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If the Masks
He had watched him do it to himself for over two years. Watched the guilt eat away at his soul. He'd tried to warn him about what it would do to him. He had confronted him numerous times. The concern for his brother ate away at his heart. And the worst part of it was that his brother didn't seem to care about the damage it was causing to his body.
Michelangelo watched sadly as Leonardo staggered into the lair. His older brother's eyes were glazed over, completely unfocused. The sibling clamped his beak tight to keep himself from speaking, telling the older turtle he told him so. His brother finally staggered into his room, clumsily shutting the door behind him.
Mikey had never considered that, out of all his brothers, it would be Leo who fell prey. He had always thought Raph as the one that would go off the deep end first. He shook his head sadly before continuing to ponder his depressing thoughts.
He wasn't sure if the other members of his family caught on yet. Mikey was sure Raph knew and that Donny suspected something. Raph had frequent insomnia, staying up late into the night. He wasn't deaf. He would be able to hear their intoxicated brother stumbling back into the lair at two in the morning. Donny also stayed up late so it was a possibility that he knew.
The only person that Mikey knew for sure hadn't caught on was their sensei. Leo always managed to get up on time and go through the day without showing the slightest sign of…anything. It was like he didn't have any problems. Like he didn't stay out late at night. Like he didn't only get three hours of sleep. On the outside he was the same Leo they had grown up with. But Mikey knew his sibling had an addiction. One that wouldn't go away.
Sometimes Leo would be out all night or even a few nights. He never called or told them he'd be gone for a few days. That had gotten Mikey worried. Master Splinter had dismissed it as nothing, saying that his son just needed to be by himself. The rat even went as far to compare Leo's disappearances to Raph's. Mikey knew that it had caused a deep wound for his brother. Having your father bring up one of the most painful times in your life and treat it with such flippancy would hurt anyone. Even someone that acted as tough as Raphael.
Mikey had done some research, hoping he would be proven wrong. The symptoms matched up, causing Mikey to fall into despair. He had suspected that his brother had taken his addiction to the next level when he took to wearing thick black wraps around his hands all the way to his elbows. Leo was also a lot angrier then before. It was like he was digressing back to when Raph was in his darkest times. Except it was Leo playing his brothers role.
A few weeks later, Mikey heard the sound of the elevator doors opening. His brother was back but something about his footfalls made the younger turtle pause. These sounded…sober.
Mikey peered over the couch seat. His eyes widened. For once his brother was coming home without reeking like a bar. His wraps where off as well. Mikey just barley stopped himself from cussing when he spotted the numerous fresh scars his brothers arms bore.
Leo stopped by what served as their kitchen and pulled out a first aid kit from the cupboard. His face was blank as he started to clean his cuts.
Mikey took a deep breath before stepping out of the shadows cover. When Leo made no motion of noticing him, the turtle started towards his brother.
"Need help?" Mikey asked in a soft, and what he hoped was, light tone. Leo grunted but didn't protest when his brother took his arm.
Mikey gently rubbed the alcohol over the cuts, wishing that they weren't there in the first place. His brother needed help but he wouldn't accept it from anyone. You always did have to be the damned hero, he thought bitterly.
"Leo," he began but his brother was faster. He cut him off with four words.
"You're mad at me," his brothers light brown eyes looked into his own aqua blue, "Aren't you?"
Mikey sighed, continuing to clean the cuts. "I'm not mad. Just…really sad."
Leo let out a bitter laugh. "Liar."
Mikey cringed at the bitterness in his sibling's voice. But he was right. He had lied. He was mad. Furious would be a better word. And it was towards his brother.
"You hate me don't you?" The words where so soft, Mikey wasn't sure if he had heard them at all but the way his brother turned his head from him told him he had.
"No. I don't hate you."
Leo laughed again. The tone was weighed down by bitterness and regret. "Yeah you do. I can feel it radiating off you."
