A/N – Yes, I haven't updated for months. I can only apologise and hope this chapter makes up for it in some small way.

"Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?"- Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot.



Life went on, and Mikey watched it march along, just as Splinter, Leo, and Raph did. He didn't want to admit it, but somehow something about his clever brother breaking down and weeping like a child in their arms had shaken him badly. In its own way, it had been almost as frightening as seeing him collapsed in his own blood, or watching Leatherhead plunge a needle into his chest.

For as long as Mikey could remember, Donnie had never cried. Even as a kid, Donnie was just too calm and clever to cry – and maybe too busy drying his brothers' tears. He'd been the brother whose bed Mikey had run to as a child when his nightmares had driven him awake after too much late night TV; the brother who always listened to Mikey's crazy ideas and laughed with him, not at him; the brother who was the first to step in and break up any fights when they began to look ugly. He knew that Raph and Leo also relied on Donnie too, in their own ways, to keep them from getting too intense and exploding their shells over the Lair. But now Donnie needed them – and Mikey wasn't entirely sure of what to do, or even if there was anything he could do.

The Day Of Calculation, as Mikey had come to think of it, had been a major turning point for Don. Like Leatherhead had told them, once Donnie had finally understood what he'd been doing, things didbecome easier, in a way. Donnie didn't fight them any more when he was given food or water, and struggled gamely to eat what he could. He still insisted that the tiny portions were too large, but he was managing to eat just a tiny bit more each day, as his stomach started to learn how to take food in again. Physically, he was doing much better, and the fact that he was actually working with them instead of against them was a major bonus.

But… well. But.

Mikey was old enough to admit to himself that he'd somehow hoped that Don could pull a miracle out of thin air yet again. To get better all of a sudden, to actually be the big brother he'd thought he'd known.

Of course it wasn't happening that way. Even with Donnie's best efforts, there were good days and bad days – days where he would snap and say hurtful things, then be crushed with remorse on a wild mood swing. Days where –

Suddenly, Raph grabbed Mikey by the shoulders, shaking him. "Mikey! You seen Don? Please tell me he's in your room!"

Mikey groaned. Not again. "Nope. Leo or Sensei?"

- days where Don managed to slip away from his designated watcher -

"It was Leo's damn DAY! Fearless Leader got out-stealthed by the geek-in-rehab! We checked everywhere in the Lair – your room was the last left! LEO! He ain't here!"

Leo stuck his head in, a Shell Cell in one hand. "I have his Shell Cell signal. He's a few miles away, at the sewer runoff junction."

Mikey blinked. "He's out in the sewers? That's new…"

- only to be found collapsed on the floor of his lab or dojo, having stubbornly pushed his recovering system too far once more in a desperate attempt to prove that he was healthy once more.

"We'd better go get him, guys – the signal isn't moving. Unless he dropped it…"

The trip to the runoff junction was depressingly silent, as each of them was lost in his own thoughts. Once they got there, however, there was noise. Plenty of it.

"Just what exactly do ya think yer doin' out here Don – or are ya thinkin at all?" Raph demanded of his brother as soon as he reached his side. "Lyin' out here on freezin' cold concrete, ya gone mad or somethin? Why d'ya keep doin' this ta us?!"

Don just turned his head away, miserable yet defiantly silent. Mikey bit his lip – Don looked like a puppet whose strings had been cut, limbs crumpled uncomfortably where he had fallen. His Shell Cell sat snugly in his belt, unused and mocking them all.

And then it was Leo's turn. "Donnie, you can't keep doing this to yourself. You're not well enough yet for this type of exertion."

To Mikey's great surprise, Don actually answered them this time. Usually he won't say anything till we get back to the Lair and Splinter talks to him. "I won't get better if I don't give my muscles a chance to build up their strength, Leo. I need to build muscle mass, not fat, and low-impact exercise is important for that. Walking is the ideal exercise at this point –"

"Can't ya just stay in the Lair and walk around the dojo a few times then?" Raph demanded exasperatedly as he hefted Don up despite his protests. "No, jus' be quiet, fer crying out loud. Yer stupid enough to go walkabouts in the sewers and not call us when ya collapse, ya can just get carried like the baby yer actin' like." Even Don's most acid glare did nothing against Raph's solid wall of anger. "How many times does this make, Don? I swear, yer gonna give all of us ulcers if this keeps up."

Don glanced away again. "I just want to get better, Raph. I'm sick of being an invalid. It isn't unreasonable to be taking a proactive role in my own recuperation."

"It is when you try to do too much too soon, bro. C'mon, Donnie, can't you see this is just the same as before?" Mikey pleaded. But Don seemed to have a Ph.D in Passive Aggressive Resistance 101, because he just wasn't listening. To anyone.

