Mikey sat in the dojo, like he had nearly every morning for the past three years; kneeling before the grave marker once again, his eyes closed as he attempted to meditate. “Focus, Michelangelo,” he scolded himself, copying Splinter’s voice as usual.
“I’m trying to focus, I just… I have too much on my mind, I can’t do this today,” Mikey protested. Shifting so that his legs were stretched out in front of him, he tilted his head back to stare up at the ceiling.
“That is what meditation is for, Michelangelo.”
“I know, but this is different.” Mikey pulled his knees up to his plastron, wrapping his arms around his legs and resting his chin on top of his knees. “Donnie came back yesterday… at least I think he did. I only saw him the once, so maybe I just dreamed it.” Mikey sighed.
“How do you know I’m not here, unless you check my lab?” Imaginary Donnie said.
“Because if you're really here, I might actually get mad at you,” Mikey admitted softly. “And if I get too mad at you, you might leave again.” Mikey's breath hitched, tilting his head slightly to hide the fact that he had started crying.
“If Donnie leaves again, you’ll still have us.” Leo’s voice echoed in his mind, but unlike before, the ‘voice’ of his brothers brought him no comfort. They were a painful reminder that he had been left alone, that his real family had abandoned him.
“Shut up, I don't want to hear any of you anymore,” Mikey snapped, but there was no real venom behind his voice.
A soft noise behind him, however, had Mikey spinning up onto his feet, a small knife held in his hand, his eyes whited out and narrowed at the intruder. Until he registered who it was standing in the dojo with him. “Oh… Uh, hey, D,” Mikey said awkwardly. “Didn't know you were still here,” Mikey said, putting his knife away.
“Of course I'm still here… where else would I be?” Donnie asked, and Mikey could only answer him with a shrug. “How's your leg?”
“It's fine,” Mikey snapped, shifting so that Donnie couldn't see his poor bandage job, but the purple-banded turtle just nodded.
Mikey raised an eye ridge at his taller brother, waiting for him to press the matter again. When he didn't, Mikey relaxed a little. “So, did you need something?” Mikey asked.
“Yes, and no,” Donnie said, his eyes flickering toward the grave marker behind Mikey. The orange-banded turtle turned to look at it too.
“Did you want some time alone with sensei?” Mikey asked, looking at Donnie again.
“Not really, I mostly came in here to talk to you,” Donnie said, his gaze locking with Mikey's. “I looked at the power generators, and it may take longer to fix than I originally anticipated,” Donnie said, frowning when Mikey just laughed.
“Guess I broke it pretty good then.” Mikey shook his head grinning widely.
“I’m not so sure it was just you,” Donnie said, “from what I can tell they had some water damage, and that's originally what caused the power to go out, but the generator looks like it hasn't been touched in-”
“A year?” Mikey offered, interrupting his brother. “Well, longer than a year now... I think the power went out sometime in early spring, we had a lot of rain last year, that might be where the water damage came from.”
“Wait, the Lair hasn't had power in over a year?” Donnie asked, clearly shocked by this information. “What did you guys do during the winter?”
“Slept,” Mikey said, “Totally freaked me out too, dude! All I remember is going to sleep sometime before Christmas, and when I woke up it was already spring again,” Mikey said, suppressing a shudder at the memory.
“You went into hibernation…” Donnie said, “why didn't you and Raph go somewhere warmer?” Donnie questioned.
Mikey tilted his head in confusion. “Ha! He thinks I was really here with you the whole time! For someone so smart, Donnie sure is stupid.”
Mikey shook his head. “He’s not,” he argued back with ‘Raph’.
“He’s not what?” Donnie asked, frowning in concern at his little brother.
“I was saying you're not stupid,” Mikey explained.
Donnie raised an eye ridge at his brother. “Who said I was stupid?”
“Raph did,” Mikey said.
“Did you forget, knucklehead, you’re the only one who can hear us, we’re all in your head.” ‘Raph’ laughed.
Mikey shook his head, unwilling to tell his imaginary brother to shut up, because Mikey didn’t want to risk them ‘leaving’ just in case Donnie decided not to stick around. “Never mind. Anyway, Raph's not here,” Mikey said.
