Together

Chapter 13

I got tired of punching my bag, and stood there for a moment, watching the sand falling out of the many holes that it sustained over the many years. My mind, though...I was still thinking about Mikey.

I tell you, when I heard that monitor beeping like that, I went into full-blown panic. I couldn't even be angry; Mikey was dying!

And for those few minutes his monitor had stopped...I thought for a long while that a part of me was going with him, a part I'd never be able to get back.

And I don't have a single damn clue how, but I talked to him in...there. I'm not even sure what to call it. Light, I guess. Light or Death or...agh, whatever! He wasn't here, that's all I know.

Tell you one thing: I'm not the expert at that sort of thing, and I'm damn glad that I'm not.

All I knew was that he won. He really came back from Death's grip, and those sapphire eyes...I never thought I'd miss seeing those eyes looking at me. I mean, he still feared me, but I didn't even care about that.

He was still alive.

I cracked my knuckles, looking at the large pile of sand that came out of my worn-out punching bag, then sighed. I really didn't feel like doing any training tonight.

'I guess...I'll go see how he's doing.'

Walking to his room seemed like a long, long race that I'd never finish. I don't know why, especially since I had a feeling I knew what would happen. I had actually stopped a few times and turned around, unsure if I could go in there.

When I reached his room, I saw that Leo was in there with him, Mikey curled in his arms and Leo thinking about something.

Mikey was fast asleep, and I looked at him. I didn't want to wake him. Not now.

He deserved this...he deserved his peace.

Leo saw me standing there, and, without jostling Mikey too much, motioned for me to come over.

"He's home, Raph."

I nodded. "Yeah. Kinda hard to believe that, though. It's like...I think he's just..."

Leo tilted his head in understanding. "I get it. But he's home, so...it's up to us to heal him." He smiled down at our brother.

"For now...let's just worry about that. We can deal with everything else later."

I agreed. "Oh, we will. One way or another...we will."

I watched him sleep, and I never noticed how young he looked like that. Too pure for his own good, and he wonders why we're so overprotective...

I cringed a bit at that word. The absolute last word I need to even think about using. Overprotective? Shit, we barely protected him before! But...I guess that's past, huh Mike?

I gently brushed his head, and he snuggled even more into Leo, if such a thing were possible at that point. He still had that tiny, content smile I'd miss, still dreaming about who knows what. Me and Leo looked at each other, and I finally came to that understanding.

It was him...this was our Mikey once again.

And he was home...he was truly home.

I said good night to those two and headed for my room, smiling to myself as I did.

The minute I closed my door, I felt the sting of tears at my eyes, and wiped them away, only to have more tears take their place.

My shoulders started to tremble, and I slid to the floor, unable to keep my quiet sobs at bay. I wasn't even sure why I was crying; I just...was.

I think I kinda knew how Mikey felt, crying so much. And afterward, I just laid on my hammock and stared at the ceiling until I fell asleep.

You know something? My baby brother was stronger than any of us can hope to be. I don't know where he got it from, how he just kept going, but...I'm glad he did.

He doesn't know it, but it was his strength that got him going. It was his strength, his heart, just him...that saved us all.

I was going to be his protector once more, no matter what he thought of me. I am still going to be his protector of the night, the protector of his heart...

I am always going to protect you, my brother.

Epilogue

Almost a full year passed since this whole thing began. It took us a long time, a lot of mending, and even now, we're still trying to heal and put this behind us.

Physically, Mikey was fully healed, although his scars would never fully go away. I would wince whenever I would see them, and if I touched them...I get goosebumps. I hate seeing those things all over him, but I try not to think about that. It could've been way, WAY worse.

While he healed in that category, mentally, Mikey was still a long way from recovery. A long, long way from recovery.

He had been asking for our forgiveness still, and I knew that was going to take longer to leave him. It's not going to be easy when all you heard was that you were responsible for everything wrong.

The first few weeks after his final near-death experience were even more difficult. Again, I do not blame him for acting the way he did.

