Title: They Stumbled Towards Ecstasy

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Raph/Don, One-sided Leo+Mikey

Disclaimer: I don't own the turtles.

Summary: "Without me, his world will go on turning. A world that's full of happiness that I have never known."

Warnings: ANGST~Y


On My Own

~7~

"Donnie!" Michelangelo burst through the door, his hands shaking, his stomach ready to heave and he just couldn't stop shaking as he stared at his brother, his face twisting up, his breathing coming in gasps and he realized too late he shouldn't have come to him. But here he was and he couldn't breathe and Donnie was staring at him like he was waiting for him to tell him he was shot with poison and about to foam at the mouth and die any second unless he could whip up a batch of magical anti-venom and that totally wasn't the same thing and he just couldn't think straight!

"What? What is it? Are you all right? Where's Leo? Raph?" Donnie asked in quick order, glancing over his shoulder and then he took Mikey's shoulders and gripped, looking him in the eyes. "Mikey?"

"I didn't know…" Mikey whispered, hiccupping with a mangled retching in his throat.

"Didn't know what? What happened?" Donatello reached for his head to check his temperature and Mikey jerked away from him, his shell hitting the side of the door and slammed it shut behind him. His knees finally gave out and he fell onto his ass, head bowed and hands gripping his ankles.

"Mikey!" Donatello darted forward, dropping to his knees in front of him, his hands hovering above him.

"Leo loves me. I didn't know!" he trembled, looking up at him, eyes wide and heart thundering against his plastron. "I thought he liked me! He's been so nice to me lately and-"he stopped at the look on Donnie's face as it changed into a mix of pain and confusion with a hint of him withdrawing. "I…" he swallowed hard. "I thought…"

Don drew his hands back, sitting back on his heels as he bowed his head, fists pressing to his knees. "He said to me last year that he told you."

He shook his head though he felt his lunch bubbling up from his belly and he swallowed again. "Huh?"

A sigh and his shoulders fell, Donatello lifted his dark eyes and that far away sadness made his eyes so large and empty. "Mikey, he broke up with me because he loved you. He left to go on his training mission because he needed to figure himself out…because of you. He told me that last year after…" He sipped at the air in sharp inhales, his eyes looking away as his muscles tightened. "He said he told you. You were upset and…and he was trying to help and he sat down with you and then it just slipped out."

Michelangelo stared at Don, certain he was going to laugh cruelly and then tell him he was joking because he still hated him and just wanted to make him suffer. But nothing happened except Donatello lifting his eyes to stare at him, focusing once more on him and not the past.

"He….left you?"

Don's brows knitted together and he looked at Mikey as if asking him why he needed that, of everything he just told him, confirmed. His fists tightened and he struggled to breath for a moment and then he leaned backward, preparing to stand.

"I just… I don't remember him confessing his feelings!" Mikey said and reached for Donnie's wrist, tugging on it. His desperation for this sudden revelation to be explained in greater detail left his body trembling. "I don't! I swear! I remember my brother telling me he loved me, but I thought…I thought he was just saying that because everyone else couldn't stand to look at me! I thought he was saying he loved me because he wanted me to know someone at least still did!"

Donatello jerked his hand from his and stood quickly, towering above him. "Yes, because that's always been your greatest failing – no one loving you. You've never been told you were loved and cherished and given everything you wanted from the love of your life and then told they never really loved you-" He choked a little, "-sure they tried and thought maybe they could learn to…but they never actually felt that way. They were just being nice." He panted dark eyes glassy.

Mike stared up at him, mouth falling open. He shifted slowly, moving to join him as he slid back up the door, his shell scraping it with a hiss. He stood before his brother, lifting his hands slightly as if dealing with a wild animal and he watched Donatello's lower lip quiver. "Don…"

A strangled sound escaped him and Donnie's palm slapped across his cheek. Mikey jerked, his hand lifting to protect his face and cradle his burning cheek as he stared wide-eyed at the turtle most commonly known as the gentle one. The quiet one. The pacifist.

The one who could rip you a new one if he actually got angry enough.

But there it was. Everything laid out in a nice neat row and Michelangelo watched Donnie squeeze his eyes shut, his hand held out from his body as if not knowing what to do with the soiled thing. Mike sniffled and hiccupped, wiping at his eyes.

So that's what happened. That's why it had taken a year for anything to start even feeling slightly normal. No one had been telling anyone the truth and poor Donnie got reamed twice over from it.

Donnie continued to hold his hand away from his body, his head dipping further, "You had Leo from the start."

"And then I tried to take Raphie from you." Mike whispered and Donnie drew into himself and raised his shoulders as if getting ready to crawl into his shell.

It finally made sense and it hurt and it was so confusing and Michelangelo had almost a dozen realizations to deal with all at once. But mostly, the one that mattered the most was why they hadn't been able to talk to one another. He had become the center of Donnie's pain. He surged forward and wrapped his arms about Donatello's shoulders, hiding his face against his neck. Don struggled but soon enough a choked sound escaped him and he clung to him.

