Nightmare Memories

Part 4

By Dierdre

Beta read by Kikiyophoenix19. You rock, girl! (Hands you a cookie)

Disclaimer: I unequivocally state that I, in no way, shape or form, claim ownership of any genetically modified terrap- LOOK! SOMETHING DISTRACTING! (Grabs the nearest turtle and heads for the hills)

AN: Lots of cursing and gore in this one, so much so that I'm thinking of bumping the fic rating up to M. (Scratches head) What to y'all think?

I made one minor change to chapter 3. Instead of Don saying "the police will be here in less than five minutes" its now "the police will be here in less than ten minutes". Sorry about the change, but as you read through this latest installment you'll see why I needed the extra time. :)

Kikiyophoenix19: Thanks for the wrong-word mention. (Grumbles) This is why I need a beta reader; to help point out these types of booboos. Thanks again for volunteering. :) And I'm a biology major (which is how I know a bit about reptile physiology) but I found a neat little page that gives some quick info about turtle shell anatomy. It's here (uh, without the spaces): www. turtlepuddle. org / health / anatomy. html

Reinbeauchaser: (Waves) Hi, Rein! Thanks for pointing out the word omission; I think I found the one you were talking about. :) I'm so glad you liked part 3 and I hope you like this installment as much, if not more. (Suddenly remembers what part 4 is about and yelps, hiding under her desk) Please don't kill me…

Lioness-Goddess: (Munches on pizza slice and says indistinctly) Thanks so much for your kind review! And the food. How'd you know I was hungry? ;)

Reluctant Dragon: (Laughs) Thanks so much for reviewing my fic, RD, and I hope you enjoy the next installment!

Buslady of SoCal: I think I know the line you're talking about; it's in chapter 2, right? I put it there because I was shifting from Connie's perspective to Don's, but now that I look at it again it does seem a bit… wonky, doesn't it? (Wrinkles nose) Ah, well… 'Raphael Finds a Friend'? (Grins) I've been wanting to read that for a while now, but since I have to read a fic all the way through once I've started, I keep getting scared away by the sheer length. One homework-free weekend, though, I shall. (Looks determined)

Madvy: Thanks so much for your review! I'm glad you like this story so far and I hope this next installment doesn't disappoint. :)

Fallen Hikari: (Grins) I know what you mean, since I'm still smacking myself for not reading 'The Price of Pepperoni' sooner. Thanks for your review and I hope you like the next chapter!

Pacphys: I'm so glad you liked chapter 3. Sorry for the emotional roller coaster, but I am evil, I know. ;) Thanks for your review!

Reiji Neko Mitsukai: Ask and ye shall receive! I hope you like this next installment. :)

Shannon: So my little deception worked, eh? (Rubs hands together) Eeexcellent… Thanks for your review!

Chibi Rose Angel: (Laughs happily) I'm glad you liked part 3. Thanks for the kudos and for your very kind review!

Sassyblondexoxo: (Laughs) Now you know why I wear baseball caps all the time; it hinds my horns. I'm glad you liked chapter 3 so much… coming from the writer of 'Drowning' such high praise is very flattering indeed. :) And if you think I'm evil now, just wait'll you read this next chapter. (Attempts to cackle maniacally; fails) Er, anyways… thanks for reviewing and I hope you like the next installment!

Spootycup: Thanks for your review and I hope you like the next chapter. :)

And now… on to the fic!
Raphael had been five years old the first time he truly understood that he was a freak.

His brothers and he had been playing in one of the tunnels that surrounded their old lair. Dark, drab and thoroughly uninteresting to anyone else who might have stumbled across it, the old flood channel was a place of mystery and grand adventure for four children who were rarely permitted to venture beyond the walls of their home.

It was during a rather rowdy game of hide and seek that Raphael had first discovered the passage. Nothing more than a little side tunnel barely wide enough to accommodate his shell, he had scrabbled his way past the opening and into the compact darkness; pleased at having hit upon a place he just knew his brothers would never find. It had only taken a few moments of waiting, however, for him to realize his tunnel extended much farther than he'd first thought. Impatient and recklessly brave even then, he'd soon grown tired of waiting for Mikey to find him and had decided to explore the tunnel further.

The tunnel had widened gradually the longer he crawled and it eventually spilled out into an echoing brick cavern more expansive than their lair, which sported several promising side passages. Intent on looking around just a little longer and returning before his brothers had time to miss him, he had ducked into one of those side tunnels…

And had promptly gotten himself lost.