Mikey never wanted to be left alone with any of us because he thought we were gong execute him for good. He still couldn't face any of us, and most of the time, particularly with Leo and Donny, he would never talk. With me, he would literally freeze and run the other way.

I mean, I could be in the kitchen, and if he walked in and saw me, he'd either keep his head down and keep quiet until I walked out, or turn and go somewhere else. He never looked me in the eye.

At night sometimes, when I walked in there, I would still see him curled up tight and afraid on his bed. I think that was about the only time he'd ever look me in the face.

Every single time, he'd still beg me not to hurt him...and he was still telling me he was sorry for getting me so angry, for hurting me. That was the one and only time I'd hear my littlest brother speak. And it was hard for me. It was.

I knew he would never forget this, but actually hearing him begging for forgiveness...still crying and trying to defend himself...it made me want to kill myself for what I did. And for those few weeks, I seriously hated myself, the person I had to be to want to do all that to him.

To be honest, I knew better. I deserved to be attacked, for him to scream at me, to hate me or something. But it's Mikey. All he knew was how to cry, to express his feelings. He was like Donny, in a way.

He couldn't hate me...but he could try to get my forgiveness. And no matter what, the one truth is not going to change-I am a monster.

It was one evening that Mikey and me...we actually spoke. It wasn't much, but I guess...after everything I put him through, I should count that as a start.

I mean, that night, it seemed rather normal. He was in his room, and I had walked in there to see him, see if he was okay and everything.

At first, I wasn't expecting nothing to change. He saw me, he froze. I didn't ask him anything else. It was routine.

But something changed. Instead of screaming his head off, he did the exact opposite.

When he called my name, I almost didn't hear him; his voice was that soft and low.

"R-Raphie...?"

I had stopped for just a minute, and looked over my shoulder. Mikey was looking at me, large, blue orbs holding in so much fear, but trying so hard not to show it.

"Yeah?"

Mikey got out of his bed, and stood on trembling legs facing me. "Mikey?"

He slowly walked toward me, but I was rooted to the spot. I couldn't seem to move toward him for some reason. Maybe because I felt like if I did, I'd somehow cause more damage to him.

He was already a broken child; I didn't need to break him any more than I had.

As soon as he was standing in front of me, though, I didn't think twice about anything. He was just standing there, looking up at me, and I think...I think my heart stopped. Everything stopped once he looked at me.

"Mikey..."

After his name escaped my lips, I pulled him close to me and just hugged him.

What added on to it...he never pulled away from me. He had simply stood there, and after some time, that soft voice drifted up to my ears one again.

"Thank you, Raphie." he whispered.

"Thank you."

I couldn't seem to find the words I wanted to say to him at that point. And I wasn't sure why he told me that. But I was speechless.

With just those two words, I understood everything.

It took me a very, very long time...but I was his again. I was his protector, his brother once again.

'He just doesn't understand, but we'll make him see...we'll make this right again.'

I remember that overwhelming feeling I felt taking me over. That protectiveness I once hated to carry around with me. That pride of being his older brother. I don't know what I would've done had we truly lost him that night. I try not to think about it.

Today, things are a little better. Mikey's slowly getting accustomed to us treating him like our little brother, something that really gets under my skin because he shouldn't have to! But what can he do?

He's still afraid; I can see it, and so can the others. He doesn't joke around or make a heap of noise or act like a complete numbskull like he used to. He's barely playing games or reading his comics...the ones that I didn't touch. He barely speaks anymore, unless we press the issue, and he still flinches if we touch him by mistake. He's changed so much...

Now all he does is train, eat, sleep and think. He's quieter than I'm used to, and I don't like it. But...I have to wait. This is gonna take time. And it's our fault that he's like this in the first place.

The one thing I'm thankful never died...his smile. He can still make us all smile, and he can smile as well, so for now...I'm fine with that.

One night, Leo suggested that we all go outside for a run. Mikey hadn't been out for awhile, and he seemed a little nervous about going. Leo convinced him to come along with us. He eventually said yes, and Leo fetched his nunchuckus that he left in his room.

