Mikey cried out dramatically with a slump to the tatami flooring beside a grinning Leo. "Finally! No more extra flips! No more katas! No more whacks from the end of Sensei's cane!"
"Oh come on, Mikey. It wasn't that bad."
Mikey huffed. "Of course you'd think that, bro! You're Leonardo! You live and breathe for training!"
It was the only possible explanation why the oldest of the four turtles would find something like additional training—which was supposed to be a form of punishment—so freaking enjoyable!
With Raph still out of commission, the three remaining brothers were subjected to extensive training by Splinter which Mikey had the feeling were made to run the rest of them ragged, extra flips and katas excluded. And to think he and Leo had three days worth of extra training to do!
So pardon Mikey if he was flopping merrily like Christmas had come early on the last day of the punishment.
"Ooh, I'm beat. I think I'm gonna go into hyperbation until tomorrow, or next week." Mikey sighed, already curling on the floor. "Wake me up when the pizza's here, all right?"
Leo smirked with a shake of his head. "I won't sleep down here if I were you, unless you want to give Sensei more reasons to add to your flips tomorrow."
Mikey promptly jumped up and backed away in terror. "No! Holy jaloopa anything but that—!"
"Besides, you wouldn't want to miss out on movie night now, would you?"
"Huh, movie night?" The orange masked turtle blinked with a tilt of his head.
"Since we still can't go on patrol yet, the others figured we can just kick back, gorge on chips and watch the good stuff like we used to back at the farmhouse." Leo explained, smiling wistfully. "April's promised to bring the food and Casey's got some new movies. He even got a Disney one because everyone knows how much you love those."
Mikey felt a grin bloom on his face at the thought. After Leo had woken up but was still recovering from the Shredder's vicious attack during the Kraang invasion, the four brothers, April and Casey have taken to lounging in the farmhouse's living room after training, surrounded by chips, pizza and popcorn while watching old movies April had managed to scavenge in the house's attic.
They never really found the time to have a movie night again after returning to New York, and while Mikey never really mentioned it, deep down he sorely missed those lazy yet fun filled nights. Besides, who could really say no to Disney?
And speaking of Disney…
"Did Casey also bring the—?"
"Seven times of seeing the Lion King is more than enough, Mikey!" The stern effect Leo was trying to project was ruined by barely smothered laughter. "But Casey's promised a movie that he'd think you would enjoy just as much."
The youngest turtle pouted. "Nothing's gonna ever beat the Lion King."
"You'll never know until you try, little brother." Leo said patiently, holding a hand out to Mikey. "What do you say?"
Mikey pretended to think about it before taking his brother's hand. "Oh fiiine. Did Casey mention what the movie was though?"
"It's one of my favorite Disney movies ever, Mikey! I'm sure you'll love it!" April said enthusiastically as she placed bags of chips and snacks on the kitchen table. "I can't say for sure it'll be something like the Lion King for you but it is a pretty good one!"
"Maaaybe." Mikey said after placing the second bag of popcorn in the microwave. "What's the story about anyway?"
"It's about this girl who pretended to be a guy to get into the army for her old man." Casey shrugged at the surprised looks sent his way. "It was at the back of the video cover, dudes. If I had to go rent a movie, I should at least know what it's gonna be about, right?"
April shrugged. "Point."
"I'm just psyched over all of us getting together for a movie night like old times." Mikey said happily over a pan of melting butter on the stove. "Don't tell the guys I said so, but with everyone being so focused on the Kraang, the Foot and Karai, we never make time to just relax and spend some quality time, y'know?"
A fond smile crossed April's lips. "Well, at least we've got you to remind us how important that is too, right? Relaxing, quality time and all?"
"Yeah, that would be—"The freckled turtle then winced. "Eh, nah, the bros will probably think it's just me looking for an excuse to goof off. You know how hard it is to gather them all in one place unless it has something to do with patrol."
"Yeah, but you're always able to do it somehow, Mikey." Casey said with a shrug. "Besides, I'm sure the guys will be all for it if you told them outright why you think you should make time for movie nights."
There was a pause before Mikey piped up, so softly that the humans had to lean forward to hear it. "You guys really think so?"
"Absolutely." April answered with a firm nod. "There's more to life than being ninjas, you know. But I get that with everything going on around us, it can be easy to forget that. That's why it's such a big thing for everyone that you never do."
