DISCLAIMER: I don't own the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm not sure who owns the comic books, or the new series for that matter (this story comes off the new cartoon), but it isn't me. I'm just a lowly writer with no life. I am not making any money off of this. No infringement is intended.
I don't own the Goonies either. I just adore them.
Three sets of scared young eyes watched the bed as the small figure tossed and turned, groaning. Another, older, wiser set of eyes narrowed in worry and grief as a furry paw brushed the boy's fevered forehead. The bandana had been taken off days ago; his master placed a wet cloth where it had been and sighed.
"Is he gunna be okay, Sensei?" asked one of the boys. Splinter closed his eyes, wishing he knew the answer.
"Your brother is very sick," he said, not taking his eyes from his son's face, contorted in pain and fear and whatever else the poor boy was feeling at the moment. "Pneumonia can become very grave. Only time will tell."
The boys nodded, their young eyes wide.
"Thankfully," Splinter continued, "He has the form that is not catching, so each of you may spend as much time with him as you like, within reason. Your presence will help to heal him, I am sure. But for now, there are sandwiches in the refrigerator that I made for you. Go eat some dinner."
"What about you?"
"I must stay with your brother," their Sensei told him. "I will eat later. Thank you."
The three boys left, and Splinter turned his full attention to his sick son.
Several minutes later, one of the boys reappeared in the doorway. He held two sandwiches in his tiny hands. Splinter did not have to turn around to know who it was.
"Michelangelo," said the wise rat, "Why are you not eating with your brothers?"
"I didn't wanna leave him, Sensei," his youngest son replied. "I made you a sandwich, too. Can I eat in here, with you?"
Normally, Splinter did not allow his sons to eat anywhere except the kitchen or, on occasion, in the living room, but seeing his son's eyes, small and sad and afraid, he sighed. Michelangelo was always the caring one, the giver, the nursemaid. Even in his young age, even amongst his childish silliness, the motivation to make everything right for his family was always there.
"Yes," said Splinter. "You may. Try to be neat, however," he knew it was a helpless ploy and crumbs would wind up everywhere, but it was worth a try. Michelangelo brightened immediately and nodded. The two of them ate in silence.
The sleeping turtle shifted and tossed and moaned, but did not wake.
SIX YEARS LATER
Michelangelo paused for a moment, allowing a small cough to escape his lips. Shell, it's cold in here, he thought. But Raph was quick with a sai, and he had to be quicker to block. He struck out with a nunchuck, relieved that his older brother hadn't noticed his small lapse. He had told his brothers, and his sensei, that he was not too sick to practice today, because while all of them (except Leo) grumbled about it, having to sit out for a day was really tough on the spirits.
He didn't feel sick; if it weren't for the stupid cough he'd had for the past couple days, he'd be fine. Mikey wasn't worried. Cold sewer air did a number on the lungs, but hadn't slowed him down too much.
As he and Raph paused to regroup, Mikey coughed again. The urge to do so had been bugging him for a while, but he was afraid that if Splinter or Leo or even Donnie caught him weakening in the slightest, they'd freak out and send him to bed or something.
However, none of the aforementioned three seemed to notice anything. It was Raph who, to Mikey's surprise, relaxed his stance.
"Are you sure you're doin' okay, Mikey?" he asked.
"M'allright," Mikey replied, trying in vain to stifle another cough. Talking made the urge too unbearable to supress. He dissolved into a coughing fit, well aware that the clashing sounds that were Leo and Don had stopped. Mikey took a deep breath and straightened. "I'm okay," he assured his family.
Raph raised an eyeridge. "Yeah," he said dryly, "I noticed."
"You sound awful," said Leo, placing a hand on his brother's shell. "You should take a break."
"I'm really okay," said Mike. "I don't feel sick at all."
"But your cough is slowing you down," said Splinter, approaching the four of them from the other room. "I have been watching you, my son, and you have been weaker today than you have these past couple of days. I fear that you have been working too hard, and if you push yourself much further, you could become very ill."
