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Donnie Love

Love is Father, furry and warm and cuddly, who gives them hugs and warm baths and lets them win sometimes when he play-wrestles, which Raphy never ever does.

Winter, spent in a curled ball beneath piles of blankets, wrapped up in a cocoon of safety and warmth. Back when Raph hugged back and Leo didn't mind if you used him as a pillow.

Waiting patiently, if not quietly, for Splinter to come back from a food run Topside and getting a sick feeling in his tummy as the hour hand passes the time Splinter said it would and still he has not returned, leaving them to sit and wait and think too much about all the bad things humans might do if they caught him. The way his tummy flips over when Splinter returns with not just food but toys as well and knowing that he was only late because he wanted to bring them something special. Mostly it's knowing that he'd give up all the toys in the whole world if it meant never ever having to feel that way again.

The way Leo beams with pride when Donnie masters the bo, the way Mikey's eyes light up when Donnie builds him a new toy, the way Raph crows with delight when Donnie shows him the shell cycle.

The first time April threw her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek, delighted as he was to find someone she could talk to who would understand and challenge her in a way the others couldn't. It was they way she could touch him without seeming to notice that his skin wasn't as smooth as hers or the way she would drum her fingers on his shell as she leaned over his shoulder and studied the computer screen. It was the way she treated him just like his brothers did and for that he thinks he loved her more than a little bit.

Watching Mikey grow in ability and confidence until he can keep Raph and Leo both on their toes and take them both out in a fight. It's watching Mikey earn the title of Battle Nexus Champion not through luck and chance, but through determination and skill. It's why Mikey won, and why they always knew he'd win, even when he was losing.

Working in the lab with Leatherhead, geeking out over things his brothers can't pronounce, changing the way the world works or at least the way they understand it. It's the chance to put ideas and theories out into the world that could one day save lives and make the world better.

It's watching his best friend become something more than the animal he was born as, and something more than the mutant he was made into.

It's waking up after the Outbreak stole his mind and sense of self, and knowing that his brothers sacrificed too much to bring him back. It's knowing that they'd do it again and again and again and never regret it, no matter what it ended up costing them. It's knowing he'd do the same and be grateful for the chance.

Those weeks training with the Tribunal, and becoming part of something more.

It's also Adam, who never blinked in the face of them, who jokes with him and teams up against Raph and Mikey and brainstorms inventions. It's the way Adam will slap him on the shell or put an arm around his shoulder without even the slightest hesitation.

It's those same weeks, watching Raph and Joy take on the world and love every minute of it, wondering when (if) Raph will ever notice the way that Joy watches him.

The sensation of seeing the future and realizing that he has a place in it and a hand building it.

The nights when Raph drags him, protesting and indignant, out of the lab and up above ground and they spend all night at Casey's getting ever so slightly wasted on expensive whiskey and cheap beer, playing pool or darts, and passing out on the couch. The nights when Leo asks him to join him on a training run and they end up camped out beneath the bridge out to the junkyard, pitching rocks into the river and trading thoughts. The nights when Mikey challenges him to an all-night video game winner-take-all doom-a-thon tournament for total domination of the Earth. He loves working in the lab, but he looks forward to these nights too.

Watching over the years as April and Casey flirt, bicker, argue, fight, break-up, make-up, rinse and repeat a dozen times until they finally get it right. Love is listening to Casey's three thousand different proposal rehearsals until April finally pops the question herself. Love is helping Raph throw Casey a bachelor party and throwing April a bachelorette party and being happy for both of them because no one could be better for each other than they are. Because at some point April became his sister and Casey became his, well, adopted step-brother born out of wedlock or something, and they're his family.

It's the wedding with a blind priest and only a couple dozen guests; Leatherhead, the Justice Force, Professor Huneycutt. Friends from the outer fringes of society who could never have attended the formal ceremony. And Casey's mom, who never seemed to find her son's friends the least bit unusual. Raph was Casey's best man, and Don was April's. Splinter gave the bride away.

April and Casey call it their real wedding, and that's the day they celebrate as their anniversary years later, not the date of the public wedding that Saturday.

Holding Splinter's hand when he dies. And being there, weeks later, to hold Raph when he finally lets himself cry.

It is when April and Casey name their daughter Monet "so she'll fit in with her uncles".

Building O'Neil Tech from the ground up, starting with nothing but an idea and the knowledge that it can work, will work, if they want it to badly enough. It takes years before they get it right, but the journey is a trial of fire of sorts, and the three of them come out of it in one piece, stronger and closer than they were before. Smarter and sneakier, too. Donatello knows more about business finance than he ever wanted to, and he's glad they decided to let Casey and his mom handle most of that.

It's the pride he can barely contain when Mikey presents the first of many acceptance letters from a publishing company.

Teaching three-year-old Monet to read and write and do basic math. She's so much like her father, with thick, curly black hair and bright blue eyes, but the spark of curiosity and intelligence in those same eyes is all April.

Being the one Monet comes to as she gets older and needs answers or to test her ideas, or just some reassurance that the world doesn't make sense to anyone else either. Raph is her favorite uncle, but Donatello is her confidant and, in later years, the one she wants to grow up to be.

It's the way the rough concrete scrapes his skin raw and the sound of a katana whistling through the air, stopped abruptly against an aluminum baseball bat. It's when he blinks blood out of his eyes and sees blue jeans and motorcycle boots standing between him and the Foot soldiers who ambushed him. It's Casey's voice calling for backup as he tosses insults at the ninja surrounding him. It's knowing that his brothers are coming for him, that they'll always come for him.

Even if they get there too late.