Disclaimer: I don't own TMNT. But ohhhh, how I wish for them….
AN: Well, I've been reading fiction from here for nearly two years now. I decided it was finally time to try something out.
A short while ago, right in the middle of writing this fic, my best friend called and told me that there was a collection of TMNT episodes in our local store. She then proceeded to ask me if Donny was the one that had the yellow bandana. Needless to say, I will be forcing her to watch the episodes with me.
Mikey spluttered. Peeling his bandana tails away from his face, he looked at Leo, who in turn was deep in a staring contest with Karai.
His muscles, tired and sore, nonetheless tensed.
Much to his relief, Karai spoke briefly into her headset and gunned the engine of her watercraft, leaving an almighty splash behind. Once more, Mikey's bandana clung to his face.
He remarked, somewhat indignantly, "What, she couldn't give us a lift?"
He knew it was coming. He knew, and he couldn't do anything about it except try to flinch away from his temperamental elder brother.
The nunchuck-wielding turtle watched in dismay as thick clouds of dust roiled towards them.
"Poor Leatherhead…" Mikey said sadly. He couldn't believe the tech-savvy croc was gone. He'd liked the big guy, even though it was obvious Leatherhead had been more on Donatello's level of calm and intellect. He had been the first turtle to encounter the croc, and also the first one to see Leatherhead's calm side.
He'd tried so hard to convince Leatherhead to just let the ceiling fall. But the croc had held on stubbornly, muscles straining as they rapidly approached their limit. He'd even called Mikey his friend.
And now he was gone.
"Can you imagine being that alone?" Leo inquired, straightening from his slightly hunched position.
"It must have been rough on him," Donatello added softly. "At least we have each other." He smiled, placing his hand on the youngest turtle's shoulder.
Mikey's irrepressible personality came through then, and he quipped, "Yeah, but do we have to have Raph?" He slung his arms around Don and Leo and began to walk away.
Raph ran after them, a grin stretching across his face. "Hey, c'mere, knucklehead!"
"I was feelig all right, but I don't think I cad haddle mutants right dow," Don said, clutching his tissue. His voice had roughened until he sounded almost like Mikey or even Raph, and sweat stood out in a fine sheen across his green face. He hated being sick.
"Yeah, did you figure that out before or after you barfed in the Battleshell?" Mikey asked playfully, remembering just how close Don's 'illness' had come to splattering all over him. Nevertheless, he reached out and patted his brother's shoulder.
"Mikey…" The volatile Raph, made even more so by tension over the upcoming mission and deeply hidden concern over his younger brother, reached out and –
Mikey crouched behind a computer monitor with Leo, watching as Raphael approached Leatherhead. The big croc was obviously upset, fussing over the shards of a broken teacup in his large green fingers.
Mikey grinned as Raph fumbled his way through an apology. Despite the situation, he still found it amusing to see his touchy older brother try to handle a delicate situation like this.
Leatherhead responded that his temper had since been getting the better of him because of what he had endured with Agent Bishop.
"It's okay, I understand," Raph replied, patting the distressed croc on the shoulder. "You know, some guys think I have a little problem keeping my cool."
Unable to help himself, Mikey stood and let loose a stream of words: "Yeah, you do Raph. But man, Leatherhead was like a raging wolverine with a—"
He broke off suddenly as Leonardo indulged in a practice that he rarely engaged in.
"It's okay, Leatherhead. We'll work through it." Leo placed his hand on Leatherhead's shoulder.
Donatello added his hand as well. "You'll see," he said in his soothingly calming voice. "Everything's going to be just fine."
"Except for that teapot," Michelangelo interjected. He yelped as Donny reached out and tugged rather firmly at his bandanna. A mere instant later--
Mikey struggled to get back through the small window, maneuvering first one cast, then the other until he was precariously perched on the sill. He extended a crutch, cheerfully remarking, "I'm looking forward to razzing Raph. He missed all the action!" Unnoticed by Mikey as he put his weight on the crutch, a green hand snaked out of the shadows, snatched the wooden object and pulled hard. The youngest turtle went down in a painful heap, knocking his head against the floor. He heard Raph say smugly, "Not ALL the action." Don and Leo peered over Mikey's cast-encrusted legs to see Raphael sitting against the wall. He had obviously dragged himself there through sheer will, but he was smirking down at Mikey like there was nothing wrong. The downed turtle wriggled about, but was unable to move. Laughter floated towards five sets of ears, distinctive as April's, Casey's, and Casey's black-sheep cousin Sid. Mikey grunted. "They're laughing. That's nice. I can't move, and they're laughing!" Raph picked up the fallen crutch. "We'll heal. Then we can beat the shell out of Casey for havin' such a whack-job family." He paused, then added somewhat gleefully: "You first, Mikey." SMACK "Ow!"
