"Because, Raph — I'm the leader!"
"Oh, here we go. Sing a new song, woulja Leo?!"
Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Leonardo and Raphael were at each other's throats once again. After rescuing a young, Spanish-speaking boy from a kidnapping spree, the four turtles were all ready to return home just in time for curfew: all, of course… except Raphael. It always seemed as though the two couldn't end the day without having one of their almighty quarrels. This, of course, left Donatello and Michelangelo with nothing to do except watch the fun.
"Aright, who won last time?" Michelangelo whispered to his older, purple clad brother.
"Le'see," Donatello hummed, whipping out a crumpled piece of notebook paper titled 'Leo vs. Raph T-Chart' on the headline, "According to the previous tally, Leo took it home. But… it was a close one."
"Kay, I call dibs on Leo then."
"Hey, that's not fair, Mikey!"
"Why?! He might lose this time—"
"But he also might win this time," Donnie argued, "and there's no way I'm losing my second slice of pizza over an unfair—"
"Jeez, Raph," Leonardo cried with his katana drawn at his sides, "Why do you have to be so stubborn?!"
"Why do you hafta be such a mamma's boy?"
"Look, it's late. We've gotta be at least an hour away from home, and Splinter—"
"Splinter this, Splinter that," the temperamental brother jested, "Look, Splinter Juniuh — I know it's nice and cozy there in Splinter's shadow, but when're ya gonna come out and be 'Leonardo'?"
"Ooooo," Donatello and Michelangelo echoed from the sideline. Point for Raphael.
His cheeks burning lightly, Leonardo replied, "Maybe I wouldn't have to be Splinter's eyes and ears if I didn't have to worry about you—"
"Me?!" Raphael fumed, his greenish-gold eyes bulging.
"Yes, Raph, you. Specifically you. Because every time I turn my back — every single time — you run off on your own to do God knows what! I swear, you're like some… weird mutant toddler or something."
"'Toddler'? Yeah? Well, googoo gaga, numb nuts!"
"Pffffffff…" Mikey and Donnie snorted, trying their hardest not to laugh as they marked up another point for Raph.
"Look," Leonardo sighed, "Enough fighting. We've gotta get home."
"Maybe you've gotta get home," Raphael insisted, turning his back, "Not me."
"W-whaddya mean, 'not you?!' C'mon, I said 'enough', Raphael!" the blue clad turtle exclaimed, thumping his hot-headed brother in the back with his palm.
"Well, I've had 'enough', Leonardo!" the red clad turtle retorted angrily, gnarling his teeth angrily.
Using his ice blue eyes to stare into his angry brother's, Leonardo noticed something. Raphael was crying. Not sobbing or anything, but surely enough, the red clad hero in a half-shell's green eyes were laden with a film of shiny silver tears. And, with this, the leader of the lean green ninja team realized that this fight had gotten way too out of hand. Sure, he and Raph had fights, but… not over stupid issues like these. Why was he acting so… emotionally unstable? Only to add to his suspicion, Leonardo noticed that Raphael was sweating; and not just a little, but curiously profuse sweat that was dripping from the ends of his red mask.
"You feelin' okay?" Leonardo asks worriedly, laying the back of his hand to his brother's forehead, only to find that it was burning hot.
"Hey!" Raphael retorted angrily, "Wh-whu—huurrck, hhrrrckk-hmmm—what're ya doin'!"
"You're burning up," Leo said quietly.
"Wh-what?! No I don't!"
"Raph, I know a fever when I see one, and—"
If Donatello had ears, they would've shot straight up.
"Did somebody say 'fever'?" the purple clad turtle chimed nervously, turning to his orange clad little brother as he flipped on his glasses to inspect Raphael, "Mikey — emergency medical kit."
"On it, Doc!" the orange clad turtle replied, rushing the kit to the mock-medical examiner.
"Now, let's see here," the tech-genius hummed, fishing through his bag, "I know it's in here somewhere."
"Aw, geez," Raphael moaned, "L-look, cccuhhh, krrrr!, I'm fine. Just a—"
"Cough," Donatello intruded as he stuck a thermometer into Raphael's mouth, "No doubt, it's a fever: it's just a matter of how high it is. Rather raging emotional levels, eh Raph?"
