Author's Note: this story takes place within the TMNT Fast Forward episode "DNA is thicker than water." If you haven't seen it, this probably won't make much sense to you, so... go watch it! It's actually a really good episode, despite being part of everyone's least favorite season.
Shade of Blue
"I still can't believe you guys are buyin' it!" Raph declared. He looked around angrily at his brothers, who were all lounging around in the living room watching some holovision before bed.
"Raph, what is your deal?" Mikey asked, his voice strained. "I know I'm like the poster child for immaturity, so I kinda hate to say it, but… I think maybe Dark Leo just needs to grow up a little! Learn to think for himself and all! You know he's getting better at meals every day. He even said 'thank you' to Master Splinter today!"
"He really is showing improvement, Raph," Donny piped up. "I don't see why you won't let yourself acknowledge that."
"Because I know it's just an act!" Raph insisted. Donny and Mikey rolled their eyes and opened their mouths to argue.
"Leave him alone, guys, he's just being overprotective," Leo said mildly, interrupting them. Raph spun to face him.
"Overprotective?" he repeated incredulously. "So it's overprotective to try to warn you when you're all painting over a leopard's spots because you want to keep him as a housecat?"
Leo looked up at Raph with a relaxed smile. Raph met the smile with a glare, infuriated. This was one of those times when an intense Leonardo would be much less irritating to deal with than a relaxed one. "Nobody's pretending that he isn't still dangerous, Raph," Leo said to placate him.
"Yeah, but nobody's acting like he's hell-bent on killing all of us, either," Raph protested. "And in case you've forgotten, he IS hell-bent on killing all of us!"
Leo sighed, leaning backwards and interlocking his fingers behind his head.
"He saved Cody's life," he reminded Raphael with a pointed look. "And today in the dojo he even saved you from a potentially serious injury."
"After he ripped apart the weight machine like it was made of wet newspaper," Raph exclaimed. "Don't you guys realize he's just biding his time until he gets the chance to do that to us?"
"He only did that because you provoked him," Leo mentioned.
Raph's eyes ignited.
"Oh, nice one, Leo," Mikey groaned, getting to his feet and turning off the holovision. "You do realize that was the worst possible thing you could have said, don't you?"
"So you're defending him now?" Raph asked, staring down at Leo and completely forgetting that his other brothers existed. "Leonardo junior can do no wrong, is that it?"
Donny sighed and got to his feet beside Mikey, stretching and stifling a yawn. "Kinda sad, really," he remarked amiably. "They've been getting along so well lately."
"Staying to referee?" Mikey asked.
Donny shook his head. "Normally I would, but not tonight."
Leo gave the two of them a reprimanding glance. "Guys, we're not fighting," he insisted.
"Yeah, and I'm not outta here," Mikey said, grinning and then bolting for his room so fast he made a whoosh-ing noise and practically left a dust cloud in his wake. "'Night!"
"G'Night Mikey," Don and Leo chorused. Leo returned his attention to Raph, who was still smoldering in front of him, clearly looking for a fight.
"Raph, I really don't think your problem is me," Leo said calmly.
"Well, genetically, Raph's 'problem' is almost a hundred percent you," Donny said, smiling.
"I don't care about his freaking DNA, Donny," Raph growled. "That thing isn't one of us. My problem is all of you Pollyannas who think you can turn that monster into a member of the family."
"And you're sure you're not just adamant about this because he's Leo's clone?" Donny asked.
"Whose clone he is has nothing to do with it! The point is, he's evil! And you can't change that!"
"Hmm. I've got an idea…" Donny reached for something at his belt, and handed Raph a remote-control.
"The control to the force field that's holding Dark Leo," Donny explained. "This is the button to turn it on and off. This is the taser button, which, as you might expect, will fill the force field with a painful but non-lethal electrical current. And this is the duress button, which, if you press it, will set off the laboratory's alarm and bring us all running."
"Okay…" Raph said slowly. "…and you're giving it to me because…?"
Donny looked to Leo for approval, and received it in the form of an understanding nod. Don took a deep breath. "…Because I think you and Dark Leo ought to have a talk," he said. "Turtle to Dark turtle, without the force field in the way."
