A/N: The story is based on Mirage Comics volume 1 but is technically an AU as the timeline isn't respected. The events takes place nowadays.
This interlude doesn't have a cover so far. I do not intend to draw one, not even under torture.
This interlude didn't fit in the plans I made for the chapters and it would have been really awkward to place it into chapter 5 due to yet another ellipse.
Beta-reader: SadoraNortica
Rating: M for adult themes, violence and such.


Neververse
Interlude
Guerre et paix

There wasn't much room in the cell Donatello shared with Raphael but they managed to get ready for the day anyway before the official time to wake up. He had done some exercises during his days at the hospital, but still, he had a lot of catching up to do. Raphael had "helped" him by siting on his shoulders during his series of a hundred push-ups. The added weight had been hard to lift but necessary. Donatello was determined to regain all his lost muscular mass by the end of the month. Considering what had happened to him, he knew his brothers would let him rest but Donatello couldn't accept that. He felt like he was failing them by being weak. It wasn't an option.

Once the grates open, they went to the common washroom and Donatello immediately knew that he wouldn't like the showers in prison. They were in two long rows without any curtains or some sort of separation between the men. He didn't mind taking a shower or a bath with his brothers, they actually did that quite often to save water and help brush one's shell, but it was different in prison. There were human males. Everywhere.

"Do we really have to shower?" Donatello asked Raphael who was already removing his clothes and then smirked back at him.

"Yes, we do, 'cause there ain't no bathtub here, Donnie-boy."

Donatello winced. He had made a great deal of having a bathtub last time they settled down somewhere. He had acquired the taste for hot baths when they had first left their lair to stay at April's, after the Mousers' attack, a long time ago. It had become sort of a habit of his. Once a week, Donatello would soak in hot bubbly water with books and snacks until someone came to get him out. More often than one would think possible, his brothers ended up in the bathroom with him, chit-chatting, eating more snacks and so on until Splinter would remind them it was late and they had to sleep eventually.

That wouldn't happen again anytime soon.

"It's not what I meant," Donatello corrected. "Do we have to shower with all of those people around?"

Raphael dropped his pants and put them on the bench.

"They won't look at you. They had time to look at us before and there isn't much to see on a Turtle anyway."

"I don't care if they look at me. I don't want to look at them," Donatello explained. A few dirty looks landed on him and Donatello decided to speak in Japanese to avoid being understood by the other inmates. "I'm not comfortable with the idea of taking a shower surrounded by naked human males."

"Don't drop the soap and you'll be fine," Raphael taunted.

Donatello sighed, annoyed. He loved all his brothers but some of them were an infinite source of frustration. Raphael obviously didn't understand what was going on. Donatello wished Leonardo was there instead of his hot headed brother. Leonardo would have understood immediately.

"They'll be dead before they lay a hand on me," Donatello mumbled.

"Would it help if they were female?" Raphael asked with a smirk.

"That would be worse, actually."

"Hey Greenies, you goin' or what?"

Raphael and Donatello turned as one to the young man covered in tattoos, who had dared to talk to them like that, and he took a step back.

"Greenies?" Raphael repeated in English. "And what are you, huh? You look like a big white worm with your ridiculous flabby belly."

Donatello was already picturing the moment where the guards would come in the washroom and pin Raphael against the wall for his attitude but something entirely different happened. Other inmates laughed at the skinny guy and pushed him at the end of the line. A gigantic white, bald man in his sixties with a belly so big he looked pregnant nodded to Raphael and kept waiting, arms crossed, his pale eyes unfocused. Donatello frowned but didn't have time to express his thoughts because Raphael grabbed him by the shell and dragged him to the showers. Donatello barely had time to remove his uniform and toss it on the bench before hot water hit him.

"What happened?" he asked, switching to German just in case.

"I don't know," Raphael answered, thoughtful. German was the perfect language for his low and guttural voice. He had learned it to annoy Leonardo and it did wonders in that area. "Some of the big shots around here make sure the others aren't a problem for us. This guy, the giant white whale, from what I know he's a serial killer, the kind we'd take down for good reasons, but he's been kinda nice to us so far."

"Did you talk to him?"

"Heck no!" Raphael grunted. "I got nothing to say to that kind of homophobic lunatic."

