Has it really been a year already? Has time flew past us that quickly?
It's really been a full year. I never thought that would ever come to pass, but...it's over. A full, hard, and stressful year.
While that is true, he's still healing. I mean, we all have some sense of closure, but I guess, if I looked back at how it all started, I'd never believe that we'd make it this far, or still have our littlest brother to prove it.
But to be honest, even today, this very day...Mikey's still healing. I know he is. And he always will. And in some kind of way, so are we.
Every day I keep looking at him, and I see a drastic change in him. He's just not our little goofball anymore. He would never be the little life of the party that he always was, always cheering everyone up and waking up smiling with his comics and games...he can never go back to that.
And it saddens me because I know he wants things to go back to those times. I want it to go back to those times! I want him to irritate the shell out of Raph and Leo and get my blood pressure rising after I stagger out of my lab covered in smoke!
But he knows. And I know. Everyone does.
He can't do that anymore.
And I miss that so much. I miss that because he never deserved to hurt like he did, or be put through everything he was put through.
He's getting there, though. Slowly, he's returning back to us. I watch him sometimes when we're training or something, and I see tiny bits of his old self. He's stronger than I'd ever seen him, and he's still growing today.
Something that I'm thankful never changed...his smile. His innocent smile. I was honestly afraid that he'd lost the reason to even do that anymore. But he never did.
I still want that boy to smile, no matter what may happen.
Every day, I think about that journal that I read. I never read the poems and nightmares he had, just the long entries Raph showed me. And it's sad, really.
I nearly threw up the first night after I read that. I wanted to. I had to feel something, anything that would allow me to feel that pain that he still feels now.
I wondered if he feared me the most. I think he did. Maybe because I'm usually the quietest. I hurt him so bad and so much...I wonder if he really can forgive me, if he can really forgive any of us.
There are nights when I'm in my lab, and I would actually stop working for almost twenty minutes, just to wait for Mikey to burst in here and do something crazy to me and my lab.
But I know I'm deluding myself.
And I know these things take time.
I went into his room one night. Mikey was on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. If it wasn't for his rising and falling chest, I would have thought he'd killed himself.
It's something we all notice that he does lately. He's always thinking about something, most of the time quiet as ever. And for some reason, that annoys me.
He should be jumping around and driving us crazy! But...
He looked over at me, and his smile...it was so soft, and I almost rocked back on my heels.
He's still smiling...
"Hey, Donny. Do you need something?" he asked me.
I nodded. There was something I wanted to talk to him about, if Leo and Raph hadn't gotten there yet.
"Can I...come in?"
He nodded, sitting upright and making room for me. I walked in and sat down next to him, feeling the bed shift as Mikey put his feet back on the bed.
A tilt of his head, he asked, "What's up?"
I almost lost my train of thought for a second. Mikey was looking at me, the expression on his face...I don't know. It...it was something that I hadn't seen since this whole mess began.
I wasn't sure if I could say this to him. It was something else that we picked up on.
Mikey was talking to us, but as far as I know, he never really tells us anything that troubles him anymore. He talks only when he has to.
Again, it's not his fault. He still can't trust us enough to tell us when something bugs him or hurts him. And after the attack and us nearly losing Raph...it seemed like he closed in more on himself.
It's really sad...but I understood that.
A green hand waved in front of my face. "Hey, Donny? You in there, brainiac?"
I snapped out of it and looked at him. He sighed once he saw I was with it once again.
"You okay? What's up?"
I shook my head. "I just...I wanted to check on you. How about you?"
He shrugged. "Been better."
Then I noticed a change in expression. He seemed hesitant, but I gently nudged him. After only two or three minutes, he cracked. "Is...Is Raphie okay?" he asked me.
I arched an eye ridge. That was not what he wanted to tell me. I could easily see it by his body language.
Besides that, Raph told me he'd talked to him the day he woke up, and I knew Mikey was in there the whole time Raph was recovering. So why...?
I played along, answering his question. "Yeah. Stubborn as usual. I think he's out topside with Casey."
"And Leo? Is he alright?"
