Leo instantly opened his eyes.
He blinked and blinked again, rubbing his fully awake senses, easing them down.
Sitting up in his futon, he drew in a deep breath, wondering what had woken him up like so, he couldn't remember. Leonardo felt that there was something amiss, but he couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly. The turtle stretched, he was always the first one to wake up, nevertheless, he got up, fixed his bed, discarding it to its rightful place at a nearby closet, after washing up, he dressed in his blue mask, swords and pads, exiting his bedroom, he made way towards the kitchen for breakfast.
At the corner of his eye, he noticed something near the TV area, turning to face it, he saw at the far side of the living room, behind the couch, somewhat facing him, a figure wrapped in bed sheets, resting behind the couch, head between his arms, somewhat hugging his knees. Leo knot his brows, he walked towards this sitting figure, only to see that it was his red masked brother, a small bowl of noodles, now empty, with chopsticks placed aside.
Leo knelt down and touched his brother's shoulder.
"Raph? Raph, wake up." He shook his gently.
With a small flinch, the other turtle squared his shoulders before lifting his chin up, "Ungh… Mikey?" blurry, sleepy eyes blinked, voice quizzical.
Three days ago, Mike had a terrible stomachache, April didn't want him to stay alone in the lair, not when Splinter had enough to worry about, while the others went of their usual patrol, so she had the young, orange masked turtle stay at her place until he got better. Mike's been throwing up, feeling nauseous and breathless, he was also feeling chills though yet he'd sweat, April claimed that it had been slight food poisoning, clearly Mike had eaten a too-old-pizza, his stomach went on strike, so until their baby brother got better, he'll be spoiled like a prince at April's place.
Leo smiled, realizing that his hotheaded brother was just worried, 'Raph even slept outside his room for once. Is he that worried about Mike?'
Raph blinked sleep away, once registering the blue colors, he frowned, "Oh, it's just you." He grumbled rudely.
Leo let it slip, "Yeah, just me." He sat himself next to his brother, "Why are you sleeping here, Raph? Are you that worried about Mike?"
The red masked turtle's face wrinkled sheepishly, caught with no way out, he did not deny it, "It's just so quiet here without him around."
Leo nodded, resting his back to the back of the couch.
After a moment, Leo spoke again, "April called late last night, she said Mike's gonna be alright, his stomach's pains have subdued, so he'll be back in a day or two."
"That fast?" Raph turned to his blue masked brother, "So, it's been like, what? Four days now?"
Leo nodded, he exhaled a deep breath, "The lair's really dead quiet without him making so much noise."
"Heh." Raph chuckled, tugging at the sheets around him, snuggling for warmth.
Leo faced his brother again, "What's the matter, Raph? Are you cold?"
Raph did not turn to face him, he shook his head, "Nah, I just thought…"
There was a pause, Raphael did not continue.
Leo arched a brow, his red masked brother was acting a little distant, "Raph, you alright?"
The red masked turtle sighed, discouraged, "I'm fine, Leo. Just go and do whatever it is you had in mind." He halfheartedly growled.
Leo felt uneasy, he didn't want to leave his red masked brother, but he knew if he sated, they'll end up fighting.
'How can I stay here with Raph and not end up in a fight?' Leo pondered, 'Something I can stall him with.' He thought again.
After a moment, Raph spoke, "Leo?"
The blue masked brother snapped from his thoughts, he turned to face his brother, "Yea?"
"What's with that face? You just zoned out on me." Raph muttered.
Leo smiled sheepishly, "Ah, sorry, got caught up in my thoughts."
Raph rolled his eyes, he picked up the chopsticks and started fiddling with them.
Leo watched him for a minute, silence fell between them.
Leo had his eyes focused on the faint, hardly seen marks and scars on his brother's hands, the rest of Raphael's arm was covered with the bed sheet, preventing the blue masked turtle for looking at any other marks. Raphael's scars were small, faint, and very, very old. Leo knew that most of those scars were during battles they've all fought together, but he also knew that some were scars that Raph would only speak of to himself.
