The Lake

By Kay

Disclaimer: Don't own TMNT. It's sort of a bummer.

Notes: Written because I like indulging in melodramatic, angsty drabble-fic sometimes... and because I've been torturing and killing off Leo so much that I need to switch focus. XD I don't consider it an accurate description of what would happen after the death of one of the turtles, but I needed this to be short, dammit. Hope it's not too pointless and that you enjoy!

Sometimes Leo still dreams about Donny in the lake.

The blood spirals outward in tendrils, delicate in the water before they dissolve into the spreading cloud. Leo hadn't noticed that the first time. Not for a long time, even. But now when he dreams, his eyes capture everything, as if time has slowly trailed itself back to allow for these bitter slivers of memory. Now there's always blood and there's always the maroon fan growing across the water's surface. Now there's always rocks on the bottom digging into his calves, the lapping of water against his shell.

Now he can feel it when Don shudders once and everything goes still. Soon there won't even be a ripple.

In this dream, Don is heavy in his arms but not at all a burden. Leo thinks it's been a long time since he held his brother like this. Don's shoulders are wider than they used to be. They're going to be eighteen next fall. They are going to have a ceremony and then a real party, like the kind Mikey is always crowing about, and in his head Leo finds himself thinking about the price of streamers, how to keep Raph and Casey out of trouble, and the surprised look on Don's face when he sees the Advanced Genetic Analysis book Leo ordered through April. The one Don had been borrowing from her and raving about for ages. The one hiding under Leo's bed, wrapped in newspaper.

It's going to be a real surprise, Leo thinks. He presses his hand tightly to Don's neck, keeps him close to his plastron. Keeps Don close. A nice surprise.

On the shore, he can hear Raph and Mikey fighting the Foot. He wonders if they know already. Do they feel it crawling up their spines yet? Is there a shuttered breath that made them miss a step? A moment where their hearts just stopped? He can't bring himself to look. Maybe they're trying to get to them. Maybe they think Leo has everything under control. No big deal. Just give them a second, they'll be back up.

Maybe they don't even understand what Leo's doing. He'd been the only one to see Don hit water—slam into it, shell first, and then how he hadn't come back up right, hadn't stood in the shallows, hadn't moved like he should—

The blood is hot on his fingers. Leo bends and tries to cover his brother with his body. Maybe if Raph and Mikey can't see, maybe if no one else can see—

He waits for Donny to say something, anything. But when a voice finally breaks through the roaring in his ears, it's only Leo's own.

"—no, no, no, please, please don't do this, please don't do this, don't go, Donny, Donny, listen to older brother—"

When the water swallows them both, Leo can hear Raph screaming. When he wakes, it tastes of salt.

It's just a dream, he tells himself, staring at the ceiling of his bedroom. Bricks damp with moisture, cracking with age and erosion. Their homes have always been prone to falling apart. Just a dream that's a nightmare that he'll never wake up from for the rest of his life. Leo rolls over and sleeps again, knowing there's nothing to go outside to now.

They don't train in the mornings anymore.

Mikey is the only one that continues, with a dogged sort of quiet that unnerves Leo and reminds him of himself far too much. When Leo wakes again, sluggishly and sore to the late morning, he can often hear his youngest brother practicing. The slap of the mats. The thump of the punching bag. The creak of chains. He only rolls over and buries his head underneath his pillow, unable to face it.

He still hasn't cleaned his swords. Let them rust. Let the blood flake and dry. They're no good for saving anyone, anyway.

He hasn't spoken to Raph and he doesn't want to. Leo can barely meet his own eyes in the mirror, much less those of his brothers' face to face. The first week, Leo heard Raph all the time¾long hours of raging, a scream that never seemed to stop echoing off of the walls, the strike of knuckles on stone. He'd thought about going to Raph and joining him. They could raise the storm together and when it quelled, Raphael would not be alone. There would be someone to bandage his hands. Someone to listen to the weeping that's not loud enough to move past the barrier of his door, but that Leo feels, deep in his bones, as thundering as his own breathing in his ears.

But all the screaming goes hoarse in Leo's throat and sticks to his esophagus, faltering, all of it spent on vengeance long past but hardly satisfying. When Raphael does go silent again, all Leo can feel is empty.

Only Splinter and Mikey dare to enter his sanctuary; his little brother in the guise of the darkness at night, slipping in with the shadows, half-gone himself. Leo doesn't open his arms, but he lets Mikey bury his face into Leo's plastron, spasms of grief shaking them both. They don't speak. Mikey isn't brave enough to and Leo can't remember the sounds of words very well. He stays silent. The words would only come out wrong, anyway.

They're unneeded. Between them, there is nothing this way and Leo rocks his little brother until sleep captures them, until they can forget.

Splinter speaks, very old and soft and as though something has broken. Sometimes Leo feels his father's wizened fingers gently touch his forehead, can feel his love in them, his grief. But it's all that Leo already feels, too much, welling up inside of him with one place it can no longer go to, and the overwhelming emotion sends him reeling from Splinter's voice. He comes to sit with his son every day regardless, but there are no longer any pleas for rising or discussion, no lectures or fear. Only a hand and a forehead, only Leo wishing he could bury it all.

The longer he stays in bed, the more Leo dreams. Maybe it's torture. Maybe he wants to punish himself for not moving fast enough. Not being a good leader. Failing as a brother. Failing for Donny. Maybe it's because if he's dreaming, it doesn't have to be real. Maybe he can wake up and Don will be peering down at him in worry and ask if he's feeling alright. Machine grease on his chin and those stupid goggles plastered over his head. His gifted brother, the genius, the one with the most to lose.

Maybe Leo just wants to touch his brother again and this is the only way he can.

So sometimes, Leo wants to still dream about Donny in the lake. Sometimes he thinks that living there, maybe that's better. Tomorrow he would get up and be leader again. Tomorrow, maybe that's worse.

The End