“What do you mean? Where did he go?” Donnie asked, trying to get some sort of answer that he could understand.
“I think he went out with Casey… I don’t really know honestly, all he said before he left was that he was going on a trip and he would be back eventually. I was kinda half asleep when he told me this, so I don’t remember much,” Mikey explained, because there was no reason for him to go into details about what had actually happened. That was years ago now, and all in the past. “I tried calling him a few times, but then my phone died, and the power went out so I wasn’t able to charge my phone,” Mikey said, not willing to admit that his phone had actually been broken, due to a rare fit of rage on his part.
“Wait… how long has he been gone?” Donnie sounded even more worried as he studied Mikey.
“Gotta love how he just shows up, and thinks he can play the concerned older brother now. If he had been concerned about ya, then he would of called ya or somethin’.”
“My phone was dead; even if anyone called, they wouldn’t have been able to get in touch with me,” Mikey replied to ‘Raph’, before focusing on Donnie again. “He left the same day you did, bro,” Mikey said. “Are we done with the twenty questions now? I need to go get some food.” Mikey moved to walk around Donnie, however, the purple-banded turtle grabbed Mikey's arm before he made it too far.
“Mikey, you're really starting to worry me, what do you mean Raph left when I did?” Donnie didn't let go of Mikey's arm, even when the smaller turtle started pulling at it.
“Just what I said, dude! I have no idea if he left before or after you, but I woke up one morning and he was gone, and you had just up and left!” Mikey snapped, wrenching his arm away from Donnie, who stood, looking shocked.
“Why didn't you call?” Donnie asked.
“Because it was obvious that none of you wanted to be here,” Mikey said softly, lowering his gaze to the floor. “I get that none of you could be here after Splinter…” Mikey shook his head. “It doesn't even matter anymore dude, and ya know, it's actually been pretty fun doing things on my own.” Mikey grinned widely, though his smile didn't reach his eyes.
“Mikey…” Donnie reached out to put a hand on his brother’s shoulder, only to have Mikey side step him and continue on his way to the door.
“I’m going to see if I can find some food for the two of us,” Mikey said, leaving the dojo quickly.
Mikey heard his imaginary brother let out a long sigh. “You know running away from me isn't going to stop the conversation.” Mikey huffed and chose to ignore imaginary Donnie, and left the lair, sure that his real brother would want something a bit more substantial than the left overs Mikey had been able to scrounge up for himself over the last few years.
Mikey hadn't made it too far from the lair when he heard someone up ahead of him. He paused, glancing around before finding a spot where he could blend in with the shadows. As the intruder passed by without noticing him, Mikey couldn't help but be proud of himself and all the progress he had made with his stealth.
Mikey studied the person as they walked by, relaxing as it took him a moment to recognize the intruder as April; however, his curiosity was piqued as to why she was down here so early in the morning. Remaining in the shadows, Mikey followed her back to the lair.
“Donnie? Mikey?” April called as she entered the dimly lit lair. Donnie came out of the dojo upon hearing April.
“Hey, April, did you manage to get those parts I asked for?” Donnie asked, coming over to the entrance, pausing for a moment as he glanced behind April.
Mikey remained as still as he could, knowing that if he moved at all Donnie would spot him.
“Think of this as advanced training,” imaginary Leo said. “You get to put your skills to the test against someone who is also a ninja.” Mikey refrained from answering back, wanting to remind Leo that Donnie was three years out of practice. However, Mikey bit his lip and remained quiet.
April turned around to see what Donnie was looking at. “What is it, Donnie?” April asked, returning her attention to the purple-banded turtle.
“Nothing,” Donnie replied, though he kept his gaze focused on the shadows where Mikey was hiding for a moment longer. “So, did you find what I needed?” Donnie asked April, finally looking away from the shadows. Though Mikey still didn’t dare move, knowing that Donnie was still half focused on this spot.
“I found most of it, at least this should be enough to get one of your generators back up and running,” April said, handing over the bag that she was carrying. “So, have you talked to Mikey?” April questioned.
