Like it says in the summary, a SaiNW fic. It's majorly angsty and contains spoilers for that episode. Also, there's a lot of dialogue from said episode.

This is not a new story per se, it's a character study set within the episode. In other words, the events remain unchanged and this isn't a scene from any other time in that universe.

Disclaimer: I don't own the turtles. I don't own the plot idea. Don't sue. Lawsuits make me cry.


I like to go back to the old lair sometimes. See us all together, like we used to be. Sensei in his chair, meditating or watching some interminable soap opera. Raph and Leo bickering good naturedly, Donnie working on the computer or on one of his many brainwaves. And me, just enjoying how things were. I had my role – goof ball, optimist – and I liked it. And I still go back to the lair, even though things had already started to go wrong by the time we moved there.

If I could pinpoint the exact moment when things went bad, I would say it was before we moved to that lair, when I caught the fly. Just like the Karate Kid, but with my hands instead of chopsticks. Master Splinter was giving me a grave look and I smiled nervously. At that moment, the lair began to shake.

That was where things started going wrong.

I don't go into the lair so much. Just being in the area is enough. When I'm outside the lair, I can close my eyes and focus. It's as if things are the same, like I'm just out alone and my brothers and Sensei are safe at home, all of them. But when I'm in the lair I can't catch the illusion – it's too quiet.

I'm there right now, out of sight of the Shredder's forces. Trying to recapture the kid I used to be, eternally hopeful and excited, leave behind the disfigured, bitter shell (no pun intended) that I've become.

"Attention citizen! Place your hands in the air and drop your weapons! Repeat, put your hands in the air and drop your weapons! "

At first, I think they've seen me and are trying to get me. I'm instantly on guard. Then I see the light focused on the poor slob on the street. For a moment I'm torn – I'm part of the Rebellion, I should help. I'm also heavily outnumbered. All for one guy...

Then I see the figure in the headlights and my heart stops. At least that's what it feels like. For the first time in nearly 30 years, I freeze.


Can't be. Can never be. He's been gone so long – it must be Leo or Raph. But they never come here. And they wouldn't panic in the face of the Foot; they'd be either fighting or gone.


There's no choice. Right now, I don't care where he's been, what he did, why he never came home. He's my brother and I have to protect him.

I throw some shuriken ahead of the street patrol, getting their attention. They immediately leave Donatello alone and open fire on me instead. After all, I am pretty high up the Shredder's Most Wanted list and even cloaked in the shadows, it's pretty obvious I'm not human. I run from their fire, seeing an abandoned car in the street and using it to hide. Stupid Foot goons. They assume I'm hiding in the interior of the car, it never occurs to them to look under the bonnet. They blast everywhere but. When I throw it open, they're taken totally by surprise. I take them out with ease, snatching a gun off one of them and using it to blow up the trucks and bring down the helicopter. Thankfully, they were only the street patrol and not specifically out to get us, otherwise it would have been far more difficult. I know there will be more on the way soon enough – but I need to see for myself first. If it really is Donatello...

He's standing there, mouth wide open, totally bewildered by the looks. The old Michelangelo might have made a joke about catching flies but that kid was dying from the moment Donnie vanished into thin air and I buried him at the same time as Master Splinter. There was no doubt about it. It was Don. But – he hadn't aged. He looked almost exactly the same as he had the last time I saw him, when he said he was going to the junkyard for parts...

And never came home. Broke our hearts. Left us for thirty years with only questions that had no answers, tormented my every waking moment. I searched for him everywhere, we all did. But there was no sign of him. No word, no sighting, no clues. Until now, when he shows up and looks like he never did that to us.

"Mikey!" He grins at me and I can sense the relief coming from him. The look of confusion changed to one of happiness. "Am I glad to see you!"

I'm really not sure I return the sentiment.

"So. It's really you. You came back."

He frowns a little. I know I'm still in shadow and he can't see me well, but he recognised me. I know he did. I saw him mouth my name as I was caught up in battle with the Foot and he did just call me Mikey. Then it occurs to me. The last time I spoke to Don was almost thirty years ago and I don't sound too happy to see him I guess. To be honest, I'm not sure how to feel. Why is he back? Why does he look so young? Where did he go?

