Title: Breathe

Author: vashsunglasses

Rating: T

Fandom: Ninja Turtles

Disclaimer: Mirage owns the TMNT.

Summary: One-Shot. Tuberculosis is not something that can be ignored without serious consequences. A story of brotherly love set soon after the Ninja Tribunal. Slight AU.

He never should have let things get so bad. He could feel his dark little secret rattling around in his chest, making everything feel so tight.

He coughed, suddenly, choking on the metallic tang of his own blood that flew from inside him coating tongue, teeth, lips, and spraying in a fine mist, flash frozen in the bitter cold of deepest winter. Then gasping, mouth gaping open for air that didn't come, a terrible burning fear gripped him and he wondered if this was what it felt like to die. Paralyzed and empty, like a fish on a dock.

Then he could breathe again, and he did so greedily, uncontrollable need overcoming the sheer pain of drawing breath. It wasn't enough, his body contorted, desperate for the oxygen his brain craved. He was hyperventilating and he knew that it was the worst thing he could do in his condition. But his flesh refused to cooperate with his panicking mind. And he thought that perhaps he had been wrong before, and that this was death, this terrible hunger that contorted his limbs and made his vision fade around the edges.

Through the film that had settled over his vision he could see his target, the small medical clinic that had the antibiotics he so desperately needed. He'd simply waited too long, but with everything that had happened with the Ninja Tribunal, he simply hadn't had time to be ill. His brothers had needed him, and he knew that they would never have allowed him to set foot outside of their lair if they had known. But it had made him weak, and he had made such a big mistake…

It was so very cold lying in the snow on the rooftop across the street from the medical clinic, his shoulder burned where it touched the white blanket beneath him. He couldn't feel his hands and feet anymore and his lips were numb, and he wondered briefly if his symptoms were due to the extreme temperatures, or due to lack of oxygen to the brain.

He could feel his breath slowing, and he felt oh so very tired, it would be a relief to just close his eyes and rest for a moment…

"Don't sleep, Donatello, you have to complete your mission."

"Leo?" Donny croaked past congealing blood. He blinked blearily at his darkened surroundings, but he couldn't see his brother anywhere. Disappointed, he started to close his eyes again.

"Donny! Stay awake, that's an order!"

"I can't see you," Donatello whimpered, pushing himself upright with numb, clumsy limbs, and looking all around him for his older sibling's familiar form.

"It's all right Don, I'm here for you now, even if you can't see me."

Donny brought his hand, encased in a frozen purple mitten, up to his mouth as he coughed again. Each contraction brought a momentary darkening of his vision with the extreme pain, but when he finished after what felt like forever, there was no more blood on his glove than had been there before.

"Are you still with me?"

"I need you here," Donatello whispered, "Why can't you be here with me where I can see you?"

"You know why..."

"But-" Donny felt like he wanted to cry.

"No! Stand up. Stand up and get moving! You need to climb down that fire escape and get to street level. Go!"

Donatello's numb legs weren't cooperating, and it took several minutes before he was able to stand and take his first halting steps.

"That's it… You're doing great… Keep going little bro, you're almost there… Just a few more steps to go…"

Finally he reached the edge of the roof, and looked down to see the fire escape landing about 20 feet below him. 'Huh, high ceilings," he thought blearily.

"Stay focused Don. You need to keep moving. Climb over the railing and let yourself fall onto the fire escape. If you land right, your shell will take the blow."

Donny lifted the dead weight of his limb and shakily hooked it over the railing, shifting his weight off his other leg he could feel himself begin to fall, and a sickly fear rolled up inside him, causing him to stiffen his grip, halting his fall. "I can't do this, Leo. It's too much!" he sobbed, tears finally freed to stream down his face.

"Let go."

"I c-can't," Donatello sobbed, feeling the pressure of the railing pushing the breath out of his lungs.

"Let go."

Donatello shook his head, clamping down tighter.

"Let go little brother. It's alright, I promise I'll catch you. I won't let you fall."

And with his brother's soothing voice still ringing within him, his fear vanished and he let go, closing his eyes at the feel of Leonardo's mental caress and barely feeling it when he landed with a loud clang on his back on the fire escape.

"There, you see? You're alright. Now you need to get off this fire escape and into the shadows of the alley before the people in this building investigate all that noise you just made."

Donny chuckled, and the chuckle turned into a painful dry cough that burned his throat like fire and made his ribs feel like bands of white hot iron. "I never… was too good… at this ninja thing…" he wheezed, turning over onto his stomach and crawling over to the first set of stairs. He slid down them on his front, crossing his arms in front of him so that he didn't hit his head on the railing at the end. Then crawling around the fire escape, he did it again, and again, and again, finally reaching the last landing and looking down the ladder at the alleyway 20 feet below. "Stupid… high… ceilings…" he panted.

"You can do this, Donny. It's just like what you did before. Land on your shell, and you'll be alright."

