Grinning, I watch the early morning news on the vid-screen. The top story involves the discovery of buried nuclear waste at various sites, formerly presumed safe, up and down the East Coast. The waste is now being removed, the perky blonde newscaster hurries to inform me, and taken to secure containment areas.
The second news story is about the unfortunate, untimely death of a high administration official. Apparently the National Science Foundation director has died of undiagnosed Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. One of the administration's spokesmen briefly appears on-screen to give a sound-bite about how tragic and unexpected was Stockman's loss.
The cancer had been Karai's suggestion. And for some reason Don had found the idea hilarious and, since President Bishop had no objections, that's what we went with.
Turning off the viewer, I pause for a moment to collect my thoughts before deciding to leave the comfortable confines of the Saki building's penthouse apartment. I bite my lip once I reach the hall. Where to look, where to look … Following a hunch, I take the elevator down to the laboratories. Quiet and alone, I walk along dark corridors that are still pock-marked with laser fire. It will take weeks to fully rebuild and restore the building. As I venture further down the hallway, I finally spot what I'm looking for—a stray beam of light, slipping under the door to one of the labs.
He's inside at one of the worktables, with only a single lamp to keep him company. Silently I study his profile. He either doesn't have another holoprojector or isn't using it, and I find unspeakable comfort in seeing the gentle round curve of his carapace. Then I frown once I notice the bandages on the stub of his right arm. Though meticulously wrapped, the otherwise immaculate white bandages are incongruously stained with blood.
Dammit. His wound must have ripped open during that scuffle with Stockman. That was hours and hours ago. Has it been bleeding continuously ever since? No way to tell, really. Damn it, and damn him.
Stepping further into the lab, I open my mouth, intending to order him to the Foot infirmary—I assume something like that must still lurk somewhere in the building—but instead I hear myself saying, "You lied to me, Don."
Even though I speak softly, my voice still sounds too loud in the echoing silence of the room.
But ninja instincts prevail. Donatello doesn't flinch or even bother to glance my way. "I'm afraid you need to be a bit more specific, April. I've lied about a lot of things."
"About killing Karai."
"Ah, that," he says, smiling. "Well, if I'd told the truth, you and your conscience would have tried to rescue her sooner or later. And that would have ended poorly for all parties concerned."
He's lying to me still, and we both know it. Thinking things over, I decide to test a hypothesis. "The girl complicated things," I speculate in a quiet voice, "didn't she?"
His face goes suddenly slack. The shadows created by the small lamp hide his eyes.
Though I know I'm right, I can't help prodding, "Oh, come on, Donny. I'm not stupid."
"If I had known at the time I kidnapped Karai that she had—" Don breaks off with a bitter bark of a laugh. "Oh, hell, if only I had known a lot of things …" He turns to look at me for a moment before continuing, completely deadpan, "The girl was an unanticipated variable, yes."
I decide that now's a good as time as any to approach. As I make my way towards the table, I idly glance down at what he's working on. The remains of some project or another lie scattered across the table: strips of metals, tangles of wire, nuts and bolts. On the table also is a soldering iron, as well as various screwdrivers in different sizes. I feel the sudden, strong urge to pick up the nearest tool and offer to help.
This urge takes a surprising amount of effort to repress.
But before it can get the best of me, Don suddenly glances over and demands, "Does she know? Is she angry with me?"
"No. Actually, I'm the one she's mad at."
He seems taken aback by that. "Why you?"
"Because I shot her father."
"And she loves you," I murmur, mostly to myself. "More than you can probably imagine. More than you probably deserve."
He looks thoughtful about that. Absentmindedly he fiddles with the bandage on his arm, making me wince as I watch a drop of fresh blood drip down. Then in a pensive tone he says, "For so many years, Hiroko has been the only family I have. I can't lose her now."
"What about me, Don?" I shake my head, unable to decide whether I'm angry or sad. Or both. "I know you lost your brothers and Splinter, but you didn't have to lose me too."
"Oh, spare me the lecture!" Angrily he jerks away from me and snatches up a nearby screwdriver, clutching it tightly like a dagger. "The first time in years that we met up again, April, you tried to shoot me."
I did shoot you. The unspoken words hang in the air between us.
Shaking his head, Don continues, a bit softer, "I don't blame you for it, really. I would have tried to have killed me too. But please, I pray, don't insult my intelligence."
At that I look down, unsure what to do. I want to slap him. I want to yell at him. And I want to hold him close and never let go. Deep down I have no clear concept of just what I want from Don, and perhaps that's the underlying problem. Still, I decide to try again. "They've found most of the nukes already," I tell him, "and the main detonator's definitely disabled." I can't stop a grin from forming. "Congratulations, Mr. Hamato. You helped save millions of lives."
"Just like the good old days, huh?" He doesn't even try to hide the sarcasm.
"Donatello, I swear to—" Utterly frustrated, with both him and myself, I slam my open palm on the table. The jolt sends a stray bolt rolling away and careening off the edge. "I am trying, okay? I am really trying. So why are you making this so hard?"
Without missing a beat he spits, "Because you are not wanted here, April."
I don't miss a beat, either. "Well, that's too goddamn bad. You can't just pick up where you left off now that you have a missing limb." I poke him, hard, in the plastron. "You might not want me. But you need me."
Rolling his eyes, he snorts in derision.
"And I need you too, Donny."
He doesn't snort at that.
As my heart pounds in my chest, I carefully watch his face. The deep shadows dance across his scarred features, as do a cascade of unidentifiable emotions. I wish I could tell what he's thinking. I wish I could make it up to him—for his brothers, for his arm, for everything. Most of all, I wish I could somehow find my Donatello in this damaged, tired turtle now before me.
Suddenly he begins chuckling softly to himself, and I fear that I've finally pushed him too far. Then, looking up and wearing a small smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes, Don intones, "Is this another lesson, Master Splinter? How to sense the truth?"
"No," I reply solemnly, "this is called trusting your gut."
He leans forward, his face now fully illumined by lamplight, and as he studies me intently, it takes all my willpower not to flinch away. He's so close that I can feel his slow, steady breath across my face. He leans a little more, and for one crazy, surreal second in time I'm almost convinced that he's about to kiss me. Then finally Don sighs, a bit melodramatically—and it's the sigh of the put-upon, of the deeply afflicted, of the long suffering. Leaning back into the shadows, he thrusts his arm in my direction and gestures for me to take his screwdriver.
"If you're going to insist on hanging around," Donatello explains irritably, in response to my raised eyebrow, "you should at least make yourself useful."
Triumphantly I smile. I take the screwdriver.
Author's Notes: Thus ends this story and the "Eye for an Eye" trilogy. It's crazy to think that a one-shot inspired by a single quote from the old 'toon could lead to the longest story I've written to date (for TMNT or any other genre) … but hey, life is crazy, no? Thanks for all of reviewers who've stuck with me to the end. Y'all are the best.
Also, I'd like to take a moment here to give credit where credit's due. So many folks have done great depictions of what I've personally nicknamed "Dark Donny," and they've all helped to influence my own writing. I highly recommend them:
Pacphys' (hypothetical evil) Stocktello exec from Stocktello Enterprises … Askre's (AU evil) former emperor from the Assassin series … Wendy Peabody's and Reinbeauchaser's (angsty, not evil) Don Tello from Rahab and Femme Fatale … and in the world of comics, Tigerfog's (crazy evil?) mad scientist from Mutant Ninja Turtles Gaiden.