wouldn’t have ta worry about that, now would we?” Raph growled.

“You know that’s not how it works, Raph. Now please, let’s just get this over with?” Leo requested; the last thing he wanted to do was see any of his brothers have to face Splinter that night, as the rat had already seemed to be in a mood.

Without another word, Raph followed his other two brothers; Leo took the rear this time. Looking around to make sure no one had seen them, he slipped through the entrance.

---------x

They had been wandering through the facility for what felt like hours already, however, in reality, Mikey knew it could have only been less than ten minutes. The orange-banded turtle simply didn’t like the feel of the place, his hands gripping his nunchucks, despite the fact they hadn’t run across anything that could be considered armed and dangerous.

Looking behind him, Mikey frowned when all he saw was the empty hallway they had just walked down.

“Is it just me, or is this place like, super creepy?” Mikey questioned, turning his attention back toward his brothers, who were all a few paces ahead of him.

“About as creepy as any other Kraang facility,” Raph stated, looking around them as well, his face pulled into a frown. “About as boring as one too.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything here,” Leo warned, moving up ahead of his brothers to come to a stop near a corner. He looked around, checking the hallway ahead.

“See anything?” Raph questioned, coming to stand next to Leo and having a look for himself.

“No, there’s nothing,” Leo stated. “But I think this is where we have to split up,” he said, turning to look at Raph and then the others.

“Split up? What for?” Raph demanded, not looking happy about that idea.

“Because the hallway splits off here, and it looks like the power room might be in that direction, and the labs are usually closer to the top floor,” Leo explained.

“Like I said, why we gotta split up?” Raph crossed his arms over his plastron.

Leo sighed wishing Raph didn’t have to make everything a challenge.

“I need some information from the lab,” Donnie stated, and Raph’s shoulders relaxed a little bit.

It frustrated Leo how easily Raph listened to Donnie sometimes, didn’t question his reasoning behind things. He tried not to let it bother him, at least not while they were outside the lair; he could address his jealousy issues later, in the privacy of his own room.

Leo’s thoughts were interrupted when Mikey suddenly jumped, waving his hand in the air.

“I call dibs on Raph!” Mikey said, wrapping his arms around one of Raph’s effectively latching onto him.

“Wha-Hey!” Raph tugged his arm away, using his free hand to press on Mikey’s face, holding him back when the younger turtle tried to grab onto him again. “Who said I wanna go with ya? Maybe I wanna go on my own!” Raph growled.

“No, you wanna go with me, cause I’m fun,” Mikey grinned, pulling Raph’s hand away from his face and grinning at his brother.

“You’re not going off on your own,” Leo stated.

“No one asked you, fearless,” Raph snapped, narrowing his eyes at the blue-banded turtle.

“Raph, stop being ridiculous.” Donnie rolled his eyes, once again stepping between his siblings, stopping another potential fight before it had a chance to get started.

Leo felt that ugly jealousy rise in him again when Raph turned his full attention onto Donnie, listening to their genius brother as he made his own suggestion.

“I think one team should head to the power room,” Donnie explained. “Our main goal is to deactivate this facility at its source. The other team needs to bring back samples and computer data from the lab. At the very least we should try and figure out what this facility was being used for.”

“Why would that matter if we’re gonna shut it down anyway?” Raph questioned, shoving Mikey half-heartedly to the side when the younger turtle managed to grab his arm again.

“Because Donnie needs a new toy to play with,” Mikey offered with a laugh.

Leo sighed. “We need to make sure the Kraang aren’t still here using these places, it’s our job to shut them down before innocent people get hurt,” he explained, using what his brothers would call his leader voice. He locked eyes with Raph. “Donnie and I will go to the lab, see what we can find on their computers. Raph, you and Mikey are in charge of the power room,” he ordered.

Raph glared at Leo, and had his mouth open to make some kind of snide remark, when Mikey poked him in the side.

“Mikey,” Leo snapped as Raph raised his hand to smack Mikey’s head, clearly getting irritated with the younger turtle.

“Hmm?” Mikey looked curiously at their leader.

“Try not to get too distracted,” Leo stated, smiling when Mikey fixed him with a pout.

“Hey…”

Raph gave Mikey another shove, putting some distance between them. He gave Leo one more glare, looking as if he were debating on saying anything more to the leader in blue, before deciding against it.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Raph said turning his back to Leo, gesturing Mikey to follow him. “If this ends up bein’ a waste of time, I’m gonna be so annoyed.”

Leo watched the two younger turtles walk down the opposite hall, before turning and leading Donnie in the other direction.

“Do you think it’s a good idea to let them go together today?” Donnie questioned. “Mikey is really trying to push Raph’s buttons, more than usual, I mean.”

Leo shook his head. “We don’t have much choice in the matter; we need to find out what the Kraang were doing here.” He gave a worried look over his shoulder, back toward his younger siblings. “Mikey is too distractible, and Raph is too irritable right now. If the Kraang are here, I don’t think either of them would be reliable to watch your back while you get the information from the computers,” he explained.

Leo looked back in the direction they were walking, wincing and doing his best to ignore Mikey’s shout of “Tag! You’re it!” that echoed down the abandoned hallways.

-----------x

Raph kept his fists clenched at his side, trying, and failing, to ignore Mikey’s numerous attempts at starting a game of tag. His little pest of a brother kept running up to him, tagging his arm, shoulder, head, and this time the twerp had the audacity to hit his ass.

“Tag!” Mikey laughed as he smacked Raph’s ass as he ran by, his fingers catching his brother’s tail before he darted out of the way.

“Mikey! I ain’t playin’ tag with ya!” Raph shouted, growling as he dashed down the hallway after the younger turtle, telling himself he wasn’t really giving into Mikey’s taunts; he just knew that if he didn’t keep up with him, the orange-clad turtle would get into serious trouble.

“If you’re not playin’ then why are you chasin’, bro?” Mikey called back, laughing again as he darted around a corner.

Raph growled. “We’re going the same way, you dork!” he snapped but didn’t speed up, knowing Mikey couldn’t get far, even if he was faster than any of them.

He reached the corner Mikey had vanished around, frowning when he didn’t hear his brother’s laughter anymore.

“Mikey?” he called out, hands going to his sai as he rounded the corner, expecting to find that Mikey had in fact run into trouble.

“Boo!” Mikey shouted, jumping right in Raph’s line of sight, he swung his sai on reflex, and only Mikey’s quick reflexes saved him from being run through.

“Ya little shit!” Raph shouted. “Don’t do that! Do ya realize what could’a happened?” Raph snapped, glaring daggers at Mikey as the orange-banded turtle darted down the hall.

“Dude! You should have seen your face! It was so priceless! Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to have a camera!” Mikey laughed, leaning against a wall, one hand clutching his stomach.

Raph turned his head away, cheeks flushed in anger and irritation. He fixated on a spot on the wall, counting to ten to try and calm himself before he really did cause Mikey serious bodily harm.

“Sometimes, I seriously hate you,” Raph said.

“Nah, you totally-” Mikey’s sentence was cut off by a sudden crash and scream.

Raph’s head whipped around just in time to see his brother vanish through a trap door in the floor.

“Mikey!” Raph darted forward, kneeling to look down into the hole.

“Watch that first step, dude,” Mikey called back up.

Raph winced when he saw his brother had fallen at least two floors He looked around the hallway, trying to see if he could locate what had set the trap off in the first place; he didn’t see any lasers or switches.

“Must’ve been weight-sensitive, ‘r somethin’.” he sighed, looking back down at Mikey. “Ya okay down there? Break anythin’?”

“Uh… Depends on what you mean by broken,” Mikey called back up, looking at where his leg was trapped under the trap door that had fallen down with him, in his attempt to grab onto it and stop his fall. “Don’t think I can climb back up there,” he admitted.

“Perfect,” Raph grumbled, standing up and looking around, trying and find something he could use to either get down there himself, or else haul his brother back up.

There was another crash and a pained groan from Mikey and Raph was back at the hole immediately.

“What the hell are ya doin’ down there, man?” Raph asked, leaning further over, squinting his eyes to try and see what could have made that noise.

“My leg is trapped under the stupid door!” Mikey called back up. “I’m trying to move it, but it’s super heavy dude,”

Raph growled in frustration, his brow furrowed as he studied the situation.

“Shit. Just… just hang on!” Raph called down to Mikey, sitting back up again as he weighed his options. There wasn’t anything up here that would help him get down there, and it was only a two-floor drop; he’d done further from buildings before, if he just had something to grab onto.

Leaning back over the hole, this time hanging his head under and looking around to see if there were any wires or ropes on the ceiling he could grab onto. He saw one not too far away and nodded to himself.

“Alright, Mike, I’m comin’ ta get ya,” Raph said. “Just sit tight!”

“Oh, sure, like I was gonna go do something else.” Mikey rolled his eyes.

Raph ignored him, focusing instead on getting down there. He swung himself over the edge; hanging on, he swung his feet, trying to give himself enough momentum to grab the cord, intending to use that to slow his descent.

He swung back and forth, finally letting go of the ledge.

He flipped into the air and grabbed the cord, his hands closed around it, and then he was falling, much faster than intended. Tightening his grip on the cord, he felt his arm jerk suddenly as he came to an abrupt halt. The sudden stop pulled at his arm painfully and he let go of the rope, letting out a short cry of pain as he fell, shell first, onto the door that was pinning Mikey’s leg.

Mikey’s echoed scream told Raph that things were definitely not going the way they should be.

Raph wasn’t sure how long he lay on the floor, breathing through the pain as it went from sharp to a dull throb.

“Okay,” he breathed out, “that prolly wasn’t my best landin’.”

“I’d give it a three-point-two,” Mikey hissed out, rubbing at his leg that had just been bent in a painful direction from Raph’s landing. “Now get me outta here.”

“Quiet. You’re lucky I’m not just leavin’ ya here,” Raph said, pulling himself to his feet and making his way over to Mikey. He inspected where his brother’s leg was trapped and the angle it was bent at.

Mikey didn’t respond, which for Raph was a good indication of how much pain the smaller turtle was in. Without another word, he knelt down and grabbed the metal door. He tried lifting it but, feeling the sharp pain in his arm again, he dropped the door back onto Mikey.

“Aaaugh, damn it!” he cried out, grabbing his arm and holding it tightly. He knew he had done some damage, he had just been naively optimistic that it hadn’t been that bad.

Mikey fell back onto his shell, eyes clenched shut, teeth biting into his knuckle to stop himself from screaming. His breathing was erratic, and Raph felt a pang of guilt for hurting his brother more.

“Shit, dude,” Mikey said when he was sure he could speak again. “That kinda hurt,” he said, leaning forward as much as he could to try and push the door off himself instead of lifting it.

Mikey really wanted to get free on his own, but if this took much longer they were going to be forced to call Leo or Donnie. However, they both also knew that if they did that, there was going to be a lecture for the two of them once Leo heard what happened. Things were already going to be bad enough when they got home and Splinter found out how two of his sons had gotten injured.

“Hang on, lemme just…” Raph was starting to look nervous, using his good arm to grab the metal door this time. “I’m gonna lift it, and ya just slide your leg out fast” he instructed.

Mikey nodded, leaning forward to help Raph lift too.

“On three,” the red-banded turtle said.

The two of them locked eyes and Mikey waited for Raph to count. On three, Raph pulled, and Mikey pushed.

Pulling his leg free quickly, Mikey let go of the door, inspecting the damage; his leg was already bruised and swollen, a large gash along the side of it where he must have caught something sharp.

“Shit, shit, shit, this is totally not good,” Mikey said, removing the wrapping from his hands and started to bind his leg as best he could.

“No kiddin’” Raph replied, though there was no real punch behind it. Taking a look at Mikey’s injuries, the red-banded turtle let out a sigh. “Think you can stand?” he asked.

“I’m gonna have to if we want to get our job done,” Mikey said. Finishing with his leg, he looked up when Raph offered him a hand.

Using his good arm, Raph grabbed Mikey’s, hauling him to his feet, wrapping his arm quickly around Mikey’s waist when he thought the younger turtle might tip over.

“Let’s hope we don’t gotta fight tonight,” he said.

“You mean let’s hope this place is really abandoned,” Mikey said.

“That’s what I said.” Raph rolled his eyes, looking around for a way out, when he spotted a door not too far from where they were. “Lean on me, we’re gonna have t’ find Leo and Donnie, get ya home ASAP,” Raph said.

“I’m totally fine, dude, I dunno what you’re talking about,” Mikey said, though he did lean on Raph as they made their way over to the door. “Seriously though, I’m fine, we should at least find that power room, set it to explode or something.”

“Yeah.” Raph looked Mikey over. “Yeah, good idea,” he agreed, leading Mikey to the door.

He never liked seeing any of his brothers hurt, it always made him feel guilty, as if he could have prevented it somehow. This was made a hundred times worse when he was the cause of their pain and or injury. Or in the case of Mikey’s leg, made it worse than it would have otherwise been.

He knew Donnie was going to have to have a proper look at Mikey’s leg once they got out of there, and a sharp pain in his arm reminded Raph that he’d need that looked at too. However, for now, Mikey was right; the least they could do was get the mission done and prove that, even injured, they weren't entirely incompetant.

“We’re gonna have ta find our way back upstairs,” Raph said, looking around, knowing it was unlikely that the Kraang of all people would have an ‘exit this way’ sign.

“Maybe there’s an elevator or something,” Mikey suggested.

“Even a fucking set of stairs would be nice,” Raph said.

Mikey shook his head. “Dunno if I can do stairs with this leg, bro, at least not fast enough to outrun an explosion,” Mikey reminded him.

“Shit.” Raph stopped and leaned Mikey against a wall for a moment, looking around, trying to get his bearings. “Okay, you wait here a sec, I’m gonna go on ahead, make sure there ain’t no more traps,” he said.

“Oh, sure, I see how it is,” Mikey said teasingly. “I’m just the baggage now, haul me around, drop me wherever, not like I have feelings,” Mikey rambled on.

Raph shook his head. “Stop being stupid,” he snapped.

“Not gonna happen.” Mikey grinned at him.

“I’ll be right back,” Raph said and was gone, hurrying down the hall, being careful. He didn’t think there would be any more trap floors, falling two floors down, but with the Kraang, you never knew.

