Alright, so most of you are rolling your eyes and saying "Another Turtlefreak121 story" to which I gladly say "Yes, indeed." I like to write. In any case, this one is actually more or less a dare I got on AOL over writing angst and Donatello centric. I gladly accepted the challenge and, considering my other current works are what people would like to paraphrase as "peculiar," I decided to go ahead and give this one the green light. So, without further ado, here is Flicker.

Little more ado…

TMNT, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, Splinter, and the Foot © Mirage Studios
story © Turtlefreak121

Chapter One: The Key

The pressure of his own skull seemed to keep his head spinning. He felt enclosed within himself, stuck within some indescribable bubble. He could not escape the funk of the entrapment and it was beginning to make even his body stiff.

He rubbed the side of his head as he looked over it again.

Blue line, blue line, blue line - over and over again. He could not turn away, he could not face any other obstacle just yet. He had to concentrate on the lines, the directions until the image was taken from his hands.

"It was a simple overlooked error, Donatello," LeatherHead assured gently before offering his hand yet again. The highly intelligent crocodile smiled at his confused expression and pressed the offered object into his palm. "There is no reason to be ashamed of a simple mistake."

"Yeah, I suppose so," the turtle responded with a disdainful sigh, still eyeing the rolled up schematic before accepting the offered object in return. He looked at the key to the newly improved Sewer Slider, the one that was just waiting to be driven home, to be tested out now that it was completely fixed.

The turtle glanced to the machine resting by the garage entrance to his friend's lair. It was such a simple fix, too. Donatello should have been able to do it himself. He had developed the Slider from scratch, after all.

"I'm not ashamed, by the way," Don came to correct his friend. "I'm just not sure how I forgot something so simple as calibrating the fuel tank."

At that, LeatherHead laughed. "My friend, perhaps it was because the answer was so simple that you neglected it.

Don did not bother to dispute his fellow scientist. He knew full well that he would be incapable of translating his sense of loss to the gentle crocodile. On the other hand, Don had been feeling his unsettled state all day, if not longer than that. He knew something, anything, was not right.

"What time is it anyway?" Don questioned as he finally received his much desired schematic from the croc as well. "I just remembered that I was supposed to pick up a pizza for everyone back home. Guess they had to wait longer than they expected."

"I do wish you had told me you were running short on time," LeatherHead murmured to himself before glancing down to his watch. His brow-like ridges formed a thin crest and his mouth upturned to a definite frown. "I suppose they went to bed without dinner is all."

"What?" Don asked in confusion before crossing to LeatherHead's side, looking at the time for himself. His eyes widened as he realized his error. "Eleven? Already?"

Sighing, LeatherHead nodded and maneuvered himself so that his young terrapin friend could better see the watch. He was looking over Donatello carefully as though he was beneath the crocodile's microscope.

It was a look that Don did not like but decisively chose to ignore. "I should get home. I guess I'll have an angry and hungry Mikey to look forward to if nothing else," he sighed as he tucked the schematic beneath his arm. "And perhaps and even angrier and hungrier Raphael to look forward to!"

His dear friend, however, continued his scrutinizing gaze over Donatello. He seemed so intent on discovering something. So intent, in fact, that Donatello could no longer ignore the piercing gaze from him.

"Something wrong, LeatherHead?" he asked, mocking as much as it was in concern.

"Yes," the croc stated before grunting. "You."

"Me?" the surprised turtle countered. He folded his arms as he cocked an eye ridge.

"Yes. You have been acting very strange as of late, my friend," LeatherHead announced as he slowly walked around the turtle, gazing upon his body. "I am unsure of what it could be but for some time now you have been leading to many concerning matters with your work. Are you not getting enough sleep? Are you perhaps doing too many at once?"

"Is this about the calibrations?" Don sighed. "Look, LH, I'm embarrassed but they were just like you said: errors. And everyone can make errors every now and then, right? That's what science is all about! Having a concept that one corrects."

"You have never been incapable of correcting your own mistakes before, Donatello. Now that I consider it." LeatherHead sighed and looked back toward his own lab. His expression softened more as the concern overwhelmed his features. "And it is not simply the calibrations. Leonardo has told me that quite frequently at home you-"

Having heard enough, Donatello rolled his eyes and made his way toward the hovercraft sled. "Oh, so you've been talking to Leo," he scoffed. "Well, that explains almost everything about this conversation."

With that, the turtle slid into his driver's seat and laid his schematics aside, starting the engine with the new key. "You still have the spare, right?" Don questioned.

"Yes, of course," LeatherHead replied before stepping toward the machine. "Do be careful, Donatello. I do not wish for you to grow ill while you are driving or-"

Groaning, Don leaned against the doorframe and smiled knowingly at his worrisome friend. "You have been talking to Leo too much, LeatherHead. I'm absolutely fine," he assured the crocodile. "You said it yourself, I'm probably just overlooking things. I'll double check from now on."

He raised an eye ridge. "Shall you be placing anymore aluminum in the microwave?"

