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“Oh, hell yeah!”

 

“No, don’t you dare- That’s mine, Leo-!”

 

The distant crash makes Raph jump and wince at the resounding BANG! as the twins scramble away, shouting accusations and blame. Mikey winces the same, though he tries to hold a smile one his face a little better than Raph.

 

Ah, Takeout Tuesdays. A highlight of no one’s week- They always end in some type of bloodshed. 

 

“Leo! I specifically asked for the plain white rice because I knew I wouldn’t like the flavor profile of the--”

 

Leo blows a raspberry at Donnie, holding several assorted sauce packets in his hands. Raph drags a hand over his face as he watches the twins bicker over some flavor-texture thing. Leo clearly knows he’s in the wrong here and is owning it, proudly dumping soy sauce, ketchup, and--he doesn't even know what that is -- into Donnie’s practically flavorless food. 

 

“Just doin’ ya a favor, bro!”

 

Leo--!”

 

Raph knows, realistically, he should intervene, but at what cost? He doesn’t want his chicken being ruined with whatever monstrosity sauce Leo’s mixing up. Besides, Raph and Mikey are perfectly fine watching the show from where they are. AND, plus, Donnie gets to kick Leo’s ass without any disruption, so honestly it’s a win-win scenario. Raph is honestly doing them a favor.

 

(He’ll intervene if they start getting real mean with each other. Raph knows Leo ordered an extra thing of plain rice anyways- He always had a soft spot for their soft-shell brother.) 

 

Tearing his gaze away from the bickering twins, Raph goes back to shoveling his own food down his throat. It’s good- always is, even with the headache that forms in the back of his skull every Takeout Tuesday. 

 

“Mikey,” Raph begins, mouth full, “How’s ‘ur food?” It’s a little muffled, but he’s sure Mikey can understand. 

 

When Mikey doesn’t immediately respond, Raph glances over at him. 

 

Mikey’s set his food down on the table, his crab rangoon practically untouched. He almost looks like he’s watching the twins, but his eyes have a sort of far away look that Raph definitely does not like. 

 

“Mikes?”

 

Mikey flinches, eyes going wide as he jumps back. His face falls into a wince for a brief flickering second, before landing on a grin that’s a little too wide. “Oh! Sorry Raph, didn’t hear ya!”

 

“That’s…” Weird. “..Alright. How’s ‘da food?” 

 

“It’s great!” Mikey grins, beaming at Raph. Okay, now that’s a little more like Mikey. But still…

 

“Strange,” Raph starts, glancing back at the untouched food, “Considerin’ you haven’t taken a bite yet.”

 

Mikey blanches at that, face falling for a second before he sheepishly smiles and rubs his neck. “Oh! Oh, yeah, sorry,” He half laughs, looking anywhere but Raph. “It’s just… The fighting!”

Raph raises an eye ridge. Every older sibling instinct in him is screaming right now, the alarms in his head blaring. “The fighting?”

“Yeah!” Mikey says, leaning back in his chair. “Ya know how people make food with love? The fighting, the hatred-” He sniffs a dramatic fake tear at this, hand pressed dramatically to his forehead, “-It’s simply ruining the love! No food born of hate can taste good!”

 

Slightly valid point. Still though-

 

“This food ain’t born of hate, it’s born of some random little joint downtown.”

 

“I’m sure the minimum wage workers slaving away in the kitchen of their second job, desperate to pay New York rent, are putting so much love into our meals,” Mikey pauses to sip his water. “Plus, I don’t remember you being the chef of the family?”

 

“Uh.” Raph blinks. Damn. Dr. Delicate Touch was always a treat to have. 

 

“Anyways!” Mikey claps his hands together, and Raph swears that Mikey winces at the sound. “I’ll put this into the fridge for later, when there’s familial love in the air and Leo also stops wasting all our precious sauces on tormenting Donnie, LEO-!”

 

Leo turns from where he’s hovering over a screaming Donnie, threatening him with sticky sauce-covered hands, and smiles a sheepish smile that says Sorry-Bro-But-This-Is-Too-Funny. Mikey waves him off, moving towards the fridge with his untouched food.

 

Raph swallows the last bite of his food, turning towards Leo. Now it’s time for Big Brother to intervene. “Leo, stop messin’ with Donnie’s sensory issues, I swear if you ruin another’s brother’s appetite-”

 

Mikey sneaks away behind him, unnoticed.

 

///

 

Raph wakes up at three am with a throat drier than a desert. It really is a shame-he finally got into a comfortable position that didn’t involve him ripping the mattress to shreds with his back. But, alas, he’s pretty sure he’s gonna die of thirst if he doesn’t get a glass of water.

 

So, sadly, he pulls himself out of bed. Truly a tragedy. 

 

Dragging himself down the hall, Raph grumbles and mutters to himself. It feels grating against his dry throat, so Raph’s not doing himself any favors, but the cool water he gets from the kitchen is immediately heavenly enough to make up for any pain.

 

Now it’s time to attempt to get comfortable again. Damn his back and overly huge spikes that stab everything. Damn his thirst and inability to remember to get a glass before bed. Damn the legs he has to step over to get to his room. Damn the-

 

Wait. Wait. Roll that back.

 

Turning around, Raph sees that yes, there’s a set of legs laying out in the hallway. They’re mostly inside the room they’re sticking out of, but still. 