So we did. And I can never truly describe how it felt having our youngest brother with us once again. I just can't describe it.

I mean, I won't lie, the months when he wasn't with us were okay. It got the missions done easier, and we didn't have to worry about watching a little kid's shell. I was free to do what I wanted without hearing him keeping up with me.

But Mikey was smiling so much, laughing and taking in the cool air that caressed him. We watched him as he leaped and bound from one rooftop to the next, looking at the clear nighttime sky. I often wondered why I thought these runs were better without him.

Mikey had never laughed so carefree like he did tonight. And I knew that laughter was something I could never live without.

As we leaped from one rooftop to the next, keeping vigil on both our own shells and on Mikey, we heard something that sounded oddly familiar, yet not clicking into place right away. Mikey was rather far up ahead, and I didn't like the sound of that.

"Leo, I'm going to catch up to Mikey." I told Leo before heading up to Mikey's location.

And of course, as soon as I arrived, guess who decided to surround us.

Damn Foot.

I sighed in heavy annoyance. I was having a very content time, but if they want to die...well, I'll just help them along. I never said I wasn't bored.

I wasn't sure of how many we had to deal with, nor did I really care. I had a lot of energy tonight, and hearing Mikey only made me fight harder and faster. We work pretty well together, and Mikey was stronger than I'd ever seen him. Kinda freaked me out, too, but who am I to complain?

As I removed the body of yet another Foot off my sai, I looked over to Mikey, who was grinning at the group of moaning and partially unconscious ninja that lay at his feet. It seemed like this was just going to be a warm-up, us having pretty much defeated the ninja in only a few minutes.

After we double-checked our surroundings, we decided to head back to Leo and Donny and see what our next course of action was. Mikey turned his back to head up a nearby fire escape, leaving me to check out anything we might of missed.

And that's when I saw it.

One damn ninja who refused to just die.

He had his sword aimed toward my little brother, who was unaware of his unwanted guest.

And I didn't think about anything. I ran to him, and I screamed at Mikey to move.

I knew with the angle the sword was coming in, the rapid speed it was moving, and the fact Mikey was only holding one of his nunchuckus at this current moment, he would have one nasty-and deadly-wound in him.

And I wasn't having that. I just got him back.

I'm not about to let him die.

I threw myself into Mikey, causing him to fly into the nearby wall, and I felt that sword drive deep inside me.

The pain that followed was almost blinding for a moment. The blood was definitely there...and I felt so dizzy, but I hadn't cared; I had to make sure he regretted trying to hurt my brother.

I grabbed one of my sai, turned toward him and ran at him with all the energy I had left. He hadn't seen me coming...what a damn idiot.

I took a swipe at him, and managed to catch his arm. My next one got his chest. And my last one...well, let's just say his head was on a roll.

I smirked as I watched his lifeless corpse topple over. Serves ya right, ya piece of shit. Don't try to touch my brother.

Mikey was groaning and standing up, and I peeked over at him.

Sorry, bro. Hadn't meant to do that, but...I had to do it.

And...you're alright...that's good.

Whatever adrenaline I had rushing through me vanished almost as suddenly as it appeared. I let my sais clatter to the ground, and then the whole world seemed to fall so fast...

All of a sudden, my body felt every square inch of pain, and trying to block it took up energy I simply didn't have. I relaxed against the cold pavement, and it was then I registered someone talking to me.

Mikey...I think Mikey's talking...but whatever he's saying, I don't know. I...I can't really...hear him...

My chest hurts...and it burns just to breathe. And I can't...find any strength to...to move.

It's cold...so damn...c-cold...

The pain's...almost numbing now. I can't feel my side...

Ah, well. I...I know I did the right thing.

Mikey's screaming at me now...telling me...to keep awake...but he sounds so foggy...I can...barely...hear him...

It's getting to be really cold now...why the hell...did it get so cold...so damn...damn fast...

I glance upward at Mikey, and I wince.

He's literally sobbing now.

Mikey, I'm sorry.

But...you're safe.

That's all I need to know.

You're...safe...

