Alas, I have braided another tragic tale to cover you. And though it does not warm you, you keep it close.
Or, at least, I hope you will. Don't know where that piece of my poetic soul came from, but it sounded good.
Anyways, this is another sad one-shot from my hands. And yes, it too has a character death.
…If you don't like it, blame RedRebel! It was her idea!
I'm kidding! But I must give thanks to RedRebel for giving me her plot bunny.
So, let's begin! Here we have a dual centric piece on Raph and Leo, though I was sure to add some angst for Don and Mike as well.
I also decided to do something new for me by writing this in the first person form, though it comes from two different point of views. It's one turtle until I say otherwise. Usually, I only do that with a short piece, but here I made an exception.
Well, except for in one part. There's a part with Mikey, when he's describing something, that appears in Italics. While he's talking, the font is normal. That's what's actually going on. But the italicized part is what happened.
You'll understand, trust me.
Disclaimer: I don't own the TMNT. What else is new?
We'd been wanting to understand what was wrong with Raph for quite a while now. As of lately, every time he exerts himself, he'll have trouble breathing and would tire out quickly.
Don took his pulse the other day. It was way too fast. Since then, he's made Raph bedridden in the infirmary while he looks him over and searches for answers in his books and online.
Finally, my brother comes out of Raph's room. He doesn't look particularly pleased. Wordlessly, I gather everyone and, once we're assembled in the living room, we wait for Don's prognosis.
Sure enough, he has one. "I did some tests and compared them to what I've learned, and I think I know what's wrong with Raph."
We're silent, awaiting the news. Unfortunately, I'm getting the feeling that it's bad.
After a pause, Don finishes what he has to say. "It's a heart disorder called cardiomyopathy." When seeing Mike's look of confusion, he explains. "There are several different forms of it, but Raph's is dilated. Basically, what that means is his heart's too big. It's unable to pump enough blood to suit his body's needs."
It's typical, really. Things never seem to go our way. But life without Raph; one of my brothers? I can't imagine it.
"I've already told him." Donny continues. "He isn't too happy of course, but I gave him some morphine; he's asleep now. It should slow his heart rate down a little. I think that'll help. His heart won't have so much work to do."
Unable to sit any longer, I rise to my feet. "So what do we to do?" I ask him. I want to get to helping my brother as quickly as possible.
"Well," he explains, "there's various drugs that could help him. I'm gonna try and get some, but I don't know if I'll be able to. He's healthy enough for heart transplant surgery, but that'll be even more difficult." He pauses. "If we do nothing, though, there's a higher chance of heart failure."
Immediately, I dismiss that option. "We're not going to do that, Don. We'll find a way." I look back to the door of the infirmary. Raph's in there. "We'll find a way." I repeat softly.
Don's looking frustrated. He sighs. "Master Splinter, I'm gonna go outside for a bit. I need some air."
If Don looks bad, you should see Mikey. "I'll come to." He tells him. Soon, they're gone.
Shaking my head, I sit on the couch next to my Sensei, working my brain over what we can do. I feel my master's paw on my shoulder. "It is as you said, Leonardo. I trust we will find a way to help Raphael." He comforts me.
I smile. "Thank you, Master Splinter." Frowning, I get back to my feet once more. "I'm gonna go and catch up with them. I'll be back in a few."
It doesn't take me long to find them. My brothers have stopped on a rooftop. I can hear them as I get closer.
Mikey asks, "So, that's our only options?"
Sarcastically, Don replies. "Not unless you wanna give him your heart. All three of us are compatible with him."
Unsurprisingly, they're talking about Raph. Our red-clad brother has a rare blood type; AB positive. It makes him a universal recipient- he can receive blood or an organ from anyone.
Both Mikey and Don are type A positive, while I'm type O positive, the most common blood type in the US. It makes me a universal donor. That means I can give blood and organs to anyone.
However, this also means that if I ever need anything, I'm on my own. While we can donate to anyone, I can only receive from another person with type O blood. Raph, on the other hand, can't do what I can do unless they have type AB blood.
It can sometimes get confusing.
Coming out of the shadows, I reveal myself. "And here Ithought I was the worrywart of the family."
