Author's Note: This story is entirely the work of the Terrapin Tarts RP team, made up of KameTerra, Winnychan, and DeeMG - check out their fanfics!
Leonardo paused outside the lair entrance and pulled in a slow breath. He hadn't been away long—not nearly long enough for anyone to grow concerned, or anything like that—but there was no use putting it off any longer. He was quite sure by now that it wouldn't help anyway. So he just stood there a moment longer, collecting himself, and glanced behind him once more before pulling the lever that would open the door.
And still he had no idea how he was going to explain this to his family.
Bracing himself, the lone turtle stepped through the door and forced one foot in front of the other until he was standing on the upper landing at the top of the stairs. The lair was cheerfully lit compared to the gloom of the sewer tunnels. Leonardo blinked as his vision adjusted, surprised to find the great room entirely empty.
"Great," he muttered to himself, descending the stairs with a growing sense of gloom. The last thing he wanted was more time to worry and brood about his screw-up. He puttered around, picking up soda cans and fiddling with TV remotes. It was pointless because he never could manage to find all of them, and tonight was no exception. Turning off Michelangelo's wall of televisions was never a simple chore. Some panic-fueled people on a cooking reality show were bickering and racing around in one corner, and on a large screen just left of the center a curvaceous and overly made-up brunette was still bubbling about the low rates for her favorite car insurance.
The latter was particularly annoying, since it only served to throw his current predicament back in his face. It's not like anyone was going to give HIM any "accident forgiveness".
"Mike? Raph?" he called experimentally, just wanting to get it over with more than anything. "Don? I… I sort of wrecked the van. And the garage. You know, uh. Simultaneously."
No one answered.
Leo swore under his breath and tossed one of the pop cans at the nearest trash can. It missed.
"What in the world-?" A metallic clattering in the depth of the computer nook, and Donatello emerged, rubbing his face and peering around with red, puffy eyes. "Leo? I think I fell asleep over that genetics text... I dreamed that you knocked over all of the TVs with the van?" His tired gaze flicked over the bank of TVs, and dismissed the dream. "Weird dream, and here you are..."
"Um," Leonardo felt even lower than before. "I just, uh. Missed the trash can. With the pop can." Desperately, he glanced around the room. He only wanted to make this confession once. "Where is everyone?"
Donatello yawned. "Dunno. I think Master Splinter said something about taking Mike and Raph on 'special' training, because they were goofing off in weapons practice?" The sleepy edge to his voice made him sound more tentative than usual.
"So they won't be back for a couple of hours?" Leonardo didn't know if he could stand to wait for them. He sighed. It would be best to stand up and say it, and get it over with. "Donnie... Um, I kinda...wrecked the van."
Leo couldn't tell if he was in shock, or just not up to full processing speed yet. "…Don?" he prompted when there was no further response. The fact that Donatello was the only one home could either be a really good thing, or a really bad thing. 'Cause Don was the level-headed one, right? Mike would laugh and make fun of him. Mercilessly. And Raph would do much the same, though probably in a much more malicious way. Don, at least, would try to help him figure out how to fix this mess. In theory. Except…he'd done most of the work on the van in the first place… and now Leo had wrecked it.
Leonardo cleared his throat lightly. "Don?" he tried again. "Did you hear me?" Please don't make me say it again…
"Y-yes!" Don piped, seeming to come awake with a start. His voice rose in pitch slightly as he added, "Loud and clear! So, um." Backing up a step, he brought his fingers together in front of his plastron in a fastidious gesture. "When you say you wrecked the van..."
"And the garage."
"-and the garage," Donatello agreed slowly. He paused, then averted his eyes and said in a rush, "Well, Leo, wrecked is a pretty vague way to assess the damage. Come on, surely it isn't that bad. You know, you've always been hard on yourself, especially in situations where you feel personally responsible. If you could try to give me another-"
"Totaled?" Leonardo supplied, cutting his brother off with a grimace.
