A/N: omg an update! I know. I have been so terrible to you guys. I'm not thrilled with this chapter, but hopefully it's not too bad. ^^;
Finding Who We Are
Nerves still buzzing from seeing his younger brother behave so out of character earlier, Donatello cautiously injected a needle containing a dilution for the sedative he'd given. Ideally, it would disperse and soften the effects of the sedative. Theoretically, there would be enough sedation to keep Michelangelo calm, but he'd be able to be conscious enough to talk.
Behind him, Donatello could practically feel his father's nervous gaze, though the old rat said and did nothing to interfere with his work. In fact, he stood well out of the way and if his unease hadn't been so thick, Donny may not have even known he was there.
Unfortunately, his neck prickled with awareness as he calmly set his supplies aside.
"Mikey should wake soon," He informed, "so perhaps we can learn something about what is going on here. I gave him something to thin out the sedative. I've never tried it before, but it shouldn't hurt him or anything."
After the almost fight he'd had with Leonardo, he was worried that his father might feel the same way as his blue banded brother about micro-robotic research. It wasn't unknown that the two were practically identical when it came to beliefs and opinions, so Donatello couldn't help but wonder if Splinter thought he was some sort of monster for being slightly curious about, and even a little impressed by, the research.
Of course, the condition his little brother was in made him feel a wave of guilt. The scientist in him wanted desperately to get samples and start taking the tiny machines apart to figure out how they ticked. But, the brother in him hated the people who created them.
For a moment, Master Splinter regarded his intelligent son in silence, aware of the inner battle showing so clearly in his expressive eyes. He stood still, leaning calmly against his cane with both hands resting casually on top. His ears were pricked forward his whiskers were relaxed. However, the way he lifted his nose, as if trying to sniff out his guilt, and stared so intently made Donatello want to shrink into his shell.
Finally, Splinter said, with a slight tip of his head," I trust you, my son. I know Michelangelo will be all right in your capable hands."
At that moment, a soft hiss signaled the opening of the lair door and familiar voices wafted in.
"I still don't think ya had ta cover her eyes, Leo," Raphael was saying as Donny emerged from his room, tailed by Splinter.
"It's okay, I swear. I totally understand," came a female voice.
Raphael was gently setting the brunette, who Don recognized immediately as the woman who'd helped them free Mike, down in the kitchen. It seemed that Leo hadn't wanted her to know of their location, so Raph's red bandanna had been tied around her eyes and he'd carried her there. As she was settled on the stone floor, he helped her untie the worn cloth while sending an annoyed look in the eldest turtle's direction.
Leonardo ignored her to roll his eyes at his hotheaded brother.
"It was necessary," he said, explanation as short as ever as he crossed his arms firmly over his chest in a posture that clearly said that the conversation was over. As far as he was concerned, enough of their lives had all ready been exposed.
Donny sighed when Raphael's face scrunched as he was on the brink of a retort. And Leo was ready, watching him with challenging eyes. The purple masked turtle decided to intervene.
"Hey, … Vanessa, isn't it?" He asked and she nodded in response. He smiled.
"I'm Donatello," he admitted with a small abashed blush," I'm the one who…"
"I remember you…" Vanessa stated, looking at each of them," I remember all of you."
Her eyes paused for a moment on Splinter, who stood a little behind Donny. Gears were practically spinning behind her eyes as she deduced in her mind who the old rat with a cane was to the turtles, then, seemingly after deciding his position, dropped shyly to the ground. She seemed to huddle into herself and Donny knew she was still mentally beating herself up.
"Donny," Leo said suddenly, not too gently grabbing the woman's arm to show the purple banded turtle," her arm."
"Right! Right! Let's take a look. Come with me," he ushered the girl to the dining area.
As she settled, he wasted no time in rolling up her sleeve. After only a moments inspection, his heart sank a little.
"I suspected this would happen," Donatello sighed.
Vanessa sat in a chair in the kitchen looking around with wide eyes, taking in the ratty, run-down sub station they called home. Michelangelo's instructions suddenly made perfect sense. 'Below,' he'd said, meaning below the streets of the city. In the sewers. Even if she'd spent weeks thinking about it, she never would have guessed where he and his brothers lived and she was grateful that they'd, instead, found her.
