A Lesson in Humility
Four teenage mutant turtles walked in a strange and almost reverent silence. They had no clear destination in mind but they walked anyway. Since their arrival in the Battle Nexus they had not had the chance to truly appreciate the beauty of the place. The foursome passed underneath a waterfall that ran down the side of the building. The light and constant splashing was soothing as it hit the water. The four turtles who happened to be brothers stopped and looked out at the city before them. Hundreds of masked individuals were preparing for the crowning of the next Battle Nexus Champion.
"I won," Michelangelo said almost dazedly.
There was a continued silence from the three other turtles. One clenched his fists, another looked out towards the horizon, and the last leaned heavily against a pillar in exhaustion.
"I mean… Me! I won!" The turtle in orange said a little more exuberantly.
"Yeah whatever," His brother Raphael muttered.
"What's the matter Raph?" Mikey asked with a grin. "Are you still mad that I beat you?"
"Does my talking bother you? Am I distracting you somehow, making you lose focus, messing up your concentration, finally getting on your nerves perhaps? Or maybe you're just a teensy bit worried that I might actually beat you."
The hotheaded turtle growled and clenched his fists tighter. The two other turtles watched in amusement.
"Wait a minute, Mikey beat Raph? When did this happen?" Donatello asked.
Raphael looked towards the horizon to keep himself from attacking his annoying younger brother. Raphael knew all too well that Mikey was going to rub this in his face until the day he died or until he matured. The latter didn't seem like it was going to happen anytime soon.
"That's right Don!" Mikey exuberated and held out his hands in triumph. "I Michelangelo, teenage mutant ninja turtle extraordinaire, have beaten the Hothead Menace of New York."
The last turtle who had thus far not spoken rolled his eyes. The 'Hothead Menace of New York' growled again and his face broke out into a snarl.
"But that doesn't make any sense, Mikey never beats Raph." Donatello reasoned.
The turtle with the purple bandana put his hand thoughtfully on his chin in a classic thinking pose. Michelangelo put on a hurt expression and a hand over his heart.
"Donatello-san you wound me with your words!" He said pitifully.
Donatello laughed and shook his head.
"It's the truth. When we spar you always stay away from him." Donatello smiled.
Raphael crossed his arms with a smile. If he could get the rest of his brothers to take his side over Mikey's then it wouldn't matter if Mikey beat him because no one would care. The plan was perfect. The hotheaded turtle finally started to appreciate Donnie's unfailing logic. Now all he needed to do was convince Leo. If he was lucky Mikey would do that for him.
"Oh is that so? I didn't see you in the second round!" Michelangelo shot back.
"I don't believe it. I'm the first turtle eliminated? The guys won't ever let me live this down."
Raphael smile grew wider. Michelangelo was making this so easy.
'That's it, keep talking Mikey.' Raphael thought.
Donatello rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Donatello had a very placid temperament but he knew if Mikey continued on like this he might have to teach his younger brother a lesson.
"I don't suppose you've ever heard of being a gracious winner." The last turtle said softly.
Raphael's grin became devious as he looked back towards Mikey. Leonardo had taken his side!
"Yes!" He muttered.
"Aww Leo, not you too!" The youngest said forlornly.
"Ya see Mikey? You've turned them all against you!" Raph said with glee.
"But… I know you guys like me better than you like Raph!" Mikey complained.
Donatello laughed and Raphael smacked Mikey on the head. Michelangelo knew his brainier brother was already lost to the power of the Evil Raphael but Leo had been quiet. Perhaps he could still convince him.
"Leo, bro!" Mikey pleaded and used his best puppy-dog eyes.
The orange-clad turtle knew that his eyes didn't always work with his brothers, but Leo had the least immunity to them. He couldn't resist!
'Yes Leo, give into the Mikey-side!' The youngest thought deviously.
Too bad for Mikey that Leo wasn't even looking at him. His eyes were lost to the beauty of the Battle Nexus and they were half-lidded. He was exhausted. Mikey shot his hotheaded brother an annoyed glance. He wasn't going to give up that easily!