Now, at that one, I was really confused. Leo had been back to his old self-training for hours on end-and was still training when I came up here. Even though I told that knucklehead to go to sleep for later on today...
I frowned at that one. God, I have hardheaded older brothers...
I then looked back at Mikey. "Why?"
Mikey smiled to himself. "I...Nothing. Never mind."
I knew right then and there was something troubling him. And I refused to let him bottle it because he was so afraid of us.
"What? What is it, Mikey?" I persisted.
Mikey shook his head. "I-It's nothing, really. I just...I..."
I scooted closer. "Mikey, what?"
Another shake of the head. "It's nothing, Donny. Can we just drop this?"
I firmly said no, and took his hands in mine.
"Mike, I won't tell the others, if that's what's bugging you. But please don't hold this in."
I looked at him. "Tell me what's wrong."
He nodded, his expression looking like he was stuck in a daze. "I...I want to, but...I can't."
I leaned forward a bit so I could fully see his face. "Why not?"
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath "Because...I'd rather forget about it. It's..."
He opened his eyes after a few seconds. "It's painful, Donny. I don't want to think about it."
Not this again...
"What is? Mikey, you gotta tell me what's going on."
He didn't say anything, just stared into space. I let out a breath. I didn't want to say this...I really didn't.
"Mikey, are you blaming yourself for Raph's injury?"
After another long standstill, he finally nodded.
I sighed, tightening my hold on his somewhat shaking hands.
"Mikey, none of this was your fault. It happened, and we made it. To be honest, that's all we could have asked for that night."
He nodded again. I could only hope he understood what I was trying to tell him.
"Donny?" he asked.
Mikey looked stright at me. And the freakiest and most disturbing question I ever heard came out of his mouth.
"Do you...do you still wish I were dead?"
I was caught of guard by that, but I quickly answered.
"No Michelangelo. I do not wish you were dead, and I will never do such a thing ever again." I stated before this conversation wound up going the wrong way.
Mikey blinked at the drawn-out answer to a simple question, then smiled. Right after that, he did something that I never thought he'd do for a long, long time.
He hugged me. I almost tumbled of the bed with the weight he threw on me, but held back firm.
"Is everything alright, Mikey?" I asked. He nodded, and I was about to press the matter even further when he sighed again and asked me another, more harder question.
"Donny, is it...is it easy to let go of this kind of pain?"
I was about to answer no, but stopped to think about that. "To be honest Mikey, it isn't. The kind of pain we inflicted on you...that takes true time to heal. A lot of it. I don't think there's any other way to put it."
I looked over at his desk. "I don't think it's something you can just...just get rid of, you know? You can't ever truly and completely forget, Mikey. It doesn't work like that. It never does. If it did...you'd hurt worse."
Mikey nodded, and I felt his hands clench on my chest. "So then...how come I still feel...so afraid?"
"It's because we're your brothers. We harmed you in ways that I refuse to even think about right now. And it makes sense for you to fear us because of that."
I looked down at him. "Is that what was troubling you?"
"No." he answered, a little too quickly. "I was...just curious."
"Then what is it?"
He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped again and shook his head.
"I'm sorry. I can't say it."
That was eating at me. Something was bugging him again, and judging from the fact that it was, he never told Leo or Raph about it.
Maybe I can get through to him. But what could be bugging him so badly that he can't even force himself to tell me?
"Mikey...is it...is it about Father?" I carefully asked.
Looks like I hit the jackpot. Mikey looked like a deer in headlights all of a sudden.
He quickly pulled away from me and wrapped his arms about himself. So I was right...That's still a touchy subject for him.
"I'm sorry, Mikey. I didn't mean to upset you..." I quietly apologized.
This was the first time I'd mention our father to him in a long time. And I guess he must still have that guilt...and those still healing wounds that came with it.
"Mikey?" I called out, inching close enough to touch him.
He looked at me, and I really had to mentally face-palm myself. I made him cry...
"I'm sorry, Mikey."
He nodded, wiping away the tears that had traced down his cheeks, only for more to come take their place.
And then he did it again.
"I'm sorry...I-I'm sorry, Donny..." he blubbered softly, his shoulders shaking.
