Crunch, crunch. Down the steps of the porch he went, his boots making the first imprints. Raphael stopped there at the bottom, taking it in, this being the first snow at the farmhouse and the first time he’d ever personally seen the stuff. There was light enough to see though the sun wasn’t quite up yet, and as far as he knew everyone else was snoring inside. Everyone except for Donatello that was, who was up and tinkering in the garage as if he’d never slept at all (which was entirely possible, as their genius was known to keep some odd hours). But Donnie was in his nerd bubble. No, out here it was just him, the woods, and the quiet of a pre-dawn morning. Raphael crossed his arms and breathed deep. It was serene here, amongst the light chatter of the first birds, in the calm, cool stillness, where one could almost forge-
Chuff. A ball of cold exploded on the back of his head. Even if the laughter hadn’t started up right away, it would have been obvious who the perpetrator was. Raphael closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Rush him? No, too much distance. Throw one back? Maybe not enough time to make it. Mikey was pretty fast when he wanted to be. Misdirection? He nodded to himself. Misdirection.
He waited one second, and another. Sure enough, he sensed the air change as another snowball began a beeline for his head. Before it hit, he dove off the porch, rolling on his shell and popping back onto his feet, facing in the direction of his brother. They had just enough time to make eye contact. In the next instant, Raph threw a smoke bomb, disappearing in a cloud of purple vapor. Immediately a second cloud appeared closer to Mikey, off to his right side. Predictably, Mike turned to start escaping to his left – running directly into a waiting Raphael.
Mike bounced backwards off his brother, blinking in confusion. He yelped as Raph’s hand came around to the back of his mask, grabbing at the tails. Raph wrenched him forward and slipped around in an instant, putting Mike into a tight headlock. He chuckled. “S’matter Mikey? I don’t hear ya laughin’ anymore.” Mike struggled to escape. He began to make loud, exaggerated choking sounds. There’s act one, Raph thought. He tightened his grip a little. He leaned in close to his brother’s ear. “Keep it up, I’m almost breakin’ a sweat here.”
Mike bucked, trying to get free. They struggled for a few more seconds but there was little give from Raphael’s side. “Ra …” Mikey choked out.
Raphael steadied himself. He knew his brother. He knew at any point some crazy, out-of-nowhere attack would come. Mikey had something cooking, he could tell; and he wasn’t about to let his little brother get away with whatever it was this time.
“Ra … ph ...”
See, that was the thing about Mikey. Usually he was easy to beat, but every once in a while (and always when you least suspected it) he’d surprise you. He was the wildcard, and they all knew it. Raph shook his head. No, underestimating this situation would just ensure him a day or two (or three, or four,) of taunting from the turtle with no sense of self preservation. So Raph wasn’t about to let Mikey off so easy. His little brother was famous for faking it, after all. Mikey continued making gagging noises, until it happened; he reached up suddenly, slapping at Raphael’s forearm over and over with urgency.
What? Raph froze a second. No, it was way too soon for Mike to tap out. He held a little tighter. No doubt setting him up for another one of his oh-so-amusing tricks. Well, not this time. Raph squeezed a little more, showing Mikey how much he appreciated being the butt of this little joke. It had been months here at the farmhouse and he’d had just about all of Mikey’s antics as he could take. Honestly, what did the idiot take him for? As if he were going to fall for something so –
All at once, Mikey’s body seized and went limp. His arms dropped, his knees buckled, and the dead weight surprised Raphael, dragging him downwards a little with it. On instinct he released his brother, only to watch him fall face-first into the snow below. He laid there, still and unmoving.
Raph blinked, dumb at the sight. “Mikey?” He kneeled instantly, rolling his brother over onto his shell. “Hey, Mikey!” He slapped at Mike’s face with the back of his hand. No response. “C’mon, snap out of it …” He grabbed the younger turtle and shook him, calling out his name again. It was no good, there was no movement from him. He looked up wildly, in the direction of the farmhouse for help. He never saw the sliver of eyelid open, the iris turning in his direction. It was there, with Raph’s attention elsewhere, that Mikey made his move.