Mikey struggled to get back through the small window, maneuvering first one cast, then the other until he was precariously perched on the sill. He extended a crutch, cheerfully remarking, "I'm looking forward to razzing Raph. He missed all the action!"
Unnoticed by Mikey as he put his weight on the crutch, a green hand snaked out of the shadows, snatched the wooden object and pulled hard.
The youngest turtle went down in a painful heap, knocking his head against the floor. He heard Raph say smugly, "Not ALL the action."
Don and Leo peered over Mikey's cast-encrusted legs to see Raphael sitting against the wall. He had obviously dragged himself there through sheer will, but he was smirking down at Mikey like there was nothing wrong. The downed turtle wriggled about, but was unable to move.
Laughter floated towards five sets of ears, distinctive as April's, Casey's, and Casey's black-sheep cousin Sid.
Mikey grunted. "They're laughing. That's nice. I can't move, and they're laughing!"
Raph picked up the fallen crutch. "We'll heal. Then we can beat the shell out of Casey for havin' such a whack-job family." He paused, then added somewhat gleefully: "You first, Mikey."
"Leatherhead! Wake up!" Mikey tried to leap away from the enraged croc, but Leatherhead managed to catch the turtle by the wrist.
They froze that way for the briefest instant, and Mikey allowed himself to think that perhaps the croc would regain his senses and let him go. Then the bulging muscles in the arm bunched and Mikey found himself flying through the air.
He smashed briefly into a wall, thought about how often that seemed to happen around his big reptilian friend, and was hoisted high over the croc's head. For the first time, he felt real fear as he felt his friend's large hands clench down. He was stunned, dazed, and Leatherhead held him in a death-grip. If something didn't happen soon…
"Leatherhead, wake up!" he cried, hoping to penetrate through the croc's rage, or at least bring his brothers running. "It's me, Mikey!"
He yelled in pain as Leatherhead's grip tightened and he was sent crashing with brutal force into the ground. The last things he heard were Leatherhead's roars of triumph.
A sharp throbbing pain on the side of his skull brought him back around. Someone was cradling him in their arms. "No, no. Mikey, come on, say somethin'!"
Michelangelo waited for a moment in an attempt to get his bearings. The pain resided somewhat, and he was able to quip, "I guess I'm lucky you didn't give me mouth to mouth."
The sai-wielder grunted and dropped him. And once more, Mikey's head came in contact with the ground.
Mikey rubbed his head thoughtfully. It was always Raph who managed to really smack him. Granted, Leo, and even Don wouldn't hesitate if they felt he was being particularly obnoxious. But Raph's hits came much more frequently. In fact, he reflected, it was almost a daily occurrence.
He sent a somewhat wary glance towards the aforementioned turtle. The two of them had been struck by a massive pizza craving in the very wee hours of the morning, and had instantly agreed to go up to the surface and resolve the problem before their rumbling stomachs woke everyone else in the household.
Now that their hunger had been sated somewhat, they crouched upon the rooftop of an old apartment complex, staring out over the city. Raphael was content for the moment: an entrance to the sewer lay in the alley directly below, he was full, and he liked watching the city at night. Mikey on the other hand…
The orange-banded turtle tapped his foot against the railing impatiently. Now that his pizza craving had been diminished, he only wanted to go back to the lair and to bed. He could have simply abandoned his brother and headed back himself, but something kept him put. His mind, always active, had fixated on all the beatings his poor head had taken over the past years.
All right, so it was most always his own fault. He had a tendency to open his mouth and talk before his mind could catch up. But still… He rubbed the back of his head, wondering if all those thumps would ever culminate in brain damage.
Dropping his hand, he sat on the edge of the railing, resigning himself to a long wait.
Five minutes or so passed, with the younger turtle doing everything in his power to keep himself from fidgeting too much and earning another smack. Right in the middle of a barely-suppressed squirm, motion caught his eye. It wasn't much, just a shadow near a chimney… but Mikey had long since learned that even shadows could turn out to be dangerous.
He rose and slid his weapons out of his belt. Raph noticed this and was on his feet in an instant. "What is it?"
Michelangelo stepped towards the chimney and set one 'chuk whirling with an easy flick of his wrist. He would feel ridiculous if it turned out to be an alley cat or something, but—
He ducked as a gloved fist shot out of the shadows, lashed out with his right hand. Something crunched and a hiss of pain reached his ears. Raph was beside him in an instant, reaching out and drawing forth a Foot soldier, bleeding heavily through the nose area of its mask. "Foot," he growled, flipping the injured attacker off the edge of the complex and drawing his sais.