Leo stood up. "And I think you owe him an apology," he said, clapping a hand to Raph's shoulder. There was nothing derogatory in Leo's tone, so Raph managed not to feel offended. Leo smiled one of those rare lighthearted smiles that meant he'd come up with something clever. "Don't keep him up too late, all right? 'Junior' needs his rest."
Later that night, the only sound to be heard in Cody's lab was hum of the generators of the cylindrical force field around Dark Leo's bed. Silently, a shadow appeared on the floor at the entrance.
Raphael leaned his shoulder against the doorframe, one side of his mouth slanted into a sharp frown. He folded his arms across his chest, eyeing the shell-bearing back of his brother's evil clone.
Dark Leo had taken to sleeping on his side now that he was healed, and as he was facing away from the door he knew that Raph couldn't see his scowl.
"…You sleepin' or sulking?" Raph asked at last.
Dark Leo made sure to flinch a little at his words. "Does it make a difference?" he asked gruffly. "I know you're just here to mock me."
Raph shook off the nasty itchy feeling that he got whenever he heard the monster speaking with Leo's slightly roughened voice, and pushed away from the wall, keeping his arms crossed.
"Never mind why I'm here, pal. The real question is, why are you here?"
Dark Leo rolled over to face his visitor and sat up. Raph glared at him, noticing how the dim blue glow made the monster's skin look even more, well, blue. "I'm here because your brothers were too soft to finish me off," the clone snarled. "And it's not like I can leave. I'm a prisoner here, remember?"
"Oh yeah?" Raph pulled the rectangular remote control from his belt, and pressed the central button. "How 'bout now?" Immediately the force field flickered and disappeared, the thrum of its generators flattening to silence. Raph sneered at the clone, who met his gaze with a disconcertingly Leo-like frown.
The muscles of the clone's huge shoulders tightened visibly, and Raph knew the creature was thinking about lunging towards him.
But instead, Dark Leo turned away. "I'm not stupid," he growled. "I know you'll reactivate the force field before I can reach you."
"So you do want to attack me," Raph said, gloating a little.
Dark Leo looked at him sharply. "Of course," he seethed. "That's what I'm supposed to do, isn't it?"
"That's what you were made for," Raph agreed with a brief nod.
Dark Leo grit his teeth. "You think I don't know that? Hatred for the four of you was the first thing we knew, the first conscious thoughts that we had. But let me ask you a question. What would you do if your captor had just lowered the bars of your cage? Would you sit calmly by and make conversation? Or would you recklessly make a break for freedom?"
Raph shifted his weight uncomfortably at the word 'cage'.
"Thought so," Dark Leo said smugly when Raph didn't answer. "You'd feel the same desire to escape that I feel. You and I weren't 'made' so differently after all."
"woo, good point," Raph taunted. "You come up with that yourself, or is it somethin' you picked up in kindergarten?"
Dark Leo's hands clenched into fists. "Why are you always trying to make me angry? What do you want from me?" he growled.
"I want you to show your true colors," Raph growled right back at him. "Because I'm convinced that blue of yours is only skin-deep."
Dark Leo thought about that for a moment, but the rise and fall of his chest gave away the fact that he was getting worked up.Suddenly something occurred to him. "I see," the monster said. "Your plan is to get me to attack and injure you, to prove your point to the others."
"And I thought the purple one was the smarty pants," Raph said derisively.
"I guess so," Dark Leo conceded, either missing or just ignoring Raph's sarcasm. "In my family, he's also the cruelest."
"The cruelest?" Raph asked, the distaste evident in his voice. "Donny's clone? No way."
"Yes way," Dark Leo insisted. "He outsmarts us to gain the advantage whenever he can. Of course, he has to. If he didn't, we'd have killed him by now."
"Yeah, well, that's just more evidence for my argument that you guys are evil."
"Evil," Dark Leo repeated, a smirk suddenly appearing on his cerulean face. "That brings up another question. If it was up to you, would you let me leave here?"