Mikey sighed as he listened to Splinter lecture Don yet again, now safely ensconced on the couch and swathed in blankets. The problem is, Donnie isn't doing this just 'cause he's trying to get better faster – even though he thinks that's the only reason. He's doing this because he's BORED. And it looks like a bored Donnie is just as dangerous to himself as a busy one. We need to stop him being bored, and pronto. Hey, that gives me an idea…



"Hey! Dooonnnnnnnnnnnnniiiiiiiiieee!" The sudden call jolted Don out of his near-doze on the couch, which he was rapidly coming to despise along with all pieces of furniture that were made to be sat or laid upon. He glanced up to see a sight that could chill any mutant turtle – or rat – to their very bones in zero point six seconds.

The patented Hamato Michaelangelo Grin of I-Have-An-Evil-Plan. Otherwise known as The Grin That Means Disaster. Especially when Hamato Michaelangelo is holding a tray full of Don-safe snacks and two huge glasses of iced peppermint tea. Don could smell the sweet mint from several paces away.

Escape! Escape! His mind shrieked frantically at him even as he automatically caught the thing flying at his head. He blinked. "This is your Wii controller."

"Well, actually, it's the spare I bought after I totalled mine the last time. This is mine." Mikey indicated the identical controller – or rather, identical except for multiple scratches and various signs of abuse – sitting on the tray. "I was kind of hoping you'd play Mario Kart Wii with me."

Don blinked. "Weren't you playing that other Mario game? The one where you rescue Princess Pear – again?"

"Princess PEACH! And yeah, I was, but I thought this might be more fun. It's supposed to be really good, and you always did love Mario Kart back when we had that really old SNES you patched up for us. You loved being Luigi, for some weird reason. Me and Leo and Raph would all be fighting over who got to be Mario or Bowser, and you were already sitting there with Luigi picked out, happy with being the sidekick." Mikey decided to ignore the sudden queasy feeling his own words caused in favour of Distracting Donnie And Making Him UnBored So He Doesn't Have To Be Tied Down To Stop Him Getting Up From The Couch. And really, what better way to do that than videogames?

"I don't know Mikey… I haven't played videogames in a long time, and I don't even know how these controller things work…" Oh no. Not the Puppy Dog Eyes of Shiny Doom. Anything but those… "Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to give it a go, it isn't as though I'm actually doing anything anyway." Donnie knew perfectly well that Mikey had caught the verbal jab, and also knew perfectly well that the little brat was ignoring it in favour of doing his own thing. Eat your heart out, Mythbusters. Mikey was perfecting "I reject your reality and substitute my own" long before Adam Savage ever said it.

"GREAT! I'll set it up in no time. Dude, you're going to love it!"

Don sighed. Mikey had his heart set on playing Mario Kart, and he'd get no peace whatsoever until Mike got exactly what he wanted. The little sneak knows that I'll give in if he keeps it up long enough. Oh well. Examining the white rectangle in his hand, he wondered exactly how he was supposed to control it – and found it promptly whipped out of his hands and turned sideways.

"Here, dude, you tilt it like the wheel of a car. I'll just start up the game…" Mikey frowned as the screen failed to respond to his clicks. He checked the batteries – no, they're new. He checked the Wii-mote – no, Don fixed that back before… well, before. Standing up, he tried hitting the restart button on the Wii itself, to no effect. "Aww, man!" What if I lose all my savegame data? And how'm I supposed to distract Donnie and get him to chat with me like we used to, without some background noise? This sucks!

Uh-oh. Don saw the look on Mikey's face quite clearly. He loves that Wii, and for whatever reason, he really seemed to have his heart set on playing this afternoon. "Don't worry, Mikey," he reassured him as he stood up from the couch, glad to have a valid excuse for once. "I'll take it into the lab and have a look. It could just be that some circuits need adjusting. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to figure out what's wrong, no matter what, and then – ooof!" Halfway through reaching for the plugs that connected the Wii to the TV, Don found himself unceremoniously pulled back and deposited back on the couch. "Wha- Mikey!"

"No, Don, don't. It's fine, dude, it's not the end of the world or anything. I'll send it to the shop, it should still be under warranty – um, I think. I kinda lost the paper…"

Back to the shop?! Don stared in disbelief at the poor battered console. If the shop sees it, it'll be taken away by Nintendo Console Welfare! He'll never see it again! "Mikey, don't be silly. Just let me fix it – it's not exactly an all-night project."

"No, Donnie, there's totally no need. Look, let me just look in here, I know I stocked the old Playstation 2 in here somewhere…" And Mikey began throwing open cupboards and rifling through them with an air of desperation.

Now Don was beginning to feel severely irritated, and more than a little hurt. Does he think I can't do it?! "Mikey, for heaven's sake, let me fix this thing," he snapped, kneeling once more in front of the Wii and pulling out cables one by one. "It isn't difficult. I always fix our stuff, it's my job, it's what I do, okay, – unmf!"

