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Worth all the trouble

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Casey and April only arrive during the aftermath. A long night filled with fighting and running and leaping across rooftops have left the boys battered and bruised and pain-filled and they watch in the quiet comfort of the smaller couch as they go through the motions.

Donnie is digging through the med-bay stocks, one hand plastered firmly on Mikey’s arm as his younger brother tries desperately to wiggle away. “It’s just one needle, Mike!” Donnie sighs, coming up for the tool he needs and sticks the needle into Mikey’s arm and presses the plunger before the squirming turtle even knows what’s happening. He frowns at the needle Donnie removes swiftly and deposits it into a sharps box. “You’re done for now, but-” Donnie presses down hard on Mikey’s shoulder as he tries to make a run for it. “I’d still like to check up on your wrist later tonight after I deal with Leo and Raph.”

Mikey is nodding in assent before the words fully register and then he is snorting at his brothers proposed idea. “Good luck with that bro. You know how this goes, it’s the same every damn time.” Then he’s hopping off the cot and prancing his way back to the TV, where he un-pauses a video game and continues playing from where he left off, leaving Donnie alone in the med-bay, sighing into the hands covering his face.

It’s a long moment before Donnie extracts himself from the room he has claimed as the med-bay, filled to the brim with every medication and medical equipment that they could get their hands on, which is to say not as much as they should have, and he walks towards Leo and Raph with purpose. He grabs them from where they are having a quiet argument in a corner and drags them firmly to the sickroom, where he shoves them on the bed without a word.

“Don, look, I already told you that I’m fine.” Raph insists as Donnie manhandles him on the bed, spinning him around so his shell is on display.

“Yeah, you did, but we all know what you say and what you’re hiding are two different things.” Donnie reaches for a jar that’s sitting on the bench beside him and opens a drawer, waving Leo to it. “Pull out the bandages- the adhesive… yes, those ones” Leo dutifully hands Don the required bandages with a frown and stands off to the side, shuffling his feet as he watches Donnie work. “For the love of- Raph, why aren’t you telling me when your shell cracks? I don’t care if it’s only a little one, you have to tell me.”

Raph murmurs an apology as Donnie goes to work slathering on the warmed gel from the container onto the new crack in Raph’s shell and even from this distance, April can see the way his hands shake, his left eye twitches in the smallest evidence of pain and his breathing stutters and gasps. Leo sees it too and abruptly walks to his brother’s side. “Hey Don, you’ve been working pretty hard all day. Why don’t you take a break, let me handle this, and you can come back to tell me all the things that I did wrong?”

“I’m fine.” Donnie is more focused on the chipped parts of Raph’s shell than Leo’s worries, and once he finishes coating all the new fractures in Raph’s already scared shell, he takes the bandages and wraps them in such a way that it can’t be anything but practised over many, many years. Once he’s finished, he kneels down by Raph’s feet and assesses his knee before wrapping it up in more gauze and bandage. “Get yourself comfortable,” he waves at one of the other cots. “You’re next.”

Sighing, Leo limps over to a spare cot and sits heavily on it, watching silently as Donnie lays Raph down on the bed, a pillow under his bandaged knee and a blanket tucked up to his chin. He riffles through the drawers once more before he crosses to a corner and pulls out an old, grey chair on three wheals with a back that only barely covers the bottom of his shell in front of Leo’s bed. “Put your leg up on my knee,” Donnie instructs and Leo does what he is told like it is a common order. Tutting, Donnie inspects the wound with his eyes. “You got pretty torn up.” He declares after a few minutes of silence. “I can fix it up but it’ll hurt while I do it.”

Biting his lip, Leo lets his brother go through the motions of treating the wound, wincing only slightly when Don pours on the disinfectant and breaths out a sigh of relief when a fresh bandage is being wrapped around his leg. Before he could speak, however, Donnie is standing upright with his fingers prodding around at his shoulder, the chair he was sitting on flying backwards at the speed in which he stood. “Not yet,” he says absently. “I need to make sure it’s not dislocated, only sprained, if that.”

Leo gently reaches up and grasp’s Don’s fingers in his, forcing Donnie to make a squeaked noise of annoyance. “Don, come on,” Leo tries to keep his voice calm and even, his face open, but April can already tell how difficult it is to keep his cool, the strain already thick in his words. “Your hands are shaking. You’re not breathing evenly, and we all know what that means. You don’t have your tech on but you're hunching as if you’re still wearing it. Take a break, look after yourself for once. I may not be a doctor, but I can at least tell if I need someone to pop my shoulder back into place.”