He had wandered for perhaps an hour, from one dismayingly identical tunnel to another, before he'd heard the sound of voices. Hungry now and more frightened than he would have ever admitted, he had scrambled eagerly towards the familiar sounds… only to discover that, incredibly, it was not his family members who were speaking.

Two humans clad in baggy orange jumpsuits were chatting amiably while fiddling with some machine; a bulky thing on a tripod that he was sure Donnie would love to get his hands on. He personally didn't know nor care what they were doing with the contraption; his eyes were only for the humans themselves. They were big, towering even, but not the scary creatures that Master Splinter so often warned them about. In fact, as the blue-eyed man threw his head back and laughed heartily at something the large one had said; Raphael decided that they seemed quite friendly. The fat one with the red cheeks even looked a bit like Santa Claus.

Struck by a sudden impulse and too naive to know what was about to happen, Raphael had left his hiding place and crept over to say 'hi'.

Splinter had found him some three hours later, wandering aimlessly through tunnels nearly a mile from the lair, with bitter tears streaking his cheeks and a broken arm cradled gingerly against his plastron. He had remained taciturn throughout the painful setting and bandaging, utterly silent through the stern lecture that followed, and had slipped off to bed at the first opportunity. He had stiffly curled up on the hard mattress and pulled the covers over his head, silently shaking as the first seeds of rage began to germinate in his heart.

That single incident had brought home to him what no amount of Master Splinter's well meaning lectures could; they were freaks, outcasts of the lowest sort, and therefore worthy of hatred. It was injustice, it was truth, and he breathed it in with every fetid lungful of sewer air.

As the years passed and puberty set in with a vengeance, Raphael had eventually discovered that the ire growing in his spirit could only be alleviated through violence. Extended sessions with the punching bag did little but take the edge off and he loved his brothers too damn much to derive any real pleasure from pounding on them… so he turned to the streets for his own brand of comfort. Gangsters or muggers, one individual or a dozen, it didn't matter. Bloodshed was the name of the game and if they wanted to tussle he was more than willing to oblige.

When the breath began to hiss in his throat and the blood to seep from knuckles split and torn, the truth of his existence mattered little. It was only his speed and strength pitted against another's, only his training that would pull him through… or not. Regardless of the outcome, however, it was during these life-or-death moments that he felt most at peace. Carnage had become his drug of choice and he drank it down like fine wine.

Yes, Raphael understood violence better than most. But this… this he did not understand.

Kneeling in a cooling pool of his brother's blood, Raphael suppressed a curse as the red liquid saturated his kneepads and began to dampen the skin beneath. Damn guns. Stupid, hateful things wielded by people too cowardly or inept to be suited for anything else.

There was no true skill involved in firearms, no heady rush of pride when your opponent lies prone at your feet, overwhelmed by your superior skills. Not even the cold comfort of knowing that, if you were to succumb instead, then at least you would have died by the hands of someone worthy. No, with a gun and enough distance a child of two could easily kill the most powerful warrior who ever lived. Just as that gangster, too dim-witted to know when to stay down, could have easily killed them all had his weapon not betrayed him.

With his eyes locked on the hole partially drilled through Leonardo's scute and his pulse thrumming weakly against his fingertips, Raphael fervently wished he could kill that bastard again.

He was so lost in his thoughts that he barely noticed when Donatello snatched the penlight from Mikey's hand and trained it deeper into the alley. His attention snapped back quickly, however, when he heard Don whisper something indiscernible and then straighten stiffly. "What th' hell are ya doin'?"

"I'm going to check on Connie," Don replied, pointing with the light to the crumpled body several feet away.

Raphael's eyes softened somewhat at the distress on his brother's face, but his voice retained its steely edge when he said, "Forget 'er, bro. The cops'll be here any minute. We gotta book."

"I know," Don said. "Just… listen for the sirens and keep a close eye on Leo, okay? Let me know if anything changes." He turned on his heel without another word and began stepping over bodies, penlight still in hand.

As he watched Donatello push an unconscious man aside with his foot and kneel in the vacated space, Raphael took a deep breath and prepared to launch into an angry tirade. He was silenced before he could even begin, however, when Michelangelo touched his shoulder lightly. "Let him go, Raph. It'll be okay."

Raphael gave him an incredulous look and the orange-masked turtle grinned slightly, moonlight glinting strangely off his white teeth. "You just watch out for Leo. I'll go up and keep an eye out for the police. As dark as it is, I'll probably be able to see their lights reflecting off building windows a few blocks before we can hear the sirens."

