And here I thought the epilogue would be much smaller than this, and instead it escaped from me. Clearly, I cannot be trusted when I give an estimate of length. After all, my 8-10 pages has turned into 89. Gah.
End of the road, here. No further chapters. I did toy with the idea of writing a follow-up story to cover Don and Raph's side in full, but I'm not sure I would really be able to pull it off so well. But I gave enough allusions to what happened with the two of them, so hopefully that will be enough.
I just have to say – writing this has been great fun. And I am over the moon at the hundred plus reviews I've received … you guys are the greatest. So here's hoping this last installment doesn't disappoint.
Thanks again to Kalenthi and Winnychan for taking the time to beta for me, and a special thanks to MTAngeli for helping out with ideas for the end, which I was stuck on for way too long. You guys rock!
Disclaimer: I don't own the TMNT and related characters. If I did, the Lost Season would have had far less in the way of plotholes.
I don't remember much of going home. I know it takes a while … we're in deep, and it's not like home is right next door. And we don't move straight away, either. Donny's hunched by Leo with his back to me and I can see the rigid tension in his shoulders – he's worried, so bad. It makes me feel a little sick to see that. But I can't see what he's doing. All I see is the moment when he lifts his hand to fling Leo's dirty blue bandana on the ground next to him. I wonder if mine is as filthy as that.
But that's not the real question here … I spend some time leaning on Raph and watching Don, because I can't really see Leo. I have to wonder if that's deliberate on Don's part. He spends some time talking to April over his headset – heh, he has those night goggles perched on his head – so I get from that she's waiting up above somewhere and she probably has Splinter with her. Makes me feel really guilty, even though I know that … well, this was just an accident.
Things are a bit hazy, and I know I'm starting to doze, but at one point Raph shakes me awake and I blink to see Don's crouched down in front of me, and his smile's a lot warmer up close. And he has fresh water with him! I could kiss him. Uh … in a brotherly kind of way.
"Just a little," he advises. "Don't drink too fast or you'll just lose it again, Mikey."
"I'll make sure he's okay," Raph says wearily, reaching out and plucking the bottle out of Don's hands before I can free a hand from the blanket to snatch it. Spoilsport. "How's Leo?"
"Leo's sick," I tell them.
Don gives me a sharp glance, and then nods at Raph with an expression that kinda makes me feel like there's something I should know. But all he says is, "Mikey's right. But he'll be okay."
"What about his arm?"
Raph's voice is all edges, and I try and find the energy to say something about that too, even though I'm pretty sure he wasn't asking me. But I fade out again at that point. Real tired. Wake up again when Raph gets some of that water down my throat, just a trickle, and it's the best thing I've tasted in ages. I think I'm worn out. I can't stay awake, and I get the impression at one point that someone's picking me up, but I can live with that. Coddle the Mikey, whoever you are. I deserve it. It's been a long day.
I get some vague images after that. Raphie's giving me a piggyback, heheheh. He won't be able to keep that up all the way home. I have to remember it for later. Leatherhead still has a hold of Leo, which makes me so relieved. LH is a big guy; he can cradle Leo like that without hurting his arm. I can't see much of my big brother except for his head just peeking out from under the blankets. He looks comfy, at any rate. And Casey keeps shoving his face close to mine and I'm trying to work out why, and I hear Donny chase him off with an annoyed tone of voice. Then later, when I wake up again, it's Casey that's got a hold of me, and Don's close by and talking in hushed tones about something or other. Weird. I'm being passed around. Heh. But … you know, I'm good with the not walking thing. I really am.
I don't remember much more. Get the impression of a warm, furry hand brushing along my forehead at some point, and that's when I know I'm home. I can hear Master Splinter talking, and I have no idea what he's saying, but he sounds concerned. I try and wake up enough to offer him a cheerful smile or something, but I'm not really sure if I succeed on that one.
Then I wake up. Tucked in my bed, fluffy pillows, all that. I already know I don't want to move – I feel overstretched and thin and worn out, and I know the second I try something will start hurting, so I'm content to just lie there and peer at the ceiling for a while. It's a very nice ceiling. You know, the best thing about my ceiling is that I can count all the little cracks and rough spots, because I can see the damn thing. Never thought I'd be so happy to stare at it.