Donnie let out a small sigh as he took the bag offered him. “Yes and no... I feel like a lot’s happened since I’ve been gone,” Donnie said.
“Well, three years can be a long time,” April said. “I know that I never called home as often as I probably should have.”
“Yeah, but you still called home, I just… I never did, April,” Donnie admitted. This was something that April had already known, because she had urged him to call his brothers, though at the same time she understood why he hadn’t really wanted to talk to anyone. Everyone had been dealing with the grief of losing Splinter, and Donnie’s way of dealing with it was to bury himself in his work.
“Are they that upset with you?” April asked.
“They probably would be, if they were here,” Donnie said.
“What do you mean?” April sounded worried. “Mikey’s still here, and Raph-”
“Raph apparently left about the same time I did,” Donnie interrupted. “And Leo, as far as I can tell, never came back from Japan,” Donnie explained, running a hand over his face.
“They… I knew about Leo, but Raph? He just up and left?” April sounded just as surprised as Donnie had.
“According to Mikey,” Donnie sighed again.
“Donnie, none of this is making any sense. Why would Raph just leave? He never would have left Mikey here alone,” April said, remembering how protective Raph was over all his brothers, Mikey in particular, since the orange-banded turtle was the youngest.
“You’re right, none of this is making sense,” Donnie agreed. “But I’m not getting much out of Mikey either.”
“Is he not talking to you? I could see him being upset if he was left here alone…” April said.
“No, he’s talking to me just fine… but it’s not just me he’s talking to,” Donnie said. “I heard him talking to Master Splinter earlier,” Donnie explained when April looked confused.
“That doesn’t seem too strange, I mean, when I visit my mother's grave I talk to her too; it makes me feel better sometimes,” April said.
“That’s normal though, but you don’t sit there and participate in both sides of the conversation. Mikey would say something, and then imitate Master Splinter’s voice and reply back to himself,” Donnie explained.
“Okay… that is a bit strange,” April admitted. “Are you going to talk to him about it?”
“I will. Later though, after I get the power back up and running. I can get the t-phones charged up again, then I’m going to call Raph and get his ass back here,” Donnie said.
Mikey continued watching from his spot in the shadows as Donnie and April took the bag of parts to Donnie’s lab, and disappeared inside. Mikey didn’t move, just continued watching the lab door, while his mind tried to process what he had just heard.
“This is what you wanted, Mikey, your family’s coming home,” he told himself.
“You’re dragging them back to where they don’t want to be,” imaginary Raph growled. “We left this place because we didn’t want to be here any more, we’re free, you’re the idiot that stayed here,”
“I stayed because this is our home…” Mikey said softly.
“You think we want to come back here?” imaginary Leo asked. “What if I’m happy in Japan? I mean clearly I am, why else wouldn’t I have come back? I don’t want to be reminded of what I lost, and because you can’t take care of yourself, Donnie is going to drag us all back here.” Leo’s harsh words rang through Mikey’s mind, and the smaller turtle shook his head.
“No, I’m not… it’s not my fault, I was fine on my own,” Mikey said.
“If you were fine on your own, then why are we here?” imaginary Donnie asked. “If you were truly capable of taking care of yourself, then why does the real me have to fix your mess? He hasn’t even been home a full day, and you already have him working on fixing things you broke.”
“I didn’t tell him he had to fix it, he’s doing it on his own,” Mikey said.
“I’m not talking about the generator.”
“No… they didn’t leave because of me,” Mikey hiccuped as tears slowly rolled down his cheeks.
“Three years, and you’re still lying ta yourself,” imaginary Raph huffed.
“Not my fault…”
“You’re right, it’s not your fault, Mikey,” imaginary Leo said, and Mikey smiled. “But just answer me one thing, who was Master Splinter protecting, when he was killed?”
“Shut up!” Mikey snapped. “You promised you’d never mention that again! It’s NOT my fault! It’s not… you’re supposed to be on my side, why… why now…”
“We’re still on your side, Mikey,” imaginary Donnie reassured him.
“But we just want you to think about things, before you drag your real brothers back here. You stayed for a reason, just as they left for a reason,” Leo said. And Mikey nodded his head slowly.
