Author: Aubretia Lycania
Description: A terrible accident has rendered Raphael mentally disabled and in the capable hands of Donatello. The meaning of forever is an understanding that comes at an enormous price.
Author's Note: This story is a random threevil bunny I talked out with Tori Angeli in the middle of the night and it's totally coming out of left field. It has no relation to the Trilogy but it's certainly something I think I leaned towards and wanted to explore in greater depth. It follows the continuity of the 2007 and 1989 movies and the movie prequels and picks up quite a bit of random adventures and filler info from NT. And let me just warn anyone NOT familiar with my stuff… I can get dark and intend to do so in this fic. Not for the faint of heart.
Disclaimer: If I owned these turtles, I would not be sitting in this god-awful dirty ass room in the co-op. But such is the life of a college student.
It is a fair assessment to say that a teenager does not comprehend the concept of "forever." When youth takes hold as the conquering force of a life, it is the current moment, the luscious now, the seductive present that matters, and matters only. Death, realistic love, marriage, children, growing old, lingering sickness, the rest of one's life—these are not realities unless they occur in the now, and more often than not, they aren't. While they are the stuff of life, these things do not exist in that epoch that is the seven or eight years of teenagerdom. This in-between, this pocket, anachronistic and somehow phantasmagoric, runs as a flitting spectacle, life as it should but can never be. This is life in bloom, life at its best and still, somehow, least realistic. The teenager is everything the rest of the world wishes to be and yet everything that life is not, and cannot exist without the rest of humanity going on as usual, silent longing, silent understanding, and still—somehow—befuddled. It needs to be befuddled by that floating world, losing and gaining year by year, slowly transmogrifying, outside of life, and the image by which it judges itself.
When Donatello accepted the responsibility of his brother—the more or less full-time responsibility of his brother—he was at the tail end of this period and should, by all rights, have ideologically be coming into his own and making those realizations which open the door into later life. He was nineteen, and a hermit—a blossoming scientist with multiple inventions and experiments at work at once, he still not fully grasp, beyond the abstract and meaninglessness of an word in the English language, the concept of "forever."
"This is a spoon, Raph, like I told you yesterday. Spoon. Now you say it."
"You forgot the p-sound, Raph. P like in 'pizza'. You know pizza."
"Okay, now—spoon. Say spoon."
"Kuh… Raphael! Are you… I hate it when you're difficult on purpose, you know that?"
For a year, Donatello was patient. For a year, Donatello was a saint. For a year, more than 365 days, a nun would have commended his work with his younger brother, while Leonardo and Michelangelo accelerated their ninja training, took on the family's financial burdens, and went on the adventures that once all four of them had undertaken, as unbroken teenagers, whole and strong. He worked to undo the damage that had been done, to re-teach Raphael words and gestures and even an entire personality that constituted his sibling. The more he attempted to teach these gestures, the more he came to see that "Raphael" was nothing but a construct within his mind, and this person—this new thing before him—was not it. The more he attempted to teach these gestures, the more he came to understand that the person he had known was dead.
And so, morning after morning, it was the same futile attempts, losing meaning with each repetition, and he felt himself, slowly, separating from this being, held there only by a thin blood bond and the ties of obligation and duty so familiar to a warrior.
Sitting at the kitchen table, forcing Raphael to grip the spoon, and watching as he attacked his cereal with gusto, like a three-year-old, and observe in disgust as milk dribbled down his chin and he ate with a wide, stupid grin. After a year, Donatello stopped measuring caloric and nutrient intake and let Raphael eat as little or as much as he wanted, so long as he did and was no trouble about it. He stopped structured exercise and just had him play energetic games with Michelangelo for an hour or two, so he stayed healthy. Then, instead of the fruitless attempts at making him read, sat him down before the TV next to Splinter, and let him sit—mindlessly, for hours, while Donnie did experiments, repairs around the lair, and generally had a period of time during which he could pretend that his sibling did not exist, or was—could be—as he hoped—Raphael once again.
Early morning, the whirring of the fans in his computers, particles of dust floating serenely through still air—half awake twilight.
