(I guess this could be considered the end, although I wanted to give each turtle the opportunity to talk with Splinter. We shall see. I'm really determined to finish this story. Thanks for any who have stuck by me all these years. And I really want to dedicate this to Cynlee. I'm so sorry that I didn't finish this in time for her to read it, but she pushed me from day one and I will never forget her.)
Raphael lay on his bed, tossing a ball up to the ceiling and catching it. The absolute worst way to drive this turtle crazy was confining him to his room. Sure, he had magazines and books, his weights and even a punching bag to provide some entertainment, but after a couple hours of working out and hitting his bag, the distraction had lost its appeal. He had tried flipping through a magazine, and The Three Musketeers book he had been reading. However, he couldn't settle his mind well enough to concentrate. The book and the magazine ended up being tossed onto his desk with a little more force than required.
The rhythmic bouncing of the ball off the ceiling had provided a backdrop to Raph's thoughts. He caught the ball and rolled over to one side grabbing his phone and scrolled through texts from Casey.
Casey: Raph. Everything ok? Splinter looked ready to explode.
Casey: Raph? You there?
Casey: Dude, I'm srry bout takin D to the club. He wasn't sposed to drink that much
Casey: Call me when you get a sex.
Casey: SEC! SEC! Damn autocorrect.
Raph tossed the cell back to his nightstand and swung his legs over the hammock. Let Casey stew a little more. Served him right for taking Don to that club. Casey should have known that Don was a lightweight. He should have known that Splinter would find out (and now Raphael being able to go again was not possible). And he damn well should have called Raph to let him know that Donatello was with him! Could no one pick up a fuckin phone?!
Raphael rocked for a moment before leaping to his feet to pace the room. The turtle was pissed at his friend, no doubt about it. He wasn't sure what aggravated him more. That or, Don taking off in the middle of a patrol for absolutely no fuckin reason or the fact that Raph had done similar things in the past for similar non-existent reasons.
There had been several times that Leo had been unusually insufferable that day or Mike had been unusually annoying and Raphael just couldn't take it anymore. He picked a fight with Leo and then used it as an excuse to take off. Take off without a word to his brothers about where he was going or when he might get back. Ignore texts and calls because fuck them, they didn't deserve the courtesy of a response. He went out with Casey to the bar or just to blow off steam. If he drank, he made sure he was sober before going home. Leo or Splinter would be waiting up. If it was Leo, he would flip him off and go to bed. If it was Splinter, he'd listen to the lecture, accept his punishment and then go to bed. Not one time did he even stop to consider just what they thought while he MIA.
In Raph's mind, he knew he was going to be ok, so they should know as well. He always came home.
It wasn't like that tonight. Raph was the one in the dark, not knowing where his brother was, and whether he was even alive or dead. It was the not knowing that drove him and his brothers to engage the Foot both outnumbered and down a man. It was the not knowing that kept them in the fight when they were losing. It was the not knowing that kept Leonardo from advancing forward, nearly allowing himself to be captured or killed.
What had not knowing done to his brothers when he was the one missing?
There was an emotion welling up in Raphael that he didn't feel often and he didn't like it now. Guilt. He never gave more than a passing thought to the worry…fear...dread his family felt when he went off without warning. He was sure during Splinter's lectures there was that parental attempt at a guilt trip, but it was something Raphael had learned to tune out long ago. Now that the shoe was on the other foot, how dare Don leave them to worry to go throw a…a temper tantrum!
Raph slammed a fist into the wall beside his punching bag. Fuck! Raph pulled his fist back and held it in his other hand. Bloody knuckles, probably a sprained wrist, maybe a broken hand.
There was a knock at the door and Raph turned grabbing a towel from his desk.
"The wall's fine!"
He figured Splinter could hear him strike the wall, and come running to see what his volatile son had damaged.
A subdued voice said quietly, "It's me, Raph."
Don. Figures. His wall was the one Raph punched.
"I'm fine, Don." Raph wrapped his hand in the towel.
The hesitant knock came again. "Can I come in?"
Raph looked up at the ceiling and muttered another curse word before going to the door and yanking it open with his uninjured hand. "What?"
Don wordlessly helped up his first aid kit.
A full minute passed while Raph silently contemplated his brother's offer. Finally, the throbbing in his hand persuaded him to step aside and allow Donatello to pass.