In one moment Raphael was drawing in air, getting ready to call for help. In the next he was flying forwards, having been grabbed suddenly and thrown head-over-heels in the direction of the house. He grunted on impact, skidding to a stop on his shell just a few feet from the porch steps. Before he could barely comprehend what had just happened, the cold, wet, sting of another snowball erupted across his exposed face. The turtle on the other end of that snowball was in hysterics.
“Aw yay-uh! Got you so good!” Mikey was positively reveling in the moment. It wasn’t easy pulling a fast one on his ninja brothers, and he wasn’t going to let this one slip by without some trash talk. “But don’t feel bad, bro. Your smoke bomb play wasn’t bad. I mean, some of us don’t need ‘em, but hey -- we can’t all be this good, right?”
That was it. Raphael stood slowly, chest heaving, his eyes white with rage. Dead. He was dead.
Inside the garage, Donatello lifted his goggles and paused, drill in hand. He listened a moment, trying to determine whether or not Mikey’s screams of pain were worth investigating or not. It could be another invading mutant. He waited another second, unsure. Maybe the Kraang had found them somehow?
Another voice bellowed then, loud and irate, unmistakably that of a certain short-tempered turtle. Threats were made, only half of which their genius could decipher. Donatello resumed his work then, flipping his eyewear back into place. He squeezed the handle on the power tool with a sigh, hoping the motor would be enough to drown out the noise this time.
Many hours later found Raphael on the roof of the farmhouse, perched on the second story and watching the sunset over the trees on the horizon. The temperature had dropped with the sun. He closed his eyes and breathed deep, feeling the last, warm rays of sunlight across his skin. He shifted uneasily, trying not to think about home.
Mikey had taken it too far, not him. It wasn’t his fault.
He opened his eyes. He missed New York. He missed the sewers, and the lair, and scrapping with enemies topside. He missed eating pizza – real pizza, not that frozen junk. He missed running the rooftops. And he missed Splinter.
He sighed. He really missed Splinter. He’d probably be there now, in his sensei’s quarters, rather than sitting alone out here in the cold. His father always listened and heard, but Raph knew that just the act of stepping in Splinter’s quarters meant that he was in for a lesson too. It was part of the process. And wasn’t he really going to his father for guidance after all? It didn’t do any good to complain about his brothers unless there was some solution in dealing with them. Raphael grabbed at the tails of his mask, pulling on them. He could hear his sensei now, in his head. Hadn’t Splinter warned him about this? His master had been strict about this particular lesson, but there was something else too; a twinge of worry in his voice whenever he spoke of it. Raphael knew what that worry was, and he suspected that it wasn’t for his own sake.
A noise from behind startled him back to the present. Raph shot a look at the offender. Surprise, surprise. He rolled his eyes. “Beat it, Mikey. I’m not in the mood for company.”
“You sure?” Mike produced a thin, silver thermos. He shook it back and forth. “I’ve got hot cocoa. With marshmallows.”
Raph shivered a little in the oversized hoodie April had brought back for him from the local thrift store. He crossed his arms, drawing in the extra fabric. Couldn’t complain, he thought. Better it was too big than the alternative. Still, the extra space between fabric and skin was allowing for too much chill to creep inside. He looked over his shoulder again, his expression easing somewhat. “Yeah alright. Ya talked me into it.”
Mike chuckled, taking up a space next to his brother. He poured them each a cup and sat back on the flat section of roof, positioned just above the front porch. He blew into his cup, cooling it a little. “Dude. I dunno how much longer I can watch game shows. I mean, I know we only get like, four channels, but I think Casey’s got a serious problem.”
“I could hear him yellin’ at the TV all the way from here,” Raph said. “Guy’s real competitive, I’ll give him that.” He shifted, kicking at some snow. “Still beats watchin’ the news.”
They both went silent for a bit after that. When they’d all first escaped the Kraang invasion, they had of course locked into whatever news they could get through the grainy, ancient screen; now, it was more a reminder of what they’d left behind. Even so, they still tried to keep track of what was happening. The invasion was slowly being dealt with, or so they said. Some organization sent in by the government, the Earth Protection Force, was keeping things contained to New York, at least. They had a leader too, some smug looking G-man in glasses, and a guy neither Mikey nor Raph could remember the name of. Donatello had seemed very interested in him for some reason, but that was hardly any surprise. Donnie was often invested in a lot of things they didn’t care much about.
