A/N: FOR READERS OF CH. 6 that DIDN"T see the changes I made to it, I made some changes. Imagine that. I added on an extra scene that would have been part of this chapter, and you do need to at least skim it to know what's about to go down in this one.
FOR ALL READERS, I am warning you now that this chapter will (hopefully) be a graphic depiction of a harsh medical procedure. I said to myself as I was writing this that until I couldn't read it without squirming, it wasn't ready. Then I remembered I have a very strong stomach (meaning I didn't flinch when I had to skin and dissect a cat in college A&P lab), sooo...yeah, I didn't want it that graphic either. With any luck, I found a happy medium.
I'm going to try to have a friend beta-read this chapter for me, so check back every now and then to see if any major changes have taken place. I will put an update above this note if/when they have. I think I'll have one (maybe two) more chapter(s) to wrap it all up nicely after this one. Enjoy!
Don rummaged around in the bathroom and kitchen cabinets, searching for iodine or peroxide. He swore when he found neither. They must have used it all.
Okay, what do we have? What do we have?
He barely noticed the hailstorm of pills and gauze and tongue depressors pooling around his feet as he tore apart the medicine cabinet. A bottle of rubbing alcohol sat in a corner littered with dust bunnies. There might have been a tablespoon of liquid left in it. He scowled but ran back to his makeshift operating room with it anyway. He'd had Master Splinter get Raph onto a cot. His brother's head rested on his sensei's lap, feverishly shaking from side to side.
Splinter looked up from tracing Raphael's brow. His own pain paled in comparison to the agony eliciting raw moans from his strongest child. Don handed him the bottle and a roll of toilet paper. "Use all that you can of this to clean the area three inches around the wound."
Splinter nodded as Don bolted to the stairway. "Leo?"
"Yeah?" came the reply from below.
"How's the fire?"
"Going strong. About to lay the knife in it, and -"
"Did you wash it?"
"No, I'm going to let a dirty combat knife dig the pus out of my brother's shoulder," the eldest snapped.
Donnie rolled his eyes. "Put the poker from the fireplace in the flames as well. Make sure both are literally red hot."
Sarcasm was dripping off of every word of Leo's answer. "Don't I need to clean that first, too?"
Donatello bit back the first five replies that sprung to his lips, opting to glare at his older sibling through the stairway's railing before turning to prep his younger ones for the operation. Michelangelo was curled up next to Raphael and Splinter, keeping one had on his brother and one his father.
Frightened sky blue eyes snapped up and his lips were quivering so hard that Don was surprised when he spoke. "I-I...don't w-wanna do this, D-donnie."
Donatello's heart nearly broke from the pained plea. He knelt and lay his hand on his baby brother's cheek. He kept his voice smooth but authoritative. "I know, ototochan, I know. But I need you to."
"Why does this always happen to us, nii-san?"
Turning his head aside for a moment, Don drew a shaky breath. He elected not to answer the question as he dipped the washcloth tucked in his belt into the warm water in the bowl he had brought from the bathroom. Gently he took each of Mikey's hands and wiped them clean from his fingertips to the crook of his elbows.
"Let me do it."
All of them started at the sharp voice cutting across the tense air. Leonardo was a fairly imposing figure holding two glowing pieces of fired metal. Don almost backed down from the near feral snarl that was fast becoming a permanent fixture upon Leo's face.
"But you can't."
The challenging retort finally cracked Don's nerves. In under a second, he was face-to-face with his mildly startled brother. He slowly and more than a little patronizingly enunciated, "Leonardo. You. Cannot. Do. This."
Leo shifted into a more solid position, legs apart and slightly bent, and Don knew that if he hadn't had his hands full, his arms would be crossed. It was a stance he took when one of them stepped out of turn in practice or directly disobeyed a command in the field. His eyeridges were raised a fraction of an inch more than usual, giving away his shock that, of all his family, Donatello would so openly defy him.
The would-be surgeon stiffened as a fleeting glance passed between Donnie and their Master. The old rat gave a barely perceptible nod, which was all Don needed to spin sharply on his heel and speak to the clan chunin.
"We've got one shot to get this right, and Raph needs a surgeon with two good hands. Look at us. My arm is broken. Your shoulders are damaged. Sensei may have no cuts or broken bones, but the burns are paining him and causing him to shake. I do not trust myself, him, or you with a needle at this moment, never mind a fired makeshift scalpel. Michelangelo is our only choice, so suck it up and get out of my way."
Mikey, clearly still unenthused about his latest undertaking, seemed to have taken a cue from Leo to try and find a way out of it. "What about April or Casey?"
