Again, I saw "wow" because I never expected such positive reviews. My depth of TMNT knowledge is lacking at best, knowing mostly the basics so I know I'll have some mistakes. For one thing, spelling the turtle's nicknames. I always thought of "Donnie" instead of "Donny" but I was browsing the ninjaturtles dot com site and, in "The King" episode review, I think they used the spelling of "Donny" so I stuck with that for this fic. Plus goes nicely with "Mikey" :)

I missed "Sons of the Silent Age" due to baseball...CURSE YOU BASEBALL! er...ehem. But yeah, I guess I was...partially right about the root of Leo's angst? Though I think there is more to it then what he described...or what I read from spoilers of this ep.

Just to clarify, though I'll try to consider cannon info as the new eps air, I'm still gonna try and stick to the original, sketched out plot I had at the time I conceived it. So... I guess this is an AU piece :) Speaking of which, I have no idea of temporal passage in the TMNT2003 universe.

Anyways, Ch.3 takes place chronologically after Ch.1 Also this chapter is so obviously not beta read XP


Step Three

Today

Splinter was not happy at all.

Leonardo and Raphael kneeled in front of their master, both on edge at what just transpired. Neither had ever in the entire lives had seen their placid Donny lash out like that. Raph's mind began to wander into an idea that all these years setting an example as the brute of the family may have rubbed off more than he realized.

The bruise showing its colours on his cheek would remind Leo for days of that punch. He felt like an alarm had set off with that hit. He was still haunted to be the unshakable foundation to his family, but the physical manifestation of his harsh approach made him be aware that it may be a little too destructive. But it was a necessary evil. Absently he reached over his shoulder to the missing piece of shell.

A very necessary evil.

Splinter finally settled down on his knees. His voice was even, though there was a trace of fatigue. It would be up to his sons to realize if he was tired from interrupted sleep, or from the same old game played over and over. "Do you know why you are here?"

"Yes, Sensei." Both turtles announced in chorus.

"Do you know what I am going to say?"

"Yes, Sensei." Again they answered together.

Even when faced with punishment, Splinter observed these two were very much alike—which also meant both were much too stubborn. He was, quite frankly, getting too old for this kind of childish reprimand. So this time he tried a different approach, "Then there is little to talk about on this matter."

Leo looked up at his master. The strict teacher was still there, yet it was not being acted upon. That was not a good sign.

"That's it?" Raph thought he misheard Splinter, but when nothing else left the rat's lips he couldn't help but feel they were in a lot more serious trouble that he realized. But then, he didn't even know exactly why he was in trouble. The fight wasn't any different from previous ones when it was between him and Leo.

Splinter's whisker's twitched and his ears perked as if he was insulted by the question. "Did you expect more, Raphael? Because I have certainly expected more from you two."

"I'm sorry, Sensei," Leo started, though humility seemed lost in his gruff voice, "It was my fault that our fight escalated. I was only trying to—"

The master did not let him finish, "You know what you did wrong. Do well to think about the possible outcomes to your surroundings when you two decide to fight again in the future. You may go." Splinter closed his eyes, missing the wide-eyed faces of his pupils. He did not mean to ignore them, but it may be the method to instigate critical thinking of consequences for young turtles.

Moments passing, the teacher's ears picked up the sound of rustling, two figures standing up and heading for the door. He should let them go to contemplate, and to contemplate on his own. However, although the superficial Raphael-Leonardo conflict may have been addressed, the root cause for the latest conflict was not. Splinter inwardly sighed. He could either wait until his most dedicated student decided to come to him for counsel, or the more probable scenario, Leo would feel the burden was on him and him alone.

Fortunately for Leo, Splinter wanted to at least try. "Raphael, tell Donatello to come to my room when he is ready. Leonardo, a word with you."

Raph looked over his shoulder to glimpse of his master before departing, but all he got was a view of Leo's eyes looking onto his from behind. He could feel frustration rolling off of his blue-banded brother, something that was constantly present nowadays. Eventually he cut eye contact and stepped out the door, heading for Don's room.

Leo turned back to his Sensei and kneeled on the same mat as before, "Yes, Master Splinter.

The old rat studied his student, hoping to find something soft behind the hardened exterior. For a moment while he witnessed the argument earlier, he thought he had a glimpse of Leonardo's real intention and feelings. There was only one way to test his hypothesis, "Since our victory over the Shredder, you have changed, my son. I am beginning to think I have come to an understanding of that change."

There was no response from the turtle. His eyes were cast down as if ashamed of what the master had discovered.

