Chapter 2


“I hate to break this touching moment–have I told you guys how cute you are?–but, uh,” Leo popped up between them, voice hushed, “a baby? Really? None of us know how to deal with kids. We– We’re not parents.” He looked at the ground, his eyes taking on a glimmering sheen that meant his thoughts drifted to Splinter.

Raph placed a hand on Leo’s shoulder, a reassuring weight and welcome tether. “Speak for yourself, little brother. I happen to be familiar with wrangling unruly teenagers.” He punctuated the sentence by noogying Leo who slapped at his arm until he let go. Raph gave Leo a soft smile. “How much worse can a kid be? Comparatively.”

They stared at each other for a few moments before Leo slapped a hand over his face, dragging it down as he groaned. “Fine. Fine. You win. Keep the rascal. Uh,” he trailed off. All three looked at the baby fast asleep in Casey’s arms. “What’s their name?”

Her eyes widened. “Fuck. We have to name it.”

“Casey!” Raph exclaimed. Well… as much as he could without waking the baby. “They’re a little person, not some… some alien creature! Stop calling them an ‘it.’”

“Sorry,” she said. The pout on her face told a different story.

She opened her mouth to say something else but paused at a soft noise. The baby babbled in their sleep. Everyone froze. A heavy silence fell upon them as they waited with bated breath. The baby moved in Casey’s arms, grabbing the neckline of her shirt and pulling it closer to them. She visibly cringed as her shirt was stretched out.

“I– They’re eating my shirt,” she whispered. “That’s…”



“A biohazard,” Casey finished at the same time. Then, like it was an afterthought, she added, “Hey. That could be a good name.”

“What would?”


“Case, no!”

“What’s going on in here?” April yawned, stretching her arms above her head. She had just woken up for her nightly supply run. She opened her eyes when no one responded only to find Casey, Raph, and Leo huddled together, their eyes the size of dinner plates. She cocked her head to the side. “Why’re you looking at me like that? Weirdos.” She shrugged, passing them to leave. She even gave Leo an amicable pat on the head.

Suddenly, there was a sound. Unassuming. Quiet… If it weren’t for the fact that it was already dead silent in the cave. April’s gaze fell on Casey, where the sound came from, and then lowered to the baby in her arms.


“Is that a baby?” April hissed. Let it be known that she understood the consequences of waking a sleeping baby but–damn it!–how could she keep her mouth shut about this? “Where’d they come from? Are their parents here? Who–”

“Guys, c’mon. I can hear you whispering from my lab. Can you keep it down– Holy shit. Is that a baby?”

Donnie pointed at the group. They didn’t have time to answer before Mikey poked his head out of the cave where they stored food.

“Did I hear someone say there’s a baby? Who has a baby?”

And just like that, Casey was surrounded by everyone on their team. They shoved at each other to get closer, arguing about who arrived first. The crowd pushed Raph and Leo further away. They had no idea this would be the general reaction. Casey huffed, annoyed they left her to fend for herself. Then she froze.

Such a big breath jostled the kid using her body like a pillow. She waited for them to move. Nothing. No gargles, babbling, drool–absolutely nothing. They remained still. Their tiny hand no longer held her shirt, palm pressed flat against her chest. She heard blood rushing through her ears to the same pounding rhythm as her heart. Casey wondered if the baby could feel it from their hand splayed across her skin.

Her girls felt cold as she tried to gather them in her arms. Their limp, heavy bodies couldn’t fit in her grasp–there were too many for her to carry but she already felt their weight on her back, suffocating her–

She raised a shaky hand to their face, pressing her fingers to their lips. Soft, irregular puffs of air ghosted over her fingertips. Casey jerked upright–when had she curled around the baby? Were they already joining the bodies pulling her down, down, down?–and met Raph’s smiling face. It dropped near instantaneously at the panic he must’ve seen in her eyes. He grabbed Leo and forced his way to the front, ignoring the disgruntled protests.

“What’s wrong?”

“They’re not,” Casey’s voice cracked. She inhaled shakily before continuing, voice uncharacteristically hushed, “They’re barely breathing. Not responding either.”

Raph turned to Leo for guidance. The grim expression on his little brother’s face became commonplace in the wake of the apocalypse but Raph desperately wished he’d make light of the situation, prove them wrong and call them worry-warts. It was clear they were right to be concerned.