"Totaled," Don repeated, with a tiny nod to show that he was digesting the information. "Okay! Well, that's... honestly not much better than wrecked. Um, on a scale of one to-"
"Ten," Leonardo answered without hesitation. "Or possibly one. Whichever one means the most totaled. That is the scale I pick."
"Ten, then," Donatello nodded, his expression still somewhat abstracted. His brow furrowed faintly. He went on not looking at Leonardo. "So. By 'totaled', can you give me a more precise idea of the type of damage you - "
"It's on its side," Leonardo, oddly, felt more comfortable detailing the damage than he did in making the initial confession. Maybe because he can step away from the emotion and assess it coolly, like a leader? "One of the back doors is missing - it was a good thing for me, because that's the only way I could get out, after the roof collapsed on it -"
"Wait, the roof?" Don visibly started. His expression shifted to something more alert. "The roof? Of the garage?"
"Yes," Leo nodded. "The roof of the garage is draped over the passenger side of the van, pinning those doors shut. The back tires, no, I mean the back wheels, aren't attached anymore - I got them out of the street before anyone could see, but I don't have any idea what happened to the front wheels. The driver's side door is in the yard in front of the garage. I didn't see any point in moving it inside -"
"Leo." Don looked a lot more focused. He leveled a dark gaze at his brother. "Leonardo. I want you to tell me, in as few words as possible, exactly what you did to my van!" His voice climbed until, by the end, he wasn't exactly shouting - no, he was ordering. Firmly.
There wasn't any escaping that stern expression. "Maybe we should go look at it?" Leonardo's voice, in contrast to his brother's, got softer and finally ended on a tentative upswing into a question.
Don looked for a moment like he was going to argue, but his face, frozen for a moment in what looked to be the beginnings of a sharp retort, suddenly lost some of its tension. "Go look…?" he echoed, more to himself than Leo. His eyes ticked sideways, unfocused, obviously weighing this suggestion. "Yes, I think…" He focused once again on Leo. "That's probably the best place to start, get a look at the, uh…damage," he faltered. Then he nodded to himself, and he was all business once again as he directed Leo to grab his emergency repair kit, which was a duffle bag that weighed roughly a metric ton, while Donatello gathered a few other items they might need.
Leo exhaled. This was a big easier to work with. He didn't offer any opinions on what tools might be most useful—he wanted to keep Don in his current state of professional detachment as long as possible.
It wasn't long enough.
Just until they stepped into the threshold of the garage, to be precise. He flicked the lights on, and immediately heard a sharp intake of air from Don. Then…nothing. Leo just remained quiet, letting him take it all in, waiting for the assessment. After more than a minute had passed, he risked a glance at his brother's face, but what he saw was worse than the beginnings of anger he'd seen earlier. There was just…nothing. Like Don had checked out, and left his body behind.
"Don, I know it looks bad…"
Leo cleared his throat. "What, um…where should we start?"
Still nothing, though Donatello seemed more…wilted somehow, as he stood rigidly holding his duffel bag. Then suddenly, he let it drop to the floor, as if he'd forgotten what it was for.
That was not a good sign. Don, of all turtles, was the last one to drop potentially breakable equipment.
Leo swallowed, his mouth having suddenly gone dry. "Do you want to… walk around a bit? Inspect…things?"
Finally, a response—just not the one Leo was looking for. Don shook his head, 'no.'
Leo stared, completely dismayed.
"There's no need," the other turtle explained distantly, still gazing at the wreckage. "I can see exactly what happened here..." His gaze lifted slowly until it rested on the hole in the ceiling.
Then he did something that REALLY made Leo want to shrink where he stood. Donatello started to laugh. It started as a grunt in the back of his throat, a hitch of his shoulders and plastron, and at first he seemed to try and keep it contained. But then the dam seemed to crack and soon he was curling forward a little and wrapping one arm over his plastron.
"He's going to be SO ticked at you!"
