A long time had passed since he’d been brought there, though he could no longer remember just how much. The days had turned into weeks or months. It really made no difference anymore. Night and day became irrelevant. He barely even saw the outside world anymore.
Everything about the cell was cold; the floor, the wooden planks that he slept on, the chains that kept his wrists bound to the wall. Even the very air had a chill to it that went straight to his bones. That was his home now.
He had a home once. A real one. But where exactly he had come from was something he couldn’t even recall anymore. In his dreams sometimes, he saw others that resembled himself. His own kind. But over time they had faded into wisps of shadows: blurry and barely recognizable. Maybe they never even truly existed.
His whole world was the room around him.
He uncurled his fingers, the dim lighting just enough for him to be able to see the blood that stained his palms. Not his own blood. Not this time. He shuddered and tucked further in on himself in the corner, as far away from the door to the cell as well as the room as his chains would allow him to go.
His strong body ached and burned with exhaustion, pain and physical stress as a result of the almost constant beatings he endured, both from the one who owned him as well as the ones he was forced to fight against. Sometimes he was given weapons to defend himself, while others he was only allowed to use his fists. While the latter gained the most excitement from the crowd, he had learned to get the fights over with as quickly as possible in order to get out of the limelight. More often than not the end of the fight meant the death of the human who had been so eager to attack him; nothing more than a corpse lying still and mangled at his feet.
But he had no choice when he had come to realize that it was either them, or him.
He shuddered and held himself tighter.
Caged fights were nothing new to the Purple Dragons. They were the best entertainment; a way to test new recruits as well as let off steam and tension among the more seasoned gang members. And if someone died in the process, well, then they were too weak for the gang anyway. The last few months there had been an added value to the fights, as well as a monetary one.
Hun had started coming around once a week or so with his new pet: one of those green mutant turtle freaks. He claimed he had the thing trained, and would bet enormous amounts of money that it could beat any Purple Dragon in a fight either to the death or simple incapacitation.
Dragon Face, aptly nicknamed for the dragon tattoo that started on his cheek and designed around the back of his head and neck, eagerly placed his wages on any Purple Dragon that would step up to face the turtle. He wanted to both see the mutant finally taken out of commission as well as Hun knocked down a few pegs.
But infuriatingly, so far Hun’s pet was undefeated. There were a couple of close-calls, blood drawn from either fighter, but in the end that damn turtle always won.
“Don’t you have anyone worthwhile to tease him with this time?” Hun laughed, several wads of cash in his massive fist. “My pet and I grow tired of the weak, pathetic pieces of crap you’re sending at him. He needs a real challenge.”
Dragon Face clenched his teeth, body stiff at the mockery. “How about we up the stakes a bit, then?”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Your unarmed pet against two of my best guys, but they get to use chains and metal pipes.”
Hun rubbed his chin, large thumb brushed against the three red scars that marred his cheek. It mattered little to him if his pet died or not because he’d just get a new one, but he didn’t want to take the risk without getting something more in return. “When he wins, I get double the normal prize.”
“Tch,” Dragon Face scoffed, “cocky son of a bitch, aren’t you? Fine. Double. It doesn’t matter; there’s no way he’ll win.”
Hun simple smirked and turned away to retrieve his pet, leaving Dragon Face to go collect bets from the other Purple Dragons who were going to watch the fight.
The emerald green face rose towards Hun as he approached and the turtle bared his teeth in a snarl. Hun had no delusions that his pet was loyal to him and took no chances. The shackles on his wrists that were tethered to the mobile cage he was housed in kept him from lunging at the human. It was a necessity that Hun had quickly learned could not be changed, no matter how many beatings and tortures that he inflicted upon his pet to try to destroy its spirit as well as its mind.
At least he’d been partially successful. His actions against the turtle had broken something inside of it. Growls and snarls replaced any words it might have spoken before as it became nothing more than a hostile, blood-thirsty animal. That was good enough for now. He had quickly grown tired of the freak’s gruff voice not long after it had been captured.
Hun let it keep the knee and elbow pads, the wrist wrappings, the belt around the waist, and the red mask as a boastful reminder that he had managed to break the toughest of the four turtle freaks. But the creature’s sai weapons had been removed long ago. Hun had put too much work into him to risk having his meal ticket using those tooth-pickers to free himself.
“That’s right, get angry!” he laughed, slamming a crowbar against the metal cage with a few loud clangs. “You’ve got a lot of money to win for me tonight!”
The cage rattled and the turtle crouched with a low, furious growl. Hostility poured off of him in waves. His body carried numerous scars and burn marks both from the fights as well as Hun’s special training for it.
The sight of them always filled the human with a spiteful glee. Imprinting them on his prize, watching the turtle squirm as he fought to keep from crying out in agony had been even more entertaining than tearing Baxter Stockman apart piece by piece for the Shredder.
“Alright, move him,” Hun said to the few of his men he’d brought with him. “The fight’s about to start.”
“Yes, Master Hun.”
They had learned after the death of one of their own not to get too close to the bars, and so several ropes had been attached to the cage in order to move it around on the wheels that had been secured to the bottom. With grunts of effort, the men began to slowly pull the turtle towards the main room and excited shouts of the Purple Dragon spectators.
The turtle’s cage was maneuvered to the larger cage’s entrance so that when opened, the chains around his wrists unlocked with a controller, and the turtle would have no choice but to enter the larger arena. He did so and the door was quickly shut behind him.
Just as Dragon Face said, the two gang members that had chosen to face off against the terrapin were both armed: one with a thick metal pipe, and the other with several feet of heavy, durable chain. The turtle sized them up as he approached, thick muscles in his arms tightening in anticipation as he took in both weapons and the ways his opponents held them.
The fatter, shorter man with the pipe tightened his fingers around it and the turtle ducked as it swung for his head. He immediately dropped down into a crouch and swung his leg, knocking the man to the floor with a hiss of surprised pain. Rising to his feet, the turtle spun around and raised his arm, catching the chain around his forearm. He violently yanked forward then smashed his other fist into the human’s hooked, beak-like nose.
Blood warmed the skin of his knuckles and he flexed his fingers as though he welcomed the feel. The metal pipe connected violently with the back of his shell and the terrapin stumbled forward. Balancing himself quickly, he jumped backwards and flipped over his second attacker, lips curled back in a snarl.
The Purple Dragon spun around so fast he nearly stumbled, a frightened look on his angular face. He backpedaled quickly, dropping the pipe as the turtle slowly advanced like a wolf stalking its prey. The Dragon’s expression suddenly morphed into on a smug look as his eyes caught movement over the terrapin’s shoulder.
Immediately sensing danger, the mutant jumped aside. The chain that had been meant to strike the back of his head instead caught the lanky Purple Dragon in the neck. He flew down to the mat and slid, clutching at his neck and coughing in a desperate to gain air through the abused windpipe.
Outside of the cage, the excited cries and shouts gained in volume. More wads of cash waved in the air, the spectators eager to get more out of the action in front of them.
The turtle ignored them, his attention only on his two playmates. He caught the chain again as it was once more swung at him and yanked it out of the heavyset Purple Dragon’s fingers.
The man screamed as the bones a few of his fingers snapped; he was immediately silenced with a roundhouse kick to the stomach.
He hit the floor and slid to a stop. The gang member looked up as the turtle approached, the chain still held tightly in his fingers and the promise of painful death in his eyes.
“No, no, please!” he attempted to stand. “I give up, I give up!”
Unmoved by the desperate pleas, the turtle lunged.
Tension had been running high since Raphael’s disappearance. With every minute that passed without word of his location or whether he was even still alive, the three remaining brothers, their rat master and father, their two human friends as well as their mutant crocodile friend had become more frantic for any answers they could find.
But no one seemed to know anything. There were no sightings or reports of a mutant turtle.
No traces of him. It was like he had disappeared off the face of the city. Master Splinter had even been unable to locate Raphael’s aura during any of his long and desperate meditations.
Finally they had a breakthrough. Casey had located one of his ‘contacts’. Ryan was a Purple Dragon member with a penchant for talking of the price was right. And even when he decided it was worth his time to give something away, it usually wasn’t much. Any more information would require an even bigger wad of cash than previously agreed upon.
“What have you got?” Casey demanded, waving the money beneath Ryan’s pudgy chin.
The shorter man snatched the money with an amused smirk. He thumbed the bills with a quick, mental count then scoffed even as he shoved them into his jeans pocket. “What else have you got?” Ryan mocked back. “You know I don’t work cheap. Send more scratch my way and maybe I’ll remember something good about that freak you’re looking for.”
He shouted in fright when a hand suddenly grabbed the back of his leather jacket from above and lifted him clear off his feet. His round, brown eyes stared in shock at the face of a furious mutant turtle.
