Splinter knew that he had done his best to protect his sons, knew that there were many evils in this world that he had shielded his small family against. However, he also knew that he could not shield them forever, eventually they were going to know things, they were going to discover things on their own. As his sons grew, and slowly started to learn how cruel the world could truly be, there were still things that he never truly worried about happening. Even if they had to one day deal with the victim of such a vile crime, dealing with the aftermath of such a thing was not something even Splinter could have prepared them for.
Michelangelo; there were many words that Splinter could use to describe his youngest son, skittish and fearful had never been among those words, until now. The young teenager who had loved being the center of attention, who always was latching onto one of his brothers, seeming to thrive from physical contact, now shied away from nearly every touch. While Mikey still seemed to enjoy receiving hugs, he no longer went seeking hugs from his brothers, leaving it up to Leonardo, Raphael, or Donatello to decide if they were going to hug their brother or not.
More often than not over the past month Splinter had caught his youngest deep in thought, a confused expression on his face as he tried to puzzle over things in his mind. Splinter, of course, had done what he could to help his son; today would be no different. Splinter had woken in the early hours of the morning, before even Leonardo was usually awake, and had immediately known that something was wrong.
He had not had to search very far to discover what had woken him. Michelangelo was seated on the couch in the main part of the Lair. The small turtle had curled in on himself, hugging his knees tightly to his plastron as he slowly rocked back and forth, silently crying to himself. The sight of his youngest like this broke Splinter’s heart.
“Michelangelo,” Splinter spoke softly, not wanting to startle his son. Even though this had not been his intention, Mikey’s head still snapped up, turning wide, fearful eyes toward Splinter. And it hurt Splinter even more to see such fear on his son’s face, even if it wasn’t truly directed toward him.
“S-sensei,” Mikey spoke, his voice cracking, indicating that he had been out here for some time crying. He looked away to wipe at his tears, before returning his attention to Splinter. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up… I… I was trying to be quiet…”
“Do not apologize, Michelangelo, I am glad you have woken me,” Splinter said, nodding toward the empty seat next to Mikey. “May I sit with you?” Splinter asked, his question surprising the young turtle, but Mikey nodded.
“Of course, Sensei,” Mikey said, slowly uncurling himself so that Splinter could have more room to sit. Even then, Mikey kept his baby blue eyes fixed on Splinter as the tall rat moved around the couch, and took a seat next to his son, being careful to sit close enough that he could comfort him, but not to close as to make the skittish turtle uncomfortable.
“Now, do you wish to tell me why you are up at such an early hour?” Splinter asked, his gaze fixed on Mikey.
“I… it’s nothing, sensei,” Mikey said, his attention fixed on the floor.
“Ah yes, I too have spent many nights sitting in the dark over ‘nothing’,” Splinter said, nodding his understanding. “Sometimes ‘nothing’ can be too painful to put into actual words.” Reaching out slowly, making sure that Mikey had seen the movement of his hand first, Splinter reached up and placed his hand on top of his son’s head. “Please know this, my son, I am always here for you,” Splinter said, the same thing he had been saying to Mikey over the past few weeks.
“I had a nightmare about… about…” Mikey swallowed hard, his eyes burning as he struggled to hold back the fresh flow of tears. “About HIM,” Mikey said, “a-ab-about Sl-” Mikey trembled, closing his eyes tightly.
“Slash can not hurt you here,” Splinter said firmly. Everyone had avoided saying the name of Mikey’s attacker, fearing that mentioning his name would cause the smallest turtle more distress, bring back more memories of what had happened. However, the only thing that this had done was fuel Mikey’s fear of the beast; if they were all afraid of saying Slash’s name, it did nothing to help Mikey’s recovery.
“I know…” Mikey said softly, rubbing at his eyes in another attempt to stop his tears. “I know he can’t, I know Donnie installed more security around the lair, that if he DID come back… But I’m still scared. I-in my dream, he got into the Lair, the alarms never went off and… and no one could stop him… you all tried, but he-he killed everyone… then he…” Mikey wrapped his arms around himself again, baby blue eyes wide as he recalled the dream, or perhaps it was a memory he was seeing. “I can still feel him, not all the time but… I can feel him touching me… and… and I want it to stop, I want everything to just stop!” Mikey cried, losing the fight with his tears and letting them flow freely down his cheeks.
