Mikey headed to the dojo for some extra training with his kusarigama in hand. He needed the release that training provided and he was starting to understand the joy Raph found in it. He just wanted to hit something.
The next Battle Nexus Tournament was less than two years away and he was determined to have the kusarigama mastered in time. Due to Leo being in South America during the last tournament Splinter didn’t let them compete, robbing Mikey of the chance of winning two times in a row. Mikey wanted to make a huge comeback when they went back to prove that he was still the best.
Leo trotted up and met him at the door. “You want someone to train with?”
Without a second thought, Mikey shook his head. “I’m not ready. I don’t trust myself enough with it yet.” No matter how much he wanted to spend time with Leo, he didn’t want to run the risk. “Thank you thought.
“I’ll be fine,” Leo insisted. “I’ll stay out of the way and… guide you from the sideline. I’m sure I can help you.”
Mikey put his weapon on the ground then turned to face Leo. He tried to come off as non-challenging as possible but he also wanted it to be clear that he wasn’t going to change his mind. “I’m not ready for someone to be in the dojo with me yet, Leo. I appreciate the offer but I can manage on my own for now.”
Leo’s eyes darkened and Mikey prepared himself. He had finished reading the packet Donny had made him and had even gone over it with his genius brother to make sure he understood it all. Emotional outbursts are common and could be triggered by anything.
“You don’t think I’m good enough to keep myself safe while you fling that thing around?”
“I don’t wanna risk it,” Mikey answered, keeping his tone calm. “When I’m ready for an opponent, I promise, you will be the one I come to.”
When Leo didn’t say anything more Mikey turned to pick up his kusarigama but Leo grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him back around. “Don’t turn your back on me,” Leo hissed. “We’re not done. I offered you help, you should accept it. I’m your leader, damn it. I don’t want to be your opponent. I want to help you improve your technique.”
“Leo, please,” even though Mikey’s heart was racing, he managed to keep calm. He saw Raph out of the corner of his eye, ready to run in to help in a heartbeat.
Leo moved to grab Mikey again but he was able to move out of the way, which only angered Leo further. Leo attacked, taking a hard swing at Mikey. Before Raph could react, Mikey dodged the blow, grabbed Leo’s wrist and wrestled him, plastron down, to the floor.
“Calm down, Leo,” Mikey pleaded. “There is no reason to get so angry. I know you don’t wanna hurt me.”
“Get off me,” Leo demanded, doing his best to try to throw Mikey off.
“I will,” Mikey promised. “As soon as you calm down.”
Raph didn’t leave but he did keep back, giving Mikey the chance to handle it in his own way. Mikey said a silent thank you to whatever force it was that kept Raph from losing his control and interfering. Maybe his time with Donny had mellowed him out.
They stayed where they were for a while, waiting for Leo to calm. It didn’t take long for Leo’s breathing to settle and for his muscles to ease. “You can let me up now.”
Mikey stayed alert as he eased up, just in case Leo was lying, and Leo took his time getting to his feet. He kept his eyes down, only glancing at Mikey for a second. “I’m going to my room.”
“Okay,” Mikey nodded. “I’m gonna practice. I’ll come up when I’m done.”
Without a word, Leo nodded and made his way upstairs. He passed Raph on his way and cringed, unable to look up at him. Leo’s pride was hurt. He hated that there was a witness to his emotional outburst.
Raph walked up to Mikey as he collected his weapon from the floor. “One day the good days will outnumber the bad ones,” Raph comforted. “He beat this problem before and he can do it again.”
“I know,” Mikey forced a smile. “Can you do me a favor and tell Splinter that Leo had another outburst?”
“Yeah,” Raph nodded and left to find their father.
It was just the first steps in the journey. It would be foolish of Mikey to expect a lot in such a short period of time. With a heavy heart, Mikey went into the dojo to practice. “It will get better,” he told himself. Maybe one day he will start to believe it.
Mikey didn’t even bother showering after practice and headed straight for Leo’s room. He opened the door to find Leo on the floor meditating. Candles were lit all around him and incense was burning, filling the room with an earthy musk.
After gently closing the door, Mikey crept around and sat on the floor next to Leo. They remained quiet for several minutes, neither wanting to break the calm.
Leo’s eyes opened but he didn’t look over at Mikey. “I’m doing to you what I said Raph would do to Donny. I’m abusive and cruel and I don’t know why. I can’t explain why I lash out like that. One minute I’m fine and the next I’m angry.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Mikey said, placing his hand on Leo’s thigh. “You did it before.”
Leo’s hand trembled as he brought it up to cover his face. “Splinter sent me to train with the Ancient One last time.”
