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Leo was not a fan of chores. He did them of course. They were necessary to the function of the lair. They needed to keep their home clean and tidy. Plus, Splinter would have his shell if he dared otherwise. But that didn’t mean he had to like them. Getting his hands covered in dirt while he was sweeping was not his ideal way to spend a Sunday. So no, Leo was not a fan of chores.

            He, however, was a fan of chores with Mikey.

            Mikey took to chores with a kind of enthusiasm even a 50’s housewife couldn’t fake. He danced while he swept the floor. He told stories about the dust bunnies he found in the corners and crevices of their home. He chattered away as he cleaned his room (a rare occurrence, always brought on by a lecture from their father, but it happened). It was entertaining to watch. Chores with Mikey, while still chores, were fun enough to make Leo at least crack a smile as they sorted through layers of dirt and grime.

            But that wasn’t the only reason Leo liked doing chores with Mikey. Because when Mikey got really into his cleaning of the day? His baby brother sang.

            Mikey wasn’t a good singer. Not by a long shot. None of them were; turtles weren’t built with the vocal cords for ballads and operas. Mikey couldn’t carry a tone any better than the rest of them. He was flat almost all of the time. He couldn’t hit most notes. But for what he lacked in skill, he made up in enthusiasm.

            Mikey was at the sink, scrubbing at some of the plates from their last meal. Leo stood next to him, in charge of drying each plate and cup. Their conversation had lulled a few minutes ago, it happened, and Mikey had started singing soon after. It was a soft kind of singing, not the type to be done for public performance, but Mikey put emotion into every word.

            Leo kept drying dishes as Mikey washed each one, but he really wasn’t paying attention. The song his brother was singing was a classic, one Splinter used to play for them back when they were small. It was energetic but not frantic, a type of song to be sung in the morning when the sun was just on the cusp of the horizon. It was a song that spoke of a world ahead, just out of reach. A song that was happy for the opportunities ahead, but also just a little bittersweet.

            It fit him. Sometimes, people thought Mikey was naïve, that his kindness was a crutch. Leo used to. But as he’d grown older, he’d learned better. Mikey wasn’t naïve. He knew the darkness that lurked in the corners of their lives. He knew how it could consume a man. So he sought the light with twice the perseverance.

            Sometimes, Leo wished he could be like that but darkness’s claws were hooked too deep in him. Mikey would just have to capture enough sunlight for both of them.

            “You okay there, Leo?” Leo snapped out of his trance. Mikey was staring at him, water dripping from his hand onto his plate and back into the sink. He’d stopped singing. Leo shook his head and gave him a large grin.

            “I’m fine.”

            “Alright man. Don’t start slacking on me! We gotta get these done before dinner.” Leo turned back to his stack of plates, starting to dry once more. Mikey didn’t start singing again, instead fully focused poking the soap bubbles that were cropping up on his plates. Leo didn’t mind. He could still hear the song in his head, Mikey’s voice soft but steady, trying to banish the darkness away.

            It wasn’t enough. It never would be. But a flame in the pitch black was better than no candle at all.