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Fic: Wasting Away Chapter 6

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) Chapter Five

It’s been two weeks since Raph de-mutated, and two things are abundantly clear. One, after an incident where Mikey lost the non-mutant turtle and he ended up nearly chomping down on an electrical cord, Mikey is never allowed to watch the de-mutated turtle and cook at the same time again. Two, Leo misses his little brother immeasurably.

In a mere two weeks, Leo has learned that without Raph’s constant challenges, training isn’t nearly as engaging or fun. The lack of his sarcastic brother’s snarky comments during movies and TV shows leaves an uncomfortable silence that even Mikey has trouble filling, but the worst part of it all is the empty spaces where his brother used to dwell. Leo knew Raph’s bedroom was going to be an obvious painful reminder that his brother is no longer his brother, but there are other vacant spots throughout the lair that Leo wasn’t prepared for, like his spot in the dojo, or the beanbag chair in front of the TV. It seems as though no matter what Leo does he can’t escape the fact that his brother isn’t really around anymore.

He sighs heavily as he grabs Red’s lunch and heads to his room. He can’t refer to the de-mutated turtle sitting on his bed by his brother’s name. It doesn’t feel right, and besides, the non-mutant turtle isn’t his brother, no matter what the other two say.

The little turtle stares up at him with beady little black eyes, void of any knowledge of who’s feeding him, as he chews on a spinach leaf. The eyes are unnerving, both due to how blank they are as well as the color. Leo never really thought much about Raph’s eyes before, but now he misses the expressive vibrant green that used to glare at him during their arguments.

Suddenly, a bug goes skittering by, but before Leo can catch it and release it outside of the lair, Red snaps his beak around it and swallows it. Leo shudders as he hands Red a strawberry. How the other two could possibly see Red as their brother is beyond him. Leo can’t imagine Raph ever getting that close to a bug without sweating and screaming…not to mention, eating one, no matter his form.

Leo sighs again as he watches the little non-mutant turtle eat. He may not be his brother anymore, but Leo still owes him an apology. “I know I promised that I wouldn’t let this happen and I’m sorry I failed, but this is temporary. I promise.” Leo scoffs at himself. “Yeah, I’m sure a promise from me really means a lot to you right now, huh? I did try, though. I hope you know that, and I’m still trying.” They all are, even if it feels like they’re all on opposite sides right now.

Leo pets Red’s shell as the non-mutant turtle continues eating the bits of fruit, spinach leaves, and worms Leo placed in a bowl for him. If this was truly still his brother, there’s no way that he would be able to get this close without one of them being injured. Raph never did like physical contact, but Red seems to soak it up. In fact, Red has been known to nudge their hands in order to encourage petting and shell scrubs. Every time Red does it, Leo obliges, even though it makes his chest constrict and assures him that their brother is gone.

Suddenly, there’s a knock on his door. Leo doesn’t feel comfortable leaving Red on his own, even if he’s distracted by food, so he gathers him into his arms, ignoring the repeated attempts to escape and return to the food, as he goes to answer the door. He opens it to see Donnie standing there, looking rather impatient. As soon as he notices Leo, Donnie smiles and gestures for him to hand over Red, but Leo isn’t entirely certain that he should do so. “I figured it out! I can reverse it.”

Leo just blinks owlishly as Donnie grabs Red out of his arms and takes off in the direction of his lab. “Wait, what do you mean you figured it out?”

Donnie sets Red down on his desk as he practically flies around the lab looking for various pieces of equipment. Leo stands beside the de-mutated turtle and places his hand on the desk to keep Red from wandering off of the edge.

“I told you, at first it acted like a virus, but then it mutated, so all I had to do was figure out how to stop the mutating cells from multiplying.” Donnie holds up a vial with a yellow liquid in it before continuing, “Which this serum will do, and then I can pump Raph full of some of his own blood that I have stored, and that should reverse the effects.”

Leo pets Red’s shell as Donnie starts hooking him up to a machine. “Do you even have any of Raph’s blood that isn’t tainted?”

Donnie nods as he continues setting everything up. “I have some reserves I kept while we were still at the farmhouse, before The Creep incident. I’ve already checked. It’s still good, and this should work.”

Red keeps trying to gnaw on the various wires and tubes around him. Leo has to move them out of the way more than once, so he decides to distract the turtle with his finger, making sure to keep it a safe distance from Red’s mouth. “So, how long will this take?”

Donnie shrugs. “I’m going to give him the first dose of the serum, and then take a blood sample. I’ll know almost immediately if it’s working. From there, however, it could be a matter of hours or it could be weeks with repeated doses before I can inject Raph with his blood.”

