As Leo would tell it later, in his eight part Snap story, they were screwed from the start . Donnie’s smoke bombs, planted around the warehouse earlier that evening, had detonated about thirty seconds late. Thirty seconds after Leo had finished his distraction speech- which was only necessary because Mikey’s original distraction hadn’t just failed, it had gotten him captured.
Raph clenched his jaw, while Leo sweat kunai in front of an uninspired audience, his eyes trying to pick out a flash of orange in the dark cave.
And then the smoke bombs went off and nobody could see anything. Just the deadly hiss of bladed weapons swinging for his shell through the haze they’d created. He could hear Leo ‘porting (‘ Behind you. Hahaha. Behind you ! Hahahaha!’) and purple electricity arced past him as Donnie’s staff lived up to his praise. They were advancing, but the smoke was thick and Raph was remembering they were in a cave a whole mission too late.
The cultist in front of him was coughing heavily into one wide sleeve when Raph tapped him firmly with a tonfa, putting him to sleep. He was probably safer on the ground, right now. Raph knew that from one of the old learning VHS’s Splinter used to put on, fire-safety and crossing the road. Stranger danger.
Seen it eighty-thousand times if once. If he died of smoke inhalation now, Raph supposed he’d deserve it.
Another cultist stepped in front of him, the only warning the dim blue pulse of light emanating from the orb he held in his hands. Looked important. Shiny, even. Probably old, or valuable, or both. The guy was clearly squaring up.
Raphie grinned, smacking his tonfas together. Smashy-smashy time.
And then the weird-ball-guy started to yodel or something , and from way away from him Donatello was saying ‘Not good , not good , not good ’ in that way he did when something was about to go boom.
A green blur tearing through the smoke, Mikey's high pitched scream building like the whine of an engine as his kusari-fundo drug him like a kite through the air, headed for the space between Raph’s eyes.
And then he was flat on his shell. The floor, it turned out was a safer place to be Donnie told him in the buggy on the way home, as Mikey’s kusari had yanked him straight into the stalactites and then bounced until the ceiling caved. Mike himself was pretty quiet and Raph was sure, more than a little banged up. He’d been knocked out in the fall, leaving Leo and Don to drag them out of the crater they’d made of 32nd street. Not their most successful patrol.
“You have got to learn control that thing.” Don said, hands tense at ten and two on the Buggy’s wheel. It wasn’t the first time, and Mikey fetched a small sigh from behind him as Leo bandaged the split on his eye ridge, hands gentle despite Donnie’s hurried driving.
Better to be off of the road, before the cops came to find the oopsie they’d made.
“I mean it. “ Don said, more seriously this time, flicking his eyes sideways at Raph. “That could have killed us-“
“Didn’t.” Leo said mildly. “But my body does hurt considerably more than it did before a cave fell on it.”
Mikey sighed again, a little louder this time.
“-and alright, we aren’t dead, but those cultists probably are-“
“Good.” Raph growled, surprising himself. He answered Don’s look without bothering to actually look at it. “They took Mikey-“
“Because he was goofing off-“
“I was the distraction!” Mikey protested. “I was supposed to be goofing off-“
“Stop wiggling.” Leo told him. “You’ll bleed on Don’s new floor mats and then you will be dead-“
“How did you even get out?” Raph asked, his gaze searching out Mikey’s in the rearview mirror.
“My kusari burned through the rope. That’s why-“
“You’re really going to blame him for protecting himself-“
“”For getting us killed, yeah, I migh-“
“ Ow! ”
Donnie and Raph whipped around in their seats, and Leo shrugged.
“I told him to stop wiggling.”
Next practice though, when Mikey flung himself and Leo off a roof, his kusari chattering madly all the way down, Raph started to think Donnie may be right.
“It laughs.” Don said, arching an eyebrow. “But does it live? Does it love ?”
He was bent at the waist, examining Mikey’s still weapon, left carelessly on a table beside the weapons rack. As he spoke, he reached out with one long green finger and gave it a cautious poke. When nothing happened, his other eyebrow raised to join the first.
“Not any language I speak.” Leo said. “You’re our translator for ‘smug cackling’.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha.” Donnie said.
“Maybe needs a little practice, pal.” Leo said encouragingly, before turning back to his blade. He ran the cloth one last loving time down it’s length. Shnnng . Like a whisper.
“Stop staring at your sword, it’s creepy.” Raph said, clapping him on the back, making him jolt. He was dripping with sweat, Mikey too. “You’re up to spar. Put it to use.”
“As if he’ll get a chance!” Donnie teased from the center of the mat, teetering back and forth on his heels, staff clutched behind him.
Leo was off like a shot, his pride on the line, and Raph sank onto the stool he’d left behind, his body still thrumming from the fight. Mikey was nothing but energy, and it took a lot to wear him out. His knees ached, his shell ached, his tonfas ached.
Mikey was casually twirling his kusari-fundo, retrieved at the end of the fight. Letting the chain swing in wide, easy figure eights. Anything more woke the evil, chattering thing, shot-putting Mikey around the room like a kicked Koopa shell. His tonfas pulsed warmly in his palms at just the thought. His babies loved a fight.
“Sorry about the guys.” Raph said. “About your kusari...” He frowned when Mikey didn’t answer. Didn’t even really look at him, just kept his eyes focused on Don and Leo’s match. Kept his chain swinging in smooth rotation.
Raph tried again.
