TMNT is not mine.
It's been ages but not a year between chapters ages. Now it's only six months. I'm getting slightly better at this.
My thanks to DeeMG for betaing this fic.
Donatello claimed the bathroom a few minutes after Michelangelo vacated it. Leonardo sat alone in the living room for a while, listening to the sound of his father shuffling about in the kitchen, preparing tea.
Such a mundane item and yet it felt entirely alien in this world Leonardo had woken up to. Michelangelo had-had violated Raphael and they were all taking showers like that would fix their minds and their bodies and-and Splinter was making tea.
Leonardo stood up and made a beeline for the entrance of the lair. Right now, they are all dangerous to each other and Leo cannot bear the thought of causing more damage to his brothers. It was bad enough that he'd lost control in a fight with Mikey. It was bad enough that he'd tried to-
No. No. Don't think about that.
He'd always been able to control his mind but this time the memories were relentless. They attacked him as he stumbled down the sewer pipe.
No, no, no, no, no, please I don't want to remember this.
But he owed it to his brothers to remember and eventually he crumbles and the horror washes over him.
Good morning, Michelangelo. Congratulations, you screwed your brother last night. How does that make you feel?
Like I just want to die.
Michelangelo wasn't prone to fits of depression, repressing his emotions or that self-harm shit. He was more of a live-in-the-moment kind of turtle. Raph's eaten all the cookies? Tease him about getting fat and bake some more. Donatello has 'borrowed' his prized skateboard and transformed it into a hoverboard? Um, go out and try to break his neck mastering the damn thing.
The point is, Mikey didn't dwell on things. There was always something more interesting he could be doing, so why bother wasting your time moaning and groaning about the past? It had served him well, given the life they had lived. Oh, Shredder tried killing us last week? Did you see the sweet split-kick I used to take down those Foot ninja? The Mikester was too quick for those bozos.
And so, after waking up to the most horrifying event in his young life thus far, Michangelo's automatic defence systems were failing for the first time. No matter which way he looked at it he couldn't see the bright side of things. Well. Raph had always been convinced that they would all die as virgins. No. Not funny at all. Not funny the slightest. He felt ill, every inch of his bones was heavy and that if he so much as tilted his head, he would puke. Except his throat was impossibly tight, bile would rise up and he'd swallow it down, unwilling to let himself fall apart.
Except he had. He'd lost it in the moment he'd gone for Leo's swords. Which was stupid. Killing himself wouldn't fix anything and was quite frankly a shitty way of dealing with it. Raphael deserved the chance to beat him to death and wring his stupid neck. His family was reeling and a complete mess and if there was one thing he could do, it was not make the situation worse. Offing himself would be the icing of the cake and shatter thing irreparably. The guilt would do everyone in. Even Raph. Especially Raph.
There was no dealing with this though. There was no way he could look at his family and-and think everything was going to be fine. Every challenge they'd come up against, they had always managed to come out on top. But not this. Those challenges had always come from the outside, this was something internal and the bond that had always pulled them through was damaged, if not forever broken.
The sharpness in Splinter's voice had Mikey snapping to attention reflexively. After his shower, his father had led him to the dojo and then left to prepare tea. He focused on Splinter with startling intensity. The ninjitsu master paused in his actions then pushed a cup of herbal tea towards his son. Mikey wordlessly accepted the cup but did not drink it. Instead he stared into its murky depths and fiddled with its handle.
The old rat studied his son for a moment, uncertain how to approach his conflicted child or the situation itself. "Michelangelo," he began slowly, grasping for some form of guidance. He reached forward and placed a comforting hand on the turtle's knee. "Please. Understand that you have my permission to speak freely at any time. How are you – no. Are you well?"
The turtle did not raise his eyes to his father though he shifted slightly into his touch. "I – I don't know Sensei," he answered haltingly. "I just don't. I don't know what to think. I – I didn't mean to do it!" Michelangelo looked up suddenly, imploring his parent to believe him. "Sensei, I have no idea what is wrong with me. Why I attacked Leo. Why, why I did – Raph. Shit. Sensei. He's been hurt. He's been hurt really, really badly and – fuck. I'm the one the one who did that…who did that to-"
Michelangelo cut off, swallowing the rest of his words as he shook his head in denial, unable to continue. Unwillingly his memories returned; tauntingly, and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will away the torture.
"I'm sorry," Mikey whispered, as tears slowly escaped from under his eyelids. "I…I accept whatever punishment you deem fitting. I'll leave the lair permanently if that's what you want Sensei."