“Mikey?” Donnie’s voice caught the smaller turtle's attention. Whipping his head up, Mikey blinked at the purple-banded turtle standing in front of him. “What are you doing on the floor?” Donnie asked.
Mikey looked down again and frowned when he saw he was kneeling on the floor. “I… I don’t know,” he admitted, slowly pulling himself back to his feet. “Um… I forgot to ask, what did you want to eat? I was thinking of getting pizza… but I didn’t know if you ate that any more…” Mikey said.
“Mikey…” Donnie looked concerned. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “April’s going up to get us something to eat, why don’t you come help me in my lab?” Donnie asked.
“Nah, I’m still a klutz, I don’t want to break anything else,” Mikey said.
“There’s not much in there that you could break anyway,” Donnie said. “Most of the stuff in there needs to be replaced by now anyway. Come on, I could really use the help.” Donnie held his hand out for Mikey.
Despite his imaginary brothers’ warnings, Mikey slowly took hold of Donnie’s hand, allowing himself to be led down into his brother’s lab. And if he was holding onto Donnie’s hand a little tighter than was necessary, the purple banded turtle didn’t say anything about it.
Mikey sat watching Donnie as the taller turtle worked on the generator, removing parts that were worn out and useless, and oiling up other parts that still seemed like they would work, but were a bit rusted.
The two of them sat in silence, the only sound in the room being Donnie's tinkering, and it remained like this for nearly an hour until Donnie sighed and put his tools down. “You're really quiet, Mikey.”
The orange-banded turtle blinked at him, tilting his head slightly. “Is that a problem?” he asked.
“I was just wondering if there was something on your mind,” Donnie said, grabbing a nearby cloth and wiping his hands clean from the grease that covered them.
“No, not really,” Mikey said, leaning back in the chair he had been occupying and stared up at the ceiling. “Hey D, why did you come back?” Mikey asked, glancing back at his brother for a moment.
“I thought it was about time that I came home,” Donnie answered. “I know I should have tried to call home at some point-”
“Yeah, you really should have,” Mikey said, cutting him off, shaking his head before flashing Donnie a wide grin. “But with my phone dead, you never could have gotten in touch with me anyway.” Mikey stood and stretched.
“I get it though, why everyone left. I guess I was just the unlucky one that had nowhere else to go; suppose that's a good thing though, I mean I have managed to keep the purple dragons from taking over the city.” Mikey said, seeming unfazed by his three years of near isolation. However, from the way Donnie was looking at him, Mikey was sure that he wasn't fooling his brother at all.
“You do know it's okay for you to be angry at me, even at Leo and Raph too? We never should have left like we did... I never should have left like I did. If I had talked to either you or Raph, instead of just taking off…”
“Not your fault, dude, besides, Leo and Raph used to take off all the time, it's only fair that you got to do the same at least once.” Mikey shrugged it off as if spending the last three years by himself hadn’t affected him at all. The two brothers fell silent again, and Donnie resumed his work, wanting to get the generator up and running as soon as possible, and get some actual heat running through the Lair again.
“He just thought it was time to come home? What the shell kinda answer is that?” imaginary Raph growled.
“Maybe he finally just realised that leaving his family like that was the wrong thing to do,” imaginary Donnie snapped back, and Mikey sighed closing his eyes.
“Why don’t you shut up, Don, Mikey don’t need ya anymore, not with the ‘real’ you back,” imaginary Raph snapped and Mikey wanted to tell the both of them to shut up.
“It would be best if you didn’t talk to us out loud with him here,” imaginary Leo had warned, and Mikey couldn’t help but agree.
“Hey D, I’m going to go stretch my legs,” Mikey said, jumping up from the chair and hurrying out of the lab before Donnie could say anything. He went straight to the dojo, closing the door behind him and he sighed once he was inside the dark room. “Really, guys… you’re not helping anything,” Mikey grumbled.
“And what exactly were we supposed to be helping with?” imaginary Raph asked, and Mikey could almost see his brother crossing his arms, and giving him that look, the one that clearly said he hadn’t been trying to help.