Besides, you already got one in your phone-book, Donatello thought but he knew better than say something like that out loud about Casey when Raphael was around. They showered quickly and were out of the washroom in five minutes. Donatello wasn't eager to spend more time than that in the room. He didn't like seeing naked humans. They were odd, all flaccid and sluggish, and the worse part about them was their sexual organ just hanging there, out in the world, free to wiggle like a big worm. Donatello shivered just at the thought. He had to take it as part of his training and he'd be fine but he feared showering would never be a pleasant moment for him anymore.

"We should talk to them," Donatello said as they walked through the corridors to get to the cafeteria for breakfast.

"Talk to who?"

"The big shots."

"Not gonna happen."

"Why not? They may be allies."

"They're criminals," Raphael corrected.

"We have killed."

"Not without a reason."

"That doesn't lessen what we did."

Raphael stopped in the corridor and Donatello knew he had struck a nerve. He wished he had been able to have a cup of coffee before the first argument of the day.

"You think we're murderers?" his brother asked coldly.

"Well, technically, we're assassins."

"We're weapons," Raphael said, his eyes hard. "Weapons kill but someone has to use them. We're not like those freakos who killed just because they could or just because they felt like it. We're not like them."

"That is obviously a subject on which we won't agree," Donatello tip-toed to avoid a heated argument so early in the morning, "so I'll just offer you my point of view and shut my big mouth, okay?"

"Can you skip the offering part?"

"No."

Raphael sighed and started walking again. "Fine."

"Isn't it strange that some people here protect us?"

"They don't..."

"It was a rhetorical question," Donatello shushed his brother. "We've been revealed to the world seventy days ago and..."

"You keep track?" Raphael mocked.

"Yes, I do, and it's still my turn to talk. You guys have been here for five weeks and apparently you didn't talk much to the other inmates."

"Mike did."

"Do not interrupt me. Mike did talk to some inmates, yes, but I doubt he had made such good friends that they're now all willing to take our side against the others. They have nothing to gain from this kind of relationship."

"Unless Mike also came out of the closet and gives such fantastic blowjobs that all the big guys' satisfaction now depends solely on him."

"You do it on purpose, don't you?" Donatello was getting fed up with Raphael's interruptions.

"Do what?" Raphael asked innocently. When Donatello returned him a look that clearly stated he couldn't be fooled, Raphael smirked. "Okay, I'll shut up. Go on."

"People in here either ignore us, human-size bipedal, walking and talking turtles, which I believe is hard to do, or make sure nobody disturbs us. Michelangelo's hidden talents can hardly explain everything. So, there might be someone who is giving orders in here or outside and that might be a problem for us. Maybe that person wants to genuinely help us but it's obviously someone with a lot of power to influence criminals. And what can we offer to repay him, hmm?"

Raphael starred at him silently, arms crossed.

"It was a real question this time," Donatello rolled his eyes. "The answer is quite simple and was actually the subject of our recent argument. We're weapons, Raph, we kill people and we're really good at it."

"You think we'll bow to some king of the scum?" Raphael snorted. "Leo'd never tolerate that."

"We might not have a choice."

"Tell you what, Mulder, I don't believe in all your conspiracies bullshit," Raphael responded more seriously. Donatello opened his mouth to give his brother more arguments but Raphael closed it with a finger. "But, you're right on one thing: we should be more careful."

"I didn't say such thing," Donatello corrected, shoving the finger off with the back of his hand.

"But it was implied," Raphael insisted, bumping Donatello's beak. "I was thinking about something like that yesterday. There might be someone around here willing to spend more time in those cozy cells in exchange for some Turtle blood."

"That is not related to what I just said."

"It is. We have to be careful, to stick together, 'cause some shit will fall on us at some point."

Donatello nodded. If there was one thing they were good at, it was getting into trouble. Michelangelo believed they were cursed by the Universe itself and consequently doomed forever. Donatello didn't agree with his brother, mostly because he didn't believe in fate or karmic punishment, but facts were slowly piling up to contradict him. After all, it was hard to explain the sequence of events that had led them to the Triceraton's home world without fate, destiny or an amazing amount of bad luck. Heck, all their lives were nothing but a collection of statistical errors.

"And you have to talk to Leo," Raphael added, dead serious.

"You said he'd come around," Donatello reminded him.

