The sparse sunlight through the window had been fractured by the shadows of tree leaves, and trickled over his brother's shell in mottled colors. Leonardo sighed wearily and shifted to negate some of the torpid ache. He had maintained his lonely vigil for so long, that his muscles were cramped as he winced and stretched some of the stiffness away. Leonardo rose as he arched his back and let it pop, before he lowered himself cross-legged to the floor. The wood, a warm shade of sepia, felt a bit more inviting than the ancient metal chair that April had found out in the barn. He was too polite to tell her that his shell was far too large to accommodate sitting in a chair made for the proportions of a human. He wouldn't now, it seemed far too petty, so very small compared to the overwhelming guilt and loss.
Sighing, Leonardo leaned back against the wall, and tucked his legs beneath him. His vigil, he knew, was futile, and had no bearing to the outcome. Raphael still lingered in that twilight between sleep and death, and Leonardo knew he was inching ever closer to dying. The tears rose and were squelched at the gut-wrenching thought.
Raphael lay so still, nearly curled on his side, so still, so uncharacteristically still. Leonardo had gripped his brother's wrist to feel the faint pulse, so many times over the last few days. It was weak, but still there. It was the only sign of life left after the tortured assault. Leonardo felt the flicker of alien rage rise and then linger in his gut.
Donny had made a sarcastic remark to April's concern for Raph's unexplained disappearance. The last words of "he'll drop in at any moment" had just been spoken. There had been no time between the words that had become so horrifically prophetic in a matter of moments. There was the shower of jagged glass, falling in crystalline fragments to the tile. And then, Raphael's broken body had been hurled to the earth, and landed between them. They had bolted upward, hands already going for their weapons, as April screamed and sobbed and fell to her knees, gathering up Raphael in her frail, human arms. She could not lift him, she could not protect him. She could only hold him and pray. Noise, and movement exploded around them as the black-clothed army suddenly flooded into the apartment in dark waves. Donnatello only had time to stoop to Raphael's side, lay a finger over the wilted neck, and give them a curt nod that he still lived.
Leonardo had very little memory of the vicious fight, other than the bones that he broke were not his. The injuries he inflicted were doled out with a savage glee, not from need, but from vengeance. Looking back, he was both horrified and sated by the knowledge that he had sent at least a few of them to hell. He knew that Splinter wouldn't have wanted him to relish the cruel knowledge of pain. But now, with the uncertainty of Raph even living through the injuries….it was a bit of comfort, however wrong.
The battle had been like an ocean wave, one man rising, one falling under the flurry of kicks, parries, and blows. It was no longer a matter of skill, but overwhelming numbers. Whether he had vanquished one, or a dozen, there were at least one more to take his place. They had gathered up their wounded sibling and fled to this place. April had driven the whole way wiping tears from her eyes, and tearfully glancing back at Raphael's pale, still form. Donny had figured out how to lower the seats in the back of the van for a makeshift pallet. They had lowered Raph onto the back of the seats. Donatello had waved his brothers away, so he could examine the injuries. It made him sick to see the level of depravity that Raph had endured. There were scars on his shell, on his chest plates. His breath was ragged, and uneven. Raph was now crowned with the bruises to his skull where they had slugged him, over and over again. This was not just a beating. It was nothing less than torture.
April drove on through the night, and arrived at the old farm house in the waning light of morning. Raphael had not awoken, or even moved. He still breathed, he still lingered, wrapped in the blankets and the protective grips of his three brothers. They didn't trouble themselves to unpack, or even form a plan. April fumbled with the lock, as they gently lifted Raph and carried him inside. Normally, Raphael would have snarled over their concern, or waved away the invasive questions. He would have hated being swaddled like an infant, and escorted over the threshold. He would have hated the tears, the concern, the helplessness poured out on his behalf. But Raphael couldn't hate it as much as Leo loathed the eerie stillness of his brother. Raphael had lay there, still wrapped in the blankets, tethered by their arms. Leo eyed his brothers, pained at their exhaustion. As the defacto leader, it was his painful battle of the early morning to convince them all to go to sleep. He would keep vigil over Raphael. There was no way he could sleep now, anyway. Yawning, Donny and Mike had put up a bit of a tired fight, but it was rather one-sided. Mike couldn't stop yawning, and Don looked as if he were dozing on his feet. April had cajoled them into bedding down for a few hours of sleep. Leo was startled awake when she came back into the room, holding a blanket, and pillow out with an uncertain smile. Leo accepted them with as much gratitude that he could manufacture with his remaining manners. She had only paused to lay a gentle hand over Raph's wilted shoulder. She let her hand linger, as if she could shove some life back into his battered body. She turned to Leo. "He's going to be alright. He's tough."