“Let’s chat,” Leonardo growled.
Moving swiftly, he dragged the unwilling Purple Dragon up the fire escape where his two brothers were waiting. Together the three of him tied Ryan up, and within moments he found himself dangling upside down over the side of the five-story building like a worm on a hook.
“Oh God, please!” he cried. His face was quickly turning red from the blood flow to his head. “Don’t drop me!”
“We’re going to ask you again. Nicely,” Donatello told him coldly. “You have ten seconds to give us an answer we’re happy with. If you don’t…”
“You’ll be a greasy smear on the pavement,” Michelangelo finished the threat.
Normally the turtles would never commit such an act of fear-based manipulation; they firmly believed in the honorable and justifiable ways of Bushido as Master Splinter had instilled in them for most of their fifteen years of life. But that all flew out the window the day that Raphael didn’t return home.
They were on edge. Desperate to get their brother back in one piece and no one was going to stand in their way.
Casey paced back and forth as he waited for them in the alley. He didn’t bother following Leo up, knowing that they would most likely be done with their interrogation by the time he even got up there. Ever since he had heard that Raphael was missing, Casey had helped as much as he was able to in order to find him. It had taken him months to track Ryan down, the slippery little weasel. And if the Purple Dragon punk knew what was good for him, he’d start talking.
Suddenly the three turtles dropped down around him, nearly giving him a heart attack.
“What’d he say?” Casey asked, fingers tight on the hockey stick clutched in his hands.
“Hun has Raphael,” Leo replied furiously. “Apparently he’s been using him to fight in Purple Dragon cage matches.”
“What?!” the human demanded. “He’s been under our noses the entire time?!”
Donnie shook his head, his expression just as angry as his brother’s. “No, the fights have been sporadic. Hun just shows up with Raph. The Dragons have no idea where they are other than that.”
“Then how are we supposed to find him?”
“Lucky for us, the next match is supposed to be tonight,” Leo replied.
“So what’re we waiting for?” Mikey yanked his nunchaku from his belt. “Let’s go get our brother back!”
The noises around Raphael should have been deafening. The screaming, cheering, shouting, arguing. Those should have been the focus of his attention. Instead all he could hear was the steady drip, drip, drip of the warm blood that fell from his fingers to collide with the floor. The rest of the room faded from his peripheral as he stared at the two dead bodies in front of him.
He’d survived another day.
“Pay up, Dragon Face,” Hun cackled. He wiggled his fingers in front of the other’s angry face. “My pet wins again!”
Dragon Face sneered and slammed the wad of cash into the larger blond’s hand. “Fuck you, Hun. Next time--”
The whole warehouse felt like it shook to its very core as a large armored vehicle slammed through the metal doors like paper. Purple Dragons shouted various obscenities as they scrambled out of the way as the Battleshell skid to a halt with the screech of tires and the smell of burnt rubber.
Hun’s entire body went rigid and his knuckles whitened. Before he could issue any kind of order to his men, the three other turtles and the masked Casey jumped out and immediately went on the attack.
Leonardo landed a swift kick to the nearest Purple Dragon, his eyes frantically looking around. He caught sight of a familiar figure in the middle of the large cage in the center of the room. “Raphael!”
Michelangelo vaulted over another gang member and hurried to the metal prison. “I got him!”
“NO!” Hun rushed to block the orange masked turtle’s way. He didn’t get two steps before pain exploded across the side of his face. He hit the ground and slid to a stop. A nasty-looking, deep purple bruise had already begun to form on his unscarred cheek. He rubbed at it with a hateful glare at the turtle standing over him. “You can’t let him out!”
Donatello glowered back. “Watch us!”
“You let him out and you’ll regret it.” Hun rose to his feet and swung for the turtle. “By the time he’s done with you freaks, you’ll wish you’d left him.”
“What are you talking about?” Donnie demanded as he leapt back out of the way.
Hun smirked. “Let’s just say I had a little fun with your brother while he was with me.”
Leo and Casey were watching Mikey’s back as he rushed to open the cage door. Some of the Purple Dragons had taken off, more interested in saving their own asses and getting out of paying their lost debts than getting involved with a fight. Others had gone on the offensive. Their weapons of choice were anything they could find: switchblades, pipes, chains, broken wood from crates, guns, and their own fists as they attempted to swarm the intruders like angry bees.
The gang members weren’t really much of a threat in small numbers, but Leo and Casey had their hands full and the Purple Dragons just kept coming. The guns were the hardest to avoid of course, so every time Leo saw a flash of a barrel he went after them first, his katana cutting them in half like a hot knife through butter. Casey concentrated more on the other weapons to give Leo more room to move. He alternated quickly between his hockey stick and bat, making quick snap decisions on which one would fare better against the attacks.
Donnie continued to keep Hun at bay. Using his bo staff he shoved off of the floor and jumped over the muscular blond. As soon as his feet touched the floor on the other side he twisted and shoved his weapon between the human’s knees. He tumbled down like an imploding building. “Raphael would never hurt us!”
“Sure about that?” Hun panted a laugh. He pushed off the floor and swung again. As he missed his intended target again his fist collided with a nearby crate. The wood splintered on impact. “Take a closer look at the floor of his cage.”
Unable to help himself Donnie cast a quick look. His eyes widened. The adrenaline rush when they’d first forced their way in, and the relief that Raphael was alive hindered the actual scene before him. For the first time he realized that his brother was not alone in that cage. Two mangled, barely-recognizable bodies were a bloody mess at his feet.
But more disconcerting than that was the fact that while Mikey struggled to get the door open amidst all the fighting, Raphael wasn’t even trying to help.
In fact, the emerald turtle wasn’t even moving. He simply stood there and stared at the youngest turtle. His stance… fists clenched, shoulders low, body tense… screamed hostility. He was ready to attack.
Horror dawned on Donnie. He abandoned Hun and raced for the cage. “Mikey, stop! Wait a minute!”
“Ah ha!” Mikey removed the lock and yanked the door open, rushing inside. “Raph, it’s going to be okay, bro! We got you!”
He hit the ground with a breathless grunt as Raphael collided with him like a freight train, nunchucks knocked from his hands. Instinctively Mikey reached up for his brother and his wrist was caught in an unforgiving iron grip, twisted hard then slammed down onto the floor.
Mikey cried out in pain when he felt the joint crack. He stared up at his brother, shocked to see nothing but ferocity in the snarling face of the older turtle.
Alerted by his youngest sibling’s cry, Leo abandoned his fight and leapt into the cage. Mikey’s immediate safety was the forefront of the leader’s mind and he had no choice but to land a hard kick to Raph’s side to get him off.
The emerald turtle landed in a roll and smacked into one of the bloody corpses. Unperturbed, he slowly rose to his feet with an animalistic growl.
Leo pulled Mikey up and shoved him behind himself, standing between his two brothers. “What the hell is wrong with you, Raphael?” he demanded desperately. “It’s us!”
He didn’t want to hurt his brother more than he obviously already was, but at the same time he had to protect Mikey.
Donnie joined them in the cage, bo up ready to defend himself or his other siblings if need be. “It’s Hun! He did something to him!”
“Hey!” Casey swung his bat with all his might, colliding with the stomach of an attacking Purple Dragon. “We’ve got to get the fuck out of here!”
Raphael jumped to the side then forward, surging passed the other three turtles and out of the open door of the cage. He didn’t even pause as he darted through the broken warehouse entrance and into the warm summer night.
He was free.
Adrenaline pumped through Raphael’s body as he ran. Sights, sounds and smells assaulted his senses and drove him further and further into the city depths. Instinct told him to stick to the rooftops high above the bustling night life that drove New York’s populace from the safety of their homes.
So he scaled a rickety fire escape, heart pounding in his chest, and scrambled over the treacherous rooftops. Something about it made him feel some semblance of familiarity, somewhere deep in the back of his mind. But as though it was on a shelf too high to reach, he couldn’t get close to it no matter how hard he tried.
So Raphael didn’t try. He couldn’t. And so he just kept going.
It was only after he started to run short on oxygen that he stopped. He panted hard, chest surging up and down as he fought to catch his breath on the edge of a roof. Movement below caught his attention and he crouched down. The blood on his hands had not dried completely and so he left faint red smears on the cold stone as he gripped it to look down.
Voices rose up from below. A breeze blew up towards him and Raphael sniffed at it. One male. No… two. And a female. His fingers tightened on the building, his eyes narrowed.
Survive. He had to survive.
Quickly he stood and jumped over the side into the alley below.
“What the heck’s wrong with him?” Michelangelo panted, clutching his wrist to his plastron as they chased after Raphael.
He was incredibly lucky that his brother hadn’t broken it, but it was still an incredibly bad sprain and the joint had started to swell. Donnie’s quick wrap of the injury had put them far behind Raphael’s flee but the olive green turtle had insisted.