"I did to comfort you, dumbass. Talk to him, today, or I'll make you and it won't be pleasant."

There was nothing Donatello could possibly say to change Raphael's mind at the moment so he nodded and followed his brother to the cafeteria without a word. Michelangelo and Leonardo weren't there yet and only one of them showed up a few minutes later, but only after Donatello had tasted the horrible instant coffee. It was a good thing that Professor Sparrow was coming later that day. She would bring tea and cookies for sure.

"Where's Leo?" Raphael asked as Michelangelo sat down with his tray in hand.

"He's moping or something. You should go talk to him, Donnie, but careful 'cause your bride is in a bad mood."

"My bride?" Donatello repeated, uncomfortable.

Michelangelo gulped his quarter of orange and chewed it a few seconds, detailing his brother. It didn't help Donatello to act casual. He cleared his throat and stood up, abandoning his breakfast – he wasn't hungry anymore anyway.

"I'm going to deal with that right now," he declared. "I don't like to waste food so feel free to finish... that. Whatever it's called."

"You have to eat something eventually, Don," Raphael reminded him.

"I'll think about it," Donatello promised, already walking away.

Raphael and Michelangelo had given him a tour the day before so it didn't take long for Donatello to find the B block. Once there, he just had to follow Leonardo's scent and he found him sitting on his bed, a book in hand. Donatello didn't enter the cell, even though it was open. He awaited his brother's approval before doing so but he eventually cleared his throat after a few minutes of obvious ignoring.

"What do you want?" Leonardo asked, on guard.

"Just to talk," Donatello answered. "May I come in?"

Leonardo gave him a cold look for a moment before nodding. Donatello entered the familiar cell and took the time to look around. Michelangelo had invaded the desk and a good part of the wall with his novel projects. Leonardo had hung up some of Shadow's drawings on the opposite wall, under Michelangelo's top bunk. Other than that, the cell looked exactly like his.

Donatello wasn't sure if he was allowed to sit on the bed, next to Leonardo. Usually, he wouldn't have hesitated a second but the situation required some precautions. He couldn't allow himself that sort of proximity right now, even if he wanted it badly. Donatello had missed Leonardo more than Raphael and Michelangelo and he longed for the moment he could simply enjoy his best friend's presence like he used to but it wasn't for now. They had more pressing matters to deal with. Right now, they needed to be a leader and his second discussing their next movements. They would be brothers later. Donatello sat on the steel stool at the desk and was careful to keep his back straight to avoid putting pressure on his shell. It wasn't as solid as before, not yet.

"We have a strategy," Donatello started. Leonardo nodded, authorizing him to continue. "As you already know, we will face a trial to determine our level of conscientiousness and dangerousness, and our ability to live among people." Leonardo nodded again. Donatello kept looking at him straight in the eyes. "We cannot deny that we have killed and we won't because it will be held against us, no matter what. We don't know who will be our enemies in that court but we can assume the Foot will be represented there. Considering the trap we fell into, it's quite obvious."

"We don't know who set that trap," Leonardo reminded him.

"It doesn't matter. People will know we have killed. We carried weapons with us when we got arrested and it wasn't ornamental."

Leonardo had the smallest smile and it lifted a part of the weight from Donatello's heart.

"So, we have killed."

"Yes, and we have to charge Splinter with the responsibility of those we have killed," Donatello said and he saw Leonardo lose his shy smile. He knew his brother had come to the same conclusion. "Believe me, Leonardo, I don't like it either," Donatello insured. "You know my position about killing an enemy: avoid if possible. But, even if someone ordered me to do it, it's still my action, my decision. I can refuse to obey at any given time, after all, even if there would be consequences for my brothers. You never forced me to kill, nor did Splinter, but I had orders nonetheless. We were raised and trained to avenge Hamato Yoshi by killing the Shredder, Oroku Saki. We were tools."

"I see where you're going," Leonardo whispered.

"We mostly killed Foot soldiers," Donatello continued, happy to move on, "and we can argue we had orders. But we will have to deny the other accusations of murder, even when we only defended ourselves. I believe there won't be many cases like that. People disappear every day in New York and some of those murders were committed in Massachusetts anyway. We have to prepare for it nonetheless. And we have to prove we are not a menace for humans. We did good, Leonardo, and we have to use that fact."