I step out of the shadows and his eyes widen. He looks shocked and I have to remember that I didn't always look this way. Once upon a time, when Donatello was with us and things were good, I had two arms and a permanent smile. These days I don't smile much. Oh, make that 'at all'.

"Mikey?" His face is an open book and I can read the questions written there. He struggles to decide on what to ask first and goes with the most obvious. "Your arm... what happened to your arm?"

"You're the one with some questions to answer!" Suddenly, I'm furious with him. How dare he walk back into my life after all this time and act like he's been gone two minutes, looking at me like I'm the one who's an interloper here? How could he just leave us with nothing but questions? "Where the shell have you been all these years?"

"All these years?" He looks dumbly perplexed as I march forward and poke him in the plastron.

"You've been gone almost thirty years Donatello."

"Thirty years – it can't be!"

"I can be – and it is. We thought you were dead..." For a moment I feel the old sadness wanting to take over, but the sight of Don right in front of me, horror etched in his features from the moment I told him how long it had been, killed that in a hurry. I get mad again instead. "How the shell could you just abandon us like that?"

"I – I didn't! I could never abandon you!" He scowls, something other than shock and confusion in his features. It's kinda good to see that. I was beginning to get worried. But my accusation seems to have cut through his disorientation and pissed him off. "We were all in the lair together – next minute I woke up here. I don't know how!"

"So. The turtle with the big-brain finally doesn't have all the answers," I sneer. "Who'd a thunk it?" So help me, I want to hurt him, lash out, give him some idea of what I've been going through since he left. But something isn't right. He's genuine in his alarm and the distressed look on his face when I jeer at him makes me pause before I can add any more insults, even if he does deserve them. Where ever he's been, I'm starting to believe he really doesn't remember it.

"We can't talk here." I fade back into the shadows, waiting for him to follow. We have to go, before the Foot can send for backup. After I brought down the helicopter, they'll be all over here like a rash. My place to come and think, invaded again. Something else to thank Donatello for.

We run over the rooftops and through the streets, dodging the ever-alert gaze of the security that keeps the civilians prisoner. I grit my teeth against the hateful voice of Karai and when I snatch a glance back at Donatello, he's staring up a the Shredder's air force. I find a secluded spot with a sewer entry and pull off the manhole. Donnie gazes at me, wondering what I'm doing, since we obviously can't go back to the lair. "Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you to see Master Splinter." I want to hurt him. That's the only reason I would do what I'm doing. The kind thing to do would be to sit him down, explain things to him, about how Master Splinter died for us and take him there after that – but I don't say a word.

Mikey, what's wrong with you? He genuinely doesn't know anything!

For a moment I waver. That voice in my head is the same one that spoke to me when I was young, before this war, before Don vanished. Once upon a time, I would have just blurted out what it said – but now I'm old and if not wiser, then at least more experienced and guarded. Still, I ought to warn him what we'll find...

"Are Leo and Raph with him?"

Any pity I might have had for the discovery he's about to make withers and dies with that comment. I try not to think of my brothers. They're both filled with hate and anger and bitterness – kinda like me really. Seeing or speaking to them puts me in a depression for days afterwards. I avoid them both wherever possible. I used to miss them all the time, but I got used to it. Unless someone brings it up and most people know better.

"Are you kidding? Leo and Raph aren't with anyone anymore!" I spit the words out and drop into the sewer, but not too quickly that I don't see the fear and worry on his face. A part of me feels bad for him – but a part of me is viciously pleased. Let him be afraid. Let him worry. I feared and worried for him for too many years. It's about time our roles were reversed.

As we hurry through the sewer, he tells me in a low voice the last thing he remembers. Being in the lair, talking to April via the web-cam and then being attacked by some creature he claims is an amalgam of the Ultimate Ninja and Draco. I've never even heard of those guys. He claims Master Splinter fought Draco once and Leonardo fought the Ultimate Ninja, but Splinter never mentioned it and I sure as shell don't recall fighting any Ultimate Ninja. Don tells me it's because Leo defeated the Shredder, but that can't be right. We've always lost to the Shredder. Every time.

