2003 Cartoonverse

Leonardo was the last to fall asleep. He sat on the floor cushions, his legs folded meditatively around him, listening to his brothers' snores. It had been a few years since they had all slept in bunks in the same room, back in the old lair. Somehow, being surrounded by the same old sounds of sleep was still comforting.

Raphael had been the first to fall asleep. It was one of the rare occasions where he didn't have much to say. He offered a few more mumbled thanks to his brothers for coming to find him, and a short hazy conversation with the counterpart Don before wandering to the bathroom and returning with a bandaged hand.

"Guys, you didn't happen to conveniently leave the portal door open so we can go back home, did you?" was the last thing he had asked before he dropped off into a sound slumber, even before Donatello could answer the question.

Michelangelo was dismayed at Raphael's swift departure to Nod, the youngest brother had been hoping to recount their daring soundstage battle with Shredder, and he nearly emphasized how cool the story was going to be with a pillow to his sleeping brother's cheek. He was in mid swing when Leonardo caught the back of the pillowcase and gave it a gentle tug, knocking Michelangelo off balance, and sending him rolling into Donatello's pile of bedding.

"Ooof!" The orange turtle exclaimed, clutching his pillow to his chest like a life vest.

"You know, I was making that bed?" Donatello chided lightly.

"Uh huh. And I'm just making sure it's comfortable!" The youngest grinned easily back at his brother.

"Well, is it?" Leonardo asked, chuckling very slightly.

Michelangelo gave a convincing nod. "Yup. Very much so." He rolled up to his feet, and stopped assaulting his brother's bedding, walking back towards Raphael. Once again, their leader reached out to yank on the pillow, and Michelangelo turned, shaking a finger at him in a 'naughty' gesture. "You got your own pillow, dude!"

The blue clad turtle laughed quietly. "I'm just a subliminal message saying 'don't wake your brother up!'"

The younger turtle thought about that few a few seconds, and dropped his pillow, only to plunk down upon it seconds later. "Does that mean you talk backwards in your sleep?"

Leonardo shook his head. "No, I don't think I could speak backwards awake."

"I'm sure I could make a microphone that caused reverse feedback…" Donatello mused from his side of the room.

"No thanks, I think I'll pass on that one." The blue turtle grinned a little, pleased for the digression. Unlike Michelangelo, he knew all too well that Raphael was rarely quiet; and when he was it usually meant that he had far more on his mind than he could find words for. Leonardo figured it was best to let him sleep and sort out his thoughts.

Michelangelo was the next to retire, though it was more out of boredom than actual exhaustion. After taking the hint not to wake Raphael the conversation started to peter out. All three brothers were tired, and neither Donatello nor Leonardo seemed to be in the mood for their usual lighthearted banter. It left Michelangelo a bit too tired to be creative, and a bit too restless to actually fall asleep.

He knew what he would have done at home. He oftentimes got restless at night, if something was on his mind, and his usual remedy was to watch a bit of television until he felt tired enough to sleep. He decided he would do the same tonight, and become the first turtle to venture outside the confines of the library and hallway that led to the bathroom.

"I don't know if we're suppose to go wandering around out there." Donatello warned as his brother stepped past him towards the doorway.

"But I just gotta see if Slimezilla vs. Robomothra is still playing tonight!" the youngest protested, wringing his hands together. He stared at both of his brothers with an expression of barely concealed hope.

Leonardo sighed. "Just don't get into trouble, ok?"

He nodded and gave his promise to be on his best behavior before slinking quietly into the hall to make a dash for the living room, only to be forcibly ejected a few minutes later, chased by some angry words in a biting Brooklyn accent. Leonardo and Donatello snapped their heads up nearly in unison, ready to run out of the library when Michelangelo reappeared, cheeks red from embarrassment.

"So… no Slimezilla vs. Robomothra I take it?" the brainy brothers asked, his tone quietly chatty.

"Not unless I want to take my chances with getting punched in the face." The youngest groused, shaking his head mournfully.

"That's a little harsh." Leonardo murmured, setting out his bed linens.

Michelangelo sighed and dropped down onto his bedroll. "Dude, that's what I said!" He griped, watching the eldest work. It made him feel a bit better to know Leonardo agreed with him. He let out a long breath and rolled over on his back, settling his shell down into the bedding and staring at the ceiling. "I mean, come on! Who doesn't like Slimezilla?"

"People with taste?" Donatello queried with a hint of a smile.

The orange clad brother let his shoulders fall and his head loll as he frowned. "Man, I don't think Mr. Cranky out there has any taste." He jerked a thumb towards the living room as he spoke. "Even Raphael watches Slimezilla at home."

Raphael snorted lightly in his sleep, as if in agreement. But what really struck Leonardo was the hidden layer of hurt in his younger brother's voice. Something he so rarely heard, tonight he swore the meaning behind his brother's words was clearly 'I don't think this is fun anymore.'