"I'm so sorry, Donnie." He whispered, gripping him tighter.

"Leo has loved you from the beginning."

He pulled back to stare at Donatello, his brother's hands cupping his face and with the same hand that struck him, he apologized by soothing his cheek and washing away the waterworks streaming from his eye. The wet tracks on his face meant nothing compared to Donnie's defeated look even as he tried so hard to smile.

Mikey reached for him his hand shaking as he wiped at Don's cheek in return. "I'm so confused." He gripped at Donatello's shoulders, trying to stay standing.

"Why? It's fairly straight forward. He wants you, Mikey." He whispered back, swallowing hard.

"I just…" his mouth tried to talk but nothing came out.

The longer he stood there, the faster his heart danced in his chest and the higher his emotions rose. As if realizing this, Donatello, touched his sore cheek and inhaled sharply. "I'm sorry I slapped you."

An apology from Donnie – after everything he had done to him even if it was inadvertent – Mikey felt a shuddering breath gulp into his lungs and several more tears streaked from his eyes and ran down over Donnie's thumbs. "It's okay, I deserved it." He nodded when Don began to shake his head. "It was long overdue. Kinda makes me feel better we have it out of the way." He tried to smile and Don's lip curled up a little, hollow, but at least he was able to ease his guilt a tad.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Michelangelo's lip trembled and he clung to his brother. "I just don't know if I want him." He quivered and felt his tears slide free simply by admitting it.


"I advise against this, Leonardo." Splinter's warm voice was a a soothing balm to his soul, even with his tumultuous emotions sitting at the forefront.

The tatami mats under his knees felt solid, pliant, everything his Sensei and father was for him. He focused on the feel of the room, its warmth and the inviting atmosphere. The rich smell that instantly calmed his mind because it made him feel that of serenity. This room, if nowhere else, was home for Leonardo. It was where he hid when the burdens of youth weighed down on him, and it was where he spirited off too when he needed to bolster his resolve, and it was where he sought guidance.

Yet today; he bowed his head, weary and alone, and his haven was little more than a room with flickering candles, the musk of old incense, and a disapproving stare. He hated that stare. It made him feel as if he failed somehow; that he made his father think less of him.

"Father..." Leo's voice failed him. He shook his head and his throat hurt.

Splinter laid his hands upon his table, the little candle there quivering. "Your brothers need you."

"Not like how they did before. You've seen Raphael's improvement. With Donatello and he working together, they balance the other and lead effectively as a unit-"

"Leonardo, that is not what I am concerned with. You are their leader. They need you at the head of the family for balance in their own lives."

Leo closed his eyes, hiding away from Splinter's gaze, and he felt the air stir as his whiskers twitched.

"Leonardo, tell me what truly concerns you."

Silence. He knelt there, staring at the grain of his father's table, the rich color, the nicks and cuts, the bruises placed upon that table over the years. He traced the whorls of a knot and the way the grain flowed around it without concern, and all he could see was Michelangelo's face and he knew he could no longer flow knowing nothing could be returned. "I can't do this anymore, Sensei." He bowed forward, slow and deep till his brow met the backs of his fingers pressed against the mats. He sank into himself, a quaver in his lower belly that made his words hoarse and tight. "I'm getting in his way and leaving no room for healing. Distance is the only way to give myself the room to come to terms-"his chest tightened and he sipped at the air.

"Leonardo...?"

"He doesn't care for me..." he swallowed hard and he just wanted to feel the shadows embrace him in their numb and callous grasp. "Michelangelo doesn't return my love." He heard his gasp and Leo twitched, his body responding to the faint sound. "I can't stay here and pretend anymore."

He felt the inhale more than heard it and Leonardo remained where he was, but as the seconds ticked and the shadows lengthened, his fingers curled into fists and he grit his teeth, eyes squeezed shut.

"Leonardo?" Splinter's voice forced him to raise himself up, even if he remained slouched forward, fists pressed to the tatami mats and his eyes unseeing. Splinter moved at some point and he didn't notice. He felt his father touch his shoulders, waiting, then he placed two cool fingers under his chin, his claws scraping his flesh. His eyes rose to stare into those of his father's nearly solid black eyes. His breathing came faster and he focused on Splinter's steady gaze.

No mask remained anymore. It shattered in the dojo minutes ago.

Splinter's brows twisted and for a brief moment, Leonardo could see his father grieving for him. For his pain. For his heartache.

"Have you spoken with him?"

He couldn't answer right away because he felt it, in his chest, similar to the scream Donatello had set free in that little room in the warehouse a year ago. But he couldn't debase himself, so he swallowed, focused on breathing and though his eyes felt hot and heavy, they remained dry and he nodded once; a small up and down motion. "He doesn't want me." He whispered and he inhaled sharp, releasing it hard and shaky.