I may not be the brightest turtle – that accolade goes to Don I guess – but the more he tells me, the more I suspect he isn't the Donnie that we miss so much. I don't tell him though. To suggest that would make it more real and as angry as he's making me, I've missed my brother too much to lose him again to empty suggestion. I need him to stay.

I open a manhole near the park and leap out, Don right behind me. We have to stay in the shadows and hide from the Shredder's army, but there's not so many people here to watch out for and Donnie's pretty good. Obviously young, impatient and not as experienced at dodging the army as I am, but damn good all the same. I ran to the park and over the wall, knowing he would follow.

"Where are all the people?"

"The ones that survived?" I pitch my voice low, but I don't doubt Don could pick up on the bitterness in my voice. That particular question always made me think about the people we'd lost to the war. "They're forced eighteen hour days in the Shredder's labour camps. No one's allowed out at night."

"What happened between Leo and Raph?"

Was Donatello trying to open old wounds? Or did he just have a knack for it? Man, I really don't want to think about the day they fell out – the day it all fell apart, the day Master Splinter died. I was devastated by the loss of my father, my brothers were screaming at each other, laying blame, and the only person who could have made things better had vanished without a trace. I tried to stop them arguing, but they were both out for blood and weren't going to listen to reason from me. Stay out of this Mikey. Shut up Mikey. Back off Mikey. They were too caught up in their hate for each other to care about me. They still are. I don't know if they even noticed when I left.

I pause by a tree to make sure the coast is clear. No sign of danger. "Let's just say they got into a big fight a long time ago."

I run off ahead and for a moment I wonder if Don's gonna follow, but then I sense him catch up. Still, I don't look around at him. He seems so – alarmed by what's happened to the family. I'm not blind, like some turtles I could mention, and I've seen the looks he gives me, like he's trying to work out why I'm giving him attitude. And the way he keeps on about Leo and Raph, as if he can't come to grips with why they wouldn't talk to each other anymore. Then, I guess we all changed after he vanished.

"When you never came back Donnie, everything just – well, fell apart." I stopped behind another tree, partly to ensure there's no patrols ahead, partly to consider how to describe things. I could see Splinter's grave in the distance, but no sign of anyone nearby. Sometimes I wondered if the Shredder had ever realised he was there or if he just didn't care, that we weren't enough trouble to him to bother staking the place out or even worth insulting by desecrating it. Either way, whenever I see that marker I feel a deep sense of relief.

"We were a team. Without you – it just didn't work." I glance back at him, noting that he looked sorrowful. Good. I wanted to drive home what he had done to us by vanishing without a trace.

"I guess we really needed that level head of yours," I say, mostly to myself. I sure could have done with it more than once over the years. Dropping the subject, I step from behind the tree and point.

From behind me, Donnie gasps. "Master Splinter?"

This is what happened when you left Don, I want to say to him. Master Splinter was killed, your brothers began to hate each other and the whole world came to an end. Happy now?

But I don't say any of that because, as much as I blame him for everything sometimes, there's still a part of me that never gave up hoping that he was still alive and never stopped wanting him to come home.

Instead I point at Splinter's grave. "He's over there. "


Donatello's reaction convinces me more than anything that he really doesn't know what's going on. He walks to the grave and sinks to his knees, covering his face and fighting tears. I always wondered how Don would have taken the news of Splinter's passing – I guess now I know.

I wish I didn't.

"Master Splinter is... He beats the ground with his fist. "No!"

Perhaps Donnie was better off where he was. Not knowing about Splinter. Not having to face the way Raph and Leo hate each other. Not having to think about me and how bitter I've become.

"Master Yoshi used to bring him here back in the day. It's not the safest place but..." I shrug. "This is where Sensei wanted to be buried."


"A couple of years after you disappeared, Master Splinter gave his life protecting the three of us."

Don glances away from me, squeezing his eyes closed.

