Everyone, give Pi a hand. This wouldn't have gotten posted without her beta-work, sound-boarding, and support!


A Watched Pot Never Boils

Mikey hummed 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' to himself as he tossed in another imprecise handful of carrots and onions to his boiling concoction-- a real cook had no need to measure!-- and gave Raphael a quick look over his shoulder.

His silent brother was right were Mikey left him, sitting at the kitchen table with today's Sports Pages in front of him. Raph didn't really seem to be reading it so much as skimming it with a distracted look.

Mikey was pleased to see Raph's hand occasionally snapping out like a striking snake and-- almost giving the impression he was sneaking it-- taking another large handful of the trail mix that Mikey and April had concocted the other day.

Amusing was the fact that it was only the banana chips, chocolate chips, and almonds his stoic sibling was taking. Soon the whole bowl would be nothing but raisins and peanuts, noted Mikey.

Figured. Those things were gross! He tried to tell April they weren't needed, but she had insisted, quoting some medical journal stuff about polyphenols and antioxidants.

Mikey was all for having healthy food -sometimes-, but never at the expense of -taste-. And speaking of taste-- he quickly sprinkled in some extra pepper and chopped up garlic into the pot and took a careful sip.

"Ah, much better." he murmured, pleased. This would be an awesome stew, he could already tell. "...You doing okay over there, bro?"

"Hn." Mikey turned to watch his brother flip the page, a faintly disgusted look on his scarred face. "...How long have th' Yankees been suckin' this badly?"

"Ever since they traded their best player for 'a couple of pissants'-- according to Case, anyway." Mikey shrugged. His best friend might love sports, but it really wasn't -his- forte. Just an excuse to hang out, really.

"Used ta be good." muttered Raph, shaking his head slightly and returning his gaze to the paper. "Shit. Wow. Th' Pistons actually won somethin'." He rested his finger over the headline even as he tossed another handful of carefully picked over trail mix into his mouth.

"You follow them?" wondered Mikey, after a quick mental check involving Casey's sports knowledge. "They're... Detroit... right?"

Raph nodded. "Didn' really follow 'em." he admitted. "...but still saw th' papers when I was looking for... other things."

Picturing crooks hanging by their ankles from street-posts and his old Nightwatcher scrapbook-- Damn, he had thrown that thing away in a fit of anger years ago-- Mikey nodded back and returned to his dinner, which was threatening to overboil.

Thus the room grew silent once more.

--

"You gotta help me, Raphi!" pleaded Mikey. "It's dark and scary in that tunnel... and that's my only ball!" he tried to make his eyes go all wide and wobbly, that worked well on his family -sometimes-.

"'M busy." replied Raph, who was looking over those weird car books he got from Donnie again. "You shoulda thought 'bout that before you threw it in there." he pointed out, his eyes still on his book.

"It -bounced-!"

"I don't care."

"Raaaaaaaaphiiiiii..." Mikey whined. "It'll only be a minute!"

"Fine." huffed his brother, standing quickly even as he carefully put his borrowed reading material away. "If'll shut ya up, I'll do it."

Mikey resisted the urge to stick his tongue out in retort-- not only would his moody brother likely change his mind, but also because he knew better. There was a reason he came to this particular brother for help.

Raphi always said stuff like that-- and it sounded soooo rude-- but at the same time, he -always- helped. It didn't matter what Mikey needed help with, if he asked Raph about it, his brother would eventually get off his shell and do something about it.

Course, he didn't have to be quite such a jerk about it.

A few minutes later, both brothers were at the entrance of the tunnel where Mikey last saw his beloved bright red ball.

"Y' sure this is it?" asked Raph, peering into the darkness. "I don' wanna check every tunnel in this area. Free Time's almost over."

"It's it, it's it!" insisted his little brother, bouncing up and down slightly. "Right in there!"

Suddenly Raph paused, and in the dim light Mikey saw his older brother pale ever so slightly. "...Waitasec."

Curious, Mikey leaned forward, his blue eyes trying to catch what the other turtle was looking at. Finally, he saw it. "OH COOL. I never seen so many in my life!"

