Author's Note: This takes place after the last movie, but with the characters more along the lines of 2003 cartoon. (Leo and Raph are okay in the movie, but I didn't like Don or Mike) The story picks up a month or two after the movie ends. This is a brother fic... trying to see the world from all of their perspectives, accurately.
The afternoon had run it's course. Faint shimmers of sunlight flowed into the windows of the garage, shining on a motorcycle, it's engine scattered all over a white sheet in the center of the floor.
Don stood up from his crouch and stared at Raph across the frame of the Shell Cycle. "No way," Don said annoyed. "I'm not doing that, now or ever."
Raph looked somewhere between crestfallen and pissed. "Why not? This new carburetor will get me at least 20 more miles per hour top speed. If we we're chasing someone down, or trying to get away from something, that could mean our lives."
Don sighed. "The top speed is already 90 miles an hour. You really think 110 is going to make that much of a difference?"
"Yeah," Raph retorted. "I do."
"Well I don't," Don snapped back. "Not enough of a difference to make all the other changes we'd need to make."
"We don't need to do anything else, brainac. Just take the old one out and put the new one in."
"You really think it's that simple?"
"It is that simple," Raph said with a look of total confidence.
Don shook his pounding head and felt resentment well up in his stomach. It was always the same. Different equipment, different brothers, different situations, but it all came back to the same problem. They didn't … or couldn't… understand how one thing affected another.
When Don didn't respond, Raph added, "Every so often, someone else has a good idea, even if you didn't think of it first."
"Give it up," Don said with a groan. "If it were a legitimately good idea, I wouldn't care who came up with it. This just isn't a good idea."
"Says you," Raph said, his hands now clenched into fists.
"No, says the specifications on the other components. The brakes are already underrated. At top speed it already takes over five seconds to stop. Add another 20 mph, and we're talking another couple of seconds."
"Two seconds?" Raph said, "Two seconds doesn't matter."
"It does if you want to stay alive," Don shot back.
Raph circled around the bike to where Don was standing. Even in the dim light of the garage, Don could tell his brother was not just angry, he was dangerous angry. Raph's face was filled with contempt. His arms were crossed in front of him. It was at times like these, Don wished he could crack a decent joke like Mikey. It would make things so much easier.
"I'm tired of you telling me what to do with my bike," Raph spat at him.
Raph was trying to bait him, but Don was not Leo. And besides, in this case, Don had back-up.
"Look, Raph, I'm not the one who made up the rules."
Don broke eye contact with his brother and walked over to the side of the shop. He pulled out a battered copy of a motorcycle maintenance book. With a quick flip, he sent the book over in Raph's direction. Raph caught it, turning it over in his hands.
"I can't reinvent the laws of physics," Don said, walking back over. "Read that, the section about brakes, and then check out the other systems affected by the carburetor . Then maybe you'll see where I'm coming from."
Raph gave him an evil stare over the book, but Don could tell he was interested. Just as Raph opened the book to check out the first page, the elevator doors opened. Leo got out, and gave them a stare that turned Don's blood cold.
"What did you do this time?" Don asked Raph, looking between them.
"Nothing. I've been with you all afternoon," Raph said. "Not everything is my fault."
"But it's a good bet," Don replied, throwing up a block as Raph's irritated punch came at his stomach.
Leo stood between them looking more annoyed than Don had seen him in years, but then again, he hadn't seen him much in two years either.
"Why didn't you tell me that Master Splinter was sick?" Leo asked, looking at Don.
"Told you it wasn't my fault," Raph said, smirking.
"It's not mine either," Don said, turning to look at Leo.
Leo said, "He told me to come talk to you about it, so you obviously knew and you didn't tell me."
Don sighed in exasperation, "Don't get mad at me. As stupid as this sounds, I didn't know that you didn't know. I know, Mike knows."
"Master Splinter is sick?" Raph asked, dropping the book onto the seat of the motorcycle.
Two sets of eyes -- one angry, one curious -- burned into Don's face. It made his head pound.. "Guys, what… are you blind? He's been down for over a week now. Mike's been making him Miso soup. Have we ever eaten that for the heck of it? April brought by some antibiotics a few days ago. I put in vaporizer in his room. It's not like we've been keeping it from you."
"What's wrong with him?" Leo asked, leaning up against the workbench. "He told me you'd explain."
