This is one of my own sequels to the "Good Genes" story arc – the one-shot sequel, that is; the "real" sequel that I have planned out is quite a bit longer...and may never get written, at the rate I'm going!
Good Genes, Bad Dreams
The hoarse whisper from his bedroom door brought Leonardo up out of sleep to full wakefulness instantly. "Raph?" he whispered back, automatically groping for the hilts of his swords. "What is it, what's wrong?"
"It's Donnie," Raphael said, anxiety coloring his voice. He stood in his brother's bedroom door, backlit by the glow of the muted televisions downstairs.
Leonardo groaned and switched his grip to grab his swords up with all the rest of his gear. It had only been a few hours since they all got home from Bishop's base at Area 51, and his body protested the idea of moving after so little sleep and so much activity. "What's wrong? He's not sick again, is he – we just got him home!"
Raphael gave a one-sided shrug. "I just went downstairs to check on 'im, and he's mumbling and moving around in his sleep a lot. I think he might have a fever."
"Oh, no," Leonardo led the way downstairs to the area the family had finally designated as the living room of their new home. As he got closer to the battered old couch, he could hear Donatello whispering, and see the blankets moving as his brother kicked and struggled in his sleep. He bent over the back of the couch to lay a hand on Donatello's face, only to pull it away when the gesture seemed to aggravate the sleeping Turtle into a more violent reaction. The heavy quilt slid off the front of the couch, leaving Donatello tangled in a sheet. As they watched, he squirmed and wriggled to get free, moaning in his sleep while he did so.
"Should I go get Leatherhead?" Raphael seemed poised to run out the door right that instant. He jittered on the balls of his feet, tightly-wound from nerves and exhaustion – the last few days had been hard on all of them, and it would take more than one night of sleep to give them back their balance.
"I don't know," Leonardo pulled the quilt back into place. "He was exhausted when he left here last night, too – and he did say that Don might feel sick and weak for a few days, while the virus gets cleaned out of his system."
They looked at their thrashing brother with growing dread. "Leatherhead didn't say there was any chance of a relapse," Raphael pointed out. Then he looked at Leonardo for confirmation. "Did he?"
"No," Leonardo said forcefully. He and Splinter had both taken pains to discuss this idea with the Crocodile, who had assured them that the chances that Donatello would once again fall victim to the illness that had changed him so profoundly were remote.
"Maybe…maybe we should put 'im in his room?" Raphael suggested with an edge of desperation.
"This is the warmest place in the house," Leonardo objected. "Leatherhead said that we needed to keep him warm while he recovers, and this is even better than Sensei's room." The heat given off by the massive wall of ancient televisions, combined with the relatively small space, made the room almost cozy during the chill of the night.
"Then what are we gonna do?" Raphael hissed. "He's getting' sick all over again, and we can't exactly go back for another dose of whatever it was that fixed him – Bishop made sure of that when he blew the place up!"
"I'm aware of that, Raphael!" Leonardo fought to keep his own temper, leaking to the surface after the strain of days of anxiety over Donatello's illness and second mutation, under control. "He's not getting sick again. It can't happen! This is just…this is just part of recovering. That's all it is. He's been through a lot, and it's only natural that he'd have some bad dreams."
Raphael clenched his fists. "Leo, I can't…we can't do it again. We just can't. We got no more bargaining chips with Bishop, we got nowhere to go – if he's sick again…!"
"He's not sick!" Leonardo shouted without realizing it. He rounded on his brother, staring him down. "He's not sick anymore, and this is just a bad night, and we don't need to argue about it anymore!"
Leonardo and Raphael jumped back from their tense stare-down and looked at their father and other brother guiltily as they came out of the shadows and into the grey light from the televisions.
"Sorry, sensei," Raphael mumbled, staring at the floor.
Leonardo bowed his apology. "I'm sorry, Master Splinter. We didn't mean to wake you."
Splinter frowned as he took in the scene, then stepped lightly over to the couch, where Donatello was still muttering and kicking in his sleep, undisturbed by sibling arguments. "Is he fevered again?" he wondered out loud, running one hand along the Turtle's face.
