Less than a year this time! Go me? LOL. I vow to finish this sooner rather than later because really, it is almost done. Only one or two more chapters. Beware bad language and talk of alcohol and possible violence. Tried to keep it light, but the Foot have a way of ruining that. See if you can catch the reference to the first movie And now I present…

Splinter nimbly zipped across the rooftops towards the direction Donatello had indicated. His sons knew enough to never ignore his calls, so the sensei could only assume something had gone wrong. This lesson in understanding each other had seemed like a good idea at the time, but with everything that happened, the ninja master could not help but wonder if he'd made a critical mistake.

The boys were a finely honed team, and he knew that under most circumstances they could take care of themselves, but this exercise seemed to have left them all unbalanced. He had no question that Michelangelo could lead a simple exercise run, but when it came down to leading the team into battle, his youngest son was at a disadvantage. While Michelangelo had many strengths, a tactician was not one of them. Even worse, they would be short one member of their team.

That also worried the rat. Donatello's behavior had so deteriorated, that his genius son was practically unrecognizable. Seeing the boy in a drunken state like that shook Splinter far more than when Raphael had come home in a similar stupor. The day's activities must have affected Donatello more than Splinter perceived and the miscalculation weighed heavily on his mind. Punishment could come later, but not before father and son could talk out what had driven the boy so far of course. Splinter's mind raced with possibilities and one revelation seemed startlingly clear to him.

His sons act and react to how they are being treated by their father and brothers. All day long, Splinter treated Donatello like he would Raphael, and Donatello reacted accordingly. It gave the rat insight not only to Donatello, but more importantly, to Raphael.

The Sensei pushed himself to run faster. If there was a problem, he needed to get to his sons. Once they were safely at home, they would all need to sit down and talk this out.

Perhaps it is the Sensei that is learning the lesson, Splinter thought to himself.


Michelangelo looked from the group of Foot Soldiers to his brothers. Several video game and comic references came to mind, but he didn't think any of them would be particularly helpful at the moment.

"Um, the leader suggests we run like hell," he finally said.

Raphael stiffened as if the very suggestion was an affront to his manhood. "Run? We don't run away."

"We do when we're out numbered and down a man," Mike argued. "We still don't know where Don is."

Leonardo nodded. "He's right, Raph. Our priority needs to be finding Don."

The displaced leader kept a wary eye on the army across the roof. The Foot seemed as undecided as they were. Neither group made a move.

"How do we know they don't got Don?" Raph countered.

The brothers were quiet for a moment as if Raphael had brought up a point they hadn't considered.

"We don't," Mike said. He looked back to the enemy group, uneasily. "Should we go ask them? Ow!" He rubbed the back of his head where Raphael hit him. "That's abuse of a minor and cruelty to animals."

He ducked the next strike aimed at the same place as Raph scoffed. "File a complaint with social services or PETA."

Leonardo ignored his brothers through years of practice. "If they had Donatello, I think they would be making demands or at the very least making sure we know about it. They have to figure the best way to goad us into a fight would be to use Don as bait."

Leo's brain worked feverishly to come up with a plan, even as his sense of honor toward his sensei reminded him that he was temporarily replaced as the leader. It just seemed so natural to slide back into his familiar role, once they were in this type of situation. If nothing else, he could advise Mike. Hopefully his little brother was more open to suggestion than he had been previously.

Raph's eyes never left the enemies that were amassing on the next roof. "I still think they got'em. Can't be coincidence Don is missin' and they show up. Maybe they're waitin' for us to make the first move." It had been months since he'd had a good fight that wasn't with a brother. The adrenaline coursed through him and made him temporarily forget that he wasn't supposed to be the turtle who lived for the thrill of fighting.

"Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence," Leo reasoned.

Raphael rolled his eyes. "Ok. So what do we do?" He looked at Leo and Leo looked at Mike and Mike looked at…

Michelangelo's eyes widened realizing there was no one left to look at. He cleared his throat. "I guess this is why I'm the leader. This is why they pay me the big money. The buck stops with me. It's time to…"

"Oh for fuck's sake, Mike!" Raph interrupted. "Make a decision."

Michelangelo's eyes grew small in thought. "We can't take the chance that they have Don. We can't leave without making sure."