Raph went down the hallway, trying one door after another, finding, unsurprisingly, that most of them were sealed.

“Where the fuck is a Kraang head when ya need one,” he grumbled to himself.

He went to where the hallway split off, looking one way then another. Shrugging he pointed between the two.

“Eeny meeny miny moe,” he whispered under his breath, choosing a direction and started trying those doors until he finally found one that was open. “Finally!” he huffed, hurrying back to where he had left Mikey.

“Found our way outta here,” he said.

“Oh good, more walking,” Mikey said, lifting his arms to be helped off the floor.

Raph hauled him up, supporting Mikey back to the door he had found.

“That doesn’t look like an elevator, bro,” Mikey said flatly as he hobbled through the doorway with help from his red-banded brother.

“It was the only door that was open, so quit your bitchin’,” Raph said, looking around properly once they were in the room. “There’s a computer over there, I’m gonna see if I can find a map of this place,” Raph said, letting go of Mikey and making sure his brother could stand properly before hurrying over to the console. “Alright, now, where’s the on switch…” Raph sighed.

Mikey watched his brother for a moment, deciding he could make himself productive and find something to use as a cane or crutch. Limping around the room, Mikey looked in the corners first, thinking that there might be a mop or a broom.

“You know, that’s one thing that always confused me about the Kraang,” Mikey said as he continued looking. “Every place we’ve ever been has always been so clean.”

“Your point?” Raph questioned, having found the power button.

“So, why haven’t we ever found a broom cupboard?” Mikey questioned.

“They probably got robots ta do that shit for them,” Raph said dismissively.

“What? Like a kraang roomba?” Mikey suggested.

“Yeah, sure.” Raph was typing away on the computer trying to find something that resembled a map, a difficult thing for him to achieve as he wasn’t overly fond of computers. “Where the fuck is Donnie when ya need him!” Raph punched the console.

“Not breaking computers,” Mikey replied, finding a button next to another door. “Oh, I think I found that broom cupboard!” he called out, hitting the button and watching the door slide open to reveal another smaller room inside. The lights flicked on, lighting up a large tank built into the floor.

“Uh… okay, not a broom cupboard,” Mikey said, going into the room. “Raph! Come look at this, there’s like, some kind of black and green goop here!” he called out, kneeling on the floor to get a closer look at the substance.

“Don’t touch anything!” was Raph’s reply as a moment later he came into the room Mikey had found.

“It kinda looks like, I dunno, tar, mixed with mutagen.” Mikey frowned, watching bubbles appear on the surface.

“Looks like the kraang left somethin’ cookin’,” Raph said, coming to stand next to Mikey, staring at it as one of the bubbles came to the surface and popped. “Well, whatever it is, we should prolly get rid of it. Who knows what they were tryin’ ta use it for.”

“Think Donnie will want some?” Mikey asked, his hands on the edge of the tank as he looked at it.

Raph rolled his eyes, squatting down to get a better look at the liquid. “What could he possibly want with black mutagen?” Raph questioned.

“I dunno, dude, he could use it for a cool lava lamp or something,” Mikey suggested with a grin.

“What Donnie don’t know won’t hurt his feelings. We don’t even got a way to transport it,” Raph pointed out.

Mikey sighed nodding his head in agreement.

“True,” he said. “Did you find that map?”

“Nah, if we can’t find our way outta here soon, we’ll just call Don and have them haul us up outta that hole,” Raph said, shifting to stand up. “Let’s try a few more doors, and if we don’t find the power room, we’ll call in for help,” he said.

“Okay,” Mikey said, reaching up and grabbing onto Raph’s belt to help haul himself up.

This would have been a wise idea, had Raph been fully standing himself; however, as it was, the unexpected tug on his belt had Raph pitching backwards, his eyes widening as he felt himself falling, pulling Mikey down with him.

They both tumbled straight into the black and green liquid, instantly sinking fast. Raph kicked out with his legs, his head quickly breaking the surface of the thick liquid before he sank too far, gasping as he pulled in a lung full of air.

“Mikey?” he called out, turning his head one way then the other. “Mikey! You still with me, bro?!”

Raph’s worry was growing by the second when he didn’t see his little brother at all. He was just thinking he would have to dive for him, and hope he found him in the large tank when something brushed his foot.

“Mikey!” Raph called, diving and wrapping his good arm around his brother, hauling him to the surface with him.

“Oh that shit’s nasty!” Mikey complained, sputtering as he spat out what little he had swallowed.

Raph said nothing, getting the two of them to the ledge. He made sure Mikey got up and out first, then with his brother’s help, got out as well. Mikey was still coughing, shaking his head.

“So-sorry, dude,” Mikey said, looking at Raph, who was more worried about checking himself over. He patted at his face, arms, plastron, everything felt like it was still in place, and no weird growths were spouting out anywhere.

Seemingly satisfied that he was fine, Raph finally turned a heated glare onto Mikey.

“Ya should be more careful next time! That stuff coulda melted our skin off for all we knew!” he snapped.

Mikey winced and ducked his head. “I said I was sorry…” he mumbled.

“Sorry wouldn’t have fixed it if that stuff had an extra arm growin’ outta my head,” Raph growled, wiping away some of the stuff that was still on his face.

“True, but then you would have had an extra hand to throttle me with,” Mikey pointed out, shifting to stand up, avoiding using Raph as leverage this time. “But, no harm done, right?

“Right,” Raph reluctantly agreed.

“Let’s go find that power room and get outta here,” Mikey suggested.

Raph pushed himself to his feet as well, nodding his head. “Fine with me.”

He kept a slow pace for Mikey’s sake as he made his way to the door on the opposite side of the room.

“Sooner we leave this craphole, the better.”

“Look at the bright side,” Mikey offered. “This place isn’t as boring as you thought it would be.”

“Mikey,” Raph growled out warningly.

-----------x

Leo remained close to Donnie as his brother worked to get whatever information he could off the Kraang computers, however, they had already been there too long in Leo’s opinion. Even if they hadn’t run into any Kraang there, Leo felt like they were pushing their luck by staying so long.

“Wrap it up, Don,” Leo ordered, scanning the area, his mind drifting to their other two brothers, who were somewhere on the lower levels of the building. He hadn’t heard from them and he was beginning to wonder if letting them go off on their own had been such a good idea.

“How much longer, Donnie?” Leo asked, looking behind him at the purple-banded turtle.

“Almost done…” Donnie stated, watching the screen intently.

Leo sighed and turned his attention back to the room. He was finding this whole thing a bit to easy, though he assumed that was because he was still far too used to these places crawling with Kraang, and the fact that he hadn’t seen any, or any traps, or heard any alarms was unnerving. Of course, turtle luck at it’s best, no sooner had he thought that did the entire room light up with red flashing lights, and a loud siren started buzzing in the distance.

“Time’s up, Don!” Leo said, pulling his second sword from its sheath.

“It’s almost…” Donnie trailed off, as Leo turned to look at him. “Got it! Let’s go!”

He grabbed the thumb drive he had been using, putting it in the pocket of his belt before grabbing his bo staff, which had been set aside while he worked.

Leo was already heading quickly toward the door, keeping an eye out for any self-defence system droids. Donnie was right on his heels.

Once they had made it down the hallway to the stairwell, Leo put one of his katana away. Pulling his phone out, he dialled Mikey. He didn’t give his little brother time to say anything when he heard the line click on.

“Where are you two?” Leo demanded.

“On our way, Bro!” was Mikey’s reply. “We’re pretty sure we’ve managed to rig the power room to blow, but… uh, yeah, we managed to trip the alarm in the meantime. Raph and I found a quick way out, thought a window, so uh… yeah, gonna hang up now, cause this is seriously gonna hurt,” Mikey said and the line went dead.

Leo stared at his phone, a frown on his face as he glanced over toward Donnie.

“We need a way out, fast, Mikey and Raph rigged the power room, so at best we’ve got a minute to get out of here.”

Donnie nodded, quickly pulling up the blueprints he had of the building. He scanned the area where they were.

“We’re on the fourth floor, there should be a chute for discarded kranngdroid parts.” He looked around where they were and nodded to himself. “We have to backtrack, but it’s not far,” he said, turning and heading out of the stairwell again.

Leo nodded and followed his brother. He hated escapes like this, especially when they were escaping from empty, nearly harmless buildings. He knew he was going to have to have another talk with Mikey and Raph about team communication when they got home, and hope Splinter didn’t find out about this mishap.

“Here!” Donnie called out.

Leo sped up to join his brother at the chute.

“It’s a long way down. It would be nice if we had something to slow our descent a little, as I’m sure landing on droid parts, or even an empty dumpster isn’t going to be pleasant,” Donnie said.

Leo nodded in agreement, handing Donnie one of his swords. “Use that to slow yourself down,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s less likely to break than your staff.”

Donnie nodded his head in agreement.

Watching as Donnie went in first and slid out of sight, Leo waited a moment, making sure his brother would be a fair distance away, and there was no risk of him landing on Donnie’s head. Only then did Leo follow.

As he slid down the chute, Leo waited until he could see light before sticking his katana into the side. He winced as his arm was jerked painfully, but thankfully it felt like nothing more than perhaps a pulled muscle. Using his sword, and padded knees he slowed himself down more, the sound of metal scraping against metal echoed around them, and then the chute was gone and they were free falling the last five feet into a pile of broken droids.

Leo landed next to Donnie with an ‘oof’, watching as Donnie rolled himself off the pile and down onto solid ground.

“We gotta keep moving!” he said urgently.

Leo was already moving to follow him before Donnie had finished speaking, the two of them making a mad dash down the alleyway, and away from the building. Neither of them knew how powerful the explosion was going to be, and they put as much distance as they could between them and the building.

Climbing up onto the nearest rooftop, they kept running, jumping between one building and the next, Leo now scanning the area, looking for their two missing siblings, hoping they were smart enough to be doing the same.

The explosion shook the buildings around them, and even a fair few blocks away, Leo could feel the heat from the flames as various kraang experiments went up in flames. Knowing they were safe for a few minutes, the two of them came to a stop to get their bearings.

Donnie handed Leo’s sword back to him, pulling out his phone.

“We should find where Mikey and Raph got to,” he said, even though he hadn’t needed to as Leo had been thinking the exact same thing.

“Don?” Raph’s voice came over the phone, a mixture of excitement and relief in his voice. “Ya made it out!”

“Yeah, we made it out,” Donnie answered, and that was enough to tell Leo that at least Raph knew how close a call that had needlessly been.

“Say, Mikey had a little accident with some metal, so he’s not in the best a shape right now, could ya maybe come pick us up? We’re on the south end of the building,” Raph requested and Donnie’s expression fell.

“They need us to pick them up,” Donnie told Leo when the blue-banded turtle gave him a questioning look. “Yeah, we’ll be right there, Raph, just sit tight,” Donnie said and hung up the phone. He looked at Leo again. “Mikey’s hurt,” he answered the unasked question.

“Let’s hope it’s nothing serious,” Leo said.

Donnie nodded in agreement.

An air of apprehension settled over them as they set off to find Raph and Mikey, having to take the long way around the fire, and avoid being seen by any humans that were coming to put out the flames.

Landing on the roof Leo looked around, easily spotting his brothers sat together, hidden by the shadows of the air vent. Even from this distance, Leo could see how pale Mikey looked.

“Yo, some explosion, huh?” Raph questioned, shifting to stand up and greet his brothers.

“What happened?” Leo demanded, his eyes fixed on the orange-banded turtle, who seemed barely conscious.

“He fell down some crazy big trapdoor,” Raph explained. “Got his leg stuck under it somehow, so I went down ta help him and think I pulled my arm outta joint or somethin’ cause it hurts like crazy,” he said the last part quietly.

Leo stood there quietly, looking at Raph now as Donnie went to check on their fallen brother.

Leo was at war with himself; he wanted to scold Raph for his reckless behavior, but everything he had to say would be wasting valuable time they could be using to get Mikey home, and then he was also worried about Raph’s arm, another thing he wanted to deal with and fix. So he didn’t say anything, just stared at Raph, waiting to see if his brother would tell him more. Raph, however, just lowered his head and turned away slightly. It was a stance Raph took when he knew he’d seriously fucked up. Leo decided to leave it at that for now, turning instead to look at Donnie, who was knelt in front of Mikey.

“Don, how is he?” the blue-banded turtle asked.

“I couldn’t lift him any more,” Raph stated. “I got him as far as I could, then ya called and…” Raph trailed off as Leo wasn’t even looking at him anymore.

“He’s lost a lot of blood, he’s got severe bruising, and this gash on his leg would account for the blood loss. He’s going to need stitches,” Donnie said. “We need to get him home.”

“That’s what I was tryin’ ta say, I couldn’t carry him further, I was gonna try and get him home but…”

“No more excuses, Raph,” Leo told him sharply, his brother snapping his mouth shut. Leo stepped forward, kneeling in front of Mikey. “Hey,” he said.

Mikey blinked slowly at Leo, giving him a lop-sided smile. “I really messed up, bro,” he said.

“Yeah, sounds like both you and Raph messed up,” Leo said softly. “I’m going to carry you on my back. Think you can hang on while we get you home?” he questioned.

Mikey shrugged. “Don’t got much choice,” he said, watching as Leo turned around, shell to Mikey now and looked towards Don. “Help him onto my back,” he ordered.

Raph moved to help Don lift Mikey, but stopped when Leo fixed him with a stern look.

“Not you,” Leo snapped. “You try and lift him, you’re going to hurt yourself more too,” he explained, knowing it sounded far more like he was trying to tell Raph that he’d done enough damage already.

Donnie ignored his two older brothers, focusing on helping Mikey get onto Leo’s back, wincing when Mikey cried out as his leg was jarred.

“Oh shell, my head feels all wobbly,” Mikey complained as he wrapped his arms around Leo’s shoulders.

Leo turned his head slightly, a worried expression on his face as he looked towards Donnie.

“How much blood do you think he’s lost?” he asked.

“Enough to be worrying.” Donnie frowned. “We may need to perform a transfusion when we get back to the lair, as long as we can do that, and stop the bleeding, he should be okay.”

“We wrapped his leg really tight,” Raph offered.

“Which certainly has helped, but we still need to get him home,” Donnie said, making sure Mikey was steady as Leo stood up. At this angle, Donnie was able to examine Mikey’s leg again quickly, satisfied that it was in fact wrapped tight enough to stop any more serious bleeding.

