Author's Note: Because there aren't enough Dark Leo stories, I suppose. I blame DNA Is Thicker Than Water for the inspiration.
I: in utero
His first sights are swirling white, dense mist, and the strange reflectiveness of shiny cell wall. His eyes are opened at birth and he feels like (eyes what are eyes? what is birth? what is born? what is-) there is no body holding him up that he can either see or feel.
His first few thoughts swirl chaotically, a panic, a desperate seeking from some piece of himself beyond control. He wants his brothers, he wants (what are brothers? ahhh those are brothers-) strange things, large things, concepts with no words. He wants to hurt, he wants to own, control, power, he wants…he wants his brothers, protect, defend…and then he closes his eyes again to rest.
In sleep come dreams, in wakefulness he is not sure if he is conscious or still dreaming.
It is hard being a newly born thing.
There is no sense of time where he is, a not-womb of science, so he doesn't know how long he is there. Was there, because he is not aware of himself until later. Now words drift through his consciousness like leaves through a stream, (and he sees something winding and watery through grass, stream, river?) and leave trails of thought in their wake, forging paths of personality with the lessons that they whisper and impart.
The lessons are few and simple. This voice outside himself calls to him, says that he hates the turtles. (turtles are new images in his mind, he sees them as green and large, moving quickly through the night) With every word comes a question, he knows these things and yet he doesn't know the places he learned them from. There were no places, no actions, no past, and how does he know these things?
You hate the turtles, he is told (thinks?knows?) and so he does, but only as a child hates a spider, something that could do him harm but poses no real threat beneath his foot. Hatred is confusing to him, pain and illness and fear, fear is unknown. More lessons of a life lived that is not his, pictures pulled from the ether and placed in his mind.
'I am Leonardo,' he thinks once.
'I am not,' he thinks again.
He does not know what that word means.
II: blood too thin to bind you
He sees his brothers for the first time when they are ejected from their pods and liquid drains from below his feet, a soft wet warmth unlike the cold, the harshness of the world Outside. These, he is told, are his fellow clones and brothers, and they are like and unlike what he remembers. (couldn't possibly remember, he has never lived.) 'Brothers' are not like them, hard and twisted, made things, created in the image of creatures (people) he has never known.
They watch him with wary eyes, and he waits for an attack. Their maker leaves them for necessary exercise, alone and unsupervised. No need for supervision when they are surrounded by dark walls and labyrinthine tunnels, by creatures that could injure or kill them, traps to send them hurtling into dark pitfalls or led along secret lengths of tunnel that would wind them in circles until they slowly starve. All of these things keep them captive and under watch. Aside from this, none of them are capable of leaving the maker. It is beyond their abilities, their very bodies lock up at the first thought.
"We're trapped here," he says. The statement holds a trace of bitterness yet to come.
His brothers have no names, aside from the name of the creatures who they were cloned from. They do not call each other by those names, though, each utterance of them brings a sick stab of hatred. Even thinking of them is enough to boil their blood. Unlike the confusion of entering this strange dark sub-world of their maker, the reassuring sensations of touch and sight, the disturbing jamais vu of having experienced this before when as a newly-born, he has never seen anything but the inside of his pod…unlike these emotions, the hatred is empty. It is not a part of him like the rest of what he feels.
Another empty emotion is one he has no words for. It is not 'love', not 'protection', not 'obsession', and he feels/not feels it for these new creatures named his 'brothers'. There is nothing familiar in their appearance, and nothing but a perversion, a twisted caricature of the hated others in the way they act. It throws in his face that they are not new people, they have been made from others. It is cold comfort to think they have been improved.
He can not feel any true thing for these brothers who have been made with him. There is a bond there, tight and twisting around his being, but it doesn't feel right. These new brothers are like and unlike what he expects, like in ways that are superficial and unlike in everything that he thinks should have some significance that he can't grasp. He knows/doesn't know them, and the fact is hammered in every time they speak.
His confusion is another thing he stops thinking about, eventually. Left on the wayside with anything more complicated than a need to obey orders.
