A/N: So, this is just another oneshot, because chasing plot bunnies was so much more interesting than finishing my economics homework. I always thought Leo was treated a little unfairly as far as his culinary "skills" are concerned. Here's another possibie explanation. This story takes place when they guys are about 14-ish. Italics indicate a flashback.
Disclaimer: As sad as it is that I have to mention it at all, I don't own anything related to TMNT and had no monetary profit for writing this.
Why Leo Doesn't Cook
"Cook noodles in boiling water until tender."
Leonardo sighed as he carefully stirred the pot on the stove, being sure not to let it spill over the sides. It had been a long day. No, make that a long week.
For that matter, the entire month had been dragging on, it seemed. The tension in the Lair was so heavy, Leo wished vaguely he could boil the problems away. Until tender… Leo snorted as he imagined the look on Raph's face if he told them he wished things were more tender.
Raph. He was the leading source of the tension, of course. Leo unconsciously began stirring the noodles more violently as he thought back on their previous conversations bitterly. Master Splinter had recently announced to the four turtles that he had chosen to make Leo the official leader. Raph was not happy, to say the least, and he had made sure that Leo knew exactly how he felt.
"Why should we follow you?" he demanded as soon Master Splinter had left the Lair to scavenge for food and supplies. "What's so great about you anyways?"
"Raph, be nice," Mikey had started to say in Leo's defense. He himself didn't care who was in charge at that particular moment, as long as it left him free to goof off as he pleased.
"Shut up, Mikey!" Raph snapped rudely. "Nobody's asking you! I wanna know why Leo thinks he's so much better than us!"
"But I don't-" Leo protested. He was interrupted by Raph's fist crashing into the wall beside him. "Raph!"
"There's nothing special about you! Nothing!" Raph yelled, cradling his now hurting hand as he stalked out of the room.
That had occurred a little over two weeks ago. Raph still wasn't talking to him. They had, of course, had their fights before, but none had lasted so long. Master Splinter seemed to have realized the effect his announcement had had on them, but no amount of lecturing or cajoling had alleviated the rain cloud that Raph had brought on the Lair.
"Damn Raph," Leo muttered, feeling bold for using the word. He had been so proud when Splinter pulled him aside to let him know of his decision. He had felt like finally all his hard work had paid off, that he was finally being assured that it wasn't all for nothing. He was oldest. He had worked hard for this. Why shouldn't he be leader? They all knew that someone had to be in charge, to keep the four of them working together. Leo knew he wasn't better than his brothers… he'd never thought otherwise.
Still, Raph's words had gotten under his skin, settling into his mind and planting seeds of doubt. Did he deserve this?
"Brown meat in separate skillet, adding spices for flavor."
He couldn't help it – Raph had hit a nerve. He didn't think he was better. Unfortunately, his three younger brothers seemed to be in some sort of agreement to the contrary. Even Mikey and Donny had slowly started to side with Raph when he called Leo out in the dojo.
"Michelangelo, you must use more focus!" Master Splinter scolded as the four turtles finished their sparring session. "Donatello, do not be afraid to use your weapon – that is what it is there for. It is a padded training weapon, so you should not worry about hurting your brothers."
Donny bowed, panting with the exertion of the fight. Leo had easily defeated him because of his hesitancy in actually swinging his weapon with any real force. Raph had been on the sidelines the whole time making snide comments on Leo's "bullying" of his younger brother.
"Raphael, you are still to reckless. Slow down and use your mind as well as your strength. You will not always be able to beat your opponent because you are bigger than they."
Raphael grinned widely as he elbowed Mikey, who stuck his tongue out at him. Mikey didn't mind sparring the bigger and stronger Raph; his speed and agility made them nearly equal matches, even if Raph wouldn't admit it.
"Leonardo," Master Splinter said, turning to his oldest son. The grin fell off of Raph's face and Leo felt all three pairs of his brothers' eyes turn on him. "Well done," Splinter said with a pleased smile. "Keep up the good work."
"Hai, Sensei," Leo muttered with a bow, keeping his eyes down as all three of his brothers rolled their eyes simultaneously.
"We are done for today," Splinter announced. "Please straighten up the dojo before you leave."
As their master swept out of the room, probably towards the TV where the soap operas would be starting soon, the turtles began to put their weapons back on the rack in the corner.
"Splinter's pet," Raph muttered, shoving past his older brother with unnecessary force. Leo glared after him but didn't say anything, until Mikey tried the same thing.
"Mikey, watch it!" Leo scolded before he could stop himself. Mikey spun on him with an uncharacteristically annoyed face.
"You're not the boss of me, Leo!" he snapped, for once not smiling. "Why do you always pick on me and not Raph? He's right, you know… you're not better than me! I fight just as good as you! And I'm faster! So stop picking on me!"
"I'm not-" Leo tried protesting again, but Raph and Mikey had both stomped off in a huff, Raph turning to shoot him a scathing smirk before he left.
"I'm not picking on him," Leo said in a small voice to Donny, the only one left in the dojo with him. The other turtle shrugged, not looking at him.
"Mikey's just started being that way because Raph is," Donny explained as he carefully set his bo back onto the rack. "He's always looked up to him. You know that. And ever since you became in charge, you've barely stopped lecturing him about goofing off. No wonder he's getting sick of it."
"What about you?" Leo asked miserably. "Are you mad at me, too?"
Donatello shrugged again. "I don't care who leads."