Splinter continued on, "Do you think that a soldier is the best answer to all our problems? That a soldier is worth sacrificing a brother and son for?"

Leo looked up with a shrivelled brow. The phrasing rang true yet why did it sound deplorable hearing it from the outside? It wasn't his end goal, but if it meant that sacrifice to protect his family then it is well worth the cost. It's his role as leader, a protector. "Master Splinter, it is something that I must prepare myself for. We could have lost everything if not for intervention from the Utroms... No, we've already lost much. We don't even know if Leatherhead is still alive. Now, add to the fact Bishop is getting more aggressive and Hun turning the Purple Dragons into actual formidable combatants… I…We all must be prepared."

The master ninja did not like the aggressive tone, "We are as much prepared as we can be. There is always room for improvement, but we must take care to not let it be in the expense of family."

"Then it is not enough." Leonardo shook his head, unsatisfied with the sentimental reasoning. The cost far outweighed that kind method. How can there be a family to worry about when it can be wiped out by a wrong decision or a delayed reaction in their dangerous lives? "Sensei, the illusions we have experienced at the hands of the Foot Mystics were effective in manipulating us because the things we experienced could very well happen one day." He strained himself to not raise his voice, "We are much too vulnerable."

"I agree, Leonardo," the rat answered mildly. He let the tone from his disciple slide. "The dangers do seem to have intensified since returning home and we are more vulnerable than we thought."

"Then why do you question my approach, Sensei? We need to be pushed to improve—"

"My son," Splinter interrupted with a sigh, "do you not realize what truly transpired out there with your brothers?"

An almost confused look contorted the turtle's visage, "We always get into fights. It's nothing new."

Splinter shook his head; perhaps one must be on the outside to see what was going on in the inside. "I see you that you do not. Your sincerity in protecting your family is commendable, but in your thirst for control, you have lost sight of the very family you would die to defend."

Leonardo felt like the wind was knocked out of him. How could his master, his father, say that? The very reason he is taking this route was because of family. Always has been, only stronger now. "You don't understand, Sensei. I'm doing this for them, for you! It's not about control at all!"

Lowering his head as if to collect his thoughts, the old rat softened his composure, "Are you absolutely sure about that, Leonardo?"

The turtle's hands balled into fists, laying them securely on his lap. His body language equalled the strength in his next words, "I'm doing this for you all. There is no doubt in my mind about that."

The sincerity in his conviction left little doubt that Leo believed those words, but Master Splinter was worried if that belief was misplaced, "That bruise says otherwise, my son."

"This…" Leo touch the tender cheek, a part of him still thinking it was half a joke that Don had hit him. "This was a mistake. I see that I have to…be more cautious in my approach, but the message is still the same." He ignored the sting from the opened cut in his mouth.

Splinter stroked the tip of his beard, whiskers twitching this way and that. It was apparent that stubbornness increases with age—as he should know. As if his eldest son hasn't changed enough already, the past days had lead to an acceleration of whatever evolution Leo was taking. Too many nights Leo had gone off on his own in the middle of the night, often without telling anyone where he was going. Things were shifting, and it was not isolated to the turtle swordsman.

Donatello seemed more withdrawn than usual as of late, Michelangelo had avoided eye contact with the rat on more than one occasion. Stranger still, Raphael, who made a name in trouble-making, seemed the most content out of them all in comparison. Granted he may get agitated easily as ever, but there was nothing peculiar about his demeanour.

Perhaps their most recent skirmish with the Foot Mystics is what is causing the harmony of the four to shift. An old wound reopened as it were.

"Leonardo," Splinter waited until his son faced him directly, "if there is something bothering you, I am here to listen and give advice if you so desire." He resisted making it a command, reminiscing how easier it was to get away with it when his students were children.

"There is nothing the matter, Master Splinter," Leo replied evenly.

But his Sensei was not convinced. "If I may ask, my son, what do you hope to accomplish by going topside alone regularly?"

Leo paused, contemplating an answer that would satisfy Splinter though none seem to bring the cessation of twenty questions. And he did hate lying to his master, even in times when it may have been called for, so he motioned to tell one truth out of many. "Before it was just to be on my own and collect my thoughts. Nowadays, I think the night air helps me sleep better."

Splinter raised an eyebrow, "If you are having trouble sleeping, my son, there is some herbal tea and meditation that can help induce it." The case of insomnia could explain some of the turtle leader's behaviour.

"I've tried, Sensei. But I prefer to use my method."

