Help Me Live (Sequel to Let Me Die)
Normally, I would never condone breaking into a pharmacy and rifling through their medicinal stock.
However, under exceptional circumstances, this is exactly what I am doing tonight. Breaking in was simple enough. Security was poor. A simple lock pick got me in through the back door. The alarm system was another matter entirely. Fairly modern and tamper proof, at least for your average burglar seeking drugs for recreational purposes, it proved a small challenge to overcome.
The pharmacy was well stocked, and as I flashed my torch at the heaps of boxes and tubes, I finally found the drugs I was looking for.
I am not experimenting with recreational drugs, don't worry. The reason for my visit isn't for my own health but for my disturbed brother, Raphael. He has suffered an emotional breakdown, lost all faith in family and humanity and resigned himself to die.
Only with the gentle persuasion of Michelangelo did Raphael give us a week to try and change his life for the better. By medication alone, the time-scale wasn't realistic, as most anti-depressant drugs take a few weeks to start working. We have therefore formulated a recovery plan of counselling and therapy to help during the time the medicine will not.
Each of us has taken a role in Raphael's recovery plan. I am in charge of medication - a role that may involve further sedation if necessary. I am also the one who will listen to Raphael without judgement. Mikey made it very clear that Raphael would need at least one unbiased ear to vent to during the recovery process.
My role will not be easy. It will be hard to hear Raphael's anger and bitterness, especially when I think I can say something to help him. Mikey has advised I do not take sides and remain completely neutral.
I picked up the majority of the drug called Fluoxetine, a common medication to treat depression, and a few boxes of Diazepam for good measure. Laying some money on the counter and a brief note of apology, I counted the remaining boxes I was going to leave behind. The last thing I wanted was to run them out if they had an emergency.
Stealthily leaving the store, I made my way over to the manhole cover quickly. Leonardo was waiting for me, his eyes dark and brooding. He indicated for me to go before him and I waited for him to replace the manhole cover and drop quietly to my side.
"Did you get what you needed?" Leo asked in a soft voice.
I jiggled the bag of medication in front of him. "Enough for a year at least. Hopefully, with our help and intervention, we'll be able to wean him off them when he has been fully recovered for more than six months."
"Let's get moving then." Leo took the lead and we walked in silence back to The Lair, splashing down familiar tunnels until we reached our destination.
The lair was eerily quiet. Leo and I made no noise as we entered stealthily. I placed the bag of drugs into my bedroom, somewhere only I could access them, and wandered back into the living area.
Leo was sitting on the couch with Mikey. I walked over to join them and then stopped in remembrance of the previous evening. Raphael helplessly sobbing on the couch. Begging for us to let him go. To turn our backs and let him finish the job. The memory made my stomach churn in guilt and horror, and I remained frozen to the spot in terror.
"Are you coming to sit down?" Leo asked gently. I took a deep breath to steady myself and walked over to them. There was a seat between my brothers and I took it, feeling the tension flooding through me at the thought of my brother. Defeated. Close to death.
"Where's Raphael?" I asked. I heard the edge of panic in my voice and wished I could take it back. I felt my brothers wince beside me, their bodies stiffening suddenly.
"He's with sensei." Mike offered, pointing towards our Master's bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, and a soft glow from candlelight made my anxiety worse.
"Don't worry. We each have a part to play." Leo rose to his feet and patted me affectionately on the shoulder before going to the kitchen. I heard the kettle being filled, the soft whistle developing as the water slowly boiled. Everything seemed so loud and disturbing.
Leo had officially become our Tea-turtle. Whenever he sought to reassure us, he would begin with a cup of green tea. As he handed around cups of hot beverage to us, we kept an ear strained to try and hear what was being said between Master and Student.
It was going to be a long night.
The glow from a single candle bathed the room in a hypnotic glow as Raphael lay before me, his head propped on a pillow. He was lying flat on his belly, arms dangling by his side and his shell looked like a dark mountain on his back.
It wasn't merely the weight of his shell that Raphael was feeling. His mind was clogged with terrible thoughts, all of them dark and brooding.
I had engaged him, still fairly placid because of sedation, into a relaxing meditation that focused completely on his breathing. The sound of his raspy breath constantly on the verge of tears was something terrible to hear but I allowed his essence to fill my thoughts, my brain, my senses.
As a Master of the Spiritual Plane, I had little trouble delving into the thoughts of my sons. Beyond Raphael's howling, tortured thoughts lay a vast abyss. His mind was fragile and I bolstered his mental energies with strength from my own.
