Donnie comes back to consciousness, and experiences a backfire of pure agony for it.
He nearly passes out again, struggling to breathe through the waves of pain coursing through him. Everything hurts. Everything is pain. Donnie wants to die it’s so bad and he doesn’t even know why he’s hurting so much.
He doesn’t die, yet. He just keeps gasping wetly, and feeling something move hot and wrong as he does. There’s- there’s something wrong- very, very wrong with his body.
Donnie is terrified senseless. He doesn’t want to look. Not even the split second he’d felt the impact against a windshield- years ago- compares to the sickening pain he’s experiencing now.
His vision is blurry, hearing filled with just the scattered sound of his heartbeat- Donnie is looking up at the sky, which shouldn’t be a poisonous black and green. He can only see some of it, through a craggy opening in a black stone ceiling. He thinks he might be underground, but can’t remember why or focus on anything other than the roiling clouds above him.
The sky shouldn’t be that color. The sky is supposed to be blue. Not- not a noxious, dark storm-
Why isn’t the sky blue?
Then it all comes back to him.
Donnie’s memory restarts, just in time for him to figure out why he’s in so much agony, and how he ended up in this situation to begin with.
Donnie sobs, because he’s pinned under concrete rubble and he’s alone and they failed.
The sky is that color because they failed. And now the world is going to die.
Donnie is going to die. He’s dying.
Donnie sobs harder, gasping a scream as he lifts his head and contracts muscles that don’t want to move and send new waves of pain as he tries to force them. His left hand is sluggish to respond, and he feels broken knuckles and fingers in that appendage. The right one works fine, for all the good it does him at the moment. He’s pinned from the waist down, and it’s only partially because a few tons of rubble has crushed his legs.
He’s been impaled. Right through and into the stone beneath him.
Donnie stares, uncomprehendingly and with slowly dawning horror, at the length of metal lanced through his center.
Distantly, he assesses that this is why it feels like his lungs are filling with fluid. It’s because they are. He’s bleeding out and filling up at the same time and Donnie knows he’s got precious little time before he’s gone.
Outside his range of vision- which is limited, trapped in his tunnel- he hears wails and screaming. There’s sirens going off, the sound of buildings starting to fall apart-
It sounds like hell, and Donnie is inside a sinkhole right in the middle of it all.
He doesn’t know where his brothers are. He doesn’t know if they’re alive or dead. He doesn’t know if April and Casey are alive or dead, somewhere out in the increasing disaster zone above.
Donnie hiccups, trying to get a grip on his spiralling fears. He slows his breathing by sheer force of will alone. Panicking will just screw any chance he has at getting out of this alive. And Donnie isn’t ready to die yet. Not while his family is still out there, probably injured and in need of his help.
Donnie is in need of their help. But he’s all alone.
No one will get to him in time. He’ll have to solve this himself.
Donnie finally brings himself down to a baseline, shoving the terror and agony out of his immediate focus. He starts taking stock of what he has at his disposal. Which is nothing. He can’t move, only one arm is of any use, he’s bleeding out rapidly-
Donnie feels something stir and spark around his head.
-and he’s got Metalhead.
The thin band of metal circling his skull is intact, and functioning, against all the odds. It’s a miracle the device isn’t smashed to pieces, kind of like it’s a miracle Donnie’s head isn’t. Now that he’s not lost in a whirlwind of fear and pain and terror, Donnie asks the mental interface if Metalhead is still functional.
He gets a flash of systems online in his head, and Donnie laughs hysterically in triumph.
Come here, he commands, and he receives the on route right after. He knows Metalhead was left behind when they’d scaled up to the rooftop, where Leo had- had-
Donnie’s thoughts stutter for a moment, remembering his brother’s desperate face as he shoved them off the building and out of the way. Of the mutagen bomb, one of hundreds all over the world, designed to warp the entire face of the planet and every being living on it-
Donnie didn’t see Leo jump after them.
Another cracking sob comes out of him without permission, breaking his forced calm.
Donnie tries and fails to rapidly accept the fact that Leo was likely killed in the blast, directly exposed at close range. He keeps trying anyways. He keeps trying to accept the likelihood, if only to spare his pointless hopes being shattered later on- until rubble starts shifting, and the beeping of his favorite invention comes within hearing range.
Metalhead makes its way down the sinkhole, remarkably unscathed from being hit by a mutagen bomb. The only difference Donnie can immediately tell is that the originally silver paint of his creation is now an off-color green. Metalhead is alive and working at full capacity though, so Donnie could give less than half a shit that his paint job needs redoing. Nonorganic matter for the win.
He tries to speak as Metalhead approaches, and chokes on his own blood.
Donnie coughs, tears leaking out of his eyes as the motion jars his pinned torso. He can’t think for who knows how long- senses filled to the brim with agony as he tries to pull himself back together, even as the metal impaling him rips at his fragile insides. His hips shift as he coughs, and he feels things that should not move like that grind against each other. The thought please, end it already comes back to him, but less specific. Just the want for it to stop is all that really gets through.
His vision is going blacker on the edges. Heartrate stuttering for real, now. He’s so close. He’s so close that he can taste death among the iron and burnt salt on his tongue.
Donnie doesn’t know what to do. He can’t see anything beyond the hole to the sky above him, and he has no one coming to help him. He’s running out of time.
Donnie loses consciousness for a brief few minutes.
He comes back only because of his external senses, linked to him through Metalhead’s receivers and scanners. He hasn’t perfected them yet, still in the testing stages of being able to fully synchronize his brainwaves with a programmed code.
Donnie awakens again only because of those experimental syncs. His mind tries to fall asleep, to pass out and escape the excruciating pain, but Metalhead’s perimeter and health stats scanners jolt Donnie back to consciousness as his heartrate falls below a point.
His breathing is getting harder and harder to accomplish, the red puddle underneath him growing big enough to soak Metalhead’s feet- and Donnie stares at the little robot that survived everything, came to him, and has just saved his life.
And he gets an idea. A hysterical, insane idea.
Bend down, Donnie instructs, and raises his single working hand to pry open the panel on top of the robot’s skull. He forces his broken hand into working order, ignoring how one finger is bent the opposite direction is should be and the other ones turning a darker green by the second with thick bruises.
He pulls out wires and a mini keypad. He works fast and as accurately as he can, and takes off the program limiters for the experimental synchronization. He rewires a few things, double checks as reliably as he can, triple checks, and nearly blacks out again- only to have his senses reawaken and then expand.
He sees himself, in a sense, through Metalhead’s scanners. He gets the readings of his own dying body- chances of survival: 0000.3%- and of their surroundings of broken stone and metal. He sees his broken shell, legs, pelvis and hand- and he sees the slowing of his heartbeat.
Donnie has minutes- seconds left.
Donnie is going to die one way or another; it might as well be in a highly metal way, like Casey would’ve said.
Donnie shuts his eyes, and reaches into the unbarred connection between him and Metalhead.