Raphael, on the other hand, was feeling the chopsticks between his fingers, he held them like he did before, during the night. The red masked turtle remember waking up sometime at the middle of the night, a little famished, so he got himself a bowl of noodles and dug in, he was sitting on the couch, watching sports reruns, but all in all, it was muted, so no one noticed. After a few hours, Raph wished if his baby brother would make it back home again, he couldn't stand the silence anymore.
If silence was deafening, then it was too loud for him to bear.
Absentmindedly, Raph twirled the chopsticks around one finger a few times, like how a circus master dose with his small, black staff.
"How'd you do that?" Leo's voice spoke.
Raphael had almost forgotten that his brother was still there, "Uh, it was something Mike showed me."
Leo arched a brow, "Mind if I try?"
Raph shrugged and handed him the chopsticks.
After a few tried to actually fit the chopsticks between his fingers correctly, Raph chuckled, allowing himself to adjust the two overgrown toothpicks between the blue masked turtles fingers. Leo was frustrated at start, he didn't like using chopsticks, Don was the one who liked sushi, so he never had a reason to use them, he also remember Mike toying with his nunchakus once, using them between his fingers like overgrown chopsticks as well, but Leo never could understand why the bloody thing refused to stay still between his won fingers.
Leo's thoughts and frustration were scattered when Raph laughed.
"Geez Leo! You don't have to fight with the things, take it easy!" Raph chuckled.
Leo noticed that Raph had taken the blanket off himself, now neatly folded to the side, "Ah, sorry. I never could figure out how you can work with these."
Raph's smile widened, only a little, "When Mike first taught me how to use the things, I remember breaking a whole pack of them." He admitted.
Leo fidgeted with the sticks again, finally placing them in the right order, "I think I got it." he beamed, but when he tried picking something up, namely bubblegum wrapping from the floor, the chopsticks crossed and slipped out of his fingers, "Man!" he whined.
Raph laughed hard, "Oh great! Just great! The fearless leader ain't so perfect after all!" he mused.
Leo wanted to spout 'Oh yeah? Well you try it!' but then remembered that his brother could use the things like any everyday utensil, so he shut up and tried again.
Leo's attention was jerked away when Raph started coughing.
Raph's coughing was rigid and dry, tears formed at the corners of his squeezed, shut eyes.
"Raph?" Leo asked worriedly, chopsticks discarded, "Raph, you okay?"
"I'm fine!" Raph chuckled, clearing his throat, "I just chocked on my own slobber." He laughed again, coughs disturbing his breathing.
Leo relaxed, realizing the irony of his worry, "Don't scare me like that."
"Oh, I'm sorry mom! I'll be more careful next time I chock on my tongue." Raph chuckled, still merry.
Leo shook his head, he pushed himself up, "Anyway, I'm off for breakfast." He paused, "Want anything?"
Raph blinked, "With your cooking skills, I'd rather eat a shoelace!"
The blue masked brother glared, the red masked brother replied with a grin.
"Kidding!" Raph chuckled and stood up straight, walking pass his brother, he playfully nudged him, "I'm in a good mood today, I'm in for cereal, you?"
Leo had already noticed his brother's merry mode, so he decided to let it last longer, "Anything is fine with me."
With that, they walked into the kitchen.
They didn't notice a pair of eyes peeking through a bedroom door, whiskers twitched.
"So anyway," Raphael began, reaching into a cupboard, "when Mike comes back, how about we throw him a surprise?"
Leo blinked, staring at his red masked brother, "Like a welcome party?"
Raph nodded, still with a merry smile, "Yeah, I'm gonna tell him it was your idea, though." He chuckled.
Leo rolled his eyes, "Why is that?"
Raph shrugged, avoiding the answer, he poured the cereal into his bowl, but then he perked, "Oh!"
Leo looked at him from over his tea, "What is it?"
"Nothing." Raph said blankly, he marched out of the kitchen.
