Leonardo sat with Raphael while he delivered the four remaining eggs. Splinter sat on Raph’s other side, holding on to Raph’s hand while whispering soothing words into his ear. Donny and Mikey stayed in the room but out of sight, concern over their brother keeping them near.
The eggs were smaller than the ones Raph had delivered before. The last one’s shell was so thin that it was crushed as Raph pushed it out.
It brought Raph a little comfort when the doctors said that there was no sign of a fetus inside. Only two of the others had a heartbeat. The third one was placed in an incubator, just in case.
With the eggs delivered, Raph was able to relax a little. “I’m sorry, father,” he said, turning to Splinter. “I just wanted some time to clear my head and think. Before I knew it, the pain meds had worn off. The pain made me sloppy and I got myself caught by Hun’s men.”
Splinter tenderly pulled Raph’s hand to his chest. “I never gave up on you.”
“I could hear you, calling to me,” Raph said as his eyes drifted closed. “But, I couldn’t focus my mind enough to answer. I tried…, but I couldn’t.”
“Rest,” Splinter soothed. “You are safe.”
A doctor came in to insert an IV and connected monitors. They also drew a few vials of blood for testing. Exhausted, Raph barely reacted as the needle was inserted into his arm.
The others decided to allow him to sleep.
One of the doctors later told them that there were trace amounts of THC and opioids in his system. “He will go through withdraws,” she said. “Fortunately, it doesn’t look like he was given enough for his body to build a dependency. As soon as his IV is done he will be well enough to leave. I expect him to have nothing more than minor body aches, tremors, cravings, and irritability.”
“Irritability is nothing new,” Mikey quipped in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“He… is not our biggest concern,” she said, looking distraught. “While running tests on his blood, the third egg collapsed. So, we opened it up and ran some tests. There was no fetus but the yolk was nutritionally weak and was laced with opioids. We can only assume this is the case for the others as well. If they survive, they will suffer from withdraws as soon as their yolk sacks are depleted.”
“Maybe it’s better if they don’t make it,” Raph said, opening his eyes.
“Whatever happens…,” Leo said. “If they survive or not, we will do everything we can for them.”
“Even though they’re Hun’s,” Raph asked, looking Leo in the eyes.
“Yes,” Leo said, without hesitation.
“I’ll be back later to remove the IV,” the doctor said as she turned to leave, giving them some privacy.
“He didn’t care for them,” Raph said, his voice breaking. “He would have crushed them all.” Tears streamed down his cheeks as he struggled to talk. “When he crushed the first egg, the pain that ripped through me was unlike anything I had ever felt before. I’d rather be shot again.”
“Their safe now,” Splinter assured him. “We’ll give them every chance.”
“I wouldn’t have done it,” Raph sobbed. “I wouldn’t have killed ours. I was just so scared. It was all happening so fast. I didn’t know what to do.”
“I know,” Leo soothed, pressing his forehead against Raph’s while thumbing the tears from his cheek.
With the confession out of his system, Raph managed to take a few calming breaths. “Are they okay?”
Smiling, Leo pulled back enough to look Raph in the eyes. “They’re beautiful. As soon as you’re ready, I’ll take you in to see them.”
“What’d we have,” Raph asked.
“Two boys and a girl,” Leo answered.
“That’s gonna be trouble later,” Raph said.
“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” Leo said. “For now, you get some rest. Tomorrow’s gonna be a little rough.”
“Stay,” Raph said, holding Leo’s hand a little tighter. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Leo promised.
“Mikey and I will check in on the kids,” Donny offered, dragging a hesitant Mikey with him. “If you need anything….”
“Thank you,” Leo said as they left.
Leo and Splinter sat in silence, each holding one of Raph’s hands, waiting for the IV infusion to finish while Raph dozed. They would have time to talk about things later. For now, they would focus on Raph’s recovery.
The doctor returned after about an hour to remove the IV and then looked Raph over one more time before clearing them to leave. Together, Splinter and Leo helped Raph to stand and then they walked him back to their living quarters.
“Goodnight,” Splinter said outside of the bedroom and then kissed Raph’s forehead. “I love you.” It wasn’t often that Splinter showed such deep affection. The Turtles knew that their father loved them, but it was at times like this he wanted to make it clear just how much.
Without even thinking about it, Leo led Raph into the room he had been sharing with Mikey and Don. When they entered, Raph looked at Leo. “I just want to go to bed,” he pleaded. “Can we save the family meeting for later.”
“You shouldn’t sleep alone,” Leo said. “And, I’ve been sleeping in here, every night for several months.”
“Why?” Raph whispered, his voice laced with pain.