 

“Hello?” Why was someone laying on the floor? “Wh..?” Moving closer to the room (the bathroom- who was laying on the floor of the bathroom?), Raph cautiously peeks his head in.

 

Hanging partly out of the bathroom, passed out on the floor, is Mikey.

 

“Mikes?” He doesn’t respond, of course. He’s passed out. “Mikey, why’re you on the floor? Why aren’t ya in bed?”

 

Once again, no response. The body in front of him trembles a bit, curling in on itself. Mikey grabs his knees in his sleep, face falling into a hard wince. He’s not wearing any pajamas or armor or anything, except the familiar purple sweatshirt (did he steal Donnie’s?) hanging too big on his frame. The last time someone wore that sweatshirt was when Donnie got sick. 

 

Something is wrong. Something is wrong. 

 

“Mikey,” Raph says, shaking his littlest brother’s shoulders. “You okay, kid?”

 

The nickname rolls off the tongue with ease, a practiced thing. He hasn’t called his brothers kid in years-it started when he was six and Mikey was four. When Raph first learned he was the oldest and the big one, everyone else the little kid. 

 

Mikey shutters again, a tremor running through him. “R’ph?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, it’s me,” Raph says, trying to keep his tone gentle. Why was Mikey on the floor? “You don’t look too good, kid.”

 

Raph, he thinks to himself. Stop calling him kid. Do something more-uh, sweet?

 

He can work with sweet. “Hey..Sweetie..It’s bedtime. Lemme take you back to ya room, alright?”

Mikey doesn’t respond. His eyes are glazed over again, foggy and distant, like at dinner. God, Raph should’ve known something was wrong the moment Mikey didn’t eat! He should’ve- Ugh!

 

Grumbling to himself again, Raph picks up a limp Mikey and tosses him onto his back (gently, of course). Careful to not impale him on Raph’s spikes, Raph adjusts Mikey’s body so that the dead weight works with gravity, not against. With one hand on Mikey’s arms and the other on his legs, Raph’s ready to go.

 

Until: “R’ph. Take me…Take me back.”

“To your room? Mikes, I’m taking you back to your room.”

“No,” Mikey begins to sound panicked. “R’ph, take me back, now.” 

 

“Mikey-?”

 

Raph. Now.” The urgency in his tone is clear, and Raph is placing Mikey off his shell back into the bathroom as fast as he could. 

 

And thank God he did, because Mikey immediately rushes over to the toilet and promptly vomits, the previous sleepy wanderings forgotten. 

 

“Oh, jeez, I didn’t-Sorry, Mikes.”

Mikey doesn’t respond. He just heaves again, and Raph rubs Mikey’s shell with quiet Easy, kid, easy, ’s until he’s done gagging and simply just spits into the toilet. Ah, flu season. Or maybe food poisoning? Or maybe--

 

“I don’t feel good,” Mikey says, cutting off Raph’s anxious thoughts. The shake is back, and now Raph notices the heat radiating off of Mikey. Fever, probably. God, if only Leo was here. He’d know what was up.

 

“I bet,” Raph huffs a half laugh. He keeps his volume low, voice a whisper to not overload Mikey’s aching head. “Do you want me to stay with you or go get your room all ready?”

 

“I want…” Mikey pauses, for a moment, as if weighing the options. Or maybe he’s just trying to process what Raph’s saying. “Can you… Get my room ready? I wanna go to bed.”

 

Not quite the response Raph was expecting, honestly, but if it’s what Mikey wants… “Okay, I’ll go do that. Brush your teeth while I go do that.”

Mikey throws his head back, a low whine in the back of his throat. “I’m not puttin’ nothing near my mouth ever again.” 

 

That actually makes Raph laugh. A low and quiet laugh, sure, but a laugh nonetheless. “Yeah, but your teeth are gonna dissolve with the acid or whatever.”

“Leave the science for Don,” Mikey says, pressing his forehead against the rim of the toilet seat. Which, like, ew, but Raph also gets how desperate you can get for something cold when you gotta fever like that. 

 

A quick flash of sadness runs through him. His poor little brother- sick. And why did he try so hard not to tell anyone?

 

“Seriously, though, you should brush your teeth.”

 

Mikey dry heaves again-Raph honestly can’t tell if he’s being dramatic or if Mikey’s seriously sick at the idea. Either way, Raph’s immediately by his side whispering apologies, a hand rubbing Mikey’s stomach. Mikey whines, high-pitched, and Raph’s cooing I know ’s back at him.

 

“I know, your tummy hurts-”

“I’m not five, R’ph,” Mikey says (more of a whine again). Damn, Mikey always did get all sassy when he was sick. “I’m just-y’know..Just…”

 

Raph doesn’t get on his case for the mumbling. Humming an agreement with whatever Mikey just tried to say, Raph pushes himself up from the ground. “I’m gonna go get your room ready, m’kay? I’ll be right back.”

 

Mikey hums back, giving a shaky thumbs up. His head doesn’t move from its spot. 

 

And, with that, Raph leaves to go to Mikey’s room.

 

///

 

His handiwork is honestly impressive. He’s quite proud of himself, if he’s being honest (he is). 