"Let you leave? I'd make you leave," Raph declared.
"Would you kill me?"
Raph clamped his mouth shut, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. He should have known that question was coming. He hated that question. Raph honestly didn't want to kill anyone if there was any other way. He had wanted to kill the Shredder. He had believed that killing the Shredder was right. And the Shredder had been evil.
But somewhere in his heart Raph knew there was a difference. The Dark turtles had been created to be evil—they'd never been a given a choice in the matter. Did they really deserve to die for that? No-- surely there was an alien zoo, or some kind of high-security asylum, where monsters like the Dark turtles could live out their lives.
Raph sighed. "No," he answered at last, trying to play it off like it had been a stupid question to begin with. "No, I couldn't kill ya."
"Heh!" Dark Leo's smirk grew sharper. "Well. That explains why your clone is so useless without me."
"Come again?" Raph asked mistrustfully.
"It's simple. I'm your enemy, so letting me live would be the wrong choice. It's like you're genetically hardwired to make poor decisions. Your clone, my brother, is the same way. Useless without my guidance."
Raph's pride began to smolder and he wondered why. He certainly didn't have any affection for his evil clone. Raph decided it had to be the monster's voice that was getting under his skin-- it was way too close to Leo's voice. And Leo was nothing like this piece of trash! Raph latched onto that idea and suddenly found a foothold for a comeback.
"Yeah, well, it's funny how that cloning stuff works, because the guy you're cloned from is not nearly as much of an arrogant snob as you," Raph growled.
Dark Leo grinned. "Loyalty to your brother," he sneered. "How touching. My hotheaded fool of a sibling displays that trait as well. He's actually the stupidest of the four of us, because no matter how selfish or independent he may act, deep down, he believes he really needs me. I'm sure I'll be able to use that to my advantage eventually. In fact, I'm counting on it. If it comes down to one of us dying for the other, I know I'll be the one who lives."
"You said earlier today that I don't know anything about you," Raph muttered. "And Leo even said that I owed you an apology. But now I see that Leo's the one who doesn't know anything about you. And now that you've told me all this, I trust you even less than I did before! You're sick."
That face that looked too much like Leo's face cracked a smile that looked too much like Leo's smile. Raph actually began to feel a little queasy. He was looking at the worst of his nightmares: his brother, corrupted. Demonized.
"You don't know the half of it," Dark Leo was saying. "I haven't told you about my youngest brother yet. I haven't told you what we do to him."
"What?" Raph's hands settled on the hafts of his weapons, his skin suddenly feeling clammy. "Uh, I mean, whatever." Raph tried to steel his nerves, tried to tell himself that it didn't matter to him what the Dark turtles did to their youngest brother. "I don't care what you animals do to that obnoxious freak," Raph said aloud, mostly in an effort to convince himself. "He ain't my brother. And whatever it is, he probably deserves it, since I'm sure he's just as warped as the rest of you."
"But he's not," Dark Leo said, amusement dripping from his voice. "He's actually the only one of us who didn't 'take' to the conditioning process. He's a reject. Hatred and grudges and feuds mean nothing to him. He fights with us only because our acceptance is the only thing he craves and violence is the only thing he knows. He never fully matured. That's why he never even darkened to the right color, orange—in our early stages of growth, his body rejected the complex gene therapy that we received."
Raph listened in broadening horror as Dark Leo continued.
"But our creator forced him into existence anyway, an unfinished project, and gave him to the three of us so that there would always be an obvious 'weakest' link. If we didn't have him, I'm sure Donatello's clone would have killed me by now merely to avoid being labeled 'weakest'."
"I've heard enough," Raph said through clenched teeth.
"But Michelangelo's clone is actually useful for a lot of things," the monster continued, his voice cool and even. "He loves food, so he's the best at finding it, but we almost never let him eat what he finds. He was the runt to begin with, but the real reason why he's so much smaller than us now is that he's slowly starving to death."
"I said that's enough," Raph reiterated, his voice heavy. "I don't want to hear this." But Dark Leo smirked and pressed on with his revelation.