He hesitated a moment before nodding. "Good idea, Mikey."

Mikey's grin blossomed into a full smile as he said, "Don't sound so surprised. I'm not just another pretty face, you know." He gave Leonardo's hand a final quick squeeze before once again fitting his hands with shuko spikes and climbing up and over the warehouse wall.

Raphael shook his head in the resigned fashion of older siblings everywhere, before his brow ridges once again drew together pensively. Taking his hand away from Leo's throat, he folded the trailing edge of Don's old bandage over the bit currently pressed against Leo's skull. He'd been trying to stop the bleeding for only a minute and a half and already blood had begun to seep through the thick cotton. He knew head wounds bled like a son of a bitch, but he didn't know enough to guess if this amount of blood loss was normal.

With his right hand pressing the doubled-over cloth against the gash, Raphael once again set his free fingers against Leo's carotid artery. His eyes slid almost shut as he concentrated on the beat beneath his fingertips. Still soft and steady, but had it grown weaker during those few unmonitored seconds? He simply couldn't tell.

The red-masked turtle growled in frustration, and for the first time since Leonardo was hurt, forced himself to really look at his brother. His face was slack in unconsciousness, the usual guarded expression gone. Even with the little flecks of blood standing out starkly against his unnaturally pale skin, Leonardo looked oddly peaceful without that look to tighten his features. Peaceful… and far more vulnerable than Raphael could ever remember seeing him.

His chest tight with a sudden amorphous dread, Raphael leaned forward until his mouth was just inches away from his brother's ear. He whispered fiercely, "Don't you dare check out on us now, Fearless. Don't you fuckin' dare."

Non-too-gently nudging an unconscious thug aside with his foot, Donatello sank to his knees beside the crumbled form of Constance. The bullet wound in her back was deceptively neat, just a small hole drilled through flesh and fabric, but the blood seeping out from under her body spoke of a devastating and messy exit wound. It didn't seem possible that she could be anything but dead.

Her hair spilled around her body in a tangled shroud that Don was loathe to part; yet part he did, pulling back her hair and exposing her pale face to moonlight. The pool of blood had spread past her shoulders, crept up to her chin and spilled into her mouth, painting her lips a deceptively cheerful red. Don's eyes widened and hope surged in his chest as he saw a red bubble swell on the surface of her lips, where it trembled slightly before bursting under the onslaught of her faint exhale. Incredibly, she was still breathing, still alive.

Bolstered by this sudden revelation Don gripped her by the shoulders and slowly, carefully, turned her over. He quickly unbuttoned her jacket and parted the fabric. Her tank top now looked at if it'd been dipped in red ink, with a hole slightly larger than a silver dollar punched through the material a few inches under and to the side of her left breast. Suppressing a grimace as warm blood squelched between his fingers, he gripped the sodden cloth and pulled sharply, widening the hole above the exit wound and allowing him to see the full extent of the damage. His eyes widened and he suppressed the urge to curse.

The gun had been held low to the ground and at an angle, which meant the bullet had punched through her lower back and slanted upward, causing untold damage before exiting through her chest. The bullet had to have shattered at least one rib and-

Donatello swore he felt himself pale as he watched a fine froth of blood bubbles form over the wound with her low exhale. God, it couldn't be…

Wiping the blood from her lips, he noted the bluish tint of cyanosis with a sinking feeling of dread in his gut. He pressed his fingers against her carotid artery and felt for a pulse. Weak and rapid, but there. Her breathing was shallow and labored, and when he bent his ear next to her injury and heard a distinctively viscous sound, his worst fears were confirmed. She had tension pneumothorax; a sucking chest wound. Jesus.

Ever since he was old enough to understand what kind of life they were destined to live, Don had committed every medical textbook and pamphlet he could find, borrow or steal to memory. This acquired knowledge had earned him the position of unofficial medic for their clan. He could bandage a wound in his sleep, adroitly set a broken bone and stitch flesh shut with all the skill of a veteran seamstress. But this…

He had read several texts dealing with chest wounds, but medical diagrams and passages filled with clinically detached terminology did nothing to prepare him for horror of the real thing. Her injuries were too severe, the blood loss too extensive, and he knew instinctively that she would die long before the police arrived. Unless he did something to buy her more time.

Heart suddenly pounding like a jackhammer, he took a steadying breath and willed himself to maintain level-headedness. Don't panic, Donny-boy. You know you can do this; you have to. Connie was kind to you, he let his gaze flick briefly over the bullet wound, and she saved Leo's life, albeit unintentionally. You owe her enough to at least try.

