A/N: This…should be fun. I'm excited. Writing Leo is ALWAYS fun.
This takes place sometime during the 2k3 series, but when exactly I know not.
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I wouldn't be stealing others unsecure wireless to get on the internet. Seriously.
Summary: Leo likes to think he understands his family, but some things simply don't make sense, even to him.
"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." ~Erma Bombeck
Mikey was watching it all like it was some kind of show, and Leo couldn't help being vaguely disturbed by this. Not only was this a gross intrusion on the privacy of two of his brothers, but they were also witnessing a somewhat distressing spectacle. What the shell did Raph think he was doing?
This was Donnie's lab. Donnie's. Lab. You didn't just burst in there unannounced and start smashing whatever was closest to the door, and you REALLY didn't do it when what you were mad about something that had nothing to do with Donatello at all.
In fact, Don had been sitting peacefully at his computer while Mikey riled Raph up in to a foaming rage, and then Leo had to get on Raph's case for attempting to maim their youngest brother. No matter how deserved it might have been.
The most worrying thing of all, though, was Don's complete lack of a response to Raph's unsolicited outburst. Leo would have thought that Raph storming in and destroying harmless—possibly delicate and probably difficult to find—pieces of equipment would warrant him turning around to look at least. Don hadn't so much as flinched since Raph opened the door with a crash, though.
It was slowly dawning on the eldest turtle that this may not have been the first time this event had occurred. Usually after a fight with Raph, Leo would retreat to meditate on what had transpired and how he could handle the problem better next time. He'd still needed to have a talk with Mikey about knowing the limits, though, and the younger turtle had snuck off to follow Raph right away, so Leo had reluctantly followed.
Here he's always assumed the crashing was something in the dojo.
Leo turned his head to ask Michelangelo about it, but the orange-clad ninja simply shushed him. Leonardo did not appreciate being shushed, but did as instructed. Probably best Raph not know they were here, anyway. They were likely far enough away not to be noticed, being across the main room where they could look into Don's workshop easily, but when Raphael was in the mood to destroy it was always better safe than sorry.
The destruction of defenseless electronic equipment gave no signs of slowing down, and Leo winced in sympathy. It had probably taken Don months to gather that much stuff. He should probably make Raph accompany him on trips to the junk yard for a year to make up for it.
Mikey ducked behind a couch, and Leo followed suit. This ended up being a good thing as Don turned around that moment and would have surely spotted them if they hadn't. Leo had to partly wonder how Mike had this timed so well. It was spooky.
Don looked calm, which just didn't seem right? How the shell could Raph's path of destruction not meant the ground was littered with items? What if the stuff he'd thrown was important?
Although, now that Leo thought about it, the stuff closest to the door was always the first to be destroyed. If it wasn't something like this, it would be Mikey bouncing in too eagerly and knocking stuff over, or Leo himself coming in to try and 'help' only to have the first thing he touched fall to pieces.
Maybe…maybe Don kept the stuff he was going to throw out anyway there for that reason?
"Garage?" Don sounded completely relaxed, which Leo found odd. He wouldn't even describe Splinter as relaxed when dealing with a possibly-still-enraged Raphael. He didn't have time to think about it though as Mikey was on the move again. His younger brother had obviously done this before, many times, so all the leader could do was follow along. He did not want to get caught eaves dropping on his two middle brothers.
Raph must have agreed with Don as the two of them soon left the lab and headed out. Here Leo had been thinking that Raphael went out alone every time. Why hadn't anyone ever bothered to correct him on that?
Leonardo suddenly felt very agitated. He prided himself and knowing what he could reasonably expect his brothers to do in any given situation, and considered himself very good at knowing what was going on in their lives without asking OR spying. He'd always thought before that Raph and Don were on speaking terms, at best. Their love of machines would allow them to spend some time together, but that didn't happen often—to Leo's knowledge—and their personalities were such polar opposites it was hard to believe they had grown up in the same family, never mind shared a room for most of their lives. Sure, Raph could be protective of Don, but that was nothing new. Raph was protective of everyone.
When the door had slid shut behind them, Leo turned to look at his youngest brother, only to find him already moving toward the open lab door. Rolling his eyes was childish, but Leo couldn't deny how tempting it was. "Michelangelo. What are we doing?"
"Come on, Leo, the show is just beginning." Mikey cackled evilly, ducking in the dark room and scrambling toward Don's computer chair.
"Mikey, this is a gross breech of their privacy." His lecture was falling on deaf ears, and he knew it. "At least give me one good reason for doing this."
"Well, personally, I like to make sure Raph doesn't accidently kill Don. That one good enough for you?" From the look on his face as Leo all but raced into the room, Mikey knew full well that it would be.
