A/N - This piece is designed to take a closer look at the fraternal relationship between the red and orange masked ninjas. I wrote this as the response to fic requests and challenges from several sources at the Stealthy Stories boards. Please review. Thanks.

This fic is writtin in First Person Stream of Conciousness, so the scene will be jumping around a lot as the narrator (Raphael) changes from focusing on the present to a memory. There are four time periods described in this: the present, six months ago, six years ago, and nine years ago. Each time tells a different short story, so they should be easy to identify. A tip for reading, keep an eye on what tense is used, present or past. Final warning, CHARACTER DEATH WITHIN: Extreme Angst inside.

EDIT - So thanks to a suggestion from lugia flyhight I decided to put the first sentence of each time transition in italics so it is more clear what is going on.

DISCLAIMER - TMNT belongs to Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Mirage Studios and 4Kids Entertainment

Remembering, From a False Hero

There are worse things you can do to the people you love than kill them. No matter how much you think you love somebody, you'll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close – Chuck Palahniuk

It all started six months ago. Damn that sounds cliché, and I bet he would appreciate it. Mikey always seemed to appreciate when life mirrored Hollywood, ever since the first time we saw a movie.

I think we were six at the time. No, wait, seven. Six was when sensei got that old twelve inch TV working. It was not until we were seven when Donnie fixed up a VCR, mostly due to Mike's incessant pleading, that we finally got to watch movies.

Mike always loved movies. He was watching one of his favorites, one of the original Star Wars trilogy since he insisted the newer movies were sacrilege and should not exist, when he first collapsed. No one was around with him at the time. Donnie was the first one to find him, and the rest of us were alerted by his sudden anxious crying of Mikey's name.

We took him to the infirmary and Don ran several blood tests. The rest of us waited just outside, distracting ourselves with some of our usual pastimes. Leo was practicing his katas, Master Splinter was mediating, and I was beating on the punching bag. When Don came out, his eyes were bloodshot and red, and his mask was soaked from crying. It was hard for him to talk. Thankfully, Master Splinter kept me from losing my cool and blowing up at Don in impatience, while Leo coaxed our brother into giving us his diagnosis.

I think this was around the time I finally learned the difference between diagnosis and prognosis. Diagnosis, the disease, and prognosis, the time they have left. I always seemed to have trouble with my vocabulary, and believe it or not, it was Mikey who helped me fix that.

Master Splinter home schooled us. He had to. We could not exactly go to a public school, now could we? But when we were ten, he assigned us all to write a paper on our favorite animal. Don and Leo got it done right away, doing their reports on a specific beetle and rat breed respectively. Don actually had the beetle in a jar, and Leo was just trying to suck up to Splinter at the time.

My report was on the komodo dragon (Come on, ten years old and a giant lizard with "dragon" in its name? I couldn't go wrong.), and Mikey's was on the toucan. When I asked him why, he explained, "How cool would it be to have a massive beak like that?" Typical Mikey comment.

Mike never stopped making those comments. Even when Don gave him the news, he had to make a joke. "Blood sample diagnosis is leukemia," Don monotoned. "And the prognosis is six months to live."

"No," Mikey insisted. "Diagnosis is hungry, and the prognosis is six months of pizza parties, dudes."

I am at the punching bag again. It seems like I never leave it these days. It is the only thing that I can take out all my anger on, all the anger I feel towards Mikey right now, because he is leaving us. Oh god, he is fucking dying, and all I want to do is beat his face in for making me feel like crap.

As my fist is connecting with the sand filled leather, it leaves a small imprint of two giant knuckles and fingers curled into a ball. And then the imprint changes. Right in front of me, I watch as it morphs and shifts so that I am looking at a small silhouette of a strange beaked head with a bandana wrapped around where the eyes should be. The mouth is open wide in a mad hysteric laughter. I can hear it laughing all around me, that jubilant noise that just heard the funniest thing in the world, again. It surrounds me, acting as if nothing were the matter. Acting as if nothing was wrong in the lair at that moment.