Mikey stole a glance at his brother. Something was bothering him, he knew. Raph only did the rooftop brooding thing when something big was eating away at him. Approaching him in one of these moods though was dangerous at best, but Mikey couldn’t help himself. For all his teasing, he actually did feel bad whenever Raph pulled away from the group. He hadn’t had a clue what it was that sparked this particular Lone Wolf act, so he’d consulted an authority on the matter first. When he’d told Donatello that Raph was peeved about something, their genius had initially snarked that it must be a day ending in Y. But, on the insistence of Mikey, he paused in his work (grumbling that the farmhouse still needed quite a bit of it) to offer some advice. After quizzing Mike on the day’s events, Don had figured it out fairly easily.
Mike sipped at the cocoa, letting it warm him. Even after Don explained, it didn’t make a lot of sense to him. Then again, he never felt the need to Hulk out like Raph did. Most of the time it was just funny to him, and too tempting to antagonize his rage-prone brother for a laugh. This though … there wasn’t anything funny about this.
Mike attempted to break some of the ice. “Hey, Raph. What do you miss the most? About back home, I mean.”
Raph rolled his eyes. As if there was something else he’d be referring to. Typical brilliant, Mikey-patented line of questioning, he thought. “You mean other than everything we ever had, an’ everyone we ever knew?”
Mike blinked at him, missing the sarcasm entirely. “Yeah.”
Raph brought a hand to his face. Gimme strength, he thought. “I dunno. Why don’tcha go ask Donnie, I bet he’ll list off a hundred dorky things from inside his lab.”
Without missing a beat, Mikey said, “Know what I miss?” Raph groaned slightly. He wondered offhand how much Don knew about surgery, and if he could talk him into a vocal cord removal. “Well at first I thought it was TV – good TV – and then I thought pizza, ‘cause I mean, let’s face it – my pizzas are the bowmb, but sometimes I just get a craving for Antonio’s, know what I mean?”
“Uh yeah, I do. Mainly since Antonio’s is a little less creative with the ingredients,” he said, shuddering at the last thing Mikey tried to pass off as “pizza.”
“Yeah, it’s a bummer. Last time I called, they didn’t have chocolate syrup or peanut butter. Can you believe that?” Mike shook his head. He slurped noisily at his cocoa. “Bro! Did I ever tell you about that crazy dream I had with the killer pizzas, and there were flying pizzas, and zombie people covered in pizza, and Antonio was a giant pizza guy who was eating people -- and he ate me too! And I had to eat my way out of him and it was crazy dude like I don’t even know how to explain how seriously mind blowingly real it was and I still do kinda think it might’ve been real and--”
“Yes!” Raph exclaimed, cutting off Mike’s ramble. “Yes, alright? Ya told us a thousand times already. An’ it was just a dream. I was there when you woke up from it, knucklehead.” He sighed. “Looks like we need to talk to Donnie about uppin’ your meds again.”
Mikey again ignored (or didn’t notice, Raph wasn’t sure) the insult. “Oh yeah. Well anyways, there’s lots of stuff I miss. But you know what I been thinking about lately?” He paused, giving his brother one of his biggest, (and dumbest, if you were to ask Raph) grins. “When we used to go topside and get into trouble.” Raphael looked away and smiled, knowing where this was headed. “You know, when we’d sneak out, just us?” Mikey elbowed his brother, pouring it on. “You and me, kickin’ it. No rules, no following orders.” He started shadow boxing a little, for effect. “Just a couple of dudes ready to bring it, ready to take it all on!” He laughed.
Raph smirked. “The only thing we ever really ‘took on’ was a pizza we didn’t have to share.”
“Dude, not true!” Mike countered, laughing. “We totally laid the smackdown on a few Dragons.”
“Eh.” Raph shrugged. “Easy pickin’s.”
“Okay, true, true.” Mikey shifted, trying to get into a more comfortable position. “But we rescued that kitty from the fire escape that one time. We kept the uh … comic shop district safe for a night.”