 

The perfect blanket pile is constructed in the center of Mikey’s bed. Raph brought every blanket he could find that wasn’t accompanied (other than Leo’s. He totally stole Leo’s blankets. Consider it revenge for ruining half the family’s appetites- and, besides, Leo totally sleeps like the dead, he doesn’t need ‘em).

 

He also set out Mikey’s softest pajamas, so he can live in peak comfort until he gets better. A waste basket, freshly emptied, sits directly at the edge of the bed too-just in case. There’s also a bottle of off-brand flu medicine on the counter. If Mikey thought he was gonna gag at a toothbrush, Raph pities the poor boy trying to swallow the gross liquid. 

 

Oh, and of course: A few glasses of water. Yes, several- You can’t be over prepared for anything. 

 

Retrieving Mikey from the bathroom’s easy. He’s passed out on the ground again, the same sorta tremble from before wracking the tiny frame. Thankfully, when Raph carries him to his room, he doesn’t wake up in a rush again. 

 

Raph wraps his little brother in the blankets, good and snug. Only after he slides on the pajamas, of course, which is easier said than done with the limp body. 

 

“Let’s getcha tucked in, huh?” Raph finds himself saying to no one. Mikey is very much out, with little chance of waking up again. “There you go! Snug as a bug in a rug.”

 

The phrase, which usually would initiate a teasing response from someone, is left unheard. The sudden loneliness of the situation presses down on the back of Raph’s skull, but he represses that kind of worry deep down. 

 

“Get some rest, kid,” Raph finds himself whispering. He leans his head against Mikey’s blanket paradise, his own shoulders running with goosebumps at the cold chill of the room. “Sweet dreams. See ya in the morning.”

 

And, with that, Raph nods off.

Chapter Text

A few months after the Kraang, Raph and Leo have a sleepover.

 

Everything’s been a little- well, tense. Not that that’s a surprise. It’s a weird situation to recover from. Mikey’s hands don’t stop shaking for several weeks, not until Donnie does research on physical therapy and tries to help. Speaking of Donnie- no one sees him without his battle shell for months. Raph even once walked into his room to find him asleep with the damn thing on. There’s bruises on his shoulders to prove it.

 

Leo pretends like everything’s normal, after he recovers from broken bones and strained muscles. None are quite as strained as his smile.

 

Raph can’t judge, really. He does the same.

 

Now they’re having a sleepover. They’re hovering over two 3DS’s-the best finds Donnie’s ever gotten from the junkyard. Leo’s absolutely kicking Raph’s ass at Smash, which isn’t fair since Raph isn’t used to the whole half-blind thing yet.

 

(One time, Mikey was able to hold his hand over Raph’s bad eye for twenty minutes without Raph noticing. A weird mix of dissociation and blindness, but the implications scared him all the same. How long could a villain hide from Raph in plain sight?)

 

Leo doesn’t seem to show Raph any mercy, though, absolutely destroying Raph with Sonic. Raph’s Kirby just keeps getting knocked with Leo’s button mashing. Kirby’s holding up better than Jigglypuff did, though- So Raph counts that as a win. 

 

Then Leo gets the actual win, and Raph finds himself groaning as he throws his head back. “ Leo.

Leo stretches and yawns with fake boredom, dramatically sweeping dust off his shoulders. “Anddd as a surprise to no one, Leon wins!”

 

“God, you’re so annoying,” Raph grumbles. “I can annihilate solo mode, you’re just a cheater!”

 

“Yeah?” Leo says, tilting an eye ridge. His pose is loose, cocky, as he leans on his elbows. “Let’s see it, big guy.”

 

“Oh, you’re on.”

 

///

 

Raph does not, in fact, annihilate solo mode. In fact, an hour passes before he finally, finally gets a win, and only after he changes his character twenty times. (Pit is who he finally wins with-New lucky character, who needs Kirby?)

 

“Yes!” Raph yells, pumping a fist. “Like a boss! Leo, didja-”

 

Soft snoring pulls his attention away from the screen. 

 

“-see..that…”

 

Goddamnit. 

 

Leo’s lays slumped over on the bed, still in his gear. The 3DS lays loose in his hands, screen long turned off. Raph isn’t sure when Leo fell asleep- He started to tune out the background commentary at round five. 

 

Still though-the position looks incredibly uncomfortable. Raph didn’t even realize it was getting late, or he would’ve sent Leo to bed a while back. Whatever, what- ever. 

 

Picking up the 3DS, Raph shuts them both off and places them on the bedside table. The room needs a bit of cleaning- the wrappers of junk food they were eating are scattered across the floor, along with crushed cans and thrown about pillows. Raph grumbles, sweeping the wrappers up into his arms and dumping them into Leo’s trash. 

 

His first win and Leo didn’t even see it! He didn’t even-

 

A low muttering from Leo halts Raph’s train of thought. Aw, he’s talking in his sleep! Adorable. 

 

Leo’s mutterings are mostly incomprehensible, but Raph catches a few words once he starts to pay close attention. Leo says their names (cute), says their nicknames ( cute), and finally says ‘ Raphie’, a nickname he hasn’t been called in years. (ADORABLE!!!!!)

 

Smiling to himself, Raph switches from grumbling to humming as he cleans up the room. Leo was so, so, so getting teased for this when he woke up. Consider it revenge for the Super Smash bullying.

