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It starts and comes to a head all in a day.

 

Raph wakes up tired. Very tired. His limbs feel heavy, sinking him down deep into his bed. He doesn’t want to move- isn’t sure he can.

 

So he doesn’t. He misses breakfast- no one comes to check in on him, or at least, if they do, Raph doesn’t notice. Not because he fell back to sleep; no, that’d be a mercy. A weird sort of haze fogs his vision, making time inch by yet the hours escape him at the same time. Everything escapes him in the haze. Everything.

 

Raph doesn’t get up. Can’t bring himself to, or maybe he just won’t. Maybe he’s just weak, all this muscle and spikes simply just for show. Nothing but a flashy display he can’t quite fill the role for. It’s not like he wants the spikes anyways- he wishes he was soft, soft like his brothers, soft like Donnie and Mikey and Leo and April and everyone else in his damn life. 

 

Raph lays there in bed, on his side because his back destroys everything it touches, and stares at the wall.

 

He sighs. The side he’s laying on is starting to ache, or maybe it’s been aching, and the arm he has pinned down is starting to get pins and needles. Still, the act of rolling over feels too much. All too much- just like everything else.

 

He wishes he wasn’t the oldest. Wishes he had someone to worry over him, wishes he could be chaotic and free the way his brothers are, instead of being their opposite. Wishes he was unsteady, unpredictable. A crooked nail instead of the working hammer. 

 

He falls asleep right where they knew he’d be.

 

///

 

He’s on a battlefield, or at least, he thinks he is. There’s dust and lights and sounds, none of which quite there, none of which quite reaching Raph. 

 

He’s on a battlefield. Unscatched, untouched, Raph’s uninjured. Everyone else around him is bleeding though, through the haze of the fog. He thinks he sees Mikey, arms and wrists and fingers broken, tendons snapped in two. He thinks he sees Donnie, and he can’t tell where the shattered battle shell begins and where the flesh of the softshell ends. 

 

He thinks he sees Leo, hesitating over some faceless villain, sword in hand. He’s trembling and smiling and crying all at the same time, his face never quite in frame. Raph feels some type of deep terror in him when he realizes he can’t move, stuck watching Leo hesitate, hesitate, hesitate. 

 

“Run, kid!” Raph yells, though his arms don’t move and his legs don’t bolt towards Leo. Leo keeps laughing and shaking and doing everything but protect himself. Raph screams.

 

Leo gets stabbed, or maybe shot, or maybe he just crumbles and starts bleeding. Raph doesn’t know- all he knows is the deep tremor of terror that settles in his stomach like a parasite (like the Kraang, like vines). Only now is he allowed to move, and he does just that.

 

He passes Mikey. He passes Donnie. Raph’s stumbling next to fallen Leo, bleeding Leo, dead Leo. His other brothers yell at him from behind him, screaming and shouting blames and accusations Raph can’t even fully process. Something about how it’s Raph’s job to protect them. Something about how he failed. 

 

“I’m sorry, kid,” And Raph’s voice doesn’t tremble a bit. His hands are steady. He wishes they weren’t. “Stay with me, kid.” And he wishes they weren’t kids. Wishes he’d stop reminding them of their place.

 

Leo’s body doesn’t stop laughing. 

 

///

 

He wakes up tired. There’s a brief moment where he convinces himself that the stupid nightmare happened and they’re all dead, and he finds himself somehow jolting up in a panic. Raph’s stupid spikes tear the mattress as he fumbles out of bed, breathing heavy. 

 

Then he remembers. It’s a nightmare- some dumb fucking dream he should’ve never fallen for. The adrenaline that forced him upright leaves his body, and Raph’s tired, tired, tired .

 

Grabbing on the railing of the bedframe to stay upright, Raph feels his hands tremble with the strain (the strain of what? Standing?) and his knees waver dangerously. All the determination in the world can’t keep him up, and he doesn’t have any to begin with. He slips an inch lower with every breath. 