"…And of course hurting him is our only source of entertainment. He's so… resilient--he takes the abuse quite well. Accepts it as his role. Lives in denial, I suppose."
"Shut up!" Raph ordered, almost unconsciously drawing his weapons.
"Not that it matters," Dark Leo shrugged a little, still pretending to ignore Raphael's escalating anger. "It is sort of interesting that he's the only one of us who's figured out how to cry like a human, although if his crying ever becomes too annoying, we've agreed that we'll simply dispose of him."
That was it for Raph. Something in his mind snapped, like it used to when he was younger and would see red and lose control—and suddenly he was charging towards the monster, a battle cry rumbling in his throat, drowning out the tiny whisper of warning in the back of his mind.
"Finally!" Dark Leo exclaimed, delighted to have instigated the attack.
It wasn't much of a fight. Raph scored a couple of slashes across the monster's unprotected forearms before the much larger animal grabbed him by the shell and flipped him over onto the bed, disarming him and very nearly choking him out.
Raph sputtered for air as his enemy leered down at him.
"You made me angry today Raphael," Dark Leo explained, a nasty vein of condescension pulsing through his all-too-familiar voice. "You were playing a game with me, trying to provoke me. It didn't seem fair that you could affect me with such simple insults. So I learned the rules, Raphael. I've always been a quick learner. And I just beat you at your own game."
Raph rallied his strength and back-flipped free of Dark Leo's grip. The monster snarled in displeasure, but made no attempt at pursuit.
Wary and weaponless, Raph circled his opponent from about twenty feet away.
"Well?" Dark Leo asked tauntingly after a minute or two. "Have you learned your lesson? Will you change your answer from earlier, about killing me?"
"Is it true what you said about your little brother?" Raph asked huskily.
"Completely," Dark Leo affirmed.
"In that case, yes. I could kill you."
"Why not do it now then?" the monster proposed, in Leo's ever-so-slightly cross tone of voice.
"Maybe because you've just pissed me off with your babble about games and lessons. I'd rather wait a few days to plan it out, so I can do it in cold blood like a real reptile," Raph retorted.
Dark Leo smirked a little. "I'm impressed," he said lightly. "Your clone isn't nearly as quick-witted as you. And I--"
All of a sudden the monster leapt off his bed and was flying through the air towards Raph. Oh shit-- the force field button, the force field button!—Raph raised the remote control defensively but it was too late—the evil creature came crashing down right on top of him just as he pushed the button, activating the force field around both of them. Raph felt the wind knocked right out of him as 500 pounds of Leonardo's cloned DNA slammed him to the floor, pinning him on his back.
"—am not as patient as your Leo," the monster finished, whispering hatefully into Raph's ear. "So why don't you try to kill me now… in self defense?" Tiny white points of light swirled in Raph's vision. He couldn't breathe. He still had the remote in his hand. Duress button-- which one was the duress button? He couldn't remember. Closing his eyes, he pressed whatever his thumb found first.
Mikey always had good luck. Raph always had exactly the opposite. If something could go wrong for Raph, it usually did. This one-or-the-other button scenario was exactly the sort of thing that always went wrong for Raph. And this time was no exception:
It was the taser button. White-pink electricity snapped from one side of the force field to the other, sizzling over the two dense bodies in its path. The current writhed over Dark Leo's shell, tracing all the lines in it like conduits. For what seemed like an eternity, electricity crawled and swirled and shivered over everything. The pain was paralyzing. It hurt so bad that Raphael couldn't even make a sound. But Dark Leo could.
"Please," the monster whined, crushing Raph's arms in his grip. "Make it stop!" his voice was a strangled scream. "Please make it stop!" he repeated, begging. But there was nothing Raph could do, and an instant later, he passed out.
At last the electricity died away. Quivering in pain and whimpering angrily, Dark Leo found the remote in Raphael's limp hand, took it and deactivated the force field, and then threw the remote across the room.
Everything was quiet then except for Dark Leo's own ragged breathing. His limbs felt tingly, his very nerves seeming to be on fire from the electrical torrent. Suddenly the body beneath him jolted and kicked and gasped for breath.