"Mike? Why, for the Cowabunga Carl head?"
"Not Mike! Raph!" Again he dissolved into laughter.
"Raph?" Leo didn't know if he should be more worried for himself or his cackling brother. "Why would Raph be mad? Look, can you tell me what you're seeing please? Because I still don't—at first I thought I was being attacked!"
"You pushed the orange button!"
"Yes? I was looking for thing! The—the door opener!"
"You launched it in the garage."
"I LAUNCHED somethi—howisthisfunny?" Leo was reaching the end of his rope. "Something FELL from the roof, Don! It fell, and it—why would you design a button like that!"
"But don't you see?" Don had recovered somewhat and was wiping at his eyes. "Oh, he SAID he gave it away! But I knew. And there is some attic space up there..."
With a lurch, the world made sense again. Leo stared at the black mangled wreckage that had caved in the top of the van and realized he was staring at the twisted remains of the Nightwatcher bike.
"How in the world did he get that up there?" Don wondered out loud, the last of the humor leaking out of his voice with the question.
Leo was thinking something different. "How did he get it out of there? And how many times?" He frowned, and leaned over to pick up what he now recognized as the destroyed seat of the motorcycle.
"Does it matter now?"
"Yes! It does matter!" Leonardo knew it was the combination of all the different, tangled emotions of the last hour that made him snappish, and didn't care. "It matters, because it's been almost a year since we fought the Stone Generals and therefore a year since he said he gave up the Nightwatcher! So for a year, he's been lying to us, and putting himself in danger—"
"We don't know that, Leo," Don sighed. "He might've put it up there and never been able to get it back down again. Maybe he didn't even mean to ever ride it again, and just wanted to keep it."
"You cannot tell me that you think our brother Raphael would hang onto a motorcycle like it was some kind of memento," Leonardo tossed the torn seat back into the general junk heap that used to be the van, and folded his arms. "Not only is he crazy for motorcycles, Don, he's also not the sentimental type. If he hung onto this bike, and went to all the trouble to hide it from us, then it's a sure thing that he's been out on it."
"Mm," Don peered up at the roof again. "It's not really my priority right now, though I'll be very interested to hear what justifications he gives for it—if he does anything more than swear at me for even asking. Of course, it's going to be at least a week before he calms down enough to be coherent at either of us. Which is about how long it's going to take me to undo this mess..." he paused, and pressed his fingers to his forehead while his eyes screwed shut with pain. "Seriously, Leonardo, what were you thinking to press the rocket launcher?"
"Why in the world did you install the rocket launcher right next to the garage door opener?" Leo flared.
"I didn't!" Donatello opened his eyes and glared. "The rocket launcher was installed above the windshield, because I was afraid Mike would hit it accidentally when he was hunting for a new song on the radio, and would fire a rocket into some innocent bit of architecture somewhere in the city! The garage door opener, Leonardo, was in the center console! It was a big. Green. Button! Not a small orange one! Which means that, in addition to everything else, I'm now going to have to test your vision to see if you've suddenly become color blind in addition to being unable to drive!"
Leonardo bristled at the heavy sarcasm, but he did his best not to let his irritation show, forcing himself to a couple of slow, deep breaths before responding. Really, taking shots at each other was pointless. It was Leo who'd wrecked the van, after all—no debate about that. "You're right," he said at last. Another deep breath. "Don, I'm sorry. I should've been more careful."
Don studied his eyes for a few seconds, but in the end he sighed as well, and clapped Leo on the shoulder. "It's okay. It was an accident. I guess even you're allowed a few." He cast his brother a sidelong look. "Though I suppose the paucity of blunders on your part is balanced out by the, uh, magnitude when they do occur.
Leo winced internally, thinking of his track record. He couldn't argue with that. "Let's hope this one'll be it for a while, then."
"Let's hope," Don agreed. "I mean, Mikey drove the van almost daily for at least a year, and he always managed to bring it back in one piece."
