Leonardo woke up later in the next day. He had no memory of falling a sleep, but there he was on his side on the couch, covered with warm blanket, soft pillow supporting his head. However he didn’t see Raphael. Sitting up Leonardo hissed when his injury reminded him about its existence. Unwrapping Raphael’s scarf Leonardo sighed when he saw nasty cut. It was leaking and smelling. Infected.
The door opened and Raphael stepped in, getting Leonardo’s attention instantly. Blue eyes followed his movements as he walked past the other turtle, holding 2 big rats in his hands with one pigeon. Leonardo knew why he was carrying them, instantly getting shivers.
“I’m not hungry.” He stated before Raphael got to do anything to their meal.
“That’s what ya say, but your stomach’s been growling a lot during morning.”
Leonardo swallowed when his stomach seemed to talk back at Raphael with loud grumble. He couldn’t deny that. He watched in silence how Raphael cut rats’ heads off, skinning them, also pulling guts out. How Raph could do it so easily without his expression changing even a little bit? After the rats he moved to do the same for the pigeon.
Raphael sat in silence as he made a fire, keeping his eyes on small growing flame.
“Oh, sure it is.” Raph snorted with small grin. “If ya keep taking such good care of it, it will rot and fall off.”
Leonardo didn’t look amused, but Raphael was obviously enjoying this. He had playful and teasing grin all over his face.
“If it rots and falls off I assume you would be more than willing to carry me then?”
Raphael stopped in the middle of adding more woods in the fire, eyeing the other turtle.
“I’ve never said I wouldn’t carry ya even now.”
Leonardo jerked a bit in surprise, blush covering his cheeks. From there he was quiet, just simply watching how Raphael worked for their food. The smell what came from the rats when they were frying was… not so pleasant. It actually almost made Leonardo gag. This made Raphael smirk with short laugh.
“Not so nice smell, eh?”
“No, it’s quite horrible.”
“Ya get used ta it. Just like ya will ta their flavor.”
Leonardo shivered again. He was NOT looking forward of eating a rat. But eventually one fried rat was handed to him. Poking it Leonardo wore disgusted expression on his face and it made Raphael snarl.
“Look, pretty boy, I fucking know it ain’t your fave food, but it’s all I have ta give. I spent hours this morning ta catch it. Ya could appreciate it a bit.”
“It’s not that I’m not appreciating it! It just… Disgusting.”
“Hmph.” Raphael sat on the rug legs crossed, starting to eat his rat from the stick, placing pigeon on the fire to fry too. It was the same to fry them all at once instead of making fire later just for the pigeon.
Watching Raphael eat made Leonardo’s stomach growl, but the rat in front of him instantly did the opposite. Swallowing once hard Leonardo took a bite, chewed it few times. The flavor ended up being so disgusting that it made poor turtle spit the meat out, gagging.
Raphael had stopped eating, watching with wide eyes how other turtle kept coughing and gagging. Wiping his mouth on the backside of his hand Leonardo whispered his apology. He didn’t want to be rude or show disrespectful after Raphael had worked so hard, but…
“I’m sorry. I just can’t eat it.”
Raphael’s voice was amazingly calm as he took another bite of his own rat, turning pigeon around. Leonardo sighed as he hugged his legs, pain in the cut beating with the same rhythm with his heart.
“After we are done eating, we’ll leave. Need ta get ya home so that your girls can check that leg.”
Leonardo only nodded. He was quiet, but his mind was full of thoughts and emotions. He felt like a mess and the harsh truth of how poor people lived… It was much more horrible than Leonardo had been able to imagine. It was easy to think it after hearing people talking about it, but it wasn’t the same as experiencing it.
Raphael finally said, giving whole pigeon to other turtle. In confusion surprised Leonardo eyed the bird.
“Whole bird? Raphael, I appreciate it, bit I --”
“Eat it. Ya need ta eat.”
Taking a rat from Leonardo, Raphael took a bite of it.
“I eat rats, ya eat pigeon. It’s a fair deal.”
