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Fic: Anger, Angst, and Camping

Title: Anger, Angst, and Camping
Disclaimer: The norms
Rating: T
Story Synopsis: Leo and Raph are sent out into the woods to resolve their differences. Much like everything else in their lives, it gets worse before it gets better.

Raph growls as he kicks a rock out of his way. “Why are we even doing this?” He stops and glares over at his brother. “Well, I know why you’re doing this. Splinter told ya to, and here we are, ‘cause ya always do what Splinter says.”

Leo rolls his eyes as he steps over a log. This isn’t even close to the first complaint he’s had the displeasure of listening to since they were given this particular mission. “So what if I do, Raph? Being a good son isn’t a bad thing.”

Raph stops dead as he growls and clenches his fists. “So, that's it, then? Ya don't think I'm a good son.”

Leo shakes his head frantically. He really never meant to imply such a thing, but it’s not as though Leo doesn’t understand why Raph would think that, given the current circumstances. “I…Raph, that isn’t what I meant.”

Raph glares as he starts to put more distance between them. Leo hangs his head, knowing that Raph’s outburst is completely justified. “Screw you, Fearless! I’m done talkin’!”

Leo jogs to catch up to him and grabs him before Raph can get very far. He can’t let this become one more thing that just remains a misunderstanding between the two of them. He won’t let it, especially since the entire reason they were sent here in the first place was to work out their differences…not create more of them. “No, Raph, I really didn’t mean it that way.”

Raph tears himself out of Leo's grip. “Of course, ya didn’t. I’m just too sensitive, right? I just take everything the wrong way, right? I’m always the one at fault, right? I’m always the one with the bad attitude. Well, screw you! Ya didn’t want to do this anymore than I did. I'm just the only one who said anything about it. Ya thought Splinter’s idea to send us out into the middle of the woods, alone to work out our differences was just as idiotic and useless as I did, but ya didn’t say anything, ‘cause ya never say anything.”

Leo sighs heavily. “I didn’t see a reason to, and look, I was right. You threw your tantrum, told Master Splinter exactly how you felt about this, and we’re still here, so what was the point, Raph? What did it accomplish?”

Raph turns abruptly and throws a punch at a nearby tree, Leo’s unsure if the cracking sound he hears is Raph’s knuckles or the tree’s trunk. “Guess I'm just a stupid, tantrum throwing child, Leo! Guess I just shouldn’t bother, right? Well, I can’t, okay? I can’t just stand there and nod my head and go along with everything I disagree with.”

Leo throws up his hands in the air out of frustration. No one knows how to get under his skin quite like Raph. “Then why did you come out here with me in the first place?”

Raph punches the tree for a second time as he leans his head against it. “Because no matter how much you, and everyone else, think I’m a terrible son and a horrible brother, I don’t want to be.” Raph releases a shuddering breath before whispering, “But I can’t change the fact that I am anymore than I can change the fact that I’m a giant green turtle.”

Before Leo can say a word, Raph takes off running, and no matter how much Leo wants to chase after him, he can’t get his feet to move. His legs feel like jelly underneath him, and he’s left watching helplessly as his brother runs from him. It’s just like every other time before, except this time Leo doesn't know if Raph will come back. At this point, Leo isn’t actually sure if it would be better if he did. Every time he opens his mouth around his younger brother, Leo says something that ends up hurting him, and it’s starting to drive him crazy. He wishes that, just once, he could talk to Raph without causing him pain.

Leo sighs heavily, torn between going after Raph and allowing the other turtle some time to himself. However, the longer Leo thinks about it, the more he realizes that, every other time something like this has happened, he’s always let Raph run off on his own. Evidently, none of those previous experiences have worked out well for either of them. As Leo takes off after his brother, he vows that this time will be different…that this time he will get Raph to listen to him and actually hear what he has to say.

Leo’s glad that he’s better at tracking than Raph is at covering his trail. Although, the fact that Raph even thought to do so, leaves Leo wondering if following him is really such a good idea. Leo would have originally thought that Raph would have been too emotionally compromised and distraught to even consider trying to mislead him. However, the fact that he tried, shows Leo exactly how much Raph doesn’t want to be found right now. That said, Leo knows that he can’t let this fester between them like everything else, and not just because it’s the exact opposite of what Master Splinter wanted for them.

It feels like an eternity before Leo finds his brother, and, when he does, Leo still doesn’t know what to say to him. He stares at Raph, who’s currently sitting on the ground, shell against a tree, looking like he’s just had a long intense round of pummeling the trees around him, if his bleeding fists are anything to go by. Leo stands there for a long moment, desperately trying to think of something to say. Raph, it seems, doesn’t have the same problem. “What do ya want, Fearless?”