Splinter bowed his head, his fingers twitching against Leo's skin and he pulled back, out of his reach, out of Splinter's personal space because if he remained there, feeling his energy and how it dipped and threatened tore sink him further into the inky depths, he wouldn't be able to deal with any of this.

"I need to go. I need to…to leave to come to term with my emotions and the impact this will have on us as a team, on me as a leader. I'm not even certain I am fit to lead now."

He just talked, saying the right things at the right time as he knelt there, eyes sightless, his father's robes as a blurry background.

"I wish you well on your journey." Splinter said.

Leo looked to him, seeing him for just a moment as he dragged himself out of his fog and he nodded, bowing his head. He thought he would have to fight harder than this to convince his father to let him leave. The look on his face though; the sympathy and shared grief – if that was a reflection of his own face, he understood now. He didn't look like Leonardo anymore, he looked destroyed.

"Just write. Every week. That is all I ask of you, my son." Splinter sat patiently before him, looking so poised and back straight and Leo couldn't care to try and mimic him. He bobbed his head, eyes dropping to his father's lap, staring at the way his long fingers curled together, looking so delicate and yet knowing the skill that lay there.

"When are you planning to leave?"

"Immediately." He whispered and bowed his head further, eyes closing the moment he heard his father's sigh. "I'll try and catch a plane-"

"Tomorrow."

"Father-"

"Tomorrow evening. It will allow you more time to pack and prepare for the journey." His voice left no room for argument.

Leonardo swallowed hard and he could only nod because the lair felt too small around him, like at any moment whispers of his shame would slither from the walls and rend at his flesh. He suddenly couldn't breathe and he bowed forward, "May I be excused to my room now? I have much to do." He didn't care how his voice cracked at the end or the fact he couldn't face his father. What little pride he had, was gone. Just a hole remained in the pit of his stomach and hope slid down into it, over the side, and gone from view.

"Leonardo…"

"Please…" He hissed and his shoulders shook.

Splinter's soft exhale gave him all the permission he needed and he stood, fleeing his study draped in a fog. Still, he pushed his shoulders back, chin held high, and he moved swift and silent – though he never once looked up from the floor.


The two stood quietly for some time, wiping tears - or in Mikey's case, snot - away before they sat down right there on the floor, shells to the door and leaning against the other in a warm huddle that lasted forever. Michelangelo played Leo's words in his head over and over, juggling them without rest. He also waited, letting Donatello build up his questions till they burst out.

Donnie took Mike's hand suddenly, leaning on him and resting his head on his shoulder. "Start from the beginning." He whispered.

Mikey blushed, fidgeting with Donnie's fingers, "Leo's been really great to me this last year. He never lied about me having screwed up, but he never made me feel like…like trying was wrong, just how I went about it." He whispered. "The last couple months I've really been...thinking about him." He felt his face warm up and his tail wiggled nervously against the cold floor. "He's said things that made me think, 'huh, he likes that too.' And it got me...uh...noticing him. Like the convention...he went because I asked, and - and he tried to enjoy it with me, even though that totally isn't his thing." He shrugged his free shoulder.

"But, the last couple months, he's seemed sad. I've wanted to ask what's wrong, but…" He shook his head and then rested his cheek on Don's head. "You know him. He wouldn't give me a straight answer even if I did ask. Anyway, I just started thinking he was really great…he's a really….awesome guy." he stared at his toes, wiggling them.

He felt Don nod against his shoulder, his fingers tracing along Mikey's knuckles. "He is. He's wonderful. He always tried so hard to keep our relationship personal, and tried so hard to keep training and leadership and ninja duties out of it. It's an important part of him, but he understands that it's not the same for all of us." He sighed and Mikey tried to peek down at his face. "He was a really great boyfriend…"

Michelangelo chuckled then, "You make it sound like Raphie is a quarter short of the dollar."

Donatello sat up and frowned, looking Mikey in the eyes. "No, Mikey, Raphael is a hundred dollar bill."

That snapped his mouth shut and he looked to his knees, studying the freckle he had there.

"It's just different. They are different people. Leo was….very attentive. Raph is too, just in his own way. He does more for me than Leo ever did, just as there are things that Leo did for me that Raph doesn't.

"Leo was wonderful, but, Raph is better for me. I know that without any doubts. We're both very independent. He doesn't nag me the way Leo did; and still does; about getting out of the lab. Just like I know Raph needs his surface time; he in turn understands my lab time is similar. And we also know that if we need the other, we will drop everything and come running."

Donatello rubbed his elbow, dropping his eyes. "Raph reassures me and makes me feel so loved, and...and I think because Leo loved you from the start, he never made me feel like that. I was always double guessing his feelings. Raphie doesn't let a day go by without reminding me how much he loves me. An unexpected kiss...bringing me lunch...he once found this busted up remote car and gave it to me because he said he thought of me when he saw it." And there it was, this smile that graced Donnie's face and his eyes - so hollow and dark - lit up like the Fourth of July in a swirl of chocolate and caramel - all because he was thinking of Raph.