Raphael opens his eyes and stretches, scratching the back of his neck as he yawns—he flops back down for several minutes, half-asleep. The morning is slow, endless summer, lazier when Raphael awakes, suddenly longer, suddenly lacking rush and hurry. He has awoken, as by miracle—himself again.
But this dream must flit away; it is akin to closing one's eyes while in unpleasant surroundings and doing all one can to imagine that home sits around them—to the point where one hopes, when I open my eyes, for a moment I will have convinced myself so deeply that I was elsewhere that this place shall seem alien to me—that feeling, fleeting, ephemeral, the fairytale of the child mind, that one may transport elsewhere through the mind alone, is the wish Donatello held onto voraciously in these early hours. Between sleeping and awake, he could imagine that all was normal again. That his brother was not a drooling idiot, that both of them were as they once were. Then waking bit him deeply in the back of the mind, and dreams vanished. Time to feed Raphael his cereal.
The realization came to Donatello after the last cat scan he gave his brother, a year after the incident; he sat at his desk, pored over the terrible red and orange blobs that gave him Raphael's death sentence. He flipped back through his medical journal, which charted the course of his experiments and the last year—so formal, so cold, so perfect and objective.
Equipment gathering: approx. 65 complete
Chem. (see list)
Equip. v. A.—converter, boards, processor, scan
Table prepared, double screws, weight capacity and strain tested with subject. Straps straining at fiber level—stronger material needed. Asked A v. phone. Tomorrow.
Table finished and strain tested. Subject showing signs of anxiety over straps, needs reassurance of efficacy of experiment. Prepared presentation of advantages. Chem. Acquired. Read materials and risks of anesthesia.
Preliminary experiment logs
Hypothesis: Chemical X v. TCRI created an accelerated evolutionary process within four infant turtles, scientist included, creating advanced processing and physical capacity, opposable thumbs, and greater resistance to temperature changes than standard reptile. Subject (aka Hamato Raphael, Turtle 3 or "T3"), while undergoing evolution, sustained DNA scramble that resulted in abnormal hormonal and chemical imbalances, and further resulting in massive emotional instability and occasional psychosis, periods of memory loss, and heightened aggression. This experiment will attempt to use gene therapy to normalize chemical secretion in the brain.
Still studying the effects on anesthesia on T3 brain during process.
Yes, it did indeed seem beautiful, even now—so organized in a chaotic world, so full of potential and promise.
He had this day finished cleaning Raphael off from the morning meal, when Leonardo arrived inexplicably. His smile had turned a great deal gentler over the last year; when Raphael saw him and had enough time to process what he was seeing, he flashed a great, stupid smile, and started clapping. Don sighed.
"Leo—don't get him all excited, please. I still have to get him in the bath."
Leonardo smiled easily, coming close to Raphael in the way Michelangelo was often afraid to do—as though, subconsciously, he thought brain damage was contagious—and rubbed his shoulders. Leo had a way of sliding smoothly in and out of the lair, helping with the day-to-day grind as much as possible—but not to the extent Don thought he should. Raphael seemed like a novelty to their older brother, like babysitting a charming child… though Don could see no charm in the dribbling, tantrum-throwing, bear-hugging behemoth he had to deal with.
"I got it, Don, don't sweat. You take care of the security system—I couldn't make anything of it." He leaned down so he and Raphael were eye level and waited until they had contact before speaking. "Raph, I'm gonna help you with a bath. Is that okay?"
Raphael always understood Leo quicker—or perhaps he just enjoyed Leo's voice better and was more willing to agree—and, after a moment processing, grinned again and clapped.
Leo smiled big. "I'll grab them, okay?"
Donatello folded his arms. "Do you have to, Leo? It's a waste of time to mess with those letters anymore. I've been trying for months."
Leo took no offense, but remained smiling, and Raphael followed his example. "He's been better—he just spells phonetically."
Donatello jerkily picked up the soiled dishes, scowling. "Yeah—which means his memory's shot."
Leo shrugged. "And? He likes them, at least. Makes baths easier."
"That's what you do with a two-year-old," Don mumbled, now rinsing, his back to his siblings. "He's twenty."
Leo's smile did not falter, but his eyes were pitying, lingering on Don. "You're the scientist, not me."
