Work Header

you breathe in, but can't breathe out

Chapter Text



Two days after the brothers’ eighteenth birthday, Slash throws Raphael out of his bed, out of his lair, and tells him to never come back. Raph won’t remember, later, if he puts up any protest, but he wakes the next day with his face bruised and a tooth chipped, so he’ll assume that he put up enough of one to make Slash angry. 

He doesn’t really remember making the trek back to the lair, but he wakes up handcuffed to a hospital bed in Donnie’s lab, so he assumes that he did. He feels limp, weak, drained, but he only starts to panic when he realizes there’s an IV in his arm. His eyes flicker around the room until they land on Mikey, perched on a chair beside the bed with his head in his hands. 

“Mikey?” Raph rasps. Mikey’s head snaps up, his wide blue eyes landing on his big brother, but he says nothing. He just stares and stares and stares and it makes Raph’s skin crawl. “What…” Raph tries to clear his throat, but it’s too dry. “W - Wha’s… happ’ning?”

Mikey’s face crumples so quickly, and Raph has no time to question why before Mikey bursts into tears. Raph stares, wide-eyed, as Mikey’s head drops, his whole body racked with heaving sobs. Raph should say something, he knows, but his head feels like it’s been stuffed full of cotton and his throat is so fucking dry and in the end all he can do is stare without a single ounce of comprehension.

“Mikey!” a familiar voice calls, paired with racing footsteps, and then Leo and Donnie burst into the lab, wild-eyed and frantic. “Is everything -” Leo cuts himself off as he and Donnie skid to an abrupt stop, staring at Raph. Raph stares back. “Raph?” Leo murmurs, all small and meek and nothing like Leo. His eyes are rimmed with red and his face is pale and Raph really can't wrap his head around what the fuck is happening.

He turns his stare to Donnie, hoping to find the answers in him, but all he sees is that look on Donnie’s face; the one he always has when he’s in professional mode. Except this time his jaw is clenched and his eyes are shining. 

Raphael looks away, down at his handcuffs, and his eyes widen when he sees the stark white bandages wrapped tight around his wrists. “Did - did I -” 

“Mikey,” Donnie interrupts, striding towards the bed with Leo lingering behind. He places a hand on Mikey’s shaking shoulder. Their youngest brother bites his sobs down into little whimpers and looks up at Donnie. “Can you get Raph a glass of water, please?”

Mikey sucks in a wet, snotty breath and bobs his head, pushing himself off the chair and heading out of the lab. He casts one look back at Raph, then tears his eyes away, wrapping his arms around himself as he disappears. Raph watches him go.

“I - is he -” Raph tries, only to startle when Donnie lightly touches his arm. 

Donnie quickly pulls his hand back but doesn’t acknowledge it. “Let’s get you some water first,” he says gently. “Then we’ll talk.”

There’s something in his voice that Raph really doesn’t like, and under the itching weight of Donnie’s intent, unwavering stare, he feels himself shrink. 

MIkey returns only a moment later with a glass of water held between both hands. He hesitates near Leo, not looking anyone in the eye as he pushes the glass into Leo’s hands and then steps back, hugging himself again as he stares at the floor. Raph frowns, and so does Leo. Leo turns to Raph, his frown pulling down further, and Raph thinks he looks too tired for his age.

Leo brings the water to them but doesn’t hand it to Donnie. In fact, he comes even closer, seating himself on the edge of the hospital bed, and brings the water to Raph’s lips. It’s embarrassing, but Raph can’t exactly lift his hands, so he just avoids Leo’s eyes as he drinks. 

Once he’s had enough, Leo pulls the glass away and looks to Donnie. Donnie takes a deep breath and blows it out in one long, shaking sigh. Raph can’t stand it. “What’d I do?” he asks in a hoarse voice, eyes flickering between Donnie’s pinched brow and Leo’s tired, tired face. 

Donnie turns his eyes up to the ceiling, his face scrunching into a desperate grimace. Still, he looks Raph in the eye again and keeps his voice even as he says, “You hurt yourself, Raph. Really badly.”

“It was an accident,” Raph says without thinking. He doesn’t see the way his brothers stiffen, or the look they exchange, so he barrels on. “I - I probably just cut too deep. I wasn’t trying to -” He stops himself. Swallows tightly.

“We heard you,” Leo says slowly, voice quivering. “In your room last night. You were screaming your lungs out, and when we got inside, you -” Leo looks away, blinking hard.

“You had a knife,” Donnie finishes, his entire body slumping. “We got it away from you, but you were already… you were losing so much blood.” Donnie hurriedly wipes his eyes. “I managed to stitch you up and do a blood transfusion. You’ll make it, but -” His voice breaks and he wipes his eyes harder.

Raph stares blankly at Donnie, his insides frozen over. His hands are shaking.

Mikey shuffles up to Donnie and leans his head on his shoulder. Raph watches his little brothers tremble against each other, coming apart in ways they haven’t in years, and Raph could almost hate them for it. Almost, but not really, because he’s the one who did this. 

Leo grabs Raph’s hand, and Raph flinches but Leo doesn’t seem to notice, squeezing Raph’s hand tight. Raph risks a glance at his big brother’s face and finds nothing but wide-eyed heartbreak there. “Raph,” Leo says, and oh no, now Leo’s voice is shaking, too. “What happened?”

Raph swallows. “I… I don’t know,” he whispers. “I didn’t mean to.”

But Leo just shakes his head. “No, Raph. What pushed you that far?”

Raph freezes.

(Slash on top of him, using him, kicking him to the curb like he’s never been anything more than a worthless piece of trash, like he’s not even deserving of respect, like Slash feels the exact same way about Raph that everyone else does even though he said -)

“Oh, Raph,” Leo breathes, and that’s when Raph realizes he’s crying.

Leo leans forward, wraps his arms around Raph’s neck, adjusts himself until he’s halfway laying on him, and then Mikey scrambles onto the bed, crawling over Leo and curling up at Raph’s other side, and Donnie seats himself beside Raph’s pillow and wraps long arms as far as he can around his three brothers, and suddenly Raph is warm and safe and his brothers are here and - 

And he is breaking.