Getting down the building was slow progress, as Leo didn’t want to hurt Mikey more, or risk dropping him, and getting him down into the sewers themselves was a tricky affair as well, however, between Leo and Donnie they managed it.

Raph stood back feeling helpless and guilty that he had let Mikey get so hurt, and there was nothing he could do to help fix it right now.

Leo thankfully was holding his tongue from chewing Raph out, even though he wanted to demand an answer to why they hadn’t called, why he and Donnie had found out after the fact that Mikey was severely hurt, because right now was not the time for that particular argument. Because all of them knew that as soon as they got home, Leo was going to have to report to Splinter; that fact alone settled over all of them like an icy blanket of dread as they could only guess and speculate what their punishments would be.

TBC

Chapter Text



Part 2

Upon arriving back at the Lair, Donnie ushered Leo into the lab, along with Mikey. Between them, they managed to lay their baby brother out on the workbench, which, more often than Donnie liked, doubled as an examination table. Once Mikey was lying down, Donnie went over to the cooling unit he had salvaged and pulled out his scarce supply of blood.

Lamenting that they had so little, he closed the door once again. This situation did call for it, and he was fairly sure that what little supply they had would be enough for Mikey, but he did make a mental note to replenish it as soon as possible.

Turning back towards his brothers, Donnie noticed Raph leaning against the wall just inside his lab, hand still clutching at his arm. Donnie hadn’t forgotten about him but Raph’s injuries were far less dire than Mikey’s, so the red-banded turtle would have to wait.

Going back over to the table Donnie started setting up everything to give Mikey the blood. Leo stepped out of the way to give Donnie space to work, though Mikey didn't let him go far, grabbing his hand when he saw the IV Donnie was setting up.

“I hate needles...” Mikey whined.

"It'll be okay," Leo assured him, keeping hold of Mikey’s hand, frowning when the younger turtle turned his head to the side and closed his eyes, breathing deeply.

“Is it okay for him to sleep?” Leo questioned looking to Donnie. He wasn’t sure if that was what Mikey was doing, or if he was just avoiding looking at the needle, but thought it was a good idea to check.

“He should be fine to sleep.” Donnie nodded, making sure the IV was properly in place before he moved onto the next task. “I need to reapply his bandages, and see if I have anything left for his bruises. I should also make sure there’re no other injuries I might have missed. I’ll need to make him a splint for his leg so he doesn’t cause further damage to it as well.” Donnie headed toward his medicine cabinet. “I’ll administer some anesthesia, or else the pain might keep him awake all night.”

Leo could tell Donnie wasn’t really talking to him any more, so he simply nodded, petting Mikey’s head gently. Sure, now, that his brother was going to be okay, he let go of Mikey’s hand, finally turning toward Raph, who was still stood silently by the door.

“Come here, I’ll look at your arm,” Leo said, motioning Raph forward. He knew he wasn’t as good, or gentle as Donnie could be with the medical stuff, as he hadn’t had the amount of practice Donnie had, however, he did know the basics that had been taught to them; how to set bones, wrap them properly, stop heavy bleeding.

Raph didn’t look to thrilled about the idea, but he complied all the same, walking over to Leo and reluctantly showing him the damage done, mumbling something that might have sounded like a ‘thanks’, if one were to listen carefully, with a hearing aid.

Raph didn’t look at Leo as the blue-banded turtle started looking it over, focusing on where it was swollen, up near the shoulder, along with the obvious rope burns on his hand. The two of them sat in silence as Leo worked, until the blue-banded turtle finally let out a soft sigh, not looking at Raph as he spoke.

“Why didn’t you call when Mikey first got hurt?” Leo asked, feeling around to see if there were any broken bones, or if it was just a dislocated shoulder.

“Cause I thought I could handle it!” Raph said, already on the defensive, wincing when Leo started prodding at his sore arm. “I figured I’d land down there just fine, move the friggin’ metal scrap and we’d be on our way to-oh! Ow ow ow ow! Y’ found it genius! Stop pokin’ it already!” Raph glared at Leo, the pain from the few pokes up near his shoulder hurt far more than he had expected them to.

Leo gave Raph an apologetic look, placing his hands on Raph’s shoulder. He didn’t warn him more than that, didn’t count to three, just snapped it back into place.

“It’s one thing to gamble with your own safety,” Leo said. Grabbing the bandages and he started securing Raph’s arm and shoulder in place so it wouldn’t pop out of joint again. “Or gamble with mine. But never do that again with our brothers.” Leo’s voice was calm as he worked, and it was hard to tell if he was more angry, or disappointed.

Raph bit back a growl, partly at the pain, and partly at Leo’s statement. He was working up to deny that he was gambling with anyone’s life at all when Leo continued talking, taking advantage of Raph’s pained silence.

“What would you have done if Mikey had cut an artery?” Leo asked, finally looking up to lock eyes with Raph.

“I would have called ya then!” Raph protested, torn between going off on Leo, or just running away to compose himself when he felt the sting of tears in his eyes. “I ain’t stupid, Leo. If it were really bad, I wouldn’t ‘a let it…” He trailed off, looking away as he felt his throat tighten; too many emotions were swirling around inside him right now for him to keep them all in check, and it was starting to affect him.

“He seemed fine, til we got to the power room, then he started havin’ problems,” Raph finished, forcing his voice to stay calm so he wouldn’t do something stupid, like start crying in front of Leo of all people.

Leo finished tying up off the bandages, making sure they were tight enough to restrict any movement, knowing it was all he could do to prevent Raph from using his arm too soon.

“Mikey ‘seeming fine’ is usually a red flag that he’s worse off than he’s letting on,” Leo stated.

“I told him ta stay back!” Raph insisted, picking the old familiar emotion of anger and directing it at Leo. “What do ya want from me, huh? Ta say I fucked up? Cause I fucked up! Okay!? There! Now can you can shut up about this and get off my shell?”

“I want to know that this won’t happen again,” Leo shot back, narrowing his eyes and looking very unimpressed by Raph’s outburst. “I want to know I can still trust you to not get any of us killed because you didn’t think!”

Raph was already feeling overwhelmed by the nights events; upset, guilty, in pain, and now having Leo standing there, accusing him the way he was, was tipping the scale for Raph. The red-banded turtle clenched his free hand into a fist and, feeling his eyes mist up suddenly, he turned around and stormed from the room.

Fighting with Leo wasn’t an unusual occurrence in the Lair, and neither was Raph’s anger towards him. However, the nearly bursting into tears was new and Raph knew he had to get away from his brother before he did something stupid, like start truly crying, or punch him, or perhaps a combination of the two. So instead, Raph went to his punching bag, using his good arm to start hitting it, focusing on how tightly he clenched his fist, nails digging into his palm, feeling how it connected with the bag, the familiar vibration of the impacted helping him focus and calm down.

Leo thankfully didn’t follow him, though Raph did glance over his shoulder to make sure of that at least once, and he saw his blue-banded leader turning to go back into the lab, most likely intending to check on Mikey.

-----------x

Donnie was just finishing wrapping Mikey’s leg when Leo came back to stand by the table and watched him.

“I’m going to keep Mikey in here tonight, I’ll watch him until he wakes up,” Donnie explained.

Leo continued to silently watch him as his purple banded brother finished with the bandages and started getting ready to put things away.

“He didn’t have any other injuries,” Donnie informed him, “so I think he’s going to be fine in a day or two. Though, he should probably be kept off his leg for a couple weeks at least, it’s really bad, and even with our accelerated healing, it’s going to take time for broken bones and a cut like that to heal properly.”

“Wonderful,” Leo said sarcastically with a roll of his eyes, but he still smiled at his brother. “Good work tonight, Don.”

Donnie smiled at him, and Leo pretended not to see how his brother perked up very slightly at the praise, before dismissing him.

“I have some more work that I need to get done, so I can stay up with Mikey,” he said again, turning his shell to Leo and going back to his work.

“Don’t forget to get some rest yourself,” was all Leo said, knowing the request was falling on deaf ears as Don went straight for his computer, pulling open multiple projects that he clearly had lined up. Shaking his head at him, Leo turned and left the lab, knowing Mikey was now safe and in good hands, he closed the door behind him.

Standing in the main room of the Lair, Leo let his focus drift to Raph still by the punching bag, before letting his eyes drift to Splinter’s door.

Their father obviously knew they were home, and knew that something had happened, however, as the rat hadn’t come out to question them or demand an update on that night’s mission, Leo was inclined to leave that alone for now, and write this off as an evening of narrow escapes.

So instead, he looked back at Raph, watching as his brother worked at beating the shit out of the punching bag, taking out his frustrations on it. Leo was fairly sure his red-banded brother was imagining his face on that bag this evening.

He hated fighting with Raph, hated making his brother feel worse than he already did, he hated pointing out his faults, but Leo also knew he couldn’t just let Raph do what he wanted, knew that he had to keep his brother in line, had to make sure he knew what he had done wrong. Their life was a complicated one and Leo truly hoped Raph knew why he pushed him so hard.

“Screw this,” Raph suddenly said.

Leo blinked at him, his brother’s tone lacking the normal bite to it when he usually suddenly gave up on things.

“I’m going to bed,” Raph’s voice sounded shaky to Leo’s ears, and even his posture seemed off as the red-banded turtle went down the hall to his own room.

Leo half expected to hear the slam of a door, and was not expecting the soft click. His heart clenched painfully in his chest and he was following Raph before he’d even fully thought about what he was doing, only to stop when his hand was on the door. The need to comfort his brother was pulling at him, the need to apologise, because he had been the one to upset Raph this time, he had been the one to push his brother to tears. However, Leo forced himself to let go of the handle and back away from the door, pushing his feelings for Raph back again.

“I’m sorry…” He whispered the words, half hoping that somehow Raph could hear them through the door, hoping that his brother didn’t need to actually hear the apology, that he just somehow knew that Leo was sorry for what he’d said, sorry for how he was forced to treat him, and understood that it really was for his own good.

Sighing Leo turned and went to his own room, pausing at the door to look over his shoulder at Raph’s door once more before slipping inside, intending to get some sleep before he had to report to Splinter in the morning.

---------x

Mikey woke early the next morning, early for him anyway, and was curious as to what could have possibly woken him up from such a deep sleep. Shifting slightly to get a look around at where he was, Mikey realized then what had woken him.

His stomach growled loudly, reminding him that they hadn’t eaten dinner last night, or at least, he hadn't. That and the sudden need for the bathroom, had Mikey sitting up on the examination table rather quickly, stopping with a groan when he felt the room spin around him.

“Oh, bad idea,” he said to himself.

“Morning, Mikey,” Donnie greeted.

Mikey looked between his fingers at the purple-banded turtle, who was standing up from his desk.

“You slept through the night alright,” he said, taking on his ‘doctor’ tone.

Mikey inwardly groaned.

“Yeah, slept totally fine dude,” Mikey said.

“How are you feeling this morning? Any dizziness? Pain?” Donnie questioned.

Mikey shook his head slowly.

“Well, a little dizzy, but that’s only ‘cause I sat up too fast, but I’m totally starving this morning, bro, and I seriously need the toilet, so if I could just…” Mikey trailed off, already moving to slide from the table, only to be stopped by Donnie’s hands on his shoulder.

“Tut tut tut!” Donnie exclaimed, holding Mikey where he was. “Not without a crutch you don’t,” Donnie informed him.

Mikey groaned outwardly this time as Donnie let him go and went to retrieve one of the crutches he’d salvaged from the dump.

“Your leg should stay in place with that splint, but I don’t want to see you set that foot anywhere near the floor for at least the next week, possibly two.”

Mikey made a face as he took the crutch from Donnie, slipping from the table and testing it out by walking a few steps under Donnie’s supervision.

“So, on a scale of one to ten, how upset is Leo?” Mikey questioned, already making his way to the bathroom Donnie had installed in his lab.

“Oh, I’d say only about an eight,” Donnie said, turning to begin sanitizing the examination table, clearly getting ready for the next time one of his brothers inevitably needed it. “He and Raph fought last night after you fell asleep, but that’s not surprising I suppose, not with how bad your leg is banged up.”

Letting out a small sigh Mikey didn’t comment on that. He hated how rare it was that Leo and Raph didn’t fight after any missions lately, but he chose not to comment on that, at least not in the Lair where Splinter might hear.

Slipping into the bathroom, every thought on his mind was suddenly gone as he prepared to relieve the pressure on his bladder.

He let out a high-pitched shriek. “DONNIE!”

He turned, just as the bathroom door flew open, and Donnie was there, pale and eyes wide.

“What happened?” Donnie demanded, knowing none of his brothers screamed like that for no reason, not even Mikey when pulling a prank.

“I… Don,” Mikey began, his voice trembling as he stared at his brother. “I think I’m sick. It… it’s gone.”

Color came back to Donnie’s features as he realized that there was nothing immediately wrong with Mikey, or rather, the smaller turtle hadn’t injured himself further by falling or hitting his leg.

“What’s gone?” Donnie questioned, locking eyes with Mikey.

A blush spread over Mikey’s cheeks as he gestured to his lower region. “IT is gone, it… I went to use the bathroom and… Don, there’s nothing THERE!” Mikey explained, panic rising in his voice.

Donnie gave Mikey a skeptical look. He didn’t think Mikey was lying, but he thought perhaps his brother might have hit his head in his fall the previous night and might be seeing things, or be a little confused.

“I can assure you, Mikey,” Donnie said in a calm, yet skeptical voice. “You did not lose your penis in the accident.”

“I’m serious dude! It’s not there!” Mikey insisted, walking forward and staring pleadingly at Donnie.

“Alright, alright.” Donnie held his hands up. “Get back on the table and I’ll examine your cloaca,” he said, helping Mikey back to the table before grabbing a box of gloves from nearby.

Mikey was trembling as he pulled himself back up onto the table, his mind was racing as he watched Donnie get his gloves, pull one on and slide a chair up close to the table.

“Now, spread your legs… yes, like that,” Donnie said, one hand was placed on Mikey’s inner thigh, the other was slowly spreading his cloaca. “It could be it’s just gotten stuck, that’s happened to all of us before,” Donnie said, his finger slipping inside Mikey to try and unstick his penis from where it was clearly trapped.