 

After around ten minutes of cleaning, the room looks just about spotless, at least for sewer standards. Truly, Raph is the greatest older brother ever. 

 

Glancing back at the bed, Raph catches sight of Leo’s face. The previously unbothered brother now has a line on his forehead, face pinched. He looks confused, maybe even distressed. Distressed?

 

Maybe Raph should wake him up. Move him to a more comfortable position, at the very least. Must be the way his neck's sitting.

 

“Hey,” He starts, poking Leo’s cheek. “Leo. Hey. Hey. Hey.” 

 

Leo shifts in his sleep, mumbling a quiet “ Raphie.” The nickname makes Raph’s heart swell again. Makes him all nostalgic for their younger days. 

 

“Leoooo,” Raph drags out, pushing against Leo and shaking his shoulders. The bastard was out . “You’re gonna get a crick in your neck. Leoooooo…”

 

Leo mumbles something again, his brow tense. The hands that were once laying limp and flat tense, fingers gripping around something that isn’t there. 

 

“Le-”

 

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Leo jerks forward with a gasp, previous sleeping form completely forgotten. He folds over himself for the briefest of seconds, before rocketing up, eyes wide. 

 

Raph doesn’t even have time to gasp before Leo stumbles out of bed, breathing quickly, with a cry of “They’re here!”

 

“Leo-?”



“Lock- Lock the door,” Leo gasps, hand still pressed against his chest. “Lock the door!” His eyes are still wild and manic, searching the room that he doesn’t seem to quite be seeing. His posture is tense, stiff, along with the hands that're gripping something that isn't there.

 

“There’s nothing there, Leo, we’re at home,” Raph says, panic lacing his tone. He approaches Leo with his hands raised, to show he isn't a threat. What happened? What was wrong?

 

Then, all at once, Raph remembers: Nightmares. Something that’s been plaguing Raph himself for a while, of course Leo would get them too. 

 

But this seems more serious than a nightmare. Leo’s desperately fumbling with the curtain-there’s no locks, never was in the base, and certainly no doors. Where did Leo think he was?

 

“Leo, it’s alright, believe me, we’re at home,” Raph desperately tries to keep him tone kind despite the underlying panic at his brother’s manic look. Leo doesn’t seem to hear him, or maybe he’s just tuning him out, but either way, he doesn’t respond. If anything, his eyes go a little more distant.

 

“Something’s-something’s followin’ us,” Leo says, tripping over his words. His breathing picks up again, as he stares terrified at the curtain. As if something was behind it, waiting to get them. “You should…We need to find a place to hide.”

 

“Kid? Can you hear me?” No response. Leo stands tense and trembling, fist clenched around nothing. Like he thinks he’s holding his sword. “Leo, I’m gonna touch ya, alright?” 

 

No response.

 

This probably isn’t a good idea. Raph lays a gentle hand on Leo’s forearm anyways. 

 

His gaze snaps to Raph immediately, breath stuttering for a moment. Raph could practically hear his heartbeat, or maybe it was just his own. Either way, Raph whispers: “It’s okay, kid, it’s okay.”

 

Leo’s eyes fill with recognition, though his breathing doesn’t stop stuttering. “Raph.

 

“Yeah,” Raph says, proud. “Yeah, it’s me. Relax, kid, it’s me.” 

 

Raph,” Leo gasps, eyes filling with tears. It’s an unnatural look on him, completely off putting. Raph can tell what’s coming, leaving his arms open, waiting. Leo collapses into them, exactly what he expects. “ Raph.” 

 

“I know,” He says, not a complete lie. He gets the panic, the thinking you’re back- he gets the desperate need for someone to hold you. Why wouldn't Leo talk to them about this? “I know.”

 

Leo’s grip on Raph’s upper arms is tight, nails digging deep into skin. Raph suppresses a wince- Leo needs him now, and he can’t expect him to adjust just for Raph. Plus, with how out of it he still looks, Raph doubts Leo would be able to move.

 

“C’mon, Leo, let’s get ya in bed,” Raph whispers, tone patient. “I bet that took a lot out of ya.”

 

“I don’t..I don’t wanna, Raph,” Leo says his name like he’s trying to see if he’s really here. A tinge of sympathy fills his heart. After a nightmare, Raph never likes going back to bed. Something about the loneliness of his room, the fact he can’t even see half of it- He always finds himself surveying the entire place all night. 

 

“I know, but you’re fallin’ asleep on your feet here. Look at ya,” Raph says, attempting a half gesture at Leo’s limp form. “I know you’re gettin’ sleepy.”

 

As if on cue, Leo yawns. Then he looks mad at himself for yawning. Then even madder at himself for- something. 

 

Might be Leo’s inability to ask for help, especially emotional help. Might be the fact he’s crying in his big brother’s arms right now like he’s six. Might just be the fact he had a nightmare to begin with. It’s hard to tell with Leo sometimes. (Note: all the time). 

 

“Here, c’mon, I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep, okay?”



“I’m not five,” Leo hisses, although he doesn’t protest when Raph picks him up. If anything, he melts into the touch. 

 

“Funny, Mikey said the same thing when he was sick.” That earns a glare from Leo. “It’s alright, it doesn’t bother me none. Everyone gets scared, kid. You can relax and rest, and I’ll protect ya. Just go to sleep.”