Mikey thought about that, how Don was so wonderful to them all and how he showed his love for his family by providing for them; but to see that light, that joy in Donnie because his Raphie-boy gave him something none of them could, he suddenly was jealous.

"But Leo-"Donnie continued, his brows knotted and he tilted his head, looking to Mikey , ordering him with his eyes to pay attention. "Leo is patient and quiet, and he could never say no to me. I think...I think he believes that because love – the truly worthwhile kind – grows slowly over time. I think he thought that he could come to love me. Not because he was just taking what he could get; that's not him. He knew he could be happy with me. So he tried. He really did, right till the end." Donatello shrugged.

Michelangelo flashed a half-hearted smile with a mixture of apology and smugness, "But my animal magnetism couldn't be erased and he had to be honest with himself?"

Donnie snorted at that and raised a brow at him but a hint of amusement finally slipped past the bad memories and he nodded, "Yeah. I think he started to realize that he could love me, sure, but to love someone and to be in love with someone-"

"It's just different." Mikey whispered and Donnie nodded. He scooted closer then and slid his arm through Mike's left one to hug it to his side, head bowed toward him. Michelangelo swallowed hard, his throat tightening. He hadn't realized how much he missed this. Mike was tactile, he had to touch and hug and tease by hanging all over his brothers to show them his love and adoration. It was why he curled himself around his brothers, or draped himself across their shoulders – he had to be close and feel them and allow them to feel him to confirm they were there with him. Having basically been cut off from Donnie for the last year, Mikey soaked in his affection like a sponge and gripped at his hand resting on his bicep.

Donatello studied his forearm and traced patterns on his skin with his free hand, humming softly. Mikey could just imagine dozens of little Donnies hard at work inside his head, running a master computer as they formulated his next question. "Do you love, Leo?"

Mikey opened his mouth then shut it, hesitating. "I think I'm getting there." He whispered.

"What do you like about him?"

He started to respond but then he stopped and he just didn't know the answer to that. Not right away. He thought back over the last year, remembering what had started making him get butterflies in his belly. He felt selfish after he realized it all centered mostly around Leo simply paying attention to him and always bringing him what he needed or wanted – like the soda on movie night.

Attentive. That's what Donnie said.

"Leo is all about family, Mikey. His goals aren't like ours. He was put in charge of our family for many reasons, but the main one I believe is that….I think Splinter put him in charge not just because he is a good leader, but because he was the only one who could shoulder the responsibility of doing whatever was necessary for the family. His love for all of us keeps us safe even at the cost of his own life….his own dreams."

Mikey nodded, twining his fingers with Donnie's.

A knock sounded on the door.

"Hey, ya okay in there? I heard shoutin'."

They scooted over, giving the door just enough room to scrape open and allow Raphael inside. He raised a brow at the two on the floor and Mikey gave him a grin.

"My butt's numb." He told him with a wiggle of his toes and Raph snorted, moving over to take a seat on Donnie's left, his arms resting on his knees.

"Take it you two are makin' up?"

"Yeah…" Donnie whispered.

Mikey smirked, "Wanna watch? I think we're just about to kiss."

Raphael glared, his amber eyes flaming. "No."

Michelangelo laughed then leaned over, pecking a kiss against Donnie's cheek. "Now are you jealous?"

Raphael growled a little in his throat and though he didn't snatch Donnie away from him, he did slide his arm around his chest and nudge him closer to his side.

Chuckling and leaning back against the door, watching them both, he realized it didn't hurt anymore. He was happy for them; even his little crush on Raph wasn't affected. It was, like, sure, he was attracted to him. Raphael was hot – for a mutant turtle – but he didn't demand the same emotional attention Mikey was feeling towards Leo.

"They're just different." Mikey whispered and Donnie blinked, staring at him with a slight tilt of his head and questing dark eyes. Mike shrugged back and looked down at his toes, fidgeting them together as his belly flittered. "I think I get it now." He whispered and he saw Don smile from the corner of his eye.

"What did I miss? Other than Mikey being a complete whore and kissing everyone in the family."

"Hey! I resent that! If Donnie sleeps with me he'll have slept with everyone in the whole family!"

"Don't drag me into this." Donatello glared and pushed Raphael's arm off of him and struggled to his feet, dusting off his backside and kicking his right leg – which obviously had gone to sleep on him. "I wasn't the one putting the moves on anyone."

"Oh please, you liked you. Can't blame you, how can anyone resist the Mikester?" he raised his hands to the sides, presenting himself like a glorious prize sent down from the Gods of Old.

"Easily." Raph grunted and Mikey pouted, only to get a punch in the shoulder.

"Ow!"

"Be nice. I'm not in the mood to set broken bones today." Donnie scolded, hands on his hips.

"But he started it! I'm the cute one, remember? He's the Grumpy-McGrump Pants one."