“You’re right,” Donnie says, emotionless, and the look of amazement and relief that shines on Leo’s face is not lost on anyone until Donnie continues and the look fades away into nothingness. “You’re not a doctor. Neither am I, for that matter, but I’m the closest thing we’ve got, so sit there and be quiet while I work.” Leo seems to deflate a little, hands dropping back down to his lap as he mused in silence while Donnie gently poked at the sinew between Leo’s shoulder.

From where he struggles to sit up in his cot, Raph rolls his eyes at Donnie, who reaches for a brace to wrap around Leo’s shoulder. “Come on, Donnie. You don’t need to be the mean, strict doctor all the time. You can go easy on yourself every once and a while. We’d let you get away with it.” Instead of answering, Donnie resolutely ignores him and pulls an icepack from the small fridge in the corner and hands it to Leo so he can put it against his shoulder. “Stop acting like a child, Don. You know better than this. What’s the point in giving us crap for the same thing you do?”

“Because I’m the only one who can take care of us, you ass!” Donnie hisses through his teeth, shoulders pulled forward and hands clenched into fists at his side. Both Leo and Raph recoil at the sudden outburst. “Without me, you guys would be dead within a week, and we all know this, but instead of letting me do my damn job, you can’t go one day without kicking up a fuss and trying to act like stubborn big brothers.” He walks to a cupboard and pulls out an opened box of coloured cartoon Band-Aids before storming out of the room. “Deal with it yourself if you can, but stop pestering me about caring!” He’s gone before his brothers can even think of a reply.

As Donnie walks past, Casey frowns up at him and turns to face April. “Is this how it always goes around here?”

April shrugs in reply and buries herself deeper into the pile of pillows and blankets at the corner of the couch she is crammed into. “Usually. There’s normally more of a fight from Raph- he hates getting fixed up, almost more than Mikey does.” She glances over at her new friend, his phone in one hand and the other slung over the back of the couch. “He fixed you up last time, after the fight with Krang, so you know how he gets sometimes.”

“He’s not wrong though,” Casey watches the lanky turtle until he strolls out of sight, then fixes the infirmary with a determined glare. “They should listen to him more; I distinctly remember telling them that last time.”

There’s a hand on his arm before he could move. “I know that look,” April warns. “What are you going to do…? It’s something stupid, isn’t it.”

“It usually is,” Casey flips the half of the blanket that he was sharing with her and which was over his lap onto April’s face, muffling her reply and adding an extra layer to her warmth. “I’ll be right back.”

The chatter inside the med-bay is low and urgent and Casey almost feels wrong for intruding, but he knocks sharply on the doorframe to announce his presence before entering. Leo has one hand rubbing at the carefully wrapped shoulder and Raph has one arm crossed under his head. “You guys look great,” Casey says as he walks in. “And by ‘great’ I mean like shit.”

“You always say the nicest things,” Raph grumbles from the bed and Casey strolls over to lean against the wall between the two of them, mindful of the many irreplaceable things that scatter the tables and floors. “What are you doing here? Did you get messed up too?”

Shaking his head, Casey picks up some sort of stoppered beaker filled with blue liquid and puts it back down after swirling it around for a bit. “Your old man said we could wait for you in the lounge until you came back. Heard that little commotion with Donnie just then. What’s going on?”

Leo runs an exasperated hand down his face and leans back against the pillows. “Don’s just being stubborn. We all know he’s tired and in pain but he just won’t take a damn break.”

Humming, Casey crosses his arms as he muses. “He’s worried about you. He wants to make sure you guys are alright before he takes care of himself.” He shrugs. “I can’t blame him. I haven’t gone out with you much but even I can tell that he gets hurt the least out of you all. Maybe because his weapon is the longest or you guys protect him all the time, but it’s not hard to see that when you come back and need to be patched up he always feels guilty.”

“He shouldn’t. We fight as a team and we all share the responsibility of keeping each other safe.” Leo insists and Casey can’t help but laugh.

“Then why the hell do you guys give him so much crap when he tries to patch you up?” Casey demands, making a wide lap around the room. “If he’s the least injured and has the most medical knowledge, don’t you think you should just let him do his job?”

Raph takes his opportunity to growl and sit upright. “He’s exhausted. He ain’t sleeping at the best of times and he’s been working down to the bone trying to look after our damn asses.”

“Right,” Casey steps forward with a sigh and puts his hands in the air. “Let me put my two cents in. You do know that the less trouble you give him for stitching you up, the faster he can take care of you and then move on to looking after himself, right?”