Hesitating a moment Leonardo took the bird, thanking Raphael. The pigeon looked and smelled much more better so Leonardo took a bite – ending up being very pleased. It was much more tastier than those rats.
“Can ya walk?” Raphael asked looking over his shoulder in sewer tunnel.
“Yeah, no need to worry about me.”
“Ya are slow.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t run with this leg. Not even after you washed the wound and tied it again.”
Raphael growled as he stopped to stand sideways, his eyes sparkling as he eyed the other turtle. Stopping at the safe distance Leonardo eyed other turtle back. His body was tensed, but he wasn’t breathing in a way how he did when being angry.
Turning fully to face the smaller male Raphael took few steps towards him.
“We never get ya home with this speed.”
Looking down Leonardo sighed with annoyance. “I know that! I just can’t walk faster than this. Perhaps you just should leave me.”
Now blue eyes too were sparking as both males kept their eyes locked on one another. While Leonardo obviously was feeling more angry, Raphael eyed him rather calmly.
“And do the same shit ta ya what ya did ta me? Not a chance.”
Squatting in front of other male shell towards him, Raphael looked over his shoulder.
“Hop on. I said I would carry ya.”
“I… I don’t want to be a burden.”
Raphael chuckled with playful spark in his eye. “Ya already are.”
Leonardo huffed with a pout, making Raphael laugh.
“Come on now, jump on.”
Leonardo huffed again, but he literally jumped on Raphael’s shell, wrapping his arms around his neck. Now it was Raphael’s turn to huff – loud – giving asking strict look to smaller male.
“You told me to jump.”
Leonardo chuckled as Raphael stood up on his feet, starting to walk forward. Resting his head on Raphael’s shoulder Leonardo kept his eyes forward, but there came times when they were drawn on the scar which decorated Raphael’s cheek.
“While I feel bad you have got hurt, I have to admit scars suit you.”
“Thanks. I do like ‘em, actually.”
Leonardo smiled, his eyelids growing heavy. He closed his eyes, letting the soft swing of Raphael’s steps lull him to sleep. While he had slept long, his dreams had been very restless, earlier events playing the scene over and over again.
Hearing and feeling soft breathing Raphael slightly turned his head, eyeing a moment of the sleeping face. It reminded him of the night when he had sneaked to wake up Leo, watching him sleep a while. Turning his head Raphael sighed, pain stinging his heart.
He wanted that life back, but he also feared he wouldn’t be granted that anymore. He felt he had broke everyone’s trust even that he hadn’t hurt Margaret.
Raphael walked for hours, finally coming to an exit near the mansion. Raphael didn’t say anything about it to Leonardo, but he had been visiting here often after Leonardo threw him out. He watched the mansion with pain in his heart, longing.
“Leo, wake up. We are there soon.”
Mumbling softly Leonardo opened his eyes, looking around as Raphael stopped to put him down. Shaking his almost dumb arms Raphael let out deep sigh.
“I’m sorry. I fell a sleep. You should had wake me up sooner so that you could had rest.”
“Don’t worry about it. But ya can walk rest of the way? I will support ya.”
This Leonardo agreed with, wrapping his arm over Raphael’s shoulder as Raph took firm hold on the side of Leo’s shell, escorting him out of the sewer tunnel.
“Have any of you heard anything from Master?”
Margaret was growing worried when her girls shook their heads, none of them having any knowledge about Leonardo. All, what they knew, was the fact that Leonardo had left almost 2 days ago to meet a friend, but hadn’t returned.
“Do you think he’s in trouble?” Cherry asked carefully, her fingers playing with her apron’s hem.
“I surely hope not.” Margaret said with a sigh, sitting down on the chair in the living room. While she had been in charge of the girls her whole time while working under Leonardo’s command, she still felt lost since Leonardo had been there to guide her.
“Margaret! Margaret! Come here!”
Hearing Bella call her made old woman jump up on her feet, almost running next to her in front of the big window which was facing the gate.
“Look! Isn’t that…?”