Don came in, and waited for Raphael to sit down at his desk. He gently took Raph's injured hand and unwrapped the towel. A soft, yet detached expression replaced the timid one that had been on Don's face when Raph opened the door. The de-facto doctor took each of his brother's fingers in turn and moved them gently, gauging both patient reaction and the feeling of the bones underneath. He turned to his first aid kit and took out the peroxide and cotton swabs.
Don dabbed at the cuts easily with the cotton. "I don't think you broke anything. I'll wrap it and put some ice on it. I'll tell Sensei that you shouldn't train for a couple days." He looks up at Raph. "No patrol either."
Raph's face set into a scowl, but he nodded as Don finished wrapping it.
The uneasy expression returned as Don started cleaning up his supplies. A tense silence descended onto the room, and the genius turtle did what he does best when uncomfortable. He babbled.
"It's a good thing that you don't over rotate your hand when you punch, otherwise you would have ended up with a fracture of the metacarpal bones, commonly known as a boxer's fracture. Actually, a boxer's fracture traditionally indicated a break in the second or third metacarpal bones, where a bar room fracture is a break in the fourth or fifth metacarpal bones. The fifth metacarpal bone is probably the weakest since it's attached to the pinky…"
Raph exhaled forcefully. "Don."
"…but seeing as we only have three…"
Don broke off from his impromptu anatomy lesson and looked up at his brother.
Now that he had Donatello's attention, Raph wasn't sure what to do with it. He looked at his injured hand and could feel the cold from the icepack seeping through. "Thanks," Raph said finally.
Don hesitated and then nodded getting to his feet. He picked up his first aid kit and started for the door. "I know why you go there. Having experienced it makes it more understandable. That and well…Casey told me."
Raph frowned even more. "Yeh well, Casey has a big mouth."
His eyes still fixated on the case in his hand, Don continued. "I also know why you feel the need to get away sometimes. The pressure just builds and builds. You don't have an escape. And then that one thing happens and you think your head is going to explode. So you run before there's collateral damage."
Another uneasy silence filled the room before Raph spoke again. "We didn't know where you were. We thought the Foot had you."
Don looked up, his eyes locking with his brothers for the first time since he knocked on the door. "I'm so sorry. I…" Don shook his head in frustration. His normally impressive vocabulary lacking the strength to convey his regret that he'd worried his family and could have gotten them killed.
"Save it," Raph got to his feet. "When Splinter wanted me to do what you do for the day, I was pissed. I thought….I thought he was tryin ta make me look like an idiot. None of us can do what you do. And you just…do it. Don't even bitch about it most times."
"That's why you put all your chores on my list. Because you knew I'd just do it." Don met his eyes again and this time Raph looked away.
"Yeh." Raph glared at the floor like it had broken his sai. "Didn't think it would make you…" He broke off. "Didn't want you ta…" He took a breath and tried again. "I know what it's like…What I'm tryna say…"
Don held back a smirk and he could probably have let his brother off the hook. They both knew Raph sucked at apologies. He could spit out a "sorry" if forced to, but a genuine regretful expression of remorse was a bit harder. So Don waited.
Raph took another breath. "Just don't ever fuckin run off like that again, got it? Or I'll kick yer shell in."
"Apology accepted, Raph," Don smiled. He supposed a genuine, if gruff, expression of caring was close enough to an apology.
"Who said I was apologizin'?" Raph sat back down on his hammock and swung his feet up to lay down. "Now get outta my room. I was tryin to sleep."
Don opened the door and Michelangelo tumbled in landing at Don's feet. Leonardo was just behind him, but was a bit subtler with his eavesdropping. Either that, or he stepped away before Don could open the door.
"Everything ok?" Leo asked. His face colored a bit in embarrassment but he tried to cover it up. "We thought we heard something break."
Mike picked himself up off the floor, not even having the decency to look abashed at being caught snooping. "Yeh like Raph's foot."
"His hand actually," Don said. "And it's not broken. Just sprained."
"What the fuck happened to doctors not talkin about their patients?" Raph grumbled. "And why is everyone in my room?" But he sat up again.
Leo walked in closing the door behind him. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Splinter knew they were all out of their rooms, but maybe luck was on their side and the aged rat had passed out from all the excitement of the day.
Mike spun the chair around from Raph's desk with a huge grin on his face. "So, D, tell us all about it. And don't leave out the details."
