CRASH! The rumbling uproar overhead sounded like the end of the world! From far below the earth to those who dwelled underground it seemed that the sky they so rarely saw were screaming as it tore itself apart. Particularly for a small, mutant family who covered their heads with thin blankets in defence, a feeble stronghold to the colossal rumbles of thunder far above. The news had warned much earlier of the storm and being a practical, resourceful old rat, the father of the small family had set off towards the end of the sewers, soon to meet the harbour, in the hopes of fishing out driftwood treasures. He had left the unofficial eldest in charge, and being the mature, responsible boy he was, he had the others go to bed early with the hope that they would sleep through the storm. His hopes were far too high.

Donatello tossed and turned in his bed, each fresh crack of thunder surging another shiver up his spine, closely enclosed in his shell. He shivered involuntarily with fear as he clutched his blanket to himself. It smelled stale and old and familiar but did nothing to relinquish the fear. CRASH! There it went again! Up he jolted in bed as if struck by lightning himself. He sat up now, a sudden wave of shame overwhelming him. This was stupid. He understood thunder. Understood that it could not harm him. Understood that the lightning was the real threat, and that from down here in the sewers it was extremely unlikely it would reach him. Yet this did nothing to ease the torment. Knowledge, the ability to know how something occurred, how it functioned, how it changed and how it ended, if it ended, often made him feel safe. Answers to questions were like a warm blanket protecting him and making him feel safe and strong and whole. And he understood so many things. Including thunder. And yet he sat now, awake, terrified. Understanding fire made him feel brave, brave enough to conquer any flames. Understanding the water cycle allowed him to feel he would never drown, though it had already almost happened once before. But thunder...he could not see thunder. He felt powerless and unprepared. He hated the sound. It was loud and confrontational, as if looking for a fight. And Donatello did not enjoy fights, n the way his brothers seemed to at least. He wished he could go to them now. He wished he could go to them and ask them to help fight this with him, but he couldn't, he just couldn't. They'd think he was stupid, and there was no feeling that was worse. But another CRASH and Donatello no longer found himself thinking it over in his mind, but instead at the bed side of his brother, Leonardo, at the other side of the room, with the instincts of a little brother. He hesitated as he glanced at his older brother's sleeping form, fumbling with the blanket in his small, three-fingered fist, with great uncertainty. He suddenly felt very lost. What would he say? Wold Leo laugh at him? Should he just go across the hall to Raph's room? Raph understood him. Suddenly an equally small green form stirred in the bed opposite Don's own, and Leo turned. Their gaze met, one drowsy, the other wide-eyed.

"...Don?" Leo spoke groggily, glancing up at his brother with his eyes heavy with sleep. Don immediately felt sheepish, shuffling his feet across the stone floor, and staring downwards. Now that he was here, how did he speak the words he so honestly wanted to say? Within a second, Leo's eyes lit u with understanding and shuffling over slightly he pulled aside the warm covers welcomingly, in an offering, "Climb in." Without any further trace of reluctance, Don clambered gratefully into the bed next to his brother, sighing with relief. That was the thing about Leo. Leo always knew. But as he lay there in the silence, Don suddenly felt the overwhelming need to explain himself. He felt such shame towards his own actions, and believed this was the only way to redeem himself. "I'm sorry, Leo." He whispered into the dark, then, stopped, lost for the words which might explain what had lead him to wake his brother up in the middle of the night so he might sleep in his bed, and at the age of ten years old no less. "It's just...the storm," he attempted weakly. "Yeah, it is pretty scary." Leo mumbled back. The simplicity of that statement was just killing Don. He wanted to explain his fear but as he thought more and more about it, it only seemed to become more irrational.