It takes me a while to realise I can feel something tickling along my left arm and I shift my head after a few seconds to try and work out what. My arm's on top of the covers, and Donny's head is resting right next to it on the crook of his elbow, and I grin. Poor guy has to be so tired. I can see gauze caught in one of his hands, and I look down my arm to the fingers. Neatly wrapped up – I guess I did damage them after all. But they don't sting too bad.
I feel clean, too. Pretty comfy, even if moving isn't in the cards right now. Guess I got my hot bath after all, and I wasn't even awake for it. Was I that tired?
Come to think of it, what's Donny doing here? Shouldn't he be doing something with Leo? I blink for a second at the complete silence of the lair, and I wonder what time it is. And Leo I guess could be tucked away in his own room, but … I lift my arm gingerly to maybe shake Don, and the moment I do his eyes flick open. I don't even have to touch him.
"Mikey?" It's kinda cute how he squints at me. Like he's not sure that I'm me or something. But he smiles, and straightens up next to the bed, and I'm trying not to snicker because he still has gauze tangled round his fingers and he doesn't seem to have noticed.
He reaches out with his other hand and puts it against my forehead for a second which makes me blink. Then he tilts his head and glances at me thoughtfully. "How do you feel?"
"Try again," Don says wryly.
I smirk. "Not so okay?"
He smiles at that. "Can you sit up? You should probably eat something. Or at the very least, have some more to drink. You're a little dehydrated."
Yeah, and probably thirsty too. Sure, I'll try sitting up. And it's not as hard as I thought it would be – everything still aches, but it's not as sharp as it was. I don't think I'll be moving very fast for a while, though. There's a tightness around my chest, and when I push the covers away I find that Mad Doctor Don has definitely been at me – lots of bandages wrapped over my plastron. Heh. Must've been some serious bruising showing up on my sides for him to do that. I can see all the other bruises now in the light, but they're fading a bit – they'd be all the ones I took falling in the first place. Still, I guess I look pretty bad.
I wouldn't be the only one though.
"Donny? How's Leo?"
Don blinks. "He'll be fine. Raph's in with him right now."
Which goes a way to reassure me that Don probably spent a whole bunch of time in with Leo before making his way in here, but … that's a pretty vague answer. I narrow my eyes. "Is his arm gonna be okay?"
He hesitates on that, which means it doesn't matter what he tries to say to me. I already know there's a problem. And he knows it. So he sighs. "It should be. But it will take a while. Leo just needs to be convinced to give it time to heal."
Which is always a problem with Leo. Worst patient ever. "How long are we talking here?"
"Not sure," Don mutters. "Maybe three months?"
I stare. That's way too much time for a broken wrist. "That bad?"
Don gives me a thoughtful look. "Are you up to telling me what happened?"
Now that was an attempt at a subject change. Pretty lousy one, too. And I draw in a breath because now I'm worried, and Don just shakes his head, holding a hand up. "He really is going to be okay, Mikey."
"Don't Mike me." Gotta admit, I'm proud of how calm my voice is right now. One day someone is gonna have to explain to Don that avoiding the subject isn't a good way to stop people worrying. "I did that to his arm, you know."
"If you did," he says mildly, "You know it was an accident."
Kudos for not looking shocked. Don peers at me for a couple of seconds, and then shakes his head again.
"Tell you what," he says. "You eat, I'll talk. I'll go make you some--"
I cut him off, giving him my very best stubborn glare. Which admittedly isn't as stubborn as some, but does have the added threat of being followed with pouting and the world's best puppy dog eyes. "You talk, I'll eat."
Don gives me this doubtful look, but I can see he's gonna cave. I mean, it's not like I won't find out the second I get out of my bed and go find Leo, right? Which, I might add, I'm gonna be doing just as soon as I've eaten.
"All right," he says finally. "In layman's terms? Leo's torn the muscles in his shoulder, and he's probably strained a whole bunch more, but that's something that will hopefully mend over time. I've already dealt with the shoulder and wrist dislocations. Given enough time and care, his arm should be fine."