It was clear Leo did not want to press any further, but Splinter would have none of it. He had been tolerant long enough. Sensing there was something the turtle was not mentioning, the rat fished it out, "Are dreams troubling you, Leonardo?"

oooooo

While Raph and Leo were called before Splinter, Mike made his way to Don's room. Something urged him to check on his older brother, seeing it likely that Donny wouldn't go to him or others so easily when in personal trouble. Something the brainiac and teacher's pet had in common.

Remembering the appalled look on his brother's face after the punch, he lightly knocked on the door as to not startle his brother. When no answer came, he tried the vocal approach, "Hey Donny? Can I come in?"

Not a ghost of a sound could be heard from the other side and Mikey began to wonder if Don snuck out of the lair or maybe asleep. He raised his hand to knock one more time when finally, a muffled voice answered, "Come on in, Mikey."

Michelangelo slipped into the room and notice that there was little to no light in the room, except for the faint glow of the computer screen. Faintly he could make out his brother's shape from the glow bouncing off him.

Don sat in front of the computer, hands poised over the keyboard but unmoving. Mike flipped on the light switch to illuminate the room before he walked closer to the other turtle. He noticed the computer screen displayed just the desktop, no typing program or window that would call for typing. Eyes shifting to read his brother's face, he noticed the purple mask rested around Don's neck. And with more looking, Mikey discovered panda eyes from the apparent lack of sleep. "Hey bro, you um…ok?"

Don didn't move for a long while, but eventually he slowly shook his head, "I can't believe I did that. I'll never understand how lashing out helps Raph calm down…"

Mikey smiled; Don was sounding like himself all right and talking back. For a long minute he thought he would get the silent treatment after being invited in. "Dude, he's had years of training that particular technique. Gotta admit, I didn't know you had it in ya. Good thing I didn't place a bet on Raph."

"It's not funny, Mikey," Don eyed the smirk from the corner of the younger turtle's eye, "What I did was wrong and… oh man I actually punched Leo. I can't believe it." He promptly followed that sigh with putting his face in his hands.

The youngest turtle tipped his head. "Aw c'mon, Donny, it's not the end of the world." Sure it was uncommon for his bigger brother to attack unprovoked—physically anyway—and seeing that sudden spark in Don was perplexing at best. It was kind of cool to see that his bro would dish out the first punch, but weird at the same time. Was everyone turning into a Raphael? "To tell the truth, I'm glad one of us got to shut Leo up. He's been really crabby lately…I mean even more so."

Donatello sighed and slipped on his mask over his eyes, "Maybe, but that's no excuse to punch him like that."

"Well, knocking Leo flat on his butt in front of Master Splinter might not have been such a hot idea," Mikey joked with a grin. He pulled up a spare chair from the wall and rolled it next to his bro. Turning the chair around, he sat while resting his chin on his arms on the backrest of the chair.

Donny had to groan, "Thanks for reminding me. I don't know why Sensei hasn't berated me yet."

"Nah, this is your first offence. Raph and Leo? They could probably collect air miles for going into Splinter's so many times. I swear something real nasty is gonna happen between those two someday."

Months before, Don would have agreed with that statement, but a memory of the distant future swayed that opinion to the polar opposite. "I don't think it'll get that far, Mikey. Though…yeah, they could use some space from each other but…" Future Raph's call out for the fallen Leo echoed in his head, "They may get at each other's throats, but in the end, I have no doubt that those two love each other."

The smile he saw on his brother's face made him think what the inside joke was, but dwelling on Don's remark, Mike had to agree. There was always something there in that relationship that stood the test of hardship they created themselves. "Heh, yeah, guess you're right. At least it's entertaining," Mikey added with another playful smirk.

And that would leave Michelangelo and Donatello to have a bond, though neither could place a definitive word for it. Don was gracious enough to humour him most times, and Mike developed a sense of when not to bother his brother when he was working. The inventor wouldn't complain much if he was annoyed as he held back his frustration with his active sibling most of the time. Mikey thought it best to just let him have his quiet time, a sort of thanks for putting up with him. The orange-banded turtle knew he could be annoying to his brothers—that was half the fun after all.

Don would overwork numerous times. The most recent notable being when he was searching for the cure to Quarry and the others down underground. Remembering the bags under Donny's eyes just before, Mike assumed that he must be working on something new, and probably important, "The guys'll probably be in there for a while. Why not catch a snooze before Sensei calls you? You look pretty tired."

At the mention of sleep, Donny inadvertently yawned. He almost cringed at giving himself blatantly away, "Is it that obvious?"

