"Look at these."

Leo's voice is amused, maybe even interested, and Donatello wonders what he's found. He stops rearranging the night's salvage in his duffel bag to peer over in the direction of his older brother, finding him crouched over a pile of garbage with his shell to them.

Mikey is on the other side of Leo, so when he glances up, he's able to see the object right away. His face splits into a grin. "Whoa, awesome."

"You think?" Leo's easy chuckle is indicative of his playful mood; it's a rare one, and even with his shell to him Don can see the relaxed set of his brother's shoulders. Leo holds up the thing, which is still blocked from Donatello's line of sight. "Maybe I should keep them."

"Those things? They look way too big," Raph cuts in from his perch on the fire escape. Apparently their conversation is more interesting than lookout duty.

"Aw, he'll grow into them," Mike says adamantly. He swings up out of the dumpster he had been diving in and motions at Leo. "Try 'em on!"

One of Leonardo's hands reach up, fingers tugging at the knot in his bandana. It unravels and he pulls it off his head in one quick motion. Don watches a black band of fabric circle around the back of Leo's skull, and then the eldest half-turns towards him, fiddling with black, plastic lenses that don't quite fit right over his eyes.

Ice grips Donatello's insides.

"How do I look?" asks Leo, looking towards his youngest brother.

Mike whistles. "Nice, bro! You've totally got that natural, mysterious air. Really makes 'em work."

"Yeah, yeah, you're a regular fashionista." Raph hops down to join them, his hand smacking Mikey across the back of the head as he rolls his eyes. His grin is all teeth when he turns it onto Leo. "But I gotta hand it to ya, Fearless—never thought we'd find somethin' bigger than your giant head."

Leonardo laughs, the shades jostling on his snout. He stops to adjust the plastic lenses again before turning them on Donatello. "What do you think, Donnie?"

Don looks away.

"Throw them away, Leo," he says softly.

Leonardo pauses. The easy smile falls from his face, his shoulders quickly straightening, relaxed muscles bunching in wary tension. Donatello almost feels guilty to have effected his brother back into what passes as his natural state these days. Then there's the invisible pull of Leo's eyes, unreadable behind the dark glasses, searching out his—but it's like a phantom sensation, a limb cut loose and dangling somewhere in another world. The comparison renders him helpless to the drifting of his gaze to Mikey's left arm.

Leonardo waits one too many heartbeats. Then, wordlessly, he turns and pulls the shades off, tossing them back into the garbage pile.

Michelangelo's gaze flits between them, almost nervously—but the look is quickly banished, and in the next second he groans loudly. "He was so gonna keep 'em! What's the big deal, Donnie?"

"Ah, forget 'em," Raph says, tossing an arm around the youngest. There's confusion and maybe even a bit of concern in the quick glance he throws their way, but like many things, Raphael chooses not to dwell on it. He shoves Mike good-naturedly back in the direction of the dumpster. "They looked like some cheap-ass arts-and-crafts project anyway."

Relief and terror both flood Donatello, solidifying in his stomach like a boulder of ice. He tugs on the strap over his shoulder self-consciously—once, twice—then hazards a glance up.

Leonardo wastes no time in catching his gaze, seizing it with his own, and the clarity in his brother's dark eyes makes Donatello's heart ache. Memories peek up at him from a misty childhood, a place before colored fabric—sharp and focused even in youth, effluent warmth. So few lines in the skin around his eyes. Then the image twists and this time, it is so very fresh; dark glasses, a gaze that never quite finds anything. Behind the lenses, a thick, dark fog that seems to go on forever. Nothing in. Nothing out.

And then there's the reality before him; something in-between. Sharp, guarded, pinched skin at the corners. Muted warmth that struggles to melt through a layer of ice. Everything in. Nothing out. And, in this moment, a wordless question that passes between them.

Don shakes his head. The sharpness gains a serrated edge, cutting into him like razors, but he only repeats the gesture—and grabs his own left shoulder, breaking the gaze to look at the huge, jagged notch in Leo's shell.

It happens so abruptly that Donatello nearly doesn't notice it at first: the edge disappears completely, a gentleness washing through Leonardo's expression. And it might be pity, but the way his gaze softens feels different—that distant, brittle wall across his eyes lowers, and it's a quiet event; so unlike the shattering into brittle pieces Don's long feared. A floodgate opens; everything flows. Pain and solemnity and weight and warmth.

An eon passes in their gaze. Then, without another sound, the bandana sweeps back over Leo's face and he turns to scale the fire escape, disappearing into its shadows.

The afterimage is captured in his mind. Donatello tips his chin to face the sky and indulges. Like a child, a brainless reptile soaking up rays of sunlight, he drinks in the freshness of picture-perfect clarity. Just gravity, solidarity, and a weight to shoulder, worn from use. Like a precious shard of data, he locks the picture away.

It's an odd kind of indulgence—more sweet, than bitter. Life at its best.


A/N: Definitely not the most original of ideas, but this one's been niggling me ever since I re-watched 2k3, so I figured I'd run with it since I'm still trying to get back into the swing of this whole "writing" nonsense. This was also my attempt to get into a head other than Leo's for a change...even if it did end up being pretty Leo-heavy anyway. And even if Don's thought processes are similar in nature. SIGH. Comfort zone, I will shake you one day!

Thank you for reading!

-Angel