From across the room, Donatello gave an empathetic little nod. "I'm sorry, Michelangelo. You know, if we had another TV, I'd watch Slimezilla with you."

The orange clad terrapin gave a small huff and rolled over again. "Nah, it doesn't matter. They probably don't even get Slimezilla here."

The eldest bit his lip, as if railing against the growing tension in the room. "Guys, why don't we all get some sleep? It's been a very long day for us and we're probably more tired than we would like to admit." He proposed, rationally. "Besides, you know everything seems clearer in the morning, Michelangelo."

"I guess so." The younger groused and pulled his blanket around him. "I could really go for a peanut butter and artichoke pizza right about now."

"Maybe we can look into that tomorrow." Leonardo assured, nodding a bit. Michelangelo murmured something more about pizza toppings before falling off into a peaceful slumber.

An uneasy silence settled in the library between the two remaining brothers. The eldest fluffed his pillow, set his blankets and lay down before sitting back up again. "Donatello… do you think we can get back soon?" His voice has something of a plaintive tone to it, as if he allowed himself to show his own worry once most of his brothers were asleep.

Donatello looked over, his expression kind. "I don't know, Leonardo. I'm afraid that the basic scientific principles I know and count upon might not be the same here. But if we exist here, and the same mutagen that created us worked here as well, it can't be impossible to find a way to open up a portal."

The leader considered that a bit and nodded slowly. "I'll trust your opinion on portals any day, Donatello."

The purple clad turtle stretched out before looking back up to his elder brother. "You should trust your own opinion and get some sleep." He offered a reassuring little smile.

Leo leaned forward, stretching his shoulders a bit. "I'm working on it." He even offered an adequate grin that it contented Donatello enough to roll over and fall asleep. Leonardo stood up, switching off the last of the lamps and sat back down on his bedroll.

xXx

"You would think a turtle could get a moment's peace." Raph grumbled to himself, glaring at the direction Michelangelo had retreated to. He leaned back and rolled his eyes, wondering who in their right mind would watch something entitled 'Slimezilla vs. Robomothra' in the first place. Then again if anyone was asking him, none of their mirrored guests was in their right mind.

There were times that the red wearing turtle felt more trapped than others, and this was one of them. Blame being a mutant raised in the sewers, but Raph was inherently mistrustful of new people, and that was considering all things normal. Having counterparts of yourself miraculously appear in your lair, and knowing that crazy ass scientists like Baxter Stockman were out and about made him downright paranoid about these guys. So while his bones itched to get out, feel the air on his skin and have some time to unwind, he was caught up in playing sentinel. He stared back at the television, grimacing.

Casey held that cable shows were crap at this time of night, but they didn't even get cable down in the sewers. Raph was stuck with the same four channels of retarded infomercials and sitcom re-runs from the 70's. He made a mental note to slap Casey next time he groused about late night television and groaned, rolling up to his feet. Staring over his shoulder at the outdated previews he rolled his eyes. "Of course they don't get off the island. They never get off the island, dumbasses." He walked over to the kitchen and pulled a soda out of the fridge, craking it open. There was a slight pause and the red clad turtle choked a little as he tried to down the entire can at once. How could Mikey drink this stuff? It was disgustingly sweet.

Walking back towards the couch he realized that he hated the television for exactly the same reason Casey liked it. The background noise, which was comforting for others, grated on his nerves. It made him feel like the empty living room was somehow crowded. He vaulted over the back of the couch and snatched up the remote, briefly considering throwing it at the screen before taking a breath and punching the off button with a vengeance.

Slowly he let himself sink in to the broken cushions of the old couch, listening to the morose rattle of the refrigerator. The fan must be dying, he though ponderously to himself. I should probably mention that to Don one of these days. He leaned back a bit more, pleased that the couch still retained the amazing ability to mold itself in a shell-shaped indentation. Hell, I could probably fix a fan. A fridge can't be harder to fix than a bike.

Slowly he engrossed himself in wondering how one might fix a fridge, until the day became a hazy blur and he nodded off on the couch.

xXx

Mikey tossed the latest issue of "Super Thunder Twins" off the bed and yawned. There were times when he wished life could be as interesting as the comic books; but this was not one of them. When your own real life seemed odder than the marvelous misadventures of two galaxy hopping, thunder totin' teens, it was time to put the comic books away.

He swung his legs down over the side of the bed, waggling them to and fro for a bit before deciding that his feet were made for walking; or at least that's what they wanted to do. Pushing the door open slowly so it wouldn't creak, the orange clad turtle slipped out of his room on tip toe, pausing at the threshold long enough to let his eyes adjust. Behind him, on silent padded paws Klunk twined past his legs and scampered down the hallway. Mike nearly called out for the cat before he remembered that his brothers were asleep, and might not enjoy a rude awakening. He clamped his hand over his mouth and kept an eye on Klunk as the kitten leapt ferociously at a dirt spot on the wall.