Well, at least his wrist wasn't actually broken. Though a dislocation is probably just as bad in its own way, I guess … if I remember correctly, just snapping it back in isn't all the care it needs. But I stare at Don. His mouth is twisted slightly in a way that makes me think he's wondering how to phrase the bad news, and I know he's not done. Three months?
"There's another but, isn't there?"
"Yes." Don shifts uncomfortably. "It's hard to say how bad it is, because Leo's … not really giving me straight answers." Translation: Leo's still out of it. Or being his usual stubborn self. Either way. "But I believe he's taken some damage to the nerves in the back of his hand."
That isn't something I wanted to hear, really. Nerve damage? Leo? "And what's that supposed to mean?" I demand.
He shoots me a faintly irritated look, and it's then that I'm reminded of how tired Don looks. I wonder if the nap on the edge of my bed was the only sleep he's had in the past day or two or … however long we were gone. "He doesn't have full use of his fingers," he says quietly. "I don't think he even felt me prodding at them. If I were to take a guess, I would say that the impact damage to his wrist wasn't anywhere near enough to sever the nerves, which—"
"He can't feel his fingers!?" And here I thought I was meant to stop panicking when I got home. After all that? Doesn't take a genius to realise that you can't hold a sword without—
"Mikey, would you please hear me out before you freak out?" Don gives me a crooked smile, and I swallow and try to look attentive. "Nerves can heal. Admittedly very slowly, but unless they're severed completely, Leo should be fine" He pauses, and then adds wryly, "Provided, as I said, he can be convinced to give it time. I looked it up. Crush damage to peripheral nerves heals at a rate of one millimeter a day. Then after that, there's the process of restoring coordination, and … let's just say it will take a while."
Shell. Leo's gonna go nuts. I wonder how much patience he has for something like this. Then I hope Don's right and everything will be okay, because nerve damage isn't exactly his specialty, but … no. He wouldn't have told me that unless he was very sure himself…
"Have you stopped panicking now?"
"I think so." I give him a weak grin. "But, you know, gimme a few minutes, I'm sure I can find something else to freak about."
"I'll try not to make any sudden moves," Don says, straight-faced. "Anyway, Leo is sleeping. April's probably on her way back here now with some more painkillers for him. He'll be fine."
"So now I'm going to get you something to eat. And then you're going to tell me what happened to you."
I blink. "What? Why?"
"Because," Don says steadily, "I want to know how you got hurt."
Nothing much to tell there, is there? But … I figure Don deserves at least the abridged version, because maybe he needs to know how Leo's arm got mangled as badly as it did. So Don fetches me some plain toast and some ridiculously sweet Gatorade, which is probably the best thing I've tasted in ages. Food is good!
And after that, we talk.
I leave out all the screaming I did. Heh. And I also leave out what Leo did, right at the end. That … is something I'm gonna be talking about with Leo, up close and personal. Thinking about it now makes me upset. Don's eyes are watching my hands, clenching the coverlet up in my fists, and I force them to smooth out.
But it still hurts.
When I finish, Don's still looking at my hands. "I'm sorry we didn't get to you sooner, Mikey," he says, voice quiet. "We came back to the lair to patch Raph up, and by the time we came back—"
"Raph was hurt?"
Don stops at my stricken look, and smiles sheepishly. "Not badly. His arm was cut, that was all. It wasn't deep. But if we were going to look for you underground… and then when we came back with all our gear there were people everywhere and it was … well. We had to be so careful. I'm sorry, Mikey."
I shoulda thought of that. New York reporters will have a field day … heh. "Not like it's your fault, Don. At least you came."
He nods. "And luckily, you guys were on the move yourself. You were a lot closer to the lair than where you started. That's some good travel time."
I grin. "Leo figured we'd save you some time looking for us if we met you halfway. It's just a pity we couldn't use the Cell to actually call you."
"Would've been nice," Don agrees dryly. "We were a little worried."
"Least you knew we were on the move though, right?"
The look Don gives me then is very weird, and he opens his mouth as if he's going to say something. And then he shuts it as we hear new arrivals in the lair – sounds like April and Casey. Master Splinter is talking to them in low tones. I can't hear what he's saying, but Casey's voice drops a few notches in volume so I bet Sensei just told him to keep a lid on it.