“Master Leonardo! And Raphael!”
Margaret screamed in joy and relief, rushing to the door, throwing it open. She ran towards the turtles with the girls, watching how Leonardo was not using his left leg so well. Turtles stopped when old woman reached them. Stepping aside Raphael watched in silence how Margaret was tearing up while hugging smaller turtle who held her back.
He needed to repeat himself many times to assure the woman he was fine and needed only little bit of care. Margaret ordered two girls help Leonardo inside, Lucy obviously heading in with them since she was the family doctor.
Turning to look Raphael Margaret watched in silence how scarred turtle was already walking away.
“Aren’t you going to stay with us, Raphael?”
Her voice was soft, warm and caring, halting turtle’s withdrawing.
“It’s… not so simple.”
Margaret smiled as she walked next to other turtle, placing her healthy hand on Raphael’s shoulder. She wore her warmest smile, her green eyes sparking with joy and relief when she eyed Raphael.
“And why wouldn’t it be?”
Looking away from the eyes of old woman’s, Raphael sighed.
“Look. I appreciate all what ya did for me, but this isn’t a place for me.”
“Raphael, everyone know it was all my fault what happened. They are not blaming you.”
Raphael snorted as he turned to look old woman.
“I saw how they looked at me just now. I’m not welcome or wanted here.”
Margaret’s expression turned from caring to sad and hurt.
“That is not true.” She whispered, suddenly wrapping her arms around the turtle, holding him softly, but tight enough. “I have been so worried about you. I kept asking Leonardo to find you.”
Nuzzling against turtle’s scarred shoulder she gasped with a sob softly.
“I’ve been missing you so much. Those moments when I taught you to read and write.”
Raphael wasn’t sure what it was about her, but he found himself tearing up as well. It wasn’t a lie that he’d been missing her. Wrapping his arms her Raphael returned the hug.
“I…have been missing ya too – a lot.”
The pair shared a long moment in silence, just holding each other. Margaret felt like she could finally relax and breath, stone rolling off on her heart while Raphael, well, he felt like being held by a mother. It was the most welcome feeling ever after those horrible weeks what he had been alone.
Pushing herself back from the turtle a bit, but still holding her hand on Raphael’s shoulder, old woman smiled.
“Would you like to come inside and give us all a second chance? You look like you could use a bath, get some nice warm food and comfy bed to sleep on.”
Remembering how heavenly all of them had felt to him in the first time flooded back in Raphael’s mind. Without hesitation he nodded with small sincere smile.
“I… I would love that.”
Margaret smiled, taking soft hold on Raphael’s hand while starting to lead him towards the mansion.
“Will ya still be teaching me if I stay?”
“Of course. I have been missing those moments so much.”
“So have I. But that’s why I kept practicing.”
Margaret watched in silence as she waited Raphael to dig out small notepad from his belt’s pocket. Flipping few pages Raphael gave it in human’s old hand. She gasped.
“Oh my, Raphael! You have improved so much! My gosh, look at your beautiful handwriting…!”
Pages were full of “Raphael”, “Leonardo” and “Margaret” names, each of them looking better and better from each other.
“I had… long lonely nights so I used them ta practice. Wanted ta make ya proud and happy even if we wouldn’t hadn’t seen each other ever again. On top of that ya put so much time and effort on teaching me.”
Scratching the backside of his head Raphael smiled shy.
“Tho I haven’t been able ta practice reading… I need more practice about that.”
Margaret smiled as she handed notepad back to Raphael, softly tapping his cheek.
“And I will be there to teach you to read.”
Now that his heart felt lighter Raphael dared to smile a big wider, holding old woman’s hand while walking by her side. Surely his heart was beating faster as he approached the doors, which were open and waiting them to step inside, but he was eager to get in, to be safe again.
However Raphael also couldn’t stop worrying how his life would go on in the mansion again. After all he needed to learn to trust on Leonardo again, since he feared other turtle would throw him out again, and he also worried about the girls. They most surely wouldn’t see him in the same way anymore…