"Does being the 'brainy one' make up for being the 'worst ninja'?"

Donatello shivered as he managed to haul himself -- and his precious satchel -- up onto the ledge. Titian's jar clinked and scraped against the bricks and a few loose pages of the dictionary he'd brought drifted down into the channel and floated away. Hastily, he pulled Titian's jar out and examined it in the dim light, but it was undamaged and the bug seemed to be quite happily scuttling through the leaves Don had collected for him.

Phew. Titian was safe. He tucked the dictionary more securely into its pocket and clasped the satchel against his side, but he kept Titian's jar in his hand. Then he stopped and looked about. He'd been here loads of times before, but never alone. It looked different, somehow. Scarier.

There had been a lot of rain -- the channel was running high and his feet and legs were wet halfway up to his knees. At least his ledge was high out of the water. He'd only get his feet wet again if he pointed his toes. But if it rains again tonight, I guess the water will come under the door and flood the lair again. At least he'd escaped the clean up job if it did.

He could hear the channel lapping and water dripping and running somewhere. It echoed. The sewer tunnel seemed dark and lonely without any of his brothers to share in the adventure… but he guessed he was just going to have to get used to that. He was alone now, and was it was going to be that way for the rest of his life.

He gulped, steeling himself against a desire to cry at that thought… and then had to bite back a yelp as a rat -- more than a foot long WITHOUT its tail -- ran right OVER him. He shuddered. Master Splinter might be a rat, but he was nothing like the sewer rats. Mikey had tried taming some of the ones that had come through the lair, but even he had been discouraged by the bites. Don would rather stick to bugs. He didn't mind cockroaches and things the way Mikey did… but rats? The bites had been nasty jagged things that had bled for ever so long, and then one of them had gotten infected and Master Splinter had had to lance Mikey's hand so that the pus could drain out… then the thought hit him that he was never going to see Master Splinter again. With that, he could no longer stop the tears from coming.

He wondered how his sensei would react when he came home and found him gone. Would he miss him? Would he start a search? He probably will be relieved. He'll have got rid of a problem -- the worst ninja, the one who doesn't LIKE ninjutsu and he'll still have the strongest, the fastest and the best ones left. The Clan will do just fine without me.

But will I do just fine without the Clan? He didn't have any bandages or anything with him, what if he got bitten, or fell, or got hurt in some other way? And Mikey had got bitten on the FACE once and Master Splinter had said it was because Mikey hadn't cleaned his teeth and the rat could smell the food… and he hadn't thought to pack any rags to clean his teeth with.

He needed to stop and think; to plan. He pulled his body into a shadowed section, where he'd be hidden from anyone looking… but where he could look up through the grating at the night sky and the moon. Not all the gratings were safe, not all the time. But this one, in this light, was impossible to see into. He scooted sideways, put Titian's jar into his lap, pulled his feet up onto the ledge and hugged his knees. How am I going to do this? What am I going to do?

Master Splinter had taught him how to forage -- they all knew the best places to go for leftovers and things like that -- so he'd be able to find food. Shelter was easy, too. Like his brothers, he knew several miles of sewer tunnels as well as he knew the lair itself and it was summer at the moment -- he wouldn't be cold. He'd have to collect cardboard and newspapers and things and make himself a den. He was sure that could be quite cosy.

Lonely, though. Don tried to ignore that thought. He had Titian and his favourite books were in his satchel. A big fat "Book of Answers" that somebody had thrown out, and an encyclopaedia AND the little dictionary. Okay some of the pages were missing, but there were loads of words and facts and all sorts of things in them he didn't know. He could still learn. And MAYBE some day he'd be brave enough to go into the junkyard alone, and maybe he'd find something cool he could fix. Or maybe he'd find something in a regular dumpster. And once he'd built himself a den, he'd have protection, a secret place where his brothers couldn't break anything or mess his stuff up. Being alone didn't mean he couldn't DO stuff. And he liked being alone. No brothers to mess my stuff up, or get in my way, or tease me. And no training or sparring, ever again.

It wasn't his fault that he was all on his own. The others had made it quite clear what they thought about him. Coward. The one who hated to fight. The one who was useless at sparring. The worst ninja. He didn't belong in the Clan. He buried his face in his knees at the memory of the humiliations that had gone before him leaving. Better to have left than to go through another day like that again

They'd been sparring in their afternoon practice; him against Leo, him against Mike and finally him against Raph. He'd lost all three, but the last had been the worst. Him against Raph. He shuddered at the memory….