Leo blinked, confused.
A minute later, Raphael returned with the used noodles bowl and chopsticks, "Forgot to wash these, you know how master Splinter gets angry when we leave stuff behind." He told as he placed them in the sink.
Leo smiled, "We used to do that a lot when we were kids."
"Yeah, well Mike still does it." Raph chuckled.
Leo smiled, he picked up his tea and took a sip.
Facing him at the other side of the table, Raph added milk to his cereal and began to eat.
After a moment, Raph spoke, not looking at his brother, "Leo?"
"Hm?" Leo replied, not looking either.
"If Mike never existed, do you think our lives would've still been the way they are?"
Leo looked at his brother, "What?" he asked in disbelief.
Raph looked up to meet his gaze, dimness in his eyes, "I mean if it hadn't been for Mike, you and I would've killed each other a long time ago."
Leo knot his brows, "Raph?"
"I don't know Leo." Raph sighed, stirring his meal, "I've been thinking about it all night, it's what kept me awake."
Leo was dumbstruck, his hotheaded brother was actually picking up a genuine conversation together?
"I think of all the times I hit him when he acted stupid, then I think of all the times he made us laugh, others I remember how he'd ease up the mood when you and I get into fights." Raphael told, his gaze fixed to his bowl, "Makes me hate myself."
Leo was practically frozen, his hands cupping his teacup, listening.
"I'm always angry, I'm always picking up fights, I'm always getting into fights with you." He looked at his brother, "If it weren't for Mike, I'd…" he shook his head, unable to continue.
Leo felt something sink into the depth of his soul, "Raph…" he whispered.
"I don't hate you Leo, I'd never hate you." The red masked turtle matched his brothers gaze, "Do you hate me?"
"No! Of course not!" Leo instantly stood up, hands flat on the table, "Raph, you and Mike and Don, Master Splinter raised us as a family, just because we fight, doesn't mean we no longer love each other!"
For a few seconds, Raph looked startled, staring into his brothers eyes, only after a few more seconds did he recover long enough to reply, "I know that, dumbbell!" he growled, "That wasn't my question!" he allowed himself a lopsided smirk.
Leo quirked a brow, suddenly feeling like an idiot, "It wasn't?"
Raph warmly chuckled, "No, it wasn't." he sympathized.
Leonardo wished if the sewers would grow a mouth and swallow him.
"I was asking about my attitude." Raph spoke again, calmer than before, "I'm always tense, picking up fights with you, and you always fall for them."
Leo sat back down, a little confused, "Well you keep pressing the matter until you make my patients thin out."
Raph shrugged a shoulder, "Guess we're too stubborn for our own good, huh?"
Leo chuckled, "Look who's talking."
Raph finished his meal, he leaned back in his seat, "I hate to admit it, but I miss that midget already."
Leo smiled, finishing his tea.
A moment of silence passed.
Leo looked at his now mischievously grinning brother, "Yeah?"
"Can you bake?"
Leo arched a confused brow.
Mike stared, he couldn't believe the sight before him.
April allowed him to go home, saying that he's well enough, and his stomach was stable enough to carry on his own. Michelangelo was glad to be home, he wanted to sneak-surprise everyone, coming home earlier than expected, first he stepped into the living room, hearing nothing, he was about to leave to surprise his brothers, to make them jump out of their beds, he dearly missed having Raphael chase him across the lair, hoping that the startled noises he'd make would alarm his father, letting him know that the family prankster is back and is badder than before.
And God did he miss those flips!
Right after he went to his bedroom and toss in his bag, where he had placed some clothes while staying at April's place, also some stuff Casey was nice enough to get for him, comics and one-player games. The orange masked turtle heard a clatter in the kitchen, soon followed by coughing and a familiar stream of curses, recognizing the irritated choice of words, clearly from the mouth of his red masked brother, Mike was curious.
'What was Raph doing in the kitchen this early in the morning?'