Mikey

Did he...he just...he...

He took that sword...for me?

Not again...god, not again!

He saw it coming...and I did it again...I left myself wide open, and he...NO!

It's my fault...I did it all over again.

As quickly as I could, I knelt next to him, pressing my hand to his wound, and felt him wince before he opened his eyes.

My gaze drifted from the sword hilt still sticking out of my brother to his face. "M-Mikey...you hurt?" he asked me, pain crossing his face. I shook my head.

"Why did you do that? You...you didn't have to..." I was stammering, trying to get my ShellCell to call Leo and Donny. I had no clue where they were, but I hoped the were close. I need help!

Right after I made the call, I looked back down at him, tears already coming down my cheeks. He's in so much pain right now, and I don't know what to do!

"This is my fault, Raph. I wasn't paying attention..."

And his blood-stained hand took mine, tightly gripping it as he let out a cough. "Stop...just stop that. It's...not ya...ya fault..."

He just took a hit that was meant for me, and it's all because I'm so...stupid! How isn't this my fault?

"Raphie, hang on!" I pleaded, watching him cough, feeling his grip on my hand turn vice-like. He nodded, looking up at me with the strangest expression on his face. I can't place it...it was just...

I had never seen that expression on his face before.

He was honestly scared. My older brother was really scared.

"I'm...tryin'...to..."

Somewhere in the distance, I heard my two older brothers calling us, and I yelled back so they could find us faster, remembering my brother who still had a sword stuck in his side.

"Mikey! Raph!" "Leo! Guys, over here! Hurry!"

I waved them over, and it was then I realized with a growing dread that Raphie's eyes were falling closed. I tapped his cheek, trying to keep him awake.

Please...don't let him die...I can't lose anyone else!

"Raph? Raphie, please, stay awake! Don't die..." I finally got out in a hushed sob.

Raph smiled, and it was so weird, but I felt this...this calmness just take over me. I don't know why. I really don't.

Wait a second-what am I thinking? I might be watching my older brother die!

A faint touch on my cheek brought me back to the issue at hand. He looked like the pain had passed, and that stupid sentence that they all liked to say somehow fluttered past his barely moving lips.

"Shhh. It's okay. I...I did this...for you."

And he fell completely unconscious. If Leo and Donny hadn't showed up and pried me away from him at that point, I would've started to shake him awake.

I had stopped trembling, but nothing added up.

Why?

It's my fault...this whole thing was my fault...

Why you, Raphie? Why would you do that?

Leo took Raph in his arms, and once I snapped out of my trance, we ran as fast as possible to the closest manhole, making sure not to move the sword or drive it any deeper. I wasn't sure how fast we ran, but we did.

Once we were in the lair, Donny got into his 'doctor' mode, and began to fix Raph up. But that sword was a problem.

We all knew he would bleed out the minute that sword came out. Donny wanted to hold off pulling it out until he knew exactly what he had to deal with. I was shaking all over again as I watched my once confident and powerful brother laying completely motionless and pale on the bed.

So helpless...he was so helpless...because of me.

I watched the steady flow of blood as it pooled near the side of the nasty wound, and I felt like I wanted to throw up.

It was too much. I wanted to run somewhere, to be anywhere else but here. It was just too much!

Leo and Donny were talking somewhere nearby, but it was barely filtering in. All I caught was that he needed a blood transfusion quickly, and that the sword had to come out soon. I also caught that one part that I wish I never had to hear.

I'm the only one compatible to donate...I'm the only one that can save him.

That doesn't comfort me! He shouldn't be here...he shouldn't...

"Mike?"

Leo and Donny stood over me, jostling me out of my thoughts. I looked at them both, tears already swimming in my eyes. "Guys, I...I didn't mean this...I'm sorry."

Leo shook his head and hugged me, my head pressing so close to his chest. He was really warm, but I hadn't noticed how cold I felt. I didn't care.

Right now, I needed that.

I was so scared...God, I was scared...

"Mike, it's going to be fine. He'll be alright. Besides, it's Raph. He won't die like this." he muttered in my ear.

