Author's notes: Wow, so this is the last chapter. A little bit of a time jump. A few weeks have passed and we're back in Donnie's POV.
I can't believe I finished this fic so quickly, it might actually be a record for me. Thanks again to everyone who stuck with this story all the way through, I hope you liked it.
As promised there is a sequel and a couple one-shots in the works as there are things that need resolving after all is said and done :0)
I wince at the sharp tone of Master Splinter's voice and slowly lean over to retrieve my fallen staff. I dropped it. Again. For the twenty seventh time in the last hour. I've been counting each day, keeping track. I need to know if I'm improving at all. To the casual observer it would appear that I'm not, but I at least know that yesterday I dropped my staff thirty times in the first hour so really, twenty seven isn't all that bad.
Not good either.
I can't think like that. I can't listen to the bad thoughts, they won't help anything. I shift on my feet and wipe the sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand. I'm not doing anything particularly strenuous, it's basic form really, but I feel as though I've been running across rooftops for hours or fighting off an entire army of Kraang. I'm covered in sweat and I ache with each movement. It has been weeks since I was injured and it'll be even longer before I'm remotely close to where I was before.
If you ever are. Can't even close your hand all the way around that staff, can you? Can't wield that one-handed, Genius. There's a fight coming, what good will you be?
I grit my teeth and settle into my stance. Master Splinter nods and I start to go through the movements. I know them. I've known them since I was a child. This is simple, should be simple. A few kicks, some precise jabs and sweeps and twirls…
Dropped it again, hotshot. Why not just turn yourself in to the company. Save everyone the trouble.
I can feel my blood boil at the sound of the staff clattering across the ground and come very close to kicking it like a petulant child until Master Splinter's voice stops me.
I take a deep breath and lean over to pick it up. He waits for me to get my footing. It takes me longer than it should, but he waits just the same. Everything takes me a long time these days. I close my eyes and focus only on my hand, curling my thumb and finger around the curve of the staff in a steady, yet fluid grip. I can do this. This is easy. It's a simple kata; a few movements, one right after the other, just hold on to the staff and get through it. I open my eyes and look towards my Sensei. He nods and I begin again.
Don't drop it. You're going to drop it. Oops, almost slipped there. You're going to drop it.
"Ha!" I exclaim when the staff shoots forward with the last jab and stays firmly in my grasp. "I guess the twenty ninth time is the charm," I say with a tired grin.
I stamp the end of the staff onto the ground, my mini triumph falling to pieces as I lose my grip and the staff clatters away once more. I stare at it for one, horrible, rage filled moment and lift my foot with every intent of kicking the stupid thing straight through the wall of the dojo. Master Splinter places his hand on my shoulder and I lower my leg and do my best to look contrite.
"Perhaps that is enough for today," he says with the tiniest of smiles. "You did well."
That's a bit of an exaggeration. You did all right at best.
"I can do it again, Sensei," I say, leaning over to retrieve the staff. "It was sloppy. I can do it better. I know I can."
"Tomorrow," he says and that's the end of it.
He knows you can't do it better.
I stand up straight, leaving my staff on the ground to mock me. Pins and needles shoot down to the tips of my fingertips and I shake out my hand in response. Master Splinter catches me around the wrist, turning my hand over where the light of the dojo catches the shiny, raised scar tissue. He bends my wrist and presses his thumb into the palm of my hand before moving slowly from one joint to the next. The pressure sends the pins and needles running, but the whole extremity from the elbow down still feels like a heavy, clumsy mess.
"We will practice again tomorrow," he says, letting go of my hand. "You must not push yourself too hard so quickly. You could risk re-injuring yourself."
I nod. "Hai, Sensei."
He's right. I know he's right. I'm trying to be patient. I know healing is going to take time. Anger won't solve anything, it won't make me heal any faster, but every time that stupid staff slips from my hand it is hard to remember that. I settle into my stretches while he starts cleaning the dojo. I'm not well enough to train with my brothers and the space looks incomplete without all four of us to fill it. I just have to try harder. If I focus more I'll be on my feet in no time. I'll be ready for whatever is coming. We all will be. I just have to try harder. Tomorrow I'll only drop my staff twenty five times.
"Clean up, I'll make you some tea," Master Splinter says with a swish of his tail over the ground.
"Hai, Sensei," I say with only the smallest wince.