“It’s like he doesn’t even know us,” Donatello replied. His mind was already working overtime about what had happened. “Not just the fact that he attacked Mikey but did you see the look in his eyes? It’s like… it’s like there’s nothing left.”
“No,” Leonardo shook his head. “No, he’s still in there. I know he is. Whatever Hun did to him can be undone. We just have to get him back home and to Master Splinter.”
Donnie nodded. “We have to catch him first.”
“Let’s split up. We’ll cover more ground that way,” Leo told them. “Donnie, you go left and Mikey, you right. Whoever sees him will use their shellcell and call the other two. Mikey, don’t make contact unless you have to. We don’t want him to injure you even worse.”
The two younger brothers did as they were told and veered off into different directions. They hadn’t even made it to the edge of the building before a woman’s scream from nearby pierced the air.
The young brunette clutched the torn remains of her purse to her chest as she backed up and bumped against a dumpster. The men who had attempted to rob her lay on the trash-strewn alley ground, one completely still with his neck twisted the wrong way, and the other moving slow as he attempted to drag himself away from the creature that stood above him.
At her shout, the mutant turtle turned towards her. She gasped aloud and tried to shrink back. “S-stay away!” she pleaded.
He bared his teeth in a snarl and stalked forward. The males weren’t a threat anymore but he couldn’t risk her. No one was allowed to be left standing.
Before he could attack however, he sensed three others as they dropped down behind him. The ones from before. Raphael spun around to face the new threats, and the woman took her chance. She ran from the alley and out of sight.
“It’s going to be okay, Raph.” Mikey tried, keeping his voice at a low, soothing level as he raised his uninjured hand. He forced himself to keep from looking at the two men on the ground. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
He stopped short as Raphael growled at him.
“Stay there, Mikey,” Leo insisted.
Raphael’s attention immediately snapped to the leaf green turtle. His eyes narrowed.
“Don’t move either, Leo.” Donnie studied their red-masked brother, taking in his aggressive stance. “We’re going to have to take him down as one, as quickly as possible. Once Casey gets here with the Battleshell I’ll be able to use the tranquilizers inside.”
Leo cast a quick, startled look at Donnie before focusing back on Raph. Mikey’s injury was testament to just what the emerald turtle was capable of and it would be unwise to keep attention off of him for long. “We can’t just drug him. He’s already hurting enough.”
“He’s going to hurt us if I don’t,” Donnie shot back. “Or more humans. Don’t you get it? Whatever Hun did to him, he’s definitely not himself. Once we get him tranquilized and back to the Lair we can decide how best to help him.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Leo may be their leader but he knew that sometimes his brothers saw certain situations more clearly than himself. As their resident genius, Donnie’s mind was already working overtime on the best ways to handle Raphael and Leo trusted him completely. Moving slowly as to not startle or anger Raph more, he raised his shellcell to his ear. “Casey? How close are you to third and first?”
“I’ll be there in a couple seconds, Leo,” the human answered back. “You got Raph?”
“We’re about to. Be ready for pickup.”
As soon as Leo finished speaking Raphael attacked him. They both hit the ground hard, Leo’s shell and the sheaths for his katanas scraping loudly against the pavement beneath his immediate younger brother’s sudden weight. The cell knocked from his hand Leo raised his arms and grabbed for Raph’s fists before they could make contact.
Leo and Raph had their physical fights from time to time growing up. They got on each other’s nerves and sometimes they would snap, one tackling the other as they attempted to get out whatever aggression they had worked themselves into. But even during those times, they had always pulled their punches on some levels. After all, they were still brothers and they loved each other.
This time Raphael was not holding back. He was honestly trying to hurt Leo just as he had Mikey, and the leaf green terrapin could barely stop him.
Donnie and Mikey immediately rushed forward and grabbed Raph around his shell, attempting to yank him off of their eldest brother. Donnie grabbed his bo and shoved it between Raph and Leo’s plastrons. Mikey grabbed onto the other side with his one uninjured hand and the
two of them yanked hard, using the weapon as leverage to get him off.
The three turtles went sailing backwards. Leo quickly scrambled up and jumped onto Raph, trying to hold him down as Donnie and Mikey grabbed his arms. With a snarl Raph fought furiously to escape.
“I’m so sorry, bro,” Leo murmured.
Pulling back he slammed his fist into his brother’s face. The emerald turtle went limp as he was knocked unconscious.
“Guess we won’t need the tranquilizers,” Mikey said as he sat back with a wince.
The headlights from the Battleshell encased them all as Casey pulled up. He climbed out and helped Leo carry Raph’s limp body inside as Donnie examined Mikey’s wrist again to make sure he hadn't hurt himself further in the fall.
“I want to take a better look at this when we get home,” Donnie told his orange masked sibling. “Try to keep the joint as still as possible until I do.”
“Focus on helping Raph first,” Mikey insisted with a shake his head. “He’s more important.”
Once everyone was in the vehicle they immediately took off for the garage above the Lair.
The time that Raphael had spent missing had not been kind to Splinter. The fear and concern surrounding his second eldest’s whereabouts had taken a toll on the rat mutant. He barely slept or ate; most of his waking moments were spent in the void trying to locate Raphael’s spirit so that he might know where to send his other children to find his physical form.
The first time he had finally been able to sense Raphael, he felt the turtle’s anger and confusion, the emotions so strong that he was unable to break through them to communicate. It was like attempting to crawl through a thorn bush. The more you pushed, the more it stuck and scratched you until you were bleeding all over. His own spirit worn to the brink, Splinter was forced to pull back.
The second time he was able to locate Raphael, the thorn push had become a terrible storm. Strong, cutting winds, dangerous lighting and excruciatingly loud thunder kept him at bay. Clothes torn, fur and body soaked to the bone, Splinter moved through with determination. But just when he sure he was making it through, Raphael’s spirit in the distance like a lighthouse beacon, Raphael’s pure agony surged over and around him like a tidal wave.
It took almost every piece of Splinter’s strength to hold on and keep from being swept away in it, out of the void and away from his son. When it was finally over, Splinter found himself to be alone. There was nothing left but empty darkness. Where the two times previous there had been so much strength, power, and raw emotion, suddenly contained nothing at all.
Raphael’s spirit had shattered like the tiny shards of a broken window.
Splinter did not tell his other three children what had transpired for fear he had felt his son’s death. They needed to believe that Raphael was still alive, and honestly, so did Splinter. He refused to fathom the idea that they had failed to save his son, and that his poor Raphael, so strong and full of heart, had died alone and helpless.
Splinter was sitting in his room, trying to enter the void again, when he sensed his other three sons return home and heard April’s loud shout. While Casey helped the turtles on the surface of the city, April did her best for them in the Lair. She made sure they ate, slept, and functioned. She searched through the computers for hours with Donatello and Leatherhead, desperate for any sign of any size that might exist to give them some semblance of hope as to Raphael’s whereabouts.
Opening the sliding door that cut his bedroom off from the rest of their underground home, Splinter leaned more heavily on his cane than usual as he hobbled down the stairs. At the bottom he immediately froze, shock, relief and fear twisted like vines in his heart when he saw the burden that Leo and Casey carried.
Raphael was unconscious and covered in blood. Splinter desperately scented the air as he approached with shaking hands, to find that it was only human.
“Physically fine,” Donnie answered quickly. He gestured his brother and human friend to bring Raph to the lab. “Mentally I’m not so sure. Come on, Mikey. You too.”
“We’ll explain everything, Sensei. Just please give us a minute,” Mikey assured their father as he trailed behind the group towards the lab. One of his wrists was cradled to his plastron, stiff and swollen.
April helped Splinter to the lab door. She eagerly shifted from foot to foot beside him, desperate to ask the questions he himself sought answers for.
Leo and Casey laid Raph on the cot. Together they began to wash the blood off of him as Donnie gave Mikey’s wrist a more secure wrapping. Afterwards the two younger turtles joined Leo and Casey in seeing to Raph.
“April,” Donnie looked at her. She immediately straightened, eager to do something to help. “I need you to get me some chains.”
She blinked at him, taken aback by the request. “Chains?”
“Yes. Strong ones.”
Leo’s attention left Raphael to scowl at his brother. “You can’t be serious! Hasn’t he suffered enough?”
Donnie was unmoved by the eldest turtle’s growl. “Do you want to risk him attacking one of us?” he challenged back. “What if it’s Mikey again?”
Leo’s eyes sought out the turtle in question, trailing down to his wrist. His shoulders sagged as he sighed shakily. “Fine, you’re right. But only for now.”
“Tell me what’s going on,” Splinter demanded as April rushed off to do as she was told. “Why do we need chain? What happened to Michelangelo? How did you get your brother back?”