They turn to see me as I sit down between them. They don't really say anything else, but I don't expect them to.
We're all scared. Fear tends to take the words right out of your mouth.
"Listen," I tell them; "I know that right about now, Raph's biological clock's ticking a little faster than usual, but it's not like he only has twenty seconds to live. We can still help him, and that's what we're gonna do." I place one hand on each of them. "There's no sense in giving up until all of our options are exhausted, and we're not going to even then. We'll find a way." I say once more.
It's the only thing I can say. It's the only thing I care about at the moment.
Nodding, they except what I have to say. Then we just sit there for a while. I wish I could give them something else, but we're all thinking of Raph right about now. Any other hope I could try and provide would only be false.
Finally, I pat them on the shell and get back to my feet. "C'mon, guys. Let's go home."
After a few mumbled agreements, they too get up and we start off. About two minutes from the lair, however, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye.
All three of us turn, weapons ready. It's a small group of Foot ninja.
Instantly, they attack. I'm thinking that they're new to this, they don't seem much smarter than the usual batch we fight, and that's saying something. They also seem less experienced. Most of them are down in a matter of minutes.
But then there's this one- he has knives. I'm closest, so I take him while Don and Mike take care of the last of the group.
I have to say, he isn't that bad. With a little more training, he could probably be a threat someday. But as of now, he's pretty easy to handle.
Yet the fight continues. The only thing I have as an explanation of this is how close this guy can get. I've been doing a good job of keeping him back with my katanas, but he keeps on moving in.
And then, in my effort to push him back a little farther and finish this, I accidentally leave the smallest of openings. It's too late to correct it.
In the next second, one of his knives is coming at me, in that spot.
That's when I get this feeling, deep in my gut. There's no flashes of past times, no visions of the future. Just this one, simple feeling as the tip of his blade is a mere millimeter from my body.
It's a premonition of the end.
The minute I woke up, I knew something was wrong. I felt weaker than I had when I'd drifted off, but not in a painful way. More like a tired way, like I'd been sleeping for so long that the thought of waking was exhausting in itself. But the rest must've done me good. I actually felt better.
Yet I knew something was wrong.
Don was standing by my feet, I think he'd just come into the room; and Mike was to my right, smiling.
But it wasn't his usual, big goofy grin. I've seen those countless times before to know the difference. Here, it was nothing but a display of relief. He looked happy to see me.
And that was it- no, there was something else, but it was something I could name; I'd never seen such a seriousness to my baby brother.
That's what confirmed my earlier suspicions. Something was very wrong.
"How you doing, Raph?" Mikey asked me quietly. The room was so mute; he could've been speaking through a microphone.
I nodded. "I'm fine." Using my elbows, I tried to sit up just a little.
Don was immediately by my side. "Take it easy, Raph." He said, gently placing a hand on my shoulder, other one resting on the bed, though he didn't push me back down. "You still need to recuperate."
"Recuperate?" I asked, watching closely as he examined me. "From what?"
Last thing I remember; I'd been sick for a while. A long while. Don had finally figured out hwy, too; some sort of heart disease.
He'd given me some meds to help. He'd said I was at risk for heart failure. He'd said I needed a new heart.
But he wasn't saying anything now.
And that said a lot on its own.
Mikey explained it for me. "We, uh…" his voice cracked, "You got a new heart, bro."
I looked down at my chest. There were stitches. Eye ridges furrowed in thought, I looked up, trying to make sense of all of this. "So soon?" I turned from Mike to Don. "How? I mean, it's not like ya could put me on some transplant list and find a donor. Even if you could," I started, used to often being astounded by just how far Donny's reach can go; "I wouldn't have gone to the top of the list, right?"
Looking away, Don swallowed before turning back to me. "We didn't put you on a list, Raph." He whispered.
A sense of dread was growing in my stomach. Believe me, I was happy that I'd somehow gotten a transplant, but… "Than whose heart's keepin' me alive?"
I couldn't imagine my brothers killing someone just to save my life. At the moment, I'd been thinking that maybe they'd found some dead guy who was compatible. But that too seemed beyond them. We all have basic morals.
