Six days since they saved New York. Six days since they captured the Shredder. Six days since Donnie died.
The lair was quieter than it had ever been, the skateboard ramp empty, the garage door shut, and the lab abandoned. It hurt too much for anyone to go near the gadget-filled room. The lights stayed on inside and the various whirs of fans slowly died out one by one, since no one was there to plug them back in or continue working on them. No one could bring themselves to do so. The silence would be a defeating reminder.
Slowly passing by the room, Raph stopped in front of it. He didn't even need to look at the room. Memories of going in there to drag Donnie into eating dinner and then coming back later to scold him into going to bed had engraved every inch of the lab into Raph's mind.
The workstation, always so crowded and covered in various notes and blueprints, still had pencil shavings scattered across the left side of the desk. Donnie would be so busy with hanging up his ideas on the corkboard and stuffing papers into notebooks, that he didn't dump out the pencil sharpener, leading it to overflow.
On the other side of the room there was another workspace, metal and tech thrown into semi-organised boxes that they had scavenged from the dumpsters of computer stores every other Saturday. When was the last time Raph went with Donnie to do that? He didn’t remember. He couldn't remember a lot of things lately, his mind sluggish to process this new reality.
Shelldon was lying on his charging station in the back of the room next to the wall of battle shells and weapons. Shelldon hadn’t been up much since he heard the news, sitting there completely still like a normal machine, the purple theme the only thing that connected him to Donnie. No one knew whether he would get back up or if he would just die out. Donnie was the only one who knew how to take care of him. So he just sits there, gathering dust with all the other inventions and ideas would never come to fruition. Until one of them decides to clean it out. That might be years from now.
Raph kept walking. If he stood there any longer, he just might break down and no one needed that, tears already starting to sting his eyes. He arrived at Leo’s door and knocked twice softly.
“Leo!” He said, tongue heavy as he tried to sound positive. “I brought you some dinner! It’s not pizza, but I thought you might like some soup. It has star-shaped carrots, you know, like the ones from that soup that Dad fed us when we got sick? I couldn't find any of that brand, but I hope my cooking is good enough.”
No response. Raph bit his lip anxiously.
“Uh, I’ll just- I’ll just leave it out here.” Raph placed the tray down gingerly before standing back up, rocking forward once on the balls of his feet in hopes to hear a reply. Hell, he’d take grumble or even a clatter just to know that Leo was still in there. Well, the trays have been put back out with some of the food gone, so at least Raph knows that Leo’s been eating. “If you need me, I’ll be in my room after I’ve gone to Mikey’s.”
Raph turned, sighing into his hand and rubbing his face slowly, and began the walk over to Mikey’s room.
He stopped when he heard a door click and the slight creak of the hinges rang throughout the hall. The spoon on the tray clattered slightly as it was picked up.
“Thanks Raph.” Leo’s voice whispered, a slight waver in his words and a few of the consonants replaced by a quiet crack from his throat.
The door closed with little sound, the click of the latch ending their ‘conversation’.
Raph turned back, taking a shaky breath at the sight of an empty hallway and he smiled gently.
Maybe things were getting a little bit better.
Now to check on Mikey.
The sudden sound of knocking startled the box turtle from his propped up position with various stuffed animals and pillows on his bed.
“Hey, Mikey.” It was Raph, his voice muffled by the graffitied door that led into Mikey’s room. “I brought some food for you! I’m gonna come in, alright?”
Mikey cleared his throat before responding with a small, “Okay.”
The yarn-covered handle turned and Raph walked in, smiling as he closed the door behind him.
“I made some soup for you,” He lifted the tray as a sort of gesture to it. “I got the thicker noodles at the Thai place you like. Well, April did. I just put it in with the other ingredients.” Raph chuckled lightly before carefully placing the tray into Mikey’s lap. “I have to change your bandages after this, but don’t feel pressured to eat faster, okay? I can wait.”
“M’kay, thanks.” Mikey mumbled.
Raph paused, clasping his hands together for a moment before turning to leave, closing the door gently.
Mikey looked down at the soup. It smelled good, like ramen almost. No, exactly like ramen. Raph probably used a flavor packet since they didn’t normally have any broth in the kitchen and Raph didn’t know how to make broth. Mikey reached for the spoon and missed.
He clicked his tongue in slight frustration and tilted his head for a better look, reaching again. He grabbed the spoon this time, dipped it into the bowl, and brought a small amount of broth to his mouth.
Yeah, definitely ramen.
He looked down at the soup, stirring it slowly and seeing noodles, celery, and star-shaped carrots float up and back down in the miniature whirlpool he created. He scooped up a spoonful of broth and carrots (Raph forgot to cut the noodles so they were too long to be scooped up), and took a bite. It was good and warm, and it felt nice in his mouth, the heat seeping into his chest as he swallowed.
He had turned down the thermostat in his room, wanting to just sleep, to hibernate, but he knew Raph would get worried. He didn’t want him to worry more. Mikey was fine. Well, sort of.