“Raph attacked me,” Mikey replied uncomfortably. “But it’s not his fault! He’s not himself, Sensei. Can you help him?”
Splinter tightened his hold on his cane and moved towards them. His eyes traveled over his conscious three children before coming to rest on Raphael. Now that he was clean, the scars and bruises that littered his body were clearly visible. “I will do everything I can, Michelangelo. First I need to know what happened.”
“Why do you always have to fight me at every turn!?” Leo demanded hoarsely.
They had been yelling for hours and his throat was paying the price. He’d love a drink of water but Raph’s body was between him and the kitchen doorway.
“For the reason that you’re always wrong!” Raph snarled back. “You always take the easy way out, Leo. That is not what a leader is supposed to do!”
“Like you would know,” Leo crossed his arms over his plastron. Agitation rolled off of him in waves; he hated it when Raph pointed out his flaws as leader of their clan. “You’ve never led in your life.”
“Tch. That’s because you’re Father’s pet, Splinter Junior. Of course he’d pick his little shadow to lead us. We all know I’m the strongest, fastest, and bravest. You should be taking orders from me!”
“Would that really make you happy, Raph? If you led us into fights with the same vigor that you jump into your own, we’d all be dead within the week.”
Raph bristled. He was the guardian of their brothers and he loved them deeply. To even insinuate that he would willingly let his anger take control enough to put them at risk struck a sour cord within him. “That does it!”
He charged and the two of them hit the floor with a crash. Klunk scrambled out of the way with a frightened yowl as the two turtles tumbled and wrestled around the living room, taking out a wooden side table in the process and crunching one of Mikey’s game controllers into useless, plastic pieces beneath their shells.
“You smug little shit!” Raph gained the upper hand and held Leo down, fingers tight enough to bruise his forearms. “You think you’re better than me!?”
Leo struggled to free himself. He hated that Raph was indeed stronger than him. “Let go of me, you hotheaded prick! I’m sick of always having to look out for you! You don’t care for anyone but yourself!”
“You’re wrong, Leo!” Raph tightened his fingers even further, satisfied when his elder brother winced in pain. “I just care for everyone but you! I hate you!”
Leo’s eyes hardened. “Good! I hate you, too!”
Raph immediately sprang off of Leo. The two of them scrambled to their feet as Splinter approached, a furious look on the aged rat’s face. Behind him, Mikey and Donnie peeked into the room from the elevator door. Obviously Raph and Leo’s fight had been loud enough to be heard from the garage.
“You two are brothers!” Splinter snapped, banging his cane on the stone floor to emphasize the familial word. “You are supposed to love each other! This fighting has been going on for days and it ends now.”
Leo and Raph both gave curt nods. With a final glare and a sharp flick of his tail, Splinter went into his room. For the first few moments, none of the brothers moved.
“Just get out of here, Raph. Go topside or something,” Leo muttered angrily, his eyes on the floor in front of him. “I don’t even want to look at you right now.”
Raph stiffened. “Leo… I….I’m…” He hesitated a moment, then released an angry growl. “Fine! Asshole.”
He turned and stalked away. Mikey and Donnie quickly exited the elevator so Raph could enter it, but he didn’t even spare them a glance. Before the door closed, his eyes had been locked almost desperately on Leo’s shell.
He didn’t come back.
Leo walked slowly into the lab. It was a familiar, comfortable place. Not because it belonged to Donnie, the numerous pieces he’d been working on strewed about like the junk in Mikey’s room, but because Leo had spent a fair amount of time there himself. So many injuries patched up and taken care of with a bit of wrapping, some amazing painkillers, sometimes a stitch or two, and most importantly, love and care.
But Raph’s injuries were not so easily dealt with. Even familial love could go so far, but Leo was not willing to give up. He was their leader, and it was his job to take care of them. Especially when it came to Raphael.
Leo had to smile at that last thought. Growing up one would have thought that it would have been Mikey with the most injuries, as rambunctious was he was. But in all honesty it was Raphael that needed the most care and attention from his eldest brother. Always eager to be the first to get into everything, he was usually the one getting into the most trouble. Scrapes and bruises were normal for him. Splinter did his fatherly best, taking care of Raphael’s injuries with parental affection. But it was Leonardo that the emerald turtle would seek out the most, even if it was under the guise of pride that he had experienced something that Leo had not.
Leo knew better. They were two peas in a pod, and could not go a day without attention from the other. Even if as of the latter years, it was mostly through either a verbal or physical fight.
And now Raph needed him again.
He stopped and looked around, momentarily panicked when he did not see his brother anywhere. That feeling immediately morphed into both sympathy and unease, however, when he spotted Raphael crouched in the corner of the room. The look his immediate younger sibling was giving him could only be described as a combination of hostility and predatory.
Raph had shoved the cot over onto the floor in a fit of rage but could go no further, the chains binding his wrist to the metal loop Donnie had attached to the corner of the room only allowing him enough distance that he could not hurt himself on any of the equipment.
“I’m sorry, Raphael,” Leo murmured softly. He took one step towards the other male, only to stop short when the emerald turtle growled. It was like trying to approach a wild animal. “Please. You must be in there somewhere, Bro. You must remember us.”
Raph continued to glare, and Leo’s tone took on a pleading, desperate note.
“I’m Leonardo. Remember? Your big brother. I love you.”
Those amber eyes remained blank and closed off. No recognition at all. Leo’s heart broke a little more. Raph was both his best friend and his Second. Without him, he felt like he had lost one of his limbs and a piece of his soul.
And isn’t that just selfish of you, he scolded himself in shame. Raph had been abused, broken, and all Leo could think about was how he himself felt.
“It’s all my fault,” he muttered, though whether he was saying it to Raphael or himself, he wasn’t quite certain. “I shouldn’t have said all those things to you, or told you to go out on your own that night. But I just… I thought it would help if we separated for a little while. Then you went missing.”
Although Raph was physically there in front of Leo now, the truth was that he was still missing. Splinter had exhausted himself trying to help bring Raphael’s broken mind back together, but was so far unsuccessful. He described it as trying to put pieces together from different puzzles.
“I bet you’re hungry,” Leo smiled a little. “I’m sure you’d love pizza, but Donnie doesn’t think that’s a good idea yet. We don’t know how often Hun bothered to feed you.”
He walked out of the lab and came back a few moments later with some crackers and a glass of water. Leo placed the food down on the floor and slowly backed away.
For the first few moments, Raphael didn’t move or even look at the offering. His eyes remained on Leo, and it was only when the blue masked turtle had positioned himself near the lab door did Raph begin to stir.
Obviously still wary, Raph merely shifted from side to side in his crouched position in the corner. His eyes kept darting between Leo and the food, uncertainty and distrust radiating clear. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore and slowly began to give in. His attention moved back to Leo as he approached the crackers, tentatively reached his hand out, almost as if he was sure that it would be taken from his grasp, and then quickly snatched it up. Raph then immediately retreated back to his corner and hungrily consumed the food.
Leo watched him sadly. The scene broke his heart; it was obvious that Hun had done all he could to torture the once unshakable ninja. “I’m going to get him back for you, Raph,” Leo promised. A memory struck him, and as an afterthought he added a word softly, “Shin'yū..”
Raph instantly stopped eating; head snapped up to stare at him.
A butterfly of hope went insane in his stomach to see some sort of a reaction, so Leo tried again. “Otōto?”
The emerald turtle’s expression changed. For a moment he looked pained, then sick, then confused, then angry and frustrated. He shifted restlessly, eased forward, then back again. It was like he couldn’t decide how to feel or what to do.
Leo latched onto it eagerly. He was sure that Raph’s behavior was a positive reaction, because for once his brother didn’t look like he wanted to beat Leo right out of his shell. The words he’d used, ‘best friend’ and ‘little brother’ had been favorites from their youth.
Splinter had taught his boys both Japanese and English, and while they were all fluent it was only Leo and Raph that latched onto the former. They used it to speak to each other when it was just the two of them as though Japanese was their secret language. It was a special memory, and Leo desperately hoped that maybe Raph had clung to it somehow.
The minutes ticked by as Leo waited for Raph to respond, but when all he did was stare at him, Leo’s hope began to deflate like an old balloon.
“Guess I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy,” he sighed softly. “But you did recognize them. I know you did.” Leo turned to go but stopped in the doorway. He turned halfway, caught Raph’s eye, and murmured softly, “daisuki.”
I love you.
Though while growing up, the turtle brothers spent a lot of their time learning the art and forms of Ninjitsu, Splinter understood that they would need more of an education if they were expected to survive in the world. Given the differences in life expectances between rats and turtles, mutations aside, Splinter knew that someday his children would have to be able to take care of themselves without him. And do that, they would need to improve not only their fighting skills but their minds as well.