"I know it can't hurt us!" Don explained, more to himself than to his brother, "The lightning is incapable of reaching these levels of the sewers, and our lair is too distant from the ocean to cause a direct problem. The thunder isn't even remotely dangerous, it's just...scary." He breathed the last word out in a heavy sigh of defeat. He didn't want to be afraid and be incapable of explaining his fears. Perhaps he simply had a phobia. A fear of storms. It seemed reasonable enough. In his own simple way, Leo was right. They were only ten years old, all alone, at home, in the middle of the night with a storm raging over their heads and no parent to protect them. Don had a right to feel scared! Didn't he? Sensing Don's discomfort, Leo pulled his brother closer to him and mumbled, "It's okay to be scared, Donny!" This time Don had an instant response, ad quickly drew back from Leo "I know, it's just...I feel so stupid!" The level of disgust in Don's voice with this outburst concerned Leo. Don hated the idea of feeling stupid; it was the ultimate insult to him. He loved knowledge and the fact anyone would voluntarily reject it bewildered him. It wasn't so much he wanted to prove to others he was intelligent, but more to himself. He simply felt empowered when he knew things, just as his brother Raphael felt empowered when he punched things. Without knowledge, Donny felt lost and weak, more aware of how insignificant he was to the world. The others didn't care when they were called stupid, they may not have liked it, but they did not have such intense feelings for it. Yet, call Donatello stupid, if you dare, and he would spend the rest of the day brooding, speaking to no one, head ducked inside a book, or eyes fixated on some broken down electronic device, destroyed by one of is more rowdy brothers. It had always been an unspoken concern within the family, and they were often left bewildered and helpless whenever Donatello moped, especially if they had broken something else in the lair and were too afraid to ask for him to fix it.

Quiet and serious, Leo spoke once more, sensing his brother distancing himself. "Donny, everybody's afraid of somethin'!" He insisted, "Just something different! I'm not afraid of the storm, but there's some stuff I'm scared of that you might think is stupid!"

"You!" Don's voice was incredulous. None of his brothers, had exactly thought of Leo as invincible, but they had always seen him as fearless.

Leo leaned in close to his brother, knowing he had succeeded in directing his attention away from the storm, "If I tell you what I'm afraid of, do you promise not to tell anyone else?" Don nodded immediately, eager to know. He and Leo were not that close, at least not compared to some of the relationships within the family, but in each other they found a solemn, mutual understanding of being the two more sensible brothers. And they loved each other, of course. The two of them turned to each other when they longed for someone to care and understand, just as they turned to Michelangelo for laughter and Raphael for uncompromised loyalty. However, on capturing Donatello's attention, Leo suddenly felt self-conscious and dropping his voice to an almost inaudible whisper, he confessed, "I'm afraid of heights." Don withdrew his head in complete awe. A fear of heights! What a common fear for one so fearless! "Please, don't tell anyone!" Leo almost pleaded. Don thought for a moment, and he thought hard. And when Don thought hard, you just knew something big was going to happen.

"Okay," he finally agreed, before adding, "but you're wrong." Leo looked at his brother through the darkness with surprise, "About what?"

"When you said that everyone was afraid of something! Well, you're wrong! Sensei's not afraid of anything!" Don declared in a firm, convinced voice. Leo smiled, "Sure, Donny, sure..." Though, of course, he was humouring him. He already knew, at the tender age of ten, that their father was neither invincible nor fearless. He had fears. He was afraid of losing his sons, his only family, following his own father Hamato Yoshi's death. He had made that clear many times throughout their childhood. However, maybe this just was not so clear to someone as innocent and naive as Donny. Despite his unbelievable mind, Donatello possessed an uncommon gentle nature, rarely found in this world, and a genuine kindness, that caused those who cared about him to see him as both endearing and in need of their protection, even with all of the ninja training in the world. He had yet to understand the cruelties of the world, and neither had Mikey, unlike their older brothers. Raph, it seemed, had been born with the cynical, but quite accurate presumption that it was a, "dog eat dog world, and ya gotta be a big dog to survive."

But despite it all, Master Splinter really was a pillar of strength in the young turtles' lives. He protected them, he taught them, he brought them food and had found them all a home here in the sewers. He had raised four boys, shown them how to protect themselves through ninjit-su, taught them right from wrong and sheltered them with great difficulty from a world he knew would surely fail to understand them. Even now he had set off on a pilgrimage, scouting the flooded sewers for materials which might benefit the struggling family. He cared for and loved them so unconditionally. Leonardo truly admired him. What he perhaps admired most, was their sensei's ability to hide his own vulnerabilities, to set aside his own fears to protect them. His selfless actions in trying to appear strong before ever-relying children. And Leonardo, who was equally as protective, hoped that one day he could place those he cared for before his fears. In many ways he truly wanted to be like his father. A pillar. A protector. And as Donny snuggled closer against Leo's plastron with a content sigh and steady breathing and Leo wrapped his arm around the young genius's shoulder, he felt at that moment he cod do what his sensei did. Give up the whole world for the ones he love. And with that final thought, both boys fell into a steady, peaceful sleep.