Don shifted from foot to foot, "Well, I don't know what's wrong exactly. He has a low fever and a cough. It could be a bunch of different things, but it's probably just a cold. Hopefully he'll get better here in a few days."
"The question is… why didn't you tell us about it?" Leo said, walking over so that he was standing shoulder to shoulder with Raph.
Don thought that was funny, especially the "us" part of the statement. Leo was going to Raph like Raph would support him. He had been gone too long. "No Leo," Don said, "the real question is… why didn't you notice?" He sighed and then glanced at the clock on the wall. "Speaking of that, I should check on him before I log in for work tonight."
"I thought you were off," Raph said looking confused. "Weren't you and Mikey heading to that movie tonight?"
"Well, we were," Don admitted, "But I didn't have the cash to pay April for the medicines for Master Splinter, so I picked up a couple of extra shifts. What else could I do?"
"Asked us," Leo said annoyed.
Don almost laughed aloud. But since Leo obviously hadn't readjusted to life back at home, he went along with him. "Okay," Don said, "Can either of you give me $60 for Splinter's medicine."
"60 dollars," Leo said, his eyes getting wide.
"That's robbery," Raph said.
"Yeah… that's life," Don said flatly. "So which one of you has $60?"
His brothers stared at each other for a moment and then both looked at their own feet. Don sighed, but he hadn't expected them to have any money anyway. He started to walk away and then he turned back to face Leo. "I know that you want us to practice more now that you're back, but I won't be in practice in the morning. Sorry."
"Why not," Leo asked looking sour.
"I have to work," Don replied already feeling his shoulders tense at the thought of it.
"But you're working tonight." Raph said.
"Yeah, I'm pulling a double shift. I start tonight at 10 and won't be done until 2 tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and Raph… try not to be so loud when you come in. If you're hurt, fine, I'll take a break to patch you up, but otherwise…"
Raph shrugged a noncommittal agreement. "Casey and I are just going to watch the game. Shouldn't hurt myself too bad."
Don cracked a smile and headed to the elevator.
Leo turned to look at his red masked brother. "I'm not sure whether I feel guilty or angry." And he didn't. Leo watched Don as he got into the elevator, Don's shoulders were hunched over like the world was crushing him to death. Why hadn't he noticed that since he'd been back.
"Welcome to the club. He's been pulling this crap on me for the last 2 years. I thought maybe since you were back, he'd lighten up some. But that ain't happening. If anything he's getting worse."
"Did you notice that Splinter was sick?" Leo asked, almost dreading the reply.
"No, but it's not serious. If it were, Donny would have told me. He knows I wouldn't have known. Last time when Splinter got sick, he told me about it. I helped him and Mikey take care of Splinter."
"What was wrong with Splinter then?" Leo asked, feeling a hard pit in his stomach. How much didn't he know about the last 2 years?
"Ah… pneumonia, I think," Raph said. "Nasty coughing, he could hardly breathe. Donny didn't say it, but he was nervous. He would still be awake with Splinter when I would… ah… get back."
Raph shot him a nervous glance, but Leo just sighed. "I thought when I got here that everything would be like it was."
Raph laughed, a dark hissing noise that sounded more like a curse than mirth. "So did we. But then we thought you were dead. Now that you're alive, I don't know if any of us knows what to do with you."
Leo sighed. He didn't really know what to do with himself. He had come to peace with all of them since his return. It wasn't like any of them were still angry or hurt by his long absence. But still, he felt that his place in the family had changed. When he left, he was the leader, the oldest brother, the one that Splinter leaned on for help, the brother Donny confided in, the one Raph fought with, the one Mike looked up too.
As far as anyone knew, Leo was the oldest… but for the rest of it? After Leo had been back a couple of weeks, Splinter had started asking Donatello to do the things he had been asking Leo to do. Leo wasn't sure who Don talked too -- Mikey probably -- but it wasn't him. Raph was more likely to fight with Don than himself, and if Mikey looked up to anyone, it was Raph.
It was almost like Raph and Don had taken his very nature, the things about himself he was most proud of, cut them down the center and each took half of his personality. Not only did it not suit either of them, they didn't seem willing to give it back. Which, reflecting back, was probably part of the reason why he didn't want to come back to begin with.