Master Splinter's teas of late have been bitter, medicinal brews that fight the whole way down and don't always rest once they reach my stomach. The walk to the bathroom is a slow, languorous one full of missteps and shuffled feet. My endorphins have properly crashed and exhaustion sits heavy on my shoulders. I fumble with the shower nobs and catch sight of my reflection in the mirror before the steam blocks it from view.
You look awful.
I'm still not back to fighting weight and without my kit on I'm all elbows and knees and boney shoulders. The bruises have faded and the more shallow cuts are only a memory. The crack across my plastron however, is still very much there. I was lucky. The wound wasn't deep enough to reach the muscle underneath. It will still take time to heal, but it will heal and eventually only the lightest of marks will remain. For now though, for now it was jagged and reached around to the edge of the bridge looking as though someone tried to pry me out of my shell or more accurately kick me to death. At least it didn't hurt much anymore.
The hot water is wonderful and I let out a small sigh when it hits my skin. I slide down onto the small stool along the shower wall, leaning my head into the water. My eyes close and the constant drumming against the back of my neck makes my thoughts heavy and further apart. A bang on the door startles me to my feet and if it wasn't for the bar running along the wall I would probably slip. My heart races and even without anyone around to see it I'm embarrassed to have fallen asleep.
"Hey! Hurry up, man!" Mikey shouts from the hallway. "Breakfast is on!"
"Be right out!" I shout back, hurriedly washing myself clean before turning off the water.
I shiver the instant the cool air touches my skin and the tremble causes a flash of pain around the edges of my cracked plastron. I ignore it. There's nothing else to do at this point. I dry off and decide against putting my mask on before slowly shuffling off towards the kitchen.
Can't even tie a bandana, how do you expect to get any real work done?
My brothers are gathered around the table with Master Splinter at the head. Mikey is chattering on about his latest videogame acquisition while stacking pancakes onto plates. Leo is doing his best to listen, but his eyes are glazed over and he seems more interested in the food. I take the seat to Master Splinter's left, grateful to be off my feet.
"How many pancakes do ya want, D?" Mikey asks, holding up the spatula like a sword at the ready.
"Uh, two," I say, instantly crinkling my nose in annoyance when Raph talks over me.
"He means four," he says, piling a plate high and dropping it with a clatter in front of me. "How do you expect to gain any weight if you eat like a bird?" he grumbles, already shoveling his own breakfast into his mouth.
I have a very good response about him eating like a different kind of farm animal, but the slow slide of china across the tabletop catches my attention. Steam rises from the teacup and even at this distance the smell of it turns my stomach. I don't reach for it so Master Splinter pushes it closer to me with an expectant nod of his head.
"Oh, um, thank you Sensei," I say, clearing my throat and avoiding his eyes. "But I'm not thirsty."
The disapproving throat noise is like a clash of symbols and more than one of my brothers snickers into their breakfast in response. "It isn't for thirst," Sensei replies, taking hold of my hand and wrapping it around the cup. "It is for your health. Drink it."
Tastes like the bottom of a subway car.
It's bitter and awful and makes my stomach lurch with a dry heave. Master Splinter takes the empty cup from my hand and starts to clean his tea set.
"Eat your breakfast and go to bed," he instructs and I frown in response.
"Sensei, I was hoping I could work on the fan in the vent over the dojo this morning. It's not running at full capacity and I really think if I could…"
"Eat your breakfast and go to bed," he says again, cutting me off. "Perhaps later I will consider it."
He will not consider it.
"Hai, Sensei," I grumble, stabbing at the pile of pancakes with clumsy fork falls.
Raphael waits until Master Splinter heads to his room before rounding on me with a smirk. "Did you really think he was going to let you crawl around in the vents?" he asks with a chuckle. "You must have hurt your head worse than we thought," he adds, drilling his knuckles into my temple.
"Shut up," I mutter, pushing him away only to earn another laugh for my efforts.
"Back off, Raph," Leo says, more out of habit than actual disapproval.
Raphael laughs, but goes back to shoveling food into his mouth without further incident.
Mikey drops into the chair beside mine and starts eating with equal enthusiasm. "They okay?" he asks around a mouthful of food, motioning towards my plate still full.
"Yeah," I reply, taking a hasty bite. "It's good."
