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Never The Same Again

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Donatello's eyes snapped open as every nerve in his body screamed at him to move. He was on his feet and searching for an enemy before he even realized what it was he was doing. Every single one of his honed ninja instincts that Splinter had drilled into him rang loudly in warning; that something was wrong and he had to act fast. Spinning his Bo automatically to deflect any projectiles that could possibly be hurling at him at that very moment as his eyes darted about the room, taking it all in with one sweeping gaze as he looked for the enemy.

Nothing moved. Silence was the only thing to greet him. Blinking in surprise, Donatello lowered his staff as he took in the sight before him. There were no enemies that needed to be taken out, no arch villains there to gloat over him as they tried to destroy him and his family once again. In fact… there was no one there at all.

The truth was, it looked as if there hadn't been anyone there for a long, long time; which was odd considering that he was standing dead center of the main room of the lair. Don blinked his eyes rapidly and shook his head as he tried to figure out if this was real or if this was all just some bizarre optical illusion that some bad guy had managed to create in order to try and trick him. However every time he opened his eyes back up, the image before him always remained the same.

"What?" Don mumbled, as he looked around the room in complete morbid awe, just staring at all the destruction. Everything was completely trashed. The couch frame was broken in the middle, sagging downward to the floor in a pathetic slump. The monitors were all cracked and broken while the kitchen table lay crushed against one of the far walls in jagged pieces. Bits of the walls and support pillars were damaged and lying about the floor like some bizarre obstacle course that would have Leo itching to try it.

'Leo! Splinter! Everyone!' Don's eyes widened as he began searching anew, with more urgency than before. "Master Splinter?" he called out, a bit of a choke in his voice. He paused a moment to regain control of himself before he tried again. "Master Splinter? Leo?" he managed louder looking about the room. "Raph? Mikey?" Only silence answered him. "Anybody?" he finally called half-heartedly.

There was no answer to his calls save the hollow echo of his own voice as it bounced back towards him, the evidence of Donnie's worry clear to his ears. There was no one there. Not even the typical New York City sewer rat. Hell, Don couldn't even see a cockroach. There was nothing there and there hadn't been anyone for years as evident by the thick coating of dust on everything and the broken spider webs tucked away in the darken corners. There was nothing that so much as indicated that anyone had ever lived there.

It just could not compute in Don's mind what possibly could have happened that would have brought the lair to such a state. Everything had been fine the day before, but now a dark, heavy feeling of dread began to curdle in the pit of his stomach as he examined each and every nook and cranny of the room, finding no sign as to what had could have caused such mass destruction. Don didn't like this; not one bit.

Slipping his Bo staff back in his belt, Don looked around the room, for once at a complete loss at what to do next. He frowned as he began going over everything in his mind to see if he could possibly come up with an explanation for the lair's dilapidated appearance. He decided to start at the beginning but his expression soon became one of panic when he realized that he couldn't even remember what he had eaten for breakfast that morning! His own mind was as empty as the room he stood in as he tried to bring up any memory of what could have happened to the lair.

His mind was just a total and complete blank and that scared Donatello more than anything he could have ever thought possible. Taking a small step forward, he stumbled a bit before he quickly braced himself against a piece of rubble. He closed his eyes as he took a deep, calming breath. "Okay, okay Donnie calm down and let's look at this logically…" he muttered to himself. "One: I woke to an abandoned lair. Scary but I can handle this. Two: I have no idea what happened to put it in such a state. There are signs of a battle here and there but not enough for this level of destruction. Which brings me to observation number three… It obviously happened a long time ago…"

With a soft growl he snapped his head forward sharply, banging it once against the item he was leaning upon and blinked at the small, hallow sound. Pulling back slightly, he let out a soft, bitter chuckle as he recognized his own half-built computer tower. "Typical…" he grumbled as he took another relaxing breath and growled again when it was obvious that it wasn't doing anything to calm his frazzled nerves.

His hands were shaking and he quickly clamped them together to try and quell the trembling somewhat. Glancing down at them he studied them quickly. They were the same hands that he remembered so whatever had happened to the lair obviously hadn't happened to him. At least that he could remember. Don's eyes widened as he quickly took mental stock of his person. Nothing was wounded or bleeding, that was a good sign and there didn't seem to be any internal damage that he could detect. Letting out a sigh of relief, Don began looking around the room again.

