So much can change in an instant. And with change comes pain, fear, helplessness, hope, strength, joy… a second chance. Through these we learn to grow.
AN. This serves as a background story for my GP-turtles, who made their first appearance in the Stealthy Stories chat rooms. It is not necessary for you to be familiar with their lives there in order to understand this story.
Disclaimer: The Turtles and all their friends are the property of Mirage Studios. I do not own them, but am grateful for the opportunity to use them in the unleashing of my own imagination.
Rating: This story is rated K+
Three days. He had spent three days as Agent Bishop's prisoner. How he'd escaped in one piece was still a matter that was baffling him.
Leonardo settled himself down at the table with a cup of tea. Master Splinter had gone into his room to meditate. Across from him, his brothers sat… staring. Less then two hours ago, they'd helped him to escape from Bishop's clutches and now they just kept looking at him as though they expected him to suddenly turn into a monster or something. He supposed this was a logical assumption considering that, only a few months ago, Donatello had been turned into a monster, thanks to Bishop's mutagen. Still, he felt completely fine.
Yes, there was the small matter of whatever it was he'd been injected with. Leo eyed the puncture wound in his arm. He'd been bound to a table at the time and was unable to prevent the scientists from drawing blood and putting… something into him. No one had answered his questions when he asked about what they were doing either.
But… nothing felt wrong; he wasn't sick or in pain… he was fine.
And their stares were getting annoying.
"Alright." he set his cup down hard, sloshing a little tea on the table. "You can stop looking at me like I'm about to explode. I'm fine!"
His brothers immediately averted their eyes and Leo picked up his tea again. However, the peace of not being scrutinized only lasted a minute. He soon felt their gazes return to him. Sighing he returned the cup to the table, gently this time.
"Guys, come on. I've had people watching me like a mouse in a maze for the past three days. I don't need more from you."
Michelangelo grinned sheepishly. "Dude, can you really blame us? We were worried about you."
"Heh, speak for yourself Mikey. I was enjoying the peace and quiet around here." Raphael turned away, acting like he could care less about the welfare of his older brother. And while his words were all but cruel, his subtle glances back at Leo bespoke of his true concern.
Leo shook off Raph's words for what they truly were: a facade. After all, Raph had an image to maintain. He looked instead at Donatello, who would certainly be the next to speak.
A few moments of silence past before, "I'd really like to take some blood tests, Leo, just to be sure."
Leo just shook his head and stood up, finishing his tea. "Don, I promise if I start feeling even slightly off I'll come straight to you. For now, all I want to do is sleep in a real bed again."
As if on cue, he felt his right leg twinge. His automatic response was to reach down and rub the spot, a thing which his brothers were quick to notice.
"What's wrong?!" three alarmed voices said at once.
Sighing, he placed his cup in the sink and looked back at them. "It's nothing, just a cramp. I probably just pulled something during our escape." Even as he said the words, the pain intensified and for some reason, his other leg began feeling it as well.
He ignored it and started heading towards his room, telling himself that this was nothing to be alarmed about.
Just outside of the subway car that served as an entrance foyer and hallway, it hit him. He couldn't hold back a cry of pain as the feeling swept throughout his body and sent him to his knees.
Within seconds, his brothers were by his side. Don looked at him, his eyes full of concern, and asked, "Now, will you let me run a blood test?"
Don looked closely at his brother's blood in the test tube. There was nothing wrong that he could see with the naked eye. He'd have to look at a sample under his microscope before he could even begin to figure out what was wrong.
But first things first.
Leo was lying on the bed in his lab, which also served as an infirmary whenever they needed it. It was obvious, just by looking at him, that the blue-masked turtle was in a lot of pain. He hadn't cried out since that initial time, but his hands were clenched tightly to the sheets and he kept biting his lip.
"Leo, I need you to answer a few questions." Don sat down beside him as he nodded just slightly. "Alright, where does it hurt?"
"Everywhere…" his voice was strained.
"Well, is there anywhere that it hurts more then others?"
"No, it's all the same. And it's all over."