 

He’s on the ground. Pathetic. Pathetic. 

 

He misses lunch. Dust dances across the light in his room, fairy lights illuminating the concrete walls with a yellow glow. Raph doesn’t even have any posters by his bed (too afraid he’d rip them off on accident turning over), let alone on the floor, but now he just wishes he had something to look at.

 

Or maybe it’d hurt his eyes. The base of his skull is pounding enough as is- he doesn’t need multicolored eye strain to add to the headache pile. The wall, despite the concerte, has scratches covering the lower part of it, from where Raph turned a little too quickly or jolted awake a little too fast from some haunting memory. The floor itself even has a few marks in it, and isn’t that the worst? Isn’t that just the worst?

 

It is. It fucking is. Raph feels a pressure growing behind his eyes, but no sadness to follow it. Hell, he barely feels frustrated. He barely feels anything.

 

He’s about as numb as his arm is right now. 

 

He stares at the wall.

 

///

 

“Takeout Tuesday’s are the fuckin’ best,” Leo says, chewing his food loudly. Donnie openly winces at this, looking around five seconds away from committing his regular Tuesday crime. Leo continues to smack on his food like a starving man, or maybe just an annoying one.

 

Mikey sips his soda. His crab rangoon is, quite frankly, delicious. And Mikey also likes the break from cooking. Look, it’s always fun to make some new recipe and to serve a delicious, satisfying dinner, but sometimes you just need a break, you know?

Speaking of breaks- Mikey hasn’t seen Raph all day. Must be having a solo day.

 

Mikey catches Donnie glancing at Raph’s portion of the food. Must be wondering the same.

 

“Michael, have you seen Raph?” Donnie says, practically reading Mikey’s mind. There’s a certain nervousness to his mannerisms that Mikey’s picked up on throughout the year, although Mikey’s never commented on it for Donnie’s sake. “I haven’t seen him around all day.”

 

“Nope,” Mikey says, popping the p. He pauses to take a sip of his soda, before continuing. “Leo, have you?”

Leo pauses his smacking to swallow his food, wiping his face with the back of his hand (Donnie looks disgusted). “Nah, haven’t seen the guy. He’s probably knee deep in his comics right now, since he was so rudely interrupted on his last solo day.”

 

“By you ,” Donnie says, immediately taking the defense. He glances away, crossing his arms. Leo still hasn’t let him live down cuddling with Raph for over half a day.

 

“By you,” Leo stresses, pointing an accusing finger. “I wouldn’t’ve had to interrupt him if you just slept for once in your life.”

 

“Yeah, sure, whatever, but that was like a week ago. Raph could’ve taken a solo day since then.”

 

Leo shrugs, cocky smirk on his face. “Actually, six days, since you spent a full one sleepin’ on him.”

 

Donnie’s eyes go wide for a second, before he sticks his tongue out at Leo, blowing a raspberry. “You said you wouldn’t--”

 

“Okay!” Mikey interrupts, throwing his hands up. Good lord, they just keep bickering. “I’m gonna go bring Raph his food, please don’t destroy the kitchen while I’m gone!”

The twins both burst into “Okay, but it’d be his fault-” before falling back into bickering. Mikey simply sighs, piling a hearty amount of meat and rice into Raph’s plate (he needs to eat a significantly bigger portion then the rest of them, especially since he hasn’t come down all day). 

 

Mikey, plate in hand, starts to make his way upstairs, hoping that the twins don’t destroy the kitchen. 

 

///

 

Okay. Uh. That’s unexpected.

 

Raph’s on the floor of his room. Why’s Raph on the floor?

 

“Uh, Raph?” Mikey says, gently placing the steaming plate on the desk in Raph’s room. No response. Raph must’ve fallen asleep reading his comics.

 

Except, there’s no comics. There’s nothing actually- no coloring books, no comics, no gadgets or toys or figures. Nothing. 

