How Casey had managed to carry Raph all the way from the rooftop to the apartment he shared with April was a mystery, but managed it he did, and after panicking at the turtle dropped onto her carpet through her newly broken window, she called his brothers and they were on their way before they had even hung up the phone.
As was expected, Leo was the first one to come soaring through the window, his brothers close behind, and immediately ran to Raph’s side at the couch. “What the hell happened?” he demanded, looking around the room until his eyes finally settled on Casey.
Casey was a good man, but he was a terrible liar. It was his eyes that gave him away as they widened into the size of billiard balls and darted around the room in search of a believable answer. Leo had already turned away from him before he had decided on his most convincing tale. “He called me and thought that because you were back now he could go on patrol for a little bit, and asked me if I could spot him because he knew he wasn’t supposed to be alone, and then we ran into the foot and some giant walking statues and they shot him with a dart.”
“A dart?” Donnie exclaimed as he began to poke and prod ad his unconscious brother. “Why didn’t you lead with that? Do you still have it?”
Donnie may have been out of practice, but he was still a genius and a brilliant doctor, and soon he discovered what kind of toxin had been used and what the side-effects of it would be. Leo, still worried, relaxed a little at the confirmation.
While Raph was still and asleep on the couch, his eyes shut tight and his body tense, Mikey ran around the room trying to keep a panicking Casey occupied by fiddling with all the valuable and easily breakable objects in April's apartment while Leo stayed crouched by Raph’s head, one hand on his brother’s chest and the other with his fingers gently resting on his scalp.
His brother may have been hot-headed and stubborn and grumpy and with little control over his emotions, mostly his anger, which often came out of him in many violent ways, but Leo cared more about Raphael than he would ever admit out loud, so seeing him uncharacteristically still and silent on the couch shook Leo deep within his core in places he didn’t know fear could reach.
Leo’s fingers wandered over the many scars that littered his brothers skin, some newer and still healing that Leo couldn’t even comprehend how they ended up on his brother’s body, some he watched happen, some happened by his hand, some Raph deserved and some he didn’t and most was meant for another member of his family.
But while Raph put up walls made from metal and impaled with spikes, inside the barrier he made out of his anger was a soft gooey centre that Leo knew was filled with love for his family and care for the people of New York. And Leo knew that without a doubt Raph wouldn’t do something so stupid like this without a reason.
Sure, Raph could be a real pain in the ass and sometimes he made Leo question why he even bothered to lead, but no matter what he said or did, Leo loved him. He always had. Even when he made every day a hassle and brought so much anguish home with him like a bad smell, Leo loved him, because Raph was his brother whether he liked it or not.
While Leo was deep in thought, Donnie popped his head over the back of the chair, almost startling Leo out of his reverie. “Hey, you know, maybe this has something to do with that monster we fought with the Foot ninja,” Donnie said excitedly, not having been able to have such mentally challenging conversation in a very long time. “I mean, stone statues do sound familiar, and if when Raph wakes up he remembers any of what he saw, then I mean, maybe he could connect the dots for us? Foot ninja, Karai, stone warriors, monsters, that sort of thing.”
Exasperated, Leo sighed. “I don’t know, Don. Let’s just focus on one thing at a time right now. Have you figured out what knocked him out yet?”
Frowning, Donnie seemed to deflate a bit as he looked between Raph sprawled unconscious on the couch and Leo hunched protectively over him, his arms locked over Raph’s prone form. “You know he’s going to be ok, right?” He waved his hand over his brother. “He’s been like this even before you left, so it’s not like this is anything new. He’s taken worse before, you know that.”
“I know,” Leo suddenly felt bad for snapping at Donnie about his excitement, but he couldn’t think about that now. One brother at a time, he thought. “We’ll just have to wait this out. When you figure out the substance on that needle, let me know.”
Obviously disappointed, Donnie moved away from the back of the couch and out of Leo’s sight. Reluctantly, Leo pulled his eyes away from Donnie’s retreating shell, and brought his attention back down to Raph, who’s skin was getting pale and there was drool on his cheek and-
April was leaning over him with her arms crossed and a displeased expression on her face, one Leo knew very well through all the years they’d been friends. “What?” he asked.
“I thought Master Splinter sending you to North America was supposed to make you a better leader,” She wondered out loud, but there was some serious bite to her words that Leo wasn’t expecting. “Not to make you a jerk.”
Leo sent her a withering look. “What are you on about?”
