When Casey ran into the lair this evening, with his usual enthusiasm and lack of discretion, he wasn't expecting to be hushed by Michelangelo of all turtles.
Casey stopped abruptly to look at the orange-clad turtle. Michelangelo looked unusually serious, as if he was ready to knock some sense into Casey's skull by strength if he had to. Casey blinked, trying to register what was happening.
"Uh, Mikey? Are you alright?"
Michelangelo crossed his arms and watched him sternly.
"Leo is sick," he said, as if it was a death sentence.
Michelangelo shrugged. "He caught a bug or something like that. Dad says he'll get better on his own and all we can do is wait."
Casey couldn't help noticing that it was the first time he heard one of the turtles refer to their father as 'Dad'.
"I'm sorry about that," he said sincerely. "Being sick isn't fun." He smacked his tongue. "Can you tell Raph I want to see him? I hoped we would hang out tonight. He's not sick too, is he?"
Michelangelo looked at him with an odd expression.
"No, he's not," he answered reluctantly.
Without another word, the ninja left the room, leaving Casey blinking at his sudden disappearance.
A few seconds later, Michelangelo was back with a grumpy-looking Raphael. Casey grinned.
The words had apparently been said too loud for Michelangelo, who glared at him.
"Creepy," Casey whispered. He put an arm around Raphael's shoulders, certain that his friend would leap at the chance to leave the place. "Let's get out of here. The lair must be boring the shell out of you if Mikey is telling everybody to shut up, right?"
Raphael laughed nervously. "Yeah, right," he whispered back, taking Casey's arm and letting it drop. "You know, uh…" Raphael was hesitating, and Casey raised an eyebrow. "I…"
Casey threw his arms up. "Come on, Raph, where is your enthusiasm? Your passion? Your fire? Look what my father gave me." He took an instant camera out of his pocket. "We can spend the rest of the night beating up bad guys, then body-painting them and taking pictures of our work, what do you say?"
He pushed a button and the camera instantly printed a picture of a surprised Raphael, with Michelangelo glaring in the background. When Casey raised his head, the orange-clad turtle had disappeared again.
"Guys, good news, his fewer has come down, and… Oh, hi, Casey."
Donatello's voice couldn't have sounded less welcoming if he had tried. Casey glared at the turtle who had just burst out of the hallway leading to the brothers' rooms.
"Oh, hi, Donnie," he answered, mocking his rival's tone. "Nice to see you here."
After all, he too could be a master of irony.
"Well, you know, I live in this lair," Donatello replied mockingly.
Casey stuck his tongue out at him.
Raphael rubbed his hands, obviously embarrassed.
"It's not that I don't want to come with you, Casey, but you see, uh…" He looked left, then right, as if looking for inspiration. "I promised Donnie I was going to help him with his latest invention. It's a bit heavy for just one turtle - you know Donnie when he goes overboard…"
Casey didn't, not really, but he nodded nonetheless.
"It's no problem at all," Donatello replied in a stiff tone. "We can do that later. Go have fun with your friend."
"Besides… besides," Raphael went on, glaring at his brother, "I'm kind of…grounded. Yeah, that's it."
Casey's face fell.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Raph. What did you do?"
"I…uh…" Raphael tapped his fists together. "I pushed… Mikey… during training. Because he was annoying. And before you ask, I'm not allowed to watch TV or play video games, either. Sorry."
"Alright, then. Uh…." Casey swayed on his tiptoes. "I should better go, I guess."
"See you later, Casey." Donnie's tone was ice-cold.
"See you later, Donnie." Casey too could play the iceman. "Bye, Raph."
"Sorry, Casey," Raphael told him, grinning sheepishly. "Next time for sure!"
Casey nodded and turned around to leave the lair. When he looked back right before jumping the turnstiles, he saw Raphael and Donatello watching him like two green hawks. He raised his eyebrows and waved at them.