"Even Raph, with all of his crazy stunts and complete disregard for normal traffic laws, never managed to total the van, much less the van AND the garage in one shot!"
Leo's mouth tightened. "Can I get you some lemon juice? You must be nearly out of salt," he commented dryly.
Donatello looked over at him and opened his mouth as if to reply, but apparently thought better of it and finally turned away another heavy sigh. "Sorry," he said with a rueful grin. "I guess that kind of thinking is useless at this point." He paused, surveying the wreckage thoughtfully. "I suppose I should try and look on the bright side, take this as an opportunity to finally do some of the upgrades I've been postponing. It's going to take a lot of work, though." He glanced aside at Leo, a quick flick of the eyes, leaving an opening that the leader didn't miss.
"I'll help you. With whatever you need," Leonardo volunteered instantly. "Consider me your full-time assistant, even if all I can do is hand you tools and make sure you stay properly hydrated."
"Are you sure? Even working together, it'll take most of our free time for at least a couple of weeks to make a good job of it, which wouldn't leave much time for extra training…"
It was a test, and Leonardo knew it. "So be it," he broke in. "It's the least I can do." But his voice carried a certainty he didn't truly feel as his mind flashed ahead to long hours in the garage helping Donatello when he could be in the dojo. He swallowed. It wasn't going to be easy, but it was the Right Thing To Do.
Don smiled. "Thanks, I'll take all the help I can get." His smile faltered. "Er… except Mikey's."
"Right," Leo said with a laugh. "Fair enough. And since I'll be assisting you, may I make a suggestion regarding the upgrades?"
"Maybe we should think about putting safety caps over any buttons that trigger…weapons of mass destruction? Just in case anyone's fingers slip?"
Don didn't quite laugh, but he snorted a little. "I'll add it to the list."
They were both quiet for a moment then, and when Leonardo next spoke, he was careful not to so much as glance at his brother, or allow a trace of hesitation to trickle into his voice. Confidence—that was the key. "Great. Then I guess the next thing we need to do is figure out the best way to break the news to Raphael when he gets back."
His brother turned to him, brows raised, but face otherwise expressionless. "We?"
Damn. "Well, I think he'd take it better if we're both there to…explain things." To his dismay, Don's response was to start laughing again. Leonardo waited a short time for his brother to stop, but he only laughed harder. At that point, Leo made a snap decision to skip over plans B, C, and D, and go right to the last resort: begging. "…Please?" he said somewhat pitifully. "I'll do all the talking…"
Don shook his head, still laughing, and laid a hand on Leo's shoulder. "Sorry, bro," he gasped, "but this one's all you." He turned and started to walk away, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.
"Great. Thanks for your support," Leo grumbled, but Don just waved his hand dismissively as he continued back towards the lair, chuckling as he went.
Leo tried one more time. He really, really didn't want to handle Raph alone on this one. If nothing else, Don could run interference for him when their brother flipped out—and he would flip out. Leo had no doubt about that. "C'mon, Donnie! Where's the team spirit? I'd do it for you!" he called desperately just before his brother reached the exit.
At that, Donatello halted, and slowly turned to face him again. He was smiling…but there was a glint in his eyes that hadn't been there before. "Maybe you would," Don said. There was no laughter in his voice now. "Maybe you would…now that you're here. But that didn't help me when you were gone. I've had my fill of confrontations with Raph for a while." Then his face softened slightly. "Good luck." He turned and left without another word, leaving Leo on his own.
Okay, he hadn't seen that coming.
Leo just stood there, dumbly staring after him, and wondered how many more times he'd be sideswiped by unknown consequences of his extended leave. Clearly, there were still some things Don needed to get off his shell in spite of the fact that it had been a whole year since he'd returned.
Leo sighed. First, he'd deal with Raph. Once things had cooled down, it seemed he'd have plenty of time to patch things up with Don while they worked on the van.
After that, Leonardo promised himself he'd stay out of trouble for a long, long time.