Author's Notes: This story is one of three in a series I've been calling "Quality Time." They are one part interaction practice and two parts pure unadulterated fun. Each is written as two juxtaposed oneshots meant to take place at about the same time. I will definitely be posting the one with Leo/Raph and Don/Mike interaction (it turned out to be a lot more stimulating than I thought it would be, in spite of the fact that these duos get so much interaction time in fan fiction), but am still chewing on the Don/Raph Leo/Mike one. Have fun, and remember to review.
Disclaimer: I do not own TMNT, 24, Solaris, Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman and Robin, Cutthroat Island, Treasure Island, or anything else in this story, nor do I make money off of this. I am totally broke.
It was midnight, and Raphael was having a 24 marathon.
This meant more than one thing. While it did mean that he was sitting at the television and plowing through April's DVDs of the first season of the popular television show starring Kiefer Sutherland, it also meant that he hadn't slept in about twenty-four hours. Not that he hadn't tried—the last thing he had watched was Solaris, after all—but at this point, he had given up, and figured that if he was going to be sleep-deprived, he may as well bunk up for the night with something worthwhile.
For this reason, he was huddled on the couch with a blanket, watching someone else not sleep for as long as he hadn't slept. Heck, by the end of this, he'd have had less sleep than Jack.
His commune with the television was interrupted by the tip of a very perky tail floating down in front of the couch to pause by Raphael's feet. A pair of paws appeared at the edge of the couch cushion, followed immediately by a pink nose, innocent eyes, delicate ears, and lacy whiskers.
The Cat ducked for half a second, gathering its energy, then sprang up onto the couch and stepped onto Raphael's lap, off of which it was unceremoniously shoved by its owner.
"Go away," growled Raph.
The Cat looked hurt, and turned its pleading amber eyes to the turtle in a deeply wounded gesture of, "What did I do?" Obviously, there had been some sort of mistake. Crouching once more, The Cat leaped up to the turtle's lap again.
And was dumped on the floor again.
"Stupid cat!" snarled Raph, grouchier than normal.
"He's not stupid!" came a voice from above. Mikey.
"He's not gettin' the idea!"
Michelangelo magically materialized from the wasteland of his room and tumbled down the stairs to rescue his creature. "He's not getting the idea because you're not speaking Cat!"
There wasn't a lot to say to that one.
Upon the arrival of Michelangelo, The Cat made a straight shot for his master with a devastated meow. Mikey squatted and petted him gently. "Cats don't have the same set of rules as you and I, brother mine. They have no reason to follow ours. Those were made without their consultation."
Raph was amazed that his brother seemed to think he was making perfect sense.
"So in order to communicate, you gotta speak Cat," finished Mikey.
Mikey began to scratch under The Cat's chin. "If you don't want Klunk to get on your lap, take the blanket off."
"He'll only jump up on your lap if it has a blanket on it. I think he doesn't like the bare skin."
Raphael reluctantly stripped himself of the blanket, setting it beside him on the couch. "If you say so," he said gruffly. "And Mikey?"
The "red" turtle studied his brother, trying to decide what to say. Michelangelo's arms and torso were spattered and smeared with every shade of blue, green, and grey imaginable. It was on his face,as though he'd had it on his hands and had scratched his cheek. It was on his legs, as if it had dripped from some height. It positively covered his hands and forearms.
Raph pointed to the side of his own beak. "You got paint right here."
Mikey gave a rumbling The Cat a final pet before shaking a tuft of cat hair from his fingers. It scattered throughout the air in a burst of orange. "I got paint everywhere, dude, what you talkin' about?"
"Get in an argument with Van Gogh an' lose?"
Mikey snorted. "Nah. I'm painting a mural on my wall." He brightened suddenly. "Come see!" he all but squealed, seizing Raph's arm and yanking him off the couch.
Raphael did not leave his television show for much of anything, but Michelangelo's enthusiasm was so powerful that he didn't have much of a choice. If it came between forcing Jack to fend for himself and seeing Mikey's heartbroken face, Raph chose the lesser of two evils. Take care of yourself, Jack, Raph thought as he abandoned the television to follow Mikey up the stairs. It's gonna be a while.