"I can go get Leatherhead," Raphael offered again.
"Perhaps we should," Splinter sat back and looked at Donatello anxiously. "I thought it might be best if he stayed with us for a few days, but he seemed to be worried that he would have a bad reaction again, as he did before. But Leatherhead's knowledge will be needed here – "
"Sensei, all respect, but it's not the big guy's knowledge we need right now," Michelangelo laid a restraining hand on Raphael's arm to keep him from dashing out the door to fetch the Crocodile. "He can't help Donnie. But I can!"
Raphael groaned and yanked his arm free. "You got another stupid super-hero idea, shell-for-brains, because we don't got time for it!"
"It's not stupid," Michelangelo was offended, "and it's always worked before."
"What are you talking about, Mikey?" Leonardo broke in before they could come to blows. "What's always worked before?"
Michelangelo regarded him for a second, like he was judging his brother's sincerity. Then he nodded. "Okay, it goes like this. Donnie gets nightmares, a lot. And I mean, a lot! Like, he can't even turn off that big brain of his and just sleep, and have normal dreams. He always has to have complicated dreams, where he makes trains run upside down and through planets and has to cure cancer with one hand while he's fighting off Foot ninja with the other – stuff like that. Stuff that's so incredibly complicated that it makes my brain hurt just listening to him talk about it. And because he's so smart, and notices all kinds of details, even his dreams feel way too realistic. He can't get away from things at all! He doesn't always even know that he's dreaming."
Raphael squinted at Michelangelo and folded his arms. "Fascinatin' " he grunted, in a tone that meant it was anything but. "What good does that do us right now?"
Michelangelo rolled his eyes. "Well, duh. It means that I know what to do!"
"What is that, my son?"
"You might wanna step away from the couch, sensei," Michelangelo directed. "Hang on a sec, and let me get ready…" he whipped off his mask and stuffed it in his belt. Then he shook himself out, twisting his head around to stretch out the muscles in his neck. "Gotta warm up to do it right," he mock-whispered by way of explanation.
"Oh, fer the love of – !"
"Hush, Raphael," Splinter reproved. "Let us see what your brother can do."
"Okay, I'm ready," Michelangelo stepped past his father and his brothers to kneel on the floor next to the couch. As his family watched, he let his face fall into an expression that they didn't understand at first – his eyes grew wide and slightly damp-looking, and his shoulders hunched up. In a breath, he looked a lot younger. And he looked…vulnerable. Slightly weak, and afraid, in fact.
At that moment, Michelangelo reached out a hand that trembled slightly. He touched Donatello's shoulder carefully. "Donnie?" he asked, in a quavering voice. "Donnie, are you awake?"
"What are you doin', waking him up?" Raphael hissed, only to fall silent again at a stern look from Splinter.
"Donnie?" the quaver was slightly more pronounced.
The sleeping Turtle stilled. His restless mumblings ceased. He took in a deep breath. One eye cracked open, showing the smallest sliver of dark brown between the eyelids. "…mikey…?" his voice was hoarse and weak.
"Yeah. Donnie, can I…? I had a bad dream…can I stay with you?" Michelangelo got out the last five words in a rush, looking over his shoulder like he was afraid.
Donatello appeared to consider this woozily for a few long seconds. Then, "…yeah, 'kay." He lifted the edge of the quilt slightly.
Michelangelo slid under the covers awkwardly to cuddle against his brother. The quilt didn't quite cover his shell, and his feet hung in the air off the edge of the couch. But he nestled his head down on Donatello's shoulder. "Thanks, bro," he whispered.
Donatello, already sliding back into sleep, gave a faint smile.
"What good is this doin'?" Raphael tried again. He glared at Michelangelo. "You woke 'im up – what does that prove?"
"Ten minutes," Michelangelo whispered, looking up at Raphael sideways. "Give me ten minutes, and you'll see."
"Ten minutes," Splinter agreed. He gave Raphael another look. "If this does not work, we will speak to Leatherhead."