To say he was worldly, however, would have been far from the truth. He was just a rat from Japan, brought to New York by Master Yoshi to live as his companion and pet. How would he teach his children about subjects he had no idea of?
The answer came from above ground. While Splinter forbade his little turtle tots from leaving their sewer home, he himself ventured out almost regularly for food and certain supplies that would not wash down any sewer drain. The dump was a particularly great source of the latter. It was there that he had found the bunk beds that his boys shared.
He was also fortunate enough to find all sorts of books (both recreational as well as educational), magazines and comic books. He brought home all he could find, and the first task he set for his children was learning how to read.
Donatello proved the easiest to teach. He absorbed everything like a sponge, eager to know more about every subject available to him. It wasn’t long before Splinter had recruited the little olive green turtle tot to help him teach his brothers as well. Although not as quick as Donnie, Leonardo had an interest in learning as well. Raphael and Michelangelo not so much. They were all intelligent, but the emerald and sea green tots had decided they’d rather do something, anything else.
In order to get them to focus, Splinter had decided to use a reward system. For each lesson that his boys completed without complaint, they would get a reading material of their choice. Raph soon began to claim all of the magazines and books on motorcycles and cars, while Mikey took to the super hero comic books.
For Donnie’s continued and unending patience with his brothers, as well as his help to Splinter, his choice of reward was any and all material on science and technology.
While Donnie helped teach, Leo helped wrangle his brother in. Even if that meant dragging Michelangelo to the table by his foot when he absolutely refused to leave the television. For Raph, all he really had to do was agree to play a game of Follow the Leader, with Raph going first of course.
“Anata wa yakusoku shimasu ka?” Raph would ask him.
Do you promise?
Leo would smile and cross his fingers over his plastron. “Watashi no kokoro o wataru.”
Cross my heart.
Appeased, Raphael would agree to his lesson for the day. And his magazine reward, of course.
As his boys grew in mind and body, Splinter noted with some level of sadness that they also grew apart. Sure, they stilled trained and spent time together, but there was also a great deal of time in the day that they spent separated.
Donnie tinkering in the lab he’d created for himself, surrounded by bits of metal and wire like a magpie, Michelangelo either with his face hidden behind the latest comic book or in front of the television, Raphael toying with the broken motorcycle that he and his brothers had somehow managed to drag into the sewer one day (he’d been thrilled to find it in the dump), and Leonardo either studying about Japan or meditating.
In order to get them back to the level of closeness they used to share, Splinter decided that it was time he chose a leader. He’d hoped that with that decision, it would turn his boys into a complete ninja clan complete the spectrum that they used to be.
He chose Leonardo. Donatello and Michelangelo took it well, congratulating their eldest brother with huge smiles and hugs. Raphael, however, took it horribly. Splinter hadn’t realized just how much his spitefire son had been relying on the position, and to lose it was like a personal failure. A failure which he took out on Leonardo.
They stopped talking to each other in Japanese. Raph spent more of his time with Donnie as the two worked on the bike, and while Donnie was happy to help his brother with something they could bond with, he didn’t miss the sad looks that Leo would send their way now and then.
A couple times, he offered to have the blue masked turtle help them.
“Pfft,” Raph snorted, “why should we have him help? Fearless Leader wouldn’t know a sparkplug from a ball bearing. He’d be useless.”
“I said no, Donnie. Geez.” He clasped his hand on his younger brother’s shoulder, giving it a squeeze. “You’re a genius with everything, bro,” he praised. “There’s nothing you can’t fix. I want you to help me.”
Flushing a little at the compliment, Donnie smiled. “Okay, sure.”
Raph grinned. “Thanks, Don. You’re the best.”
At the soft rattle of chains, the olive green turtle turned slightly in his computer chair to look at his guest. Raph had continued to refuse the cot and had his shell backed up into the corner of the room. He would shift every few seconds or so even in his sleep. If you could call what he did ‘sleep’. Mostly it seemed to be extremely light naps every now and then, where every little noise would find him immediately opening his eyes and in full-alert mode. He dozed so lightly during these times that he didn’t even snore.
Donnie gave his older brother a sad look, then turned sharply and slammed his fists onto the table on either side of his keyboard.
“Dammit,” he grumbled angrily to himself. His brother’s praise from all those years ago, while it made him feel good then, haunted him now.
Apparently there was something he couldn’t fix.
The chains rattled again, louder, and Donnie turned his head to find Raph glaring at him. He fought the urge to shiver beneath that ice-cold gaze. The emerald turtle had always suffered from a quick temper, but this was different. Terrifying at times. But Donnie refused to show his fear. He knew a little something about animals (though he cringed to refer to Raph as such, despite the fact that really, that’s what they were), and to show fear in the face of aggression only earned you more aggression.
Was his brother really still in there somewhere?
“I want you to help me.”
“I’m trying to, Raph,” Donnie muttered about the memory, “but this time… I don’t know if I can.”
Mikey sat slumped on the sofa, his eyes on the numerous televisions in front of him although he had no idea what was even on them. His thoughts were instead elsewhere; on the same place that the rest of the Lair’s were.
“Are you in pain, Mikey?”
With a glance down at his wrist, the sea green turtle shook his head in response to Leo’s inquiry. “No, I’m fine.”
The cushions dipped at his brother sat down beside him close enough so their shoulders touched. “You’re not fine. None of us are. But we’re going to be.”
Leo sounded so sure of himself that Mikey almost believed it. “How can you promise that?”
“Because I have faith in us, and you should too.” Leo wrapped his arm around Mikey’s shoulders and tugged him closer so he was leaning on the elder turtle. “You’re our heart, Mikey. We need you to believe if we’re going to help Raphael, and become a whole family again.”
“But that’s just it,” Mikey shook his head. He had allowed Leo to pull him closer, but refused his brother’s comfort otherwise, his body stiff in his unhappiness. “You’re all helping Raph in your own ways… Donnie mentally, Master Splinter spiritually, you.. you’re emotionally. But what do I do? How can I help? Especially since no one will let me near him.”
“That’s because he hurt you--”
“I know!” Mikey’s outburst startled Leo, his hold on his youngest brother tightening instinctively. “I fucking know he hurt me, Leo. I didn’t forget! And even if I did, the wrap around my arm and the pain would remind me!”
“Don’t curse,” Leo muttered, more of an afterthought than anything. He was shocked to hear Mikey talk like that. Raph was usually the one who... “Can you fault us for wanting to keep you safe?”
Mikey sighed, shaking his head. “No, no of course not. But I’m the same age as you guys, as much as we try to forget that, and he’s my brother, too. One mistake shouldn’t cost me the right to help him.”
“You’re absolutely right, Mikey.”
Both turtles raised their heads at Donnie’s voice as the olive green turtle stopped in front of them. He looked completely drained; shoulders slumped and head ducked slightly.
“We haven’t been very fair to you. But I think we can all agree that Raph is little more than a mindless animal at this point.” Donnie raised his hand as his brothers started to argue. “I said at this point,” he repeated, “but that doesn’t mean we still can’t help him. We just have to go about it the right way.”
“And how is the right way?” Leo arched an eyeridge. “Everything we do just earns us growls and glares. He hasn’t relaxed one inch since we found him.”
“Can you blame him?” Donnie retorted. “Raph is still going on adrenaline and instinct. He’s showing all the signs of pure alpha behavior and he doesn’t understand what we want from him.”
Mikey was silent for a moment. Suddenly he pulled out of Leo’s grasp and stood with a determined light in his eyes. “Then let’s show him.” At his brothers’ confused looks, he explained: “you guys know I watch a lot of tv, right? Well I’ve seen a bunch of nature shows. Raph has always been an Alpha, no offence Leo, and despite what happened to him that hasn’t changed. He’s aggressive, not submissive. He looks us in the eye despite any fear he may harbor, he refuses to show us his shell, and he watches our every move with the expected reactions.”
Donnie listened to Mikey with a fresh respect. They always knew that their youngest sibling would show that he really was intelligent one day if he so chose to, and it looked like Raph’s need finally brought it out of him. “Go on.”
“So if we want to earn his trust,” Mikey continued, “we need to prove to him that we’re not a threat. Especially Leo.”
“Me? Why me?” Leo tried not to feel insulted, and failed.
“Because you’re our leader,” Mikey retorted like it should be obvious, “you throw off a natural air of reigning over us.”
“You make me sound dominating,” he protested.
“Not quite, but we do follow your command,” Mikey shrugged. “Anyway, you need to stow a bit of that and become more submissive.”
Leo was starting to like this idea less and less. Warning bells were going off in his head, but if it could really help Raphael then he had to try. “Alright,” he agreed uneasily. “What do I do?”
