A/N: I know I'm not the first, but after 'The Croaking', I really needed some closure. Haha I started writing this right after the episode aired, but couldn't seem to get it out until now. hopefully it was worth waiting for!
Disclaimer: Do not own
After the whole frog escapade, when they were all safe and sound back at the farmhouse, when Donnie had finally patched the holes in the wall and Leo had just finished vacuuming, Mikey felt good. He was proud of what he accomplished, and of the new friend he'd made along the way. He was thrilled that he had finally shown his brothers that he wasn't just a punching bag that would never respond to their careless remarks. And, boy, if he wasn't glad to lick Ice Cream Kitty's face again.
But, as he mopped up the last bit of mess from the living room floor, there was a part of him that was still a sad. Of course he loved his brothers (and he knew they loved him...especially after Raph hugged him), and he knew from the start that running away was foolish, but...despite everything, they never actually apologized, and inside, he still felt a little...useless.
Aimlessly, dirtied water sloshed about the wooden slats as he brushed the mop over the floor. He tried to smile when Kitty meowed happily from her bowl on the coffee table. The sound was soft and a bit hesitant; Mikey knew she saw right through him, she always did. Sighing, he leaned on the mop-stick with slumping shoulders as his acted smile fell away.
"I'm okay, girl...sorry I left you," the young turtle mumbled sadly.
Waving her arms, Kitty chirruped warmly, affectionately; full of forgiveness.
Snorting a tiny laugh, Mikey leaned over to pet the cat's strawberry fur. "You da' best, Kitty-kitty."
But Kitty wasn't fooled. With face crestfallen and ice cream dripping from her chin, she mewled lowly and rubbed into Mikey's hand. It would be enough to break him, she knew that.
And instantly, Mikey collapsed, slowly sliding to the damp floor with a deep, exhausted sigh. Briefly, he tried to remember when last he slept. Was it two days ago, or three? "I don't know, Kitty," he murmured finally. His shell was against the coffee table, and the mop handle twisted lazily between his hands-which were not trembling, not at all.
Kitty could tell how hard her favorite turtle friend was fighting with himself. When he came home and opened the freezer door, he looked like he'd been trying so hard to pretend everything was normal. Like he'd been fighting a war just to behave, to make everything okay, and that he'd nearly broken himself in the process. From where he sat next to her, his eyes shined too bright, and his breaths sighed too deep.
"I feel like I screw everything up...like always," he muttered, just low enough so that none of the other ninjas in the house would hear. "I'm always breaking everything, and loosing focus, and causing trouble for everybody, ya' know?" he paused there for a moment, waiting her to purr him on. Another sigh. "If I had only paid attention and not messed up in the first place, then none of this would've happened. A-and, forget that!" he jumped around, spinning to stare at Kitty with big, serious, quivering eyes. "If I'd just been smart enough not to tell Attila about the farmhouse-!"
As quick as it came, the fire melted from Mikey's crystalline eyes, leaving his face sad and lost and completely hopeless. Kitty tried meowing softly, but the little terrapin was buried in his loathing now. Head down, and mop abandoned, all Kitty could see was the silent hitch of his shoulders, and the tiny leak that had sprung from behind his mask.
"Everybody could'a died, Kitty...and it would've been all m-my f-fault..."
Heart breaking, all Kitty wanted to do was get out of that stupid bowl and tell her best friend just how wrong he was, but...she was a cat, made of ice cream. All she could do was meow, and purr, and make delicious sundaes. What her beloved turtle needed now wasn't sweets, it was-
"Mikey? You okay, bud?"
Just then, Kitty was grinning despite herself. There was what Mikey needed. Quieting down, she settled into her bowl even as Mikey jumped and tried to wipe his tears away before the other could see. Still smiling, she waited and watched with love swelling in her tiny frozen heart.
"Yeah! I'm totally good, bro," it only took a second for Mikey's act to slide back into place, and as he spoke he jumped up and swirled the drying mop in the hands...only to promptly sway back where he stood. "Whoa, dude...head rush," he giggled nervously.
Honestly, he felt Raph by his side long before he saw him. As Mikey stood, everything was black and grey and a little fuzzy. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembered what Donnie told him last time: 'You're blood pressure plummets when you're over-tired and haven't eaten enough, Mikey...you have to be careful."
"Mikey?" he forced himself to focus hard at hearing Raph's voice. The older turtle sounded worried, unashamedly so. Raph had always been protective, but ever since the whole nightmare in New York, he'd been downright mushy. Mikey laughed.
At least, he thought he laughed. What Raph heard was more like a huff of air and an unintelligible mumble. "What? You okay, bonehead?" the elder tried, hopefully hiding some of his concern.
Shaking his head as his vision swam back to complete colors, Mikey forced on his best all-star grin. "Whew, yeah! I'm great!" standing a little taller, he wiped a hand over his face. "Man, this cleaning stuff is hard work!"
Raph rolled his eyes. He didn't buy it.
Ice Cream Kitty was grateful for that. She might still have a grudge with the hotheaded turtle for throwing her in the freezer, but she knew he meant well...most of the time.
