Ouroboros Complex

By: Serendipity

Prologue: the fall

Time may be on my side
But it's mostly far behind
I was the apple of your eye
Now I'm the boy spinning on a wheel there
Stuck with knives
Last night I lived more than one thousand lives
Not one of them survived

"Nearly Beloved," The Wallflowers


This was the way it ended. In a back room underneath a government facility miles and miles away from the city, from their home, and three of them waiting for the shoe to drop without really understanding what it would mean.

Donatello had the door to the room pushed open- finally. It had been locked with a series of the sort of impressively advanced technology Bishop had used when it was really important, a contrast to the drab, dingy, ordinary look this place had on its upper levels. They had taken some time to disarm, most of them needed careful dismantling, and the normal deadbolts had needed breaking. All as quietly as possible, since none of them wanted a confrontation. Not when they might have a wounded or incapacitated brother to take with them.

That was what they'd thought. Or hoped.

(maybe too much to hope. two weeks wasn't long, but it was enough. it was more than enough.)

He'd watched as Donatello broke the deadbolts as carefully as he could manage, as he pushed the door open…and stood rigid and frozen in the frame. His hand tightened on the door handle hard enough to make it crack, almost snapping it from its place.

It was strange, at first. Nothing looked unusual about the room. Bright white light spilled out of the doorway, and an assortment of the typical laboratory equipment was clearly in view. Leonardo paid it no attention for the moment, the light was too bright for him to make anything out clearly. He concentrated instead on Donatello, who still wasn't moving, whose arms were braced against the doorframe as if it was all that was holding him up. Who looked as if the world had just crumbled into pieces before him.

"What?" Leonardo grabbed his shoulder, shook him, "Don. What?" Then his eyes adjusted to the brightness and he noticed the table. Cold metal, thick leather straps, and a dark shape strapped to the gurney. Strips of something dark and thin and fabric-like peeled and pinned into place. Glistening white and slick reds and pinks.

At first he didn't even know what he was looking at. His mind couldn't make sense of it. When he finally realized what it was, he choked, his stomach clenching and rebelling. He staggered against the door.

"What? What the hell's wrong with you guys?"

Raphael, behind them, who couldn't see into the room.

"Don? Leo? Leo!"

White bone. The red of exposed tissue, the ropy texture of muscle and veins. Dark, flat blocks of carapace, neatly severed from the shell. From this distance and the position of the body, he couldn't see the midsection where the plastron would be, but he could see the pale pieces of it lying neatly on the table near the gurney. There was no blood, not on the floor or on the body. Dimly, he supposed it must have been cleaned away. It was a lab, after all.

There was a strange sense of disconnection to seeing his brother lying cut up and limp, lights shining on his body like it was nothing. Like he'd been nothing.

"Leo, what the fuck is going on?" Raphael's voice was rising in anger behind him and he couldn't move or speak to give him an answer, "Don, what is it? What do you see? Don! Goddammit, answer me, you bastard-" he trailed off into cursing, his voice rising on the edge of rage and desperation.

Donatello moved like a sleepwalker, or a zombie: graceless, heavy, his movements slow and cumbersome. He looked like someone in a waking dream (a waking nightmare) as he approached the table. Leonardo watched him take three shaky steps, four, and then he stopped not a foot from the table, unable to go further.

"It's him," he said. It was spoken quietly enough that it might not even have been meant for anyone else to hear. It probably wasn't. It wasn't like they needed proof of identity. The words fell into the silence like lead, snapping something in his chest. The finality stung him worse than the image of his body.

Donatello reached out a hand towards the body on the gurney, then quickly whirled around as Raphael let out an angry growl and tried to push his way through the door, and his expression reflected his sense of panic. His need to hide this sight from their most emotional, most passionately sensitive brother.

"No, Raph!" he said, flinging his hand out as if it could stop him, "Don't come in here! You don't want to- don't!" That wasn't a request, or an order. It was a frantic, half-wild plea.

Raphael ignored him, now desperately shoving at Leonardo, pushing and clawing and fighting his way in. Leonardo pushed him back without thinking, still in a clouded sense of non-time, still trying to get his bearings. He got an elbow in his face for the trouble, but managed to trip Raphael up in time to keep him from getting into the room.

The blow to the face did wonders for his sense of focus, though. Ironic, really.

"No," Don was screaming, his voice choked and torn, "Don't let him see! Don't let Raph see!" and Leonardo grabbed his flailing brother, pushing him back from the door, trying to keep his arms down, ignoring the roaring in his ears that had nothing to do with the sound here. Beyond him, he heard alarms, the faintest beginning of the sound of pounding footsteps coming their way. None of it seemed to matter at the moment, not with Raphael struggling against his arms, cursing and fever-warm with exertion and very much alive, and Michelangelo…

Donatello hurried over to them, trying to help restrain the brother who could handle this the least, but Raphael kicked them back and shot through their grip. Straight into the room, straight to the table. Donatello lay where he'd fallen, all the fight gone from him.

"Mikey."

Leonardo remembered Raphael in front of the body, staring at it like it was hiding his brother from sight. He'd said his name dumbly at first, slowly, and then in a shout of denial. "No! Mikey!" Donatello curling his hand into a fist, his face turned against his arm. Flashes of light, flashes of sound. Time moving faster than it rightfully should. He remembered Raphael screaming, yelling, denying this.

God, he still remembered his screams.

The noises Raphael made hadn't even sounded sane. They were wild, animal, desperate. His voice finally broke at the end into a choked sob, a sound made awful for its lack of any hope.

"MIKEY!"

But Michelangelo was dead.