Universe: late Mirage comic
Disclaimers: Donatello, Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Splinter are registered trade marks of Mirage Studios. The most I own in this fic is the pony!
Donatello stood inside the gate of the pasture with a small bucket of grain in hand. The evening sun lengthened the shadows of the surrounding trees and fence line across the pasture, hiding the silhouette of the red pony grazing in the distance. Don whistled sharply to get its attention, but the pony only raised his head for a moment. He swished his dark tail with some annoyance before walking a few steps away to continue grazing.
The turtle sighed, rubbing his neck once to wipe away sweat that formed in the humid July air. This wasn't going to be as easy as he planned. Casey received the pony a couple weeks ago from a neighbor, as a form of payment for the remodeling work he did for his house.
No, Casey did not like the offer at first. He wasn't prepared for this at all, as the stalls in barn and the fence surrounding the small back pastures would have to be greatly repaired before the pony came. Then the costs that tagged along with the feeding and care for the pony created another burden. But when Dr. Bob further explained how the pony used to be his eldest daughter's until she moved away, Casey changed heart. Shadow would just be thrilled to have her own pony.
Unfortunately, the pony developed something of an attitude in his time alone, away from his familiar surroundings. He didn't want anything to do with Casey, and he barely let Don or Splinter get close enough to him. Splinter assumed the pony missed his previous owner, and made it clear by not showing interest in anyone else.
This hadn't been much of a issue, until they started making plans for the Fourth of July. It was decided to move the pony inside for two reasons. The others were coming up to the farmhouse pretty soon, so Casey thought to surprise Shadow by hiding him in a stall inside the barn. Secondly, they agreed it would be better for the little fellow to be inside when they set off the fireworks. Mike had made himself notorious for finding the loudest and brightest ones, anything short of being legal.
Except that Casey put off catching the little bugger until that day, not realizing how tedious it was going to be. Time was defiantly running out. Silently, Don approached the grazing pony, lead rope tucked out of sight and bucket of grain in full view.
"Hey there... easy boy," he whispered soothingly. Don reached out to touch his copper shoulders and withers, his eyes set on the halter. It was a good thing now they left that on, and Don slowly rose his hand to grab it. "Let's go inside, okay?"
The pony tossed his head and spun away in the direction of the gate. Don sighed with frustration mounting in his throat. He'd been trying this method all day, only to get an inch closer each time. Unfortunately, the pony was getting smarter on his motives.
"Hey, get him cornered over there and I'll close in," Casey yelled to Don as he closed the gate. He came back out again to help for the last time, but it was clear his patience already snapped in regard to this crazy goose chase. Don's methods obviously hadn't gotten them a prize either.
Don reluctantly did as he was told. He learned from trial and error in the span of that day some basic herding principles. Stand behind the animal, and it will go forward. Stand right in front or at the shoulder, and it'll stop because it felt like it was trapped. So he stood on side of the pony to keep him in the fence corner, again trying to pet along his neck to get to the halter.
Casey stepped in and succeeded in clipping the lead rope to the pony's halter while Don kept him from backing out. "Now... I'm taking your stubborn ass inside," he growled while fixing to smack the pony with the rope.
Alarmed, the pony jerked back and tried to get away this unsettling situation he found himself in. This behavior angered Casey even more and he managed to hit the animal with the lead rope. The pony retaliated with a snort and tried to shake his head free from the strong grip. Casey wasn't going to let the pony have the upper hand, however. He dealt with punks worse than this in the city, so he certainly wasn't going to have a pony ruin his evening.
Catching Don off guard, a hoof suddenly struck out to make contact with his right leg. "Dammit... Casey! Stop it already!" he protested as he limped even further away to the gate in front.
Casey stopped, though he was more than ready to smack the pony around some more for kicking Don. "That confirms it. He's nothing but dog food now. I rather have the cash anyway. No pony that acts like that is safe for my daughter!"
Don didn't say anything, but just opened the gate to limp ahead of them. Casey continued swearing under his breath about the pony as he led it close behind. "You okay?" he finally called out to Don when he noticed how much he was limping.