Peeking inside, he saw two figures, each's face and shoulders were covered in white, blue, brown and reddish pink icings, laughing and arguing, one wore a red mask, the other wore a blue one, on the kitchen table were dirtied cooking utensils, egg shells, flour, milk, butter, and a somewhat nicely decorated cake with smudged icing on the side, on the floor was a small plastic bowl of sprinkles, clearly the culprit that caused the earlier noise.
Once they registered the orange masked turtle, they both froze.
Mike allowed himself a wide grin, threatening to split his face into two equal halves.
Raph instantly stabs a finger in the blue masked turtle's chest, "He did it!"
"What?" Leo cried, half humored, half shocked.
"It was his idea! He made me do this seeing I cook better!" Raph continued.
Leo let his jaw drop, his hands on his hip, he was at loss of lecturing words.
Mike walked over, the cake had 'Welcome Ho?e Mi?y!' the smudged letters were clearly missing.
"Sorry it sucks." Raph shrugged defensively, "Leo demanded we spell it Michelangelo and not Mikey."
"Michelangelo is better." Leo reasoned simply.
"For crying out loud, Leo! Can you spell three words with a name twelve letters long on a cake that small?" Raphael pointed at the cake.
Not realizing that Mike had lifted the cake, Rap handed up hitting it with his fist, ruining the icing even more, now it just lay there, knocked over and splattered upside down on the table.
Raph's shoulder squared, "Aw shell!" he winced back.
"Raph!" Leo scolded, "We spent three hours on that, and you just- ?"
"I love you guys!" Mike cried, hugging them both, icings and all.
Leo and Raph were startled, "What?" they asked in union, hesitantly hugging back.
Mike pulled back, stained with icings, he licked it off his face, "For once! I come back home and you two aren't fighting!" he gushed happily.
'Yeah, well don't get used to it.' Raph whispered embarrassedly more to himself than to the other two.
Mike let it slide, very excitedly he picked up the cake, presenting it to them, "And not only that, you even baked me a cake!"
Leo smiled, nudging Raph's side, "I'm glad to have you back, Mikey."
"Yeah, whatever." Raph muttered, whipping icings from his shoulders.
Putting the cake back on the table, Mike let out a happy cry, he latched to the two turtles, "Oh I love you guys!" he kissed them multiple times on their cheeks.
"Mike!" Leo winced while grinning, embarrassed in that tight embrace.
"Eww! Mikey germs!" Raph groused, once released from the hug, he started rubbing the icings away.
Mike licked his lips, "Gee Raph, you taste like blueberries!" he grinned, "Leo tastes like chocolate."
"And you smell like lemonade!" Leo chuckled.
Mike chuckled as well, "Yeah, April insisted that I have nothing but liquids until my stomach settles down." He shrugged, happily looking from one brother to the other, "I've been craving for something sweet, and who would've guessed that none other than you two would bake me a cake?" He gushed before he suddenly gasped teasingly, "Oh My God! Don't tell me it's the end of the world? Or did you defeat Shedder while I'm gone?"
Raphael and Leonardo rolled their eyes, looking at each other with sympathetic smiles. "It's good to have you back, Mikey!" Raph and Leo latched to their younger, orange masked brother, all three started in a laughing fit, poking and teasing at each other.
Very nearby, a rat smiled lovingly from where he hid, he chuckled to himself and silently made his way towards his room, a heartwarming feeling spreading across his chest, stroking his senses. As he left to his room, his purple masked son greeted him before passing by, heading towards the kitchen for breakfast, Splinter only nodded with a smile to his fourth son, greeting him back.
As the rat entered his room, he heard Donatello shout, "Guys! What the shell have you done to the kitchen?" that, of course, until his startled yelp was engulfed into the previous trio's laughter.
Their life was doing just fine.
A/N: Raphael and Leo are two bothers who really love each other, the only problem is that they cant connect because they have problems understanding each other, they're like a magnet, two opposite sides, Mike is the connector that lets them stick together even if they're not touching… or at least that's what I tried to portray in this little ficlet, I really hope you like it.