The song is called That I Should Know Your Face by Laurelyn Dossett
In the center of the main room of the Lair, four little turtle bodies lay together in a nest of several soft blankets. Above ground, thunder rumbled over the city so loudly that it echoed through the sewers. Coupled with the river of water that rushed through the tunnels, to the young terrapins it sounded as though they were in the middle of a tsunami.
Splinter hadn’t yet returned from a late supply run, and so the children forced their bodies as close as they could in order to find comfort in each other.
“Sing another one, Leo,” Mikey pleaded, clinging to his eldest brother’s waist. He nearly jumped out of his shell as more thunder cracked overhead. “Please?”
Leo coughed a little in an attempt to soothe his aching throat. He’d been singing to his brothers for the last hour and a half to try to sooth them while the storm raged on and his vocal chords were paying the price.
Singing for them had become habit ever since the day several months prior when Mikey had hurt himself during one of their rougher playtimes. Wanting to comfort his crying brother, Leo had begun to recite a song that Splinter taught them. The smooth tenor of his young voice had not only calmed the screaming turtle, but gained the attention of Donnie and Raph as well, and since then they came to Leo to sing to them whenever they were stressed or afraid.
“Just one more,” Donnie begged, a corner of one of the blankets clenched in his small hands. “Splinter should be back by then.”
Leo looked to Raph for help, but the amber eyes implored him as well and Leo knew he couldn’t deny them no matter how he was feeling. The leaf green turtle sighed, then swallowed a few times. Arms wrapped tight around Mikey’s shoulders, he began another soft verse.
By the time Splinter returned that night, Leo’s voice was hoarse and his throat was on fire, but the others were sleeping peacefully.
It was worth the laryngitis he’d suffered through the next day.
The first thing that Leo did was remove his Katana. It was extremely rare for him to be without his weapons during his waking hours; after so many years of training with them the two blades had become as much of a part of him as his own limbs. But if he was going to earn Raphael’s trust, he had to make himself as un-intimidating as possible.
That was step one. Step two was to prove to Raphael through body language that he wasn’t a threat to him. No longer could Leo portray himself as ‘Leader’, and instead had to concentrate on holding himself with an air of subordination.
“Raph needs to feel in control on some level,” Mikey had said. “He needs to feel like you’re not a threat.”
“That’s going to be difficult when he’s still chained to the wall,” Leo pointed out.
Donnie nodded his agreement. “True, but just start with the changes to your behavior; we’ll worry about what to do about the chains after you’ve managed to gain some of his trust.”
Of course, his two youngest brothers weren’t going to let Leo walk into the lion’s den alone. They would remain at a distance that was hopefully beyond Raph’s radar, and yet close enough to be able to jump in should something go wrong.
After they had established their course of action, it was time to begin.
Leo walked slowly into the lab, head down and yet senses wide open. He needed Raph to believe that he couldn’t look him in the eye, as a submissive animal did with a dominant, but at the same time he knew that taking his attention off of the other turtle completely would be extremely dangerous.
He could feel Raph’s unwavering stare as Leo came closer. The emerald turtle growled a low warning, and Leo immediately stopped. The tray of food clutched tightly between his hands, he raised his eyes but not his head looking at Raph discreetly from beneath his brow ridges.
His brother was scowling at him, shell backed into the corner and body completely stiff. Leo licked his dry lips, then tried a familiar tactic, “Otōto.”
Raph’s body straightened a bit, expression turning stoic. Grateful that at least his brother had stopped growling, Leo moved forward again with the tray and slowly placed it on the floor.
Leo kept his gaze on Raph until amber eyes met his own, then quickly averted his gaze and slowly backed away until he was out of the lab doorway. His heart pounding against his ribcage, he hoped that some of that had made it through.
The next handful of times that Leo interacted with Raph, again bringing him his food, he tried the same tactics. He kept his eyes averted, only moved when Raph didn’t show open aggression, and only spoke softly to him. Sometimes his words were Japanese, sometimes English, but always with an air of being timid.
When he was alone Leo would go through his actions extremely carefully to make sure he was doing the right thing. If anything went wrong then he would lose any progress he had possibly made and they would be back to square one; but he had to be doing something correctly because Raph had stopped growling at the mere sight of him. However he still refused to let Leo get any closer than a few feet – just enough to set the tray down and leave it in a spot that the emerald turtle could reach.
Donnie had begun to let Raph eat more than just crackers and water. They made him bologna sandwiches, a previous favorite of his, as well as cereal, nuts and fruit. Still no pizza though.
“When it is time for pizza, you should bring it to him while the rest of us are ‘sleeping’,” Mikey encouraged. At his brothers’ confused looks, he elaborated, “that way maybe he’ll think that you’re going against our wishes for him. It might help him trust you more.”
“I don’t think that Raph will consider it like that,” Donnie replied doubtfully. “He’s not really thinking that way right now, Mikey.”
“It’s still worth a try,” the sea green turtle insisted. “Every little bit helps, right?”
“Yes,” Leo agreed. “Every little bit helps.”
It was late one night and everyone was asleep except for Leo. He was making his rounds of the Lair, making sure that everything was secure and in its place before he was ready for his own bed, a ritual he performed every night since the day Master Splinter had appointed him leader.
He was just passing by the lab when he heard the frantic rattle of chains. Leo stopped short and listened for a moment, then slowly made his way to the doorway. He peeked inside, his eyes adjusting to the white light given off by Donnie’s computer monitor, to see Raph as far away from the wall as he could be. Both arms outstretched, he pulled hard on the cuff holding his wrist as he desperately attempted to grab at something just beyond his reach.
Without really thinking Leo moved quickly into the lab and zeroed in on the apple that had rolled beyond his brother’s limit.
“It’s okay, Raph. Here.” Leo forced them both to their knees, guiding the fruit into the emerald turtle’s free hand. “Relax now. You’re hurting yourself.”
Raph’s fingers encircled the red fruit like a lifeline as he immediately began to devour it. Taking advantage of his brother’s momentary distraction, Leo kept his body close as he inspected the cuffed wrist. In the unknown amount of time Raph been pulling on it, the joint had become a bloody, torn mess beneath the unforgiving metal restraint.
“Oh, man,” Leo breathed, horrified that his brother didn’t seem to even notice the wound. “Okay… okay… hold on.” He scrambled for Donnie’s first aid kit, then quickly dropped back down to Raph’s side. “This is going to sting,” he warned, pouring antiseptic on the torn skin.
Raph dropped the apple core with a pained snarl. He attempted to yank his arm away but Leo held firm.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” the leaf green turtle kept muttering as he cleaned him up. “I know it hurts. I’m sorry. Bear with me. It’s almost over.”
Raph continued to struggle, forcing Leo to tighten his grip even more as he tried to wrap gauze around the wound. Instinct took over and absently, Leo began to do what he had always done to calm his brothers. He began to sing.
“That I should know your face, my love…
like sorrow knows the Mourning Dove.
That I should hold you to my breast.
Come back to me, is my request.
My own true love, remember me when once again…
my eyes you see.
My heart lies in a darkened place…
that you should know my weary face.
I’ll search for you on Jordan’s Shore,
to hold you in my arms once more.
I travel down this long, hard road…
and I’ll not ever let you go.
That I should know your face, my love…
come back to me, is my request.”
So absorbed in his song and task, that Leo barely noticed that Raph had stopped moving. It was only after he secured the bandage and released him, that he raised his eyes to find their faces extremely close.
The look on Raph’s face was not aggression. His lips, parted and glistening a bit with juice from the apple, were trembling ever so slightly. His breath, though soft, was moving in and out quicker than normal, and although he was looking at Leo, it was as if he was looking through him.
“Raph?” Leo raised his hands, encasing his brother’s face with a gentle touch. “I… I know you’re in there. Come back to me,” he said again for the umpteenth time. It was a tactic he always tried, but this time he was so hopeful he would get through. “Whatever Hun did to you, we can fix it. We’ll make it better. Just… just please.”
For a moment, just a moment, something cleared in Raph’s amber eyes. But as fast as a lightning bug’s blink, it was gone. The emerald turtle’s expression hardened, his body tensed, and he made to yank away.
“No!” Desperately Leo surged forward and collided with him, the two hitting the floor with the rattle of chains and the scrape of Raph’s shell on the hard floor. “No, no please!” Leo clung tightly to Raph’s strong shoulders, their plastrons pressed together as he lay on top of him. He buried his face against the emerald neck. “You’re in there! You’re still in there!” he sobbed. “I saw you!”
Slowly, Leo became aware that a sound was emitting from the turtle beneath him. He forced himself to quiet for a moment, hiccupping a bit, and listened.
Raph was rumbling. It wasn’t words, as his lips weren’t moving, but more like the sound a motorcycle makes when it’s being driven. Leo raised his head and stared down at him. Raph stared back, and although there was no recognition in his dark eyes, he continued to make the sound. As they held gazes, Raph tilted his head a little, the sound louder now that he knew he had Leo’s attention.
