It's been a week past Halloween and things had become relatively quiet.
I'm usually merry and happy during such bustling events; well, most of the time, anyway.
Although there are lots of occasions accruing during a year, my most favorite are Christmas and Halloween. They're the most popular holidays along with Valentines Day; I kind of prefer the previous two than the last one, because they relate more to family than just a single person.
I love Christmas for the merry and jolly atmosphere, the presents and family gatherings and also the pure white snow in general. I also love Halloween for the fact that I can go out in the open and mingle with the humans topside without a disguise, without the fear of someone seeing me and screaming about a giant green monster, that no one would show fear at our presence because of what we look like.
So here I am, sitting at the kitchen table staring at the clean top after we had finished dinner.
Our friends had just gone home and my father and brothers have gone to bed.
It's raining outside, a mild rainstorm with some thunder and lots of cold winds blowing about.
I would have just ignored it to being early November rain and gone to bed, where it's warm and cozy, but I knew what nights like this do, especially at this time of night to a particular family member. It's only a matter of time before he tries to sneak out of his room to soak himself in the icy rain, then come home and lock himself in for another day or two, till we realize he had gone amiss and discover that he had either caught a deadly cold, or managed to overcome the illness without casing too much a ruckus.
Unlike last year, he couldn't get over the cold or hide it and it almost killed him, he'd been coughing so hard it hurt his throat and he sputtered blood once or twice, he was so ill he couldn't even twitch a finger.
That night was a terrifying night to remember.
I won't let him get himself sick with his death of cold for the sake of, as he would describe it, cleansing his soul with the teary sky, nor am I going to give him the chance to sneak out to do it, either.
"Up a little early, don't you think?" a voice came from the kitchen doorway, the shadow tall and illuminated by the kitchen lights, seeing the rest of the lair was darkened with the den's lights turned off.
I blinked away from the table top and cup and turned to face my brother.
He was not the one I was expecting, but a much welcomed company nonetheless, "Yeah I know. I figured I'd stay up to catch him in the act. I don't want last year's event to repeat itself." I muttered and my fingers intertwined.
He sighed and casually walked in and sat on the chair opposite of me, he sported a concerned smile, "He's just- depressed, you know." he reasoned gently, "I remember how he used to love Halloween, more so when we were young and ignorant then after we've grown up, but still he used to love and enjoy it." he stared at the table top for a moment, as if searching for the right words.
I sighed because I knew he was going to explain our brother's actions.
I know I'm not supposed to be so distressed, yet it was still upsetting to think about it.
"I still remember how the four of us used to go out and trick or treat and get loads of candy." His nostalgic tone and concerned eyes shifted across the table, they glanced at the chair that belongs to the brother we're talking about, "But then something changed and he suddenly doesn't like it anymore." he gave a small sigh and dropped his gaze to his hands where they balled on his kneepads, "I don't know what it was that is upsetting him, but I know it's deeper than he'd care- or dare to admit." He shook his head.
"He's an idiot." I muttered bitterly, which caused my brother to snap in attention and frown at me, confused, "I mean, ever since last Halloween he'd gone all Emo and stuff, it's stupid." I huffed again and glared across the room, "He's just too proud to share his feelings." I bit back a growl.
"It's just not the same for him anymore," my brother argued gently, though with a weak lopsided smirk, "I think he really doesn't see the point of going topside for the candy, not when it's no longer fun to him." He rubbed his head, "I mean, every year it's the same thing, we go to the same neighborhood, go to the same people and get candy from almost the same people. But still, I can't see what changed,"
"Not always," I argued weakly, but that really didn't matter. "I just wish if he'd stop being so darn hardheaded. Showing a little empathy every now and then never hurt anyone." I grumped.
My brother smiled, "You seem to forget who we're talking about here." He arched a brow.
I huffed, "Pride is one of the seven sins; yet unfortunately his sense of pride is overpowering him, refusing the fact that he could just ask." I muttered more to myself than to who I shared the room with, "His problem is that he's too proud to ask, too stubborn to admit it and just too darn moody to accept it when offered." I pushed off the chair and set about keeping myself busy.
I prepared a kettle of hot chocolate milk, my earlier cup empty and set on the kitchen table, what's enough for four cups though only two occupied the kitchen. I'm really not the type into tea and I could use the sugar to keep me up and alert, because something tells me this is going to be a very long night.