Satisfied that his pet wouldn't be causing any major trauma to the lair, the teenage terrapin applied his well-honed arts of ninja stealth to sneaking into the kitchen and raiding the fridge. Halfway across the kitchen he paused, perking his head up past the counter, furrowing his brow a bit. He could hear gentle snoring coming from the couch. That's funny he pondered to himself. I thought I was usually the one to fall asleep on the couch. Though I usually have the TV on when I do. Slowly he peeked out of the kitchen, his mouth dropping open slightly to see Raph sprawled out of the couch. He chuckled to himself inwardly. Raph looked pretty innocent when he was zonked.

He made sure he was extra careful not to rattle the jars inside the refrigerator as he took out and unwrapped a chunk of left over coffee cake. Closing the door, he tiptoed over to the cabinet with napkins and paper towels to carefully pull a paper plate from the stack. With all of his treasures carefully balanced in his arms he turned to head back to his room with his ill gotten booty, the house still peacefully at rest.

That was when he heard the pitter patter of four energetic feet go tromping across the linoleum. Mike's eyes widened as he watched Klunk skitter past the kitchen, pause halfway into the living room, and turn his head directly towards the couch. Jumping sideways, the kitten dashed behind the television, and stretched; arching his back and waving his tail back and forth in short choppy flicks, ready to pounce. Mikey's eyes widened.

"No no no no no, Klunk! That's not me on the couch!" He pleaded quietly, dropping the cake on the table and waving to the cat. Klunk looked back at him with a touch of impudence and leapt on the back of the couch.

"Klunkers…" The orange turtle gave a whispered warning, walking towards the cat with his hands outstretched. Klunk stared back at him, obviously delighted that Mike was ready to play, and stared to run sideways along the back of the couch, dragging himself along by his claws. Raph gave a grunt in his sleep and rolled away from the noise as the younger turtle's eyes widened. "Bad cat… bad cat!" he breathed, starting to search for something to shoo him away from the couch.

Rummaging through the mess on the countertop his hands found Don's key chain. What this? He thought to himself, picking up a small bullet shaped object. Oooh, laser pointer! He looked up from the counter and grinned at the mischievous kitten. "Hey Klunkers, guess what I have…"

Almost immediately after the red dot appeared on the carpet, Klunk was after it, chasing it around the edge of the living room and through the kitchen. Mike paused just long enough to grab his plate of cake, before rushing back down the hall, running the laser light just in front of him and Klunk tearing afterwards. All the way down the hall, up for a jump on the wall, back towards Mike's room, in the doorway, onto the bed, and then, click! The light turned off and Mike closed the door safely behind them both. Klunk stared up at his turtle, looking chagrined, as if he wanted to say 'hey, you took away my toy."

Mike sat down on the bed, petting the ginger cat lightly on the head. "I think that was a close enough call for one night, Klunk. How about you nap for now?"

Klunk tried to look hurt by the whole affair, but after a short period of pouting decided that curling up besides his favorite turtle wasn't such a bad idea after all.

xXx

Pa-dum-bum thunk.

Pa-dum-bum thunk.

It was funny how repetitive motions could be soothing to the soul. Even something as simple as tossing a tennis ball against the wall at different angles to see how well it bounced back to you had it's own curious attraction when your mind was wound up. And tonight it was just the thing Don needed to help him relax. He gripped the fuzzy neon ball, rubbing his thumb against the faded black letters pondering just how difficult it would be to build a dimension transporter. He bit his lip once before casting the ball at the wall again.

Pa-dum-dum thunk.

The problem wasn't just that he thought the physical laws of his own universe skewed his counterpart's basic scientific principles, but he didn't really know how moral it was to build such a device in the first place. What if dimensional transporter use was uncontrolled, or in the hands of someone like the Shredder? You could build up an entire army in an unprotected dimension only to step through a portal and conquer the enemies in your home dimension. The thought of such technology run rampant made his throat go dry. He frowned, tossing the ball into the air before throwing at back at the wall.

Pa-dum-bum thunk!

Still, it wasn't fair to these other turtles to prevent them from going home. They seemed rather lost here, and he was sure that their own home would be missing them. Yet they seemed so… sheltered to his mind. As if they lived in a universe where things were fundamentally stacked towards the side of good. It didn't make any decisions from Donnie's end any easier. He gave a soft sigh, and stared over at the flickering computer screen where he had drawn up some very basic preliminaries on how one might build a dimensional transporter. The simple lines of text glaring back at him like a boulder on his shoulders.

Pa-dum-bum…bum-bum… crash!

