It had been a long four
It had been a long eight years.
The memories of his brothers’ demise were forever etched into Donatello’s mind. Every ounce of blood. Every inch of viscera. Every decibel their wails had made in the throes of death. Don could not forget a single moment of what he saw, no matter how much he tried.
Even harder to forget was the feeling in that moment. The panic he felt as his body began to uncontrollably shake, or the adrenaline that surged through him as he got up to run to the nearest body. Despite seeing Raphael’s intestines next to him on the floor, his mind could not register that his brother was dead. That any of his brothers were dead. It took April and Casey together to pull Donatello out of the same path of danger that had decimated his siblings, and had it not been for them he would have joined them in their demise.
Had his mind not refused to accept their deaths, he likely would have wished to join them.
No, Donatello instead had another idea. He spent day in, day out, doing research on cloning. Research on the documented affects of mutagen on as many species as he could. Lord was Donnie grateful to Kurtzman during the early stages.
Those days quickly turned to weeks, then months. In time, both April and Casey found themselves unable to reach him. No, it was more that they didn’t understand him. They were so quick to accept that his brothers were gone, that they were willing to overlook the potential possibility of returning them to life. To him. Donatello was certainly upset at their abandonment, but he knew, deep down, as much as he loved April (and as much as he tolerated Casey), neither of them could properly understand what he was going through. They could try, certainly, and they definitely did, but when it came down to it what Donatello and his brothers shared was a bond beyond words.
A bond he knew he could restore, with the right tools, time, and a great deal of patience.
He could never begin to explain to his three younger brothers the process with which he used to bring them back to life. The cruel, unusual methods with which he tested the cloning process. The multiple failures that came before them.
If Heaven exists, Don was certain he would never see it.
It was worth it, though. It was all worth it just to see his brothers again. Just to give them that second chance they all deserved. Of course the cloning process wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t as if Donnie could merely duplicate his brothers as they were prior to death. He would have to start from scratch. Three tiny infant mutant turtles with no prior knowledge of the life they lived before. No knowledge of the friends they used to have, the father who loved them dearly, or the experiences and hardships they had endured together.
It was better this way, Donnie thought. This time they would all be safe. They’d all be happy.
After four years of raising his (now baby) brothers, Donatello was hoping he’d be more comfortable with the situation. With his care giving and proper medical examinations, the three of them were growing up happy and healthy, even if their living conditions left as much to be desired as they had before. While he had kept his brothers’ bedrooms in spotless condition, they were still not old enough to be comfortable in their own rooms, preferring to sleep in Donnie’s bed together. Sometimes the three of them would take up the cot in his lab, if there was a night where he simply wouldn’t be able to join them in his room proper.
They weren’t old enough to train yet. Donnie wasn’t even sure if he was going to allow it or not. He still had time to make that decision, and to him it wasn’t one to make lightly, considering everything that had happened before. Despite that Donatello still did his best to teach them of the traditions that Splinter had taught them before his passing. Though the three would have no idea who ‘Splinter’ was, the wisdom he imparted on them would remain. Donnie would make certain of that, if nothing else.
As they grew, Donnie was happy to find their personalities remained relatively in tact. Leo was still calm, commanding, and oddly, eager to please his older sibling. Leo always did have great respect for authority; Donnie simply wasn’t used to being that authority. Still, it was nice to see Leo viewing him as someone to look up to. Unfamiliar, but not at all unwelcome.
Raph grew to be rowdy, reckless, and very impatient. Donatello was surprisingly relieved to find he was just as much a crybaby now as he was when Donnie was growing up with him. Back then he could find it grating from time to time. Now he welcomed Raph’s more obnoxious temper tantrums. Not only was it a nostalgic familiarity, but it furthered the feeling that his family was once again whole.
Mikey was the same too. Often Donnie would have to stop what he was working on to break up a fight caused by Mikey’s little ‘pranks’, or be pulled away simply because Mikey wanted to occupy all of his brother’s time. It was very difficult to resist lavishing Michelangelo in attention; his sweet expression and charming words all but called for it. In turn Mikey became Donnie’s favorite to hold, and though it could be vexing to be torn away from his current work, he was more than willing to do so for any one of them. They were united again, and his brothers were perfect.
That was the problem. They were too perfect.
The longer Donnie lived with them, and despite how much like his brothers they were, there were little details that would remind him that they were, in fact, not the genuine article. Their plastrons were perfectly smooth and unscratched, for one. There wasn’t a single scar on any of them. Raph’s plastron especially felt like a blemish to Donatello. He’d never known his brother to have a perfectly flawless plastron. As grateful as he knew he should be, this Raphael especially stuck out like a sore thumb because of that fact.
It was a painful reminder that these were merely duplicates. That the original brothers he had sought to get back were gone from him forever.
That harsh reality often brought him to the edge of sanity, he felt. There were times, for example, when Don would look at his little brother’s plastron and consider damaging it himself. Taking a sharp object to the upper left corner of his chest plate and carve out that familiar shape all on his own. He wouldn’t cause Raph harm, no. Donnie would never do that, though he was certain his brother would need to be heavily sedated and numbed during the operation. And chipping his shell would be a lot more difficult.
Whenever his mind went to these places, Donatello could feel himself fight back the urge to vomit. The very idea that he would want to do such a thing to any of them, these precious boys, these marvels of modern science, filled him with revulsion for himself. Had he slipped so far over the years that he would let small details not only overshadow his common sense, but his own morality?
No, he would always tell himself. Even if his brothers weren’t exactly the same as before, they were still his brothers. His family. He could never lose sight of that, especially after all the time and effort it took to reunite with them again. Things were different, but that had to be good. Yes, this time, nothing bad was going to happen to them.
Donnie would be lying if he said he never considered the idea that they would be better off with someone else. The fear of losing himself loomed ever closer to him with each passing mental note of his siblings’ perfect imperfections. In the end, though, he knew he couldn’t stand to part from them.
Without them he would have nothing.
Without them, he was nothing.