A/N: Thank you all for reviewing this little fic of mine, they really do mean a-helluva-lot to me. It was a fun journey to get inside the deep and conflicted heads of our guys - and also - very educaional. I hope you'll drop a reivew after reading this last chapter. Thank you.

I Wish I Weren't Responsible

My master once told me something I've found myself looking back on constantly, especially since he passed away. Every time a decision has to be made, and I can't lean back on his experience and guidance, I silently repeat the sentence in my mind.

I am my worst enemy.

It's true. I'm in charge of taking care of my family; I'm the one he chose to lead them. Meaning, if we were ever to walk into a trap, I'm the one who led us into it. What I say goes. Not that they don't question my orders, because they do. But deep down, they trust me to do the right thing, they trust their big brother to have the answers – even Raph, whether he'd admit to it or not.

They trust me with their lives.

I don't know if you've ever had that kind of responsibility to carry. I mean, not that I question I wouldn't do everything in my power to keep them from getting hurt. I'd never do anything to risk their well being, not intentionally. But what burdens me is that I'm not perfect. My orders to them is never a guarantee I'll lead them out of the storm in once piece, yet somehow they trust I will. Every time we head into battle together - after I've revealed my strategy to them - they always give me this look, this sense of trust shining through their loyal eyes. Each time they do that, they faithfully place their lives in my bare hands, and I'm left holding their safety like a fragile crystal vase, fearing any movement on my part might break it.

A trust of that proportion can really wear a person down. Each time I give one of my orders, I silently question whether I've made the right decision or not. Me making the wrong choice would be the end of us all. I would literally send my own brothers to their doom. And the thing is, whenever I'm insecure about my choice, I can't ask them about it. I'm forced to keep a straight face in front of them, especially when on the field. I can't have them running off into battle, questioning the authority of their leader. They need to believe I have it all planned out, or else there'd be no reason to listen to me in the first place. And so in order for them to keep a clear mind in the chaos, I have to sacrifice mine.

I don't feel worthy of their trust. I know of my insecurities, I know of my flaws and I'm certain there will come a fight that all of us won't be able to recover from - not only because of me lacking some of the qualities Sensei had, but because we're destined to run out on the luck we've been blessed with so far.

And so each time they hand over their lives to me, I fear that time will be the moment I fail them.

I don't know how he did it, Master Splinter. When raising the four of us, he must've been out of himself with worry. Not only did he have four lives to protect, but he had four individuals to shape. And so based on our birth given qualities, and using our personalities in making his decision, he chose me to be their leader, their protector.

I've always been their big brother, yet there's no more truth in that than there is calling Mikey the youngest. In fact, we're all the same age. We celebrate our birthday on the same day - or actually, we celebrate the day he found us. The point is, he never treated us differently, even though some of us took their time to mature. No, what labeled me as the oldest and Mike as the youngest was no one but ourselves. I instinctively looked after them, worried about them - and so I was made 'big brother.' Well, that and the fact that I always obeyed Sensei.

Michelangelo always pulled pranks on the rest of us, and took any opportunity he could get to push Master Splinter's patience, all with a playful flicker in his eyes. Naturally, he was named the youngest.

But when growing up, even while playing the part of the oldest, I never really felt any reason to worry about them to the extent that I do now. I never had any reason to search for flaws in myself, because I was just a kid; a kid who happened to be a tad more responsible than his brothers. But when going from 'unofficial big brother' to 'chosen leader' all of that drastically changed.

I was fourteen when Sensei announced his decision. We all knew he'd been thinking about it, since he'd been pushing us harder and harder during practice. We sensed our training had gone from a way of life to a fatal necessity in those past few months. We were getting older, and Master knew he wouldn't be able to keep us from the world forever. And so he announced his choice and picked me as the leader of our modest clan.

There had of course been discussions amongst us about it, theories about who he'd pick – and why. All of them taunted me, saying: who'd better to get picked for leader than Splinter Junior himself? Raph's teasing was the worst; he had so many crude names for me, he could write an entire book about it, listing them from A to Z. And yet when the moment came and the decision was made official, he looked genially… envious, for the lack of a better word. I mean, he was upset, that was one thing for certain. But he didn't look hurt or anything. He looked angry, a maybe even a little bit betrayed. I know I've never said this to him, and he certainly hasn't told me about it, but I honestly think he'd been secretly whishing Sensei would pick him, or at least hoped he would. Maybe just to take the title away from me, or maybe he really wanted the responsibility, I really don't know. But he did want the title, at least back then.

Now, though, while I feel most of them can get really tired of me bossing them around, knowing our father left it in my power, I don't think any of them is up for trading roles.

Donatello hates conflict and avoids it at any cost. I don't think he'd feel comfortable handing out orders like I do, especially at the risk of someone refusing. No, I've always felt he's found his place in the background, doing what he does best away from the spotlight – inventing, researching. It's not that he'd be a bad leader, I'm certain he would take the job if it was handed to him, and his ability to understand and empathize with the rest of us would surely come in handy. But, I'm just as sure he doesn't want it.

Michelangelo, he's probably the most unlikely out of the four of us. It's like I said, he's the youngest, and not in age – but in spirit. He wants to live his life like a carefree child. Too much responsibility would weigh heavy on him, and perhaps risk putting out that beaming light about him that we all love so much, despite what we might tell him. You see, Mikey, he's too indecisive by nature, or perhaps by upbringing? I mean, dress the cat like a dog, treat him like dog and call him a dog and he's most likely gonna think he's a dog. But whatever the reason is for Mike's inability to make a quick decision, he wouldn't do well in calling the shots on the field. Don't get me wrong, with time I'm sure he'd learn, he would definitely brush up for the task if he had to, knowing it would save the lives of his brothers. But like I said, he wouldn't want the responsibility.

Then there's Raph. It's funny, despite his cold attitude, I think he'd handle the job better than the other two. Sure, he might be a little impulsive and thoughtless from time to time... okay, so most times. But I really feel he'd give himself a big, fat punch in the face if he knew he had to do it for the safety of his family. He's got a lot more discipline than he gives himself credit for, he really does. But even if he might be able to make a decent leader, it still doesn't change the fact that he doesn't want to.

In truth, none of us does. It's a heavy job to handle; it weighs down on you like a big rock someone dumped on our shoulders to carry. But I wouldn't give it up for anything. Not because I like it, because I don't, even though I've grown accustomed to the part, my thoughts and actions having melted together with it. No, I wouldn't want to give it up, because I wouldn't want them to have to carry the burden in my place.The responsibilty can drive you to the point where you think you're going insane, sometimes even consume you from the inside out with its destructive flames.

I would never put my family through that.

I don't care if I'll lose my sanity in the drowning sea of insecurity - in which I'm always standing knee-deep - I'll still carry the task; I'll carry it with pride. It is what my father wanted, and it is what I want to spare them.

But even though I might play the part of their leader, I sometimes wish they wouldn't trust me so wholeheartedly. Because I am merely doing just that: playing a part.