"Well, I think he knows better than to repeat last year's idiocy." My brother offered.
I snorted, "I highly doubt it; he can be a real ass sometimes." I muttered, but when the company in the room chuckled, I fought a smirk and corrected my earlier statement, "Okay, so most of the time." My brother just chuckled again and didn't add any other comment.
I set the stove's heat on medium to let the milk warm up, and then sat on the chair besides my brother and set an elbow on the table. A long moment of silence lingered and I just fixed my gaze on the red, orange and blue dancing flames.
I heaved a heavy sigh, "I really don't want him running off like that, it's not good for him." I expressed my concerns, "It's just- I mean he could just ask, cant he? Is that so hard to do? Come down from his high horse and just- just plainly ask?" I complained weakly, already I knew the answer.
"It wouldn't be him if he asked, you know." he interjected softly, "If he did go and do that, our first guess would be that he's either sick or had one too many drinks." he muttered and pushed off the chair, turned off the stove when the milk started bubbling, grabbed my used mug and washed it from the remains of my previous drink, before he got another mug to serve himself.
"Marshmallows?" he offered while he gestured to the kettle with brewing hot chocolate.
At my nod, he grinned and headed towards the cabinet to retrieve the plastic bag with the colorful, squishy treats, "And also, he always said thunderstorms sooth his mind, so I wouldn't be surprised if he's not in his room right now."
As if struck by lightning, which ironically could be heard echoing through the sewer tunnels, I snapped in attention as the kitchen lights blinked. With a frown, I glanced at my brother and the troubled expression told me he might have actually hit the nail right on the noggin.
Quietly and quickly, he set down the bag and we made a beeline to our brother's bedroom.
I felt my jaw tighten when he didn't answer our knocking.
I felt my fists clinch when we discovered the room was empty.
"I'll go get him, so get the blankets and soup ready." I muttered and marched towards the exit, but was only stopped when he suddenly appeared before me, a very concerned and uneasy look on his face, but I didn't give him the chance to speak, "Don't worry, I'm not gonna hurt him, not yet." I assured with a forced smile, "I'm just gonna haul his sorry tail back where it's warm and dry." I growled and pushed past him.
I heard him give an aggravated sigh and spied him as he shook his head, a mildly humored yet annoyed smile stretched his lips, "Just- don't hurt yourself in the process, okay? Pride might only be one of the seven sins, but I assure you it's not the deadliest," he paused, "not alone."
I paused to look at him questioningly, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Pride is a sin, but so is Wrath." He said quietly, wisely, knowingly.
I furrowed less angrily from before and then heaved a sigh, my brother had a point and getting angry right now wouldn't be what our missing brother needs right now. "I'll be careful, just make sure his room is warm by the time we get back." I instructed and tried to sound a bit pleading; I don't often like to boss them around, but it helps get things in motion quicker.
He nodded, "Be careful," then headed back to the kitchen.
"I will," I assured, then hurried out of the lair.
I know things aren't as easy as they first seem, but for a long while I though I knew where to find him.
It took me a while to check all his usual spots, but found no trace so I had to move on to least usual spots.
I was close to giving up when he just didn't seem to be anywhere familiar to me, I couldn't find him and the chilly rain soaked me from head to toe. I felt my skin turn sleek with what felt like a crusty layer of ice, it bit into my flesh and I shivered at every gust of wind and every hail of thunderous rain, needles of icy waters pricked my skin but that didn't stop my search, it only made it go faster.
My brother must've lost it to be outside during weather like this; what the shell is wrong with him?
I didn't bring any spare winter clothes because I believed I'd find him real quick, that he hadn't gone too far and I'd be able to catch up to him, but guess I overestimated myself.
Thankfully I did find him and ironically, it was a place I knew from last year.
I guess he needed a new lurking spot, so he decided to stay here, huh.
I ignored the puffed clouds of hot breath as they mingled with the cold air, my eyes glared though soaked with cold icy waters and irritation at his irresponsibility. I knew he knew I was there, but why he didn't flinch nor acknowledge my arrival irritated me even more. I feared that maybe the chill got to him and he was asleep, a forced hibernation, so I had to wake him up before he slept to death, literally.
Upon closer inspection I cursed to myself when I saw he had dosed off.
I gently placed a hand on his shoulder, where he sat there with his shell to the wall, hugging his knees and his face buried in his folded arms, his mask looked a shade darker due to the rain that soaked it.