“I understand,” Mikey kept his voice soft as he reached over to run his fingers over the vanishing scar on Leo’s carapace. It was hard to see but it was still there, he just had to know where to look. “Splinter is not sending you away again.”
“Yes he will,” Leo pulled away from Mikey’s touch and stood. “He couldn’t handle me before so he sent me away. I didn’t want to go but he insisted. Then after everything else he sent me away again. I’m never going to be good enough. It’s like he doesn’t want me.”
“You have to let go of that fear and doubt if you’re going to get better.”
Leo turned and glared down at Mikey, “You’re one to talk. You don’t believe me when I say I’m with you because I want to be. You think I’m with you out of guilt.”
Mikey looked at the ground, “You’re right.” He didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t want to lie to Leo, it would only upset him more. He bit back the feeling of hopelessness that threatened to overcome him.
“I don’t want to fight with you, Mikey,” Leo said, dropping to his knees. He thumbed away the tears Mikey hadn’t even realized he had shed.
“I know,” Mikey sighed and then it occurred to him. “Maybe I’m not the one you need to fight with. You told me before that the Ancient One made you face your demons to help you get better. You need to face your demon and right now that’s our father.”
Splinter was pulled out of his meditation by the the soft yet heated argument that was going on outside his door. It was loud enough to disturb him but not for him to make out what was being said. He was about to stand to investigate and request that they move to another part of the lair when the door opened and Michelangelo pushed Leonardo inside.
Leonardo turned to argue but Michelangelo slammed the door shut. “He thinks that you think that he’s not good enough,” Michelangelo shouted through the door. “He believes that you’ll send him away again and that you don’t want him.”
“Mikey!” Leonardo shouted.
“Is this true, Leonardo?” Splinter watched his son, waiting for him to turn around and face him. When Leonardo remained facing the door without responding, Splinter took another approach. He switched from the role of father to strict master. “Come. Kneel.”
Leonardo tensed but, ever the obedient student, turned away from the door to kneel in front of Splinter. His eyes stayed fixed on the floor as he struggled keep his composure.
Splinter could see that there was an inner turmoil within Leonardo. Switching back to the mode of father, Splinter kept his voice soft. “Why do you believe that I do not think you are good enough?”
“You keep pushing me to do more,” Leonardo answered. “And you sent me away. Twice!”
Splinter sighed and considered his words carefully. “I sent you to the Ancient One because there was no more that I could teach you. It was not that you were not good enough, Leonardo. It was because you had surpassed me.
“I believed you to be ready and I have wanted to make you the head of our little clan for some time now. I tried but you said that you weren’t ready. Remember?”
Leonardo’s eyes darted back and forth as he thought and then he nodded. “Two weeks later you sent me to South America.”
“I did not want you to go,” Splinter said, his heart heavy with sorrow. “You wanted to be better so I sent you on that journey, hoping that when you came home that you would finally be satisfied, knowing that you managed to do what all the great masters had done. I have always been proud of you, my son, and there was never a time where I thought that you were not good enough.”
Tears filled Leonardo’s eyes and he struggled to maintain control. Splinter moved forward and pulled his son into a warm embrace. “You are not a failure.”
Leonardo returned the embrace and years of heart ache came spilling out. Splinter sat, unjudging as his son unburdened his soul. Things that had been held inside for hears and confessions of things that had happened in the jungle, nothing was held back.
When Leonardo was done he moved his head down to Splinters lap and they continued to sit together in silence. He considered his son in that moment, reflecting on their life. Leonardo and Raphael were more alike than they were willing to admit. They both strove to be better, driven to keep their family safe and blaming themselves when things went wrong.
After a while, Leonardo sat up and looked his father in the eye. “Do you really think that I’m ready?”
“Yes,” Splinter answered. There was never any doubt over Leonardo’s ability to be the leader of the family. “I would like to step down now. I no longer want to be your master. I would much rather, simply be your father.”
“I will do my best,” Leonardo said, bowing his head.
Splinter waited for Leonardo to sit back up before replying. “That is all that I have ever asked of you.”
The day Splinter announced that he was stepping down as their master was bitter sweet and adjusting to Leo’s way of doing things took some time. It gave Leo something to focus on and gave him some added security.
In time his temper lessened but he still had his triggers. Fortunately those around him were skilled enough to handle his outbursts.
Since they were already sleeping together every night, Leo asked Mikey to move in to his room. He got used to having Mikey there and only kicked him out of bed when Mikey refused to get up.
They took their time building their relationship and getting to know each other again. Even when they made love for the first time, they took it slow and savored every moment they were together. The best part was when Leo told Mikey that he loved him and he believed it.