Several things happened at once; Donnie’s finger was going deeper than Mikey knew it should be able to, before it hit something that caused Mikey to gasp, a strange chirping noise escaping him when Donnie suddenly jerked back, his own cheeks bright red as he stared up at Mikey with wide eyes.

“D-Don?” Mikey asked, not liking the way Donnie was staring at him, looking just as confused as Mikey felt.

“Mikey,” Donnie said, swallowing almost nervously as his eyes shifted down to stare at Mikey between the legs once more, before seeming to catch himself and standing up quickly, putting another step between him and the turtle on the table. “I don’t know how to say this but… um, you’re... I think, no, I know you’re right, you no longer have a... um… your phallus is gone because...”

Mikey got the feeling that it was really bad news if Donnie was having a hard time telling him what had happened, and in true Mikey fashion, his mind jumped to the worst possible outcome.

“... am I dying?” he asked.

“What?! No, no of course not, Mikey, you’re completely healthy, all things considered,” Donnie said.

“Last I checked, bro, a healthy person’s dick doesn’t just vanish!” Mikey exclaimed, his voice a little more high pitched than usual. “How is this even possible?” he asked.

“That’s what I want to know!” Donnie exclaimed, turning away from Mikey as he started to pace back and forth. “One’s entire biological makeup doesn’t just change overnight, it’s just not physically possible, but then again, scientifically speaking, from what we know about the Kraang and the mutagen, we shouldn't even be physically possible. Our understanding of it is so limited, I’ve only ever managed to study that one cansiter father didn’t immediately take away from us. Though he was right that the mutagen is dangerous, it’s the only explanation I have for why you would suddenly be changing genders like this.”

Donnie was rambling and Mikey was doing his best to follow what his purple-banded brother was saying, however, he was still very confused about everything, and his brothers musings weren’t helping.

“Some reptiles have been known to slip genders in an all male environment, but I’ve never known turtles to do that before…” Donnie trailed off, but kept pacing.

Mikey could only assume his brother was now tuning him out as he continued his musings internally.

Accepting that he wasn’t going to get any answers from his brother at that moment, and needing someone to talk to about this and calm himself down, Mikey thought about informing Leo about what had happened. However, as he grabbed his crutch and slipped from the table, another scream echoed through the Lair, similar in pitch to Mikey’s earlier one. This broke Donnie out of his thoughts as he and Mikey stared at each other.

“WHERE THE FUCK DID MY DICK GO!?” Raph’s voice, loud and clear indicated that the situation had just gotten worse.

Donnie was already running from the room as Mikey turned to follow.

“Oh fuck…” the orange-banded turtle whispered to himself, moving as fast is he could through the lair to locate Raph, the gears in his mind already turning, and the memory of falling into that tar like mutagen the night before was vividly replaying in his mind over and over again.

Mikey caught up with Donnie, his brother standing at the bathroom door as Raph opened it.

“Raph, what happened?” Donnie asked, even though it was obvious he already knew as he was looking Raph over much like he would a science project.

“Is yours gone too?” Mikey interjected before Raph could answer, gaining the attention of the red-banded turtle as Leo’s door opened down the hall, their older brother coming out to see what all the yelling was about.

“Too?” Raph demanded, his breathing picking up as he was obviously starting to panic. “What do ya mean too!? You sayin’ your junk is don’ a disappearing act?!”

“It’s not that,” Donnie cut in. “Mikey’s entire body has changed. It may not be obvious right away, and I'll need to run some tests, but it seems Mikey, and perhaps you too, have slipped genders,” Donnie explained.

“What does that mean, Donnie?” Leo questioned, coming out of his room further, the situation seeming dire enough to warrant his full attention now.

“He means we’re both chicks,” Mikey offered, looking over to Leo, then to Raph again. “Do you… um… was it the stuff we fell in last night?” he offered tentatively to Raph.

“Stuff? What stuff?” Donnie demanded, looking to Raph, and then Mikey. “You didn’t tell either of us about any ‘stuff’,” Donnie said, looking to Leo to find out if Raph had mentioned anything, though he was sure he hadn't.

“That… fuck, I forgot all about that…” Raph admitted, his eyes having widened further after Mikey’s comment. The red-banded turtle’s hands clenched into fists, however neither he nor Mikey were very forthcoming with this information they both had somehow forgotten to mention to either Leo or Donnie.

“Was this another thing that wasn’t ‘too bad’ until recently?” Leo questioned, his eyes fixed on Raph as he spoke.

“It wasn’t Raph’s fault, I forgot about it too. Nothing happened after we fell into it, we didn’t feel any differently,” Mikey offered, coming to stand between Leo and Raph as he began explaining what had happened. “It was just an accident, Leo, and it was totally my fault too, not Raph’s, I had already busted up my leg, and I was looking for something to help so I could walk okay without Raph carrying me, and… I got too close to the black mutagen stuff, and when I tried to stand again, I made Raph lose his footing and we both went under,” the younger turtle explained in a rush.

Leo stared down at Mikey, then looked to Raph again, obviously contemplating what he should do with this new information. From Mikey’s story, Leo had to admit it sounded as if it was Mikey’s fault, and Raph was doing the best he could not to really look at Leo at all.

“I’m going to need to run some tests on both of you,” Donnie said, breaking the tension building in the air. “And I’m going to need a sample of that substance you two fell in for a proper analysis,” he stated.

“Oh great,” Raph started, “we’ll just go dig some up from the building we blew up last night!” he growled.

“Raph,” Leo said, stepping forward and reaching out to place a hand on his brother’s shoulder, and Mikey wasn’t sure why his elder brother thought this would calm Raph down. “Getting angry about this isn’t going to help anyone, least of all you or Mikey.” His voice was calm, and nothing about his stance was really trying to provoke a fight with Raph.

However, Raph didn’t seem to take it that way as the red-banded turtle growled, shrugging Leo’s arm off his shoulder.

“I ain’t angry,” he insisted, though his posture and expression said differently.

Leo simply nodded, letting his hand fall back to his side as he looked to Donnie.

“There has to be something on the information you got from the computer last night, maybe with some blood samples you could figure something out?” Leo suggested.

Donnie looked thoughtful, tapping his chin as he hummed. “It’s possible, but it’s equally possible that I may need a sample of the substance to produce the antidote,” he answered honestly.

“So ya can fix us?” Raph questioned.

Donnie shook his head. “It’s too soon to promise anything, all I can say is I’m going to try. I’ll need a blood sample from you first, Raph, as Mikey just got a transfusion, and your blood hasn’t been tampered with,” Donnie said motioning for Raph to follow him.

“I’ll be right there,” Raph said turning to go back into the bathroom, his cheeks tinted pink. “I gotta clean up,” he explained when he got a questioning look from his siblings, though Mikey seemed to realize what had happened.

“That reminds me,” the orange-banded turtle said, a blush coloring his own cheeks and he left out a slightly nervous laugh. “I kinda still need the bathroom,” he explained.

That seemed to be enough information for his two other brothers, so he turned and headed back to Donnie’s lab to use the bathroom there.

Leo watched him go, looking at Donnie when his brother motioned for him to follow him into the living room. Leo assumed it was so Raph or Mikey wouldn’t hear what Donnie had to say.

“You can fix this, can’t you, Don?” Leo questioned once they were out of earshot of the bathroom.

“Honestly?” Donnie asked, turning to look at Leo. “I don’t know, but I’m going to do everything in my power to,” he promised, letting out a long sigh. “I really wish they had gotten a proper sample of the stuff, it would make this so much easier,” he admitted, leaning against the back of the couch. “I don’t know what is even in those files I got.” He sounded a little frustrated.

Leo stood there, arms crossed over his chest as he looked at Donnie, feeling just as lost as his brother seemed to be.

“I’m at a total loss on how to handle any of this,” Leo stated, though he wasn’t expecting Donnie to have the answer to this problem, or even any words of wisdom, Leo had always felt like he could talk to Donnie openly and honestly about what he was feeling, and his misgivings about how he performed as a leader.

“If we’re lucky this wasn’t the only place that was running this experiment. If nothing else, the information I gathered might have other places listed that we could raid.” Donnie said.

Leo nodded once again, glancing at the dojo door that had remained shut the entire morning, despite the noise and commotion.

“I should tell Sensei, shouldn’t I?” he asked, though he was reluctant to do so.

Donnie followed Leo’s gaze to the door, biting his lower lip. “He might have good advice about how we could be handling this problem,” he said, however, Leo knew Donnie was just as reluctant to talk to Splinter as he was, for numerous reasons.

Leo looked to his brother when Donnie turned to him once more, placing a hand on his arm and patting it gently, apologetically.

“I’m afraid you probably have to get this over with,” Donnie said, his lips quirked up into a half smile, one that Leo didn’t return as he patted Donnie’s arm.

“You go check on Mikey and Raph, maybe keep them in your lab for now, while I get this over with,” he said quietly.

Donnie nodded in agreement and Leo watched him head off to the lab, hopefully to round up their brothers. Leo squared his shoulders and took a deep calming breath, walking in the opposite direction to Donnie, heading for the sliding door of the dojo.

Leo stopped in front of the door as he usually did, taking another deep breath to prepare himself for what he was about to face. Raising his hand, he knocked, his heart hammering in his chest as he waited for his father to allow him to enter.

Standing there for nearly a minute, Leo knew better than to leave his new post; Splinter could, and had left him standing here for up to an hour before. It was one form of punishment the rat inflicted on all of them, letting them work themselves up into a state before agreeing to talk with them.

Leo hardly remembered a time when Splinter wasn’t like this. Although Leo was sure the rat had gotten worse over the years, he couldn’t pinpoint a single moment when his father had become almost cruel and controlling the way he was now.

“Enter,” Splinter finally called out to him nearly a full ten minutes later.

Leo kept himself from sighing in relief that he hadn’t been made to stand there all day. Sliding the door open, he slipped inside; closing it behind him once again, he turned and bowed politely to Splinter.

“I assume you are here to discuss the disturbance in the lair this morning, Leonardo,” Splinter said, getting straight to the point.

Leo knew then how closely Splinter had been monitoring the going-ons of the morning commotion.

“Hai, sensei,” Leo said, keeping his eyes fixed straight ahead, but not looking at the rat as Splinter sat by the self made shrine in a meditative pose. “It would appear our mission last night, while successful, had… complications,” Leo informed him, and waited to see what Splinter made of that.

Splinter remained where he was, seemingly calm despite the news, though one of his ears twitched ever so slightly when Leo had finished speaking.

“Complications, I see, and are you going to explain what these… complications, which caused our morning so much unrest, happen to be?”

Leo swallowed hard and hoped his father hadn't noticed his momentary lapse as his eyes flicked down to look at him before returning to their previous state of staring straight ahead. He kept his hands clasped behind his back and took a deep breath.

“There was an accident, which affected both Raph and Mikey, physically,” Leo said, his voice not betraying his nervousness. “They appear, according to Donnie, they are now…” Leo trailed off, the word catching in his throat as he saw Splinter stand up from his position.

“They are what?” Splinter prompted, locking eyes with Leo.

“...female, sensei, Raph and Mikey are now female,” Leo said, his voice wavering slightly despite himself.

Splinter didn’t show any outward sign of his surprise, though Leo was sure he’d seen his eyes widen a fraction.

“Female?” Splinter questioned, stroking his chin. “And how, may I ask, did you allow such a thing to happen, Leonardo?”

Leo knew Splinter would see this as his fault, he was the leader after all, so he answered truthfully.

“We had to seperate, it was more efficient, Donnie needed to get information off the computers located on the top floor, while Raph and MIkey went to the power room,” Leo explained, purposely looking at Splinter now. “Donnie is fixin things now,” he said.

Splinter’s eyes remained locked on his eldest sons’, his stare cold yet intense. “There should be nothing to fix, regardless of how it happened. You are the eldest, and the leader of your team, were you able to do your job and lead your team properly, your brothers would not have been inflicted with this… condition,” Splinter said.

Lowering his head, Leo broke his gaze with Splinter, his brow furrowed at Splinter’s choice of words, but didn’t dare question it.

“I am truly sorry, Sensei, I will try harder, I will fix this-”

“Yes,” Splinter interrupted. “You will.”

Stepping forward the rat placed a hand on Leo’s shoulder; from an outside perspective it would have looked like a kind fatherly gesture, however as Splinter gripped Leo’s shoulder tightly, the turtle flinched.

“I think we will start with you taking over training lessons for the next week, while I supervise,” Splinter said.

Leo wanted to protest, however, it was Splinter’s particular punishment for Leo, making the blue-banded turtle the one to inflict pain on his siblings he had sworn to protect.

“H-hai, sensai,” Leo said, feeling a lump in his throat as he nodded once more.

“You are dismissed,” Splinter said.

Leo turned to leave without another word, pausing at the door to turn and bow politely to Splinter as they had all been taught, before turning and doing his best not to run from the dojo. He didn’t breathe easier until the door was closed behind him and he was a few paces away from the dojo, and out of reach of his father, for now.

TBC

Chapter Text

 

Part 3

Raph made his way into Donnie’s lab as promised. Stepping inside and looking around, he saw Mikey had already made himself comfortable. For once, though, the turtle-in-orange wasn’t poking or prodding at things in the lab, his attention on the door to the lab, even after Raph had moved away from it.

“How are you feeling?” Donnie asked, motioning Raph over to the table Mikey had spent the night on.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Raph said, avoiding answering that particular question because he didn’t really know how to answer it.

Donnie simply nodded, put on a fresh pair of gloves, before setting up the needle. Raph offered his arm to Donnie and the purple-banded turtle looked at him.

“Okay, you’re going to feel a slight pinch--” Donnie started.

Raph couldn't stop himself from growling at his brother.

“Just hurry up already an’ stop actin’ like I’ve never given blood before,” he said, huffing a bit, but he still flinched slightly when Donnie administered the needle. It was moments like this that Raph could fully understand Mikey’s dislike for needles, he himself wasn’t overly fond of them; however he also knew if he fought back he would hurt himself, and most likely Don too, so he held his arm still as he could while the purple banded turtle worked.

It thankfully only took a few seconds, then Donnie was finished, and was placing a bandage over the still bleeding hole. Raph looked at the syringe then, snorting and rolling his eyes at how much Donnie had taken this time.

