A/N: (Late) Valentine's Day present for FantasyFan17. First one in a series of three, maybe four.
I told myself I'd write one, and before I'm even done with that three more jump out at me! Argh!
I had the book "Sadoko and the Thousand Paper Cranes" read to me as a child, and it made a very strong impression on me. Obviously, the story did something similar to Raphie-boy here.
Disclaimer: I don't own them anymore this time then I did last time.
Summary: Something doesn't always have to be gone for us to appreciate it, but it can sure speed up the process. Raph and Don pre-slash. Good Genes. First in a series.
The turtle sitting on the floor ignored his older brother, focusing on the paper in his hands. Start by folding it in half. Open it, lay it flat, fold it the other way.
"I regret to say…I…I cannot cure him."
"Raph." Leo's voice is more urgent this time, and order instead of a question. Raph hesitates in his folding, but doesn't look up. Fold it diagonal, line the corners up.
"Donatello's condition grows worse by the minute."
Leo dropped down on his knees in front of his brother, dark eyes concerned, as he reached out to still his brother's bleeding hands. There were hundreds of little cuts on Raph's thick fingers, and the normally strong hands were trembling under Leo's grip. "Raph, what are you doing?"
"I'm foldin' cranes. What's it look like I'm doin'?"
"The outbreak strain is reacting violently with Utrom mutagen in his blood. His cells are breaking down."
"Yes, Raph, I can see that." Leo could see it very well. There were already at least a hundred small white cranes, strung together in long lines, with white thread and small purple beads. Leo had no idea where the beads had even come from. "My question is, why."
Raph pulled his hands away from Leo's resuming his folding. It was nearly an automatic thing, now, and each crane was getting better than the last. "If you've got a better idea of how ta help Donnie, be my guest, Leo."
"It is only a matter of time before he is lost forever."
"Help Don," Leo echoed. He didn't sound confused, just flat. "How exactly is folding cranes going to help Don?"
They could hear the roars of their brother echoing in the background, only slightly muffled by the container he was being kept in.
This crane wasn't nearly as pretty as the ones before it, probably because his hands were shaking so hard it was difficult to fold a straight line. "You're the one that's been to Japan, Leo. You have ta know about senbazuru."
"No, I don't." Leo looks confused now, and sits with his legs crossed in front of his earnestly working brother. "Why don't you explain it to me?"
"I don't have time, Leo. I've gotta get this done. You heard LH. Donnie's gettin' worse…"
"Raph." There is a note of pleading in his older brother's voice, and Raphael can't help but look up. Leo wants to help to, will do anything to help Donnie, that's why he's asking. But Raph also knows that this isn't going to work. He wants it to, desperately, but it won't.
"Have you ever heard the story of Sadoko, Raphie?"
"Who? She better kick butt, Donnie, or I'm gonna' clobber ya for wastin' my time with silly kid stories while Master Splinter is sick."
Hearing Don's childish voice in his head just made Raph's hands shake harder. "There's this story about this little girl, right? She was just a baby when they dropped the bomb on her town—on Hiroshima. She got sick later, with cancer."
"Ancient Japanese legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish."
"She starts foldin' these cranes, cause if she gets her wish she'll get betta' right? 'Cause if you fold all one thousand you can make a good wish, like long life, or to get betta' from somethin'. Somethin' like cancer or…or…"
Words fail the teenage turtle as roars of rage echo through their new home again. The new home that Donnie has been working so hard to build these last few weeks. That he might never get to enjoy, because of some stupid mistake. Because of Raphael's stupid mistake.
"You're trying to fold one thousand cranes so you can wish for Donnie to get better?" Leo doesn't sound like he's going to laugh, he just sounds sad. Raph doesn't have to look up to know that his big brother is worried about his sanity.
"Don an' me, we did this for Master Splinter once. No crane showed up to give us our wish, but he did get better." This one was finished too, a little lopsided, but Raph added it to his collection. "He had it hangin' in his room until our lair was destroyed—the first time."
"I remember seeing it. I was impressed with the amount of paper at the time, because I knew we didn't have much. I didn't know you guys made it." Leo reached for a piece of paper from the pile by Raph's hands, and the younger turtle doesn't bother pushing him away.
"It was mostly Donnie's, from those books a his." Raph smiles fondly at the memory. Don had worked hard to save those books, because at the time they were really hard to come by. In true Donnie fashion, however, he'd been willing to sacrifice his most prized possession for someone else. "It tore him up every time we pulled out a page and cut it so it was square. This is Don's too. I got it outta his supply for his printer."
"I'm sure he won't mind." His older brother is using that tone of voice he usually reserves for Renet—his 'I'm talking to a lunatic' voice.
For all Raph knows, maybe that's exactly what Leo is doing, because he knows, he KNOWS, that no matter how many cranes he folds it isn't going to make any difference to Donnie at all, but he has to reach a thousand, he just has to, because if he doesn't do something, if he doesn't try, then he really is going to completely lose it.
Because while all his brothers keep him stuck in some way—Leo by never letting him get lost in his fury, Mikey by not letting him take things to seriously—it's Donnie that really keeps him in reality. Because it's Donnie who understands him and balances him. Donnie who will chase him into the dark places even Leo doesn't dare to go.
Raph knows that everyone sees them as exact opposites, and in a lot of ways they are. Donatello is a nearly endless fountain of patience, while Raph has none at all. Don, though, could do what nobody else could. Don could listen and Don could understand. He knew what it felt like to have your greatest strength also be your greatest weakness. It was to him that Raph always turned when he needed someone to listen, to just hold him and know that nobody else would ever know and that Donnie never thought any less of him when he cried.
Leo and Mikey kept him grounded, but Donatello was the ground. And that was suddenly disappearing from under Raph's feet. He could not just sit here and let that happen.
"I shoulda been keepin' a better eye on him." Raph nearly crumples the half-folded bird in his hands, but sets it down at the last moment to save it. "I knew he was slower than me. He couldn' get away in time, an I could stop it. If I'd been faster maybe I coulda…"
"There was nothing you could do different, Raph, and you know it." Raph could feel Leo's eyes on him, and finally gathered enough courage to look up. Leo gave him a half smile, the kind he usually gave when he was trying to say 'it's going to be alright' even when he really didn't believe it yet. "At the time, we didn't even realize that was how the outbreak was being transferred. And don't tell me you should have known that, because there was absolutely no way you could have."
There was only a grunt for a response, and Raph clenched his hands on his knees, not daring to pick up his crane again yet. "I can't lose Donnie, Leo. I can't."
Donnie, the genius little brother who'd written about HIM when Master Splinter had assigned them to write essays on their heroes when they were kids. Donnie, the only one in his family who trusted Raph to always come home after storming of to cool down.
Donnie, the turtle he'd unknowingly trusted with his heart.
"I know, Raph." And from the tone in Leo's voice, Raph thought maybe he did actually know, all of it. "And I promise you, I'll do everything I can to make sure you don't."