Donnie snapped his attention forward; rushing to grab a teetering pile of dishes his misplaced throw had knocked over. "Oh no…" he muttered to himself, hanging on to a stack of bowls as a drinking glass slid from the top of the stack and smashed on the floor. He let out a long breath, righted the pile he was holding and started to look for a broom and dustpan. The tennis ball rolled innocently across his path, coming to a rest beside a pile of books. Starting to sweep up the pile of glass he shook his head towards it. "I suppose I should stop thinking about it for tonight, right?"

The tennis ball didn't answer. The purple clad turtle dumped the chunks of glass in a brown paper bag, taped it up and set it in the garbage can, before lying down on his bed with a sigh. He reached over the side of his bed, picked up the ball and stared at it for a while. "Tennis balls don't make very good conversationalists, do they?" he queried slightly, more to himself than anything before tossing the ball to a corner of the room and flicking out the light.

xXx

Leo was meditating. Or he was trying to meditate at least.

He knew he needed to focus his thoughts so tomorrow he could be the mediator between the two groups of turtles, and so when they broke apart he had settled himself on the floor, in the most basic meditation posture Splinter had ever taught them, and started to concentrate. Calm. Focused. He pored all of his energy into his core, and then released it through his breath. He was just about to release a long, pent up breath when what sounded like a small army came marching down the corridor.

Coughing slightly as he tried to regain an even breath cycle, he turned to the doorway, only to hear the sound again. With his mind focused inwardly he had thought it might have been brothers running towards his door, ready to wake him for some traumatic emergency. Hearing it again while he was listening, the sound clarified into the sounds of an all too energetic kitten romping down the hallway. "Mikey…" he grumbled slightly, starting to get to his feet. He was debating just how cross he should sound when he told his youngest brother to take his cat inside and get some sleep when he heard the door click shut, and the pattering of little feet stopped.

Leo sighed, settling back down into his position, and resuming his meditation. It was always difficult for him to be interrupted, but slowly as he got older he was learning to deal with it. He had to, otherwise he figured he would be like Raph – always trying to get away and seek solace elsewhere. The true test for Leo was to find solace in the middle of the chaotic lair.

He took in a deep breath and concentrated again. In his mind he could still Master Splinter teaching him the very basics about meditation. It was comforting, to be able to remember such things. It made Leo feel like he wasn't alone while he was trying to lead – and there were many time when he felt like he was alone, if not downright unpopular being the leader.

When his mind was clear, he stood and stretched, drawing himself slowly upwards to allow his spine to align itself, and his limbs to relax. He shook the tension of the day out of his hands and feet, and crawled placidly into bed. Turning out the light, he started to make a mental schedule for the next day.

He jerked awake when he heard the crash, though he hadn't really even fallen asleep yet. Blinking in the darkness he fumbled for the light, and hopped out of bed, listening for any signs of a commotion. All was quiet, and it caused the elder brother to furrow his brow. Slowly he opened the door.

He could hear Raph snoring on the living room couch, and Mikey murmuring to himself in his sleep. The library was similarly quiet, nothing seeming out of the ordinary from the newcomers. Slowly he turned towards Don's room. He could just make out a sliver of light from underneath the doorway. He was just about to go check on his brainy brother when he made out the sound of glass being swept up, and a few seconds later the light shut off.

Leo gave a very long sigh, and slowly shut his door, listening to make sure everything was still all right before he headed back to his own bed. He forgot about planning his schedule, and allowed himself to indulge in his earliest memories of play-training with his brothers and Master Splinter as he drifted off to sleep.

xXx

Something about this place bothered him. He wasn't sure if it was the fact that the colors were brasher, or the smells danker, or if it was just that everything seemed slightly rougher, but something nagged at Leonardo's mind as he lay in his bed, unable to sleep.

Maybe it was the attitude of the other turtles. He hadn't expected them to be so paranoid. But moreover he was surprised at how easily he was starting to see their perspective. He had spent a long time going through his mind of all the meetings of strange creatures, thinking about how almost every problem could be solved by sitting down, sharing a pizza and talking about it.

And then it hit him that things didn't always happen that way. If someone like Shredder had deceived him, he might have mistrusted all the strangers he met. If the world didn't play fair, he might have grown harsher to be able to deal with it. Part of him was proud to have come to such a conclusion so quickly, but the other half felt like the look Michelangelo gave him before. This wasn't fun anymore. He wanted the world to go back to the way he had known it.

He laid his head back down, closing his eyes, listening to his brothers' breath. That was the one spot of hope for him in this whole mess. They were still all there together. The more he thought about it that was the greatest strength they had going for them. Slowly he turned his thoughts from question of what made his counterparts the way they were to promises that he would stick by his own brothers no matter what.

He smiled to himself lightly and sunk into sleep.