But something was wrong. It did not matter what face Mikey put on when he walked out of the infirmary. He was his cheerful self, even after being told he was going to die. He cracked jokes at us and laughed like nothing was wrong. I knew it had to be hurting him, but I could not see the pain anywhere in his eyes.

Don took over his job as doctor again and started ushering Mike back into the infirmary, insisting that the kid get some rest, but Mike would have none of it. "No way bro," he exclaimed. "I feel fine. Besides, it's dinner time, and I think you all owe me a pizza."

We all gave him concerned stares, but eventually Leo, Don and Master Splinter cocked smiles and joined Mike in the kitchen.

I didn't though.

I could only watch them retreat into the other room, Mike's voice booming through the lair as animated as usual. What was wrong with them? What was wrong with him? Mikey was dying and all any of us could do was play around like nothing was wrong.

That face he had on. It mocked me. I can not describe the feelings I had in any other way. The only thing I thought of was how that smirk he portrayed seemed to be clawing at me and mocking me, telling me that I was going to lose that piece of my life, so here it was, floating away where I could not reach it.

My fist connects with the receding imprint and the leather finally buckles under the constant stress I have been putting it through. Sand is billowing out of the wound, burying my sweat soaked feet in fine granules that collect in that narrow area between my two toes.

I am panting, gasping for air as I watch the punching bag deflate much like the way Mike has deflated these past six months. Such an energetic and playful person, I never believed he would wind up being forced into a bed so soon. It only took two months before he was sleeping longer and left with not enough energy to train. But still he kept that grin on his face as if nothing were wrong. Even when his muscles thinned as he lost weight, his eyes still shined and beamed around us.

"Raph," a voice calls to me, and a gentle hand lands lightly on my shoulder. I shrug it off and turn to face the brick work of the wall. I lean my head onto it, pressing all my weight onto the rough surface as if I am trying to force all these hatefully pleasant memories from my mind.

"Raph, you've been at this for hours longer than even I have. Maybe you should call it quits?" Leo's concern is misplaced. He should be worried about Mikey and not me. Everyone should be worried about Mikey, but all I can do is hate him. We should be worried about him like when he was obsessed with those movies.

"Is he still watchin' that thing?" I asked walking out of my room the next morning rubbing the sleep from my eyes. Master splinter was sitting at the small table we used for dinner and sipping a cup of tea as he eyed our youngest sibling. I glanced over at my brother where he now seemed to be fused to the rug and staring up at that tiny screen of flashing lights. I saw a big human in a tight blue suit with an embossed 'S' splayed across his chest and a billowing crimson cape go flying across the screen. It was the same exact movie he had watched for three days straight.

"Perhaps some encouragement from you and your brothers would coax him away from it," Master Splinter suggested.

I huffed slightly and shrugged my shoulders. "Why would I wan' ta git 'im away from it? It keeps 'im from buggin' me," I said with all the honesty a seven year old speaks with.

"Raphael," Master Splinter chided. "I am certain it is not healthy for one as young as Michelangelo to sit and stare at a picture for so long, and you should always be concerned for the health of your family, especially the ones who are younger than you, for they look up to you."

Master Splinter was right; I should have looked after him. I always should have looked after him, but I hardly ever did. Instead I ran around picking fights with street thugs, thinking I was doing some good in the world, but I neglected my family, and I neglected Mikey.

I let out a sigh I had not realized I had been holding and start shaking my head, grinding my skull hard into the wall. Small bits of concrete rub off and fall to join the defeated mound of sand still at my feet.

"I'm goin' out," I say to Leo still standing behind me and dissecting me with that worried stare. I right myself and move off to grab my coat from our hangers. Leo does not try to stop me, but I still feel his eyes on me as I slowly move away from him. He whispers something, but it is too faint for me to catch, and I am not entirely interested.

"Raphael, my son," Master Splinter's voice is demanding and quiet, but that did not keep it from seemingly echoing so loudly that I was certain people walking on the streets would start staring at sewer covers in confusion. I turn to my father and he is looking at me from the infirmary doorway. His eyes are pleading me to stay, but that just makes me want to leave all the more. "I need to talk to you. Will you have some tea with me?" It was a request, not a demand, and that was what finalized it in my mind. If sensei ever demanded something, you did it, even if I would do it somewhat reluctantly, but if he requested something, you would jump over a cliff if you thought it would get his request done faster.