"I've been worrying about that too, Mikey," said Don. "You may not feel sick now, but with too much exertion, you could come down with bronchitis or pneumonia. Remember what happened last time one of us ignored the signs of being sick? I certainly don't want to go through that again."
"Me neither," said Leo quietly. When they were ten years old, Raphael had nearly died of pneumonia. It was the sickest any of them had ever been.
"I'll second that," said Raph darkly. "Take it from me, Mikey, you don't wanna work yourself too hard here. It ain't fun."
"But I'm not..."
Splinter hushed him with a glare and took Mikey's chin in a furry paw. His wise eyes stared into his son's round ones for a very long minute.
"It is as I suspected," their master finally said. He released Mike's chin, and the young turtle began to cough again. "You are sicker than you realize, my son. Try to rest before it becomes much worse. Practice is over for today," he told them all. "You may go."
The night was warmer than the past few weeks had been, and clearer. The almost-full moon lit up the rooftops with a ghostly white light. Leo was glad that they'd opted to walk – or, rather, creep by way of the shadows – to and from April's rather than drive. It was nice to have the chance to do this after the long winter.
If only Mikey could see this, he thought. He'd love it.
Splinter had refused, and Leo, Donnie and Raph had backed him up, to let Michelangelo out of the lair, especially at night when the air grew colder. The last thing they needed was a sick brother on their hands.
"He'd have had a field day," said Don, practically reading Leo's mind. "All the paint... he can be a real artist when he wants to be. He'd be in his element."
"Yeah," said Raph wryly, "But think of the mess he'd have made. The parts of her apartment that she didn't want to repaint would've gotten splattered."
"I thought Casey did a pretty good job of covering that one," said Leo. His brothers laughed. But Leo cut them off quickly, suddenly going very grave and staring into the distance.
"What's the matter, Leo?" Raph taunted. "Spider senses tinglin'?" Leo ignored him. There was a long silence. "There's nothing there. C'mon, I'm starvin.' Can we just go already?"
After another tense pause, Leo nodded, and they kept on.
The man with the camera on the neighboring roof ducked when the three... whatever they were... stopped. They were very good with stealth, that was for certain. It had taken him months just to get a decent picture. And he could have sworn there were four... but their abilities with the shadows could have made it easy to miscount.
He smiled, lowered his camera and went downstairs.
"Hey, Mikey," said a small, hoarse voice. Michelangelo jumped a mile and hastily scrambled to cover up what he'd been drawing. He shoved the paper under the couch and threw all the markers back in the box. "Wacha doin'?"
"Nothin'," Mikey replied. Raph smirked, unconvinced. "Just... colorin'. I wasn't making you a card or anything. Wanna watch TV?"
Raph smiled. "What would you want to make me a card for? I'm not sick."
"Sensei says you are."
Raph coughed, then scowled. "Well, I'm not. I don't get sick."
Leo would have argued him to the death that he was no better than the rest of them, Donnie would have launched into an explanation about how because of the ooze, they were just as susceptible to illness as normal human kids, and Splinter would have lectured his son (not for the first time) on the importance of not becoming too arrogant. But Mikey shrugged, grinned amicably and picked up the remote.
"Hey!" he cried. "The Goonies is on!"
The Goonies was probably the only movie that all four boys could agree on. Even Sensei enjoyed watching it from time to time. It wasn't long before Leo, Don and Splinter (who insisted to a glowering Raph that he wear a blanket) had joined them.
Raph smiled fondly at the memory as the flipped through the channels and lo, and behold, found that their childhood favorite was on again. It had been so long since they'd watched this...
"Hey, Mikey," he called. "Guess what's on."
Michelangelo, wearing a quilt over his shoulders – it was still freezing in here – entered the living room. "What?"
"Take a look."
Mike's face burst into a grin when he recognized the chubby face of the boy on the screen. "I smell ice cream," he and Chunky said in perfect unison. Raph grinned.
"Wanna watch for old times' sake?" he asked.