"I'll give you grumpy." Raph growled and Mikey squealed and scrambled off the floor to hide behind Donnie. Though he was confused about where he and Leo stood right then, that was okay – love was supposed to be confusing and complicated. Brothers though, they were a constant he'd rather keep forever in perfect working order.


Raphael sat on the edge of Donnie's worktable, bent forward with his elbows on his knees as he watched Mikey leave with shoulders back. Something had happened during their talk that left Mikey looking – taller.

Like a man.

Rubbing his neck and curling into himself a little, Donatello turned from the door and inched toward Raphael once more, his mind clicking and twirling.

Snorting, Raph reached out and snagged his elbow, pulling him close and between his legs. "What?" He demanded, draping his arms over Donatello's shoulders and leaning down, resting his forehead against his mate's brow.

Donnie shrugged a little and laid his hands upon Raphael's thighs, eyes down and lips thin.

"Don…."

"Mikey didn't know Leo loved him."

That got an eyebrow raise out of him. "Huh? How the hell didn't he notice it? Fearless was rather blatant about it for the last few months."

"I know." His fingers moved up and laced through Raph's obi, his head tilting up and his nose nudged his. "Raphie…"

Raphael kissed him, slow and deep, forcing Donatello to churr before he relented and pulled back, a small smirk creeping over his lips. "Don't worry."

"I can't help it." He lifted his face, cheeks flushed and hands tracing along his shell and shoulders. "I…I want them happy too-"

"Of course, yer a good brother." Raphael said and pulled back just enough so he could return the favor and he ran his fingers along Donatello's body, dipping and teasing places he knew very well by now. "And I say, as a good brother to Mikey, ya let him do whatever the hell he's plannin' on doin' ta Fearless and you enjoy a bit of your own winnings." He rumbled deep in his chest and grinned at the shiver Don made.

"I have too much work…" he whispered, looking about the lab. "I don't really want to clean up-"his blush increased but the smile in his eyes sent a thrill through Raph's belly.

"Don't have ta clean up." Raphael chuckled and leaned forward, his eyes shining. "I say we find a shadow and make-out. Ya can get me all hot and bothered, and then walk away."

Donatello chuckled, pushing further between Raphael's legs. "Oh? And in heaven's name, why would you want me to do that?"

"'Cause I got twenty-bucks sayin' ya won't be able ta stop." Raph flashed him a grin and a waggle of his brows.

He laughed then and pulled back, taking Raphael's hand. "Forty says I can and you will be the one who won't be able to stop." That smoldering look within dark eyes challenged Raphael to take the bet.

"Done! Say goodbye to yer cash!" He was happy to see that the worry had left Donatello, even if it was rather underhanded of him with ulterior motives. It was just as he said during one of their late night talks – Donnie and he couldn't interfere, it wasn't their place. Thus, it wasn't Don's place to worry for them. What he should be worried about was taking on challenges he wouldn't be able to compete against.

Laughing like teenagers again, they pulled one another back into the darkened recesses of Donatello's lab. It was just close enough to the door to get caught for the thrill, and with just enough shadows for the intimacy to engulf them and leave them gasping as they kissed and pawed at the other. Slow sweet kisses peppering their lips with fluttering of nibbles along necklines, and then desperate and hungry kisses that left one pushed up against the wall and hands grabbing at asses and tails to pull them closer.

They ultimately had to end their game at a draw.


Leonardo knelt before his old and battered table upon a paisley green cushion with a dark, empty canvas bag laid open to his right. He leaned forward and opened the middle drawer of his dresser where he kept his smaller weapons and pulled out several leather wrapped items. Half gathered supplies began to accumulate upon the table he used most often for personal meditation and kanji studies. He catalogued the survival gear already present and made note of what he needed to add. Flint and steel (because matches weren't always reliable), a pen and some stamps for those letters Splinter wanted, good length of rope, and he wondered if Donnie still had that military canteen and cooking set. It would make it easier than last time…

It just didn't feel like his room with the disarray. It didn't feel like his sanctuary or his place of reprieve from his brothers. He was exposed here just as much as if he stood in the center of the lair with a neon pink sign saying he was leaving.

Leonardo turned, the shuffling of feet echoing in the silent lair on the other side of his door. He inhaled slow and deep, his muscles tightening under the stress and despair. He looked away as the door knob turned and he tightened his jaw, teeth clenched.

"Hey…uh…can I come in?" Michelangelo asked, poking his head inside.

Leo didn't respond right away, his belly knotting up and he set the wrapped bundle of throwing stars back down on the table. He finally nodded, forcing his eyes up and he couldn't stop his heart from skipping. It hurt all the more.

Michelangelo stepped inside quietly and closed the door, his head bowed and his hands fidgeting in front of him. "I, uh, I thought we should talk."