Thin-lipped with resolve, he removed the knife from Connie's jacket pocket and turned away, where yet another would-be mugger's jacket was quickly sacrificed on the alter of necessity. Setting the strips of cloth aside for the moment, he searched the jean pockets of the closest bad guys until he came across what he needed; a remarkably intact pack of cigarettes, still in its crisp plastic wrapper. Using the razor-sharp edge of the knife, he cut at the front of the pack until a four-by-five inch cellophane rectangle fell into his hand. Not perfect and by no means sanitary, but it would have to do.

Setting the cut plastic carefully on top of the bandages, he tossed the pack away and proceeded to remove the injured woman's clothing, sliding her arms out of her jacket sleeves and completely tearing away the sad remnants of her tank top. She looked inexplicably small and pitiful, clad from the waist up in only a bra and a fine patina of blood, but Don didn't notice. Finding refuge in a sort of detached professionalism, he gripped the penlight in his teeth, angling his head so that light spilled across her upper torso, and used the relatively clean sleeve of her jacket to dab away the worst of the blood around the exit wound.

With all that obstructing cloth out of the way, it was easy to tell that he had been right. The pleural space between her left lung and her chest wall, typically filled with negative pressure to allow the lung to expand and contract while breathing, had been breached. Every time she inhaled air was being sucked in through the wound and becoming trapped in the pleural space, slowly collapsing the lung and giving the left side of her torso a disturbingly compressed look, as if an invisible vice was slowly crushing one side of her body. She was killing herself with every uneven breath, and if he didn't do something to relieve the pressure on her lung she was unequivocally going to die.

Donatello's eyes narrowed and he gripped the cellophane rectangle firmly in one hand, the other hovering just inches above her upper body. It was terrifying and potentially dangerous, but he knew what he had to do. God, this was going to be unpleasant…

The moment Connie's chest began to fall with a labored exhale Don inserted a finger into the hole in her torso, forcing his way past shards of broken rib bone and into her chest cavity. He was rewarded with a hiss and an atomized spray of red as air, trapped under pressure in her narrow pleural space, was suddenly permitted an escape. Before she had a chance to inhale and suck more killing air into the wound, Don quickly removed his finger and slapped the piece of thin plastic over the bullet hole, creating an instant seal. With some of the pressure relieved and no more air able to enter the pleural space, her lung should partially re-inflate and allow her to breathe easier. He hoped.

Willing his heart to slow its frantic staccato beat, he blew out a shaky breath around the penlight. So far so good. Now comes the bandaging, not an easy prospect with only one available hand. What he wouldn't give for a simple roll of surgical tape right now…

He somehow managed to jury-rig a dressing, carefully pushing the cloth strips under her body one by one and pulling them across her torso and over her right shoulder and breast, creating an awkward-looking but stable dressing that held the plastic square securely on three sides. If he had done this correctly the single free edge of plastic should act as a flutter-valve seal, permitting air to escape the chest cavity but allowing none to enter, and thus preventing the recurrence of another collapsed lung.

Spitting the penlight into his hand, he rocked back on his heels and gave the seal a critical glare, sighing in relief only when the plastic flap lifted a little with her exhale and then sucked back tight over the wound as she drew air into her lungs. It's working, he thought with quiet pride. Maybe I am a genius.

He knew it was a little premature to start celebrating, so Don shook his head and once again grew serious. Her breathing may have improved but Connie was by no means out of danger yet. The blue tinge to her lips wasn't fading as quickly has he hoped and she was far too pale for his liking. He still needed to bandage the bullet wound in her back and turn her on her injured side to facilitate greater inflation of her good lung. And he should probably steal a few more jackets to-

"Don! Get yer shell over 'ere now!"

Raphael's sudden shout was jarring and tinged with an unfamiliar edge of fear. A chill shot through Don with all the force of a cattle prod jolt to the spine and he lunged away so quickly he practically blurred, coming to a sliding halt at Leo's side.

It was easy to see what had so alarmed his red-masked sibling. Once wrapped in the stillness of the deeply unconscious, Leonardo was now trembling; a fine oscillation that blurred the edges of his limbs and drummed his heels lightly against the concrete. His skin was beginning to look like he'd been dipped in bleach, and when Don tentatively touched Leo's hand, the extremity was so cold it was startling.

