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Fic: Wasting Away Chapter 5

Title: Wasting Away
Author: Brokaw22
Disclaimer: The norms
Rating: T
Story Synopsis: Leo knows that there's something going on with Raph. He just never expected it to be something of this magnitude.

Previous Chapters: Chapter One (Part A) Chapter One (Part B) Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four (Part A)
Chapter Four (Part B)

Leo sighs heavily. He’s been having this argument with Donnie for what seems like hours now and it isn’t getting them anywhere. He doesn’t understand why his most logical brother is suddenly acting so much like Raph. The thought pains him more than Leo ever thought possible; because he didn’t think he’d ever long to argue with his most temperamental brother again, but here he is now. He’s keenly aware of the fact that, in addition to never squabbling again, they’ll never bump fists again, nor spar, nor ever hug again.

Leo shakes his head, and desperately tries to push the thought away as he returns his attention to the disagreement that he’s currently facing. “You said it yourself, Donnie. Now that Raph has fully de-mutated into a normal turtle, we can’t just dump mutagen on him and expect our brother to return to us, so what are we supposed to do? Raph made me promise that, if this happened; we would take him to the farmhouse and let him be free. I think, in light of everything, we can do the one thing our brother wanted.”

Donnie glares at him harshly, hands practically shaking with how tightly he has them clenched. “You know as well as I do how self-sacrificing Raph is. Of course, that was his plan, but that doesn’t make it right! We can’t just abandon him. We have to keep trying. We have to find a way to fix this! I thought you would understand that. When have you ever given up on anything, Leo? As far as I can remember, the answer is never, so why are you giving up now?”

Leo hangs his head. He wasn’t anticipating that his family would take any of this well, but he never thought that Donnie would be the brother he had to convince that this isn’t just the right choice, but it’s the only one they’ve got. “We’re not abandoning him. We’re doing as he requested. You know Raphael as well as I do, he never liked being trapped down here and he certainly wouldn’t like it anymore now. He has a chance to be free and we…we can’t do anything for him, Donnie. You know this.” Leo bites his tongue after that, gravely trying to keep the tears at bay. He doesn’t have time for another break down right now…not in the face of Donnie’s opposition, and the fact that he still hasn’t broken the news to Mikey yet -- who’s still sleeping.

Donnie shakes his head, staring at Leo as though he doesn’t recognize him. “This is wrong, Leo! You have to know that. If the roles were reversed Raph would never just let one of us go so easily. He’d do whatever it took to find a way to reverse this. He wouldn’t just give up!”

Leo heaves a large breath and lets it out slowly. “Raph was always stubborn, Donnie, but we’re not facing something that stubbornness can mend. We’re facing the impossible. You said it yourself.”

Donnie releases his clenched fists, but he doesn’t appear any less enraged. “Yes, I admit that I told you that I don’t know how to fix this or even if I can fix this, but I also remember telling you that I would try. I just don’t understand why you won’t give me that chance, Leo.”

Leo suddenly throws his hands in the air out of frustration. He just doesn’t understand why Donnie can’t see what he sees. It’s just not like him to miss something so obvious. Although, Leo knows that that’s not entirely true. Donnie has always had a bad habit of missing what’s right in front of him. “And we do what with Raph in the meantime? Treat him like a pet? He’d hate that. He’d hate that more than anything and you know it! He can’t roam the lair freely in his condition, which means one of us would have to watch him at all times, and he’d hate that, too. He didn’t want to be a burden, Donnie.” The last words are spoken barely above a whisper, but they sound deafening in the silent room.

Donnie’s eyes narrow as his entire body stiffens. His posture is so reminiscent of Raphael that Leo almost forgets who he’s quarrelling with. “So, you think that Raph is a burden now? Gee, Leo, some brother you are.”

Leo shakes his head vehemently. He thinks he should be used to his little brothers twisting his words by now, but it still catches him off-guard with startling frequency. “What? No! Of course not! I’m just trying to do what Raph asked of me.”

Donnie turns away from him, seemingly unable to meet his eyes. “I guess there really is a first time for everything, then.”

“What?” Leo feels like he’s taken a physical blow. He honestly can’t believe his ears. He doesn’t understand why Donnie would say something like that. “What does that mean?”

“He was your rival in all things, Leo, and now he’s not. You’ve finally won. You don’t have anyone to challenge you anymore.” Donnie still has his back to Leo and his voice is strained and bitter, but the shock Leo feels is slowly melting away into fury.

Leo swallows down the grief and agony he feels and stands tall, unwilling to let such an accusation go unanswered. “How dare you, Donatello! I love all of my little brothers…Raph included. That’s why I’m trying so hard to fulfill his last request. This is what he wanted, Donnie.”

Donnie abruptly spins around and pushes Leo away from him. “He’s not dead, Leo!”

The force Donnie uses is more than Leo anticipated, but he still only stumbles a step before finding his footing once more. “I know that!”

