This Deceptive Distance

His brother is standing in the doorway.

He's not a shadow or an outline. That would require background light, and there's not much of that in a sewer lair at night.

Neither of them can see the other.

But they feel each other's presence.

"Leo?" Donatello's soft voice, curling into the room. The name twists in the air like a multi-faceted wind chime, every second seeming like a different question.

He lifts the blanket.

Don hears the rustle, the wordless invitation, and in a moment he has slid into the warm pocket of the bed.

They lie quietly for a while, taking comfort in the simple touch of shoulder against shoulder, in the heat that leaks slowly from their bodies, only to be absorbed by the other, passed back and forth in the dark like a secret shared.

"I've been thinking," Don says quietly.

He doesn't reply. Don isn't often talkative, but when he has something on his mind, he doesn't need any encouragement to share it.

"Do ..." Don hesitates. "Do you ever feel... far away?"

He waits.

"I mean -" Don shifts, wriggling further down into the bed. "There are people up there. They're only a few dozen feet away, really. But we'll never..." He sighs. "We'll never cross that distance."

The pillow dips as Don moves his head. "Doesn't it make you sad?" he asks. "We're so close to the humans. We're so close to being human. But there's a... like a wall." He falls silent for a moment. "No. Like a two-way mirror. We see them, but they don't see us. They can never see us. Because -" Don breaks off abruptly, and they lie there in the dark, each following the thought in his own head.

Because we can't let them.

"Because even if they do," Don goes on, slowly spinning his silent reflections into sound, floating his thoughts down the currents of air to his brother's ears and mind, "even if they see us, with their eyes, they don't... they don't really see us. So few of them know how to look..." He trails off, then starts again. "Do you think we know how, Leo? Do we really ever see them? Or do we just... assume that they're monsters?"

Another long pause. Their breathing synchronizes, slows. He wonders if Don is still awake. He lets go of all the questions, and lets his mind drift.

Don shifts beside him, buoying him back to wakefulness, then settles again with a little sigh. His own eyelids sink inexorably.

"Has anyone written this down?" Don asks sleepily, rhetorically. "Cost-benefit analysis of assuming something is dangerous?" He pulls the blanket up a little higher. "I should work out the equations. Remind me in the morning, Leo. I'll call it Donatello's Wager." He yawns. "Good night, Leo..."

Don rolls over, and says no more.

Michelangelo lies there, in Leonardo's bed. The comforting smell of it lingers, a familiar mix of Leo and some stranger who has become like a half-forgotten member of the family. The smell, and the shape of the room in the dark, make him feel safe. They make the distance between him and Leo seem a little smaller.

He's pretty sure that Donnie remembers Leo is in Japan. But if it makes Don feel better to pretend that Leo is at his side, patiently listening to his deepest thoughts... then Mike won't deny him that closeness.

He rolls over, rests his hand against Don's shell, and falls asleep.