As he watched fine beads of sweat form across Leo's brow and turn the edges of his mask a darker shade of blue, Don asked, his voice strained, "When did this start?"

"Right before I call ya," Raphael said, his eyes wide. "He was the same as before until this-" his hand waved, indicating Leo's entire body with one expansive gesture, "-suddenly started happenin'."

"He's in stage two progressive shock," Don murmured, his fingers on Leo's throat. His pulse was so faint it was hard to feel beneath the skin, which meant a significant drop in blood pressure. Another sign of stage two… and another thing that didn't make sense. It was not surprising that Leo was in shock, the sudden trauma to his skull could have easily triggered it, but there was no discernable reason for him to skip over the relatively minor symptoms of stage one nonprogressive and move right into the far more serious stage two. Unless-

His head snapped up and he looked at Raphael's hands, which were still applying pressure to the back of Leo's head. His eyes widened at the sight of the tattered remnants of Connie's shirt, now painted red and nearly saturated with far too much blood. "Why didn't you tell me the bleeding wasn't stopping?"

Raphael's shoulders hunched at the accusation. "Like I know anythin' about this medical shit," he snarled. "That's supposed ta be yer department, Don, but ya were too busy fawnin' over some human bitch ta take care of yer own brother!"

Lanced with unexpected guilt, Donatello bristled in automatic defense. "That's not-"

He never got to finish, for at that moment Michelangelo stuck is head over the side of the building and shouted, "Hate to break up this little love-fest, dudes, but company's coming! We're talking like two minutes; tops!"

As Mikey swung himself over the side of the warehouse and slid down the sheer brickwork, his spikes scoring lines down the wall and kicking up sparks, Raphael glared challengingly at Don. "Well, brother? Whadda we do now?"

The police were going to be here in no time at all, but two minutes was still an eternity for two people as badly injured as Leonardo and Constance; one bled white with a hole punched through her body, the other shaking himself to death in the grip of hemorrhagic shock. The word 'triage' circulated through Donatello's mind and he couldn't stop himself from shuddering. Two minutes of aid could make all the difference for one, while the same time spent in neglect would be a probable death sentence for the other.

He had a choice to make and he had to make it now. His brother or Connie. Who would he help? Who would he abandon and leave to die?

It was a choice that was no choice at all. Ties of blood and love would always win out, and so, hands clenched at his sides and a silent prayer for forgiveness in his heart, he turned his back on Constance both literally and figuratively. "We need to get Leo away from here before I can treat him," Don said steadily. "He can't be jostled too much so we're going to have to stick to the surface streets until we can find a manhole. Raph, keep pressure on that gash. I'll get his legs and I want you, Mikey, to lift him by the shoulders. Try to keep his torso as level as possible…"

With the phantom scent of his brother's blood in his nostrils and the lingering feel of Connie's pulse throbbing accusingly against his fingertips, Donatello tore himself out of the dream and jackknifed into a sitting position. God, again. It had happened again.

He groaned and rubbed at his bleary eyes before glancing at the alarm clock on his nightstand. Four twelve. Little more than two hours of fitful sleep. Not nearly enough, but it was all he was going to get tonight. He'd learned pretty quickly that it was nearly impossible to fall back asleep after the dream had run its course.

Disentangling himself from the blanket, he threw his legs over the side of the bed and just sat there a moment, trying desperately to shake off the dream that still clung to him like a tattered cloak. A nightmare garment that filled his nights with remembered horror and shed guilt with every movement…

The murky hush of his room seemed to suddenly shrink, drawing itself around him in a fashion that exuded menace. Struck by a sudden irrational need for the comforting familiarity of fluorescent lighting, he surged to his feet and staggered toward his workbench.

What happened next came as no real surprise. Still half sleep-blind and sluggish from the aftereffects of his dream, he had only made it a few steps before his discarded belt looped around one ankle and tightened like a noose. Pitching forward with an abortive yelp, he was quite unable to stop himself as his left forearm smacked against the corner of his workbench hard enough to bruise and sent him careening to the floor in an undignified tumble of limbs and leather strapping.

Sprawled flat on his shell with his belt still tangled around his ankles, he sighed and gave the darkened ceiling a baleful glare. A true ninja is a master of himself and his environment, Master Splinter had always said. Hah. This ninja wasn't very masterful at the moment; just clumsy, sleep-deprived, probably half crazy… and now quite thoroughly annoyed with the universe.

Donatello could only think of one word to express his opinion of the ludicrous debacle his life had become, and he took a deep breath and said it with feeling.