There are milestones, deep in his mind; recollections written into the fabric, coiling and expansive, spun with golden thread against a tapestry of blistering crimson and navy-blue. Markers on the path that he treads steadily backward, his joints strengthening, shoulders lifting, eyes brightening. Long-puckered scars that smooth over as he goes.
He finds the one he seeks. The memory is washed in monochromatic tones, the erosion of time leaving more silhouette than substance, but he sees the outline—the four of them, stretched out lazily across the rooftops as the city night swirls around their heads in bursts of traffic light and siren sounds.
Mikey is on his back, drawing circles in the air with his fingers, his foot crossed over his knee and bobbing to the rhythm of his own brain. Talking about constellations in the sky. Don reminds them there are no visible stars thanks to light pollution, his head angling to give the youngest a long-suffering look.
And in the end Don goes into his duffel bag, drawing out blank graphing paper, and Mikey whoops loudly as they decide to make up their own constellations from the city lights instead. Don sketches patiently, a fondness in his smile as Mike loudly points out each glowing orb to add to their impromptu star chart. And it manages to come out beautiful, somehow; the gentle craft of an inventor's touch and a dreamer's eyes, all theirs.
Don hands the chart to Leo, face shining, and points out the intricate details at the same time as Mike throws himself on the eldest's shoulder to get straight to the process of picking out the 'stars' for his constellation. Raph watches in silence, then rolls his eyes once and creeps closer to the rooftop's edge.
The memory unravels like the shredded end of cloth; broken, with gaps between the seams.
He reaches further back, grasping at the memory, at the brilliant cityscape and its constellations—their constellations—until he hits an empty space, a place where his mind gives way. He presses against it until the whole image wavers and he's forced to draw back. His heart aches with yearning for the small picture torn away from his tapestry.
Some milestones are simply markers, and never enough.
The voice reaches in deep and pulls, wrenching Leonardo from the serene waters of his mind; he startles slightly, glancing up at the disturbance. Raph, leaning against the back of the couch, snorts at his reaction.
When Leo finally processes the words, he furrows his brow in confusion. "What?"
Raph's eyes roll. He uncrosses his arms and jabs a finger at the faded star chart splayed across Leo's lap. "That's the Fedora Samurai, Leo. The first one we made. You named the damn thing, remember?"
He looks down at the chart, littered with coordinates, circles and notes all scribbled in Don's handwriting. Bemused, Leonardo shakes his head. It doesn't look anything like a samurai or a fedora. He laughs, his voice old and rasping gently in his throat, and turns to Raph. "You actually remember?"
"'Course I do," Raph grunts. He looks at Leo oddly. "You sayin' you don't? Mikey was hollerin' about it for weeks."
Leonardo's weathered fingers trail over the chart, drinking in the sound of ancient paper as it crackles. The corners of his mouth twitch upward. "I didn't think you kept these kinds of milestones," he says simply.
Raph grunts again. "Don't be such a weirdo, Leo."
The weight disappears from the couch as Raphael leaves, his gait slow and lumbering.
Leonardo leans back and closes his eyes. City stars burn through the darkness in his mind, slowly taking shape; and, even in milestones, his brothers are there to compensate for when he alone isn't enough.