"Gimme the one on the left. The other one on the left. Yeah, that one." Donatello's vague instructions led Leonardo's hand to the proper tool, which he handed to the "purple" turtle. Don was currently fixing a delicate piece of equipment in the van and was glad for the help, but frankly, Leo had no idea what was what when it came to his brother's complicated-looking tools. He knew wrench, hammer, saw, screwdriver, and anything else used around the home on a regular basis, but beyond that, he was lost. Therefore, Don had to ask for what he needed without actually saying the name of what he needed. It was like charades for Don, who was much more comfortable using precise language.
"Is there a good reason you didn't ask Raph to help you with this stuff?" Leo asked pointedly.
"Because he's had some trouble sleeping. I figured he needed tonight to try and get back on track."
"Don't we have anything in the medicine cabinet for that?"
"That we could use on him more often?"
Don paused, then chuckled. "I suppose I could cook up a mild tranquilizer we could shoot at him every time he gets out of hand."
"Thank God," Leo breathed, sitting down on the floor of the garage, drawing his legs up, and resting his arms on his knees. "He takes any excuse to be out of hand. Just wish he'd do what he's told." He raised a pinched thumb and forefinger and punched the air with an imaginary pin for emphasis on his next words. "Just. Once." He dropped his hand with a sigh.
Don loosened a screw. He paused, then his eyes snapped to his brother. "You know, I was thinking...when did I start thinking of you as being older than me?"
The other turtle was obviously taken aback. "A-am I?"
"Not necessarily. But I think that's it—it's because you take charge of everything. Mikey and I both started thinking of you as being older than the rest of us because of that."
"You've...talked about it?"
"Yeah." Don stepped over and sank to the floor beside his brother. "Not a lot. It's just that at one point in our conversation, he referred to you as 'big brother.' It took me a few minutes to actually think about what he'd said, because it's sort of the way I think of you, too, but then it hit me—we're all the same age, right? So why do we think of you as older? And I think that's what it is—you look after us, you take responsibility for us, you protect us...it's such a cliché big brother type of behavior that we all just sort of started thinking that way."
Leo's eye ridges rose. "Raph, too?"
Don shrugged. "I dunno. He wasn't in on the conversation."
There was a pause, then Leo began to speak slowly and softly, as though thinking at the same time. "I guess I'm okay with it. It makes sense. I always thought of Mikey as being younger, in a way. You and Raph, not so much. At least, I didn't use the word in my head, but now that you mention it, 'younger' works. Not a lot younger, though."
Don nodded. "I think Mikey's younger, too. He's our kid brother."
"It's weird to talk about it, though."
They must have lapsed into thought at the same time with that last comment, for neither spoke for a few minutes.
"We should get back to work," murmured Don.
"You should get back to work," corrected Leo. "I have no idea what you're doing."
"I'm recalibrating the--"
"Stop. Stop. I know I'm really in for it when you use that word."
Don couldn't believe his ears. "Recalibrating?"
"That's the one."
"It just means I'm--"
Don sighed. This is why he liked talking to April.
After ten minutes of admiring Michelangelo's unfinished mural and applauding his lovely work on the landscape, Raphael had made a fatal comment.
"It reminds me of the place in Northampton, 'cept without the house."
That did it. Mikey had seized upon the idea and began modifying the mural immediately. He had babbled for a few minutes about how he could put in the house and the porch swing and the truck and Casey and April could be taking a walk and Leo could be swimming in the lake and Don could be working on the truck and so on and so forth.
Not that Raph minded. He enjoyed the feeling of having inspired his brother. But that had passed a few minutes ago, and now he was standing, bewildered, in front of the painting, holding a brush dipped in midnight blue latex paint.
Mikey had asked him to paint a tree.
He held the brush up to the wall, then drew away, afraid of ruining everything. Stupid Mikey.
"You musta mistaken me for the other Raphael," he had growled at first.
"So put in some fat little cherubs if you want," Mikey had teased him. "It's just a tree. You'll do fine."
His eyes traced the rest of the painting. Mikey was working intently on a large, shaded oak tree, tinted with blues and greys to look like night had overtaken it. The night was provided by a beautiful sky, painted hours before, to which the artist had yet to add stars.