Before they can answer, an exasperated Donnie with a hand running down his face and Mikey bounding in behind him, multi-coloured Band-Aids proudly proclaiming funny quotes and faces from cartoons dotting his green skin. Donnie walks to a shelf and pulls down a bottle of half empty pain-killers and tosses it to Mikey, who catches it effortlessly. “You know the drill,” Donnie says as he turns around and Mike is out of the room before anyone can blink. Casey winks at the brothers still floundering on the beds at his words before he darts out after Mikey to re-join April at her side on the couch. She shoots him a doubtful look and he rolls his eyes at her distrust.

There is silence in the med-bay except for Donnie’s stern instructions and commands and his heavy, exhausted feet scuffing against the floor. Soon Leo and Raph are limping out through the door, supporting each other’s weight and trying desperately to put distance between them and their tired brother in the infirmary, whose work had finally ended for the night.

April frowns when Donnie doesn’t follow his brothers out and Casey gives her a nudge with his elbow and after a silent argument that involved raised eyebrows and funny faces, April detaches herself from the pile of warmth and makes her way to the doorway. Peaking her head in, she sees Donnie sitting on one of those overly-used medical cots, watching his hands shake. She raps hard on the door before she walks in and his smile is contagious when he looks up at her. “Rough night?” She asks as she jumps up on the bed beside him. “You had a full house in here tonight.”

“It’s usually like this,” Donnie puts his arm around her and drawers her closer, sharing her lingering warmth from the couch. She should have brought blankets, April knows, but she closes her eyes anyway. “Mikey only hurt his wrist tonight, instead of the magnitude of injuries he normally gets. And he needed a booster shot so I thought I would just kill two birds with one stone.”

“Well, you have nothing to worry about,” April assures without prompting, knowing how Donnie thinks. “The boys have already gone to bed, even Leo and Raph. I think I heard Mikey snoring once you sent him away with the painkillers.”

From where he is pressed up against his side, April can feel Donnie’s chuckle flowing through like a strong wind, tickling her insides and making her smile. “We can always count on Mikey to lead by example.” He laughs and April laughs with him. “I’m glad they finally listened to me. It normally takes me a lot longer to convince them to go to bed.”

“Are you going to join them?” April tilts her head to rest against the crook of his neck, her hands in her lap. “You’re tired- no, don’t deny it.”

Donnie pats her on the back and she sits up, enough for him to turn around and look at her cross-legged on the bed that he barely fits on at the best of times and she follows his example. “I’ve got to fix myself up first,” he says it lightly but April can feel how heavy they really are. His hands are shaking against her and she reaches out to grasp them and the shaking lowers in its intensity while she holds them still. “Good thing I didn’t need to stitch anyone up this time,” he jokes.

April brings his hands up to her chest where she bends down and kisses the long slender digits- a trait that follows the rest of his body. “I have some first aid knowledge,” she says slowly, slow enough for Donnie to understand where she was going and refuse the offer if need be. “If you want, I could patch you up instead?”

He looks like he’s going to refuse but then his shoulder spasms and he winces and nods his head. April gets straight to work. Along the way, Donnie tells her where to find certain tools and materials and babbles random scientific knowledge that she doesn’t understand when she needs to extract a long piece of metal from his side.

By the time she finally puts the final tool down, the med-bay looks like it were hit by a bomb and Donnie is half leaning his weight against her and half on his trembling arm that was pushing down against the bed. When he glances up to thank her, there is a sheepish look on his blushing green face “Not used to being looked after, hey?” April laughs.

“Not really,” Donnie admits as April helps him down off the cot. “I can’t remember the last time anyone patched me up after a mission.”

“Well, you don’t have to take on all the responsibility all the time.” April helps him out of the room, only supporting his shell in case he topples backwards and marches him to his room. He doesn’t argue- either from agreement or exhaustion but April takes it as a win regardless. When they pass the couch, Casey tosses a pillow at Donnie’s head in greeting and Donnie snags it from the air before chucking it back at Casey. At the threshold of his room, Donnie turns to face April and gives her a goodnight hug and an award-winning smile before climbing onto his odd-shaped bed and falling asleep almost instantly. April goes to re-join Casey on the couch. “That was more trouble than it was worth.”

“Nah,” Casey laughs, putting his hands behind his head and looking up at all the pipes covered in multicoloured graffiti and divots from training and experiments gone wrong. Empty pizza boxes and rubbish litter the ground and the TV, despite having a crack in the top left corner, is still switched on to Mikey’s favourite cartoon that nobody had the heart to change. “I think they’re worth all the trouble.”

Unable to disagree, April seeks the comfort of her many blankets once again and decides that the next person who thinks they can hurt her boys, would have to deal with her. And from the look on Casey’s face, he has the same idea. “Yeah,” she mutters. “Worth all the trouble in the world.”

She doesn’t miss Casey’s triumphant smirk from the corner of her eye and she covers her face with a pillow.