Author Note: Back to the angst! I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my two multi-talented beta readers, RainbowGirl and Pi90Katana. Without them, this fic would be a much poorer piece of work. All the credit goes to them - and any mistakes I've missed in spite of their thorough appraisals are the fault of the author.
I do not own the Ninja Turtles. I make no money from any of this - poverty is my constant companion and we frequently frolic hand in hand through fields of debts while being hunted by big scary baliffs. In other words, suing is pointless.
Peekaboo, I see you. I know you're watching me. You can lie there all you want and pretend to be catatonic, but I know that you're watching me, waiting for your moment to strike.
It's strange how the last few weeks have made me see things so much more clearly. I used to be so naive, but now - now I know. Now, I can see what's happening here.
There's not much time. Not much time left here, just got to get what's important and get out of here, this lair, leave home. Leave the rest behind, just go, run.
They're coming for me. And it's all your fault.
I should have known this day would come, should have realised it. It occurred to me a few times, I admit, but I pushed the thought away, didn't want to consider the possibility. But the day has come. The day is here.
Stop staring. You're distracting me and I need to think if there's anything else I should take with me. If they find some of the things I've been working on…
Well, I've got plans for that at least. Once I get out of here.
Pretending you can't hear me bro? Having a bit of a mental break maybe? Yeah, that's what you'd like me to think. But fine. I'll play your games, for now.
It started out as a normal night - well, as normal as a night gets for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Bishop had alluded to having samples of our DNA the last time we battled him. We couldn't have that. He could replicate our genes or find some new weapon to hurt us, possibly even work out how to track us. Especially with all the Triceraton invasion equipment lying about, just waiting to be picked up - the Triceratons had some great tracking gear.
It was you who said Bishop shouldn't be allowed to keep the samples. You who thought up the plan to get inside the facility that we traced our genes to.
You, who should have noticed that something was wrong.
Huh, that's the point though, isn't it? You did know. You knew all along.
We got in, sneaking through level after level of security, finding the lab where our genetic material was hidden away. Then we were discovered and it was you who ordered the strategy we took to get out. That was fine by all of us. Sometimes, to earn flight, you have to first fight.
The fire extinguishers by the doors were the key to our hidden escape – a few swift slashes and they gave up their contents all over the room, releasing clouds of CO2 gas. We could have been suffocated, were the rooms not so large and easily aired. We used the smoke to hide in, fought our way past those we encountered and ended up almost to the exits…
And there we encountered another fight, more obstacles. But we overcame them, albeit with some difficulty. We succeeded, as we always succeeded in those situations.
The mission went off without a hitch. I should have realised it was easier than it should have been. Not too easy! Too easy and one of us would have seen right through the plan. Or maybe it was you - you didn't want me to realise we'd got off easy rather than lucky.
Those hydrants. I should have realised that they were more than CO2, that there was an added ingredient in there. All of us were doused in it, but why would we care? Just steam and smoke, just a cloud of chemicals. No harm, no foul, unless we choked on it and the space wasn't enclosed enough for that. The cloud dissipated, we finished our mission, we went home.
You know all this. Don't just stare at me like I'm not there. You could hear me well enough a few hours ago.
The hell with you then. You're distracting me on purpose. I've got to stop my mind wandering. No time, no time for this. No time left at all.
I'd better do another check around the lair. Damn, the place looks empty. It hasn't really looked the same since that night. The night we got our DNA samples back.
I should have known something was wrong when we got home. You were all acting pretty weird. Losing track of sentences. Too still, too still for one who never stopped. There, butnot there. But I was tired too and I thought that was all it was.
Even I can make a mistake. It's rare, but sometimes I do. The first one I made was the biggest though, and I won't be doing that one again. No trust. Nuh-uh. I'm on to your game.
You were all acting weird. I told you all I could see things moving in the shadows and you didn't believe me, didn't see. Well, they didn't see anyways. Who knows what you saw, what you knew, how you lied to us about what was happening?
But then, one of you would see something or hear something when it was obvious there was nothing there. I began to worry about multiple concussions for all of you – I knew I hadn't hit my head in the brawl, which meant what I saw or didn't see had to be the truth.
Beside, I justknew. Or thought I knew. I figured you out, bro, but it took a while. Even now, I'm not sure why you did what you did. I know the how but not the why.
When we got back, the first time the lair seemed different, Sensei immediately got worried. I guess because you three were being so odd. All of you, starting sentences and then trailing off and staring into space as if Splinter wasn't there at all, or suddenly stopping what you were doing and tilting your heads to one side, as if listening to something. Being lethargic one moment, restless the next. I could see your lack of concentration, the way you'd all suddenly start laughing at nothing and then stifling the sound.