"Raphwantedtorubitinyourfacethatyoulost!" Mikey said rapidly.
"Leo and Donnie must be kicking themselves for not making the cut."
"But, of course, I would never be so unsportsmanlike as to rub it in their faces."
Donatello shot Raphael a glare and Leonardo looked over in interest. Raphael stuck a finger out at Michelangelo and poked him viciously.
"If I remember correctly so did you!" The hothead barked.
"I..I.. did not!" Mikey stammered.
Laugh. "Me too! Let's go find them!"
"Oh don't even go there Mikey!" Raph yelled.
"Who are you going to believe Leo? Me, your favorite and loveable brother, or Raph the hothead who always disobeys you, glares at you, is a hothead, makes mean comments behind your back, always sneaks out when you're not looking, is a hothead, always complains about you, and overall makes your life a living hell?"
"I don't do all that!" Raph protested and smacked his younger brother again.
"Did I mention he's a hothead?" Mikey asked.
"Shut up Mikey!" Raph snapped.
"Leo?" Mikey asked.
Their eldest brother hadn't even spoken a word. His eyes were half-closed and he rested his head against the pillar. His hands drooped to his sides and he seemed to waver a bit.
"Uh you okay Leo?" Raphael asked with concern.
"Hmmm?" Leonardo opened his eyes and looked at three concerned faces. "Oh, I'm fine."
After the words left his mouth his eyes immediately closed and he fell backwards. Donatello was the first to catch him and a worried grimace crossed his beak. He should've known Leo wasn't 100 after being poisoned. At first it looked like Leonardo had made a miraculous recovery. He had immediately got up and started kicking shell. Of course it was just Leo overworking himself because the situation called for it.
"Maybe not better, but at least I'm breathing."
"LEO!" Raphael yelled and rushed to his side. "Donnie, what happened?!?"
"He passed out," Don said with a shake of his head.
"Leo, speak to me!" Mikey said dramatically.
Donatello lowered his brother to the ground and the other two brothers gathered in close.
"Why is Leo passin' out?!?" Raph asked angrily.
"He's not going to die is he? Did that black hole thingy mess with Leo?" Mikey asked shrilly.
"Did he hit his head in that fall?"
"Leo can't die! He has to see me crowned as Battle Nexus champion!"
"He looked fine!"
The two continued to banter back and forth. Don waited out all of their words with well practiced patience. Obviously the two hadn't been informed on what happened to Leo.
"Guys, calm down," Donatello said.
"Why are you so calm about this Don?" Raphael asked roughly. "Leo could be dyin' and you're just sitting there!"
"Leo can't die!" Mikey moaned.
"Guys!" Donatello snapped. "Leo's fine. He's just recovering from being poisoned."
The two were momentarily silent and the roaring of the waterfall was all they could hear.
"Leonardo poisoned? What fiend would do such a thing? Rest assured Splinter-Sensei. I will personally get to the bottom of this atrocity."
"What sort of whackbag would poison Leo?" Raphael asked as he clenched his fists in rage.
"Which whackbag do you think?" Donatello asked.
"I don't know. We know a lot of whackbags…" Mikey joked.
"It was that Ultimate Ninja creep wasn't it!?!" Raphael snarled. "I knew he was a no good slimeball."
"But he seemed so sincere and he helped to get Leo's swords repaired." Mikey tried to rationalize.
"If I see that Ultimate Ninja again I'm gonna--"
"Um Raph? I don't think he's coming back. Remember he got sucked into that inter-dimensional rift?" Donatello asked.
"Yeah well I hope he comes back so I can tear him a new one!" The hothead muttered darkly.
"Man if I see that Ultimate Ninja I'm gonna…gonna… What the shell?"
The turtles were yet again thrown into silence as they looked at their eldest brother.
"Poor bro, he didn't have a very good Battle Nexus did he?" Donatello laughed.