Donnie loses all sensation. He doesn’t lose his sight. It just shifts perspective.
His watches heartrate drops to nothing, with the last beats pushing more blood out the torn holes in his scales and shell. It further stains his sensationless feet, dark red and shining in the apocalyptic light from the sky.
Donnie watches his own body bleed out, and die.
Donnie stands up, stiff metal unlike organic flesh in its responsiveness.
And he leaves his body without a glance backwards.
Donnie finds Raph.
He doesn’t find anyone else.
The world is filled with smoke and rubble, fires starting every block and inhuman things howling everywhere else. Donnie sneaks through it all, scanning frantically for any sign of his family. Negative, negative, negative- found.
Donnie locks on the location and moves fast as his new legs will carry him.
Raph landed aboveground, hard. He’s unconscious but breathing when Donnie finds his brother; blood trickling out his nose and leaving a darkening trail down Raph’s face. Donnie’s scanners say his brother has a 70% chance of survival if he receives the correct medical care for the concussion and hairline fractures to his skull. No other broken bones or profusely bleeding gashes; only minor bleeding from the gash along his crown. Raph is okay. He’s alive.
Donnie isn’t used to being smaller than his big brother. It feels wrong.
Donnie briefly wonders if someone can be in shock when they have no physical body anymore. He discards the thought right after.
Something tries to crawl over to them in their dark little alley, snarling with a garbled voice and moving with too many limbs in all the wrong places.
Donnie shoots it in the skull without a thought.
It flops over, steaming from the laser bolt to the head.
Donnie ignores it once its vitals drop to 0.
He picks up Raph by his armpits, and gets them the hell out of hell.
It’s as metaphorically hair-raising as the one before. Donnie has never had hair, and he certainly doesn’t now.
Raph is stable. He’s breathing easy and he regained consciousness a couple times over the course of the night and following day. The outward bleeding has stopped now that stitches are in place, and Donnie’s scanners report no signs of an internal continuation of it.
Donnie suspects Raph could suffer from brain damage. He’ll live, but with what effects from the injury? Donnie doesn’t know. He can’t do a full examination until Raph is lucid longer than a few moments.
Donnie preoccupies himself with protecting the barricade of their temporary hideout. Someone’s veterinary clinic, empty of animals and left with only wrecked cages. There’s blood on the floor, and Donnie knows it’s human, not animal.
He doesn’t know what happened to the animals or humans who’d been here. All he knows is that it’s a place that’s fortifiable, safe for the moment, and letting him heal his brother. It’s still terrifying whenever a screech or scream is too close outside the doors.
Raph doesn’t talk when he wakes in fits, just incomprehensible gibberish. Which is fine for the moment. Donnie isn’t speaking either.
He’s somewhat afraid to know what he’ll sound like in his new body. Like himself, or like a machine’s static feedback? He didn’t calibrate Metalhead to do anything more than act as a speaker when Donnie spoke through a microphone. How will the speakers work now that he’s speaking directly from inside them?
He’s too much of a coward to test them.
Donnie manages to upgrade his scanner though, giving it a range of 15 blocks instead of 8. He gets scans of shambling or darting creatures all day and night. None of them match the scan profiles of his family.
Donnie sits in silence all of day 1, waiting for Raph to wake fully.
Raph tries to stab Donnie.
“-who the hell are you?!” his brother bellows, holding a scalpel at what passes for Donnie’s eyes. Raph’s eyes are wide and terrified, and the way his hands are shaking is completely out of character. “Wha- what the hell are you?!”
Donnie speaks for the first time in two days.
“I-I-I’m Donnie, it’s me, Donnie!” Donnie hears his voice and doesn’t quite recognize it. It’s similar, but it’s also not. “Raph- calm down, it’s just me. I put myself inside Metalhead. It’s- it’s okay-”
Raph let’s go abruptly, stumbling backwards from Donnie. Donnie, unused still to his new body, stumbles as well and falls over with a clatter. As he picks himself back up, Raph stares at Donnie; breathing shallow and fast.
Donnie supposes it’s a bit of a shock, waking up and finding out your brother has transferred his consciousness into a homemade battle robot.
“Please be more careful with me, Raph,” Donnie says, trying to break the tense silence. “We can’t afford me going into sleep mode right now.” Raph keeps staring at him with scared eyes. “…Raph?”
“…what’s a Metalhead?” Raph asks eventually, staring at Donnie still. “And- who’s Donnie?”
Donnie doesn’t have a heart anymore, but something feels like it skips a beat and skids off its track.
Donnie slowly clenches his fists. He can’t feel the action; just register it in his sensors.
“…me,” Donnie says quietly, a prayer. “Donnie is me. I’m your brother. Like- like Leo, and Mikey. We’re your brothers. Remember?”
Raph’s brow furrows.
“I have brothers?”
Donnie can’t cry anymore, but in that moment, he wishes he could.
Raph forgets his own name for a few hours.
Donnie’s metal body and circuits somehow manage to have a panic attack. It’s something of a relief, to know he can still actually and really panic and not just feel the deadened sensations of programmed data receivers.
Raph yells at him a lot. Confused. Donnie barely keeps his brother from getting them killed by attracting former humans to their location. It’s then a struggle to keep Raph from running off altogether, just like it has been for days.
Donnie tries to think on the brighter side of things. At least they only have to find food and water for one person. All Donnie needs anymore is recharge time, to let the Dimension-X crystal powering him rest for a while or syphon off an electricity generator. He is desperately glad he’d perfected that energy source before all this, as well as added self-healing capabilities to Metalhead.
No, not self-healing. Self-repairing. Donnie doesn’t feel better when something slots back into working order inside his body- he just goes back to functioning at a 100%. It’s disconcerting, in truth, being unable to feel sensations properly.
He can’t feel it when Raph next wakes, freaks at the sight of Donnie, and punches him across the face. The startled “OW!” is only reflex.
In actuality, Donnie doesn’t feel anything at all.
Donnie still can’t find any sign of their family in the increasingly dangerous city. Raph continues to have amnesia and not know who Donnie, and sometimes who he himself, is. The settling feeling that this is it, there’s no reset this time, it’s over, finally sinks in completely.
Donnie calculates the chances of his brothers having survived whatever injuries they received, then the prior eight days, and comes up with a dishearteningly low number.
“…I wish master Splinter was here,” Donnie says in a crackling whisper, staring down at the ruined city from their current hiding spot. A rooftop which they had relative trouble getting up to. Half because Raph remembers and forgets his skills on and off, and half because Donnie is a tiny metal robot with short legs.
“Who?” Raph asks, in one of his better moods.
Donnie can’t think properly for a solid five seconds. Then, in a quiet voice, says, “Our father, Raph. Master Splinter was our father. He died two years ago.”
Raph scratches at the edge of his head bandages, squinting.
“…I don’t remember it. Him. Whatever.”
Donnie’s fists tremble on the stone ledge, his head lowering as he hunches.