Getting herself comfortably seated on the ratty carpet that she’ll eventually have to clean the red flecks of turtle blood out of, April rolled her eyes and waved her hand at the whole situation. “You’ve got more than one brother, and all three of them haven’t seen you for most of a year. You can’t blame them for trying to find their place in the team again. And like Donnie said- Raph’s going to be fine. He’s had a harder beating than this. He’s been through worse. So why are you acting like you’re about to lose him?”
Slowly, Leo let a tense breath out through his lips and closed his eyes, one of the only calming techniques that he taught himself while living in the jungle. “I suppose you’re right. I just… it's been so long since I’ve seen any of them get hurt that I’ve forgotten what it’s like.”
“Well, in that case, you know from experience that he’ll wake up from this with fists swinging,” April tried to reassure him. “And you know that he’ll still be his hot-headed self with the stubborn attitude and will already be pushing you away before you can say his name. You know how quick he puts walls up.”
“I’ve forgotten how scary it is,” Leo admitted quietly in the comfortable companionship that April provided him with. He didn’t have to be anyone with April. “Seeing any of them hurt and unconscious, not just Raph, though it happens to him more than anyone else. When I was alone, it was just me that I had to worry about. Now I have to worry about myself and three other turtles who are too much like me.”
April laughed, “They’re definitely modelled in your perfect image.”
“You’re not exactly doing a good job at making me feel better.”
“It’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to then,” April shrugged. “I know you’re worried about them and that you’re trying to get back into the swing of things after being away for so long, but maybe try and remember that they’re getting used to you being back too. They missed you, and they missed jumping across rooftops and kicking ass and being a family. They haven’t been the same since you left.” April nodded her head towards where the others were gathered. “I don’t think I’ve seen Donnie that excited in a very long time.”
Sighing, Leo ran a hand across his face. He was tired. “Yeah, your right. I… I have to go and apologise to Donnie…”
As Leo moved to stand, April reached a hand over and pulled Leo back down. “Leave him- let him get over it and then talk to him when you find the time. He’ll be fine. And so will Raph.”
“Yeah,” Leo said. “Yeah, alright, you’re right.”
Smiling, April stood and left him alone, half bent over his brother prone on the couch, his legs starting to cramp up from the uncomfortable position he’d been in for so long, listening to his youngest brother screaming and making enough noise to distract their very clumsy human friend.
They had always been such a tight-knit family, despite the petty fights and disagreements and everything else, and Leo was glad to see that even though he had been gone for a while and many things were different now, that they could still come together and be a family when it mattered.
Sure, maybe Raph was too hard-headed and obstinate, but that was one of the things that Leo loved most about him. He called him up on his shit, even when Leo himself was too enraptured to see it. He put Leo in his place when he was getting too big-headed. He reminded Leo that he was a brother as well as a leader, and those brothers depended on him.
Raph was fearless and strong and would die if it meant that his brothers were safe, and maybe that had meant he and Leo butted heads more often than not, but Leo knew that Raph wouldn’t do it if he didn’t think it was worth it.
Family meant everything to Raph, the same way it meant everything to Leo and Don and Mike, and like them, expressed it in his very certain way. Leo hyper-focused on every little detail, no matter how small and insignificant. Donnie built things and made incredible inventions to keep them safe. Mikey understood emotions better than anyone and knew just what to do or what to say to make his brothers feel better again. Raph, he used his anger and his strength and his fists to protect his family in any and every way he knew how.
How could Leo blame him? If he possessed the same skills as Raph did, he would probably use them too. Rage and bloodied noses and broken bones always got a better result than demanding words and distraction and smart-ass bullshit, anyway.
Leo loved him. Sometimes, it was hard for him to admit that, but Leo would give Raph his last gasp of air if it meant that he got to live a little longer than his brother did. And deep down, deep beneath his uncontrollable anger and deeply set determination and inward struggle to control his emotions, Leo knew that Raph loved him too.
If it was hard for Leo to admit he loved him, then it would be impossible for Raph to admit that he loved Leo.
But they were a family, long before and hopefully long after Leo was sent away, and Leo knew first hand that they don’t give up on family.
So, no matter how long it took, Leo swore to stay hunched over Raph, one hand on his chest and the other on his head, his breathing in time with Raph’s, his legs cramping up, his body shaking, his mind swarming through a million different and equally horrible possibilities until Raph woke up, and if he asked, Leo would stay like that even after then.
“It’s going to be alright,” Leo murmured to only his and Raph’s ears, resting his chin on his brother’s forehead as he closed his eyes. “You’re going to be alright. We’re all going to be alright.”