Heaving a sigh, Raph set the brush against the wall and drew it down in a curve. Paint dripped. He caught it with the edges of the bristles. Sheesh, wasn't bark supposed to be brown? Although it did look different at night. Kinda blue, kinda white from the moonlight. It made sense.
"So," Mikey began, finishing the oak tree, "where do you think you should go?"
Most of Raph's concentration was being taken up with the act of painting. "Hunh?"
"In the mural. Where do you wanna be?"
"I dunno. Um...put me on the roof."
"Sure thing," Mikey said gleefully. "Soon as I get the house done." He rinsed his brush out in a bucket of warm water. "Which will be promptly. You wanna be crouched down, waiting for evil to come, so that you may strike at its heart? Kinda Batman-y?"
"Sounds good to me." Raph took a step back, inspecting his work. It was a nondescript line of dark brown paint, unlike Mikey's elaborate strokes of multidimensional color found everywhere else in the painting. "Um, Mikey..."
"You're doing fine. Just do whatever. If you mess up, I can paint over it later. That's the beauty of it."
Do whatever? Raph tried to think of the way he remembered the farmhouse. He was so unused to thinking of it in terms of shades and shadows, but when he looked at his brother's work, it seemed so simple. As Mikey started on another tree, Raph watched him closely, then began to imitate him. After a little practice, he looked away from Mikey and began to improvise on his own tree, glancing back at Mikey's work to make sure he was on the right track. It took him longer than it did his brother, but the end result was...
Not really all that bad.
Mikey gave a congratulatory whoop when he saw the tree. "All right! That's awesome!"
Raph grinned a little, chest swelling with pride. "Ya think so?" he asked, trying to keep the enthusiasm he felt out of his voice, so bewildered as he was at Mikey's high praise that he wasn't positive that his brother wasn't joking.
"Yeah, dude! But the thing is..."
"Yeah?" Here it came. Mikey was going to tell him the truth about his crappy little tree.
Mikey reached out with his paint brush. "You got paint right here." He blotted the bristles against Raph's nose, leaving a smear of black paint.
Raph growled, relief washing through him. "You asked for it," he warned before dipping his brush into a can of dark violet and slinging paint towards his brother in a sharp upward motion.
"Don't get paint on my stuff!" Mikey shrieked, dipping his fingers in a can of red and stamping them on Raph's plastron.
"You think Keira Knightley's hot?" Don sounded like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He was now underneath the van, and his voice was slightly muffled.
Leo shrugged, embarrassed. "Yeah, don't you?"
"Well, yes, but I didn't think she was your type."
"Don, she's exactly my type. Especially in the newer Pirates movies."
"I kind of liked her in the first one."
"Are you kidding? In the new ones she fights, she has a sword...she becomes King of the Pirates, for Pete's sake!"
"I'm sure the sword thing is a turn-on for you, Leo, but...I dunno. It sounds kind of gay, but I loved her dresses. She looked so classic in them. Elegant. Just the kind of girl I'd like to sweep onto a white horse. Not a girl. A lady."
"I guess that makes sense. But...King of the Pirates. What could possibly be cooler?"
"Head of a clan of ninjas?"
Leo smiled and closed his eyes. "Ah, sweet Providence."
"Really?" Don scooted out from under the van and sat up. "You think she'd be hotter if she led a clan of ninjas?"
There was a pause.
"So," Don said slowly, "you'd like her better if she not only wielded swords and fought with the best of them, but if she led a clan of ninjas."
"Would you like her better with sleek black hair and almond-shaped eyes?"
"Nah, I like the sun-bleached look."
Don blinked. "Did you not understand a word I said?"
"Lucy Liu?" Leo shook his head. "Hot, but she's no Keira."
"Lucy Liu doesn't lead a clan of ninjas."
Leo rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Yeah, right."
"Seriously?" Don looked puzzled.
Leo could hardly believe his ears. "Karai? You think I like Karai?"
"Everyone thinks you like Karai."
"So do you?" Don's eyes narrowed like a cat's, glittering knowingly.
Leo hesitated. Come to think of it...