I should have known better then to do that! He's still raw over that...I am an idiot!
"What happened, Mikey?" I asked. He sniffed.
"I...I didn't mean it...Donny, I didn't mean for it to happen..."
I rubbed his shaking shoulders, and he just cried even more into my shoulder. "Shhhh...I know that. I know you didn't. But what happened that night?"
Mikey stopped long enough to tell me what he wanted to remember. "I-I told Father...that I wanted to help him fight...that thing...it had a gun, and I was afraid he'd use it on Father if he went alone..."
He took a shaky breath. "I didn't listen, and ended up fighting with him anyway. And we almost had him...until I had to drop my guard...a-a-and Father t-t-tried to warn me, and I...I didn't..."
It clicked into place then. And I finally knew why Mikey had so many different nightmares about Father being shot.
"Was Father shot?" I asked even though I knew the answer.
I took in a sharp breath. I mean, even though I'd actually read about what had happened to Father, actually hearing Mikey say it made this whole thing sound...different. I can't explain it.
It just made it that much more worse, I guess.
"Mikey, do you want to go and see Father?" I asked. Now that I'm thinking about it, I don't remember us taking Mikey to go see him in a while.
He seemed reluctant to want to go, and that was fine with me.
"If you want, we can go some other time." I said. But Mikey placed his hand over my arm to stop me from getting up.
"No." he shakily managed to tell me. "No, I...I wanna see him."
I grew worried at his tone. I didn't want him to stress himself if he couldn't handle it. "You sure? We can go with the others later or something."
Mikey insisted on going, and I gave in. We both got our ShellCells, and quietly snuck out of the lair before either Raph or Leo noticed we were missing.
Father's grave site was still in Central Park, so it took a bit of time for us to get there. That wasn't my concern.
My concern was Mikey. The entire walk over, Mikey was growing more and more silent, even slowing down at times. I knew he was nervous, but this was beyond what I had in mind.
"Mikey, it's fine. We're going together, alright? I'm gonna stick with you." I told him.
He looked over at me and smiled a little. "Thanks, Donny." he said softly.
I couldn't help but think, 'He's being so strong right now...but he's so scared...'
Once we got there, we both stood at his grave marker. Nothing fancy, just a simple wooden headboard with his name crudely scratched on it. We didn't want anyone to find him. Besides, we were only thirteen with hardy any knowledge of the outside world.
I began to advance toward it to pay my respects, but Mikey stood far back, looking at that headboard like it would attack him or something.
"Mikey? You alright?" I asked for the twentieth time. He nodded, but I could see new tears threatening to overtake him again.
I put my arm about his shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze. "Come on. I'll walk with you, okay?"
Mikey seemed more relaxed and relieved at that idea, and together we both walked over to his grave. We stood there with our father's remains, saying our praying and talking to him.
Or rather, I was. Mikey barely spoke anything past the words, 'I'm sorry.'
And I couldn't take it anymore. I hated those words more than anything.
"Mikey, you do know Father isn't mad at you, right?"
He looked over at me. "He should be. I caused this...I caused him to die..."
I looked away, ashamed because that was a lie. A lie we forced him to believe.
"No you didn't, Mikey. It happened because he was defending us. Knowing Father...he would've done it regardless." I said, hating every word that left my mouth.
Mikey didn't say anything for awhile. I let him have his time, still paying my respects to our deceased father. After a few minutes, Mikey said in this childlike voice, "Donny?"
And he wrapped his arms around me again. I guess he really is slowly trusting me again...and I'm so thankful.
I missed him hugging me so much, and I missed being able to do the same.
"What's wrong, bro?"
He didn't answer right away at first, just kept breathing in and out and holding onto me. I wonder if this was what he wanted...
"Is there something else you want to tell me?" I asked. He shook his head no.
"Then what is it?"
Mikey turned his head so he could see our father's headboard again. After a minute, he whispered, "It's nothing. I just wanted to do this."
I smiled, following his gaze. "That's okay."
I thought hard about his actions, and then I asked, "Mike, are you scared?"