And Don was stunned to find himself flat on his back, Mikey straddling him, holding his arms down and looking at him with a mix of anger and fright that twisted at Don's gut. What? What did I do to make Mikey so upset? A tear splashed on his face. "…Mikey? What is it?" he asked tentatively.

Mikey's breath was choking in his chest like a rattling newspaper. "You – you don't get it, do you? You still don't get it, you still don't believe us – it isn't your job and it isn't who you are! We nearly lost you because you fixed everything but YOU! Don't you get it? I don't care if I lose my Wii, Raph doesn't care if he loses his bike, Leo doesn't care if we have to deal with our enemies without tech, Splinter doesn't care if the whole Lair goes without electricity! We've lived like that before, dude, remember? We can totally cope without your cool toys if we have to, but we CAN'T cope without you! You're our brother! You matter more than some gadget you cooked up!"

"Mikey…" And Donnie was lost for words, how could he make his little brother feel better when he didn't even understand the feelings that were rolling around inside himself, and don't you dare come out, this is Mikey's time… "Little bro, it's okay…"

"No it's not! I mean, you like doing tech stuff, you have done since we were kids. I get that, we all do." Don nodded, unsure where Mikey was trying to go with this. "And whenever you managed to get something new going – lights, hot water, kitchen things like a fridge and stove… well, we were all totally grateful, especially Master Splinter, and we said thanks. We meant it too, totally – none of us could have done that. But Don, just because we made a big deal out of saying thanks didn't mean that we were saying you didn't matter any other time!"

"Mikey, I never thought that!"

"You sure?" Mikey's rage had run out, replaced with a dull sadness that hurt Don just to look at. "'Cause nobody gets it, Don, and we all wanna help you but we can't till you get that you're important cause you're YOU, not because you fix stuff." Slumping sideways off Don, Mikey fell gracelessly on his rear and curled his knees up to his chin. "We don't want you to make a neverending supply of shiny toys like some green Santa Claus, we just want you to be healthy and happy and here, Donnie, and I swear if you leave us 'cause you don't get that, won't get that, then I won't forgive you ever. I don't think I'll be able to!"

Blood frozen to ice, bones frozen to shards, Don found it hurt to breathe, and so he didn't.

"How the shell could you just abandon us like that?"
"How the shell could you just abandon us like that?"
"How the shell could you just abandon us like that?"
"How the shell could you just abandon us like that?"
"Don …"
"How the shell could you just abandon us like that?"
"…orry, jus…" How the shell "…ap out of …" could you "…ake u…" just abandon us "…lease…" like that? "DONNIE!"

Blinking, Don broke out of his haze, the echo of a nightmare ringing in his ears, to see his true little brother right before his eyes, above him and shaking him and near tears. "Don? Oh, thank – I'm sorry, so sorry, I didn't mean it, of course I'd forgive you anything – oof!"

And Donnie grabbed onto his brother tightly, half-dragging him onto the floor. "M'sorry," he mumbled, unable to say anything else. I can't let that happen, I can't, have to… anything. Anything that stops that future. Anything that prevents that bitter Mikey, defeated Leo, despairing Raph. Dead Splinter.


He reluctantly pulled away from his brother after a moment, forcing a smile onto his face. "I'm fine Mikey. I'm sorry – you're right. I guess I'm still not as well as I'd hoped. It's – well, you know how much I hate being kept away from my lab like this." He sighed, before putting his computer firmly out of his mind. "So… you said there was the PS2 around here somewhere? I think I remember enjoying watching you play that game… what was it? Ratchet and Clank?"

"Yeah, that's the one!" Mikey brightened. "That series really was funny. You wanna try it out? The third one had multiplayer as well as some of the coolest weapons, and we definitely have about four controllers in there somewhere."

Don thought about it. I need to exercise and build up muscle tone. I need to do some more maintenance before the whole Lair falls down around our ears. I need to…make sure I'm still here in thirty years. Shrugging his shoulders, he grinned. "Why not? Sounds like fun, Mikey."

"DUDE!" Mikey was ecstatic, and pulled him back to the couch with an undignified squawk of surprise from Don. "Let's see if you haven't lost your touch!" Still, there was a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. That was scary. On the floor, eyes open and blank and dead, not moving, hardly breathing… And then he wakes up and does a total 180 with the rest thing… way too easy.

I think maybe he isn't gonna like the first Family Night… specially since, you know, nobody's told him about them yet.



A/N – Well, sorry this took so long! I was reading The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock and I couldn't resist using a quote from it as the title – it was too perfect. In fact, several quotes from that poem are great for this fic… Hmmm, future titles, maybe?