Raphael had to smile. Okay, so maybe he did miss that too. “Yeah. I’ll take crackin’ the heads of guys tryin’ to break in there … the hour of watching you nerd out and read comics after? Not so much.” He presented his cup, to which Mikey amiably filled back to the brim. They sat there for a little while, making small talk and watching the last rays of sun reflect off the clouds. Mikey wondered if this was helping. Raph didn’t seem mad at him, at least. But there was still something off. Mike couldn’t really put his finger on it, but he also couldn’t shake the feeling that his brother was still bummed out. Donnie had told him lots of stuff about Raph, and his temper, but also told Mikey not to repeat any of what they talked about to Raph, because it would only make the situation worse. Even though he agreed with Don at the time, he still thought that was a little silly. How was he supposed to talk to Raph without actually talking about what was wrong?
This stuff was pretty confusing, Mike had to admit. The important thing was that he and Raph were cool, and he was pretty sure they were. Mostly. He frowned a little, unsure. Well, it couldn’t hurt to just ask, right?
“So … you still mad at me?”
Raphael shot his brother a sideways glance. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” he mumbled, a little caught off guard. “I’m not mad about anything.”
“Come on. Every time you’re bugging out about something you hit the rooftops and mope. It’s so you, dude. Like, if you were a comic book character, that’s what you’d be doing on the cover.” He giggled a little. “Ooh! I should totally try drawing that.”
Raphael gave his brother an exasperated look. “I am not moping! I just needed to get out for a second, alright? Some of us actually like peace an’ quiet once in a while.”
Mikey stared into his cup. Quietly, he said, “You should’ve broke the hold, dude.”
Raph scowled. This was getting ridiculous. Bad enough he’d been unable to shake the uneasy feeling he’d had since their encounter earlier, but now Mikey was here throwing salt in the wound. Fine. He wanted a talk, then Raph would give it to him. “Yeah, and why? So you could make a fool outta me? Oh wait, you did. I’d say you got what you wanted either way.”
“Yeah, but dude, I tapped.”
“It was a fake tap-out!”
“But what if it wasn’t?”
“I knew that it was,” he said through his teeth. Raph glared at his brother. “You don’t have to take it that far, you know. There’s no reason to gimme a heart attack,” he grumbled. “Why would you even mess around like that?”
Mike shrugged, draining the last of his cocoa. “’Cause Sensei told me to.”
Raphael froze, wondering if he’d heard that right. He narrowed his eyes at his brother. “What? Whattaya mean he told you to?”
“Yeah! I’m good at fooling you guys, right? Sensei knows it. He said I should do that sometimes when um … things go a little too far.”
There it was. Raphael felt like he’d been punched in the chest. He’d lost his temper sparring a few times, he’d admit it. But to hear that Splinter had orchestrated this little reminder, that he’d set Mikey up to keep him in check … it was too much to absorb, especially with his master out of the picture. “I don’t need you to do that, okay?” he spat. “I’d never …” He stalled, huffing a little. Here it was, the reason he’d come out to the roof in the first place. Leave it to Motormouth Mikey to drag it all out of him. “I’d never really hurt you guys,” he finished.
In coming years, Mikey would often think back to this little talk, and specifically to that line. Mike had strong intuition, he just wasn’t good about articulating what he knew. He operated on feel rather than thought, something his sensei was often quick to point out. Right now he might not have understood exactly why Raphael was upset, but he sensed that his brother was in a dark place, something that he would again witness happening more and more as they got older. And whenever Mikey saw his brother slipping off that edge, he’d do his best to try and bring him back.
“Oh I know,” Mike said, smiling a little. “What’s weird is that it seems like you don’t know that.”
Raph frowned. That was stupid, he didn’t think that. He opened his mouth to protest, but paused. Then why was he was out here in the cold hours after the fact, thinking about it? Why was he unable to shake it off? He’d tried to be mad at Mikey, but it didn’t feel right. Faking or no, Mike had tapped, and you never, ever ignored an opponent in distress; it was one of the most fundamental rules of sparring. Mikey wasn’t an enemy, he was his brother for crying out loud. He’d already gotten one over on Raph once, and he knew – knew – that if he let Mike go, then his brother was going to one-up him, and then he’d laugh, and then –
What? He’d lose face? Look stupid? And if he’d been wrong, and Mike hadn’t been faking?