Taking a small step back, Don looked around the lair again and tried to figure out what to do next. There was still no sign of his family and Donnie knew, just knew that they were no longer there. He had to find them but how? It was obvious that all his computer equipment was complete scrap so there was no possible way for him to track the signals in the shell cells. He had to search for clues but he had no idea where to even begin.

His body seemed to have other ideas however as he soon found himself standing in the broken doorway of Splinter's meditation room. Don honestly couldn't remember walking over to the doorway and didn't even realize he had until he was standing directly in front of it. The door itself was completely gone and Don had a clear view of the inside of the small, familiar room.

He just stared, surprise jolting through him as he took in the room. His heart had hoped to see his father there, going over scrolls while sipping the bitter tea the Don never could manage to choke down. His head however had expected to find more rubble and the room in shambles like the rest of the lair. What he did find however was a room that had been completely stripped barren.

Everything was gone. The low table that held Splinters inks and kanji brushes; the small bookshelf of scrolls and books that Splinter had rescued from Master Yoshi's place after the Shredder had left. Even the pictures of himself and his brothers that had been scattered about the room in places of honor were gone. The room was now just an empty space encompassed by four walls.

Don swallowed heavily as he stepped back and turned away from the eerie sight, a small chill running down his spine to the tip of his tail as he began walking away. He didn't know why it was, but he had to see his brother's rooms for himself. He just had to see them, despite the logic in his mind that he was only going to find more of the same there. The sudden need began to overwhelm him and he found himself quickening his steps as he reached the first door; Raph's door… Or at least what was left of it. The door had been busted in, like all the others he had encountered so far but this one had been shoved to the side almost as if to allow someone passage into the room.

Don just stared at the broken wood for a long, long moment both needing to see what was in that room and dreading it all the same. Finally brining up his gaze he looked into the room and a whoosh of air left him as he heaved a relieved sigh. He didn't know what would have been worse- the finding of his brother's broken body or the now clearly empty room that echoed his father's study.

With a small frown, Don stepped into the room to survey the damage. It was a bitter pill to swallow to see Raph's room so clearly abandoned, broken bits of furniture obviously left to rot. Don soon felt himself scowling as he glared at the empty room accusingly. "Damn it guys, where are you?" he muttered as he looked around.

The weights were still shoved into the corner but like the room before, any and all personal items were gone. Even Raph's extra Sai's were no longer resting in the small chest that sat in the corner, sagging with mildew and rot. Don wrinkled his nose as he took another quick survey of the room for any clue as to where his brother could have possibly gone. He quickly squashed that small voice of fear and doubt that continued to needle him and mentally yelled at it that they were most defiantly still alive and that he didn't care if all the evidence pointed to the contrary.

He swiftly moved from Raph's room to Leo's and once again found a repeat of the same. A broken bed sagged in one corner while items lay strewed about the floor and all of Leo's personal things gone without a trace. Don shook his head as he toed the layer of dust on the floor before he looked around again. The half melted candles on the shelf by the bed mocked him, as if they were the ones who had slowly burned the life out of the lair with each drip of the wax. Don found himself glaring at them and for the life of him couldn't explain why. Frowning, he turned and began looking through the rubble. Picking up the small stand that used to house Leo's katanas, he set it back where it belonged. It looked out of place being the only thing that wasn't lying askew. Don didn't care.

With a sigh he moved on to the next room in line and was surprised to find some personal items still there, unlike the rooms previous. Mikey's room was always a wreck but to see the broken, abandoned action figures, the smashed up game consoles and cracked and fragmented movie discs thrown everywhere made him wince. Mikey could be a slob more often than not, but he did take good care with his collection. To see them just lying broken and forgotten hit Donatello hard. He tried to swallow and had to compose himself before attempting again. Steeling his nerves he did his now routine of searching the room completely for any clues as to what could have possibly happened and for a fourth time he came up empty.