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CRASH! As the thunder continued to rumble overhead another young turtle struggled restlessly in his sleep, wrestling with himself in an unending nightmare. As he tossed and turned, he did not see blissful darkness behind his closed lids but a horrific scene ply out before him as if a part of some sick kind of play. He watched as he played with his three brothers, all three of them grinning, their sensei nowhere to be seen, innocent enough. They were playing with the toy trucks they had collected over time, and, feeling generous, he had offered his favourite with the cool flames drawn up the side to his younger brother, settling with the dull John Deere tractor. But as they played, the scene began to change, everything grew distorted, twisted, the sewer tunnels began to narrow, began to shake like a sick, writhing snake. Everything was confusion. All he could hear was the sudden perpetual sound of an earthquake, bombarding him from all sides, coming from no direction, but surrounding everywhere, the endless crack and smash only getting louder and louder until it was unbearable. He could hear nothing else, he could feel nothing else, except the violent, turbulent shaking of the ground beneath his feet. He yelled for his brothers, as the toy trucks began to fly into the air from the violence of the shaking, but they could not hear him over the roaring. And suddenly it came. The most terrible sound of all. The sound of rushing water. It was not long before the terrible liquid burst into the lair, flooding through the room, and Raphael could not think fast enough before the remorseless sea water plucked up each of his brother's effortlessly from where they had been innocently playing. Despite the force of the waves, he managed to cling to a piece of fallen debris, shaking fiercely side to side as the constant torrents of water battered against him. He called out to each of his brother's, feeling the strain of his throat though he couldn't even hear his own voice over the perpetual roaring. "MIKEY! LEO! DONNY!" All in vain. It was horrible! He watched as each brother was torn away from him forever. His dear brother Donatello disappeared down a long sewer tunnel, the force of the waves propelling him towards a vast, bottomless pit, through which he disappeared, swallowed alive in the worst kind of darkness. Next was Leonardo who had managed to clamber to safety on a piece of debris like his own, only to be knocked back by the full force of a surge of water, straight into the emptiness of yet another tunnel. But where was Mikey? Oh, God! Raph swivelled his head this way and that desperate to find his little brother! Finally he caught sight, a flash of orange briefly, of his youngest, dearest brother, before the fabric of his bandanna slipped beneath the tremendous black waves! Raph watched with disbelieving, horrified eyes as his brother physically drowned before him! He had to do something! Anything! Rather than freezing where he stood as many individuals did during a nightmare, Raph, a man of action, lunged into the ice, cold sewer water, ignoring it as it whipped ad churned him from side to side, as if to do everything in its power to stop him from rescuing his beloved brother! But Raph fought the waves, and he fought well! Tearing through the water actually giving him some satisfaction! Take that! And that! No reeking sewer water takes my bros! But what happened next gave him no satisfaction at all! As he neared his brother, the space between them only seemed to broaden, he found it harder than before to fight the waves, the harder he worked the farther his brother's limp form drifted from him! WHAT IS THIS? Raph's mind growled in rage and frustration, only causing him to thrash harder, to tap into, not only that burst of adrenalin his fury fuelled him with but that protective, brotherly instinct that had served him so well in the past. But all of this was to no avail! His muscles, his eyes, his mind all burned from the intensity of the task, and it was all for nothing as the torso of Michelangelo, his sweet, lovable, little brother Michelangelo only faded further, until completely fading into darkness! Now Raph was really mad! He punched, kicked, thrashed and sliced his way through the water, desperate to do anything which might narrow the space between him and Mikey. But it was all over. He stared with terror at the final, glimpse of his brother's lifeless form, before he slipped away out of his life forever! Raph, always a fighter until the end, used up the last of his strength with a final scream, "MIKEY!" before the hateful water burst into his lungs. Eyes widened in slight horror Raph allowed his own body to go limp and still as the water crushed him from all sides, and he floated on in an endless, featureless world, which seemed to go on forever.

