A/N: Well, this is a birthday present for Tristripe... I hope you enjoy it, sweetie!
This was one of those fics that really gave me some troubles... almost wrote myself into a corner at one point. Then the characters wouldn't behave. Then my original ending walked out the door to have tea somewhere and didn't invite me. Eh heh. Anyways, as mentioned before, this fic is very very very Movie 1 based and sort of views that movie in a vacuum... though Book 11 of Volume 1 of the Mirage comics also gave me a lot of input when it came to exactly how Mikey was doing when they first got to the farm. So the characterization of all the turtles is very based on both those universes.
In any case, please enjoy and consider reviewing. And Tri? HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND FEEL BETTER!
...And bonus points to anyone who catches all the Movie 1 references!
The nice thing about punching bags, noted Michelangelo as he gave the dark red one in front of him yet another brutal hit-- one that almost caused the bag to ricochet back into his face-- was that they behaved in pretty consistent ways. Hit one from the left side, it would swing right-wards, if hit from the right it would in turn spiral over to the left, hit it dead on and it would move away from you and then surely back.
You could control punching bags. Unlike a lot of other things in life.
However, he was already getting bored with the damn thing. Funny, he was able to keep himself entertained with it for several hours yesterday. Long enough that Donnie had sought him out to ask-- no, wait, beg-- him to come back to the house for dinner. This particular older brother had looked nervous then, dark brown eyes both concerned and frightened-- Don's fingers tight around his bo. Mikey declined dinner and then sent him packing without a second glance. Whatever his brother had to say-- whatever bit of advice or hope Donnie had, Mikey didn't want to hear it. Not now.
The younger turtle hadn't seen his other two brothers in several days now.
Not giving himself a breather, not that there was much air in this stuffy old barn anyways, Mikey flipped backwards-- hoping to find another target he could move viciously-- change. Something else he could be in control of.
The old table in the corner did nicely, until it collapsed like so much moldy driftwood. Like the ceiling in their new friend April's apartment did when those foot soldiers, despite Donnie's advice, jumped down.
Like the way the glass of that skylight shattered around Raph as his brother fell down into the kitchen. Just a second before then, Mikey and the others had been so happy. It had been so fun playing with the stuff in April's shop-- the one that was nothing but a smoldering pile of rubble now-- and then Raphael was on the ground and Leo was saying something about him barely being alive and--
Mikey hated it here.
He hated the way Raph looked in that bathtub, tossed in there like some discarded child's toy. He hated the helpless guilty way Leo had looked at him the one time the younger turtle braved actually visiting the makeshift infirmary. He hated how Donnie would yammer on and on with that Casey guy-- about TV shows or something, the stuff he used to talk about with his bo-wielding brother. He hated the way April-- who didn't ask for any of this-- would sometimes tear up as all of them, sans Leo and Raph of course, sat around awkwardly trying to eat meals at the rickety table in the smoldering hot kitchen.
The orange-banded turtle took that hate-- savoring it for a brief moment, the way he used to enjoy his pizza-- and then leapt over to the weak-looking wooden wall of the barn. He smiled, not even wanting to know what he looked like at that moment, with all these thoughts buzzing around in his head like irritated bees... then punched.
The wall made a rather satisfying noise.
It was too bright here. All sunny, hot, and green. Nothing like the sewers he grew up in. Once, Mikey had wanted to explore this sort of world-- the realm of the humans. Now he just wanted to go back in time. He wanted Raph up again, giving him noogies and teasing him. He wanted Leo using his swords to cut up pizzas and moving ever so slightly to the beat of whatever song Mikey and Donnie were listening to... not acting like some broken doll.
Was Raphael ever going to wake up again? It wasn't like they had a doctor to ensure such a thing happening. Of course, maybe... maybe Sensei would have known something. He always knew what to do when one of them got sick.
Mikey groaned, his strength leaving him all in one final exhausted rush, and leaned against the wall. Through the hole he created he could see Donnie walking around the yard, jumping at everything around him. Heh, looked like his big brother was just as disturbed by all the nature stuff as he was. Mikey was glad he wasn't the only one who felt out of his element.
...He really wanted to go home.
Something was wrong with Mikey.
Now, Raph hadn't noticed it when he first woke up from his little 'nap'... his head had still been pounding then, and his body felt-- by strange coincidence-- like some army of ninja had been beating him silly on somebody's rooftop. Weird.
But then his body began to heal up, and things-- strange little differences-- became to jump forward into his notice, like demented jack-in-the-boxes. The ones in those stupid movies his brothers sometimes made him watch with them. Raph would rant about those things for hours, but really-- he didn't mind hanging with them, even when dumb entertainment was involved. Well, not -too- much.
Anyways, things were weird. Like during dinner earlier... his younger brother left early, didn't even stay for second helpings. Casey-- the guy from the park last week, and Raphael still wasn't quite sure why the hell he was -here--- said something about the barn. Then everyone went shifty-eyed, 'cept Leo, who looked just as confused as Raph felt.
So here he was now, standing at the entrance to this huge over-grown shed. He guessed about two decades ago it would have looked like something out of a postcard. Now it just looked like a wreck.
