"Hey. Hey! Raph!"

Brown eyes flew open, and clawed fingers seized around Leo's wrist. The scream cut off as Raph flew up into a sitting position. His eyes were round as saucers, his breathing hard.

Leo waited, not even wincing at the pressure on his wrist. He knew better than to bother with platitudes - 'everything's okay' was a condescending thing to tell someone who was obviously not okay.

He just went with the obvious. "Nightmare. It was a nightmare."

Raph's grip eased a little, and he looked past Leo. He slumped back. "Damn it."

"Hey, no worries." Mikey sounded like he was smiling. "Happens to the best of us."

Raph rubbed his eyes. "Sorry, guys. Didn't mean to wake you up."

"We were awake, actually." Don moved to the side and perched on the edge of Raph's bed. "I'm trying to design new wiring for alarm sensors outside the lair. I think Mikey's still catching up on his literature."

Mike grinned. "Casey dropped off a whole stack of X-Men I've missed the last few months."

Raph pried his fingers from Leo's wrist with a sheepish look. "What about you?"

Leo shrugged with a smile. "I was sleeping like a baby. Worn out from practice today."

Raph's expression hardened. "Jesus, you're gonna bring that up again, aren't you? You gotta be prissy because I wimped out an hour into it."

Leo rolled his eyes. "Stop being so defensive. Splinter said you could take your time."

"And I suppose the great Leonardo wouldn't need to take any time at all."

"Maybe, maybe not. I sure wouldn't be whining about it like a child at least."

From behind them Mike gave a gusty sigh loud enough to carry across the room. "I can't tell you how glad I am that things are back to normal," he said, his tone dry enough to chafe.

"Yeah, really. Goodnight, children."

Leo glanced back and saw the two younger brothers leaving the room. He sighed - maybe they had thought that getting back to normal would only bring back the good things. Life didn't really work like that, though.

Leo and Raph butted heads. It was as normal as eating pizza. They'd just have to get used to it again. Maybe it wasn't the ideal, but it was natural for them.

Hell, Leo even enjoyed it some of the time. It was like that old saying about pain - it meant that both of them were alive.

He sighed and looked back at Raph, but frowned when he saw Raph's hand over his shoulder, fingers moving back and forth absently over the split in his shell.

"Is that what you were dreaming about?" he asked quietly.

Raph blinked as if surprised he was still there. He looked down at his arm, and sighed. "Yeah." His voice was low, gruff. "Might've been the worst moment of all of 'em."

Leo resisted the urge to touch his own shell in empathy. "You gonna be okay now?"

Raph nodded. "I'm good. Just, now and then…"

"You don't need to explain anything to me." He stood up, mouth stretching in a yawn. "Lemme know if you need anything."

"You'll be the third or fourth one I call, promise."

Leo made a face. "Jerk."




Leo grinned. "Welcome back."

Raph bared his teeth. "Fuck off."

Leo obeyed, moving to the door.


He turned.

Raph sat there, hand still on his broken shell. His eyes met Leo's. "You know something?"


"I'd do it again."

Leo frowned.

Raph shrugged. "Everything. If some new Bishop came along and I knew what was going to happen, down to this." He gestured at his shell. "I'd do it all again."

Leo hesitated, tapping his fist against the doorframe. He spoke finally, honest because Raph was being honest.

"Out of everything we went through - Bishop and the silence and nearly starving to death…out of everything, that's the one thought that scares me the most."

Raph smiled thinly. "Yeah. Me too." He lay back, eyes already heavy.

He'd sleep the rest of the night, Leo suspected. He usually did after a bad one like that. At least, if he did wake up from dreams again he woke quietly enough that no one heard.

They still had such a long ways to go, Leo knew. They'd be whole again, and were getting there as fast as anyone possibly could. But there was still a lot to work out. A lot that crowded their minds and stood between them as tangible as Bishop himself.

But they had time to put it all in its place. They could work it out as slowly as they had to.

With that thought - after all, that was the biggest miracle any of them could have asked for while being trapped in that room or on a metal table - Leo was able to return the smile.

"Goodnight, Raph."

Raph gave a half-asleep grin. "Night, asshole."