“Yeesh Don, are ya a vampire or somethin’? You tryin’ ta drain me of all my blood?” he joked.

“This is hardly all your blood, and it’s not like I haven’t taken more before to stock up our supplies,” Donnie said, making quick work of cleaning the area before returning to his work table with the blood sample.

Raph simply rolled his eyes again and looked over to Mikey, who hadn’t said a word since Raph had walked in.

“What’s up with him?” Raph asked, looking to Donnie for answers.

Donnie glanced at Raph, then Mikey and sighed, turning his shell to his brothers again.

“Leo’s in the dojo talking to Splinter,” he informed Raph.

This had the red-banded turtle looking quickly to the door of the lab as well, watching it almost as intently as Mikey was. As if expecting to be able to see through the solid metal to the dojo door on the other side of the lair. For the next few minutes the only sound in the lair was Donnie working, or the occasional squeak of a chair as Mikey shifted around in his seat. For Raph it felt like an eternity passed before the door opened and Leo came in.

“Hey guys,” he said, joining them in the lab.

Raph heard Mikey sigh, and with a quick glance he saw his younger brother had visibly relaxed. Raph, however, couldn’t make himself relax, waiting to hear what Leo was going to tell them, as he was sure Splinter hadn’t had anything good or helpful to say.

Leo stayed by the door, looking mainly at Donnie. “How you getting on?” he questioned, Raph refrained from snapping as Leo blatantly ignored his and Mikey’s questioning looks.

“I’ve taken the blood sample from Raph,” Donnie informed him, turning from his work desk to face Leo. His eyes flickered to Raph, who was shifting to sit further on the table, legs splayed and arms crossed over his chest as he continued staring at Leo. Shaking his head at the pose, Donnie looked back to Leo.

“I’ve only just had my first look at it, so it’s going to be a while before I have any answers regarding what’s going on, or how that stuff worked to change them,” Donnie said. “I also haven’t had a chance to even look at the data yet.”

Leo nodded, listening to Donnie’s report, before finally looking at the other two.

“While Donnie works on that, Sensei wants to start morning training. I…” Leo trailed off, noticing the tense stances from each of his brothers. “He wants me to lead the training session this morning,” he explained.

“Wait…” Mikey said. “We’re not getting the day off?”

“I’m afraid not.” Leo gave him and then Raph an apologetic look. “I think, Donnie, you’re first this morning, that way when you’re finished, you can come right back here and get to work. Then Raph, you’re after Don. And, I’m sorry Mikey, you’ll be last today,” Leo said.

“Fine by me,” Raph shrugged, seeming unphased by the news he’d be training, even with a dislocated arm. However, in reality, Raph knew whether he was on board with the idea or not, he’d be dragged into the dojo, so he decided to look at this as a way to vent his frustrations.

“Leo, I can’t just…” Donnie started to say but he trailed off with a sigh and shook his head, looking back at the work he'd only just started on. “Alright, I guess it would be better if I went first, then I won’t be interrupted halfway through,” he said, stepping away from his table and grabbing his bo staff from where he’d left it the night before. “You two should probably go hang out somewhere else for now, I’ll come and get you if I find anything later,” he said, following Leo back to the dojo.

Raph took that as dismissal from the lab, which made sense; he knew Donnie hated anyone in his lab, with the dangerous things he kept in there, while he wasn’t there. He didn’t say anything as he slipped from the table and went to the door of the lab, hearing a chair scrape on the floor as Mikey stood to follow.

“Raph,” Mikey said as the orange-banded turtle caught up to him. “Do you think Splinter is really angry with us?”

It was a fair question, but Raph couldn’t help but roll his eyes.

“He’s makin’ us train with a busted arm and leg. What do you think?” Raph demanded, heading toward the kitchen. “I bet Leo went and told him everything that happened,” Raph grumbled as Mikey continued to follow him.

“Splinter would have found out anyway, he always does,” Mikey said, moving to the kitchen table.

He set his crutch against the side of a chair before sitting down, watching as Raph grabbed two bowls and a box of cereal, biting on his lower lip as the red-banded turtle fixed them both something quick to eat.

“Are you mad?” Mikey hedged.

Raph paused in what he was doing, looking at Mikey. “Why would I be mad?” he replied. “Just ‘cause my wrist is busted up, we got splinter on high alert, I feel like Donnie took a pint of my friggein’ blood, Leo’s bein’ a pain in the ass, and oh yeah, I’m a fucking girl now!” Raph inhaled sharply turning his shell to Mikey, grabbing one of the bowls, he practically dropped it onto the table in front of the younger turtle before grabbing his own. “No, I ain’t mad, I feel like a million bucks,” he said, his voice dripping with heavy sarcasm.

As he headed to the fridge to get the milk, a sniff caught Raph’s attention. He turned to blink at Mikey.

“I’m sorry,” Mikey sniffed again, rubbing fiercely at his eyes to stop the heavy flow of tears, however, no matter what he did, it didn’t seem to help as more tears just seemed to replace the one’s cleared away.

Raph wasn’t a fan of crying, he hated every aspect of it, but mostly he hated that he never knew what to do. If it was him, he’d usually lock himself in his room so others didn’t see him. When other people were crying, he’d usually do the same thing. However, on the rare occasion he was forced to deal with it, all he could think to do was give them a small pat on the shoulder, a reluctant show of concern, or the majority of the time, he’d just stand there in an awkward silence, waiting to see if the problem resolved itself.

Mikey seemed to be doing his best not to cry too loudly, rubbing at his eyes at first in an attempt to stop the tears, and when that failed, he simply hid his face in his arms, shoulders shaking as his crying seemed to increase in severity.

Seeing Mikey cry like that put Raph on edge, mostly because it was Mikey, but also because it made Raph feel guilty; he knew it was at least partly his fault the younger turtle was so upset, simply because Raph had taken his bad mood out on him. Overall it wasn’t entirely Mikey’s fault he was having a bad day.

“Hey, hey,” Raph started, stepping forward and placing a hand on Mikey’s shell, gently rubbing it like he’d seen Leo and Donnie do plenty of times while they were growing up. “Look, it’s okay. It’s just been a really bad day so far. I didn’t mean ta make ya cry, so… I’m sorry, okay?” Raph said, looking around awkwardly, already knowing no one other than Mikey was around to hear his apology, but he still had to make sure.

Mikey sniffed, lifting his head to look at Raph.

“I just… I didn’t mean to make this happen, it was an accident, and now… now we’re both girls, and Donnie can’t fix this, and splinter is mad at us and… and…”

Mikey didn’t seem to be able to get out whatever else he wanted to say, he simply turned in his chair and wrapped his arms around Raph’s waist, his face buried against Raph’s plastron as he cried harder.

Raph froze, feeling his brother grab onto him, before sighing and wrapping his good arm around him. He didn’t say anything else, just let Mikey have his moment, figuring it was just something Mikey had to get out of his system, and then things would go back to normal. He wracked his brain trying to think of something, anything he could say to make it better, hating that he was so bad at talking, and feelings. If it were Leo or Donnie, they would know what to say to stop their baby brother from being so upset, or at least they’d be able to think of something to distract him.

Mikey’s cries tapered off on their own, but he didn’t pull away from Raph just yet, his breathing slowly returning to normal.

“... I don’t want to be a ninja anymore…” he said, taking Raph by surprise.

“C’mon, ya don’t mean that, and everythin’ else ya said too, Don said he’s gonna fix us, and I don’t know anyone who’s smarter than him,” Raph pointed out. “Donnie also said he might be able ta make an antidote usin’ the samples he just took from me, so I bet ya he’ll have somethin’ for us by tha end of tha day.”

Both Raph and Mikey knew that wasn’t very likely, but it had Mikey smiling, pulling back to look at Raph, wiping his eyes and nodding.

“Sorry, I don’t know where that came from. You’re right, things will be fine,” he said. It was the one simple truth they all clung to, whenever a mission went wrong, whenever Leo was forced to spend hours in the dojo with Splinter, when any of them had lessons with Splinter; the simple truth was, things might suck now, but in the end, they were all going to be okay.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it,” Raph replied, patting Mikey’s shell before going to finish fixing his bowl of cereal, handing Mikey the milk so he could do the same. “I didn’t mean ta getcha all worked up like that, it’s just been a crazy mornin’ and I guess I ain’t takin’ it too great either.” He returned to the table and sat down to finally eat his meagre bowl of cereal.

The two of them ate quickly and quietly, knowing that if their father saw them eating anything before practice, they would be in serious trouble. It wasn’t as if food was scarce in the lair, or even off-limits, however, Splinter had always been under the opinion that you had to earn everything, including food. To do that, you had to do well in lessons for the day, no matter whether it took half an hour or five hours.

When they finished, Mikey moved to put the bowls in the sink to wash them, however, Raph got them first.

“Ya ain’t supposed ta be standin’,” he said.

“Oh, right,” Mikey said, sinking back into his seat as Raph washed up quickly. “Hey Raph, what happens if Donnie can’t fix us? We’ll have to be girls forever.” Mikey lifted his head to look at Raph. “Do I have to start calling you ‘sis’?”

“You’ll never have ta call me sis,” Raph said dismissively, trying not to let his annoyance show, in case it sent Mikey into a crying fit again. “And I don’t wanna think about him not fixin’ us. I mean, somethin’ made us inta girls, so something’s gotta turn us back, right?”

“Something turned us from normal turtles into this and there’s no way back from that,” Mikey pointed out.

“We weren’t lookin’ to turn back into normal turtles, Mikey,” Raph stated, though the truth was he’s never even considered the possibility, he was just happy to see Mikey acting a little more like normal, even if he was asking dumb questions.

“True,” Mikey said. “You’re probably right. Donnie is totally gonna find a cure for us.”

Raph grinned. “Glad you’re seein’ it my way. Just give Donnie his lab and a bit a time, we’ll have our junk back soon enough.”

Their conversation was halted by the sound of the dojo door opening and the two turtles looked at each other. Mikey grabbed his crutch and stood up, following the red-banded turtle out of the kitchen. They didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing that Donnie had been allowed out of the dojo so soon.

Donnie made his way slowly across the lair to his lab, head lowered. He didn’t even look at his other two siblings standing by the kitchen door as he slipped into his lab and closed the door behind him.

“Raphael!” Splinter’s voice carried through the lair. The rat didn’t shout but the tone he used was stern, and told Raph everything he needed to know about how the remainder of his morning was going to go.

Any enthusiasm he had gained about finding a cure was gone upon hearing Splinter calling him into the dojo, he gave Mikey a look, the orange-banded turtle not being very helpful with the nervous smile he gave Raph in return. Turning back around, Raph didn’t make Splinter wait any longer, making his way through the living room area, up the steps into the dojo where the door was closed behind him.

------------x

Raph stepped into the dojo, looking at Leo who was standing behind and to the left of Splinter. The blue-banded turtle was staring straight ahead, though he did lock eyes with Raph for a moment before Splinter spoke, drawing both their attention to him.

“Raphael, your brother has informed of what happened last night. I now wish to hear it from you,” Splinter said, looking sternly down at Raph.

Inhaling sharply, Raph stepped forward, closer to the center of the dojo. He took his usual expected position, kneeling on the floor, hands, or rather hand, resting on his lap, as his other arm was still strapped to his plastron to limit movement. He glanced up at his father, then to Leo once again, unsure why he kept looking to his older brother, as there was nothing either of them could do.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Raph tried to at least appear calm, even though inside he was a whirling mass of fear and anxiety.

“Mikey an’ me, we had an accident, Sensei.” He did his best to sound stern, confident, looking straight ahead and not looking at anyone. “On the mission, we fell into a trap door, an’ then… then we fell into some weird goop which did somethin’ ta us.” His eyes flicked to Splinter’s tail, which was twitching in agitation. “It... it turned us inta girls… I guess,” Raph finished.

“You guess,” Splinter repeated, his tail flicking again, however, the rest of him remained unmoving as he narrowed his eyes at Raph.

The red-banded turtle flinched, realising he had already messed up as Splinter continued speaking.

“Leonardo, as leader of this team, it falls to you to pick a suitable punishment for your… sister,”

Raph’s head snapped up, staring at Splinter in shock, his gaze quickly going to Leo next, only to find the blue-banded turtle looked just as surprised.

“Sensei, I’m not,” Leo began, only to freeze when Splinter turned to look at him, Raph couldn’t see the look the rat gave Leo, but it seemed to do the trick as Leo bowed his head, “H-Hai, sensei.”.

Raph felt his heart clench and his body freeze up at Leo’s agreement. However his hurt was mixed with anger at being called Leo’s sister, and there was nothing he could do to argue that point, at least not in front of Splinter.

Leo stepped forward, until he was standing in front of Raph.

Raph clenched his good hand on his thigh, clenching his eyes shut tightly for a moment, before lifting his head to glare at Leo. This was his brother, not Splinter, and he had no problem showing his anger towards him.

Leo took a deep breath, focusing on Raph, narrowing his eyes and returning the look.

“Raph, your actions last night were unacceptable, you put yourself, and Mikey, in danger, had you called Donnie, or myself, neither of you would be in this position now,” Leo stated.

Raph had to clench his jaw shut, reminding himself not to start an argument with Leo in front of Splinter.

“For the next two weeks you are confined to the lair,” Leo stated, putting as much authority into his voice as he could muster.

Raph waited for more, and when nothing else came he blinked, his glare fading slightly at such a lenient punishment.

“Do the lives of two of your siblings mean so little to you, Leonardo?” Splinter asked.

Raph lowered his head, mentally kicking himself for thinking this was too easy.

“No, Sensei, I just thought, Raph is already injured and dealing with such a drastic body change, I simply thought he-”

“She,” Splinter corrected.

Leo stared at him, while Raph stared at Leo. The blue-banded turtles’ shoulders sagging as if in defeat before he nodded.

“I simply thought she has had enough punishment,” Leo finished.

Splinter rubbed his chin, nodding once. “I see,” he said, seeming to contemplate something. However, in the next moment, he spun around, his foot connecting with Raph’s shoulder, catching the red banded turtle by surprise.

Raph bit back a cry of pain as his bad shoulder connected with the floor, unwilling to give Splinter the satisfaction of making him scream.