CRASH! With an abrupt jolt, Raph almost leapt out of his dream, breathing haggard and rapid having screamed his brother's names so many times. He stared wide-eyed at nothing as the rise and fall of his chest gradually slowed. Then as suddenly as the torrent came, his muscles slackened, and his head slumped down onto his slightly bent knees, and he continued to do nothing but breathe, though the tension had gone. Salt water dripped onto his knees, and he growled slightly thinking of the sewer water of his nightmares before realising to his surprise they were tears. The rumbling overhead, continued to roar like an enraged animal, but it no longer bombarded his senses from all sides, and he could even hear Mikey's random night mutterings across from him in the parallel bed. Raph just blocked it all out! His thoughts were whirling but he no longer felt numb. He felt damn angry! Lunging out of his hammock and ignoring any minor disorientation, Raph immediately bent his knees, falling into a fighting stance. For a moment he relaxed his body, feeling the familiarity of the movement consume him, feeling the control over himself return, at peace with what he was about to do, then all at once he gathered himself and began to punch and kick vigorously in the air, forsaking his katas in his moment of desperation, for simple kick-boxing moves. JAB, RIGHT HOOK, LEFT HOOK, KICK, UPPER CUT, REPEAT; frantically, rapidly, fierce, powerful, swift, strong, Raph began to immediately feel better, to feel more like himself. He felt the rush of adrenaline for the right reasons; felt his heart beat faster and the sweat bead on his brow and rush down his face for the right reason! Because he was in control! Without even thinking each strike began to fall into rhythm with the crashes of thunder overhead and he felt even more powerful, grinning inwardly as his fist sounded as if it were colliding with a mountain, so that by the thousandth and final jab to the air he was satisfied and brought himself to a halt. He liked his breathing rapid, his muscles tense and the sweat on his face. It made him feel alive! But despite the satisfaction of exerting himself, Raph still felt uneasy, the remnants of the nightmare swarming in his mind, long after he decided not to think about it! Damn, what's wrong with me tonight, he thought in frustration.

Then as the brief image of Michelangelo drowning swam before his eyes, ad himself struggling after him, so inadequate, so much of a failure, he knew what was wrong! Turning, Raph strode over to the corner of the two brother's shared room where lay a hazardous wasteland of discarded pizza boxes, broken toys and old comic books. He watched his brother slumbering peacefully, all gathered up in his bed with his favourite Silver Sentry blanket, looking very, scarily vulnerable in sleep, and Raph's hand tightened into a fist! He would never, not ever, let anything happen to him! He wondered briefly how Michelangelo had slept through all his yells. The kid was out cold, he could sleep through a national disaster! On persuading himself that Mikey was safe, that Mikey was alive, Raph breathed out a sigh and began to turn back to his hammock, scratching the back of his shell crudely. But even as he walked, he realised the heaviness in his heart had yet to entirely ebb, and he growled with frustration and punched the wall. Shell, what the heck was wrong with him? Did he eat something bad last night? But that wasn't it, in fact, he know what it was. He wanted the truth. He wanted to know if what happened in his dreams could truly happen in real life; the whole sewer flooding, all of his brothers being carried away! And he knew just who to talk to get the answers he needed. Grumbling to himself slightly he padded out of the room and down the hallway, unaware of Mikey's single opened eye peeking at his departure, and off to Donny and Leo's shared room.