I bet Master Splinter gave Mikey one of those "requests" when we had to write that paper. He gave us a week to write it, but he could see how much I was struggling with it, and by the fifth day, he gave Mikey that look that came with a request to help me with my writing. I was particularly unhappy with the situation, because I did not like getting help with anything from my brother (except for Donnie and fixing stuff I broke of course), and I was certain that Mikey would love to rub my face in the fact that I needed his help.

But for once, Mikey did not say a thing. Instead he just sat down with me and started asking me about my animal like why I picked it, what it ate, how big it was, etc. I tried to answer, but all I could tell him was that it was a big lizard with "dragon" in its name. I did not know what else I needed to say about it. Mike kept asking questions, most of which I just shrugged to, not really caring or paying attention to what Mike was actually asking.

Finally he got up and walked away. He was finally tired of my not caring about the report and he just up and left, which I was perfectly fine with. It meant a lot less of an annoyance for me at the time, and I could get back to hating the assignment in peace, no matter how cool the topic was.

But then Mikey came back, and this time he was caring a large, three inch thick book that was as wide as he was. The cover was leather and cracking in areas and many of the pages were torn around the edges. I recognized Don's dictionary right away, and its massive weight became all the more clear when Mike dropped it right in front of me.

The soft tap echoes through my father's chambers as the saucer of the modest liquid laden teacup lands on the mat covered ground. I stand there watching him while he gets situated, and I only take my seat when he gestures to the other mat across from him.

I sit lotus style, mirroring him as he contemplates his tea for several minutes. I dare not say anything, because I know I need to listen to him. He takes one small sip and exhales a warm breath that seems to increase the temperature of the room by five degrees. "See him," he says in a sad voice.

I can only blink a couple times as I stare blankly at him, but still I do not say anything. "It has been three weeks since he has become completely bed ridden, and not once since then have you entered the infirmary," Master Splinter continues. "He has been asking about you. He wants to see you. Can you at least ignore your frustration with the situation for five minutes so he can speak with you?"

I drop my head and close my eyes. "Why would he want to see me?" I ask honestly as I choke back my tears. "All I ever did was hurt him."

"Raph, bro, you get to do the dishes," Mikey exclaimed as he jumped up from the kitchen table, and just as quickly, he fell back into his seat clutching his head and moaning. The grip on my cup tightened at the sight as my other brothers quickly rushed to Mike's side.

"Mike, I told you not to exert yourself like that," Don scolded. "We just found out a week ago about the leukemia, and we need to take care of you."

"Dudes, I'm fine, really," he insisted glancing at everyone's concerned faces. "I just got a head rush from getting up to quickly. I'm gonna go play video games."

That was when the glass in my hand shattered. I felt a strange sting as shards and fragments pierced my skin, and all I could do was look down dumbly at it as if my hand were completely alien to me. Don quickly began ushering me out of the room and towards the infirmary. He was saying something, so were Master Splinter and Leo, but I could not hear them. I was lost in a world of just me, and Mikey's cheerful mocking.

"Dude!" Mikey chortled. "And I thought I could piss you off. What did the glass do to you?'"

That was it. That was the last bit of cheerfulness I could take. I spun away from Don so quickly it took him three steps before he realized I was not with him anymore. I do not think even Leo or Master Splinter were prepared for my outburst. I ran back to Mike, grabbed his shoulders and threw him up against the wall. He let out a soft moan from the impact and I tightened my grip, staring at his eyes with more intensity than I have ever displayed before.

"Why!" I screamed. It was the only question on my mind. "Why, Mike? Why don't ya care? Why do ya act like nothin's wrong? Why don't ya get mad or cry or scream when that's what we're all doin' everyday? Why?" I started sobbing by then. My knees gave out from beneath me and I fell to Mike's feet. No one in the room moved, and I let out all my pent up tears. For once, I did not care who saw me. For once, I wanted these guys the see me cry, see that even I could be effected by this, so why could Mikey not be.