That was the lesson. Even in absentia his Sensei had found a way to remind him that his impulsiveness was a dangerous trait at times. Sure it could be boon when in the thick of battle, when he was staring down the barrel of a hundred Foot soldiers, or running down the clock on a mutagen bomb, or diving in headfirst to take a blow for another. Tempered, it was an asset; uninhibited, it might lead him to do something he’d never forgive himself for.
“Mikey listen, ahh …” He swallowed and pulled at the collar on his hoodie. Why did it feel too tight all of the sudden? “I’m sorry.” He looked away, ashamed. “I mean it. You’re right, a tap’s a tap, whether it’s real or not.” He stared off into the pink hues streaking across the sky, as if something might drop out of them, his voice wavering the tiniest bit. “I won’t let it happen again.”
“Dude. Don’t stress.” Mikey slapped a hand down on his shoulder. “If you want the truth, it did feel kinda dirty. I don’t really like fakin’ it when there’s real guys out to get us all the time, y’know? But I didn’t know you had all this uh, stuff goin’ on. I was just doing what Sensei said to.”
Raph chewed that over for a second. It was obvious now why Mikey had come out here. For all his idiotic behavior, the goofball was pretty good at keeping Raph grounded at times. Maybe he didn’t give his little brother enough credit. He reached out suddenly and wrapped a meaty arm around Mikey’s neck, dragging him in for a brief, if not slightly painful, hug. “’S’alright, little brother.” He squeezed a little harder, leaning into Mike’s ear. “But you pull the crap on me again, an’ you’ll be sleepin’ in the chicken coop.”
Mikey laughed, shoving him off. “Oh! That reminds me. Gotta go feed the birds.” He stood up, stretching. “C’mon, you can help me get the eggs!”
Great, Raph thought. If there was one thing he loathed doing, it was getting anywhere near Mikey’s stinky chickens. He didn’t even know how chickens had come to be here; they obviously couldn’t have been here all this time. He thought (and rightly so) that it was one of those April-Mikey perpetrated conspiracies, designed just in the way to throw suspicion off themselves. Raphael sighed. Sometimes he really hated being born into a family of ninjas.
Raph stood up in spite of himself, shivering a little at a sudden gust of wind. “Alright,” he said, “but this time, I’m just holdin’ the eggs. You can grab the feather dusters and let ‘em peck the crap outta ya.” He started for the nearby window.
“Whoa, hold up dude. Why take the long way, when there’s the ninja way?” Mikey grinned and took a step towards the edge of the roof, sliding a little in the undisturbed white fluff. The roof seemed to bow a little under his weight. He crouched, grabbing the snow-filled gutter for support, and tensed, readying his leap.
“Ah Mikey, that doesn’t look—”
With a snap and a groan, the gutter gave way, taking the turtle in orange along with it. His yell of surprise was cut short a split second later when he hit the ground with a heavy whump.
“—safe.” Raph sighed and peered over the edge. Mikey was on his shell, dazed but alive. He crouched and vaulted over the edge himself, careful to avoid the twisted metal now dangling awkwardly where it had ripped free. He stood, offering a hand to the younger turtle. “Real smooth, ‘ninja.’ Can’t wait to see the look on Donnie’s face when you tell him you wrecked somethin’ else around here.”
A throat cleared itself from the front doorway. They both looked up at the irate turtle standing there. “You guys do know I hold the power of hot water in my hands, right?”
Raph put his hands up in protest. “’Ey don’t look at me. I can leap off a roof without bringin’ half of it down.” He chuckled, helping Mike up. “Anything broken there, champ?”
Mikey, still knocked silly, managed to shake his head in the negative. Don smiled a little. Busted gutter aside, it was good to see that Mikey had apparently succeeded in breaking Raphael out of his funk. After so many months with Leo MIA, the last thing he wanted to witness was another sibling isolating himself from the group, even if it was self-imposed. Maybe especially so, he thought.
