AN: I don't own the turtles, nor do I make any money from plunging them into awkward and humiliating situations. Please enjoy. )

Chapter One: The Wait

Michelangelo let his gaze ping-pong restlessly between his two silent brothers. The awkward quiet had stretched for some time now, and by this point it was really getting to the youngest terrapin. He fidgeted through another six and a half minutes of it before finally giving in. Scooting closer to where Raphael was slouched across the opposite end of the couch, he stage-whispered, "What do you think they're talkin' about?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Raph bristled, looking away and slumping down lower into into the ratty, well-worn cushions.

"It's not our business, guys." Leo put a swift end to this speculation from where he sat comfortably in lotus position on the floor nearby.

Raphael was NOT in a good mood. Of course, neither were any of them by this point… But whereas his brothers were just mildly annoyed, Raph was steaming mad and putting all his concentration into not exploding at either one of his siblings. They weren't really at fault. He knew they weren't. But flying into a rage at the source would have meant going after Splinter, and that was something he would not let happen. Not ever, if he could help it.

But, damn it all! This waiting around is POINTLESS! Raphael fumed in stormy silence. He had been out the door and on his way, having made plans to hook up with Casey that night. Of course Raphael had still been near enough to hear the distant summons from Splinter's gong, but he fully intended to ignore it and claim differently later. This might have worked, too -- except he hadn't expected anyone to catch up with him quickly enough to prove otherwise.

And there I was, just mosey-in' along... So stupid! Raph turned further away from the others to hide his grimace, silently berating himself. Should'a run.

Leo had scared the crap out of him, stepping out of the shadows and directly into his path without a whisper of warning. The sai were brandished before the sight of his big brother could fully register, each coming out with a soft and deadly 'snick'. Leonardo regarded the weapons coolly for a moment, then delivered Master Splinter's word-for-word request for everyone's presence in the dojo. There was not much Raph could do but put his weapons away and follow him.

They had barely started back when the gong rang again, distant but indisputable. Raphael flinched involuntarily at the incriminating sound, and Leonardo walking ahead of him fell briefly to a halt, listening. He did not look back at Raphael, but noted scathingly as he started walking again, "Maybe we need to have your ears checked...?"

The others had answered the summons promptly, and Raphael could feel the extra weight of Splinter's gaze as he moved into the room last to join them. Splinter told them that he needed words with Donatello first, and they were not to leave the common room until their private talk was concluded. The purple-masked turtle had been more startled than anyone at this, and his eyes went wide and imploring. But as he looked to his brothers (and particularly to Leo) for enlightenment, it was clear at a glance that not one of them had any better idea about what was going on.

Seeing Splinter give them a nod of dismissal, Raphael had been the only one to press for an explanation. But he did not get more than a few words into his protest before Splinter cut him off. There would be NO going to the surface tonight, he had assured them all with finality.

Well over an hour later, they were all still sitting around waiting.

Eventually Michelangelo felt he was going completely stir-crazy from the stifling silence, not to mention wracked with suspense. "Oh, screw this!" he announced, leaping up from where he sat.

"We're not to leave this room," Leo reminded him abruptly, bringing himself out of light meditation with a sharp blink and fixing a stern gaze on Michelangelo.

"I'm not, I'm not… chill, 'kay? Seriously." Mikey was already up, waving off Leo's warning and moving across the room. Snagging his Nintendo DS from the end of Donnie's desk where it had been charging, he bounced back to the couch waving it triumphantly. Thus having temporarily made a clever escape into the magical realm of Hyrule, Mikey passed the remaining time with relative ease.

Raphael continued to fume for some time, but as one hour stretched into two his scowl did eventually soften into blank introspection.

Leonardo threw himself back into his attempts to meditate, but the sounds coming from Mike's game combined with his own growing uncertainty and made it more difficult. Ultimately it was Leo who worried the most, perhaps more than his brothers combined.

Was Donnie in trouble? And if he's not… why hadn't Splinter wanted to speak privately to him, first? How could Splinter leave him in the dark, and then expect him to lead his brothers…? It wasn't fair.

Every time Leo thought he had achieved calm, his thoughts would spiral back into doubt. Am I not trusted? Is this because I stayed too long in Central America?

Or is there something else I've done wrong…?