"Promises to Keep"
By Donny's Boy
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor the plot relating to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I am making no money from this story. I mean no harm.
Warnings: Somewhat graphic character death, mild language.
Pizza dude was late. For the third time this week. And my tummy was beginning to verbalize its extreme dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. After all, what's family pizza night without the pizza?
"Mikey!" Raph glanced up from the television to glare in my general direction. "Your stomach gotta be so loud?"
Fortunately, as I was born immune to the patented Raphael grouchiness, I just responded with an eye roll. "Yeah, like I can control whether my stomach growls or not."
From the kitchen, where he was setting the table with plates and silverware, Leo chimed in. "Guys, I know we're all a little cranky because we're hungry, but hang tight. The pizza will be here soon."
"Not soon enough," grumbled Casey from his position on April's couch, next to Raphy-boy.
Much as I hated to admit it, Leo had a point. Stationed in the armchair, I stretched my arms over my head and silently told my stomach to shut it. Besides, April and Donny weren't back yet from their physics lecture or whatever, and no way was Leo letting us start eating without those two. Which would normally be a major bummer, but, considering the timeliness of the local pizza delivery guys—
My thoughts were interrupted by a loud knock. Speak of the devil! Excellent timing, Mr. Pizza Delivery. I still hoped that Casey wouldn't tip the guy. Because really. Late pizza.
Pushing up from the couch, Casey wandered over to the front door while we made like ninjas and disappeared from view. There was another knock, more insistent, and from my hiding place in the bathroom I heard Casey yell, "Hold your horses! I'm comin'!"
Next I heard the soft clinking of the chain being taken down and of the unlocking of the door. But after the door opened there was silence for a second or two. Then, so softly I almost couldn't make out the words, Casey muttered, "Jesus Christ."
Frowning, I peeked my head out of the bathroom.
Donny stood in the doorway, cradling April in his arms. She was covered in dark, fresh blood.
After another beat of stunned silence, everything happened all at once. Raph and Leo appeared out of nowhere, with Leo barking commands and Raph closing the door behind them. Meanwhile, Casey took April from Don's arms—with more gentleness than I'd seen from him in a good long time—and carried her over to the couch. I rushed over to my brother and took him by the elbow, searching his face.
His eyes were glassy and a little bloodshot. Shock, my brain supplied. He's in shock. And, well, no kidding. I was feeling pretty damned shocked myself. "She's gonna be okay, Don," I whispered to him, trying to sound as reassuring as possible while patting his arm. "She's gonna be just fine."
"Raph, call an ambulance!"
Raph was already halfway to the kitchen to get the phone. "I'm on it, Leo."
"Casey, apply pressure to her wounds," Leo instructed, kneeling down next to the couch, slipping a pillow under April's head.
Still supporting part of Don's weight, I kept my eyes on the couch. April was sprawled out along the length of the couch and, if I was being honest, she looked bad. Her face was a mess—black, blue, and bloody—and she could barely keep her eyes open. Staring up at Casey, she blinked as if confused to see him there. "Donny?"
"Nah, yer stuck with me instead," Casey joked, a bit weakly. "But I'm right here, babe, I'm right here."
Leo got the pillow situated to his satisfaction before turning me and Donny. "Don, what happened when you were—" Suddenly he trailed off, a horrified look frozen on his face.
My empty stomach lurched. That couldn't be good. That expression on Leo's face. No way could that be good. I glanced over at Don's face and noticed that, while his skin was a bit paler than usual, he didn't look too bad. Definitely not as bad as April. He had a cut lip but no bad bruises.
"Mikey … " Leo's voice hitched. "Mikey, his stomach."
Puzzled, I looked down.
Time itself stopped. For several seconds, I couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't even breathe. From miles away came Casey's voice: "Oh, April. There's blood all over ya."
"It's not April's blood," I whispered.
Just then, Raph popped back into the living room, carrying a cordless phone. "All right, the ambulance is on its way and—oh, shell!"
Casey glanced up in confusion, looking from Raph to Leo to Raph again, then slowly turning around to face me and Don. His jaw dropped as soon as he did.
Donatello slowly began to sink to his knees and, just like that, the trance was broken. Raph and Leo absolutely flew across the room. As my eldest brothers grabbed Don by the shoulders to hold him up, I took a step backwards, my shell bumping into the door behind me. But even if Leo hadn't been so quick, even if Don had fallen, it wouldn't have mattered. Nothing mattered now.
Gutted, my mind screamed at me. Gutted like a fish.
Don's intestines, a nightmare shade of reddish pink, gleaming and wet, hung from his midsection like an evil tumor. My poor brother glanced down at his all-too-visible insides then up to me. "Too many," he whispered, voice soft and strained. "Too many Foot."
"Oh, Donny," murmured Raph.
Leo started blinking rapidly. "Okay … okay, we have to—have to—need to apply pressure, then we can … we … we … "
"Leo." Raph's tone was surprisingly calm and even. "Leo, there ain't a band-aid big enough for this one."
"No, there has to—" Still blinking, Leo clenched his teeth. "No!"
April's voice interrupted, quiet but insistent: "Where's Donny?"