"I-I know, but...what if he..." I whimpered, not sure what I was getting at, just clinging to him and comprehending a firm hand pressing my head to a warm chest.

"Shhh. It's alright. He's going to pull through. Just watch him."

I shut my eyes tight, trying to calm myself down.

He's right...Leo's right...Raph will make it. He has to...he has to! So I can't...I can't break down right now. Raph needs me...to be strong...

After some time, I could hear Donny working on Raph, and Leo released me so that we could talk to him.

Within the next minute, the urgent words that came out of my genius brother hit me hard.

"He needs a blood transfusion. NOW."

Leo looked at Raph, then the two of us, particularly me.

"Mikey...me and Donny aren't compatible..." He trailed off. I knew why.

Now, what I was doing when I agreed, I don't know.

All I knew was that I was not going to lose him, no matter what happened.

Donny laid me down on another bed that was within arm length of my unconscious brother. As I watched him locate the needle he needed to draw my blood, and it was only for a brief minute, I had something of a flashback, recalling the hell I had to deal with being here, the hell Donny actually put me through.

I know it's almost been a year, but...I can't shake it all away, no matter what they do. It's hard.

I sniffed, hoping Donny hadn't heard me. But I think he did, because he stopped what he was doing to come over to me.

"Mikey? Is everything okay?" he asked in a worried tune.

I wiped my eyes, looking up at the rusty ceiling. Letting out a shaky breath, I told him.

"I-I'm scared. And I just...had a flashback...about being here, and I...I..."

Donny sighed, and came over to me. For some reason, I couldn't look him in the face.

Donny placed a gentle hand on my cheek, and I looked at him.

"I know. But...I won't do that again. Right now, we need to save Raph, and..."

Another warm hug enveloped me, and he leaned close enough to me to hear him whisper it again.

"I'm sorry, Mikey. But just be strong, okay? We're going to save our brother."

I nodded, and once he got me situated, I looked over at Raph and I knew.

I was going to save him. I was going to do everything in my power to save him, like he did for me.

Donny slowly inserted the needle into my arm. I avoided looking at the needle altogether, looking more at the blood ran up the tube into a bag. After some time, Donny disconnected it from me and set up the same equipment on Raph's end.

Then he looked back at me. "Mikey...we have to pull this thing out so I can see what was punctured."

"I-Is Raph going to...to be awake?" I asked, nearly screaming.

Donny slowly nodded yes. "I can't...risk putting him to sleep, Mike. I don't want him to fall into a coma...or worse." he explained sadly. I gulped quietly.

He was going to feel it all...Raphie was going to hurt so much...and there's only so much one turtle can take. Even him.

I nodded weakly, my whole body feeling so numb all of the sudden. I just wanted it to be over with. "O-Okay."

Donny turned back to Raph, his hands firmly gripping the hilt of the sword.

"Okay." he murmured to my semi-unconscious brother.

"I'm sorry, Raph. This is gonna hurt...but hang tight."

I heard the sickening sound of flesh being torn as the sword was being taken out, as my brother suddenly screamed and jerked under then immense pain he had to had felt. It was times like this I cursed my ninja hearing.

I covered my ears as Donny pulled it out, and felt lightheaded when more blood oozed from the wound.

Oh god...oh god, he...he was in pain...Raphie...

The next thing I knew, I heard Donny calling out to me, someone reaching out to hold me up, trying to snap me out of it. Someone else called me...and then darkness...it took me away so fast. I couldn't take it anymore.

All I hoped for was that he made it. I don't want him to die.

He has to live. He has to...because I have to tell him I'm sorry.

Raph

Damn...I am past freezing cold right now...what's...happening...?

Last thing I remember was being stabbed...and Mikey crying...and after that...not a damn thing.

Take that back. Something hurts...a lot!

Fuck that hurts...damn...can't...get any air...

Make it stop...stop it...make it...make it stop!

I think I'm screaming...but I don't know...it feels so unreal...can't breathe!

Is it supposed to hurt you this much? It feels worse than before!

