It's gone. Leatherhead and I have done the genetic foot work, turned over every single cell like the Gestapo breaking into a family cottage when someone signs in about a parachute swelling out before the plane went up. Like in every war movie, there's no sign of what we're looking for. The cause of the secondary mutation is gone. Not a single "outbreak" cell is swimming merrily away inside my veins. Party's over. The anti bodies Stockman and Leatherhead threw together did there job. I will not and never ever will be that monster again. It's gone. Heck, I don't even remember any of that.

At least that's what I tell them.

The word is "Infection". Wrap up warm before you go outside, or you'll catch your death. Build up your immune system, delay the cold, delay the fever, delay pneumonia…but that's all your doing, even with huge scarves and furry gloves and Superman thermal underwear.

Delay it long enough, and hopefully it won't be a problem anymore.

I'm not afraid of the mutation physically returning. Unstable as my DNA is, you'd need to get pretty fancy for that to happen. Even fancier when you take into account the fact the bacteria responsible for the mutation don't exist on this planet anymore.

Everyone thinks I lost my mind when the virus struck, that I lost myself.

I'm not sure that's the right word.

Everything has to come from somewhere. We are who we are for a reason, not because someone else made us that way. Hun was probably an angel before his dad started drinking or his mom started sleeping around or the only way to survive on the streets was having that ugly chicken branded onto your arm. But second nature is only one step away from first.

I don't remember being a monster. I don't remember whatever primal reason dictated I almost break Casey's ribs or eat Mikey's legs. I don't think I have to. The burden of too much knowledge. The ability to make an educated and very accurate guess at what could go wrong.

The monster won't come back. It's gone.

But I'm still here.

Every time Leo gives me one more stupid order…

Every time Raph wastes my time with that stuck up attitude…

Every time Mikey just keeps coming into my lab…

Every time Master Splinter gives me that look because I couldn't get that stupid technique right…

Everything comes from somewhere. Second nature is only one step away from first. Infection. Delay.

Times like that, I just want to lock myself back in the lab and be alone with my thoughts. But that dosen't work. Because I think about it.

Leo suggests a kind-of-but-not-really training run. The new lair is fun, comfortable and big, but honest to God we need to get out of there. It feels good out on the rooftops. We haven't laughed about being up here since…ever.

It still comes up though.

Mikey jokes about the full moon. Despite the play acting, I'm not sure the fact I do it so quickly is a good thing. Then Mikey does the girly scream and I'm laughing through the roaring and running after him, never so sure or happy about anything in my goddamn life.

Everything comes from somewhere. Second nature is only one step away from first. Infection. Delay.

I'm still here.

But it's gone.


Bet you thought this was going to be an angsty fic with blood, death and Linkin Park lyrics, eh? Well I sure showed you! Happy New Year.