"I...don't think so."
Don raised an eye ridge.
"I mean, no, but..."
This was complicated. Leo took a deep breath, trying to decide how much he should reveal. Don was watching him with nonjudgmental eyes and a closed mouth. If anyone could be told, it was him. No, with the amount of trust Don had earned, he deserved to know. "I think," he said slowly, "maybe I could have."
Don hugged his knees to his chest, watching his brother carefully with an open expression.
"I think I could've liked her at some point...maybe in some different world. But that's not real. She will always be too different. There's no point in wondering about it." Leo glanced at Don, inspecting his reaction to see if he met with disapproval.
Don nodded. "That makes sense. But still..." he paused for a long time as though trying to decide what to say, then smiled, "...she's no Keira."
Leo grinned, relieved. "Darn right."
It was an epic battle.
Michelangelo lay on the floor, more covered in paint than before, idly peeling whatever had already dried from his person. Raph quietly lay on his stomach nearby, just as decorated as his brother.
It had been a good fight.
Mike grinned and tucked his hands behind his head, pausing to relax in the moment. There was a reason Raphael was his favorite brother. Leo was too much like a parent to be a real friend, Don was always busy, and Raph...was just cool. Sure, he lost it sometimes and went neurotic, but if you knew how to deal with it, it wasn't so bad. And there was no way Don or Leo could be talked into a paint fight.
Paintball. That might be a worthwhile investment.
Mike rolled over onto his stomach and folded his arms beneath his head, watching his brother. Raph's eyes were closed, and his breathing was deep, slow, rhythmic...
Grinning, Mike pushed himself to his feet and gathered up the brushes. He needed to rinse them before the latex paint dried, or they would be ruined. However, his muse was biting him again, and he paused, staring at his brother. Without looking away, his hands selected two colors of paint and the last clean brush.
Time to get to work.
"Do you think the Pirates movies would have been better if they'd been about ninjas?"
Don shrugged. He'd put Leo to work waxing the van while he checked the pressure in the tires. "I think you think so."
"They're not about ninjas, so it's a moot point."
"It's not a moot point. You thought Keira would be hotter as a ninja than as a pirate, so I asked the next logical question."
Leo shook his head. "I think they were great movies, but..."
Don waited for the conclusion of that "but." Leo never trailed off and left sentences completely unfinished.
"Pirate movies seem...so outdated. Why bring them up again?"
"You can say the same thing about ninja movies."
"No, ninja movies are timeless."
"Because of the ninjas?" Don crooked an eye ridge. "Are you taking your own bias into account?"
"Yes, Don, I'm biased, but think about it—how many pirate movies, besides the ones starring Johnny Depp, are actually any good?"
Don paused to think.
"Seriously, Don. Cutthroat Island? Quite possibly the worst movie in history."
"Besides Batman and Robin."
Don checked the pressure of the last tire. "Treasure Island."
"The one with Charlton Heston?"
"The one with the Muppets."
Mikey was rinsing the brushes in the bathroom when he heard a knock on the door. "Who is it?"
"I thought you were sleeping," said Mikey, trying to keep an edge of panic out of his voice.
"I can't sleep on the floor, Mikey. I needa pee. Now lemme in."
"Um...I'm doing number two, just hold on a second."
"I hear the water runnin'. You're washin' your hands."
"Just wait! Like..." he checked the clock "...like another twenty minutes!"
"Twenty freakin' minutes? What're you doin' in there?"
He couldn't let Raph see himself until the paint was dry! "Cleaning the bathroom."
The door opened. Raph peered in, looking so grouchy that Mikey wondered if he'd chosen the right time for his prank. "Aw, freak, Mikey, you're washin' the brushes. You coulda told me. Now get out."
"But..." Mikey stammered, refusing to budge, "these've got to be rinsed or I'll never be able to use them again!"
"They c'n wait like two seconds while I do my thing."
He couldn't let him get in front of the mirror! "No, they can't!"
The warning tone was in Raph's voice. A wise turtle heeded that tone.
Mikey sighed, certain he was doomed to die either way. If he was going to meet his maker, he may as well do so after seeing Raph's reaction to his (beautiful, ingenious) paint job.