 

Leo hums something, not responding. He’s leaning on Raph heavily, even after Raph sits them both down in the small bed. 

 

“Love ya, Raph,” Leo mumbles, making a point to avoid Raph’s eyes. He curls up a little bit more, and Raph feels his heart melting all over again. 

 

“Love you too, Leo.” 

 

They fall asleep, tangled up in the tiny bed. He’ll talk to Leo about the nightmares tomorrow- right now, Raph wouldn’t ask for anything more.

Chapter Text

“Raph, Donnie’s doin’ the thing again.”

 

It’s early evening, one of those days where everyone is off doing their own thing. Sure, it’s nice to have meals as a family and to train/hang out as a family, but sometimes they need a break. Time to do their own thing.

 

Which is just what Raph’s doing. He looks up at the intruding voice from where he’s laying on the floor. He’s sprawled over his comics, rereading his favorite issue of Jupiter Jim for the hundredth time. “Doin’ what thing?”



Leo leans in the doorway, arms crossed, looking surprisingly worried for his attempted chill demeanor. That sets off the Older Brother Instinct yet again- Leo doesn’t really worry. “Y’know. The thing.”

 

Very helpful, Leo. “Donnie does a lot of ‘ things’.

 

“The one where he gets all pissy and starts snappin’ at people ‘cause he doesn’t sleep.”

 

“Oh. That thing.” A fairly uncommon occurrence in the household. Donnie will fixate on something for hours, even days, to the point of neglecting his needs. Then he won’t register the fact he’s upset because of that, then he gets extra sensitive to sensory stuff, then he gets into a constant sensory-overload kind of angry at anyone for helping him. 

 

Or talking to him. Or existing within his general presence. At that stage, he either gets help or inevitably crashes.

 

If that happens, then that’s another problem all on its own. It’s recommended to do anything within your power to get Donnie to go to bed on his own terms, less he knocks himself out and everyone has to deal with that aftermath. 

 

“Have you sent Mikey in?” Dr. Delicate Touch or even Dr. Feelings tends to have a high success rate with dealing with Overwhelmed Donnie. 

 

(Leo once tried to coin the name OD for this version of Donnie, as some sort of dumb pun on him overdoing his work. Raph shut it down pretty fast.)

 

“Yeah,” Leo says, suddenly glancing away. His face falls at the mention. “Came out on the verge of tears. Don’s gettin’ close to the crash, being extra mean.”

 

Oh, shit , that’s not good. 

 

Leo clearly sees this on Raph’s face. “Yeah, I know. Mikey’s tempted to just pop a melatonin in a glass of water and hope it knocks him out.”

 

Not a half bad idea, actually, but Donnie would kill them if he finds out. “Is he even drinking water at this point or just coffee?”

 

Leo winces, fidgeting with the ends of his mask. “Yeah, good point. Mikey’s just been worried sick over him, and I don’t like seein’ Donnie like that either. Freaks me out when he gets all..You know.”

 

“Yeah,” Raph says, moving to get up. “I’ll go in there, then. Give him a classic Raph talking to!”

 

Leo snorts, moving out of the doorway. He despite his apprehensive tone, his posture relaxes. “Yeah, good luck.”

 

“I won’t need it!”

 

///

 

He very much so needs it. 

 

“Fuck off,Donnie hisses from where he’s hunched over the counter. “I don’t want to hear it.”

 

“Donnie--”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

Vulgar language aside, Donnie’s looking rough. His mask is all messed up, goggles half hanging off of his head. Raph can practically see the eye-bags through his mask. Donnie’s hands hold a slight tremor to them, along with the rest of him, eyes squinting as if he can’t quite see the circuit board he’s poking and prodding at. 

 

“Kid, I’m worried about you.” 

 

“Don’t care,” Donnie says, tone uncaring. His posture is hunched, like he’s purposefully blocking Raph out. There’s a certain coldness in the way he hides behind the artificial shell. “You saw me, I’m alive, now won’t you please let me back to work?”

 

“I mean,” Raph says, awkwardly standing in the doorway. Donnie’s reaction, while Raph should’ve expected, still throws him off. “It is good to see you, kid.”

 

“Not a kid,” Donnie says. It’s a miracle he’s still entertaining Raph with responses. “There’s no need to fret over me, dear brother, I’m perfectly fine.” His tone is somehow colder than before.

 

“I mean- like-” Raph stutters. Tired Donnie was always hard to talk to, a waiting bomb. The wrong thing could make him blow up, make him fall into an overload that’ll tire him out for days. 

 

Donnie rolls his eyes, not even looking away from his work for a moment. “Yeah, yeah, I heard it all from Leo. Now leave.” 

 

Raph, dejectedly, gets up and goes.

 

///

 

Raph comes back an hour later, with a collection of tools that he thinks will help Donnie fall asleep and a half-baked plan to knock him out. 

 

“God, you’re back? I just told you to leave, like, five minutes ago.”

 

“It’s been an hour, actually,” Raph says, cheerfully (or at least he tries to). Donnie actually looks surprised at this, glancing back down to the collection of wires he’s now playing with. His face quickly falls back into a scowl though. Raph pulls out his first item- some sleepytime lavender spray thing that’s supposed to help you get tired. April gave it to them a year or so ago, when she witnessed a particularly bad episode. Donnie hadn’t had one since then- what set this fixation off? 