I wouldn't know 'til I was told. But Donny couldn't do that. After just staring at me for nearly a minute, he bowed his head and his shoulders shook slightly as his fingers gripped the blanket on my bed like they were the last thing in the world he could hold on to.
One stifled sob escaped his mouth. Just one.
To this day, it's the saddest sound I've ever heard.
Pulling away from my bed suddenly, Don steadily made his way out of the room and shut the door.
Calling out to him, I tried to push myself up a little further when he didn't respond. But I felt Mikey's hand land in the same spot on my shoulder where Don's had been. "Just relax, bro. You need to rest."
For a second or two, I have to admit, I'd completely forgotten Mikey was there. Now, however, all my attention was on him.
Parts of his mask were streaked; tear-stained. His eyes were wet.
"Mike," I said, "whose heart did ya get?"
My mind was at a blank on that matter, but I didn't think I could rest easily until I knew.
Biting his lip, he sniffed, closing his eyes. He patted my shoulder once before looking at me again. "Just rest, okay?" He repeated softly.
By now, I was getting fairly agitated. No one was telling me anything! But the fact that everyone seemed so distraught worried me. "All right… if you don't wanna tell me, than can ya at least get Leo for me?" I requested, figuring that I'd at least be able to get something out of my older brother.
That's when Mikey burst into tears.
In my whole life, I don't think I've ever seen him so upset. It's still hard to imagine he was worse before I'd woken up. All in all, he'd looked like he'd needed a hug. And while I'm not usually the hugging type, I might've made an exception had I been able to get up.
"What happened?" I asked him. I ain't a dummy. I'd known something was up. "Tell me, bro… please?"
After watching me with a sorrowful face that'd been ripping me apart for several moments, he moved. At first, I thought he was gonna leave me too, but he surprise me by moving to my other side and sitting down in a chair I hadn't noticed before, positioned there.
Laying his head on my bed, he cried. I gave him some time to calm down, but I was on the verge of strangling him to find out. I'd had my suspicions, and I'd wanted him to tell me they weren't true.
Little did I know the truth was even worse than anything I'd conjured up.
Finally ready to talk, Mikey raised his head and used his arm to wipe the remaining tears from his eyes. Sighing, he looked at me. "What… what do you wanna know first?"
"My heart." I reminded him instantly.
Taking in a short breath, Mike looked away. I'd thought he was gonna cry again. Instead, he spoke two words I hadn't expected to hear.
It took me forever to calm down from that. Went through the whole process and everything; stunned silence, denial, anger. Grief came not too long after.
Mikey took it all in. He was there for every bit of it, trying to console me and calm me down.
Once I was over those first stages, a very important question came to me. "How? How'd he die?"
That much was certain by then. There was no way my brother could still be alive with his heart inside of me.
Ninety-nine percent of me was sure he'd been killed. While I was sure Leo would do anything to keep me alive, I didn't think that even he could convince Don to take his heart while he was still alive and well.
Then again, Leo can be… was a very persuasive guy.
Mikey looked down. After Donny gave you that morphine, him and me went topside to get some air. We didn't know what to do, ya know? How to keep you alive." He paused. "Leo tagged along. He caught up pretty quick, of course; had a pep talk with us. Said we'd do every single thing we had to do to keep you alive.
"We were heading home and… well… some stupid Foot goons showed up; not all of 'em were that good." He paused, took in a shaky breath. "But there was this one guy who was pretty good with a knife. Leo took him. Problem was, you know how hard it is to fight with swords when your opponent's getting in too close.
"Leo was winning. The guy hadn't even touched him. But the next thing I knew, there was all this blood coming out of his stomach. Tons of it- Raph," Mike sobbed once; "I don't think I've seen that much blood before."
It took him a few seconds to compose himself again. I waited. Even in silence, I was hanging off his every word. I could see what had happened vividly in my head. "He killed the guy. The fight was pretty much over after that. Don said we had to get Leo back to the lair quick. He didn't want him there, 'cause of the risk of infection, but we were only about two minutes from home. It was the closest place, and he was bleeding so bad…
"We put Leo on the kitchen table, since you were in the infirmary. Don went and grabbed all of the stuff we needed at lightning speed and came back. We got Splinter to help us, too. Before we'd moved Leo, we'd used our elbow pads to try and stop; at least slow the bleeding. I helped a little with that, but Don told me to try and keep him awake."