"My son," Master Splinter says as he looks at me through the steam billowing off his amber colored beverage. The candles of his chambers flitter slightly as one of the many homeless breezes of the sewers filters through some minute cracks in the walls. "You have taken this harder than any of us, I understand. You are closer to Michelangelo than any of us, I believe. You watched him and helped him as you all grew up, and he remembers this, and right now, he wants you to watch him again."

I shake my head furiously as a soft growl emanates from deep within my chest. "I never watched him," I argue. "I shut him out when he annoyed me. I pushed him around, made fun of him. I never showed him how much I cared about him."

"Even if that is what you truly believe, and I'm sure it is not," Splinter answers. "Michelangelo does not feel that way, and if you truly do feel that you failed him as an older brother, than maybe now you can make amends by doing what he wishes and simply talk with him."

I contemplate the hands that are resting in my lap. As always, my father is right, but it just seems so hard to walk in there and see him. But I have to do what he wants. I have to go see my brother if he has been asking to see me.

I raise my head and force a smile across my beak. "Does he still have that vivacious attitude?" I ask, and Master Splinter chuckles softly as he remembers.

"What!? That'd never work," I exclaimed. Mikey's face was beaming at me from across the open dictionary that lay between us.

"How do you think I get all my papers done?" he asked me with the tone he had whenever he was planning something mischievous. I cocked my eye ridge at him, actually quite interested now.

"You mean ya've actually done this b'fore an' gotten away wit' it?" I asked.

Mikey smirked. "Of course. I do it with almost all my papers now. Master Splinter started thinking I was just copying from a book, but when he couldn't find my papers in any of the books we had, he just gave up and started giving me full credit."

"But Master Splinter would know we had no idea what we were writin' down," I insist.

Mike wagged one finger at me. "Not if we use words even he doesn't know."

I was intrigued by that, I must say, so I accepted and we started digging through the dictionary as we put one big word we found with another big word and wrote our papers without actually looking up information about the animals. We looked through the books we had on the toucan and komodo dragons and took words from there and then made up things to describe them like saying, "The komodo dragon has a quebracho tongue that it uses to viscerate the longitudinal sporozoites it eats." And, "The toucan's agrarian duodenal system helps keep it in flight whenever it is paginating its fulcrum."

We turned them in to Master Splinter, and when he saw them, he looked at us and handed them back almost right away, smiling. "Excellent job you two!" he exclaimed smiling. We both beamed at the praise and smirked giving each other high three's. "I will give you both full credit, if-," we both stopped dead at that 'if'. Master Splinter pointed to a sentence on my homework. "You can read me that line, Raphael."

"What was it again?" Master Splinter asks me as I stand up to leave the chamber. "Was it, 'Whenever the vivacious claws of the komodo locate a transcendental lamantine, they fluctuate to contravene the spinnerets'?"

"Heh, yeah," I acknowledge as I silently leave my mentor's chambers. I shuffle across the main chamber of the room. I dare not look up because I know I will see something that reminds me of him, and I can not bare that right now. I will do as he asks. I will go and see him. I am making my way to the infirmary right now, but it is an endless trek there through the mountainous wasteland of memories that surrounds me.

I look up when I know I'm nearing the doorway. My eyes focus and un-focus as a sudden wave of dizziness and anxiety come over me. The doorway threatens to swallow me whole if I approach even an inch closer. I feel as if walking a few more feet will mean I am seeing my end as well as Mike's. I feel this way almost every time I come near this room now.

The guilt washed over me since I was the one who put him there. My bloody, glass ridden hand was forgotten by everyone except Master Splinter who was slowly wrapping it now that all the shards have been removed. Donnie had taken Mikey into the infirmary again, claiming he wanted to make sure Mike did not get a bruise from when I slammed him. Something about the disease, it apparently was slowly shutting down Mike's immune system.

"I believe you have something you need to talk to Michelangelo about," Master Splinter said when as he tied off the ends of the gauze on my hand.