"Why, Raphael?" said Mikey mockingly. "Are you becoming sentimental? Goin soft in your old age?"
"Old age, my shell. I couldn't even buy porn if I were human. And no, I'm not goin' soft."
"Yes, you are!" Mike exclaimed. Glee filled his voice. "You're goin' all sweet on us, Raphy!"
"What's Raph doing this time?" asked Leo as he and Don came into the room.
"Hey," Don cried. "Is that...?"
"Yep," Raph replied, hoping to avoid answering Leo's question. He had a reputation to keep. "I was just flippin' through, and I saw it." Mikey coughed.
"Geez," said Don. "It's been years..."
"Wanna watch it?" asked Mikey.
Leo and Donnie looked at each other.
Mikey's eyes were glowing at the end of the movie. "Someday," he declared, "I wanna go find treasure just like the other Mikey. Then I'd be so rich, that no one would care that I'm a turtle and I could become a pirate and bury all my gold and..."
Splinter, though smiling at his youngest son, hushed him. He pointed to a sleeping Raphael.
"I do not wish to wake him," he explained. "Your brother is sick, and needs his rest."
"He says he's not," said Mikey. "He told me he doesn't get sick."
"That's stupid," said Leo. "He's no better than the rest of us. We all get sick."
"The ooze that mutated us gave us a lot of human like qualities," said Don. "That's why we can have fevers, even though we're cold blooded, and we are just as susceptible to diseases as any one else is."
"Arrogance is not a virtue, my sons," said Splinter. "Now, all of you get ready for bed."
Mikey touched his brother on his cheek. "Mas'er Splin'er?" he said. "His face is hot."
"I'm sure it is, Michelangelo," said their Sensei. "He is running a fever."
"He'll get better, right?"
"Yes, with the proper rest. He will not want to admit that he is ill, but he will need to learn to take proper care of himself if he is to get well."
"He's doomed," muttered Leo.
"Leonardo," said Splinter. "I do not appreciate that kind of talk."
"Now all of you, it is time for bed."
"Wow," said Don as the credits began to roll. "Now, there's a trip down memory lane."
"Tell me 'bout it," said Raph. "That movie's gotta be... how old?"
"Decades. I think it came out in the eighties..."
"Classic," Raph muttered, shaking his head. "Such a classic. Don't ya think so, Mikey?" He looked at his little brother. "Mikey?"
Michelangelo had fallen asleep on the couch, his head drooping over the armrest and his arms holding the blanket tightly around him. He was snoring quietly.
"He fell asleep watching The Goonies?" said Leo. "I thought he loved that movie."
"He's exhausted," said Donatello. He stood up. "Poor guy. Coughing like that all day took a lot out of him. It tires you out." He placed a three- fingered hand on Mikey's forehead and let a breath escape through his teeth. "Aw, man," he said. "I was afraid of this."
"What?" asked Leo and Raph at the same time.
Donnie sighed. "Often before a fever, especially with us, because we're cold-blooded and don't maintain an internal temperature independent of our environment, the body feels cold, even though the air may not be. So the person (or mutated being) will use a blanket or other insulator to warm up. In the process, the body heat rises to an abnormal level."
There was a pause.
"So..." said Leo. "He has a fever?"
"Yeah," Don replied. "He's sicker than he thought."
"We should wake him up, then. He needs to get to bed."
Leo, Don and Raph had to shake their brother and say his name loudly before Michelangelo would stir. He groaned, blinked and started to cough. All three of his brothers cringed at the harshness of its sound.
"Geez, Mikey," said Raphael. "You sound awful."
Mike shifted uncomfortably. "Love you too, bro," he muttered.
"Come on, Mikey," said Leo. "You need to get to bed."
"Did I miss the movie?"
"Don't worry about it," said Don gently. "We'll get April to rent it for us sometime. Right now you need your rest."
"Did I sound that bad?" Raph asked Leo in an undertone as Donnie led their sick brother to his room.
Leo shook his head grimly. "Worse," he said. "Much, much worse."