 

Weird. 

 

“I brought you food, dude, if you’re hungry?” Mikey laughs, nervous. Raph didn’t like, pass out or something, right? “I mean, you’re probably sleeping, but-”

 

He steps over Raph to glance at him. His eyes are open, staring aimlessly at the wall. He honestly looks-- Mikey doesn’t want to say it. He can’t say it.

 

Mikey can physically feel his stomach drop, like he’s on a roller coaster. “Raph? Raph?”

 

Dropping down next to Raph, Mikey presses his fingers against Raph’s neck. A pulse, steady and--normal? Completely normal. Raph’s breathing is a little heavy, but nothing weird. He’s alive.

 

Still though. Why was he on the floor if he didn’t accidentally fall asleep? Something feels off. Mikey isn’t a medical professional, though, far from it- the twins are the medics of the group. He should call them, after he gets Raph back into bed of course.

 

“Raph? I’m gonna touch ya, alright?” Raph doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t really glance at him, eyes zoned out and hazy. Mikey moves behind Raph, hooking his arms under Raph’s, and tries to pull.

 

And, shit. Raph’s a lot heavier than he looks, and he already looks like he weighs a literal ton with all his muscle. 

 

“Raph, I’m gonna need you to work with me here,” Mikey strains, trying to drag Raph at least towards the bed. He doesn’t budge. Mikey never really noticed all the little white scars all over Raph’s arms and hands, from a lifetime of sparring. Something about the accumulation of them leaves Mikey’s breath hitching. “Fuck.” 

 

Raph doesn’t even say anything about the language. Mikey can feel tears beginning to form in his eyes, he was always a crier. 

 

Fuck. 

 

///

 

“God, you must think you’re God’s gift to the world!” Donnie throws his hands up, leaving Leo laughing to himself. 

 

“Damn right I am!” Leo laughs, poking at Donnie just to get a reaction. Donnie was always just so fun to mess with, so easy to argue with. He knew how to keep the argument going without digging too far in, knew how to be the bully and the victim. 

 

Raph would always get too sad, and Mikey would always try to psychoanalyze them- never fun to be arguing with someone and they retort with a list of mental illnesses you’re showing symptoms of.

 

Speaking of Raph and Mikey, where were they? You’d think they’d be back by now.

 

“Leo--”

 

“DONNIE! LEO!” Mikey’s scream cuts off whatever Donnie’s about to say, leaving the both of them flinching. They glance over at each other, making confused eye contact. “There’s something wrong with Raph!”

 

“Oh, shit,” Donnie says, voice monotone but face betraying the panic that seems to flood him. 

 

“Oh, shit!” Leo blurts, pushing himself from the counter. What could be wrong? Is Raph sick? Hurt? Dying? 

 

A million possible scenarios flood through Leo’s head as he and Donnie sprint towards Raph’s room- He’s sure Donnie’s thinking the same thing, if the slight tremble of his hands mean anything.

 

They arrive, yanking back the curtain with enough force to rip it partly from the wall. Leo winces- he’ll fix that later, after they make sure Raph’s alright.

 

And he certainly doesn’t look alright. Leo and Donnie pause in the doorway, taking in the scene. Raph’s laying on the floor, Mikey hunched over him like he was trying to pick Raph up (an impossible task). Raph eyes are half-lidded, foggy with some type of unfocused. Mikey’s crying, looking at the two older twins for help and guidance. 

 

“He- He was just on the floor, and he’s not answerin’ me, and-” Mikey blubbers, setting down the arm he was pulling on, but still keeping his hands on Raph. Like if he were to let go, Raph would disappear. 

 

“Absence seizure,” Donnie blurts, terrifying everyone. “Or maybe a transient ischemic attack. Or hypoglycemia, or transient global amnesia, or maybe--”

“Jesus, Donnie, let’s get a look at him first, huh?” Leo says, attempting a joking tone. Donnie’s rambling of the literal worst options clearly did not help Mikey’s distress, nor is it helping Leo right now. He’s sure it’s just building up Donnie’s anxiety too. “Raph, buddy, you good?”