Hearing April, Don's eyes brightened a little. He pitched himself forward, which must've caught Leo and Raph off-guard, because they dropped him. And I was right; it didn't matter at all. Now on hands and knees, Don crawled over to the couch, trailing blood behind him along the way. Leo took a step forward to stop him—to get Don to lie down and rest, I guess—but Raph put a hand on Leo's arm to restrain him. When Leo glared into Raph's face, Raph only responded with only a sad shake of his head.
That was when I started crying. Seeing Raph shake his head like that … he was admitting defeat. But Raph never admitted defeat. Ever. Stumbling over to Leo, I buried my head against his hard shoulder, sobbing. But though I could no longer see the events playing out in the room, I could still hear. I could still hear everything.
She sounded scared. "Donny, are you okay?"
"Are we home yet?"
"Mm-hmm." Don coughed, a harsh, grating sound. Death rattle, said my brain, and I told my brain to shut it. "Didn't I … didn't I promise I'd get you home?"
The note of triumph in Donny's voice was unmistakable, and hearing it made my tears come faster. I felt Leo wrap his arms around my shoulders, holding tight.
April chuckled, which made her cough too.
"April." Casey's voice was soft. "Don't go to sleep, babe. Keep yer eyes open."
For his part, Donny helpfully suggested, "Concussion. Stay 'wake."
"I'm fine, just sleepy," April protested. "Tell me the poem again, Don. The poem that you told me while you were carrying me home, to keep me awake."
Carefully lifting my head, I saw that Don was on the floor, leaning heavily on the couch with his hand resting on the top of April's head. His fingers slowly petted her hair.
"Mm-kay." Don coughed again, sending little flecks of blood flying from his lips as he did. "Whose woods these are … I think … " He took a gasping, shaking breath. "I think I know … "
Raph's voice roughly interrupted: "Aw, crud." He moved to the window and stared down at the street below. "Ambulance is here."
"Gotta go," said Don with a sigh.
April reached up and touched the hand that still lay on her head. "Stay with me."
With a shaky groan, Casey turned away, crossing his arms over his chest. "To carry her all this way," he muttered, just barely audible, "and to do it while lookin' like that … "
Leo cleared his throat. "We'll get Don out of here before the paramedics arrive," he told Casey's back. Then he turned to the rest us. "Raph, grab Don's feet, and I'll get his shoulders. Mikey, open the window."
I did as I was told. What else was there to do? Then I bent over the couch and dropped a quick kiss on April's forehead. Getting a better look at her, I decided she didn't appear so bad off after all. She was banged up pretty good and a little bloody, but she'd heal well once Casey got her to the hospital. Her eyes were still closed, though, and didn't open even when I kissed her.
"Donny?" she asked, hopeful.
"Sorry, Ape, it's Mikey. Donny's gotta … " Over at the window, Raph had Don's legs halfway outside, and Leo shook his head at me. I noticed that Don's eyes, still glassy, had now gone completely blank.
His eyes. It wasn't right that his eyes—once filled with light, almost always soft and unfocused, far away in thought—should ever look so empty. It wasn't right that Don should ever be empty.
Trembling, I leaned down and kissed April's head again, as tenderly as I could manage. "Donny's real sorry he has to go," I whispered into her hair.
It took a good bit of maneuvering to get the four of us up to the roof, but we managed. We always did, somehow. Once up there, we sat down in a small circle with Don's body in the middle. Nobody said a word. Down below, we could see the silent flashing of the ambulance lights, which bathed everything in a demonic red glow.
"Y'know," said Leo, while staring straight ahead at nothing at all, "I didn't even know Donny had memorized any poems."
Raph grunted noncommittally. "Yeah, me neither. Never pegged Don as a poetry kinda guy."
But I'd known. The poem he'd recited to April was from the book of poetry I'd lent Don over two years ago. He'd asked me what was good, and I said that I thought he'd like Frost. And he had.
Craning my neck, I gazed up at the night sky. I'd always liked the sky at night, especially out at the farmhouse where you could see stars. A nighttime sky had always seemed like it held infinite promise. The past, the future, forever. Everything. But tonight the sky just looked cold and endless.
A voice that wasn't mine whispered inside my head, The darkest evening of the year …
My stomach growled again, but Raph didn't say so much as a make a peep about it.
I wanted Raph to say something. I wanted him to bop me on the back of the head.
I wanted to be back downstairs, waiting in vain for the pizza delivery guy.
I wanted to go destroy something in Donny's lab just so I could hear the words that, due to the many times I'd heard them over the years, I now knew by heart. "Mikey—" A soft sigh of half-hearted exasperation would always follow my name. "—you know you're supposed to ask permission before you touch anything!"
I wanted to be anywhere but right here right now.
But I have promises to keep …
We sat on the rooftop for a long time. Finally, after the ambulance lights had faded into the distance, Leo cleared his throat. "We have to get underground. We need to—to bring him with us." He let out a brief but strangled sob. "So no one finds his body."
Raph just nodded. I felt suddenly sick. April's place was pretty far from the lair. It would take forever for the three of us to carry Don home with us. Damn. This was gonna suck. Everything, now, was gonna suck, actually. But, what else was there to do?
And miles to go before I sleep …
Author's Notes: A deathfic in the patented TMNT "who's really dying here?" style. For much better stories in this vein, please do check out AC Poole's "The Scent of Violets" or Sasshaia's "Fixing It" or Diedre's "Akumu."