The flakes were large and soft. The many frozen droplets of artistic perfection came into his eyes in drifting sheets preventing him from seeing anything farther than a few feat directly in front of him. The winter storm blocked out so much with its white flurries that he couldn't tell if he was heading the right way or some how managed to get turned around. The only consolation he had was that he had yet to twist or turn in his steps. His toes groped and felt around with each step at to make sure there were no patches of ice he could possibly slip upon or unforgiving obstacles in his way. If he managed to wonder into a field and stepped on some barbed wire... Dumb, easily avoidable, injuries such as that, he couldn't risk taking. Sure he would not let the pain stall him in his quest to bring his brother home safely, but he really did not want to have his foot amputated due to frost bite or gangrene. Speaking of which...
He felt around for a second with his feet before lowering his brother off of his back onto the ground. His feet were already numb and from the span of time he had been outside he estimated that he was only six miles from the shake and his feet have been numb for the past mile.
Careful not to wake Michelangelo, Raphael pulled the boots off of his sibling. Taking a seat next to the turtle covered in bandages, he curled forward to slip one boot over his own needy appendage. There was a shock of pain, horrible and hissing like a spiked ball of pressure. Gripping his side he felt something press out into the cloth against his wound. His breathing was labored as he held tight to the area that felt like liquid flames. Something stirred inside his stomach forcing him to twist and spill out the content of what he had consumed earlier. As he did he could feel the pressure in his side lighten a fraction. Breathing hard and with a confused mind, he straightened himself out enough to pull back the patch of red fabric. He squeezed his eyes shut, pressing it back into place. Mumbled curses pushed through his clenched teeth as he felt a mixture of desperation and despair. With one more loud curse he turned his attention back to putting on the boots. His feet were red and starting to turn an odd purple around the edges. If he could warm them up in time then he wouldn't have to worry about loosing limbs. His movements turned slow when the second boot was finished being placed over his other foot. Loosing limbs though... it wasn't like he would be able to worry about it much longer.
Getting up to his knees he set about placing Michelangelo back onto his shell once more. No matter what, he had to get Mikey home.
Pushing himself up onto his feet he ventured forward.
Several hours later he had to take a stop, his skin so cold that the surrounding world seemed warm. Sweat started to trickle down his brow to fall off of his chin as he panted. He sat next to his brother who was coated in blankest and leather. He reached for the pouch of venison on his belt and paused. His heart sank as he let his hand fall away, there really was no point in eating any of that now. He could just run himself into the ground with out any regrets, that is, as long as Mikey got home. He smiled a little to himself as he laid down next to his sibling letting the snow cushion and cool his inflamed side.
"You know Mikey, havin' you around was fun," he reached over and placed a hand to the shoulder covered in a metal guard. "You could drive me around the bend as quickly as you could make me laugh." He closed his eyes, "I appreciate that." His softly shut lids quickly tightened as he snaked a hand into the snow to hold the sudden throb from the wound being wet. The feverish skin around it protesting to having anything against or near it even as delicate as snow. A hiss escaped his gnashing teeth, followed by a thick swallow. Sitting back up he was relieved that the pain had started to lessen, even if it was only for the slightest.
Dark eyes turned up to the sky. The world of white was now gray from the night sky that was painted a luminescent fiery glow from the city's lights. He could see it in the horizon, he had at least another six hours to walk. Already he had to alternate the boots from his feet to Michelangelo's several times. Twice he was able to wake his brother enough to feed him some food only to have his sibling nearly pass out on him.
Raphael flopped back down onto his carapace, eyes slowly blinking at the now gentle snow that was sparse and beautiful. He slowly blinked trying to fight back the dry feeling in his eyes from the lack of sleep. He closed them for a few seconds letting them rest before struggling back up, pulling his brother back onto him. It was time to run himself down to the ground. After all, six hours wasn't all that long... was it?
When Michelangelo woke up it was because he was suddenly falling. His chin clanked against something hard erecting a groan from him when everything was suddenly halted. He rolled off of whatever he had fallen onto. Getting himself up into a sitting position he felt the odd sensation of his head wrapped in something warm and unfamiliar. Reaching up, he padded his cheeks finding instead of flesh, metal and his vision was dimmed by a visor.
Pulling the helmet off he felt the cold rush of fresh air prickle at his skin, waking his mind from the fog of sleep. He took in the fact that he was now holding Nightwatcher's helmet, the suit of his hero kept him warm from the freezing night. A frown formed his lips as he tried to understand if Raphael was the dream or the Nightwatcher, was he still dreaming?