"I can't believe this place..." He breaks off, struggling against his emotions. "It's all so – horrible."

"You'll get used to it," I tell him honestly. After all, everyone else had to get used to it. This time at least I didn't mean to sound cold, but I'm aware that's how the words come out. "Besides, what can you do about it? This is the way it is."

"Well it's not the way it was! Maybe I can't change the past – but that doesn't mean there isn't a way to change the present."

Donnie's losing it. I recognise the signs. He never had the temper that Leo or Raph did – heh, no one had the temper that Raph did – but when he lost it, watch out world.

"We've gotta go up against the Shredder. And take him down!"

I snort. "We've already tried it. Too many times."

"We'll we're gonna try again." I'd forgotten how stubborn Donnie could be sometimes. I want to point out to him how hopeless it was. Every single time there looked like there may be some ray of hope against beating him, the Shredder had a way to remind us that there was none. No hope, no future, nothing.

Except that the way Donnie talks reminds me of when we were kids, when I honestly thought there was nothing we couldn't do. I know better now – but against my better judgement, I can feel a spark of excitement. Almost as if a Teenage Mutant Turtle with a goofy smile, two arms and three brothers managed to cross a thirty years chasm and yell in my ear: We could kick the Shredder's bionic butt, with Donnie back in the hizz-ouse!

Hizz-ouse? I refuse to believe I was ever that clichéd.

"You gotta plan?" I ask casually, trying not to give away what I was thinking.

"I'm working on it. But we're gonna need Leo and Raph!"

This again? I thought I explained to him that they would never bury their differences, could never get over the animosity for long enough to work out a battle plan together. And even if they did come up with a plan, it'd fall apart because they'd be too caught up in their own personal war to worry much about the one that took over the rest of the world. It'd take a miracle for them to put that aside.

A miracle like Donnie turning up home again?

As soon as I have the thought, I see the next problem. Leo and Raph aren't exactly my favourite people either. If I summoned them anywhere, they would suspect something. I might be able to manage it – then again, I might not. I doubted I would. They hadn't exactly gone out of their way to speak with me over the years.

"That's a pretty tall order Don," I say, glancing away from him – and then the answer hits me right in the face. They might suspect something from me, shell, I can't even remember the last time I spoke to either of them face to face, but it has to have been a good three years and that was more out of duty to Sensei than any real need to check on them. But there was one person who could always call on the Rebel forces, one person whom they'd always trusted, no matter what.

"But I think I know somebody who can help."

Again, I keep my secrets as I take him to the main rebel lair. He's frowning in that way that means he's brainstorming and I'm trying to plan for what is to come. I don't even know if I should. Once or twice I've tried bridging the gap between us but it had never come to anything and I quit bothering years ago. Leo and Raph hadn't even gotten that far, refusing to speak of anything to each other save for Master Splinter and what happened that day, hurling accusations at each other until they lost their rationality and started throwing punches.

April doesn't see me enter and for a moment I wait, watching as she gives a note to one of the other rebels and glances again over the map of a building. She's planning something big by the looks. One thing about her; she never gave up hoping that things could be changed. Even when the three of us thought things were hopeless, she never did. Sometimes I think she's naive. Other times, I envy her faith. I wish I could see a reason to be optimistic, but I've learned the hard way that things always turn out for the worse.

"Hey there Rebel Leader," I say casually. "Look what the cat dragged in."

She turns, smiling – and stops when she sees Don, her face a mixture of pure shock and total delight. The reaction he should have got from me perhaps, but I didn't know how to react then and even now, I'm still in turmoil and not quite sure how to feel.

"April?" Don might not have been expecting her, but he sure looks happy to see her.

"Donatello! You came back!" She throws her arms around him and gives him a huge hug. He hugs back, hardly seeming to notice how much she's aged since the last time he saw her. I sometimes have a hard time remembering how she used to look and how pretty she used to be, but it's as if Don doesn't see that. Shell, maybe he doesn't.

"Master Splinter always said you would," she continued quietly. "Casey too."