He wasn't even ten feet away from the lair's entrance when he decided to go back. This time, he was careful to be as stealthy as he could. There was nobody left in the living room, and Casey decided to check the turtles' rooms. Leonardo's door was open. Tiptoeing, he came closer and peered inside.
Raphael was sitting on Leonardo's bed, his shell against the wall and his brother's head on his lap. He was stroking Leonardo's cheek with one hand while the other rested on his brother's shoulder. Leonardo was asleep and looked way paler than usual. Michelangelo was lying on his brother's shell as if he didn't trust the blankets to give him enough warmth, and Donatello was sitting on the other side of the bed, wrapping something around Leonardo's arm and probably trying to break the world record for the number of vital signs you could monitor with one pocket-sized device.
Casey felt the corners of his mouth go irresistibly up.
"Aww, Raph, it's so sweet! You could have told me that you would rather play the nurse than hang out with me!"
Raphael's head snapped upwards and his eyes narrowed to white slits. Casey couldn't help feeling a tiny bit scared. When Raphael realized who it was, however, his expression shifted from one of threat to another one of threat - although he also blushed hard.
Casey took a picture with his instant camera. This blackmail material would last him years. It was totally worth the death glares he was being given by the three brothers right now - Leonardo had failed to register the newcomer's entrance.
Raphael shifted slightly, ready to jump down Casey's throat - no problem, Casey was ready for that - when Leonardo moaned and put an arm around his brother's waist.
Raphael froze and focused back on the turtle on his lap. When he was convinced that Leonardo wouldn't wake up, he raised his head towards the intruder.
You're going to regret this, he mouthed to Casey, as his arms slid protectively around Leonardo's head.
Casey winked at him and ran away. He was certain than at least one of the brothers would chase him, but apparently, not disturbing Leonardo was a higher priority. Casey wondered if the sick leader was still able to tell whether his brothers were by his side or not. His own little sister became all clingy when she was sick, but he hadn't expected Leonardo to be the same. He chuckled to himself.
"My sons hate it when one of them isn't feeling well. For all their differences, sometimes they react as one body."
He rested his hand on his heart, only half-exaggerating his fright. It had only been a few weeks since he had met the giant rat, and he wasn't at ease with him yet.
"They used to cling to each other all the time when they were children. It changed as they grew older, but they still do it on rare occasions." Splinter gave a fond chuckle. Then he looked sternly at the teenage boy. "And you've just witnessed one of them."
"I didn't want to intrude or anything," Casey said, embarrassed.
"I'm sure you didn't want to." Splinter nodded. "As I'm sure you won't try to take advantage of what you've seen." He noticed the picture in Casey's hand and bent over to look at it. "What is this?"
"Uh… Blackmail material?" Casey grinned sheepishly. "Not that I intended to use it against Raph or anything."
Splinter raised an eyebrow and Casey bowed his head in shame.
"Why don't you give me this blackmail material?" the ninja master suggested.
Despite the gentle tone, it was an order and Casey knew it. Sighing, he handed over the picture. He half-expected Splinter to tear it up on the spot, but the ninja master carefully slid it in his robe.
"Good night, Mister Jones. If you come back in a few days, Raphael will probably be more willing to… bust heads… with you."
Casey nodded. He had been dismissed, and he could only wish Splinter a good night and leave. He made a note of the 'few days' - it was probably the time Raphael would need to stop being mad at him. Casey sighed. For a minute, he had owned the best blackmail material ever.
At least he still had the memory.
Perking up at the thought, Casey prepared to jump the turnstiles for the fourth time this night when his nose began to tickle him. As he sneezed multiple times - maybe his father had been right and he should have put on a coat - an impish idea came to him. An idea he had to voice.
"Hey Raph, I think I caught a cold!" he shouted towards the rooms. "Wanna be my nurse? Ouch!"
He wouldn't have guessed that a cushion thrown by a ninja master could hit so hard.