Whatever he had landed on moved beside him, snapping his attention to it he felt his mind grind to a halt. Raphael... Raphael was in the snow, trying hard to get up only to fall back down. His skin was slick with sweat even though it was very cold.
It all made sense now, why the Nightwatcher would take care of him, why there was both his hero and his brother there when he would wake. Even his disappearance two years ago when Leonardo came home, Nightwatcher was Raph. And if that was true then... then Raph really wasn't smart enough to take care of his own wounds! He would give everything and save nothing for himself.
"Raph!" Michelangelo dropped the helmet in the snow, twisting around to grab hold of his brother's shell. He pulled hard, rolling his brother over onto his lap, the heat of a fever was felt even through the leather and cloth that protected him. This wasn't good.
He lightly slapped his sibling's cheek, "Come on Raphie, open your eyes. Come on."
Raphael tried, but his eyes only could open a little before drifting shut, his body becoming more lax by the second. The smaller of the two could feel his heart beat begin to hammer as he remembered the odd patch of red fabric that was under his brother's belt. Gently probing with his fingers, he found the lump of cloth, ridged around the edges with the beginnings of frost. Carefully pealing it back he winced, hissing out his displeasure as to what he saw. Stuck around the edges, partly dry, was the yellow and white sickly colors of infection.
"Okay Raph," he breathed deeply moving his brother back onto the ground. "I know you can be dumb, but god! Give me a break!" He shouted now panicking. If the infection was this bad... He shook his head while he worked on the knot on his brother's belt. Quickly removing it he began to gently take the wadded up bandana from the wound, "Seriously Raph, who wants a dead big brother? No one! Or at least not me, you got that?!"
His reply was a hiss from the turtle he was working on.
With all the obstacles out of the way, he pressed his fingers around the edges of the wound feeling the hard lump of built up pus. This kind of gross stuff was Donnie and Splinter territory. He wasn't sure he'd have the stomach to do this with out throwing up, but he had to and if he had to vomit he would make sure to do it after taking care of the brother who had saved his life.
"This is gonna hurt bro... a lot."
Blue eyes gazed at the face of his brother, brows knitted and worried. Turning back to the wound he took a deep breath before pressing down and squeezing. He could feel the pressure of the infection inside release as it spilled out of the body it was trying to kill. He would have possibly thrown up at that moment if it was not for the fact that Raphael was screaming from the pain. The deep guttural shout was hurting his ears as he continued to force every last bit out of his brother who now had a painfully hard grip on his shoulder. That was the bad thing about infections, they poison from the inside out making all the tissues it touches extra sensitive and inflamed.
He grabbed a fist full of snow and proceeded to scrub away what he could. Finally, taking off the gloves over his hands he pushed up his sleeves to unwind some bandages. With a harsh tug he ripped the gauze and folded it up, placing it over the wound and then tying Raphael's belt back into place. Once that was done, he gave his surroundings a thorough look. There was nothing but darkness behind him, an empty void of white hills and shifting drifts upon the black river of cement that made the road. Up front were fields and the tainted glow of the city lights in the clouds. There was a sharp bend that they were behind, so he did not know how close they were to civilization. Though it did not matter, the lights was were he needed to head.
"Come on bro," he grunted scrambling off of the blanket and the upholstery fabric he had been kneeling upon. He tightly wrapped Raphael's feet and legs with the fabric, and wound the blanket around the rest of his body effectively cocooning him away from the world that threatened to snuff out his life. With as much grace as he could, he slipped his arms under knees and shoulders and lifted his brother up to his chest, picking him up off of the ground.
He swallowed hard, fighting off the aches in his lacerations that pulled. Quickly, he began to walk towards the lights in the sky, around the bend in the road. All they had to do was get to a phone, any phone.
"Hang in there Raphie."
Leonardo was taking his fourth dose of stomach medicine for that hour. Ever since Mikey had disappeared he had been worried, then Raphael disappeared along with his Nightwatcher uniform and both had yet to come home. They were able to pick up the trail of the Nightwatcher putting a large segment of the Purple Dragons out of commission. From there they lost track of him. Now it was just him and Donnie spending countless hours patrolling the city block by block. They were running out of city and sewers to look, they even went down to the underground only to come back empty handed. If they could not find their brothers soon he was pretty sure by the end of the day he would have a bleeding ulcer.