"Wrong. That's not hate. It's anger." Mikey switched arms, rubbing the wet pad gently over the pinking flesh. "I lied. I'm angry at you. You know that this is wrong."
"Just let me deal with it on my own."
Mikey sighed. "I've been doing that. And what has happened? It's gotten worse. These," he held up the mangled arm, "are proof."
"I can deal with it Mikey," Leo grit out.
Mikey huffed. "Obviously you can't. If you could 'deal with it' it would have been over a long time ago."
"You never let me!" Leo shouted. He jerked his arm away and glared at his sibling.
Mikey felt a pang of hot anger retch through him. "Never let you? Never let you!? How long has it been Leo? How long have I known?! I've let you 'deal with it' for over two years! Two years!"
Leo's eyes flashed. "I can't deal with it if you never give me a chance!"
"A chance?!" Mikey's voice rose to a screech. He knew that the other family members where probably awake by know, listening to them. He was glad that Splinter wasn't there at the moment. That was the last thing Leo needed on his track to healing; Splinter finding out about his problem through a shouting match. "How long of a chance do you need?! Three more years? Five more years? How long Leo? How long of a chance?"
It was so fast Mikey barely had time to dodge. Leo lashed out; fist just grazing Mikey's face. The younger turtle jumped back and stared wide-eyed at his brother.
"Do not," Leo seethed, "try to help me. Y'hear that Mikey? Try to do anything and I'll kill you."
He'll do it. Mikey wanted to take it back but the thought stated the truth. Leo really would kill him. He could feel the bloodlust radiating off his body. All directed at him.
Leo shoved passed him, heading straight for the lair's door. He didn't bother grabbing anything to cover himself. Mikey could hear the shouts from Raph, asking him where the hell he was going. Donny's voice rang out, filled with sheer desperation to try and make their brother stay. The door hissed closed.
Mikey slowly slid to the kitchen floor. His eyes where wide and empty. His brother really was gone. The brother he had looked up to as a young turtle, the brother he had followed so willingly into battle time and time again, was gone.
Mikey grasped his head in his left hand. A small sob escaped his lips. Then another one. And another. Until tears flowed freely down his face. His sobs brought his other brothers into the room. Raph kneeled down beside him and took him in his arms. Donny was on his other side, whispering words of assurance to their little brother.
Mikey sobbed into his brother's arms, not caring that he was nearly twenty-two. The reality had finally penetrated through his world. His stupid world of masks.
He had placed a mask on every time he started getting worried about Leo, telling himself that Leo could handle the addiction to a few drinks every other Saturday night. Put another mask on when he found that Leo had started drinking every Saturday night. Another one when he was out every night. Another one when his brother took a razor to his arm.
He put so many masks on. Not only ones that hid his concern and his pain at seeing it all happen. The masks he put on where also to make himself feel better about it. Feel better that he wasn't doing a thing to make his brother stop. Fell better about not insisting that Leo stop. Fell better about not doing a damned thing!
Mikey sobbed again. He felt a part of him wilt away from guilt.
He could have saved him. Could have, if his masks hadn't gotten in the way.
I wrote this because I have felt the same way as Mikey. I'm sure we all have. I have a sibling who has said the same things Leo did, and it has really put a gash in our relationship. Their problem isn't the same as Leo's but it bothers them just as much. I still haven't been able to do anything to help them. I feel as if my 'help' is only hindering them. I wrote this to give others courage to fix the problem before the person get's too far in. I haven't met the standers for a sibling, I pray others meet it and don't keep pilling masks on to keep themselves from hurting.
Masks are easily penetrated no matter how many there may be. Masks can also be removed. Scars cannot.
We all need help. Even if that person will hate you, eventually they'll have someone they care about and they will have to make the decision you did.
I thank everyone who commented on this story with such concern. Everyone that commented gave me such support and really helped me stick it out. Things are looking up for me and my sibling. I thank all of you guys once again!