A/N: I apologize greatly for the long delay. I had a conference in Chicago from Wednesday until today, and although I wanted to post before I left, that wasn't possible. So, here it is: Chapter Thirteen. We're getting there. Thanks to a suggestion, there will be an epilogue, so this isn't quite the last chapter. Just the second to last. Thanks again for reading and reviewing, and also for being so patient!

Now away we go . . .

Chapter Thirteen

"MASTER SPLINTER!"

Michelangelo's voice rang through the Lair.

Torn from his meditations, Splinter's eyes popped open as soon as he heard the panicked voice of his youngest son. Immediately, he was on his feet and running toward the living room.

The brothers were struggling from the elevator door. Their strength had finally given out, and they were half carrying, half dragging an unconscious Raphael.

Leonardo had his teeth clenched as he held onto Raph by the left arm. His injured arm was dangling limply by his side dripping blood from his fingers onto the floor. Grunting, he attempted to keep Raph's head above his knees.

Michelangelo had Raph's right arm, the forearm of his injured arm lay gingerly under Raph's head. Yet, even this gesture was futile. Raph's head bobbed dangerously low as the turtle's strength continued to plummet.

Donatello had both of his arms gripped tightly around one of Raph's legs. The other leg dragged limply across the floor. Donny's body was at an awkward angle, which caused him to stumble often. He attempted to focus, but his eyes were wide and slightly glassy, causing him to walk in a bit of a daze.

Just as Splinter got the living room, exhaustion overtook Leonardo and he stumbled, nearly dropping Raph. Gathering his strength, he held on and attempted to hoist Raph higher up.

Sweat dripped down the brother's faces as they struggled, their breathing coming in short, fast gasps.

Taking another step back, Leo gasped as his foot caught in the rug.

Time moved in slow motion.

Helplessly, he felt his fingers slip from Raphael's arm as he stumbled backwards and fell, painfully, onto the floor.

With his support gone, Michelangelo was burdened by the bulk of Raph's weight. His eyes wide, Mikey quickly moved his injured hand to the shoulder that Leo had been holding. Pain rocketed up his arm, causing him to black out momentarily.

His arms shook as he struggled with the weight and pain. Gritting his teeth, he widened his stance as Raph began to slip. Suddenly, Mikey's arm gave out. Raph slipped from his fingers and plummeted toward the ground.

Instantly, Splinter was at Raph's side, his small arms wrapped around his shell. With strength the turtles didn't know Splinter possessed, their sensei burdened all of Raphael's weight, his hand gently behind Raph's head.

Hugging Raph tightly to his chest, he slowly stooped and carefully placed Raph's head in Leo's lap. Raphael's breathing still came in labored gasps, his eyes rolling frantically.

Breathing hard, Leo looked up at Master Splinter at a loss for words. Splinter didn't notice, however. Instead, he was kneeling next to Raphael, his gnarled hand carefully stroking Raph's face. At the touch of his Master's hand, Raph's panting lessened slightly.

Letting go of Raph's leg, Donny crawled shakily to his brother's side. He quickly checked Raph's pulse and a frown crossed his face. He swallowed thickly, in an attempt to coat his dry throat as he gently placed his hand on Raph's head. The heat scorched his cool touch.

Donny turned toward his youngest brother. "Mikey, I need you to—"

His words were cut off abruptly as Raph's body went rigid.

Donny turned just as Raphael's eyes rolled completely back in his head and he began to shake, his muscles tensing and contracting involuntarily.

"Oh shit . . ." Donny's voice was soft as he uttered the uncharacteristic swear word. "Mikey, get me some ice, a wet towel, and corn syrup." His voice had regained its strength and was once again professional and serious.

Mikey was pale, rooted to the spot. His eyes were wide and his mouth was slightly open as he watched white foam begin to appear at the corners of Raph's mouth.

Donny leaned over and violently shoved Michelangelo's leg. "Mike! NOW!"

Mikey stumbled back, shaken out of his thoughts at the tone of Donny's voice. Taking one last glance, he turned and disappeared hastily in the kitchen.

"Sensei, I need you to go get blankets. As many as you can find." Donny's voice was still urgent, yet gentler toward his Master.