Mike hit a few keys in rapid succession, switching the screen to a view of the garage from one of Don's security cameras. How the youngest turtle knew how to do that was a mystery to Leo, but then that was just Mike. He always had some trick or other to pull out his sleeve.
"Don recently installed some microphones up there, 'cause he figured he'd hear a ninja approach probably better than see it in the garage. It's usually quiet, but really dark." Mikey explained this as he leaned forward and turned up the speakers.
Leo twitched ever so slightly. "We shouldn't be doing this, Mike, this is wrong."
He couldn't leave though. Mikey was acting so casual about it and Donnie hadn't seemed bothered in the least. How long had this, whatever this was, exactly, been going on without his being aware of it? That just felt wrong somehow.
The upper-level entrance of the garage slipped open, and they could see Don and Raph step out. No sooner had they stepped out then Raph had bent down and scooped up a wrench from the ground by his feet.
The oldest of the group realized what was going to happen about two seconds before it did. He leaned forward, clutching the chair Mikey was sitting in. "Donnie, look out!"
"They can't hear you, dude," Michelangelo yelled back, obviously annoyed at having his eldest brother yell in his ear.
It turned out Leo's warning wasn't necessary. Don had removed his Bo staff and deflected the projectile with ease. Almost like it had been expected.
Raph let out a growl so low that Leo was surprised the microphones picked it up. Just how sensitive were those things, anyway? He didn't have long to think about it, though, as Raph's sai were in his hands and he was charging.
Leo had never had time to really appreciate the way Don's defensive fighting style worked before. Always, always, they'd been in the heat of battle or in the dojo, where he'd focus on the weaknesses that would need to be compensated for instead of the strengths. When you took the time to really watch it, though, Don's style was fluid and a perfect counter for Raph's rapid strikes. He ducked and twisted low, avoiding a sai that would have surely put his eye out had he been any slower. Even so, Donatello still seemed to be getting hit with glancing blows and punches quite often.
"Come on, Donnie, you're better than that." Leo muttered under his breath. "Don't lead with your shoulder like that. That's a rookie mistake; you could have dodged that easily."
His youngest brother glanced up at him, looking oddly annoyed with his oldest brother's running commentary. "You don't see it, do you?"
"What am I supposed to be seeing, exactly?"
"Don's LETTING Raph hit him." Mike rolled in his eyes in such a way that made it clear he thought he was stating the obvious. "He only dodges what would seriously hurt him. Otherwise, he's just being a slightly more interesting punching bag."
"What?" Don was a lot of things, to all of them, and easily over looked because he wanted to be but…a punching bag? Honestly? That was just too far. Anger on behalf of his next-to-youngest brother welled up in Leonardo's chest. What could Raph be thinking?"
"Donnie told me it's because that's what Raph needs when he's like this. Angry but not quite sure why." Mike shrugged noncommittally. "Don says they're careful."
From the looks of it, Raph was just about anything but careful with the brother closest to him age. On the other hand, they all knew just how much damage Raphael could inflict when he really wanted to. Even in his rage like this, Raph had learned his lesson with Mikey, and was still keeping control over his anger. Don's being unresisting, to a point, was probably also helping to calm the hotheaded turtle. Donnie wasn't trying to fight or overpower him. No fight or flight response necessary.
Leo could see how this would help Raph to calm down, but what on earth was Don thinking? Raph was the first turtle the leader would trust with his life, with any of their lives, but in the same breath he had to acknowledge that when the stress was too much Raph got dangerous. "How often do they do this, Mikey?"
The younger turtle shrugged again. "Not every time Raph gets upset. A lot, though. Don't tell me you never noticed that Don's the one Raph talks to, dude."
No, he hadn't noticed, and now Leo was kicking himself for it. He knew Donnie spent hours locked up in here; why had he assumed he was always alone?
It made sense, in a way. They were the two closest in age, their birthdays barely a week apart, and such mirror image personalities it made sense that they balanced each other out. Where Raph was a hothead, Donnie was always calm. Raph acted; Don thought. Even their appearances were balanced, with Raph being short and thick and dark where Donatello was tall, thin, and light.
Why wouldn't it be Don's calm and collected personality that brought peace to their resident caged beast?
Better still, Don could listen.
It wasn't a skill Leo possessed, and though he was working on getting better about it he wasn't making much headway very quickly. When you grew up with four brothers, and wanted to make sure you got your fair share, you sort of got in the habit of trying to be louder and out-do the others. Donnie had never had that problem, though. He wasn't aggressive like they were, and was far more content to just hang out in the background until he was needed.
From there he'd learned to watch and listen to his brothers in a way Leo was only now, with maturity, starting to see as beneficial, and trying to imitate.