“You’ll grow into it- with it, I mean-”
“Yeah, thanks.” Mikey said moodily, and then turned abruptly to smile at him, and Raph looked at the fake creased happiness in his eyes, and wished he understood his brothers. “I’m gonna go shower. Wanna scrub my shell?”
“I’m good.” Raph said. “But, Mike-”
“Don’t nag so much!” Leo called, just before he ate it on the mat. “Even if Mikey’s weapon is useless, it’s still kusari fun -tho!”
So busy stopping Don from kicking Leo into the ground, Raph didn’t really notice Mikey slipping off.
He noticed him leave the kusari fundo behind next mission though.
Kinda wished he hadn’t noticed and it was shit like this that often made Raph feel the burden of his leadership the worst. When Mikey was too down to skate, when Donnie wouldn’t eat for days- when Leo couldn’t get out of his own head. It made him feel powerless to help his brothers in any tangible way- and that made him feel weak.
He’d sorta always hated feeling weak.
Still, the mission went a lot smoother. Leo was still working out the timing on his teleportation, but some teleportation was more deadly than none. Donnie was generally a fast talking chaos inducing disaster on the battlefield, but he did clean-up like a pro, the swing of his staff accounting for an impressive amount of bodies hitting the floor.
Mikey was sitting on a bit of railing near the cat walk of the warehouse, his face lit up from the glow of his cell. The only parts of him moving was the tap of his thumbs, and his feet swinging idly.
Still, there were only a couple of Dragons here, and soon enough the red glow had faded from his own weapons, and he was left panting in a still room.
Leo was already porting people to a curb by the hospital, while Don called in a report of a gang fight nearby. The police would scoop them up as soon as the hospital finished patching them. Raph stepped away from the chaos- stepped off the mat. Headed for the stairs, letting them wind him to where Mikey was perched above the world.
He heard him coming- who wouldn’t, his big feet on these rickety aluminum stairs- but Mikey didn’t move, barely blinked. Maybe hunched into his shell, a bit, but Raph only saw because he was staring.
“So... you didn’t feel like leaping in at any time?”
“Nah.” Mikey said casually, kicking his heels as they swung. “You guys got it. Really hit it out of the park. You wanna see this awesome video April sent me?”
Raph hated this part of being a leader. Leo never felt his pep talks and Don hated it when he made him eat and shower and see the daylight outside his lab but Mike- Mike made it easy. As long as Raph kept his cool, of course.
Seeing him like this, it was hard to get mad.
“Sure.” Raph said, and settled his bulk comfortably beside his brother. Laughed when he was supposed to- when he wanted to- and felt something in his chest relax, when Mikey’s shell relaxed, when his feet slowed, then stopped.
Dormant, it looked so innocent. Carved, weighty metal, fastened to a deceptively strong chain. Raph picked the thing up, testing the balance with one hand.
Perfect. And with that same warm hum he so often felt in the solid wood of his tonfa. Warmer maybe. Brighter.
He held the staff of it up to his eye, looking along the smooth length. A little small in his palm. Perfect for Mikey’s. It looked so calm, so still- not orange, not screaming with the laughter of the possessed- not slamming Mikey into every wall along the way.
“Fun, though.” Raph mutters thoughtfully, lowering the kusari-fundo back onto the counter where it had been carelessly left.
“It’s called a manriki-kusari.” Don said. “Technically.”
“Whatever.” Raph said. The purple one. His unfunny, stealthy brother.
“Although, I’ve been doing some reading.” Don said, and Raph snorted. “Alright- I do a lot of reading, but I’ve been doing some very specific reading from the crumbly pile of old weird stuff Dad keeps from before-”
“C’mon, Don.” Raph said. “Any day now.”
“You must know.” Don said, raising one eyebrow. “That is going to make me go impossibly slower.”
“Come ooooon .” Raph groaned, as Don broke up into snickers.
“You know-” Leo said, stepping calmly out of a portal onto the table, and then jumping to the floor. “-that looks like a chigiriki, more than a kusari-fundo-”
“Oh, god damnit.” Don said, tossing his hands up. “This is what I get for working to a point.”
“Like a what?” Raph asked.
“It looks like a yoyo on a stick.” Mikey said, snatching it off the table, and out from under their overly inquisitive eyes. “What do you guys care?”
“Maybe I’m thinking of upgrading.” Don said. “Since you don’t want it and all.”
“Sure.” Mikey said, tossing it to him casually. “Whatevs.”
He sauntered back out of the room, pissed and hiding it. Raph waited until the door slid shut.
“ Goddamnit .”
“Please don’t make me use this cursed-”
“Shut up, Donald.”
Finally a day to do nothing. Master Splinter had barricaded himself in his room for a marathon he’d been waiting so long for. When Mikey had asked him how long he’d been waiting, Splinter had just told him to stop eating all his corn nuts.
Still that meant no training- and no chores! A perfect day for video games.
Mikey hummed along with the start up sound, his fingers twiddling the joy sticks randomly. He’d been saving this dumb game for a day just like today. All he was going to do all day was rot his brain in peace. That and eat Donnie’s-
“Are those my chips?” Don asked walking behind the couch. “Give me those!”
Mikey pouted at the turtle’s retreating shell, before focusing his eyes back ahead. It may be the second best tv in the house, but everybody else was occupied, and Mikey was ready to steal some cars and bust some heads.
Virtually, of course.
IRL, he planned on kicking his feet up and-
A hand fell onto his shoulder, and Mikey paused the game with a groan, letting his head flop back on his neck.