It was said for her own benefit as much as it was for his. He let it pass without comment with a polite smile. "Of course." It was faltering and unconvincing. She let it pass without comment. It was too horrific and cruel to openly admit that Raph might die. It was the unspoken torture that they all bore with stoic silence. Leo, however, out of a sense of guilt, seemed to accept the burden even more than his brothers. He rarely left Raphael's side.
Raphael. The same condition that kept him so far from Leo's reach had also removed him from the reach of pain. Despite the injuries, there had not been a grimace, a groan, or even a flinch when they had to move him. Raphael had not moved at all, and as the days passed, he looked less like he was slumbering, and more as if he were dying. At least it would be a quiet, drifting exit, a simple exchange of breath into light, and fleeing this wrecked mortal shell that had failed him so miserably.
Leo had spent many hours in tearful prayers and pleading, as he held his brother's hand, and begged the heavens, and his brother for some sort of response. It seemed that neither were able to answer. Raph only continued his lingering existence of breathing, and laying there. Leo still kept his vigil in part because of obligation, but mostly out of love for his sibling. If, God forbid, Raph died, Leo wanted to make sure that his departure from the earth was in the company of his loved ones.
It was the only thing that Leo could do now. It was all that any of them could do
.Leo ground his palms against his eyes, attempting to scrape the invasive thoughts of Raphael's last day. They were musing over pizza, joking as friends and brothers, noting and dismissing Raph's absence. He had always had that brooding, restless inner torment that erupted as anger, sometimes as abrupt as a volcano. When that happened, Raph had always preferred to go hurl his bad moods at a target other than his brothers. Leo had never understood what sort of thing haunted Raph to the point that he could only avoid his anger by leaving them alone so much. It was never a thing that Raphael divulged. It had become a familiar sight over the years-Raph pacing the tunnels of their home like some caged cat, his irritability warring with his self-control, his sarcasm hurled like weapons, because he didn't know what else to do. And when Raphael felt like he was going to explode, he'd simply part with a snide remark to wrestle with whatever demons he could not squelch again. How many hours had Raph wondered the dark streets for some answers, or at least some distraction from so much anguish? Leo swallowed back another tear at the realization that Raphael hadn't been flinging the sarcasm because he wanted to inflict damage. He wasn't provoking any of them, and Leo shut his eyes remembering how many times he had backed his fiery brother into a corner, another fight, another sniper fire's exchange over something so very trivial now. Anger may have been Raphael's frail shield, but it was a far more dependable thing for Raphael to admit hate, over pain. Raphael's anger was familiar to them all. Raphael ever admitting that he was hurt was not.
Leo wondered what tortured his brother to the point of coming to this. A surge of anger was squelched before Leo could cater to it. Did Raphael's infamous mouth fling one too many insults? Did pride forbid him from taking the more sensible path of simply running away? Leo scowled in self-derision. What in the hell could Raph have done to deserve this? If they were so cruel as to kill by an unrelenting, violent attack, Raphael would have suffered regardless of what he did, or didn't do.
Sighing, Leo only gripped the flaccid, cold fingers in his own, in a groping plea for forgiveness. Raph's fingers were slack and still against his own warm ones.
"Raph? I don't know if you can hear me." There was no response other than the rise and fall of the blanket.
Leo plunged on, heedless of who heard it. It felt like undaming a pent up river.
"I know you and I have had our problems. I don't know why you and I tried so hard, and failed so miserably to get along. Maybe it was because I never understood that you weren't angry at the world, you were hurt by it. Maybe it's because I couldn't get that you didn't hate me, you were just sick of always having to defend yourself against the rest of us. I'm so sorry that you felt like the only you had to survive your own family was to keep running from us. Was that what drove you to the roof?"
The words evoked more tears that Leo didn't bother to wipe away.
"Why did you need to escape us, again, Raph? Did you really feel that trapped by us? Did we really alienate you to the point that you wanted the roof over us?"
Leo paled and clutched Raphael's hand, shaking. "Raph, I'm so damn sorry. If I could have saved you, if I could trade places with you now, I would. But I cant, little brother. All I can do is sit here and plead and pray that you can hear me, that you'll somehow harness that stubborn streak, and pull through this. I love you, Raph."
The silent plea lingered between them, as Leo squeezed the cold hand in anguish. He flinched when he felt Raph's fingers tighten against his own.