Just Close Your Eyes
A/N: Written for the "Overworked Donnie" Challenge over at Stealthy Stories. Rated for language.
"This isn't going to work."
"Sure it is. I saw it on an episode of 'House.'"
April rolled her eyes and adjusted her goggles more securely. "That gives me great confidence."
"Watch and learn," Donatello said quietly, his focus narrowing over his target--in this case, an egg suspended in a cylinder of water, held aloft by prongs that were fitted with mini speakers. In his hand, Donatello held a device fashioned out of one of Michelangelo's old remote-control trucks. Once upon a time, before his little brother grew tired of the truck and sent it careening down a broken sewer pipe never to be seen again, the dial on the remote would have increased the truck's speed. After Donatello's modifications, the dial now increased the level of sound being transmitted from the little speakers that held the egg. Without taking his goggled eyes off the cylinder on the table in front of him, he nodded once to April.
With a dubious shake of her head, April flipped on the CD player. Metallica's "Master of Puppets" began to play through the speakers, though only the defenseless egg could hear it.
Slowly, Donatello began to turn the dial. Nothing happened and nothing continued to happen until he reached four. Just as April, a triumphant smirk on her face, opened her mouth for an "I told you so," the egg cracked.
"Aha!" Donatello exclaimed, watching as little tendrils of yolk drifted out of the cracked shell, polluting the water with a yellow ichor. "Metallica: one. Egg: zero. Now, unlike on the show, mine's not going to explode--"
He set down the remote control but as he did, a finger brushed the dial, sending it to ten. The egg and the cylinder shattered in a spray of water, yolk and glass, smattering he and April with bits of each. They stood side by side in silence for a moment, dripping water and egg innards onto the floor of Donatello's lab.
Finally, he turned to her. "Do I have egg on my face?"
"Yes," she replied, biting back a smile, "literally and figuratively."
Donatello smirked and handed her a towel. "You didn't get cut did you?"
April tapped her safety goggles. "Never leave home without them."
"Yeah, me neither," he muttered, taking his own goggles off and retying his red bandana. Slowly, he began to clean up the mess.
"Hey," April said, touching his arm. "It's okay. I've had a dozen experiments explode in my face...mostly literally. Don't be so hard on yourself."
"I'm not. I'm fine. I just got clumsy with the remote," Donatello replied, offering a wan smile. "I'm just a little tired, I guess."
"From working on this?"
"Oh no. This was just a little diversion." Donatello carefully scraped the remnants of the glass cylinder into a waste bin. "I've been working on the security system for the lair. It keeps malfunctioning...a lot."
"Sounds fun. And necessary," April said, helping to mop off the table top of watery egg yolk.
"And I promised Mikey I'd fix his computer internet connection so he can keep talking to his online girlfriend."
"Mikey has an online girlfriend?"
Donatello looked at her. "What other kind could he have?"
April coughed and said, "Umm, need parts? For his computer?"
"Thanks, no, I'm covered," Donatello said, as they finished cleaning up. "And I told Leo I'd rig our cell phones to get better reception down here when one of us is topside."
April elbowed him in the ribs. "Uh huh. Anything else? Solving the national debt while you're at it?"
Her humor was evidently lost on him as he replied somberly, "Raphael wrecked his motorcycle again, so I've been making some modifications...specifically to the accelerator. He's going to be pissed when he sees it can no longer go faster than sixty."
"Next time Raphael wrecks his chopper, tell him to fix it himself. Maybe that way he'd learn to be more careful."
"I wish he'd be more careful. My worst nightmare is him dumping that bike and getting hurt. I mean, really hurt. The kind of hurt he won't be able to walk away from." Donatello sighed and smiled ruefully. "Besides, if he tried to fix it himself, it'd break down because he didn't do it right, and would likely cause me more trouble in the long run anyway."
April frowned. "It sounds like you''ve got your hands full." She took him by the shoulders and turned him towards her. "Now, listen, I want you to take a break. I mean a real break...one that involves sleep and not exploding eggs. You hear me?"
Donatello nodded. "Sure thing, April." Her hands were warm on his shoulders.
April smiled. "Good," she said softly. "I'm going to call you tomorrow to check in on you. And you'd better not answer."
"Okay." She still hadn't moved her hands. "Have a good night, April."
"You too, Donatello."
April smiled at him again--softly, almost shyly. And she still hadn't taken her hands off his shoulders...
A sound came at the door. April flew away from Donatello as though he'd shocked her.
"Oh, sorry," Raphael said. "I was just going to ask Donnie a question but it can wait."
"Oh no, it's fine, really," April said hurriedly. She began gathering her coat and purse. "I was just leaving."