"Nothing I can't handle," the turtle lied. In truth, he was worried about the blow, as it was right above his bad knee, his last battle injury. But Don didn't trust Casey's behavior now and wanted to make sure he didn't do anything more to the pony in the barn. He did not feel very happy about the pony either, but for Casey to beat him up like that was just uncalled for.
"We ain't telling anyone about him tonight, okay. No one's going in the barn – especially Shadow or April, you hear me?" Casey led the flustered pony into the dark stall.
Don shot him another look, but held his tongue. It'll take some thinking to find a viable excuse for his new injury as well.
"You think I could get a couple grand out of his hide?" Casey mused after latching the stall door. He looked back at Don's pained face, then shook his head. "C'mon, you didn't think this was going to work out either."
"Not like this," Don replied softly, and then followed Casey into the house.
Don walked in the back door to see Master Splinter standing in the kitchen. The inquisitiveness that was evident on the elderly rat's face prompted Don into confession. "Casey-... we had some trouble with the pony. He's not going to give it to Shadow now, and he doesn't want anyone in the barn tonight," he pulled a chair out from the table to sit down and look at his knee.
Splinter nodded, his attention also focused on Don's leg. He turned to gather some herbs from the cabinet to make a tea that would remedy Don's injury. Casey walked back through the kitchen, muttering something about getting the big grill ready for dinner.
Don sighed. He got back up to make a bag of ice then. "I dunno... it doesn't seem right. But it's his decision, his daughter."
"Perhaps. Even though you did your best to help, it's not your fault, Donatello," Splinter set the mug of tea on the counter in front of Don. He did share some affection for the pony, as the master enjoyed an afternoon or two watching the little red fellow in the pasture. A very peaceful, enriching activity, he thought. But all things must pass eventually.
Don nodded, taking the tea and the ice bag to the next room to sit at his computer. But when he heard tires roll up the gravel drive, he got back up to find his old neoprene brace to wrap around his knee, in order to hide the darkening bruise.
In wasn't long before he heard April, Shadow, and Leo come in the back door to unload groceries and luggage. "Hi guys!" Don greeted loudly, even though they were still in the kitchen. It was a weak attempt, but he thought if he could distract himself with the program he was working on, it would work as an excuse if they asked what he'd been up to lately. Fortunately, they let him be for now. He rubbed the sweat from his face and readjusted the fan to blow on him more. Don bit his lip in thought as his stared at the screen when Mike unexpectedly came up behind him.
"Hey... what's with the horse in the barn?" he asked with a suspicious tone in his voice.
Don squinted his eyes before facing his brother. "It's... a pony we're boarding for someone."
"It is? That's cool," Mike nodded with a smile.
"What were you doing in the barn?"
"Looking for something to launch the rockets from--"
Don sighed, "It's just that the pony bites, and Casey doesn't want anyone in the barn fussing over it. Just don't tell anyone about it, okay?"
Mike just raised an eyeridge and then nodded. It's become a game for Mike, since living in the apartment basement has taught him to stay on Casey's good side. "Okay, if Casey insists..."
"Thank you," Don turned back to the screen, hoping the topic will end there.
Mike sat on the arm of an old easy chair next to the computer, looking at Don's leg. He had worn the brace before every now and then, but never with a bag of ice. "Working on a new video game?" Mike asked instead.
Don nodded. He remembered then he did have something to give Mike. "I downloaded some programs for you... like Macromedia Flash and Director," Don located the burned CD's and held them out to Mike.
Mike's face lit up in amazement. "You did? That's great!"
"Just don't crash the computer while loading them this time,"
"How dare you scoff the future Steven Spielberg of the Internet," Mike chuckled, before hearing April call his name in the kitchen.
Don rolled his eyes. He also got up slowly to go help the others in the kitchen.
¤ ¤ ¤ ¤
Eerie noises echoed, sounding something like the hooting of owls and the distant rumbles of thunder. The trees in the forest and the grasses taunted him with irritating colors of gray, burgundy, and yellow before flickering to a flat metallic gray that consumed all. Shapes between the trees and the animals quickly became indistinguishable. But he had to find something. Every part of him felt pressed to find and catch something before it was too late, before the darkness consumed him entirely.