"Guess I should go talk to April," Don murmurs. "Let her know what—"
I reach out and snag his arm as he starts to move. I'm missing something, and Don's just gone into avoidance mode. "Don? What aren't you telling me?"
Don's quiet for a few seconds, and it's enough for me to peer back at his face and see the uneasy look that he tries so hard to hide. It makes my stomach sink a little … I'm getting the impression something bad happened.
"The shaft," he says finally.
Not what I was expecting. Kinda left field. Don looks down at his hands now. The piece of gauze caught in his fingers gets yanked free and crumpled in one hand. "The one where you had your fall, I guess. It was half caved in, and we had to be so careful going in there—"
"Whoa, whoa…" I'm confused. "We left that place hours and hours before you found us. How come you went there?"
"Because that's where we tracked Leo's Shell Cell to, Mikey," Don says softly.
"That's not right," I point out. "We had it—"
I stop. We did have it. The last time I saw it was when I pulled it out way before we got to the shaft. And then we fell …and Leo got … and … why didn't I even think to look for it? I just assumed …
Things got rough. That was a heavy fall we both took - of course we lost the damn thing. That … I take a breath. We left it behind in the water, and I didn't even know it was gone. Shell, we walked away from our lifeline. And I can imagine - they would've thought we were buried under all that junk and—
Oh, god. We walked away. I start shaking. Should've just let Leo sleep and ignored his request to move – we could've avoided everything after, we could—
"Mikey!" Don's hands are on my shoulders. "Would you calm down? You'll end up hurting yourself if you keep that up."
I have no clue what he's talking about, until I hear the laughing. Oh, that's me. I guess there's something hysterically funny about the whole thing. I take a few breaths. Walked away. Oh, that's rich. And somehow terrifying. And something, I think, that I am not gonna tell Leo.
"Typical," Raph remarks sourly from the doorway. I glance up to find him leaning there, arms crossed as he glowers at me, and I put a hand over my mouth, trying to swallow the giggles. More hysterical than funny, I guess. "Leave it to Mikey to freak out after the fact."
Don rolls his eyes a little at that. His hands are still on my shoulders, and he shakes his head. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you."
"Why not?" I snort. "It's the truth, isn't it? It's just …funny."
"It ain't funny," Raph says, voice flat. "We thought—"
He breaks off with a scowl. And suddenly I don't find it funny at all. Because now I know what they're getting at. Even if it was just for a second … they must've thought we were dead. Oh shell, Raph woulda gone nuts. I can almost imagine Casey down there, trying to drag him out of the water before he killed himself looking…
I guess … it really wasn't a good time for any of us.
"So…" I trail off for a bit, watching Raph burn a hole in the ground with his glare. Then I continue, a little softly. "How'd you find us?"
Don gives me a weak smile. "Did you cut your leg when you climbed out?"
I stare at him. What's that got to do with anything? "Yeah, but…"
"Donny and LH did some lookin' around," Raph mutters. "And you sorta …left a trail on the wall."
I cringe a little at that. Didn't know I bled that much … heck, didn't know I bled at all. Oh, I bet that made their day, too. 'Don't worry, Raphie! They're not dead, they're trailing blood up into this here tunnel!' … yeah. Shell. What a mess.
"At least we knew you'd continued on," Donny says softly, as if he's reading my mind. "And we could see two sets of footprints, so we knew you'd both survived the shaft. It was actually a lot faster once we just started following a real trail."
Yeah. At least until the tunnels started flooding, right? I take a breath. Definitely not telling Leo. Ever. I mean, I can already imagine him going on a massive guilt trip about it… because, y'know, he shoulda somehow known, realised, whatever. According to whatever passes for logic in Leo's brain some days.
"April's here with pain killers," Raph is saying to Don. "Heavy duty stuff. She said you asked her for somethin' to make him sleep?"
"For a while," Don replies. "Is Splinter in with him now?"
Talking about Leo. Heavy duty pain killers, huh? I frown. "Leo is gonna be okay, right?"
Don shakes his head a little, and smiles wryly. "Like I said, it's just … he isn't going to be using that arm for a while." He looks vaguely annoyed. "And if he's not careful, he won't be using it at all, but I'm sure we can enforce certain restrictions one way or the other."
"Full body cast sounds good," Raph suggests, one corner of his mouth turning up in a smirk.