Without question, Splinter rose and disappeared noiselessly from the room to find blankets.

Leo's heart was in his throat as he helplessly watched his younger brother convulse on his lap. Instinctually, he brought his hands up and pressed them onto Raph's collarbone.

"Don't push down! You may hurt him."

Donny's voice sounded distant, yet it was sharp. Immediately, Leo lifted his hands slightly, hovering them inches above Raph's plastron.

"What's happening?" It was difficult for Leo to speak.

Just as Donny opened his mouth to speak, Splinter returned, his arms full of blankets. Donny grabbed a blanket and tucked it snuggly around Raph's shoulders, restricting some of his movement. "Raph's been through great trauma. He has a high fever and is dehydrated. I'm sure he's suffered at least one concussion and his blood sugar is low. This seizure is his body's defense mechanism. We need to get his blood sugar up and keep him warm so he doesn't go into shock."

Splinter knelt beside Raphael again, and gently tucked the blanket in on that side.

Things were moving too fast, and there was nothing Leonardo could do to stop them. His mind was reeling and his heart beat relentlessly in his chest as he watched Donatello wrap another blanket tightly around Raph. He could feel his throat drying out. It felt thick yet no matter how many times he swallowed, it remained dry and tight.

Mikey dropped something in the kitchen and it shattered on the floor. Leo jumped slightly, but never took his eyes from Raph, who was now grunting through clenched teeth, his head twitching spastically as the foam dripped down his face.

Leo gently wiped it away with is fingers.

Finally, Michelangelo returned with his arms loaded with the supplies that Donny had requested. He dropped to his knees and let everything drop from his arms with a clatter.

Immediately, Donny grabbed the corn syrup. He unscrewed the cap and stuck his finger deep into the bottle. Then, being very careful of Raph's teeth, he carefully smeared the liquid around the inside of Raph's cheeks and gums.

Mikey watched with a look of confusion on his face. "Wha—"

"We need to get his blood sugar back up." Donny re-dipped his finger into the bottle. "If we don't Raph's organs may start to shut down. Corn syrup is pure sugar. It might be the only thing we have right now to save Raph's life."

Donny wiped his finger on his leg and reached over to grab the wet cloth. Gently, he ran it along Raph's forehead, cheeks, and mouth. Slowly, with this calming motion, Raph's convulsions subsided, until only slight twitches of his head existed.

Raph's body went slack. His eyes rolled into his head and he was finally still. One solitary tear fell from each eye. His breathing was still labored, yet Raph was breathing a little easier now.

Donny grabbed some of the ice cubes that Mikey had brought from the kitchen. He handed one to Leonardo and another to Splinter. "Leo, we need to try and get his fever down. Rub this along his head."

Leo nodded and slowly moved the ice cube in small circles along Raphael's forehead. The fever caused the ice to melt rapidly, creating droplets of water that dripped down his temples. Periodically, Leo gently wiped the dripping water with the wet cloth.

Donny turned to Splinter. "He's dehydrated. We need to be careful though . . . we don't want him to choke. So, be very cautious, and do this." Donny demonstrated by rubbing an ice cube gently across Raph's cracked lips. If too much water began to run into his mouth, he pulled the ice cube away and allowed the water to slowly drip down Raph's throat. Splinter watched for a second, and then mimicked Donny's actions with his own ice cube.

Finally, Donny turned to Michelangelo. "Mikey, I need you to get me my tool box, some gauze, tape, antiseptic, and a needle and thread."

Mikey disappeared into Donny's bedroom and quickly returned, lugging Donny's large metal toolbox. As he swiftly left again to get the rest of the first aide supplies, Donny dug through his toolbox, muttering under his breath. Finally, he pulled out a small allen wrench.

Unwrapping Raphael's arms from the blanket, Donny bent his head over the shackles and worked the allen wrench inside the lock. Raph moaned slightly as Donny turned the restraint, and immediately Donny pulled back. Biting his lip, he watched as Raph calmed down and then he resumed his position bent over the lock.

He worked quickly, moving the allen wrench back and forth inside the lock. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the lock popped open. A smile spread quickly over Donatello's face and he released the breath he had been holding.

Gently, he pulled the shackle apart, and removed it from Raph's wrist.

Instantly, his smile disappeared.