Slipping a pillow under is head, Mikey tried to keep his attention on Leo instead of all of the blood, though he could feel it sometimes under his finger as it would slowly soak into the pads like a sponge.
"Hey, bro." He spoke. Leo was taking in quick and painful breaths, upper body rising up and down. "Everything's gonna be okay. Don's gonna get you fixed up and… it'll all be okay."
"He wanted to see you, but Donny said we wouldn't be able to wake you up."
Leo looked at him, eyes showing his pain and growing fatigue. "Raph…" he rasped, "Can you… get Raph?"
Looking to Don for the okay, Mikey saw him nod and was about to run off to get him when Don suddenly moaned. "Wait." He said, looking up, regret apparent in him. "The morphine I gave him; he'll be out for another two hours." Sadly, but quickly, he went back to work on their injured brother.
Taking his place back at Leo's side. "Sorry, bro."
"I kept on talking to him, tried to keep him awake. He was trying too; he didn't want to die. But he was fading pretty quick, Raph." Mikey said sadly, tears forming again.
"C'mon, Leo." Mike whispered. "Stay with us."
Still taking in those quick breaths, Leo whimpered, "I'm trying…"
There were times when his eyes would close, only to flutter open again, either by Leo's own will or Mike's pleas with him. Tears of pain were starting to roll down his face; he was tired.
"It was his idea, bro."
Suddenly, with one of those abrupt rises of his chest, Leo's eyes opened wide. He looked at Mikey, very serious. Shakily, he brought his hand over his chest. "Give it… give it to Raph." He said.
"Give what, Leo?" Mike asked him, trying to understand.
"My heart…" Leo said wearily. "Give it…" He didn't finish his sentence, seeing that his brother understood.
Don had momentarily stopped his work upon hearing that, though he got right back to it. The purple-clad turtle beat Mikey. "I'm not taking your heart out of you, Leo. You're gonna be fine."
"You said… we're compatible-"
"You'll be fine." Don nervously repeated, a little more forcefully.
In his eyes, Mike could tell Leo didn't think so. "Don't give up, bro."
Weakly, Leo had smiled at him. "Never."
"He promised me he wasn't going to quit on us or anything. But… I guess Leo can't even hold onto everything forever."
True to his word, he didn't give up. But blood loss and the damage to his body was waging the stronger side of his battle. Mikey, trying to comfort him, let him know someone was still there, put his hand on his plastron. Leo, who hadn't moved his own, shakily found his and gripped it.
His breaths were getting shorter, his cries softer, his movements were ceasing. All three of them told him to hang on. Mikey didn't think he'd understood them at that point.
Then, blood began to rise in his throat. He breathed out one, slow breath. His head lolled heavily to one side. His body went limp.
And his grip on Mikey's hand loosened.
Mikey sniffed. "And then he was dead."
I bowed my head. My brother was dead. And I hadn't even gotten to say goodbye to him. Come to think of it, the last thing I'd said to him was 'Pick a finger'.
We'd been joking then, thank God. I don't know how I'd live with myself if we hadn't. Leo's response had been 'Love you, too'.
Though we were just fooling around, with no way of knowing what was bout to happen next, I wish I'd said the same thing.
Mikey continued. "Don tried to give him CPR, he tried for about ten minutes." He paused. "That's how long it took Leo to die. Don said the knife had got his colon, small intestine, and this really important artery. That's what did him in."
"So how long did ya even wait before taking his heart out of him and stickin' it in me?"
He looked at me sadly. "We would've waited longer. Don said that if we were gonna do this though, we needed to do it quick, or we wouldn't even be able to use Leo's heart." He bit his lip again. "We'd just lost one brother, Raph. We didn't want to lose another."
I didn't say anything to that. After sitting there for about two minutes, I finally found my voice. "Where is he?"
"Huh?" Mike asked.
"Where's Leo?" I clarified. "I wanna see him."