"Hmmmm! Grrrrr…" the red clad turtle smoked, clenching the thermometer tightly between his teeth.
"Profuse sweating," Donatello continued to analyze as he read the thermometer reading, "And—holy mother of Einstein! A fever of one hundred and three?!"
"What?!" Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael exclaimed.
"So… it's a cold?" Mikey joked lamely.
"Jeez, whatever this is, Raph," Donnie sighed, removing his glasses, "You've got it… full blast."
"C'mon guys, I'm fine," the red-clad turtle said cooly, begin to sway subtly, "I-I'm fine. Let's go one more lap around the city—"
"Oh no, Mr. Illness," Leonardo scolded, "As if we weren't already late enough, you're sick. We need to get home—"
With his head suddenly beginning to sway to-and-fro dizzily, Raphael slurred, "N-no… Like I said—you needt' gedhome… Noh'me. I'm not livin' in no shadow."
Before anybody could talk some sense into him, Raph threw a homemade smokescreen to the ground with a cough. Blinded by the smoke, the three remaining turtles could barely tell where they were. Once the smoke finally cleared, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo realized that their ill-stricken brother had vanished.
"He's gone!" Mikey shouted.
"No kidding, Sherlock," Donnie replied sarcastically.
"C'mon, guys—he couldn't gotten too far," Leo insisted, preparing to ride a clothesline across to the connecting building.
"Yeah," the orange clad turtle replied, "A sick, mutant turtle? Can't be hard to find."
"I know we'll find him, Mikey," Leonardo said with a gulp, "I just don't know if we'll find him first…"
Looking at each other, Donatello and Michelangelo nodded amicably. Before following their eldest brother, Donnie flung the notebook paper scrap behind him and skidded across the clothesline.
'Oy… my stomach. Oo, I think I'm gonna…'
Wiping the vomit from his chin, the sluggish Raphael walked the streets in a feverish slump. Though the dizzy spells were getting worse, the red clad turtle trudged through. Man, he thought he would have more fun than this!
"Yeesh," the sickly reptile sighed, wiping his sweaty brow, "'Zit hot out here or what?"
Funny: just a second ago, he was freezing. Boy, whatever bug he had, he must've caught the biggest one. He felt awful: he could barely talk from coughing so much, his morale was rising and dropping like an amusement park ride, and—
"Hey there stranger," a familiar voice called.
Turning around, Raphael's eyes widened with both fear and anger (he was on such an emotional roller coaster, he could barely tell what he was feeling).
"Funny seeing you out here… all alone," the kunoich mocked, signaling the kraang bots to assemble, "Where's the family?"
"J-jus' me, Karai," Raph replied gruffly, whipping his sais in the advancing position with the urge to both kill and cough, "Eee—ehhh, hehh, hecckkk hurrkk hrrrrm!—eeat your heart out.."
"Great," Karai replied, drawing her sword, "I'm starving. Attack!"
Swinging and punching, Raphael found this fight to be rather unusual. With every punch he took, his fist went right through their bodies—almost as if he were fighting—
"Ghhhhoooooooosssssttttttssss!" Raphael screamed.
Then, all of a sudden, black bats began to emerge from the cracks in the brick wall. Flinging his arms at the creatures, Raphael found that they, too, were transparent.
"A-a dream… It's a dreeeaaam…. Aggghhh, I wanna wake uuuuppp… I w-w-wanna waaaaa—"
Feeling the urge to both cry and hurl, the red clad turtles ran towards the nearest ally: only to black out from the overwhelming fright and nausea.
"Raph?!" Donatello exclaimed.
"Raph? Where are ya, dude?!" Michelangelo yelled.
"Dammit Raph, where are you?" Leonardo screamed.
Hopping from rooftop to rooftop, further and further from home, the boys in green continued to search for their sick brother.
"Any sign of him yet?" Leonardo asked his brothers, hurdling over a chimney.
"Negative," Donatello huffed tiredly as he checked the time on his T-phone, "And it's nearly midnight!"