He couldn't stop himself as he found himself picking up a few of the lesser broken toys and setting them back on the now crooked shelf where they used to sit at a place of honor. He stared at them for a long moment while their own frozen plastic gazes almost mocked him for trying to restore some semblance of normalcy in a room so obviously not but like Leo's stand, Don felt compelled to do so. These items meant so much to his siblings that it was almost sacrilege for him to leave them abandoned on the ground. Don forced himself to turn away as he leaned against the wall, just staring at the room as he tried to calm himself.

"Damn it! It just doesn't make any sense!" he growled as he banged a fist against the stone wall behind him, supporting his sagging body as he leaned back and stared at the darken ceiling. He found himself counting to ten and then counted back down to zero more than a few times before he was calm enough to finally push himself off the wall and drag himself out of the room.

He had to keep one hand on the wall beside him as he began moving down towards the next door in line. Don found his trembling starting anew and increasing in intensity as he finally found himself at the final door in the small hallway. The only door that was still intact as a matter of fact. The only door that looked as if it had been untouched in ages… His own door.

Donatello stared at it a long, long moment as his thoughts whirled around in his mind. Nothing made any sense and the only explanation the supposed brainiest of the team could come up with was that he was somehow stuck in some bizarre, terrifying nightmare. But the feel of the cool, damp stone under his feet felt to real, the feeling of the doorknob under his fingers was a cool, familiar feeling in his grasp and the instantly recognizable squeak of the door opening was a soothing balm to Donnie's frazzled nerves.

If he had been expecting to find yet another room destroyed and left completely in shambles then Don would have found himself severely disappointed as he stepped into his familiar, cluttered bedroom that looked more like a mad scientist lab than a room of rest. Don nearly stepped back out into the hall just to check to see if everything else had gone back to the way it was convinced it had to have been a dream after all but the layer of dust on his desk was the only evidence that this room like all the others hadn't had an occupant in years.

Don took another deep breath as he stepped into the room and looked around. It was completely untouched. There wasn't anything not where Donnie had left it. It was almost scarier than what Don had come across in the rest of the lair. Everything was completely the same as he remembered it. Donnie stepped into the room hesitantly and walked over to his table. He looked down at the device that took up the center of the clutter. A modified transmitter that he remembered working on just the night before, toiling away until the wee hours of the morning. However the device didn't have so much rust on it the last time he saw it.

Setting the item back down he wandered around the room, allowing his fingers to drift over each different item as he re-familiarized himself with each one of them. He shook his head as he looked over his computer desk before he looked up and caught himself in the small beveled mirror he used on some of his more delicate work. Shaking hands reached out and lifted up the piece before Don realized it and he found himself staring down into his own, apprehensive reflection.

A sigh of relief escaped him before he could help himself as he found himself looking just the same as ever. There was nothing different about himself so now Don found himself really puzzled. Partial memory loss could have explained why he awoke to find everything so different but while the lair looked to have been abandoned for years, Don still found himself staring at his own sixteen-year-old visage. 'So what the shell happened?' he frowned as he set the mirror back to its original spot carefully.

He moved over to the bed and found himself sitting down onto it as the mattress gave way beneath him. Don frowned as the disruption of dust assaulted his senses and he blinked rapidly to ensure none of it got into his eyes. The dust settled and Don sighed as he looked about the room. Nothing made a shred of sense and Don felt as if his head might just explode as different scenarios flew through his head. The lair was clearly abandoned and had been for some time yet Don himself was still the same as always.

What in the world had happened to the lair? Or was it what had happened to him? Was that even possible? Had something happened to him instead of the lair? Why was it that the lair was abandoned to begin with? Where had his family gone? Why weren't they still there? What would have made them leave?

Donatello shook his head as he finally heaved himself to his feet. He certainly wasn't going to get any answers just sitting around doing nothing that was for sure. Looking back around the room, Don began searching for anything that may help him but everything was either too degraded or just worthless all together. Looking over the room one last time, Don finally turned and began making his way back towards the main room of the lair.

Ending up right back where he started, Donatello paused as he tried to figure out what his next step would be. 'Okay,' he thought to himself. 'It's obvious that no one is here so where would they go?' The name "April" instantly popped into his head and Don nodded, agreeing with the logic. If his brothers had gone anywhere then it was more than likely that April or maybe Casey would know where, but how to get there?