Sometime later found the brothers returning to the farmhouse, arms filled with the little, delicate food sources, and one they were all (with the exception of Mikey) rather tired of eating each and every day. Mikey deposited his pile in the sink for washing, while Raph went opposite the kitchen table, readying for their usual game of “handling” the eggs. Mikey turned, facing his brother, and held both hands out, ready to catch. “Alright dude, hit me,” he said. Raph obliged, tossing one egg after another, ramping up the speed and changing the trajectory as they went. Laughing, Mikey plucked each egg out of the air with the nimble fingers of a ninja, adding each one to the growing pile in the sink.
Leo, who had been enjoying a book, slapped it shut with the decision to relocate somewhere less noisy. He stood up, tea cup in hand. “Do you guys have to do that every time?” he grumbled. Stuck there, he waited for the barrage of eggs to stop before he could continue out of the kitchen.
Shluk. An egg exploded on the side of his head. Leo didn’t even flinch. In one motion he reached up, wiped the gooey mass of slime and shells from his face, and stared daggers into the brother responsible.
“Oops,” Raphael said, grinning back at him. “Must’ve slipped.” He and Mikey both started erupted in laughter.
Without warning, Leonardo dove into the path of the oncoming eggs. Suddenly, where there had been an egg, there was nothing; and where there had been a turtle, there was also nothing. Leo hit the floor and rolled to the other side of the table, out of view. Raphael leaned over, frantically looking for where his brother was about to reappear. It didn’t help him. Unbeknownst to Raph (but in clear view of Mikey, who was trying his best not to laugh) Leo popped up directly behind him. A second later Raph felt the impact of shell explode on the top of his head, its goop running down all sides.
Raphael balked as he spun, trying desperately to chuck one more of the goo grenades at his brother. It ended up on the wall where Leo had been standing. Raph had just enough time to catch the smug look on their leader’s face as he slipped into the hallway, sipping on his tea – not a drop of it spilled, naturally.
“Dudes, don’t waste the eggs!” Mikey piped up. “Think of the baby chickens that had to give their lives for ‘em!”
“Mikey, that is not how eggs work.” Donatello, in place of Leo, now stood in the doorway, wrench in hand. “I can see we’re going to have to have another talk.” He sighed, laying the wrench down on the table. He pulled a rag from his belt and wiped the grease from his hands. “Okay guys. Water heater is back online, so we’ve got hot showers again. And I rewired the hall fixture on the second floor, so we won’t be stumbling around at night waking each other up anymore.”
“Speak for yourself,” Raph said, dumping the rest of the eggs onto the counter next to Mikey. Shoving his brother aside a moment, he ducked his head under the faucet, rinsing clean. He grabbed a dish towel and proceeded to dry off. “Some of us have actually have the skills to move around in the dark, ya know.”
Don scowled at him. “Uh-huh. Says the guy who snores loud enough to alert any enemy within a two hundred foot radius.” Don pulled out a kitchen chair and slumped down into it. “The noises that come out of you at night are hardly what I would call very ‘ninja.’”
“That’s not the worst thing that comes out of him at night!” Mikey chimed in over his shoulder. The other two groaned.
“Anyways,” Don continued. “I also tuned up the Party Wagon, put a heat lamp in the chicken coop and ran diagnostics on the generator, which turned out to have a family of field mice living in it.” He leaned heavily against the back of his chair. “Oh and I tied up the loose gutter for now. You are all very welcome, by the way.”
“Thaaaanks Donnie,” Mikey offered, hamming it up. “You want the, ‘We Couldn’t Do it Without Ya’ speech or the, ‘You Make Video Games Happen” one, or … oh! I got a pretty good ‘I Probably Would Have Died That One Time, if it Weren’t for You.’”
Don wasn’t in the joking mood, it seemed. Staring at the grooves in the table, he answered quietly, “No. That’s okay, Mikey.”
“Okay, that’s cool, that’s cool.” Mikey was getting that look again. He was up to something, Raph could see it. “We totally do need you though, dude. Wanna know why?”
