Notes: The alternate sequel to "Flicker," where Leo actually makes it. XD Is there going to be more? Doubtful. But who knows? Thank you so much again, guys!
They move him to the sofa, partly because Don needs the space to work and partly because not a single one of them can stand the stench of stale blood and burnt wax in Leo's bedroom. Mikey presses when Don says press, oddly intense in his concentration, and hands over what Don tersely asks for from the sprawled tools beside him. Don says things like, 'The bullet's still inside of him, there's too much blood so it has to be internal,' fingers digging into pulp, and, 'He's in hemorrhagic shock, Raph, can you elevate—yeah, good, that's it, like that… damn it, Leo!'
Leo is more pale grey than green, a sickly shade that matches the dullness Raph had seen in his eyes before his older brother had passed out in his arms. He's too cold. Even his blood, smattered across Raph's plastron and legs in sticky trails, isn't warm anymore. It's funny. He'd called Leo a cold bastard tonight. Had it been tonight? It seems like so long ago. Yeah, it's hilarious.
Raph had just wanted some fresh air. That's all.
He'd come home and—okay, he'd been stupid. Raph had been ready to admit it, save some face. But the wall—even against the brown brickwork, the earth clay tones of his home, the maroon crusting to its surface had been obvious, and even if not, the smell, as familiar as a friend to Raph—the wall still needs a washing, tomorrow, it's going to need a washing. Leo's not going to be the one to do it. Typical. Always cleaning up Fearless Leader's messes. Always being the one to—
Fuck. His brother's life smeared over the walls. Like a talisman or something. Raph looks down at Leo and feels like the world is spinning, he's going to fall over 'cause he can't breathe. He's thinking about how he can barely remember what they'd fought about, how the candlelight flickering beneath Leo's door had been the only strange warning he'd been given, how lucky they are Raph checked. Any later and Leo could've been gone. Still could. Isn't out of the woods yet. Woods. Sandlewood, cloying scent, is that what Leo'd been burning? Something to sleep to. He should go put out the damn candles before they accidentally burn the lair down. He's thinking all that and thinking about just last week, Leo laughing at him for not being able to concentrate during meditation, tapping Raph's head and saying it's too full, that smile, like—like Raph was being—
Don mutters while working, a solemn set to his jaw. He doesn't look up at them. Raph figures it's safer that way, considering how far Don's hand is in their older brother's thigh. Mikey tries to watch, but his eyes slide away towards the far corner of the living room every few moments, unable to stay too long on the makeshift operation of sorts. It's not the first time they've pulled a bullet, but it's never any easier. Never so long after the wound had been inflicted.
Master Splinter strokes Leo's head.
Raph feels like a stranger who hasn't deserved his own name. It's just as well because he can barely process it right now. He wonders, somewhat numbly, when he forgot Leo's, too.
Hours later. Feels like years. Raph takes the first watch even though they all know no one will sleep, not yet. He can hear Don shuffling in his lab, anxiously hovering because even without the bite of adrenaline, the will to bent to movements call is still pulsing in his ears. Mikey is sitting quietly with Master Splinter, pretending to sleep as their father wearily stays to soothe the nightmares he's sure will come. They all know it's Raph's fault. (This is what Raph is thinking now.) Nobody's saying it, that's all.
He watches Leo breathe and it feels good and awful at the same time.
It's not the first time he's done something stupid and another brother has paid for it. Raph is the champion of the big mistake. But they've never died from it. (Leo won't, either.) He's abruptly sick at the thought of what he'll have to say when Leo wakes up. There's no way to… to fix things, Raph is best at breaking them or keeping them close, hoarding, no way to apologize for shit like this. The real kicker is, even as he's crushing under the weight of all this stupid guilt, there's this idiot voice in the back of his head insisting it's not his fault, it's Leo's, because Leo should've kept a better eye on his own back. Shouldn't have followed Raph out in the first place.
He'd just wanted some air.
