Notes: Okay, so I decided to create a small series, off the back of 'The Things I Always Mean To Say'. This is the second instalment.
The Things I Sometimes Need To Hear
The woods around Casey's Grandmother's farm were perfect for exploring, in Michelangelo's opinion. He'd been reprimanded for it before, having been accidentally spotted by a neighbour, and consequently sparking thewhole 'Monster Hunter' business. Of course, being the inquisitive character he was, Michelangelo was not put off by his father's firm pleas for the turtle to remain within the vicinity of the house. He surveyed his surroundings with his critical artist's eye, searching for the perfect scene for him to sketch or paint at a later date.
The turtles and their father had joined Casey and April at the farm, using the time to recover following their outlandish adventures over various parts of an unknown galaxy with Professor Honeycutt, and then their experience in the virtual reality device the Utroms set up,which was not before facing the Shredder once again. The father of the four turtles had kept up their training during their stay at the farm, but that afternoon, he was giving them some time off. The previous day, they had talked and reminisced over and events and had much to contemplate, and he was allowing them the time to do so that afternoon, privately if they wished. He too would privately meditate over events, many of which had had a greater affect on his family than most realised.
Michelangelo, not the fan of meditation, thought he would be the only turtle wandering about the surrounding countryside and woodlands that afternoon. When he'd left, Splinter had been in his room, Casey and April had been enjoying a movie, and Donny and Raphael were both in the barn, practicing their katas and sparring together. He guessed that Leo was around the house, doing something or other.
He guessed wrong. Michelangelo almost jumped out of his shell when, approaching the edge of the woodland leading into a small, secluded field, he saw his brother sitting upon the lush grass, seemingly deep in meditation.
Ordinarily, Mikey would have seen this as the perfect excuse to cause some mischief. He could sneak up on his brother and clap in front of him to startle him, or he could find something light, like a long blade of grass, and lightly run it over his brother's skin (maybe somewhere particularly sensitive, like the back of his neck) to tickle him. Either one would be just as effective, in order to irritate Leonardo.
But instead of doing one of those things, he sat opposite Leonardo, cross-legged on the grass, and bathed in the rays of the setting sun and the harmonious silence. Michelangelo began to ponder as to why he didn't feel like irking his older brother. Normally, he took every opportunity to tease his brothers, no matter how busy or moody they were, and in spite of the consequences he'd face.
Perhaps, over the recent months and having been through the events the family had gone through, maybe Michelangelo had matured. He himself involuntarily shuddered at the memory of one particular moment in the Utroms' virtual reality device: the moment the Shredder had knocked him out cold with one fierce punch.
Having been given the time later to think about what had happened, Mikey mentally kicked himself more than once for being an idiot. The whole time he'd been mocking various characters they came across in the virtual reality unit, his family had been telling him to cease to do so. Why hadn't he listened to them? They'd been right, and for not heeding their advice, karma had come back to bite him on the backside – or rather, strike him in the face. Maybe, though it had long disappeared, maybe the mark still stung enough somewhere inside him to remind him to think twice about ticking people off. Maybe that was one of the reasons he didn't mess with Leo that afternoon, when he found him meditating in the woods. But then again, Mikey thought to himself with a shrug of his shoulders, and a wicked twinkle in his eye, maybe I just don't feel like ticking Leo off. Today.
Michelangelo was so deep in deliberation, he didn't realise the brother sitting opposite him had opened his eyes, azure eyes that widened in surprise when he saw the orange-clad turtle sitting opposite him. Not only was Leo surprised at his brother's presence, but more than that, he was surprised to see him meditating. Leo stood up and looked around, wondering if Splinter was nearby. He raised his brow when he didn't see their Sensei. Okay... if Splinter's not making him, then why the shell is Mikey meditating? Leonardo crept closer towards his brother, peering intently at him, wondering if he was looking at a mirage. Have I been sitting in the sun too long?
Sensing a presence in front of him, Mikey snapped his eyes open. Seeing Leonardo's face directly in front of him, not half a foot away from his own, Michelangelo yelped and fell backwards in surprise.
"Whoa, Leo, personal space," Mikey grumbled defensively, holding his hands up in front of him.
Leonardo sat back on his heels and offered his brother a lopsided smile. "Sorry, bro, I didn't mean to scare you, I just wanted to check it was really you – it's not your style to meditate without being forced to."
"I wasn't really meditating, just thinking," Mikey said with a shrug.
"Thinking about anything in particular?" Leo asked curiously.
"Whether or not to make you jump whilst you were meditating," Mikey told him with a glint in his eye.
