I wrote this while suffering a nasty case of writer's block; that is to say I forced most of it out. . It is therefore kinda rough and I can't bring myself to like the ending, but it is the first thing I've finished in ages. Forgive me?
This is for the TMNT100 challenge at livejournal, prompt: Months.
It wasn't as if Leo was Casey's best friend, but he sure missed the guy.
He and Raph had spent enough time joking – back in the old days – about how hard it must be to walk 'round with such a massive stick up his ass. And every now and then after a particularly rough night out, Casey'd drag Raph home to find the huffy bastard waiting up for them like some green, ninja mother-in-law. It was a wonder Leo didn't have his arms crossed, tapping his feet and shrilly demanding that Raph keep to curfew, and thinking on that too hard conjured up images of a chain-smoking mutant turtle in an apron. He'd told Raph that once. Raph had spat beer all over the table.
But even given that, Leo was a decent guy. Casey liked him. Liked hanging out with him on occasion. Preferred Raph's company by far, but nobody was surprised by that.
Leo was gone, now. Longer than he should've been on what Raph bitterly called his vacation, and things were falling apart without him. Don had picked himself up a job and was rarely seen outside the lair at all these days. Mike was working some birthday gig – at least Casey had seen him around, and busting him out of lock-up at the stadium had given him more than a wistful taste of the old days.
Raph, he didn't see much at all. It took Casey longer than it should have to work out why. And when he finally guessed what Raphael was doing with his long nights out on the streets, Casey didn't know whether to be hurt that Raph hadn't told him, or horrified that out of all of them, Casey was the only one to work it out. He wasn't exactly known to be the most observant guy among them. Mike spent time drooling over the Nightwatcher vigilante that was terrorising the streets, and Don didn't so much as look up when Raph came in any more.
Come to think of it, he wondered if Don did know.
He wasn't about to ask.
Losing Raph from his night life changed a lot more than it should. There was a time that Casey could dimly remember was full of nights in which he'd gone out on his own with his golf bag, gleefully bashing his way through the dregs of New York before he finally went back to his dingy, hole-in-the-wall apartment, drank a few beers and drifted off to sleep nursing his bruises. If Raph wasn't available to hang out anymore, he could just go back to old habits, right?
Only it was so hard. For one, he didn't live in a crappy little cockroach-infested place anymore. He lived with April – and he loved her, he really did, but she was already on his case about going out to play vigilante as it was. He wondered, not for the first time, if moving in with her had been a mistake. And even if it weren't for April – and her presence made no difference either way, given she'd been off in Central America for weeks now – Casey had to admit going out on his own just … wasn't doing it for him anymore.
All of which was why he was currently sprawled on the couch staring a hole through the television set with only one shoe on, because he'd got as far as one before losing any enthusiasm he had for going out. Not for the first time, he wondered if maybe he should just go find Raphael, Halloween outfit and all. But then, if Raph had never seen fit to tell him about Nightwatcher then—
The voice made him jump. Just a little. Peering upward to find a large, green, bobble-headed thing looming over him was enough to make Casey Jones give an undignified yell and dive off the couch, his leg hitting the coffee table with a painful thud. He snatched the nearest object to hand he could find and was halfway up before reality caught up with him, and he realised where he'd seen that stupid-looking face before.
Leaning across the back of the couch, his unexpected guest gave a snicker. "Jeez, Casey. Need some decaf?" Green fingers lifted to tug the Cowabunga Carl mask off. Mike gave him a wide grin. "Dude, I dunno about you, but I don't find your weapon of choice very threatening. Unless you're gonna try killing me with the smell alone…"
He would have to have snatched up the damn shoe. He felt stupid enough as it was. Casey settled for pitching it at the turtle's head with a scowl, making him duck. "Some people knock, ya know. How come you're here in that thing?"
Mike shrugged, dumping the mask on the couch. "Party three floors down. Figured it'd be sort of unfriendly of me to go home without saying hi. And I did knock – you know, your window's open. I was all polite, and here you were just staring into space! So I figured, it's a friend's civic duty to make sure you weren't, you know, kidnapped by mind aliens or something."
Mind aliens? Casey gave the turtle a long stare. "Is it just me, or is your sense of humour getting worse?"
"I can't help it!" Mike protested. "It's this lowbrow crowd I have to hang out with these days. You know what it's like when I have to talk down to someone?"
"Big word there, man."
