Author: Aubretia Lycania
Description: How did Leo become so afraid of needles? The powers of imagination are truly a terror, particularly when letting go of a twin is harder than one might realize. Set in WTL: Damnation. Gift fic for Pi.
Author's Note: Just a ficlet for Pi90katana (our new little Tart!), set roughly in the Damnation thread of WTL!verse, Leo-centric. I really wanted to answer the question of how Leo became such a trypanophobe (deathly afraid of needles) in my fics, and the answer might seem a little odd. The title is a combination of the Japanese word kokoro (heart, mind, spirit) and the alchemical term oroubourous (a pair of snakes eating one another's tails.) Shinjo Ito is a famous esoteric Buddhist in the Shingon tradition from Japan, who was a 20th century artist and sculptor as well. His works reflect nationalist and Buddhist values. The work referenced here is the Great Parinirvana, a statue in bronze, a replica of which is currently at the Westwood Art Forum in Los Angeles.Warnings for chibi non-fluff. Fluff is the devil. At least it is when I try to write it… which I don't. Anymore. Yes. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Uh, in a few words: Poor. College. Student. If I owned these guys, do ya THINK I'd eat so much ramen? Hell's no.
Tomoshibi Nennen—"A Candle That Keeps Burning."
Shinjo Ito, Calligraphy on Judas Wood, 1982
Shinjo Ito's massive statue of the reclining Shakyamuni as he entered enlightenment inspired him; late at night, as moonbeams glinted through the halls of the museum, he hung from a rope and lovingly traced a thumb into the manifest traces left behind by the great Buddhist artist—thumbprints left to show his devotion, the human face behind the statue. Just as human works mounted towards enlightenment, so did those prints mount towards that transcendent statue, the moment of the soul as it soars from the body, and it was this that caused Leonardo to see the similarities between himself and humans—he, like them, worked towards the same enlightenment; he, like them, possessed an imperfect, even filthy soul, filled with damaging wants and desires. Like this statue, his thumbprints would remain carved upon the body of another, living in this mundane coil. Like the statue, like Shinjo Ito, his presence was not that of a ghost, and in his lust he had caused immeasurable pain. Like Ito, he must then become a ghost—he must walk above that casing of flesh, that shell of desire. He must be the soul; he would leave his twin behind on earth as the only manifest trace.
He closed his eyes, and in that moment as he attempted meditation, he felt his skin against his brothers, blazing suddenly hot beneath his thumbs, and his eyelids snapped open, now taking in the night sky. Image constellations above, tracing out symbols only he could see—the cosmos re-revealing a story he had read a thousand times over, etched upon the flesh of his twin.
It was well known among his sons, even from the early stages; any injury, any hurt, would fall on Raphael first, by means of experiment. Passionate, heedless and reckless, he dove over precipices and broke his legs, fractured his arms, landed in diseased water and gained infection upon infection, and bore it all like a seasoned veteran—in the same vein, Donatello was too careful, Leonardo too graceful, and Michelangelo too pliant and athletically talented for such mistakes. And Splinter's mediocre, headstrong Raphael, as ever, was driven to learn his own lessons, always the hard way, always the painful way, always the lonely way, and all Splinter could do was follow behind and pick him back up again when he needed it.
But storm drains and gutters are havens for used needles and rusting metal, and when Splinter discovered tetanus shots, delivered in sealed pouches to a clinic in uptown Manhattan, he worked to attain a set by theft in case he ever needed them for his children. In the back of his mind he always knew Raphael would need it first, now that his sons were running willy-nilly about the sewers with less caution than he could thoroughly instill in them. He attained some simulacrum of instructions on properly inserting and injecting the needle's fluids, and thanks to physical training could easily identify the veins on the children's arms.
The fateful day came; a responsible-minded Leonardo came in with a hobbling Raphael, whose face was scrunched up but otherwise appeared fine. His foot, however, had been pierced by a rather rusty nail. Splinter removed the nail, cleaned the area, and bandaged the foot, but was not prepared to release the child just yet. Leonardo turned his serious seven-year-old eyes upon his father, imploring.
"He's all bandaged up—he can play now, yeah? We were playing Follow the Leader."