Without even thinking of knocking he stride on into the room, his sharp, ninja trained eyes immediately adjusting to the darkness. As he glanced upon Donatello's empty bed, his heart rate shot up, hammering violently against his plastron! Where was he? Where was his little brother? Crud! This was not good! Then as his eyes flicked rapidly across the room they came to rest on his eldest brother's bed where protruded two small mounds. Slowly, his heart began to relax! Jeez, his brothers were gonna wind up giving him a heart attack one of these days! Breathing out shakily with relief, Raph approached the bed and cocked his head slightly at the sight. So ole Donny still went to Leo for comfort did he? He was choking the life out of the poor guy in a hug, as if he were a stuffed bear! He grinned; then frowned. Leo's eyes opened to stare at the figure looming over his bed, and Raph froze uncertain as to what he should do. Both stopped like this for a moment, staring at each other with equal surprise and confusion. Finally, Leo offered a small smile. When choosing rooms, their Sensei had been particularly careful ensuring the lighter sleepers and the racket making deep sleepers were separate. But poor Donny was completely out for the count at this stage. It was clear Raph wasn't getting any answers out of him tonight. Before Raph could say a word, Leo spoke up, in his familiar hoarse but unusually eloquent voice, "He's very self-conscious about this, so don't make fun of him in the morning." Raph had a double take. He glared at Leo through the dark. As if he'd ever make fun of Don! Mikey, yes, but Donny, no! Well, sure, maybe sometimes, but only about stupid stuff, like calling him, "braniac", or, "Einstein", and he was pretty sure that he actually liked that. He would never say something that would hurt him!

Between Raphael and Donatello, there was a kind of unspoken relationship. Nobody could understand them more. Raph and Leo were almost the same person at times, but between Raph and Don there was an easy, comfortable friendship. Raph felt uncontrollably protective of the little nerd! He taught Raph things that he couldn't imagine he would learn anywhere else, and Don was so understanding never trying to make his brother feel stupid. They were very different, and, yet, very similar, like twins almost. Both had a knack for understanding machines and a devoted passion for it! Both were more detached from the family, more distant, more to themselves, revelling in solitude and the time to do what they wanted, while Mikey strived for attention, and Leo struggled to guide them! Donny enjoyed the solitude of building, of tinkering and experimenting, while Raph had become more and more devoted to his training, falling in love with the routine of building physical strength. Both had a mind structured to focus on facts, both were serious, rational thinkers, who considered things from a straightforward, logical point of view. They were both more subtle than their other brothers in many of the things they did. They enjoyed eachother's companionship, because it was always a simple, pleasant companionship, which never had tension. Raph did not mind that his brother was so much smarter than he. Donatello was brain, Raphael was muscle. Besides, Don was the only brother he could stand to be round for long periods of time, without wanting to strangle him. Perhaps, it was partly because of his passive nature which contrasted deeply with his own more aggressive nature. Don was basically a pacifist that much was clear already at ten years old, but Raph respected this, despite his alternative ideals. Don stood up for what he believed in, so as long as he wasn't a total pushover Raph respected him. And that was why it angered him so when Leo though he understood Donny more! He didn't know squat! He didn't exactly understand why Leo always made him so angry! It just kinda happened. He wanted to argue, but seeing Donatello so peaceful helped him to tranquilize the roaring lion within him.

"I won't." He muttered flatly, in response to Leo's statement, "I came to ask Donny a quick question, but I guess that ain't happening right now." So he turned on his heels intent on returning to his room, feeling rather dejected, without even knowing why, before Leo's voice halted him in his tracks.

"What was the question?" Sucking in the hot, steaming frustration before it could escape him, he muttered back, "It don't matter no more." But Leo wasn't going to give him any kind of satisfaction, his response was instant and frank, "It obviously does if you came in here in the middle of the night! What's wrong, Raph?" Dammit, the guy could smell it from a mile away! Yet with all the tension, all the worry, Raph felt suddenly compelled to lift the weight off his chest, but he refused to give Leo any sort of satisfaction. Raph laughed, a single bitter, humourless laugh, and looked at his brother, "No offense, bro, but you ain't exactly Donny!" Leo arched an eyebrow, and for a spit second, Raph truly believed it was the smuggest face in the world. "Try me." Was his simply reply. That broke Raph. He was irritated. He was ticked. He was pissed. But he was also still worried. Real worried. And Raph didn't want to face training in the morning after a sleepless night, so he sighed, and gutted his overwhelming pride, "Well...okay!" he turned to face Leo properly, and Leo sat up slightly in the bed, careful not to stir his still slumbering brother. "I was just wonderin' if it would be possible for the lair to, to...flood." The last word fell out heavy and thick, and Raph cursed himself for being so pathetic. He prayed Leo didn't work out something was up. He stood there shuffling his feet awkwardly as Leo sat with a pensive, thoughtful expression on his face. Raph couldn't quite look at him.

