Author's Note: I don't own these characters. I just borrow them for my own amusement. Comments and con crit welcome!
Celebration of a Lifetime
Don was waiting nearby when the door to the lair slid open—with his security system, there was no such thing as unexpected visitors. "Hey," he said, smiling at the couple standing just outside the entrance.
"Hey," April returned, shifting the car seat that held a sleeping infant to her other arm. "Sorry we're late." She smiled apologetically, and glanced back at Casey, who was toting a decidedly un-masculine looking diaper bag.
"It's no problem. We're just glad you could make it. I know it's not ideal, coming all the way down here," Don said, nodding pointedly at the baby.
April shrugged. "Hey, it's for Mikey."
Don gave a flicker of a smile. "Yeah. So um…everyone else is already here, and there's plenty to eat and drink. Got a cake and everything, so dig in."
"Thanks Donny," April said.
Casey nodded, passing a free hand over Don's shoulder as they both went by to join the party. "Thanks, man," he muttered. The words were simple, but the touch and the brief eye contact spoke volumes.
Don accompanied them to the den and once more surveyed the room. Balloons—check. Music—check. Pizza—double check. And guests. Plenty of them. Especially considering their secretive existence. Still, it was almost impossible not to like Mikey, in spite of his annoying tendencies, and most who had been invited were in attendance. As Donatello looked around, he realized there was only one thing missing.
He left the party as discreetly as possible, and made his way up the stairs and over to Michelangelo's room, stepping slowly through the entryway and into the shadows. His brother was there, as Donatello had known he would be, sitting on the bed with the lights off. "Hey," he said softly, taking a seat next to him.
Don remained silent for a while. Finally, he said, "It's time."
The other turtle nodded without saying a word, but he didn't make a move to stand up.
"You can do this," Don said, laying a hand on his shoulder. He felt the muscle tense under his hand, and then pull forward.
"I don't know if I can," he croaked.
Don's grip firmed on his brother's shoulder, but it took him a few seconds to trust his voice enough to answer. "I do. You can. I know it's hard." He swallowed. "It's hard for all of us. But we promised. We have to do this—for Mikey." It was there, as it always was. The void. The oppressive, unshakable coldness that enveloped him like a glacier when he said the name, threatening to crush him with the weight of grief that was yet too near. The words he'd spoken, meant to be encouraging, came out sounding as hollow as he felt.
Leonardo bowed his head, and his shoulder quivered under Don's hand. Don squeezed his eyes shut, his throat and lungs tightening as if there was a fist clutching his chest. How did he land himself in this position, trying to play the strong one when all he wanted to do was curl into himself and let the void take over so he didn't have to think anymore, didn't have to feel anymore. It should be Raph instead of him; he was the strong one, the driving force behind all of the planning that no one had any heart for. Maybe that was why Mike had made the request of him specifically—maybe he'd known Leo and Don wouldn't be able to go through with it without him.
Or maybe he'd done it just to make sure Raphael stuck around for a while, hoping that if he decided to split, he'd at least keep his promise first.
Beside him, Leo wiped his eyes discreetly, and drew a slow, quavering breath. "Did he know?" he asked in a voice barely above a whisper. "Did he know what he was asking?"
"He knew," came a gruff voice from the doorway, and they both turned to see Raphael. The turtle in red strode over and sat on the other side of Leo. He didn't put a hand on him, as Don had, but he sat so close that their shoulders we touching. For Raph, that was positively cuddly. "He knew it wouldn't be easy on us, plannin' a birthday party he wouldn't be here for. But it was important to him. He wanted ta remind us it's his life we should remember. Not his death."
Leo shook his head. "It's just, it's too soon. I can't put on a happy face and pretend I'm enjoying myself, not this year. Maybe not ever."
"I don't think he expected anyone to pretend," Raph responded gently. "An' I don't think anyone out there would expect us to, either," he said, tilting his head in the direction of the den.
Don knew his brother was right. Maybe Michelangelo had had this in mind, too, when he'd insisted on a party. He wanted to make sure they'd be together and among friends on a day when their private agonies would otherwise have them seeking solitude. Mikey had been the extrovert of the family, the one who drew them together when things got hard. Without him…
Don bowed his head, hands clenched, unable to draw a breath. Oh god. Without him. Not just today, but year after year…
They sat there in the dark, shoulder to shoulder, each lost in their own somber thoughts, but apparently together in their desire to postpone the inevitable. Moments later they heard the sound of soft steps approaching, and April's silhouette appeared in the doorway.
"I thought I might find you guys in here." She paused for a moment, taking in what she could of the darkened room, and then flicked on the lights, temporarily rendering Don blind. "It's been a while," she said as she surveyed the area. The colors, moments ago muted and somber, turned bold and true, like thick strokes of oil paint on canvas. Posters, action figures, a skateboard propped in one corner, all illuminated, bright as day. Vivid as life.
April sighed then, and her eyes tracked back to them, tearless, but laced with pain. She sat beside Don on the bed, daring to make their trio a quartet again. From anyone else but her, they might have resented it. They sat together quietly for uncounted moments. April drew in a soft breath and let it out slowly. Then she spoke what was in all of their hearts.
"God I miss you."
Somehow, the fact that she "you" instead of "him" made Don feel like their missing brother was right there in the room with them. Then again, if anything could summon Mikey, it would be a party. Maybe that was part of his brother's plan, too.
The spell was broken when Casey appeared in the doorway, and he too paused to take it in before asking gently, "You guys ready?" He didn't bother to ask if they were okay.
Leo turned to Don and April, and then finally to Raph, holding his eyes for a moment before looking back to Casey. "Ready as we'll ever be," he said.
They all rose and followed Casey out of the room. Don was the last one out. He lingered a moment, taking a final look around the room before flicking the lights off once again.
From the den, the sounds of laughter could be heard.