Leo nods as he watches Donnie inject the serum he created. “So, what are the other machines for?”

Donnie keeps his focus on the syringe in his hand and the turtle in front of him, who desperately keeps trying to hide in his shell. “Oh, they’re just monitoring his vitals, temperature, and all of that. He’s so tiny that our normal equipment wouldn’t work. I had to cobble this stuff together.”

Leo watches as Donnie takes out another syringe and starts extracting a blood sample. Once he’s finished, Red pulls all of his limbs and his head into his shell. Leo grabs the toothbrush they use to clean Red’s shell and starts gently scrubbing it over every part of Red’s shell that he can reach, hoping to calm him down. Red loves shell scrubs and it seems to work, given that Red’s head is starting to reemerge. It doesn’t take long before he’s staring up at Leo again, and Leo can’t help but smile. At least, the little guy is feeling better.

It feels like forever before Donnie sighs behind him. Leo doesn’t know if he’s just tired or if something good has finally happened. He refuses to hold out hope. After all, lately it seems nothing good happens to them. “What is it?”

Donnie is suddenly beside him with an arm around his shoulder. “It’s working. I won’t know how fast it’s working until I take another blood sample in a few hours, but this is a start, Leo. We can get Raph back.”

Leo nods as he continues running the toothbrush over Red’s shell. They may have found a way to reverse the physical effects, but Leo refuses to believe that they can get their brother back until he’s standing here in front of him. He just doesn’t have it in him anymore to have that kind of blind faith in the universe. Too much has happened, and he refuses to mourn his brother twice. “Do you need him here, or can I take him back to my room? He didn’t exactly get to finish his lunch.”

Donnie looks over his monitor quickly before nodding. “Just keep an eye on him. If he starts acting strange, or his color or temperature changes bring him back.”

Leo disconnects Red from all the monitors and heads out of the lab. When he gets back to his room and sets Red down on his bed in front of the food bowl, Red doesn’t hesitate to start eating again. “You didn’t seem very comfortable in the lab. It’s probably the only thing that you have in common with Raph.”

It’s the first time that he’s spoken his brother’s name out loud since his fight with the other two about what they should do with the de-mutated turtle, and it makes his chest tighten. Leo has to swallow a couple of times as he tries to work the lump out of his throat. Red is staring at him now and all Leo can do is turn away and cry. “I miss my brother.”

He gives himself a couple of minutes to merely grieve, and then Leo composes himself again. He can’t fall apart, even here. Red needs someone to watch out for him. After all, Leo’s room may not be as hazardous as certain areas of the lair, but, even in his nearly spotless room, there are still dangers for a de-mutated turtle.

He returns to petting Red’s shell once again. Leo honestly doesn’t know if it’s an attempt to calm himself or the turtle eating in front of him. “I don’t know if we can get back what we’ve lost, but they’re right we’ve gotta try, and…and I hope that you understand that.”

For his part, Red seems to ignore him as he continues eating. Leo doesn’t want to think about what will happen if this goes wrong. He doesn’t want to consider how this will all end if this doesn’t work. After all, he thinks it’s a safe bet that they will have no choice but to follow through with Raph’s wishes.

However, Leo isn’t entirely certain that Donnie and Mikey will be on board with that. He can’t blame them, of course, but it hurts and he hates this. Leo hates feeling like he’s on the opposite side of them. He can’t stand the idea of fighting against his own family, but Leo can’t help but think that he’s been doing exactly that since before Raph de-mutated.

After all, he’s the one who pointed out that something was wrong with Raph in the first place. A part of him is furious with Donnie for not noticing that there was something wrong sooner, especially since Leo went to him and Don merely shrugged off his concerns. Hell, Donnie basically admitted that he didn’t even notice a single one of Raph’s symptoms until Leo had mentioned them.

However, another part of him -- a much larger part, in fact -- is far more infuriated with himself. Leo knew there was something wrong with Raph long before he addressed his concerns. He let his fear still his tongue and now they are all paying the price for it, but none as much as Raph.

Not to mention, he wasn’t even able to fulfill his promise to his brother. There are times when Leo considers just grabbing Red and leaving. He doesn’t think he would even make it out of the city before the others noticed, but he can’t stop thinking that it’s what both Red and Raph would want. Still, every time that the thought crosses his mind, Leo stops himself from running to the farm, because he made a promise to the rest of his family, too. He just wishes that that promise wasn’t in direct conflict with the promise he made Raph.