Out of the four of them Leonardo surely had the worst experience. Leonardo went from being convinced to leave the lair by pressure from his brothers against his sensei's wishes to having his katanas cleaved in two (and that in itself was enough to leave Leonardo depressed for weeks). From there he got the hated 'I'm disappointed in you' speech from Splinter and after that he was attacked by a group of assassins. Shortly after, he was poisoned by the Ultimate Ninja and the healer couldn't find the toxin. When he finally awoke he was on his feet fighting for the life of the Daimyo without even getting a chance to catch his breath. Then everyone almost got sucked into an inter-dimensional black hole thingie and Leo lost grip on the Ultimate Ninja who was thrown into aforementioned black hole thingie.
"It wasn't that bad…" Mikey said.
"Shut it Mikey!" Raph clenched his fist in rage.
"What?" Mikey asked confused. "You gotta admit it was fun! The crowd cheering…"
"I'll show you the crowd cheering!" Raph threatened.
"Huh? That doesn't even make sense." Mikey asked.
"Gahhh!" Raph said inarticulately.
"We can't go anywhere without something bad happening can we?" Donatello asked wryly.
"Why are you guys saying this was a bad experience?" Michelangelo asked.
Donatello and Raphael looked at each other and shook their heads. Their youngest brother was absolutely hopeless.
"I mean look: We convinced Leo to go against Master Splinter's direct orders. We got to find out that Master Splinter was the champion of the multi-verse. We got to kick the shell out of warriors from other dimensions… Well except for Donnie." Mikey said enthusiastically.
Mikey laughed and Donatello stared at him with an unreadable expression.
"What? It's true!"
"You're really pushin' it Mikey." Raph observed.
"That's what I do!" Mikey laughed.
Raphael made another exasperated snarl and focused his attention on his unconscious brother. He felt the slightest bit of guilt well up in him. How could he have not known that Leo was poisoned? When he didn't see him in the third round he immediately assumed his older brother had been eliminated. He actually felt glad that Leo didn't make it. He knew he had a better chance of winning if Leo was out of the fight. Damn it! He never imagined he would loose to his annoying younger brother. It was inconceivable at the time.
"I don't believe it. Mikey beat me! He's in the final four, and I'm out? What if… What if… What if Mikey actually wins? What if he becomes the Battle Nexus Champion. He'll never let me live it down, and I'll never be able to live with myself."
"Mikey I know this is hard, but try and take this seriously." Donatello said.
"What? I don't see what the big deal is!" Mikey complained. "We're all alive aren't we?"
Donatello sighed and looked away from his brothers. He wouldn't admit it to his brothers but he had been scared that Leo wasn't going to make it. When he was fighting Usagi it looked like it was going to go on forever. Each blow was parried or avoided. They were evenly matched in speed and skill. That was how he immediately noticed something was wrong. Leonardo had stopped moving and staggered. When does Leo ever stagger? Sure if he gets thrown into a wall or something it takes him awhile to get back up, but he keeps on going. The purple-banded turtle could still hear the clang of his katanas hitting the ground. Leonardo treated those swords like an extension of himself. Whenever he dropped them you immediately knew something was horrifically wrong.
And then he fell.
"And I insist you get your paws off my brother!"
"Please. I only wish to help Leonardo."
"Don, it… it's all right."
Donatello had initially thought that Usagi had hurt his brother. What else could have happened? Poison was the last thing on the intelligent turtle's mind. As soon as the Ultimate Ninja apologized to their family Donatello had foolishly dismissed him from all thought. Leonardo even mentioned being attacked right before the competition. Shouldn't that have sparked warning alarms in their minds?
"I ran into trouble in the Pavilion of Past Champions. I got attacked."
"Attacked? Are you all right?"
"This is terrible. I will look into the matter at once."
The Daimyo's son seemed overly concerned for Leonardo. He asked for Leonardo's katanas to be repaired. He seemed more concerned that Leonardo was attacked than any of the turtles. When had it become normal to expect to get attacked at anytime? That was the life of a Ninja, but it hadn't always been that way had it?
"Hey Don, what're we going to do with Leo?" Raph asked, breaking the brainy turtle out of his thoughts.
"Let's get him back to Master Splinter." Donnie replied.