Unconsciously, the brothers moved closer together, each warily scanning the surrounding rooftops. Nothing seemed out of place but both knew it was rare to find a lone Foot soldier. Their suspicions were confirmed as several more Foot vaulted out of the shadows and attacked with customary viciousness.
"Mikey, do ya mind?" Raph ground out, crossing his weapons and catching a descending sword. "I'm busy!"
The masked ninja, who hadn't expected the block, stared down at the red-banded turtle in something close to amazement. Raph used the temporary advantage to swipe his opponent's legs out from under him and slammed the hilt of a sai into the guy's temple. He dropped like a sack of Don's technical equipment, and Raph turned his attention to his little brother.
Mike was nimbly leaping about the rooftop, always half a step ahead of his agitators. Raph had to grin at the sight, lowering his weapons to his side. He knew from long experience and many many chases that Mikey was difficult to catch: he had always been the fastest of the four, even when they were younger. He had no doubt that his brother could easily handle these last two.
The orange banded turtle made a particularly spectacular flying leap ("Showoff…"), directly toward the edge of the building. Raph remained unperturbed, knowing that his brother meant to land at the edge of the old building and launch himself back in a new direction. What neither he nor Michelangelo was prepared for was the crumbling of the aged brick and mortar as the flying turtle landed. "Mikey!"
Said turtle squeaked in surprise, instinctively throwing all his weight backwards in an effort to keep his balance. He collided directly with the pursuing Foot, sending all of them to the grimy rooftop in a rather ungraceful tumble. Raph was moving even before the only figure rose from the tangle. In seconds, the ninja was dispatched and Raph was roughly yanking Mikey to his feet. The last Foot lay stunned from the fall.
"No problem, bro," Mikey responded, although he was swaying slightly on his feet.
Raph chose to ignore it, instead glancing around at the downed Foot. "I don't feel like there's anybody else out there, but we should prob'ly head back."
Mikey grinned and deepened his voice, doing a reasonably passable imitation of Obi-wan Kenobi. "Use the Force, Raph."
Raphael didn't think twice. It was instinct.
However there was no "Ow!", nor was there the customary retaliation. Instead, Mikey's eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed bonelessly to the roof.
"Very funny, knucklehead," Raph grumbled, nudging his brother's body with a green toe.
Despite his feelings that it was just Mikey's idea of a joke (and a poor one at that), Raph found himself kneeling next to his brother. As the seconds began to melt into a minute, the elder became increasingly worried. Mikey's playful jokes never lasted this long. He had too much energy to keep still; he was usually up and about in seconds. Maybe… maybe it was real. This assumption was quickly proven correct as Raph threatened to steal all of the orange-banded turtle's comic books and flush them, only to be met with no response.
Raphael felt a wave of guilt wash over him as he carefully hoisted Mikey over his shoulders and made his way slowly down the building's old fire escape.
The trek through the sewers seemed to take an age to Raph. He hurried along, not quite running, but not really walking either, berating himself for everything he'd done since leaving the lair with Michelangelo earlier that night. Somehow, some way…. This was all his fault.
Voices ahead jerked him back into awareness. He froze and instinctively backed into an adjoining tunnel before realizing that he was just around the corner from the lair's entrance and that the voices belonged to Leo and Don.
"Where do you think they went?"
"For all I know, Mikey taped over Raph's wrestling shows and Raph chased him out. It's happened."
Raphael shook himself mentally and stepped forward. Leo and Don turned upon hearing his footsteps, and their light banter died instantly.
Donny rushed over, closely followed by Leo. Raph allowed the purple-banded turtle to fuss for a few seconds as he edged towards the lair's entrance. Leo, on the other hand remained calm and reserved.
And rational. Raph fought the urge to grind his teeth together. How in the shell could Leo always be in control?
"Whadda ya think?" he all but snarled as Don led them along a too-familiar route that led to what served as a medical room.
He shot a burning glance in his older brother's direction as he deposited Mikey on a cot. The worry he saw in Leo's eyes quaffed his anger somewhat, but it still simmered just below the surface. He turned his attention to Don, who was shining a tiny penlight into Mikey's eyes.
"Check the back of his head," he said uncomfortably. "I think he mighta hit the roof head first."
Don obeyed, carefully turning Mike's head. "Hit the roof? What were you guys doing up on the roof?"
Raph reluctantly recounted the events of the night. Donatello listened intently, which helped to sooth his temper further. Don and Mikey were always ready for a story, and best of all, Raph didn't feel like they would judge him. Leo, on the other hand… It always felt like Leo was just waiting for him to mess up.
