Guilt is a Bitter Medicine

Raph stomped through the stagnate sewage water. The sounds of traffic above him mingled with the steady drips, echoes, and squeaks of the sewer around him. Irritability, he flung aside the next man hole cover he saw, and climbed swiftly into the alley. Not bothering to replace the metal disk, the ninja flipped effortlessly onto a near by fire escape and onto the neighboring roof. As soon as his feet hit the concrete, he started to run.

Damn Leo. Why did he have to be so perfect? He has not one 'effin flaw and thinks that he can lord over me. Well, that crap was for the birds. Angrily, Raph spun around and executed a powerful right hook that dented the metal vent that had the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. With an aggravated sigh, Raph began to pace around the roof of the office building. He had come home from Casey's later then planned, and had met a very angry Leo. Needless to say, things were not pretty. Both Don and Mike had left the vicinity when he stormed in, Don pausing only momentarily to shoot Raph a warning glare, but it went unnoticed.

"Whe'e were you?"

"Why would you care?"

"Raph, you're an hou' over cufew!"

"Oh, so now I have a bed time?"

"Splinter said –"

"You know Leo, you can take what Splinter said and shove it up your shell! I can handle myself, I don't need you to baby-sit me!"

"Apparently I do, Raphael! You've only been up fowr a few days, you can't be doing stupid stunts like this!"

"You know, Leo, I'm sick of your bitching!"

"Language!"

"Fuck you, Leo."

And with that he had turned away and walked back out into the night.

And here I am Raphael thought ruefully.

He spent the next hour running across the rooftops. He contemplated stopping by Casey's again; maybe he would like to go bust some skulls. Halfway way there he decided against it. He didn't have to go home until he wanted to. He would use this time to be alone. Even if Leo decided to come after him, he'd have a hell of a fight getting him into the sewers. Raph snorted at the thought of Leo coming after him. If it had been a week earlier the thought would have been very probable. But after their last fight against the Shred-head, Leo hadn't been up to his usual bastard self. He hid it well, Raph was sure that not even Don had picked it up, but Leo had slowed during practice, becoming unbalanced during the sparing matches that Raph loved, it was the only time he could vent his anger against his elder bro' and not get into trouble. Outside the dojo, Leo's speech was worse then ever. Stupid idiot can't even talk right. Raph thought smugly. Not only had that changed, but Leo could be seen holding on to something, as if the world was about to be swept from beneath his feet.

Raph didn't know what had caused the sudden change in his brother; perhaps he was finally coming undone. That last defeat must have cracked him. Raph smiled grimly at the memory.

It was a balmy night, and the four turtles were gathering at their rendezvous spot before they headed home. Only Leonardo was late.

"Damn him, what's taking so long?"

The question was voiced to the purple and orange bandanna turtles, but neither of them answered. Both of them were hunched in the shadows, watching the area, even Mike was quiet. Something was not right, if only they could listen…

"Are you two deaf? I just said that we should get outta here!"

"Raph, shut up!"

"What!"

"We can't hear over your extremely obnoxious mouth, so can it bro!"

"Whatdya need to hear up here? There's absolutely nothin'…"

But his words were cut off by an enraged battle cry somewhere up and away. Despite himself, Raph shivered at the scream. It sounded like a wounded animal caught in a blood lust.

"Leo." Mikey moaned, and he was gone, catapulting across the street, using the streetlights as stepping-stones. Don followed quickly after him, Raph right on his heels.

They arrived at the rooftop of a corporate building when the rain started to fall. It was a mass of swirling black shapes that seemed to have neither beginning nor end. It was like the shadows had taken it upon them selves to come alive and devour the living. Only by experience did the turtles know that it was not some mythical monster from hell, but just the foot clan. In the midst of the darkness they saw Leonardo fighting empty air. So it wasn't just the regular foot, but the techies too. Raph cracked his neck in anticipation, he was sooo gonna enjoy this

He had barely enough time to take down the first hand full of punks when Mikey gave a shout of surprise. Raph looked over in time to see his youngest sibling fly to the edge of the building. For a brief, heart-stopping moment, Raph thought that Mikey was going to fall off the 30-story building. This, of course, did not happen, for Mikey managed to use his momentum to flip onto his feet and slide a few feet before coming to a halt. Raph sighed and disarmed the ninja next to him without even looking. The clan was becoming so predictable with their attacks that Raph felt sure he could fight them in his sleep. He picked up the intensity of his attack, already becoming bored.