III: just walking through
"Just settle down, you hulking imbecile," he hears, the tone of the voice annoyed and amused at once, in the soothing tones of a physician, "We'll be finished soon enough."
He turns the corner and takes everything in as he usually does, like it could all be a danger or a weapon and he must take note of every minute detail should an attack occur.
His brother, the one with the dark purple skin, has trapped their larger, fiercer, less intelligent brother. This one has red skin, a spiked face, and he thinks of them in a detached way, by their physical characteristics and not by any name (not by don/raph/mike he is not leonardo), and watches with that same sense of disconnect the scene in front of him.
Red One is strapped down to one of the operating tables they had undergone neurological 'treatment' on, his arms and legs bound down by the durable, plastic material strong enough to keep him in place, but resilient and smooth enough that it wouldn't chafe or cause the skin to bleed. That thoughtfulness to his comfort somehow makes what is taking place seem even more brutal. Even crueler are the murmured, sarcastic reassurances that Purple One is muttering, the gentle touch combined with an insult.
He sees the faint glow of energy from the bindings strapped to his brother's neck and the strange helmet strapped around his head. As he watches, Red One struggles uselessly and issues a sound, half gagging, half screaming, from a deep part of his throat.
He knows what's happening, of course. What he's seeing has happened to him before, in punishment for some infraction he can't even remember: the helmet connects to nerves and electrifies each one in a net of pain so intense it fills the world with nothing but black, and jagged edges, and then numbing, silent white when everything is over. Purple One (not don) twists a dial with scientific precision, and Red One seizes up in tight-muscled agony, knuckles showing through skin and chords of his neck standing out starkly.
"I can't believe you bought that trap! It was so easy to spot! Maybe you should be the ugly and stupid one. We'll call you stugly!" Orange One is watching, slowly eating one of the tentacled creatures that make up the protein part of their diet, and laughing. Laughing like a small child and this is a fun show being held for his entertainment. He is the most childish of his brothers, the most boisterous, the 'dumb one'.
The Red One is more stupid, but he is the ugly one, so the label was passed over.
"It's true," Purple One says with a low, purring hum in his voice: it seems he is pleased to be operating the device instead of being operated on, "It was a very primitive trap, simply a drug-bomb thrown at your feet when you ran from that bug-monster. Not really worthy of my genius, but just about perfect for you. Why should I exert myself when only the simplest means should suffice?"
As he speaks, he carefully moves the dial, watching Red One jerk and spasm and occasionally lie in boneless, sweating rest.
Orange One watches gleefully. "He looks like a dying bug," he points out, "The way he twitches and freaks out like that."
"I could kill him," Purple One says, and he moves the dial in a swift jerk of his wrist, a focused look in his eyes, and a choking, bubbling scream issues forth from the body on the table.
He scrapes against the wall when he moves closer, and the two free ones look up. The brother on the table is too distracted to do anything but struggle.
"Oh, our Fearless Leader emerges from hiding," Purple One's speech is always sharply-mocking, cruel in hidden and in obvious ways. "I didn't think you were the scientific-minded type. Are you interested in watching me study our brother's threshold for pain? So far, it really seems quite impressive."
As he speaks, he moves his fingers, turning the dial as slowly as he can possibly manage, and Red One slowly slips from the agonized tension, the tortured seizures, and lies there, limp and silent. His mouth moves, quietly, weakly, and his eyes meet his in what is probably a desperate and instinctive plea. Something reacts in him, not his mind, not his self, but something a little deeper and farther. He isn't able to put a label on the instinct that twitches in him before dying, stillborn.
Purple One's eyes flick from his victim's face and back to his again, and his mouth curves, soft, swiftly, into a malicious smile. "It looks like he thinks you're going to save him," he says. It's a prodding, daring tone, and he meets his brother's eyes without a trace of an expression.
"He's an idiot," he says, and turns to leave.
He hears the scream even though he can no longer see the body strapped to the table, the fingers turning the dial in practiced, measured precision, the eyes glinting with something more feral than calculation. It chokes off into a gasp and a whine, and something twists in his stomach with a brutal clench.