As Raph woke up, the only thing he was aware of was the incredibly heavy, crushing, breathing body holding down his own. Anger and panic crashed like waves in his mind and he fought blindly to escape. The huge rough hands pinning his wrists above his head felt familiar. Definitely three-fingered hands, only bigger than his own—Triceratons? Prison!—no, that was over, what was going on? Where the shell am I?
Raph realized he was keeping his eyes shut and opened them with a gasp, remembering all at once what had happened. Above him, Leo's face loomed like a bad dream, cerulean blue with one gleaming yellow eye, the other eye covered by a circular metallic goggle with a glowing red lens reminiscent of the Borg. The face smirked at him. "That was unpleasant," Dark Leo growled, his voice a little shaky. "And I'm guessing that you didn't enjoy it either. Another negative consequence of you acting rashly and not thinking things through."
"Shut up," Raph rasped, surprised at how weak his own voice sounded. "Get… off of me… and shut the hell up!"
"You remind me more and more of my own hotheaded brother," Dark Leo mused. "Only, you're so much smaller. Weaker."
Suddenly a footstep in the hall caught their attention, and they both turned their heads.
"Uh, Raph? You around here?" Mikey's voice.
"M--!" Raph attempted to call out, but suddenly his wrists were squashed together in one bulky palm while the monster's other hand clamped itself firmly over his mouth.
A second later though, Mikey's silhouette appeared at the entrance to the lab, hesitated for a moment, and then reached over and turned on the light.
For a second he simply blinked at what he saw, his face completely expressionless. And then, very slowly, he nodded his head. "Ooookay…" he said, and took a deep breath. "Definitely Don't wanna know," he remarked, and flipped the light back off.
Raph, who had a fairly good grasp of Michelangelo's sense of humor, instantly turned about fifteen colors at once and all of them angry, and would have probably started savagely cussing his brother out then and there had his mouth not been held shut by Dark Leo's hand.
"LEOOO!" Mikey's voice traveled down the hall. "Leo, you better get down here! Your clone's totally mopping the floor with Raph's shell!!!"
Dark Leo scowled down at his captive in poorly suppressed rage. "I guess your brothers will come to save you after all," he growled, uncovering Raph's mouth. There was something bitter in the monster's tone, and one look at his face gave it all away.
"Wait a minute…you're jealous," Raph realized in surprise. Dark Leo looked away, releasing Raph's wrists and pushing himself up into a kneeling position. Raph propped himself up on his elbows. "You're jealous because your brothers haven't come to save you."
"Heh. Can you blame them?" Dark Leo sneered, and then turned his attention towards the sound of running feet.
"Raph!" Leonardo called out, appearing at the doorway with blades drawn. "You ok?"
"I've been worse," Raph reported, as Mikey and Don arrived. Dark Leo slowly raised his hands into the air, a resigned frown on his face. Mikey made a beeline for Raph while Leo held his clone at bay until Donatello found the remote control and turned on the force field.
"You all right dude?" Mikey asked, helping Raph get to his feet. Raph leaned heavily against his little brother's shoulder for a minute, and then wordlessly wrapped an arm around his neck in what started as a hug but quickly evolved into a headlock. "Hey!" Mikey protested, struggling.
"Grr… what's the big idea leavin' me here with that monster?" Raph demanded.
"Aw, come on! You could see in his face that he wasn't really gonna hurt you. It was just a joke!"
"You got a pretty disgusting taste in jokes sometimes," Raph mumbled, letting him go.
"Yeah, so what? People tell me I got a pretty disgusting taste in all sorts of stuff: movies, pizza, you know, all the important things in life!"
"Raph. Glad you're ok. What exactly happened here?" Leo was asking, all business.
Raph looked past Leo to glare at the evil clone behind the translucent blue wall of the force field. "…I let him out of his cage," Raph stated slowly. "…and we got into a fight."
"Wow," Mikey said, rolling his eyes. "That was unexpected! Never would have guessed!"
"It was my fault," Raph added gruffly, not wanting to have to explain any further at the moment.