Master Splinter took a long sip of tea as he considered his words. Then, "I cannot accept your apology when I am not the one who you have committed the offence against. Nor will there be a punishment," he said eventually.
Mikey's head snapped up and he opened his mouth to protest. "Sensei, I hurt-"
"Michelangelo," Splinter said sharply. "There will never be a punishment adequate to fix this, this violation. Do you think so little of your brothers that such penance will resolve all the damage done?"
"No!" the turtle protested; horrified by the implications of his master's words. "No I don't. But – but Sensei, you can't just, just – I hurt my brothers, hurt Raphael and you'll just let it go- ?"
"Who said anything about letting it go?" the old rat interrupted. He shifted his weight backwards and something, the indiscernible straightening of his spine perhaps, silenced Michelangelo's next protest. "A punishment would achieve nothing except to ease your own guilt. No Michelangelo; for us to move from this, we each must face the full consequences of our actions," here the slightest note of self-recrimination slid into Splinter's tone. Then the old rat leant forward and gently tipped his sons face towards him. "I do not blame you," he said firmly. "Donatello I am certain does not blame you. Leonardo –"
"Didn't believe me," Mikey gave a hollow laugh, "Refused to believe it, in fact."
"Your brothers know you," Master Splinter said firmly, "As do I. They know that you would have never acted towards them in such a manner with a rational mindset. It is your body, your instincts that betrayed them. Betrayed you." Seeing the doubtful expression on his son's face, the rat challenged; "Have you ever experienced your instincts on such a visceral level before?"
Michelangelo shook his head. "No Sensei," he answered quietly.
"Then should I blame you for something that you could never have hoped to control? When you had never had any experience with it before? Tell me Michelangelo, where is the logic in that?"
Caught by his father's reasoning, Mikey hesitated. "There isn't any," he acknowledged slowlu. "But Sensei, you've trained us, taught us to control ourselves. We're better than this. We shouldn't have behaved like animals."
"I've also taught you to listen to your instincts," Splinter reminded his child tersely. "To listen to that animal part of your mind that knows when danger is near when your rational mind does not. The part that sometimes tells you to move when your training would otherwise keep you in a position that would cause you to lose a limb or your life. Is it entirely unreasonable to expect that it could make you forget yourself entirely?"
Michelangelo lowered his gaze to the cup of tea in front of him. He felt uncomfortable, none of this was going anything like he'd imagined. He'd entered this room, expecting to face the full brunt of his father's anger and disgust. Hell, he'd even expected to face exile from the clan. He was not prepared for this, for his father's sympathy and understanding. How could he not be blamed for this, for him to go unpunished? It was incomprehensible. It was unbelievable. If his father had expressed fury, hatred at him, Mikey would have accepted it without a word. Those were emotions that were boiling away at him on the inside, ones that he could understand.
"I don't…" Mikey's voice trailed off weakly. "What would you have me do Sensei?" he demanded desperately.
Master Splinter gazed pityingly at his child. "I do not know Michelangelo," he admitted heavily. "I will not punish you, there's so much guilt and anguish inside you that will torment more thoroughly than anything I could ever devise. This is your own burden to bear; it is up to you to determine how you will handle it."
The turtle stared up at his father in disbelief. "That's it?" he asked flatly. After a heartbeat, he was seized by irrational anger. "That can't be it! How, how, how am I supposed to fix things between me and Raph-"
"Perhaps you should speak with your brother himself when he awakens," Splinter said sharply. "Ask him for his thoughts and see what leads from there. Trust cannot be fixed once it has been broken, Michelangelo. But it can be earned anew and rebuilt. It will never be the same but it will be something."
The turtle shook his head in denial against his father's words. "No, no, no, no! You've got to give me more than that. I can't do it, I can't." I can't face Raph, went unspoken.
"Enough!" Splinter's eyes glittered dangerously. "My son, you jump so quickly to search for a solution to this situation as if it will make your brothers forget what has happened. There are no quick fixes for this and you assume that our lives will resume their normal course. There is every possibility that such will not be that case and you must be prepared for such a resolution. You stand in a place that I have never been and cannot go. All I can do is provide counsel. You may choose to heed it or you may choose to ignore it but only you can move yourself forward."
Michelangelo backed down, temporarily cowed as he realised his father was just as out of his depths as he was. But that did not stop the bitterness directed at Splinter from arising. His father had always been a guiding force in his life; he'd always been there with wise words and comfort and could always make things right. And now, now when he needed his father the most, Splinter was failing him.