Raphael's wrist had thick burn marks where the shackle had been. They were blackened and callused, his once green skin now white and dead, now pulled away from the deepest blisters.

"My God . . . what did they do to him?" Michelangelo's voice broke the silence. The youngest turtle was looking over Donny's shoulder, the first aide supplies in his hands.

Donny only shook his head in response. He had no idea what monstrous things had happened to his brother.

Quietly, he worked on the next lock. It popped open a little easier, and as Donny removed the metal from Raph's wrist, Raph twitched in pain.

His other wrist looked identical.

Gently, Donny took the antiseptic and liberally poured it over Raph's right wrist. It bubbled slightly, and Leonardo had to press gently on Raph's collarbone to keep him still.

As Donny used the rag to clean the blisters, one of them popped, pulling the skin further away. Donny could feel bile rising slightly in his throat as he worked quickly. Finally, he was able to tightly wrap the wrist with sterile gauze and tape it into place.

Taking Raphael's other wrist, he cleaned it in a similar manner, cringing whenever Raph moved in pain.

When the wrists were cleaned and wrapped, Donny turned his attention first to the deep gash on Raph's left hand. Sterilizing the needle, he did his best to stitch the wound closed.

It wasn't pretty, and would probably leave a nasty scar, but it was closed. He tightly wrapped the wrist with gauze to protect the stitches.

Taking a deep breath, he finally faced the worst of Raphael's wounds: the open laceration that ran from where his hairline should be to the back of his head. "Leo, we need to roll him onto his side. You're going to have to hold him. I'll try to go fast."

Leo paled slightly when he realized what Donny had to do. Carefully, they rolled Raph onto his side. Splinter took Raph's uninjured hand, and caressed his face affectionately, muttering inaudible words under his breath.

Donny sterilized the needle again, took and released two quick breaths, and bent over the wound.

He worked quickly, yet attempted to be thorough. Raph moaned and pulled away from the needle. Leonardo had to push the majority of his weight onto Raph's shoulders simply to keep his body still so Donny could work faster.

Around the third or fourth stitch, tears fell, hot and wet, from Raph's eyes. They landed on Leo's lap, and Leo bit back the tears that threatened behind his own eyes.

Finally, Donny pulled the thread taut on the last stitch, knotted the end, and pulled the needle away. It was messier than the stitches in his hand, but at least the slit was closed.

Donny was slightly pale as he tightly wrapped Raph's head with the remaining gauze and taped it into place.

"We need to get him into bed." Donny sat back on his heels. "We need to be careful, though. Are you able to do that?"

Leo, Mikey, and Splinter nodded. Gently, Mikey and Splinter grabbed Raph under each armpit.

When Raph's weight was off of Leo's lap, he stood sorely, his leg still throbbing.

Carefully, he moved over to one of Raph's legs and took it in his hands. The cut in his bicep screamed in protest.

Donny grabbed the other leg, and together, the family moved Raph slowly to his room. Laying him down gently, they wrapped him tightly in blankets, ensuring he was warm enough.

Leonardo attempted to sit near the bed, but Donny pulled him away. "We need to get your injuries taken care of first."

Leo shook his head, but was too weak to fight back when Donny's grip tightened around his arm. Finally, he gave up and allowed his brother to pull him from the room.

With one last glance into the room, he prayed silently. He knew that Raph wasn't quite out of the woods yet.

It had been two days since they had finally found Raphael in the abandoned warehouse. He had yet to wake up.

At times, he would attempt to verbalize words in his feverish state, yet he never made any sense or regained consciousness.

Leonardo had never left his side. With his wounds stitched and healing, he spent the majority of his day sitting in a chair, carefully running ice along Raph's lips in an attempt to rehydrate him.

When he wasn't occupied with the ice, he held Raph's hand gently, either in silence, or speaking quiet words of encouragement to his brother. He said anything that came to his mind . . . anything he could think of for Raph to latch on to.

Anything that could snap Raph out of his present state.

At night, Leo remained in the chair, slumped over at an awkward angle. He slept fitfully . . . constantly awakening to any movement or noise. Yet, every time his eyes were open, he saw the same thing: his younger brother looking small and weak on the bed, fighting for his life.

