002. Smile

"Come on, Raph! You have to! It's the rules!"

"What rules!? You just made that up, Leo!"

"But Raphieeee," Mikey whined, threatening to cry, "It's our very first one! Yer gonna ruin it!"

"See? Now you made Mikey cry." Leo pouted.

"Mikey cries at everything," Raph grumbled, "He just does it for attention."

Leo scowled and kicked Raph in the shin. Raph growled in reply, and readied his tiny fist to retaliate.

"Leonardo," Splinter's voice boomed, "Shame on you. Apologize to your brother."

Leo hung his head.

"Sorry, sensei. Sorry, Raphie."

"Hmph." Raph stuck his tongue out at Leo.

"Raphael - Donatello was kind enough to repair this camera for us. Don't you want to smile for the picture?"

"No."

"You're so mean, Raphie!" Mikey pouted.

"It's okay," Donnie said, smiling shyly, "He doesn't have to."

Raph gave his brother the ghost of a grin, in gratitude.

"Very well," Splinter said, readying the camera, "Everyone bunch together."

"Oo! Let's make it a silly face picture instead!" Mikey piped up, "That way Raphie doesn't have to smile."

"Hm…a silly face picture," Splinter replied, thoughtfully, "You mean like…this?!"

In an instant, he pursed his lips, stuck out his tongue, scrunched up his rat nose so his whiskers pointed at strange angles, and crossed his eyes. For a moment, there was only silent shock, and then peals of laughter erupted from all four of his sons - right at the exact moment the flash went off.

"Hey!" Raphie said, his mouth opening in shock, "You cheated!"

"I have no idea what you are talking about," Splinter smirked.

Raphael traced his fingers across the edges of the faded polaroid, taped in the album. He didn't know if he'd ever smile again.

"Hey," Leo said, gently, poking his head into Splinter's room and snapping Raph out of his reverie, "I saw the light. You okay?"

"Hmm? Yeah. Just…couldn't sleep."

Leo walked over and looked over Raph's shoulder, the picture jogging his memory as well.

"Heh. You never did like to smile for pictures."

"Yeah. I guess…he…he could always make me, though," Raph said thickly, a lump rising in his throat, "Smile, I mean."

Leo sighed, and kneeling behind him, wrapped his arms around Raph, resting his chin on his shoulder. Raph didn't return the gesture - but he didn't push him away.

"I miss him already," he admitted, in a strangled voice.

"I know," Leo sighed, "Turn. We can look together."

Raph brusquely wiped his eyes, and turned the page. Both he and Leo chuckled at the same time.

"Halloween."

"Heh. I forgot about the Mickey ears."

Huh. Look at that.

Still making me smile when I don't want to.

"Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That's the time you must keep on trying

Smile: What's the use of crying?

You'll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile."

- Charlie Chaplin, John Turner, and Geoffrey Parsons, "Smile."

There is now beautiful fanart for this installment, created by Tumblr user h0w-d0-y0u-d0-fell0w-kids!

h0w-d0-y0u-d0-fell0w-kids dot tumblr dot com / post / 158207933419 / firebirdscratches-smile-for-the-camera