"Yeah… Ok Leo…" Donatello whispered, clenching his eyes tightly as he turned and let himself fall through the hole. There was a sharp crack when he landed, and Donny went pale at the thought of how broken his shell might be. He couldn't feel any difference, and when he reached a numb hand around to feel for damage he soon realized how futile it was to try to feel anything when all your appendages were out for the count.

"You can't just lay there Donatello. You need to get up and get to that clinic."

"But my shell-" Donny began.

"-Won't matter at all if you die in this alley! Get up and get moving!"

Donatello rolled over and tried to push himself to his feet but they were too clumsy, and his feet kept twisting in odd directions when he tried to put his weight on them. He sat back down in despair, "I don't think… I can walk… Leo."

"If you can't walk, then you'll have to crawl. You can do it, it's only a short way across the street and you'll be right at the door of the clinic The street is deserted, no one will see you."

Swallowing back the feeling of humiliation that rose up in him at the thought of crawling across the street, Donny got to his hands and knees and began to crawl. His limbs trembled constantly now and his breath burned in and out of him as he crawled slowly, slowly across the slick, black-ice covered asphalt. He kept his head down, just concentrating on moving forward, inch by inch. And then his head hit something solid that blocked his way, and through the fog that clouded his mind and vision he tried to discern what it was.

"That's the door of the clinic, Don. You made it!"

"I… made it?" Donatello whispered, staring blankly up at the door in front of him.

"You've already disabled the alarm system, right?"

"Yeah," Donny wheezed, thinking back to earlier that evening, "Yeah… they use… an alarm… an alarm company… that is… easy… to… hack in… into…"

"Then hurry up and get inside out of the cold!"

Donatello reached up and turned the door handle, falling as his weight on the door pushed it open. The clinic was sparsely decorated, and everything was white except the furniture which looked like it had come from goodwill. He crawled inside, slipping on the tile floor and fell to his side, feeling too weak to move.

"Close the door first Don. Then you can rest for a little while. Close the door."

He kicked out with his foot and slammed the door shut, then lay back, basking in the warmth and trying to catch his breath. He felt so tired, deep in his bones he felt tired.

"Don't fall asleep just yet Donatello, you need to get the medicine you came for first."

"Ok… Leo… I'm… 'wake…" he replied, forcing his eyes open. He crawled through the lobby and opened a second door to go into the office itself. At the back of the office was a bunch of smaller rooms for patients and a large metal-reinforced cabinet where the medicine he needed was stored. It was locked he saw as he crawled up to it, but then he had expected that. Pulling a mitten off with his teeth, he reached a numb three fingered hand into the pocket of his coat and pulled out a small explosive device. It took a lot of fumbling, but he was eventually able to stick it to the lock and with a muffled 'bang' the lock was destroyed. Opening the door, he looked to find that the medicine he needed was right there at eye view.

As he reached out to grab the bottle of pills the door from the lobby was slammed open and he looked back to see his brothers, Raphael and Michelangelo standing there. "How? How… did… you find… me?" he asked, feeling dizzy and overwhelmed.

"Tracked you on your Shell Cell," Mikey replied with a tiny hint of his old smile, then he frowned, "How'd you snap your Bo like that? Dang..."

"Why the shell didn't you tell us you were sick and needed some kind of medicine!" Raphael snarled, taking in Donatello's condition and the bottle in his hand in one glance.

"It's… contagious…" Donny whispered, his vision going dark.

"Well then we'll have to make sure and take as much of this stuff with us as we can," Raph snapped walking forward and grabbing the bottle out of his hand to read the label then throwing it to the youngest, "get every bottle of this shit they have."

Michelangelo moved forward quickly, searching through the cabinet. Donatello grabbed his arm, feeling himself fading. "Leo?" he muttered, "What… about… Leo? He… was… just… here…" but he couldn't see their response because everything went dark.

Mikey's eyes widened questioningly at Raph's, "What did he mean about Leo?" he swallowed, "How could Leo have just been here when he's-"

"Don's just hallucinatin' or somethin'." Raph replied, frowning darkly and picking the halfway conscious turtle off the ground and cradling him to his chest. "Let's go," he said, running out of the room.

Donatello moved in and out of consciousness as they made their way home. Over rooftops and through alleys and down sewer pipes they ran. And finally they reached their home.

"Bring him to his room!" A voice called out and he looked up to see Leo standing at the door of the dojo. Behind him the meditation candles were still lit. He limping due to the injury he had taken to his leg during the final battle against the Demon Shredder. The blow that had hobbled him and that had been Donny's fault…

'If only I'd been quicker,' he thought to himself as he always did. But the smile on Leo's face soothed his guilt slightly and pulled a matching smile from him in return. He submitted to his brother's mother henning without complaint, and once he was in bed and fed several of the antibiotic pills, Leonardo leaned over him and said, "You can sleep now Donatello. I'm so very proud of you. I knew you could do it."

Author's Note: So did I get anyone to think Leo was dead, or did you all see through my trickery…?