"And how can you prove that?" Leonardo asked.

"Miller and Wolfe are going to dig into the NYPD archives to find cases we were involved in."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"That's a pretty stupid idea coming from you."

"I'm open to any suggestion," Donatello countered. Leonardo winced and Donatello regretted his words. He hadn't meant to provoke him. "I really am, Leonardo," Donatello pleaded. "I've searched for solutions to our problem ever since I woke up from the coma and..."

"The coma?" Leonardo interrupted him, angry again. "You were in a coma and I just learn that now? Are you fucking kidding me, Donnie?"

"Like I told you yesterday," Donatello tried to calm him, "it would have been counterproductive to tell you, even dangerous for our future."

"I am supposed to take care of you guys," Leonardo roared, standing up, "and I can't do it if I don't have the proper information! Is it so hard to understand, dammit?"

"My role as your second is to make sure you don't do anything stupid," Donatello stated coldly.

"Your role is to support me and my decisions."

"That is not what Splinter asked me to do."

Leonardo looked hurt at the moment and Donatello regretted what he just said in the heat of the moment. His meetings with Splinter were as secret as his brothers'. There were subjects they could discuss only with their master and they all had special orders. When the time had come to define who would lead the team, Splinter had chosen Leonardo for his loyalty, his determination and his cool head. Donatello had been given the role of second for his intelligence and his complementary point of view. Splinter also had asked him to keep an eye on Leonardo and to make sure the mission would be carried on. Leonardo could, sometimes, get a little too excited and want to show off. It could compromise the mission, therefor Donatello had to be the one to remind Leonardo what he had to do. Until now, he never had revealed that secondary command to his oblivious brother. Donatello regretted doing it. It wasn't the proper time to do it, sure, but the look of total betrayal on Leonardo's face was way worse than his bad timing.

He had to do something to change that, to focus Leonardo on something else. That would be better than to see him hurt.

"There isn't much you have to know about my time at the hospital, actually," Donatello sighed. "I had a high fever when I arrived and I was delirious. They didn't know if I could tolerate any anesthetic so they operated while I was still conscious. Well, as much as possible at that moment. But I had morphine so it was okay. I remember it hurt a lot and people moving around me while I was attached to the operation table but it's unclear. I don't really want to remember anyway. That must have been a bloody Hell." Donatello had a small smile but his joke didn't reach Leonardo, still standing in front of him, fists clenched. "I lost consciousness at some point, I don't know when, and Professor Sparrow told me I woke up six days later. My back was still open but cleaned, with no sign of infection. The doctors told me about their plan to replace my bones with the foam on a titanium frame and I said yes because it was the fastest way to get out of there and back to you." Donatello fixed his eyes on the ground, incapable of looking at Leonardo anymore. "I'd be lying if I were to tell you I didn't enjoy my time at the hospital. It was like Heaven on Earth after Saint Cecile. People cared, they were nice to me, I could read, and talk with whoever came into my room. But I still longed for the moment I'd be with you, brother. You were the only reason I didn't give up. I'd like you to know that because it's important."

Donatello's throat was so tight it hurt. He had said too much from his point of view but his brother didn't have a clue of the true meaning of his words. Even if his secret was most likely still safe, Donatello couldn't neglect the slight chances of Leonardo understanding the subtext. He feared it. It wasn't a good time to reveal such a secret. They had bigger fish to fry at the moment.

Leonardo sighed and made the few steps between them to put his hand on his brother's shoulder. Donatello froze, unsure of what Leonardo was going to do. He also felt trapped between his brother and the desk, in a position of weakness. He hated that.

"I'm sorry, Donatello," Leonardo said softly. He came closer and embraced a very tensed Donatello carefully. "I was so scared," he whispered.

"I was scared too," Donatello confessed and he hugged his brother back, inhaling his scent and regretting the thin layer of the uniform keeping him away from the rough skin of the plastron. They liked physical contact. Most of the time, it was expressed with a punch or a flick, but they also shared more tender contacts, in front of the television or when Splinter wasn't around. Those moments were rare though, therefor even more precious. "I feared the infection had spread beyond possible healing, even with medical assistance."

"You said yesterday they had to remove muscles, right?" Leonardo asked, his fingers tracing soothing circles on Donatello's shell. Those gave him a little shiver every time they encountered his scars.

