Chapter 5: Acceptance

The rain drizzles down half-heartedly, perfectly matching my mood. Like with most everyone, there are days that I really hate my job. Today is definitely one of those days—especially because this is the forty-second time I've lived through this particular day. Unfortunately, it never gets any easier. But, so help me Thor, this is going to be the last time I watch April O'Neil die.

It's a risk, admittedly. I'm about to bend the rules more than a little, and Lord Simultaneous wouldn't be at all happy if he finds out. If all goes according to plan, however, it'll be more than worth the wrath of Lord S.

At first, things go according to script. Ambush, arrival, interception. Lather, rinse, repeat. But instead of simply stunning Don, this time I lift the time scepter high and, before he can even begin to think of forming a protest, the both of us are enveloped in the scepter's brilliant blue light.

As the light fades away, Donatello's eyes flit around, jumpily, warily, before turning on me. "Where are we? When are we?"

"Aww." I glance around as well--while blinking at a night sky that seems impossibly dark after the scepter's glow--and then raise an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you don't recognize where we are?"

"Dammit, Renet! I don't have time for your little games!"

Laughing softly, I can't resist pointing out, "Actually, we have all the time in the world."

"Very droll." As he continues to scan the area, he purses his lips. "Wait. Wait a minute. Yes, I do recognize …" He glances over his shoulder at me. "The roof of the O'Neil Tech building. But why?"

"Okay. Well. Like, there's stuff I can't change, right? Totally 'do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars' territory, right?" I smile nervously. If I've timed things correctly, I have less than five minutes to explain. "But then there's other stuff, where I have some wiggle room, and--uh, Don? Where are you going?"

He's walking away from me at a fairly fast clip. Though I'm pretty sure he can hear me, he doesn't stop or slow down or even say a word. He just keeps heading straight for the door to the roof.

Shit. This was so completely, totally predictable, and I cannot believe I didn't factor it into my calculations. Shit!

I run after him, hustling to catch up. "Donny, wait! Please!"

He stops abruptly, and I almost run right smack into him. I slam on the brakes and manage to stop a few inches shy of hitting him. Then, suddenly, he whirls around. Donatello glares at me through the dark, his eyes just thin slivers of eerie white, and I try not to flinch. I'm not sure I'm entirely successful, though.

"You think I won't kill you." His voice is low and rough, and there's a hint of dark amusement there. "Just because I've been patient thus far, just because I've put up with your incessant interference ... you actually believe that means I'll tolerate this nonsense forever."

He takes a step towards me, so close now that I can feel his breath on my skin, and every good instinct I've ever had begins sounding the klaxons, telling me to get myself the heck out of here. But instead I freeze. I just stand there and listen to his heavy breathing in the dark. Somehow, even though he's at least half a foot shorter than I am, he manages to loom over me. Panic, pure and unbridled, begins creeping its way up my spine.

His teeth flash as he smiles. It's not the least bit reassuring. "Unfortunately, Renet, I ran out of patience. A long, long time ago. So I'm afraid I'm just going to have to--"

I lean forward and kiss him. He shuts up.

Leaning back, I grin with relief as he sputters incoherently. It feels really, truly, amazingly good to hear silence from him. For a change. "So! Ready to listen now?"

Don just stares at me.

"Glad to hear it!" Still a bit shaken, I take a step back to put a little bit of space between us. To regain my bearings. To regain control. "Totally hear you on the patience thing, sweetie, so I'll keep this short and sweet. In a minute or two, a woman's going to walk through that door over there."

He stares for a few moments longer before shrugging. "All right. So what?"

"Thirty seconds later, she's gonna jump off the roof."

"A tragedy. But what, precisely, does any of this have to do with me?"

I wish I could just take the time scepter and hit him over the head. It would be so much easier than trying to reason with him. "Okay, here's the deal. You can't save April--"

"Oh, I disagree."

"--but this woman you can save, Donny. It's not, like, exactly the same thing. Or the same at all, really. But! There's totally still time for her."

"Renet, there's one little problem with this brilliant scheme of yours," he replies languidly, crossing his arms. "I really don't give a damn."

Hmm. That is a problem. He's got me there. Luckily, I'm saved from having to answer by the loud, creaky groan of the roof's access door opening. I look over with a sigh that's half relieved and half anxious. She's right on time.

She marches towards the edge of the roof with a purposeful stride. She doesn't seem to see us--maybe because we're hidden in the shadows, maybe because that grimly determined look on her face means she's too preoccupied to notice intruders like us. Either way, she doesn't so much as glance in our direction. Which is probably not such a bad thing.

As always, I'm struck by how very pretty she is. She's tall, graceful, and lithe. Strong chin, button nose. Red hair, pulled back into a simple, functional bun. If it wasn't for the blue eyes, she'd look exactly like her mother.

Donatello recoils at the sight of her.

The walk across the roof isn't a long one. She steps up onto the edge of the roof, and her legs splay out in a wide, aggressive stance. She doesn't look down. She keeps her gaze level, looking dead ahead, her back ram-rod straight.