“It is time to move onto the next stage of this punishment, making sure she understands fully what she has done. Brute force has always worked best with Raphael, has it not?” Splinter directed his question to Raph.

The red-banded turtle refused to answer, pushing himself up from the floor.

Leo made to rush forward, worry clear on his face, however, he was stopped by their father.

“You two will spar,” Splinter instructed.

“Master Splinter, Raph is too hurt-” Leo was cut off when the rat backhanded him across the face, his head turning swiftly from the impact.

“If she has enough energy to scream, she has enough to fight,” Splinter said firmly. “Is that not correct, Raphael?”

“Yeah,” Raph forced himself up, biting back a hiss of pain as his shoulder was jarred painfully. “Yeah, I can spar, no problem,” he lied, turning to face Leo, his good hand clenched into a fist. He knew if he objected things would only get worse from there on, so even with a dislocated shoulder, this was still the best solution.

Leo reluctantly turned to face him, getting into a fighting position, mouthing an ‘I’m sorry’ before starting the attack.

Raph dodged as best he could, made a little easier, he noticed quickly, given Leo wasn’t giving his all. Raph knew Splinter wasn’t going to let that slide for long though, so he kicked out, forcing Leo to block him and retaliate, sending Raph to the floor painfully. Ignoring the hand offered him, Raph pushed himself back to his feet and started the next attack. He didn’t hold back, forcing Leo to up his defensive and offensive moves, which sent Raph down to the ground again and again.

Raph made no attempt to get out of the sparring match, it would be futile, with their Sensei watching their every move. He did do his best to avoid his injured arm, just as Leo was trying his best not to hit it, however, every knock to the floor jarred it painfully. It was sapping the energy from him faster than normal, so by the sixth time he was pulling himself from the floor, he was already quite winded.

Making another clumsy attack, Raph stumbled, tripping himself and landing back on the floor. He lay there unmoving this time, breathing deeply as he rode out the pain shooting down his arm. He felt extra pressure on his back then, keeping him pinned to the floor.

“One more toe out of line, Raph, one more slip up, and I will seriously consider removing you from this team,” Leo stated.

Raph nodded his head quickly in understanding, ignoring the stinging behind his eyes as Leo put more pressure on him.

“Okay!” Raph shouted.

“Yame.” Spinter cracked his cane against the floor, stopping the fight and Leo backed off.

Raph used his good arm to push himself back into a sitting position, keeping his head lowered, partly because he didn’t want to look at either of the other occupants in the room, and partly because he didn’t want to see him near tears.

“That will be all for today, Raphael. Send your sister in,” Splinter ordered.

There was nothing more Raph wanted to do in that moment than scream, yell, throw another punch; at who he wasn't sure, but he certainly wanted to hit someone. However, given the warning he’d just received, he didn’t dare do anything more than push himself to his feet, turning abruptly, ignoring the worried look Leo was giving him, Raph left the dojo without a word, slamming it shut behind him, hoping to convey enough of his anger and hurt in the actions, without risking another punishment.

He returned to Donnie’s lab, figuring that’s where Mikey would have likely retreated to. Sure enough, he found his orange-banded brother… sister, seated in a chair next to Donnie’s desk.

“You’re up,” Raph said, his voice cracking with emotion, making his way to the examination table. Raph hopped up onto it and stared at the floor, his good hand clutching his throbbing arm.

Mikey grabbed his crutch, looking at Raph and then to Donnie. The purple-banded turtle waved Mikey away, indicating he could handle whatever had happened. The silent conversation between the two brothers didn’t go unnoticed by Raph, he just didn’t care.

Mikey slowly left, and Donnie came over to stand next to Raph. He opened his mouth to speak, however, Raph cut him off before he could.

“No, I don’t wanna talk about it, so, just check me over so I can go to my room.” Raph sniffed.

Donnie simply nodded and set to quietly work on Raph’s arm, removing the bandages, checking it over, adding some cream to help numb the pain before re-wrapping it.

Raph was grateful to Donnie for not drawing attention to the sniffs now and then as Raph tried to fight back the tears threatening to spill over. It wasn’t the physical hurt that had him so upset, it was the betrayal, the abandonment Leo had shown him in that room. Logically Raph knew Leo had as much control over the situation as he did, however, knowing that and really believing it were entirely different things.

“Thanks,” Raph muttered under his breath when Donnie had finished.

“Raph, you know you can talk to me, right?” Donnie said.

Raph nodded his head once as he hopped down from the table.

“I know, Don, I just… I need ta be alone. I… I got a lot ta think about,” he said, turning and heading back to the door. “Thanks again, for fixin’ me up,” he said without turning back around, and he left.

---------x

Mikey hobbled his way into the dojo, using the crutch to lean on as he opened the door, slipping inside and closing it behind him like Raph had done before him. Instinctively Mikey looked to Leonardo, silently asking his blue-banded brother what had happened with Raph, However, Leo simply shook his head and gestured for Mikey to pay attention to their father.

Swallowing hard, Mikey finally turned to look at Splinter. The rat didn’t look pleased about the current situation at all and it took everything Mikey had not to shrink back.

“Michelangelo.” Splinter motioned him forward.

Mikey felt as if there were lead bricks tied to his feet as he moved to stand in front of his father, happy that he wasn’t being made to kneel on the floor at the moment, he was sure he had Leo to thank for that small blessing and made a mental note to thank you later. For now, Mikey put every ounce of self control he had into concentrating on what Splinter was saying.

“Leonardo has already made it clear to me that last night’s mission was successful, but not without its drawbacks,” Splinter began, his eyes narrowing as they stared down at Mikey, who slumped his shoulders, chewing worriedly on his lower lip as he waited for Splinter to finish speaking. “I expect you to tell me exactly what those drawbacks may have been.”

Mikey stared up at Splinter, forcing a small smile, trying in vain to hopefully put their father in a good mood.

“Um, well, I sorta fell through a trap door…” he admitted, knowing Splinter most likely knew this information, and was just looking to have Mikey clarify it. “I got stuck under the door and, umm… Raph got hurt trying to get me out,” Mikey summarized.

Splinter’s ear twitched, as he remained in the same pose, indifferent to Mikey’s nervousness as he stared directly into Mikey’s baby-blues. “Is that all that happened?” he demanded, his voice cold and stern, clearly not pleased with Mikey’s short version of what had transpired.

“Sort of?” Mikey offered, his eyes darting towards Splinter’s tail as it flicked in agitation. “I mean, I just couldn't walk very well after that, and Raph’s arm was busted up,” he said looking back up at his father. “We also fell into this green goop stuff…” Mikey trailed off.

Splinter was clearly aware that Mikey was intentionally leaving out details, as the youngest was wont to do. Mikey just never understood this practice of telling Splinter everything that happened, when the rat already knew the full story, having heard it from Leo, and most likely Donnie and Raph as well. Mikey, however, was smart enough not to point this out to their father when he was already this agitated.

“Leonardo,” Splinter said, his eyes still fixed on Mikey for a moment before turning to look at the blue-banded turtle. “Do you always allow such flippancy and indolent reports amongst your team? A lie by omission is still a lie.”

“No, Sensei,” Leo said. “Mikey is just easily distractible, so I don’t usually rely on him for giving reports,” he explained, turning to look at the younger turtle. “Mikey, Splinter wants to know everything that happened, every detail.”

“I… that was every detail,” Mikey protested looking to Leo. “I mean, other than the fact that Raph and I are chicks now… but Donnie’s fixing that, so it doesn’t really matter…” Mikey turned his attention back to Splinter. “Does it?” he asked. However, from the look the rat was giving him, it apparently did matter.

“Even the most minute detail can make all the difference to the larger picture,” Splinter scolded, turning finally to fully face Leo. “Leonardo, it is your responsibility, as leader, to administer a proper punishment for Michelangelo’s disobedience.”

“What?” Mikey blinked, looking at Splinter then to Leo. “But I didn’t do anything wrong!” he protested.

“Mikey,” Leo warned.

“No! I didn’t do anything wrong! We still completed the mission! We did what we were supposed to do! I… so I got a little hurt, Raph got a bit hurt, it won’t happen again!” Mikey promised.

“Michelangelo!” Splinter’s voice boomed, the turtle falling silent now as the rat turned to face him again, his tail flicking again. “Such mistakes should not have happened to begin with.”

Mikey shrank back from Splinter as the rat looked back to Leo once more. “Her punishment, now!”

Leo nodded, stepping forward and Mikey could only stare at him now, leaning heavily on his crutch as he waited to see what Leo was going to do.

“Mikey, we’re going to work on your balance now,” he said.

Mikey saw Splinter’s tail flick again at the gentle tone Leo was using with him, but he didn’t contradict it just yet.

“My balance is the best, bro,” Mikey offered, forcing another smile as he focused just on Leo.

Leo’s lips twitched into a ghost of a smile in return, before it was gone, hidden behind a stoic mask.

“You will balance on a bamboo stock, and you will not be allowed to move for one hour. If you fall off, the hour resets,” Leo said.

Mikey felt as if something heavy had just landed in his stomach, his face falling as the severity of the situation was finally becoming clear to him. Mikey knew Leo was being forced to pick a suitable punishment, however, he had underestimated how angry Splinter was about the situation.

“What about my leg?” Mikey asked, looking from Leo to Splinter.

“You have one that works, do you not?” Splinter asked almost quizzically, though the frustration could be clearly heard in his tone.

Biting his lip, Mikey nodded and stood there as Leo set things up, instructing Mikey to get onto the bamboo shaft, taking his crutch away from him, forcing Mikey to figure out how he was going to get up there without hurting his leg more. He was unable to ask for help, as this was supposed to be punishment.

It took him nearly ten minutes just to get onto the bamboo shoot without hurting his leg or doing any more damage, which Donnie would surely scold him for. He positioned himself and focused, staring down at Leo for a moment and nodding once, indicating he was ready, even if he wasn’t mentally ready, he wanted to get this over with, and go back to Donnie.

Leo started the timer for the hour, before grabbing a bo staff from nearby, and that’s when Mikey realized that this wasn’t going to be a normal balance exercise. He was being tested. Leo would prod at him when Mikey least expected it, putting him on high alert, trying to focus on what his brother was doing, while also focusing on his foot, and not hurting his already injured leg.

It was fine to start with, and Mikey thought things were going fairly well, until Splinter’s tail knocked the bamboo shoot, the rat’s involvement taking Mikey by surprise just enough that he didn’t notice Leo until it was too late.

His first tumble to the ground was a painful one; instinctively trying to catch himself, he put too much pressure on his leg and he screamed, crumbling further to the floor as he gripped at it.

Leo stepped forward quickly to try and help him up, but was stopped by Splinter.

“She can do this on her own, unless you plan to coddle her the rest of her life,” Splinter hissed.

Mikey fought back tears as he pushed himself back to his feet, getting back onto the bamboo shoot. He watched as Leo reset the timer and started it again, both of them seeming to know and understand that this was going to be a very long day, and Mikey was suddenly regretting eating that bowl of cereal before ‘training’.

-----------x

Donnie let out a long frustrated sigh as he leaned back in his chair, rubbing at his eyes he looked over to the clock on the wall. Though the time did nothing to ease his mind, as he calculated Mikey had been in the dojo for nearly three hours, which was worrying enough on a normal day, but today Donnie was truly worried for Mikey’s safety.

He turned his attention back to the sample of blood he had been examining. It was frustrating to say the least. Whatever Raph and Mikey had fallen into had merged with the mutagen already in their system, making it harder to detect, and even when Donnie had found what he was looking for, it was hardly enough to do anything with.

Letting out another long sigh, he leaned forward to have another look in the microscope, before glancing at the notes he’d been taking all morning.

“Any luck?”

Leo’s voice startled him and Donnie spun around in his chair, looking at Leo and Mikey. The orange-banded turtle openly crying as Leo helped him onto the table, though Mikey didn’t look too happy about it as he finally jerked his arm away from their older brother.

“What happened?” he asked. Standing up, he made his way over to his brothers.

Leo shook his head, clearly unwilling to talk about it, or perhaps deciding to leave the explanation to Mikey. Donnie frowned but nodded his understanding. He looked over his shoulder at his work table.

“Things are going as well as could be expected, with only one blood sample, and no way to possibly separate things from it,” he said.

“Meaning…” Leo offered.

“Meaning I can’t even begin working on an antidote until I can figure out what is even in their blood system,” Donnie explained, moving to help Mikey lay down on the table so he could examine his leg. He didn’t try talking to his orange-banded brother, as Mikey looked like talking was the last thing on his mind at the moment.

“What do you need to make that happen?” Leo questioned.

“It means I have a lot of studying to get done, or I need to find out its origins,” Donnie replied, unwrapping his brother’s leg to look at the damage inflicted on it.

“My guess would be it came from dimension X,” Leo commented.

Donnie knew his brother was just trying to be helpful, however, he also knew Leo knew little-to-nothing about what he was talking about.

“That would be a good assumption if there weren’t properties that were found here on earth already,” Donnie explained. “Like I said, I have a lot of studying to do, and I have to figure out what is alien, and what is part of us already… so it could be a while longer before I can change Raph and Mikey back,” he said, giving Mikey an apologetic look, not that the smaller turtle was even paying attention to them.

Leo sighed and didn’t say anything else as he looked around the lab, the frown on his face growing.

Donnie couldn’t help but give Leo a knowing smile.

“He’s in his room, likely locked himself in there at the moment,” he said.

“I’m going to go see how… how he’s doing,” Leo said.

“You mean ‘she’ don’t you?” Mikey asked, the first thing he’d said to Leo since leaving the dojo. “Better get it right, just in case Splinter is listening in.”

Tthere was no humor in Mikey’s voice, and Donnie couldn’t help but notice he sounded hurt and perhaps more than a little angry. However, the purple-banded turtle couldn’t tell if Mikey was angry at Leo or Splinter, either was viable today.

“He’s making you call them…” Donnie trailed off shaking his head in disbelief, though in all honesty he shouldn’t have been as surprised as he was, with how Splinter had been acting that morning.

Leo sighed, nodding his head, his shoulders slumped slightly.

“Yeah, Splinter wants us to be prepared for…for when you don’t find a way to fix this,” he explained.