This just wasn't right. This couldn't be happening. He refused to believe it. Splinter had to know something.
Maybe…maybe…maybe, his father did know what to say to fix this and was just withholding the words because he didn't know how badly Michelangelo needed to hear them…
He could not bear to even consider the alternative. There lay a giant gaping chasm of destroyed brotherhood and, and a violation that he could not even begin to think about that he would have to cross alone.
"I raped him," he suddenly blurted in the half hopes that his father would just make things right now that he had confessed his guilt –
The words hung in the room, heavy and foreboding and ugly but painfully true. After a heartbeat, Mikey desperately wished that he could take them back. Could choke them down as he swallowed the truth away in a place it could never be found. He dropped his gaze to his untouched tea, not daring to look at his father as he twitched impatiently and awaited the guillotine that was sure to fall.
"I know," Splinter acknowledged after an eternity. The old rat slowly gathered his own tea cup and plate up and rose to his feet. He padded silently out of the dojo, leaving Michelangelo alone in bitter defeat.
Cold numbness stole over the turtle as he finally acknowledged the severity of the situation and the depths of his guilt. He had done it. Abused, betrayed his brother in the worst possible way, crossing a line he never ever thought himself capable of crossing.
What sort of monster are you, Mikey-boy? He wondered to himself as he gazed at his tea cup. He reached down to it, the tea was cold. No matter. It would still work as it was intended. Sleep would be nice. Maybe if he slept long enough, this would all turn out to be nothing more than a nightmare.
It was the only thing he could bring himself to hope.
He lifted the cup and drank.
Splinter waited until he heard the sound of his son's body hitting the dojo's floor. The decision to drug his child weighed heavily on him but at this point he recognised that Michelangelo needed the rationality that a deep sleep would give him. He would continue in circles otherwise, swinging between denial of his crime and the compulsive need to demand a solution that his Sensei could not provide. Sleep would provide him a temporary break from the thoughts and guilt that was eating him up inside.
The old rat padded silently back into the room and began the arduous task of dragging his son up to Splinter's own room. It was a strange thing, not being able to call for help from the rest of his children. He could not rely on them, could not trust them with each other and such a concept was frightening. How can he hope to keep his family from falling apart when his children cannot even remain in each other presence without attacking each other?
Splinter tucked Michelangelo into his futon, pausing a moment to trace his child's features. So young and yet so hurt, weighed down by a guilt that no being should ever have to carry. Biology had been cruel to his children, he had always known this but never had it struck in such a way before, attacking at their very core.
The old rat drew back slowly; glancing around at his room. Whilst just about anything could be a weapon in the hands of a trained ninja, Splinter carefully removed the obvious weapons, spare ninjaken, shurikens, throwing knives. It was tempting to strip his room of everything but the futon in case Michelangelo came to the same unpleasant conclusion that had sent him after Leonardo's swords. But he hoped that waking up inside his father's room would provide the turtle enough comfort to keep him from such thoughts. In any case, Splinter would try to be there when the sleeping potion wore off.
Now to attend to his other sons.
Leonardo, he knew had left the lair before he'd spoken to Michelangelo. Splinter understood that his eldest was struggling to adjust to the grim reality that he had woken up to and did not begrudge his need for space. At the very least, he could trust that Leonardo was far away from his other brothers and would not be able to cause any harm to them. Hopefully without the pheromones that Rahpael was giving off, he would retain his rationality and would be able to remain safe in the sewer system.
Splinter carefully approached Donatello, who was hunched over on the couch with his old laptop at his knees. The turtle was staring blankly at the screen and he slowly looked up at his father.
"Michelangelo?" he asked softly.
"He is sleeping and will not wake until tomorrow," Splinter replied. The old rat looked over his son, misery showed in Donatello's tense posture. "Donatello?"
The turtle glanced down at the screen and his face tightened. "…April just messaged me, asking if we wanted to come over tonight and watch a movie," he said miserably. "I…I don't even know what to do." He gave a bitter laugh. "I don't want to think about seeing her. Not now, now for a very long time."
Splinter hesitated as he pondered this new dilemma. He had completely forgotten the human side of their little family and they…could they handle this? They had proven themselves many times but Splinter was unsure their friendship would be able to survive the revelation of this development.
He gave out a quiet sigh. Concealing the truth from them was impossible but that did not mean that they had to know immediately. Not until he was certain his sons had started to come to terms with this.
There was the very real possibility that they would have to wait for ever.
"I will speak to her," Splinter said, holding out a hand.