 

Kraang, His brain helpfully supplies. 

 

Raph juggles the lavender spray in his hands, nervous. They haven’t tried it before, but no time like the present, right?

 

Wandering around the room, Raph sprays the stuff on pretty much anything. He isn’t quite sure how it works, but surely this is close enough, right?

 

Donnie completely ignores him, which is. Weird. Very weird. Usually Donnie freaks out if any of them get even near his stuff, especially when he’s overwhelmed. Must be the beginning of the crash. 

 

Then he glances back at Donnie, who’s trembling hands spark wires together dangerously. 

 

Oh. Oh. 

 

Oh, shit. 

 

Adding another sense to the pile probably wasn’t the smartest idea on Raph’s part.

 

“Donnie, Don, let’s drop the wires, alright?” Raph says, nervously approaching his brother. He throws the bottle onto some countertop (he hopes that crash isn’t something breaking), leaving his hands open. Donnie stares into the distance, not really responding to his voice. “You could hurt yourself, kid.”

 

“Not a kid,” Donnie says, quietly, but still- Raph could cry with relief at the fact he’s at least still verbal. Donnie does place down the wires, but his fingers don’t stop shaking. There’s at least one win, though. 

 

“Sorry,” Raph says. “I didn’t really think-”

 

“I can tell.” 

 

Raph winces. Donnie yawns quietly, before falling into a wince as well. But still! He yawned! The lavender might be working!

 

“What the hell is that?” Donnie says, rubbing the bridge of his nose. His brow is tense, too tense, eyes squinting into the counter. “It’s too strong.”

 

“It’s called lavender. I think it’s starting to hit you,” Raph finds himself beaming, despite the previous anxiety that clawed at his throat. Small victories are still victories- at least, for Raph.

 

“I know what lavender is, Raph.” Donnie never did like being treated like he’s stupid. “I’m going to go get a glass of water. I want you out of my room by the time I get back.” He’s pushing himself off his desk, one hand still on his head, grumbling something else under his breath.

 

“I’ll come with!” Raph bursts, beaming again, following behind Donnie like a lost puppy. “Actually, how about you go lay in bed, and I’ll bring you a glass?”

 

“Nice try, Raph, but if you want to make yourself useful then bring me a glass here.” 

 

Damn. It was worth a shot, though.

 

Still… “Yeah, okay, I’ll do that!” 

 

He’s got this.

 

///

 

“I’m gonna put a melatonin in his water.”

“Do not.”

 

Mikey doesn’t listen, smiling a malicious kind of smile. He looks evil. Leo’s a terrible influence. (or maybe it was Donnie. Probably both- the twins are quite a duo).

 

Michelangelo. Don’t drug our brother.”

 

Completely ignoring Raph, Mikey opens the capsule and drops the powder into the water. “Oops, sorry, what was that? I didn’t quite catch it.”

 

“Mikey!” Raph cries, pulling the glass away from Mikey and setting it on the opposite end of the counter. He’s been all Delicate Touch ever since Donnie yelled at him, clearly tired of Donnie’s spiral. “I’m not gonna give that to him!”

 

“Okay, how about we placebo him? Make him think we drugged him, and then boom! He falls asleep!”

 

God, this family. “That is the worst idea ever. He’d never talk to us again.”

 

Mikey just rolls his eyes- goddamn teenagers, always so cocky. Mikey leans over the counter to snatch the damn glass back, before leaning back down, glass still in hand, absentmindedly swirling it in his grasp. The powder makes the water a murky color, but otherwise dissolves.

 

“Dude. We are not going to-”

“Fake drug him?” Leo supplies, helpfully, from where he entered the kitchen.

 

“Oh my god, don’t call it that!” Raph barks back. Jesus Christ this family. “Donnie’s not gonna even fall for that kind of trick, he’d know!”

 

“No, he’d fall for it. He’s fallen for it before,” Leo says, casually. 

 

What. When did they placebo Donnie? How did they placebo Donnie? “What- when?”

 

Leo shrugs, a lazy smile playing on his face. “A magician never reveals his secrets. And, you know, we don’t have to trick him. We can just…” Leo pauses, simply for dramatics. “Wait for the crash.”



Everyone immediately cringes. Donnie out of commission only leads to problems for everyone around.

 

“Okay, maybe, maybe trick him. If and only if I can’t get him to go to bed by tonight.” Raph feels bad just playing with the idea, but fuck. He doesn’t want to watch Donnie spiral anymore then he already has.

 

“Which you won’t.”

 

“Which I will. Watch me!” And with that, Raph moves to the pantry. Time for the first step of his plan.

///

 

He tries tea.

 

“Oh, goodie, El’s is back.” During the time Raph was gone Donnie set up around five fans. Seems excessive, if you’re asking him, but the scent doesn’t linger as strongly anymore. “Did you lose a fight to the sink or something? Seems like the kind of thing you'd do.”

Hurtful comment aside, Raph proudly presents Donnie his cup. All they had was black tea, but Raph knows that tea’s gotta help with calming people down. Raph usually makes himself a cup of chamomile himself when he has nightmares.

 

“What is that? I asked for water, Raph. What, you can’t even do that?” Ouch. Grumpy Donnie’s the worst.