W-Wait...Donny's talking...can...can hear him...I gotta...gotta focus...on him...but it...it hurts so bad...

Mikey...where is he? I...I...hear him...but I...I...can't see...him...or any...anyone...

Where...where is everyone...?

Leo...this hurts...make it...stop...please.

It hurts...and I feel really dizzy...

My body has nothing left...I feel so...so...sleepy...

Sleep...yeah. It sounds good.

That's what I need to do...to sleep.

I...I might feel...better...

o0o0o0o0o

Why do I feel so comfy? Am I dead?

Barely having energy in me, but curious to see what was going on, I cracked my eyes open. Well, at least I'm not dead yet. Not with this fuckin' light beating down on me.

My head was killing me, my side was killing me, and for some reason, my throat was really dry. Everything seemed so bright and loud. The sword that was originally in my side no longer existed, either.

Next to me was Mikey. I saw him lying in another bed nearby, a light sheet covered over his worn-out body. His chest rose evenly as he slept. Titling my head, I faintly caught sight of the bandage that was on his right forearm and the tears that had dried on his young face.

Wait a damn second...what the hell just happened? Was he hurt? I thought he...oh, my head. Damn, I feel so sick right now...and I'm pretty sure I hadn't eaten...

Before I had a chance to wake him, my headache suddenly became too much to bear, and I quickly slipped back into unconsciousness. I could hear one of the others walking in...but I don't know who. I was in too much muddled confusion and pain to really care.

The next time I came around, I felt a lot better. At least I could think straight. My body wasn't hurting me as much, either. Out of instinct, I gently rested my hand over the tightly wrapped bandages around my torso, and winced on contact.

Take that back. That pain right there? Hurts like a bitch!

"R-Raphie...you're awake?"

Mikey was standing a good distance away from me, and looked relieved at me hissing about this.

I caught sight of that white on his arm again, and I guess I wasn't dreaming. I wanted to know why that was there. When did he get hurt?

At some point, Mikey caught my staring and, sheepishly covering his arm, answered my question.

"You...you lost a lot of...of blood. I-I'm the only one that matched, so I..."

I nodded, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed, and I looked him up and down. Something was not right with him, and I could see it.

He just seemed so out of it, almost tense. I kept checking his body for any other wounds he was trying to hide, then looked up into his face. "Mikey."

He jumped slightly. "Y-Yeah?"

"How long was I out?"

This time, he gave me a weak smile, but still avoided my gaze.

"A long time." he muttered, sounding like he was lost in a daze. "Leo was starting to lose it. He'd been pacing for hours, and I don't think neither him or Donny actually went to sleep until just now."

I had to laugh. Leo pacing about the place certainly suits him, and well, Donny isn't one for sleeping no matter what you tell him.

The room became eerily quiet. Mikey still hadn't moved from his spot, and I decided that this was going on too long. I was about to interrogate the shell out of him when he walked over to me, struggling to keep himself from breaking down for who-knows how many times. I felt him laid a shaking, gentle hand on my arm.

"Mikey?"

"I'm sorry...I didn't...you shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry, Raphie..." he whispered.

So that was it. He still thinks it's his fault.

"Mikey, I told you before, and I'll say it again. It was not your fault." I stated, taking his hand in mine.

"It wasn't your fault."

He shook his head, one arm covering his eyes as he tried to speak through his tears.

"But why..why would you do that? You almost...you almost..."

I moved his arm and wiped his tears. He let out a sob, and I forced him to look at me.

"Mikey...Mikey, look. It's fine. I'm alive because of you." I gently said. He shook his head.

"You...you almost died, and I...I got so scared...I got so scared...Raphie!" he cried out, throwing himself into my arms.

I hugged him, ignoring my own pain as his face became buried in the crook of my neck, his tears running rapidly down my shoulder and chest...so warm...

"Mike, stop saying that. I did this because it was right. You're my brother...and I would die for you." I explained. He pulled away from me, wide-eyed and shaking.

"No...no, no, no...Raphie...don't say that...don't..." he pleaded, falling to his knees and crying.