"Hard work, huh?" Raph quipped, already eyeing the damp trails settled into Mikey's bright mask. "You spill some on your face?"
Honestly confused, Mikey raised a hand to his mask. Crap. He hadn't though about that. Another thing he messed up...he couldn't even hide his crying from the brother he idolized most. At least he could salvage it now...maybe. "Haha...yeeeeaahh...that stupid mop bucket and it's crazy splashing ways," he laughed a high-pitched, anxious bark.
Raph folded his arms over his plastron and eyed Ice Cream Kitty as she frowned. "Oh really? The mop bucket got ya'? From the hallway?" Raph nodded back far behind him. There, the traitorous bucket was sitting still and calm, not a drop around it.
Mikey flashed a quick glare to curse the innocent pale before trying again. "I-uh...jumped?"
Sighing, Raph's arms lowered and Mikey felt the warm weight of his brother's hand on his shoulder. "Com'on, Mike. What's goin' on with you? You're not hurt, are you?"
Mikey could feel Raph x-raying his bones...he hated it when he did that. "What? No! I'm fine. Geez dude," Mikey wined, wiggling out of Raph's gentle grip. "You're more of a mother hen than Leo,"
Raph huffed again, rolling his eyes. He knew what he had to do, and he hated it; Mikey's right, Raph thought, I'm turning into Leo. Trying to ignore that horrible truth, Raph took in a breath, and- "Listen, I'm sorry about what I said," Raph stared at Mikey with all the force of a freight train.
Mikey couldn't help but squirm, eyes on the ground, foot playing with the mop tendrils. "You don't hav'ta be...you were right."
Gently, firmly, Raph grasped Mikey's chin with gentle fingers; something he hadn't done since they were little kids and Mikey was hurt. The little brother's eyes were trembling with shame and fear...fear of, oh god, Raph stiffened, fear of him. Fear of abandonment. Stealing himself, Raph scowled deeply. "No, Mikey. I was wrong,"
Mikey was trying to shake his head, but Raph's guiding grip wouldn't let him.
"Look, what I said was soo uncool. You're an amazing fighter, and the things you do for our family are greater than anything we could ever ask for..." Raph paused for a minute to gage his brother's reaction, and maybe check his own emotions. "We're the ones who messed everything up, Mike, not you."
This time Mikey did break free of Raph's grip, spinning around as he did so. "But...none of it would've even happened if I hadn't trashed the house."
Raph ran a hand over his head and tried to find the right words. The room was silent for a minute, and every second he waited, he saw Mikey slip further into himself. It took Ice Cream Kitty hissing to finally push him forward. So much for right words...his words would just have to be good enough. "Well, yeah...I mean it wouldn't hurt for you to stop destroying the living room every time you watch tv," Mikey's shoulders sunk into his shell. Raph allowed it. "But, we shouldn't have overreacted either. I-I shouldn't have overreacted."
Mikey peaked up from his downcast stare, only enough so Raph could see the sky blue of his eyes shimmering bright and stormy. "I don't mean to make everything harder for you guys...I just...I'm just a screw up."
Sighing, Raph felt his temper simmer, just a little. Not for Mikey, not even for the messes the little guy manages to cause, but for the dejection; the sad and hopeless loathing burning through his baby brother's voice. "Mikey, none of us are perfect, we're all screw ups...you gotta know that, man! I mean, look at me! How many times have I almost destroyed our family, huh?"
Looking a little curious, Mikey raised his head and shrugged. "But that's different. There's always a reason behind what you do...I don't even think about it. I just..." Losing steam, he glared at the mop in his hands. "Get carried away, I guess."
"And you think I don't? When we wake up the next day and Leo's gotta black eye? Or how 'bout Donnie? What about when he doesn't sleep for days and ends up blowing up half the lair? Or Leo? You think he thinks about it when he worries so much in his own little head we all think he hates us?"
Slowly, minutely, Mikey shook his head.
"Bro," Raph was on a roll now. As he reached out to cup Mikey's tiny shoulders in his hands, he felt wise, comforting, and...a lot like Leo. "We're mutants. Being screw-ups is kind of in our nature,"
Kitty gazed on in awe, watching silently as Raph's expression opened up, and seemed to pull Mikey along with it.
"What you gotta know is that being a screw up doesn't make you any less important to us. You're our little brother, Mikey. There will never be a day when we don't love you."
Silence hung in the air for a long moment as Mikey stared up at his brother, mouth agape and eyes bigger than the planet. Then, suddenly, a grin broke out on Mikey's lips and he lunged forward, dropping the mop and encasing Raph in the warmest bear hug he could imagine. "Aw, Raph, I love you, too!"
Chuckling, Raph wrapped his arms around the littler terrapin's shell and rested his cheek on Mikey's head. "Little knucklehead,"
Meowing happily, Kitty raised up in her bowl and wobbled from side to side in her own little dance. Even as he buried himself in Raph's warm plastron, Mikey turned his head and winked at her with a giant smile.
From the doorway, Leo and Donnie wrapped their arms around each other's shoulders. It's true, Raph had never been big on the mushy parts of being a big brother, but when it came to Mikey, there was no one better.
A/N: Thanks for reading. Reviews make my day!