"Well, yeah," Mikey answered with a shrug, "Besides the yawn, those dark rings under your eyes gave it away. And I thought I was the only one having trouble getting some shut eye."

Don blinked, "You too?"

"Yo, Donny!"

Raphael hollered behind the door, not bothering to knock but not imposing another's privacy either.

"You bellowed?" Don answered.

Raph took the response as an invitation and stepped inside, "Splinter wants to see ya."

"Already?" The surprise in Mikey's voice matched Don's look, "He let you guys off easy?"

The oldest sibling in the room shrugged, "Guess he got tired of nagging at us." He walked in towards the other two and opted to just lean on the computer desk. His own version of a mischievous smirk that looked menacing no matter the subject matter splashed his beak, "Gotta say Donny, that was one mean right hook."

"At least some of us enjoyed it." Don's sarcasm only served to fuel Raph's smirk to grow wider. Shaking his head at his hot-headed brother's obvious amusement, Don stood up and headed for the door. He stopped at the doorway, turning to the two left in his room, "Can't believe I actually hit Leo… I'm not going to live this down for a while, am I?"

"Hell no." Raphael responded with energy to rival Mikey's.

Don rolled his eyes, "Figures."

As he watched his brother's retreating figure, the question that was on Raph's mind was nagging for release. "Hey Donny, you ok?"

Don stopped and turned his head over his shoulder. It was a surprise question considering the source. "Uh, yeah. Just got up on the wrong side of bed, I guess." With a shrug, he left for Splinter's room.

Raph turned to his younger brother, "Now there's an understatement."

Mikey nodded in agreement.

Donatello's guilt had set the punch incident on repeat in his head. Sooner or later, he'd have to face Leonardo and apologize, even though the blue-banded turtle had gone out of line on his part too. "Two wrongs do not make a right," Splinter always said.

Oh right, Splinter.

The genius rubbed his face. Half of him expected his master's punishments he would give to Raph or Leo when fights escalate into physical outbursts, a kind of procedure. The other half honestly didn't know how the rat would react. After all, even Don himself didn't know how to deal with the actions he never thought he'd use on his family.

"One failure at a time, Donny," he muttered to himself as he stopped in front of Splinter's door. First he'll deal with Sensei's punishments, and then he can get to apologizing to Leo. One step at a— "Leo!"

Leonardo opened the door before Don had a chance to grip the handle. He wasn't exactly sure what his face looked like at the moment, but Donny's looked like the classic "deer caught in headlights" look.

In their own ways, the two were not expecting to meet each other so soon, and would have likely been dragged on unless a third party named Splinter intervened. But here they were, fate wanting a bit of amusement from their uncomfortable meeting.

Staring at each other was not something Don wanted to do, and with the tension mounting, he blurted whatever was floating in his currently absent-minded head with eyes cast down, "Leo, I… um… I'm… I'm sorry for hitting you! I don't know what came over me and I really shouldn't have done that but it was just so spontaneous and I guess I wasn't thinking at all…well obviously I wasn't to do something like that and I won't do it again—"

"Don," Leo called out softly through the rambling but the other didn't stop. Sighing, he gently but firmly squeezed his brother's shoulder and put a little bit of force into his tone, "Donny, calm down."

That finally put a cork on the paler turtle's beak. Eventually Don raised his vision to see Leo, and was caught off guard by what greeted him. Though the average person wouldn't notice it, the Fearless Leader was wearing the faintest of smiles. It wasn't much, but compared to the constant grimace he seemed to sport nowadays, it was a good sign.

"I should be the one apologizing, Donny," Leo continued, "I shouldn't have gone off on you like that. My frustration got the better of me."

Don managed to have a sheepish grin of his own, relieved to hear his brother wasn't angry at him. Well, he hoped everything was truly forgiven and not all for show. Leo wouldn't do that, right? "But Leo, whatever you say, I shouldn't have hit you. Not against words…"

"It's all right. Tumbling with Raph all the time has given me a thicker set of skin. Don't worry." Leo's faint smile didn't falter.

From staring at the smile too long, Don noticed the large purple bruise on Leo's cheek. Ouch. "You, um, should have some ice on that before it gets anymore swollen. I'll go get you some."

The hand still on Donny's shoulder prevented him from turning around. The touch and pressure was nothing aggressive, rather reminiscent of how Leo gave reassurance to his brothers in times of worry. Don had to return the smile; it was comforting to know that his leader and brother hadn't lost some gentleness in his change.