He reached up to his shoulder, and grazed his hand across the wraps. His plastron was throbbing with a dull pain that he had gotten used to over the past six days.
Running his finger across the edge of the bandage, he reached his shell and inhaled sharply when he pressed down on the area where a whole inch had been torn off.
That’s mystical energy for you.
Mikey didn’t know if it would heal and didn’t care.
As if on queue, a sharp pain sparked across the left side of his skull and he grimaced, nearly grabbing his face in his hands. He really needed to stop touching his wounds. He couldn’t even see them that well with his left eye covered in rolls of gauze, the cotton firmly pressed up against his face with medical tape. He let his hand fall back to his side, and stared blankly down at the soup in front of him.
He deserved this. He deserved all of this.
He caused all of this, all because he was stupid. So, so stupid. It’s his fault Donnie died. It’s his fault Raph was worried. It’s his fault that Leo won’t come out of his room. It’s all his fault.
It’s his fault. Over and over again, those words chanted in his head, getting louder to the point it was deafening.
its your fault. its your fault, its your fault, Its your fault, iTs your fault, ItS your fault, iTs Your fault, ITs yOUr fault, itS YoUR fAult, ITs yOuR FAuLt, iTS YouR faULT, ITS yOUR faULt, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS YOUR FAULT, ITS
Mikey suddenly heard the clatter of metal and the crash of ceramic. He looked over to the side of his bed, the tray halfway across the room and pieces of white clay littered the area along with the soup. He didn’t even notice that he had flung it over. He cursed under his breath bitterly and dug his palm into his right eye, finding tears.
“Mikey!” Footsteps pounded across the hall and his door flung open, Raph standing there with wide, worried eyes. “Are you alright? What happened?”
Mikey didn’t look up. Silence hung in the air as Raph observed the scene. After what felt like hours, Raph chuckled to break the awkward silence and walked over to the mess.
“Was my soup really that bad?” Mikey pulled his hand away from his face and turned to look at Raph crouching down, picking up the pieces of the bowl to put them in his hands. “I’ll make sure to buy the store kind next time.”
“No, no,” Mikey said, waving his hand in disagreement. “It’s not that. The soup was actually really good. I just,” he stopped and looked down at his hands. “I just… I don’t know.”
Raph placed the shards of clay onto the tray, standing up and pulling a chair up to Mikey’s bedside.
“Do… you wanna talk? I might not be the best listener, but I’ll try.” Raph’s words were hesitant, like he was trying to walk through a minefield, or around a shattered bowl.
The caution and care in his tone made Mikey’s throat tighten painfully and he swallowed it down, just barely. He thought he would be able to speak calmly but the tears he had been holding in began to prick the corners of his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Raph.” He choked out, looking away in shame.
“What? What are-”
“It’s my fault!” Mikey said, a loud sob erupting from his throat. “It’s all my fault, Raph. I was stupid! So. Fuckin. Stupid.” He was crying hard now, his left eye stinging like crazy with his torn eyelid, but he ignored it. All the emotions were starting to release and released violently. “Donnie died because I was- I was being a fuckin idiot!” Mikey’s sheets were bunched up into his fists as he pounded them on his knees, like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Except a toddler didn’t think about his dead brother’s face, the face of pure shock and terror as a claw sunk into his back. “I was careless and left myself open and because of that, Donnie- Donnie!” Mikey’s sobs grew quiet for a second as he opened his eye and looked over at Raph.
“It’s my fault, Raph. I deserve this.”
Raph sat there in stunned silence, staring as his brother hiccupped and choked on his stifled cries, before leaning forward to wrap Mikey in a careful hug. Mikey stiffened at this gesture before quickly relaxing into the hold, letting his head lean forward onto Raph’s plastron.
“No, it’s not Mikey. You shouldn’t take a blame that isn’t yours.”
That’s all it took to make Mikey’s emotions break like a dam, waves of anger and sadness coursing through him, creating rapids with his tears. He clung to Raph as he loudly sobbed, his wails echoing throughout the lair, drowning out the gentle whispers and shushes from Raph.
In his room, Leo clutched his blankets closer to his body.
Leo decided to get up. He didn’t know why, he had no reason to, but he found himself swinging his legs over the side and dragging himself up out of bed. The room was cold and he drew his blanket closer, like a cape, and shuffled across the rug by his bed before stepping off of it onto the bare floor. The stone was probably freezing, but he couldn’t feel it. He couldn’t feel anything as of late, his mind swirling sluggishly as he went to his door. There had been a crash and Mikey crying earlier, but now the lair was eerily quiet.
“Hey,” His door opened just a crack, Leo muttered through the space, “How’s Mikey?”
Raph had just softly closed the door to Mikey’s and perked up at the sound of Leo’s voice. The Snapper turned with a concerned expression on his face and he wore a fake, tired smile as a pathetic cover up. He walked over and sat down next to the door with a sigh, placing a tray on the floor.