They hadn't exactly been seeing eye to eye lately. Only recently had they began to fight, like really fight, and the atmosphere in the claustrophobic lair had been hostile. Questions of authority and leadership had began to arise, brought up originally by Master Splinter himself. Since then, Raph had become more competitive; taunting Leo, demonstrating a scornful, overuse of the old nickname, "Fearless" and picking fights which ultimately resulted in an all out brawl, the conclusion of which would evidently take place in Donny's miniature emergency room. Raphael claimed it was his rightful place in the family to be leader, and fought both his Sensei and his older brother every step of the way in the establishment of some kind of authority in the family. The real truth, however, a truth which even Raph himself would not come to realise for a long time, was that it was not that he desired to be leader but that he simply did not desire to be lead. He was a free spirit, a wanderer, a rebel, his soul was tied to the promise of adventure, of the unknown, of pursuing what he was passionate for, never to follow under anyone other than himself. He would always be tied to his family, and gladly so, he was incredibly, commendably loyal and he loved them all, yet he needed his own space, to lead the life he chose for himself. It was the only way he truly could feel alive, or even truly be himself. A leader among his brothers would mean being reigned in; it would mean falling in line, following orders, just another unnamed soldier.

Suddenly Leo broke his train of thought, reaching his conclusion on the only question Raph harboured which he had actually asked aloud, "Nope, I don't think you have anything to worry about, bro! Donny said so earlier! Something about how our section of the sewer is too distant from the sea." When Raph nodded numbly remaining silent, Leo stared at him intently, "Is that all?" Raph scratched his arm. He had received his answer. There was really no reason he should still be standing there. So why couldn't he move? With the underlying echo of his horrendous nightmare, constantly replaying in his mind's eye, Raph realised to his own shame that he missed the days when he too could climb into Leo's bed and feel safe for a couple of hours. He mentally cringed at the thought of any such weakness, while at the same moment felt envy for Don softly snoring beside Leo. Raphael, like Leonardo, was at heart a protector, always had been, always will be, yet he missed those days where he could be a little brother and feel protected too! He was a ten year old kid, forced to grow up too soon! He and Leo were alike in a lot of ways. The family saw them as two entirely opposite souls, caught in a frenzy of conflict and sibling rivalry, but the truth was far from it. They were the same. In so many ways, they truly were the same. And it was because of this fact that they just could not get along. With Mike and Don he had always had a perfectly comfortable enough relationship, but with Leo things were different. Things were tense. Primarily, because they saw far too much of themselves in each other. Leonardo was passionate and loyal while all the while possessing an anger and a temper though much more subtle and carefully bottled up than his brother's, still clearly existed. Raphael was serious, compassionate and at times often possessed the skills of an excellent leader, an eye for strategy, an ability to command, and even a talent in calmly assessing a situation, casting aside his predominant rage. Both strived overall to protect his family, who they loved so dearly, and both so heavily burdened themselves with the constant concern of their welfare, even at such a young age. They both found themselves facing internal struggles and, sometimes, as they looked at each other they could just tell from the other's gaze, that this was a kindred spirit. Weirdest of all, despite all of the burdens and rivalries and fights, when Leo cut loose, Raph actually found him to be the most fun to play with. Of course he could always have a blast when playing with Mikey, but with Leo, just to play a simple game was rare, and so it seemed more sincere. When the time they spent together was not manipulated to erupt into a fight, Raph actually had fun with Leo. They were both very adventurous and they shared the same cynical sense of humour. Of course, they hadn't played together for a while...