He turned away, staring at the leather wrapped throwing stars and the compass, and he took them, quietly putting them into the bag atop a set of clothing and a blanket. He couldn't listen to this. He didn't want too. He was leaving, wasn't that enough? As much as he longed for Mikey right down to his soul, he didn't want to talk to him.

The canvas hissed against his calloused fingers and Mikey flopped down, sitting beside him on one of the pillows next to his table.

"Leo?"

"I can't, Mikey. I just can't…." He swallowed and grabbed blindly for something else on the table, hands shaking.

"Can't what….what are you doing?" He sat up slowly, placing a hand on the table as he inspected everything.

He dropped his eyes and Leo felt Mikey's turn back to him, boring into him.

"What are you doing-"his voice quavered and Leo stared at the table, his chest tight.

This had to be done. It had to be. For him, the world was bare and empty. He was just realizing it. Without Michelangelo as more, the world remained static and cold. But for Mikey, his world continued to turn and change and warm him. It wasn't fair to Mike to linger in the shadows, and it wasn't fair to himself to lock himself away in this half-life of meaningless longing.

"I've already talked to Splinter, he agrees this is best." He said and lifted his hand with only a hint of effort to reach for the hunting knife and stuffing it into the bag at his side.

"Wha-" Mike's voice choked and suddenly his hands grabbed at him, scrambling across his shoulders and arms till Leo darted out and siezed his wrists, jerking them to a stop. Breath ragged and Michelangelo practically in his lap, their eyes locked and Mike's lower lip trembled.

They breathed together, shakey and frightened, and Leo wanted to just lie, tell him everything would be all right and...and beg him for a kiss, just one. A kiss to last him till he could come to terms with never being with him. Their eyes dropped across his body and to the bag of supplies, the jagged teeth of the zipper a reminder this was it. Michelangelo looked back and his blue eyes stared wide and disbelieving at him.

Leonardo jerked away from him, stumbling, uncoordinated. He couldn't become this.

"Leo!" Mikey screamed, his voice reverberating through the lair, bouncing off the walls, shrill and desperate, his name becoming a banshee cry that collapsed into silence.

Leonardo held still, his door banging as Mikey raced after him, his fists hitting his shell. He swayed forward on his toes at the force, a strangled sound coming from Mikey's throat.

"What are you doing? You aren't…you can't!" Mikey grabbed his arm, squeezing it, anchoring him in place and he stood before him, moving like a dream as he commanded his attention. Leo's throat hurt staring at him, his fingers twitching feeling him so close.

Ever since he was a child, Leonardo had always had something in his core that demanded he care for his siblings and be an example to them. He never allowed himself to do the things Raphael did, because he knew it would disappoint their father. He never allowed himself the freedom to explore and find himself like Donatello, because he knew his place years before his father had placed him in charge. He never allowed himself to be silly and free like Michelangelo because it could get someone killed in battle if he wasn't the one who remained alert and ready at all times. Leonardo had tried so hard to never give his brothers any reason to be disappointed in him. He drove himself to be everything they needed him to be for them. Caretaker, disciplinarian, friend, brother….

Yet seeing those large blue eyes filled with tears, his brows knotted together, and lips moved in silent askance – he knew he had failed Michelangelo.

"I have to leave." He whispered and tore his eyes away and pushed past him and opened the door, fleeing the lair.


Leo bowed his head and Michelangelo pulled his hands free with a jerk, almost as if he were burnt from his words. Then he was gone, running from him. He heard down below Raphael and Donatello, their feet stomping up the stairs, the hiss of the door as it closed, Donnie's first hesitant question, Raphael's demands. He didn't hear them. He didn't see them.

"He's leaving…" He whispered then pushed past them, struggling to open the door again and he ducked through it the moment it opened. He ran blindly, chasing him, pure instinct guiding him.

The sewers were home to him. He was used to their darkness, their enclosed spaces, the smell, the hissing of pipes. But Michelangelo ran blindly in their cramped recesses, shaking from the ominous blackness or the snarling sounds, the drips, the reek. He felt so alone.

He found the manhole uncovered, a stream of light jetting down into the dark like a beacon and Michelangelo leapt for the ladder, climbing, up and up, higher onto the street up the buildings and to the rooftops and he ran, spying a leaping form just a few buildings ahead.

"Leo!" He screamed and stumbled, catching himself and then resuming his chase. His body numb, his legs like jelly, but his muscles remembered what to do and they carried him over the buildings in an extreme game of Ninja Tag. They ran forever, out of Chinatown, through the business quarter, past the neighborhoods and back around till they hit Little Italy.

Leonardo finally stopped and fell to his knees, panting, sweat pouring from them. Mikey landed, never slowing, nearly tripping himself as he lifted a foot and shoved Leo hard, flipping him to his back and he leapt, grabbing his shoulders, straddling his waist and he shook his head, trying to just breathe.

Leo's hands hovered between them, curled and small, and they trembled. Leonardo's hands were supposed to be firm and steady; Leo's lip wasn't supposed quiver. Mikey's heart shattered. He shook his head. He was scared. He had not seen Leo this wrecked, not since the Shredder sent him flying through April's window special delivery and then torched the antique store. Why was Leo doing this? How could he?