This makes me think Leo's woken up and tried to be difficult about things. Which is a very Leo-like thing to do, so it makes me grin. It reminds me to ask something else. "Is he still sick? He wasn't …very well."
They look at each other, sorta knowingly, and that makes me wonder whether I should start panicking again or something. But then, Raph moves around to my other side and sits down on the bed, draping an arm casually over my shoulders. "Leo," he announces, "Will be fine. So quit worryin' about it."
Don grins. "His fever broke not too long after yours did. He's just sleeping now."
I stare at him. "I was not sick."
"No, you weren't sick." Raph snorts. "That's why you babbled at me the whole way back, genius. You told us Leo was sick only, oh, eight times—"
Don looks away at that. He's trying to keep a straight face, and I wonder what else I could have said. Annnd all of a sudden I don't wanna know. Not really. "Fine," I say grumpily. "But I don't see why. I didn't have some huge infected gash."
"No, that's true. But." Don has that tone of voice that tells me I'm about to receive a lecture. "Mikey, you put yourself through a lot of stress, physical and otherwise. Not to mention the amount of damage that you must have sustained falling like that—"
"But Leo caught me!"
Don narrows his eyes at the interruption. Oops. Sorry, Dr Donny. "Yes. And trust me when I say we're all happy that he did." Yeah, tell me about it. "But do you know anything about physics? Every bit of force applied to Leo's arm also applied to your spine when you jerked to a stop. You're lucky you're a turtle; your shell will have protected you from …"
He trails off for a moment. Probably because I'm blinking at him stupidly given I have no idea what he's talking about. So he sighs. "Look. The body isn't designed to snap like that. As it is, you probably jarred most of your nervous system in the fall. Do you understand?"
Oh. Is that why I hurt so much? But I already feel better – more stiff than anything else today. Of course, I haven't tried standing yet…
"Yeah. I get it."
"Good." Raph nudges me. "So take it easy."
"You aren't too bad, Mikey," Don says. His tone is still in doctor mode, but he's smiling again. "Just … kind of a little wrung out. And you'll probably feel a lot better in a few days."
"Oh, goodie," I say, all innocence as I clasp my hands together. "But Doctor, will I be able to play the violin?"
Then Raph smacks me over the back of the head, and I know everything's back to normal.
It's not like I can't walk myself … but I guess I just look so awkward hobbling toward the door and trying not to let on how sore I really am that my brothers decide to give me a hand. So Don gives me a smile and heads down into the lair to catch up with April and collect the stuff she's brought with her, and Raph just sighs and practically scoops me up, and I blink a bit as he follows Don out.
I smirk at him. Raph's got the long-suffering voice down pat – like it's practically killing him to be nice to me here. "Well, I dunno. I was feeling kinda like some ice cream and there's that awesome new place up near where April lives—"
"Ha. Ha. Would Sir like to be thrown into the pool as well?"
"Leo," I say quickly.
"S'what I thought."
I half expect him to try carrying me bridal style over the threshold or something, and I'm just fighting down the jokes that spring to mind because, y'know, the last thing I really need is Raph throwing me at Leo in a fit of offended rage … but he actually deposits me just outside the door. Wow. Thanks for those six whole seconds of assistance, Raphael. But it's kinda cute. And I know why he stopped here. With his hands full of Mikey, he would've made too much noise trying to open the door. I guess Leo's sleeping.
Raph turns the door knob and gives it a small push, then looks at me doubtfully, so I say "I can manage the rest."
"If you say so."
He turns to go, and I swallow. "Hey, Raph?"
For some reason, the first words that come to mind to say are: Leo knows where your stash is. And I stick a hand over my mouth to hide the grin for a second, because I figure he doesn't need to know that. Instead, I sorta mutter into my hand. "Sorry about the whole 'worry' thing."
Raph practically sneers at me, but he claps a hand down on my shoulder anyway. It's even a little more gentle than usual. Isn't he sweet? "I'm used to you bein' a pain in the shell," he says. "Don't sweat it."
He heads off, and I hear him start talking to Casey, and the look he gives me as he goes tells me that they'll probably give me at least a few minutes alone with my big brother before Don comes back this way. Nice of them.