He desperately, desperately wishes his father were here. Leo, Mikey, April and Casey- any of them. He wants them here to help him fix Raph and fix the world and bring sensation back to Donnie’s body.
Donnie wants a hug.
Raph hasn’t let him within five feet for days.
Donnie can’t cry.
He wishes he could.
Donnie gets fed up with being short and makes adjustments. He’s never going back from this; this is him now, so it might as well fit his mental image of who he is.
He makes himself taller, for starters. Much taller. He decreases as much of Metalhead’s bulk he can without compromising function. He gives himself a flexible shell, better motor skills, wider scan range. Redoes his whole design in the end.
He paints over the faded, sickly green of the impact blast with a rich dark one. Feels a flash of inspiration and replaces his lights so they’re purple.
Donnie looks at his reflection in the staff bathroom of the store they’re holed up in, and for the first time in days isn’t totally uncomfortable with the face that stares back.
He went with a sleeker design. Faster, nimbler. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do for now. He’ll tweak it more when he’s got time.
The blank face of his new self is somehow less disquieting to look at than Metalhead’s blocky fake turtle face was. The feeling of dysphoria had been so much worse with that looking back at him.
“…new look?” Raph asks when Donnie finally comes upstairs to the offices. He doesn’t startle today, or inch for his weapons, so Donnie takes the wary look in stride.
“I needed to be more like myself,” Donnie says, and he still can’t figure out how to perfectly replicate his voice, but its close enough now he can somewhat hear himself when he speaks. He spreads his arms, showcasing the new look with a bit of forced enthusiasm. “Think the others will dig it?”
“I don’t know, probably?” Raph says, unsure. “Which ones?”
Donnie sighs, the action useless without lungs. “Leo? Mikey? Casey? April? Any of them??”
“…are they into robot stuff?”
Donnie sighs again. It remains as pointless as before.
Grief takes Donnie, suddenly and violently, and he can’t stop replaying the final moments he saw all of his family.
His memory databanks are able to supply the images with perfect clarity. He sees Leo, shoving them all away with a stricken desperation to save their lives. He sees Mikey, looking up at the end of their world with a truly terrified expression. He sees Raph, as they raced to confront Kraang subprime, looking grim and determined to stop the attack. He sees Casey, cocksure and confident as he runs into the fray, acting as distraction so they can go on ahead. He sees April, alight and ferocious as she runs after Casey, crushing a wave of droids with her mind and going back to back with their human friend as the ranks closed on them. Donnie sees himself having to leave them, being unable to feel confident, finding no words to reassure his brother, missing Leo’s arm as Donnie grabbed for him-
Donnie sees them all, and he can’t seem to catch his nonexistent breath.
Raph is no comfort, still staring at Donnie like he’s a stranger as he stands motionless in the center of their latest hideout.
“What’s your problem?” is all he asks.
Donnie shakes his head slowly, and retreats into sleep mode before any further questions can be asked of him. It’s a brief escape from the torrent of horrific scenes in his head, but it’s a dreamless and dark one.
It’s both a relief and torture.
They finally leave the city.
It’s too dangerous. As good a place to find food and water it is, it’s crawling with mutagen warped humans. All of them feral and aggressive. Scattered among those mutants are sentient ones- animals given bigger, better, faster bodies and smarter minds. Donnie didn’t scan a single mutant that was even close to the signatures he was still, against all hope, looking for.
In the Shellraiser, retrieved from the abandoned lair through risky combat with a nest of mutants, Donnie and Raph drive out of what remains of New York.
As they do, following a road towards the farmhouse Raph still doesn’t recall, Donnie scans to the very edges of his range. And as he does, he feels dread settle inside him.
The world is dying.
All around them as they drive, Donnie’s sensors inform him the ground is filled with toxic chemicals and extradimensional waste. It’s soaking into the ground and killing every bioorganic being for miles.
Donnie can and can’t fathom the fact that the world is going to end like this. The slow death of vegetation and complete genocide of its top predators. His digital mind can comprehend it, but what he’s sure is the consciousness of himself just can’t.
It’s just… too horrible to accept.
He calculates how likely it is the ecosystem could recover from it naturally.
He gets a negative number.
Donnie stops calculating and scanning for a while. He turns back to going over again the downloaded files about brain damage and brain chemistry and memory problems in his databanks. He’s already memorized them all- he literally couldn’t have not memorized them- but he does so anyways to pass the time.
He reprocesses 650 articles in under an hour. He rereads them again. And again. And again.
Raph keeps driving. He still won’t let Donnie touch him. He still doesn’t remember who Donnie is.
He doesn’t remember anything of who they were. Are.
Donnie reads his articles and documents another few times, highlighting sections that could be useful in the future, when Raph trusts him enough to try treatments. It’s only so much of a comfort.
Raph still doesn’t completely remember who Donnie is, but he’s stopped waking up and forgetting their current situation. The memory gaps seem to only start prior to the cranial injury. Donnie isn’t sure to count that as a win or not.
The farmhouse was desolate when they got there. They’d lingered for a few days, Donnie upgrading himself with better weapons and tech from the Kraang ship in the basement, and Raph trying and failing to remember how to draw.
In the end, Raph had thrown out the sketchpad and pencils in a fit of anger. Donnie had stared at the crumpled papers and pencils in the garbage can, and had only tried once to get Raph to take back the items. His brother yelled at him and told Donnie to piss off if he knew what was good for him.
Raph didn’t even know they were his to begin with. They’d been a gift, from April to him, and she’d drawn on the first page a sketch portrait of Raph in it. A second gift, and Raph had given one back soon after; a sketch portrait of April, sparring with her own shadow.
Donnie had only been able to find her tessen blade among the wreckage. He hadn’t been able to find anything of Casey’s. Or Mikey’s, or Leo’s…
He’d found Raph’s sais.
Raph doesn’t know how to use them consciously anymore.
They leave the farmhouse behind and get on the road again, once Raph had used up his patience. Donnie leaves a message on the walls of the house- information about him and Raph, that they’re alive- and paints it broad as he can with the acrylics Raph threw out after his sketchbook. Donnie’s hands don’t shake, but that may just be because he’s fixed them to not.
There’s no destination for them as they drive away. There’s not really a goal to anything anymore, besides Donnie trying to help Raph remember.
It’s not going well.
Donnie is trying to not lose hope.
Raph has a particularly bad day and denies the idea that he ever had a father, brothers, or a family at all. He calls Donnie a creative assortment of names, mostly revolving around being a sentient kitchen appliance or a walking trashcan.
Donnie reminds himself it’s not something his brother means. He tries to, multiple times.
Weeks on end of hearing the same thing, on and off depending on the day’s moods, wears on a guy, though.
It brings back to him a question he’d asked himself, way at the beginning of his metallic existence, sitting on the floor of a veterinary clinic and asking himself about the implications of what he’d done.
Are his memories really his, or just downloaded imprints from the real Donatello?
Is Donnie himself, or is he copy of himself?