Splinter’s chest tightened painfully at seeing his son like this, wrapping his arms around Mikey he pulled the sobbing turtle against him. He had half expected Mikey to pull away, to flinch at the touch, instead his youngest son clung to him, his face buried against the red fabric of Splinter’s robe.
“You are still healing. While medicine can do wonders to heal the body, only time can heal the spirit,” Splinter said and continued to hold his youngest son. This was not the first night he had found Mikey in such a state, and it wouldn’t be the last. However, Splinter still counted it as progress, because it was the first night that Michelangelo had spoken of the nightmares that plagued his sleep.
It was nearing eleven in the morning. Mikey had been dragged from his sleep nearly an hour previous, so that he could participate in training once again. It was not something the orange banded turtle was looking forward to, though at the same time it was nice to have something he could focus on, other than his own thoughts for once.
“Focus, Michelangelo,” Splinter said, and Mikey shook his head as if that would clear the thoughts from his mind once more.
“Sorry, Sensei,” Mikey said, focusing once again on Leo, who was his current opponent. Mikey thought it was almost unfair to be paired off with Leo, since the blue-banded turtle usually did extra training for fun, while Mikey hadn’t even watched a training session in a month.
“Are you just going to stand there all day?” Leo asked, raising an eye ridge at the smaller turtle.
“Well, I thought I’d give you the opportunity to attack me first,” Mikey said, watching Leo closely. He saw the slight tensing of Leo’s muscles a second before he lunged. Mikey easily dodged out of the way, swinging his nunchuck out in an attempt to trip Leo, though it wasn’t surprising at all when the blue- banded turtle easily dodged that, landing before making another attack at Mikey.
Back and forth they went, Mikey never really going in for the attack and quickly dodging anything Leo tried to do. As he dodged again, narrowly missing an the attack, Mikey thought he heard Leo let out a low growl, the noise had Mikey freezing for a split second, and that was all the time Leo needed to sweep Mikey’s feet out from under him, sending the younger turtle falling to the floor. Leo was on him then, pinning him to the floor.
“Looks like I win, Mikey,” Leo said. “Good job though, I thought you would have been more rusty than you are…” Leo trailed off, his small smile fading as he took in the panicked look on Mikey’s face. Baby Bblue eyes were wide, Mikey’s breathing was quick and shallow, and had nothing to do with the work out they had just finished.
“Mikey?” Leo’s frown deepened.
“… let me go,” Mikey whispered, pulling at his hands that Leo still had pinned. “Let me go!” Mikey said louder, even though Leo was already moving to get off his brother. As soon as he was free, Mikey scurried back across the floor, and away from Leo, his eyes darting around the room.
“Mikey?” Raph caught his attention, and Mikey’s eyes darted up to look at his red- banded brother.
“I’m fine,” Mikey said before Raph could even ask the question, standing up and sidestepping his brother., Mikey glanced around again, he felt like he was suffocating in this room, Leo was staring at him, as was Raph, and Mikey didn’t have to look to know that he also had gained Donnie’s and Splinter’s attention as well. “I… I need a break,” Mikey said., nNot waiting for a reply, he practically ran from the room. This wasn’t the first time Mikey had done this, and he was sure it wouldn’t be the last either.
Going to his bedroom, Mikey shut himself inside and leaned against the door,. Llistening closely to see if anyone had followed him this time., wWhen he didn’t hear anything, he let out a long sigh and pushed off the door, walking over to his bed; he fell face first onto it as he thought about what had just occurred in the dojo.
He had been afraid, the feeling of being pinned down, unable to move, helpless and at the mercy of Leo., eEven though Mikey knew, and he could tell himself over and over again, that his oldest brother would never hurt him, it hadn’t stopped that fear from taking over. And it hadn’t just been with Leo either, Mikey had been shying away from everyone, avoiding most physical contact. The only ones that Mikey felt safe around where his father, and Raph.
A soft knock on the door drew Mikey’s attention away from his thoughts, turning his head so that he could check and see if he had locked it. He hadn’t, which meant if he chose to remain silent and pretend he couldn’t hear anyone knocking, they would open the door to check on him anyway. “Go away,” Mikey answered, turning his head away from the door again.