With a start, Leo realized that Raph was trying to comfort him.
It made sense. Before being taken by Hun, one of the things that made Raph truly happy was riding his bike. So the fact he was trying to imitate the engine sound to make the leaf green turtle feel better…
He didn’t understand what it meant, but the fact was that Raph remembered something as simple as a sound that he liked, and was trying to use it to help Leo was nothing short of incredible.
It was the most beautiful sound Leo had ever heard.
The song is Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift.
It was raining again.
Raph slowly rose to his feet. Right hand holding onto the bicep of his left, fingers tight on the wound that hadn’t closed yet from his latest fight, he limped over to the window with a desperate need. He slowly uncurled his hand from his arm and lifted it up.
The solid steel bars wedged between concrete were too strong for Raph to break. Even if he could the window was much too small for his body to fit through, but even so was the tiny opening that was his only mental salvation.
The window was just low enough for him to be able to stick his hand through and he was fascinated to feel the cold drops hit his skin. Gathering on his fingers they raced down his arm, turning pink by the time they reached his shoulder, and continued down the dips and curves on the edge of his plastron leaving bloody streaks in their wake.
On clear nights, if he lay at just the right angle, he could see the stars twinkling like tiny diamonds in black velvet. During the day he could feel the warmth of the sun. And at times such as this, he could feel the purity of the sky’s tears.
It was bittersweet, because while the window gave him a sense of peace it also reminded him that even though freedom was so close at his fingertips, it might as well have been as far away as the moon.
Pulling his hand back, Raph trailed his hands over the wall his cage was up against as he lowered himself to his knees. Head lowered, his body trembled.
At such times, when he was hurt and afraid in equal measure, a distant part of his brain remembered a voice. And although he couldn’t recall any words it formed, he knew without a doubt that it had sounded sweet and melodious, making him feel calm and happy.
He would do anything to hear it again.
The two turtles spent the next couple hours together. Side by side lying on the floor, they alternated between Raph making his motorcycle comforting noises, and Leo singing softly. Every time Leo took his turn, Raph would stare at him with a calm expression that made Leo want to keep singing forever.
"Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You’ll be alright
No one can hurt you now.
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound."
With the clink of the chains, Raph raised his hand and reached out. Leo kept his eyes on his brother’s amber depths; in his peripheral vision he could see that Raph’s fingers trembled as they approached, and it was with something akin to awe in Raph’s expression when they softly ghosted over Leo’s cheek.
Raph parted his lips. Leo’s breath caught and his heart pounded as he eagerly waited for a word, any word, to emerge.
Leonardo’s attention snapped away from Raph at the voice to see Donnie’s form in the lab doorway. The computer’s glow highlighted the confused expression on his brother’s face as he took in their close proximity.
Before Leo could even attempt to explain what was going on Raph was suddenly between them. He snarled at Donnie, his unbound hand on Leo’s plastron to keep him back and behind himself.
Leo couldn’t decide if this was a good thing or bad thing that Raph felt the need to protect him. His heart was excited that he seemed to have gained Raph’s trust, but his head knew that his brother shouldn’t feel the need to keep Leo safe from one of their own. Not when he was the one broke-- no. Not broken. Hurting.
“Raphael…” he tried to shift away from him, “it’s alright. It’s just Donnie.”
Raph growled and shoved Leo back against the corner of the lab, his body physically blocking his older brother. Leo allowed it to happen partially out of shock, and partially because in reality he couldn’t have stopped it if he wanted to. Literally fighting almost constantly for his life while in Hun’s possession had given the already strong turtle an even greater physical strength that he used to his advantage.
Donnie had kept himself perfectly still during the exchange. His eyes tracked every movement and Leo knew that his brother’s genius brain was working everything out like a jigsaw puzzle, putting each piece exactly where it’s supposed to go to make the big picture.
“Leo,” he said slowly, “I’m going to back away now. Give Raph a few moments to calm down, and then you’re going to leave the lab, too. Come find me in the living room.”
He waited for Leo’s nod, then did exactly as he said he would. With Donnie gone from the doorway, the tension slowly drained from Raph’s body. He moved a step away from Leo, then suddenly turned and grabbed onto the leaf green turtle’s shoulders.
Leo stiffened, unsure what to expect, but all Raph did was move closer and bury his face against Leo’s neck. He sniffed at him, rubbing his nose against the juncture between Leo’s neck and shoulder, and only then did he finally step back.
“Uh…” Leo started, unsure of what the heck had just happened.
Raph turned his back on him and plopped to the floor on his butt, effectively dismissing the older turtle.
Feeling a bit stung but not sure why, Leo pushed away from the wall and started to leave. But as he walked out of the lab a sudden and exciting realization dawned on him.
That had been the first time that Raph had willingly showed one of them his unprotected shell. The simple show of trust was amazing, and Leo knew what they had to do next.
“We need to let him go.” He declared as soon as he met up with his brother near the sofa. “I know you think it’s a bad idea, but--”
“A ‘bad idea’?” Donnie cut him off, incredulous. “Are you even listening to yourself, Leo? Raph hasn’t shown any signs that he even remembers us a tiny bit, and yet because of one small act you want to cut him loose?”
“It wasn’t a small act,” Leo shot back, frustrated that he didn’t have the support he thought he would. “He tried to comfort me. He touched me. He remembers me.”
“Did he say your name?” Donnie demanded.
“Did he even talk at all?”
Leo deflated a little. “No.”
Donnie sighed heavily. “Look, don’t you think I want to believe that Raph is getting better? But we have to face facts. He’s been with us for a month now and he hasn’t changed.”
“He has changed,” Leo insisted. “You don’t see the same things I do, Donnie. I’ve seen his eyes clear even if only for a moment. I’ve seen him go from violently refusing my touch to not only welcoming it, but tonight he sought it out.” Leo’s eyes implored his younger brother to believe him. “Raph is opening up to me but I can only go so far with him still chained. Let him go.”
“No.” The olive green turtle crossed his arms. “I will not listen to you.”
“I’m the leader!”
“Exactly! And as such you’re supposed to think clearly in any and all situations. But let’s face it, Leo,” Donnie stepped forward and poked his brother’s plastron, “you’re letting your heart control you. And because of that you’re placing too much trust in Raph too fast. That’s not going to end well.”
Leo grasped Donnie’s wrist and guided it down away from his chest. “You don’t need to protect me from Raph.”
“I know. I’m not. I’m protecting him from you.”
Leo stiffened. “W-what?”
Donnie gave him a sad look. “I know you blame yourself for what happened to him, and I know that it’s because of that feeling that you want to be the one to help him. But you have to face the truth, Leo. You’re pushing him too hard. If we get Raph back it’s not going to be any time soon. It could very well take years. The only thing you’re doing is setting yourself and the rest of us up for more pain, more heartache, and we can’t take anymore.”
He grasped Leo’s elbow, guiding the other turtle the opposite way of the lab and towards the stairs.
“Come on, get to bed now. April’s coming over early in the morning with fresh supplies.”
Feeling numb, Leo allowed Donnie to herd him upstairs to his bedroom. As he climbed beneath his blue blanket, all he could think about was what his brother had said.
I’m protecting Raph from you.
Was Donnie right? Was Leo doing the wrong thing?
He touched his own neck, fingers lingering over the spot that Raph had stuck his face into before they had separated. He remembered the sound Raph had made to comfort him, and the gentle expression on his face when they had laid together on the floor.
With renewed determination, Leo clenched his jaw. Donnie was right in a long of things, but he was wrong about this. Leo was doing the right thing with Raph, and he was going to prove it.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
A short chapter, but it's been a while. Hopefully this'll help get the creative juices flowing again.
Mikey awoke when his covers were pulled back. Though still groggy he eased his body over without hesitation to make room for Leo as he climbed onto the mattress beside him and pulled the orange blanket over them. It wasn’t the first time that one of them had joined another during the night for one reason or the other. Though when it came to these two particular brothers, it was usually Mikey that joined Leo after he had a nightmare, automatically seeking the comfort of his oldest brother.
“What’s wrong?” he asked the leaf green turtle, his voice barely above a whisper.
Splinter’s room was downstairs but Donnie’s was just across the hall. If Leo had wanted their brother to know whatever it was he came to Mikey about then he wouldn’t have snuck in to start with.
“It’s Raph. No, wait,” Leo took hold of Mikey’s shoulder when he immediately jerked up, gently guiding him to lie back down, “he’s okay. Better than, actually.”
Placated by the smile on Leo’s face, Mikey allowed himself to settle back onto the bed. “What happened?”
He listened intently as Leo told him everything that had occurred between him and Raph, from the sounds Raph had made to how he had behaved when Donnie showed up.
