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Illness

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Leonardo comes back from Japan cured. With their home in ruins and Karai after them, it takes Leo's family a full week to really settle and appreciate this fact. It's strange, the way they went from walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around every word and action when Leonardo was near. To back to... same old Leo. Better than sometimes. He's quicker to take jokes as such, less grumpy, and less distant from his family.

So it takes a week for them to slide back into that. Mikey winces whenever a silence follows a joke. He expects Leo's harsh, scolding voice. The worst he gets is an eye-roll. Raph doesn't leave the lair, doesn't start fights until it's clear that Leo will shoot back with banter or competition rather than with seething hot rage. And Donnie hovers over Leo, searching carefully for signs, for scars, for the damage he'd seen before.

He'd offered medication. Before Leo left. When he was so clearly drowning in his trauma. Leo had refused each time. First softly, firmly. Then more defiantly. Throwing the bottle in the trash. Then with bursting solar flares of emotions that left Donnie burnt and in pain. He had shouted. The bottle and pills had hit the ground with a clatter. And he ranted for what seemed like hours about how he needed to be focused, about how any kind of drug could throw him off, make him useless all over again. Donnie recalled now that it had been only fifteen short minutes before tears started to form in the corner of Leo's eyes. The yelling stopped, and he excused himself.

Donatello didn't offer anything to Leo now. He just watched, studied, inspected, waiting for one of the cogs in his brother's mind to pop out of place again. So hopefully this time, he could apply some tools, and some elbow grease to slide it back into where it was supposed to be.

Until a week passed. And their family, both immediate and extended let out a small sigh a relief that none of them had realized had been caged in their lungs.

Still. It took months for whatever passed as normalcy to really set in. April and Casey visited over and over. More overjoyed to see Leo healing each time they poked into the lair. Healed. The cracks in his resolve paved over with forgiveness and wisdom.
Usagi even managed to check in on them. Which after some confusion (panic and despair and anger) involving the destruction of their old home, he too was happy to see Leo's calmer, softer self.

Leo didn't want to dwell on it, but perhaps happy wasn't the right word. And well... relieved was putting it mildly. Usagi had visibly shaken when they'd embraced. When Usagi had yanked them together in a strong, tight hug. "I thought..." Leo could hear his friend choke up as he started the words. He didn't finish them. Usagi simply pulled back, sniffed and went back to a (mostly) rigid samurai. He was still shaking slightly, and the way he smiled betrayed the way a giant weight had lifted off his shoulders too.

Then. When he recovered. He gave Leonardo an address. Of sorts. They were characters, characters that would make sure his letters were dropped in Lord Noriyuki's mail room whenever Leo etched a portal into their world. "Always drop them off at night. The couriers will be long done with their duties by then. I don't want any of them getting a direct route to you or your family. We don't want another Kojima situation. That had been foolish of me."

"But what about-" Leo could think of a million problems with Usagi's plan still. How would the mail get to him? Wouldn't it still be painfully slow? Wouldn't Noriyuki and his men get suspicious of weird letters kept showing up in his mail room? There was only so much one could write off as a lapse in attention.

"Plus..." Usagi interrupted, smiling mischievously, happy that he had an answer for all the questions in Leonardo's eyes. "Noriyuki has agreed to overlook the appearance of any strange mail addressed to me, and deliver it as fast as possible. Most importantly he has agreed to keep our correspondence unopened, untampered, and safe. Normally I do not ask for payment from him. He is just and fights just battles, but after all my service for him. I did not see a problem in asking for one small favor."

At the time Leo had snorted at the word small with all the resources that request could potentially take, but he couldn't help but toss a letter through the portal a day after Usagi had left. And was overjoyed when a response came two weeks later, as warm and witty a normal conversation with his friend. Even if it put somewhat of a burden on the young lord, Leo dropped any worry he'd held quickly. He couldn't see how he'd lived without this connection for so long, and wasn't about to give it up. Leo wondered briefly if it would have saved him. Before his father had to step in and ship him off to Japan.

So they exchanged letter after letter after letter. By the time Usagi visited again, six months later, bringing small, inexpensive gifts for them all, Leo knows so much more. Knows why Tomoe Ame and Gennosuke are so important to him. Knows who Mariko and Jotaro are, and the tragedy and hope surrounding them. Knows of Usagi's rival in love Kenichi, and about Jei, the demon who still regularly haunts Usagi's nightmares.

But the exchange goes both ways. Usagi knows so much more too. About his brothers, about April and Casey and Leatherhead and their adventures in space and time.

He and Leo hug warmly and spend the next two weeks sparring, meditating, discussing haiku and war. Leo feels soothed all over again. He had stopped fighting himself thanks to the ancient one. But there is an ease, a happiness that he feels in Usagi's presence that he can't remember ever experiencing. And he rolls back to that thought during their time together often, frowning when that truth is shoved to the forefront of his mind.

But time cycles on and eventually Usagi has to slip back into his own world. And as he does, Leo returns to his desk, already drafting another letter. He sends it out that night, and there's a new yearning for the next reply, stronger than before. He meditates, trains, examining the feeling in all it's facets, and trying to stave off his impatience for Usagi's next letter. His focus is so internal that he doesn't notice winter slowly setting in until he wakes one morning and practically feels the ice in his blood.

Donatello was more prepared, thank the gods. But even with the heaters and lamps, their reptiles, and Leo still feels sluggish as they move through their morning kata. Frustrated with that and still stuck on his new feelings, he works an extra two hours, only stopping when Michelangelo pops in, gives him a worried look, and tells him lunch is ready.

He knows that look. Recognizes it on all of his brothers from when he was at his worst, enraged and sharp-edged. So he breathes, goes to eat, and resigns himself to rest for the remainder of the day. He spends the evening playing board games with his brothers and father. And though he only wins once, he feels much better as he heads to bed.


 

The frost has set in and Leo's unconscious mind is not kind during the night. He runs in his dreams, but the cold makes him sluggish. Makes him always just a hair too slow for his father, for each of his brothers, and even for Usagi. Later he'll find that strange. He's been friends with Usagi for a time, but he's only showed up in this recurring nightmare now.

At that moment though, he wakes angry and scared. His emotions flood out details. He slips out of his room, jumps the balcony, and runs to the dojo. He picks up each of his katana, and simply holds them in his hands. Leo wants to unsheathe them, wants desperately to feel the security in their humming steel. But its 3 in the morning, and he knows where this road leads, and more importantly he can still see Michelangelo's anxious expression. It's seared there, wordlessly telling him to put the swords down. He does. With a slow, shaky exhale. Leo backs out of the room and climbs the stairs, one after the other.

He does not sleep again, but he goes back to meditation, and that's slightly more restful than his terror-infested nightmares.