“He fell asleep, completely wore himself out.” Raph ran a hand over his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “I should probably change his wraps, but I’ll wait until he’s awake.”
Leo hummed momentarily to let Raph know he was listening, and sat down next to the door, his hand lazily holding onto the handle.
“How hurt is Mikey?” Leo looked up through the gap to see Raph grimace. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”
Raph pulled his knees closer and glanced over at Leo. Raph’s eyes were tired and the gleam that usually shown so bright in them was dull. Leo could immediately tell he was overworked, but surprisingly he couldn’t feel any guilt for this and couldn’t even muster up the guilt for not feeling guilty.
“Yeah, I’m going to the mystic city tomorrow to try and find something to heal him.” Raph picked at the tips of his fingers, a nervous habit he’s had since they were kids. “Do you need me to get anything?”
“Nah.” Leo opened the door a bit more, before resting his whole weight against it. Of course, since the door was open, he slid to the floor with a dull thud and startled Raph in the process. “Actually, I think I might want some now-or-laters? The grape ones.”
“Those candies?” Raph asked, tilting his head to one side. “Sure, but I thought you hated them.”
“Yeah,” Leo whispered. “I do. But Donnie didn’t. He loved those stupid candies.” Leo chuckled, but it was a pained chuckle. His thoughts were starting to solidify as he continued to talk, letting his mind clear a path. “He’d always drag me to the shady convenience store by April’s apartment after movie night. I’d complain, even though I’d stock up on ring pops and monster while there.” His hands that were lying comfortably on his chest made small gestures, then he dropped them back down and his small smile faded into a frown. “Then, we just stopped going together. I think the last time we went together was about half a year ago.” Leo put his hands under his head and turned to look at Raph. “We talked about going again together last week. He told me; ‘maybe you’ll like the now-or-laters this time!’” Leo sighed and looked back at the ceiling, the coldness of the floor biting into his fingers. “Maybe I will.”
Raph tapped his fingers over the wraps on his ankles, taking a deep breath.
“Alright,” He said softly, “I’ll go get some.”
Leo stared at the ceiling as an ache formed in his chest. When he came through the portal, ready to defeat Shredder, he didn’t remember how he felt when he saw Donnie’s body. No, he did remember, not how he was feeling, but what he wasn't. He didn’t feel anything, his brain had simply shut down and shut it out, refusing to believe it was true. He felt as if he was frozen in ice, numb and unable to think, but now the ice was cracking and he could feel again. Like sharing a completely meaningless memory had suddenly chiseled away the barrier that was stopping him from moving forward. The ache grew stronger and Raph leaned over to wipe a tear that had slipped from Leo’s eye, only to have another quickly take its place.
“Goddammit,” Leo muttered, putting an arm over his eyes, blocking Raph from seeing his tears. “I miss Donnie. I’m never gonna see him again.”
Leo inhaled deeply and then shuddered out an exhale. Leo was a quiet crier, he was the one that would fuss the least when he was a kid, always causing trouble some other way. Donnie was the crybaby, bursting into tears at every little inconvenience (Leo sometimes being said inconvenience). But here he was, crying on the floor, because of Donnie.
Ironic, wasn’t it?
After a couple of minutes, the ache in Leo’s chest lightened, it was still there but it hurt less. He sat up, wiping his tears roughly with one hand as the other pulled the blanket back around his shoulders. It felt nice to talk again, it felt nice to feel again. He didn’t know if it would travel over to tomorrow, but he hoped it would. He needed to stop feeling numb and needed to let himself go through the cycle of emotions, no matter how painful it would be.
“Raph?” Leo looked over at his older brother. “Can I ask you a favor?”
Raph smiled, a real smile, not the one he had used just a moment ago to comfort Leo.
“Of course, what is it?”
“Can you pick me up and put me to bed?” Leo asked, returning the small smile and feeling slightly embarrassed at this silly request. “Like when we were kids?”
Raph let out a breathy chuckle and rose, hand on knee.
“I’d be happy to do that.” Raph bent down and picked up Leo, cradling him gently in his big arms. “Want me to sing as well?”
Leo let out a single sharp laugh, wrapping the blanket closer around him.
“Yeah, go ahead.” Leo closed his eyes as Raph walked the short distance to his bed and set him down, pulling the sheets over him. He felt Raph place a hand on his head, remembering that he’d always take off his blue mask for Leo. He wasn’t wearing it at the moment, he hadn’t been wearing it for the past couple of days.
Maybe he’ll wear it tomorrow, get up, talk to Mikey. April was supposed to come over to look after Splinter and Mikey while Raph was out, maybe he’ll talk to her as well.
Yeah, that’d be nice.
Leo started to drift off to sleep as Raph sang an old lullaby, the sound familiar and warm. He had nearly forgotten what it felt like to feel this level of safety.
“Thanks, Raph. I love you.” He managed to say, words slurred together by drowsiness, before he gave into the gentle confines of sleep. He didn’t even catch the gentle ‘I love you, too’ Raph uttered back.