Leo studied his reflection in the smooth water in front of him carefully. On the outside he looked the same calm collective leader he was; on the inside he was a mess.
This part of the sewer had partially collapsed years ago, a blocked overhead pipe that had once pumped sewage into the ocean had broken, flooding this part of the sewer with pure sea water and forming an underground lake. Mikey had nick-named it ‘the beach’ when they were younger.
It was one of their favourite places to hang out before they’d been allowed to go to the surface: Leo still came here when he need to think or meditate in peace. Today he was here to escape from his family, he needed to stay away from one person in particular.
He had no idea what had possessed him to do it but he had kissed his own brother.
Leo didn’t even mean to do it. One minute they were in the middle of a heated argument, then they were fighting and before he knew it he was being pinned down, their lips were only an inch apart and then… he took that last inch and caught his brothers lips with his own.
With a heavy sigh he looked away from his refection. He was disgusted with himself.
Raphael was his brother and yet he’d kissed him, right there in the dojo, in front of their younger brothers. Even now, hours after it had happened, he could still feel his brothers lips against his own. It had only lasted a second, but it would forever be in his mind.
But that one blissful moment would always be overshadowed by the look on Raph’s face when they broke apart. He looked disgusted, like Leo had hurt him in the worst way possible. The angry growl as he pushed away to put as much distance between them as possible still made his heart ache.
Leo hadn’t dared to move, not until Raph stormed out of the dojo and the sound of his bedroom door being slammed shut echoed throughout the lair.
That sound was all it took to snap Leo out of his shock, he was on his feet and out of the lair before his other brothers could say anything. He didn’t think he’d be able to take the look of disgust he imagined on their faces.
His hand brushed across some of the rubble on the floor near where he was sitting, he picked up a small flat piece of concrete, absentmindedly turning it in his hand.
He pulled his hand back and threw the rubble into the water with all his strength, watching as it bounced across the surface a couple of times before it sank.
Master Splinter had once told them that their life was like still water in a pond, to deep for them to see all the answers and able to adapt around any obstacles in it’s way.
Every time something happened it was like a pebble in their pond. The stone would disturb the water and send ripples across the surface, distorting the reflections until the pond was calm once again.
If only Leo’s problem would settle as quickly the water.
Something about watching the rings that spread across the water had a calming affect on Leo, so he gathered up more of the debris and started to skim them across the lake. Each time the small piece of concrete would bounce once or twice before being swallowed into the depths.
He froze as he watched one bounce three times, then four finally sinking into the water after fifth. He dropped the stone in his hand as he turned around to face the one person that he really didn’t want to see right now.
Raph was crouched down on the floor, another stone in his hand as he pulled back before skimming it across the water, it bounced four times but neither of them noticed.
Leo inhaled sharply as he turned back to look at the lake, his muscles tensed as he saw his brother’s reflection walking closer to his own.
For a moment the two of them stayed in silence, both staring at the perfectly clear seawater.
“Do ya remember when Sensei told us life was like the water?”
Raph’s voice was soft, but it echoed off the smooth walls easily. He sounded calm, his voice not giving away any of the emotion bubbling so close to the surface.
Leo swallowed nervously, answering the question by nodding his head, not trusting himself to speak.
“He said the more you try to stop the ripples the more ya make.” With a heavy sigh Raph sat down next to Leo, sitting so that only a few inches stopped their arms from touching. “I don’ wanna make any more ripples then there already are.”
Once again the sewer was cloaked in silence.
Neither of them knew how long they sat there, lost in their own thoughts before Leo shifted awkwardly and broke the quiet the tableau.
Raph’s sharp intake of breath had Leo watching his brother through the reflection in front of him.
The younger turtle had his head tilted down, watching where the water lapped at the ground. His hands clenched into fists and relaxed a few times, a calming action that Raph had learnt from their father.
Leo studied his brother cautiously. It was a rare thing not to be able to read Raphael’s emotions, but the only thing that give away what was going on inside his head was the steady pulse of his hands.