It's not a lie. They're actually delicious and when Mikey sets a cup of coffee in front of me I grin and almost think it is some cruel mirage. "Coffee? Really? Thanks, Mikey."
"No problem, man. It's the fancy stuff, but only one cup, all right? And don't tell Master Splinter," he says in a whisper with a cheeky grin.
I close my hand around the warm mug and breathe in the glorious scent. Weeks, it has been weeks since I've had coffee and that might be the biggest injustice of all. "Not a word, I promise."
"That stuff will rot your insides," Leo says with a sigh, but there's a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Worth it," I reply with a careful sip, letting my eyes drift closed.
It's everything you dreamed it would be.
Mikey picks up his videogame prattle as though he was never interrupted and the rest of our breakfast goes by as hundreds like it have before; with food and good natured teasing and stories. I try to clean my plate, but it's a lost cause and I push it away so I can lean forward and rest my chin on my forearm. It's almost as if everything is back to normal. I close my eyes and listen to the ebb and flow of their voices and try to forget the unwavering anxiety that has been plaguing my thoughts since Master Splinter pulled me from that warehouse. The warm room and my full stomach only encourage my exhaustion and I don't realize I've fallen asleep until Leo shakes my shoulder and I lift my head to find we're the only ones still left in the kitchen.
"Oh, s-sorry," I say around a yawn, rubbing my eyes. "Just resting my eyes."
"Uh huh," he says, draping my arm over his shoulders without asking. "Come on, time for bed."
We shuffle down the hallway and the sounds of Mikey and Raph sparing reach my ears. "I got it," I say, slouching out from under his arm. "Go on, you're late for training."
He looks doubtful. "All right…but go straight to bed."
"Yeah, yeah," I say with another yawn and a dismissive wave of my hand. He doesn't look convinced so I turn and head towards my room to prove my point. "Have a good training session, Leo."
My room is dark and warm and I collapse onto the bed and flail around for a few moments before finding a position that doesn't hurt my hand or my plastron. The blinking light on my T-phone catches my eye and I reach over to snag it from the bedside table. I slide my thumb over the screen and smile when I see the message from April.
How was training?
I roll onto my back and type in my response.
Good. I made it through the kata. How was your calculus test?
A grin crosses my face as I drum my fingers and wait for her response. I can picture her moving her thumbs across the keypad with a little crinkle to her nose that pushes her freckles together.
B+ Thanks to my tutor ;0)
There's a squeak of a floorboard outside my door and I hold my phone to my chest with wide eyes.
"Donatello, put the phone away and go to sleep," Master Splinter says.
How did he know?!
"I was just about to, Sensei," I insist, typing frantically.
Gotta go. Splinter. Call you later.
"Put it away or I will take it away," he adds and I have no reason to believe it is an empty threat.
I put the phone back on the table. "Away," I call out and even through the door I can hear his annoyed throat noise.
"Sleep," he says simply, walking away from the door.
I settle back against my pillow and pull the blanket up to my chin. I should drift right off to sleep, I'm exhausted enough. I close my eyes and in the darkness can hear the faint sounds of my brothers training in the dojo. I should be with them. Even if I can't participate I should be there. Not put aside like a cow out to pasture.
Take your nap, baby.
My eyes snap open and I stare up at the ceiling. I tell myself to close them, to go to sleep. I want to sleep. I need to, but there's something else waiting in the darkness, someone. Those eyes wait for me when I close my own. They're cold and unfeeling and stare right through me. I hate that I'm afraid, that she got under my skin so completely. The warehouse was destroyed and the containers along with it, but she came out unscathed and I can't imagine she's happy. We have been laying low the last few weeks and I beefed up our security as best I could from my sick bed, but we can't hide forever.
She'll come after us. It's only a matter of time. We'll just have to get her first. This isn't revenge it is survival. Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. It's animalistic and base and my stomach turns at the thought of it. Killing does not sit easy with me, no matter the target, no matter the justification. There has to be another way. There has to be a way where our hands aren't bloodied. I broke through their security system once. I can certainly do it again.
She was awfully concerned that you stole information. She must be hiding something big. Would be a shame if that something mysteriously found its way to the proper authorities.
I live for that moment of discovery, when all of my efforts come together and the path is clear. I know what has to be done and I know I can do it. I won't let her scare me. I won't let them hurt my family. I'll take the company down brick by brick if I have to and she'll never even see it coming. I am still. I am calm. I got this.