Mikey was laughing as he had Raph chasing him around the lair, growling in his usual growly way when he was annoyed and was just playing around. It was rare that he could get Raph into the mood to fool around, to laugh and smile like he was a kid again.

He giggled as he was tackled around the waist, laughing as Raph gave him a noogie on the head, "Ahh you knucklehead!"

Mikey loved these moments. Leo and Don were watching, laughing at their antics, and relaxed. They were even playing video games. It was unusual for his brothers to actually act their age of 16. Mikey had it easiest, he was able to act 16 as soon as he got in the lair, in the sewers, and sometimes, if he can manage it, when they scavenge.

He tugged Raph's mask, grinning wickedly as he pulled it off, wriggled free and dashed off, "Can't get me!" and ran towards the exit. He didn't count on Casey walking in at the moment, or running into him, with Raph behind him, landing with a loud crash and thuds.

He felt the red cloth slip from his hands, and Raph tying it around his eyes as he got back up.

Mikey groaned, helping Casey up, saying sheepishly, "Sorry Case-man," with a grin, helping him up.

Casey shook his head, nodding his head at Mikey's help in thanks, asking with a grin back, "Geez guys, what are you guys doin?" he asked curiously, looking at the brothers, seeing Leo and Donnie were on the couch, playing video games.

Raph smiled, "We ain't doin' nuthin' Case. Just foolin' around. What's up?"

Casey shrugged, "Nothin' much, just wondering if you guys wanted to come topside to crack some skulls?" he grinned, glad Raph would always be willing to go topside whenever.

Raph glanced at Mikey, and then his brothers, before his eyes lit up with glee and anger, "Sure Case! Lemme get my Sais," and he turned and went to his room to get his Sais.

Casey smiled, "Great, how about you guys?" turning to Mikey, Don and Leo.

Mikey shook his head, "No thanks Casey. We all just wanted to relax and have fun tonight...ya know, turtles night in," frowning at Raph, with a sad look on his face, "Raphie you said you were gonna play with me tonight!" gesturing to the video game system.

Raph sighed, "Sorry Mike, I'm gonna go wit Case, okay, we can do it some other time,"looking guilty but wanting to go topside and kick ass. He hated when he disappointed Mikey.

Mikey's face fell, and scowled at Casey, "Why'd you hav'ta come down here anyway Casey! We were having fun!"

Casey scowled back, "Awww, you guys were just foolin' around down here. We could be up top crackin skulls and stoppin' thugs. Raph's my buddy, and I knew he wouldn't turn down goin' afta them."

Mikey scowled again, "Casey, lay off. We're sixteen, we shouldn't have to worry about crackin' skulls all the time! It ain't our responsibility all the time! People have to learn to stand up from themselves sometimes...and sometimes, we should be allowed to fool around! It's not often we get the chance to do that now."

Casey frowned, "You're just foolin' around, doin' nuthin when crooks and murderers are topside hurtin' people! Jesus Christ Mikey, grow up and smell the cookies, you made it your obligation when you guys started interferin'"

Raph nodded, "It's true Mike, it is our responsibility now," glancing at him with a small smile.

"It's not our responsibility Raph!" Mikey burst out angrily, actually showing his displeasure, "It's not the way we used to be. We only went out to scavenge before! The first time we went topside, was to get food...and even then, that was at 12! We just had to gather food and metal stuff for Donnie so he can make down here easier. To train and be safe! It wasn't our problem to help people, but we did it anyway! Now you guys are all older and mature when we go topside, serious and angry, and it pisses me off!"

Leo spoke up, "Mikey, this is our home; we do have to help protect it. It's what Master Splinter trained us for."

Don nodded, agreeing with Leo, but watching Mikey, concerned.

Mikey glared at Leo, and said angrily, "NO Leo, it's not our home! If New York was really our home, we would be able to walk the streets safely, and not have to live in sewers and scavenge for food, books, blankets and other things. We wouldn't have to be cold in the winter, or starve. New York isn't our home! The sewers are!" and he started to pace, needing to get it out and in the open.

"We're sixteen years old Casey...sixteen. If we were human, we would be teenagers, in high school, wondering if we should go hang out at the mall and ignore what's going on around us. No, instead, we get involved with a fight that's not ours!"

He felt this need, this anger and pain at always having to be on guard when they were above ground, to never be able to relax, and he whirled around at Leo, "And No Leo, Master Splinter trained us to protect us. He wanted us to be able to protect ourselves if we ever got discovered, so we can protect eachother and protect father should we ever get discovered," and his eyes narrowed slightly, his blue eyes sparkled in anger, fists clenched.

He turned towards Splinter, who entered the room, "Master Splinter didn't train us to go out and start fighting other ninjas...that was a mistake, Saki discovered us, and so we got involved. We then started fighting people on the street, gangs, and taking them down, and even though it was a good thing we did so, IT's NOT OUR FIGHT! It wasn't ever our fight!...but now...now we take it upon ourselves to interfere...and fight for our lives...and theirs, without even a 'Thank You' and that's everytime we go topside...it's not right...it's not the way to live...to always be on guard or fearful of being killed...just for being topside..."

His arms flailed around as he said this, before he turned to Raph, his eyes heavy with anger and shadows, "We're sixteen Raph, and it's rare to see you smiling, laughing...to act like you were sixteen. That you can forget for awhile that you were free from any obligations...all of you...all of you were actually acting your age...and not the war heavy soldier that you become when you go topside. or the turtle always so angry and upset at all the scum out there," he paused, "Then you're pissed because the whole damn world sees us as Monsters! Ya think I don't get it, I do, I see it just like you, in the mirror everytime I wake up, but you know what I do to stop it from hurting so much?"

Raph frowned, concerned at how angry Mikey was and curious at his words, "How Mike?"

Mikey glares at Raph, "I remember I have a family who is going through the whole thing with me. I remind myself I'm not alone, and I can't save the entire world. Not alone!"

He glanced away for a moment, the silence of the room overwhelming and shocking, before he turned his head, looking at Casey for a moment, "Casey...you are probably like what, 27, 28? You had a whole 10 years or so on us, and you're hanging around teenagers, taking advantage of Raph's rage so you have a buddy to roll with...and all I ever wanted...was for my brothers to remember how old they really were...to actually live it for a change..." and he turned around, his eyes bright and wet, "We're only sixteen...and we lived so much...so fast...we're only sixteen..but I guess...we're never going to get that chance...not with these 'obligations' to people who think we are nothing but monsters to be killed and dissected...not if our friends encourage us to rally up the enemies after us...or to get involved in every damn fight in a city who doesn't do a damn thing for us..."

In the silent aftermath, and before anyone can move from their shocked states, he slipped out of the room quietly, feeling exhausted and tired all of a sudden, feeling older then he ever felt before.

He headed to his room, locking the door behind him, glad the Atlantians had thought of a locking systems for their bedrooms. Laying on the bed, he glanced at the sketch he made of his brothers when he was younger, a small smile creasing his face as he laid back down on the bed, remembering then, they didn't have to worry about being killed when they left their home.

As his eyes closed in exhaustion, he wondered if his brothers would ever get the point he was trying to make...

He slept...