"It was my fault too," Dark Leo muttered, causing everyone but Raph to look at him in surprise. Raph simply looked away.
"If that's true, you should both apologize," Leo decided.
"Aww. Leo, you're my favorite Sunday school teacher ever," Mikey said brightly.
"I'm serious. If you're both at fault, then you both need to apologize," Leo instructed.
Raph sighed. He was used to this by now. "I'm sorry," he declared, with a clear conscience. "I'm sorry for starting the fight."
Dark Leo bit his lip. Leonardo looked at him encouragingly. "Come on, say you're sorry," he coaxed gently.
"I'm…" his voice died off, and he grit his teeth. "I'm…sorry," he growled at last, his face contorting in shame.
Leonardo nodded, satisfied, and sheathed his blades. "That's good," he said calmly, with half of a smile on his face. "I think that's very good." Then he turned to Raph, and in the same tone of voice, as if soothing a tantrum-throwing child, he had the audacity to ask: "Well? Have you learned anything from this?"
Indignation tore through Raph almost as painfully as another blast of electricity. Behind Leonardo, and out of the line of sight of Mikey and Donny, Dark Leo locked eyes with Raphael, and smirked. He knew he'd won the ultimate victory- he'd made Leonardo look down on Raph, maybe just a very tiny bit, but enough to hurt.
It was nearly too much for Raphael to handle. It was as if the monster had practically turned his brother against him. Raph clenched his hands into fists at his sides. "I'll tell you what I learned," he said darkly, suppressing the urge to go berserk and beat Leo senseless for falling for the clone's performance. "…I learned that that thing is even more evil than I thought. He's evil and he shouldn't exist."
"Raph," Leo said disapprovingly.
"Forget it," Raph said, turning his back. "I know you don't believe me. And I'm through trying to convince you. You're gonna find out the hard way sooner or later."
And with that, Raph stormed out of the lab, leaving three brothers and one evil clone to exchange glances. Leonardo sighed. "He's just being stubborn," he decided at last. "Right guys?"
"…Right," Donny and Mikey said in unison, although they both sounded less than convinced.
Leo turned his attention back to his clone. "I apologize for my brother's prejudice," he said quietly. "It's just that he'd do anything to protect his family. Of course we all would, but Raph's just a little more… uncompromising than the rest of us. He's not very good at seeing shades of grey."
"True colors," Dark Leo grunted, remembering what Raph had said. "He wants to see true colors."
And once the three brothers had gone back to bed, leaving him alone in his prison, Dark Leo thought about that for a long time. He knew what his own 'true colors' were. He knew that he was evil. Raphael had seen right through him all along: his mission was to deceive the turtles, to gain just enough of their trust so that he could destroy them from within-- and with the exception of Raphael's dogged skepticism, everything was going according to plan.
So why did he feel so… dissatisfied?
Raph's words echoed in his mind. That blue of yours is only skin-deep. And what was underneath it? A shade of grey, like Leonardo seemed to believe? He's evil and he shouldn't exist.
Dark Leo felt something tremble deep in his chest as he realized that Raphael was right.
I shouldn't exist.
"But I do exist," he replied to himself aloud. Gritting his teeth, he went back in his mind to the very beginning, to the very first lessons he'd learned. I exist for a purpose, he recited silently, closing his eyes. I exist to destroy the turtles.
Dark Leo emptied his mind of everything else and settled down to sleep, focusing on his breathing. His mission was clear. Any day now, he was sure he'd get his chance. And he would not fail.
A/N: ...and if you've seen the episode you know how it ends: Dark Leo really does betray the turtles... but there might be some hope for him, someday. I originally wrote this around two ideas: the idea of Dark Leo being a fast learner and learning how to do a creepy, twisted, spot-on impersonation of Leo, and the idea of Dark Leo being forced to say 'please' to Raph. I ended up deciding that he wouldn't say 'please' for anything, unless he was in terrible pain, my logic being that at that point, the way he'd been conditioned to act (as an 'evil' creature) wouldn't matter anymore. He really is just a kid, after all. Poor Dark Leo!