I was worried and though I was too late, so I carefully cupped his shoulders and shook him. I pushed his head up and saw his eyes closed, a saddened expression on his face, but I knew he was not conscious, he was asleep. I gave his face a few gentle slaps, and when he groaned and fluttered his eyelids open, I was startled to the- somewhat puffed eyes and wet snout, and I'm not talking rain.
Was he crying? Was he that upset and depressed, he'd been frustrated to tears? Just how bad is he having it, whatever problem he's struggling with and refuses to share with us?
"I feel asleep?" he mumbled groggily then sluggishly he unfolded his arms, raised his hands and rubbed their heels onto his practically clamped shut eyes. After a moment he stretched out his arms and then gave an obvious shudder before he hugged himself, a long puff of air escaped his throat, but he didn't look bothered by the icy wind or the bone slitting chill.
My teeth chattered whilst the wind blew cold I shivered once more, yet my brother looked hardly phased by the deathly cold weather. It's either that he was too numb to feel it, or had reached the point where he just didn't care.
"C'mon, let's get you home." I urged and grabbed his hands and tugged.
I tried to ignore how somewhat hardened his muscles were, as if clinched by the cold and was a chunk of meat forgotten in the freezer. His skin had gotten so hard; I do hope he didn't get frost bite or anything.
I tried to haul him up, but it was either he refused to move, or was too numb and cold to try. After a few more tries, he finally complied and rose to his shaky feet, but didn't last for long and almost collapsed back down. I turned to face him when he almost fall right on top of me, but I managed to get a hold of him, arms around him as his chin slightly dug into my shoulder.
I heaved a sigh, I guess he was too numb to move after all.
But then, he moved, his arms snaked around me and held me weakly, needing but still weak.
There was the faintest whispered plea, I would have missed it under the roaring rain, if only his hot shuddering breath wasn't to close to my neck, "… please, just hold me…" his hold on me tightened if only weakly and his cold, wet snout pressed to my warmer neck and sent a wave of prickled skin and a nasty shudder up and down my spine.
'I guess he can come off his high horse after all.' I thought to myself as I held him tight. I felt his heartbeats pulse weakly but clearly felt, I worried and wondered for how long he'd been out here.
"Why do you keep doing this?" I asked him, my voice just a notch over the roaring rain, "It's crazy, coming out in such weather, are you crazy or just plain stupid?" I growled and held him tighter. "Why do you do this to yourself?"
His arms loosened up a bit, but he pressed his wet snout to my neck, a wet sniffle came and I wondered if he was crying, "Because… it's when the monsters come out." He whined a bit.
I would have flinched at his words if I weren't so occupied by keeping us standing upright.
"Every year we meet the same people, we celebrate Halloween and we go to the same people at the same places around the same area, and every year they think we're the same kids in the same turtle suits." A small rumble could be heard in his choked voice, "but- once they realize they're not costumes, once they realize we're real, no matter how many times they've seen us, talked and laughed with us, gave us candy, once they realize the truth they just- just…"
I held him tighter, "They run away screaming." I concluded.
I guess now I understand why he's been doing this.
About three years ago, there was this elderly couple we used to trick or treat at every year, but the last time we went to their place things kinda got out of hand, with kids running around one of them stubbed my brothers toe, it didn't take long before the elderly couple got suspicious, and when the lady found out we weren't wearing costumes, she freaked out despite the fact that we've been to her place more than once during the past few years.
It was discouraging really, because around that time I honestly thought she couldn't care, because we've seen each other more than once, not to mention we've been to her place more than once, so why did she freak out? I still don't get it.
But my brother here, now that I think about it he did seem highly affected by it all, even if it didn't show the first or second year, but last year was the third since that event and that was the first time he'd run off to soak himself under cold rain.
He'd always told me late October to early November rain helped him keep a clear mind, yet I don't see the point of getting himself sick. I know he is just too proud to ask to be comforted, and he would not accept it if offered, it probably makes him feel small or something. Is that why he soaks himself in cold water? So when he gets sick, they'd be a reason for the comforting?
With a defeated sigh, I tugged gently, "Let's just go home." I encouraged and led him away.
I can't say I was pleased with him, but I guess I understand him better now.
Through everything, he always seemed to be the strong one, mentally and physically, but little did I think such events would hurt him like this.