Donnie knew Leo was simply repeating what Splinter most likely told him, as it was only their father who didn’t believe in his ability to get things done. Donnie tried not to let it show how much that hurt, far too used to being put down by Splinter.

“Donnie will fix us!” Mikey shouted, glaring at Leo, kicking out at their older brother with his good leg, not that he could reach him as Leo stepped back, but it didn’t stop the younger turtle from trying.

“I never said he wouldn't,” Leo argued back, “but Splinter is right, we should also be prepared for the possibility that he might not find anything.”

Donnie stood there and half-heartedly listened to his brothers argue, while he tried looking at Mikey’s leg, his mind already pulled in too many directions to pay proper attention to their bickering. He wanted to see if Mikey had done irreversible damage to his injured leg, but that was difficult with him repeatedly trying to kick Leo.

“Leo! What would be more helpful than you being here, is going to check on Raph. I’m really worried about him,” he said.

“Her,” Mikey corrected again.

Donnie ignored him for now, keeping his focus on Leo, who nodded.

“Yeah, sure thing,” Leo said, looking back at Mikey. He opened his mouth to say something but clearly decided against it.

Donnie turned his attention to Mikey, who was still giving Leo a look that would’ve make Raph proud. “Mikey, you’re welcome to stay in the lab with me, I’d appreciate the company.”

Leo took a deep breath and nodded his head, looking once more to Mikey. “Try not to move around too much, and hurt yourself any more,” he said, trying to sound reassuring, though it was clear to Donnie that Mikey didn’t take it that way.

“I don’t need your advice, or help, Leo,” Mikey snapped.

“Mikey…”

“Leave me alone!” Mikey shouted, picking up his crutch and throwing it at Leo.

Donnie was shocked by his little brother’s behaviour, and looked to Leo.

“I’m going,” Leo said before Donnie could say anything else. Once his blue-banded brother was out of the lab, Donnie turned back to Mikey.

“You shouldn't take things out on him like that, it’s not his fault things are like this,” Donnie said, knowing that Leo was just as much a victim, if not more so, than any one of them. It was something Donnie had discussed with both Raph and Mikey before, and he also knew that at times like these, the two of them needed reminding of that.

Mikey stared at Donnie. Letting out a huff, he flopped back onto the table, staring up at the ceiling. Donnie sighed, patting his brother’s arm, before returning to his desk; he still had a lot of work to get through and all the data from the Kraang computer to get through as well.

“... why does father hate us?” Mikey asked.

Donnie had barely started typing when Mikey spoke. He froze up immediately, brow furrowed and lips pursed. He looked nervously behind him at Mikey then towards the open lab door. Slipping from his chair he hurried over to the door, closing it. His quick movements caught Mikey’s attention and curiosity, had the younger turtle sitting back up.

“Donnie?” Mikey asked.

Donnie glanced nervously towards the door before going over to sit next to Mikey on the table.

“If he truly hated us, Mikey, we wouldn't still be here,” Donnie argued, though kept his voice low as he spoke. “Look, I hate the way we’re treated just as much as you do.”

He hoped he could share some of his worries with Mikey, and yet keep his brother unaware of the few crucial details he wasn’t ready to share, at least not yet.

“Okay, he might not hate us, but he doesn’t love us,” Mikey argued back. “And… he was different today. He… he hardly talked to me, Donnie. He had Leo do most of the talking and… and…”

“And had Leo dole out punishment for you and Raph,” Donnie said, giving Mikey an understanding nod. “I know you and Raph haven’t really gone through that before, but… that’s how things have been for me for a long time,” he explained, looking away when Mikey’s eyes widened further.

“Sensei made Leo punish you?” Mikey asked.

“Not today, but on numerous occasions for… quite a number of years now. I’ve honestly lost count of how long it’s been going on.” Donnie looked down at his own lap, the two of them falling silent for a few moments, Donnie thinking and Mikey processing the information he’d just been given.

“I hate him,” Mikey said, taking Donnie by surprise.

The purple-banded turtle looked at him.

“I hate him!” Mikey said a bit louder.

Donnie was worried it would draw unwanted attention, however, Mikey was apparently finished as the orange-banded turtle laid back down on the table to resume staring at the ceiling.

“...I’m going to hope you were talking about Splinter and not Leo,” Donnie said, smiling at his poor excuse for a joke when Mikey glanced at him. Sighing once again, something he knew he’d been doing a lot lately, he slid from the table and went to retrieve Mikey’s crutch, leaning it against the table once more.

“There’s nothing we can really do about our situation right now,” Donnie said, hating how true his words were, and wishing there was something more he could do than stand here and be the pacifist brother. “All we can really do is try and find a solution to your’s and Raph’s problem, and hope that helps put Splinter back in a good mood.” Donnie smiled at Mikey’s snort of disbelief and he had to agree, that was a bit of a far fetched dream. “At least placate him enough to leave us alone for a little while,” he corrected.

Mikey sighed, rolling over on the table. “I still hate this…” Mikey repeated.

Donnie placed a hand on Mikey’s shoulder.

“I know. Do you feel better for your outburst though?” Donnie asked, wanting to make sure Mikey wasn’t still bottling anything up inside that could get him in more trouble.

“No, I don’t feel better,” Mikey admitted. “I’m still really upset, I’m not used to being this irrational, that’s usually Raph’s job.” Mikey forced a smile as he rolled over to look at Donnie. “Can I nap in here while you work?” he asked.

Donnie nodded.

“Of course. Let’s get you some place more comfortable than the examination table,” he said, helping his little brother off the table and over to the cot in the corner.

He didn’t say anything about Mikey acting irrational, suspecting that was more to do with the sudden change in hormones he and Raph were going through at the moment. He mentally compared it to what he had read about PMS in humans, however, he didn’t voice that opinion, because then he would have to admit to where he had gotten that information, and that was something his brothers didn’t need to know about, yet.

tbc

Chapter Text

 

 

Part 4

Raph was lying in his bed, curling up around his pillow before rolling over to stare at the ceiling for a while. He had no intention of sleeping; he wasn’t tired, just angry, frustrated and hurt.

All he could do was play the last twenty-hours over and over in his mind. Mikey’s injured leg, their accident in the goop, the panic in the morning, the humiliating display in front of their father; everything about it was overwhelming. He just wanted to stop thinking about it, but every time he closed his eyes another image was there, haunting him.

He had contemplated working out, leaving his room and going at his punching bag until there was nothing left of it, or perhaps go run the rooftops or the sewers until he was feeling more level-headed. However, he knew that if he left the lair now he was going to be in more trouble then he already was, and even he knew better than to push Splinter too far.

The knock on his door was soft and, while not unexpected, Raph wasn’t sure it was welcome. The person on the other side didn’t wait for an answer before pushing it open and Raph’s eyes narrowed when he saw Leo poke his head inside.

“Raph, can we talk?” Leo requested, keeping his eyes fixed on Raph.

“Go away,” Raph said, though there was no real bite to it, and he flopped back down on the bed, rolling over to curl around his pillow and blankets again. He knew he must look pathetic, but hoped Leo would get the message, that he really, really did not want to talk to anyone, least of all him.

“You don’t have to say anything, just… can you listen?” Leo asked, stepping further into the room. “Please Raph, I need you to listen,”

Raph didn’t answer, however, he also didn’t tell Leo to go away again, and that seemed to be enough of an invitation for Leo to close the door and say what he came to say.

“Raph, I just wanted to… I wanted to apologise, and make sure you know what I said, what I did in the dojo, I didn’t mean it…”

The comment only made Raph curl up more, wrapping his arms tighter around his pillow and turning his face to hide it. He still refused to speak, but he didn’t cut Leo off or protest his presence either.

There was the sound of shuffling feet, and a moment later, Raph felt the bed shift as Leo sat on it with him.

“Raph, I swear, I didn’t mean any of that… if only I were stronger… if only I could do something, stand up to father…” he trailed off.

Raph turned his head to glare at Leo over his shoulder.

“You can’t stand up to him,” he said flatly. “None of us can.”

He hated how defeated he sounded, but it was a truth he had long come to accept, that this was their life, no one else in the world would be kind enough to take in four mutant turtles, unless it was to slice them open and find out how they worked.

He turned his head away from Leo once more, a shudder running down his shell.

Leo placed a hand on Raph’s shoulder then, most likely an attempt to comfort him. Raph’s first instinct was to shrug it off, however, the warmth of Leo’s hand felt nice, so he decided to leave it, for now.

“That might be true… but we still have each other,” Leo stated. “Whatever happens in that dojo, whatever we do, or say in there… it doesn’t count, it never has, because that’s not us, that’s… that’s not me,” Leo said firmly.

Raph tried to hide his face from Leo, sniffing softly and hoping Leo hadn’t picked up on it. Leo however, sighed softly, and Raph didn’t object to the extra shifting on the bed as Leo laid down behind him, wrapping his arm around Raph’s waist and pulling him close.

“This is so stupid,” Raph said, his voice strained from suppressed emotions, cursing himself mentally as he sniffed again and felt the need to cry building. He was, however, was unwilling to pull away from Leo’s comforting embrace, finding it oddly nice.

“What’s stupid?” Leo questioned.

“Why does Dad even care so much about stupid shit like this? I get bein’ mad if we failed the mission, and that my arm and Mikey’s leg are basically useless right now, but he seemed…” Raph grit his teeth as he tried to put his anger into words, tried to make sense of what was going on around him, which wasn’t one of his strong points. “He seems ta be more pissed that we’re girls,” Raph said. “I just wanna know what his fuckin’ deal with that is.”

“I… I don’t know, Raph,” Leo admitted. “I really don’t.”

He tightened his hold on Raph, nuzzling into the back of his neck, causing the Raph to shudder again, tilting his head forward, giving Leo more access to his neck. The current situation was strange to him, not just from the events of that morning, but laying there, in his bed, with Leo’s arms wrapped around him. It wasn’t as if they had never hugged before, but something about the embrace felt different. Raph couldn’t place if it was a good or bad thing, he just knew a part of him liked having Leo this close.

“Hey, Raph?”

Leo’s voice broke through his thoughts and Raph blinked, turning his head to look at the blue-banded turtle.

“Hmm?” he questioned, unable to see Leo too well from this position. His brow furrowed when Leo didn’t respond right away, so Raph shifted a bit more to try and get a better look at Leo, but his brother tightened his hold on him, stopping him from moving so much. “...what is it?” Raph questioned.

“I…” Leo sighed. “I care about you,” Leo stated.

Raph blinked, a frown pulling at his lips as he was tempted once again to turn around to face Leo, but the tight hold Leo had on him would make it too difficult so he remained where he was, his mind working over what Leo had just said.

“I know,” Raph finally said, reaching up and patting Leo’s hand that was draped over his chest. “Ya wouldn’t a checked on me if ya didn’t, so… thanks.” .

Emotions and declarations of affection weren’t beyond the realm of Raph’s understanding, they were just difficult for him to express, or even accept. Dimly, he was aware that might be the result of his upbringing, but he had already stated, there was nothing to be done about their situation.

The two of them lay there in silence, and Raph kept expecting it to get awkward, or uncomfortable, but was happily surprised when it didn’t. Leo seemed quite content to continue laying there holding Raph all day if he was allowed. Though they both knew they couldn't afford such a luxury.

“We’re going to have to get up soon,” Leo stated. “I’ve left Donnie to deal with an over-emotional Mikey,” he explained.

“He’s used to that,” Raph stated.

“We had to work on Mikey’s balance today,” Leo said, knowing that Raph would understand what that would entail; all of them had gone through the rigorous training of having to balance on the bamboo shafts while Splinter did everything he could think of to knock them off.

“I can’t believe how pissed Sensei is over this…” he said, restating his observation from earlier, tilting his head back to rest it against Leo’s shoulder.

Leo took a deep, even breath, stopping himself from nuzzling into the exposed area. He did, however, lower his head, taking the rare moment with Raph while he could, knowing that things would be back to normal once they left this room, and he would once again have to pretend he didn’t care about Raph as much as he did.

“Hmm, this is nice,” Raph breathed out, the sudden admission seeming to snap both turtles out of whatever was happening between them. “Uh… right, we should get up,” Raph said suddenly, rolling out of Leo’s arms as he sat up. “Can’t imagine Mikey is makin’ things easy for Donnie right now.” Raph smirked.

Leo frowned but nodded his head, trying not to show his disappointment at Raph moving away from him so suddenly. Reluctantly, Leo sat up too. Standing up from the bed, he watched Raph shift around before standing as well, heading for the door. Leo couldn’t help but notice it looked as if Raph was trying not to run. ‘

“Raph, wait,” Leo said.

The red-banded turtle stopped and looked questioningly over his shoulder.

“Look, I know you and Mikey, and even Donnie might not want to hear this, but we really should put some thought into what happens if this ends up being a forever thing,” Leo said, keeping his eyes fixed on Raph as his brother narrowed his eyes, a frown quickly replacing the content look he had been wearing moments before.

“It ain’t a forever thing, we’re gonna work together and fix this,” Raph insisted firmly. “And we’ll do whatever it takes!”

Leo couldn't tell if Raph’s sudden enthusiasm was a cover for something else or if he really did feel that confident Donnie was going to fix things; whatever the reason, Leo wasn’t going to ruin this sudden good mood for Raph, so he simply nodded his head and allowed his brother to lead the way.

Following behind at a slower pace, he glanced toward the dojo as they passed. The door open slightly and Leo knew their father was watching them. He really hoped Raph was right and that things could get back to normal in the lair soon.

-----------x

As hard as the first day in their new female life had been, the next few days didn’t prove to be any better.

Mikey had taken to spending a lot of time in Donnie’s lab. He, or rather, she, as Splinter had taken to reminding them several times daily, tried to keep busy without distracting Donnie too much. This was something easily done as Mikey was still confined to wearing a cast on her leg, limiting her movement.

Of course, limited movement didn’t stop Splinter from insisting they continue their training. So, as the day before, Mikey settled herself in Donnie’s lab, waiting for her turn to be called into the dojo so she could be humiliated and put down by their father.

“Hey Donnie, do you think Splinter will be having lunch with us again today?” Mikey asked.

She knew her purple-banded brother didn’t have the answer, but was growing bored of sitting there in silence, with nothing but the sound of Donnie’s typing to fill the room.

Donnie didn’t look up from the computer screen, simply shrugging his shoulder as he browsed through the files on the thumb-drive.