“Comfort,” Leo answered honestly. “I wasn’t sleeping well by myself. I found that sleeping next to them helped.” Before Raph’s imagination could get away with him, Leo added. “I’ve only slept here. Nothing more.”
“We also take turns tending to the children,” Donny added, pointing to a door. “They’re there, in the other room.”
“Would you like to look in on them,” Leo asked, “before we go to sleep?”
Raph’s eyes stayed locked on the door while he considered it but, ultimately, he shook his head. “I’m tired. I just wanna sleep.”
“Sleep next to me,” Mikey said, patting the tatami. “Leo can sleep on the other side of you. It’ll be like old times. I promise, you’ll sleep better than you have in a long time.”
“Sure, Mikey,” Raph said, as he lowered himself onto the mattress.
Raph was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. Mikey curled up next to him, resting his head on Raph’s shoulder. Leo lay on his side, facing Raph while Donny settled in next to Mikey.
Even though they had Raph back, Leo had several concerns that made sleep difficult. How much damage was caused by Raph’s year in captivity? Whatever struggles Raph faced, Leo was determined to be there for him.
When Raphael started to wake, at first, he was afraid to open his eyes. He didn’t think he would be able to handle it if the events from last night had been a dream and he opened his eyes to find himself still in Hun’s possession.
But then, Mikey shifted in his sleep. Relief washed over Raph and he opened his eyes to find that the two of them were alone. Looking around the room, Raph noticed that the door leading to the children’s room was open.
“They’re probably in the kitchen by now,” Mikey said with a stretch. “I was given the daunting task of staying in here with you until you woke up.”
“Must have been a huge sacrifice on your part,” Raph teased. “I know how much you hate sleeping it.”
“It’s the worst,” Mikey playfully groaned. Sitting up, Mikey stifled a yawn which did nothing to stop its contagious nature, causing Raph to yawn as well. “Donny suggested that you take a warm bath to help ease your aches and pains,” Mikey said as he got to his feet. “Not to mention the fact that you need one because you smell bad.”
“A bath sounds nice,” Raph said. As soon as he started to get up, his body protested. He was already experiencing symptoms of withdraw. He knew them well enough. Hun enjoyed getting him high only to watch him crash.
Mikey’s hand appeared in front of him. “Let me help.”
Accepting his brother’s offer, Raph leaned on Mikey as they made their way into the bathroom. Raph was impressed with the amenities provided to them by the Justice Force. It left him wondering why Leo had kept rejecting their offer to join them for so long. He fully understood why Leo had accepted the offer now.
Raph washed himself quickly while Mikey filled the large jacuzzi tub, eager for the chance to take a relaxing bath.
As Mikey helped him in the tub, Raph let out a deep groan.
“Just wait ‘til I turn on the jets,” Mikey said, rushing over to the controls. “This will ease those aching muscles.”
When the jacuzzi hummed to life, one jet blasted right in the center of his carapace. The mild vibrations that traveled his spine, almost tickled. It felt amazing.
Mikey lowered himself into the tub. “Nice, right? Donny said it would help. Once he finishes helping Leo feed the kids, he said he’ll bring you some breakfast.”
“Good,” Raph sighed. “Cause, I don’t plan on leaving this tub any time soon”
After a few minutes of soaking, the door opened and Donny stepped through with a plate in one hand and a child on his hip. “You ready for something to eat.”
Raph sat up, eyes glued to the child. A wave of emotion overcame him as he looked at his child. The child he didn’t want. He wasn’t ready.
Noticing the change in Raph, Don looked at the child. “I’m sorry. He didn’t want me to put him down. He can be kind of clingy. I’ve gotten so used to having him with me that I don’t even think about it anymore.” He placed the plate on a stool and started to back out of the room. “I’ll take him out.”
“It’s okay,” Raph said. Now that he was there, he didn’t want them to go. The child kept his head on Don’s shoulder while suckling loudly on a pacifier. He had a series of dark green patches all over his body, including one over his eye. “Is something wrong with him,” Raph asked.
“Leo asked the same thing when he first saw him,” Mikey said with a smile.
Donny shook his head. “He’s fine. Just different. His name is Nevio.”
“The others spotted like him,” Raph asked as he got out of the tub. He picked up the plate and his stomach rumbled at the sight of the banana pancakes.
“Just him,” Donny answered, drawing Raph’s attention away from his food. “Leo’s in the bedroom with the others if you want to go see them. I’ll even let you eat in the bedroom…, just this once.”
“Sure,” Raph said and started heading for the door. Though he didn’t know if he was up for it yet, he was willing to give it a try.
Nevio pulled himself tighter against Don’s shoulder as Raph approached. Raph stopped and then took a few steps back. He didn’t want to frighten his child on their first meeting.