And Mikey wasn't helping much.
His younger brother-- normally so calm and cheerful-- suddenly turned to face him, a dark look in his eyes and still standing in the remains of-- something. Raph wasn't quite sure what it had been, but it didn't even look fit for firewood now. On some level he sort of respected that, and on another he was very, very creeped out now.
"What do you want, Raph?"
Oh, so Mikey was going to play it like -that-. Raph frowned slightly, ignoring the way his bruises pulled tight as he did so. "Jus' seeing what you are up to, bro." He watched as the other turtle turned away, giving this very beat-up punching bag a hard smack as he did so. "...The stuff in here tick you off or somethin'?"
Michelangelo just growled, flipping around and quickly doing something that sort of resembled a kata, though their Sensei would have had had Mikey's head for performing it -that- way-- all sloppy, distracted, and out of control. God knew Raph sure got yelled at a hell of a lot of times for working out in just such a state. Just a month ago, Splinter had pulled him aside for a talk about it. He was always doing things like that, especially for Raph. That was the way he was.
Their Sensei. Their father.
Suddenly, Mikey stopped moving-- he just stood there, hands shaking ever so slightly, sweat just pouring off of him like the freakin' Niagra or something. Raph simply looked at him, and his younger brother glared back-- some fragile frightened challenge glistening in his eyes.
For a minute, Raph was confused-- upset. Then, all at once, he finally got it.
Him. Mikey was acting like -him-.
Was that the way he looked, during those times when everything around him seemed to suddenly rush up and pull him under into that familiar maelstrom? Did he gasp for breath just so? Glare at everyone around him? Destroy everything in sight?
His brother sighed. "Raph, you aren't Donnie. Or Leo. If you are'n here to lecture me about my behavior or tryin' to cheer me up, you can forget it." Mikey gave him a sideways look. "You are just as guilty as the first one and suck at the second, anyways."
That much was true, Raph had to admit. Though he really didn't appreciate Mikey pointing it out. Then again... he paused-- struggling against the urge to surge forward and meet his brother's anger and confusion tit for tat-- This... Mikey shouldn't be ticking -him- off. He shouldn't be letting him. Raph had his vent already, back on that damn rooftop. He was empty, all those emotions and fears somehow beaten right out of him for now.
Knowing what he had to do now, the red-banded turtle smirked.
"What, you honestly think I came in here for -that-? Coddling some bratty kid?" Mikey growled, and Raph managed not to show how much that really did bother him. He had a job to do, and he'd be a sucky big brother if he didn't follow through with it. "...I got better things to do. In fact--"
"SHUT UP, RAPH!" The younger turtle twisted about to face him, hands clenched now into tight fists. "What makes you think you can just waltz into here after-- after all of that, and--"
Raph raised an eye ridge, interrupting him. "An' what makes you think it's 'kay to be smashing up all of April's stuff? Or making Donnie n' Leo so jumpy, huh?"
"It's your fault!" With that, Mikey suddenly lunged forward-- using one of his better moves. Now, normally, that wouldn't be a problem. Sure, Mikey was pretty talented... but he had nothing on the hours of training Raphael put in on the side.
Normally, though, Raph wasn't a mere day and a half out of coma.
Thus, the older turtle found himself staring at the ceiling pretty damn quickly and cursing his lack of foresight. Leave it to him to finally come up with a plan and then forget a not-so-minor detail like muscles made of Jell-O. Figured!
At least it partially worked.
"RAPH! Oh jeez!" He almost jumped, as suddenly Mikey appeared before him, so close that the trails of his bandanna were dragging against Raph's plastron. "You-- you aren't gonna fall asleep again, are ya?"
Groaning, the older turtle managed to barely sit up. "M'fine, Mikey. That was just a lucky--"
"-Lucky-?!" Raph blinked as his brother's hands came to rest on his shoulders and gripped tightly, almost painfully. "There hasn't been a single-- single 'lucky' thing about this whole past -week-, Raph!"
"...We're still alive, aren't we?"
Mikey frowned. "Says the guy who's been managing a pretty good corpse impression lately, bro." He gave a startled Raph a pointed look. "...You got any idea what that's like? You weren't movin'... and Leo was just this -mess-..."
"And!" The grip on his shoulders relaxed, ever so slightly. "The last thing we woulda heard from you was something about you -leaving-, Raph. You and Leo fighting again."
...Wait, wait. Raph blinked.
This was about him?
"Awww, geez, Mikey..." He grimaced as the younger turtle stood up then gave Raph-- who really didn't want it-- a hands up as well. "M' always like that. Never bugged ya before. You n' Donnie just leave the room."
For a moment, Mikey just -stared- at him, then his little brother shook his head and moved behind him. Raph blinked as he felt a slight pressure at the back of his shell.
Mikey's fingers, as if on their own volition, traced over the deep glass-created gouges on his brother's carapace. "...Those times didn't end with ya falling through a window half-dead, bro. And they didn't start with Sensei bein' gone and us in someone else's home and..."
Raph shuddered as Mikey suddenly trailed off, a strangled half-noise escaping his throat.