Don wasn't even sure what time it was and any clocks he had seen so far had all been broken and completely useless. "Well, at least I could head up to the warehouse," Don mumbled to himself as he turned towards the lair's hidden elevator. "Note to self Donnie," he muttered as he climbed over the wreckage towards the doors. "Stop the monologue."

It didn't take him that long to make his way up to the surface and finally come to the main doorway of the building. He frowned at the rotted door that hung crooked in the frame and with a bit of a shove, he finally managed to get the door to fall inward. With a shake of the head, he made his way into the room and glanced around, the same dreaded awe overtaking him as he looked around. "Whoa," he muttered under his breath as he took in the damage. "The entire lair is trashed and even the warehouse."

Don's eyes went immediately to each and every one of the turtle's vehicles and he shook his head as he crossed many of them off as total losses. "Huh, the Tunneler still looks like it's in one piece…" Don blinked and shook his head as he rolled his eyes at his continued to talk to himself. 'Stop that,' he chastised himself before he turned and continued onward towards the large hole he now saw in the far wall where night was just beginning to overtake the city, finding himself speaking aloud again. "But this place feels like it's been abandoned for a long time… None of this makes any sense."

Don stepped away from the warehouse and froze as he took in the surroundings. The lair and the warehouse it seemed weren't the only things that were trashed; it looked as if there had been a war going on. Rubble could be seen everywhere and all of the buildings looked old and abandoned as well. Don frowned as he observed each and every change from what he could remember and shook his head at all the differences that immediately came to mind.

For one, there were absolutely no cars on the road, extremely odd for a New York City street. Another was that there were a lot more buildings around than he remembered, and for some reason, they all had smokestacks coming out of their roofs. "Factories?" Don muttered as he glanced at each of them in turn. He could see even more smoke stacks off in the distance and frowned at them. 'Doesn't that violate some air-environmental law or something?' he wondered as he looked up at the dense smog overhead before he shrugged it off. So far nothing had made any sense, so why should the violation of air laws be any different.

With another frown he glanced around, trying to figure out what would be the best route to April's when he could suddenly hear the sound of helicopter blades off in the distance. Donnie chuckled. "Well, at least there are people around," he said but soon the laugh tapered off as he realized that the helicopter was headed right for him, the searchlight shinning on the street below.

Don's first instinct was to turn and head right back into the warehouse when the searchlight finally came to rest upon him and he was completely blinded by the bright light. The screech of cars coming to a quick stop assaulted his senses and a loud voice began blaring over a loudspeaker.

"Attention citizen! Place your hand's in the air and drop your weapons!"

Donatello blinked under the harsh light as he could see figures climbing out of the cars, weapons held firmly at the ready. He knew that he couldn't do anything however as they had yet to do anything to him. He had no choice here. He had to follow their orders until he had a chance to figure out what the shell was going on around there. 'This day officially sucks,' Don thought as he stared at the group of humans before him.

"Repeat," the voice blared again. "Hands up and drop your weapons!"

Donnie gritted his teeth as he raised his arms and frowned at them. The five humans began walking towards him when four of them stopped and the one in the middle continued towards him, gun aimed right at him. Don's eyes widened as the man's shoulder came into view of the helicopters searchlight and Don could now have a clear view of the Shredders symbol emblazed on the man's coat.

'What the shell?' Donatello screamed silently. 'They work for Shredder? But that's impossible! These guys are defiantly not the Foot! I doubt that they're even ninja!'

Don had to think fast as he looked around at the group and began to calculate the odds and the chances of him getting out of there alive. They all had guns and while he was a skilled fighter, there were too many of them for him to get away clean. There were going to be some injury but he had no choice. He quickly reached back and snagged his Bo staff as he took up a defensive stance, watching as the humans continued to walk closer.

'This is going to be a hard fight,' Don thought as he took a small step back.

Suddenly a flash of silver passed before his eyes and the humans stopped as the one in front looked down at the ground at his feet. Don blinked as he looked down as well and stared in shock as he saw the three ninja stars embedded in the ground. 'Shuriken?' he thought in surprised. 'But who?'

Obviously the humans were wondering the same thing as the leader suddenly shouted, "On the roof! Get a light on him!"