Donatello supported Leo on one side while Raphael took the other side. They both felt a strange sense of deja-vu overtake them. The last time two of the turtles had supported their brother this way was when he had been ambushed by the Foot Clan. Don felt a wave of coldness go through him. That was another night he didn't want to relive.
The three turtles made the slow way back to where their Master was resting with the Damyio. Donatello estimated the distance and their current velocity and calculated they would reach their destination in about twenty minutes.
"When did Leo get so heavy?" Raph asked gruffly.
The youngest and unburdened turtle let out a snicker that immediately piqued everyone's interest. Mikey had different types of laughs and you could usually tell his mood by how he was laughing. It was how he expressed himself most times. When he was scared it was short and high pitched. When he was worried it was short and soft. He even laughed when he was fighting. The current laugh was the sound that Mikey made when he had done something devious and only he knew about it.
"What did you do this time Mikey?" Donatello asked a little worried.
"Nothin!" The youngest immediately answered.
"Mikey!" Raph warned and glared at his brother.
Michelangelo held his hands up in his classic pose of 'I didn't do it'.
"Why do you guys always think I did something!" Mikey whined.
"Because you always DO something!" Raph snapped back.
"Oh yeah Battle Nexus Champion?"
Michelangelo stopped and stared with a huge grin on his face as Raphael immediately regretted his words. He clamped his free hand over his mouth in horror.
"You just called me Battle Nexus Champion!" Mikey trilled.
"Oh brother," Donatello sighed, anticipating a fight.
"And I am the Battle Nexus Champion aren't I? I am the greatest warrior in all the multi-verse!"
"MIKEY!" Raphael warned.
"Hear that crowd bro? That's me they're cheering for! That's right, me. Not you, but me! Not you, but me!"
"All right, since you must know; I thought Leo was getting a little skinny and you know I was just worried for my dear brother's welfare."
"Why do I get the feeling I really don't want to know?" Donatello muttered.
"Hey I didn't want Leo going anorexic on me!" Mikey said defensively.
Donatello and Raphael stopped walking altogether and shot their brother a skeptical glance that told him they were not amused in the least bit.
"What?" The youngest asked innocently.
"Mikey there aren't even words to describe you," Raph said.
"You just feel bad 'cause you didn't notice!" Mikey said indignantly.
Donatello shook his head in amazement at his younger brother. Did he actually believe half the stuff he said or was he just joking? It was getting harder and harder to tell.
"What did you do Mikey?" Donatello asked and the younger turtle smiled deviously.
"I started off small ya know? I put a little extra butter or sugar in whatever he was eating. When he wasn't looking I'd put more food on his plate. Then I started making snacks all the time and it's not my fault I couldn't eat all that I made. My eyes were always bigger than my stomach."
"Since when?" Raph laughed.
Mikey stopped and pondered the question.
"Good point! But anyway, Leo isn't one to let food go to waste so he always ended up eating that as well. Now it's time to implement phase three."
Mikey rubbed his hands together and smiled cunningly.
"Yes…" He drawled shrewdly. "Soon I will get Leonardo addicted to ice-cream and then I shall control his every action by threatening to take his beloved ice-cream away! Soon we will be sleeping in till eleven and having thirty minute practices!"
The red and purple wearing turtles looked blankly at their delusional brother. Michelangelo seemed to be caught up in his own day-dreaming that he didn't notice Leonardo start to stir.
"Over my dead body Mikey…" Leonardo said weakly.
Raphael and Donatello laughed and smiled at their now conscious but still weakened brother.
"I think we can officially say this has gone to his head." Donatello laughed.
"Leo's awake?" Mike asked sheepishly.
"Looks like you'll need to revise your 'brilliant plan'." Raph gloated.
Leonardo leaned on his brothers and walked towards the now nervous Michelangelo. Leo had to give him credit for trying to look innocent. He had it down to an art form. No wonder he rarely got in trouble when they were little. Sensei may be a ninjitsu master but he could never resist Mikey's charm.