One could simply tell there was something off about Raphael now by the way his face hung—he often had strange, strained expressions, his jaw sticking out or to the side, or ground his teeth and breathed through his mouth as though he were hissing. He often chewed on his tongue, puffed out his cheeks, and gazed off at nothings, as though he were newly discovering the world that he had known for twenty years.
Donnie didn't respond, continuing the dishes, so, patiently, Leo began the process of coaxing Raphael to his feet—which wasn't difficult when a bath lay in the future. Leo often reflected that, as toddlers went, Raphael wasn't bad—he threw very few tantrums, ate happily, played, slept, watched TV silently, and liked baths. Might as well count one's blessings. Leo grabbed the plastic container of colorful foam letters he'd acquired a while back—called "stikas" by Raphael because they could stick to the bathtub and walls after getting wet. Donatello plaintively ignored them in their entire slow progress.
Then things were easy, when the walking part was over. Get the textured mat inside the bathtub so Raphael wouldn't slip when standing or getting in. Raphael sitting cross-legged as the hot water slowly surrounded him—he liked to be in the tub while it half-filled with water, just a low layer that Donnie deemed "safe." Get the no-tears soap, and sit in the tub with him while he splashed happily for the first few minutes. Then Leo broke out the little foam letters, and let them float on the surface, little bobbing, disjointed sounds and thoughts—which, when he allowed himself to contemplate them and remove from the present, made him wonder what his brother's mind must now be like. He gathered a carefully selected handful, took Raphael's digits into his own, and pressed the letters into his palm, until he looked at them.
Raphael's eyes took them in, poking and sorting the letters with one thick finger; his mouth worked on his tongue, almost pensively, while Leo played with other letters, trying not to make it apparent he was watching. Raph made an odd hissing sound, with his front teeth pressed down on his bottom lip: the F sound.
He picked up the F and placed it, gingerly, on the wall. Again, he went to sorting, intent upon his business, and Leo kept spelling and taking down, still smiling.
After a little longer, and some odd growling as though fighting between the R and L sounds, Raphael finally decided on another letter—up went the R, to the left of the F.
He stared at the combination for a great while, seemingly dissatisfied with it. Back at the odd assortment in his hand that Leo had nevertheless thought through rather carefully. Squinting and with a strained expression, he picked out the A, and placed it between the R and the F.
He sat back admiring his handiwork, and Leo looked, as though for the first time, beaming.
"R-A-F—your name, Raph! Looks good!"
Raphael clapped then, after a moment, lifted his hand stiffly. Leo reached out and gently high-fived it, making Raphael laugh his odd, hitching new gargle, so unlike his old, deep, barrel-chested throaty laugh, but wholly pure and belonging to this new person. It was an innocent laugh, not conscious of itself.
Leo picked out another handful, and pressed them into Raph's palm again. It was faster this time; Raphael liked this word. He spelled it every time, and no matter Don's inducements, would never spell it right.
Leonardo had laughed the first time. He loved it because Rio was the Japanese phonetic spelling of his name, as it would be in katakana.
Right now Leo gazed at it, while Raphael grinned unashamedly, tapping Leo with a great green paw.
"Leo, dat's y-yo name!" He had a strange voice now, as though he had a cold, somehow choked, or speaking around a bit of cotton.
It was times like these when Leo's smile almost faltered, when realizations struck him—when affection gripped his heart, an overpoweringly protective feeling beaming out of him in waves. He reached out, grasped his brother's shoulder, and waited for his eyes to swing over and meet his.
"You know I love you, right?"
He always asked questions, always gave Raphael a chance to answer. He received a blank look for a moment, processing behind the eyes—many blinks—and then, like the morning sun after the longest night of winter—that smile, so unrestrained and white and happily given, never begrudging, never scant or stingy or given subtleties. It was wide, frank and open. Raphael grinned in this way for quite a while, before, as in a sudden thought or reminder of their presence, he looked again at the little pile of foam numbers and letters in his hand. He sorted with a finger for a thoughtful moment, before deciding upon a green symbol.
He stuck it up on the wall, a little 2.
I love you too.