“It’s hard to say, Mikey, though he has been joining us for dinner the past couple days…” Donnie trailed off leaving his sentence hanging there as he clicked on something, opening another file and started to read the contents of that one.

Letting out a long sigh Mikey tilted her head back to stare at the ceiling, already having every crack and bump memorized from her days spent in here.

“I just don’t get it,” she said, swinging her good leg back and forth. “I’ve tried talking to Leo about it, and he seems to be just as confused about Splinter’s actions as I am,” Mikey said huffily, looking back at Donnie, who seemed engrossed in his computer now and not overly interested in what Mikey was saying, or at least not fully focused on it.

Slipping from her seat, Mikey grabbed her crutch and made her way over to Donnie’s desk, practically draping herself over his shoulders as she looked at the computer screen.

“You know, I still don’t understand what you’re doing,” Mikey admitted, looking at the blocks of folders and files spread across Donnie’s screen. “How does this help fix Raph and me?”

Donnie smiled, glancing at Mikey before returning his focus back to the computer.

“I’m looking over the various experiments the Kraang were performing at the lab before it was abandoned,” he told her, typing a few more things into the computer before he started clicking on another file. “I’m hoping they’ll have information on what the experiment was, its purpose, chemicals used… if I can replicate them, I may be able to reverse engineer an antidote.”

“That sounds complicated,” Mikey said.

She frowned when Donnie let out a long sigh and rubbed his eyes, which Mikey was sure must be getting tired from how long he’d been staring at the screen.

“It would be less complicated if the Kraang had any semblance of organization. All these files and everything just seems to be lumped together, and to top it off these seem to go back decades,” Donnie said.

Mikey frown deepened. “Should I leave you alone then?” she asked. “I know it can’t be easy to concentrate with me in here all the time recently…”

Donnie shook his head. “No, it’s not you. Honestly, I like the company,” he stated.

Giving Donnie a skeptical look, Mikey shrugged, nuzzling into him and wrapping her arms around him tighter. She knew Donnie was most likely just trying to be nice to her but she wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to spend time with him, not when the other options were sitting and waiting for her turn to be called into the torture chamber of a dojo.

The lab door slid open and Mikey was in the process of turning around to see who it was when Splinter called to her from the doorway.

“Michelangelo.”

The voice sent a cold chill through Mikey as she stood up straight, turning to look at the rat standing there. It was strange enough seeing Splinter at dinner every night so far that week, it was even stranger seeing him standing in the doorway to Donnie’s lab of all places.

“Sensei?” Mikey asked, looking confused by his presence there.

“Why is lunch not on the table?” Splinter demanded.

Mikey blinked at him, turning her head around to look at the clock on Donnie’s computer, seeing that it was gone two in the afternoon. Her shoulders slumped.

“I… Sorry, I didn’t hear you or Raph come out of the dojo, and I wasn’t sure when you were going to be finished with his lesson…” Mikey froze. “I mean her lesson!” she corrected quickly, looking nervously at Splinter, who did not look pleased with her slip up. “So…um, is it my turn?” she asked, hoping Splinter would let it slide this one time.

“No, I think you will be better suited in the kitchen,” Splinter commented.

Mikey frowned, unsure why she didn’t feel at all relieved hearing she was getting out of training for the day. But she nodded her head regardless and made her way toward the door, being careful not to put pressure on her leg as she walked.

“I am quite disappointed in all of you,” Splinter commented, looking from Mikey to Donnie and back again. “You all seem to be having a difficult time remembering things recently. I find it vexing that I must remind you multiple times a day of your new roles in this family.”

“Well, with all due respect, Sensei, it’s not exactly easy to remember when you’ve spent your whole life as a dude,” Mikey shot back before she could stop herself.

Donnie turned sharply in his chair, clearly surprised that Mikey would choose now of all times to speak back to Master Splinter.

“It will certainly take more than three days to get used to,” Donnie cut in, hoping to lessen any punishment Splinter might be thinking for Mikey if she had back up. When Splinter didn’t say anything, Donnie continued. “While it is a drastic change, the use of different pronouns is also a change that will not be easy to remember offhandedly.”

“For someone as smart as you, I thought it would have been easier than it is appearing to be,” Splinter commented, looking then back to Mikey. “I suggest you get to the kitchen and start sorting lunch, Raphael is already in there waiting for you.”

Donnie chose to ignore the comment about how smart he was, knowing that it had been intended to hurt him. He was however, far too used to such comments from their father, so they, for the most part, no longer fazed him. He instead chose to focus on the amusing image of Raph trying to help Mikey cook lunch, as confusing as it was.

He shook his head, turning his attention back to his computer, partly so no one would see him snickering, and partly because he was sure Mikey was no longer in any danger of an immediate reprimand for her smart mouth.

“Well, I suppose Raph is better than Leo in the kitchen,” Mikey joked, making her way passed Splinter, who was watching her closely.

She braced herself for some kind of smack, or harsh comments as she passed him, only relaxing when she was a few paces away and out of his reach once again. Only then did she look over her shoulder at him, frowning when she saw him watching Donnie now. Knowing now was not the best time to question what the rat was doing, Mikey made her way quickly into the kitchen where Raph was waiting as she had been told.

“So! I’ve got a helper today?” Mikey asked, trying to make light of their situation.

Raph merely grumbled in response to Mikey’s false excitement, dumping the few things she had gathered up onto the counter.

“I’m prolly just gonna watch ya cook, if that’s cool,” Raph said.

Mikey frowned at her and glanced over her shoulder again, seeing Splinter vanishing back into the dojo. She sighed and looked at Raph.

“No, that’s okay, but if you could maybe chop some things for me? I really could use the help,” Mikey stated, glancing at Raph’s injured arm. “If your arm is okay to do that, of course.” She knew Raph had spent the morning with Splinter and wasn’t really sure what the training session had been; however, Raph didn’t look too bad overall.

Raph glanced at her own arm, shrugging the other. “I’ve got one good one still, no problem,” she said, though she still didn’t look too thrilled about helping.

“Perfect!” Mikey said happily. Heading over to the fridge, she started gathering out a pile of vegetables she usually kept in the bottom drawer. “If you could cut these up for me, I’m thinking a vegetable stew would be really good today,” she said, dumping the pile on the table in front of Raph.

Raph made a face at the pile presented to her but nodded anyway. Sitting downshe used her bad hand to hold the veggies still while she started chopping with her good hand.

Mikey stood by and watched, shaking her head she stepped forward.

“No, like this,” she instructed, ignoring the annoyed sound Raph made when she took the knife from her. “They don’t have to be neat, but at least try and get them about this size, otherwise there will be some that don’t cook properly and the last thing you want is crunchy stew.”

Nodding her understanding again, Raph took the knife back from Mikey, the orange-banded turtle standing by to watch Raph once more. Satisfied with Raph’s work now, Mikey turned and started getting out the large stew pot, setting it on the stove and starting to make the broth, cutting up a few vegetables herself before dropping them into the water.

Humming to herself, Mikey bustled around the kitchen as best she could with her crutch tucked up under her arm, making sure she didn’t use her injured leg. It was, in general, feeling much better than it had been, but Donnie was still insistent she stay off of it for now.

“You two look busy,” Leo commented from the doorway.

Mikey glanced over at their blue-banded brother.

“Sensei wanted lunch,” Mikey explained, returning to her own task.

Leo frowned, looking a little confused as he glanced over his shoulder towards the dojo door.

“You sure about that?” he asked, looking back at his siblings.

“He’s makin’ us cook it, that’s all I know,” Raph replied, sounding more than a little irritated as she continued cutting the veggies, cursing when one of the bits of potato slid from the table to the floor.

Mikey sighed, putting down the spoon she was using to stir the broth. She picked up the potato, rinsed it off in the sink, before tossing it onto the small pile Raph was making.

“Well, it’s not like it was going to cook itself, and if I tried doing this on my own, we wouldn’t be having lunch until dinner,” Mikey said.

“Someone else could’a helped ya,” Rpah insisted.

“Who? Donnie? He’s already overworked trying to fix us, and Leo is basically useless in the kitchen; you’re at least passable,” Mikey argued.

“I feel like I should be insulted,” Leo said, sitting down in the chair across from Raph.

A ghost of a smile crossed Raph’s face when Leo sat down, and she watched as Leo took the extra knife, and one of the carrots, starting to cut it up, each piece the same width as the last. However, this was more amusing to Raph than irritating.

“Figures, cuttin’ veggies would be the one thing you’re good at.” Raph rolled her eyes, pushing the last of the potatoes aside and grabbing a carrot too.

Leo smiled at her and finished with the first carrot, quickly starting on the second.

“So, why are you helping Mikey cook?” Leo questioned, though he had already technically asked the question before and gotten the answer, he was more curious why Raph wasn’t putting up more of a fight over it.

“Dad’s makin’ me,” Raph grumbled a bit, cutting the carrot in half before starting to slice it up properly.

“Maybe he’s trying to help you find another outlet for your anger?” Leo offered, though it didn’t sound like he believed that reasoning himself.

Raph shook her head, keeping her focus on the carrot in front of her, trying to stop the pieces from flying off the table as she cut them.

“Seems more like a punishment if ya ask me,” Raph hissed, another bit of carrot going flying off the table.

“Not everything Splinter does is for punishment, Raph,” Leo said. “I’m sure all of this is just as weird and confusing for him too.”

Leo hated that he was defending their father like this, to Raph of all people, who had spent the morning in the dojo with the rat. But Leo had to keep believing that there was a reason behind all of this, that Splinter was testing them, pushing their limits, making them stronger so perhaps one day they could survive on the surface.

“I don’t see what good it is for me, of all friggin’ people, ta be makin’ our food!” Raph growled, pointedly cutting off the end of another carrot. “This ain’t what I was built ta do, and you know it.”

Leo caught another bit of carrot before it could go flying off the table, setting it into the pile with the rest.

“I know you don’t like it, I know this isn’t what you want to be doing, but maybe it’s time you start learning that brute strength isn’t the only thing out there,” Leo stated. He wasn’t intentionally trying to start an argument with Raph, but he felt as if that was where things might be heading.

Raph glared at Leo, opening her mouth to say something, before snapping it shut. She wanted nothing more than to chew him out, tell him that strength, fighting, brute force as he called it, was the only thing Raph had every really know, was the only thing she had ever been good for. And suddenly having that taken away, hurt.

Unfamiliar emotions welled up inside her again, and she snarled, finishing off the carrot she had been chopping and grabbing another, gritting her teeth together as she hacked at the poor vegetable.

The chair across from her scraped over the floor as Leo stood up. Raph kept her focus on the carrot in front of her, still struggling to hold it still and not let any of the pieces fall off the table as they had been since she started.

“Let me know when lunch is ready,” Leo said.

Raph glanced up as a pile of finished carrots was added to the existing one.

Raph thought Mikey might have said something in reply to Leo, but she didn’t hear it as anger overwhelmed her. Standing up fast enough to send her chair crashing to the floor, she stabbed her knife into the table.

“That jackass!” she shouted, “thinks he can tell me what’s good for me! He’s no better than father! Tellin’ me what ta fuckin’ do! Tellin’ me what I’m allowed to do, what I’m allowed ta like!” She was pacing back and forth. “Treatin’ me like I’m some fucking chick!” she grumbled.

She growled to herself before returning to the table, grabbing the knife and starting to chop the rest of the carrots.She didn’t care about the size anymore, just wanting to get this stupid job done so she didn’t have to be stuck in this room anymore.

“Raph… please be careful with the knife,” Mike requested, sounding worried. “I’m sure Leo didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”

“I bet he did,” Raph huffed, though she did slow down her chopping at Mikey’s request, at least accepting the fact she was being reckless with the knife.

Mikey sighed, coming over to stand next to Raph, inspecting what had already been cut.

“That should be enough carrots,” Mikey said, placing a hand on Raph’s arm to stop her from selecting another carrot to cut. “I can… if you wanted to go do something else, I can handle the rest in here,” she offered.

Raph blinked at Mikey, a frown pulling at her lips as she looked down at the carrots she had mutilated. She wanted to take Mikey up on that offer, would have loved to go punch her bag for a bit, or lift some weights, or perhaps sneak out for a quick jog around the sewers, anything to siphon off the pent up anger that just kept building.

“I’ll cover for you,” Mikey said, taking the knife off Raph and setting it down on the table.

Raph stared at Mikey, the other turtle’s expression unreadable, but if Raph had to pick a word, she would have said Mikey looked dejected. Shaking her head, Raph picked the knife up again. Sitting down in the chair, she grabbed one of the potatoes.

“Nah, I’ll finish these first, shouldn't take too long anyway,” Raph said.

Mikey grinned at her.

“Just try not to throw anymore on the floor, though, if you do, put those aside, we’ll feed them to Splinter and Leo,” she joked, winking at Raph as she turned back to start putting some of the veggies into the pot on the stove.

Raph chuckled at Mikey’s statement, nodding her head in agreement as she continued to peel and cut the potatoes. The two of them continued in silence, but Raph felt as if there was a lot less tension in the room now.

Cooking, or helping with the cooking, was never going to be Raph’s favorite thing, and it would never replace the calm feeling she got from having a good work out, but she could possibly, maybe a little, understand why Mikey enjoyed cooking so much. It gave her the space to be herself, there always seemed to be so much to do, even for a simple stew, and Mikey’s ability to have her attention in ten different directions certainly seemed to come in handy.

Finishing cutting up the potatoes, Raph picked up the pile and carried them over to Mikey.

“Just drop them right in there, bro,” Mikey said, distracted with chopping up what looked like celery. “And you’re free, go do whatever you need to, I got the rest of this,” she said not looking up from her self-appointed task.

Raph wanted to protest, insist that there might be something more she could do, however at Mikey’s insistence, Raph did eventually leave the kitchen. She glanced nervously in the direction of the dojo. Seeing the door closed and not spotting Leo anywhere, she assumed the blue-banded turtle was in there with Splinter.

Letting out a huff, Raph made her way to her room, deciding she could at least use her good arm to lift some weights. She wasn’t as angry as she had been half an hour ago, but she was still irritated at Leo, and knew it would be best to work off the rest of her pent up energy before the two of them wound up in a serious fight before the end of the day.

TBC