"I'll get that icepack. Master Splinter is waiting for you." One pat and Leo walked around his brother and walked towards the kitchen for those ice cubes.

Feeling some weight off his shoulders, Donatello entered into his master's room.

"Donatello," Splinter gestured for the turtle to sit.

Before the old teacher opened his mouth again, Donatello's anxiousness got the better of him, "Master Splinter, I apologize for my actions back there. I don't know what came over me and oh man, I can't believe I hit Leo and in front of everyone too! Not that I'd hit him, or anyone, if there was no one around but—"

"Enough, Donatello. I accept your apology, as Leo seems to have accepted yours." Splinter almost chuckled at the expression of "how?" was written all over his son's face. "These ears have instincts of their own; they cannot help but hear as we cannot help but breathe. But, for the subject at hand, I can see that you are sincerely sorry for your action."

The turtle nodded frantically. He felt like a five year old again.

Splinter continued on, "I have considered what you have confided in me in the past. Am I correct to assume Leonardo's words had personally cut deep to elicit such response?"

Rubbing the back of his neck, Donny was hesitant to answer, "I guess so… I mean, it's not his fault exactly since I've never talked to him about what happened in the future fight with the Shredder. Not that...I walked right up to them and talked to the rest of the guys." Don tried not to notice the look of impatience on his master's face. He had months to tell his brothers after all. "I thought I didn't need to as the nightmares waned. But… But recently…"

He waited for his son to continue, but Splinter decided to coax him since he did not, "What is it?"

"I guess… I guess I was more agitated because I've been having the dreams again...sorta."

Splinter raised a bushy eyebrow, using the correct pronunciation, "Sort of?"

Donatello nodded though unable to describe the dreams even to himself, "It's the same, yet different."

oooooo

The click of Master Splinter's door shutting after Donatello entered echoed to the kitchen. Hearing the secured sound, Leonardo popped his head out of the open archway of the kitchen and scanned the lair. There was no one in sight. He hadn't bothered to put ice on his cheek, or even attempt to.

With one final scan of his home, Leo walked out down towards the lair's exit.

Leo, close to the exit, failed to hear another click of a door, this time, a door that was opening. Mikey and Raph emerged from Don's room thinking of maybe sparring to let the hot-headed turtle lose extra steam. They saw the tip of a blue head band slip through the lair door.

"Looks like another nightly run." Mikey suggested.

Raph kept his eyes on the exit, arms crossed, "Yeah." Without an excuse, Raphael headed for the latch door too.

"Hey I thought we have a match!"

"We'll do it when I get back."

If tonight was any indication, Michelangelo thought that Raph and Leo alone together with unresolved issues was the last thing that should be happening, "Um, Leo probably wants to be alone you know…"

"Definitely." Not bothering to turn to his brother to answer, Raph left the lair.

Mikey sighed and decided to spend the night in front of the TV on the comfy couch with a bag of chips.

And maybe have the first aid kit ready at an arm's reach.


This was rushed, especially my half-assed proofreading part. I'm going to attend a new school this week and it will demand a significant amount of my time. Hence, I wanted this out before the first day of class. Also there's the Teen Titans fic that I want to continue so updates for this story will slow down.

pacphys: If you'd like to beta read these and upcoming chapters, I wouldn't mind at all. Actually, I'm delighted that you offered :) I'm just all shy with my stories and will often go "OMG THIS SO STUPID PLOTZ SCREW IT" every time. Add the fact I have little faith in my writing skills and I'm not a pretty author. And I've checked out the site you recommended. I might be joining up someday when I have actually something worth contributing XP

A big thank you too all the reviewers. It is a joy to read them and the encouragement really helps :)

Since the update will likely be delayed, I'll just hint that next chapter will take place in the SAINW future. A sort of missing scene I guess.

-Art of Silence

Added um...5min after uploading:Forgot to mention, Don is my fave turtle, and it'll be obvious that I am biased towards him. But I'm not going to neglect the other three :) So no worries about that folks. When I write fanfiction, I usually end up writing almost equally for all the main characters in a show, with my fave character a smidge ahead.

And about the "prodigal/prodical" thing: You're right. Actually, I thought I typed it a couple of times and I found one of them at the first proofreading but couldn't for the life of me find the 2nd so I just said "forget it!" and uploaded anyways. I found too late the meaning behind "prodical." Aside from being close in spelling to "prodigy", I think it was watching too much Digimon years ago that made me think it was a good word. You know, Izzy kept on spewing "Prodigious!" a lot when something good happened. Moral of the story? Know your words before you use them.