Is he really sentient, or just a very, very clever imitation of it?
And if he weren’t really himself, instead a snapshot impression of a real person- would he be able to tell? Would Raph be able to tell, should he remember? Would Donnie’s brother spot the critical mistakes and gaps in the façade and call him out as a loose cannon computer program?
Raph says he doesn’t have brothers, that Donnie isn’t of relation to him at all. Donnie stares at his metal hands and wonders if that might just be a possibility.
Where does one draw the line of beings with souls and life, and ones who lack those things, anyways?
Donnie can’t see the line anymore. And it terrifies him.
Raph won’t speak to Donnie for an entire day. He’s completely refusing treatment anymore for his memory gaps, and Donnie is reaching the end of his rope.
It’s been months, and Raph hasn’t shown even a hint of remembering their pasts. The one confirmation of anything Donnie has anymore is the broken fan from April and the trundling war truck he built himself. With the addition of his own body, of course, as altered from its original design it is.
But, are those even really confirmations? Donnie is the only one who remembers their true origins- to Raph, they just appeared in his life all those weeks ago. Including Donnie.
The only proof Donnie has to himself, out in the vast and growing wasteland, is his own memories. Which are coded, and were downloaded, and may not even be really his.
Donnie figures that even if he’s not a real person, at least he’s confirmed a robot can have an identity crisis all on its own.
Raph threatens to go off on his own, meaning it this time. Donnie barely manages to diffuse the situation before it actually happens.
Donnie spends a lot of time in sleep mode after that, or hiding in the systems of the Shellraiser. He’s tiptoeing around Raph for fear of sparking another fight, and as sick of that as he is Donnie can’t let the fights climax.
If he loses Raph, what would he have left? What would either of them have left?
There’s nothing but war and carnage between mutants right now- freshly made beings fighting to dominate and defend what they claim as theirs- and it somehow makes the relationship Donnie now has with his brother seem sane. Better he keep fielding Raph’s moods and memory slips than disappearing into a world without order, or care for a robot having an identity crisis.
Donnie uses sleep mode often, to escape the pacing thoughts in his head. He doesn’t like going over every minute detail he can recall about his old life and old self, constantly warring whether or not the evidence is negative or positive.
Donnie sleeps to the best of his ability.
He misses dreaming.
Donnie loses his arm.
It’s ripped right off him, by an enormous mutant that’s been unable to handle the stress of going from a regular bull to a sentient one. Donnie’s sensors scream at him, warnings and malfunction errors popping up all over his mind.
He doesn’t feel pain, still.
He’s lost an arm and he can’t even feel agony for it.
Donnie shoots the bull mutant in his leg, and tries to get back on his feet. The bull slams his fists down on Donnie’s back before he can, knocking things out of place underneath Donnie’s metal shell and making the warnings screech.
He vaguely wants to actually feel the pain of the blow. At least then he’d be feeling something.
Donnie is flipped over, and distantly registers the action of being gored by a bull’s horns.
Parts of his circuitry go dark, left limbs going dead and the right ones pinned by hoof-like hands- and Donnie wonders if this is when he’ll finally die.
He gets an awfully helpful error error error message from his energy levels. The crystal socket inside his chest is dangerously close to being punctured.
Donnie tries to twist his arm free, to shoot the foaming fucker goring him right in the head, but can’t get the whining hydraulics to respond.
Donnie is going to die.
He wonders if Raph will care at all when Donnie is gone.
His crystal’s socket blares silent alarms as it starts to give, and Donnie prepares to explode as it’s compromised.
Raph tackles the bull from behind, and stabs him through the eye with a sai.
Donnie’s chest is ripped open a little more as Raph bowls over the other mutant, and Donnie’s ability to see finally cuts out.
He’s trapped inside a black bubble, as senseless as he always feels, for a few moments. The only data he receives is blocky error messages and cheery information that his power source is nearly compromised.
Donnie doesn’t want to die like this. Alone, trapped in his own body.
A message pops up that something is touching him. Donnie tries to reroute emergency energy to his visuals, attempting to jumpstart the repair process without fully shutting down.
It works. He gets back visuals, and hearing, too, which he hadn’t even realized he’d lost.
“-onnie!” Raph is saying, shaking Donnie’s shoulders. “Donnie, answer me! Come on come on- god, please wake up- DONNIE!”
Donnie’s voice modulation is shot. He tries to speak and all that comes out is static filled tones. His right limbs twitch, his arm trying to raise itself and struggling.
“R-r---r-r--a--” Donnie’s voice box produces, crackling and garbled. He tries again and gets an error: malfunction message as the voice box shuts down. Donnie is trapped a little more inside his own personal hell.
Raph is holding him. Tightly.
His brother is actually hugging him for the first time in months.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry-” Raph says, over and over. “I should’ve been paying attention, I shouldn’t’ve turned off my phone just ‘cause I was pissed with you, I shouldn’t’ve been pissed in the first place- oh god Donnie I’m so sorry, don’t- don’t die on me, please-”
Error says his voice box. Donnie tells it fuck you and keeps trying to make it work. He tells his useless appendage to actually do its job while he’s at it, spamming the emergency self-repair protocols and rerouting them. His power source can survive another few minutes without assistance.
“Come on, little brother,” Raph says, voice cracking as he searches desperately for a sign Donnie isn’t dying. And maybe that’s what finally does it.
Donnie gets his stupid malfunctioning arm to finally land on Raph’s shoulder, metal hand clenching into the big coat Raph’s started wearing. His voice box comes back online, and even though it sounds nothing like himself, Donnie says,
“You- c-called me- yo--ur brother.”
Raph stares at him, eyes filling. And he nods.
“Yeah, yeah I did, I- I remembered, okay? I remembered,” Raph’s voice shakes. “You were- you were in danger, and I just- I remembered. Donnie I’m sorry I- forgot you. I can’t remember anything much, but I- I remember you.”
Donnie hasn’t felt warmth in months.
He feels it now, somehow, deep in his chest. It could be just his power crystal overheating, but he chooses to think of it as real feelings instead.
He misses feeling. He misses dreaming. He misses his family and he misses being sure of his own existence.
He missed his brother.
“Th-anks,” Donnie laughs, the sound flat and wrong. He hopes Raph knows he means well with it. “-bou-t t-t-tim-e, assho-le.”
Raph laughs, sounding not right either with the exclamation. Neither of them have really sounded all that right in a long while. It’s not that big a deal.
“—sle-e-p m-ode,” Donnie then manages, because he’s losing the battle to keep his body working without it totally crashing on him. He doesn’t want to shut down without warning, lest Raph really think he’s gone and died.
Donnie loses the fight a split second after he says that, but before all his senses shut down, he hears Raph say he’s got Donnie, he’s got him and he’s sorry and he’ll fix this. He’s not running off again. He won’t forget again. He swears, he promises.
Donnie hopes Raph keeps that promise. He was starting to sincerely doubt if his existence was valued or not.