I got off the bed and crouched down to meet him face-to-face. Tilting my head a little, I placed both my hands on his face, pulling him close, until his forehead touched mine.

"Please...don't say that." he whispered again. "Please don't say that."

"Listen to me, okay? I'm alive. I lived. And even if I hadn't, it wouldn't matter. You're our baby...we have to protect you. No matter what the cost." I softly explained to him.

Keeping my eyes locked on his, I simply smiled, my thumb gently running over his cheek. And I knew I was crying.

To be honest, I had felt scared out of my shell that night. I had never felt that much fear hit me all at once, and I sure it was done for me.

I told you...it's because of this kid.

And after all that I put him through, I wanted to let that light glow forever. I couldn't lose him. It was as simple as that.

"But I-" I placed a finger on his beak.

"Just...just hear me. And I mean it."

He froze. "Mike, I was horrible to you, and you know that. I deserved everything that happened, and you know something? I wish so bad that you hate my guts. I really wished you hated me, hit me, something!"

Before he had a chance to retaliate, I continued.

"Yet...even after that...even after I almost killed you, forced you to live in fear...you still asked for something you never had a reason to ask for."

Mikey was still, and I dropped my hand, chuckling softly through my tears. "I know what I am, Mike. I know I was worst than any type of monster out there. "

Mikey's eyes grew slightly wide. "Raphie...Raphie, no..."

Shaking my head, I wiped my eyes, only to have more tears fogging my view.

"I never protected you before, and you know that. I nearly killed you, and I almost let you die on a regular basis. We all did this to you."

Mikey didn't seem to be breathing with how still he was. I tend to have that affect on people when I'm this...affectionate.

"I'm sorry for everything. But know this...until the day I die...you will never feel that kind of pain again. I promise you that."

I never knew Mikey to shake so much. Damn, I almost thought he'd dissolve right in front of me!

"I love you, little bro." I whispered.

He nodded before his arms wrapped around me once again, his damp face pressing into my neck, sobbing quietly.

"M-Me too...but I don't...w-w-want you all...to do this anymore...please, Raphie...' he blubbered.

I sighed, tears still falling down my cheeks, and stood up with him.

"We have to. And you know that. But...that doesn't mean you can't fight. You're strong, little bro, and don't you dare forget it."

We sat on the bed, him still holding onto me and me onto him, his face still pressed on my shoulder.

"R-Raphie?" he breathed quietly. No question, no asking. Just a plea.

He just wanted me here. And I understood. I understood him.

And for tonight, I was fine with him doing this.

"It's alright." I whispered in his ear. "It's gonna be alright, Mikey."

With those words being said, I think that we officially managed to mend whatever hidden seams that were still torn. I don't know, I just...I felt something truly different changing.

There was no fear now. We're gonna be alright.

Neither one of us spoke for the rest of the time, but it wasn't a problem. We said a lot just by saying nothing at all.

Yeah, I still hate myself. I don't care how many different ways they try to put it. As far as I'm concerned, I still owe Mikey a lot, and while he probably will never say it, I know he still wishes he'd let me die that night.

Does he still fear me? Yeah, I'm sure of it. Does he fear the others? More than likely, yeah. I know he'll never truly forget, but he forgave. That's all I can ask for.

But as long as I can do this...still hug him and smack him upside the head and chase him around the sewers for doing the dumbest things and laugh at his stupid, corny jokes...then this whole thing...it was worth it.

'Mikey, I don't know how often you hear this...but thank you.' I thought to myself as I watched my now sleeping brother.

I slipped from under him, picked him up bridal-style, and managed to carry him to his room and laying him on his bed before I collapsed next to him. He curled under me in an instant.

It's funny, because the truth, the very thing that we denied him, the very thing he wanted to know for so long...was always with us from the start. And it sadly took this one incident to acknowledge that.

'That truth you wanted? It was you, you know that?' I smiled up at the ceiling, absentmindedly stroking his shell as he slept.

'The truth, Mikey...was always you.'

And it was one truth I could always accept.

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