Suddenly the phone rang. He sighed and swallowed the pink liquid before dragging his feet over. It was probably Casey calling for the umpteenth time to see if they had gained any leads to the whereabouts of his best friend.
Sighing he picked up the receiver and placed it to his ear, "No Casey we haven't found them yet."
Not waiting for an answer he hung up.
The phone immediately rang once again. Picking it back up Leonardo felt his eye twitch, he was not in the mood for Casey or April to give him another talk about how he shouldn't give up, because he wasn't giving up! He needed time to think of a strategy.
"Look! How can I find them if you-"
"If you won't listen to who's on the other line!!"
"M-Mikey?! Mikey!" The leader gripped the phone as if it was his little brother, "Where the shell are you? You're reception is horrible."
"Somewhere in the boondocks near the Westside. I found an abandoned car with a cell phone still in it," he tried to laugh but it sounded very strained, "You guys gotta hurry, Raph's not looking so good..."
"We'll be right there, but you gotta tell me where're your at."
"I think the main freeway west."
"Can't you tell me-"
"I can't! I don't know where the shell I am besides there's a big freaking road and we're to the west of the freaking city! I would have asked Raph but he's already puked outside of the car and the fever is getting worse!!"
Leonardo closed his eyes allowing himself to feel the distress coming from his baby brother. He took a calming breath, "We'll be there soon."
Hanging up the phone, he ran over to Donatello's room nearly ramming into the terrapin that was coming out, "Mikey just called, he's with Raph on the west highway. We gotta hurry, Raph's in bad shape."
Michelangelo rubbed his hand over his brother's shell, holding back the blanket as bile spilled out onto the cold ground. He was hanging outside of the car door as the rest of his body laid over the front seats. Mikey stood outside of the vehicle, soothing his ill brother. It had been twenty minutes since he had called and with each minute Raphael's color was draining from him. He looked so sickly now, nearly a pastel green.
"Just hold on bro, just a little longer," he sniffled trying to fight back the stinging feeling in his eyes. "Leo and Donnie will be here and they'll yell at us and then spoil us rotten until we get better," he forced a smile running his ungloved palm over the clammy skin of his brother's head. Raphael's fever had left a few hours ago only to be replaced with a cold that he didn't know how to fight. He was almost as cold as the snow he was standing upon and that set a deep worry inside him.
A car soon approached, and he set out to wave whoever it was down. If he had to he would mug the hell out of these people.
"Don?" he held up his hand over his face, shielding his eyes from the bright headlights.
Quickly, he went back to Raphael's side, grabbing an arm and wrapping it over his shoulders. With a heave he pulled his brother out of the car, grateful when Donatello suddenly appeared on their brother's other side. Dragging his dead weight, the two managed to load the large ninja up into the back of their van. Soon as the doors were shut, Leonardo turned the vehicle around and began heading home.
As the bed of the van softly bumped along the road, Donatello set about inspecting Raphael's injuries. His face was grim as he took in the low temperature, the amount of infection that had built up and how deep the wound was.
"I tried to squeeze most of it out, but that was hours ago," Michelangelo had a hold of Raphael's shoulders, knelt above his head letting the turtle use his lap as a pillow.
"It's a good thing you did," Donatello dug into his bag finding a bottle of disinfectant. "If you hadn't then it would have been more humane to put him out of his misery."
"It means he'll be okay, Mikey. He'll need treatment for a while and lots of rest but he'll be okay."
eleven days later
"You can leave him out of your sights for longer than ten minutes," Leonardo nudged Michelangelo.
The youngest blushed a little embarrassed, "Yeah... it's just that..."
Leo smiled softly, "It's just that you need to tell him something." With a soft push, he encouraged the orange masked turtle to venture into the vacant living room save for one occupant.
Fidgeting, he padded over to the back of the couch. He didn't know how to approach this. It had been scary to see Raph laid up in bed for several days. At least it was not nearly as frightening as carting him through the wilderness, or waking up to find him passed out in snow.
"What?" he grunted with a hand over his side that still throbbed but to a much lesser degree.
Hesitating for a moment, Michelangelo finally bent over wrapping his arms around his brother's shoulders. He squeezed tightly, pressing his cheek against Raphael's as he held fast.
"Thanks bro... for everything," he squeezed just a little bit tighter. "You really are my hero."
Raphael closed his eyes and leaned into his brother's embrace, "You're mine too kid… You're mine too."
Thank you for reading.