Chapter Eight

Don opened his eyes, rolling over to face the window. Bright moonlight streamed into the room. The country afforded them the luxury of being able to see, untainted by the busy life of a city, all the lights and sounds and smells that nature provided them. After many a sleepless night, Don was able to gage that it was well past 3 am.

He sighed, giving up on sleep for the night, and got up, tiptoeing down to the kitchen. He remained lost in thought as he reached into the cupboard and pulled out an almost empty bag of Cheez-Its. Grinning momentarily, he popped one into his mouth. Lindy would only eat the small, square snacks, refusing the Goldfish shaped versions. They'd had to band together to eat the remainder of the extra large bag of Goldfish crackers that her 'Unca Mikey' had unknowingly bought her; she'd cried when the 'tiny fishies' snacks were smiling back up at her.

Thoughts of his daughter both thrilled and sobered him. Today had been excruciatingly long, and upsetting. After he'd gotten back from his 'talk' with April, things had taken a turn for the worse...

Hours earlier...

Don walked up to Leo, who still held a clinging Lindy in his arms.

"Hey, Baby." He said softly, reaching for her. She turned, squirming out of Leo's grasp so he had to set her down. Don knelt in front of her. "Come here, Angel." He began as she crossed her arms in a defiant pose not very unlike Raph. She slowly, almost cautiously, walked into his arms, hugging his neck tightly.

April had followed close behind Don, and she approached the group now. "Linds," She began.

"No!" Lindy shouted suddenly, pulling away from Don and startling all of them.

"You stay 'way from my daddy!" She cried, moving to stand between them, hand pointing towards April.

"Rosalind." Don murmured, shocked.

"Ev'y time you near him, ev'yone fights!" She went on despairingly. Raph threw a grimaced look Leo's way, and Mike fidgeted nervously, an upset look on his face.

"Rosalind Imogene!" Don admonished, standing and placing a hand on the small child's slightly shaking shoulder. With the touch, a small sob escaped her, and she took off running towards the house.

A shared glance went throughout the group, and Don went after Lindy. He got into the house just in time to hear a door slam, and he found himself outside her room. His heart broke (as it did now, remembering) at the sound of her soft cries.

He opened her door slowly poked his head in. Her small body was curled in a ball in the middle of her bed, back to him. He walked over, then sat on her bed after a moment. "Lindy..." He started, but she tightened her body into a tighter ball. He tried again. "Lindy, angel... I'm very sorry I upset you earlier." She sobbed quietly and he hesitated, taking a breath. "Daddy... Daddy made a mistake." He said quietly, almost more to himself than to her. "And I am so sorry."

It was silent for a long, painful moment before she spoke softly. "Was I bad?"

"What?" He looked at her, surprised.

She took a breath before continuing. "Ev'yone fought... an' you wan' send me 'way?" Her voice broke as she went on, and Don put a hand on her back, his heart aching to take that moment at the table back. "No, baby... You weren't bad." He sighed, leaning back a bit and closing his eyes. "Sometimes grown ups make mistakes." He began quietly. "We say the wrong things or fight when we shouldn't."

"Grown ups bad?" She hiccuped softly.

He nodded, "Sometimes. And we were very, very wrong having a fight about you. But everyone here loves you so much that we all want you to have the very best and be happy."

She was silent a long moment, and Don noticed her sobs were only soft sighs now. "But, I'm happy when no fights, Daddy"

His throat constricted. "Me too, angel. And we're gonna try real hard to... be good. No more fights."

She seemed to consider this a moment, and turned to face him, her face red and tear-streaked, but no longer crying. "I f'give you, Daddy." She said, wrapping her arms around him.

A slight noise brought Don back to the present, and he jumped slightly in his seat. Leo stood in the doorway, looking almost sheepish.

"Sorry." He said softly, walking towards Don. "Though, I must say, I'm surprised to see you here... I haven't seen you around this late since you quit with the midnight feedings..." Leo's joke falling flat, he grimaced and sat down next to Don. "Ok," He said, leaning forward. "What's up?"

Don looked at his brother with surprise on his face. Then he sighed, looking down at the table. "I messed up, Leo." He admitted softly.

Leo's eyes softened. "Don...?"

"I'm just..." Don began, faltering, shutting his eyes tightly. "I've been so stupid. I've... been a bad father." He trailed off.

Leo balked at that. "Donnie. Have you seen that little girl?" When his brother refused to answer him, he leaned in further towards Don. "Ok, so she's happiest when no one's fighting and everyone's happy... But she is..." He searched for a word. "She has blossomed, Don."

"I ignored her." Don went on, sullenly.

Leo sighed. "Well, Don. You're not perfect. No one is."

"Do you know, she told me she forgave me? She... shouldn't have to." He looked down. "I shouldn't... I shouldn't make her so sad."

It was silent a long moment before Don spoke again, though it was so low Leo could barely hear him.

"I kissed her." Leo blinked a few times, as if that would help him understand the words better.


Don looked up a bit at that. "I kissed her." He whispered. "I left my baby girl alone at that table this morning... I went after April, and I kissed her."

"Donnie." Leo breathed. He had no idea it had gone this far. Don looked back down again, a slight blush creeping over his cheeks. Leo opened and closed his mouth a few times, for once, unsure of what to say. But Don beat him to it: "You know, I went after her so mad... and we just... I just... " He looked up. "She kissed me back."

Leo groaned internally, but found himself watching Don intently. He found that he wanted to ask him questions about it all. A certain curiosity piqued in his mind, but he shook his head of it and concentrated on his brother.

"I don't know what to do." Don was moaning into his arms, where he'd lain his head.

Leo sat up a bit. "Don," He said, placing a hand on his brother's arm. "The only advice I can give you here, is that you have to do... what you have to do."

Don thought about that a minute, before nodding slightly. "What you want to do, and what you have to do are rarely the same thing... But what if you want both so badly... it hurts?"

Leo paused. "Well, I suppose you... you either have to choose, Donnie. Or make it work."

Don bit his lip thoughtfully. "Make it work." He repeated softly, almost under his breath.

"It's not something that's going to be decided tonight, Donnie." Leo stood, putting a hand on Don's shoulder. "Why don't you get some sleep, huh? We can all use it."

Don nodded, and stood. "Leo? Could you not... Tell the others about this?" His voice was sheepish, and his face more so. Leo grinned slightly. "Yeah, Donnie." He slung an arm over Don's shoulder as they walked out of the room. He knew the light-hearted part of this covered way more deepness than he cared to think about right now.

"Thanks, Leo." Leo nodded his response, and Don ducked out of his grasp, walking back to his room. He passed Lindy's room on his way, and walked in to check on her. Her deep breaths told him that she was asleep, and he walked up to her bed. He grabbed the blankets she slept under even during the summer, and pulled them up further, as she'd kicked them down during sleep.

Her wavy hair was a mess over the pillows and she clutched her stuffed animal like a life preserver. He watched her small face as she slept, her tiny pink lips as she breathed, and he was overcome once more with just how strong the feeling was of his need to protect her. How much she meant to him. He moved a hand gently over her hair, and she moved, but did not wake up.

He sat down in the chair across the room, watching her sleep.

He knew what he had to do.