(A/N This is my first fic that I am posting! Long time lurker, always too scared to post anything. Well I want to thank my wonderful Beta RedWritingRebel for changing that. Through attentive, thoughtful interaction she not only wonderfully beta'd my story but gave me the courage to put it out there. I can't thank her enough for that.
(Post Good Genes pic. Brotherly fluff only between Raph and Don)
I could hear him screaming from his nightmare. The sound starts as guttural moans, filling with tension until it turns to screams that I could practically feel through the wall. My room is closest to his, sharing a wall, so it's easy for me to be woken from his screaming. The others rounded down the hall, so Leo probably couldn't hear him, and even if Mikey could, he'd probably be too afraid to venture into Donnie's room and find out what's going on.
Not after what happened. Not after what Don did. . . well, it wasn't exactly Donnie that did it.
I crumple my red bandanna in a tight fist, contemplating if I should just let him ride it out. Before I can finish thinking on the other alternative, my mind is made up and I'm on my feet; tying my mask on as I head to his room. Quickly, I enter the shadowy domain, shutting the door behind myself, less his screams wake up anyone else in the household.
The pitiful sound that has haunted our home in the late hours has finally died down to whimpering. But my brother is still shaking, half thrashing in the bed; the sheets are tangled around him and he's sweating bullets. Slowly, I stride to his bedside, mulling over how I'm going to wake him up-Here I am, the turtle of action, and I am all hesitation. We're all ninjas and are dangerous to wake up, even as geeky as Don is, he's included. After watching him suffer for another minute, I can't bear it any longer and decide to take the chance.
I take hold of a slick shoulder and give it a shake, "Donnie. Hey, wake up, bro." the gentle words gain no response. "Donatello. Don, wake up!" and still nothing. "Donnie, it's Raph! Wake up. Come on!" I place my hands on either side of his face.
At my touch he shoots straight up in bed, eyes wide and wild. And I back up, letting my hands fall to my side, but remaining in his line of sight. He needs to see that it's just me and not anything else; and I do too. I need to see those doe brown eyes of my brother, and not the red ones of that. . . that. . . thing he once was.
Isn't that sick? Here I am, trying to help Donnie out, reassure him that everything is alright. And I need him to reassure me that he's still. . . well, still him. I begin to wonder why I came in here in the first place. If it really was to give Don the reassurance he needs to know he's okay, or the reassurance I need to know he's okay.
I wait for recognition that he is actually awake and finally it comes. "Raph?" Donnie asks, probably a little surprised to see the least likely one of us to be there in an emotional time of need.
"Yeah, ….yeah Don it's me. I'm here,"
"Why? Why are you?" but as he wakes more, realization follows. I don't need to tell him what pulled me to his room in the middle of the night; Guilt immediately floods his face. "Oh, God Raph I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"
"Don't. Don't worry about it, I was already up." I lie, cutting him off. He has enough to deal with, adding guilt won't do anything to help the situation.
He drops his eyes and I see that he is still breathing quickly and heavily through his mouth, still trying to calm down. The sweat that still covers his body reflects and shimmers against the low light in the room.
I'm not sure what to do. This isn't familiar ground for me, isn't something I'm even halfway good at. Leo would be better; Hell Mikey would be. But no, it's me and I'm here and Donnie needs me.
After a long moment of my mind running in circles, I notice how parched Donnie looks, breathing in and out of his mouth how he is. And I have an idea.
"Hold on,bro," I say. " I'll be right back."
I rush into the bathroom next door running cold water on a wash cloth and into a glass cup. I don't know what to do or why to do it, but I have to do something, I can't just sit there all night and stare at him.
Slowly I enter back into the room with the cold cloth and water and find Donnie still staring in the same spot as if I never left it. I can tell his mind is working a thousand miles a minute trying to piece something together, probably something from his nightmare. I sit down in the same spot, in his line of sight again, not trying to startle him from his thoughts, but trying to give him a reprieve from his demons.
"Here," I hand him the glass of water with an awkward, shaking hand; And as he nods his thanks, I start to clean off his face and neck from his sweat. Must have been a really bad one tonight.