“Come onnnn, Don.” Mikey muttered, leaving his eyes closed, letting the looping beat of the pause music cycle in the background. “I already gave you the chips. You want the ones from my tummy too? Here, take ‘em, ahhhhhhhhhhh-”
“I’m good.” A voice rumbled above him and Mikey’s eyes shot open as his mouth snapped shut, focusing on Raph’s snaggle-toothed smile. “I want your ass-”
Mikey sucked in a single, shocked breath.
“-in the gym.” Raph finished, eyeing him strangely. “You okay, Mike? You look like you just inhaled a cheese puff.”
Mikey shook his head, flushing and fumbled for the drink beside him. “Nope, I’m alllll good. Just... thirsty.”
“You’ll be thirstier after this workout.” Raph promised, and jumped when Mikey sprayed orange gatorade everywhere.
In the end he’d given in pretty easily.
Raph was a hard-head - if he wanted to burn some energy in the gym and he wanted Mikey to help, he wasn’t going to give up until Mikey was sore and aching.
Mikey grimaced, pausing for a second to shake himself. If he was going to survive a one on one training session with Raph, he was going to have to stop thinking things like that.
The door to the dojo had slid open creakily, sticking a bit on the track like it always did, and Mikey bowed his head unconsciously. It was empty, like he’d thought it would be. If he had wanted his chips, it meant Don wasn’t going to be training with them, and Raph hadn’t been able to corral Leo since he’d learned to ‘port. Raph’s feet were loud on the smooth wooden floor.
“Can we play music?” Mikey asked hopefully, whooping when Raph nodded. Raph was so cool- too cool, sometimes. Cool in a way that made Mikey kind of anxious. Made him act up, and goof off. Made him show off- made him laugh, more than anything.
Loud, horrible noise filled the dojo and Mikey winced, whipping his head around to where Raph was bobbing his head cheerfully.
“ Beastie Boys ?” Mikey asked incredulously. “On an actual cd? Are you in a time-warp? I have Spotify cracked on my t-cell, hold on-”
“What? You don’t like ‘ Chunky Monkey ’?” Raph asked, popping his shell casually beside the stereo. “You afraid to get loose?”
Mikey scowled. Sometimes Raphael was a damn embarrassment. He was over there, jerking his arms, eyes wide like he was a challenger in Step Off, his feet mimicking some sloppy running man moves to the beat.
A damn embarrassment, Mikey thought to himself. Did that make him a damn embarrassment for loving him?
“Woo!” Raph said, throwing his arms up in some sort of horrible seizure- oh god, he was raising the roof. “This is loosening me up!”
Raph tossed in a little hip roll, just the bare bones of a dirty little bump and grind and Mikey’s mouth went dry. He was a fucking freak. Nobody’s brain should go all Havana Nights and body shots at their dorky older bro. It made him mental, no matter what he told himself.
Not everybody’s bro could bench press them. Had saved their life in battle- was he- oh jesus christ-
MIkey’s eyes snapped shut, more securely sealed than a tuna lid but it was too late.
“What?” Raph asked, making Mikey groan. “You never saw nobody shakin’ it before? What do you kids call it? Twerkin’?”
“You’re like, two years older than me.” Mikey said, opening his eyes reluctantly. “And I’m not a kid any more.”
Raph laughed, one hand dialing back the Boys, who were ramping up to another all-nighter, before they finally made it to brooklyn. Mikey laughed too- pulled out his chucks. Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad-
“Nah, don’t use those. Use your kusari-fundo!”
Mikey groaned. This was going to be awful.
“C’mon why- why - lemme just use the chucks. That’s definitely gonna disturb Master S-”
“He’ll be fine.” Raph said, shrugging, smacking his tonfas together until they glowed. “He loves it when I drag you in here and smack you around.”
“Yeah, well, if I use the fundo it’ll do your job for you.” Mikey said drily, shuffling his feet a bit. “Just beat me up the old fashioned way.”
“Nah.” Raph said, smiling easily, and Mikey wanted to groan. He had his stupid leader voice on. The one that said he’d be smiling until you agreed, and then he’d grind your shell into the dojo floor.
‘Oh god,’ Mikey thought, with the uncomfortable clarity of a doomed man. ‘I wish he’d grind me into the floor-’
“-and you could be such an asset if you could use that crazy thing, instead of just pin-balling around-”
“I’m not doing it on purpose!” Mikey said, coming back to the conversation, acutely hating being young and thirsty. “I barely hold on-”
Raph’s brow furrowed, his face falling from the set good cheer of a camp counselor, to a look of concern. And god, that was the last thing Mikey wanted, was to give Raph a reason to think something was wrong with him. He was fine. He wasn’t some sicko that had a thing for big green guys who could toss him over his shoulder. Who he’d been raised with, and fought with- the guy he’d danced with in front of the tv, and splashed in bath tubs with-
“-know you can do this!”
Mikey wasn’t totally sure what he was talking about anymore, but he had a guess.
“No.” He said slowly, like Raph was as stupid as MIkey felt. “I can’t. I’ve tried-”
“Can you try again?” Raph interrupted, and Mikey sighed.
“Yeah. Yeah, ‘course I can, -”
“Than do it.” Raph said seriously, and Mikey swallowed. Tossed his chucks to the side. It felt like a loss, maybe even a little bit like betrayal, to give them up for something so shiny.
Soooo shiny. He couldn’t deny that the kusari called to him like a magnet. A bright, shiny dangerous magnet, the smooth handle strange in his hands. His ‘chuks were rough with teeth marks from when Raph was teething. This was a polished weapon, almost dangerous feeling, thanks to the glowing pulse of energy it gave him.