It hit him deeper than I ever thought, more so the rejection by someone we thought had acknowledged and accepted us. I remember he even exclaimed during that day how the elderly couple knew us a long time, so what harm is it to tell them the truth? If we had known that keeping his hopes up would turn to bite our tails, I would have agreed to keep it a secret for much longer.
"Sorry," came the small and croaked voice from somewhere under the folds of the thick blanket, "I just- don't know why I keep doing that." hazy brown eyes stared at the ceiling, from where he lay huddled under layers of warming blankets, a bowl of soup was set cooling on the nearby desk, untouched for a some time now.
"I kinda doubt catching your death of cold would make things better." I chided him gently, a blanket over my shoulder, I tugged at his blanket to make sure he stayed warm, "So they never thought we were real and moved out of the building to only god knows where, big deal. At least that means we don't have to worry about them spreading it around, right?" I offered him a smile.
He shook his head slightly and glanced at me with sad eyes.
"You don't know, do you." he muttered forlornly, and at my confused frown his expression worsened, "They didn't move out, their kids came from out of town and took them away; last I heard they were placed in a Home." He tugged at the blankets, he searched for the comfort of it more than the warmth, "I overheard the neighbors say something about them suffering mental illness."
I felt my jaw drop slightly, shocked at the truth. "I didn't know that."
"It's my fault." He sighed deeply, sadly, guiltily, "Maybe- just maybe if I would have kept my big mouth shut, they wouldn't have been tossed into the loony bin." He growled, more to himself than to me.
I just sat there on the chair besides his bed, too taken aback by that piece of information.
The room was a bit nice and hot, but all the better to keep him from catching a chill, and with those blankets piled on him, all he needs right now is a warm meal, which still cooled a short distance away. As much as I want him to just consume it before it gets too cold, I don't want to rush him because I know it's not what he needs right now.
With another defeated sigh, I pushed off the chair to sit next to him on the bed.
He perked up a bit confused and stared at me while I tugged at his blankets, scooted closer and then lay down besides him and pressed myself against his warming skin. I could feel the chill around his fingertips and toes, even when he gave a grunting noise at our contact, but that didn't stop me and I just latched onto him, grabbed the blankets and tugged them closer and tighter around us.
I snuggled into him and used our body heat to keep us warm.
He squirmed a bit and tried to scoot away, but I latched onto him and refused to let go.
Another long moment of silence passed and I focused on the warm feel of our bodies. He shifted to his side and I felt an arm snake over my, he pulled me close and tucked my head under his chin, so I smiled and snuggled deeper.
I remember this is how we used to comfort each other when we were younger.
When times are rough and nights are cold, we always huddle under as many blankets as possible.
Tummies full and bodies warm, we'd drift off into a peaceful slumber. Sometimes sensei would tell us a bedtime story, some other times we fall asleep before he could even start with the tale.
"Sorry," he murmured dejectedly again, voice soft and apologetic, "I guess I'm not helping by giving out a little bratty impression, huh." He sighed and as much as I didn't believe it, snuggled against me, "I just- feel so weird." He confessed.
I furrowed in concern, "What do you mean?"
He sighed again, hot breath caressed my skin, "I dunno, I just- I feel like I just- I need- I mean…" he hesitated, unsure what to say, but I knew what he wanted to say from the way he reluctantly scooted closer to me.
I suppressed a smile and wrapped an arm around him, half hugged and pulled closer.
I didn't say anything, because he just snuggled even closer into the welcomed warmth, his eyes fluttered sleepily before he closed his eyes.
I think we drifted off after that for a few hours, because I really don't remember falling asleep.
My head tucked under his chin, one hefty arm draped over me pulled me closer, and with our eyes closed I felt the tiniest smile curve on my lips.
I guess all he really needed was some brotherly love, but still he was too proud to ask and yet he did not reject it when it was offered.
Bad times come and go, but a family forever remains a family, even if he has problems reaching out for us, I know we will always be here for him if and when he needs us, he needn't ask cause we'll know when he will need a hand.
That's what makes us brothers despite the fact we're not connected in blood, huh.
Brothers in arms or brothers in blood, it matters not, for we're brothers no matter what.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
A/N: Oh something I scrapped a few weeks ago, along with a few more Oneshots, because the ending felt choppy and unresolved. I tried to think of something more fitting, but the bunnies for other multi-chaptered stories kept gnawing on my poor brain, so I decided to post this just the way it is anyway.