Mikey shoots him a dirty look, one that makes Leo feel stupid for even asking. He smiles sheepishly (it’s a little too forced, but whatever) and kneels down to Raph’s level on the floor. “Say somethin’, just to prove you’re alive.”

“‘m fine,” Raph mumbles, and Leo could just burst with joy. 

 

Mikey does. “Oh my gosh, Raph, you cannot do that to me! I’m so glad you’re alright, oh my gosh!” Mikey’s shaking Raph’s arm like a toy, which Leo winces at. He puts a hand on Mikey’s shoulder in a silent dude, chill, and Mikey grins, sheepish.

 

Donnie stays quiet. His face is all scrunched up in some type of worry, staring at Raph. His eyes dart between the slight tremor of Raph's hands, to the look in his eyes, to the dullness of his expression; until a brief look of realization takes over Donnie's face.

“Raph,” Donnie starts. Leo doesn’t know what epiphany Donnie just had, but he’s interested. “Are you tired?”


Raph’s dazed eyes slide over to Donnie, looking still a little too out of it for Leo’s liking. Raph mumbles a quiet “Yeah,” before seemingly zoning out again. 

 

Donnie hums, pressing something on his tech bracelet. “Like… all types of tired? Can’t go to sleep even though you’re really tired? Emotionally, physically..?”

Raph hesitates, before he nods, humming back. Donnie looks surprised for a brief moment, before his face falls into- understanding? His gaze settles on his hands again.

Leo glances over at Mikey to see if he knows what the fuck Donnie’s on about. Mikey looks just as confused as Leo. Never a good thing. 

 

“Oh,” Donnie says, pushing past Leo and Mikey to sit next to Raph. He takes Raph’s hand (Donnie? Initiating physical contact? The world must be ending), gentle hold of what might be emotional reassurance. “Oh.” Donnie repeats, squeezing the hand to show support.

 

What the fuck was Donnie on about?

 

///

 

Raph’s having an embarrassing amount of trouble focusing on this conversation, but if he’s being honest, Donnie’s pressure on his hand is helping a lot more than it should. 

 

He didn’t really know what to do when Mikey burst into his room with hands all over his neck and back and arms- couldn’t really bring himself to say anything, even when Mikey started to cry (Raph will have a tough time forgiving himself for leaving the youngest all by himself). He didn’t really know what to do when Leo and Donnie came in in a panic, couldn’t say anything when Donnie started to ramble and Leo also started to touch him. 

 

Those touches were too light, too gentle, not quite there and too much. Not real enough, too similar to tentacles and vines grazing his skin. Donnie’s strong grip on his hand though? That feels nice. That feels there and real. A firm presence, a person’s hand. 

 

Raph wants to cry, he can feel it building up behind his eyes. 

 

“Raph?” Donnie says, voice sounding hazy but stronger than before. “I think you’re dissociating, El.”

 

Dissociating. Dissociating . Of course- he’s done it before. But usually it’s not this bad, and usually he’s able to get over it within the hour. 

 

Raph hums, tries to say something, but chokes on his own words. It sounds garbled, and it’s so embarrassing Raph wants to die. He’s supposed to be the strong one. 

 

“It’s alright,” Donnie says, even though it’s absolutely not. His tone is flat, but Raph knows what he means. “You can take your time. We’re gonna be right here, whenever you want to talk, okay?”

 

Raph chokes on his words again, mumbling. God, he should be able to talk. He should be able to say ‘ okay’, he just spoke not five minutes ago! Why is everything slipping away from him now? Why-

 

“We don’t have to talk, Raph, I go non-verbal plenty. Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t want to. We’re happy to sit with you for a while.”