Don veritably roared in frustration. "HE DOESN'T HAVE THAT MUCH TIME!"
See how he blames you. It's in his face: 'What makes you think I'll let your calls cost me my brothers again?' Listen to the distrust in his voice. Taste the stress emanating from his posture at the thought of you.
Leave me be.
You cannot protect them. You are not strong enough.
Please...I just...don't care anymore.
Sleep, my weak one. Sleep, and awake invigorated to change.
Just sleep. Just drift away.
Leo swallowed thickly against the guilt and nodded his agreement. He stood off to the side as Don murmured instructions to Splinter and Michelangelo. His sensei traced the inner lip of his ill brother's carapace and settled into a more comfortable position. He gently rubbed at Raph's jaws until they grudgingly slacked, allowing him to insert a thin pine twig.
"Sensei, you are going to have to hold him down," Don said quietly. "At least until he passes out from the pain."
Splinter shut his eyes briefly against the emotional turmoil within and lithely moved his hands to his son's torso. Sighing, he tied off the belt wrapped around Raphael's shoulder that constricted blood flow enough that his son would not bleed out from the new cut.
Don dipped a paper towel into the water bowl and steadily ran it against the length of the injury. Raph tensed and let loose a soft groan around the stick as a stream of pale yellow and deeper gold trickled across his shoulder. Donnie wiped it away quickly, and after digging out what he could see, he gently patted the unwilling sawbones' shell.
"Mikey, you can do this, okay?"
Michelangelo's eyes were fixed on the wound as he nodded mutely. Under Don's direction, he slid the edge of the tanto to the fullest end of the incision and, holding his breath, pressed the blade swiftly into the battered flesh. The angle of the cut was straight and true. Jarred from the edge of blissful unconsciousness, Raphael howled in anguish as tissue was sheared from underlying muscle. The involuntary clamour shook everyone of his family to their core, so unaccustomed to his succumbing to pain were they. Nothing happened at first. Then an abrupt gush of red stained the wood floor. Splinter's robe was moist with the sticky liquid and Don quickly (but respectfully) ordered his sensei to strip. Hearing the urgency in his son's voice, Splinter shrugged himself out of the contaminated robe and removed it from the sterile environment.
"Don, why is he bleeding so much?" Panic threw Mikey's words into a shrill octave.
"You just cut him; why do you think?" rejoined the calmer of the two. Don peered into the sea of red, looking for clean and clear blood flow. "Open up the wound a little more, like a baked potato." Mikey grimaced as he pulled apart the cut inch by inch, feeling the erratic bump bump bump of the heartbeat in the pulp. His hands grew warm with his brother's blood, and he couldn't help but notice how soft the inner muscle tissue was. His stomach churned violently against the observation. "I think you got it all in one stroke, Mike! Leo, take the knife and give him the poker."
The oldest and youngest brothers traded tools, and Michelangelo firmly pushed the flattest side of the instrument against the arm. A slight hiss and a quick puff of steam rose from the limb. Raph squirmed against his father's restraining hold, nearly begging for the procedure to stop. Splinter was close to sitting on his son when the bite of the pain finally made its way to Raphael's brain and ordered it to shut down for a while. The father sighed and made sure that the arm was still in Michelangelo's reach.
Mikey sat back as Don looked over the first of at least five burns that would need to be made to complete the seal. The carved section of Raph's arm came up and away from the sinew in a shallow V and a slow continuous stream of blood ran out over the edges of the cut. Heat radiated from the burned end as he held his hand over the vivid pink flesh. No blood came from it. "Okay, Mikey. Keep treating it exactly like that, steady pressure and exposure. Careful, careful…don't worry too much about the epidermis; it will treat the seal like a minor burn..."
Mike barely noticed as the clan medic trailed off into increasingly technical jargon. The youngest of them nodded every now and then when Don's voice pitched into a question, though he had no idea what he was being asked. He tried to push exactly what he was doing and to whom he was doing it from his mind until, finally, his vision was no longer tinted crimson. He felt Leo worming the poker from his hand and let it fall with a loud clank before he stood against one crutch and calmly hobbled his way over to the window and retched. A careful hand held back the ends of his bandana and let him heave until nothing was left in his stomach.
"We're so proud of you, Michelangelo-chan."
Wiping his mouth, he hoarsely said, "Donnie, please don't quit your day job."
Donnie chuckled and knelt to untie the belt from around Raphael's shoulder joint and tie it back around his own waist. He exhaled in relief, laying Raph's arm on a clean towel so that it was exposed to the cool night air wafting in through the window. The fur around Splinter's eyes pinched, catching a couple of unchecked tears and showing his age and his gratitude that he still had all four of his children.