Suddenly he was face-to-face to the reason why Mikey had a free plane ride. It was old grease can himself: Shredder. Raph twirled his sai grinning at his opponent, who just stood with his claws ready.

"Look before you leap."

A voice very much like Leonardo's echoed through his head. Raph shook his head slightly. Even when his overbearing sib' was on the other side of a building, surrounded by foot, he still managed to nag him. Raph shook his head again, this time more to himself, before he launched at his foe.

Well, he had to admit, it was quick. One moment he was going at the Shred-head with a side swipe from both sides, before ducking under the attacking claws and sending a low sweeping kick that would have sent any attacker on his soon-to-be-tender bum. This did not work, for the tin can had back flipped out of the way before running foreword once more. Raphael had barely time to roll to his feet when felt a sucker punch to the stomach. Raph doubled over in pain, gasping for breath.

"That was sloppy," he moaned to himself. The sound of his opponent's laughter caught his attention. "That Bastard!" And again he was up and attacking. Raph knew then that he should've paid more attention during practice, because he didn't even have a fighting chance. One moment he was on his feet, ready to fight, next he was up in the air, feet kicking and arms grappling at the armored hand that held him.

Raph mentally kicked himself, while the other half of his brain screamed out for air. His lungs burned, his brain was throbbing, and his mouth was opening and closing on air that he could not swallow. His vision was blurring, darkness interloping on his sight, his limbs becoming heavy. Suddenly he was free! The metal hand released him as a green blur leapt over Raph. He briefly saw the two colors fight with a frenzy that he did not think possible, but that was before his head hit the ground and he knew no more.

Raph awoke later in Donnie's lab. He was alone, except for a few beeping machines and a throbbing headache. He moaned and rolled off the table, making his way unsteadily to the main part of the lair, where his family had congregated. Upon sight of the red-banded turtle, the two present turtles leapt up and hugged Raph, laughing when he pushed them away.

"My son, I am glad that you are awake."

"Thank you, Sensei."

"How's your head Raph?"

"Like a piece of 'effin dynamite was set off in it."

"Raphael!"

"Sorry, master."

After he had been supplied with a cup of hot tea, Raph demanded to know what had happened. Upon learning that he had had his clocked cleaned by the shredder, he banged his fist on the table, before standing up, his headache had disappeared with the tea.

"Where ya going?"

"I need to practice. Where's Leo?"

"My son, Leonardo is in his room. He has been asleep since he had brought you home."

"How long ago was that?"

"Three hours, my son."

"Three hours? Shit!"

"Raphael!"

"Sorry, master."

Raph stomped off to his brother's room. There was no way he was going to let Shredder beat him again.

"YO! Leo, wake up!" shouted Raph, pounding on the door.

When Leo did not answer, he knocked again. Still there was no answer. Alright, enough is enough. Raph slammed the door open and marched over to his brother's bed, only marginally surprised when Leo didn't wake up at the attrition of his private space. Raph stood next to the bed, his arms akimbo. Leo was sprawled across his bed haphazardly, his head not even on the pillow. Raph frowned. Leo hadn't even bothered to take off his mask and pads…and the cuts from the battle were not bandaged. Raph shrugged, who was he to question what his brother did.

"Leo, get your lazy ass out of bed!"

"Raphael!"

"Sorry, master!"

Raph frowned again. It was not like Leo to sleep so soundly. He grinned mischievously. Taking a few steps backward, he leapt up into the air and crash-landed on Leo. He was rewarded with a moan and a cry from Leo. Raph promptly grabbed Leo's hand and dragged him off to the dojo.

"Come on Leo, I gotta practice and you're gonna help me."

Once in the dojo he let go of Leo, who did not put up a fuss at being pulled across the lair, and turned to face him. He was about to attack, but halted at the sight of Leo. He was not in the starting position, hell, he was just standing there like an ass with his hand at his sides.

"Leo? What are you doing?"

"Huh? Oh."