Oh. Non-verbal. Is this how Donnie feels? A choking haze, not being able to really process something until it’s pounding against your chest, pressing on ribs and lungs and your heart?

 

Raph fucking hates it.

 

“Mikey?” Donnie says, turning away from Raph to face him. “Can you go grab some water? And food? Something light, though.”

 

Mikey must say something in the affirmative, because he’s suddenly jolting out of the room much faster than how he entered it. Leo’s still staring at Donnie and Raph, looking a little bit dumbfounded, and a lotta bit confused.

 

“Leo, go grab my weighted blanket. It’s in my room, up on the third shelf to the left of the desk,” Donnie says, now looking back at Raph. “Raph, you’re going to love the weighted blanket. It’s simply heavenly.”

Behind Donnie, Leo still hasn’t moved. “Wh- Donnie? How the hell did you immediately ‘diagnose’ him? You were literally just convinced he was having a seizure-stroke-thing.” As if to emphasize his point, Leo waves his hands around, providing air quotes when deemed necessary.

 

“I just-” Donnie pauses, sighing. The grip on Raph’s hand gets a little tighter. “I don’t know.”

 

Leo’s face darkens, for a brief moment. He crosses his arms with a steady glare. “Don’t lie to me, Donnie.”

 

Donnie sighs again. “I- I get it. I have days like this, too. I didn’t really think any of you would truly get it, but then the whole-You know. The thing happened and suddenly my brothers get it too.” Donnie looks away from Leo, eyes darting back on to their clenched hands. “I’m honestly a little surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Or that Mikey didn’t pick up on it.”

 

Leo pauses for a second, considering his words. “Well, you probably freaked him out the moment you started spouting the literal worst scenarios.” Donnie shrugs in a way that simply says Yeah, fair. There’s another awkward pause, one Raph wishes he could fill if it weren’t for the fear that coiled around his lungs like a snake, like vines and tentacles and-

 

The hand squeezes harder. Raph’s hazy vision focuses again, and now it’s just Donnie in the room. He’s looking at Raph a little too sadly, with a little too much sympathy. Like he wholeheartedly and genuinely gets it and Raph might just like it better if he didn’t. 

 

“Let’s sit up, El,” Donnie says, like Raph’s a child. He tugs on Raph’s upper arm, helping Raph stand up (he’s using Donnie as a crutch). “Come on. Take my hand, kid.”

 

And oh. Oh, that does it.

 

Raph bursts into tears. It’s embarrassing, so so embarrassing, especially with the way panic floods Donnie’s face. 

 

“Oh! Oh. Uh. Hey, uh…” Donnie flounders, suddenly looking everywhere but Raph. “Come on now, huh? Don’t cry-” Another brief look of panic, as Donnie stutters, “Or do! Or do cry, if you want. Or need. Crying’s good, but either way it’ll be okay.”

 

Donnie’s the fucking worst at this. It’s honestly kind of amusing- Raph can feel a small fond smile spread on his face. It’s nice to see him try, even if he completely sucks at it.

 

Donnie picks up on the smile. “Or- Wait. Are..Are these good tears? Or bad tears? Both?”

 

Raph waves a hand- the fondness from before is washed away by the sudden guilt he feels for confusing Donnie. Donnie looks even more confused at the vague hand gesture, but continues to move them towards the bed- he’s probably desperate for a service he can do for Raph, since words were never his strong suit. 

 

Raph should say something. Apologize for the inconvenience. Tell Donnie he’s fine, completely fine, he’s just being a baby. Tell Donnie that he’s sorry, sorry, sorry.

 

“I-” Raph chokes on his words again. “Sorry.” It’s not the full apology he means to say, nor is it even an I’m sorry, but it’s the closest he’s getting as of right now. 

 

Donnie’s face fogs up again, even as he’s sitting them both down. Raph leans back on the bed, no longer caring if his spikes rip the damn mattress apart (it’s already ruined, honestly). 