Raphael narrowed his eyes at the two of them. "No need to rush out. I said it can wait."
"No, I should be going, it's late, and some of us need to get some sleep," April said with a small, nervous laugh. "Goodnight guys," she called over her shoulder and before either could reply, she was gone.
Raphael looked at Donatello.
"Raph, I'm really tired. What is it?"
Raphael leaned against the work table and casually flipped through some papers. "Fix my bike yet?"
"No. Almost. It'll be done tomorrow. Day after at the most."
Raphael nodded and Donatello was shocked that his brother didn't complain at the delay. In a further mystifying show of affection, Raphael chucked him on the shoulder, smiled at him in a knowing manner, and left the room saying, "Get some rest, would you? You look like hell."
Donatello stood for a moment in perplexed silence. What just happened? Raphael acting strange and April...
But his tired mind wasn't cooperating enough to sort out his thoughts...or the tangle of emotions that went with them. Getting some rest from all his work sounded like a good idea but there was just so much to do. Donatello sighed and sat down. Maybe a ten minute nap will help, he thought, crossing his arms on the table and resting his head against them. Just ten minutes...
Donatello's head shot up and he glanced around blearily as the perimeter alarm screamed its tinny, metallic warning. Blinking hard, he turned to the sets of mismatched monitors stacked unevenly against one wall, peering at each of the six screens to find a sign of the intruder that had encroached on their premises. There was none. Another false alarm. He could hear his brothers stirring in other parts of the lair.
"It's nothing, Leo," he called back.
"I thought you were going to fix the system!"
"I am!" he returned. Then, quieter, "I am. Nap time's over." He glanced at the clock. He had been asleep for all of three minutes.
Donatello rubbed his eyes once more and then set to work.
"So then she says, 'Why don't I send you a picture?' And I was like, 'Sure!' And then she writes, 'But you have to send me one of you.' And I was like, 'No prob!' So you know what I did?"
"I downloaded a picture of Brad Pitt and sent that!"
"Well, she sure thought it was funny, 'cuz she sent me a picture of Jessica Alba! And I was like, 'Wow, we're so totally hot!'"
Donatello blinked hard and rubbed his arm over his eyes. He had only one more cable to connect but the way Michelangelo had his computer set up--and the fact that his room was drowning in a sea of comic books and candy wrappers--made it difficult to reach. His little brother hovering over him, jabbering away, didn't help.
"But then we were like, 'No really, let's send pics.' And I was like, 'You first,' and she agreed. But then the stupid connection went bonkers and I couldn't get it back."
"It's probably because you unplugged the ethernet cord by accident," Donatello muttered. "Probably kicked it in a fit of internet-love joy."
"Huh? The what?"
"Nevermind." Donatello got up off the floor slowly, his knees popping with every movement. "You're all set. Just be more careful next time."
"That was fast. Dude, you rule!" Michelangelo flounced into his chair and turned on his computer. "But you look a little wasted. Take a nap, why dontcha?"
"Uh huh," Donatello said, wading through an ocean of debris to get to the door.
"Hey, you never even asked me what pic I'm going to send her!"
"I was thinking about that one of us at the farm. You know, in front of that junk heap of a car you and Casey fixed?"
"Sounds good," Donatello said and slouched out of the room.
Michelangelo snorted. "That was a joke!" he called after his brother. "I can't send her that! Duh!" But Donatello's reply was to disappear into the dark hallway. "That dude is losing his sense of humor," Michelangelo said to himsel, then turned his attention to his computer and KissingAngel who was waiting for him.
Knock, knock, knock.
"Hey, fell asleep at your table again, eh?"
Donatello blinked and looked around blearily. Leonardo was at the door of his lab, looking sharp and collected. Donatello felt anything but either. He nodded at his brother, rubbing his neck where the muscles were bunched and sore from sleeping pillowed on his arms.
"Sorry to wake you, Don, but I was wondering if you'd had a chance to get to the cell phones. I'm concerned that the reception is getting worse and I wouldn't want anyone to get in a jam because they couldn't reach someone."
Donatello blinked sleepily and nodded. "Sure thing, Leo. It's just..." He sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I'm kinda tired. Maybe after I've had a nap?"
Leonardo bit his lip. "Well, here's the thing: Mike's gone shopping for our dinner and I'm worried because he's topside without a working cellphone. It's just not safe, you know? I mean, it's too late now--he's already left--but I don't want anyone else going out without one. I'd feel better knowing we could get in touch with one another should we run into trouble."
Donatello forced himself to sit up. His head felt like it weighed five metric tons and his eyelids were twice that. But his tired mind made the appropriate computations: Michelangelo was out without a cellphone. If he got into trouble, no one would know it. He--Donatello--had put his brother in danger.