IV: written in steel
Slash, steel biting into flesh, the snag of it dragging against bone. A twist of the wrist, an adjustment, a deeper cut of the blade, a sharper swing to the sword. It's like painting a masterpiece, a watercolor in blood.
His blades are shaped wrong. Not wrong for what they are, they are correct in themselves, perfectly formed. Their weight and balance are right, and they serve as well as he could ask for. But- the hilt is wrong, he thinks, the blade too curved, too weighty, of a culture too alien to anything he knows/shouldn't know. It moves through the air with a heavy momentum different from what he expects, impacts with a cleaving force and not the slicing elegance of what he instinctively believes a sword should have.
Better, he thinks. Stronger.
V: a mirror's cold regard
Learning to truly hate is like falling into icy water, stumbling unexpectedly into battle. It's shocking, sudden, and viscerally striking- a nearly physical jolt of heat, a rush of fire.
Fighting the turtles is meant to be easy, something they'd been created and perfected to do. They are so small when he sees them, so ridiculous, so pathetic. And still what he sees in their eyes is enough to pour rage, liquid, burning, through him in a concentrated burst.
They do not fear him, they don't cower before his brothers. He ignores this casual disregard when he fights them, ignores their jokes and lack of acknowledgement of their skills, their superiority, of what they are. They'll see, he thinks, he'll make them see, and he strikes down Leonardo in a careless blow. He has taken their leader, surely this means something. He wants to be revered, to be feared as he takes their lives.
But they don't acknowledge them even when they are trapped in their clutches, chained to the wall. What he sees is nothing but distant contempt. The turtles watch them like they're mad dogs, dangerous, but ultimately more pathetic than frightening.
"Honorless," Leonardo, familiar and foreign at once, calls him, "To live without honor is to be lower than dirt."
Hate, a snake uncoiling in the depths of his stomach, rage, a roaring in his ears, a fog in his mind.
'Ugly,' they say, and 'monsters', and 'disgusting'. He hears more comments about their stench than he hears about their skills, and he shoves Leonardo against the wall, grinds his shell into the stone and hears him cry out. He wants his throat ripped open and his eyes gouged from his face, wants to be set free from whatever he is feeling when those eyes, condemning, scornful, dismissive, lock onto his own.
"You are nothing," the true, the original person tells him, smiling.
He'll die, he tells himself, slowly, and then it will be enough.
VI: poised on the edge
Indecision is standing on a line only he is aware of, the significance found in only his mind. There were no lines when he first came into the world: only blood, only mission, only goal. Now there is more to him than what he was made into, and he can not tell why. He feels like everything he has ever done has left a smudge on him, greasy and indelible, and every stain of failure, every mark of deceit, has added a thin coat of person to whatever he can say he is. Suddenly there are lines everywhere, boundaries, choices, opinions, and he can't say when he began to be aware of them.
The first hesitation is at the lever, where he grips it to shut down all the turtle's defenses. Such an easy thing to do. He, who can cleave holes through steel, he can certainly move a small lever. But there is the line, and the lever seems to trigger a step over an invisible edge, an end, a beginning, and he wipes the sweat from his brow.
Such a small, stupid task to be stalled by verbal trickery.
I am a scorpion.
A scorpion is at least aware of its nature.
But- when they are given food, he divides it.
In the end, he wonders what decision he really made.
VII: voice in the machine
The tiny tree serves no purpose to him. He should throw it away, he doesn't even know why he felt the need to bring it with him. It sits on the floor in his room in silent condemnation, a thing that reminds him of failures he doesn't even comprehend. Failing in his own plan is one thing, failing his group is another, but this nebulous and impossible concept of failing someone he isn't even indebted to- of failing the enemy? Senseless. Useless.
The tree remains.
It's the only other living thing in here aside from him, aside from his brothers. The leaves are smaller than his scales, smaller than anything living he knows. They don't respond to his touch, but they feel pleasantly waxy, they smell of strange things: sunlight, of earthy vegetation, leafiness and dirt. It feels like something real, a world apart from everything he knows. There is nothing in him to create. There is nothing in him that is meant for caring, for nurturing. Still, he thinks he feels the phantom pains of a sensation amputated in the womb.