He yielded, slinking out of the bathroom. As soon as the door closed behind him, his eyes darted around. Couch cushions. Good. He dashed to the couch and seized two of them. They would cover his vitals. He seized the blanket and tied a cushion onto his torso with itt. He wrapped another blanket around his head like a turban. No sooner was he finished putting on his armor than he heard the flush of a toilet and water running in the bathroom.
He was washing his hands!
Mikey grabbed the second couch cushion and held it at the ready. His keen ears caught the sounds of hands moving in the water, hands pausing in the water as the handwasher spied something curious on the edge of his shell, hands being removed from the water as the handwasher turned slightly to view his carapace in the mirror...
The bathroom door burst open and an exceptionally irritated Raphael lumbered out, smoke practically blowing out his ears. "What's THIS?" He turned, pointing to the back of his shell.
"Oh, you're dead Mikey. Soon as you scrub this off, you're dead!"
"Actually..." Mikey grit his teeth to keep from laughing.
Raph took a menacing step forward. "Yes?" he hissed, voice rising in pitch comically. Mikey had to use every last ounce of self-control not to burst into giggles and further provoke his brother's wrath.
"You've got to wait till it's dry. Otherwise, it'll just kind of smear, and the stuff that's already dry will be too thin to peel off, and it'll be a pain. When it's dry, it should just peel off."
Raph was too quick. "Should? SHOULD?"
"Um, yeah. I mean, it'll peel right off skin and...most hard surfaces. DON'T COME ANY CLOSER OR YOU'LL GET A FACE FULL A' PILLOW!"
Raph ignored him, stepping forward and seizing his arm. He yanked Mikey so close that the younger turtle could smell his breath. "Is that so?" he sneered.
"Yes! I swear!"
"In that case," Raph said, voice down to a poisonous hiss, "if I gotta take your word for it, I'm gonna want some kinda collateral."
"C-collateral?" Mikey was afraid to ask.
Raph's mouth formed the next word like he was tasting it, a skeletal grin splitting his face. "Yep."
Leo grabbed Don's shoulder just before they entered the lair. "Donny?"
Don turned his head back to his brother. "Yeah?"
"Let's not wait until the van needs repair to talk like this again."
Don smiled a little and bobbed his head. "Absolutely."
Leo nodded with him for a moment, the shadow of a smile on his face as his eyes drifted away. "Did you ever decide who was older between you and Raph?"
Don shook his head. "I really don't know. It's not like it matters. Raph's more protective, I'm more mature, so I think we split it evenly."
There was a pause, then Leo's glinting eye caught his brother's. "I think you're older."
Another small laugh escaped Don. "I think so, too, but Raph would tell you a different story, and maybe Mikey would, too. Like I said, it doesn't matter."
Leo tilted his head. "Maybe you're right." They stepped into the lair.
Don's eyes widened and his face broke into a grin. "I see someone finally got some sleep."
Leo followed his brother's gaze to the floor in front of the couch. Raphael lay on his stomach, uncovered. His shell, bizarrely enough, was painted fire engine red, with a black line down the middle and several black spots on either side.
Beside him lay Mikey, also on his stomach, also asleep, his shell painted in broad horizontal stripes alternating in yellow and black. Small white insect's wings were painted on the backs of his arms, and his hands were tucked under his cheek to provide slight cushioning.
Between them, curled up and absolutely content, slept The Cat.
"I'm sure there's a story to this," Don commented.
Leo shook his head gently. "I'm sure I don't want to know, but you know we're going to find out anyway. Let's let Honeybee and Ladybug explain it in the morning."
As Leo disappeared to his bedroom, Mikey made a small sound in his sleep and smacked his lips, or the equivalent thereof. Don chuckled and left to take a shower.
Author's Notes: The author would like to encourage anyone using latex paint to rinse out their brushes and rollers afterwards. If they will be used a few hours later or even the next day, it is permissible to wrap them completely in a plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator. While it is not the choice paint of most artists, it does dry quickly and works well on brick, although the author does not know how easily it could be removed from a turtle's shell, although it would be difficult to remove from the grooves. The author has no intention of painting an actual turtle to find out.