Author's Notes: This is set at the end of season four and references Good Genes as well as The Return of Savanti Romero. Much love to my beta readers Intravox and wyntirrose. Any remaining goofs and mistakes are all mine.
Dinosaurs, PTSD and Museum Visiting Hours
"I can't believe you actually want to come back to this place." Raphael's words echo a little in the cavernous exhibit hall and he winces internally and lowers his voice, ducking his chin so his mouth is muffled by the scarf he's wearing to obscure his face. "I mean, after last time."
"I only got to see part of the display," Donatello says. Donnie, soft-spoken on the best of days, is practically murmuring and his voice is soft and private; no one would be able to overhear him even if they were only standing a few feet away. "We were only here for a few minutes before Savanti Romero attacked."
Raph supposes that's fair enough, considering the only reason they'd been in the museum in the first place that night was because Don had never outgrown the stage where he was fascinated with dinosaurs. "Bro, we spent three months trying not to be eaten by the real thing, and you're getting all fascinated over a museum display?"
Donatello shrugs, but he finally looks away from the skeleton he was studying. "Personal experience has only heightened my interest in the subject."
Nothing to say to that, Raphael figures, because he'd guessed as much. Spending twelve weeks living in the jungle had guaranteed that Raph, Mike and Leo never wanted to see or hear a dinosaur again. Raph still had dreams about wrestling with dilophosaurs or whatever they were and Leo had refused to eat fish for a week after getting back. Mike had even trashed his Jurassic Park collection. But Donnie. Donnie thought it was all some big field trip.
Donatello leaves both hands resting on the metal barrier surrounding the skeleton display. "You didn't have to come," he points out. If Leo had said that, Raph would have gotten pretty annoyed, but coming from Donnie it's not a complaint or jab or reprimand. It's just Donnie stating the facts and, beneath that, offering Raph a way out.
It isn't often Raph can catch Donnie being wrong, but this is one of those times. Raph had to come, even if Donnie himself didn't think so.
He crams his fists in the pocket of his jacket and shrugs, looking away. "Yeah, whatever, brainiac. Someone's gotta be here to drag your tail home, or you'd probably be here all night."
Donatello grins at him behind his scarf and sunglasses. "The security guards would kick me out eventually."
One of the animatronic displays across the room roars and jumps out at a couple of kids. They shriek and jump, then collapse into giggles when they realize what happened. The security guard is frowning at them, but Donatello grins and nudges Raph in the side. "Chickenosaurus, hmm?"
Raphael can feel a blush creep across his face and he's happy for the disguise. "That thing could take anyone by surprise." He ignores the smirk on his brother's face and points at a random display. "What's that?"
Donnie graces him with a look of fond exasperation. "That's a sea turtle."
"I-" Raph turns and actually looks at the display. "Oh. Right. Big sucker, ain't he?"
"Sea turtles can reach astonishing proportions," Don says. He very obviously restrains himself from going into greater detail but sets off toward the display. Raph follows him. Giant turtles are way cooler than some moldy T-rex bones. "It's the leatherback," Donnie says and Raph bites back a grin as he waves his hand in a 'go on' sort of gesture. It's all the encouragement Donnie needs. "The leatherback sea turtle can be as large as seven feet long and five feet wide, weighing up to thirteen hundred pounds at maturity. They don't actually have shells, as a matter of fact, but a series of thin bone plates beneath the skin on their backs."
"They're endangered, yeah?"
Donnie nods. "All sea turtles are, to one extent or another. The leatherback is at a higher risk than some others, though." He leans over the display plaque and rubs his fingers over the engraved words, even though Raph doubts they can tell him anything he doesn't already know. Donnie grimaces, then turns his head to the side and sneezes.
Later, it will be a source of personal pride for Raph that he didn't just grab Donnie and haul him out of there. As it is, he can't stop himself from grabbing Don's shoulder in one hand and reaching for his shell cell with the other.
Donnie coughs and sniffles, then makes a face. "Eugh."
"You feelin' all right, bro?" Raph squeezes Don's shoulder. "Need me to call Leatherhead?"
His brother blinks at him in surprise, then Donnie's eyes narrow slightly and his hand comes up to grip Raph's wrist. "Dust, Raphy. The display was dusty. That's all."
Relief kicks Raph in the back of the knees even as he pries his fingers lose from Don's shoulder. "Oh. All right then."
Don doesn't let go of his wrist. There's a long moment - well, it feels long anyway, but Raph's heart is still skipping beats - where they just stare at each other. Raph's remembering the last time they were there, when Donnie'd been battling a cold that wouldn't go away, only a couple days (or months, if you take time travel into account) before his brother's health began to spiral and Donnie had gradually gotten sicker and sicker until eventually, Bishop's Outbreak virus had left him shaky and nauseous and weak. And then after that, when the virus had stripped away Don's mind and personality, left him a rabid beast with no awareness of who he was - or who his family was - and the long three days they'd spent bargaining with the devil for Donnie's last chance, even when none of them had really believed it would work.
Raphael remembers every second of those three days, but Don doesn't remember any of it. Which makes the moments like this a little awkward.
Moments like this are why Raph couldn't let Don come up here to the museum by himself, why Mike follows Donnie to the junkyard to go supply hunting, why Leo tags along whenever Don wanders off to talk techno with April. It's why they don't let him work on the van by himself at night, why someone's always in the mood to stay up and watch the Late, Late Show when Don's pulling an all-nighter in the lab and why he hasn't had to do a solo patrol in the five weeks since he came back. They can't stand to let him out of their sight yet. Raph can't forget that they left him behind once and almost lost him - never mind that he'd been with April, his subconscious won't let him forget that Don succumbed to the virus while his brothers were an entire city away, too far to know what was happening to him, too far to get to him in time to help.
But Donnie's still got a grip on Raph's wrist, and his fingers are steady and his grip is firm. His eyes are a little too knowing, and Raph knows, he knows, that they're driving Donnie insane with all the smothering they're doing, but he still can't quite get himself to stop.
Donnie squeezes his wrist and slips his hand down to hold Raph's, just for a second. "I'm all right." He grins and tips his head forward so he can look at Raph over the rim of his sunglasses. "I'm glad you wanted to come tonight."
Raph can't make himself let go of Don to save his own life, as if, just for that moment, everything depends on holding on as tight as he can. Donnie doesn't try to pull away and Raph ducks his head and resolutely does not blink away tears. He didn't cry when Donnie was dying, there's no way he's going to let a sneeze is a dusty museum get him all weepy.
"Dinosaurs," Raphael says finally, and if there's an edge of anger in his voice it's not aimed at Donnie and they both know it. "Can't get enough of 'em."
Donatello snorts and slaps him on the shoulder. "If that's true, I'd be happy to rig up one of those animatronic deinonychus displays for your bedroom."
"Try it, brainiac," Raph retorts, balance temporarily restored, at least until the next time something makes him remember. "Try it and I'll tell April about your little crush."
It's good to see Donnie blush bright red and sputter in outrage. It's even better when Don's hand tightens around his one last time before he lets go.
Don's all right. They're all all right.
Even the freaking dinosaurs aren't going to mess with that.
c&c always appreciated.