Blue eyes were narrowed in concentration, the normally cheerful face solemn. Uncertain hands fumbled with the rope they were struggling to tie while another pair of eyes watched, amused.
“You know, Mikey, if I were a Foot ninja, you would be failing terribly at tying me up. There are at least a dozen ways I could’ve gotten out of this hold and disabled you by now.” The tone of Leo’s voice matched his eyes: amused.
“Not helping!” Mikey grunted.
“Look, if you cross that end over… and then feed the tail through the loop….”
“Leo! Stop trying to help me tie you up! I’ve got this!” Mikey was quickly getting irritated with both his fumbling and Leo’s remarks.
Almost faster than he could blink, his older brother had pulled his hands free of the rope and entangled Mikey in it instead.
“It doesn’t look like you have this,” Leo teased his pouty little brother. Mikey smacked his face against the floor in frustration, not moving to get out of the hold Leo had him in.
“Don’t worry, a few more practice sessions and you’ll be good.” The blue-masked leader couldn’t let his brother go without some sort of encouragement.
“No I won’t.” Mikey’s sullen voice was muffled by the fact that he was still face-down on the ground.
“Sure you will! Or at least you’ll be decent enough at it.”
“Huh.” Mikey scoffed. “And what if I don’t want to just be ‘decent enough’? What if I actually want to be good at something for once in my life?”
Shocked by the bitter tones Mikey was using, Leo untied him and turned him over to be met with a defiant glare.
“What do you mean? You’re good at things.” Leo was highly confused by what was happening.
“Like what?” Mikey challenged.
“Well, you kick ass on videogames. You draw really well. You can cook…”
“I mean what useful things am I good at?” the younger turtle interrupted. Leo blinked, caught off guard.
“See? Everything you listed isn’t really helpful. Except cooking, but that’s beside the point. Don invents awesome things, Raph is scary good with all the ninja weapons most of us don’t even know how to use, and you’re Mr. Stealthmaster who can go anywhere without getting caught. And me? I can cook!” By the end of his tirade, Mikey was starting to sound a little hysterical.
Although he was the leader, Leo was still young and inept at dealing with this sort of thing. So he remained silent for a while, trying to figure out what to say. By the time he had sorted through his thoughts, Mikey was again lying on his stomach with his face buried in the crook of his elbow.
“Mikey, everyone has their own strengths. Yours just happen to be more abstract than the rest of us.”
“Bullshit!” Leo didn’t know what shocked him more: the fact that Mikey was angry at him, or the fact that Mikey had just sworn. Before he could sort that out, Mikey was on his feet looking down at Leo with blazing eyes.
“Don’t lie to me! That’s just a fancy way of telling me that no, I’m not good at anything useful! C’mon Leo, I’m not at idiot. Just come out and say what you mean next time.” After the forceful delivery of that speech, Mikey ran out of the dojo.
By the time Leo had collected himself enough to follow him, Mikey was nowhere to be seen. Heaving a sigh, Leo started to search for his little brother. After searching all the typical places, he went to Don’s lab, thinking that Mikey might have hidden in there. Don, however, hadn’t seen the hyperactive turtle since lunch.
“Why do you need him?” he asked curiously.
“He was practicing binding techniques on me, and kind of failing. But when I teased him about it he blew up and said I thought he was no good at anything. Then he took off.” Leo was slightly upset with the way things had gone, and it showed plainly in his face.
“Give him some time to cool down, and then try talking to him,” Don suggested.
“Okay. Guess I have no choice anyway, since I can’t find him.” Leo slowly walked out of the lab so that Don could get back to work.
Since Mikey had run off from their training session, Leo had time to kill. He decided he would challenge Raph to a videogame tournament to kill time. Thankfully, the eldest turtle was pretty sure where he could find his hot-tempered brother.
Sure enough, when he stepped off the elevator into the garage he could hear Raph’s heavy metal music blasting, as well as clatters from whatever he happened to be working on. As Leo walked closer, however, he saw something he hadn’t expected. Raph was sitting cross-legged working on some doo-hicky for his bike. And sitting shell-to-shell with him was Mikey! The youngest turtle had his knees drawn up under his chin and was staring off into nothingness as he talked. Leo snuck a bit closer to hear what was going on.
“…just feel like I’m the weak link, especially when I’m training with Leo. He’s just so freaking perfect at everything! Why can’t I be good at anything?”
“Hey, now! Who says you’re not good at anything?” Raph’s voice was gentler than Leo had ever heard.
“Nobody’s come outright and said it. But I asked Leo, and all he could think of was videogames, drawing, and cooking. I want to be good at something that’s actually useful.”
Raph was silent for a moment as he finished wiping grease off the part in his hand.
“I’ll tell you what you’re good at,” he finally volunteered. “You’re amazing with your nunchucks. You are a master with smoke bombs. But most importantly, you’re good at making us… me… smile. Anytime I’m stressed out or upset I can count on you being an absolutely nutball until I smile. And if you’re that good at making someone as bullheaded as me relax, then you’re good at something useful.”
Leo’s breath caught. He had never heard Raph speak so gently or so meaningfully. Apparently, the hothead got his point across, because a tear rolled down Mikey’s face, followed by many more. When he felt Mikey’s shoulders shaking, Raph turned around to hug his brother close.
“Don’t you ever let someone tell you you’re not good at anything.” He admonished the younger turtle rather fiercely. Then he looked up and his amber eyes met Leo’s, shocking the older turtle. How had Raph known he was there?
Stepping forward, Leo sank to his knees in front of his two youngest brothers.
“Mikey, I’m sorry I acted like that earlier. I know you’re good at a lot of things! Your question just caught me so off guard that I could only think of the most random things.”
Blue eyes peeked out from behind a sea green arm as Mikey answered:
“Thanks, Leo. I just… sometimes I feel like I’m no good. Sorry I took it out on you.”
The blue-masked ninja leaned in to hug his youngest brother. As he was pulling away, he tickled Mikey’s sides, causing a shaky laugh to erupt from the young one’s mouth.
Standing in the doorway, Don smiled. Earlier when Leo asked him about Mikey, he had forgotten to tell him that their baby brother always went to Raph when something was bothering him. But it looks like Leo had figured that out himself. With a small chuckle to himself, Don stepped forward to join the now-escalating tickle war going on.