I'm holding back a sigh as I gently rearrange Leo's IV line. Mikey is still huddled against our blue-clad brother, head resting on his plastron, while Raph sits on a chair near Leo's bed and strokes his cheek each time he thinks nobody is looking.
Master Splinter is right behind me, a soothing hand on my shoulder. He understands how hard it is for me sometimes to be the medic of the team – responsible for my brothers' health when they themselves seem to not care about it at all.
My brother has briefly woken up, just long enough to tell us I'm sorry and It's not your fault, and Thank you for bringing me home, guys, and How long will I stay bed-ridden, Donnie?
A mean part of me wanted to yell at him As long as it will take for you to realize that self-sacrifice is stupid, period, because we absolutely need you, Leo, get that inside that thick skull of yours, but all I could say was "Don't worry, Leo, and get some rest" before he fell asleep again.
I meet Raph's gaze, and I can say he feels the same as I do.
"I think it's getting worse," my red-clad brother mumbles. "He was more careful before the Kraang invasion, right?"
Mikey nods from his place on Leo's plastron.
"Yeah. How come so many of his plans lately involve him taking stupid risks?" he moans.
From the corner of my eye, I see a strange expression flicker on Master Splinter's features. It almost looks like… guilt.
I remember when we defeated the Kraang invasion. When Leo came out of the dojo that day, he had a determined expression I had never seen him before. I didn't like it, but I never asked him. Leader business, I assumed.
"There must be something we can do," I say slowly. "I'm not making a habit out of sticking needles in my brother's arm so he can live another day."
Both Raph and Mikey nod fiercely.
I glance at Sensei, who immediately understands.
"I'll watch over Leonardo," my father says. "Do what you have to do."
I bow thankfully before turning to my brothers.
"Let's let him rest," I say. "We have to talk."
"I say we give him a taste of his own medicine," Raph suggests, arms crossed. "Next time, I'm the one self-sacrificing. Let's see how well he handles it."
"No way, bro! I don't want you in that bed instead of Leo!"
Raph pats his shoulder.
"Don't worry, Mikey. I was thinking more of a 'Let's make him believe I'm hurt because I tried to protect all of you on my own' scheme."
"You mean, it wouldn't be for real?"
Mikey joins his hands in front of his mouth, taking a thinking pose.
"Hmm… I could help you fake the injuries… I know Donnie has an emergency blood supply…"
I raise my eye ridges.
"Which we're not depleting to prank Leo," I say sternly.
I can't believe it's not obvious.
Mikey shakes his head, still plotting.
"Then we can use ketchup. Or tomato sauce. What do you think?"
I turn to Raph, who is nodding pensively. I cross my arms.
"Guys, you can't do that to Leo. He's going to have a heart attack."
"He doesn't mind doing it to us," Raph protests.
"I'm pretty sure he's not doing it on purpose," I say. "And he will regret it when Sensei will tell him no training for a month."
Raph winces at the thought. Mikey idly plays with a half-filled test tube, which I quickly get back.
"Guys, there aren't enough Space Heroes seasons to last that long. What are we going to do?"
"That's what worries you the most?" Raph grumbles, quite unfairly, I have to say. First, Mikey is as worried as we are about Leo's recent self-sacrificing tendencies. Second, keeping Leo busy when he can't train half day is a problem in its own. My red-clad brother must have realized it, because he puts an arm around Mikey's shoulders before turning towards me.
"Alright, no faking lethal injuries. But we still have to do something."
I stick my tongue slightly out.
"I think I have an idea. An idea that would solve both problems…"
During the following week, Leo spends most of his time sleeping. That's perfect. This way, we have all the time we need to find what we're looking for.
Raph and Mikey are doubtful of my plan, but I've managed to convince them to give it a try.
Finally, everything is ready. We wait until Leo has recovered enough to stop falling asleep in the middle of a conversation and bring him our carefully wrapped up package.
"What's that?" Leo asks, surprised, when he opens it.
"That, my dear brother, is a pile of books," I answer. Rather smugly, I confess.
Leo raises an eye ridge.
"I can see that. But… why? I mean, I rather enjoy a good book here and there, and I really appreciate the intent, but…" He quickly counts. "Twenty-three books? Don't you think it's a little exaggerated?"
Raph grins at him.
"Look at the titles."
Leo shrugs and does as he's instructed.
"The Art of War. The Book of Five Rings. The Prince…"
Mikey, Raph and I exchange satisfied glances. Finding these books in dumpsters and garbage cans hasn't been easy, but we managed it. Some of them are even rare editions. You wouldn't believe what people can throw away.
"They are… strategy books?" Leo asks, uncertain.
"You got that right. You keep using the same stupid strategy lately, and Donnie thinks this can help."
"We hope it'll open your mind to new possibilities," Mikey adds emphatically. "Possibilities that don't involve you getting hurt."
Leo blushes hard and bows his head, ashamed. I smile at him and sit down next to him, putting an arm around his shell. He immediately leans against me.
"I'm only trying to keep you guys alive," he mutters.
"Yes, Leo," I soothe him. "And I promise these books can help. Come on, it's going to be fun. I'll read them with you, and then we can discuss them! I've always wanted to be part of a book club!"
Leo can't help smiling in front of my obvious enthusiasm.
"Yeah, it's going to be so much fun," Raph teases him. "Not as good as training, of course, but you can't anyways, so…"
Leo sags a little at the thought, and I glare at Raph. My red-clad brother only grins wider, and I roll my eyes. I guess I should be grateful he doesn't express in worse ways his displeasure with Leo getting injured on our behalf.
"Don't worry, Leo, I'll watch Space Heroes with you the rest of the time," Mikey offers gleefully. "Just be diligent with Donnie, so we don't have to use Plan B."
Leo narrows his eyes at him, his intuition kicking in.
"And what exactly is Plan B?"
I squeeze his shoulders protectively.
"You don't need to worry about that. Let's just say you're lucky we found these books."