Leo wonders if this is why he had so many disagreements with Raph. He’s always seen himself as a fair and just guy. He didn’t think that he ever put one family member before another, but as Leo sits on his bed, petting Red, he wonders if maybe that’s not true. He wonders if perhaps sacrificing Raph’s wishes for the wishes of the rest of his family isn’t a new behavior.

Raph used to always complain that they didn’t understand him…that they…no, that Leo didn’t treat him the same way that he treated the other two. Leo always wrote it off as Raph being dramatic, but maybe he wasn’t. Maybe Leo has always subconsciously put Raph last. After all, Raph never seemed to need Leo the way that the other two always have. He doesn’t want to think that he had anything to do with Raph’s decision to be released at the farm, but he can’t ignore the twisting of his guts as he considers it.

Leo sighs as he watches Red turn away from the small amount of remaining food. He moves the bowl to his nightstand with a mental reminder to return it to the kitchen later. Leo can’t help but smile as Red snuggles into the crook of his arm, enjoying what little heat he gives off.

Leo’s sure that, if they somehow get Raph back and he remembers his time as a normal turtle, then his little brother will vehemently deny this. Then again, if they do manage to get Raph back and he does remember all of this, then Leo is sure he’ll be too busy dealing with a livid Raph. After all, Raph always did have issues with broken promises…not that Leo can blame him.

Leo shakes his head. He refuses to think about the possibility of getting Raph back. After all, if something goes wrong, and it usually does, that’ll just lead to more heartbreak and Leo doesn’t think that he can take any more of that right now. He grabs Red and decides it’s time for some meditation time. He hopes that Mikey isn’t already cooking. He could use a break from watching Red.

However, Leo doesn’t even manage to get his door open all of the way before a body practically slams into him. “Oh, man, Leo, I’m sorry. I was just really excited. Donnie said that he’s worked out a way to get Raphie back. By the way, he needs Raphie. He said that it’s time for another blood test. Oh, man, I hope we can get him back soon. I know Donnie said it could take weeks, but we’ve already waited forever. I don’t think I can take anymore waiting.”

Leo blinks rapidly at Mikey’s rambling. It takes him a second to decipher why Mikey barreled into his room, and when he does, he merely nods. “Okay, sure, I’ll take him to Donnie.” Leo holds Red up so Mikey can see him.

“Good, I’ll come, too.”

It takes all of Leo’s self-control not to sigh out loud. Instead, he just nods again as he makes his way to the lab. When Leo enters the lab, he doesn’t hesitate to hand Red over to Donnie. This time Donnie has the syringe ready, and it only takes a few moments for him to examine the blood sample.

Leo sits on the metal exam table beside Mikey, who is surprisingly quiet the entire time that the two of them wait for the results. Mikey’s leg is bouncing obnoxiously beside him, but Leo doesn’t mention it. After all, he’s fairly certain that they are all equally nervous.

After what feels like an eternity, Donnie turns to them with a bright smile on his face. “It’s working surprisingly fast. I’ll be able to give him a dose of his own blood in a few more hours. We could all wait in here or watch a movie or something, if you want.”

Leo grabs Red out of Donnie’s hands, so the other can go wash his hands and put everything away. “Yeah, let’s go watch a movie. You can pick, Donnie.”

Donnie shakes his head. “Nah, I’ve got a few more things to clean up first. Why don’t you or Mikey pick?”

“Dibs!” Mikey yells as he races out of the room. Leo can’t help but laugh as he follows his little brother.

Mikey has already picked out a movie and has moved onto making popcorn when Leo settles down with Red in his lap. “Well, so much for meditation, huh?” He pets Red’s shell as he shifts to get more comfortable.

It doesn’t take long before both Donnie and Mikey join him in front of the TV. Mikey hits play, and Leo doesn’t know how to feel when the title screen of Raph’s favorite movie starts playing. A part of him thinks it’s rather fitting, given what they’re waiting for, but another part of him just aches and misses Raph that much more.

They watch in silence for a few moments before Mikey starts rambling. It takes Leo a moment to realize that Mikey is commenting on certain scenes the way that Raph would. It hurts but it also makes Leo smile.

He shuts his eyes and remembers the last time that they watched this…back when it was truly the four of them. Leo remembers leaving early, reminding his brothers not to stay up too late. He wishes that he hadn’t left. Leo so desperately wants to go back in time and stay until the ending credits. He wishes that he had talk to Raph more, and asked him why this was his favorite movie. He wishes he had sat down with his brother late at night and listened as Raph told him something silly like explosions are beautiful.

There’s a lot that Leo wishes he had done or said to Raph, but he knows that regrets are useless. They’re here now, and all he can do is move on. He wants to believe in Donnie and believe he can have a second chance, but there’s something holding him back…something stopping him from hoping for the best. Before Leo can examine that further, there’s a hand on his shoulder. He turns and stares up at Donnie, who’s grinning brightly. “Come on, Leo, it’s time.”