The lair looked so different, so wrong somehow.
Splinter looked at me sharply at one point. "My son, what did you just say?"
"Huh?" I hadn't said anything.
"You said that the shadows were coming to life."
"But why would I say that, Sensei?" I wondered then if he was hearing things – but his hearing was so acute, it seemed odd that he'd mistake something like that. Still, I know for sure I didn't say it.
Splinter worried. Always worried. He made us go through it over and over again. What happened, what we did. I stayed quiet. You, brother, kept losing your train of thought. At least, that's what you wanted me to think. The others, although adding what they could, were also quiet.
The lair looked strange. Still does. I haven't been able to sleep for more than a few minutes since then. Although my insomnia is nothing to do with that night, rather, the things that happened afterwards stole my sleep.
Do I have to go through all that again, bro? Or are you going to stop staring at me like that, start responding? Doesn't bother me. I know you're waiting for the perfect moment, but I'm not going to make it easy for you.
Splinter sent us all to our rooms 'to get some rest' – I think he was concerned by the odd behaviour you three displayed. But I couldn't sleep and spent half the night staring at the ceiling with my mind spinning. New ideas sprung into my mind, but as soon as I grabbed a notebook to expand upon them, they were gone…
How did I forget those? I need to take all of them! Not even one thing can remain here for the enemy to find, not one.
It's you. Making me relive the past instead of thinking about the present, hoping I'll make a mistake. You're outta luck there. No more mistakes. I made too many already and I'm not letting you fool me any more.
And don't ever think that just because I'm not standing in front of you, I can't see what you're doing. Whatever you're thinking of doing – just know it'd be a mistake.
There! All my notebooks, nothing left over for when they come into the lair, not one piece of my research there for them to steal. Several of the papers I picked up were torn comic books, half a newspaper and what looked like a flyer for some racing event. The others are covered with handwriting I don't recognise as my own, but they have to be. With no time to take the chance. I shoved everything into the bag, comic books and all. Your friends aren't having any of it.
How many hours have I spent in the lab in the past? Always my sanctuary, the place I went to think, to work, to get away from it all for a while. I'll never see it again. Not ever again.
All because of you.
Remember the day after we raided Bishop's labs, when Master Splinter said he thought we had been infected with something? He spoke to me in particular, did you know that? He thought that I might not be free from the influence of whatever we had been exposed to, but I was still the one who had the best chance of finding the answer to our affliction.
I just smiled at him indulgently. Splinter, our father, was such a worrier sometimes. In spite of the sleepless night I'd endured, I felt just fine. Better than normal, in fact. Energised.
I told him as much and he merely regarded me solemnly. "Please. It is such a small thing to ensure that you are all in good health. Merely run a few tests."
I nodded, even though I was reluctant. This was Splinter, after all. "I suppose so…"
"No," snapped our brother, starting the shell out of the rest of us. Do you remember that? He'd been quiet until then, not like him at all. "Ain't letting him near me, takin' samples. Didn't we go through all that just to make sure there were no samples left behind?"
I blinked. He suspected me of something?
No, it was more than that. I thought quickly, clearly for the first time in – well, forever. I had never felt this kind of clarity in my thoughts before.
He was trying to avoid having a blood sample taken. There weren't many reasons why he would; I'd taken his blood before. Unless he was hiding something. Something that his blood might just give away.
Or he was trying to make me look like the bad guy…
I tried to tell myself that nothing of the sort was happening, but it was as if I'd had my naïveté taken away. I might not have known then what his motives were but I knew they were there.
Clarity. It's a great thing, bro. You must have been so disappointed when I started seeing things clearly.
Splinter cajoled him, reasoned with him. Then our other brother joined in the protest, somewhat hesitantly – but I could see that he'd bought the trick, he thought there might be something going on and that it was me who was doing it, not you. Me.
They didn't want the blood test and you joined the protests, outwardly faking concern and caution. But I know that inside, you were grinning and celebrating.
Eventually, Splinter talked him into it, and that forced you to go along with it or arouse suspicion. Our Sensei was insistent that we make sure there was nothing alien in our blood – nothing more alien than normal anyway. I took the samples, labelled them and stored them to the lab, meaning to get right on them – but I got distracted by a new formula and before I knew it, there was someone joining me in the lab.
Splinter. With April. He told me he'd asked her to help me check the blood samples – just in case there was something wrong that I might miss.