I nodded and slowly got up to approach the infirmary. I walked in just as Don was getting up, a bundle of his own gauze wrap in his hands. I looked down to see that there was a bandage around Mike's shoulder, right where I had held him. "Some glass from your hand came off and pierced his shoulder," he explained, displaying no emotion in his calm voice as he walked past me to leave the room.

Mike was sitting up in bed, and he was smiling at me. But suddenly, his face turned into a scowl, but it was apparent it was fake, and that he did not feel it at all. "Wait, this is what you want me to look like, right Raph?" he asked me before laughing silently. A stream of coughs interrupted his mirth, and I cringed at the uncharacteristic noise.

I wanted to walk over there and comfort him, but my legs were frozen in that doorway. They refused to step closer and so I watched him as he slowly withered. "Why, Mikey?" I asked again through clenched teeth.

Mike looked at me and sighed. "What's the point of dwelling on it? When it happens it happens, so just let me make the most of it while I can, and you should too, bro. You're my best bud."

My eyes alighted at that and I stared at the ground in shock. I could feel my body shaking as my little brother's eyes, still full of mirth and jubilation, watched me crumple in defeat at this disease that was not even my own.

I ran from him. I ran from the lair and did not look back. I stayed for a week at Casey's, never called anyone and made Casey swear to not tell them where I was. When I finally returned, the lair was quiet. There were no parties that Mike was trying to get us to join in on. He was just calmly watching TV with Don and Leo at his side.

I hardly ever looked at him after that, and now here I am standing outside of his doorway, prepared to go watch him on his deathbed. I enter slowly. A soft and slow beeping greets me with a rhythmic dissonance I recognize as the heart monitor. I wonder where Don got that thing? Probably built it himself.

Speaking of Don, I see him sitting there in the room. As always, he is the one keeping the constant vigil. He is reading a book while Mike naps. My god, he is pale. I can barely tell his skin is supposed to be green. Don looks up at me as I enter, his face expressionless. "I'll come back when he's awake," I whisper desperately trying to leave.

"No you won't," Don says sternly. "Mike made me promise to wake him if you came by to visit him. I accepted thinking you wouldn't, but since you're here, I might as well wake him up."

"But he needs his sleep, don't he?" I plead with him, but Don will have none of it.

"It doesn't really matter anymore," Don admits. "But what he does need right now is you. No amount of sleep now will change his condition, but seeing you will make him happy, and that's what counts right now." Don's voice sounds so resigned as he reaches down to tap Mike awake. How long has he been like this? How was he able to accept this so easily?

Mike's eyes flutter open in response to the shaking of his shoulder. He smiles brightly at Don through the breathing mask on his face, and Don smiles back. "Mike," Don says, "Raph's here," and he points to the door where I am still fidgeting uncomfortably.

Mike tries to raise his head, but Don pushes him back down. "Raph, come closer so he can see you." I take one step closer, and then another, and then another.

My steps were quiet as I slowly snuck up on him. Of course, I did not really even need to use my ninja training to sneak up on him at the time; he was so engrossed in that movie. Then, with one giant leap, I sprung forward and drove my new sai straight through the VCR.

Mike blinked at the now static filled screen before it finally dawned on him what had happened. He looked up at me, and I let him have the full force of my frustrated glare. Tears soon followed, and suddenly I was met with a wailing little brother. He raced out of the room and ran towards where our father was teaching Leo his first kata. Don heard the commotion and looked up and saw me holding my sai in the dead VCR.

"Oh great," he mumbled. "You couldn't have just turned it off, could you?" He moved over, extricated my sai from the damaged system, took the device away and disappeared into his little workshop.

I heard the sobbing of my little brother as I approached my father who was clutching the kid tightly as he cried like a little baby in his arms. Splinter gave me a deathly glare when I came in. "I told you to talk to him, not to destroy his video," he scolded.

"Ya wanted me ta get 'im offa that thing, so I did," I yelled back. I looked down at my little bro, still huddling in the embrace of our father. "Master Splinter said it wasn't good for ya to be sittin' around all day."