Leo fell into the starting position and the sparring match began. Raph executed a series of well-placed punches, driving his anger at shredder out. Leo managed to block the first few, but was too late in blocking a right hook.

"Come on, Leo! This is fucking stupid, you should've beat my ass by now!"

Gritting his teeth, Leo rolled onto all fours before climbing to his feet. He turned to face Raphael, barely bringing his arms up in time to block a sidekick. He grabbed the proffered foot and proceeded to twist it. Normally this would result in a floored Raphy, but Leo did not have the strength to pull such a stunt. Raph was merely pushed off balance, before he managed to flip out of his brother's grasp. Leo leapt after Raph. The two engaged in another swift and violent furry of punches, jabs, and kicks. And once again, Leo was knocked to the floor.

"Leo, what's with you? Don't tell me a bunch of foot managed to get the better of you?

"They wouldn't have if you hadn't been such a dumb ass and thought before you attacked."

"Oh, excuse me, Oh Fearless Leader, but I was under the impression that it was your ass that needed saving."

"Really? That's not what I saw when Sh'edder was using youd shell as a brillo pad!"

"You know what Leo, you're nothing but a mumbling moron! What do you know?"

With that, Raph strode out of the dojo and out into the night. He would spend the next week as far from the lair as possible, only returning for meals and practices he forced Leo into. Sensei had given them a week of rest, but Raph could not cope with idea of letting himself slip further then he had. The rest of the time he spent with Casey, hunting down the shredder and taking down any punks that got in their way.

Raph looked up at the sky. He did not know how long he had been sitting on the roof, reminiscing about the fight, but he decided that it was time for him to go home. While he did not have to worry about Leo, Master Splinter was whole 'nother matter. Never let that frail-old-rat appearance fool you, he still had the strength to beat their asses any day of the week.

Upon entering the lair, Raphael was mildly surprised not to see someone waiting to grill him for staying out past the newly instated curfew. But who was he to look a gift horse in the mouth? Silently he padded across the lair and up the steps to his room. On his way he had to pass Leo's room. The door was wide open. Leo'd never let 'is door hang open like this. It was true, the blue turtle preferred to keep his room off limits to everyone, keeping the door closed whether or not he was in it. Needless to say this peaked Raph's interest, and he looked inside, frowning when he saw that his brother was not present. He did not have long to wonder where his brother may be, for at that moment he heard violent retching coming from the bathroom. Shocked, Raphael ran to the can, using the doorframe to stop. What he saw nearly shocked him out of his shell. Leo was crouched over the john, gasping for breath. Raph made his way cautiously over to his brother and put a hand on his shoulder. "Leo?" Leo did not seem to hear him, and Raph had to pull him back and let him rest against the tub.

"Shit, Leo!"

Leo's eyes were closed, and there was blood rushing from his nose. Raph grabbed the towel hanging on the wall and proceeded to wipe the blood away.

"Leo? Leo, come on man, say something!"

"Raph?" the voice was tired and scratchy, but it was something.

"Yah, dude, its me. I need you to open your eyes."

"No…m…tired."

"Shit, Leo, this is no time for a nap!"

"Fuck you." That startled the red turtle. He stared at his brother, who continued to lean against the tub, his breathing irregular. Where had that come from? Leo was not known to curse.

"Leo, I need you tell me what's up." Silence answered him, it echoed around the room until Raph couldn't stand it anymore. He asked again, and got the same response. Growing irritable, Raph reached out and forced Leo to look up at him. Leo made no sound except to grasp lightly at the arm that forced his head up and into the light. He kept his eyes shut firmly in an effort to stop the pain it brought.

"Leo, I need you to open yer eyes."

"And I need you to shut the hell up and leave me alone."

"Leo…"

Silence stretched between them once more. Raph's mind was running a mile a minute. What the hell was going on here? Here was Leo, sitting on the bathroom floor with blood still pouring out his shnoz after having thrown up violently, and now he was refusing to open his eyes. Raph was no doc' but he could tell that there was something wrong.

"Leo, I'm going to go and get Donny. I need you to stay here."