Don rubbed the back of his neck and his face began to turn an interesting shade of red. His eidetic memory didn't lose too many details and chances were, he wouldn't be forgetting this night any time soon anyway.
"It was…interesting," Don said hesitantly. And that was it.
"That's all?" Mike retorted. "Interesting? Little skimpy on the details Don-san. What was it like? Paint a picture for me." The youngest turtle closed his eyes and smiled as if he were really about to see it for himself.
"Let it go, Mikey," Leo nudged him out of his daydream. His gaze went to Raph. "You better be ready for the third degree from Sensei in the morning though. And if I were you, I would leave out a lot of details."
Raphael rolled his eyes, but he nodded just the same. How the hell did Donny run off, go to the club and get drunk and Raph was the one in trouble? Looks like things were back to normal.
Leo leaned against the wall. "Donny, I owe you an apology." Unlike Raph, Leo was more than forthcoming when he felt he had wronged his brothers. Sometimes it was a lot to get Leo to see he was in the wrong, but once he understood his fault, Leo readily offered the apology.
That didn't mean he liked it. His fought to keep his eyes on his brothers, while shame made him want to look away. "I made things unnecessarily hard on you. My pride got in the way of a lot today. I didn't see that I needed a lesson just as much as the rest of you. And Raph…" His eyes locked onto his other brother. "Sometimes, I want so much to be the leader you need, that I forgot to be the brother you want. I can't promise I'll do better. But...you can call me on it when I forget again."
While Raph thought that over, Mike spoke up. "Yeh Don. I uh…didn't mean to push you away." He shrugged. "I can't even say I was tryin my best to be leader. I was just havin a good time."
Don shook his head. "No, I'm sorry. I did a lot of stupid things today, but leaving in the middle of patrol was just cruel. I…You guys could've…if Splinter hadn't…and it would've been my…"
Mike held up a hand and sagely intoned. "Donatello, I gained a lot of wisdom today as leader. But the best thing I learned was, don't borrow trouble. What coulda happened, didn't. We need to learn from it and grow. And then move on."
Raph and Don looked at him like he had just sprouted another head, and Leonardo rolled his eyes in absolute exasperation.
"Wise advice, Michelangelo," Leo deadpanned. "Come up with that yourself, did you?"
Mike grinned. "I'm a quick study."
Raph snorted. "Ok, everyone apologized. We're all good? Good. Now you sorry sacks a shit can get outta my room before this turns into a group hug."
Mike's grin widened. "Did the man say group hug?"
Raph picked up his sai from the night stand and pointed it threateningly at Mike. Michelangelo still might have went in for the group hug anyway, but a knock at the door interrupted him. The four brothers froze in place, no one dared making a sound. Maybe if they pretended they were all asleep, he would just go away, because there was only one person it could be. About thirty seconds passed before another knock came again. This time a bit more forceful.
"I am neither deaf nor dumb," their sensei stated from the other side.
"Get it Don," Raph said, motioning to the door. "Yer closest."
"Your room," Don retorted.
Leo sighed and went to the door opening it to reveal their Sensei looking rather miffed. "Sorry, Sensei." He didn't bother to offer an excuse for their disobedience. It didn't look like Splinter wanted one anyway.
"It is three in the morning," Splinter reminded them. He folded his hands serenely behind his back and looked at each of them in turn.
The three younger brothers looked at the oldest, who sighed. Back to normal.
Leo nodded. "We had some things we had to work out before we could sleep, Sensei."
Mike held up a hesitant hand. "And you said to meditate last night. And now, it's technically morning. So…"
Splinter's face was unreadable. "True."
Three of the four turtles relaxed visibly, but the turtle in red pushed himself up from the hammock with a long groan. He stuck his sai into his belt and smacked Mike in the back of the head as he walked by.
"Ow!" Mike yelped. "What was that for?"
"I tried that one before." Raph gave a small bow to his sensei. "Apologies, Sensei but…"
He lapsed into a passable imitation of his father. "Well, since it is already well into the morning, and we are already awake, then it is the best time to begin our morning practice."
Raph rolled his eyes and walked out into the hallway leaving his brothers standing both dumbfounded and impressed. They looked at their sensei to see his reaction to the apparent mockery.
Splinter gave a small smile and tilted his head toward the door. "You heard what I said."