Rating: K-Plus

Word Count: 1,322

I do not own TMNT.

11. Silence

The lone figure carefully shuffled his way through the dark tunnel, the bottoms of his khaki pants brushing against cold cement. He paused for a moment, tilting his head and remaining still as a statue. The sound of a small trickle of water hitting the ground quickly caught his attention, and he continued towards the sound like it was a beacon. His attuned sense of hearing made it so it didn't take long to find the source - a pipe running along the ceiling was leaking profusely.

With a long sigh, he made his way over to a large gate valve on the tunnel wall. Leaning all his weight against it, he managed to turn the wheel until the constant rush of water going through the pipes was stopped, leaving the tunnel even more silent than before. He dropped his bag to the ground with a loud clatter, then dug around until he had pulled out a small tube of piping. Fingering a wrench on his belt lightly, he made his way back over to the leaking pipe and looked up at it.

"Had to be on the ceiling, didn't it?" he lamented. He took a moment to adjust his dusty brown suspenders and make sure the tools and the pipe were tucked securely in his belt. Then he rolled his shoulders, flexed his toes, and crouched down. His eyes locked on the thickest pipe above him and his calves tensed before he swung his arms up in time with his spring. His hands caught onto the pipe and in one swift motion, he used his momentum to swing himself up onto the pipe. As soon as he was secure, he let out a hiss and clutched his knee.

"Shhhhh-" he bit his tongue to prevent the unwelcome word from slipping out. The muscles in his leg throbbed uncomfortably. He'd need to take more painkillers tomorrow; clearly the two pills he was taking now weren't enough. He could imagine what his dad would say right about now.

"You can stop the pain mentally. Ninja feel no pain," he said in a mockingly deep tone. "Yeah, real helpful. I'll just pretend I don't have permanent nerve damage."

He slowly scooted himself forward on the pipe until he was within reach of the leaky pipe, which was only a few centimeters higher than the one he sat on. He set to work with his wrench, working slowly but with pinpoint precision. He efficiently cut out the leak and replaced it with a new piece of piping. He had a small welding torch that he used to seal off the pipe, and that finished the deal. Storing away his tools, he slid off the pipe, hanging off it for a moment before he dropped to the ground lightly.

"Owwww," he whined, favoring his right leg as he limped over to the gate valve. "I'm not even old yet." With a tired sigh, he turned the water back on and it rushed back into the pipes, the leak effectively stopped. He stepped back and admired his work, picking up the floodlight again to shine on his patchwork job. Even if he wasn't building blimps or discovering new elements anymore, he was helping people - true, fixing pipes in the sewers sort of paled in comparison to saving the world, but at least he had something left to offer his city.

He glanced at his watch; it was getting late. The turtle grabbed the bag of piping off the cold floor, then turned and limped back through the twisting walkways, squeezing through tight spots until he had reached the old subway station. Long ago he might have leapt over the turnstiles with practiced ease, but now he just pushed through them with a loud click. Things were as he had left them.

His nightly routine was executed in mundane apathy. He reheated leftover chicken and fries, and ate his dinner while watching television from the ratted old couch.

"Chemistry for one thousand!"

"Thank you Kathy!" Donatello said from his spot on the couch. "Finally someone chooses chemistry."

"Alright. Chemistry books warn you not to add this common substance to sulfuric acid; it may cause an explosion."

"Water," Donnie spat out before the announcer had even finished. "And it doesn't explode. It boils and spits a little and can burn you but it isn't a bomb."

"What is...salt?"

"No Kathy!" Donnie groaned. "Now you're making hydrogen chloride gas!"

After Jeopardy had ended, Donnie took another couple of painkillers, brushed his teeth and stripped off his gear and clothes. Before he retired to his room, he went to check on Splinter. Passing through the dojo, he shivered. It was always creepy. It had been years since it had been used. The rugs were dusty, the tree dying, the wallpaper peeling off the stone. He rushed to reach Splinter's room.

"Dad," Donnie said, poking his head into the cozy room. Splinter sat on his bed, staring at the flickering television on the dresser across the room. "Hey, dad, do you need anything? Otherwise I'm going to bed." Splinter kept his gaze fixated on the screen in front of him. Donnie sighed.

"Are you going to talk to me tonight?" Donatello asked in exasperation. Splinter didn't even twitch his ears. Sometimes he got in these moods. Donatello understood them but didn't like them. Splinter was reliving memories, so lost in his own head that he couldn't tear himself away. Maybe he didn't do it when Mikey or Raph was the one spending the week with him. Donatello never bothered to ask.

"Fine, I guess not," Donatello sighed. "Goodnight." He turned to leave, but was halted in his tracks by Splinter's rattling voice.

"Do you resent me, Donatello?" Splinter asked.

Donatello turned back to his father, eyeing him incredulously. For a moment he was stunned into silence. "Of course not," Donnie finally scoffed. "Why would you say that?"

"I-" Splinter's voice faltered as he met Donatello's gaze. "-I destroyed our family."

"What?" Donatello asked in disbelief. "Nobody destroyed our family."

"When Leonardo and Miwa came to me, when they told me what they'd done, I couldn't find it in myself to forgive them. I was so shocked, so angry...and now our family is broken." Splinter's fur began to turn dark underneath his eyes. "How could you not resent me for that?"

Donatello was quick to be at his father's side, putting his hand on Splinter's shoulder. "Dad, I love you and nothing can change that, " Donatello said firmly. Splinter choked down a sob and Donatello, acting on pure instinct, pulled him in for a hug. Splinter returned it after a moment's hesitation. "It's a feeling...beyond reason, beyond logic. I can't not love you," Donatello muttered into Splinter's shoulder, holding him tighter. "It's something I can't explain, but it's something I can trust. And I learned to trust in my feelings from you." The father and son pair remained there, unable to break the embrace for a long while.

"How was I blessed with such wonderful children?" Splinter finally asked, the sorrow palpable in his words. "You are a better man than I have been."

"You know," Donatello said, finally pulling away so he could look his father in the eye. "I think that Leonardo and Miwa feel the same way that I do. If you ask them, they'll come back. Our family is a little dysfunctional, but not unfixable."

"It's been so long," Splinter worried. "I haven't spoken with them for years."

"So speak now," Donatello urged. Splinter took in a shuddering breath and nodded, a new spark in his eyes.

"Yes. I think it's time for us all to put the past behind us."