"Like I can go anywhere with the room spinning like it is…"

Raph frowned at his older bro, but walked out the door and leapt down the steps. He quickly crossed the living room and headed toward the residential lab. He didn't even consider checking the purple turtle's room, Donny spent so much time in his lab that it wasn't unusual to find him fast asleep over some project. Sure enough, when Raph entered the lab he found Donny slumped against the wall, a screwdriver in one hand, and a mechanical doohickey in the other.

Raph stood before his slumbering brother, and "lightly" kicked him in the leg. He had to use every bit of his ninjitsu training in order to avoid the tool that had launched from Don's hand; it landed point first in the wall behind him. Don stood up, gasping.

"Damn it, Raph, don't do that again, I could've nailed you…"

Raph didn't respond beyond the point of grabbing Don's hand and dragging him out into the lair and up the steps.

"Raph, what the shell are you doing? Let me go."

Donny wrenched his hand from Raph's vice like grip.

"What is th…"

He was cut off by the sight of Leo leaning against the tub, blood flowing from his nose and looking a paler shade of green.

"When I came in…"

Donny silenced Raph with a wave of his had, his quick observations already concluding what had occurred.

"Leo?"

Leo made no response beyond suddenly lurching forward and vomiting the remainder of his stomach into and onto the toilet before him. Don was beside him in a moment, carefully holding his brother as he slumped sideways, painfully gasping for air.

Raph was getting worried now. All the anger and resentment that he felt for Leo the past week melted into genuine concern and panic. Leo was the perfect one, nothing ever happened to him. He was supposed to downstairs lecturin' him about his 'tude and staying home at night, not leanin' against Donny covered in blood and sick. Absent mindedly, Raph wet a rag and proceeded to wipe Leo clean as Don tried to keep Leo awake.

"Come on, bro, I need you to stay with me."

"…mmm..tired…'

"I know, you can sleep in a bit, I just need to see what I have to do to help."

"Damn…it…"

Raph threw the rag into the sink. A sudden thought made itself into his head. Reaching over, he flicked the lights off. Thrown suddenly into semi-darkness, they all became silhouettes.

"Can ye open yer eyes?"

"I told you I didn't want to!"

"Leo, please?"

Leo sighed before opening his sensitive eyes slowly. Don grasped his chin lightly as he peered into his eyes. He cussed softly. Moving into a crouch, Don levered Leo into his arms and lifted him up. It was a strange sight: Leo being carried bride like out of the bathroom and down the hall by the purple turtle. Raph followed them like a shadow.

Once in the blue turtle's room, Don laid his brother carefully out on the bed, wrapping him lightly in blankets.

"Go to sleep, Leo, I'll be back in an hour."

Whether or not Leonardo had heard this was debatable, as he had fallen asleep as soon as he vacated his sibling's arms.

Patting Raph's shoulder, he indicated that they were to leave.

Stepping out into the hall, and softly closing the door behind him, Raph turned to his braniac brother.

"What the shell is going on?"

Don rubbed his eyes. "Let's talk in the kitchen."

Raph waited silently, albeit impatiently, as Don made himself a cup of tea. As soon as he sat down, Raph demanded, "Donny, what the hell is wrong with Leo?"

"Nothing a few days of rest won't cure."

"That doesn't tell me anythin', Don. I came home to him blowing his brains out. The entire week he's been off. What the hell is going on?"

"He simply has a concussion, true its pretty severe, but nothing a week or two of rest is going to fix."

"How the fuck did he get a concusion?"

Don looked at him incredulously.

"What?"

"I said-"

"I know what you said! How the shell don't you know?"

Raph growled. "Why don't you tell me and then I will."

The rain was coming down in sheets. It pounded against the pavement, their bodies, and their weapons. Don watched it spin from his Bo as he attacked the surrounding foot. Lightening lanced across the sky, thunder soon followed.

Turning towards the enemies advancing from behind, Don was able to spot two of his brothers. Leo was still tangling with the techs, his eyes shut as he tried to hear them over the battle noises and thunder. Mikey was dancing along the edge of building, bapping heads forward, backward, and to the side. He deftly locked his Bo behind him and spun to clear the vicinity of pajama wearing wannabes. Where was Raph?

A sudden shout and the rapid disintegration in the number of ninjas in one area of the roof alerted Don to Leo's rapid charge to where his last brother resided. Don's blood froze and his heart skipped a beat at the sudden appearance of Raph, hanging limply in Shredder's grasp, weakly fighting for air.