Why was he so eager to check those samples, I began to wonder. Why had he asked April to help me out? He had to know I was more than capable of checking it all out for myself – didn't he trust me? Had my brother turned him against me as well as the others?
I should have thought of you then, you who so often had Splinter's ear and gave him ideas. But with certain turtles being their usual bull-headed selves, I'd all but forgotten about you and what you may be thinking and doing. I had realised something was wrong, but you're pretty good at ninja deceit and I didn't guess right then that it was you. All I knew was that there was a brother turning Splinter against me.
Or – what if it was something else? I didn't know what April did when she wasn't with us. Maybe she had a reason of her own to want to check our blood. A reason that didn't involve our well being. Maybe she could even steal it, if I looked away or left her alone. A small sample, she might think I wouldn't notice. That way, none of the others would even have to sneak out of the lair without me noticing. She could take it away herself, job done.
"I don't want her to look," I said, probably sounding petulant. "I can do it on my own."
I could have told Splinter what I suspected, but I didn't want to alert her – if indeed she was a person to be suspicious of. I'd never, ever thought she could be capable of deceit before, but I could see so clearly how she could be…
I still can. See clearly, that is. See how she could be working against us.
I can see the shadows of how we must have looked that day – me in the lab, April and Splinter together in the middle of the floor, you three stood around the doorway, keeping a safe distance from each other.
"We went to all that trouble, Sensei…"
"…You said we shouldn't let our DNA fall into human hands!"
"My sons, that is not what I…"
"Kinda convenient she turned up here today of all days…"
"I asked her here, to assist your brother…"
"I don't need assistance. Peace would be nice."
Splinter got rid of her in the end, telling us later on in no uncertain terms that we had been inexcusably rude andthat she was hurt. Too bad. We couldn't risk it.
And it was him who had always warned us that the topside world was a danger. Why was he suddenly so eager to have April helping us, looking at our DNA? Was there something there that I should be seeing, something I should have realised long before…?
I know it was a normal thing to think, with him being so eager to have her checking up on me, but I shouldn't have been suspicious.
Death came to the lair that night, stealing in and doing its work. Crept in on ninja-silent feet and left him cold and still.
We found Splinter the next day, suspicious when he never emerged from his chamber. Not that I had slept. I knew – I know – that you too lay wakeful, not closing your eyes, all of you just waiting… waiting…
There were no signs that anything violent had happened to him. No sign that anything had happened except a natural passing. No signs of what took him. Might have been natural causes. Might have been. But I knew - I know.
It was one of you. Or maybe all of you. I don't know if you were all in on this together - and it hardly matters now. You fooled me all these years, but you won't fool me now.
When I saw what had happened to Splinter, I realised. One of you was working against us.
So, was it you? Was it?
I can't believe I suspected nothing. Even now, seeing myself clearly as I was those few days ago, I can't believe it.
It all became clear, though.
I almost laughed when I finally worked out what was going on.
We mourned separately. Now I know that you stayed away because your grief might have rung hollow to me, alerted me to the fact that you really weren't too upset over the passing of our Sensei. And you couldn't have that, not then.
I realised Splinter's ill-advised call to April had been a result of whatever sickness had taken him. Not an ulterior motive. Just an anomaly that should have alerted us – me especially. But it didn't.
Just that one thing.
It began to plague me. How could I not notice? Although I thought hard about it, there was nothing else that stood out as being odd, nothing out of the ordinary that he did up until the night we got home from raiding Bishop's. And even then, he had been behaving strangely not because of himself…
Because of my brothers. Because of you.
I'd been slumped on the couch, not really paying attention, just – thinking of Sensei. Trying to work out how I could have missed his condition. Remembering how my brothers had been acting made me sit up in a hurry though.
Splinter had been insistent on the blood samples, making sure we were healthy. But none of my brothers had been keen to give them and Splinter had made them. I'd not actually tested them at that point – it took so long to get them to agree, then waiting for April to leave – and who cared about blood samples when I had so many other ideas?
Ideas I'd written down?
Ideas that other people would just love to get their hands on?
Suddenly possessed with the need to check those samples, I raced for the lab – only to find someone had taken the samples and smashed their containers on the floor. My blood on the floor mixed with that of my brothers, indistinguishable.
Splinter dead. Samples destroyed.
Someone in the lair had a secret.
Storming out of the lab, glaring at you all. Angry punching. Nervous pacing. Mournful sighing.
Guilty looks amongst yourselves, looking away from me.
You knew something. Did something to Splinter.
I couldn't let you know I'd guessed the secret.
I turned and walked away.