The whole tunnel was crawling with at least one hundred different types of bugs, by Mikey's calculation. Big ones, little ones, long ones, and short ones. "I shoulda brought my jar." he added, feeling remorseful.

"Bugs..."

Shoot.

Mikey knew-- no matter how his brother tried to phrase it-- that Raphi was scared of bugs. Everyone did. Which meant--

Thinking fast, Mikey prepared to taunt his brother, maybe elbow him into the tunnel or something, whatever would annoy his brother and tap his pride. He just -had- to get his toy back. Not only did he want to play with it some more, but Sensei always got mad when they lost or broke one of their few possessions-- and this ball was new.

But before he could act, his brother took a deep breath and stepped into the dark gaping maw of the tunnel. Mikey watched him, gaping like a fish out of water.

There were a million things in the world Mikey was scared of. The dark, Freddy Krueger, Jason, sharks-- you name it. He watched a lot of movies, and knew from them that there was all sorts of nasties hiding in the dark, just waiting for little boys like him.

So he stayed the heck away.

-But Raphi entered the tunnel of his own free will. Even though he was scared.-

Awed, Mikey waited by the entrance, a single minute dragging by as slowly as one of the snails he just saw in that hallway before him. He could hear his brother shuffling about, sometimes saying one of those words that Sensei told them to -never- use.

Finally, Raph emerged, the bright ball in his hand standing out in the twilight dimness like a torch. "Here." His older brother roughly pushed the ball into Mikey's waiting hands, and for a second Mikey could almost swear the other turtle was -shaking-.

"How..." his mouth worked, ball now completely forgotten."How'd you do it?"

"Huh?" Raph blinked at him, and then seemed to get it. He flushed slightly, rubbing the top of his head and looking away. "...Ya just gotta put one foot in front of ya and -go- is all." he finally muttered.

--

Mikey never forgot those words. Or that day.

After all, it was very rare in life that once got to meet an honest to god hero.

He had known it then, the second his obviously frightened big brother gave him back the ball that had seemed so important at that time for some reason. And Mikey had been impressed.

It was easy to be fearless with you were like Sensei, Leo, or heck... maybe even Don. But to be fearless when you were really scared?

Now that was amazing.

"...Think some rosemary should be added, bro?" He glanced backwards again, and was surprised to find Raph watching him, a soft look in those normally skittish eyes.

Raph shrugged. "How'm I supposed ta know?"

"I'll add it then." Mikey sprinkled some in. "K. Now we just have to wait."

"...Wait?"

Mikey nodded. "Yeah, if ya try n' rush it, it'll turn out all wrong."

His brother blinked at him slowly, then looked back down at his paper. "...S' good then?" his voice was so soft Mikey could barely hear it.

For a long moment, Mikey wondered why Raph was being so emotional about cooking. Then, in a flash of startling light, he got it. "Yeah..." he swallowed. "It's good. You..." He really wished his brother would look back up at him, he felt almost like he was talking to the table. "...It's better when you finally get to taste it." he offered, ten years of an empty room, empty chair, empty Lair parading past the back of his eyes.

Raphael let out his breath in a long ragged exhalation, suddenly drawing himself up, head buried in his hands.

Concerned, Mikey took a step forward. "...Is...?"

He didn't know what to say.

"...Not so little anymore, are ya?" interrupted Raph, hoarsely.

Silence engulfed them once more-- a period of mourning for all those lost years.

Then Mikey found himself smiling. Raph was here now. He thumped his plastron, feeling slightly guilty when it caused Raph to snap up like a jack-in-the-box. "Musta been all those Wheaties I ate!"

Raph blinked at him, then slowly, the corner of his mouth turned up. "...Ya never ate Wheaties, Mikey. Leo did. You ate Cocoa Puffs. All th' time." He paused. "An' my cereal. Then ya took th' prizes."

Unphased, Mikey flung out his arms. "Genetically modified corn then?" He flexed his right arm, grinning widely.

There was a strange sound. Relaxing his pose, Mikey looked around the room, trying to figure out the source of it. Raph stared back, looking equally as surprised.

Then Mikey figured out what it was and the grin snapped back onto his face as quickly as a lego.

It had been a snort of laughter.