There's blood streaming down Raph's arm making my grip slippery. He swears at me but I tighten my fingers anyway and give a careful, practiced twist. The colour drains from his face and the dull clink as the shuriken hits the bowl is suddenly too loud. The chair quivers dangerously but holds up well beneath his white knuckles.

Another three clinks. Two more curses and a shuddered gasp.

The splash of alcohol sears my nose and the resultant scream constricts my heart, a mangled, tearing cry locked behind clenched teeth.

Blood and booze hit the floor. My stomach lurches and we're both struggling not to throw up.

Raph's jaw finally releases as the burn subsides, allowing raw pants to bleed past his closed throat. The glazed, slightly vacant look in his eye spears me with worry and I glance at Leo, still standing to one side, eyes shadowed in restless concern. His head turns slightly to acknowledge my look but he can't tear his eyes away from Raph's face.

I wrap the wounds firmly and the bandages don't stay white for long enough. Leo hands me a length of rubber and I tighten it around the upper bicep ruthlessly. It puts an unnatural dimple in his upper arm but he barely seems to notice. His eyes are closed, his breath coming shallow and fast past the corded tendons in his neck.

I monitor the blood loss and the circulation in his fingertips until his breathing has finally slowed and I'm fairly certain he's passed out, somewhere halfway between blood loss and exhaustion. Leo sighs quietly and gently grips Raph's shoulder to reassure himself while I clear away the grim calling cards of the latest brush with death. When I'm done we'll brew some tea and drink it quietly, waiting for him to wake up so we can bully him into his own bed with painkillers and tender words.

Later Leo will come into my room and agonise over how we could have prevented this. Mike will arrive shortly after looking for comfort and Splinter would want to discuss the wound's implications for the next few weeks.

Raph ... Raph will wake up with a splitting headache and an arm that feels like it was used for target practice. He'll bitch a bit but mostly suffer in silence, embarrassed he got hurt at all yet roughly pleased he managed to take the damage instead of one of us. He's been in my chair way too often lately.

This is the metronome of our lives, swinging from one disaster to the next. We fight, we bleed, we dance with death. We do the best we can with what little we have and once all is done, we'll begin again.