"Where is Case anyway? That big bonehead..." Don's smile is threatening to crack his face. For the first time since he came back, he seems genuinely happy. Maybe he thinks he can get the whole family back together, just without Splinter. He's in for a rude awakening.

April's smile deserts her and she glances sadly over at the wall where Casey's picture still hangs. She never got over losing him. Don follows her gaze and I can see his shoulders sagging as he realises what has happened. No words necessary.

"Well, well, well. Donatello." For a disembodied brain, Stockman still manages to sound infuriatingly smug. "Looking younger than ever."

Donnie whips out his bo and brandishes it – but as Hun wheels them into the light I doubt very much he'd use it unless directly attacked. Everyone Don used to know has aged, but of them all Hun looks the worst for it. His hair grows in listless patches, the muscles he used to have run to fat and in the wheelchair, he seems smaller. Once upon a time he was the biggest baddest bastard the Dragons had but now he was just a sad old man with a brain jar grafted to his shoulder.

Stockman seems to take bitter pleasure in Don's startlement. "And how do we look? Just another one of Shredder's apropos punishments. Don't be impolite Hun – say hello."

"Greetings Donatello," growls Hun.

"Relax Donatello," says April, putting her hand on Don's bo and pushing it down. "They're on our side. We saved them from execution about five years back."

"This life is worse," mutters Hun."I wish I had been put out of my misery."

"And I wish you had been put out of my misery," snaps Stockman. "You miserable misanthrope!"

Great, those two bickering again. I suppose it would be bad to be attached to someone you hated, unable to get away from them ever... but that was the Shredder's intention. Maybe that would be the quickest way to put an end to Leo and Raph, if he were to catch them.

Don walks over to Casey's picture, clenches his fist. "April – there's got to be a way to end all this! Can you get Leonardo and Raphael to meet me?"

She looks miserable, uncertain. "I can try."

She sends a message to them both, writing messages in code and handing them to other rebels to deliver. I don't know what she might have put in them, but I'll bet dollars to donuts that she doesn't mention their arch nemeses will be there to either one.

I miss donuts.

As we wait, April fills Don in on some of the things he's missed since he left us and he tells her some bizarre tales of the life he remembers. I don't participate, just listen to him with half an ear, the rest of me just waiting for my brothers to show. Though hopefully not at the same time. That would be bad.

In Don's mind, he never went missing at all. And his stories don't match what really happened. He vanished, Shredder took over and we got our shells kicked all over the place. That's what happened. But according to him, not only did five mutants take on the whole Foot army in their own headquarters and defeated them, but the Utroms were never enslaved and they left the planet, taking with them all knowledge of the Transmat that the Shredder has his slaves building. He adds a couple more details, telling us, with a look at me, that I became the champion of a place called The Battle Nexus and have never let anyone forget it. April grins and I snort, turning my attention to the door. Don looks kinda hurt, like he expected me to smile or comment or something. But I'm no champion, I can't even defeat my family's demons let alone the best fighters in the multiverse...

And right on cue, I hear Raph's voice.

"What the shell are you doing here?"

Then Leo.

"Raph. April's guys didn't say anything about you being here!"

Great, they met up before we could explain. I sigh and stand up, shooting Don a look that says 'I told you so'. Donnie stares in the direction of the voices, obviously realising for the first time just how estranged we are. Leo and Raph are yelling at each other now, stealth forgotten, everything forgotten save for their mutual hate.

And then Don narrows his eyes and pulls out his bo, running to the entrance.

"I warned him," I say sullenly, making as if to follow. But April rests a hand on my arm and I stop for a moment.

"They don't really hate each other you know."

"Huh. Coulda fooled me."

"And they don't hate you either."

To that, there's no answer.

"If anyone can make those two stop arguing long enough for them to remember how much they need each other, it's Donnie," she says quietly.

"Not even Don can work miracles," I mutter, heading after him. Half of me expects that Leo and Raph won't even see him, will be too caught up in their war – but Donnie isn't about to let them ignore him it seems. We've pissed him off. He doesn't waste time with words, instead he hits them both with his bo. Hard. Maybe he's working off some of his frustration at the world he's found because he puts some force behind both shots, even if he just only catch them in the plastrons. For a second I'm reminded of Master Splinter and the way he used to smack us over the heads with his walking stick when we behaved like brats. The image makes me want to smile. Leo and Raph both fall on their shells, realising for the first time that they weren't alone.