"Thanks Raph." Donnie says as he smiles. In the thin glint of teeth he tries and fails not to show his guilt once again. I notice he is still slightly trembling as he closes his eyes and leans into my touch when I get to his forehead.
I try to let my actions come naturally, instead of thinking about what to do. If I think too much, I'll let my pride take over and probably run out of the room, letting Donnie think he did something wrong, or I'll get angry at Bishop for causing this whole mess and putting Donnie through this. My fingers twitch over the cloth, anger reaching for control at the mere thought.
I take a shaky, unsure breath and watch as Donnie finishes his water; and as I grab for it with one hand the cloth slips from my other, leaving my palm touching his cheek. Again, my brother leans into the touch, puts his shaking hand over mine and tries to smile pass the guilty look.
"Thanks." he says again.
I don't get it. The guilt. I told him he didn't wake me up. Hell, maybe he knows I'm lying about that part. But, I've done everything I can to reassure him it's alright, but the look stays on his face and I can't take seeing t it anymore. It reminds me that I'm not the right turtle for this.
"Want some more?" I ask indicating the glass to him as I remove my other hand from his cheek.
Donnie shakes his head, breaking our eye contact looking down. I set the empty glass and now warm cloth on his nightstand, and I notice a vial there. It contains a familiar liquid that has a pinkish hue to it. Too sparkly to be Pepto Bismol, but the vial isn't labeled.
"What's this?" I indicate to the vial as I set the things down next to it.
Keeping his head downcast, he rolls his eyes to the side in a slow glance at the nightstand, not making eye contact with me. They fall just as soon, returning to stare at the blanket. He knew what I was asking about without even needing to look.
"It's more of the antidote." he says.
I frown at that. "But Donnie, you're fine now. Nothing's gonna change that."
"I know, I just….I just want to make sure that it doesn't change…and..and if it does then….I can fix it." his voice shakes and eyes refuse to leave the hills and valleys of the blanket, as if the blanket could simplify everything about this complex situation.
In that moment, I want to scream at him to look at me. But he can't and I don't understand why. Donnie looks like he is about to cry and I just stand there like an idiot, shifting my feet and memorizing the shadows. Leo or Mikey would have had this solved by now. Me, I'm still standing here. Useless.
In my silence, Don presses on. "I just….I just don't want …..to hurt you guys…ever again." And there it is. It all comes together. The guilt, the nightmares, the puzzle pieces. He feels guilty that he hurt us. And he remembers hurting us because his memories are coming back to him through his nightmares. With Donnie being the pacifist, the slowest to anger, and the one who wouldn't ever think of hurting anyone- let alone one of his brothers- is why the nightmares are too much for him to take.
A lone tear rolls down his face, I can see it in the darkness standing out like a spotlight announcing its presence. He needs to be alone with his thoughts, not having a reminder and reason of his guilt standing right here in front of him.
"Okay… well, good night," I try to say as I start to walk backwards out of the room.
Without looking, without turning his head, his hand lashes out and grabs my wrist; and I swear to God it takes everything in me not to flinch, not to startle. If I do, the reassurance Donnie and I just built up would all be lost in this dark room. He looks up at me as his breathing quickens once more. Unshed tears line his bottom eyelids. It's almost too much for me to bear.
"Please…can you…can you just…sit with me…just j-j-j-just for a few minutes? I – I – I know you aren't really used to…well-"
Oh shell yeah, Leo or Mikey would have been better for this. The door meets my blinking eyes, the handle jutting through the shadows like a beckoning, outreached hand. And I realize I'm staring at it. That I'm actually thinking of running away. But, that wouldn't give either of us what we need.
"Yea, I can sit and talk for a while, sure Don," I cut him off for the second time. It's getting to the point where he can barely get his words out. The pontificating genius that Donnie is and his speech is a garbled slur of emotions.
Donnie scoots to his left and down a bit, so he is laying propped up on a pillow. I slide in next to him, sitting up and in long unfamiliar territory. My brother leans in to my side next to my arm and I wait for him to start the conversation, as I find myself unable to.
I feel a wet splatter against my arm and know that, without a sound, Donnie is starting to shed those once held back tears.