“Mikey, it’s Leo,” his oldest brother’s voice came through the door, and Mikey didn’t answer. He had suspected that the blue-banded turtle was the one outside the door, after Mikey’s sudden freak out in the dojo, it only made sense that Leo would now come to talk to him about it.
“Leo, I want to be alone right now,” Mikey said, and against Mikey’s wishes, Leo opened the door so that he could look in at the youngest turtle. Mikey sat up quickly, turning to look at Leo.
“Mikey, I really think we need to talk,” Leo insisted.
“Please, can’t we talk later?” Mikey asked, gently rubbing his wrists. The bruises were long gone, and Donnie had made sure that none of the cuts left scars, but there were times that Mikey could still feel the soreness. “It’s all in your head,” was what Donnie had said to him. Though of course his brother had used larger words, and explained it in a way that hadn’t made Mikey sound like he was losing his mind, it still boiled down to it being in Mikey’s head.
“This can’t wait,” Leo insisted.
Slowly wrapping his arms around himself, Mikey took a deep breath and let it out slowly, calming himself like Master Splinter had been instructing him, then nodded. “If this is about what happened in the dojo, I’m sorry,” Mikey said, hoping that if he apologised now, he could get Leo to leave. Instead his brother closed the door behind him and Mikey had to push down on the rising panic he was feeling.
“That is part of it,” Leo said, “but I’ve noticed other things over the last month too.”
“L-like what?” Mikey asked, biting his lip.
“Like how you spend most of your time locked in your room; how you avoid being around us most of the time; if someone steps to close, you panic and back away from them,” Leo explained. Mikey could only stare at him, he knew how he had been acting, but he hadn’t realised that anyone else had been watching him closely enough to notice too.
“I…” Mikey began, but Leo cut him off before he could say anything.
“I think you’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion,” Leo said, and suddenly Mikey didn’t know what to say, because it felt as if a bucket of ice water had been dumped over him. “I’m not saying what happened to you wasn’t horrible, but it’s been a month, it’s over, it’s done with, it’s time to move on, Mikey.”
“I… I don’t…” Mikey wrapped his arms tighter around himself, his baby blue eyes fixed on Leo searching his brother’s face to figure out if this was some kind of cruel joke, but the serious look Leo had said it all.
“You’ve had a month off of training, that is more than enough time to heal, so just let it go and stop letting what happened control you.” Leo smiled, and somewhere in the back of his mind Mikey knew that his blue-banded brother thought he was helping, but the only thing that Mikey could focus on at the moment was the numb feeling that had taken over his body. He was only vaguely aware of Leo saying something about getting some rest, and that his brother was leaving the room.
Mikey remained sitting up on his bed, his nails digging into his arms as he rocked back and forth slowly. Leo’s words echoed around in his mind and Mikey choked back a sob, trying to stop the tears that had started falling down his face. Mikey knew that Leo was right, his oldest brother, while not as smart as Donnie, was still very smart. A month was enough time to bounce back from any attack, they had all proven that time and time again; one perk of their mutation was their fast healing ability.
However, even though he told himself that Leo was right, all it did was make his chest feel heavy, as if the numbness that had taken over him before was solidifying and weighing him down. Mikey’s first thought was to go find Raph, his hot headed brother would help make this feeling go away, but even as he moved from his bed to go search for Raph, another thought occurred to him. Telling Raph what Leo had said would surely lead to a fight between the two oldest, and going to Donnie was out of the question, because there was the possibility he would simply agree with Leo.
Mikey stood in the middle of his room, trying to decide what he should do next, it wasn’t until his eyes landed on a new photo that was sitting on his desk that he realised what he needed to do. It was one that had been taken a few months ago, but April had just brought it over last time she visited a week ago. It was a simple picture of Mikey with his three brothers, though this picture now included April in it too. “A reminder, I’m always here if you need me,” April had told him after handing over the photo that was safe inside a picture frame.
Mikey made up his mind then, he would have to wait until nightfall, but then he would be able to sneak out and go see April.
When April had first volunteered to tutor someone, she never would have thought she would actually have fun with someone like Casey, but the loudmouth boy was turning out to be quite a good friend. And while April liked her four sewer dwelling friends, it was nice to have a human one as well.
Tonight their study session had lasted longer than usual because April had lost track of time, so she was now being escorted home by Casey.
