Mikey stuck his tongue in the corner of his mouth as he carefully wrapped the paper-chain around the little tree, concentrating on not bending any branches.
Donny stood behind him, handing him more of the chain and making sure the chair his little brother was standing on didn't hobble.
Meanwhile, Raph and Leo were hanging their ornaments onto the tree. Or at least trying to.
"Don't put it there! Mine should go in the front."
"Mine'll make Sensei more happy!"
"Just because yah made Master Yoshi, yah suck-up!"
"It's definitely more respectful than a stupid car."
"It's a race car."
"Whatever. Mine's in the front."
"No way, I picked that spot first!"
"Don't be a brat."
"You're the brat!"
"I'm the older brother here so you have to listen to me."
"Bite me." Raph turned his carapace to the other, lifting his ornament. "Mine goes here."
Leo scowled. "I said no!" he jumped forward and grabbed his brother's arm, yanking him backwards.
Unfortunately he used too much strength and Raph stumbled right into the stool the tree was on, making it topple dangerously. Seeing this, the hotheaded tot jumped to catch it, tripping Leo at the same time. The moving tree in turn startled Mikey into jumping back, Donny falling to the ground as he tried to catch him.
When the world stopped spinning, the three turtles got to their feet.
"Thanks a lot, Raph." Leo muttered, shooting a glare at his brother. Then he blinked, his eyes widening.
Raph was standing next to the upturned stool, arms wrapped tightly around the tree, hands clenching in the needles. A few branches were twisted, a couple broken from his tight grip, the paper-chain rumpled in several places into small balls.
But it was Raph's pained expression that called the most attention.
"Ow..." he muttered.
Before Leo could move, Donny was already on his feet and rushing to the second youngest. "Raphie?"
One golden eye blinked open, tears glistering in its corner. "My eyes hurts."
Frowning, the older tot rightened the stool and helped the other place the tree back on it. Then he grabbed the side of Raph's beak, turning his head to the side so he could look at the injured place. "Can you open it?"
A few blinks revealed that no, that eye wanted to stay shut, and Donny's lips pressed into a tight line.
"Is he okay?" Leo asked, getting onto his feet and helping Mikey up.
Brown eyes turned to him in a glare, making him flinch slightly. "What do you care?"
A hiss made him turn back, and he grabbed at the emerald-green hand. "Don't rub at it."
"But it hurts."
Donny's expression softened, and, still holding the smaller hand, he lead his immediate-younger brother away. "C'mon. Leo, now you can hang whatever you want." he added with another glare before the two disappeared in the kitchen.
Leo stared after them, then dropped his gaze to the floor, swallowing hard. He glanced at the tree and Mikey, trying to straighten out the clumps of paper links, then sighed.
He had been the brat. As always when it came to Raph, it seemed.
He picked up the two ornaments and walked closer, hanging one on the front branch, angling it to face front. Mikey started humming Jingle Bells as he worked, and Leo mustered a small smile, moving to help him.
After a few minutes of silent work, the whole chain was wrapped around the tree, the branches in perfect order.
Mikey smiled at the result of their cooperation, and hopped off the chair, walking over to the basket of hand-made ornaments. "Now for the rest." he sing-songed, and Leo shook his head fondly. How easy it was for him to forget about what happened barely a few minutes earlier.
"How is the tree coming, my sons?" a gentle voice asked behind them, and they turned towards it.
Master Splinter was watching them with a kind expression, one hand holding Raph propped against his hip. The tot had his mask tied around his neck, one eyes covered with a bandage. An emerald-green hand was curled into a fist, rubbing absently at the bandage as he stared at the tree. Donny stood at his side, reaching his hand up and patting the other's carapace. "Raphie, don't rub it."
"We're almost done, Sensei." Leo answered, tearing his eyes away from his hurt brother. "We're just about to hang ornaments."
"Is Raphie okay?" Mikey asked, walking closer to their father, blue eyes worried.
Splinter smiled, and set his third son down, petting his small head. "He'll be just fine. He'll have a little problem with his balance for a while, because the eye needs to be covered, but nothing to worry about." He stepped aside, and as he said Raphael wobbled slightly, but Donatello was there in an instance, steadying him with a soft hand.
He smiled as his second oldest fussed, then stepped closer, turning an admiring eye to the tree. "A beautiful chain, Michelangelo."
The sea-coloured tot grinned at the praise.
A small hand tugged at his robe, and he looked down at his oldest son. "Yes, Leonardo?"
Leo smiled sheepishly and pointed at the only ornament already hanging. "It's a race car."
Splinter nodded, turning to Raphael when he said "I made it."
"I assumed as much, Raphael. It looks very fast."
Raphael grinned and took a few steps forward, Donny assisting him as he stumbled. He watched as his smartest son sat the injured tot by the basket, instructing him to pick out the ornaments to hang. So young and already so protective.
He smiled softly, and stepped back, watching them work silently, then turned, going back to the kitchen to continue preparing their Christmas meal.
He didn't pause when he heard "I'm sorry, Raphie." nor the following "It's fine, yah suck-up."
His sons would sort this out themselves. They always did.