"No he didn't," Mike yelled back at me. "Yer a jerk, Raphie. You just wanna hurt me an' take my things from me."

"Yer things are stupid. I could care less about them."

"Shut up! I hope Supperman comes and gets you with all the other bad guys."

"Superman only stops villains an' bad guys. I'm not a bad guy. I was really doin' somethin' master Splinter wanted me too."

"That's not true." Mike looked up at Master Splinter, his eyes begged to be told he was correct. "Isn't it?" The question had a lot less conviction in it than he had obviously intended.

Splinter looked down at the child in his lap and sighed. "I did not ask Raphael to destroy the machine, Michelangelo, but I was worried about you spending so much time sitting in front of the TV, and I did ask Raphael to talk you away from it."

Mike stopped crying, but the hurt was still covering his face. He silently shifted his gaze to me, and then back to Splinter before jumping up and dashing to his room, silently sobbing the whole way.

"Hey bro," I say as I take a seat in the chair Don just occupied. I can not keep my voice from cracking as my nerves fire away.

Mike smiles gently as he stares at me. His eyes, barely open, are glossy and dark. I can barely tell that they are bright sapphires. "I've been…waiting…for you," he chokes out.

"So I heard," I say mildly. I am trying to put up a persona that I am not affected by this, but I feel like I am failing.

"Thanks," Mike says weakly. He coughs a couple times and I have to shut my eyes so as to keep the pesky tears from flowing. "You…always do…come in the end."

I nod slightly, but I do not think he sees the motion, but I can not voice my agreement. "How's yer shoulder?" I ask as I look where I grabbed him those months ago.

"Alright," he says. "It's…almost healed." There is a long pause between the two of us. His head rolls back to look at the ceiling. "Do you remember…when you...broke my…Superman video?"

I look at him, slightly surprised and pained by the question, but I softly chuckle and act like it does not bother me. "Yeah, I remember that," I say. "We were seven at the time."

"Nope…" Mike says. "Eight…Don's first VCR…caught fire."

I think back briefly and remember the little puff of smoke when it was turned on for the first time. "Yeah, that's right," I chuckle, but then my voice turns hard and serious. "Did I ever tell you I was sorry?"

"Yeah…" Mikey gasps. "You did." His head rolls over to me. "Did I ever…thank you…for breaking it?"

I stare at him, utterly speechless. I can not help but cry now as all the pent of emotions come pouring out of me. "Why would ya thank me fer that?" I ask.

"Because…" he begins as he rolls his head back to the ceiling. "You taught me…what a super hero is really like…that day."

I shake my head furiously. "All I did was tease you and break yer stuff. Don't thank me fer that."

"But that's it…when you broke it…you were tryin'…to protect me." He closes his eyes. "Remember…?"

I looked around his room as I entered it. All of his many lights were on, illuminating the piles of things he had collected over the couple years. Mike was seated on his bed, eyes still red from crying. Soft sniffles came from him as he read one of his old beaten comic books.

"Hey Mike," I said as I walked over to his bed, carefully traversing the strange labyrinth that was Mikey's room.

He looked up from his comic book, but then quickly returned to being engrossed by the colorful, but upside down, pictures. "What do you want?" He mumbled.

I sighed as I sat on the end of the bed. "I…I'm sorry I broke your video," I whispered just before jumping up again. "There, I said it. Happy?"

"No," Mike said, but he looked at me full on as he said it. He was still mad, but at least the apology had weakened some of the resistance he had in talking. "Master Splinter told you to talk to me, but you had to break it instead. You always break things. I hate it when you do that. I hate you!"

I was a kid. I would be lying if I said I was completely unaffected, because I really was not. Mike's words really hurt me, and so I did the thing I usually did at those times. I yelled back. "Yeah, and I hate you too," I screamed. "All you do is play around and make jokes and annoy me. Well I got sick of it. You were watching that thing for five days, you weren't eatin' and I…got lonely." I did not mean to say the last part, but it eeked out before I could stop it.

Mike gave me a funny look. "What do you mean?"

