Sleeping Alone

by KC

Disclaimer: Ninja Turtles belong to someone else. Not me.

Summary: A slash drabble. I wasn't able to do lemons, the whole turtle thing still freaks me out a bit and I just can't do it. But plenty of innuendo and implications. You could take this as a story of brotherly love or brotherly love.

Leonardo has no bed. In the largest upper room (Mike measured all of them) he has bookshelves, weapons displays, paper lanterns and a couple of low tables with one or two scrolls he borrows from his master. A thin mat covers part of the floor. He practices alone there, meditates or reads. When he sleeps in his room, he sits cross-legged on the mat with his back against the wall and his swords across his lap. But he does not like his room when the lights go out. The emptiness and the darkness swallow him, so he rarely sleeps there.

He also rarely sleeps alone. Occasionally he sleeps on the couch downstairs, listening to the water drift by, but mostly he shares a bed with one of his brothers, whoever needs him that night. He misses the early days when they all shared a single bed on the floor, when he and Raphael were still close, before machines lured Donatello away and before Mike hid his sorrow with laughter. When his role as eldest didn't take him away and cut him off from his brothers forever.

His brothers don't sleep on the floor anymore. Raphael strung a hammock up in his room and Donatello built bunk beds for himself and Michelangelo. They handle the darkness much better than he usually does. After training and fighting in the dark for so long, Leonardo can't sit at night without imagining what might be lurking in the deep shadows. A leaky faucet downstairs becomes soft footsteps that never come closer but never disappear. The stream, indistinct whispers.

So when the lights go off and Splinter disappears into his own room, Leonardo waits a few minutes before getting up and standing outside his doorway, listening. Donatello's deep breathing reaches him first. His brilliant sibling often sleeps soundly, undisturbed by nightmares, though when he does have a bad dream, calming him down and settling him back to sleep can take up most of the night. Donatello is a tiring bedmate and likes to talk long into the morning. Sometimes Leonardo understands the conversation, sometimes he's lost in the technical jargon. Donatello has never teased him for being confused, though, just as Leonardo never teases him for his fighting style, his chosen weapon or what Raphael calls his geekiness. Don hates hurting people and chose the most non-lethal weapon available to them, never taking to ninjitsu like Leonardo has. He'd much rather create electric miracles out of circuitry and wires, and their lifestyle of constant combat wears on him. In his dreams, Donatello's mind reruns old battles and follows every possibility, every tragic ending, every mistake that could have killed them so that with every nightmare, he must watch one of his brothers die.

But tonight, Donatello sleeps easy. Leonardo moves to Michelangelo's door and listens. Mike is his most frequent bedmate. Living underground in perpetual twilight gives his brother nightmares about being buried alive, or becoming lost forever in the endless tunnels under New York. Michelangelo is very much a creature of sunshine and keeping him hidden underground constantly feels like he's failed his little brother.

If they could go above more often, relax under the sun instead of hiding in the shadows, maybe the dreams wouldn't be so bad. They start slowly at first, a slight turn of the head, a low moan, and then Michelangelo slowly curls up and cries quietly in his sleep. Whenever Leonardo nudges him awake, he curls up a little tighter and buries his head in his pillow. For awhile he'll refuse to talk about what he saw, but as Leonardo holds him quietly, never demanding answers, Michelangelo will whisper the darkness in his dreams and the demons that eventually find their way into his writing. He won't allow Leonardo or anyone else to read what he writes, pretending that his fear doesn't exist while he's surrounded by his friends and family, but at night when all he has is his oldest brother to cling to, he'll admit that he's afraid.

Tonight, though, Michelangelo sleeps without nightmares. Leonardo is both relieved and guilty. He hates seeing his siblings in pain but if none of them need him, then he'll spend a lonely night on the couch. Silently he crosses to the last room and waits. If Raphael needs help, he'll never ask for it. Spending the night with Raphael is tricky at best.

And he hears it. His brother tosses and turns in his hammock, struggling to get comfortable. Leonardo knows that sound. Raphael always practices and plays hard during the day, trying to exhaust himself before bed, but sometimes insomnia won't let go of him. These are the bad nights.

Leonardo knows the script and plays his part. Without a sound, he heads downstairs to the practice space in the center of the lair. One by one, he lights four candles, one in each corner of the small ring. Their collection of weaponry stands off to one side but he ignores the rows of swords and sais. At night, they never fight with steel. He begins a kata, one of the first that Splinter taught him, sweeping through the motions to calm his nerves. When he finishes that one, he moves to the next kata. In the middle of the third one, Raphael gives up trying to sleep and comes downstairs, knowing that his brother waits for him.

Without a word or even a nod, Raphael steps into the circle of light and briefly settles into a relaxed stance only for the time it takes to move into a low sweep. Leonardo dodges backward and uses the motion to pivot into a spin kick that misses Raphael's head by hair's breadth. The slight breeze douses one of the candles. Raphael stands, grabs his brother's outflung hang and yanks him backwards.

Off-balance, Leonardo stumbles and struggles to dodge his brother's punch. Instead it grazes his side and sends him further off-balance. He fights to regain control, falling towards the floor but catching himself and slipping out of Raphael's reach. He doesn't try to get back up. Instead he crouches and leans a little towards one side.

Raphael pauses. He knows he's stronger but Leonardo has always been faster, and if he comes too close he can count on a solid kick to his chest that will send him reeling and give his brother time to regain the upper hand. Even if he could dodge the first strike at his chest, Leonardo could change his aim for Raphael's head, legs or side.

He lunges sideways. The kick clips his shoulder and sends him off-center enough that he misses Leo's arm as his brother dodges his hand and stands again. The next kick strikes Raphael's shell, sending him sprawling on the floor. With the fluidity that constant combat has beaten into him, Raphael turns the sprawl into a roll and also stands again, just a little out of Leonardo's reach as he tries another spinkick. Another candle goes out as they pass by, Leonardo suffering minor grazes when he can't dodge fast enough, Raphael wincing as he blocks each punch and kick.

In the failing light, strength takes the advantage. Leonardo trusts his eyes too much and feints too close before trying to turn, giving Raphael time to turn and kick just behind his brother's knee. With a startled gasp, Leonardo falls backwards on the floor hard. Another candle is blown out. Before Leo can move, Raphael drops on top of him, pinning his hands to either side. Leonardo struggles for a moment, then gives up. With gravity and poor leverage against him, he can't fight free.

He looks up at his brother. Raphael's eyes gleam in the dim light. His brother is excited and far from sleep, but no longer struggling with the monsters that keep him awake, either. In the morning they will wake up tired and sore, pretending that the fight never happened, but for now Raphael's grip turns gentle even if he doesn't let go. As the last candle drowns, the darkness swallows him, but tonight Leonardo is not alone.