Donnie is on his feet again, at 100% functional capacity.
It’s nice to not have a giant hole in his chest anymore; he’s getting a little tired of being impaled.
Raph is sitting by a fire when Donnie comes out of the Shellraiser, and it’s really, really great to see real recognition in his brother’s eyes. Not just oh it’s the robot again, but it’s my brother, Donnie.
And Raph actually smiles as Donnie drops onto the ground, something close to how he’d been before the world ended. Its close enough that Donnie feels a wave of nostalgia and grief, and wishes he could smile in return.
He misses emoting properly. There’s nothing about his body that does anymore.
He doesn’t think on that, and sits down next to Raph by the fire. It’s quiet for a while, Donnie updating his data with the few injuries that Raph received and is now healing from, and Raph staring at the fire.
“…how much do you remember?” Donnie finally asks after a while. “About me.”
Raph shrugs. “When you were getting torn up by that guy, I. I saw something similar, in my memories.” He glances towards Donnie, a hint of distress in his eyes. “What the hell kind of life did we live if it involved someone disintegrating you?”
Donnie laughs without really meaning to. Raph gives him a deeply offended look for it, and Donnie keeps laughing hard enough he imagines his sides would have ached.
Raph leans away from Donnie, understandably unnerved. “Is that somehow funny to you?”
“No- no it was awful,” Donnie says. He shakes his head, thinking back to that other moment he’d experienced death. Why has he died so many times in one life? He shouldn’t be able to more than once, but he’s been close or over the line multiple times. “It’s just… of all things for you to remember, you remember that specifically? Me getting molecularly scattered by our friend?”
“Our friend did that?!”
Donnie laughs again. That night seems so far away now, and the rift it’d temporarily put between him and April so small.
“She wasn’t in control of herself,” Donnie explains. “April got possessed by a crystal we picked up in outer space and it made her go crazy for a bit, that’s all.”
Raph looks absolutely disbelieving at that explanation. “Space?” He says incredulously. “How the fuck were we in space?”
“We got picked up by professor Honeycutt, and used time travel to go back and stop the world from being sucked into a black hole.”
“…okay full offense- what the fuck kind of explanation is that?”
Donnie shrugs. “Literally the story of our lives.”
Raph closes his eyes, breathes in slow, and rubs his temples. “I’m almost afraid to ask for context.”
Donnie chuckles. It’s a little empty feeling, since his chest doesn’t shake as he does anymore. They lapse into quiet for another while, just sitting next to one another under the dark night sky.
Donnie stares down at his hands, which whirr ever so softly as he clenches and unclenches them.
“What else do you remember about me?” He asks Raph after a while.
“…I remember you like machine stuff,” Raph says, and that’s an uplifting win all on its own. “and that you were taller than me. You- you always licked off the icing of the fucking poptarts and put them back in the box. Donnie, seriously?”
“What can I say? Poptarts icing is delicious,” Donnie doesn’t think about how he’ll never taste it again, even if they found some.
Raph snorts, then in a quieter voice, “And… I remember your full name. It’s Donatello.”
That makes Donnie cock his head, surprised. Raph hadn’t shown any signs of knowing more than their nicknames. It’s comforting to know Raph remembers the name now. “Did you remember anything else? Maybe about yourself?”
“…no. Sorry,” Raph slouches, frustrated with himself, and Donnie wishes he could sigh properly.
“Oh well,” Donnie says. “At least you know who I am, now. Getting stabbed every now and again was getting really annoying.”
Raph winces. “Sorry for that, too. A nosy talking robot was kinda too much for me to handle for a while there.”
Raph punches Donnie’s shoulder. He doesn’t bother saying ow at the impact. His sensors inform he’s been hit by something, and that’s about it.
“I miss being able to feel things,” Donnie says abruptly, because that’s been on his mind for months now. Raph hadn’t been willing to do more than trade small talk most days, let alone in depth conversations about Donnie’s growing struggle with being a senseless robot.
Raph stares at him for a moment, and says, “…shit, I didn’t even think about that. You really can’t feel- anything?”
Donnie opens and closes his hands. He feels none of the action. “Not a single bit. I’m metal, Raph. Metal doesn’t feel things.”
“But- you can tell when I’m touchin’ you, right?”
“My sensors can. I can’t.”
“…Jesus Christ, Donnie. I’m so sorry.”
Donnie laughs, bitter and tired despite having a full charge. “I got to survive having my entire lower half crushed and my chest impaled, but at what cost? I can’t fucking feel anymore, Raph. I think I’m actually forgetting what sensation feels like. What’s the point of living through all that if I can’t even be categorized as alive anymore?”
Raph is staring at Donnie with mild horror. Donnie feels horror about the whole thing himself. But is he really? Or is he just recalling what that feeling was like?
“Can something without a heartbeat or a brain be called a living creature?” Donnie asks. “Can something that can’t produce the necessary chemical reactions to induce emotions be called a thinking, feeling being? Raph, am I really me or did Donatello die in a fucking sinkhole and I’m just the computerized version of his memories?”
The questions Donnie hasn’t been able to answer hang in the air, and the longer Raph’s silence drags out the more Donnie imagines it to hurt.
He can’t feel anything, nothing at all. Are his emotions real? Are his reactions real? Is anything about the self he has now real?
Or is he really just an automated, walking-talking memory bank for someone else?
“Holy shit,” Raph breathes. “Are you having an identity crisis?”
Donnie barks laughter, throwing his hands up. “Yes, but I think it’s safe to say at this point I’m having a full-fledged existential crisis!” He clutches at the sides of his metal skull, feels nothing, and wishes he could scream properly. “Am I just playing out a programmed role, am I just using downloaded memories as a baseline for my actions, is anything about me fucking real anymore? Was it EVER? I can’t tell, Raph! I can’t fucking tell!!”
He draws himself into a ball, miserable and scared and unsure if those emotions are even his own. He wishes he could feel the ground, or the wind, or maybe the way he’s clawing at his own body. It just makes metal on metal scraping sounds, and he feels none of it.
“…maybe I’m not him,” Donnie whispers. “Any living person would have gone insane after this long in sensory deprivation. Maybe I haven’t because I never was one to begin with.”
A pause, then,
“Or maybe you’re the stubborn asshole I remember you being and can do what no one else can.”
Donnie doesn’t raise his head, but he does turn it towards Raph. His brother- but is Raph really that?- is looking at him with concern and actual care, and Donnie tries to focus on that instead of questioning his own existence.
“…yeah?” He asks quietly.
Raph jerks a nod. “Fuck yeah. I don’t remember a whole lot, but I know you had endurance to do pretty much anything. Still have endurance to do anything. If anyone could survive like this, it’d be you.”
“But am I really him? Really me?” Donnie asks again. “How do you know I’m not just using set parameters to fake emotions?”
“Are you feeling like shit right now?”
“I guess, yeah-”
“You feel like shit when you got torn up?”