 

“It’s tea!” Raph beams, despite the comment, passing the cup to Donnie. “I always drink it to calm myself right down! Here, try it!”

 

“You drink black tea to calm down?” Donnie raises an eyebrow, leaning over and swooping the cup right out of Raph’s hand. He chugs the cup at an alarming rate, slamming the empty glass back onto the table. “It’s the most heavily caffeinated type, but hey, whatever suits you.”

 

Caffeinated? “Wha’? No, tea’s supposed to help you calm down. It always relaxes me.”

 

“Not black tea.” Donnie’s half-smirking to himself now, continuing to press wires together. Raph has no idea what type of doo-dad thingamajob he’s working on- but that’s not the matter at hand. 

 

“Oh.” Well. Shit. 

 

///

 

He tries lullabies. 

 

“Do ya want me to see ya a song?”

 

Donnie sends him a weird look from where he’s still hunched over at the desk. “I would literally rather kill myself.”

 

Okay! Wow! Damn! 

 

“Uh. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine?” He barely sings it, more presenting it as a half-confused question. The whiplash from Donnie’s previous statement’s still ringing in his head.

 

Donnie doesn’t say anything else, just grumbles another half threat and uses a robot hand to flip Raph off. 

 

At least he’s direct?

 

///

 

He tries bedtime stories.

 

“And then the Big Wolf went up to the little rabbit and said-”

 

“Why,” Donnie drawls, leaning back in his chair. “Are you reading children’s stories.” There’s no question in his tone, presented more as a statement than anything else. 

 

“Well!” Raph says, slapping the children’s book closed, then promptly regretting it- he’s never going to find that page again. “I thought I’d read you a little story to help you slow your mind down!”

 

“Well, if you’re going to read something, then at least read this instruction manual,” Donnie says, monotone, as he tosses back some sort of paper.

 

Raph lights up- Finally, a task! 

 

Until he opens up the manual to see it’s all in french.

 

At least Donnie got a half laugh out of that one.

 

///

 

He even tries validation.

 

Praise, it seems, always gets through to Donnie. He’d do anything if it meant you would tell him he did a good job. So, reasonably, that has to be why he’s so fixated on this project! He wants their praise!

“Donnie,” Raph starts. Donnie immediately throws his head back in a groan. “You’re loved.”

Donnie immediately cringes hard, stopping his task immediately. “Stop. Immediately.”

 

“Everything is going to be okay.”

“Oh my fucking God.”

 

“Just remember you’re special.”

 

“Yeah, I’m certainly special, ” Donnie says, throwing up air quotes. The joke flies over Raph’s head.

 

“You’re--”

 

Donnie throws him out of the lab with some weird gadget- Raph doesn’t get a good glimpse at it before he hits the ground.

 

///

 

“Donnie is not being- what did you call it?”

 

Leo leans against the counter, waving some website on his phone in front of Raph. He’s moving it too fast for Leo to read. “Russian sleep experiment-ed! Dude! We did research on sleep depriva-doo-dads-”

 

“Deprivation, Leo-”

“- And we found this article about a science thingy where they kept them up and they went crazy! We have to knock him out now!”

 

Raph gapes with surprise at Leo. He can’t believe his brothers. How are they this gullible.  “Bro, it’s just a story.”

Mikey, from where he’s sitting on the counter with a glass of water, waves his hands around. “Raph, you don’t get it! It’s insane.”

 

“And! You didn’t meet your deadline Raph! We’re moving onto extreme measures now!”

 

And, well. He did make a deal- even if he strongly disagrees with it now. 

 

Sensing Raph’s hesitation, Leo smiles with confidence. “I bet five dollars Donnie’ll fall for it.” 

 

Running over a hand over his face (he can’t believe he’s agreeing to this), Raph sighs. “Okay, fine, deal. But! You’re giving it to him and I get to claim I didn’t know.”

“Deal!” Mikey and Leo chime together, previous worry over stupid online stories forgetten.

 

Raph can’t believe he’s agreeing to this.

 

///

 

“See! I told you! Look at this note- It’s written in blood!”

 

In front of him, Leo and Mikey crowd around a note Donnie left on his door. It’s literally red ink. The text is simple; it just says Leave me alone or I’m tasering the next person to enter my lab. Of course, that means ‘ send Raph in he can handle it.’

 

So Raph’s standing outside the curtain, breaking the first part of the agreement already- The glass is cold in his hands. This is going to backfire so hard.

 

“Donnie? Pleasedon’ttasermeIgotyouwater-” 

 

“Mm?” Donnie mumbles from his desk, looking somehow even worse than before. “Oh. Yeah. Water.”

 

There’s no thank you, but there’s also no taser, so win-win? 

 

Donnie takes the glass without a second thought, chugging it with the same efficiency as the tea. 

 

Then Donnie gives Raph a weird look. “Why do you look so nervous?”

Raph blanches. Oh no. 

 

“I-”

 

“Okay, so don’t freak out or anything-” Leo interrupts, pulling himself from behind the curtain. Mission abort, mission abort. 

 

“But now’s probably a good time to tell you we crushed a sedative into your water! Sweet dreams, Donnie!” Mikey pops out from below Leo, full Delicate Touch. His eyes have an evil glint to them- Leo’s just has panic in them. This is the worst way to placebo someone, this is the worst possible way. Mikey quickly darts away, leaving Leo and Raph behind with Donnie.