"You didn't answer my question," Leo muttered. Don finally looked up at him.
"Not mad, just annoyed, I guess. You don't always have to be trying to outdo us, you know. You don't have to be the best at everything! Splinter's already made you the leader, what are you trying to prove? Let someone else be good at something for once in your life!"
"What are you-"
"Forget it. Maybe if you didn't have to be perfect at everything, we'd like you more," Donny said with a sigh, leaving the dojo and a confused and hurt Leo behind.
"I don't know what he was talking about," Leo muttered as he stabbed the browning meat with a spatula. It was almost done. Master Splinter had only yesterday suggested to his sons that they begin learning how to cook for themselves. It would be a necessary skill later in their lives when he was no longer able to provide for them.
Seeing the logic behind the suggestion, Leo had decided to start right away. Surprisingly enough, his youngest brother had beaten him to it. Mikey had shocked all of them when he produced a dinner that very night that didn't include pizza in any form. And, more shocking, it was good. Much better than anything Splinter had ever made them.
Well, just because Mikey could cook didn't mean Leo wasn't going to try. Spaghetti seemed fairly simple. Taking the meat sauce off the stove, he poured it over the finished noodles and mixed it in together. Raph, Mikey, and Donny had gone off to play in the sewers without him, which was why he was cooking now. It'd be nice for them to be able to eat dinner together when they got back in.
Leo took a bite of the finished spaghetti. Closing his eyes with pleasure, he let the delicious flavor fill his mind, replacing the bitterness he was feeling towards his brothers. It was perfect.
As soon as the thought had entered his mind, Leo opened his eyes, staring almost guiltily at the pot in front of him. Perfect. Unbidden, the hard words his brothers had spoken to him came back to the surface of his thoughts.
Maybe if you didn't have to be perfect at everything, we'd like you more… Let someone else be good at something for once in your life…
He could just imagine them coming in now. Of course they wouldn't see that he was just trying to learn something new because he honestly enjoyed it. No, they would say he was just trying to outdo Mikey, who had, after all, learned the secrets of the kitchen first. Trying to be better than his younger brother. Trying to be perfect.
Leo bit his lip. It would mean a lot to Mikey to be the best at something. Donny hadn't expressed the slightest interest in cooking, other than making coffee. Raph was more interested in fighting. And if he was going to be leader, wasn't their happiness worth more than his own pride? He hated failing at anything, but if they could see that he wasn't good at everything, maybe they would be satisfied and let him take the lead. Wouldn't that be worth it?
Hesitating over the stove, Leo suddenly heard his brothers arriving back in the Lair.
"Where's our Fearless Leader hiding, anyways?" he heard Raph griping from the other room. The disdain Leo heard in his brother's voice made up his mind. Narrowing his eyes, Leo grabbed the salt from the counter, dumping an enormous amount into the finished spaghetti. Then he dropped the pot back onto the stove and turned up the burner full blast. With a nod of satisfaction, he wiped his hands carefully and left for the dojo.
"Leo? Where are you?"
Grabbing his katana from the rack, Leo hurried into the center of the room and began working a kata, skipping to the middle so that it would appear he had been at it for some time.
"Practicing again?" Mikey asked as all three of the turtles came bounding into the dojo. "Geez, give it a rest, dude!"
"Nah, he ain't perfect enough yet," Raph smirked, while Donny sniffed the air.
"Is something burning?" the purple-banded turtle asked cautiously.
"Oh, I thought I'd try cooking dinner," Leo mentioned, keeping his eyes focused straight ahead.
"Of course you did," Donny sighed, shaking his head. Mikey's shoulders slumped, assuming Leo had just found one more thing that he was better than him at (and he had wanted so badly to be good at something Leo wasn't!). Raph also sighed, but he was frowning, sniffing the air as Donny had done.
"You sure you ain't burning somethin'?" he asked, puzzled. Leo stopped his kata, the smell of smoke becoming clearer. All four turtles stared at each other for a minute before racing for the kitchen, where the ruined spaghetti was calmly smoking away in a hardened mass at the bottom of the pot. Quickly turning off the stove, Mikey pulled the pot off the heater and set it carefully in the sink.
"What was this supposed to be exactly?" the youngest asked, unable to hide the grin that lit his face. "It looks kind of like dog food."
"Smells like it, too," Raph complained, peering over Mikey's shoulder. "Try a bite, maybe it tastes like it!"
"Forget it," Donny said solemnly as he tried unsuccessfully to chisel a piece off. "It doesn't even come apart! Leo, what did you do?"
"It was just spaghetti!" Leo retorted indignantly. "I didn't think it'd be that hard!"
"It's not that hard," Mikey tittered. "Leo, you can lead us wherever you want to go, but you are not allowed in the kitchen ever again!"
The look on Leo's woe begotten face was too much for Raph, who started snickering. Soon Mikey and Don had joined in and the hilarity mounted until all four of them had collapsed to the floor laughing, all the tension from the previous weeks fading away with the aroma of burned noodles.
As Leo lay on the floor, tears of laughter streaming down his face, he knew he had made the right decision. After all, there was nothing he wouldn't do for his brothers; even make the world believe that he, Hamato Leonardo, burned everything he touched.
To this day, they believe it still.
A/N: So, a little different. Not my best work, maybe, but it succeeded in delaying my darn homework. And I thought someone ought to stick up for Leo. Review if you like!