"So don't think of kicking the bucket anytime soon, little dude." Casey added, slinging an arm around Mikey's shoulder. "The Lair's gonna be a dull place if you ain't around."
There was something off with the gruff way Casey said it that made Mikey's gut twist, and if he weren't holding the pan with the butter, the turtle would have face palmed. Of course Casey and April must have been affected by what happened with the Mega Shredder too! Were the two humans not part of their extended family?
Stupid Mikey, I can't believe you forgot about them! The small turtle berated himself. Bad Mikey! Bad! Bad! Bad stupid jerk Mikey!
"Aww, man, I can't believe I've been such a dope!" Mikey said after switching off the stove. "All this time I've been worrying about how my bros and Sensei have been hit by what happened by the Mega Shredder that I didn't even think about how it would have felt on your end!"
April smiled gently. "Hey, it's OK, Mikey. We were just glad you and Leo were fine. And Casey and I get it, you have your family to—"
"That's just it!" Mikey interjected. "You guys are my family just as much as my bros and Sensei are! And it was really not cool of me to forget about how you guys must have felt at the time just because everything turned out to be OK.
"So I'm really, really sorry for what happened with the Mega Shredder, I'm really sorry for making you all worry and I'm sorry for being a bad turtle bro and forgetting. But it won't happen again!" Mikey raised a determined finger. "I swear on my honor as the pizza loving teenage mutant ninja turtle!"
April and Casey blinked wordlessly for what felt like forever and a day before the humans broke into laughter.
"H-hey!" Mikey sputtered, his cheeks ablaze. "I was being serious, guys!"
"Sorry, Mikey, but we just couldn't help it! You really are something else!" April said, tone as soft and fond as the hand she rubbed on Mikey's head. "But I meant what I said. Yeah, we were worried like crazy when you and Leo disappeared like that, but having you back safe and sound was more than enough to make up for it."
"Oh but you guys were mad about it too, right?" Mikey pointed out. "Just say it if you were. My bros were too at first."
"Well yeah, but not much because I guess I could say I saw where you were coming from at the time." Casey said while April nodded. "That's just how you four are, really. And if I were the one on your shoes, I would have totally done it. Just…try not to get too close to getting killed for comfort next time, all right?"
"And for the record, you're not a bad turtle bro, as you put it." April added. "You're a very awesome one, and swear on your pizza loving turtle self that you won't forget that too."
It was Mikey's turn to blink momentarily before smiling. "Gee, you guys drive a hard bargain, but if it's for movie night…"
There was another round of laughter before Mikey took out the freshly made popcorn and poured in the butter and salt, but the slow building warmth never left Mikey's eyes or heart.
It only grew to a steady burn when the three friends, armed with snacks and drinks, arrived at the living room to find not only Leo, Raph and Donnie gathered in the living area, but Splinter as well.
"What? Did you really think I would say no to a good movie or two?" Splinter said with mock loftiness at Mikey's stupefied look. "Besides, I heard April managed to procure some delectable cheese puffs."
"Geez, what the shell are you waiting for, Mikey?" Raph grumbled, though his grin gave his excitement away. "We even got that Disney princess movie popped in for you already!"
"And after that, we get to watch the sequel to the first Star Wars movie!" Donnie said excitedly. "Though technically, movie chronology speaking, the first Star War movie is the fourth because the last three movies are the—"
"Yes of course, Donnie, you've only explained that for the hundredth time." Leo's eyes twinkled merrily. "Now can you guys get the popcorn over here so we can start the movie?"
"Two heaps of buttery goodness, coming right up!" The orange masked turtle laughed after taking his seat between Donnie and Raph, basking in the warmth of home, happiness and family that he would never trade for anything in the world and that he would live a long time for to keep on going.
And as the rest of his family sat back, enjoying buttery popcorn, pepperoni pizza, cheese puffs, and the excitement of watching Mulan take out nearly the entire Hun army with a single canon, Mikey blinked back the sting in his eyes with a blinding grin.
I have everything I'll ever need right here.
And it's done! Ooooh my! Can you guys believe it?
Much gratitude to everyone who stuck with me thus far and read this baby all the way to the end. It's been fun writing it and I can never thank you all for joining me in this journey. This story is officially closed but if you've enjoyed this one, I hope you'll also consider reading my future works.
And for those who are interested, I'm now free to continue the "other side" version of this story in AO3, titled "Always Be Here". Expect the next chapter of that to come out early next year, because you know, holidays. :D
Merry Christmas to you all and a Joyous New Year!