"You're a stupid little crybaby!"
"Shut up, Raph!" screamed Mikey tearfully.
"Crybaby, crybaby!" Raph teased relentlessly in a cruel sing-song. He stood on the lower ledge with Donnie and Leo, making faces up at the littlest of the brothers, who clung to the upper ledge for dear life. Water gushed noisily out of the sewer grate and splashed down the thirty or so feet into a violent whirpool before careening off elsewhere into the sewer.
"Come on, Mikey, just jump!" called Leo, trying to sound assuring over Raphael's rudeness. "You wanted to come, right?" They had all just turned eleven, and were exploring the sewers more everyday. After pouting that his older brothers had gone off without him and found a fun new place to play, Mikey had insisted that he be allowed to come. They may have been quadruplets, but it was obvious in the way they behaved that the level of their birth made lasting marks on their personalities, particularly little Mikey, who had a penchant for whining.
"No," snapped Raph, "you'll just get in the way."
"I won't, I promise!" Mikey begged on his knees, hands clasped tightly in mock prayer.
"It is kinda scary, you know, you might be too little." warned Donnie, playing with the newly formed gap where his two front teeth had finally come in spaced apart with his tongue.
"But Leo and Raph is shorter than you!" Mikey protested.
"ARE shorter," Donnie corrected, but he did stand up a little straighter, looming a few inches over both Leo and Raph. "And they're...tougher..." he continued, trying to sound gentle, but Mikey jutted out his lower lip.
"Mikey, it isn't safe for little kids," Leo said, trying to restore calm.
"We're the same age!"
"Yeah," snorted Raph, "but you're you.." With that, he gave his brother a not-too-gentle shove. Mikey whimpered as he stumbled, but quickly rounded on them as they headed towards the door.
"If you don't let me come, I'll tell Master Splinter!" he shouted. Leo and the others stopped dead in their tracks. Mikey also had a penchant for tattling. Begrudgingly, they had agreed, which is how Mikey now found himself above the man-made waterfall of the underground sewage system of New York. It roared and foamed white, and Mikey gripped a nearby pipe as each brother in turn plummeted into the water (Leo doing a flip, Donnie a sensible dive, and Raphael canon-balling)and to crawl out and emerge on the lower ledge of the deeper tunnels. Raphael saw that he was scared, and instantly started teasing him, which, try as he might not to, made Mikey cry. This only gave Raph more ammunition, and the exchange went on until finally Leo smacked Raph upside the head.
"Enough, Raphael," he said. Raph sneered at Leo's Splinter-like tone. "He's not going to do it."
"I knew you wouldn't!" Raph shouted. "I knew it!"
"Mikey, if you're not going to jump, just go back to the lair," Donnie called. Mikey quivered and trembled at the thought of the dark sewers, and walking all by himself...
"Come on, guys," said Leo, as he began to climb a nearby grid of metal bars to reach the top again.
"Where're you goin'?" asked Raph.
"He can't go back alone, he'll get lost."
"No I won't!" Mikey said indignantly, wiping his nose and eyes, but not able to stem the flow of tears. He could see Donnie was rolling his eyes and following Leo's lead, and Raph was waving his fists around angrily.
"See? This! This is why I didn't want to invite him! He ruins our fun by being a big baby about everything, and now we can't even enjoy ourselves because we gotta walk him home?"
Mikey clutched the bar tighter, his knuckles turning pale green, as the distance down zoomed in and out of his vision. His ears rang with the rush of water and Raph using all the bad words he had seen on TV.
"YOU WRECK EVERYTHING, MIKEY!" he shouted, stomping the floor of the sewer in a full on tantrum. "You're a crappy turtle and and even worse ninja! I can't believe I'm related to someone as damn cowardly as you!" Donnie and Leo stopped in their tracks to stare at the red-clad turtle, who glowered, eyes full of rage and teeth gritted, up at Mikey, who was openly sobbing now. "Stop crying you wimp! You baby! YOU IDIOT! I HATE YOU!"
Mikey choked, his brother's mean words slicing through him like a sword's blade. Mikey could see, even from his height, that Raph had meant what he said. He was practically glowing with anger. He pushed back against the wall, out of his brothers' sight. He wasn't crying anymore. His stomach felt hollow and his senses dulled. Something in Mikey suddenly turned. Maybe it was anger, that Raph could say that, or hurt that he even would. But Mikey's sadness turned to stubborness. He knew what he had to do.
Donnie and Leo climbed back down, and Leo punched Raph in the arm.
"What'd you say that for?!" he yelled. Raph instantly rounded on him.
"Because it's true!" he spat.
"You're the idiot!" Leo shot back.
"Master Splinter says you have to be careful with your temper, Raph," Donnie waded tentatively into the conversation, holding up his hands as if to show he was unarmed. Raph snarled at him but he continued. "Once you say something like that...you can't just take it back..."
"I don't wanna take it back! Ever!"
"Leave me alone 'O Fearless Leader'!"
With that the two eldest brothers set back to squabbling, but soon Donnie grabbed both of their shoulders.
"Guys, stop...STOP!" he said urgently. He pointed their attention to the top ledge. "Mikey's gone!"
"What?" Leo instantly scanned the levels above him, trying to see various angles. "Where'd he go?"
"Ugh, who cares," Raph sneered, but Leo and Donnie ignored him.
"Mikey!" they called, the echo ringing about the sound of the falls. "MIIIIIKEEEEY!" All that came back was the thunderous sound of water gushing.
"We've gotta find him," said Leo, beginning to climb the metal bars again. Just as he grabbed the first bar, Donnie pointed and yelled.
A cry of determination was followed blur of green and orange shot off the upper level, and seemed to hover in mid air before rocketing downwards.
"MIKEY!" all three brothers cried. Mikey flailed in the air, screaming, limbs windmilling uselessly, and hit the water with a hideous sounding splash, and disappeared below the stormy, foamy current.