The purple banded turtle crouched in front of her, gently grasping her right arm. He carefully turned it slowly as he examined the damage, mindful of the swelling. Experimentally, he ran the tip of his finger over the punctures, humming and clicking his tongue to himself. It was subtle, but it was there. The black spines poking from beneath the scabs twitched. They were so small and fine that they were hardly noticeable. Frankly, he was impressed that his brothers had seen them at all.
Sighing again, he sank back on his ankles, resting his elbows on his knees as he looked up at the girl. She looked a little worse for wear. Raphael's rough treatment of her had left bruises on both of her wrists and he was sure her ankles were in the same condition. There were tired shadows under her eyes and her skin was pale. A light layer of sweat was forming on her brow and he knew she was not reacting well to the microbots.
"Well?" Leonardo asked, making Donny jump a little. He'd almost forgotten that he had an audience, so caught up in his thoughts was he.
"What diagnosis do you want, exactly?" He asked, standing.
"Does da girl got what Mike's got, genius?" Raphael said. Though he stood away from the huddle, leaning against the corner of the counter and casually sipping a glass of water, he'd been eyeing his brother and Vanessa nervously during the examination. Sarcasm laced his voice, but only to hide the concern.
"Unfortunately, yes. It… it has spread," he turned his regretful gaze back to the woman who was staring intently back.
"What exactly is it?" She asked, frowning.
"I'll tell ya what it is!" Raphael said, suddenly snapping his emptied cup on the counter top," it is a bunch 'o robots yer lab put in Mike dat's mutatin' my baby brotha' into a mindless monster!"
Vanessa was a little taken back by his out burst. When he'd carried her home, he'd been gentle and kind. He'd even whispered over his shoulder to ask if she was okay when she clung tighter to him as he sailed over roof tops with shocking ease. He'd been nice and now, he was snarling in her face. She flinched and leaned away.
"Raph!" Donatello protested, looking to Leo for help. The blue masked turtle was looking at the ground as if his toes had become the most interesting thing on the planet.
"I'm sorry… I didn't know…" Vanessa replied feebly, knowing that on some level, she deserved this. In the very least, she should have reported White for illegal testing.
"Well, what did ya think they were doin', lady? Playin' checkers with da nice little mutant? Get real!" Raphael continued. He bristled and clenched his fists, hissing through his teeth, but kept his distance. Still, Leonardo acted as though he wasn't hearing a word his brother was saying and did not rise to defend her. Vanessa hung her head.
"Leo! I could use a little help!" Donny exclaimed, rounding on his older brother, who normally played the role of 'Peacemaker'. He huffed when he received no response.
"No, he's right. I can't feign innocence here," Vanessa cut in, to everyone's surprise. The three turtles looked back toward her and she shyly cast her gaze at the cement floor. Curling slightly into herself, she hugged her injured arm to her.
"I'm not completely stupid. I went to a decent college to study things like this. I knew they were performing experiments on Mikey. I really didn't know what to think, at first. I mean, I knew it was illegal but… I don't know. He didn't like talking about it… I don't have an excuse for myself, but I hope you all know that I am sorry! Also, that I do care about what happens to Mikey," when she finally looked up, her breathing was heavy and her eyes were glassy," he's my friend."
Donatello smiled gently and looked between his other brothers. Leo's expression had softened a little and he nodded. Raphael was looking away, rubbing the back of his head and perhaps feeling a little ashamed. Just behind him, standing in the shadows of the lab, was Master Splinter. The old rat's whiskers twitched and Don knew he was smiling, too.
"I know," Donatello responded, patting her arm. She gave a watery smile in return.
"Would you like to see him?" He asked on a whim. His brothers might have felt timid about this girl, and Donny certainly would in most cases, too, but something about this girl made him feel like they could trust her.
Immediately, Leonardo was protesting," I don't think that's a good idea, Don."
His expression settled into one of finality, but Don shook his head, gesturing to Vanessa that she should follow," Nonsense. I need to get samples and treat her, anyway. Besides, he's under a sedative. It's safe."
"Has he…" Vanessa asked eyes wide in alarm as she examined each of them for injuries.