It felt right in his hands, which made his absolute apprehension in using it so much worse.
“Ready?” Raph said, and the raising of his tonfas sparked a curious little thermal charge to race up MIkey’s arm, made him swallow. Met Raph’s charge head on.
Fighting with the kusari was awful- he had to slow all of his attacks if he didn’t want to activate the screaming chatterbox, didn’t want ceiling burn on his shell again. And when his attacks were slow, were timed- they were easy.
Raph batted him to the side, again, and Mikey let himself lean into the fall, let himself hit the ground hard enough that his shell smacked the floor, that his bones bounced a little. Anything to get out of here.
“You okay?” Raph said, concern on his features, and Mikey felt like the worst. Worse than sewer sludge for making him worry.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m just a little tired-”
“I should have asked-”
“No, it’s not-”
“I just pulled you in here. I didn’t even hear you go to bed last night, I was out like a light. We can pick up tomorrow. Go shower, I’m gonna start lunch-”
“I’ll shower.” Mikey agreed , trying not to love Raphie taking care of him so much. Tried to love it the normal amount, substitute the rest of that warm heat with hating himself. “But don’t make lunch-”
“I am an excellent chef-”
“Algae smoothies. Bean burgers-”
“That’s healthy!” Raph exclaimed, and Mikey shrugged.
“Maybe for your body bro, but not for like, yourself, y’know.”
Raphael laughed like he was supposed to, and Mikey took his shell elsewhere.
As soon as Mike was out of the room, Raph let his face fall, rubbing a hand over his head, pushing his mask back onto his shell. That could have gone a lot better. Could have helped at all. Fuck .
He lashed out, his fist hitting the dojo wall with a dull thud. Damnit. Why wouldn’t Mikey let him help? He’d barely pulled out his kusari the entire fight, matching Raph with sloppy hand attacks. Which, remind him to start running basics more often. Not even Mike on his best day- more like MIke when he couldn’t get a new design right. Normally he was such a manic ball of fun, seeing him too discouraged to even try. That hurt.
If he was a real leader, he’d know what to do. Raph pulled his fist back, and then brought it forward, tapping the brick lightly. The physical expression of a sigh, more than a punch. If Mikey wouldn’t fight with him, then how could he help -
His eyes dropped to where the kusari was resting on the floor, dropped when Mikey had fallen. He could feel the warmth it held from here, deep in his tonfas, and not for the first time Raphael wondered why Leo’s sword never seemed to encourage his touch. Seemed to burn his fingertips from afar. Their differences ate at him sometimes, infuriated him, but he always tried his hardest to bring them together.
Maybe he could help.
Raph crossed the floor quickly, closing the dojo door with a snap.
He’d help Mikey, even if this thing dragged them both down. .
Leo was ‘porting again.
Mikey grit his teeth breathing in, squeezed his eyes closed and then let it out in a big sigh. No need to get upset... better to just focus on the Art. He flexed his fingers. The Art was what was important. He could hear him now, sprinting back to the far end of the hall- closest to Mikey’s room. He understood this was the only long, flat stretch in the lair where he could build up a charge, but he’d already had to tell him to stop portaling directly outside his door once today. Opening holes in the cosmos made his desk shake.
A small pause in the noise, and Mikey dared to let his pen touch paper.
A shuddering pop, somehow both inaudible and horrible to his ear went through the house, and Mikey’s pen tip popped neatly through the paper.
“Whatcha drawing?” Leo asked, his head floating like some awful bubble in the middle of Mikey’s room, his cheeto flavored breath, rubbing cheek to cheek with him. “Looks cool, but I think you’re pressing a little hard, bud.”
“You’re a horrible person.” Mikey said, and they came out overdramatic, playful- he really just sort of wanted to cry. “A horrible, horrible-”
“-turtle, yes he is.” Donnie said, popping his head in beside Leo’s. “Cool drawing, Michael. Leo- you promised me lab time. Progress cannot wait!”
“Yeah, go to the lab.” Mikey said, and then under his breath. “Wreck Don’s stuff, instead.”
“Rude!” Leo said, sticking his neck further in, like a chicken on the chopping block. “I am honing my ninja skills. You want me to tell Dad you think art is more important than the sword-”
“Leo will not be wrecking anything.” Don said, and then popped out of view. Popped back in a second later. “He will be doing science . Science will be done on him. And thus he-”
Raph’s head popped in, like some weird brotherly cerberus-turtle. Mikey knew he was in hell.
“You guys know how weird you look with your butts just sticking out in the hallway?” Raph asked, and Leo clicked his teeth.
“That’s how you look now too, big guy. Now tell Mikey art is less important than the sword-”
“-tell Leo he promised-”
“Why are alla you in Mikey’s room in the first place-”
“-sort of-” Raph amended, shooting Donnie a glare that made his eyebrows wilt. “When I told you to leave him alone? He needs quiet to draw-”
Mikey saw his opportunity and took it.
“Leo’s been running portals in the hall!”
“Leo!” Raph exclaimed, and Mikey heard a slap through the portal, and in the hallway over Leo’s yelp. “What did I tell you-”
“-aaaand he’s skipping out on ‘science-time’.” Don said smugly, raising an offended brow when Leo and Raph both shuddered. “What? It’s not that bad-”
“The time with the electrodes-”
“-or the finger thing-”
“How about the sprinkler?” Mikey asked. “I liked the sprinkler.”
“Mikey, that was water torture.” Raph said slowly.
“Semantics!” Donnie proclaimed. “Leo! To my bat cave!”