I start to think of a million and one ways to start the conversation. Maybe if I can get him talking, he'll stop crying. I can't stand having any of my brothers cry. I'm sure they feel the same way, which is just another reason why I never cry in front of them.
I could start a regular beat around the bush conversation, but he's going to see right through that. Donnie is a straight-forward, to-the-point type of turtle and usually doesn't accept anything less. As bad as I am at this, the only way to go into this conversation is feet first, dive right in and hope for the best. I hope I can do this.
He must have sensed that I had no idea what to say, because as I open my mouth to speak he relieves me from my burden and talks first.
"I'm sorry I hurt you-all of you."
"Donnie-" I try, but he cuts me off.
"No, please," his voice is stronger but I don't even feel him tense a muscle next to me. A testament to how exhausted he is and how much these nights have been taking out of him physically. After taking a breath, he continues.
"I really need to say this. I need to get it out. I am sorry for hurting you. I could have killed you, Leo, Mikey, our father. You never would have forgiven me for that-couldn't. You would hate me for that and I couldn't blame you. I hurt you and I'm sorry."
I look down to see how he is doing to see his eyes looking up at me. The tears flow freely yet silently down his face now. He thinks I hate him. He thinks he did this. I can't let him think that.
"What makes ya think that? I could never hate ya. None of us could."
Donnie dips his head slightly, keeping his eyes locked onto mine as if to say his famous tag line 'genius remember?' But it doesn't come, and I'm not a genius and I'm not even good at holding this conversation, but I try my best to continue.
"Are ya remembering things? I don't understand, I mean…" I trail off.
"It was just a matter of putting the puzzle pieces together. Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot missing but- I mean it was driving me crazy not remembering or knowing what happened. Not just to me, but to you guys too. Then the nightmares started…or really, I should say nightmare. Basically the same thing over and over again, nothing specific just….just feelings, voices, visions, sometimes with little extensions added on at the beginning or the end. It's hard to explain, even for me. Then there's you guys. The bruises, the claw marks, Mikey's leg bandaged up. Only a monster can do that. And that's what I am, a monster, so I had to have done those things."
I am a monster. It rings in my head, the use of the present tense sharp and clear, impossible to go unnoticed. My fingers curl into fists. My brother shouldn't think that...
Donnie can't shake his guilt, nor the feeling that he'll turn back into what he once was. As he talks, he keeps it simple, yet doesn't. He doesn't gesture wildly, his body doesn't even twitch or move beside me. He simply uses his voice and all the emotion and complexity contained within it. It is all he needs to convey how he feels. Yet, as he continues on to a harder part his voice betrays him and breaks with a sob.
"The looks." He chokes. "The way….the the way Mike flinches from me and can't even look at me sometimes and when he does it's in fear. All I know is I hurt him but I don't know what exactly I did."
He collapses into a sob and my brotherly instincts take over. I wrap an arm around him and squeeze him closer to me, letting him know I'm here. Even if I have no words for this, even if I have no clue what to do, I can give him that.
Mikey sometimes needs time to get over things, both physically and emotionally. I can't blame my youngest brother for that, but I make a mental note to talk to Mikey about how Don is perceiving him. Then I remember how bad I am at this. Leo…yeah, Leo would be better to talk to Mikey, I'll tell him to talk to him.
"Look, Mikey's an ass-"
"No- no!" Don snaps. "Mikey is…is…s-s-s-sscared…of me. And he's not the only one. Why don't April and Casey come over? Did I hurt them, too? Look, Raph, I need you to tell me what happened. To…to fill in the holes. I need to know what to prepare for if this happens again."
I can feel him starting to lose it. His body tenses and shakes, his inability to control his voice between sobs. He's going to lose it entirely, and when he does it will take everything in me to not lose it, too. But, I can't tell him what he did, he won't recover from it, he won't ever forgive himself. But he isn't the type of turtle to accept any BS from one of us. Maybe I should just give him what he wants and hope he can take it.
I look him in the eye and steel myself for this ride. I shift myself on the bed so I can look at him better in the shadows. My foot falls off the bed, hitting the floor with a dull thud and I'm half prepared to use that foot to propel myself out the door.