“Look… Donnie’s just gotten back… and well, I know you’re all in my head, and… well that’s not… not normal, even I know that,” Mikey said running a hand over his head.
“Are you asking us to leave?” imaginary Donnie asked.
“No!” Mikey said quickly, “no, I don’t want anyone to leave,” the silence stretched on for a moment and Mikey could feel his heart beating a little faster.
“We won’t leave you, Mikey,” imaginary Leo promised and Mikey sighed in relief.
“Okay then… well, when I’m around Donnie… could you maybe just keep it down a little?” Mikey asked.
“I will keep them quiet, Mikey,” imaginary Leo said.
“Although, if he thinks you’re normal, he might just up and leave again,” imaginary Raph pointed out, and Mikey chewed on his lower lip. he knew that Raph was right; if Donnie thought he had gotten on fine without them, he might take off with April again, and Mikey would be alone in the Lair once more.
However, if Mikey did tell Donnie about what he was hearing, told his brainiac brother that three years solitude had finally knocked loose the small bit of sanity he had, Donnie would insist on staying, insist on fixing his little brother. That thought frightened Mikey even more, because it wasn’t so much the voices he was hearing that scared him, it was what the voices were protecting him from.
“Mikey! Don’t think about it! Stop right now!” imaginary Leo ordered.
“Sorry, Leo,” Mikey sighed. “I’m just a little torn. I don’t want Donnie to leave again but… Raph’s right, if he thinks I’m normal he’s not going to have any reason to stay, but if he thinks something’s wrong… then all of you leave…” Mikey closed his eyes.
“Get up, Mikey,” imaginary Raph snapped. “Get up, and go back to that lab, spend time with your real brother while he’s still here.”
“Promise, you guys aren’t going anywhere?” Mikey asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
“We promise,” imaginary Donnie said. Nodding to himself, Mikey turned sliding the door to the dojo open again stopping when he saw the worried face of his purple banded brother standing just outside the door.
“Uh… hey D, what’s up?” Mikey asked.
“Mikey… I think we need to talk,” Donnie said.
“No, we don't,” Mikey said, and was satisfied to see the look of surprise cross his tallest brothers face. “We don't need to talk for one simple reason.”
“And what reason is that?” Donnie questioned curiously.
“Cause April just showed up with food,” Mikey said, grinning widely he hurried passed Donnie. “April! What delicious treats have you brought us?” Mikey asked, hurrying over to the entrance of the Lair, turning to watch his brother, Donnie saw that April was in fact standing there, two shopping bags full of food.
“Hey, April,” Donnie greeted, less enthusiastic than his baby brother, but he also went over to relieve his friend of her load, before Mikey made off with everything.
“You brought peanut butter and jelly! Oh April, you da best!” Mikey said loudly, taking a loaf of bread and the two condiments and hurried off into the kitchen. Donnie watched this all with a saddened expression.
“Donnie?” April’s voice broke into his thoughts, the olive green turtle turned back to face her. “Donnie, what's wrong?”
“I’m not sure,” Donnie said, his focus on the kitchen door where Mikey had just vanished through. “Something is really wrong with Mikey though,” Donnie turned his attention back to April.
“How so? I know you said before that Mikey was talking to himself, was he doing it again?” April questioned.
Donnie let out a small sigh and closed his eyes as he thought about what he was going to say. He wished it was nothing more than Mikey talking to himself, trying to get rid of the silence that had taken over the Lair for three years, and maybe it had started out that way. “He’s talking to us,” Donnie finally answered. “Well, us as in, Leo and Raph…”
“But… they’re not here,” April frowned.
“No they’re not,” Donnie sighed again. “I think I’m going to have to call Leo and Raph back here sooner rather than later,” he admitted. “I don’t have time to tinker with the generators now, so I’m going to scrap them, I hate to ask you but…”
“I’ll head back out now and buy you two new ones, so you can stop worrying about that, I’ll have them for you no later than tomorrow,” April promised, hugging Donnie. “You just worry about Mikey now, he needs you.”
“Thank you, April,” Donnie hugged her back for a moment before letting her leave, while he turned his attention to the eerily quiet kitchen. When he left the Lair three years ago, he never would have imagined that his baby brother would be left alone the whole time, but the damage had been done, and now it was up to Donnie to start fixing it.