He nodded. "I don't know if it's because of what happened or what, but...I just...I still feel afraid of something..."
I stopped him. "No, that's okay. You don't have to explain."
Mikey nodded again, and I figured that was as much as he was going to tell me for tonight. But he had one more thing to say.
Mikey looked at me. "I almost forgot to tell you...Thank you." he said.
"Huh?" I replied, confused. "For what?"
Another gentle smile graced my baby brother's cheeks. "For everything."
I didn't know what to say but 'You're welcome.' I just didn't expect him to say something like that to me. Anything else, sure. If he wanted to get out his hatred for me, for any of us, I was ready for it. I was expecting it.
But he forgave us, like he always has...never hated us, just forgave...
We stayed there long after we finished speaking to our father. I guess neither one of us were ready to let this end.
Sitting under the tree that we held in our father's honor, Mikey hadn't moved away from me, which also surprised me. I could feel him weight growing more and more heavy, and I checked the time.
It was only a few minutes after midnight, but it was getting late. I had some training to do in a few hours, and I was quite exhausted.
"Mikey, you ready to go home?"
Mikey mumbled something close to a 'yeah', and I chuckled. Somehow, I get the feeling this guy didn't catch all his sleep last night.
I stood up and dusted myself. Mikey followed suit. Saying a final farewell to our dad, we started for home, me having to partially carry Mikey because he seemed to be walking in a daze, and I was afraid he's fall off a building at some point in time.
Once we reached the manhole we had left from and got back to the lair, I checked to see if Leo or Raph had noticed if we had left. But hearing a heavy snore from upstairs told me otherwise.
Me and Mikey staggered upstairs to our rooms. I had to help Mikey to his room because he had actually began to sleepwalk halfway up the stairs.
The minute he seemed to have found the foot of his bed, he collapsed into his pillow. I wondered to myself, 'Did he sleep at all last night?'
But he seemed at ease, though. Whatever was troubling him must have been put at ease, and I considered us going to visit Father a success.
As I sat him up to remove his headband, I could hear him mumble a bunch of things, and I shook my head, although I couldn't stop myself from smiling.
Maybe, just maybe, things can go back to how it was...and I know now that we can get our little brother back for sure...I know he can come back to us once and for all.
"...night, Don..." he muttered as the last bouts of sleep completely took him over.
I carefully and gently laid his head down on his pillow and sat his headband on his nightstand, then gave him a small kiss on his forehead.
"Night, little brother." I whispered back. "Sweet dreams."
As I began to head to my room for the night, I noticed that he had a notebook lying out on the desk. It looked new and it was red. I picked it up, and couldn't help the warmth I felt inside me.
It was a journal. And on the outside cover...was an old photo of us. We had to have been, like, six or seven in that photo...I didn't think Mikey would have these little mementos of us still...and I shuddered because had we truly lost him that night...we honestly would've lost everything.
Mikey's a constant reminder of who we are.
I looked on the bottom, and written there were these words:
'Best friends forever,
I stopped at that last part.
I looked back at Mikey, then the photo. Setting the journal down, I turned back around and sat on Mikey's bed, watching as he took and exhaled each breath, a lot of things running through my mind.
For the longest time now, I've been asking myself if we were ever going to truly heal, if he was ever going to heal. I've wondered if anything would be how it once was. Every night, since this whole thing started, I've often wondered about that.
After this night, I know...things can go back to normal. Granted, it's not gonna be perfect, and at times, it's gonna hurt like shell.
It doesn't matter to me. I'm going to fight this...and I'm going to make sure that he never goes through anything like this ever again. I'm going to help him and I'm going to bring him back.
Me and the others...we're going to get you back, Mikey.
'We'll always be brothers forever, Mikey. That's never gonna change.'
I smiled at that thought. The thought that we can put his heart and soul back together again...and finally bring our little innocent goofball home at last.
"We're gonna bring you back home real soon. Just keep fighting for us, Mikey...and know that you aren't alone." I said quietly, still watching him as he slept peacefully.
It will be hard, but you'll never be alone, Mikey. We're fighting right alongside you.
And we're going to be together until the end.
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