His head disappeared with a pop, and then so did Leo’s, although he pulled a face as he went.
“You still drawing?” Raph asked, his voice warm now that he wasn’t shouting over everybody. “Looks like you sort of lite-brited it.”
Mikey looked down. Literally all he’d had left was to ink on Tony’s knee pads, and he’d have been a pro-skater. With the piercing he’d given him, Mikey was worried he might never skate again.
“Whatever.” Mike said. “Doesn’t matter.”
It didn’t matter, but right now it really felt like it did.
“Cool.” Raph said. “Wanna come to the gym with me? I have this idea-”
“Nah, I don’t know-”
“No, really! I was messing with your fundo-”
Mikey groaned. “Oh, c’mon Raph, not that again-”
“-and when I was doing runs with my tonfas-”
“No.” Mikey said and he wanted to mean it. He’d sworn off dangerous, laughing toys, and sweaty mat time with his big bro. And if the lack of training got him killed, so what.
All the better, Mikey thought to himself. Honestly .
“-and that’s why I think if you just-”
“Raph, Raph, Raphie.” Mikey said, cutting him off mid sentence, making his brow furrow under his mask. “Buddy, bro- big guy. Nooo .”
“Why do you all call me that?”
“Big guy.” Raph said, screwing up his mouth. “It’s-”
‘-hot.’ Mikey thought, and see, that was exactly why he needed to stay right here with Tony- who, surely would need assistance, with his leg and all-
“- mean .” Raph said, and Mikey gaped at him.
“Mean?” Mikey asked, his mouth open. “You could squash any one of us with your thighs- or- or even your arms like, bro, that’s so-”
“There’s more to me than mass.” Raphael said, with slow dignity, looking at the floor. “So- what. You won’t come to the dojo with me- because you’re too afraid of getting squashed by these thighs?”
“Yes.” Mikey said, too quickly. “Yep. That’s it. I’m a coward. Can’t- can’t handle those glutes bro- you’re gonna hafta sweat it out without me-”
“Whatever, Mikey.” Raph said, and his hand came up beside his face, pushing at the edges of the portal, as though he was trying to widen it again, trying to climb through. “I’ll show you in there, then, but bro- you have to see this- I’ve been fooling around with your kusari, and-”
“Well, don’t!” Mikey snapped, his voice frayed and shrill. “I don’t need to be- be fooling around with you! I need to be left alone-”
Raph waved a hand, a white flag.
“Okay, Mikey.” Raph said softly, his jaw set. “I hear you loud and clear, lil bro.”
He yanked his head back through the portal, which sealed after him with a quick pop, leaving Mikey alone in his room. The silence was loud now, and Mikey set Tony aside with a sigh. Oh well. Might as well jerk off, and go to bed.
Hope Raph had dropped it by tomorrow.
A surprise meditation and training session just after breakfast- enforced by Master S. Mikey moved through katas lazily, keeping his limbs to himself, and tried not to meet Raph’s eyes. It was hard, considering Raph spent the whole thing staring him down. Just staring at Mikey, while he lunged and flexed, and Mikey sweat through his sweat bands.
After that everyone else hit the shower room and Mikey crept up to his room to jerk off again, more guiltily.
After a bath in the now empty shower room, Mikey ended up on the couch, his legs sprawled over one arm, head resting on the other. There was nothing on tv, but that had never stopped him before. MIkey wiggled, reshaping the cushions with his butt, squeezing the lip of his shell between two cushions for maximum comfort.
He’d forgotten the popcorn.
His stomach rumbled, and Mikey wanted to ignore her- to sit, and chill, and put this morning far to the back of his mind, where he kept all of his sweaty, uncomfortable thoughts- but that same workout had given him awful munchies. He wasn’t even sure popcorn was enough- but it was a start. Warm, buttery popcorn, toasted kernels to snap between one’s teeth- heaven.
“Ughhhhh!” Mikey told the ceiling, his head tipped back in exasperation. “Fine!”
He flung himself upright, conquered by his stomach, and headed for the kitchen. They had one of those ancient air poppers, but he was pretty sure Master Splinter had- yep, cleaned house-
Mikey looked at the single kernel ratting in their jar, a testament to the truth that rat teeth really did keep growing- which left the boxed stuff.
Not as good, but the butter was already in the bag. Good enough, Mikey thought tossing it into the microwave, and setting the timer in a rad series of beeps and boops. It was spinning before he could get bored, and he pulled it out that little bit early, just to feel the steam hit his face when he opened the bag.
“That’s why you break out.” Donatello told him, skin fucking glowing, and Mikey sighed loudly.
“Can you not interrupt my chill, D?” He asked. “I’ve already booked the main suite- refreshments are almost done- and steam is good for your pores, so-”
“Not buttered steam.” Donnie said. “And good luck, Leo’s set up shop on that couch-”
“Seriously?” Mikey said, and Donnie raised his eyes at the whining jump in pitch. “Whatever, dude, I just want a space, that like, you guys aren’t in-”
“Wow, harsh.” Donnie said, and maybe, maybe he did sound a little hurt, but Mikey didn’t- couldn’t really care, he had a couch to steal-
The entire living room smelled like bean burrito farts when he returned.
“Bean, egg and cheese .” Leo told him, ripping another loud one right onto Mikey’s comfy cushions. “Sorry bro, thought I’d wait out the storm here, rather than smoke bomb my room-”
Self-care was taking his popcorn and leaving the living room before he had a murder-suicide on his conscience. He crunched a piece between his teeth enjoying the squeak, as he tried to plan his next choice. Don’s lab was out, for the same reason his own was- no food allowed. If he felt like skirting the law he could hole up in the dojo- but he was pretty sure that would be Leo’s next stop once the living room was too funky to endure.