"Sure thing, Leo. I'll get right on it."
Leonardo beamed. "Thanks, Don. I appreciate it."
Donatello stretched his aching muscles and rubbed his eyes for what seemed like the hundreth time that day. With shuffling, stumbling motions, he went to a small side table in his lab where the entrails of four cell phones were spewed, waiting for him to resume the operation that would transplant better receptors into their innards.
"More bars in more places," he muttered, affixing a receptor into Michelangelo's cell phone. It seemed to him that the wiring and screws had shrunk considerably since the last time he had worked on it. He squinted his burning eyes and tried to focus. After several failed attempts, the receptor was in.
"That took much longer than it should," he said. "And I'm talking to myself more than sane people do." He sighed and held his head in his hands. "I'm just so tired," he said into the quiet of his lab. What he didn't say aloud was that, for the first time, he wished that someone besides himself was good at this sort of thing. "I just need a little break." But the other three cell phones weren't going to fix themselves. And Leo was counting on him. All of his brothers were counting on him.
Without another word, Donatello picked up the next cell phone and set to work.
Flip, flip, flip, flip...SLAP!
"Ow! Son of a..." Raphael muttered, rubbing the top of his hand.
"Wuss," Casey smirked.
Raphael eyed him from across the table. They each had a mound of playing cards stacked in front of them, with a smaller pile between them. "Play it that way, eh?"
"Whatever you got," Casey returned.
Raphael flipped a card onto the pile between them. Casey did the same. Over and over they flipped cards face up, each with one eye on the growing stack, one on each other. Finally, Raphael tossed a Jack of diamonds. They both went for the pile but Casey was quicker. He slapped his hand on top first with a triumphant "Ha!" Raphael, with a glint in his eye, was a second slower. But instead of striking with an open palm, he made a fist and brought it down--hard--on top of Casey's.
"You dirty bastard!" Casey yelped, rubbing his hand.
Raphael snorted laughter. "Don't forget to take the pile. You won it fair and square."
"Ha ha ha. It's called 'Slap Jack', retard. Not 'Asshole Fist Pounding Jack.'"
Raphael laughed harder. "You kiss your mother with that mouth? Such language! Sounds like someone's been at the Porno Shack recently."
Casey's reply was an unwholesome finger gesture. "Laugh it up, turd bucket. It's your turn to go. And the next time a Jack comes out, you're gonna end up with broken fingers."
Raphael put his hand out, held it perfectly still. "Controlled fear."
The flip, flip, flip, flip resumed.
Unnoticed, Donatello emerged from the hallway. He shuffled across the room, moving more like an old man than a young, martial-arts trained teenager. "Hey, Raph, you said you'd come check the security sensors with me," he said from the front door of the lair, hefting a dark vinyl bag to his shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah, in a minute," Raphael replied, intently watching the cards fall between he and Casey.
"I haven't got a minute," Donatello said. "And you promised."
"Keep your shorts on, Donnie. This game is almost over."
"Hell it is," muttered Casey.
"No, it's not," Donatello answered. "You're obviously playing with at least six decks and you both have equal piles. This game could go on forever. So come on."
Raphael hooted in triumph as Casey tossed down a Jack of hearts. Raphael's hand came down, slapped the pile, and then flew off again as Casey, a wooden baton appearing out of nowhere, whacked the table where his opponent's hand had been a split second before.
"Are you out of your damn mind?" Raphael demanded, though the anger in his voice was tinged--ever so slightly--with laughter. "You trying to get a sai up your ass?"
Casey tilted back in his chair, bellowing with laughter. "You should have seen the look on your ugly mug. Frickin' priceless."
Donatello rolled his eyes. "Come on, Raph. You promised."
Raphael, after giving Casey a warning glance, turned around in his chair and looked at his brother. "All right already! Sheesh, I heard you the first eight billion times. I'll be there in a second."
Donatello sighed and tried to think up an appropriate threat that would get his brother's butt out of the chair, but none were coming to his sleep-deprived mind. The best he could come up with was, "I'll tell Splinter" but there was no way he was going to use that old gem. Raphael would never let him live it down if he resorted to tattling on him.
"Your turn, dilweed," Raphael was saying to Casey. "One more Jack and then I gotta help Don before he blows a gasket."
"No sais, Raph," Casey warned, watching the turtle's hand creep to his belt. "It's all fun and games until you impale my hand on the damn table."
"Aww, worried you're too slow? Fine, no sai." Raphael cupped a hand to his mouth. "Hey, Mikey, can I borrow one of your 'chucks for a minute?" He and Casey both chuckled and resumed their game. Donatello stood, forgotten, at the door of the lair.