“You really didn’t have to come with me,” April said as she walked up the steps to her front door.
“I know you could have handled anyone tryin’ to give you trouble, but it just didn’t feel right makin’ you walk home alone,” Casey said, and April smiled at him.
“Thank you,” April said, turning to open her front door. She stood there staring into the darkness of her home. Something felt off.
“Everything okay, red?” Casey asked.
“I don’t know…” she trailed off when she heard a noise, and her first thought was of the Kraang, and what if they had finally found where she lived. April tensed, reaching for her tessen, she pulled it out and moved further into the house. She glanced over her shoulder when she heard Casey move behind her; he had pulled out his hockey stick, holding it like a weapon as he moved with her into the house.
Another noise caught her attention, and April looked toward the kitchen. She could see a light coming from the fridge. Frowning in puzzlement, she glanced around the room again, sure now that it wasn’t the Kraang, as they wouldn’t have invaded her house just to raid her fridge. Her eyes fell on an open window leading out onto the fire escape and it was now fairly easy to guess who her uninvited guest was.
Sapping her head back to look at Casey, she saw the black haired boy moving quickly toward the kitchen. “Casey, wait!” But it was too late, the teen boy had already burst into the kitchen, hockey stick swinging down intending to attack first, and ask questions after. The short startled cry was cut off as Casey’s hockey stick met its mark.
“What the…?” Casey said, and April ran over, pushing passed him into the kitchen and staring down at the now unconscious turtle on the floor. “Mutant? Here?” Casey narrowed his eyes, his grip tightening on his hockey stick and then April was suddenly in front of him.
“No, Casey! Put that stick down, and help me move him to the bedroom,” April ordered.
“Wait… what? Why?” Casey looked confused, but the look that April gave him had him almost regretting that he had asked anything at all.
“Because he’s a friend of mine. I can explain after we’ve moved him,” April said.
“You could explain while we move him,” Casey suggested as he moved to grab the turtle’s upper body and April grabbed his feet.
“After,” April said again, and together the two of them moved Mikey out of the kitchen and into April’s bedroom. Casey stood back and watched as April fussed over the over-sized turtle. “Alright, red, you got some answers for me or what?” Casey asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
“This is Mikey, he’s one of my friends,” April said.
“He’s a mutant,” Casey said.
“And he, along with his brothers, have saved my life multiple times already. They’re mutant turtles, but they’re good guys,” April explained, motioning for Casey to take a seat as she began to tell him how she had first met the turtles, and how close she had gotten to the strange, underground family. She ended her story with explaining that Mikey had been severely hurt recently; though no matter how much Casey pressed, she wouldn’t give him actual details, which told Casey all he really needed to know.
“I’ll stay here until he wakes up, wouldn’t be right if I didn’t apologise for whacking him upside the head like that,” Casey said, making himself comfortable as he watched the unconscious turtle.
The feeling of slowly waking up in a darkened room had Mikey’s heart jumping into his throat. He didn’t dare move, his eyes scanning the darkness as he tried to remember where he was, and why he was here.
He had gone out to see April, wanting to talk to her in person; he had snuck out of the lair without telling anyone. Left, even knowing that Slash was still out there somewhere. A shudder ran through Mikey’s body and he must have made some kind of noise, because there was movement in the room then; someone was standing next to him.
Mikey closed his eyes tightly, hoping that whoever it was next to him would think he was still unconscious, and leave him alone. A hand touched his shoulder and Mikey jerked away before he could stop himself.
“Woah, easy, little dude.” The strange voice had Mikey drawing himself into his shell. “Right…” the person said, there was more movement, and a moment later Mikey felt someone else touch his shell.
“Mikey, it’s okay,” a familiar voice soothed him.
“…April…?” Mikey slowly came out of his shell, blinking at his redheaded friend. “What… what happened?”
April glanced behind her, and Mikey followed her gaze, shrinking back slightly at the unfamiliar person standing by April’s desk a couple feet away.
“You got hit over the head,” April explained, gaining Mikey’s attention again. “Pretty hard too,” April said, moving her hand up and gently touching the back of Mikey’s head causing the small turtle to flinch away from the sudden sharp pain that split through his skull. “Sorry,” April apologized.
“Oh, I suppose that explains the killer headache,” Mikey said, laying back down and waiting for his head to stop throbbing.