Don jerked in surprise and he turned and looked upward at the dark figure that leaned over the building's edge. The searchlight swung from him to the figure and Don could feel his jaw dropping. That figure was instantly recognizable as one of his brothers. He couldn't help but feel relieved even as the humans continued to yell.

"Fire! Open fire!"

Don felt himself for once at a complete loss as the humans took aim and fired at the figure on the roof. The other turtle instantly dodged and sprinted across the roof to the other end, skillfully avoiding the light before he took a quick leap off the building. Don could do nothing more than watch in shock and awe as the figure landed perfectly before seeking shelter behind an old, dilapidated car wreck, narrowly avoiding the bullets.

The humans instantly forgot about him as they took off after the figure. Don knew that he had to help in some way but in truth, found himself unable to move as he watched them continue to barrage the car with a hail of bullets. Two of them jumped onto the hood and trunk respectively and just annihilated the cab of the car in a matter of seconds. Donatello instantly took a step forward, his eyes widening in fear as he took in the mangled heap of the car… with no one inside.

He blinked in surprise as the hood of the car suddenly was pushed open from the inside, sending the human flying into the body of his partner as the shadowed figure leapt out of his hiding spot and did a perfect flip in the air, avoiding each and every bullet as he quickly knocked the gun out of one then two of the soldiers hands, quickly knocking them to the ground before spinning around to deal with a third one.

The figure slid to a stop before him as he lashed out with his weapon that Donatello had so for been unable to identify but he recognized it now instantly as it cracked across yet another's jaw. He just stared in complete awe as he finally knew who it was that had shown up to save his tail but it just couldn't be! "Mikey?" he gasped as he continued to watch the figure thoroughly trounce the humans. It just couldn't be but it had to be. Only Mikey could use the nun chucks that flawlessly, but something was wrong. There was a bit of a jerkiness to Mikey's moves and Don couldn't put his finger on it as he continued to watch the battle.

One went flying and landed perfectly in the still open hood of the smoking car and soon another one crashed into the first as he too was thrown. Don's eyes went wide however as he saw the sudden glint of a sword and he started to move forward to help when the figure, Mikey, calmly and deafly knocked the katana our of the man's hands before sending him too into the car's front, the hood landing with a clang as it fell closed over them.

Mikey slipped his nun chucks into his holster and Don had just begun to do the same when the searchlight from the helicopter suddenly zeroed in on the other turtle. Donatello had almost forgotten about it. He could now see the tell tale flicker of orange as Mikey quickly jumped out of the beam of light and landed next to one of the forgotten guns, grabbing it as he continued to flip and jump away.

Don could only stare in morbid fascination as Mikey took aim and actually fired, quickly taking out the three vehicles with deadly precision before turning his arm and aiming at the helicopter still in flight. Don watched as the helicopter tried to get away, faltering somewhat as something vital, probably a fuel line was hit and the helicopter began to lose altitude, spinning wildly before it disappeared over the building. He could still hear it though and Don cringed, as there was a sudden explosion and a bright flash of light as the ground beneath him shook.

Don shook his head as he sheathed his Bo, saying a quick prayer for the fallen before he turned and looked over at Mikey. He never really knew that Mikey could fight that well even though he always knew that there was potential under that goofy smile. That didn't matter at the moment however and he could figure out how Mikey became so good later. For now, he had found at least one of his brothers and that was enough. Maybe he could finally get some answers.

The figure stood slowly and turned to him, the gun falling haphazardly from loose fingers as Donatello broke out into a wide grin. "Mikey!" he cried as he stopped before him. "Am I glad to see you!" he smiled.

There was silence from the other turtle for a long moment before a harsh, deep voice spoke, shocking Donnie at the gruffness of it. "So," the figure said. "It's really you. You came back."

'Came back?' Don blinked in surprise as he tried to figure out what Mikey could possibly be talking about when the figure began to walk forward and Donatello's eyes widened even further with every step. As the larger figure stepped into the light he could now clearly see ever scar that marred his brother's body before his eyes zeroed in on Mikey's left arm. Rather, what was left of Mikey's left arm.

Don's eyes flew open at the sight of the missing limb and he now realized why there had been something odd about Mikey's fighting. He had fought that whole battle and thoroughly overpowered the human's soldiers while only using his right arm. "Mikey… your arm…" he gasped as he stared horrified. He couldn't believe it as he looked over the other turtle and just stared at the missing arm and multitude of scars. "What happened to your arm?"