 

“Raph,” Donnie says, face hardened with some type of serious resolve that frightens Raph. “You never need to apologize to me. Ever. Especially and most certainly not for crying. I don’t-” Donnie sighs, pinching his face. He looked more mad at himself then annoyed at Raph, like the words he needs are escaping him.

 

“I don’t get it. I don’t ever think I will truly get it. I never know what to do when someone starts to cry- I don’t cry much at all, even on my own. I don’t get it, and I’m sorry that I can’t help you on a personal level. But-“ He looks stronger for a moment, more determined. “I do get sensory overloads, and I do get non-verbal episodes, and I completely understand dissociation and derealization. I can do facts and grounding. I can help you there.”

 

There’s a brief pause, Donnie still looks a little angry at himself, but his features slowly soften. There’s a small smile on his face. “And, you know, they say that crying has all these health benefits.”

 

Raph snorts. It’s barely a laugh for what’s barely a joke, and his throat still hurts, and his ribs are too heavy and too tight- but he laughs, and Donnie laughs, and they’re laughing.

 

He doesn’t know how long they laugh together, but at some point Mikey comes in and sets something down, before he lays on top of Raph (the weight is very much appreciated). He doesn’t say anything for a minute, none of them do, just laying together. 

 

“Why’re you crying?” Mikey starts, reaching back over the counter to press a glass of water into Raph’s hand. “Oh, and hey, I got you some water! Drink it all, you’ll feel better.”

 

Raph doesn’t answer the question, instead taking the moment to do what Mikes says. The water’s cold, but it feels nice against his throat. Grounding, a voice that sounds a little too much like Donnie’s says. Raph doesn’t even notice he started bouncing his leg until Mikey puts his hand on his knee, preventing him from shaking it.

 

Then Raph notices that both Donnie and Mikey are taking slow, deliberately even breaths, and that he’s subconsciously copying their motions. Bastards. 

 

A fondness grows in Raph’s heart again, and he finds himself wrapping his arms around Mikey, who’s still laying on top of him, pulling him in by his arms. Mikey squeaks with brief surprise, before wrapping his arms tight around Raph’s neck, clinging to him. 

 

“Thanks,” Raph mumbles, brief and simple, resting his chin on top of Mikey’s head. Mikey simply hums in response, burying his face into the crook of Raph’s neck.

 

Turning a little bit towards Donnie, he opens his left arm wordlessly, keeping the other wrapped tight around Mikey. Donnie looks almost surprised for a second, hesitating for a brief moment, then slowly moving in for a side hug.

 

“Sorry,” Donnie whispers. “We’ve been uh. Very touchy so far.” Donnie's code for Let me get comfortable. Raph’s arm is wrapped around Donnie’s shoulders, guided there by Donnie himself. There’s enough room between them for Donnie to pull away, but enough touch to still keep them both grounded.

 

There’s a brief moment of pure simplicity, just nothing but the weight of his brothers on him, and the slow, gentle humming of Mikey.

 

“I finally got the damn blank- What? Cuddle pile? Without me?”

Blinking a careful eye open, Raph smiles at Leo in the doorway. He’s holding the biggest blanket Raph’s ever seen (where the hell did Donnie get that??), arms wrapped around the huge thing in an attempt to carry it. 

 

“Hi, Leo,” Mikey mumbles, not moving from his spot.

 

“I thought we were helping Raph, not using him as a pillow?” Leo says, kicking the curtain open more with his feet. He moves in, dumping the blanket on top of the trio. 

 

“Weight helps with grounding,” Donnie says, from where he’s slowly leaned in a bit more. 

 

“That’s the point of me getting the damn blanket. Which! By the way! Was not in the second shelf by the bed or whatever you said! It was in the dryer, so congrats on washin’ your favorite blanket and making me miss out on family time!”

 

“Third shelf by the- Oh, whatever, just come here.”