Quietly, careful to keep my voice from carrying, I murmur, "Twenty ..."

Don blinks and licks his lips.

The woman remains perfectly motionless for several long seconds. Then, slowly, she lifts her arms. Even through the dark I can see the muscles in her biceps tremble, ever so slightly. Still she doesn't look down. For some reason, I've always admired her for that. I'm not sure why, but I do.

Donny's eyes cut over to me, questioning, seeking.

I give him a small nod. "Ten ..."

Another second passes in stillness and in silence ... then Don explodes into motion. In less than ten seconds--in less than one--he's across the rooftop, throwing an arm around the woman's waist, yanking her away from the edge. They both stumble and fall. With a muffled thud they hit the roof.

The woman lies quiet, surprised and in shock. Then, with a piercing shriek, she begins flailing against her unexpected and unwanted savior. Don throws up his arms and manages to block most of her blows. After a few moments, he tries to get up but can't quite accomplish such a feat.

Which is understandable. Even for a ninja, it's gotta be hard to stand up when you've got a hundred and fifty pounds of outraged female sitting on top of you. I have to admit, it's sort of poetic justice, and I only feel a little bit sorry for him.

"Hey!" His voice is annoyed, but it doesn't have anything close to the edge it did earlier. "Lady, please, I'm not trying to hurt you. I promise!"

Abruptly the woman stops her assault. She stares down at him, wide-eyed, breathing fast and shallow. Finally she whispers, "Uncle Donny?"

He squints. I can practically hear his thoughts, so intent is he looking at this twenty-something woman, as he tries to mentally reconcile her with the five-year-old little girl he knows.

She fumbles a bit and falls backwards, and Don grabs the opportunity to stand back up. The woman just keep staring. By now she's squinting too, and it's obvious she realizes that there's something wrong with him. Something just a bit off. But before she can figure out what, Donatello suddenly turns and bolts.

He's already three rooftops away before I even have time to call out his name.

Goddamn ninjas.

Stifling a sigh, I give the girl a quick wave then head for the door. I try to push away all my worries about her. She'll be fine ... and, if she won't, there's nothing I can do about it that I'm not already doing. Que sera, sera, and all that jazz. Besides, were I to stay, that would just mean a whole bunch of awkward question I'm not allowed to answer.

So instead, while taking the elevator down the roughly ten gazillion floors of O'Neil Tech, I try to concentrate on a plan for finding Donny. I could use the time scepter. That'd be quick and easy. But almost immediately I decide against it. I know Don. He needs time to think, to process, to work things through in that big brain of his. Fortunately, time is the one thing I've got plenty of. So no time scepter, then. I'll just have to do this old school.

I reach ground level and quickly step out onto the streets of New York. It never ceases to amaze me just how dirty this city is. No matter the century, I always end up feeling like I need a bath. Ugh. Glancing around, I decide that I might as well get even dirtier. Fifteen minutes later, I find myself in the boys' old, abandoned lair.

I don't find Donatello, however. Not that I really expected to. It would be wicked good luck to find him the first place I checked, and lately my luck's been anything but good. Still, it's a little disappointing. With a small groan of frustration, that quietly echoes off the walls of the sewers, I head back topside.

I look everywhere but, good little ninja he is, Don's vanished into thin air. He isn't at April and Casey's old apartment or at Casey's new apartment. He isn't at the Saki building. He isn't at that little place in the park, where they buried Splinter's ashes. Finally it occurs to me that maybe he's not even in this time anymore, and my heart sinks at the thought.

But maybe ... maybe he dropped his time portal? Accidentally left it behind on the roof?

There is, of course, absolutely no way he dropped that precious fucking time portal of his. Still, it's not like I have any better idea. So back to the roof, it is! I take my trusty time scepter in hand and, after the familiar blue glow, I'm again standing on the lonely roof of O'Neil Tech.

A slight breeze causes me to shiver. It's gotten colder since I was up here before.

My eyes carefully scan over my surroundings. Aha. Not so lonely, after all. Don sits on the edge of the roof, his legs dangling down over the streets below and his bo resting in his lap. Slowly I make my way over, take a seat beside him, and glance over. His face is half hidden in shadows, remote and impenetrable. I try to think of something to say. Something that isn't, y'know, just another demand for him to turn over the time portal.

But he beats me to the punch. "I was wondering when you'd come back," he says without turning his head. Maybe it's just the dark playing tricks on me, but I swear there's a hint of a smile on his face.

"Uh, well, I wanted to give you some space. To process. And stuff." I chuckle, but it sounds pretty weak, even to me. "Yeah ... so. Have you processed any?"

He turns to look at me. Any hint of a smile is gone without a trace. For several long, silent moments, he just stares into my eyes. It's incredibly intimidating and incredibly intimate, all at once, and my stomach gives a lurch. But I force myself to hold his gaze. To not back down.

"When you said I can save her," he begins again, in a quiet, thoughtful voice, "you weren't just referring to tonight. Were you, Renet?"

I feel a grin slowly overtake my entire face. Donny always has been a smart boy.

Now all that's left is for him to figure out that I'm not just trying to save her.