"Raph," Leo spoke up suddenly, breaking Raph out of his train of thought, "Do you...want to sleep here tonight?" It was a simple question which demanded a simple answer. Raphael had been standing there for a while, as if the true purpose for him being there had not truly been fulfilled. He was genuine in his offer, not a trace of mockery present. He watched Raph carefully, curious as to what his response would be. Raph froze. The defensive instinct kicked in. Goddammit, he had been standing there too long! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Of course, he wanted to sleep there for the night! He really, REALLY wanted to sleep there for the night, to avoid the memory of awful dreams, but he couldn't stay, he just couldn't. He couldn't bring himself to! Instead he snorted scornfully, as if Leo had said something really funny, "Nah, I'm good, Fearless! Thanks for the offer though!" Inside he penalized himself for being such a prideful dumbass. He began to turn towards the door, hurriedly, as if to linger any longer would mean he would never leave! "Raph!" Of course! Big Bro couldn't let it go! He didn't quite know how he could fight with Leo with Donny in sleeping in between the two of them, but he sure as hell would find a way if Leo didn't just shut up! "What?" he snapped back, almost forgetting Don! Jeez, Leo, ain't ya tortured me enough tonight? But Leo's next statement was slow and purposeful, almost ironic in its own way, and as he mat Raph's glance in the darkness, he flashed him a wry smile, "I won't tell, Mikey!"

It took Raph a moment to register just what Leo had said, but with the realization dawning on him a slow grin spread across his face. Ah, what the hell, what could it hurt to just camp out here for the night? So with a low chuckle, the hot-headed ten year old flipped in the air above Leo and Don gracefully, with the skill of, well, a ninja, to join his older brother on his other side. He sunk into the bed and they settled into silence for a while. Neither dared to break the silence, for fear their brittle peaceful coexistence would be easily broken with just a few mere words. It felt awkward. They both listened to the soft, gentle breathing of Donatello, synchronised with the peaceful slope in the rise and fall of his chest, and it calmed Raph a little. And, he wasn't sure, but he believed that it calmed Leo too! Hell, maybe, he got more out of his brother's little visits than they actually did! Though it wasn't likely! Raph would have been content to just lie there in awkward silence the rest of the night, waiting for the morning, but, of course, Leo wasn't gonna give him even that!

He broke the silence with a concerned whisper, "Raph, what's bothering you?" Raph wasn't an open person. He didn't tell people how he felt. It was only during some of the extra training sessions with Master Splinter that the old rat ever managed to get his most short tempered child to open up to him. He just breathed a heavy sigh, sick of this night, tired of feeling worried and annoyed and angry all at once, "Nothin' Fearless, go to sleep! It was just a dumb dream!" There had been a time when the nickname, "Fearless" had not been accompanied with contempt. Leo longed for that time now. Raph was stubborn, but he could be stubborn too, so sucking it up as only an older brother could he continued to press, "You can talk about it, if you want!" Raph had to hand it to his brother! He hadn't expected him to be so frank! Silence fell once more as Raph thought and Leo waited. The dream kept gnawing away at Raph, he hated dreams that did that! They jammed themselves uncomfortably into the back of your mind, underlying every thought and occasionally poking the mind with sharp prods of fresh memory. Finally, as Leo had hoped, Raph spoke, "It was like a memory, see, with us all playin', but then at the same time it wasn't a memory, cause everything went all crazy and the lair was flooded, and we got picked up in it, and, you guys, well...you all...drowned." The final word was choked out. Raph's eyes were hot, but he would not cry! He refused to! Not in front of Leo! Not in front of anyone! Leo did not speak, silently sympathising. He understood the feeling! Of fearing for his family's life, of feeling like a failure if he could not protect them, of the deep welling powerlessness that came with it! Suddenly Raph's breathing grew rapid as the story flooded out , almost like the water which had flooded through their lair, and he lost that little more of his control, "And when I tried to save Mikey the harder I swam, the faster he just-went down, and then, I was all alone and I drowned too, I think! I dunno! But it was so bad, Leo! Seeing you all...go!" And I couldn't do nothing! And I just thought what if it really happened, and what if I couldn't save you like in my dream, and what if-..." But he could say no more, he just sort of broke down. The tears were threatening to spill, and his shoulders were shaking and, god, how he hated feeling this way!