Leo heaves a large sigh and finds himself preparing for the worst, even as the other two race to the lab. When he walks into the lab, Donnie takes Red off of him once again. “I’m going to give him one more blood test, just to make sure there are no more mutating cells producing, and then I’ll inject him with the blood.” Donnie has already started withdrawing blood.

Leo nods as he watches the whole process. Mikey is practically vibrating with anticipation. “How long will it take him to change?”

Donnie shrugs as he examines the blood sample. “I honestly have no idea. Since his de-mutation process took some time right up until the end when he fully mutated, I can only guess. It could take a matter of moments or it could be a slow progression. I’m thinking no longer than a week or two.”

Donnie injects Red with Raph’s blood, and they all watch with bated breath. They all just stare in utter silence, unmoving, waiting for something…anything to happen. It’s the longest minute of their lives with seemingly no change, and yet none of them dare to move. After an hour, Mikey decides to leave. He does ask them to call him if anything changes, though, so Leo can’t fault him for getting bored and leaving. Leo, on the other hand, can’t seem to move. He’s transfixed on the spot, just watching Red as he lies on the cold medal table.

Another hour has passed and Donnie has returned to working on some other project. Leo doesn’t mind. He’s got an eye on Red in case anything happens, and it’s not as if he had any other plans for the evening. He starts absently petting Red’s shell when Donnie abruptly stands and stretches. He turns and stares at Leo as if he forgot he was there. “You know, I did say that it could potentially take a couple of weeks. You two don’t need to stay in here.”

Leo merely shrugs as he continues petting Red. “I know. I just…I want to wait a little while longer.”

Donnie nods. “Okay, well, I’m gonna go get some coffee.”

Donnie leaves and returns with a steaming cup of coffee, and there is still no change in Red. Leo still doesn’t know how to feel. He didn’t actually believe that this was going to work anyway, but he feels lost and doesn’t know what to do with himself. He knows that if he leaves and goes back to his room, he’ll do nothing but sit there and think of this failure. He doesn’t want to train. All it does is remind him of his missing sparring partner, so instead he stays and waits…for what? Leo doesn’t know.

It’s three and a half hours after they injected Raph, when Mikey returns with dinner for all of them. They eat in silence, and then Mikey returns the dishes to the kitchen. He’s back and sitting beside Leo once again when there’s a sudden scratching sound. Immediately, they all turn to stare at Red, who seems rather agitated as he scrapes his shell against the table. It takes a second for them to realize what’s happening, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s changing.

His body shifts first, growing and altering, but his eyes are squeezed tightly shut as he shakes and whimpers. None of them know what to do, so they simply stand back and watch as it happens. They’re afraid to crowd him and make the process even more uncomfortable.

It feels like a lifetime has passed before the form before them truly resembles their beloved brother. Raph slowly opens his eyes, and Leo watches as they begin to shift. The endless emotionless black beads slowly swirl and transform into the familiar vibrant chartreuse that Leo knows and loves.

The suddenly verdigris colored eyes are wide with palpable pain, which causes Leo both anguish and excitement. Raph’s vision clears, and he seems to be in less pain. He tries to sit up, but all three of them move as one to push him back down, afraid that moving too much too quickly will harm him after that ordeal.

He stares at all of them for a long moment, seemingly memorizing all of their faces, and Leo breathes out a relieved sigh. It’s the first spark of hope that he’s felt since this whole nightmare began, but it’s immediately dashed the moment that Raph speaks. “Where am I? And who are you?” It’s then that Leo realizes that there is no sign of recognition in Raph’s bright jade colored eyes.

Leo’s chest tightens as his legs give out. He hears the sound of something clattering to the floor, but he doesn’t know what it is. His vision blurs with tears as his breath hitches. They’ve lost their brother for a second time, but he doesn’t know what’s worse…having Raph beside him with no memory of being their brother or the de-mutated turtle he once was. After all, it’s fairly obvious that they’re both equally not his brother.

The promise that he made to Raph suddenly rings in his ears, and Leo knows now that he should have fought harder. He should have listened to Raph and fulfilled his wishes, because now he doesn’t even have a chance to do so. He’s lost Raph all over again and there’s nothing that Leo can do about it except beg for forgiveness from someone who doesn’t even remember why he needs to ask for it. In fact, the turtle lying on the medical table no longer knows enough to know that Leo doesn’t deserve his forgiveness, and probably never will…not after this…not after what Raph has become.

The End (for now)