"Everyone wash up and move Raph away from anything that might still be a biohazard."
The attic was a hub of activity as it was cleaned. Leo quietly mopped up the blood, somewhat disconcerted to see that some of it had congealed to the hardwood flooring. A growing pile of used rags and towels and water was left in one corner of the attic to be dealt with tomorrow. Don noted Raphael's pulse and respiration rate before laying a hand on his patient's forehead. Though slick with sweat, the skin beneath his fingers was cooler. He massaged his temple, taking solace in the broken fever.
He glanced up to see his family looking at him curiously. "He's gonna be okay." His gaze sharpened suddenly. "And if any of you get any ideas…"
They all chuckled at the small joke, exhaustion seeping in with the moonlight. Splinter nuzzled Raphael's face one last time before shuffling over to the couch. Mikey blanched at the thought of having to travel to the other side of the attic again and opted instead to curl up beside his brother, knowing that as long as he was close to Raph, the nightmares would stay away, and Leo permitted himself a taut smile before hunkering down on the window ledge to keep watch over them.
Rest well, weak one. Shield them as best you can from their nightmares.
I'm trying. They need me to be stronger.
You will be. Awake invigorated to change.
Dr. Don made his last rounds for the night, but set his cell phone to go off in two hour intervals until dawn. He would only give himself permission to relax once Raph made it through the night. During the next few hours of restless tossing, Donnie heard a sharp crunching on the perimeter, followed by the smooth purr of an engine. Unsurprisingly, one male and one female voice drifted up as two sets of boots landed softly on the front threshold. Leo was nowhere to be seen, so he was probably downstairs filling April and Casey in on the excitement. Don heard a sharp gasp from below, confirming his theory.
"I-is he okay?"
"He'll be fine. He's resting now."
"Can we see 'im now?"
Don utterly gaped at Leo as he trudged back up the stairs and resumed his vigil at the window. April tread a little too carefully and hesitated at the doorway. The faint light caught a glint on her cheeks as she met his eyes. He clenched his fist and mouthed, "I'm sorry" to her and Casey, who had snuck up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Casey narrowed his eyes at a point just past Donatello's shoulders, where Leo stood. Don looked briefly at Splinter, who lay with his eyes open and trained on his unsleeping sons, then back to their two friends. Casey wiped at the runaway tears as Donnie approached them.
"Raph's going to be fine. I'm just checking his vitals out of sheer paranoia." He took April's hand and promised, "You can see him tomorrow. He does need rest right now from the...operation."
"Mmkay," she mumbled halfheartedly. He could tell Leo's blunt answers were still hurting her. But before he could say anything else, she turned on her heel and strode to her room, leaving a stunned Casey gazing longingly at the door.
Casey peered at him. "G'night, I guess."
"Um, yeah. See you in the morning."
Raphael's ragged breathing evened off through the night, and by sunrise, he was sleeping as if the whole horrid event had never happened. As Donnie was checking Raph vitals one last time before crashing until breakfast, Leo stirred himself from his post and nimbly ducked out the window. Shutting his eyes, Don listened to the faint footfalls spread evenly from barn the timberline before taking off in a brisk sprint, the ring of steel in their wake. He heard a deep sigh from the couch and flashed his father a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Good morning, Master Splinter."
"Good morning, my son."
Ever the cautious doctor, Don rubbed the sleep from his eyes, stepped carefully around Mikey, and grabbed the cool cloth by the window sill to wipe lingering perspiration from his brother's face.
"...mmmhey...that's cold." Raph protested weakly. He tried to swat the rag off his head, and only succeeded in patting Donnie's arm with a lot less force than he'd intended.
Don chuckled. "How are you feeling?"
"Cold." He insisted stubbornly. "Get that thing...offa me."
With a crooked grin still plastered on his face, Don complied and pulled the cover that had pooled at Raph's knees back up to his chest. "Need anything else?"
"Nah, I'm good." Raph laid a feeble hand on his brother's arm and gave it a quick squeeze. "Thanks, Doc."
Don rose to go and had made it to the top of the stairs when Raph called him back. "Hmm?"
"I guess I got...one question."
"Why didja think it...was a good i...dea ta let Mikey...at me with a sharp object?"
A/N: Soo? What did you think of Dr. Mikey? And don't worry, Leo's not going crazy (...okay, not yet. Season 4 covered what happened when insanity takes over.). I just needed a way to really show the thought patterns behind his attitude change.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please, thanks, loveyameanit!