"Hmm, a little, nothing too dramatic. It grew back within a month anyway. Thank you, mutagen."

"Remember that leech Raph got back in Northampton?"

"How can I forget that?" Donatello mumbled. The leech had feed itself on Raphael's blood, drinking up the mutagen too. It had become a fantastic monster while Raphael had regressed to a simple turtle. It had been as if they had lost a brother for a while and the experience had been truly terrifying. Donatello had been prepared to see his brothers die but not being reduced to a dumb pet turtle.

"Did you experience the same thing?"

"I didn't lose enough blood for that, no," Donatello explained. "From what the doctors told me, after I woke up, they couldn't transfuse human blood to me during the operation, obviously, so they stocked what they could in jars while they were cleaning the infection and reinjected me with that blood later. They filtered it but apparently the mutagen stuck to the erythrocytes. That actually confirms my theory about the mutagen, kinda. I believe this substance is attached to our tissue on a molecular level. Basically, you can't squeeze a Turtle to obtain mutagen. All you'd get would be turtle juice with little pieces floating in it."

"Great news," Leonardo snorted and Donatello couldn't help his smile.

"It is, actually. I always feared a direct contact between our blood and April's but I now think it wouldn't do much damage to her. I think our cells would be treated like a normal external corps to eradicate like any other. But I'd have to do some tests to be sure."

"I doubt experimenting on our fellow inmates is appropriate."

Donatello laughed a little, enjoying the solid presence of his brother in his arms. He had missed Leonardo's wicked sense of humor.

"Indeed, but that will be for later, once we're out of here."

Leonardo straightened his back and released Donatello to take a few steps back. Bonding time was over, they had to talk seriously again.

"So, this strategy of yours," Leonardo resumed, "it's basically showing to the world we're not that bad and that we were under the influence of an evil mastermind, correct?"

"Something like that, yes," Donatello confirmed. "And it would be better if we never mention that Master Splinter is not human either."

"Yeah, I bet. And after?"

"After the trial? I doubt we'll be free to do whatever we want from there. Most likely, we will be under heavy surveillance for some time, some sort of probation."

"And we'll have to be nice and quiet," Leonardo sighed.

"Yep. That will be hard, considering trouble loves us," Donatello added. "I wouldn't be surprised if there's an alien invasion during our probation." Leonardo rolled his eyes, agreeing with Donatello who smiled back. "But more trivial opponents have higher chances to fall upon us. You helped Lieutenant Miller by giving him information on the Foot, they're going to be mad, and not everybody is happy knowing we exist."

"Yay, Turtles killers," Leonardo mocked, sitting on his bed. "We have to make sure we can defend ourselves against such threats."

"Yes," Donatello nodded. "We might need to start being more careful now, as Raphael suggested. He thinks we're in danger, that some people here might try to hurt us in exchange for something."

"What do you think about that theory?"

"It's possible," Donatello agreed. "But I also think something bigger is already in place. It seems some people make sure we're not disrupted by any potential trouble."

"I thought nobody dared to approach us," Leonardo admitted, "and that someone was responsible for that. My money was on the direction of the prison though."

"Also possible. Everything is, at this point."

"Great. I'll take the alien invasion then," Leonardo joked. At least, he would know what to do face to face with Triceratons. He didn't say it but Donatello knew Leonardo was thinking it. He thought it too. Donatello would have welcomed to opportunity to solve this problem with a fight. It wouldn't be their first time in an arena.

"So," Donatello cleared his throat, "Raph and Mike gave me a tour of the prison yesterday after dinner but I didn't get the chance to have your point of view. Care to enlighten me, brother?"

"Sure," Leonardo smiled. He stood up and gave a hand to Donatello to help him in getting up. Excuses weren't necessary between them. Their little bicker was now ancient history and they had more important matters to focus on. Donatello followed Leonardo in the corridor, already enjoying his diatribes about the security system and the flagrant incompetence of the guards. His brother's confidence made Donatello smile. Some things weren't meant to be changed.


Notes
For the leech, see TMNT vol1 chapter 24 to 26, "The River"
For the events leading to the Triceratons' home world, see TMNT vol1 chapter 2 to 7.

Title: "war and peace". It's actually the French title of Léon Tolstoï's "War and Peace" novel.