Then Don suddenly felt himself jerked down to the ground, from a rope wrapped around his hand. The rope finally pulled through leaving a painful burn, and he tried to get up. He couldn't get back to his feet, like he was rendered powerless, or trapped in mud. Light flashed in the dark, and he heard hoof beats running after him. They came for him, and all Don could see were the brown leaves and grasses below his face. Hooves suddenly land in front of him and he hears the snorts of warning coming from the bloody black beast in front of him now. Shadow's peals of laughter grow louder, but when he looked again, the beast became a fuzzy brown pony no girl could resist.
"Shadow... no!" Don yelled as he tried to get up again. She didn't even seem to notice him though. The eight year old reached out to pet the animal, oblivious to its danger. "Shadow..." he barely breathed when the blackness suddenly consumed them all without a sound. Don's heart dropped with a gasp before consciousness took over.
He woke up with the dreadful melody to the credits of the movie they started a couple hours ago. Movie induced or not, that dream didn't help his nerves any. Don sat up and looked around. He, Mike and Raph were only ones still in the den. With a sigh, Don turned off the TV, DVD player, and receiver and went to wake up Mike in the Lazy Boy. Raph already looked too comfortable to bother, since he was on the floor with pillow and blanket in front of the box fan.
He started up the stairs, but the muscles in his
leg had gotten too painfully stiff to move yet. Mike moved in
closer to help him, but he silently refused.
"You got kicked by the pony, didn't you?" Mike finally asked.
Don just leaned on the railing, not wishing to address that question now. But Mike had that talent at guessing things like this, being as observant as he was. "Yeah..."
"That makes sense then, why you and Casey didn't want anyone to be around him," Mike took his arm as he whispered.
"I'm okay... I'm okay," Don quietly refused again and continued up the stairs.
Mike followed closely behind him anyway. It was years ago, but he couldn't forget how long it took for Don to recover when that Foot soldier made a mess of his knee joint. "Really, you gonna be okay?"
"Just worried about an intravascular blood clot forming as a result," Don whispered. Mike followed him into his room as he still wanted to get to the bottom of this. It didn't make much sense of how Don could get kicked though. HE was usually quicker than that.
"So... how'd Casey get the fuzzbutt anyway?" Mike leaned on the dresser while Don eased himself down on the edge of his bed.
"Long story short, he got the pony as a barter-trade for some work we did. But then we had a hard time catching him from the field today... then Casey got rough with him after. He's planning to get rid of him after this weekend."
Mike nodded, listening to the sounds of Velcro ripping as Don removed his neoprene brace. "You guys could have called us though, for help... I didn't think the pony looked mean. He probably was scared, and didn't understand what was going on."
Don just looked at his brother and sighed. The more he thought about it, the more he did want Casey to sell the pony. "But we can't keep him..."
"Casey rather have the money," he laid back on the bed after turning on a small fan sitting on the dresser.
"Do you feed him in the morning?"
"Not when he was in the pasture... but now, I guess... yeah," Don then realized they hadn't given him anything that night. He read that they feed horses in barns at least twice a day. He suddenly found it hard to accept the fact they would end up neglecting the animal.
"Can I feed him?" Mike looked at Don.
Don just snorted. "Not if Casey catches you,"
"Well, he still has trouble telling us apart when we got nothing on," Mike smiled.
Don lifted his head to look at Mike, dubious. "He can't tell you from Leo or Raph? Sure..."
"I'm not a morning person, an' neither is he!"
"That reassures me that you'll be able to wake up early, before they do."
"Scout's honor, I'll get up at uh... seven to feed him. I'll even limp to imitate you," Mike held up his right hand.
And audible sigh escaped Don's lips before he gave the okay. He didn't want to admit it, as it was a crazy feeling to be intimidated, but he didn't feel very comfortable about being around the pony anymore.
Mike just smiled and then paused. "He eats hay and oats, right?"
"Yeah, we got some hay bales stacked in the barn now. I guess give him a flake to start with."
"A flake?" Mike gave him a blank look.
"Eh, like a slice. The bale will come apart in those after the strings are cut," Don tried to remember what the neighbor told them about the pony's care.