 

Leo grumbles, rolling his eyes, but the illusion of annoyance is ruined by him plopping down on top of Mikey (who grunts under the additional weight, on top of the blanket). He adjusts to sit more on the right, with Mikey on the left.

 

Donnie was right. This blanket truly is heavenly. Raph can feel his eyes begin to slip, breathing evening out into a sort of calmness he hasn’t had all day. His sudden sleepy state isn’t helped by the slow circles Leo’s rubbing into his shell, the same way Raph used to when they were younger. His hands are warm.

 

“Sorry,” Raph says, again, voice a little more clear this time. The weight in his throat is loosened, but the guilt is still stirring. His little brothers are just kids. They shouldn’t have to help him and treat him like a child. 

 

“What’re you sorry for?” Leo mumbles into his shoulder, where his face is buried. 

 

“I’m supposed to be the strong one,” Raph mumbles back, dropping his voice to match Leo’s. The sentence is exhausting to say, but it doesn’t physically hurt anymore, so that has to count for something. “And now I’m making you kids take care of me.”

 

Raph can’t see the faces Mikey and Leo make from where they’re pressed up below him, but Donnie’s still a distance away- and his face just falls. “El…”

 

“Raph,” Leo starts, a little too strongly compared to the mumbled tone from before. “You do realize you don’t have to be so strong all the damn time, right?”

 

No, no, Leo doesn’t get it. Raph does. He’s the goddamn oldest. Who’s gonna tuck the kids into bed? Who’s gonna help them when they’re sick? Who’s gonna reassure them after nightmares, who’s gonna remind them to take care of themselves, who’s-

 

“Who’s gonna take care of you?” Mikey says, a bit quieter than Leo. Raph still can’t see his face, or maybe he’s just refusing to look down. “We can be strong enough for you, for all of us, if you’d just let us.”

“No,” Raph blurts, finding the motivation to speak leaving him again. How do they not get it? How do they not understand how young they are? “You’re just kids.”

 

“So are you,” Donnie mutters, now pressed up against Raph’s side, not quite wrapped around him like the others, but there. “So are you.”

 

“I’m- I’m the oldest.”

 

“You’re fifteen,” The statement is said with such simplicity. Like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re as much a kid as the rest of us.”

 

And, oh. Oh, oh, oh. 

 

Tears, fresh anew, spring up in Raph’s eyes again. He can’t help the hitch of his breath that comes with the falling tears, but it’s okay. It’s okay, because his brothers just move in a little closer, hold on a little tighter. He can feel someone’s hands on his back, gentle circles traced around dangerous spikes, but they don’t hesitate a bit. The calming effort works, works so well in fact he finds himself hunching over a bit too much. 

 

Mikey huffs a laugh into his neck. “Are you ready for bed?” The tone is joking, teasing, but all too comforting. Mikey moves impossibly closer.

 

“Look at him, ‘course he is,” Leo answers for him, sounding just as tired as Raph feels. 

 

“I’d say it’s time to start winding down, to get ready to sleep, but it looks as if we already did that,” Donnie says, sleepy smile on his face. He’s making himself comfortable on Raph’s torn apart bed like it doesn’t even bother him. “Get some rest, kid.”

 

Raph smiles. “Don’t you worry, kid. ‘M already fallin’ asleep.”

 

They fall asleep together, curled up in a messy pile of limbs on Raph’s old bed. And if Raph falls asleep smiling at the nickname, who’s to know?




(Raph jolts awake from another nightmare, breath coming out in desperate gasps. There’s a brief moment of panic, pure panic, that instantly dims to the sight of Leo’s small dreaming smile and Mikey’s asleep crinkled eyes. 

 

It doesn’t matter where he is. Doesn’t matter what’s going on- he’s safe. Surrounded by everyone he knows.

 

“Go back to sleep,” Donnie sleeply murmurs, slapping Raph’s back halfheartedly.

 

He falls asleep to the sound of a hummed lullaby and the feeling of fingertips brushing his spikes.)