"Yes, this year it is your competition; not mine. When my sons fight with honor they honor their master."
Leonardo laughed to himself. If it had been anyone else Splinter would've probably still let them win, but he would've made them work for it!
"Raph, will you please smack Mikey for me?" Leonardo asked kindly.
"Leo!" Mikey complained.
Raphael laughed ruthlessly and gently untangled himself from Leo's arm. Michelangelo shot Leonardo a betrayed look and tried to run away from his hotheaded brother. Donatello and Leonardo laughed as they watched.
"How could you Leo?" Mikey called between his girlish screaming.
"Come back here Mikey! Fearless says to smack you and for once I'm not disagreeing."
Mikey continued to duck his brother's advances and was soon making a game of it. This of course was making Raphael angry as Mikey continued to taunt him. Leonardo leaned heavily on Donatello who didn't mind. He was simply glad is brother was all right. Raph and Mikey couldn't really understand how scary it was. It was probably a good thing too. Raph would've gone ballistic on Usagi and Mikey would probably be a nervous wreck. Then once they brought Leo to the healers Raph would've tried to pommel the healer for trying to heal the Daimyo instead of their brother. The last time Leo's life was in mortal peril from the Ultimate Ninja it took Master Splinter to restrain him.
"Wait! What about Leo?" Sigh. "What can I do? I'm an engineer, not a doctor."
"Hey Don? Remind me never to get poisoned again." Leonardo said softly.
"It'd be probably as useful as telling you never to get hurt again." Donatello shook his head.
"Surely Fate has run out of ways to try and kill me by now." Leo said hopefully.
"Wouldn't count on it bro," Donatello laughed.
Raphael had finally caught Mikey and smacked him painfully on the head.
"Hey, I was just following orders!" Raph grinned and smacked his brother again.
"Oww! What was that one for?!?"
"Cause it felt good," Raph smirked.
Mikey clenched his fists and launched himself at his hot-headed brother. The two ended up in a wrestling match on the ground. Mikey's shouts and Raphael's curses could be heard from a long distance. Leonardo and Donatello merely observed with fascination.
"And there is the greatest champion in the whole multi-verse." Leonardo observed wryly.
"You think if Raph won he would do the same thing?"
"No doubt," Leo laughed. "They both need a lesson in humility."
"I bet we could take both of them," Donnie suggested. "My brains with your tactics!"
Leonardo chuckled and closed his eyes with a smile. He was still exhausted and he didn't feel up to a grudge match with his two brothers.
"They've been acting like this all day Leo. They're asking for it!"
Leonardo watched the hot-headed and prankster of the family tussle on the ground.
"I'll be the distraction," Leo said. "Let go."
"What?!?" Donatello asked, thinking Leo was crazy.
"Trust me Donnie; this will work perfectly. Just let go. You'll know when to attack."
Donatello looked skeptically at his exhausted older brother. This seemed like a completely senseless idea, but he trusted Leo completely. Leo unwound his arm from around Donnie's neck and let out a small cry. He collapsed to the ground with a loud thump. Mikey and Raph immediately looked up from their fight and saw an unmoving Leo.
"LEO!" They both cried out.
The two turtles raced to Leo's side, but as they were running Donatello took out his bo staff and tripped them both. They flew through the air and landed hard on the ground. They got up groggily and they were extremely confused.
"Donnie what the shell—" Mikey growled.
At this point Leonardo's body was wracked with laughter he was trying to restrain. He failed miserably and rolled around on the ground laughing his shell off. Donatello walked over to his sprawled brothers with a raised eyebrow.
"Just remember this moment the next time you want to throw it in my face I was the first turtle eliminated." He smiled.
Once Raph and Mikey figured out that Leo had faked his fall they got to their feet and glared at their laughing brother.
"Leo, I'm going to KILL you!" Raphael yelled.
Leonardo continued to laugh harder. He knew that despite who was the strongest or the fastest teamwork would always beat both hands down.
"Hmm I thought perhaps that they were not ready to compete, but perhaps fate is showing an overprotective father that his sons are growing up They may enter."