“Then why are you speaking like he is.” Donnie’s breathing heavily, looking as if he desperately wishes he had his bo staff right now.

Leo’s shoulders sag again. He feels like he’s suddenly a thousand times heavier, and all he really wants to do is to end this entire discussion, and lock himself away in his room for a while. “Because, for all intents and purposes, he’s gone, Donnie, and there’s nothing we can do about it. He’s gone and I can’t fix that and neither can you. We can’t bring him back. Don’t you see, Donnie? The brother we knew is dead, and all I can do is fulfill the last wish he had, so yes, Donnie, I am going to fight you on this, because this…this is the only thing that I can do.”

“Just give me a chance, Leo. That’s all that I’m asking for.” Donnie gives him the most pleading expression that Leo has ever seen from his most intellectual brother.

It makes him wish that he could just give in. Maybe if the situation was any different, he would, but it’s not, and Leo can’t just ignore everything simply for Donnie’s sake. “For how long, Donnie? How long am I supposed to allow you to wither away in your lab trying to find a solution that doesn’t exist? How long am I supposed to facilitate and propagate false hope? How long am I supposed to standby while this whole family lives in limbo while you desperately search for something that can’t be found? And more importantly, how long am I supposed to deny Raph the one thing that he wanted just to satisfy your need to attempt to repair everything? When are you going to learn that some things can’t be fixed, Donnie?”

Donnie folds his arms over his chest and glares. “And when are you going to realize that the one thing we’ve always excelled at is not relenting. Do you think you’d be standing here right now if Raph, Mikey, and I just gave up while you were comatose for those three months? Do you really think we weren’t uncertain that you would wake up or that you would fully recover? We spent those whole three months doubting, but we pushed through it, and do you know why? Because Raph insisted that no matter what we would not give up on you. How could we do any less for him now?”

Leo glances way, unable to meet his brother’s eyes as he tries to calm himself down. “It’s not the same, Donnie.”

“How…how is it not the same, Leo?” Donnie sounds desperate and wounded, which is the last thing that Leo wants, but he should have known from the very beginning that this is where this fight would eventually lead.

“Because there was a chance, Donnie…a chance that I would wake up, and a chance that I would still be me afterwards. That chance doesn’t exist here. You know that as well as I do.” Leo takes a moment to fully compose himself before meeting his brother’s gaze once more. “You know that, even if we find a way to reverse this, Raph wouldn’t be the same anymore. He wouldn’t be our Raph, and I just…can’t, Donnie. I can’t make that choice…none of us can.”

Donnie’s eyes narrow as he takes a step closer towards his brother. “Why the hell not, Leo. We don’t even know…”

“We can’t, Donnie!” Leo doesn’t mean to yell, but he’s beyond frustrated now. He takes a deep calming breath before continuing in a softer tone. “Is it fair of us, Donnie? Is it fair of us to re-mutate Raph when the possibility exists that he could become something that he would absolutely despise? Is it fair of us to risk Raph’s freedom and life for something so selfish? Is it fair of us to go against Raph’s wishes just because living without him is unbearable? Do you really think that that’s what Raph would want? Because I certainly don’t.”

Donnie merely stares at him, seemingly shocked and uncertain of what to say, at least that is until they are both pushed aside by a rather formidable force. “That’s enough, both of you!”

The two of them stare in bewilderment at Mikey before Leo’s expression shifts to utterly dismayed. “Mikey, I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to wake you.”

Mikey makes a show of rolling his eyes before glaring at both of them. “Yeah, well, you could have fooled me with all of the yelling.”

They both simultaneously tense before staring at their brother rather ruefully and abashedly at the obvious chiding. “I truly am sorry, Mikey. You didn’t deserve to be awoken that way, and we certainly shouldn’t be acting this way, especially not when Raph is…” Leo trails off at the sudden realization that Mikey still doesn’t know about what happened to Raph. His stomach drops at the thought of having to tell his little brother that Raph is…well, no longer Raph. He glances over towards Donnie for some form of help -- even if it’s merely just emotional support -- but Donnie looks just as downtrodden and lost as Leo feels. “Now that Raph is…is…” Leo desperately tries to force the words out, but he just can’t. An image of Raph trying a failing to form words right before he had that seizure flashes through his mind. The next thing Leo knows there are strong arms wrapped around him.

“It’s okay, bro. I know…I know what happened to Raph. It was a little hard to miss with all of the yelling, but that doesn’t matter right now. You don’t have to say anything. It’s okay. We’ll figure this out. Just breathe with me. In and out, come on, you can do it. In and out, nice and slow…yeah, that’s it.” Leo listens to Mikey’s soothing voice and follows his instructions, unaware that he’s shaking until he feels Mikey gently coax him towards the beanbag on the floor and his feet tremble beneath him.