Mikey glanced at the limb before he turned hard eyes on Donatello. "You're the one that's got some questions to answer," he growled.

Donnie gaped as he took a step closer to the other turtle, staring at his "baby brother" in complete shock. This was not the Michelangelo he remembered but there was no possibly way he could be mistaken. It was Mikey before him, in a new belt and holster with… were those small flash bombs attached to his shoulder strap?

"Where the shell have you been all these years?" Mikey snarled as Don glanced over the ensemble.

Donatello stopped his examination as he looked up and blinked in surprise as the words suddenly registered. " 'All these years'?" he repeated puzzled.

Mikey leaned forward and poked him in the chest as his eyes narrowed. "You've been gone over thirty years Donatello."

The words stabbed Donnie more firmly than a knife to the chest as he stared at Mikey in complete astonishment. "Th-Thirty years?" he gasped in surprise. 'That's impossible,' Don thought in shock as he stared at his brother. "It… It can't be," he murmured but he knew that Mikey had to be telling the truth.

Everything fit. Why the lair was destroyed without him knowing how. How the entire city could have been changed almost completely overnight. How his own brother could suddenly look so different and attain so many scars. 'Could I really have been gone thirty years?' he wondered. 'But… I haven't changed. So how?'

"Can be and is," Mikey's snarl brought Donatello out of his thoughts sharply. "We thought you were dead," Mikey continued softly before his expression hardened and he leaned forward with a dark glare. "How could you just abandon us like that?" he nearly shouted, pain clearly heard in his voice.

Donnie jerked in surprise. "I didn't," he insisted as his mind whirled about with questions. "I would never abandon you guys," and it was the truth. No matter how this situation had come about, Don knew in his heart that he would have never left the others willingly. There had to be some sort of explanation for all this. There just had to be.

Mikey's glare didn't change however and Donnie could tell that he didn't believe him and as Mikey continued to glare at him Don knew he had to give some explanation. He swallowed nervously before he spoke again. "One minute we were all in the lair together," he began, "next minute… I woke up here. I don't know how…"

Mikey just stared at him for a long, long time before he let out a small chuckle. "So the turtle with the big brain finally doesn't have all the answers. Who'd of thunk it?" Donatello glared at him at the jibe.

Mikey let out another small bitter laugh and looked as if he was going to say something more when his own eyes widened and he quickly lunged forward. Don gasped when the other turtle suddenly grabbed his arm and jerked him forward, further into the pale light of the moon and out of the warehouse's shadow. Mikey nearly shoved his face into Don's own as he turned him this way and that, examining every part of him in the dim light. Don cringed as the grip on his arm tightened with incredible strength and his own arm began to throb as he was yanked around like a rag doll.

Mikey finally stopped pulling him around and Don looked up in surprise as Mikey continued to stare at him, his eyes examining every inch of his face. "No…" Mikey muttered. "It can't be…" he released Don's arm and quickly took a step back, never taking his eyes off of Donatello. "It's impossible. You still look exactly the same as the last time I saw you!"

Don looked up at Mikey sadly and gave a small nod of his head. "Yeah, I know. That's what I was trying to tell you. That-"

Mikey didn't seem to hear him however as he continued to just stare at Donatello completely horrified. "How is this possible?" the other interrupted. "You don't look a day over sixteen!"

Don frowned at him. "That's because I am sixteen!" he said firmly, glad that Mikey had finally stopped snarling and finally looked at him. "That's what I've been trying to tell you! How could I be gone over thirty years? It's impossible!"

Mikey just stared at him before he shook his head and let out a low, bitter chuckle. "Well fuck," he muttered, the swear word jolting Don out of his anger as Mikey brought his somewhat hysterical laughter under control. "What the hell happened to you Donnie?"

Don could only shrug as he stared at Mikey with a confused, desperate look. "I… I don't know," he finally said, fear lacing his words as he began shaking. The world around him began spinning, the day's events finally seeming to catch up with him as everything began to blur. "I just don't know."

He could hear Mikey curse again and Donnie couldn't help but think that he would probably never get used to that as the world disappeared and he fainted dead away.