Mike nodded. He decided to leave Don alone and go to bed too. "Good night, bro,"
"You too," Don looked at him, "and... thanks, Mikey."
He just waved his hand at him before closing the door.
¤ ¤ ¤ ¤
Mike whacked the little beeping annoyance again for the fifth time and finally
willed himself to get up. 'Just feed him real quick and then I can go back to
sleep,' he told himself. Cats and babies were nicer at least, since they were
in the same house. But with a horse, he had to leave it all together. The
turtle carefully snuck down the stairs. No one was up yet fortunately, so he slipped out the back door to head to the barn.
"Hey, boy," he greeted the little fellow after closing the door. A bronze red face appeared near the stall bars in front to watch as Mike broke open a bale. He picked up a couple slices, looking at them curiously. The pony paced another circle in his stall as he neighed impatiently.
Mike turned around, a green eyeridge now raised. "Hay, I hear yah," he opened the door while holding out the flake. The pony stayed in the back of the stall and outstretched his neck to sniff at it before talking a sample. "S'okay... I won't hurt yah,"
He persisted in holding the hay until the pony stepped closer to eat more. Mike also succeeded in stroking his neck and forelock. He briefly wondered if there was a way to prove to Casey to keep the pony. He didn't sense anything dangerous about him at all. "Do you have a name? Maybe Don knows..."
The hay was falling apart, so Mike dropped the rest. He wasn't there that long, but it probably was long enough. The Turtle headed back into the house, with the same prayer that no one was up yet. Well, at least Casey wasn't, but he ran into Leo on the stairway.
"I was... seeing how the fish were biting, you know, to make some sushi for Splinter," Mike told him.
Leo just nodded his head, eyeridges pursed. It was probably best to not know what he really was doing.
An hour later, everyone else had gotten up and discussed matters of how they'll spend the rest of the weekend over breakfast. That, on the other hand, had turned into something shy of a great debate.
"It's a big 'No' on hiking in the woods here," Raph made his opinion clear. "After that last witch encounter last summer, there's no way I'm going out there again."
"And he thought the Blair Witch was faked," Mike sniggered, seemingly amused by Raph's apprehension.
"I don't remember you thinking it was very funny then," Raph curtly reminded him.
Don sat back down with a cup of coffee. "I have to admit, I don't think I can hike today either."
"I wanna go trail-riding at Holyoke," Shadow piped up again. It was Mike who first mentioned that idea, much to Don's chagrin. But as long as they left the farm for most of the day, he was okay with that.
"Quabbin Reservoir sounds like a good idea too, except I imagine it'll be very crowded today though," April mentioned while flipping through some brochures for ideas.
"Or camping," Casey sat back and crossed his arms. He apparently liked this idea of getting all of them away from the farm, and the pony they hid in the barn too.
"I thought we were doing that here," Raph sighed.
"As long as we go horseback riding too, daddy," she looked at him with her pleading blue eyes. Casey gave a warning glance to Don, as if to wonder what brought this on.
Leo narrowed his eyes as he addressed Raph. It did take some persuasion to get him to come with them yesterday. "What's wrong with staying here?"
"A very long list of reasons," he said before taking another bite of toast.
"I like it here, 'cause it's not as yucky as the city," Shadow looked at him with a stern face too. "So you better too,"
Raph pressed his lips together and pointed a finger at her playfully. "And you've been hanging around Leo too much again, haven't you?"
"No I haven't!" she quickly refuted the idea, even though it was true.
Mike just suppressed a laugh as he exchanged knowing glances with Splinter. It was a combined effort they'd agreed on, to teach Shadow some Japanese language and culture along with the karate lessons now.
"Alright then, we're going to Holyoke State Park," April made the final decision for them. "It's also near the river, so we can go canoeing too, if anyone's interested."
Shadow cheered with the decision.
"Cool," Mike got up to take a few empty dishes to the sink. "I'll help make the sandwiches!"
¤ ¤ ¤ ¤
The four of them had reached a high cliff that overlooked the green, tree
filled valley below. Casey, April and Shadow had split up from them earlier to
do their thing in the more civilized places in the park.