Mikey sits down next to him and Leo does his best to get himself under control. He should be the one comforting Mikey right now…not the other way around. He pushes down the feeling of failure and just breathes. When Leo finally feels like he can look his younger brothers in their faces again without wanting to simply drive one of his katanas through his plastron for his stunning lack of composure, he gets back to his feet. He takes a deep breath, and then gives them both the strictest leader expression that he can muster. “We should probably start packing. Raph wanted us to take him to the farmhouse and…”

“Yeah, we’re not gonna do that.” Mikey cuts him off as he stands as well.

Leo glares sternly as he folds his arms over his plastron. “Mikey…”

Mikey makes a sharp gesture through the air, effectively ending whatever protest Leo was about to make. “No, Leo. When it comes to missions, and topside, and all that other stuff, you’re our leader, dude, but this? This is family stuff and no one leads here…well, except for Master Splinter, but, seeing as how he’s still in his room, I’m thinking he’s leaving this decision up to us. Unless, of course, we make the wrong one, and then he’ll be out here ‘all sneaky ninja like’ to correct us.”

Leo can tell that if he doesn’t get him back on track soon, then this is quickly going to devolve into one of Mikey’s more disjointed rambling sessions. Fortunately for Leo, Mikey still responds to some of his leader expressions. He narrows his eyes and stares directly at Mikey for a good long moment before speaking. “Mikey…”

Mikey shakes his head as he seems to find his way back to his original point. “Sorry about that. Anyway, my point is, we’re a family. You don’t get to lead us here and Don’s right. We have to try. It’s what Raph would do. I know you’re just trying to do what you think is right and what Raphie wanted you to. The thing is, Raph can be really stupid sometimes, and, while he would never give up on one of us, he never really put a lot of faith in himself. Unless, of course, it involved his muscles, which this doesn’t. So no, we’re not going to do what Raph wanted…at least, not yet.”

Leo raises an eye ridge as he stares at his younger brother a little mystified and a lot impressed. “Okay, Mikey, so what’s your plan?”

Mikey glares at him, seemingly disbelieving that Leo’s willing to listen to him. It makes Leo’s heart ache and he vows to make more of an effort to take Mikey seriously more often. “Well, when Donnie first told me about Raph’s…condition; he mentioned something about possibly being able to reverse engineer a cure if he knew what Raph would eventually de-mutate into. Well, he certainly knows now.”

Leo shakes his head. He doubts that Raph de-mutating completely has somehow improved their chances of saving him. “Yeah, but Donnie also said that he didn’t think he could fix this once Raph completely de-mutated.”

Donnie has the decency to turn away from them, though Leo hardly meant to attack his insecurities. However, Leo can tell that his genius brother is finally starting to listen to him, but before Leo can start to make his case once more Mikey interrupts again. “So what?” Mikey screams as he throws his hands up in the air out of frustration. “Donnie says that about nearly everything when he feels like he’s in over his head or he’s overwhelmed, yet he always manages to pull through. What harm will it do to give him a chance, Leo? We can wait at least a couple of weeks before we decide to just release our brother into the wild to fend for himself. Don’t ya think?”

Donnie perks up at Mikey’s suggestion as he nods enthusiastically in agreement. Leo sighs heavily and as he concedes. After all, he knows when he’s beat. “Fine, but we have to work out some kind of schedule for watching Raph. I don’t want him roaming the lair freely and I won’t have anyone treating him like a pet. Got it?” They both eagerly nod in consent before Leo continues. “However, I’m only giving you a month. I won’t ignore Raph’s wishes any longer than that.”

Donnie’s eyes widen at the condition. “A month? Leo, are you crazy? I don’t even know where to start. It could take me weeks just to create something to test.”

Leo folds his arms over his plastron once again and stares down his suddenly stubborn brother. “Again Donatello, how long am I supposed to put everything on hold? I won’t break my promise to Raph…I can’t, and I can’t just wait forever.”

“I don’t think asking you for a more reasonable deadline is the same thing as asking you to break your promise, Leo.” Donnie all but growls at him, suddenly just as defensive as he was when their altercation first started, which has Leo gearing up for a continuation of their fight as well.

In fact, Leo is just about to launch back into their previous dispute when Mikey gets between them again. “Why don’t we just let Master Splinter decide when we should head to the farmhouse?”

“That’s an excellent solution, Michelangelo.” They all turn as one to look at their sensei. Leo can see how this is all weighing so heavily on their master, making him appear far more aged than the last time he saw his father. “I suggest we wait until we’ve exhausted all of our other options.”

“Hai, Sensei.” All three of them speak simultaneously as they bow. Leo bites his tongue and refrains from mentioning that he feels as though they have already exhausted all of their other options. His father has given him his orders and Leo will obey them as always. However, he finds ignoring the part of himself that truly believes that this is all just delaying the inevitable nearly impossible. Still, Leo vows to remain strong and resolute. After all, it’s all that he can do in the face of everything that’s happening right now. He only hopes that Raph understands that he tried to be a good brother. He tried to do what was asked of him. He tried to fulfill his promise, and he hasn’t given up, either. One way or another, Leo will fulfill the promise he made to his brother, even if the rest of his family hates him for it.

The End (for now)