He had cried frequently over the last few days. Primarily, the tears came when he sat in silence and his mind was able to wander. He knew that it was mostly exhaustion, yet he refused to move from Raphael's side.

Donatello worked diligently to bring Raph's health back up. He kept the wounds clean and disinfected. He had even taken a page from Michelangelo's book and created a concoction in the kitchen.

A sort of protein purée.

Five or six times a day, Donny could be found smearing the mixture along Raph's gums and tongue, providing him the necessary nourishment.

Michelangelo remained out of the room for the most part. Leo knew that he was hurting and longed to be near his brother, yet every time he attempted to come into the bedroom, his face paled and he quickly retreated.

Splinter spent his time either next to Raphael, helping Donny clean his wounds or feed him, or deep in meditations. At times he would come in alone, walk past Leo to kneel beside the bed and lovingly stroke Raph's face as he muttered indistinct words to his son.

Leonardo always remained quiet during these meetings, shutting his eyes to stop his tears. He focused on his breathing and fell deep into his own meditations and prayers.

As he shuffled past him, Master Splinter would always gently touch Leo's shoulder before exiting the room, the door clicking shut silently behind him.

And when the door shut, the tears again came . . .

It was dark.

It was always dark.

His arms were restrained.

Yet, something was different.

He was hot.

He was extremely hot.

He attempted to move his arms, but they were pressed tightly to his plastron.

This was new . . .

His heartbeat accelerated with this new sensation.

His mind felt sharper than it had felt in a long time.

Taking a breath, he carefully moved his body in an attempt to feel what was restraining him.

Shrugging his shoulders, he felt his restraints loosen slightly. He continued to move his shoulders rhythmically, ignoring the soreness of his muscles.

Finally, he was able to move his hands from his plastron. Bringing them toward his face, he realized that they were no longer connected. He touched one wrist gently, and furrowed his brows at the unrecognizable texture.

He moved his head slightly to the left, and immediately screwed his eyes shut as black spots exploded in front of his vision.

Breathing heavily, he slowly cracked an eyelid again. Instead of moving, he stared deeply into the shadows, knowing that it would be useless.

But then he saw something . . . something that he hadn't seen in a long time.

A shadow.

A simple shadow that outlined some form of furniture. The contrast between the shadows caused excitement as well as fear to course through his veins. Where had his captives put him now?

Biting back the pain, he attempted to move his head again. Turning it to the right, his breath caught in his throat.

It was another hallucination.

Wasn't it?

His mind was sharp.

Right?
The form of one of his brothers was slumped in a chair next to the surface he was laying on.

Had they captured them too?

Without realizing it, a whimper escaped his lips.

The figure in the chair twitched, and Raphael watched as his head snapped up. Groggily, he rubbed his sore neck. Finally, he turned toward the bed.

Two bright eyes reflected in the darkness.

"Raph?" Leo's voice was quiet as it interrupted the silence.

Raph blinked twice, unable to accept this new hallucination.

Leo bent over the bed and took Raph's hand in his. "Raph? It's me . . . you're safe." He smiled lovingly down at his brother, his heart higher than it had been in weeks. "You were missing for three days and you've been unconscious for four. It was a scary week but it's okay now. You're going to be okay."

Raph blinked again, trying to comprehend what was being explained to him.

Suddenly, Leo straightened. "Oh God . . . I have to go get Donny. He needs to know."

He shifted his weight to move, but Raphael grabbed tightly onto his hand. Leo stopped, looking down at Raph in surprise.

Raph was breathing hard, and he could feel tears burning from his eyes as he clutched Leo's hand with viselike strength. His hand trembled against his brothers.

Leo's expression softened as he slowly sat down on the bed. Tenderly, he stroked Raph's face, wiping the tears away with his fingers as he whispered consoling words to him.

Raphael's grip didn't falter, and Leo finally allowed himself to slide into a laying position. Raph took a shaky breath as he felt Leo's arms wrap tightly around him.

Closing his eyes, he breathed in Leo's scent. His head pressed deeply into the crook of Leo's shoulder and neck as he forced his breathing to slow down.

Leo's cheek gently nuzzled Raph's head as his arms remained secure around him.

For the first time in a week, as he held Leo's hand, he felt safe.