His brothers surprised him by nodding. Even Leo, who had disagreed, didn't argue once the decision had been made. Sometime later on, Michelangelo would look back on this moment and wonder just what the hell he had gotten himself into. His brothers followed his direction without question, and if he was wrong, he was taking them both down with him. That kind of power was paralyzing and Mike realized within the span of a few seconds, it was power that he didn't want. No wonder Leo was a tight ass.

"Guess they made their decision too," Mike said as the Foot Soldiers began to make their way closer to the turtles. "Don't knock them all out. We'll need to question at least one of them about Don."

Leo's eyes scanned their enemies. "I don't think that will be a problem, Mikey."

The three turtles moved into a defensive position, automatically correcting for the lack of one brother, and waited, tensed and ready.

Mike licked his lips as he watched. "I just had a thought."

Raphael snorted. "Pigs must be flying." The remark was said with a small degree of affection as he risked a glance at his little brother. "Spit it out. We ain't got all night."

Mike's grip on his weapons tightened, as the Foot Soldiers launched into an attack. He was fighting backwards on his heels, fighting off three soldiers at once. "I just thought that I don't want to be leader anymore!"

(Back at the Lair)

Donatello let the cool water splash over his head and face, as he let the shower help clear the cobwebs from his brain. He wasn't as shaky on his feet, and Casey had been giving him coffee to try to sober him up. The turtle was still prepared to have one hell of a hangover, and took a couple of Tylenol to head it off. He turned off the water and stepped out onto the bathroom floor. Casey was standing guard just outside the doorway, but the human's head was discreetly looking the other way. Don vowed to fix that door first thing in the morning. It wasn't like Casey could actually see anything, but it was the principle of the matter.

Don took one towel from the sink and wrapped it around his waist before grabbing another to dry off.

"It's ok. You can look now."

Casey leaned against the wall, still looking out into the main room. "Feeling better?"

Don wiped the towel across his face and reached for a toothbrush. "A little. My head feels like there's rocks in it and if I drink anymore coffee, I will throw up again. But at least the room isn't spinning anymore."

"Man, Donnie. I'm sorry." Casey shook his head and stared at the floor. "If I knew that you had never…"

"It's ok, Case," Don interrupted the man's tenth apology in the last half hour. "It's not like I'm that naïve. I knew what would happen if I drank that much." He stuck the toothbrush into his mouth and tried to brush away the nastiness in his mouth. It helped, but not much. With a sigh the turtle rinsed his mouth and toothbrush before tossing all the towels into the laundry to be cleaned.

Donatello had a sinking feeling who would be doing that chore and a lot of the other chores around the lair for a while. He rubbed his head and slipped out of the bathroom wondering how he got himself into this mess.

Casey followed him back out to the living room. "I got the floor cleaned up. I'm sure Splinter and the others will be back soon." He watched Don sink onto the couch. "Need anything?"

Don shook his head. In truth, he was worried about his brothers. Donatello had figured that they would all be home by now, and he was concerned that they hadn't even heard from Splinter. "Maybe we should go and help Splinter look for them."

"Right." Casey snorted as if that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. "I don't think you're exactly in the shape to be going after anyone, Don. And really? I am so up shit creek with Splinter, that if I let you go I might as well drown myself in it."

Don offered him a sad smile. "I think I'm the one up a creek with Sensei. Look on the bright side, at least you can go home."

"Nah, I think Splinter is just gonna be happy once you're all home. Listen, Don, why don't you get some sleep or something? I'll wake you up when they get home." He offered Don a large glass of water to keep the turtle from getting dehydrated.

Donatello looked at the cup and nodded wearily. "Thanks, Casey." He took a sip of the water and made a face. "Needs more ice." The turtle started to get to his feet, but Casey took the cup from him.

"I'll get it." Casey flipped on the television. "Last thing I need is for you moving around too much and start puking. I ain't cleaning up the floor again."

The human disappeared into the kitchen to get more ice. "Ya know…I think I was a little older than you when I got drunk the first time. Man, my dad was pissed. I think he yelled at me for like an hour."

He dropped the last few ice cubes from the tray into the glass and tossed the tray into the sink. "But…really? He was just glad I got home in one piece." Heading back out to the living room, Casey tried to reassure the boy. "I'm sure Splinter'll be…."

Casey very nearly dropped the cup. "Don? Sonofabitch!"

When babysitting ninja turtles, the first rule is to never take your eyes off of them.

Donatello was gone.