Then Leo's door opens the entire way, and I stand there blinking as Master Splinter looks at me gravely. Oh. That's right; Raph was saying something about him being here. "Uh, Sensei--"
"You should not be out of bed yet, Michelangelo," he says gently. "You need rest as much as your brother does."
"Um, yeah, I know, but…"
I trail off as he steps forward to put his arms around me, and instead I just return the hug. It's weird how gentle he is – being extra careful of the bandaging around my chest, but I can feel his fingers latching onto the back of my shell, and I can take a guess just how relieved he is that we're both still in one piece.
"Ten minutes," Splinter says, pulling back after a few moments and giving me a firm look. "Then Raphael will take you back to your room."
I feel like telling him I'm really not that bad. Honestly, it really is just a whole bunch of aches and pains that I can deal with, but … well, we scared them, didn't we? So I swallow. "Sure thing, Master Splinter."
He smiles faintly and then moves past, and I hear the tap of his walking stick as he heads for the living area.
Guess that leaves me with my big brother, huh?
I edge inside the room and close the door real quietly. Splinter or Raph have left a couple of his candles flickering on the dresser, which I can totally understand. After a day or two spent in pitch darkness, I'm thinking having a little light would be comforting even for Leo.
Not that I'd ever say that out loud, of course.
There's extra pillows on his bed – couple cushions from the living area, and I recognise Don's spare from his workshop – and Leo's propped up in bed with the blankets tucked up across his waist, and if I thought Don had gone a little nuts on treating me, Leo's got it much worse. I can see the whiteness of all those bandages practically welding his arm to his chest a lot more securely than his bandana ever did, all the way from his shoulder to his fingers.
That arm is definitely gonna drive him up the wall after a few days. Once it stops hurting so much, probably.
He doesn't actually look as bruised as I do. Then again, I guess his dive after me was a lot more controlled than my panicked flail. So right now, apart from a couple of mottled marks on his good arm and a nasty bruise on his jaw and a few minor scrapes, he doesn't look too battered.
Looks a lot more comfortable than the last time I saw him, at any rate.
So I'm sidling up to his bed and I'm wondering whether or not to wake him up … and if I do, what I yell at him about first. There's his fingers, for one thing. I have to wonder. Did he know before he got home that his fingers were messed up, and just didn't say anything? Or was he so distracted with everything else that hurt that he didn't notice? It's hard to say. I suppose, even if he did know, there'd have been absolutely nothing either of us could have done about it. Leo would have filed it under 'deal with it later' and settled for making me freak out about everything else...
Okay. Free pass on that one.
Now I'm standing here, staring down at his sleeping face. My brother, the martyr. How do I say what I want to say? I suppose I could say it while he's not awake. I've already discovered how, y'know, therapeutic it can be to lecture Leo when he can't answer back—
I swear he makes me jump halfway across the room. Thanks a bunch, Leo. His eyes are still closed, but I can see the corner of his mouth turn up in the gloom, so I guess he's all amused at his jumpy little brother. I settle for glaring at him, even if he can't see it. Bet he did that on purpose.
"You should be in bed," he says after another moment. Calm as can be, although from the vague sound of his voice he's either just woken up or he's about to sleep for hours on end. "Are you okay?"
And despite everything, I grin at him as he opens his eyes. "We held a vote while you were out cold," I tell him. "You're not allowed to ask me that for at least another two weeks."
"I see," he says dryly. "Then I won't ask."
And of course, I watch him watch me. Taking inventory again. His eyes rake over the bandages across my plastron and his smile gets a little thin, and I end up crossing my arms across my chest and pretending nothing hurts at all. "So would it be a stupid question," I ask tartly, "To ask how you are?"
"Not a stupid question," he murmurs. "I'll be fine."
"Didn't ask how you'll be, did I?"
He meets my eyes at that, and he opens his mouth to answer me. Then he shuts it. I don't know, maybe the incredibly bandaged Mikey is intimidating or something, because he shifts his gaze away to stare at the floor.
"Master Splinter says no training for at least a week, probably two," he says, and I blink. Wow, Leo's being on the level. "And after that … well. I won't be using this arm for a long time. But now, I think …" He shifts his gaze back to me, and he smiles again. "I'm just sore. And tired."