"We're fine, thanks to your warnings, actually. I suspected he might wake and not be in his right mind, so we strapped him to the bed as soon as we got home," Donny explained.
Vanessa's eyebrows raised in surprise when she entered Donatello's bedroom. Computers and various other technical equipment that seem far more high tech than anything she'd ever seen were crammed in the room.
As Donatello pushed a rolling computer chair towards her, her eyes caught the sleeping form on the bed.
Partially covered by worn purple blankets, Michelangelo laid on his back with his head turned away from the other two occupants. His breathing was still shallow and came in short puffs. His skin, all ready naturally a pale sea green pallor, was more ashen and the tribal like marking stood out more than ever before.
As she sank into the chair, her eyes remained on the tortured terrapin.
Donatello frowned to himself as the woman's attention became centered on his little brother. Of course, his earlier assumptions had been correct. Judging by her intent stare, slightly flushed cheeks, and stress lines around her eyes and mouth, she was still quite guilt ridden. Not that she shouldn't feel some amount of guilt; any one would, but he felt some what bad. After all, if not for her, his brother would probably have died or worse.
Deciding that the woman probably wouldn't be feeling particularly chatty, he set to work cleaning her arm with a solution that seemed to irritate the micro-bots on Michelangelo's skin. When he'd padded it over his brother's arm, the black markings receded for a few seconds, but then stubbornly returned. He figured if he could find a way to concentrate the solution without making it so strong that it's burn the other turtle's skin off, he might have some sort of a cure.
In the mean time, using a soft cloth, he soaked it in the solution and gently ran it over the woman's arm.
He'd tended to his brother's wounds, and even Casey's, on several occasions, but never had he been on such close quarters with any woman other than April. Even though he knew the situation didn't permit it, he couldn't help the slight heat that rose to his cheeks as he sat beside the woman with her arm in his lap.
He felt subconscious about the soft feel of her skin against his legs.
As his fingers began to shake with sudden nervousness, he admonished himself. This woman would have no interest in him in any way, so feeling shy and nervous around her was ridiculous. After all, she trusted him to treat her. When he offered to care for her wounds, he'd become her doctor. Blushing like a lovesick teenager was completely inappropriate.
"Donatello," the name felt strange on her tongue and she was sure she'd pronounced it wrong, but the purple banded turtle jerked his gaze to her instantly, eyes wide and mouth slightly open.
"Er… y-yeah?" He asked," Something wrong?"
Vanessa pulled her arm away from his grasp and stood, hurrying to Michelangelo's side and placing a hand on his forehead.
"It's Mikey! He's on fire!" She declared, sending a panicked look over her shoulder at him.
Forgetting his discomfort instantly, he dropped at her side, inadvertently elbowing her away to look at his little brother. Indeed, Michelangelo's skin was covered in a layer of sweat. He was also panting heavily and his skin was very hot.
Donatello cursed under his breath.
"What's going on?" Vanessa demanded," What's happening to him?"
"It seems that his immune system is trying to fight back. It's attacking the micro-bots and losing!," Then Donatello called over his shoulder to where his family was likely still in the kitchen area," Someone get me a thermometer!"
Raphael was in the room in an instant with both Leonardo and Master Splinter hot on his heels.
"What's da matter?" The hotheaded turtle asked.
Donatello impatiently waved his hand," thermometer! Thermometer!"
Leonardo was the first to act, turning to dig through a small medical kit on the other side of the room. He found what he was searching for quickly and tossed it to Donny.
Everyone crowded around him as he placed the thermometer in Mikey's mouth, but he was too focused on watching the thermometer climb rapidly to care. He cursed loudly as the digital numbers passed clean over one hundred.
When it finally beeped, he growled," One o' five!"
If they didn't do something to get his temperature down and fast, his baby brother's brain was going to boil into mush and it would be all his fault for losing focus. He grit his teeth, cursing again as he arranged orders.
"What should we do? Donny?!" Leo demanded, sounding uncharacteristically terrified. He didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that a temperature of one hundred and five was not good. He gave his younger brother's shoulder a sharp shake.
"I don't know! Shell! Give me a minute to think!"