"Raph, you just had heart surgery-"
"No." I interrupted him. "I don't give a damn about that. I want to see him."
That said, I just stared at him, let Mike know I wasn't backing down from this. That's all it took. Soon, he was helping me up, half dragging me to Leo's room.
By the time we got there, I was about ready to sit down again. I hadn't realized exactly how tired I was. But that didn't matter.
Leo had been moved to his room. Lying on his bed, I could immediately tell he was a corpse. His skin, once a healthy shad of green, now had gray hues to it. When Mike brought me a little closer, I felt it. He was freezing.
I sat down on my knees and Mikey let me go, backing a little bit away. There was a blanket over the rest of Leo's body and I pulled it back a little. I quickly saw his wound; the one that had taken him from us.
But besides that, there was an incision over his heart, or rather, where it had once been. It was stitched up; meaning Donny had gone back to do that once he'd worked on me. I'm real grateful for that. That would've been much harder if I'd had to see that.
Like the last room, this one was dead silent, no pun intended. I could hear my new heart beating. It was so hard to imagine- twenty-four hours ago; it had been working for my brother. He'd been healthy and alive.
Now it was in me.
That's when that grief stage came. I started crying, and I didn't care if Mikey was there to see it. I wrapped my arms around Leo and cried like a freakin' baby. It just didn't seem fair.
My brother was gone. But I was still here.
Recovery time for having a heart transplant is about six weeks. That's what all the books and shit say, anyways. It's different for some, more in some cases, less in others. Mine hit the deadline pretty well, but I didn't care about that.
I was too busy wishing that, somewhere, there was something to say how long it takes to grieve over a dead brother. How long will it take before, with each thought before slumber, you stop thinking about him and move onto something else? How long will it take for you to stop looking over your shoulder, searching for him when you could swear you just heard his voice? How long will it take before you can realize he's truly dead?
I'm guilty of that last one as much as Don, only he seems to actually make that mistake out loud. It's like when Leo was with the Ancient One in Japan for two months. He kept on forgetting he was gone.
The other day, he did it again. Only it's a lot different, if ya ask me, when the deceased isn't just on vacation.
Being the hothead I am, I snapped at him. "Don, our fearless leader's dead and buried. He ain't here, so why don't ya stop talkin' like he is!"
Surprisingly, Don came at me, looking like he was ready to clobber me. He probably would've too, but Mikey got there in time to stop him. He's really good at that, at calming us down. He usually doesn't have to do it with Don, though.
Once he'd convinced him not to kill me, Don obliged, though he still looked pretty ticked. He glared at me. "I know our 'fearless leader' is dead Raph. Just remember that if he'd lived, it could've very well been you we dug a grave for instead of him."
That said, he stalked off to his lab while I sat alone with my thoughts.
I don't have to remember. I've never forgotten. I can't think about Leo without thinking of what he did for me; I can't think of that without thinking of him.
About a week after he died, we took Leo up to Casey's farmhouse. It seemed like the most secluded and nice enough spot to bury him. Don and Casey made this really nice coffin for him.
No marker though, unless you include the tree we buried him under. We can find it easily enough.
Splinter, naturally, gave the eulogy. It was really nice. Afterwards, each of us said something.
My speech took the longest. I hadn't intended for it to, but it did. I apologized to Leo for every single argument we'd ever had and for ticking him off so often. I told him how much I missed him and how much I'd loved him.
And of course, I thanked him for everything he'd ever done for me, namely for his heart that now sits in my chest, though I didn't mention it. It would've just ruined his funeral all together, by reminding everyone of what had to be done less than a hour after he'd passed.
That was our last goodbye. I didn't want to mar it.
When we got back to the lair, Master Splinter asked to see my in private. Once we were in his room, I immediately sat down. Then, I still needed quite a bit of rest.
Splinter gracefully sat down opposite of me and lit a candle to his left. Silence followed.
Since I hadn't really wanted to say anything, he was the first to break it. "Your brother loved you very much, Raphael."
My eyes flickered up to him. "I-I know, Sensei."
