6. ...And one time he wasn't. (Set after the season 4 episode "Prodigal Son")

The water pumping station felt open and exposed, and Raph didn't like it.

It didn't matter that it was secluded, or that the only way in was through underground tunnels. It was above ground, and even though there were no windows in the part where they lived, for a turtle who was used to living hundreds of feet below the streets, it felt unprotected.

His family had gone to bed hours ago, utterly worn out from injuries and three days with little or no sleep. Leo had brought blankets from the destroyed lair, and Mikey had immediately curled up next to him. Don had followed suit, stretching out nearby with the back of his shell pressed lightly against Leo's arm. Raph had settled next to Don - close, but not touching - and had tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

The sun was high in the sky, baking the aged stone of the treatment plant. Even though it was cool and dark inside, the subtle creaks and clicks of metal and concrete expanding in the heat echoed in the wide chamber. Raph was used to the constant soft trickle and drip of water filling the silence in the Y'Lyntean labyrinth they'd previously called home, but these noises sounded ominous to his ears.

He clenched his teeth on the growl that threatened to escape, rolling to his feet and stalking away. He kept one hand in light contact with the wall as he walked - partly to learn his way around the darkened station by feel, but partly because he was tired and sore and he wasn't completely confident that he could navigate the room without stumbling.

By the time he circled back around to his family, his eyes had adjusted to the dark and he was able to see his brothers' faint silhouettes. The hard knot of tension in his gut uncoiled a little as he saw them sleeping. Even though he, Don, and Mikey worked well enough as a team, missing a brother felt like missing a limb. Leo's return had snapped something back into place within his chest, and he found that could breathe more easily than he had in months.

But it wasn't enough to allow him to sleep.

"Raphael." Splinter's soft whisper cut through the silence. Raph immediately detoured to stand next to him. Don had done his best to provide their father with a bed by layering several blankets on top of each other. Raph was pretty sure Splinter had been sleeping when he'd gotten up to pace, but even though his movements hadn't made a sound, it didn't surprise him that his father had awakened.

"You need somethin', Sensei?"

A clawed hand curled around his wrist and gave him a tug. Raph complied with the silent command, kneeling down next to Splinter.

"Raphael, you have not slept in days," Splinter said. "You need to rest."

Raph's knee-jerk response was usually to sidestep the issue or brush off concerns...but his brothers were asleep and it was just him and Splinter...and he was so tired that he was starting to feel dizzy. "I know," he answered wearily.

"What is wrong?"

"I - I dunno, Sensei," he answered. "I'm glad we're all okay and I'm glad Leo's back...shell, I'm glad he's back," he repeated emphatically. "It's just...after the attack, when I couldn't find you...I looked every night but you guys weren't anywhere. And even though Leo says Karai won't come after us, he can't know that, can he?" His fists clenched again, and he tensed as a fresh wave of anger crashed over him as he remembered how close he had come to losing his family.

"We are safe," Splinter said softly. He was so close that Raphael could feel the soft brush of whiskers against his cheek. "You do not need to stand guard."

"I know," Raph growled.

Splinter shifted back a bit to lean against the wall, then reached out and hooked his hand around Raph's upper arm. "Rest," he said again. "I will keep watch while you sleep."

Raph was too exhausted to resist. He allowed Splinter to gently pull him forward until he was stretched out on his stomach with his head resting on his father's blanket-covered lap. His pulse throbbed in his temples and the pumping station clicked and groaned around him. But he could feel Splinter's steady breathing and his father's gentle hand on his aching head. He closed his eyes.


Splinter draped a fold of his blanket over Raphael as he settled. It wasn't long before he relaxed and grew heavy, finally dropping off to sleep. Splinter was tired as well, but now that he had promised to keep watch - even though there was no need - he knew he would not be able to sleep.

His son sighed in his sleep, and his arms moved up to wrap around Splinter's waist, snuggling close in a way he would never do if he were aware of his actions. Raphael dwarfed him, curled up against him that way, but despite the weight and warmth and the blunt rim of a scuffed shell pressing against his ribs, Splinter just smiled.