“I kissed you.”
Leo felt like he was skipping stones again, skimming the problem into the light but too afraid to let it sink into his depths.
“I know it was wrong. I don’t know what came over me.” Leo continued. “I understand if you can’t stand to be around me anymore.”
“I’m here ain’t I.” Raph lifted his head to meet his brothers eyes through the water. “If I hated ya I wouldn’t a come.”
“How’d you fine me anyway?” As far as he knew none of the others had been back here in years.
“‘Cause I know ya Leo. You always come here to think too.” A soft smile settled across Raph’s face as he admitted that here came there to think as well.
“So, you like me huh?”
Leo sighed, looking down at his hands. “I don’t know.”
Raph’s hand brushed over Leo’s slightly. Dark blue eyes tried to meet amber, but Raph continued staring ahead as if nothing had happened.
“I do.” His voice was barely a whisper as he breathed out the words. Not wanting Leo to hear but also desperately hoping he would.
Leo felt the problem hit the surface for the last time, being swallowed down by sudden understanding.
After a few moments Raph turned to Leo, their eyes meeting and Leo’s breath catching in his throat. Raph’s eyes were ablaze with emotion, too much for him to put into words but Leo could see all he needed to in those two shining golden orbs.
He was scared, scared of what Leo would say now that he knew. He looked at the blue banded turtle like he was only thing stopping him from drowning within the sea of uncertainty that had crashed between them, waiting for Leo’s reaction.
Without breaking eye contact, Leo turned his hand upwards, giving Raph’s hand a comforting squeeze before he spoke. “Me too.”
For a moment time didn’t exist, the two of them statues before the spell was broken. Slowly, and with a little hesitation they lent forward, pulling back slightly with an awkward laugh as their beaks bumped together.
Raph tilted his head slightly before leaning in again, lips touching but it wasn’t like before. Their kiss in the dojo had been quick, a sudden fire that was gone almost as soon as it hit. This one was soft and sweet, both nervous and not quite sure what they were doing.
“Why couldn’t you have done that back home?” Leo sighed, smiling softly to himself as he felt from the kiss that he wasn’t alone in his new found attraction.
“Though you were making fun of me.” Raph grunted, ducking his head slightly in embarrassment. “Mikey’s been winding my up about it for months now. Didn’t ya see the look on his face when it happened?”
Months? How had Leo not noticed before now?
“No. I was afraid of what they’d say.” Leo admitted, looking down at their connected hands. “We still don’t know how they’ll react.”
“Don’t tell ‘em nothing yet. Not till we got something to tell. We still don’t really know ourselves yet do we?” Raph’s hand slipped away from Leo as he stood up. “But we’re gonna figure it out.” He promised.
“It’s getting late we should be heading home.” Leo frowned, making no effort to climb to his feet as he stared back into the water.
“Meet me here tomorrow.” It wasn’t a question, it was practically a command. “If any of the others ask, just tell ‘em your skipping stones.”
“And then what?”
“Then we keep on ‘skipping stones’ ‘till we know how this is gonna work out between us.” Raph looked down at Leo with a bright challenging smirk. “Cause I ain’t giving this up before it get’s started.”
Leo grinned as he pushed himself to his feet, pulling Raph into another kiss. This one was more sure, more fire with a silent promise that whatever there was between them was real.
As they pulled apart, Leo couldn’t help but think of their Sensei’s wise words.
“As time goes you must move from your small pond’s on to bigger seas. The stones you throw may cause rings that cross to other waters, but when the time for rings has passed, then only you can calm the waters once again.”
Now that Leo knew that Raph felt the same way, he couldn’t wait to ‘Skip stones’ with him for as long as it took, until something deeper took root. They would have to deal with the ripples they would cause with their younger brothers, calming the waves before the water could settle smoothly.
Without another word the two of them headed back to the lair, hands occasionally brushing against each other in the dark shadows of the sewer lights. They were both riding a delicate wave, and hoping that a storm didn’t await them in the future.