Medic Leo replaced team leader Leo in record time. He took the kid’s arm, checking for something. He grunted, pressed his fingers to their neck, and waited again. The crease in his brow furrowed as he continued checking for something–anything. Everyone around them noticed the change in atmosphere. Their chatter turned into a murmur. Both sounded cacophonous to Casey. Leo snapped his fingers in front of her face.

“I need you to give me the kid, Jones,” Leo spoke evenly. It left no room for arguments, yet…

“What’s wrong with them? Why can’t I hold them while you do your thing?”

Tears pricked the corners of her eyes. Why was she reacting like this? Leo just wanted to help. But if Casey let go… If she let go and something happened to the kid–

Unblinking eyes, sunken in from being left behind to brave the outside world even in death. She couldn’t go back. They’d see her, pull her down

“Casey!” Leo shouted. She snapped to attention. He held her hand in his clammy grip. He was scared too. “I promise you, we’ll do the best we can but you have to let go.”

Raph whispered soothing words and reassurances. He told her she did her best. There was nothing she could have done to save them.

Casey fought the urge to shove the kid at Leo. Instead, she loosened her grip, allowing him to take them. He cradled them like they were the most delicate thing in the whole world. At that moment, to them, they might as well have been.

She watched Leo turn and speak to Donnie. It was medical jargon that started to sound like radio static to her. A hand on her shoulder steadied her. Casey knew it was Raph. He exuded his reassuring stink. She sniffed, leaned against him, and they sat down together.

Most kids never survived injuries or illnesses long enough to make it to Leo’s operating table. The few that had all bled out, staining his hands. Every morning, he’d lay in his cot and stare at his palms until they seemed green again. Too much blood was on his hands. Sometimes Leo wondered if this doomed world was worth saving.



Donnie set up the ECG to monitor the baby. They looked impossibly small on the operating table. They couldn’t have been older than two. Too young to be on Leo’s table. Too young to be ruining his hands. Their heartbeat trailed across the screen. Too damn slow.

Leo cursed under his breath, slapping gloves on with practiced ease. He found an oxygen mask and threw it in Donnie’s direction. He didn’t need to wait or give his brother directions. They worked together often enough that he could take this time to collect his thoughts.

Internal stress could be causing pulmonary blockages, resulting in slow breathing and a weak pulse. He went about searching for the x-ray monitor Donnie created years ago. It was a small device reminiscent of their cell phones. He passed it above the baby’s body. It lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

“No,” Leo groaned, “no, no, no!”

He yanked down an overhead mechanical arm and hooked the x-ray machine into it. Another screen behind the table turned on.

Donnie’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh. That is bad.” He reached under the table to pull out the defibrillator. “How do you wanna do this?”

Leo weighed his options. If the baby’s heartbeat didn’t stabilize, they would die. If the literal masses inside them weren’t dealt with, setting off all kinds of alerts on the x-ray screen, they would suffer and die.


“Fuck!” He clenched his fists, his entire body tense.

Inhale. Hold. Exhale.

Leo relaxed. From what he could see, none of the masses were fit to burst. The most pressing issue was the kid’s heart.

“We’re starting with chest compressions,” he ordered, hands already in position. “Be ready to polarize.”

Night came and went before Leo finally breathed. It felt glorious. The best air he had ever inhaled in his entire twenty-seven years of life. Donnie sat next to him in the stiff, uncomfortable plastic folding chairs they kept in the medical bay. They shared a smile, something minuscule and seeped in exhaustion but–fuck–it felt good. Leo’s chest lurched. Donnie’s expression turned incredulous.

“I haven’t heard you laugh in forever, Nardo,” Donnie said when Leo quirked a brow at him.

It was then that Leo realized he was laughing. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation hitting or hunger or some other odd combination of extreme emotional states. All Leo knew was that they did good.

Raph poked his head through the privacy curtains, his face hopeful. “Leo’s laughing?” He didn’t step inside, though. He knew from experience that laughter could come out unbidden during great stress.

Leo waved him in. “At ease, big Raphie. The kid’s gonna be okay.” Donnie backed him, slinging an arm around him, and gave a thumbs-up.

Raph entered followed by a red-eyed Casey. No one mentioned it. Leo pushed him to stand, motioning for them to follow. Behind a large curtain cutting off a third of the cave lay the baby. A spark of joy lit a small fire inside Leo when Raph and Casey ran to their side. They were still asleep, hooked up to oxygen and an ECG, but Raph and Casey watched them like they hung the moon in the sky.

Next to him, Donnie squeezed his hand. “We did well, Nardo.”

The two brothers watched a family taking root before them amid an apocalypse after saving their first child. It was a time for firsts.


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