In the lab, searching, stripping. Finding small traces of the CO2 on the leather of my pads, trapped in the band of my weapon.
Study. Study. Writing down what I had found out, what I knew, what I suspected.
Not CO2, that much was obvious from the first moment I got the CO2 traces under the microscope. Non-traditional pharmaceuticals, that was my first thought. There seemed to be traces of a synthetic mix of a powerful hallucinogenic, perhaps a nerve enhancer, some other chemical components that attack the cerebral cortex, stimulants such as amphetamines. This was unusual, as it attacked the subjects through the skin, bonding to the cellular structure of its victims and from there infecting the blood stream rather than needing a direct route to the brain...
You think I'm stupid enough totell you the results of my research? I can tell you're acting. I know you are. Catatonic, my shell. You can just tell your boss that I know his methods and I'm on to him.
When I realised that at least one of you - maybe all of you - had betrayed me, tried to make me believe that we were all infected when really all you wanted was my research, my knowledge, knowing I would never willingly give it up... you've no idea how much that hurt.
But that was okay. I was on to your game. I knew better than to leave my notes lying around for you to find. I didn't even put it on my computer. I made sure I got rid of the paper I'd made notes on as I worked through the tests. Couldn't risk any of you doing a little 'checking' and passing on what I knew. I kept it all up here.
Were you disappointed? Is that why you tried another tactic?
I knew what you were doing. You were trying to stay awake, to wait for me to fall asleep and then - that's when you'd do it. Whatever it was you had planned. Take me hostage maybe; take me to your real boss. Ha, fooled you. Fooled all of you...
Well, I can stay awake better than you can, brother. I've been using some pharmaceuticals to help me stay awake. I've barely slept a wink for a fortnight, making sure you weren't planning anything, that you couldn't bring anyone back here. Some people can't cope with that, but I feel just fine. The whole world seems clearer. And I see right - through - you. You couldn't trick me.
I still don't know what our brothers knew, or what they suspected. Were they in on your deception? It's okay, you can tell me. I won't tell anyone that you stopped this stupid charade... Not talking? Fine.
I'd been wondering since the first argument. The two of you going at it, fiercer than anything I'd ever seen before. Us two, watching. I don't know what our brother thought - but I knew it was an act. You were trying to get me to lower my guard by pretending to be upset about Sensei, pretending that you were affected by whatever we'd been doused in. That was bull, wasn't it? You probably already had the antidote and cured yourself from the lethargy and curious distractions that affected me.
You forgot. I'm the genius in this would-be family. Not you. You'll never be like me,never. You could never hope to deceive me. Not with that silly fight, no matter how real it looked, how much blood got spilled.
I know that you two were faking it, the whole fight. But I think that my brother was convinced by your act, just because of what happened that night. Poor, poor brother.
You wanted me to think he did it himself, didn't you? Another plan, to demoralise me, make me not care anymore that you were trying to steal my research, that you've been betraying us all along. But I saw through that. Sure, he seemed depressed, but you think he'd just go ahead and do something like that? Never, he'd have to not be in his right mind. And that's what you wanted me to think, make me feel that I'd failed - but I didn't fail, I never fail. I'm a genius.
But I was heartsick over losing him, and you two did some great act too. I should have known he would never have been involved in your betrayal but everything happened so fast – I was still trying to catch up by the time it had all ended.
Nice touch, though. It would have been just a bit too convenient if I'd been the one who found him hanging there, but you still needed the drama, the confusion. So he was the one who 'made the discovery'.
The way he screamed. Just thinking about it makes me feel cold. I would never have known just how good an actor he was if I hadn't heard that scream for myself. A scream filled with pain and rage and loss that was almost tangible.
I didn't see you – maybe you planned it that way, didn't think you could act as good as he could and didn't want me to form suspicions. It didn't do you any good as it happened but you didn't know that back then. But my own head turned around so fast I think I still have the whiplash and my heart banged so hard it hurt. The lair had been silence before that, all silence. The silence broken by that sound was horrific.
He came out, our brother in his arms, as we both made our way to the source of that sound. That scream. He cradled our brother in his arms and my knees got weak when I looked on that poor, broken body. I tried to hide those emotions, to not let you know how much I was affected by this, but I couldn't hide it all. Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes, tears I couldn't stop. I couldn't speak. I couldn't trust my voice.
But you both know how to get around me, just the way I know how to get around you. And in spite of my analytical mind, stoicism isn't going to cut it this time.
He clung to the body, flinching away from me as I reached out. You just stood there, seemingly frozen. But I wasn't fooled. I wasn't stupid.