Leo sighs heavily as he settles down next to his brother. “Why are you always so defensive around me? Why do you always take everything I have to say the wrong way?”

Raph shrugs as he puts some more distance between them. “I dunno, Leo. Guess that’s just what screw-ups do.”

“You’re not a screw-up, Raph.”

Raph scoffs as he gets to his feet. “Try again, Fearless, ‘cause neither one of us actually believes that.”

“Raph…” Leo trails off not really sure what to say as he gets to his feet as well. He’s not certain there’s anything he could possibly do to prove to his brother that he doesn’t feel that way, but Leo knows he better figure something out soon. Raph isn’t exactly known for his patience and the longer Leo flounders, the more convinced Raph will become that Leo agrees with him. Leo just wishes he knew why Raph is the way that he is or how it even started, but he’s spent a long time meditating about this over the years, and he’s never really been able to pinpoint the cause.

It seems as though it’s always been this way...that they’ve always been at odds and Raph has always been the angry, stubborn, and sometimes violent one, but Leo knows that it isn’t true. He knows that there was a time when the two of them were as close as Donnie and Mikey are now. He knows that there was a time when Leo could read Raph like a book, no matter how much Raph tried to hide what he was thinking or feeling, but that was long before Raph started burying all of his emotions under a thick layer of sarcasm, rage, and indignation. Now…now Leo never knows what Raph is thinking or feeling…or why he feels the way that he does, for that matter. He doesn’t understand why Raph seems to think so lowly of himself, but Leo does know that he won’t let it stand any longer.

Before Raph can make a move to bolt, Leo leaps at him and wraps him in a hug, knowing that this might turn into a brawl, if he’s not careful. After all, Raph tends to only indulge Mikey’s antics when he’s this irritated, and, even then, Mikey usually knows when to let Raph be. “You’re my brother. I love you.”

Raph scoffs and tries desperately to pry Leo’s arms off of him, but Leo won’t let him. “Yeah, yeah, you love me. It doesn’t change what I am, though.”

Leo shoves down the pained noise that wants to crawl its way out of his throat and instead tightens his hold on his brother. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change the fact that you’re stubborn, brash, angry, brave, strong, self-sacrificing, and amazing, but it’s still true. It doesn’t change the fact that no matter how many times we fight…no matter how many times we lose our tempers and say things we don’t mean, you’ll always be all of those things, and I’ll always love you for being all of those things.”

Raph stiffens immediately in his arms, although Leo has no way of knowing if it’s due to the strength of the embrace or his words, either way he awaits patiently for Raph’s response. “Alright, alright, you’re getting your sap all over me. Mind backin’ up a bit, bro?”

Leo doesn’t know if he should just take the unspoken forgiveness, release Raph, and insist that the two of them head back to camp or reject the obvious attempt to derail their very real…very honest talk. Leo knows what he would normally do, but the entire reason they were sent out to the woods by the farmhouse in the first place was to settle their differences and do things differently than normal. “No.”

“No?” Leo can tell from the sound of his voice that Raph is raising an eyebrow ridge at him. “What do ya mean ‘no,’ Fearless?”

“I’m not just letting this go. I’m not just letting you go. We’re supposed to deal with our issues, so let’s deal with them.”

Raph releases a heavy sigh. “I wish we were back in the city.”

Leo’s expecting Raph to say a lot of things…most of them not-so-pleasant things. What he isn’t expecting is for Raph to speak so candidly about his homesickness. “Why? Why do you miss it so much?”

Raph shrugs as much as he can with Leo’s grip on him. “Lots of reasons, but, mostly, right now, because if we were back in the city, we’d be on a rooftop and I could jump off of it to get out of this.”

Leo huffs out a breath of annoyance. “You know, for a guy who feels everything so deeply, you sure will do just about anything to get out of talking about your emotions. Why is that?”

“You know,” Raph starts in a very mocking tone, and Leo immediately grits his teeth in an attempt to stave off his growing irritation. “For a guy who tries so damn hard to be unaffected by everything, you sure do take shit personally. Why is that?”

Leo scowls as he tries his hardest not to start another fight, but it’s not as though Raph is making this easy. “I’m serious, Raph. I want to know.”