"Leo. Raph. We need to talk." Don puts out a hand to Raph and realising that Leo can't see, grabs his elbow to pull him to his feet.

The looks on Raph and Leo's faces makes me glad no one was around to see the way I looked when I realised Donnie was back. Shock doesn't begin to cover it.

Raph's one eye is wide, the emotions easily readable in it. "Donnie? No way!" Then Raphael, always the first person to show how he felt, hugs Don. Don blinks and gives a tentative smile. I sigh. Don accomplishes in thirty seconds what I haven't been able to do in nearly thirty years, take their minds of hating each other long enough to notice they weren't the only two turtles in the world.. Maybe he could perform miracles after all.

Leo gives a smile too and for a moment I can almost see how he used to be, before Don vanished and the world started falling to pieces. The scars and the shades spoil the illusion somewhat, a constant reminder that he isn't who he used to be – and that he'll never see Don ever again, even though the turtle in question is standing right in front of him.

"Donatello? You're – back! I don't believe it!"

"Believe it," I say rather harshly. I try to force away jealousy. Don could make everything OK again but I couldn't? And the fact that I'm not more happy that Leo and Raph are in the same room and not trying to kill each other – what does that say about me? Am I really that twisted?

I force the thought away and approach my brothers instead, April right behind me. "And the Brainiac here wants to go up against the Shredder."

"We've already tried that Donnie," says Leo quietly. "How do you think we lost Casey?"

"The Shredder's palace is surrounded by Foot ninjas," Raph tells him.

"And Utrominators," adds Leo.

"And Karai legions," finishes Raph. Great, now all of a sudden they're united? I spend years trying to get them to put the past behind them, even more years coming to terms that the fact they can't – and Donnie turns up and they've suddenly got a common goal? I fight back another surge of anger. I'm not even needed here.

"We can't even get inside to fight him," says Leo.

"And even if you could, you couldn't beat him," says Stockman as he and Hun wheel past me. "I should know – I designed it." Shell, he sounds so smug at that. I want to knock what's left of him right out of that stupid jar – and knowing he's right doesn't help matters any.

"It's impossible." Leo shakes his head.

"Can't be done Donnie. It's hopeless." Raph's voice is heavy with defeat. I know what it's costing him to admit that nothing can be done. Back in the day, Raphael would never believe that things couldn't be solved by rushing in and starting a fight. But experience makes you wise, or so they say and since losing an eye through his rash behaviour, Raph seems to have accepted that some things he can't resolve by throwing a punch.

"I don't know what happened to you guys – but the turtles I knew believed that nothing was ever hopeless!" Whoo, was that ever the wrong thing to say to Donnie. He looks mad enough to go nuclear, Raph-style nuclear. The Don I remember was pretty even tempered and rarely got angry... but this life is enough to make anyone furious I guess. "Please. We can do this!"

Yeah, but that was a long time ago Don, I want to say. But I don't. There's that glimmer of hope, like a spectre of something I forgot about a long time ago. Don's so sincere, so certain. He's always been the smart one and maybe he can see something that the rest of us don't.

There's a pause. I can see that Leo and Raph are thinking about what he said. They don't know the things about Don that I do but even if Leo can't see, he must realise some thing's not right about Don's return and I know Raph's confused by Don's young appearance. They might have guessed already that this isn't our brother returned to us – although he looks and acts the same as Donnie did. But that comment, The turtles I knew... that's a giveaway. We're not the turtles he knew – not anymore.

But... if we really can change the world, if we really could get rid of the Shredder... hasn't that been the only thing worth fighting for all these years? What we've been trying to accomplish but weren't able to by ourselves? But maybe with the four of us reunited, we really could.