He let the game progess but three Jacks had made their appearance and three piles of cards had been slapped and still no end in sight. Donatello was tempted to whack both their hands with his bo but just then Michelangelo came tearing out of his room.
"Hey, guys! Guess what! KissingAngel just sent me a picture!"
"Mikey's online girlfriend."
"Is she hot?"
Michelangelo's eyes were as wide as pizza pans. "Come and see for yourself. She's wearing a bikini."
Raphael and Casey exchanged glances.
"A thong bikini."
There was a tremendous scraping of chairs and a fluttering of cards and in a second, the room was empty. Donatello rubbed his eyes, hefted his bag over his shoulder and stumped out into the muck of the sewers, alone.
"Where's Don?" Leonardo asked, glancing around the room. He sat down on the dinner mats next to Raphael. Across from him, Splinter was sitting placidly while Michelangelo could be heard singing--offkey--in the kitchen, preparing to reveal that night's dinner.
Raphael shrugged. "Out, I guess."
"Don doesn't go 'out'", Leonardo said, frowning.
"I meant, out fixing stuff," Raphael snapped. "He said he was going to work on the lair security sensors."
"Were you not supposed to assist him in that endeavor?" Splinter asked quietly.
"Er..technically, yeah. But he left before I was ready so I guess he didn't really need me all that much."
Leonardo snorted. "Nice one, Raph. Anything to get out of helping."
"Do not start," Splinter said. "I will not have this dinner spoiled by your bickering before it has even begun. You will learn to be respectful to one another if I have to beat it into your thick heads."
"Ooh, Master's Splinter's about to throw down!" Michelangelo exclaimed, coming into the dining area with his arms laden with bowls of food. "You show'em, Master. Give'em what for!"
"Shut up, Mikey," Leonardo and Raphael said--much to their chagrin--at the exact same time.
"Where's Don?" Michelangelo asked, setting down a salad and a bowl of fettucine alfredo.
"That's just what I was wondering," Leonardo said, shooting Raphael a dark look.
"Hey, it ain't my fault he's late to frickin' dinner," Raphael said. "Hell, he's missed more dinners this week than not, anyway. It's not like missing one more is a sign of the apocalypse or something."
"Hmm, you are right," Splinter said. "Donatello has been extremely busy as of late. I am concerned he is not getting the proper nutrition or rest that he needs."
"Yeah, yesterday at sparring, I practically took his head off," Michelangelo said, his mouth stuffed with fettucine noodles. He made a pantomime of the battle, swinging invisible nunchuku over his head. "I was all...and he was like...and then I almost went whack! If he had moved a second later..." He shook his head and assumed a very serious expression...one that was completely ruined by the noodle hanging out of the corner of his mouth.
"Yeah, and a week ago, I came back from patrol really late and the light in his lab was still on," Raphael said. "Actually, it's on almost every night I come in from patrol. And I come in late."
"He has fallen asleep twice now during meditation time," Splinter mused.
Leonardo frowned. "Yeah, he hasn't looked too good lately. Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I saw Donatello not looking like he was dead on his feet."
"Yeah, but that's just Donnie. He likes his work."
"I don't know, Mikey, I think he may be working too hard lately," Leonardo said, thinking darkly on his earlier conversation with his brother about the cell phones. "He needs a break."
Splinter rubbed his chin whiskers. "When he comes in this night, please have him come see me," he told his sons. "I would speak to him about this." They nodded in unison and proceeded with their dinner.
The evening hours slipped away. Splinter retreated to his room for the night with his usual cup of green tea. Michelangelo remained glued to his computer where KissingAngel taunted him with more pictures and implored himto meet her. Raphael put in a kung fu movie and promptly fell asleep--his own late hours finally catching up with him. Leonardo became absorbed in his book--the autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai.
Donatello lay unconscious in the sewers to the south of the lair, his blood pooling in the filth, oblivious to a troup of drunken men stomping their way towards him.
A/N: This is a three-chapter fic and since the others are done and just awaiting some final touches, updates should come pretty quick.
My TMNT fics are going to share a timeline so while you won't need to have read "Self Preservation" to understand this one, references will be made. The fic that will follow up "Just Close Your Eyes" will have its foundations here as well, but again, I want them to serve as standalone stories too.
While this isn't strictly a comic book universe, I got my TMNT start reading the original comics. As I'm sure y'all know, the comics were black and white, making the color-coded bandanas the boys wear unnecessary. On covers and in the graphic novels, the bandanas were all red, and so my boys wear red too. I don't have anything against the red, blue, purple or yellow, I just like to kick it old skool. ;)
Hope you liked it, and the next chap will be up shortly.