“You still care about me? About our brothers and friends?”
“Yes.” That answer comes without hesitance. Donnie, whether he’s real or not, would give his life a third time for them.
Raph nods to himself, and says firmly, “Then I’d say that’s enough on its own.”
Donnie stares at his brother, and really misses being able to emote utter disbelief.
“That- that doesn’t prove anything!” Donnie exclaims.
“Proof enough for me you’re real,” Raph says even more firmly.
“Well it’s not enough for me, and I’m the one actually having the crisis here!” Donnie wants to be hyperventilating. He feels this would the moment he would do that. His body remains as lifeless as it’s been since he entered it- or awakened in it, maybe. “Raph- if I’m not really alive, not really Donatello, then I’m not your actual brother either! All of my memories are just code and I’m just code!”
Raph doesn’t budge with his expression of absolute certainty, and Donnie’s shoulders slowly slump.
“…how can you be so sure I’m me?” Donnie asks in a small voice.
“Because I remember shit all about myself, but I remembered you,” Raph replies. “and this is exactly the sort of nonsense you’d tie yourself up in knots about. You think too hard about this stuff, Donnie. Say you aren’t the original Donnie- who gives a shit? I’m definitely not whoever the hell I was before all of this, and I don’t care. You were there the first moment I woke up and you’ve stuck around ever since, even after I stabbed you like, six times.”
“Eight,” Donnie corrects automatically. Raph gives him and a flat look.
“Point being,” Raph continues. “if you aren’t him, I’m not the old Raph either, and the rest of the world could give less than a shit about who either of us are now. The important thing is that you give a shit about me, and I give a shit about you. That’s more than anyone else does, and I think that’s good enough.”
Donnie tries to accept that ideology, but…
“…but I want to be him. I want to be me.”
“Then that’s who you are,” Raph says, and Donnie wishes he could just believe that.
Donnie shakes his head, and something like a feedback whine is coming out of his voice box. No error messages pop up to explain why that’s happening, and Donnie adds a mental note to give himself another checkup later. See what the problem is now.
He’s distracted by Raph roughly tugging him into a hug.
“What’s this for?” Donnie asks, trying for light and just sounding unhappy.
“You’re crying,” Raph says, like that’s even possible for Donnie anymore.
“I- Raph I physically can’t cry. Robots don’t cry.”
“Sounds like crying to me,” Raph says quietly, hugging Donnie even tighter. “so I guess you’re not a robot.”
Donnie laughs at the absurdity of that sentence. He has no pulse, no brain waves, he runs on a battery- what else could he be?
His hands shouldn’t be shaking as he clings to his brother. He fixed that weeks ago.
“I missed you,” Donnie says quietly, even though there’s a million other things he should be saying right now.
“I missed you, too,” Raph replies, just as quiet.
Donnie puts his head on Raph’s shoulder, cutting out any visuals besides the rough fabric of Raph’s thick coat, and wonders why he feels breathlessly relieved without lungs.
Donnie comes to the conclusion that Raph is right. Raph isn’t Raphael from before, and Donnie hasn’t held it against him for even a second. Raph is just Raph, whether he remembers growing up in the sewers or being a ninja, and Donnie hasn’t stopped loving him through everything that’s happened.
So maybe he can accept that Raph doesn’t hold it against Donnie for not properly being Donatello. Maybe Donnie can figure out how to not hold it against himself.
…it might take a while for that to work, but Donnie is willing to try.
“You still feel like a fake person today?”
“…a little, I guess-”
“Cool, then I guess a fake person won’t mind if I play his least favorite album on repeat and full blast for the next five hours.”
“Oh god no please don’t play Nickelback all the way to Ohio. I’m a real person, Raph, I’m a real person-!”
Donnie whines and complains loud as he can as his absolute least favorite Nickelback album starts up in the stereo, but he doesn’t actually mind the teasing or torture.
Robots don’t have extremely strong preferences against Dad Rock CD’S, and they don’t have asshole big brothers to bully them out of bad thought tracks.
Donnie feels a little more alive, bitching all the way across the border to Ohio, and having Raph bitch right back about Donnie’s shitty indie rock tastes.
“You could literally just turn off your hearing, Don.”
“Oh and deprive myself of your dulcet fucking tones?”
“It’d be a lot quieter if you’d deprive me of yours.”
Donnie hooks himself into the speaker system, and turns the volume way up. “HOW’S THIS, ASSHOLE?”
Raph swerves, shaking the whole Shellraiser. “Jesus CHRIST, DONNIE-!”
Donnie cackles, and refuses to disengage from the speakers even as his brother chucks drink cups and garbage wrappers at him. The fight is only settled when they agree to put aside personal tastes for a bit, and just listen to a bit of Queen for the next hundred miles.
“Did you give yourself ears?” Raph laughs, taking in Donnie’s new additions.
“No, I gave myself a boost in scanning and receiving power,” Donnie says matter of factly. His new antennae flip upwards, matching the humorous mood he’s in. It feels so good to be able to give himself expression again, even just this much.
Raph watches Donnie’s antennae flip around a bit, and smirks. “Yeah, and they look like little bunny ears.”
“Maybe so,” Donnie says.
“But?” Raph prompts.
“But nothing, just maybe they do look like bunny ears,” Donnie says, and Raph laughs again.
In truth, they’d been something of a tribute to his old mask. Now though, Donnie accepts that bunny ears might be alright as well. Raph hasn’t worn his mask in weeks, switching instead between caps as they collect them.
Donnie keeps his tribute to himself. It’s something just for him, this him, and he’s a little proud of that.
Days 78 – 94.
Raph gets bits and pieces of Donnie’s past self- little things they’d talked about, phrases, just everyday stuff that come and go in clarity- and he still forgets them on and off afterwards.
But, he doesn’t forget who Donnie is, or that they’re bothers, so Donnie doesn’t mind too much.
He remembers Mikey suddenly, on day 88, while Raph is eating what might one of the last cans of peaches in the world.
Maybe it’s the orange color that does it, or the sweetness like the confectionaries Mikey would bake on a rare occasion- and it triggers a flash of memory in Raph’s mind.
Donnie has to catch the peaches from Raph’s limp hand, and then his brother as he buckles.
“Mikey,” He says hoarsely, and his hands twist in the dirt. “Oh my god- he- I remember him. Donnie, I remember him.”
Donnie sets down the peaches, scanning Raph on reflex, even though he knows the pain is an emotional one. He registers a kick in heartrate, a flux in Raph’s brainwaves-
And Raph tears up, curling on himself. A hoarse, cracking sob follows.
That’s enough of a sign that whatever he’s remembered, it’s hurting him badly.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Raph says, voice broken, and Donnie can’t even deny that.
“I know,” Donnie says softly, curling around his brother as he shakes. “I can’t either.”
Raph remembers Mikey after that point, but he forgets their brother’s name a couple times, too. It’s a frustrating cycle for both of them- Raph struggling to deal with a connection that fades and brightens without warning, and Donnie struggling to not despair when the connection is at its faintest.