And then Raphael reaches out a hand to Leonardo. Leo takes it and they shake. I can't stop the grin that breaks out on my face. It feels out of place after all this time, but somehow oddly right too. I've wanted this moment for so long now, for the family to be back together and everything to be alright. I was mad at Donnie a minute ago, when he managed to get them to stop fighting for two minutes, but this is what I wanted all along. I could never deal with them when they were full of hate and could never make them see reason. Suddenly, I can't understand why I was jealous it was he who succeeded where I kept on failing. He'd given us back our bond, given us a reason to fight. Shell, I should thank him.

Leo turns his head in Don's general direction. "OK Donnie. We'll do it one more time. But please, tell me we have a fighting chance!" I can see Don's words have motivated Leo, it's written all over his face, the expression I remember from our youth when Fearless Leader was just that.

"I've been working on a plan... but do we have any hardware? Exo-suits? Anything?"

"Well, we captured a Karai Legion Bot that Doctor Stockman has been modifying," said April.

"Good. That's a start. And there's something we'll need in the lair."

"The lair? It got wasted years ago." Raph looks at him in sheer disbelief. I know he doesn't know how Don got here and that he showed up back at the lair, but is it so hard to believe that would be the first place he would go after finding himself in this world? And – oh no. This would mean Raph finding out about me going to the lair and trying to recapture how I used to be, that I miss my life, my brothers, my father. I don't like the thought of them finding out about that. I closed off those emotions a long time ago, save for my private excursions to our old home and I didn't want anyone knowing that maybe somewhere in me is a kid who mourns the dead past. They never used to take me seriously and if they realise I'm being stupidly sentimental about that, they wouldn't understand. How could they? They were never sad about us falling apart. They were too busy being angry to have any room left for sorrow.

"Not all of it." Donnie smirks at Raph in the way I remember so well, usually just prior to whipping up some gizmo that Raph had informed him he would never be able to make.

I opened my mouth to make a smart-ass comment and abruptly close it again, rather appalled at myself. I haven't made any jokes like that for years. But having the four of us here is kinda like old times and a part of me wants to fall back into my old role of goof ball. Those urges are dangerous. This is serious. This is the end, one way or another.

It's so – awesome! Having my family back together. Donnie talking excitedly, planning meticulously. Raph raising his eye ridge occasionally but not interrupting. Leo nodding thoughtfully, asking questions every so often. To witness all this is surreal and yet, it's all I've ever wanted. For the three of them to be here, treating each other with a remembered respect if not the familiarity that they used to. For them not to fight and hate and for Donnie to be home again...

And yet, I stay in the background, silent as usual, guarded. Because there's no way something this good can last and I know it.

But would it be so terrible to live in the moment the way I used to? Just to enjoy us being together like we used to be instead of dwelling on the what-ifs and the future?

Yeah. It would be a mistake. Just another memory to come back and haunt me, that for one brief moment all my brothers were back together and we were a family again. Because even if we do take out the Shredder, how is it gonna change us? Sensei and Casey will still be dead, Leo and Raph will probably just start arguing again and Don... this Donnie isn't meant to be here. Destroying Shredder won't bring back those lost years and every day I'll be wondering when he'll vanish again. If I were to let myself enjoy it, it'll just hurt that much more when it all comes to an end.

And that makes me feel suddenly bad. I've been so mean to Donnie, aggressive. Punishing him for leaving us. And this time might be all we have with him. I should have told him what he meant to us, that we couldn't get by without him... instead I shouted at him. Hurt him. Oh shell, I'm just no good at being close to others. Especially my brothers.

But I should tell him. In case he goes back to where ever it was he came from. Tell him we always needed him and I didn't hate him and I was proud to be his brother. Never more so than right then.

But for now it's time to prepare for attack and that'll take all the focus I've got. And there's always someone hanging around us, when all I want to do is pull Don aside and talk to him. I don't want them to know, so I decide to wait. No good to talk to him now anyway, not when he's so determined and giving all his attention to modifying the Karai-bot. Later. I'll do it later.

After the fight with the Shredder, I'm going to tell him I'm sorry.

Heh, me apologising. Maybe there's some of the old Michelangelo left after all.