"Father?" Donatello gave the old rat a startled look.
"I will not tell her what has happened here. But I will inform her that contact between us will be limited in the days to come. Your shellcell, Donatello," he prompted.
"Oh," and Donatello looked faintly relieved as he reached out to hand over the device. "…Thank you," he said quietly.
Splinter carefully dialled April's number as he drifted into the dojo for privacy. This…would not be an easy conversation.
"Hi Don," April did not waste time in answering her phone.
"Hello Ms O'Neil," Splinter greeted cordially.
"Master Splinter? Why are you- is everything alright? Are the boys hurt?"
Oh Miss O'Neil, his sons were hurt but not in a way that you could ever hope to help.
Splinter closed his eyes. So much concern, so much worry, so much love for their strange little family. Such a thing was something they never expected to have from a human and yet April and Casey both were devout in their affection.
"Miss O'Neil, something has come up," he replied softly.
"Master Splinter?" April did not hide the worry in her voice but she was brisk and calm in her anxiety. "How can I help you, what do you need?"
Time. An eternity to unravel the damage done to his sons by their own mutated biology. Impossible things that he could only waste hope for. "Solitude," he replied. "We need solitude, Miss O'Neil."
April paused then asked slowly, "Splinter, I'm not sure I understand. What do you mean?" There was the slightest bit of fear in her voice now, fear for the friendship that had been built between them.
The old rat's grip tightened on the shell cell. "April," he said softly. "I assure you we are not in danger. However it would be best if you and Casey do not come down to the Lair in any time in the foreseeable future."
April was quiet for several long minutes as she mulled over this. "What's going on Splinter? Are you sure I can't help?"
"No," Splinter said firmly. "I'm sorry Miss O'Neil but your presence here would not help. Please do not take offense but if anything, it would make things worse."
"I understand," and from the human's tone he could sense that he had her acquiescence. She was not happy about it but she would obey and for that he was grateful. Mr Jones would listen to April and would not insist on seeing for himself that the turtles were unharmed like he would if Splinter had been the one to contact him.
"Thank you," the old rat said tiredly. "I will contact you when things settle down here."
"Okay," she replied, somewhat reassured.
Splinter hesitated for a moment. "April…you may not hear from us for a very long time," he warned.
He could almost see the frown on her face. "That's not going to happen," she declared.
"Splinter," she interrupted. "You guys are my family. I can't just ignore you until the end of time."
The old rat gave the dojo wall an unhappy stare. "I fear that you would cause more harm than good if you visit us before we are ready," he cautioned stiffly.
April sighed miserably into the phone. "Fine, fine. But I can't promise we'll wait forever."
It was the best that he was going to get. Splinter frowned but accepted it. "Thank you April. Goodbye."
He ended the call. Then his shoulders slumped as he stared blankly at the wall.
What were they going to do now?
The Lair was deathly quiet when Leonardo returned to the Lair. The turtle silently slipped inside, pausing when he caught sight of Donatello curled up on the couch, typing furiously away at his laptop. For half a moment, Leo took in the sight of his tired brother, his eyes mapping the bruises and cuts -and…were those bites?- on his skin. Then, before Donatello could take notice of his staring, Leo approached carefully.
Donatello glanced up and physically recoiled at the sight of his brother. He snapped his laptop shut and climbed quickly to his feet.
"Hey," Leonardo called out, determined to speak to his brother before he could retreat.
"Oh hey Leo, didn't see you there," Don said uncomfortably as he backed away from Leo, maintaining a large distance between them. "I was just doing some reading on red-eared sliders, I'll head up to my room now."
"Wait!" the other turtle insisted. He was frustrated to realise that he could not physically confront his brother, not without running the risk of setting them off again and giving in to their instincts.
"Master Splinter is taking care of Raphael. Mikey….Mikey is asleep in his room, won't wake up until tomorrow courtesy of whatever Splinter gave him," Don spoke quickly as he continued to cross the room, beelining straight to his room and leaving Leo behind.
"I need to speak to you," Leonardo said powerlessly, watching his brother's retreating shell.
The click of Donatello's door closing was his answer. Leo stood despondently in the empty room, alone and with no answers. There was nothing that he could do and that was a terrifying thought, the grim realisation that his family had been struck so deeply at their core and Leo, with all his skills, knowledge and training, could do nothing to help.
He stared after his brother. He could not even apologize and something told him even if he did, it would not help. And…and Leo could not even begin to figure out what he was going to do about his other brothers.
It's not his fault!