They make do, around the tremulous feelings and memories. In a world that’s still in the process of being reborn, there’s not much else they can do.
“Who’re April and Casey?” Raph asks over breakfast. Him with some instant oats in a cup and Donnie plugged into a generator they found in the store basement. “You talk about ‘em sometimes.”
Donnie thinks about that for a moment.
“…they were our best friends,” He says, watching dust drift through the sunbeams that shine in from outside. “They were our family.”
Raph stirs his cup a bit, taking a bite.
“Do you think there’s any way they survived?”
Donnie already ran those numbers months ago. April had had a high chance, given her inhuman DNA and powers. Casey though... well, what comes to Donnie’s mind is all the times his friend had bragged about being undefeatable, indestructible- and all the times he’d been injured anyways.
“I wouldn’t put it past them,” Donnie settles on, because April had and still might be the something of a human inferno when she felt like it, and Casey is Casey. If any humans and partial humans could have survived the mutagen bombs, it would be those two.
Raph grunts. He eats a little more of his oatmeal. “I like the sound of that Jones kid. I think he’s my sort of guy. April doesn’t sound too shabby, either.”
Donnie snorts. “Considering the number of macho man contests you and Casey got into, and how many times April wiped the floor with us all in training- yeah, I’d say they’re your people.”
Raph grins, and then asks, “Do you miss them?”
Donnie doesn’t even have to think about that one.
Donnie finds a collection of paints that survived; deep in the recesses of someone’s abandoned home.
He looks at the brilliant colors, and decides something.
He paints the exact measurements and design of April’s star patch on his chest. The tessen got broken ages ago. This is something he can repaint over and over, so long as he has paints to do it.
There’s a black bandana in the person’s studio, too.
Donnie takes it with him, clutched in his fist.
Raph doesn’t really recognize the symbols for what they are, but a flicker of something close to that is in his eyes when Donnie shows up again; yellow and red on his chest and a black bandanna wrapped around his wrist.
It’s enough that he doesn’t feel like they’re completely gone.
They find an intact human skull near their latest rest stop, missing its front teeth.
Donnie is admittedly desensitized to horror at this point, and can’t stop himself from joking that the skull reminds him of Casey. Raph seems to get something of a memory flash from it, and suggests with a wicked grin they make a tribute with it.
Donnie ties the black bandanna around the skull, once they’ve wired up the self-destruct bomb. He laughs to himself, and figures it’s something Casey would’ve appreciated more than just a plain old wristband.
Besides, it’s not like Donnie could ever forget the one and only Casey Jones. Even Raph, in all his amnesic glory, hasn’t properly forgotten Casey Jones. No one who has ever met Casey Jones could forget him, whether they wanted to or not.
Donnie pats the skull after he’s done, and imagines Casey laughing himself sick over the tribute. It’s a good image.
Raph remembers Leo, briefly.
It’s long enough to cause another breakdown, before he compartmentalizes the memories again. Donnie watches as Raph cries himself out, and then forgets why he’d been doing so hours after.
He hasn’t remembered April or Casey longer than a few seconds, or more clearly than a few flashes. Their father, either. Just listened to stories about their humans and their parent, and seemed wistful and frustrated. Donnie doesn’t know if those memories will resurface any time soon.
But, at least Raph remembers somewhat that there were more than just the two of them. It’s enough Donnie doesn’t feel as alone as he could, with his senseless body and digital memories.
Donnie’s comes to the conclusion large memory recollections may have more adverse effects than they do positive ones. Raph can’t handle the bulk of his memories, likely because of just how horrible a lot of their life experiences have been, and keeps compartmentalizing them whenever they surface.
Donnie doesn’t blame him for not wanting to remember parts of his life. They’ve been through a lot of bad patches.
He still wishes Raph remembered, though.
He settles a compromise with himself. Donnie will just keep talking casually about their pasts, and let the memory recollections come and go as they do. No more pushing for Raph to remember constantly. The healed scar across his skull is a reminder how much damage Raph had gone through, and is still going through as they figure out life in the wasteland.
Donnie is a little lonely still, but Raph is still himself, and treats Donnie like himself, so amnesia can be tolerated.
It hurts. It will probably always hurt. But Donnie will take what he can get. What he can keep.
Days 115 – 130.
Donnie observes the scattered collections of mutants have started forming societies. Individual clans and social codes for each one.
It’s a little strange and some part of him is awfully jealous of them, whenever he and Raph roll through friendly settlements. Well, friendly is a loose term. It’s mostly just the ones that don’t shoot on sight that could be considered that.
There’s still a lot of warring, and infighting, and just general chaos all around- but mutants as establishing themselves as real people now. They’re making a place in a toxic world full of danger and drought.
Donnie wishes he was still properly alive, so he could be a part of it. As it stands, he’s an oddity even now. Automated machines are highly, highly rare in the wastelands- let alone ones that snark back when they’re ordered to do something.
Donnie mourns the fact that the brief few months he hadn’t been a freak of nature, up in space, are long since passed. He less so mourns the fact that he’s not starving or dying of thirst. It’s hard enough keeping Raph fed and hydrated; if Donnie needed sustenance too they might really have trouble.
It doesn’t stop him from watching food being eaten, even rancid or scavenged, and wishing he could eat some too.
“…Raph what if none of this is real? What if it’s just the last of my thoughts spasming as a rock crushes my skull? What if it’s your thoughts spasming as a rock crushes your skull?”
“…Donnie it’s three in the morning, what the fuck.”
“Or! This could all be a simulation my real self created out of boredom, to see how artificial intelligence copes with the landscape we’ve been placed inside of. I wouldn’t put it past me. Real me was awfully dark when he didn’t sleep enough and got into the caffeine pills.”
“Oh. My god. Shut up.”
“You should listen to me more closely, Raph. I might be accomplishing self-awareness as we speak.”
“Could you be self-aware of what an enormous asshole you are?”
“Yes. I’m enjoying it.”
“Holy fuck go back to sleep.”
“I have a full battery charge, Raph, sleep mode is at least ten more hours away-”
“Nervous breakdowns are better when they’re shared, Raph.”
“…I honestly have no idea why you’ve grown hair,” Donnie says, examining the furry monstrosity making itself at home on Raph’s face. “Maybe it’s the mutagen particles saturating our atmosphere?”
“What do they have to do with this?” Raph asks, batting Donnie’s hands away from his mustache. Donnie wants to shave it right this second. It’s horrible on so many levels.
“Well, my scanners say these have the genetic makeup of something close to a plant, and you were assimilated into being a swampthing’s pet for a while there. This might be your former status as an enthralled plant creature making a comeback.”
“…the words that just came out of your mouth actually make less sense than anything else you’ve ever said.”