“He’s shy and you’re new. Give him time,” Donny soothed. “Once he gets used to you, he’ll open up.”
“I understand,” Raph said, waving it off even though his heart was breaking. “It’s okay.”
“Come on,” Donny encouraged him as he turned towards the door. “Come meet your kids.”
Mikey had already started draining the tub and was headed towards the door. “They are so cute.”
Raph had to hold the plate with both hands to keep it from shaking as he hesitantly made his way to the door. Was he ready to accept his children? Would they accept him? What if they didn’t like him? What if the moment he walked through that door they started to cry?
Pushing down the fear and doubt, Raph placed one foot in front of the other until he was through the door.
Leo was sitting on the floor with the other two children. Donny was sitting with him, setting Nevio with his siblings. They looked up at him. The biggest one watched him, Nevio crawled back towards Donny, but the middle one started waving. “Hi.” The word was repeated over and over as a pair of blue eyes went wide with excitement.
Leo patted the spot next to him. “Come sit so you can meet her properly. But, watch your pancakes. Banana pancakes are her favorite.”
“Oh, so it’s the pancakes that’s gotten the little one so excited,” Raph said, doing his best to cover the fact that he was terrified.
“No. Little Alba’s excited to see you,” Mikey said, taking a seat on the floor. “She’s a bundle of curiosity. Besides, at this angle, she can’t really see the pancakes yet.”
Raph sat down and almost immediately Alba crawled over to him. “Hi,” she kept saying as she made her way into his lap, forcing Raph to set his pancakes aside. This was the last thing he had expected to happen.
Part of him wanted to hug her while, at the same time, he wanted to lift her off his lap and place her back on the floor. He hated that she reminded him of everything he hated about himself but he couldn’t hate her.
“Hi,” Raph answered as Alba’s chubby hand reached for his face. He didn’t know what to do and feared doing anything that would cause her to cry.
Overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, Raph’s throat began to close as his eyes filled with tears.
Leo reached out and grabbed hold of Raph’s hand. “You okay?”
“Take her, please,” Raph requested.
“I got her,” Mikey said, taking Alba off of Raph’s lap.
“Eat,” Leo insisted and placed the plate back in Raph’s lap. “You need your strength.”
“So, there’s Nevio and Alba,” Raph said as he picked at his pancake. “What did you name the big one?”
“Savio,” Leo answered. “We stayed with an Italian name theme.”
“They’re good names,” Raph said with a nod and pinched off a piece of pancake to eat. His hand was shaking from both nerves and as a symptom of his withdraws. He was so hungry that he was nauseous and hoped that eating something would help settle his stomach.
He hadn’t eaten a decent meal in a year. So, after the soft, sweet pancake touched his tongue, Raph’s hunger took over and he devoured the rest.
“Not so fast,” Donny warned. “You don’t want to make yourself sick.”
Holding his shaking hand for Don to see, Raph swallowed what was in his mouth and chuckled. “I’m gonna get sick regardless. I’m already starting to go through withdraws.”
“You should lie back down,” Leo suggested. “I’ll stay with you, make sure you’re okay.”
“What about the kids,” Raph asked.
“You worry about getting through this.” Donny walked over and collected Raph’s plate. “Mikey and I will care for the kids.”
Mikey picked up Savio and Alba while Donny carried Nevio and the plate. They left Raph and Leo alone for the first time since Raph’s rescue.
“Will we be sleeping with Mikey and Don every night,” Raph asked as Leo helped him into bed.
“Only if you want to,” Leo replied. “I think it would be good for us.”
“How so,” Raph wanted to know.
“We were all pulling away from each other before,” Leo explained. “Donny was getting lost in his projects. I thought I needed to separate myself to be a good leader. You and Mikey went off to do your own things. It was starting to hurt us as a team. We need to be united as a family again.”
“You wanna be with them, like how we were,” Raph asked.
“I’m not opposed to it,” Leo admitted. “But, only if you are too.”
Raph thought about it for a moment. “What if I can’t? What if I don’t want to be touched like that anymore? After what Hun’s done to me, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to again.”
Leo and Raph lay facing each other with little distance between them. Tilting his head up, Leo softly kissed Raph. “I love you. I’ll wait for you.”
Raph shook his head. “You shouldn’t have to.”
“It’s either both of us, or neither of us,” Leo insisted, leaning in for another kiss. “You will not be left out. We’ll talk more about this when you’re better.”
“Okay,” Raph mumbled in agreement before he was overcome by a full body tremor.
He wasn’t looking forward to going through withdraws but having Leo with him made the thought of it a little more bearable.