"That is good, Raphael. Concentrate on each breath only. As if all form and substance is gone from the world around you." I patted his shell gently with my paw and ran the extremity over the scars that littered every nook. He had been burned severely in the past on his shell and that particular part was still slightly blackened. The slices from swords his shell had sustained were healing slowly, like a nail would grow back, slowly forming a new layer of protectiveness that seemed harder and more durable than the first.
"Master Splinter ... can I sit up? This is really uncomfortable." Raphael groaned underneath the weight of his shell. His voice was still raw and his words caught uncomfortably in his throat.
I placed a hand under Raphael's carapace helping him to clumsily sit up and cross his legs awkwardly. Perhaps Donatello had used too much sedation this time. Raphael was barely capable of lifting an arm and he was relying on me, much to his disgust, to merely get comfortable.
He swatted my paw aside as he caught his balance and I moved back instantly. His abrupt ways did not surprise me. Even when he was a turtle toddler, he would frown upon the simplest acts of kindness. Not towards others of course but it was as if he couldn't bear the thought of someone being kind to him. As if he didn't deserve that.
I could hear his thoughts churning, recoiling from being touched. From being helped.
It did wound me that Raphael would recoil from my touch. He was my son and I only wanted to help him overcome his battles. I let the hurt go, preferring instead to concentrate on Raphael's recovery.
"Are you more comfortable now, Raphael?" I asked.
He nodded slowly, his eyes suddenly pained. "I'm sorry, sensei."
It was nothing more than a slur.
"What have you to be sorry about, my son?" I leaned forward and caught the brightness of his eyes reflected in candlelight. Too bright. Unshed tears were accumulating and I felt the raw pain touch my heart. My son. My suffering son.
"I .... I ... didn't mean to ... back off. I hurt you." Raphael turned away and a single tear snaked down his right cheek.
"You have never been a tactile turtle, Raphael." I chuckled. "You are not offending me in the slightest. If it makes you more comfortable to back away, then I would rather you do that."
"Where are ... my brothers?" Raphael's head whipped to the closed door and he turned back to look at me with frightened eyes.
"They are safe. Everyone is safe. The Ancient One has visited this evening. He was very concerned about this family and wanted to offer his protection." I gazed at the flickering candlelight.
"The Ancient One was here?" Raphael looked up in surprise. "When? I didn't see him come?"
"You were asleep at the time." I confessed. "He sat with you for a while, talking to you as you slept."
"So that was what that weird dream was all about." Raphael's eyes dawned with sudden realisation. "I was lost in the sewers, I couldn't find the lair or any of you. The Ancient One suddenly appeared in front of me and led me back to the lair. Everyone was sat around watching a movie. I can't remember what it was .... but we were happy."
"Did you feel that happiness, Raphael?" I asked.
"I felt everyone else's happiness." Raphael smiled bitterly. "It was enough."
"Let us breathe together and clear our minds of all distraction." I watched Raphael carefully as he closed his eyes and sighed a little. Out of all my sons, Raphael found this task the most difficult.
During his training over the many years I had always found his lack of meditative prowess a challenge. He didn't really understand the process of emptying the mind and clung to his anger or cynicism as solace.
"Master Splinter..." he was slurring still.
"I am here, my son."
The room was quiet for a while. Raphael was falling asleep, his soft breathing turning into louder snores.
"Master Splinter?" Leonardo was standing at the door with a cup of steaming green tea. "Is Raph asleep?"
"For the moment," I took the cup from my eldest and watched as Leo knelt beside Raphael. He was taut, his muscles tensing.
"Leonardo, please calm yourself. Raphael is safe presently." I took two swift sips of the tea and gazed at Leonardo for a short while. He was hovering beside his brother, plainly unsure of what he should do. "My son, please go fetch some bedding for Raphael to sleep where he is."
Leonardo nodded and rose to his feet. He hurried out of the bedroom and I heard hushed voices as the lair became a flurry of activity.
I smiled to myself as he returned with quilts and pillows, creating a nest around Raphael as he hunched over in sleep. Then, he gently maneouvered his brother into a featal position and curled the covers all around him.
"You may leave now, Leonardo. Try and get some rest. All of you must sleep tonight, for tomorrow the battle begins anew."
I remained awake, watching my son sleep in a restless and distressing manner. He would moan and quiver as he dreamed, his hands bunching into fists as he fought monsters from his own imagintion.
Work in Progress