"Learned it in self defence. Speaking of lowbrow…"
Casey knew the question before Mike even asked; even before Mike lifted a hand to his eyes to peer around the room theatrically. He spoke more curtly than he intended to. "Haven't seen Raph tonight."
He caught the brief disappointment that flashed on the turtle's features, and sank down on the couch to scrounge for the remote control, finally switching the television off. By the time he glanced back up, Mike was smirking at him. "Oh well. He'd just be a grouch anyway. Spoil all our fun."
Casey blinked, hand flung out to catch his shoe before he even registered Mike was throwing it. He stared at it as the turtle snickered. "You know what to do with that, right? Hey, mind if I leave my Carl mask here for a while?"
"Uh, sure," he said uncertainly. "Where you goin'?"
"Out with you, duh."
It surprised him into a laugh. "We're goin' out?"
"Well, yeah," Mike gave him an exasperated look as if it should be obvious. "Red isn't really my colour, but y'know, if you don't mind hangin' out with me instead you can sorta squint and pretend I'm Raph. Orange is kinda close, right?"
It took him a few seconds to register what Mike had said. Then Casey frowned; he didn't need Mike feeling sorry for him. Surprising enough that Mike had clued in on it in the first place, but it wasn't as if he, Casey Jones, was spending all his nights moping on the couch. Just a lot of them, he thought to himself, and got irritated. He took a breath. "Look, Mike—"
"I'm bored, Case."
Casey trailed off at the unexpected softness of his voice. Mike was still leaning across the couch, fingers drumming on the backrest as he gave Casey a wistful smile. "Don'll be working, and Raph won't even be home. And sensei…"
He paused. Then he gave a casual shrug, grin widening again. "If I go home I'll end up watching the shopping channel and buying stuff just to be annoying, you know? But I was here, so I figured – why not? The night is young, right?"
Casey stared at the turtle, awareness finally settling in that this wasn't about him. Not solely, anyway. Mike was grinning like a mad fiend again, but it wasn't enough to make Casey forget the soft loneliness of those first three words.
Raphael wasn't just losing time with his best friend, Casey Jones. He was barely spending it with his own family. The distance between them all had begun with Leo's too-long absence, but Raph was making it worse. No wonder Don would barely look at him any more. And Don was getting more snappish by the day …
Christ. There were cracks there; if even Casey could see the resentment building between them, then Mike had to be painfully aware that his family was starting to fall apart. Something had to change. He just didn't know what to do. Making happy families wasn't something that he was all that good at, when it came right down to it.
So Casey did the only thing he could think of.
"I think you pretendin' you're Raph is about the most painful way to spend my evening I could think of." Casey gave him a scowl, tugging his other shoe on with a violence that nearly snapped the laces. "Your other impressions are bad enough, man. Can't you just pretend you're Mike instead?"
Mike brightened up, looking positively gleeful. "You want me to pretend I'm me?"
"You know what I meant."
"Well I dunno. I mean, pretending I'm someone else pretending to be me would be kind of a challenge. Am I a good actor or a bad one?"
"Mike, do not make me throw the coffee table at you."
"So we're goin' out, right?"
Casey grinned. "Yeah, why the hell not? Long as you don't mind hanging out with some New Yorkers of dubious character."
"Oh, now who's usin' big words?" Mike favoured him with a mock bow and practically skipped back to the open window. "Heh, as long as you don't mind that I'm not the curb-stomp-first, ask-questions-later type, like Raphie-boy."
"I figured. You'll annoy them into submission, right?"
"There's an idea! I could always take the Cowabunga Carl mask—" Mike broke off at the look on Casey's face, and smirked. "See you on the roof in two?"
Mike vanished up the fire escape, the only sound a faint giggle of triumph echoing in his wake. Casey only paused long enough to make sure the front door was locked tight before following a little more slowly.
To be honest, going out with Mike did sound like fun. And if he was just hanging out and moping on the couch, he wasn't really helping matters with his friends. So tonight, he'd go out and enjoy himself and keep Mike company, because that's what family did sometimes. Tomorrow night …
Tomorrow, he'd start looking for Nightwatcher. Casey Jones might not be real good at the whole happy families thing, but there some things he could do. Maybe he and April could try and hold things together until Leo got his ass home again.
Maybe. Worth a shot.
With all hope, will be back in a week or two with either Zaibatsu or Legacy. See you soon.