I grin. "So sleep."
"I've been sleeping all day," Leo retorts. "Besides, you're here."
"Not like you haven't fallen asleep on me before this."
It's meant to be a joke, but as soon as I say it I realise Leo will take it another way. The smile fades and he glances down to his wrapped up arm, and I give a sigh. And after a second, watching the guilt sorta creep into his face, I shift forward a bit to take hold of the blankets and pull them away.
Mainly I'm satisfying my worry about something else. Of course, Donny was really thorough with both of us, wasn't he? Leo's leg is wrapped in nice clean bandages as well, though nowhere near as much as his arm. The wound is clean, so it'll heal just fine. And I already know Leo is nice and lucid and back to being his usual guilty self.
He hasn't said anything about my sudden attack on his blankets, so either he knows exactly what I'm doing or he's too busy getting all angst-ridden about, you know, daring to get hurt. Heh. But I get his attention when I sit down carefully on the bed and curl up next to him, pulling the blankets back up. Not the most comfortable place in the world right now – there's no way in hell I'd ask Leo to try moving over to make more room, so it's not like I have a lot of space to work with. But he needs distracting.
And besides, I'm cold.
Leo raises an eye ridge at me. "What are you doing?"
"You told me I should be in bed," I say cheerfully. "So here I am."
"This is my bed."
I smirk. "Mine's too far. If I try leaving Raph will sweep me off my feet and marry me or something."
Leo laughs softly at that. "I'm not even going to ask."
And after a second, he shifts his good arm up across my shoulders to make more room, so I curl up a little closer against his side. It's really nice, you know. Having his arm around me when we're both safe at home and we don't have to drag ourselves through some dark tunnel of murky doom. Should happen more often.
Course, we've done this before, every now and then. But believe me, I'm really appreciating being able to curl up with my big brother, now more than ever.
For a few minutes, we just sorta sit there. Cosy. Relieved, I think. Yup, here we are. Home. And everyone's safe. Happy ending. And I notice Leo relax more and more and realise he's gonna fall asleep again shortly, and I still haven't said what I really want to say. And Splinter did say ten minutes …
"It's not like I minded, you know."
"You getting hurt." Wait, that sounds stupid. I snicker a little sheepishly."Well, okay – I hated you getting hurt. And me getting hurt as well, come to think of it. I mean, ouch. But … you know, it couldn't be helped. And I'd never mind if you needed help, because I don't know if you noticed, but you helped me first and you wouldn'ta needed help if you didn't help me first, so that kinda makes us even, you know?"
Sue me, I'm not all eloquent and stuff like Leo and Don are. But Leo's arm tightens across my shoulders, so I guess he understands. "I know, Mikey."
"So stop feeling bad about it already."
And that's still not what I wanted to say. Well … it's a little hard.
"I could say the same to you."
I blink. "Huh?"
"It's not your fault we fell, Mikey." His voice is clear and serious, and I shift my head to peer up at him. "So stop thinking that you're responsible, okay?"
Well, that's not the same thing. I mean, it was me messing around on the beam that screwed us over …
"Besides," he adds wryly, "Don't think I don't know how hard it must have been to climb out of that shaft. And everything that came after … you really pushed yourself hard."
I give him a nervous smile. "Uh, not so much. I mean, you'd be surprised how far hysterical panic can get a turtle—"
Leo gives me a level stare, and I shut up. And then he smiles at me, but he doesn't say anything. And I get the idea. I guess he won't say it, because let's face it … it'd probably sound really patronising. But I feel all warm on the inside anyway. My big brother is proud of me, isn't he?
Heh. Well, as long as I have his respect …I take a breath. "Leo?"
His eyes close, and he shifts back to rest against the pillows. "Mm?"
The words sorta catch in my throat. You know, I really want to say it. In fact, there's part of me that wants to shake him even if that will hurt, and rant at him until I'm out of breath. Don't you ever do that to me again. Don't you EVER. Two minutes from rescue, and you try the whole self-sacrifice thing just to buy me a few minutes? What, you think I'd want to be okay without you? Didn't you listen? Didn't you hear me when I said there was help? What were you thinking!?