"Aw, man!" Michelangelo moaned, "I'm missing my midnight slice! Thanks a lot, Raph!"
"C'mon, guys, we gotta keep looking," Leo insisted, hopping a relatively easy jump to the nearest rooftop, "Master Splinter would—"
-'I know it's nice and cozy there in Splinter's shadow, but when're ya gonna come out and be 'Leonardo'?"-
As these words echoed through his head, Leonardo stopped dead in his tracks… only for his brothers to thump into him and fall like a defective group of dominos.
"Ouch!" Donnie cried.
"Hey!" Mikey expectorated, "What was that for?!"
"'Shadow'," Leonardo repeated under his breath, before exclaiming, "'Shadows'… Oh, man, 'shadows'! That's it! Follow me, guys!"
Without hesitation, Leonardo leapt forward. Confused, Donatello and Michelangelo shrugged as they followed their fearless leader for two more blocks. Stopping on the corner building, the heroes in half-shells panted desperately trying to catch their breath.
"D-dude," Mikey exclaimed exhaustedly, "Wh-what… are we… doing… here…"
"Yeah," Donnie added with exasperation, "Why… and… 'shadows'?"
"Check the sign," Leo nodded coolly, showing his brothers the flashing neon sign of the restaurant they were on top of, titled—
"'The Shadow Café'?" Michelangelo read dumbfounded.
"Mrrrrr…. Hhhhrrrkkk, hiiiiccckkk huucckkk hhhh'mmmm…"
Following the sound of coughing, the turtles found Raphael resting on a trash bag in the alley between the old café and the neighboring building.
"RAPHAEL!" the three brothers cheered.
Jumping to the ground, the turtles huddled around their brother… who seemed to be almost asleep.
"Nnnnooo, get away…" the red clad turtle moaned, "D-ddon't hurt 'im… nnnnooooo….. noooooo!"
"Aww," Mikey cooed, "He's dreaming."
"He's having a nightmare, you dunce cap!" Donnie scolded, smacking Raphael lightly in the face, "Raph… Raph. Wake up, bro. C'mon. Wake up!"
Briefly opening his eyes, Raphael threw himself forward, vomited violently onto the concrete, and collapsed back into Leonardo.
"Don, what's wrong with him?" Leonardo asked worriedly, fishing some water from a deep puddle into a nearby bucket as he held Raphael's head upward.
"This is no ordinary bug," Donnie said quietly, eyes wide with fear, "He… he's got Enfermo."
"What?" said Michelangelo stupidly.
"I should've known it from the start," Donatello replied, "Guys—the little Spanish boy we saved today… He didn't look so good."
"So? If I don't eat pizza every two hours, I don't look so good either."
"No, no, Mikey! The little boy, he looked sick. We were in such a rush, I-I just dismissed it, but… the Brazilian flag! Of course, that's—"
"Donnie, you're a brilliant guy, you know that," Leonardo interrupted, losing his patience, "But, please… whatever you've gotta say… just spit it out before I pull it outta you!"
"Okay," Donatello began as Raphael moaned from his nightmare, "So, this is just a hunch—"
"Out with it, brain-boy!"
"Okay! Jeez, so—just a guess—but the family had a Brazilian flag on the wall of their living room: which means they're probably from Brazil. They must've been on vacation all-but recently—considering the sunburn on the Spanish boy's face, and it just so happens that a serious of pandemic of a rare disease, called 'Enfermo' is raging through! When that boy came into contact with Raphael—"
"He coughed on him, dude," Mikey added disgustedly, "I saw it… It was naaaasty…"
"Well, then that must've done it," Donatello nodded, "It all makes sense: the coughing, the dizziness, the fever, the nightmares, the emotional instability, the—"
"The… er, vomiting… it all makes sense!"
"Don," Leonardo jumped in, carrying the full bucket over to Raphael, "Is there a cure?"
"W-well," Donnie gulped, "I've only researched it once, but… it lasts about two months, only one out of every thousand live, and… and…"
"And what bro?!" Michelangelo exclaimed, flailing his arms into the bucket of water which fell onto Raphael.