"I have to-"he panted.

"Don't you dare leave! Don't you fucking dare! You can't do this to us." He choked, his hands grabbing at his broad shoulders, scrambling against his cool skin as if just touching him would keep him from disappearing.

"Mike-"

"You can't keep running away from things you don't understand! You're leaving nearly killed us last time and we won't survive this." The heat of his skin was zapped away by Leo's silence and Mikey curled his fingers around the back of the elder's neck, tugging on him, forcing him closer. "I thought everything was okay…you just can't leave. Not when I'm starting to..." he choked on his words and began to shake, his eyes feeling hot and throat closing on him. The wind washed over them and Mikey shivered, the tears on his cheeks growing chill.

Leonardo pushed him back suddenly and he slid down into his lap as Leo loomed over him once again, his hand gripping his elbow. "Then tell me why." Leo's words hissed, lost and hopeless. Leo wasn't supposed to sound like that. "Give me a reason why I should stay."

A sobbing sound escaped Mikey and he wiped at his eyes with his fist, tears running down the length of his arm in hot rivulets. "You're love confession sucked, you know that? I seriously didn't know!"

Leo swallowed hard, his Fearless Leader mask gone and Michelangelo couldn't honestly say he had ever seen that look on Leonardo's face before. He looked so…heartbroken.

"I didn't know that's what you meant when you said you loved me last year. I thought you were being my big brother, not some confused love-sick puppy." He said, wiping his nose. "I'm just now starting to feel things about you and…. I don't know what to say or what to do because I think you're mad at me-" his voice disappeared and Mikey bowed forward, wiping at his cheeks, gasping for air. He felt betrayed and he pounded his fists against Leo's chest, weak and miserable because this…Leo wasn't supposed to leave again. Leo wasn't supposed to ever leave them. He was supposed to be here for them and be his rock. Leo wasn't supposed to be just as confused and sad looking as he felt. Leo was supposed to be confident and a tight-ass and all about the rules…

Is this what being in love and in grief at the same time looked like? It looked horrible. It felt horrible.

"Mikey-"

"I can't figure out my feelings without you." Michelangelo squeaked, strangling the words out.

A car horn blared from the streets below and jolted him.

His chest burst and his lower lip trembled with terror. He gasped in each breath with desperate effort. Leonardo stared at his shoulder, a hand hovering above his knee and he looked to be spinning where he sat.

"I need you here…" Mikey shifted on his lap, catching Leo's rather yummy looking eyes. He hadn't realized how pretty they were; just dark enough to seem mysterious but with flecks of honey and a smattering of reds around the iris. But if he left, he wouldn't be able to make these sudden realizations or begin to feel those changes in his emotions. Leo was so gentle with him. Why hadn't he seen that before? "Leo?"

"You're serious?" he choked out and Leo bowed his head and his face contorted, so pained and confused, so desperate and yet; it almost looked like he didn't know if he could believe what he was telling him.

Mikey reached out to him, his cheeks turning hot in two seconds flat as he curled his arm around Leo's shoulders, "Yeah." He sniffled.

He swallowed hard, his hand trembling in the air as it still hovered above his knee.

"Leo? What is it?" Mikey touched his plastron, the heat between them making his head swim even as their masks whipped up into the air from a gust of wind that swirled around them like a hurricane that traveled up and faded into the evening sky.

"I'd given up hope." Leo's whisper just barely made it to Mike's ears. "I was leaving because…because if you didn't love me, I couldn't torture myself. I had to find a way to get over you." His voice low, words trickling forth all while muddied eyes gazed at him.

"I can't promise anything." Mikey bit his lower lip. "I…I want to try and stuff because; well…" He blushed and swallowed hard. "But I don't know yet. Its still-"

"I know." Leo looked at him then, and Michelangelo could almost feel how close Leo was to tumbling over the edge with relief. It was a lot of information to take in.

"I…I've only had, like, an hour to deal with this. I mean, I've kinda just started to like you and then you-"

"No pressure." Leonardo breathed and Mikey snapped his mouth shut and tilted his head, his chest tight and his heart beat too fast. How could Leo do that? Wait a year, give up hope and what, just live with the waiting around and never knowing?

He fell forward, hugging him, hiding his face against his solid chest and he just didn't know. He didn't have the right words for this. Leo was always better at diplomacy than him. He just...what was he supposed to say?

Leonardo's arms wrapped around him slowly, almost like he was afraid he would fade away in a puff of smoke. He hugged him tight, adding to the warmth that filled his belly and shivered up his spine. A faint quiver ripped through his lungs as Mikey breathed against his neck.

His stomach growled.

"Hungry?"