How do you say that to someone, well and truly after the fact? Especially when chances are good that he was so out of it at the time, he doesn't even remember doing it?
I swallow. "You're an idiot."
I expect him to get confused at that – open his eyes and stare at me as if I'm nuts. But Leo doesn't move.
Instead his arm tightens around me again, and his words are very soft. "I'm sorry, Mikey."
He remembers. And I'm quiet for a long time, just letting him hug me, because I honestly don't know what to say. I wonder if he's sorry that he tried, or he's just sorry that it hurt me. Or maybe both. Well … he was sick. Maybe things would have been different. Maybe not.
"Don't do it again," I mutter after a while. "Ever."
And Leo doesn't say anything. I think for a second that maybe he's just thinking over some way to say, Yes, Mikey, I promise! … without sounding like a horribly cheesy movie ending or something. Kinda hopeful of me, I know. And the silence stretches, and that's when I realise. I'm stupid.
Leo isn't saying anything, because Leo doesn't like to lie. He's still holding on tight, just his one arm wrapped around me because his other one's so messed up, and I can feel the tension all the way down to his fingers, and so I know at least that what I said really gets to him. And I think about how I felt in that flood, that terror of losing my big brother despite how hard we'd fought to get to that point. How I would have had to live with it afterward. Or woulda tried to.
The fear sinks deep. I don't ever want him to do that to me again. To any of us. It's not just his choice, is it? My fingers curl a little on his plastron – I can't reach out and wrap my arms around him, because it'll hurt him, so I just have to settle for clinging to his side.
And I take a breath, and try softly, trying to keep my voice level. "Please?"
Leo breaks off, and he takes in a short breath. It's sharp enough that I think maybe he's hurt himself, so I crane my neck up to meet his gaze, and I swallow again. Because he's staring at me with this really odd look, and I can't place it too well because it's not something I'm used to seeing on Leo's face. I mean, he's the Fearless Leader and all.
Not that he looks afraid. Just … unsure. No, more than that. Lost. Like I pushed him out in the dark somewhere and left him there, and he has no clue how to get back. Or maybe just …
…I get it. I think. So I smile at him, even though right now it's a little hard. And I sink down again, pulling the covers up. "S'alright," I mutter into his side. "I understand, okay?"
And again, he doesn't say anything else. I guess he doesn't know what to say. Heh. Of course he doesn't. I breathe in deep, and I let it out again, tickling against his skin, and I wonder if I should add something else. But I'd be lying. I can't say something stupid like, Just make sure you've got no choice before you try killing yourself next time … because there's no way in hell I mean it. Maybe I'm selfish. Or maybe I'm just the smart one.
I know Leo will never answer that question for me. Because he can't. So I'll just … keep hold of him as long as I can. Literally, in some cases. Heh. I close my eyes and get comfortable. I figure if I at least look asleep, when Raph or Master Splinter comes back they'll just let me stay here.
I don't realise how tired I really am until the touch of Leo's fingers on my shoulder makes me start, just a little, and I realise I've started falling asleep. And the soft touch on my shoulder smoothes out, and I hear him sigh.
Three times now he's just said my name, and I can think of any number of ways to mock him for it. But I don't. There's a time and a place. Even I know that.
"Thank you," he says softly. "For not letting go."
I go still. I can feel the faint nervous grip of his fingers on my shoulder, like he's waiting for me to scoff at him or something. And just for a second, I really don't know what to say.
Just for a second.
I grin in the gloom and snuggle back down, and hook an arm up to his good shoulder. "You're welcome. S'what I'm good for. But you sure you're okay with that? I mean, gonna be awful hard to shower and stuff with a brother clinging to your leg…"
It's a really lame joke, but it doesn't matter. Leo laughs again – a nice genuine laugh - and it makes me snicker against his plastron, and if Raph comes in now he's gonna find us laughing like idiots. But who cares?
And not so long after that, I think I sleep for real. I have no idea if anyone comes back to take me back to my room. I just know, when I wake up next, that the candles are out, but I don't care because Leo's still got an arm around me and I can still see light filtering in from under the door. And it's warm, and pretty comfortable for a turtle stealing a portion of Leo's sickbed for himself.
So I snuggle closer and go right back to sleep.
Thank you again. For reading. This has been great fun. :D