Which only left Raphie’s room. Always open to hang, as long as he was willing to share the popcorn. A rule he hadn’t taken advantage of in months.
He used to go there all the time- steal a chocolate bar, eat half of it, and then bring the second half up to split- write it off to Raphael as a leftover treat, not something he’d taken just to please Raphie’s sweet tooth. He’d lay on the floor, and flip through comic books, or color, while Raphie worked out- or jeez, sometimes just watched him, like whatever Mikey was doing was ever that interesting. If so, nobody else seemed to think so. Mikey worked at a hard piece of kernel stuck in his teeth. Maybe Raphie missed that too-
It was those thoughts that halted his feet in front of Raphael’s door, hand held awkwardly, up to knock, wishing he wasn’t so stupid. So dumb, so desper-
“Hey!” Raph said, blinking in surprise to see it was him. And then his smile warmed and widened enough to reveal a single sharp tooth, and nope, this was a terrible idea. “Whatcha need, bro?”
“Leo’s producing swamp gas.” Mikey told him. “Can I-”
“You bring snacks?” Raph asked, and Mikey held his bowl up for Raph to sniff approvingly. “Excellent. It’s been so long since you’ve come to see me, had to make sure you remembered my toll.”
There was reproach in Raph’s words, but when Mikey avoided his gaze, Raph didn’t say anything else, just stepped aside to let him through, under the arch he’d made of his arm. It brought them close, unavoidably close even when Mikey’s body squeezed into his shell as much as he could.
Raph’s room was exactly as he’d remembered it. Weights by his bedside, pizza boxes piled on the stereo, underneath books he’d borrowed from Donnie, and would only ever read half of. Shelves on his walls, just like on Mikey’s, even if their content was a little different. Instead of the chaotic, collapsing rows of action figures, pencils, old sketch pads and exotica that cover Mikey’s walls, Raph’s shelves hold stacks of cds, and cassettes- a potted plant he’d killed, a towel, a loose deck of cards with a spare mask draped across them.
Strong hands grabbed for his popcorn bowl, and Mikey shied to the side instinctively, knocking his elbow into the desk, knocking things covering the desk to the floor with a clatter.
“Sorry!” Mikey said, chuckling nervously. He shoved the bowl at Raph, dropping it as soon as his hands began to rise. “I’ve got it- I just needed a place to chill-”
“So sorry bro!” Mikey said again, feeling like an idiot, hands clumsy on the clutter he’d just added to Raph’s floor. A few kunai, an old sai, a magazine that looked interesting, and Mikey just- he just wasn’t going to think about that, right now, or late at night, in his room. His hand ducked under the desk, grabbing whatever had just rolled- and went still when it closed around the ever warm handle of his kusari.
He stood up and turned, unconsciously mimicking Raph’s awkward pose with the popcorn bowl, but holding his shitty, cursed weapon instead.
“Oh.” Raph said. “Uh-”
“Why do you still have this?” Mikey asked, and his voice was all over the place- no chill. “I just- I’ve told you no -”
“Listen.” Raph said, putting the popcorn on his nightstand. “I was in the dojo, a couple of days ago-”
“I don’t care!” Mikey snapped, and the kusari was warm in his hand, sort of burning. He held it tighter. “You didn’t push Donnie like this! What is it? Am I too young? Too dumb? Do you just not trust me without a trick?”
“No!” Raph said, his brow furrowed like he didn’t understand, and Mikey hated this, hated that he was the cause of all this ugly emotion. “I’m not-”
“Are my ‘chuks not enough?” Mikey said, his face hot as his throat tightened, and jesus, he was such an idiot, should have just eaten his popcorn in the bathroom-
“Mikey!” Raph said, but he’d had enough- Mikey whirled for the door, cracking it open, just to have the handle slammed from the grip, the door shuddering with the force of Raph’s palm. “Goddamnit, listen to me!”
Mikey turned, looking up into Raph’s pissed off face, and panicked as he felt a single tear slip out of his eye, flinching off his mask between them.
Raph’s face dropped into hurt surprise, and Mikey took the opportunity to dart out the door.
Didn’t even grab his popcorn.
They didn’t really talk about it. What could Raph say? He felt like he barely knew what was going on. Mikey had always been so engaged in what they did- first for food, first for fun… fourth for a fight, sure, but still. There, standing with them.
His inattention hurt in a way Raph didn’t understand. Couldn’t seem to fix.
So they just didn’t talk about it, which was the worst.
Mikey used his ‘chuks at training, and on their on-again-off-again attempts at patrol. Raph didn’t tell him anything- and Mikey-
Well it’s not like Mikey was going to up and tell him anything, either.
It was patrol like usual, until it wasn’t.
Until Leo was down, and Donnie wasn’t joke-yelling, that unfunny thing he liked to do that Raph kept trying to explain to him only added stress to a situation, but yelling -yelling and Mikey didn’t even know where Raph was . He’d lost him somewhere in the noise and smoke and gunfire the alleyway had become. The Purple Dragons weren’t backing down at all- weren’t staying down, and Mikey didn’t understand, when they’d dropped into this fight, it had seemed like a simple turf rumble and now-
“Where’s Raph?” He called past the gunfire- the purple gunfire, and oh, that shit wasn’t normal either. The city only seemed to get weirder everyday, and weirder faster than normal when it was trying to kill them. Donnie didn’t answer, no jokes, no instruction, not even any panic, and Mikey-
Mikey started to get scared .
