By Kay

Disclaimer: I don't own TMNT. I... curl up and cry at night over that.

Author's Notes: Does this make sense? No. Is it supposed to? No. I wrote it because when I'm not writing tortured!Leo, angsty!Leo, or dead!Leo, I'm writing crazy!Leo in glee. I only brush the top of the iceburg in what I consider to be Leo's deep issues with this, but it might be of interest, incoherent and weird as it is. Please enjoy-- and thank you so much for reading even if you don't like it. :)

If you can figure out what's happening, you're a more clever person than I. I just... something about Leo being alone in the end because his brothers will move on without him, to better things, and Leo warring between letting them go and the need to have them stay. I dunno where it came from.

Leo dreams half-starved fever things, the blots of ink in his brain a perpetual slide down, black over white, the scent sharp on his tongue, like a snake, he just senses it and swallows. The light is butter-yellow, buttercups, gone, flickering again. Above his head. Ceiling. His room. It's been so empty as of late that he almost doesn't recognize it, the simple bricks and books and words, like they ever mattered, filling up space, more soft than the cold reality of his swords against the wall, blunt, bandages on his arms, he's lost control again. He can't ever seem to do it right. Why can't it ever just be right?

Raph fades in and out like the radio, static-hues, more shadows than green skin. More words. Less print, more like daggers, a sigh after a sai—he's never been afraid of Raph, even after the rooftop, red lights bleeding behind his eyelids and cement on his shell, a crack of pain that has nothing to do with impact, just more words, Raph is always words—and now they wash over him. Harried, hectic, harrowing. Hallways to hell. Leo follows them up and down and wonders where his brother is taking him.

He's a little sick of traveling.

Burning, breaking, breakfast—he can smell eggs, hear Mikey in the kitchen but he's alone in his room—it's another cycle. Grasshoppers. He's thinking about grasshoppers. It doesn't hurt anymore. Donny being strange, a heavy piece of bone against the world, and Leo reaches up and touches his face like an outline he can't quite fit to form. Donny holding his hand. Donny holding his… veins, twisted little things, convoluted, the blood pumping upwards and Leo can hear it in his ears, mantras, those prayers his father taught him when he'd still stumbled over words. Words. So much. He's collecting. He hoards. He doesn't give them away.

Words, like… what would he say? Leo tries to prod the hole in his neck but Donny's holding his hand, he forgot, and Mikey isn't saying much. Unusual. What's he going to say? Practice harder, Don. Raph, don't get into trouble. Raph, don't get into me, don't get lost in it, you're so much better than that, than me—and sometimes Leo thinks about that, chilled sweat-soaking nights, candles that don't work anymore, how maybe Raph is better after all because Raph is strong, like stone, Leo falling apart, why is he always—

Ashes, swept up in the metal pail. Father is humming again. The yolk is… in the glass, Mikey with his tray. Pushing things down Leo's throat. Water. Feels good. Mikey with the weird look on his face, talking about superheroes, talking about skyscrapers and—Leo wonders if Mikey's flying with them, why he can't stay underground like Leo, always alone, why do they always leave him by—

Words caught up in his esophagus, frogs birthing. Children playing in the park on broken glass. He's seen them, seen Raphie and Mikey and Donny in their faces. The gleam of his blade in the sewers, stench thick in the air, always cloying, marigolds, no flowers down here but marigolds on the mind. Sometimes like a chant. Sometimes like a curse. Thickening, choking around his throat, fingers like forgiveness, something too sick to live much longer—let him drown in that, Leo thinks, carving out the way in his mind, let him bask in it. Beauty in… part of, right there…

And sometimes it's like a bomb in his chest, waiting to explode, pushing out his organs and his feelings and his heart and his sense and his teeth. Beat, beat, bold, lion-bold, Hamato Leonardo. Nothing to it. Nothing to him. So much of that love stored, filed, obsessively sharpened and trained, stained with blood and misunderstanding and he doesn't know which words to pick to tell them, all that, how much, unable to free itself. He would keep it in a locked box, all of them, but that's a coffin—only Leo buries himself willingly, only—

Donny saying his name and Leo dreams of rotting gardens, empty swing-sets, a carnival of his face whirling around. Someplace soft, pure, quiet. The river. Fish, gorging on them, until they taste the same raw as burnt, then the sun on his shell, a god-like panorama. Empty, worthless. His brothers. Is Leo too much of himself or too much of them? He can't tell. It terrifies him.

Toes curling against the sheets, pushing everything off, where is Raphie? Not smaller than him anymore, Leo has to protect him—keep him away from the light, never let him become as trapped as Leo, wait, all of that bad, that jealousy, share it, tear into it—and he's going to be so much more, so much better. It kills Leo. All of them. Their lives. Like gold. Is he the dragon? Dragons eat their babies. When Master Splinter is hungry, his ribs show through his robes like a stairwell. Steps. To hell, to heaven, enlightenment, the way to make a blade shriek instead of sing.

Dreams, fickle things, fires. Forgotten things. That rock he stole from Donny's collection as a child, still sitting above his bed, on top of the pipe, hidden, dust-ridden, useless. No anchors left. He's not a good person. He's doing the best he can. Never good enough, never the best. Save them all, keep them all, break them all, no difference, no one to see through, invisible, lost—damn it, he taught them better than this, right? Find the heart, see where the blood flows. Know the weaknesses. Expose the corruption. They haven't learned anything. Or do they know and just protect him? Shame like crumpled foil in his fist—

He's going to let them go someday. Will he be more alone than he is now? Gnawing, aching, always in the belly, some hunger that's indefinable, some pressure that's building; he wants the desperation, that snake-in-the-grass swiftness to strike, to enable him enough. To hold them in place. Rusting chains. Better lives for them all. Don wrapping his neck, biting his fingers so that Leo will blink at him, tears in brown eyes like the jungle's gentle nature. Mikey's footsteps beyond the room, clattering, never in one place, moving and gone and flitting like a joke; Leo never understands his jokes. Raph whispering fiercely into his soul, leaking more words through, lies but pretty things, he's always wanted to hear Raph say that—

Leo is lost, overwhelmed, his chest caved into the space that is so full. He can't breathe with it. He has the most horrible urge to cry, but he can't explain why. So he closes his eyes against all of them, swallowing the words, and lets the black carry him farther away.

And in the dark, Leo dreams of that hollow world without them and how, when it comes with talons on his own hands, he's going to rip out his throat for all the screaming they shouldn't hear.

The End