“I don’t have a mouth. Did you know I had to syphon the infection out of your system practically by hand? That was one heck of a night, whew. I had to invent a whole new procedure in under an hour. The infection itself was quite interesting, though. It was very similar to some fungi that’s found in the rainforests near the equator, taking over the host’s mind once infected and compelling them to climb up into the canopy to get at sunlight-”
“Then please shave your face, Raph. I don’t have a stomach anymore and I feel sick looking at it. Turtles shouldn’t have hair.”
“But you just said it’s a plant thing.”
“It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s disgusting.”
Raph smirks at him. “Maybe I’ll keep it.”
Donnie recoils in horror. “Oh my god you wouldn’t.”
“Raph. You’re disgusting.”
The cussing out Donnie gets afterwards is so worth it, once he’s blowtorched off Raph’s horrendous facial hair.
They’re legal adults today, according to the thoroughly desecrated government that used to run the country.
Donnie and Raph share a toast under the night sky, a slightly lonely celebration.
“We are now exactly one year older,” Donnie says, throwing his empty cup over his shoulder. “How do you feel, Raph?”
“Dunno,” Raph says. He drains his cup of bubbling water they’d been saving. “I don’t really remember anything before this. How about you?”
“Oh I don’t really age anymore. In fact, so long as I never go BOOM, I’m functionally immortal now!” Donnie says brightly. “I’ll probably live decades longer than you do, and anyone else who is currently living in the wasteland. I promise I’ll give you a good burial, should I survive whatever horrible catastrophe finally gets you. What do you want on your grave, Raph?”
“…existential crisis, again?”
“Ohhhh big time.”
Donnie is staring the prospect of a life without definite end. Raph is growing older, while Donnie is remaining ageless. If he isn’t blown up, or carved into pieces for scrap metal, then Donnie will have to watch his brother die slowly without him. And he’s not sure he can take that.
Raph claps Donnie on the shoulder, and then drags him across the rock they’re sitting on to hold Donnie in a one armed hug.
“I’m not dying yet, Donnie. I’m gonna be a pain in your ass for years to come. I’m not gonna leave you alone any time soon, and you can count on that. I’m not going anywhere.”
Donnie laughs, viciously wishes that promise could be kept without any doubts, and shares his twenty first birthday with the only member of his family he still has.
Donnie realizes he doesn’t remember what it felt like to touch someone else.
He realizes he’s forgotten what April’s hand felt like, or Casey’s hoodies, or Leo’s mask tails, or Mikey’s shell, or his father’s fur…
He remembers, but he doesn’t. And something in him breaks because of it.
He has to let it go. Keep moving forwards.
Stopping now might just break him in ways that will last.
Donnie wonders what happened to their alter timeline selves, way up there in the cosmos. He wonders what happened to Renet and all her time shenanigans. He wonders if any of them see what’s happened to his world, his family, him- and turned their backs on them purposefully.
He’s not sure he can properly resent them. Fixing an entire world that’s completely and thoroughly fucked over is a daunting task.
He still wonders what the fuck they’re doing, though. He hopes the other version of himself and his family get to have better lives, and he hopes Renet knows he can’t quite forgive her for not preventing the apocalypse.
One full year since the world got turned on its head, rearranged, and reborn.
They drive near the borders of New York, meet colonies of deranged and mutated former-humans, and deduce NYC is no more hospitable to sentient life than it was last year.
Donnie decides to give up on hoping they’ll find their family. They’ve driven from one side of the country to the other, and Donnie has scanned every single settlement or roving gang. He’s found not even a trace of their family members.
If they’re out there, in the vastness of the growing deserts, Donnie doubts they’re ever going to run into them.
He really misses his family. He misses the ease of long distance communication. He misses the fucking internet.
Donnie wonders briefly if his body has decomposed fully, somewhere in the hellhole New York has become. He morbidly wonders what it would be like, looking at his own skeleton.
And it is his. Like his brother had said, at this point, who really cares besides Donnie if he’s the original or not? Donnie’s decided that even if he is a copy, or an imprint, or a snapshot of someone else- then fuck it, he’ll live his life anyways.
He’s alive as anyone in the wastelands. He’s trying to survive in it just like everyone else, he’s fighting for resources and to protect the people he cares about. He’s carving out a life in the fallout of an apocalypse, and he’s got as much right as any other thinking, feeling, caring being to call himself alive.
And Raph calls him his brother, and that’s enough for Donnie. That’s enough.
Donnie gives a small prayer as they drive away from New York. He’s never been very religious, or even spiritual, but he’s someone who transferred their entire self into a new body. Maybe miracles are real, maybe someone is listening.
He’s not searching for his family anymore, but he still sends out a prayer that if they’re alive, that they’re doing alright.
He prays a little harder for April and Casey. Between the two of them, tempers and split second decisions feeding off one another and coming out explosive for it, Donnie is entirely sure they’ll have gotten themselves into the worst dangers out of all of them.
He remembers again, the last time he’d seen them. Back to back as the droids closed in, looking absolute in the face of an army and ready to take every enemy on without hesitance, even with blood and bruises all over them.
Donnie wishes he’d said goodbye, or good luck, before they separated.
Donnie prays for his best friends, and hopes whoever is looking down on his miserable planet will hear a robot’s prayers, too.
He misses them as fiercely as he does his brothers, every single day. And he hopes they’re okay.
Day 0, Donnie brought himself back to life. Day 1, he asked himself if he really had or not.
Day 7803, he doesn’t care anymore.
The sun is merciless, scorching the world with a temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, and Donnie feels none of it on top of the Shellraiser’s roof. He sits in his gun chair, watching and scanning the miles that roll by, and keeps his cooling systems from letting his internal mechanisms overheat.
Raph is inside, uncomfortably hot and bitchy because of it. Donnie leans back and feels a little smug that he can look at the sun directly, and practically lounge beneath it, without issue.
Part of him still wants to feel the sun. Still wants to have a pulse and hunger pangs and the need to drink water. He still wants the ability to dream again, to feel the texture of Raph’s scales and scars when he stitches his brother up, and to maybe shed tears, just once more.
He tries to focus on his battle ready body, and how well he can protect Raph without ever needing more than a few hours to recharge between fights. He tries to focus on the fact that he’s figured out how to rip songs directly out of his memories and hook them into the stereo systems. He tries to focus on the fact that even after Raph is gone, Donnie will still be around to remember his brother and all of their family.
After a few years of practice, he’s gotten pretty good at succeeding.
Donnie hums a melody their father used to, when he was dicing vegetables in the kitchen for dinners. A melody Donnie remembers humming along with back then, Mikey adding nonsense lyrics as he saw fit, and Leo and Raph joining in for the chorus. A melody that will forever be perfectly preserved in Donnie’s databanks, even if he lives another two hundred years.
It clashes with the loud rock music Raph is playing inside the war rig, but Donnie kind of enjoys the clashing.
There’s not a cloud in the sky, they’ve got another four hundred miles before the next settlement, and Donnie can’t feel even a hint of the sun’s rays.
He figures it’s quite the lovely day.