Raph stared wide-eyed at their genius. No – Donnie, don’t bite --
Too late. “Why?”
Mike stole a look at Raphael. “’Cause … you’re the best! Arrrouuund! Nothin’s ever gonna keep ya down! You’re the best! Arrrouuundd …” He kept going. And he was going to keep going, Raphael knew. He buried his face in his hand. Mikey and that freaking song. Oh, how he regretted finding that box of VHS tapes in the basement. Fourteen viewings of The Karate Kid later, and Mike knew every lyric.
He opened his mouth to lay into Donnie, but stopped short when he looked at him. Don was still staring dejectedly at the table, his posture slanted, his eyes drooping with exhaustion. Raphael frowned. He pulled out the chair opposite their genius and straddled it, looking hard at his brother. “You feelin’ okay, Donnie?”
In the background, Mike continued to wail. “Try to believe, though the goin’ gets rough, that you gotta hang tough to make it …”
He glanced up. “I’m fine,” he said, trying to shrug it off. “It’s nothing.”
“You don’t gotta keep doing all this stuff ya know,” Raph said, keeping his tone low. “Who cares if there’s light in the hall or not.”
“HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF, TRY AND YOU’LL SUCCEEEEEED …”
Don looked away like he’d been caught. “You’re right. I’m just trying to keep busy, I guess.”
Raphael sat back. Here they were again. How long had it been? Five, six months? They were all homesick. But there wasn’t even a home to go back to, was there? What would they do, once they got back? Would they look for signs of Splinter? Was it even safe to try and go to the lair at all? He stared at the table, picking at the moth-eaten, yellow tablecloth. He didn’t know.
“YOU’RE THE BEST! ARROOUUUNNND! NOTHINSEVERGONNAKEEPYADOWN!”
What Raphael did know, was that his youngest brother was about to get a kitchen chair to the back of his skull. But first, he had to say something to Don. He thought about his rooftop talk with Mikey and it made sense. This was what they did. They were brothers. They backed each other up, both in battle and out.
Donatello looked like as worn as the treads on that old beater in the shed. “We’ll go back when Leo says we go back,” Raph told him. He looked off towards the door their leader had exited through. “An’ I think that’s gonna be soon. So you’re not gonna be any good to us if you’re fallin’ asleep at the wheel.” He waited for Don to make eye contact. “Right?”
“Yeah.” Don seemed to think it over for a second. “Alright, message received.” He put a hand up. “I hereby promise to ignore all broken televisions, leaky pipes and that engineer’s nightmare we call an electrical system in this house. At least for the next twenty-four hours. I guess I could take a day off.” He thought a second and raised his voice a little, adding, “And that means a day off, Mikey! I don’t care if the walls are coming down, I’m off the clock.”
“… EVER GONNA KEEP YA DOOOWWWNN …” Mikey, oblivious, kept on with his a cappella rendition of the classic eighties ballad. As he drew out the last lyric, Raphael grabbed a nearby orange from the fruit bowl on the table and pitched it at his little brother. Mikey, without so much as missing a note, turned at the last second, avoiding the fruit by just enough to feel the wind of it. It neatly sailed by, smashing through a small pane of glass in the window behind him.
Donatello didn’t say a word. His look was enough. “Uh, whoops,” Raph said to him. “Alright, so that one was my fault.” Don began an account of how it didn’t take a genius to fix a broken window, and that Raphael was more than capable of getting off his shell and doing so, when Mikey stopped singing abruptly. The sudden silence was enough to startle them both out of the conversation.
“Hey, wait. You guys hear that?” Mikey said.
There was a noise, distant but there, and mechanical; it was something like the exhaust of a low-flying plane, but the brothers had never heard anything that resembled it exactly. And it was getting louder. Raphael had just enough time to sputter, “What the heck’s--” before the crash shook the house.
The brothers immediately rushed out to see what the commotion was. “So much for a day off,” Don muttered. As soon as they exited the front door, they could smell the smoke and burning fuel. When they turned around the side of the house however, nothing could have prepared them for what was waiting there.
“Duuudes …” Mikey said. “Check it out, I think it’s a spaceship!”