Glancing over, Don saw Raph, Mike, and Master Splinter gathered in the doorway. Their sensei had come immediately when he heard what was happening. Out of the three standing there, he was the only one who didn't seem on the verge of panicking.
Turning back to Leo, he continued his questioning. "Where did the pain start?"
"In my legs."
"Can you describe the pain?" Leo just looked at him, unsure. "Is it burning… stinging…?"
The blue-masked turtle shook his head. "No… no it's like… It's more like…" he seemed to fish for the right word. "Growing pains," he said finally.
"Growing pains? What, like, what we got when we were kids?" Everyone seemed confused now. They all remembered those awful pains in their legs that happened occasionally and often kept them up through the night. But it had been years since they'd had to deal with them.
Leonardo nodded. "Yeah… only worse, a lot worse. And it's everywhere." He bit down hard on his lower lip and it started to bleed. Don grabbed a tissue from the counter and wiped the blood away gently as he thought over what he could do.
He knew his brother was in pain but didn't want to give him any pain relievers in case they reacted badly to whatever was currently in his system. That was the key of course. He had to figure out exactly what Bishop had injected him with and then he could work on neutralizing it.
With a sigh he turned toward his equipment and started analyzing the blood sample. "Hang in there Leo. I'll figure this out soon…" I hope…
It was late, or early depending on how you looked at it. Either way, Don had been staring into his microscope for hours and his eyes were hurting. He'd been unable to isolate the substance that Bishop had used and had instead focused his efforts on studying its effects, hoping to find an answer that way. Unfortunately, he wasn't having much luck. The most he could see was an increase in the speed of cell movement, almost as though they were high on adrenaline. But why?
Rubbing his eyes, he turned away from his work to gaze upon the object of his tribulations. Leo had lost consciousness about two hours into all this, effectively sending the entire family into a panic. Don had quickly determined that all his life signs were stable and figured he'd probably just passed out from the pain. It was probably a good thing that he was unconscious now. During his last half hour awake, the pain had intensified so much that he could no longer hold back the low whines that escaped his throat. Don could only hope that in his unconsciousness he was no longer aware of the agony he must still be going through.
Don looked up at the only other occupant of the room. Michelangelo and Master Splinter had retired to their rooms several hours ago but Raph had chosen to stay at Leo's side and was currently dozing in a chair by his bed. Smiling slightly, Don turned back to his microscope. It seemed ironic that Raph would be the one to look after their eldest brother, considering how often the two were at each other's throats.
He was snapped out of his thoughts abruptly as he switched the scope to a higher magnification and saw something he had definitely not seen before. Not ever… in fact, he highly doubted that any scientist in the world had ever seen anything like this.
"What the shell…?"
He must have spoken louder then he intended, because a few moments later he heard Raph stir behind him.
"Donny?" the red-masked turtle asked with a yawn as he stood and made his way over to where his brother was staring into his microscope, looking absolutely shocked. "What is it?"
Don shook his head slowly and double checked the slide, sure he must be mistaken. He wasn't. "It's… it's impossible."
"I… well, just look." He moved aside and gestured for his brother to look into the microscope.
Raphael leaned down and stared for a moment before looking back at Don, one eyebrow raised. "So, um… what exactly am I supposed to be looking at?"
Raph looked back through the lenses. "Ya mean those little round things?"
"Okay…" He paused for a moment, and then asked. "What about 'em?"
"Well, just look at what they're doing." Don replied as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Raph looked. "They're… moving around?"
"No! Well yes, they are moving, but that's not what I mean. Look at how cells are interacting with each other."
Raph frowned and looked again. It took him a moment to figure out what his brother was talking about. Then he saw it. Two of the smaller cells seemed to stick together and then, like two drops of water meeting, they joined together to become one. Now that he knew what he was looking for, he saw several more doing the same thing.
"They're sort of… mushing together."
"Exactly!" Don pushed his brother out of the way and resumed his place at the microscope, frantically taking notes in illegible chicken scratch as stared intently into the lens.
Raph watched him for a moment, then said, "I take, they aren't supposed to do that?"