It wouldn't be just a one-way relationship either, come to think of it. Don, for all his great qualities, was far from perfect. He could be petty, and selfish when he wanted to while in the same breath taking selflessness to a fault. He was flighty, a dreamer. Leo could remember being frightened as a child that Don would just disappear during the night, finally slipping physically away into the reality he inhabited mentally. It was still a fear that came up every time Leonardo would find his little brother working his lab for days straight without rest.
Donnie could also be a compulsive liar when it came to himself. He'd downplay everything and tell you it was all right, even when it wasn't. The younger turtle even lied to himself, never allowing himself to feel upset about much of anything.
It was always Raph that would sit and stare at Donnie until he ate something. Raph who would forcibly carry their younger brother to bed, and tie him there if he had to. Raph who would sit and listen to Don while he tried to work out ideas, even when he didn't understand a word of what the other turtle was saying. Raph who could see through the lies and force Don to let himself feel, just once. Raph who kept their resident scientist grounded in this reality.
Leo hadn't noticed any of this, and he couldn't help the guilty feeling that settled in his stomach. He should have paired them off more often, instead of keeping Don next to him as his idea guy. From what he was seeing—had seen in the many times it was Raph that appeared from nowhere to save Don's shell when he got distracted—they knew each others fighting styles so well they were almost one person.
That was a freaky thought all by its self.
After several more minutes, it became obvious that Don was wearing out. Luckily, it seemed that Raph's fury was also as they started slowing down until they were just standing there, facing each other, breathing hard.
As the two turtles watched, Donnie sat down heavily on the floor, and offered his older brother a crooked grin. "Feel better?"
Raph nodded, sitting down as well, and Donnie passed him a piece of machinery from the ground nearby. As soon as it was in his hands, Raph started fiddling with it. "I don't know why I let Mikey get to me like that."
"Because he's Michelangelo, and it's difficult not to," Don laughed, gesturing vaguely around them.
"Hey," Mikey muttered, a pout on his face. Leo cuffed him gently on the back of the head. Donnie was right, of course. That was just who Mikey was, but even when he was driving you crazy you still couldn't help but love him.
"Yeah, well, ya think he'd be better at takin' care o' himself, after all the time he spends dodgin' me."
Leo couldn't decide whether Raph was joking or not, but that last thought seemed almost…remorseful. Like he was actually sorry that he and Mikey fought as much as they did, even if over half of it was just play.
"An' it don't help when Mister High-n-Mighty Leonardo gets up in my grill." The part in Raph's hands gave an ominous groan as he clutched it tightly. "I know he's jus' tryin' ta be a good leader and all, but sometimes he gets under my shell worse 'n Mikey. He thinks he always knows what's goin' on, but he don't."
Previously, Leo would have been offended by that assessment. Recent discoveries taken into account however, he was going to have to concede that point.
"Leo means well, and so does Mikey." Don shrugged, picking up another part of whatever disassembled machine it was.
"Yeah, I know, and I shouldn' let it bother me." Raph said, flipping the part back and forth in his large hands.
"Quiet the contrary, my dear brother. It can bother you all you want it to." Don smiled, though he was looking at what he was holding instead of Raph. "You wouldn't be you if you didn't, and Mikey would be so disappointed. Leo, too, in his own way. You know how he hates it when we're unpredictable."
Raph let out a bark of a laugh, and Mikey snickered. This time the cuff around the youngest turtle's head wasn't nearly as gentle.
Donnie wasn't making fun of him, really, so much as stating a fact. Leo did hate it when they acted out of character because a) it meant something was wrong and b) it meant he could be less sure of what they would do if trouble came up and he had to be sure to make battle strategies.
It was perfectly practical, they didn't have to laugh.
Leaning back, Raph picked up the wrench Don had earlier deflected. "What about you, Donnie-boy? If I stopped tryin' to beat the snot out of ya, would you be disappointed?"
"Very much so, I think," Donnie said. "I would think it meant that you didn't trust me anymore."
That was it too, wasn't it? Raph went to Donnie because he trusted him. Trusted him not to pass judgment without having all the facts. Trusted him to keep his secrets.
Suddenly hyper-aware that they were listening to a very personal conversation, Leo reached over and grabbed Michelangelo by the bandana tails.
"Ow!" Mikey shrieked, in that overly dramatic way he was so fond of. "What I do mom, what I do?"
"Come on, shell-for-brains." Leo muttered, trying not to laugh. "We still need to discuss your behavior earlier today, and maybe find a better outlet for your energy. How does three sets of a hundred flips sound to you?"
"No, Leo. Please, oh favoritest big brother of mine, have mercy on my soul."