A dragon ran by, and Mikey caught his ankle with his nunchucks, dragged him down, and then it was just fist meet head, head meet pavement. His wrists hurt more than they ever had just practicing in the dojo. It shouldn’t be a surprise that cracking real heads required more work than his brother’s empty ones, but still he was tired-
‘-tired and then you get lazy.’ Master Splinter said, pacing slowly before a row of four young turtles. ‘And when you’re lazy, you’re sloppy. And then- BANG!’
His cane slammed into the ground with all the force ninja master could muster, making his students jump in their shells.
‘You will be dead.’ Master Splinter had said, and Mikey remembered shivering. ‘ Super dead.’
So he couldn’t get tired right now. Couldn’t stop moving. Donnie wasn’t answering, Leo was down and Raph-
There he was!
The car Mikey was crouched behind rocked when Raph landed on top, before sliding onto the ground beside Mikey, his shell squeaking along the metal.
“Status?” He barked, and Mikey felt an awesome wave of relief at suddenly having any idea of what to do.
“I don’t know dude, Donnie and Leo were over there-”
“Leo’s safe. Donnie didn’t come back for you?” Raph asked, staring at Mikey with unnerving intensity and when Mikey shook his head, he sighed. Used the back of his tonka to brain a dragon crawling over their shelter, dragging his limp body beside them, out of the line of fire..
“Keep close to me, little brother.” He told Michelangelo, making Mikey feel simultaneously ten and warm all over. “I think it’s going to get intense .”
That’s when the Kraang descended, Mikey would later learn, but for now everything suddenly became a mess of screaming and fire and light. A huge boom to their left, and Mikey could hear the thud of heavy metallic bots hitting the ground. Half of NY seemed to burning, Dragons, cops, bystanders.
“I DON’T KNOW!” Raph roared over the noise.
Another seismic boom and Raph pulled Mikey against him, practically under the heavy curve of his shell, protecting them both from the scattering of gravel, the sudden dust rising from the streets. Just a moment, and then they were running .
“We’ve gotta find Donnie-!”
“Call his t-cell!” Raph barked, and Mikey fumbled to find his own shellphone, punching Donnie’s call code in with unsteady fingers, following Raph’s shell as closely as he could. It vibrated in his hand, once, and then again, and Mikey dodged a Dragon that had stepped into their path, wincing at his bloodied face. Raph was a fucking machine plowing forward, annihilating the few opponents who were stil engaging despite the fucking space ship Michelagelo could now see hovering above the city, outlined in a glowing halo of dust and fire. It was terrifying and so fucking hot to see Raphael so concentrated. Another useless vibration and Mikey let the phone slide shut.
Raph veered to the right, ducking alongside a building wall. They were making steady progress as they circled the whirlpool the quiet NY street had become. He could hear Raph breathing beside him, thick and ragged.
“When you last saw him, did he say anything, tell you anything?”
“He was trying to!” Mikey said hopefully, and then his face fell. “But I couldn’t hear him.”
“Fuck.” Raph muttered, and then again, louder, making Mikey flinch. “Fuck!”
“What do we do?” Mikey whispered, and Raph looked at him, and something in his eyes seemed to steady. He clapped a hand on Mikey’s shoulder, the weight of it pulling him closer, the way Mikey always seemed drawn to Raph, circling like he had a gravity no one else did.
“It’s going to be okay.” Raph said, and Mikey looked down at the ground felt his eyes prick with tears. Suddenly he wanted to tell Raph everything- just come clean about he ugly mass of feelings he carried in him. “We can do this.”
Mikey’s phone rang in his hand.
“It’s Leo!” He said, and slid it open, almost laughing in relief when Leo and Don’s faces appeared in the tiny screen.
“Donnie!” Raph said with such relief evident in his voice that Donnie grinned at them through grainy pixels looking smug.
“Miss me?” He shouted, and the audio was awful, distorted like he was being hit by the wind.
“Where are you?” Mikey asked, and Raph’s hand, still warm on his shoulder flexed at how shaky his voice came out. He sniffed.
“Like the ride?!” Leo yelled, and Donnie stuck the t-cell to the shell-fie stick from his pack, giving them an extended view of the convertible they sat on, driving through the rubble they’d just run through. “Stole it from a Dragon. Anyway. Raph- That ship-.”
“I know.” Raph said grimly. “It needs to go back through that portal ASAP.”
“We can come pick you up-”
“No.” Raph said. “I got a plan. Meet us at the corner of West 63rd and Broadway.”
“Kay!” Donnie said brightly, and hung up.
“You have a plan?” Mikey said, voice still small now that it was just the two of them, and Raph nodded. Pointed at the ship hovering in the sky. It was big, but not Independence Day big, hovering on three big thrusters, the portal it came from whirling behind it.
“Yeah.” Said Raph, and then he sighed. “But you’ll have to trust me. Gonna hafta believe in yourself-”
“C’mon!” Mikey said, and their eyes met, serious. “We don’t have a lot of time.”
“What we gotta do is gonna depend on you, Mikey. Gonna take timing, and precision and… this.”
And from behind his back, Raphael pulled out the kusari.
“Mikey.” Raph pleaded. “Trust me.”
“Fine.” Mikey said, and Raph whooped, and grabbed him close, pulling him in for a hug. Their plastrons scraped. Raph smelled like sweat and dust and Raph, and Mikey squeezed his eyes closed. “But only because you begged dude.”