Michelangelo smiled, and closed his eyes.
Leonardo watched, counting off the minutes in his head. He was so focused on his counting that it took him half of the allotted time to realize that something had changed. "Don's really asleep this time, isn't he?"
It was true. The sick Turtle was finally sleeping without the restless whispers and struggles. His face was totally relaxed and peaceful. His arm, where he had reached out to hold Michelangelo close, fell limply from his brother's shell.
At the ten-minute mark, Michelangelo's eyes flew open again. He looked up at Donatello, smiled, and began to carefully work his way backwards out of the embrace. He tucked his brother back underneath the covers, grinning at the limp compliance, and finally straightened up and turned. "What?" he asked, seeing three other pairs of eyes on him. "I said, ten minutes!"
"Ten minutes to do what?" Leonardo ventured.
"Well, duh!" Michelangelo pulled out his mask and slid it back on. "It takes ten minutes for me to be sure that I've broken the nightmare, and let Donnie get past it into a deeper stage of sleep."
Raphael looked from Michelangelo to Donatello, and back again, several times. "You… you just…cuddled him to sleep?"
"He likes to feel needed," Michelangelo shrugged. He fiddled with the chain of one of his nunchuks. "If I let him feel like he's helping me, it helps him, and then he can let the nightmares go. He'll sleep like a rock, now, and for maybe another four or five hours."
"Very good, my son," Splinter nodded. "Let us leave your brother to sleep, then, and begin our day. Breakfast, and then morning practice." He led the way out of the living room, headed for the small kitchen.
Raphael watched him go, wearing the same expression of disbelief he'd worn when questioning Michelangelo. "After alla that, everything we did yesterday to get Donnie back, everything we did to capture our very own 300-pound killer turtle in the first place – after all that, he still wants us to practice like normal?" He threw up his hands and appealed to the ceiling. "Unbelievable!" But when he stalked off, he followed Splinter to the kitchen.
"Mikey, wait," Leonardo put a hand on his brother's shoulder to stop him from following. "How did you know that would help Don?"
"I do it all the time," Michelangelo tilted his head. "I told you, Donnie has a lot of nightmares."
"So all those monster movies, and slasher movies, and the horror books you read…?"
Michelangelo smiled again. "Yeah? What about them?"
Leonardo wasn't sure how to ask it tactfully. "Are you…? I mean, is that something that really makes you afraid? Or is it all…is it an act?" He couldn't believe that, not after years of listening to his brother's girly screams and hearing his wild imaginings when they encountered strange things in the tunnels.
Michelangelo's smile changed. It grew slightly, even as his eyes narrowed. But he didn't answer.
Leonardo went on, feeling less certain of himself. "I vaguely remember that you were trying to help Leatherhead, when he nearly killed you in his own nightmare while he was staying with us last year," Leonardo let his hand fall, and regarded his brother curiously.
"Well, not quite the same way," Michelangelo pointed out. "I just thought I'd wake him up! I didn't know what would help him."
"But you know what helps Don," Leonardo glanced over his shoulder at the couch, where Donatello slept in complete peace and trust. "And now I'm wondering, Mikey… sometimes you wake me up in the middle of the night, too, and tell me you've had a nightmare. And when I wake up in the morning, you're gone. Are you…?" he let the question dangle, filling in the gaps with a look.
Michelangelo, in turn, gave him that same sly smile. "All I can tell you," he said slowly, obviously piecing the response together carefully; for a second he looked a great deal older and more mature, "is this: Don isn't the only member of this family who gets nightmares."
And then he clapped Leonardo on the shoulder and grinned, looking like himself again. "C'mon, bro! I gotta get some breakfast – I'm thinking I'll try grapefruit pizza this morning!" He leaped away, dashing for the kitchen like there was nothing different about the day.
Leonardo followed, more slowly. He cast one look back at Donatello over his shoulder, then watched Michelangelo clowning around in the kitchen, predictably annoying Raphael.
He wondered how many more secrets he had left to learn about his family.