Nodding, Splinter sighed. "When we learned of your condition, all of us were determined to find a way to help you, Leonardo especially." He paused. "However, fate dealt us another blow that day, as you now know. Your brother knew that he was not going to survive, yet his main concern had been on yours."
I had no idea, at that time, why Splinter had been telling me this. I knew Leo was a great guy, with a good soul. I knew how he'd died. So why?
"I found the four of you." Splinter began again. "I cared for you, raised you, taught you… experienced countless joys from you." He sighed. "Never did I think I would have to bury one of you."
More silence. I tried to figure this out in my head, but Splinter finally solved the mystery for me.
"The last thing a father ever wishes for is to outlive a son, Raphael. Two sons would be a pain unbearable in the darkest of our nightmares."
That was what this was all about. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. For the past week, I'd been hating myself for living while Leo had died, a habit that has since continued, though to a much lesser extent.
"Despite this tragedy, my son, I wish for you to know that your brothers and I feel no animosity towards you. You did not take your brother's place in this world, nor did he take yours. He wished for you to live, as did we all."
Closing my eyes, I'd let Master Splinter's words settle deep within me. I'd still felt guilty, but a part of me knew that my father was right. "Thank you, Sensei."
After I was able to escape his hug, I went up to my room. I hate crying, but I did it again.
For a while afterwards, it was a little easier. Now, don't get me wrong; it's still hard without Leo. But it wasn't so hard to get through a single day anymore when the thought of him came up. Usually, anyways.
And then I had that fight with don. I haven't been able to deal with myself ever since.
He's had it pretty hard himself. I mean, he's come to except that, despite his efforts, Leo had been in too bad shape to be saved.
But who do ya think had to cut him open and take his heart out? Who do ya think had to cut me open? Donny ain't a doctor, he's an engineer. My surgery took a little longer than a normal one; he and April had to do things by the book, literally.
All I can say is, I'm pretty damn glad that they understood all that.
On most days.
I had no right to talk to Don like that, and I plan on apologizing. But I don't wanna hear one from him. He had every right to say what he did to me.
And I can't stop thinking about it. All that guilt's back.
My brother died. I lived.
Where the hell is the justice in that?
I called up Casey and asked him if he could give me a lift. He asked where. All I told him was that I needed to see my brother. Sometimes Case can be an idiot, but even he knew what I meant by that.
Back in North Hampton, he stays by the car while I find Leo's grave. It doesn't take me long. "Hey, bro." I greet him. I can't say anything else for a bit. Finally, I just talk. "Man, you have no idea how much I'd give to hear one of your lectures right about now."
It's completely true. There have been times in the past two months since he's been gone where I've done one of my usual stupid things and will just wait for Leo to scold me.
But, of course, he never does.
I remember some of them, though; I've heard them so many times. Since Leo's not around anymore to give them, I'll quote 'em from memory. But it's just not the same.
"I miss you, Leo." I say. "God, it really should be me down there in the dirt instead of you."
If he were standing next to me, I know Leo would be telling me otherwise. Hell, I even miss that.
Raising my hand, I rub my neck. The steady beat of my pulse drums beneath my fingertips. For a while, I just stand there like that.
Well, that's just plain typical. Even in death, Leo's found a way to argue with me.
His heart, beating inside of me.
His heart, pumping blood through my veins.
His heart, keeping me alive.
It was his last gift to me, one he didn't have to give. There's a good chance no one would've thought of it if he hadn't said anything.
Smiling slightly, I lower my arm and beat my hand once over my chest as a salute to him before placing it back at my side. Then, I tell him what he last said to me; something I've been wishing I'd said to him that day for a long time.
"Love ya, too."
That said, I nod my goodbye and turn around, heading back to the car. When I'm back in, I can't help but put my fingers back to my neck.
I lost my brother, but he's not gone. I take a little piece of him with me, wherever I go.
(sniffs) I cried while writing this. The only other times where I've cried during a story was when I was writing Rest in Peace and Avalon.
I hope I got the medical stuff right. I'm sorry if I didn't.
Also, I have a song fic that I've written that is up on the Stealthy Stories Forum (check out Mickis' homepage). Check it out, if you like!
Please review! I'm very curious to see how this went over!