Things You Never Throw Away
Disclaimer: HI, TMNT. I DON'T OWN YOU, WUT?
Author's Notes: Drabble from a Mikey POV. I'm not sure where it came from, but I get paranoid about putting away my stuffed animals and toys, too. I still keep them. It's probably silly, but there you go.
Sometimes, Mikey wakes up and experiences a sense of displacement. He props up on his elbows in bed, scanning the dark walls surrounding him and the crumpled balls of paper spilling out of the wastebasket, and finds nothing there. He thinks, abruptly, of the toys he's put away in chests or the scrapbooks that were so clumsy he hid them underneath his bed. The teddy bear with its milky blue-black eyes that hasn't seen daylight for years. A hundred and one precious things he's packed away and forgotten.
For that moment, Mikey feels shame clutch at his heart. He's terrified that by putting things away, he's lost them forever. He can see them all fading into the shadows, unable to exist without someone to love them—and with it comes the crushing blow of failure and time. Mikey hates time. It takes things away quicker than it brings them. A thief that borrowed and never returned a collection of Mikey's most revered memories: a Raph that laughed for real, a Don that played more than he studied, and a Leo that slept through an entire night.
(Don would say it's the reason he's never grown up, clinging to childhood almost too fiercely for childhood's comfort. That Mikey fights age, tooth and fingernails and wooden blows. To take back what is his own.)
And then often Mikey will think of Raph and how they'd bickered the entire night away, and how Mikey had gone to bed angry but he hadn't really meant it—like everything Mikey does, the irritation had been short-lived. Mikey couldn't hang onto it if he tried. Mikey buries his face in the pillow and wonders if Raph went to bed sullen or if he'd stared at the ceiling, like he is sometimes prone to do, swaying in his hammock with the light out about him.
Maybe he thinks about Mikey, too.
Raph is the toy that Mikey loves so much that he plays almost too hard with him. They have the best of times together, but it also means they have the worst. They've rolled in the mud like enemies and come out sharing the water from the same pipeline like best friends. Mikey knows he hasn't gotten rid of Raph; tomorrow they'll be back to normal, Raph slapping the back of his head as he goes to the cereal.
(But for now, Mikey creeps out of bed and slips into Raph's room. He has to shake him several times before his brother wakes. Raph cracks an eyelid, grumbling, but then he drops a hand on Mikey's head and lets it rest there like a deadweight, and Mikey never stays but he knows he could, if he wanted to.)
And sometimes Mikey's thoughts scatter and drift towards Donny. He thinks of all the times he'd bothered his genius brother throughout the day, fiddling with Don's projects when he knew he shouldn't or simply being a nuisance. How he had then abandoned Don when his brother had been explaining something excitedly to Mikey for, of all things, a re-showing of the first X-Men film on cable. The one they have on video. Mikey wonders, when he pictures the quiet frown on Don's face as he watches Mikey leave, whether his brother had been nearly so eager to go on with his experiment without an audience. Or if it hadn't mattered at all. It's so hard to tell with Donny.
That means it is far too simple to make mistakes that Don will always forgive him for making.
Mikey knows that Donny is the toy that's familiar—the threadbare stuffed animal that goes whichever way Mikey pleases. There's a gentleness to Donny, a comforting presence that reminds Mikey of soft reassurances when the drains thundered too loudly for little turtles in their beds. He wears Donny out, but he never leaves his side. Except for the newest, more thrilling toy; and these are the nights that Mikey feels a dull fear that he's forgotten that which should be appreciated most of all.
(And his feet know this pathway best, having traveled it so often, so climbing the ladder up to Donny's bed isn't hard. He has to touch Donny's shoulder, and then his brother inhales and grasps at his hand. Says his name. Mikey returns another and only then does Donny sigh a smile and move aside to leave the warmest, deepest imprint in the mattress for Mikey.)
Most rare are the nights where Mikey wakes, heart heaving in his skeletal structure, and has to struggle to keep the picture of his oldest brother from disappearing. He tries to capture a brief recollection of what Leo had done during the day—he hadn't angered Leo, hadn't pestered him. But it is almost worse because Mikey wracks his mind and discovers nothing there, save for scraps: the tranquil chuckle at one of Mikey's jokes (not even a particularly good one), the shift of pages in a book as they turn, a sense of presence but never interference.
And on the worst of those nights, Mikey finds himself in near tears from the terror that he's finally gone and done it. That he's lost something again.
Because Leo is the toy that Mikey is too scared of ruining. He won't wreck him, or break him, or paint him, or bury him in dirt, or sing to him, or play with him, or toss him, or hold him. Leo does none of these things well and so Mikey isn't sure how to make him Real. Maybe when they were younger and everyone was new, not just Leo, but time has taken that privilege from him, too. Some toys are shelf-toys, with shelf-eyes that are sad. Always there until they are gone.
(Leo never sleeps. He only waits. The snap of the match sounds before Mikey's footsteps have even crossed the threshold and in the light of the candle, Leo studies his little brother patiently. But it's in the dark that Mikey finds his answers, when Leo will let him touch his face and listen to the pulse in his wrist, some strange song to lull him back to reality—there in this box, stored away, the both of them together.)
His father once told Mikey that things did not vanish if they were not loved. They only did so if they could not love in return.
But Mikey thinks it's better to be safe rather than sorry. Just in case.