"Rites"

Donatello had never been one for ritual. Until the day he'd become de facto leader, he'd simply shrugged it off as yet another of those spiritual things that made Leonardo their father's favorite. But things had changed. He had changed.

The ritual, however, did not change. Very carefully, very methodically, he counted out the pills as he arranged them on his work table. Each perfectly and equitably distanced from all the others, in long rows, marching down the table like silent soldiers.

God, Raph, why do you have to make everything so damned hard all the time? Donatello nudged a stray pill with his fingertip. He nodded slightly, unconsciously, as soon as it was in line with its companions. It wasn't even my idea, Mike. Stop punishing me for your mistakes! After giving the bottle a shake and finding it empty, Don sighed softly and reached for the third bottle. I am drowning, Sensei. I am drowning, and you don't even care. I don't think you even see. Don shook out a handful more pills.

Sleeping pills. Enough to send a herd of horses into dream land for a good, long time. He'd first procured the drugs simply to combat all those late nights spent on the IT help line, with only caffeine pills and coffee to comfort him. After finishing his shift, a jittery and irritable Don required some serious downers just to get a little rest. It wasn't healthy--of course he knew it wasn't healthy--but it was necessary. They needed the money, after all.

Of course it was necessary.

Donatello finished laying out the last bottle of pills and stood up, surveying his handiwork with a small, pleased smile. And fuck you, Leo. I hope you die in that godforsaken jungle. He poured out a glass of water and set it down on the desk as well. Then he sat back down on his stool. Exactly three hundred pills--no more, no less--sat before him, perfect, undisturbed, like tiny gravestones.

Reaching forward, he picked up the nearest pill and held it up, staring hard. He swallowed, his saliva thick and sickly sweet in his mouth. With a small shake of the head, he dropped the pill back into one of the empty bottles, and it landed in the bottom of the plastic container with a muted clink. He sighed again. Come back to us, Leo. Please. I don't care why you've been gone, just that you come home. Slowly, with the same painstaking care he'd laid out all the pills, he began placing them back in the bottle. Help me, Sensei. Help us. He screwed the cap back on and then picked up the second empty bottle. Mikey, I'm sorry. I am so sorry. You have no idea.

Don paused, just a moment, upon reaching the last pill. Raph ... He shut his eyes. Oh, Raph ... But he was almost finished. He had to finish. Forcing his eyes open again, he placed the last pill back in its bottle and replaced the cap, giving it a vicious twist while telling himself it was only to make sure the bottle was tightly closed. He made his way over to the bed and laid down.

It was going to be a long, hard night without the pills. He didn't feel sleepy. Not even a little.

And as he laid there, counting the cracks in the ceiling, he wondered if his nightly bedtime ritual was one of the few things keeping him lucid or just another of the many things driving him slowly insane.