He froze stock still in astonishment as Leo's arm wrapped protectively around him, pulling him into a close hug, just like when they were younger, when he could be the big brother without a fight. "First of all, Raph," Leo stated firmly, refusing to talk down to his brother on account of a few tears, knowing it would only make things worse, "I would put my faith in one of Don's facts any day! In case you haven't noticed- he's a genius! So I don't think this place'll flood! And second of all, if anything like that ever did happen and this place did flood your dream would never come true! And you know why?" Leonardo pulled Raphael a little closer, "Because we're all a family, and we get through anything together, no matter what!" His voice was determined but Raph could only grin into his brother's shoulder. Mikey had often made jokes about how Leo could write the script for the entire cast of a sitcom and he wasn't proving his little brother wrong anytime soon! But he could play along. After all what were brothers for? "Thanks, bro. Love you!" Raph muttered quietly, nuzzling into his brother. "Love you, too." Was Leo's reply, and finally they fell asleep. Raph for the second time that night and Leo for the third.

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Mikey peered through the dark room, a wide grin splitting his green face. Oh, boy, it was a slumber party! Light sleeping dudes bunking with the big bad snoring, sleep-talking, sleep-walking, deep sleeping dudes! In truth, he felt bad for his brothers! They had not had an easy night! He didn't understand what the big fuss was over the storm! So they heard a bunch of loud, crashing noises! Big deal! Mikey made those kinds of noises on a daily basis with his constant attempts at stunts, practical jokes and the provocation of his more hot-headed brother! But like the good little brother he was, although Mikey didn't understand his brothers, his sympathised with them! It came as his greatest shock that Raph was scared. Even though he made fun of him as if it was a daily chore that simply must be done, Mikey truly admired Raph, and had come to see him as quite the knight in shining armour/ super hero/ lovable psycho. In more mature terms, Raph was his hero, his role model, his best friend! In fact, he was influenced by all of his brothers, so in a way he was so lucky to have such great older brothers; a compassionate genius, a protective warrior and, in time, a fearless leader! He couldn't have scored better, and he sure knew it, even if they didn't! Okay boys, he thought as he tip-toed Scooby Doo style over to his sleeping brothers, enough of the cute act, that's my deal! And so with the grace and agility of, of course, a ninja, he frog leaped into the air and cannon-balled into the centre of the pile, screaming, "COWABUNGAAAAAA!" with delight. He landed straight on top of Leo, and sprawled out chaotically with his feet on top of Donny and, unfortunately, his head on top of Raph. Raph growled in irritation, "Get offa me, Mikey, you bum!" and shoved his brother roughly so that he tumbled straight into Donny, allowing Leo to sit up dazed on the bed. "Awwww, you guys are no fun!" Mikey groaned, clambering off of Donatello, "I thought it was a slumber party!" Donny, evidently confused for once in his short life, looked around him perplexed before asking Leo sitting beside him, "What are Raph and Mikey doing?" Raph's face flushed almost as red as his bandana, as he stuttered a feeble response, "I-I was just checking on you, braniac...worried about ya." But of course, Mikey butted in, leap-frogging nimbly over Leo to land on Raph's shoulders, "Yeah, right," he declared, "You guys were using Leo as a teddy bear! I saw ya loud and clear!" Raphael and Donatello stared at each other, instantly and simultaneously embarrassed at this revelation, and perfectly eager to draw the attention away from themselves, with Donny pointing out to nobody in particular how one could not see anything loud and clear, and with Raph growling, "GEROFFME!" as he shook Mikey from his shoulders. Leonardo just sat in the middle of this anarchy feeling bewildered. Then like a big brother should, he sucked it up and took charge of the situation, "Okay, look, I know we're all confused about just what the shell is going on tonight! And, sure, we can sit here feeling embarrassed and trying to explain ourselves! Or else we can just get over it and get some rest and have enough energy for training in the morning like I promised Master Splinter! So, basically, what I'm saying to you all is, STOP talking and just GET BACK INTO THIS BED!" Silence. Everybody stared at Leo. Mikey's face split into a wide grin after a moment, "Oh, Leo, you sitcom sap, you!"

And so finally and eventually they did indeed stop talking and all four brothers huddled in the small bed, repelling the storm and their fear with the simple fact that they were together! And when Master Splinter did return early that morning, exhausting bearing an abundance of driftwood objects and in some desperate need for some tea, he found his four sons together, still fast asleep in the same bed, all huddled together in an embrace. He smiled to himself. Just as Donatello had wanted! They had fought the storm! And they had fought it together!