Mikey frowned deeply as he peeked around the corner of the kitchen door, watching as April hurried out of the Lair again. As Donnie’s attention started turning toward the kitchen again, Mikey ducked out of sight. He had to think of something he could do for damage control; Mikey liked having Donnie back, but if he really did call Leo and Raph back, things would be different again.
“We can’t let him stay here,” imaginary Raph growled.
“I always did have a bad habit of sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong,” imaginary Donnie let out a long sigh.
“No, you really didn’t, Don.” Mikey shook his head, going over to the counter and lighting the candle that was there.
“If I thought there was something wrong with my brothers, I wouldn’t rest until I knew what was wrong,” imaginary Donnie shot back.
“Okay, I’ll give you that one.” Mikey leaned back against the counter, his eyes fixed on the kitchen door just in case his real brother came to check on him.
“He’s probably calling your real brothers,” imaginary Leo informed him. That had Mikey running to the kitchen door again, leaning out and looking around the Lair to see if he could spot Donnie. He grinned widely when he saw his purple-banded brother standing by the door to the dojo.
“Hey, D! Did you want one of these sandwiches?” Mikey called out to him, trying not to laugh when Donnie jumped, having been surprised by Mikey’s sudden appearance again.
“Or caught red-handed, he’s got his phone in his hand,” imaginary Leo hissed.
“Uh, sure, Mikey, I’ll be right there, I’ve just got to do something first,” Donnie said, smiling back at Mikey.
“He’s going to call your real brothers back, and ruin everything!” imaginary Raph shouted, and Mikey winced.
“I know, I know! But what do you want me to do? It’s not like I can just take his phone from him while he’s USING it!” Mikey snapped back, keeping his voice quiet.
“I’m going to make some extra sandwiches! I’ll bring them into your lab when they’re done, and we can finish working on that generator,” Mikey said quickly, ducking back into the kitchen, however he remained by the door, straining to hear Donnie in the other room.
There was silence, and Mikey thought for a second that Donnie might have gone back to the lab already. He was just about to take a look when he heard his brother’s voice.
“Hey Raph… yeah I know it’s been a while… well you never called either… look, I didn’t call to argue over who should have called who, all of us are in the wrong for not keeping in touch… yes I know Leo left first… Raph, shut the fuck up and listen! Something’s wrong with Mikey…no he’s not hurt! Not physically anyway. No, I don’t think it’s life threatening….RAPH! He was left alone in the Lair… yes I know he can take care of himself, but he was left alone for three years! Yeah, you do that, I’m calling Leo next… or you can… right, okay, I’ll see you when you get back…"
Raph was coming back, Donnie had called him and he was actually coming back. Mikey didn’t know how he should feel about that, if it had been that easy to get Raph to come home Mikey would have found a way to try it long ago.
“You did try it though,” imaginary Raph pointed out. “You had yelled, cried and pleaded with him not to leave, and he left anyway.”
“He… he didn’t want to be here…” Mikey said, his voice shaking as he tried to once again justify Raph’s actions that had lead to the red-banded turtle leaving the Lair.
“He didn’t want to be with YOU,” imaginary Raph pointed out.
“I was pushing him… I was being to clingy… Splinter had died, and Leo had left… Raph was just… he was just angry.” Mikey hiccuped, rubbing at his eyes to stop the fresh flow of tears.
“You ruin everything you touch!” the harsh words rang through his mind, and Mikey slowly sank down to the floor, his hands going up to cover his ears, knowing that that wouldn’t help. He was stuck now, stuck in the memories that played out vividly as if it were all happening again. Even as tears streamed down his face, his eyes never blinking as he focused on one spot on the kitchen floor where the image of his father’s body lay.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry, please… make it go away, I’m sorry…” Mikey pleaded.
“Close your eyes, Mikey,” imaginary Leo demanded, and Mike struggled to follow that one command, but managed it. His eyes clenched shut, his ears covered as he focused on the voices of his brothers as they eased him away from the pain, away from the reality of being alone.