Hm. I'm on a TMNT kick lately. The movie was just too geek-worthy not to rekindle my childhood love of the series. My mind's been running slow on some of my other fics, so I figured, hey, I'll work on this plot bunny and see if I can get anything out of it. Besides all that, I love Donnie to death. Inspired by a random line in my other comic book obsession, Yoshihiro Togashi's Hunter X Hunter.

Set in the 2003 animated world, though some years after the main storyline. "Fast Forward" is completely discredited because, quite simply, I don't like it. Prologue takes place several years before the real story actually picks up, so it may seem a little untimely, but that's why it's a Prologue instead of "Chapter One". (Er...don't ask, that the technial grammar nazi talking...)

Disclaimer: I don't own anything involved with the original production of TMNT. I just like the characters…

Underground

Prologue: Ashes to Ashes

Leatherhead found Donatello right where he thought that he would.

It was pouring down rain at the moment, dampening the already dark colors of the tree-lined clearing until they ran together into shadowy walls of moss and wood. The earth beneath them was black with the density of its own mud, bleeding through the sparse patches of dead grass that had been left unattended for years. The sky was heavily masked by the thick storm clouds, almost completely blocking out the already-weak rays of the winter sun and plunging the entire park into darkness.

Donatello was there, in the middle of the clearing, strangely exposed for one who had spent his entire life training to remain hidden at all times. His legs were folded underneath him in a knelling position, sinking up to his knees into the moist earth, which also stained his both of his arms all the way to the elbows. He hadn't looked up when the alligator had entered, even though Leather head knew quite well that the observant ninja must have heard him coming a mile away. His brown eyes were hazy and unfocused, looking at but not quite seeing the four engraved stones that were set into the earth before him.

For a moment, Leatherhead could only think about how young he looked now. If he hadn't known the turtle for so long, he would have never guess that he was now well into his twenties - the expression on his face was that of a lost child.

"Donatello…"

The turtle looked up at him, and his eyes were red, but the expression on his face was carefully blank. "Oh. Hi, Leatherhead."

The alligator sighed, reaching into the fold of the trench coat he wore to pull out a relatively dry windbreaker, which he set over his friend's shoulders. "Mrs. O'Neil-Jones was concerned. She asked me to look for you."

"I haven't been gone that long."

"It has been three hours, Donatello."

"Has it?" The emotionless voice chuckled just a bit, a laugh without humor. "I hadn't noticed. Sorry you had to go to so much trouble."

Leatherhead said nothing. Not expecting an answer, Donatello his eyes back to the four stones that rested in this clearing. The four graves.

One was old, going on a decade in the upcoming year, the final resting place of a beloved teacher and father.

One was not much younger, close beside the master's right-hand side, the small orange urn deep below it containing ashes of one who would never laugh again.

One had no urn, no mound and no trinkets. It was simply a memorial to a brother who had disappeared so completely even his body couldn't be found.

One was fresh. Donatello had dug it himself this morning, before the rain began.

Leatherhead took in each one in detail, from the differences in their simple carvings to the small mounds indicating the shape of their burial urns. He placed a supportive hand on his old friend's shoulder, careful that he did not bring it down with too much force. "What will you do now?"

A three-fingered hand moved to rest atop Leatherhead's much large claw, leaving mud on one of the knuckles, though neither really cared. "Do?" the turtle whispered. "What can I do? I don't exactly have a choice."

"There is always a choice, Donatello."

Again, the turtle looked up at his friend, though this time it was in confusion.

"You could choose to give into your inner pain and end it all now," Leatherhead reasoned simply, not looking at the other mutant. "Your family's code of honor would easily allow for that route. Or you could choose to seek out the ones who have left you in such a state, to take revenge for your family and bring further honor to your clan. You could choose to abandon everything and retreat into a life of solitude, to live the rest of your life with nothing but your memories and meditation. You could choose to simply fade away forever.

"You could choose to do any of these things, Donatello," the alligator turn just a bit and smiled down at his fellow mutant. "But as an old friend, I must say that they would all be a severe deviation from your true character."

The turtle's expression remained blank, almost clueless. Then a light smile spread onto his face, not exactly happy, but batter than he had been before. "Yeah. You're right. Thanks."

Leatherhead reflected the expression back to him, though it was much longer and was lined with quite a bit more teeth. "You're welcome. Shall we return now, before either of us manage to contract some sort of illness from this awful damp weather?"

Donatello found himself laughing despite himself, accepting his friend's help to stand and begin making their way home. "I thought that alligators loved the water."

"We do. It's the cold that we do not like."

"Speaking of which," Donatello let a small, sad kind of smile slide onto his face as he lifted the trap door concealed beneath a large, smooth rock. "How is that kid doing? The little gator you picked up in Florida."

Leatherhead smiled a bit at the thought. "He is adapting quite nicely. I think he will do well here."

"That's good, at least. Have you decided what to call him yet?"

"I thought that 'Tanner' would be appropriate."

"Good name," the turtle agreed, stepping down onto the ladder. He braced his bare feet against the outside of the metal frame, pausing a moment to look once more at the graves. "…I miss them."

Leatherhead nodded sadly. "I know that you do, my friend. We all do."

Another light sigh escaped the purple-masked turtle, but he pushed a small smile onto his face as he tried to remember the good times. "See you in the Lair."

Then he let go of his brace and slide into the darkness.

TBC…

Yeah, I know, weird way to start a fic, but what can I say? It's the prologue. More coming soon. Leave a review, please. This is my first shot at a TMNT fic and I'd like to know what kind of job I'm doing.