"I..." This wasn't the first time Raphael found himself wishing he was better at talking with his family-- but it was, without a doubt-- the worst. So far, at least. Mikey didn't sound about ready to cry those other times.
And the hardest part about all of this? Raph really did understand how his little brother felt. He had been feeling the same way ever since the night he and his brothers returned to the Lair to find the only home they ever knew ransacked and empty. So, he -knew- how painful it felt-- being scared, alone, and powerless.
Mikey shifted, and the delicate feeling of trailing fingers left, replaced by tight pressure. The younger turtle was clinging to him now, silent. Through his thick shell, Raph could barely feel Mikey's trembling.
Raphael knew he had to say something now. He knew that it was what he was -supposed- to do. He was the one here right now. He was the one who-- at this moment in time at least-- understood Mikey the best. He was the one his little brother had been emulating for the past few days. He was the older brother.
He was the cause of Mikey's suffering, and there were few things in the world Raph hated more than seeing his family suffer.
But he was famously bad at comforting others, and Mikey? Mikey was just as well known for denying there was anything he needed to be comforted -about-. Raph was here, but he wasn't the one for this job.
They needed their father.
Serious and sad in the weak candle-light, his father met his eyes. "...You are unique among your brothers... for you choose to face this enemy alone." A furred hand came forward as he spoke, as if to take the turtle's own.
Raph looked away, that familiar feeling of guilt and tenderness his Sensei always invoked him warring with a burst of uneasy pride. Yes, he was unique... strong enough to fight his battles without the others. Sometimes, he felt he had to be. His brothers, they were too easy-going. They didn't understand the way the world -worked-.
Except for Leo. Sometimes.
"But as you face it, do not forget them." As if reading his thoughts, the aged mutant rat continued. "And do not forget me." And now his hand really did come up, gently caressing the top of Raph's head. The same way he did when the turtle was little and still went to his father when he had nightmares instead of taking it out on his workout equipment.
"I am here, my son."
"I..." Suddenly, Raph knew what to say. "'M here, Mikey. Still here." He craned his neck slightly, struggling to get a glimpse of his still silent little brother's face. "Leo n' Donnie too. We ain' going anywhere."
Mikey huffed. "That's not--"
Cutting him off, Raph managed a smile. "This-- this stupid worrying and upset thing ain' you, Mikey. Me and Leo, we got that stuff -covered-." He chuckled. "You just... hang out with Donnie and eat pork rinds or something. We got ya covered."
His little brother winced. "...Don's prolly not too interested in hanging out with me right now, Raph. I've been a little... uh..." Mikey pulled away, eyes on some spot in the corner of the barn and distant.
"...That's sorta hard to believe, bro." Raphael barely managed to not scoff, trying to picture the Wonder Twins having any sort of strife. "...Jus' ask him to play that Trivial Pursuit game or something. Wiping the floor with other people always takes his mind offa stuff."
Reassuringly, Mikey laughed. "Donnie -is- pretty vicious with that thing." Then his slight smile began to fade. "But--"
"I'll play too. No need for ya to suffer alone, after all." He glanced over at his little brother, hoping that dark angry look was off still and would stay off. "...I'll be there."
The next thing Raph knew, he was-- for the second time in as many days-- suddenly enveloped in a tight hug from one of his brothers. Mikey had a tighter grip than Leo, he always seemed to do everything with a lot more energy than any of them, Raphael supposed.
Raph got over his shock pretty quick, and after a hesitant glance down to make sure the attachment at the front of his shell wasn't crying or anything, began to prepare to slip away from his clingy younger sibling. This was really awkward-- and unlike the time with his older brother, he was in full control of his body right now.
"We do need you, Raph. A lot."
To that, there really wasn't any reply. Raphael just closed his eyes-- images of his father and brothers briefly dancing before him-- and allowed Mikey to hold him close.
He wanted to say that, even leaned down close to his little brother's down-turned face and mouthed the words. Hoping, even as he prayed the other turtle would never find out he felt this way, that Mikey would somehow hear him and -understand-.
After several long minutes, Mikey finally pulled away. He still looked a little off, but his smile was back. That bright typical Mikey look that no amount of rain or strife should be able to wash away. "...Guess I oughta clean up in here, huh?" He sounded sheepish.
Raph smiled back. "First things first." He pointed at the punching bag the other turtle had set up in the center of the barn. "That was a cool Dragon Punch I saw ya doing when I came in. Do it again real quick?"
And so Mikey did.
"Hey guys." Raph followed his little brother into the room, giving April and Casey something of a half-wave. Briefly he wondered what the hell Leo's sword was doing on the table-- then his eyes were pulled over to Mikey, who was nosily rummaging about in some drawers.
A second later, Mikey pulled a bottle of Turtle Wax out of the cabinet, smiling broadly. This caused both humans to roll their eyes and grin at the same time, likely the young turtle's intention all along.
Laughing himself, Raph gave Mikey a very well deserved noogie. "Funny, Mikey." His little brother just grinned back at him, bottle still in hand and cheerful as ever. Same ol', same ol'.
God, it felt good to have things back-- more or less-- to normal.