After a while, he puts his hand on Leo's shoulder. It's not as awkward as it could be. And it's reassuring, after all, to feel the steady beat of Leo's heart under his fingers. Makes his shoulders lose their tension, some of his muscles unwinding. Stomach stop churning. Leo, the steady rock. Their mountain. Normally he'd laugh.
He's not laughing.
And it occurs to him, stupid poetic nonsense, that if Leo's a mountain then maybe Raph's the river wearing him away year after year, but Raph pushes that thought away before it poisons him. Leo's alive. He isn't going to die. That's all. Simple things. Raph can handle that. He studies his brother while he sleeps deeply, but sees nothing hard in Leo, nothing that warrants the images Raph always places on him. He wonders if they were ever there at all.
What the hell is he going to say when Leo opens his eyes? Raph's never been a coward, but with a dizzying lurch he realizes he doesn't want to be here for that. He has no idea how to make it right.
Whatever. He shrugs the fear away, corrodes it before it can leech onto the anxiousness already apparent for Leo to recover. He'll deal with it. Somehow. They'll have a lot to talk about, not just about tonight.
For now, Raph keeps watch. Quiet, hand on Leo's shoulder to remind himself that he's not alone. Not yet.
When Leo wakes, he's on the sofa in the living room in the dark and Raph is staring tiredly at him from the armchair.
It seems surreal. For a moment, Leo thinks himself in a dream, some heightened reality supported by the weight of the silence and the glitter of his brother's eyes reflecting from the dim, amber glow of the lamp. Raph is still as stone, unreadable. When Leo blinks sluggishly at him, feeling like his eyelids are five pounds each, he doesn't move.
"Wha' happened?" His speak slurs only a little. Leo thinks about sitting up, but something about the dull ache permeating his entire body tells him it would be a bad idea. When Raph doesn't answer, he groans and began to pat at his thigh where the worst of the agony radiates. The bandages are rough and sticky. Warm sticky.
"We'll need to change 'em soon," Raph says. "Don't touch 'em."
Leo lets his exploration halt, too tired to continue. He can't feel his legs very well. He feels… drugged, cotton-headed. He glances over at the coffee table, searching, and finds a bottle of painkillers Don must have left. "The mission?" he asks, clearing his throat.
Raph looks strange, then shakes his head. He shifts, and that's when Leo notices the gleam of metal in his lap. One sai, fingers still curled over it. "Everyone okay?" Leo asks when nothing seemed forthcoming.
Raph makes as if to shake his head again, then hesitates as he changes his mind. "No," he mutters.
"What?" Leo sits up quickly, but it's a mistake. The flare of pain up his torso takes the breath right out of him. He fallss back, clutching the blankets, cutting off a weak cry before it escapes and not entirely succeeding. Raph is at his side in the next second, pushing Leo down to the cushions angrily.
"What the fuck, Leo?! You wanna ruin the sofa? You gotta hole in your leg the size of Jersey, you stay down or I'll tie you down!"
"Where's Don?" Leo gasps, ignoring the shaking of his limbs as the pain recedes to an ache again. His heart pounded. "M-Mikey? Who was hurt?"
Raph glares at him for a moment. "Are you stupid or somethin' now?" he asks roughly, disbelieving. "I was talkin' about you, Leo."
Relief, quicksilver and cool in his veins. Leo closes his eyes, exhaling heavily. "Oh," he says faintly. "That's good."
"Whatever," Raph finally says, low. "I'm gonna go get Donny."
Leo murmurs what he hopes sounds like an affirmative. He doesn't hear anything else after that, but he feels fingers brushing over his head, fleeting but comforting, before sleep claims him once more. He suddenly remembers, somewhat vaguely as he drifts off, that there hadn't been a mission at all. But it doesn't matter. Tomorrow he can tell Raph it's okay, no one needs to apologize, drag things out messily. He knows. He gets it. He can listen to what Raph doesn't say, after all.
But they'll have a lot to talk about and that, maybe, will be okay.