“Mikey, why are you here?” April asked, and Mikey frowned over at her, before once again looking toward the unknown person.
“Who are you?” Mikey asked.
“Name’s Casey, Casey Jones,” the boy said. “I was the one who hit ya, though I didn’t mean to hit ya so hard, we thought you were a robber or something,” he explained and earned a glare from April.
“Oh… maybe I really should have called first then,” Mikey said, pushing himself up. “I should head home,” Mikey said.
“Wait, why did you come here?” April asked again.
“It’s not important,” Mikey said, not comfortable talking about it with a stranger around.
“Mike…” April frowned, looking back at Casey as if he were going to be any help. Mikey looked between the two of them, frowning when it seemed like the two of them were having some sort of private conversation.
“I’ll be in the kitchen,” Casey finally said, pushing off the wall he had been leaning against before leaving the room. April turned back toward Mikey, looking expectant and Mikey lowered his gaze to his lap.
“Now can you tell me why you came here? It must be important,” April said.
“It… I’m not sure if it really is or not,” Mikey admitted. “I’m probably just blowing things out of proportion again,” he said forcing himself to smile, and it didn’t seem to have the desired effect of reassuring April.
“I want to help, but I can’t do that unless you talk to me, Mikey,” April said.
Mikey shook his head. “It’s just, I’m confused… I thought,” Mikey paused taking a deep breath as he tried to arrange his thoughts in his head before speaking again. “I had an episode today,” Mikey admitted. “I was sparring with Leo, and… well I thought things were going good, things felt like they were getting back to normal… but Leo… he pinned me and I sort of freaked out,” Mikey said.
“Oh… Mikey,” April said, reaching out to place her hand on his, but stopped when he pulled away, he didn’t want to be touched, and for some reason he couldn’t figure out why talking to April right now was making him feel worse.
“I should leave,” Mikey said, pushing himself up off the bed, ignoring the shocked look April was giving him.
“Mikey, wait,” April said, reaching out to stop him but Mikey pulled away again, heading quickly for the window and climbing out onto the fire escape. “Mikey!” April called after him, but didn’t chase him, something Mikey was grateful for as he made it up to the roof.
“You know, it’s not nice to run away from people who are only trying to help.” The voice startled Mikey, spinning around quickly and wincing as he was reminded of the new bump on the back of his head.
“I’m not…I’m not running away,” Mikey denied, narrowing his eyes at the human boy who was standing not too far away, hockey stick in hand.
“Sure you are,” Casey said, eyeing MIkey up and down as he stepped forward. Mikey backed away; he didn’t know this human, he was obviously a friend of April’s, however, he also had a mean swing on him as Mikey had the lump to prove it. “You’re running away because April doesn’t know what you’re going through,” Casey said. “The only thing she can give you is pity, not understanding.”
Mikey frowned, tilting his head curiously. “Still doesn’t mean I’m running,” Mikey said.
“You’re scared, confused, you’re asking yourself ‘why me?’, you want the answer to that question more than anything in the world right now, because if someone would just give you that answer, maybe you could get over everything, move on with your life and forget it ever happened,” Casey said. Mikey was taken aback at hearing his thoughts being voiced by someone else, someone he didn’t even know.
“April told me,” Casey said, “okay, well she didn’t tell me exactly,” he added quickly. “She told me a friend of her’s got hurt a little while ago, and she wasn’t sure how to handle it or what she should do to help, so I was giving her pointers as best I could.”
“Why are you so sure I’m that friend she was talking about?” Mikey asked.
“Lucky guess?” Casey shrugged. “Among other things, I knew she had a friend that was hurt, one that she wasn’t sure would feel comfortable meeting ‘new people’.” Casey eyed Mikey up and down again, the orange-banded turtle shifted uncomfortably. “Though really, it really was just a lucky guess.” Casey grinned and Mikey frowned at this strange human.
“Okay,” Mikey said slowly. “But how did you know… um… what you said before, about why I’m running away.” Mikey wanted to know how this boy knew, how he seemed to know and just understand what Mikey was feeling at that moment.
