Their father’s words drew their attention to the empty space next to Raph; it wasn't like the eldest to be late for training.
"Haven't see him since I got home from Casey's last night." Raph admitted with a frown.
"He was still asleep when I got up this morning." Donnie informed them, sending a worried glance towards the open door of the dojo. Donnie was usually the first one up, though only by about an hour before his eldest brother.
"Leo waited up late for Raph to come home last night." Mikey pointed out, nudging his hot-headed brother accusingly. Raph had stayed out with Casey later then usual the night before. "He's probably too tired to get out of bed."
Raph fidgeted slightly as he stared at the floor, feeling guilty. Leo never slept in and he was never late for training, he must have stayed up most of the night if he was still asleep now.
"Then we will allow him to sleep-in and continue training without him." Splinter decided, though he also looked worried about the eldest turtle’s behaviour. Leonardo had been known to stay up almost all night and still manage to bring himself to arrive at the dojo before his brothers.
Training didn't feel right without their leader, but they worked around his absences, adapting in the way they were expected too as trained ninja.
As soon as training finished the three brothers made their way to the kitchen.
"You think I should make breakfast for Leo as well?" Mikey wondered as he stared gathering the ingredients for his famous pepperoni omelettes. It was a known fact that Mikey was the best cook, so breakfast was usually very much his responsibility; whereas Leo had been banned from cooking after a nasty food poisoning incident a few years ago.
"Even I don't sleep in this much.." Raph commented as he grabbed a cold bottle of water from the fridge.
"Sure you don't." Donnie snorted sarcastically. "How many times did I have to send Mikey into you room so you would wake up for training last year?"
"That was different." Raph argued, glaring slightly at Donnie. "I like to think someone would actually notice if Leo was moonlighting as a vigilante."
Donnie's eyes narrowed, but he didn't retaliate to Raph’s comment. He knew that he should have worked out the whole Nightwatcher thing when he was filling in for Leo as leader, but he had been too busy to connect Raph's strange sleeping habits to the appearance of the new vigilante.
Breakfast was mostly quiet after that, Mikey making light conversation as they finished their omelettes and went their separate ways; Raph claimed the television and Donnie retreated to his lab.
Mikey gently heated up Leo's omelette in the frying pan before grabbing a bottle of water to take up to the eldest’s room for him.
Mikey's panicked voice carried throughout their lair, instantly catching his brothers’ attention.
Within seconds both of his brothers barreled into Leonardo's bedroom, taking in their baby brother’s worried face, and the way Leo was lying limp on his bed.
"I can't wake him up." Mikey eyes were wide as he instantly moved out of the way so that Donnie could get a closer look at their leader. "And he feels really cold."
Leo's face was a blank mask, not the peaceful look they were used to seeing when he was asleep. He was lying on his plastron and his breathing was so shallow it was almost impossible to see. He had pulled himself into his shell as much as he was able to with his adolescent body. when they were children they had still been able to retreat into their shells to protect themselves, but as they got older their mutated bodies caused them to slowly lose that ability.
Donnie quickly checked his pulse, sighing in relief as he felt the slow steady pulse against the frozen skin. He moved up to check Leo's eyes, gently lifting an eyelid to watch how the iris reacted to the light in the room.
Quickly pinching one of Leo's arms and leaving a light mark, Donnie frowned at how slowly the colour returned to the forest-green skin.
He let out a deep breath that he hadn’t realised he’d been holding, slowly standing as his mind processed what he could from Leo’s symptoms.
“’s he okay?” Raph grunted, leaning over Mikey to nudge his genius brother’s shoulder lightly and get his attention.
“He‘s fine…well.” Donnie frowned, taking another deep breath and schooling his voice into the smooth clinical tone that he used to emotionally detach himself from a situation. “I think he‘s hibernating.”
The room fell into a deafening silence as Raph and Mikey took in their brothers word.
“Is it gonna happen to us too?” “How?” “Why didn’t we hibernate?” “He’s gonna pull through it, right?”
Donnie raised a hand to cut off their flood of questions, looking down at Leo who hadn’t so much as stirred from the noise.
“It‘s not the first time one of us has gone through this.” Donnie pointed out, turning around to study his brothers worried faces.
“But we stopped doing that years ago.” Raph countered, crossing his arms tightly over his chest. “You built that heater ‘cause o’ how dangerous it was.”
“Things were different back then.” Donnie assured with a soft smile. “Master Splinter didn’t know what to expect from hibernation. And like you said, we have a heater now so he isn’t in any danger of freezing.”
“Are we going to hibernate too?” Mikey asked, trying to hide the fear that threatened to take over his voice.
Donnie gave his younger brother a sad sympathetic smile. They had good reason to be afraid, there had always been a danger that something could go wrong with their hibernation.
When they were children, Mikey’s smaller size had always put him in more danger from the harsh cold of the sewers then the rest of his brothers. Most winters he’d hibernate longer then the others, and once or twice they had honestly thought that he wasn’t going to wake up at all.
“I don’t think so.” There was a little hesitation in Donnie’s voice, but he still managed to sound fairly confident. “This is Leo’s first New York winter in over two years.” Donnie tried to explain. “Central America is hotter than here even in the winter. I guess his body’s not as used to the cold as our are anymore. He should be acclimatised enough not to go through this again next year.” Donnie offered optimistically.
Mikey bit his lip but nodded to show that he’d understood. “Should we turn up the heating?”
“Increased heat could affect our own bodies.” Donnie shook his head, watching as Raph bent down to pull Leo’s blanket over their sleeping leader. “Not to mention the fact that Sensei is warm-blooded, and covered with fur.”
“So we just sit round and hope he pulls out of it on his own?” Raph looked up at Donnie with slightly narrowed eyes; he hated not being able to do anything but wait.
“Unfortunately, that‘s all we can do.” Donnie sighed, feeling just as useless as his brother. “Luckily there’s no reason why he should be in danger. I‘m going to go tell Master Splinter what‘s going on.” He added before walking out of the room, quickly followed by Mikey.
“Raph? You coming?” Mikey asked, stopping in the doorway when he noticed that the hot-head hadn’t moved; he was still crouched next to Leo’s bed.
“I‘ll catch up in a minute.” Raph didn’t look away from Leo’s face as he heard Mikey shut the down behind him, leaving the room in almost darkness.
“You gotta pull through this Leo.” He muttered, stroking the leader’s head affectionately. “We need you bro.”
They would both never let their brothers see them looking so vulnerable, but in the darkness of the leaders room, Raph allowed a few tears to fall before brushing them away with the back of his hand.
He slowly tilted his head forward to gently kiss his brother’s forehead.