Leo lightly shook his head with a smile on his face. His brother never changed – always out to have a laugh, usually at someone else's expense. Leonardo sighed, his grinning features dropping to become more pensive. Sometimes, when Mikey wanted a laugh, it was at his own expense. There was the time Raphael got so ticked off with his youngest brother, he was more than prepared to strike him with a lead pipe, and more recently, there was that incident in the virtual reality device.
Michelangelo didn't miss the change in his older brother's expression, and cocked his head slightly. "What is it, Leo?" he asked simply.
Leonardo shook his head free of his thoughts, and said, "it's nothing, don't worry."
Mikey folded his arms. "Nah, no way, uh-uh, not taking that for an answer," he said firmly. "Whenever you say, 'don't worry', that means you're doing enough worrying for all of us. So whatcha worrying about?"
Pausing for a moment, Leonardo considered this, and nodded slightly, privately thinking that his younger brother was a lot more astute than anyone gave him credit for. "Guess I was just thinking about all the things we've been through recently," he admitted.
"I think that's what we've all been thinking of lately, like we all did last night," Mikey said, reminding his brother of the evening the family and friends sat around the campfire, reminiscing of all they'd gone through, whilst facing their mortal enemy, the Shredder.
Leonardo sighed. "I know," he said bitterly. "And you know something else? Raph was right. Fearless Leader doesn't always get it right. In fact, most of the time, your Fearless Leader gets it all wrong," he spat, endingthe brief, biting outburst that came out of nowhere.
Taken aback, Mikey's eyes widened. "No, Leo," he said quietly and emphatically. "You never get it wrong."
Leonardo felt bad for pouring out his frustrations to his younger brother, but the dam had been unexpectedly broken, and he could no longer contain them. For a while now, he'd needed someone to vent to and whether he liked it or not, Michelangelo had unwittingly triggered this. "Don't I? How many times have we had to face the Shredder because of me?"
"Hey," Mikey said in gentle protest. "Firstly, whenever we faced all those enemies, you were the one who ultimately bailed our butts out of it. And secondly, you aren't to blame for the enemies we have. Our beef with the Shredder has gone back as far as Sensei's Sensei. We've all inherited that battle; it's part of our honour and stuff," he told him.
Leonardo briefly screwed his face up at his brother's phrasing of "honour and stuff," before Mikey continued.
"You don't have to take everything on your shoulders, Leo," Mikey finished.
"But I do," Leonardo cut in. "It's just what I do. I'm responsible for you guys, and making sure you all stay out of trouble."
"Okay, reality check here, Leo, we're in our mid-teens, and you're not our counsellor at summer camp," Mikey said bluntly. Leo was not getting the message, and Mikey wasn't happy about it. "I get it, you're our big brother, and you have to act all big-brothery. You do it real good, too, and even though we haven't exactly sent you a Hallmark card to show it, we appreciate it. But," he added, "no matter how much of a great big brother you are, you're never gonna stop us from making mistakes. You're never gonna stop Raph going out for air when he wants to. You're never gonna get Don to quit tinkering with gadgets at night and go to bed at a reasonable hour. And, yeah, you're never gonna get me to stop doing whatever the Shell I do that keeps getting me into trouble."
"I know, but..." Leo said, but he was interrupted.
"Do you really know? If you do, it hasn't stopped you taking on all the guilt when things go wrong. Dude, just accept that it happens," Mikey told him, folding his arms and turning away slightly.
Leonardo sat back in a slight state of shock. Though he and Michelangelo were not the closest of the turtles, they seldom argued. More to the point, when they did argue, it was far more one-sided, usually with Leonardo reprimanding his brother for something or other. For Michelangelo to counter what Leonardo was saying, and with such conviction, was quite out-of-character for the turtle. However, as Leo well knew, everyone sat up and listened when Mikey had something serious to say, because it was such a rare event. When the youngest spoke as earnestly as he was that day, it made quite an impact.
And it had. Of course, Leonardo knew that whenever something went wrong with his brothers, whenever they embarked on adventures and got into one scrape or another, Leonardo always felt responsible for allowing such events to occur. If one of his brothers was in trouble, it was his duty to help them out. And when he couldn't, the guilt would gnaw away at him.
He hated being the big brother, and playing the leader, but no matter how much he loathed that position of dependability and reliability, he would never give it up. He couldn't. He was stuck with that feeling of responsibility over his family, and he daren't think of what would happen if he ceased to feel it.
"I just want to protect you," Leo said softly. He placed a hand on his brother's shoulder, wanting Mikey to look at him.
Mikey looked up and stared intently into his brother's deep pools of eyes. "I know, Leo. But there's one more thing you gotta accept. No matter what the Shells happens, you're a great leader. End of story."