"And so I jus'—" Raphael imitated the 'smack' motion. "I didn't think it would… do that…"
"Relax," Don said, straightening up with a relieved sigh. "I think it's just a concussion. Still…" he mused to himself, rummaging around in a cupboard and coming up with an extra blanket, which he spread over Mike's prone form, "I'd feel better if someone stayed here though. When he wakes up, I don't want him to go back to sleep until I can take a look at him."
"I will," Leo said quietly, "If one of you guys will tell Master Splinter." He took a seat in the lone chair near the cot, and proceeded to try and look casual. Raphael and Donatello had only to look at the not-so-relaxed set of his shoulders and the way he eyed Mikey's body instead of picking up a tattered magazine that he wasn't quite as all right with the situation as he would like them to believe.
Raph thought about making a comment, thought better of it (amazingly), and walked out of the room. "I'll be right back," he called over his shoulder.
Splinter reached for the kettle, intent on pouring himself a cup of tea before the commercial break was over. If he missed any of the new episode, he was doomed to be confused about the intricate love triangle between Rick, Julie, and Jason until reruns began. No, he would not have that.
However, as he calmly stirred the hot liquid about in the cup, he became aware of a presence behind him. He knew instantly that it was Raphael, if only because of the sai-wielder's reluctance to step forward and talk. Any of the others would have already been speaking, unless it happened to be Michelangelo coming to confess about something being broken. The ninja master had not heard any (recent) crashes in the Lair however, and so he said softly, "Raphael, what is it?"
He heard Raphael shift his weight and fiddle with something, likely one of his weapons, before responding. "It's Mikey, Master Splinter… He's unconscious."
Splinter felt a wave of concern wash over him at the news, and he turned to face Raph, leaving his tea on the counter. "What has happened?"
"Well, he decided he was hungry…"
Splinter listened to the tale with growing worry. He made his way swiftly to the door, soap opera entirely forgotten, as Raph finished, but paused as the turtle made no move to follow. "My son?"
Raph shuffled, bare feet sliding over the ancient linoleum in a way that was all too familiar to Splinter. He turned to face his most explosive son, taking in the uncharacteristic hunched shoulders and lowered gaze. "It was not your fault, Raphael. You were unaware that he was injured."
"But I did know!"
The aging sensei raised his furry eyebrows but said nothing.
Raph fumbled his way through several different explanations, unable to choose just one. They all seemed to take an inevitable loop back to not allowing Mikey to come topside, instead he should have just gone alone and brought a couple of pizzas back to the Lair. Splinter allowed him to do so, knowing that he was angry and upset, and looking for someone or something to blame and the closest, most readily available subject was himself.
"Michelangelo had every right to go with you," he said when it became apparent that Raph was running low on self-blame ideas. "He has been going aboveground as long as the rest of you. It was an accident, caused by a mixture of bad luck and unknown factors. It could have happened to any one of you, and you would have had exactly the same amount of blame placed on your shoulders then: none. Donatello and Leonardo do not blame you, I do not blame you, and it is unlikely to the extreme that Michelangelo will see fit to charge you with anything. Come."
He swept away and Raph had little choice but to follow. His sensei's words made him feel slightly better, but no one could tell him that Leo didn't blame him. Leo always blamed him.
Leonardo flipped through a tattered magazine, idly looking at each page and promptly forgetting about it the instant his fingers flipped to the next. Old when they had gotten it, the print was now so difficult to read that it was nearly impossible. It did not matter of course, not when his attention was so scattered.
Despite Donny's earlier words about feeling better if someone stayed, it appeared that all of them were determined to remain in the immediate area until the youngest turtle's return to consciousness. Don was in the corner, sneaking glances over from time to time while playing with an old radio that never seemed to stay in operation, no matter what he did to it. Splinter was meditating nearby, although he was also clearly not able to focus as well as he normally did. Leo himself was of course semi-occupied with the magazine. And Raph was skulking in the doorway, clearly unwilling to enter, yet just as reluctant to leave.
Leo caught himself surreptitiously watching the red-banded turtle out of the corner of his eye. His brother was making him edgy, hovering like that. Why couldn't he just come in or stay out? Raphael's shifting gaze caught him in mid-stare, and he quickly redirected his attention to the magazine, feeling a faint heat rise in his face.
He studiously flipped through more pages, peering down at the faded pictures until he felt Raph's attention turn elsewhere. Very cautiously he raised his eyes again, studying the doubtful motions as Raphael half-stepped forward, seemed to change his mind, then half stepped back. Leo's mind, ever analytical, went to work. It did not take him long to decide that his younger brother was feeling decidedly guilty about the whole thing.