“Donnie thinks I’m looking too much into it,” Leo said. “That I’m putting too much hope into these little actions which really don’t mean much. You’ve been right so far on Raph’s behavior, Mikey. What do you think?”
“I think you’re right about the fact that we need to unchain Raph. But I also think that Donnie’s right when he said it was a bad idea to set him loose.”
“So what do you suggest?”
“Do you remember how we found that abandoned station for Leatherhead? It was a place his own where he didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone, but at the same time it was close by in case he needed us.”
Leo nodded. “I remember.”
“Well there must be other places similar to that where we can put you and Raph,” Mikey suggested. “That way he’s free to roam, you’ll make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble, and the two of you can continue down this path you’re going.”
“Alright, sounds good. But this has to stay between you and me. Donnie just doesn’t understand.”
Over the next couple of days Leo and Mikey planned on how they would leave together. They hadn’t been on any patrols since Raph had gone missing and so they attempted to convince Master Splinter and Donnie that that was their intention.
“I don’t like the two of you going alone,” Splinter denied their request. “Hun may be still looking for Raphael, or all too willing to take a replacement.”
“That’s why we’re going together,” Leo pointed out. “Raph was taken because he was by himself. We’ll be fine, Sensei.”
“Master Splinter is right,” Donnie stepped forward. “I’ll go with you.”
“You should stay here with Raph,” Mikey placed his hands on Donnie’s shoulders, giving a soft squeeze. “Master Splinter can keep trying to reach him spiritually while you watch how he reacts. Maybe we’re missing something.”
Donnie wasn’t convinced. “That can easily be done while you’re here, too. I’m going with you.”
To continue to protest would just make Donnie more suspicious than he already clearly was, so without showing their disappointment Mikey and Leo agreed and the three of them went out together.
They returned a few hours later without incident, and with the knowledge that they needed a different approach.
“We’ll go out while everyone is sleeping,” Leo suggested. “Go to bed tonight like normal and I’ll come fetch you after I’ve done my rounds of the Lair.”
That night when their home was quiet and semi-dark, Leo checked to make sure everything was in order. He stopped at Donnie’s lab last and peeked inside. He wasn’t sure if he would find Raph awake or not, but it proved to be the former as he was met with the soft glow of the light shining off his brother’s amber eyes.
Leo slowly stepped into the lab and crouched down in front of the other turtle. “It’s going to be okay, Raph. Mikey and I are going to find somewhere better for you for a while, where you can finally stretch your legs. I promise you things will be better after that.”
Raph only stared at him blankly.
Leo smiled slightly. “Shinji Shite kudasai.”
Please believe me.
Leo jumped, startled as callused fingers traced over his skin just above his plastron. Raph rumbled low in his throat, shifting forward, and maintained eye contact as his hand began a decent down the yellow shell. Leo quickly pulled back, flushed in embarrassment.
“I’ll, um, see you tomorrow, Raph,” he said awkwardly, then practically fled the lab with his heart pounding in his chest.
Using every bit of their ninja training to stay quiet the two turtles snuck out of the Lair. They traveled the extensive tunnels and channels of the New York sewer system for a suitable place to take Raphael. Dawn was approaching by the time they returned home, tired and frustrated with nothing to show for it.
The next night was similarly fruitless, as was the next and the next after that. Finally after almost a week, they hit the jackpot.
It was another part of an abandoned train station much like they had found for Leatherhead, but while the other one had been quite massive, the new one was only half the size if not less. It wasn’t clear what the room was used for, storage maybe, but there were bars on the doors that Raph wouldn’t be able to break, and the only hole in the wall that he would fit through only led to another small room that was about the size of a walk-in closet.
Mikey and Leo spent the next week cleaning it out as best they could, though it was passed the point of perfection. They removed cobwebs from every corner, swept away dead insects and rodent feces, and scrubbed the floor with soap and water. Leo even managed to hook up some Christmas lights that Mikey had found to a battery pack, the white twinkling lights chasing away some of the creepy dim of the room which would hopefully make Raph more comfortable. As much as possible, anyway.
They then made small raids to their pantry at home in order to bring enough supplies without causing too much suspicion.
“You sure you don’t mind giving up so much of your stash?” Leo asked as they carried a couple more crates of food to their hideout. “I know how you feel about the supplies in your kitchen.”
“It’s for a good cause,” Mikey replied cheerfully. “You getting Raph better will be worth some missing fruit, peanut butter, crackers and junk food. Plus water bottles.”
Not the best diet but they needed things that wouldn’t spoil. Donnie was sure to notice if they tried to drag out the refrigerator.
“There, everything’s ready,” Mikey grinned, surveying their handiwork. “Now we just need the guest of honor.”
Leo sighed, rubbing the ache at the back of his neck. “Yeah… that’s going to be the hardest part. Obviously Raph can’t be conscious or we’ll never get him down here. Plus we have to make sure Donnie and Master Splinter don’t wake up while we’re doing it. And once Raph and I are gone you’re going to have to deal with them.”
“I can handle the last part, bro,” Mikey assured him. “Don’t worry so much. Your secret will be safe with me.”
Leo felt another pang of guilt that he left Mikey by himself to try to explain their defiance, but his youngest sibling had been completely positive that he could handle their irate family members.
Raph rolled over and slowly pushed himself to his feet, visibly sniffing the air as his amber eyes looked around the spacious room. He paid no visual attention to his unbound wrist, though his fingers did flex a couple of times, as he took in every nook and cranny of the place.
He slowly approached the massive doorway. When Mikey had been ready to leave, he and Leo had sealed the door back up with the metal bars that had broken away from the stone in order to seal the leaf green turtle inside with his guest. They could not risk Raph escaping when Leo wasn’t paying attention, unwilling to see him getting hurt or hurting someone else.
Or Hun finding him again.
Raph’s fingers encased the cold, thick metal like he was testing the weight. He stuck his nose between and took another couple of deep whiffs. Body taunt, the emerald turtle backed off a few feet and slowly lifted his fists, his knees slightly crouched like he was waiting for something.
Leo watched him for a few moments, completely confused, when suddenly it dawned on him. Raph was waiting for a fight just like when he was trapped in the Purple Dragons’ cage.
Without much thought Leo stepped hastily out from the shadows. He threw his hands up as Raph immediately turned to snarl at him.
“Whoa, easy, bro… it’s just me,” he murmured placatingly. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
Raph stopped growling, his fists lowering slightly, but he kept his body tight and his eyes narrowed. Leo licked suddenly dry lips, averting his own eyes for a moment before he looked at Raph again.
“No one is going to hurt you. I just… I had to get you out of there, you know? It’s just us now, Raph. You and me. No distractions, no chains. You understand me, right?” He took a tentative step forward, his words turned from hesitant to pleading. “Please. Donnie’s right about so many things, but not about this. He can’t be right about this.”
The next few moments were silent and tense, Leo waiting with baited breath to see what his feral brother would do. Raph’s eyes darted around once more as if making sure they were really alone, and then without warning his hand shot out.
Strong, callused fingers gripped Leo’s wrist tight enough to bruise and yanked him forward. Every instinct Leo had told him to jump back as his body crashed into Raph’s with enough force that it should have knocked the emerald turtle back, but Raph barely even budged. His free arm locked around Leo’s shell to keep him in place as his face shoved itself against the leaf green turtle’s neck.
Something wet touched his skin and Leo really did jerk when he realized that his brother had just licked him.
“R-Raph! What the..?”
But as quickly as it started it ended. Releasing his brother Raph stepped away to inspect their new living space. The aggression was gone however, replaced with curiosity as he flexed his freed wrist now and then as if making sure the chain was still gone.
Leo stayed where his brother had left him, watching the other turtle move around sniffing and touching things. His heartbeat, which had pounded in his chest erratically at the lick, had finally begun to regulate again and he pushed the feelings aside, not wanting to deal with them.
Raph didn’t understand a lot still, though he eventually would, so Leo told himself that the lick hadn’t meant anything.
It was just progress. Nothing more.
Raph crouched down in front of the cache of food. He sniffed at it, then immediately dove in.
“Wait--” Leo started to protest. Thinking better of it he stopped. They had been choosing for Raph since they got him back. What and when he eats, where he should sleep, how much freedom he had. The whole point of him and Mikey getting their brother out of the lab was so that he could start making his own decisions, under Leo’s watchful eye of course. So why not start with food? “Just try not to eat too much,” he urged, though Leo was pretty sure it fell on deaf ears.
Raph chose the peanut butter, but quickly became frustrated when he couldn’t figure out how to open it. Releasing a frustrated growl, he slammed the container onto the floor and cracked the plastic lid. Shoving the pieces aside he dived in, hungrily licking at the contents.