I held him closer. His breaths uneven and barely there. He was dying. My big brother, the one I thought invincible, lay crumpled and bleeding in my arms. He was scared, scared of what life he'd be leaving me and our other brothers to. He'd never show it though, protecting my innocence til his last breath.
I wanted him to know I loved him, make up for all the things I'd never get to say. Let him have all the experiences he’d never get to do. Show him the memories he'd never get to share with me and our brothers. I cradled him with my right arm and had my left pressed against the wound.
He was bleeding out. That much was clear, even to my untrained eye. He'd leave us behind in a matter of minutes. How long he had I didn’t know. I'd make them last, so even when the darkness claimed my big brother he'd be smiling. I was always good at that.
Somewhere along the line I messed up. I always did. Maybe if I had begged them to stay home tonight and play video games a little harder, I wouldn’t be watching Raphael die.
It had been any other run, we were all supposed to go home and live our lives together as the family we had always been. But when the Foot attacked we had all split up, there were just too many of them for us to take on. We split up, and when Leo found out what had happened after that he'd blame himself.
I wont blame Leo, how was he supposed to know that shuriken would strike Raph in the back of the neck, how was he to know me and Donnie's big brother would tumble off the side of the roof, how was our all knowing leader supposed to know that a sharp pipe would break Raphs fall?
I should've taken the hit. This should be me, not Raph. If I had, the broken body of my hotheaded brother wouldn’t be gasping for breath in my arms. He hasn’t said much, only requesting I pull out that accursed pipe. I hadn’t wanted to at first, but when he said it was his final request I couldn’t deny him.
The way his face contorted in agony when I had pulled out the pipe will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. He had reared up, his teeth clenched and his eyes closed. It must have been awful, and I wished now that I had just left it in. When he had finally laid back down I wrapped my arms around him, careful as to not disturb his wound.
The gaping hole where he had been skewered. When I had found him, I had made the gut wrenching discovery that there was more pipe than the turtle. He had only asked me to lend him a hand. Like he wasn’t a turtle kebob bleeding out in a dark and dirty New York Alley.
“It's gunna be alright Mike.” He gently wiped a tear from my eye. I choked on everything I tried to say, so I merely nodded. He wanted his last few moments filled with my voice, but I couldn’t give that to him. My voice was gone right alongside my hope. I was an awful brother.
I untied my orange mask and tried to place a little pressure on the hole, the grunt of pain I received in response made me stutter for a moment, but I continued. It was a last ditch effort, my final attempt to save Raphs life. I should call Donnie, beg him to find us and reassure me he could save him.
But the look Raph gave me told me not to. He had accepted he was dying, who was I to take that from him? Tell him that he'd live only to have him slip away when I wasn’t by his side. I just didn’t have the heart, and for the first time in my life I didn’t see the hope. Where was my joy when I needed it most?
My orange mask was soaked through, no longer orange but red. How fitting that my mask now resembled my dying brothers. I just brought him closer, ignoring the river of red life source that streamed down my battered plastron, invading every scratch and indent.
Raphael just let me hug him. I wanted to know what he was seeing, what he was feeling in his final moments. Every breath sounded that much more painful, and anyone other than Raph would have given up trying. He was bull headed, always had been.
“I love you Raphie.” I buried my face deeper into the crook of his neck.
“Mike, I love ya lil' buddy.” His crimson coated hand patted my cheek. “I've always loved ya.”That voice. I wanted to memorize it so I'd never forget, I wanted to know everything about my big brother so none of his secrets would die with him. He'd never tell me, but that’s ok. It was just a part of my brother that I loved.
“I know Raphie.” I gave him the best smile I could, “I always did.” My left hand clamped around his blood coated one. A twinkle of light in his shocking amber eyes. I had finally found my voice.
We lay silent together for only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The small trail of blood that ran from his mouth told me everything. These were Raphs final seconds. The light in his eyes seemed to dim. He couldn’t get a full breath in anymore, the blood in the back of his throat gargled each attempt.
“Its dark Mikey. Ya promise you're there?” This time he clutched me tighter, his fingers dug into my hand with every bit of strength my dying brother possessed.
“Im right here Raph.” I kissed the top of his head, “And I wont ever let you fall.”
His chest rose one final time. His breath forced from his body. His amber eyes lolled around in his head before they came to rest on me. The small smile left on his face told me I had made his final moments count, that I'd done my job.
I gently rest him on the ground before I close his unseeing eyes. I feel detached from this world, as if I’m dreaming and I'll wake up to Raph and Leo fighting in the kitchen. Donny watching the banter with his cup of coffee. Like we used to be. Used to be. The words echo in my head.
This isn’t a dream, but a horrible reality me and my remaining brothers are trapped in. My tears fell, mixing with the churning remains of Raphaels blood. I laid down beside him, allowing the world to crash around me. He was gone. Gone.
I let out a whimper and wrapped myself around my big brother, invading the personal space he had always protected with a fierceness like no other. Did he have to leave me? Donnie? Leo?
Were we not good enough to keep him on this mortal earth. His shell cell rang, the phone expected to be picked up by my dead brother. The brother I had my arms wrapped firmly around. He'd never say another word, never punch his stupid bag again, never insult me or question Leos authority ever again.
Life was delicate, and it took my thought to be invincible brothers untimely demise for me to realize it.
A soft rain fell upon us, wiping away the traces of Raphs death. The rain swirled amongst the crimson trails of my brother, washing them down into the sewers. Our home, the place we were supposed to be. Not here. Not dead.
We should be watching movies together, all of us. Master Splinter watching his four sons fight over the movie selection and snacks. I only snuggle closer. Raph would wake up, he'd tell me I was being a wimp and it'd be okay. We'd go home and do just what we were supposed to.
My shell cell rang, I didn’t want to answer, but I did. Dons concerned voice lit up in the background.
“Mikey! Where the shell are you and Raph. He wouldn’t pick up his shell cell.”
My voice choked up, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell my remaining big brothers he was gone. My source of unbridled entertainment ended by a stupid fall. Something I could've prevented.
“Mikey?! Whats wrong? Where are you and Raph?”
I let out a few whimpers, praying that it would que Donnie in that something was wrong.
"Stay where you are Mikey. Me and Leo are on the way. Are you hurt?”
“Raphie..” It barely escapes my lips. It hurts. Uttering one word depleted me of all the reserve I had been struggling to hold onto. There were murmurs in the background before Don finally came back.
“We'll be there in five minutes Mikey. Hang onto Raph. Its gunna be ok.”
The line went dead, silent. Like the voice of my red banded brother. His thick Brooklyn accent would never be heard again. He was special, and he was gone. It wouldn’t be alright. Nothing would be alright. They couldn’t save him, couldn’t breath life back into his dead lungs. They couldn’t bring colors back into his unseeing eyes.
I summoned everything that I had, barely enough to get me sitting upright again. I grabbed his emerald green face, turned him to face and placed our foreheads together.
“You're at peace now Raph, finally free of your anger. Forever young, Raphie Boy. Forever young."
I didn’t feel Leo pulling me off of Raph. I didn’t hear Donnie desperately calling my name. I didn’t hear Leo ordering Donnie to pick me up. The trip back to the lair was silent.
“Home sweet home, Raphie. Home bittersweet home."