'Now lemme get this straight, you guys are hiding a pony in the barn from Shadow 'cause it kicked Don?" Raph restated the problem again. It wasn't Don's intentions for them to be discussing this matter now, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Mike was horrible about keeping certain issues hushed for long. That, and Leo was wondering why his leg had gotten so bad now too. But they figured as long as Casey didn't know how much they knew now, it wouldn't hurt him.
"Yeah... and what's stupid is that it all should really be Casey's fault. If he didn't make the pony mad, nothing would've happened and Shadow could've had her own pony now," Mike reasoned.
Raph sat on a fallen tree with a sigh, "That's Casey for ya."
"But he's been much more forgiving in his years... maybe if you talk to him now that things have cooled down," Leo advised Don.
"If he's willing to hear me out..." Don nodded. He also sat down on the barren rock surface to stretch out his sore leg. His knee joint wasn't bothering him as badly as he feared. It was just the quadriceps above it that complained the most.
"I'll fess up to support your case too, bro," Mike offered.
"Well, I'll see," he sighed. Don just stared out across the horizon in thought for awhile as they rested there. They still had half an hour left before going back down to meet up with the others. Maybe later, after they get back to the farm, he'll approach Casey.
¤ ¤ ¤ ¤
The others had finished supper, and broke up their own ways afterwards in the
house. Don had noticed Casey stepping out to the porch, since the breeze felt
cooler outside. The turtle took in a deep breath before joining him on the
porch. He always still felt a sort of distance around Casey, even though it's
gotten better as each year gone by. Yesterday, he felt like the bond was suddenly
torn apart again. But the only thing he had to ride on now was the good time Shadow
did have with Casey and April on the trail ride.
"Casey," Don started while he leaned on the post, "I've been thinking... about the pony."
Casey only looked at him once, his face presently emotionless.
"That... we should give him a second chance at least," Don paused to recall all the things Mike had felt about the pony. "It was just that... we were ganging up on him pretty badly, so it was his instinct to fight back... since he couldn't flee. Or that he didn't really have a chance to get to know us first either."
"It still doesn't make me happy. What if she happened to piss him off too? What could he do then?" Casey looked at him in all seriousness.
"It's a risk you had to take," Don could only say to that. The unpredictable nature of animals always left him a little leery as well. "But... she looks like a smart, tough girl who knows better."
Casey just sighed as he ran a hand through his dark hair.
"I can show you how he normally is, when I feed him," Don tried another approach. "I'm a little apprehensive of him too, but..."
"Fine," Casey grunted as he stepped down to head to the barn. Don limped after him, and they entered the barn together. It seemed then, that maybe he was rethinking this after all, despite his stubborn demeanor.
Casey stood in the aisle with arms crossed as he watched Don open the stall door and offer the pony a flake with a little grain sprinkled on it this time. The little red pony was a little more hesitant, and blew out a snort when he scented Casey nearby too. "Maybe he doesn't like men. I heard some horses could be like that," Don offered that explanation.
Casey didn't say anything.
To his relief the pony greedily tore up the flake in his hands. Don let it fall to the sawdust, and he gently took the halter in his hand. The pony balked slightly, but let him hold him there. His heart rate rose at this moment, but Don willed himself to stay calm for this. "It's okay, it's okay..." the turtle whispered as he stroked the small face and muzzle with his coarse fingers.
"I doubt that'll make him any easier to catch in the field," Casey still sounded doubtful about this.
"It could... depending on how hungry he is though," Don let go of the pony's halter to let him eat his hay. He closed the stall door.
"Well... you do realize that this pony also meets having your commitment to care for him too," he reminded him. As much as Shadow liked this farm, her time out here was very limited.
"I realize that," Don nodded.
"Though, don't plan to tell her until at least tomorrow morning. I like to get at least one more good night's sleep," Casey told him before leaving the barn.
Don closed his eyes as a smile of relief came over him. He looked back to the stall, and the golden rays from the sunset shining through the window when he remembered something Splinter told him a few days ago. About how the pony's coat shone like copper in the evening sun, daiko rei.
"Daiko Rei..." he whispered the name out loud, before leaving the barn too.