"Yes, Leonardo, and your brother followed you right onto a nail, I see," Splinter said with a slight smile. "I must administer medicine for this kind of wound. Hold your brother's hand while I give it to him, my son."
Raphi blinked a few times, visibly confused; their father's version of medicine were odd-tasting teas and little sticky boluses of herbs for them to swallow with a dollop of honey—nothing that required hand-holding.
"Do I have ta take valerian again, Master Splinter? It smells so gross."
He was favored with another warm smile by his father. "No, my son, this is quite different from our usual medicine. It is something humans have developed to protect against a disease which makes your muscles twist up into stiff shapes, and that grows on dirty and rusty objects." He slowly, painstakingly began to unseal the little white packet, revealing the thin, sharp needle and its contents.
Leonardo's immediate thought was that it looked more like a weapon, a miniature sword filled to brimming with poison, and was convinced his father had been tricked.
"Master Splinter, I think we should just make tea," he said firmly, unconsciously drawing his brother back a step. "The humans must be either lying or crazy to use that thing for medicine."
A warmer smile for his eldest as Splinter stepped forward and drew them back towards him, gently. "It is thin and very sharp, and thus quite painless, Leonardo. See the small hole? It allows this medicinal liquid to flow into your brother's veins and protect him. It is like a very powerful tea which we place directly into his body, rather than through drinking."
Leonardo narrowed his eyes. "It's not natural. The only thing I see with a snout like that is a mosquito, and they sure don't help with anything."
"You must be willing to open your mind, my son."
The power of imagination is fearsome indeed. Events of one's childhood grow fuzzy, the good mixes inexorably with the bad, one being seeps into another. Raphael and Leonardo had been twins, one body and soul, and what happened to one sometimes mixed in with what happened to the other. It was not uncommon for Raphael's injuries to be sympathetically mistaken for his own, for broken legs to cause twinges and weakness in his own limbs, for fevered dreams to affect his own sleep, as they huddled tightly into the night, an endless ourobourous, the moebius strip of thought and desire. The power of memory often blurred those lines even further; sometimes he could not remember what had happened to Raphael, and what to himself. Some resistance on his part existed there too; he didn't want to separate them and create an individual of his brother, to sever than so-important connection. Now so far apart, this connection was all he truly had, and contrary to his purposes of transcendence, he secretly held onto it, like the body of his brother, into the mysterious dark. A deep desire, laced into his being, throughout all his nerve endings and the pathway of capillaries sending life blood to his extremities. A curse which wound through his body, so intricately woven than none but himself could pull it out.
His brother struggled in a kind of abject terror, amber eyes flashing, animal-like, as the small blade drew near, dripping with venom, and the twin drew forth, whispering and shushing—everything would be fine, it was all okay.
"I'm right here… nothing's gonna hurt you."
That little, dear, serious voice near to him, so precious in his ear.
The needle drew forth, and pricked the young turtle in the arm; Leonardo arched in expected pain, and Raphael tightened his grip on his brother's hand. With the cold injection of mysterious juices, a world of imagination went to work, invading them like a curse. Dark imaginings fluttered into his mind as that icy chill stretched like a skeletal hand through all his veins, freezing his heart.
The next time a needle came near to him, Leonardo paled and grew very still, remembering again the specter of that chill, and the ghosts of his mind's eye stole into him—before he knew it he was dry heaving upon the ground, broken into a cold sweat, while Raphael rubbed his arm gently. The fear would never vanish as long as he refused to let go of that connection between them.
"You weren't even the one who got the shot."
"But I was. I know I was."
Leonardo sunk his thumbs into those many imprints, trailing along the reclining Shakyamuni, who smiled dreamily up upon the heavens; Leo could not help but wonder if he too saw in them the ghost of a twin, waiting for him among shadows and stars. His fingers fell into those indentations, the prints of a dead man, and became his own. He remained on earth, because he did not desire for that imagined, human connection to sever. He rotted in his delusions of desire, but it was the curse to allow him to enjoy it.
In the imprints of those thumbs, gently cradling them, he saw a pair of boys reclining, looking up with dark honeyed eyes upon the sun, and knew in this beauty that he was corrupted indeed.