Don gave him a look as though he were crazy. "No! It's the exact opposite of what they're supposed to do. It's like… like reverse mitosis! Which should be completely impossible and yet here it is right in front of me. I can't explain it."
"Mitosis… ain't that like when cells clone themselves or something?" Raph asked, vaguely recalling a science program Don had been watching several weeks ago. He hadn't really watched it but a few parts had caught his attention.
Don shook his head and continued to jot down notes as he answered. The fact that he talk and write something completely different at the same time baffled Raph. "Sort of, but not really. Mitosis is the division of the mother cell into two daughter cells, genetically identical to each other and to their parent cell."
"It's the process through which our bodies can grow-" He stopped and looked up slowly, a look of revelation on his face. "Growing pains…" An instant later he was digging through a drawer and pulling out a long measuring tape. "Stand up."
"What?" Raph asked, now thoroughly confused.
"Stand up straight. I need to measure you."
Raphael did so but gave Don a strange look. "What are you doing?"
Donatello finished and moved to the bed. After ensuring that Leo was lying straight, he proceeded to measure him as well. "I have a theory, but I'm seriously hoping that I'm wrong." A few more minutes passed in which Don re-measured both of them before sighing and slouching on his chair looking defeated.
"Donny? What's wrong?"
After another sigh, Don looked up at him. "Leo's an inch and a half shorter then you."
Raph considered this, thinking that they'd all always been about the same height. But then, he'd never really paid much attention to how tall each of them was. "What's your point?"
"For as long as I've been taking our measurements, you and Leo have always been within an eighth of an inch of each other."
Raph frowned. "So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying… that Leo's shrinking."
"So… it's like a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids thing, right?" Mikey asked. Donatello had just finished explaining the situation to him and Master Splinter.
"Well, no." Don shook his head. "With Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, they just… shrink. This is more like he's aging backwards. Instead of growing older, he's growing younger."
Raph leaned against the wall, his arms crossed over his plastron. "But you can fix it, right?"
"I… I don't know." Don replied, running a hand over his head in frustration. "I can't even figure out what's causing it, let alone how to stop it. It's completely hopeless." A gentle hand came to rest on his shoulder and he turned to look at his sensei.
"My son, you must not give up hope. I know that you will make every possible effort to bring Leonardo back to us. Beyond that, all we can do is hope and pray. I am confident that, in time, we will find a solution."
"But that's just it, Master Splinter. We don't have much time."
"What do you mean, Donny?" Michelangelo asked, looking worried.
"It's happening to quickly. Mitosis, regular mitosis, is very slow. But this… reverse mitosis is occurring at an exponentially faster speed, which explains why he's been in so much pain. Our bodies aren't supposed to work this way. By my calculations, at this rate, he'll lose a bit more then two years every day. That gives us a little more then a week before…"
Raph frowned hard when his brother stopped. He wasn't sure he wanted to know where that 'before' was leading, but at the same time, he had to ask. "Before what?"
Donatello looked down and spoke the next part quietly. "He'll get younger and younger everyday. When he gets too young… we might be able to put him in an incubator or something and that might help for a couple of hours but it'll get to the point where he won't be able to survive outside a womb... egg, whatever… He, he'll die."
Those last words hung in the room as all eyes turned toward the turtle on the bed. Already, he was showing subtle signs of being younger then his fifteen years; little things that only someone who'd known him for a long time would notice.
Finally, Master Splinter broke the silence. "Michelangelo, why don't you go make breakfast? We will all need our energy if we are to accomplish the task that has been set before us." Mikey nodded and bounded out of the room, glad to have something to do so that he wouldn't feel useless.
"Raphael." the rat turned toward his second eldest son. "I wish to speak with you privately. Please meet me in my room." Raph was confused by this but; all the same, he nodded and left the lab.
Splinter then turned to Donatello who was still gazing intently at his older brother. "Donatello. Do not fret, my son. It is too soon to be giving in to grief over what may be. The future is yet unknown. There is much that may be discovered in seven days."