"Stay away from him!" He shouted at me – at us both. I snatched my hand away as if the body was red-hot rather than rapidly cooling.
His gaze shifted like an animal in a trap. You to me. Me to you. Eyeing us both.
"Which one of you did it?"
"Calm down," you said, taking a step closer. Always trying to divert attention away from yourself.
"Stay away!" His eyes were filled with fury but tears ran freely down his face. The worst combination there was; those in a highly emotional state like that can act irrationally.
Or that's what I thought at the time, before I realised he was faking it.
"What did you do?"
I turned to look at you realising how hoarse your voice was. I could see you shake, the way you couldn't tear your eyes from the scene, the despair written in the lines of your face. You're not a bad actor yourself either. If I hadn't been on to your tricks, I would have believed you.
"What did I do?" He pulled the body away from us, protecting it, snarling like an animal protecting its young. "Don't you dareblame this on me!"
"I'll take him…" I began, reaching out for the body. I couldn't let him hold my brother anymore. Not when he was working with you, not when you two did that to him.
"NO!" He took several steps backward, warning flashing in his eyes. "You're not using him as some kind of – test subject! I won't let you!"
And before either of us could stop him, he ran from the lair.
I know you said we should split up so you could go to some meeting point While I searched the sewers, you could laugh at me, both of you laugh and laugh and laugh with the body of our dead brother dropped at your feet, like a discarded burger wrapper or something.
Before you picked him up, packed him up as if he meant nothing and took him to your boss, used him for research, what you could find out from him. He was our brother, special, part of this family and you'd like to just cut him open and throw away the pieces you don't need and incinerate them and – and…
I know, I know. But I won't let you get away with it.
Now I know. You two were working to steal my research all along and you worked together to make me think my brother, my own brother, was so affected by it he would do something like that... but I'm smarter than you. I see it now. I know, brother dear, I know.
He's gone. They both are. There are only two turtles, living or dead in this lair and that's you and me.
Has he taken the body to your boss? Has he gone topside to tell your boss where we are? Has he gone to report your mission a failure, tell him that you can't get to my research no matter what stupid, transparent tricks you pull? I only closed my eyes for fifteen minutes and when I woke up, I knew, I just knew you two were up to something else.
Bet you were surprised when I told you I knew about you, huh? Normally, I wouldn't have said anything, but you made me good and mad - I've never been that angry before, not ever. Trying to take my research, trying to steal what's in my head, betraying us, killing my brother, between you and that other butcher I used to call family... and Splinter too. Don't think I don't know.
You're a good actor though, I'll give you that. The way you looked so shocked when I told you, the way you let the anger take over your face when you realised your stupid games were all for nothing and tried to pretend it was because of my words. You should have gone to Hollywood and made your fortune there, bro, instead of selling me out.
Those words were inspired though - "You really think I'd be capable of..." Wow, you almost had me believing I was wrong.
Right up until you attacked me though. That's when you proved to me that I was right all along.
And the attempts at causing me self doubt! Inspired, truly.
"It was you! YOU killed them! Killed them all!"
Wow, I bow to you. The look in your eyes - made me believe for a split-second that you really hadn't done it, that maybe you were innocent.
But I knew what had to be done. I was prepared. I knew I might not be able to beat you in a fight, that it'd just waste time. My hand shook a little as I pulled the trigger - I thought of you as my brother for so many years. Of course my hands shook. But it had to be done.
Triceraton tech. Not just for tracking anymore.
You betrayed me. You sold us out, you and him and then you wanted to steal my research and you destroyed the lives of everyone who got in the way. And it brought you nothing.
I hope you're happy.
Yeah, lie there and stare. I didn't say it wouldn't be messy.
You weren't this quiet earlier on. I know you can hear me, understand me. I don't care much if you answer me or not. But I know you can understand, so here's something you might want to pay attention to.
I'm leaving the lair. Now, tonight. For good. And I'm not taking you with me. If you want to give up your ridiculous charade and move, then you can get out of here too. I'm not like you. I don't destroy things if I don't need to.
Then I'm going to find our brothers. I know just where they'll be. Your boss, the guy you betrayed the whole family for, he'll want the body. That's where they'll be. Laughing it up over the corpse of my baby brother. You bastards. All of you.
I'm taking him back.
There. All set. You've got about three minutes to get away from the lair before it all goes sky-high. This is going to really mess up the city's drainage.
Bishop loses. Nothing left for him to find.
And when I get my brother back, maybe he'll be pissed enough to take your partner in crime as is lab rat instead. Poetic justice.