“Well, damn, Leo, when have I ever been allowed to talk about ‘em?” Raph shifts awkwardly for a moment, and Leo honestly isn’t sure if he’s trying to escape or if he’s just making himself more comfortable. “Short of one of us bein’ in a life threatening situation, my emotions are always met with distain or mocking. I feel guilty and try to apologize -- which is hard enough for me as it is -- and you guys always make me repeat myself until I blow up all over again. Then once that happens, it’s always the same old shit, ‘Control yourself, Raphael!’ ‘Don’t let your anger get the best of you.’ ‘See, you can’t even get through an apology without exploding.’ You guys all act as though I like being this way…like I don’t try to be better, but have any of you ever bothered to find out why I’m angry in the first place? Not to mention, if I try to talk about how I’m feeling the rest of the time, I just get told that I’m whining about how no one understands me, so really, Leo, what do you expect?”

Leo’s eyes widen at his brother’s response. He really didn’t anticipate that Raph would answer him…at least, not until after they got into another huge altercation. Now that he has, however, Leo doesn’t know what to say. He desperately wants to prove his brother wrong and name just one single incident which turned out differently, but Leo can’t think of one. In fact, the longer he attempts to find just one memory where they didn’t just completely ignore and invalidate Raph’s feelings, the more Leo realizes that this has been going on since before Leo was named leader. It just got worse after that. Mostly, because, Raph’s right, Leo does take things personally.

It didn’t used to be this way. In fact, things like Raph disobeying orders, being rebellious, and his general abrasive personality were all just who Raph was, and Leo accepted that. However, once Leo became leader he started seeing those very same qualities that Raph has always exhibited as purposeful slights. Leo never understood why Raph always felt like pushing boundaries and seemed to have no qualms with getting into trouble, but he does know that it wasn’t until Leo took on the responsibility of leader that he started treating those habits as selfish ignorance. It’s then that Leo realizes that Raph may have been completely justified in thinking that they don’t understand him, because Leo certainly doesn’t.

Leo glances over to Raph, trying to catch his eyes, but Raph is staring at the ground and refuses to meet his gaze. “I’m sorry. We really have been awful brothers to you, haven’t we?”

Raph’s head shoots up and he glares at Leo. “For shell’s sake, shut up!”

Leo is taken aback by his brother’s outburst. He doesn’t understand why his simple, sincere apology has received such a harsh reaction. “What? I don’t get it. I mean it. I’m sorry.”

Raph shakes head and looks like he’s trying his best not to smash his head into his brother’s, which Leo is eternally grateful for, due to their close proximity. “You’re not terrible brothers…not in comparison to me. It’s just…we all get caught up in our own stuff sometimes.”

Leo hugs tighter while he still can. “You’re not a terrible brother, either, you know?”

Raph shrugs again, and Leo genuinely considers the merits of staying like this for the whole day. Maybe then Raph will believe him “Yeah, Leo, I know.”

Leo sighs heavily. He doesn’t want to get into another fight…not now, but he can’t just let the very obvious lie go…not when they’ve come so far. “I know you’re lying, Raph.”

Raph smirks, clearly choosing not to take offense to being called a liar, even though Leo isn’t exactly sure why. Perhaps, Raphael has decided he’s dealt with enough emotional drama for one day. “You can’t prove anything. The others might think your omnipotent, but I know better.”

Leo can’t help but laugh at his brother’s ridiculousness. “I don’t think anyone actually believes I’m omnipotent, Raph.”

“Sure, they do. You ever seen the way Mikey and Donnie look at you when you pull off some stupidly crazy ninja move? They both think you can walk on water.”

Leo shakes his head as he laughs again. He’s not the only one their younger brothers stare in awe at frequently. “Well, have you ever seen the way they look at you when you take out a Foot or Kraang bot from seemingly out of nowhere?”

Raph stiffens in his arms for a moment and his voice drops lower. “Yeah, like they’re terrified I’ll turn on them next.”

Leo doesn’t know why Raph believes these things, but he promises that he’s going to work on it, especially once they return home and the other two and Master Splinter can help. “No, they’re so happy and relieved that you’re there and that you protect them. I am as well, you know?”

Raph shrugs, as though it’s meaningless. “Of course, I protect ‘em. It’s what we do.”

Leo can’t keep the smile off of his face as he finally releases Raph. “Exactly, now come on. We should head back to our campsite before it gets too dark. We still need to gather firewood, which I guess we can do along the way.”

Raph rolls his eyes, but Leo doesn’t miss the small smirk on his lips. “Whatever you say, Fearless Leader.” He gestures for Leo to go first. “Just lead the way.”

Leo doesn’t actually believe that things will just magically be better between them now, but it’s a start, which is more than he thought he would get when they originally left the lair together. He smiles happily as they make their way through the trees back to their campsite. This might just turned out to be a good trip, after all.

The End