"Thanks, bro," Leo said, dropping his hand to the ground, and idly running his hands over the emerald grass.
"Awesome, you don't believe me," Mikey stated sarcastically, cross at hearing Leo's easy answer. "I don't get how you can feel so insecure about it. Splinter thinks you're the main man, the bee's knees, the dog's..."
"I get it," Leo interjected. "He may think that, and you may think that if you want, but I'm still gonna feel insecure. It's a big burden," he admitted quietly.
"Dude, if you wanted the Hallmark card, you should have just said," Mikey murmured jokily, before returning to his previous sincerity. "Give this a try: imagine life without you as a leader. It'd be seriously messy, dude. Raph would never be around, Don would hardly ever come out of his room, and I'd be an overweight turtle lump sitting on the couch, watching TV and eating junk food all day. And that's without someone to lead us into battle. That'd be a hundred times more messy."
"Splinter would do that, plus get you to train, get Don to come out of his room, and get Raph to come home once in a while," Leo pointed out.
Mikey shook his head, chuckling. "You forget, dear brother – without you to keep us in order, Splinter would have been driven to insanity long ago, and would probably be residing with April. And you're seriously missing the point here. We need you, Leo. We need you to keep us in order. But, what we don't need is for you to take all the weight on your shoulders. When we mess up, we have to deal with it. And that's doesn't just mean doing our extra hour's training in the dojo for it. We gotta sort it out, and if we can't or don't, we gotta live with the responsibility. That's not for you to do."
Leonardo remained silent, drinking in what his brother was saying. He didn't even realise he did it.
Reading the look on his brother's face, Michelangelo continued. "Who's always tailing us out of the lair when we're going out without Master Splinter's permission? You're there to bail us out, if you need to. And a lot of the time, sure, you do need to."
"What the Shell am I meant to do? Let you guys just wander off and find some trouble?" Leo countered heatedly. "What if you couldn't get out of it?"
"Give us a little credit here, bro. Sure, there are times when we need someone to save our tails, and usually it's either you or Splinter. And I guess if you didn't, the both of you would be kicking yourselves for weeks afterwards. Well, you might; Master Splinter would just ground us," he chuckled. "But then, I think we have to learn. If we're going to get ourselves into something, we gotta learn to get out of it, too. I know for sure you've started to let Raph do that, but only because Splinter's told you to."
Leonardo nodded pensively. Indeed, Splinter had not too long ago told Leonardo to cease following Raphael out of the lair when the red-banded turtle 'went out for air'. Leonardo only put up less of an argument to this because he knew that most of the time, Raphael would be with Casey. However, he did not know anyone else knew of this conversation, let alone the fact that Leo occasionally secretly followed Raphael out of the lair.
"I'm not so dumb as you thought, huh?" Mikey grinned. "But listen, bro. I don't know how to be a good leader, or even how to stay out of trouble, else we wouldn't be having this conversation. I think what I'm trying to say is, when we do get in trouble, it's our fault, not yours. And Leo, you really are a good leader, and an even better big brother. And, I know you sacrifice a shelluva lot for us. Yeah, we never tell you out loud, so I'll tell you now: thank you."
Leo nodded, accepting the compliment with more grace the second time around. He smiled, and put his arm around Mikey's shoulders. "Thanks, bro. And even though you can be annoying, well, pretty much most of the time, you're a great little brother to have."
"Well, duh," Mikey said, poking his tongue out cheekily, earning himself a light rap over the head.
For a minute or so, the two brothers shared a pleasant, amicable silence, before Leo spoke up. "Come on, we'd better be heading back now," Leo sighed, looking towards the direction of the setting sun. "Don's cooking tonight."
Michelangelo screwed up his face in disgust. "All right, Leo, this'd be one of those times to be a good leader, you know, keep us out of harm and stuff."
"How do you mean?" Leo asked, confused.
"I mean, SAVE US FROM THE ATTACK OF THE POISONED FOOD!" Mikey exclaimed dramatically, holding his arms up in defence of an imaginary assault.
Leonardo smiled, watching his brother who had once again reverted back from the previous seriousness to his more usual, court-jester style. He wasn't smiling so much at the antics in front of him, but more at the whole situation. Leonardo had come out that afternoon to meditate, and try and calm his doubt-filled thoughts. However, the brief talk with Michelangelo had done more good than any hours of meditation could have done. Mikey had not only made him rethink the way he treated his brothers, but it had more importantly boosted his confidence in his leadership. He didn't need to be told it often, but sometimes, he just needed to hear it.