I shrugged and turned away from him. "We didn't play anymore, and I didn't get to spar with you. Leo and Donnie are too serious to play with, and in sparring, Leo's just too damn good, and Donnie doesn't try." I turned back to him. "Besides, ya weren't lettin' me use the TV."

Mike just looked at me. His sniffling had stopped and the comic was now in his lap. I walked over to him and picked up the comic book and handed it to him, right side up. "Here, ya were readin' this upside down, ya dimwit."

He smiled at me and took the comic from me. "No I wasn't," he said. "I was pretending Silver Sentry was falling instead of flying. I want to make him crash into the ground."

"Did Silver Sentry ever crash like you wanted him too," I ask. Mike just chuckles softly as he remembers too.

"No," he admits, "But you listened to me…and we joked…about superheroes…that day. I realized then…that you just wanted…to look out for me…and I think…I finally started…to appreciate it. It made me realize…that superheroes…don't fight bad guys…they look out…for other people."

Listening to him straining to talk is painful to my ears. I try to focus on the soft beeping noise of the heart monitor. It soothes me a little bit and I am able to look at him again. His breathing is ragged and gurgling sounds appear when he inhales. I do my best to ignore it, but it is grinding, and I want to leave, but I know I need to stay.

I decide to keep the conversation going with another memory. "Hey Mike, remember when we had to write that essay on our favorite animals when we were ten?"

Mike chuckles again. "Oh yeah, I can't forget that. We were…in serious trouble…weren't we?"

I laugh quietly. "Yeah, and you told me you never got caught doin' that. So what happened?"

Mikey squirms slightly under the covers. I can only assume he was trying to shrug. "I think…Master Splinter saw…how much it looked like…one of mine. He probably got suspicious."

"Yeah, that's probably it," I agree. Silence passes over us again and I listen to the noises around me. BEEP. The heart monitor echoes through the room. BEEP.

Mike starts coughing again, this time more violently than before and it does not stop. I jump from my chair and run to the door to call for Don's help, but Mike's voice stops me. "Wait, Cough I'm okay now." His head lazily sways on the pillow. I hesitantly walk back and kneel right next to his bead, my eyes focusing on the ever so slight rise of his chest. "Heh, you should've…seen your face right then…It was priceless."

He is making jokes again. I want to hit him. I want to cry on him, but something stops me, and all I can do is continue to watch his chest. Unconsciously, my hand moves over to his and I grip it tightly. A weak tensing of muscles is the only indication I get that he is trying to return the gesture. "Mike," my voice is quiet and I can not keep it from shaking. "Why didn't you ever tease me then?"

"When," Mike asks, his voice full of confusion.

"When you were helping me with that paper," I confirm. "You never teased me when I was having trouble."

"Only the real bad guys…tease the hero…about his one weakness," Mike explains. "How could I tease you…about yours?"

I can not keep the tears in any longer. The deep pain that has been growing in my chest is overwhelming now. I stand up, almost a bit too suddenly as Mikey seems to be startled by my movement. My hands are shaking and the tears are starting to come. I can not let him see me like this. "S-Splinter wants ta see you," I stammer as I move towards the door. "I'll go get 'im."

"Raph…" Mike chokes out when I turn away.

"I-I'll be back, Mike, don't worry, I promise." I do not look at him when I make that promise. I hurry off and leave the room. I softly close the door behind me and let the tears come freely now. I clutch at the pain in my chest. It threatens to take me over, and I lean against the infirmary door for support. I can't be your hero, Mike, I think to myself. How can someone be a hero to their own?

The others have stopped what they were doing to look at me. Master Splinter approaches and puts a hand on my shoulder. "Thank you my son," he says. "I'm sure he appreciated it." His words are calming. I needed to hear them, and I manage a small smile.

But that smile is quickly ripped from my face. I can only stare at them all with a horrified look etched across my beak. My lip quivers and my knees give way. They are all watching me, asking me what is wrong, but I can not voice it. I can not tell them what I hear. I forget to breathe and everyone is looking at me worried, but then Don throws open the door, and they all hear the noise that brought me to my knees.


Hope the italics helped things a bit.