“Let’s just say I’ve been where you are,” Casey said, pulling something out of his pocket and tossing it onto the ground, taking his hockey stick and started hitting the ball around. “I know what it’s like to be attacked, to have people around who want to help, but they have no fucking clue what you’re even going through, and all they want you to do is talk about it, for you to explain it to them so they can understand, because they think that if they do they’ll know how to help you,” Casey said, and Mikey could see the anger not just on the boy’s face, but in his movements as he swung the hockey stick, hitting the ball hard enough that it hit the AC unit on the roof, bounced off and came right back to him.
“They’re only trying to help though,” Mikey said.
Casey nodded. “Yes they are, but you can’t help but feel angry at them for not understanding.” He looked at Mikey, who also nodded his head in agreement.
“How do you… is there a way to get over it? To go back to how things were?” Mikey asked.
“Nothing’s ever going to be how it was,” Casey said, almost sounding apologetic as he said it. “There are going to be good days, and bad days,” he said, hitting the ball again with less force than last time, sending it rolling over to Mikey. “There’s another stick over there.” Casey nodded to behind where Mikey was standing. Turning around, the orange-banded turtle smiled when he saw there was indeed another hockey stick sitting over near the fire escape.
Mikey picked up the stick, looking it over before he turned back toward Casey and hit the ball back toward him. As the two of them continued playing, Mikey was a little surprised that he was feeling so relaxed around this complete stranger, when half the time he wasn’t this comfortable around his own brothers anymore.
They didn’t talk any more, just continued hitting the ball back and forth for nearly half an hour, until Mikey’s T-phone started ringing. “Oh shell,” Mikey said, looking at the caller ID on his phone, Leo was calling him. Looking up at Casey apologetically, Mikey tossed the hockey stick back to the teen. “Sorry, dude, I have to get going, I’m going to be so grounded for this,” Mikey said, ignoring the call but shooting a quick text off to Leo telling him he was on his way home.
“No problem, little dude,” Casey said. “I’ll see ya around,” he called after Mikey as the orange-banded turtle took off over the buildings, heading for home. Mikey was a little disappointed that in the end he hadn’t been able to talk about what Leo had said, however, the young turtle decided that that was okay, because he had gotten a new friend tonight. Someone who understood what he was going through, without him having to put it into words.
Making it to the nearest manhole cover, Mikey dropped down into the sewers and headed for home. He was dreading how much trouble he was going to be in for leaving and not telling anyone, but it had been worth it.
Mikey already knew that Leo was going to be waiting for him when he returned, he had half expected Splinter to be waiting as well. He wasn’t sure how to feel when he saw that it was just Leo.
“Uh… Hey,” Mikey greeted, forcing a smile.
“Where were you, Mikey?” Leo asked.
“I… I had to clear my head,” Mikey said, which was technically true.
“You left without telling anyone,” Leo said disapprovingly, though Mikey knew that Leo had most likely just been worried about him. After all Mikey wasn’t the one who usually vanished from his bed in the middle of the night, that was more like something Raph would do.
“I’m sorry,” Mikey said. “I just, I had a lot to think about, and… I needed some fresh air,” Mikey admitted.
“You went topside?” Leo asked, and Mikey nodded slowly in confirmation. “Mikey, you know that is very dangerous, The Foot are still out there, as well as the Kraang. What if one of them had caught you?”
Mikey lowered his head. “I was super careful, bro,” he said, but he knew that he wasn’t getting out of being lectured.
“That’s not the point,” Leo said, letting out a long sigh he reached out and placed a hand on Mikey’s head. “I was really worried when I found you missing, I thought…” Leo shook his head. “Never mind, just, don’t let this happen again, okay? If you need to go out for some fresh air, at least tell someone where you’re going, next time?”
Mikey nodded. He did feel horrible for sneaking off, and he didn’t want to point out that he wouldn’t have left if Leo hadn’t cornered him earlier that day. “I promise, won’t happen again,” Mikey said, smiling brightly up at Leo, who smiled back. Mikey hurried off toward his room, closing the door behind him and leaning against it.
Leo wanted things to be as they were, he wanted to know that his family was safe from harm. Mikey knew that, though at the same time he also knew that his new friend Casey had also been right; nothing was ever going to be the same as it had been.
“But I can pretend that it is,” Mikey said. He was really good at locking away his anger, he had been doing that since they were really little, and Raph had started having some serious anger issues. Mikey just had to start locking away his pain and fear, go back to being the happy little brother that Leo wanted him to be.