"And there's… no cure," Donatello finished, only to find a soaking wet Raphael dripping on the ground with his eyes squinting with exhaustion.
"Raph," Leonardo darted, helping his brother to his feet, "How ya feelin'?"
"'Mmmm srrrrry, Leeoooo," Raphael slurred, his eyes crossed from the dizziness, "Yerrr not Spllllinn'er Jun'yerrrrr…"
Smiling at the fact that his brother was capable of responding, Leonardo remarked ironically, "And I thought you were trying to stay out of the shadows."
"Thhhhhat isssssoo corny, bro," Raphael huffed out.
"C'mon, let's get you home," Leo insisted as Michelangelo shared the balance of carrying the red clad turtle.
Starting their long journey home behind the old dump yard so not to be seen by humans, the turtles pressed for home. Still, Leonardo couldn't numb the words, 'There's no cure', from his mind. Raphael, flushed with fever, felt the exhaustion take over him — even though he still had a few questions for his eldest brother.
"H-howju find me?"
"You think I'd forget our first rooftop hideout?" Leonardo said with a sly smile as he nodded back to The Shadow.
"'Hideout'?" Michelangelo repeated with a gasp.
"You guys snuck out?!" Donatello exclaimed.
"Well, we were jus' kids. An' besides," Raphael hummed with a cough, "…It was Leo's idea."
Barely able to contain the idea that Leonardo—the perfect, prim, prodigal son and leader had a mischievous streak, Donatello and Michelangelo howled and whooped at the top of their lungs.
"Guess who won the bet again, Don?! Woohooo!"
"You know what, I'll give it to ya. But NEXT time, I'm betting on Leo!"
"What?! No way!"
"Y'never know, Mikey… Raph could win next time—"
"—But he might lose next time!"
Just then, a fit of coughing emerged from Raphael. This got Leonardo thinking… would there even be a next time? He hated to be pessimistic, but a one-in-a-thousand survival rate didn't shed much light on the situation. After about an hour of walking through trash and sewage, along with several vomit breaks, the turtles made it home.
One month passed… times got worse…
Two months passed… and just when things were at their weakest…
"What? What is it, Donnie?!"
"His fever broke! His fever actually broke! Woohoooooo!"
With an uproar of cheers and tears, the sewer home never felt so alive with happiness and joy. Eventually, a group hug seemed to almost demand itself—with Raphael right at the center.
"Aw hey, you mush-balls," Raphael half-joked, "Give me some space!"
Though Raphael spoke in jest, he was still quite weak. And later that night, as the turtles took turns keeping vigil over their ailing brother, Leonardo sat for his shift.
"How ya feelin', hot-head?" Leo smirked, though his cool forehead begged to differ.
"Better than last month," Raph chuckled, his eyes puffy with exhaustion.
"Good to see things are lookin' up," the blue clad brother smiled, "The way Donnie described it, well…"
"'Well' what?" the sick turtle question, his eyebrow cocked with curiosity.
"It doesn't matter now," Leo replied affirmatively, "You're gonna be okay, that's all that matters. Now… why don'tcha try and get some sleep?"
"But I ain't tired!"
"See, Raph, this is the whole toddler-thing I was talking about."
"I'm not a toddler: you just keep treatin' me like one!"
"Look, just go to sleep!"
"Why?! Cuz you said so?"
"Yes! Raph, I've said it before and I'll say it again — I'm the leader!"
"Gah, sing a new song, woulja Leo?"
With a 'humph', Raphael turned over in his bed (as he was feeling a bit tired, though he wouldn't admit it to Leonardo). However, just before drifting off, he turned to his older brother once more.
"I'll go to sleep… if…"
"Oh boy… if what, Raph?"
"If… we sneak out one night to The Shadow again. Jus' like ol' times."
"I… er… fine. B-but only after you're one hundred percent better. A-and you've gotta go to sleep, okay?"
"…Yes, Splinter Juniuh," Raphael replied sarcastically with a yawn.
Within seconds, he was out like a light. Watching his brother dream happy dreams for the first time in a long while, Leonardo smiled at his one-in-one-thousand brother of his just before falling asleep himself.