And well he should, part of him agreed viciously. It's his fault anyway, if he could just learn to control himself we wouldn't be here! His brow furrowed, and he regarded that part of himself with some surprise. Was that true? The quickness of which he had leaped to such a conclusion startled him. Was it really Raph's fault for doing what came naturally to him, for doing something Leo himself had been known to do?
He glanced at his youngest brother's form on the medical cot, hoping Mikey would wake soon and dispel some of the tension he suddenly felt.
Don resisted the urge to throw the radio across the room. He honestly didn't know what else he could possibly do to the thing, short of dumping it in the river and hoping the problem would be washed away. Although that was technically impossible, he relished the idea for a moment before diving back into its innards with renewed determination to ferret out the problem once and for all. Or would it be 'turtle out'? Could a turtle, albeit a large, clever, mutated turtle, ferret something out?
He put the word problems away, resolving to discuss it with Mikey sometime in the future. He eyed the turtle beneath the blanket for a long moment. True, it was just a concussion, Raph had said he was awake and cracking jokes before he had collapsed, but he still didn't like the idea of one of his brothers out of commission. It gave him the cold shudders actually.
As he began to return his gaze to the radio, he noted that Raph had gone unnaturally still, and Leo had also seemed to be frozen in place. Tension radiated between the two, something else that gave him the cold shudders. No doubt they had just been holding a silent glare contest or something along those lines. Grateful that they had remained quiet, something that proved whatever it was had not been too disagreeable, he buried his nose back in the radio.
He did not want to dwell on the inevitable argument that would explode if Mikey did not wake up soon.
His mouth felt as if it had been stuffed full of cotton balls, rendering his tongue useless. That wasn't a pleasant feeling at all. He liked his tongue very much, thank you. Putting aside that discovery for the moment, he took stock in the rest of himself. All four toes wriggled, all six fingers twitched, and the rest of him felt fine. Well, except for the rather large and painful knot at the back of his skull.
Mikey decided that the best course of action was to very slowly open his eyes and see what was what. This proved to be a mistake as light flooded in on him, seeming to pierce all the way to the back of his skull and awakening his headache in staggering full. He grunted and raised an arm to block the enemy that was Don's high-powered fluorescent light bulbs.
Something caught his arm mid-way. "Don't touch, Mikey." The voice, calm and collected nevertheless held an undeniable note of relief. Leo.
The prone turtle lifted his other arm, mumbling something in protest.
Leo must have understood some of the Mikey-babble, because the horrible unrelenting light dimmed. Another shape crossed his field of vision, hovering over him and peering at his eyes, aided by a small penlight. With no small effort, Mikey was able to croak something to the effect of, "Donny… evil light monster."
"How's the head, Mikey?" Don asked, taking the monster comment in stride.
More exertion, another jewel of speech. "Hurts."
"I thought it would. Aspirin?"
This time, Mikey was able to sit up a bit and make a bit more sense. "You're the best headache fairy around." Well, slightly more sense. He accepted Leo's help to stay upright and gulped the pills Donatello offered.
"That's good to hear," the purple-banded turtle said, though a frown creased his forehead at being called a fairy. "Do you remember everything ok?"
Michelangelo thought back to the rooftop, went through the entire chain of events up to the crumbling of the roof and his subsequent tumble out loud to his brother's satisfaction. He then proceeded to peer around the room and ask, "Where's Raph?"
"Right here, knucklehead."
Attention was turned to the door, where Raph stood, despite his customary gruffness looking rather uncomfortable at being put on the spot. "Whatcha need?"
Mikey regarded him for a moment, then beckoned him into the room. "I need to tell you something."
Exchanging looks with the rest of his brothers, Raphael edged forward. The tension in the room had broken instantly with Mikey's awakening, and he came abreast of Leo with no regards to their earlier glaring contest. "Yeah?"
Upon receiving silent instruction to bend closer, he did so, noticing far too late the mischievous grin that spread across Mikey's face and settled in where it belonged.
AN: Well, there it is: my first foray into foreign fandoms… (hey, alliteration! My English classes are good for something after all!) I'm relatively happy with the end result. It's much harder than I thought it would be to characterize them all (Don and Leo… Nightmares!), so I'm hoping that it goes down well. Is this a characterization piece? Not really, this is just me trying to decide if I can write in this fandom. The first few scenes were taken from the 2003 TMNT show, which is amazing, to set the mood.
Review and let me know how I did! I'm curious to know what everybody thinks!