Mikey choked back a wet laugh and he pulled back to wipe at his cheeks and eyes as they teared up from the humor as he realized where they were. They were sitting atop a pizza joint. He nodded quickly, sniffling and wished the ugly uncertainty of not knowing what to do now would go away. He had never...were they dating? What did they do now? Were they supposed to go and hold hands? What did they even talk about? They knew each other so well already.

Yet, as always, Leo knew exactly the right thing to say.

"Let's go get some pizza."


"So get this, Silver Sentry then swoops in and he and Tsunami tag-team each other. Tsunami starts summoning waves from a lake and Silver Sentry starts using his breath attack and turns the water into millions of ice daggers and they fly at the enemy, puncturing the hull of the ships of the alien invader! But at the last second, the aliens attack back and they fire! Silver Sentry is hit and he goes barreling into Tsunami and the aliens use an immobilizing ray to capture them!" Mikey was on his feet, his hands waving about as he talked and his teeth snapping at the pizza in one hand when he paused long enough to breath.

Leonardo ate his pizza quietly as he listened, a faint smile on his face. They were still up on the pizza restaurant's rooftop, sitting on the edge with their feet dangling, though at some point Mikey leapt to his feet and was ledge walking as he skipped about, practically reinacting the story he had read in his comics.

He tilted his head as he popped the last of his pizza into his mouth and dusted his hands free of crumbs. Michelangelo stopped suddenly and glanced at him then back to his pizza and sat down quickly, taking a large bite. He chewed, swinging his legs back and forth, munching a little softer than he normally would.

"What happens next?" Leo asked, opening the pizza box and pulling out a fresh slice. He figured he could indulge a little. If this evening went nowhere else, he wanted it to be a good memory.

"Huh? Oh, I don't know. I have to wait till next month's issue comes out." He said, licking his lips and swinging his feet. "Hey, uh, Leo? Can I ask ya something?" Mikey picked at the pizza crust, fidgeting where he sat.

Leonardo dropped his eyes and inhaled slowly; was this to be the axe? "Of course, Mikey."

"I-I get why I have a crush on you. You're like the small town football star that is also great at school and is eager to take over the family business. Compared to the rest of us, you're an all-star. You, like, know exactly where your life is going. But, what I don't get is why you like me." He hunkered down, head bowing, his pizza soon looking like it was disected by a two year old.

Leonardo paused and set his pizza back into the box, the cardboard scraping the sides. He then turned, giving him a better position to talk to Mikey. It took a moment, filtering through all the things he adored about Michelangelo, but when he looked back to him, the fluttering tails of his orange mask, the way he stuffed his pizza into mouth to keep from interupting, and his blue eyes staring wide and huge; Leo breathed deep to calm his hammering heart, and he relaxed as everything fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle revealing the secret of life centered around a pair of blue eyes. "Because you make me smile."

Michelangelo's cheeks blushed and he looked away, nibbling on the crust and wiggling where he sat. The fact Mikey remained silent didn't make him nervous at all. It warmed him up and the feeling fought off the crisp evening breeze. He soaked in the sight of Michelangelo acting so shy even as he began to grin from the compliment.

"You too." Mikey said, a hushed whisper before he raised his eyes demure and honest.

He smiled, small and relaxed, his heel tapping against the brick wall.

"So...what else?"

He chuckled and dipped his head, catching the smile that beamed from Mikey. His eyes shining, a flush on his cheeks and his feet pinwheeling beneath him joyously. "Well, you challenge me to work hard. If I had even half of your raw talent, I'd be undefeated-"

"But cocky as hell."

"You're honest." He smirked and Mikey shrugged with a shy grin. "And , I know you'll always be there. You are loud and annoying at times, and you are a drama queen;" he paused and he could see the discomfort setting in, "but you are loyal, giving. You..." he tilted his head, hesitating a moment, looking down to Mikey's fingers and how they gripped together tight. "You remind me that life isn't simply black and white. You give us all reason to smile, because your love of life guides us. I may be leader to the team, but you lead us every day by reminding us what the important things in life are."

Mikey began to shake his head but Leo simply nodded, looking directly at him.

Jerking his eyes away, Michelangelo stared out at the city, his throat bobbing and orange tails brushing over his shoulders. The lights of the city illuminated behind him like a never-ending sunset. For a brief moment, Leonardo wondered if he said too much, went too far. Then he stood.

Leonardo followed Mikey's graceful form as he rose. On silent feet, he made his way around the pizza box and sat beside him. They were shoulder to shoulder, Leo facing the world, Mikey facing back out at the roof of the building. His toes curled in the gravel of the rooftop with a little bounce of his knee and Leo watched him from the corner of his eyes. Face red and eyes down, Mikey slid his hand along the ledge, grazed his palm over the top of Leo's. His fingers cold atop his, Leonardo turned his palm and threaded Mikey's fingers through his to warm them, his own cheeks heating up.

It was a dream, really, this was more than he had hoped for. He hoped...

"Dude, pass the pizza…please?"

"Of course." And Leo saw him smile.