“Thank you, Mikey.” Raph said, and then paused, uncertain. “I know we’ve been-”
“Shut up.” Mikey said, shoving him off. “We gotta catch the guys. Hurry up. Just tell me the plan along the way.”
They ran, a block and a half to where Raph had told Donnie to meet them, calves burning, coughing from the smoke still being stirred by the thrusters of the ship.
“That is a terrible plan!” Mikey screamed at him, but Raph just grinned, and held out his hand and fuck, fuck , he was gonna die a virgin just like tiktok had told him he would, with only 43 subscribers, but it was Raphael, his brother, his leader, his life and for better or worse Mikey trusted him. “I’m gonna die!”
“We’re gonna save the world!” Raph told him, and then jumped, tossing them into the backseat of the convertible as it whizzed past. Leo was wearing aviators he must have found somewhere in the car, looking like a total tool.
“Hi, I’ll be your Oovu Java, what is your destination?” Donatello asked, and Leo cackled from the front seat. Mikey could feel tension winding tighter and tighter in him. Serendipity. All that mystic mumbo jumbo Master Splinter went on about. The four slices of extra cheese, extra anchovy pizza he’d eaten earlier-
“You know the parking garage on fifth?” Raph asked, and Donatello nodded at him in the rearview mirror, dice swinging merrily just below his face. “The very fucking top and then as close to the edge, as fast as you can without pitching us over!”
“That’ll put us right next to it!” Mikey said, even as Don accelerated, already hauling ass though he was.
“I know!” Raph shouted, and then to Don. “Just go!”
He turned to Mikey in the backseat, and the convertible was clearly not built for one normal sized sewer mutant and one massive one, putting their faces so close that Raph didn’t have to shout to be heard.
“I found something out, about your fundo.” He said, and if this was the last time Mikey was going to get to see him, he wanted to memorize every bit of his face. “I was messing with it in the dojo, and it reacted to my tonfas.”
“The answer was never to go slower!” He said, and then leaned closer, and Mikey had never wanted to kiss him more in his entire, short, soon to be over, life. “It was to go faster! When Donnie whips the car, I’ll activate my tonfas, tossing you up- you activate the kusari and it should carry you toward the thruster, letting you knock it out-”
“-which should knock it back into the portal!” Donnie exclaimed. “That’s actually pretty smart, I really didn’t trust-”
“Toll booth!” Leo shouted, and everyone ducked as the guard railing splintered across the front of the car as they barreled into the parking garage, and Donnie started their speedy ascension.
“Donnie, careful!” Raph shouted, and turned back to Mikey. “You’re faster than me, and lighter, I know you can do this. We’ll be there to catch you-”
“Love you.” Mikey said, and Raph looked startled and then smiled.
“Love you too, bro.” He replied, and Mikey bit his lip.
“Coming up to the edge!” Donnie shouted, and they breached the roof. Up there, the thunderous roar of the ship drowned all conversation and Raph gave Mikey a nod, before standing on the seat, Mikey standing with him, Kusari clenched tightly in one hand. “Here we go!”
Raph lifted Mikey like he was nothing, and Mikey braced against the wind like a jet skier, the car drifting to the side. Mikey could smell the wheels burning as Donnie dragged them right to the edge, and then Raph screamed ‘NOW!’ and Mikey felt his tonfas clap to life underneath him like a sonic boom, propelling him into the air, and Leo was cheering, and the kusari flared to life in his hand, streaming behind him like a kite on fire and instead of laughing it was screaming, a high ‘ wheeeeeeeeee! ’ like a kid on a roller coaster. Flew him through the air like a jet pack, moving with momentum, and Mikey had one second of absolute terror as the thruster loomed before him, huge and hot and alien.
The kusari sliced through it like a hot knife, and Mikey just leaned, and it went with him, letting him guide their downward fall.
He could hear the thruster crashing to the ground, he squeal of the ship tipping on it’s side back through the half closed portal, but now it was him laughing, the wind in his face, his brothers at his back, and his arms ached, and his feet floated on the air like he was surfing on nothing and it was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to him.
“Over here!” Raph hollered below him, and they were standing beside an open dumpster, Leo and Raph still pulling a freshly looted mattress onto it, and Mikey laughed. Pulled into his shell and dropped like a bomb, letting his body roll with it. The kusari was burning in his hands, and they were pulling him up before he’d even poked his head out.
“You did it!”
“ Mikey! ”
“You’re a hero!”
Later, new hot rod parked in the garage, Don and Leo already wondering how long until the pizza delivery was up and running again in the front seat, Raph leaned against one dusty door and looked at Mikey. Smiled.
“That was amazing.” He said. “Cool, right? The kusari-”
“You’re cool.” Mikey said, and hopped up, leaping out the back without using the door. Raph squinted at him, unable to read him, even as suddenly close as he was. “Thanks, Raphie.”
He tossed his arms around him, and before Raphael could even hug him back, leaned up on four toes and gave him a big, showy kiss on the mouth.
“Best brother ever!”
He darted off immediately, running ahead into the lair, leaving Raph looking after him. Slowly, he raised one hand to his mouth.
“I told you he had a crush on you.” Donnie said knowingly from the front seat, and Raph avoided his eyes in the mirror. Ignored Leo’s snide ‘best brother evaaaar ’ entirely. “A whole hero-worship thing.”
“Yeah, okay.” Raph said. Fought the urge to touch his beak. “But, when did he get a tongue ring?”