"Donnie, first of all, this ain't gonna happen again. Look, when you turned into that monster you were at April's house with Casey." He startles and I have to calm him immediately "No, ya didn't hurt them. It was scary for a while, but April even helped search for a cure for you. They haven't been around because they wanted to give ya your space in dealing with everything."
An indescribable look crosses his face, as if he hadn't considered that before. Too busy thinking the worse…..
"And Mikey?" his voice cracks.
I scrub a hand over my face. I don't want to get into this, because Mikey still bares the bandages from what happened. It doesn't help that Mikey blurted out the comment the other day that Don 'tried to eat his leg'.
"Well we all had our turns battling ya, bro, and we're all ok. And we got our licks in on ya, too. Once we had ya contained in the pod thingy, Mikey went to feed ya and got a little closer than he should've and you grabbed his leg. You had some claws on ya, that's all."
"How many stitches did he-"
I squeeze him closer and look him in the eye, I need him to be crystal clear about this.
"It. Does. Not. Matter. It wasn't you. It wasn't your mind, your thoughts, your motives. It-" I exhale. "It just wasn't you, Donnie."
"You could have killed me," he says. "You should have killed me."
My blood runs cold at that. Leo still has issues with having to shoot Donnie with as many tranquilizers as he did. I have to find a way to make him understand. I think of one and really don't want to have to bring it up but..
"Ok, look Don, do ya remember a while ago, when Mikey and I were fighting and I picked up a pipe and almost bashed him over the head with it?" I say in a rush of breath to get it over with as soon as possible.
Donnie nods, a confused look on his face as he doesn't yet see where I am going with this, so I continue.
"I could have killed Mike, might have if Leo hadn't stopped me. But do ya hate me for that? Did ya want to kill me for that? Should ya have killed me for that?"
"No." he manages to shake his head. "It wasn't you. It was like you saw red, your rage took over your rational thought. You didn't know what you were doing,Raph." He says. Is he comforting me now?
"Exactly, same thing with you Don. Ya didn't know anything. It wasn't you. Ya didn't have control."
The tears start down Don's cheeks again and I still wonder if I can get him through this. I put my hands on either side of his face, letting him know I'm not afraid of him, I'm not afraid to touch him.
"We all knew that no matter was going on-no matter what ya did, no matter how fiercely ya growled- We knew that in here, inside, it was still you. It was still our brother in there and nothing, not a damn thing would change that. That's why it doesn't matter what the specifics are of what happened and what didn't happen. What matters is we have ya back. You're here with us now. The inside..what matters, came back out."
Donnie immediately embraces me, sobbing against my plastron. My hands and arms hover over him, not quite sure what to do. I've never seen any of my brothers break down this bad. Then again, nothing this bad has ever really happened to one of us. I slowly put my arms around his shell and my chin on top of his head. Slowly so not to startle him, but to let him know I'm here. My heart slowly breaks seeing him struggle to come to terms with this. I'm not sure how long we stay like this, in each other's arms, but he breaks the silence first, his voice muffled against my plastron.
"I don't want t-t-t-o…I…I can't change…b-b-b-back. I can't take it a second time, Raph. Y-y-y-y-you all can't take it a second time. I could kill you all. I can't live with that."
"And ya won't. You have more of the antidote over here, but ya won't need it. Remember Don, ya have me, and Mikey, Leo, Master Splinter, April and even bonehead, Casey. You can count on us, bro. We know you're scared of turning back. Any loud noise and ya jump. A muscle twitch or anything and you're practically out the door. But we have ya." I take a breath, I can do this. "And you'll tell us if ya think you're changing back and we'll be there, no matter what. Because we still know it's still you on the inside, and nothing's gonna change that."
He looks up at me through his shimmering tears and smiles. Hey, maybe I did it. Maybe I ain't so bad at this.
"Go to sleep Don. I ain't going nowhere, I'll be here."
I feel him relax against me. His breaths fall into the same rhythm as mine.
I realize that we've both gotten what we needed out of this night. More than anything that pink liquid could give him. I know that Donnie will be okay, and he knows that he'll be okay. We've got each other. If anything we have that…..reassurance.