Donatello's words echoed loud inside Leonardo's head and the turtle ducked his head unhappily. Mikey's anguished face flickered in front of him just as he recalled Raphael's silent and prone form in the infirmary.
What could they do now?
He did not know the answer.
The door to the infirmary, set opposite of Donatello's lab, opened and Splinter stepped through quietly before closing the door. The old rat did not look surprised at Leonardo's presence, he tilted his head slightly towards the kitchen and Leonardo obediently followed his father. Splinter gently tapped a chair and Leonardo slid into the seat as the old rat set about preparing another pot of tea.
Leo stared past his father at the kitchen wall, ignoring the mundane activity that seemed so disconnected to their current reality. He did not speak nor did his father bring himself to break the silence that had engulfed their home. They sat and slowly sipped the tea as it cooled.
"Father," Leonardo said at last when his cup was empty. "What are we going to do?"
Splinter raised his gaze from his tea cup. "I'm afraid I do not know Leonardo," he replied heavily.
Donatello slipped inside his room with a sigh of relief before settling his laptop on his desk and opening up again. He quickly accessed a messenger program once it had loaded and continued the conversation he'd been in the middle of before Leo interrupted.
Technogeek900: You have the old sequences?
ScienceCroc84: Indeed I do. I will send them to you in a moment. What exactly are you looking for?
Technogeek900: I need to find genes that are being upregulated that hadn't been before or were being supressed. Specifically those involved in gonadal steroid production. I'll come down later so we can take a sample from me. Analyse it and compare it with the previous ones. I don't know if I can get samples from any of my brothers.
ScienceCroc84: I'll look in to it on my end. But yes, without a current sample, it will make things difficult. I've sent you the old sequencing data.
Technogeek900: Thanks. Will see you later.
ScienceCroc84: Be well, my friend.
The turtle downloaded the files Leatherhead had sent him and sunk into the comfort that scientific analysis offered to him. Whilst he pooled over the genome sequencing he and Leatherhead had been working on based on the DNA from Don and his brothers, the turtle was not thinking about his brothers and the hurt they had inflicted on each other. His mind was calm and clear as he took in the information.
It was cold, the way he was choosing to handle his emotions but at this point, Donatello felt there was no other option. If he stopped, his mind would fall into blank despair, stuck in the same eternal loop as he realised over and over again that Michelangelo had-had…raped Raphael. That he, Donatello, would have done the same or tried to do the same were it not for his father's interference. His mind stalled at this, almost unravelled as he evaluated himself. He had never thought that way about his brother, never harboured such desires but his own feelings did not matter in the face of his own instincts.
His instincts needed to be overcome. Donatello had immediately turned to science to understand his own biology. Somewhere in his genetic code, genes that had been previously inactive or down-regulated were now switched on and active. He would need to investigate and find out which ones and why. From there, he could hopefully unravel what had caused this tragedy.
He could not afford to do anything else.
Leonardo stood inside the dojo. He was motionless for one moment, then he was a blur as he worked through a kata. He threw himself into the exercise, trying to exorcize his mind of all the events of the past day. His mind needed to be clear, he need to focus. He needed to re-establish control over himself. What had happened could never happen again. Ever.
He wouldn't allow it.
Leo finished the kata but his last step was sloppy and unsteady.
Clarity, it would seem, was a long way off.
Splinter slowly reached out to touch Raphael's face, then his fingers froze an inch away from his skin. He could feel that his son's mind was furiously active though his body remained deceptively lax. Was he reliving the trauma, the betrayal by his brother? Or perhaps he was dreaming of more pleasant things, trying to forget the transgression committed against him. Whatever it was, he could feel his son's tension, as Raphael sensed his presence despite the distance that kept his mind away.
He did not want to be touched.
He was afraid.
The old rat's hand dropped away. For a long moment, he gathered himself, then sent comfort and love to Raphael's sleeping consciousness.
Splinter climbed to his feet. It tore at him that he could not remain by Raphael's side but Michelangelo would be waking soon and the old rat did not feel comfortable with the thought of leaving him alone. He stood straight and quietly left the infirmary, locking the door behind him.
Normally, waking up was a slow process for Mikey. He would be gradually pulled from adventures with the Silver Sentry and the Justice Force, resisting the waking world as though he was being dragged through treacle. Then Leonardo or his alarm clock would shatter this illusion, yanking him straight into reality and the daily training session.
Today was no such day. Michelangelo woke up immediately, rolled over and sat up straight. He stared at his father, who was meditating at the end of his futon.
"Shit," he said. "Shit."