The moment passed quickly. Leo's sudden attack forced tin-head to drop Raph. Don tried desperately to make his way over to where red mask tails could be seen in the darkness, but the foot was doing everything in their power to keep he and Mikey, whom could be seen taking on the remainder of Leo's techninjas, from reaching the other combatants.

Leo flipped into the scene. Bringing up his one Katana he was able to block the striking arm of Saki. Ducking to one side he avoided a swipe to his head, bringing his right knee up to Shredder's side. Falling backwards, Shredder compensated the fall by flinging Leo over himself. On and on they fought, tears from the sky mingling with their sweat. Leo was growing weary, but he could not risk stopping, for it would not only put himself at danger, but also Raph. He had no doubts that Shredder would take a free shot at the unconscious turtle if given the chance.

Shredder saw the fatigue creeping behind the turtle's steel blue gaze. He too was tired. He had to end this quickly. Shredder saw the freak glance to his brother on the floor. Shredder smiled. This would not take much longer.

The number of ninja's keeping from his bro's was starting to lessen, but there was still enough to keep him from going anywhere. Mike kept his eyes fixed on his oldest brother as he took out the ninja's around him. Never before had he been so happy that Leo spent hours training. All that effort was giving him the edge he needed to keep Raphy alive. But it may not have been enough to keep himself alive. Mikey gave a pain-ridden gasp of horror as he watched a signaled Foot come creeping up behind his brother.

"LEO BEHIND YOU!"

His brother turned, deflecting the falling sword and quickly taking the ninja down. The brief second he had his back turned was all the time Shredder needed. Coming up from behind, he gave Leo a harsh kick to the back of his knees, catching the turtle as he fell. Now pinned to the shredder by the massive arm that crushing his ribs, Leo's scant breathing became even more thin and irregular. Shredder laughed insanely as he grasped Leo's one arm and forced it forward. He advanced slowly on Raphael, whom remained still on the ground. Leo understood immediately what was going to occur and tried to release his grip on the katana in his hand, but the pressure Shredder was applying was too strong. Panic grew in his chest, laugher echoed in his ear.

"After you kill him, freak, I'm going to kill you. And then who will be there to protect the other two?"

Anger replaced the panic. Snapping his head back forcefully, pain exploded in his skull as he made contact with tin-head's helmet, but it had the desired effect. Wrenching himself out of the loosened grasp, Leo swiftly brought his katana up to slice at Saki once, twice, thrice! Crying out in rage, Shredder swung out at Leo, catching him in the face and causing the enraged turtle to loose balance. Shredder took the opportunity to grasp Leo by the neck. He squeezed tightly, causing Leo to choke and gasp for air.

Mikey saw all this. Tears of fury, coursed their way down his cheeks as he tried come to the aid of his brother.

Darkness started overcoming the sight of Shredder's laughing face. Leo could feel his pulse against Shredder's glove weakening. His arms grew heavy…

Flashes of faces began to appear before his eyes.

He saw Master Splinter beginning to teach them Ninjitsu.

He saw all four of them racing around the lair.

He saw he and Donny playing with a remote car.

He saw Mikey creaming Raph in Mario Party.

He saw April typing furiously at the computer.

He heard Shredder whispering in his ear, "I'm going to kill you. And then who will be there to protect the other two?"

One last burst of life coursed suddenly through his veins, his vision became suddenly sharp and clear. He took his remaining katana and swiped it viciously across his captor's chest. Screaming in pain and frustration, Shredder through him to the ground, where his head smacked sickeningly against the ground. As soon as they arrived, they were gone, leaving only the four turtles behind.

Don rose slowly from the table and washed his cup out in the sink before putting it back in the shelf. Raph remained staring at the table, silent as thoughts raced across his mind. Clips from the last week came forward unbidden to his mind.

Leo passed out on his bed.

Leo sparring weakly.

Leo staring vacantly at the TV.

Leo moving slower and loosing his balance far more easily.

His caustic remarks.

His hard punches.

His insults.

His hate.

He had hated the fact that one of his brothers had to come to his aid. He hated that it had to be Leo. Now he hated himself for hating the brother that had nearly given his life for him.