 

God. Damn. It. 

 

“Wh- You drugged my drink?” Donnie suddenly looks a lot more awake, which is exactly what they’re not going for. This is not how you placebo someone! 

 

“Melatonin! It’s literally just melatonin!” And there goes Raph’s second term- plausible deniability is out the window. At least he didn’t snitch- he was tempted to give in and tell Donnie it’s literally just a glass of water the moment he looked panicked. At Donnie’s flabbergasted look, Raph finds himself continuing: “Kid, you had us all worried sick-”

 

“Out.”

 

And, yeah. That’s about the reaction Raph was expecting, but he still finds himself flinching back at the tone. It’s deserved, though.

 

Leo doesn’t seem to think as such. “Wh- Dude! Maybe if you weren’t such an asshole and just listened to us-”

 

“I said out!” 

 

“Leo, c’mon, let’s just go,” Raph says, solemn. Leo’s stuttering out more excuses and claims, but Raph grabs him by the arm and drags him out. 

 

Raph will come back and check in on Donnie later. 

 

///

 

After about forty-five minutes of listening to Mikey and Leo bicker over the stupid creepypasta, Raph gives up and decides to check back in with Donnie. At the very least to apologize- best case scenario is to tuck him into bed (or to get his five dollars). 

 

Seems luck finally decides to be on Raph’s side- Donnie’s slumped over on the desk, passed out. 

 

“Don?” He finds himself asking anyway. The figure on the desk shifts, mumbling something incoherent. “I’m gonna pick you up now. Hope that’s alright.”

 

Raph doesn’t really bother with the comfort part of it- The quicker he can get Donnie into bed the better. Tossing him over his shoulder fireman style seems to be the most effective, so over he goes.

 

“Hope you’re comfortable,” Raph hisses under the weight (he probably should’ve taken off Donnie’s solid metal shell before he picked him up), adjusting his pose accordingly. 

 

“I’m not, but thanks.” 

 

“Jesus-!” Raph jumps, making Donnie yelp from his position on Raph’s back. “I thought you were asleep! Oh my God, I’m takin’ you to bed right now.” 

 

“Put me…down…” Donnie stretches out the words with a yawn, hands patting Raph’s shoulder. “I’m not tired…I don’t get tired..”

 

Raph can’t help but huff a laugh at that. “Tello, you were knocked out on the desk. Like fully knocked out.”

 

“Doesn’t..count. I was just takin’ a nap,'' Donnie mumbles. “Just a nap. I’m only tired  ‘cause of the melatonin…” 

 

Raph entertains him with a ‘Sure, kid.’ before continuing to hike up to Donnie’s room. Well, damn. Guess it worked? (He’s absolutely not paying Leo five dollars). Donnie fights him the whole way up. His quiet yawns and tired stretches ruin the tough guy thing he’s trying to go for. Of course, Raph doesn’t tell him this.

 

“Hey, Donnie? How about this: Stop talkin’ so much and lean on me, kid. Go to sleep.” 

 

“I don’t…” Donnie fizzles out the rest of his sentence, putting his full dead weight on Raph again. “I got work to do, ‘El.”

 

And, oh, does that hurt. Donnie thinks he shouldn’t (or can’t) sleep, because he has to do work? He should know better than that by now! 

 

Raph will drill that into his head as soon as Donnie wakes up from a full eight hours of sleep. For right now…

 

“C’mon, Tello, let’s just leave the day for now. All the events and tasks ‘n whatever will be there in the morning.”

“It’s my job.” 

 

“Your job,” Raph starts, now removing Donnie from his back- They’ve arrived at his room, “Is to rest. Number one most important thing.”

“But-”

“I know you’ve had a long day,” Probably longer, honestly, since he’s clearly so tired, “But you got to get a good night’s sleep.” He drops Donnie into bed, before reaching over to unclasp the prosthetic shell sitting on his shoulders. The bruises that reveal themselves on Donnie’s shoulders are dark enough to make Raph wince in deep sympathy. Ouch. 

 

“Okay, sweetie! Time to get some sleep!”

 

Donnie rolls his eyes and mutters something, but it’s clear the relief from laying in his bed and to have that weight off his shoulders is overriding any other emotions for him. Raph watches as Donnie’s eyes blink with heaviness, before sliding closed, and his breathing evens out.

 

Raph pushes himself off the bed, going to turn off the lights. Right before he leaves, though, a tiny voice calls out to him.

 

“Raph?”

 

Something in the tone makes Raph pause, right in the doorway. “Yeah, Don?”



“Could you..stay? For a bit?”



Raph smiles, although Donnie can’t see it. “Yeah, ‘course.”

 

And if Donnie falls asleep on Raph, leaving him unable to move for the sixteen hours Don’s passed out for, who’s Raph to complain?



(Donnie apologizes later with a fucking switch. New best find from the dump- He even managed to snag Animal Crossing and Smash Bros. 

Turns out Raph was only bad because the 3DS was so small for his big hands. His new win streak leaves Leo fuming. 

They say sorry to Donnie with new memory cards April got from the store. Fresh, not from the junkyard. The way Donnie’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree makes everything worth it. 

They all accept the apologies easily.)

Chapter Text

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.)