The turtle's cheeks flushed a violent red. "He told you that?" he questioned before pressing the button to his right and starting the propulsion of the Sewer Slider. He smirked. "Eleven at night or not, Leo's so going to get it! See you around, LeatherHead!"

"Farewell, Donatello," the large reptile sighed as the Slider took off through the opened gate.

The candle's small yet vibrant light swayed ever so gently as a rush of air entered the Lair. The aging master studied it in the quiet time it took him to wait for his son's arrival.

It hadn't been long since he had sent Leonardo to bed, easing the apparent concerns of his eldest. Worrying, after all, was a parent's job.

Donatello was already parking near the garage entrance for the Sewer Slider, and judging by the noise he was making he seemed intent on staying in the lab that night rather than coming toward Splinter's room.

By the time Splinter made his way to his son rather than taking more time to wait for his son to come to him, he began to feel the pull of something off. Something not right.

Something was missing, though Splinter wasn't sure just what it could be.

For his part, Donatello was just sitting in the vehicle, looking completely baffled. Seeing Splinter, he finally, and reluctantly, removed the keys. He almost seemed disheartened by the action.

Jumping out of the Slider, Don stepped back, looking over the machine and scratching at his head.

"Alright, LeatherHead was right," he grumbled to himself before tucking the blue schematic under his arm away among his other desk items. "I've been letting this get to me too much."

Splinter hummed to himself, satisfied enough to see his son home and safe that he moved to the kitchen to gather some of the late night tea he had on stand by for Don's return.

He missed how Donatello's gaze shifted over his vehicle again and again, still searching for something to stand out, as he flipped the key over his fingers.

"Well, whatever it was, it's fixed. We're fine," Don hummed to himself before tossing the key in the air and grabbing it again, a smirk growing across his features as he looked to the lab. "And I'm not quite ready for anyone else to trash you after just getting you back up and running."

Moving to the shelves, Don begun the almost ritualistic counting: three shelves down, three books over.

"Nope, I'm going to have to keep you hidden so that no one takes you out for a disastrous test run."

There was a cringe from Donatello at the very thought.

"Here we go," he said gently to the key before removing the third book. "Right here behind Mister George Ellis." He shook his head at the dull read. His brothers thought that any smart literature would pique the nerd-turtle's interests. Unfortunately, Before the Beginning did no such thing for him.

While tea was being poured carefully in the other room, Donatello was looking around his lab, trying to figure out what he was missing.

"I'm always forgetting something," Don muttered before shaking off the nagging and becoming subdued by his own tiredness.

He shoved the key to the back of the empty shelf on the space before replacing the missing book.

There was a certain amount of amusement he took from the prospect of outsmarting his brothers as he turned and made his way out into the Lair proper. It took everything in him to not groan in aggravation when he was met with Splinter standing in wait, a tray of freshly poured tea at the ready.

"Ah," Splinter said somewhat stiffly, his tail flicking behind him. "I see you have returned home for the night, my son. I am glad."

The words, no matter how kind, cut deeply with the look in his eyes and the obvious time. Enough so it made him flinch. Donatello was not used to being on the other side of his father's irritation and wrath.

That was something for Mike and Raph.

"My apologies, Master Splinter," the youthful turtle replied as he neared. "I lost track of time at LeatherHead's lab. I have good news, though! We fixed the Sewer Slider so-"

"Your brothers and I were very concerned, Donatello," Splinter interrupted, his eyes more directly focused on Don. "We attempted to call you but you had left your phone here."

Embarrassed, Don felt his cheeks flush yet again. "OH. That's what was missing." He rubbed his neck, watching as Splinter grabbed a cup in one hand and offered it to Donatello. "I'm so sorry, Master Splinter. It won't happen again."

As he accepted the tea, Donatello could see some relief grow more apparent in Splinter's eyes.

"It is fine, my son," Splinter said, still maintaining his frown. "But all is not right, I sense."

Feeling his aggravation rising once more, Don tilted hi shead to the side and sighed. "Have you been talking to Leo or LeatherHead?"

"I have been investigating within myself, Donatello," Splinter corrected, setting the tray aside. " I sense that not all is right with you. I simply do not know what it is."

Rubbing his face, Don could no longer solve the itching within his body, the overwhelming irritation with everyone's concern. Regarding his composure, however, led to the turtle to lower his hands and smile at his father.

"Maybe I'm just working too much," he offered candidly. I guess I'm just stressed is all. It will pass."

His father did not appear at all convinced, simply more concerned. "Are you certain that is all?"

"Positive," Don replied almost immediately.

Splinter studied Donatello, seeming determined to prove the opposite was true. And, for a moment or two, Don caught himself irrationally concerned that he might actually see something.

But, of course, nothing happened.

Sighing, Splinter nodded. "Very well then, Donatello. Please rest well and overcome this presence of frustration. I shall see you in the morning."

"Thank you, Master," Don cited before bowing obligingly. "Good night."

"Good night, my son."

As Don made his way toward the stairs, the old master moved to the lit candle.

He waited for it to burn out.