When Leo didn't answer Raph continued, "Everything changes, Leo. Even if you'd stayed here, things would still be different. Don would have started supporting us because that's who he is. Mike and Don are tight these days, but they always kinda were. So Mike probably would have tried to help Don anyways. I can't do the crap they can do… never could… So me busting heads with Casey is what I do, and probably what I would have done anyway."
Leo sighed, "I know things change. I just wish they'd change back…"
"Why?" Raph said with a half laugh. "Things aren't so bad for you. With Donny workin, we always got good food on the table. You have all the free time you could want, you don't need to work, and everyone is so happy you're alive, no one gives you any crap. What more do you want?"
Leo shrugged. Raph pulled the book from off the motorcycle and started flipping through it. Raph continued, "I still get crap though… I think that's my job… to get crap. But I will prove to that little dork that my ideas about my bike are right. I don't care what he says. I'll prove him wrong."
Leo shrugged again, clearly seeing the fight in his minds eye. Only problem was that it was Don and Raph fighting, not he and Raph. And somehow, that was discouraging.
Raph settled down to his book, studying the first page with more intensity than Leo could ever remember him showing about anything in print. For a half second, Raph looked like the way Don used to look, before he left. He hadn't seen Don crack a book in ages.
Leo sighed and made his way back to the elevator. After descending, and without realizing, he wound up at the door of Splinter's room. Don was crouched by his bed, gently stroking the fur of his father's forehead. Mike stood behind Don, looking worried.
After a long moment, Don stood up, picked up a notebook by the bedside, and jotted a few notes down in it.
"How is he?" Mike asked after Don had finished.
Don shrugged. "I don't know. About the same. His fever is down, so that's good, but it's not gone. It still could just be a viral infection, which could take another 7 days to run it's course. But I'm glad we have the antibiotics."
With that last statement, Leo's brothers exchanged a look that Leo couldn't place. They looked resigned and sad, but in a good way.
"Yeah, me too," Mike said, sounding defeated.
"I'm sorry Mikey," Don said. "I was looking forward to the movie too. I'll see if I can find a pirated version online."
"It'll probably bounce up and down," Mike said, picking up some of the dishes around Splinter.
"Probably," Don agreed and together they turned toward the door.
"Hey, Leo," Mike said with enthusiasm, when he saw him. "Don and me were just going to eat something. I've got a couple pounds of burger, some onions, some swiss… you want my famous sautéed onion burgers."
"You should take him up on it," Don said with a grin. "Those burgers are fantastic. When he offered me dinner, all I got was leftover Miso soup."
"That's all you are getting dude," Mike said with a smile. "Leo gets burgers… you get Miso soup."
"That's not fair," Don said.
"We can't have you getting sick," Mike said with a grin. "Who would pay the bills?"
"You would," Don said, pulling Mikey into a headlock.
Mike squirmed out of Don's hold and the three of them made their way into the kitchen. As Mikey pulled stuff out the refrigerator, Don and Leo both sat down at the table.
"So are you worried about Splinter," Leo asked Don.
"He's always worried," Mike chimed in from across the room.
Don looked over and Mike and then back to Leo. He gave a wry smile. "Mikey is more right than I'd like to admit. But he's not in immediate danger. We just have to wait and see. I though you were kidding…" Don said to Mike as he placed a bowl of Miso Soup in front of him.
"If you can tell me -- without lying -- that you are feeling okay, then I'll let you out of the soup." Mike said, giving Don a hard stare.
"Can I at least have a burger, after I eat the soup?" Don asked with a small smile.
"Sure... Just eat the soup."
"Are you sick?" Leo asked Don, feeling a hard pit in his stomach again. Did two years away make him so blind that he didn't realize when two of his family members were ill?
"No," Don said, dipping his spoon into the bowl and ladling out some broth.
"But if you felt like he does right now," Mike said glancing at Leo, "You would you consider it being sick. Because most people would consider a running a fever being sick. Just not Don." Mike said giving Don an angry stare.
Don studied his soup like Raph was studying the book upstairs while Mike's eyes were boring into his head. There was a battle of wills going on. Finally Don said, "Okay, fine… I'll eat my soup and go lie down for hour before work. But you have to promise me that you'll help wake me up."
"You got it," Mike said brightly.
A battle of wills… and Mikey won. Two years ago, Don was the most stubborn of any of them. Don would sometimes cave to Leo, but not usually to Mikey. Leo felt even more dejected. Where did he fit now?
Don finished his soup, pushed it aside, and then put his head on the table, cradled in his arms. Before long, Mike and Leo were chatting about sports as the smells of frying onions wafted out of the kitchen. Mike finished cooking the burgers, piled on the cheese and onions, and then brought them over the table.
"Shouldn't we get Raph?" Leo asked, as Mike dropped down across the table from him.
"He'll be here," Mike replied, glancing at the clock. "Maybe 3 more minutes."
Leo wondered how Raph would know about dinner, but exactly 90 seconds later he walked into the kitchen.
"Nice," Raph said as he came over to the table. "I love these things." He picked up a burger and shoved half of it in his mouth. "What's up with Donny? He sick?"
"No," Don replied, mumbling into his arms.
"Yes," Mike said.
Raph cracked a smile, "That cleared it up."
Leo watched as Mike chuckled. Raph cracked a joke?
Raph grabbed Don by the top of his shell and hauled him, more or less, into a standing position. He hog marched Don out of the kitchen into the living room where he forced him to the couch.
Don mumbled something that Leo didn't catch, but Raph gave him a brief smile and then headed back into the kitchen where he devoured his burger and then grabbed another one.
"You'd think that him working for another company would be less hassle," Raph said starting on the other burger.
"It's not easier, but it's less trouble for April," Mike said. "I only half understood what he and April were talking about, but something about the IRS and no social security number… and how much April owed in taxes this year because of Don's little business. It wasn't pretty."
Leo glanced over at Don, who had his eyes closed and was breathing softly into a pillow. Then he looked at Raph, and then at Mikey. They all were exactly who they were, but yet, everyone had changed. Leo knew that his family needed him, and the last battle had shown him just how much. But between those times, when everything was normal, where did he fit?
Raph headed out of the lair. He and Mike managed to wake Don out of his stupor. He almost wished he hadn't. Don was sweating and shaking, but he said he didn't feel too bad. Raph doubted it, but then if Donny wanted to suffer, it was his own business.
Raph surfaced a few blocks from Casey's apartment, and keeping to the alleys, he made his way. Across the street from where he was walking, he saw a couple of punks, looking at a convenience store like it had potential. Raph sighed. He had given up the Nightwatcher, but those damn kids were going to break in.
Just as he was trying to figure out how to explain to Leo that he kicked shell that night, the two punks pulled out a device. They placed it on the ground beside the door. One of them hit a button, and they both dashed across the street.
Raph waited, holding his breath and keeping to the shadows. Finally the device made a small beep, hardly audible over the traffic noise. It gave off a few small flashes and the two punks ran back across the street and into the store.
In a rush, Raph followed, his trench coat flapping behind him. He raced for the door, reaching for his sai's. Then he stopped, mid motion. His whole body froze in place, like he was one of the sculptures made by his namesake. As he stood there, in a position that never would allowed him to stand upright without falling over, he saw the punks. They were moving like a movie in fast forward. Raph couldn't move. He couldn't even blink or breathe. The kids vaulted through the store like hyperactive mice, taking the cash, some cigarettes, and a 12 pack of pop. They ran back out of the store, one of them grabbing the device on the way past.
Raph unfroze, and continued running like nothing had happened. He was disoriented and his stomach churned. He flew straight into a wall, knocked his shoulder hard, and then stood up and looked around. The punk kids were gone, he couldn't even get a trace on them in any direction.
"What the hell?" Raph said aloud as he spun one more time on the spot. He got some curious stares, so he decided he better vanish. He jogged back across the street and ran the rest of the three blocks to Casey's apartment.
"Yo, Raph," Casey said as he came in the window. "The game already started, what took ya?"
Raph opened his mouth to reply, and then thought better of it. Casey would think he was nuts and if Leo found out about him "going Nightwatcher" it would be exactly like old times, the screaming, the bitching, the whining, the lectures. Raph didn't think he could take one of Leo's lectures without a sai ending in a place where neither one of them would want it.
"Mikey made his swiss onion burgers… I couldn't miss that." Raph said, easing on the couch.
He'd figure out what happened later. He just hoped he hadn't hurt his shoulder.