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Donnie's Better Half

Chapter Text

Together the turtles and their Master quietly scurried from Don's lab and to the lair's central chamber, where their trespasser was searching through one inter-connected tunnel. And while its concentration fleetingly dabbled elsewhere, the ensemble of mutants met as one behind the sofa. Being the last to join them, however, other Don and Raph sought out cover from the nearby armchairs instead. Their shells scarcely covered even by the furniture's high peripheral.

Future Don curiously ran his fingers across the alien band he had by now deactivated. "Their devices have a built-in radio transmitter. They must've detected unusual activity and tracked ours."

"Yeah, thanks for picking it up and leading them straight to our lair! Got any more bright ideas?"

"When he turns his back again, we all make a run for it. If that's alright with you, Raph."

Sure enough, within the next few moments, their intruder cornered itself in the depths of their lab. Now totally evading their line of sight. Their Master directed with a wave of his hands for his sons to come closer.

"What?" Other Don said, searching his older half. Primarily as to ponder where they would run to, exactly. And his brothers appeared equally befuddled.

However, they were all in far too much of a hurry to take advantage of what could very well be their best, and only chance, of getting out of there. For which reason, they desperately pushed one in front of the other. Darting for the lair's exit. A colony of beetles rampantly scuttling towards their sole point of solace, even if it meant tearing their formation apart.

And at their unforeseen haste, bar their Master that could seldom control his sons' negligence, gentle footfalls grew more frantic. The alien species preying upon them--perhaps aided by advanced hearing--soon caught wind of their intense scramble. Crowing a deafening noise, it emerged from the lab. On its appearance, pounding a fist into the ground that lightly crackled beneath.

Mikey cried out a short way in front, ambling along to their escape though careful as to not leave the others behind. The alien itself proved to be opportunistic, as it pursued them through the madness in an equally mad flurry; bent on all fours. Near the main sewer entrance, Mikey outreached his arm. But just before he could make his way out, the nothing short of hostile creature flew in front. Clawing the entrance above to which the ceiling rumbled and shook.

Tonnes of bricks and concrete collapsed over, and Mikey flipped back before it could take him down with their only functioning exit. Nunchucks at hand, clenching them, Mikey briefly squared off against the horned creature until it inevitably broke out in a run for him. Watching amidst the oncoming battle behind his Master and Raph, Future Don firmly laid his hands on his hips.

"You guys seriously need to stop asking questions and just do what I say!--"

Pausing to make an observation might not have been the best idea, as the monster en route to Mikey was not about to stop for future Don's stationary reminisces. It rammed straight into him, hurtling Don to the ground. Though momentarily dazed by the collision, he quickly brought himself to his knees. Trying to crawl away.

Their invader had by now launched itself at Mikey, who, in desperation, threw down a book shelf in the hall. Smacking his chucks at his foe. Despite making little impact, the creature caught off-guard stumbled back a slight. Snapping its daunting gaze, it came to realise that the shorter, though currently more conscious and able bodied turtle had isolated itself in a corner. Which laid in opposition to a panting future Don still pressed to the ground. The older turtle left with hardly sufficient time to look up, before it dived for him.

In that same instant, however, polished steel drove across the room. Skimming the beast's shoulder with a tossed blade before it could draw a hair's width closer to Leo's disoriented elder brother. His katana also thrown with such intensity, that it had imbedded itself in the brick wall above future Don's head.

Turning on spiked heels, the violet tinged beast glared down Leonardo. Quaking the lair under its stomps that paced closer. The blade that rested atop future Don now glinting, and shuddering, as if it were about to drop. Fortunately for him, though, the rigorous motions running up and down the groundwork and in Don's ear broke him from his sudden incapacitation. Lunging forward, he narrowly avoided the clumsy guillotine that awaited him. The blade merely slipping from its crevice and chipping the floor, instead.

Yellowish pus-like blood slivered down from the creature's dented forearm, marking its hand. An instinctive wince of pain only setting to anger it further. On two feet again and fearing for his brothers' safety, future Don found Raph and his younger self prying apart the blockade of rubble veneering the exit. And thus he wordlessly partook in aiding them.

As for Leo, he gasped behind upon witnessing what would have happened had he stepped back a second too late. In one tapering corridor, their assailant's fist clobbered beside him at the lair's structure. Thanks to the wall jutting out, bricks and stone visibly retracted through the other end like a Jenga tower.

Raph snarled, then leaving behind a sai for other Don, and taking the second for himself in his stand alongside Leonardo. Seeing that the coast was clear, Mikey finally joined the two Donnies--who remained steadfast in their efforts to break open the entrance. And although the blunt, definitely not sharpened ends wrought by two sticks and a pair of chucks did not fare well against the mound, Raph's blade did. Paving way to a tiny opening, and presenting them with a spot of light and hope.

Their steady breaths became ragged at their increasingly more driven attempts to free themselves. And by the work of three, a turtle-sized gap came unfurled. Mikey kicked his legs in first, the tunnel then giving way to other Don who reluctantly followed. The last remaining blew into his fingers, the whistle drawing Leo's attention.

Even the extensive ninja training Raph had endured did not shield him from the strain whilst maintaining a grip on his sai, that clashed with the alien's claws. Defending himself, and waiting for an opportunity that came sooner than expected--when his foe nonchalantly swung their head in response to future Don's preambled noise. In the blink of an eye their Master dashed beside the feud, smacked the beast away on his staff and together he, Raph, and a further ahead Leo, went on to join their family.

The alien charged at the lair's forged exit as soon as they were out, only to find even its head unable to rend through. It began rupturing around the hollow, inching forward. And at such a pace that they hadn't enough time to see to their injured, that consisted of a swooning and breathless future Don. So they took off in one direction along the sewers. Away from home, and to wherever they could find.

---

Marvelling again at the humming spectre cast by the alien device, the other turtles and their Master encircled Leo. They hadn't been rewarded a very long rest, however in such danger as they were it was a better time than ever to examine the wrist band.

Under Leo's control, a still frame recording from it they had caught a quick glimpse of before in the derelict building was being displayed unto them. Paused on a dark room, and one not too unlike their current newfound dwelling, that included a few dozen dead ends. All that was eluding the place's emptiness, in fact, were a number of dusty books scattered about--hardly surprising, considering that this was where other Donnie had lived as an outcast for the past two years.

Like an antique film reel, Leo flicked through a collection of frames. Future Donnie was sitting next to him, and helping Leo set up the machine. As only the two of them had seen one operated before. Finally, they decided upon one area of footage that proved to be their focal point of interest. In that, once the audio diary accompanied with grainy visuals began, the camera swerved to depict the unmistakable physique of this strange interplanetary species. The figure's room also lacking the presence of such colour that a streak of indigo was all that could be seen on them, besides shadow.

With this wrist strap belonging to the creatures and the characteristic hiss of its tongue, it came as no surprise to them, and yet a number in the audience drew a quiet breath. Flailing its hand, the elongated fingertips of the being in frame patted across unseen keys on a wrist band. Pressing them a delicate order, before clearing its throat.

"If you can hear me, it's highly probable that you are the race that call themselves the turtles."

Although it hinged on a note of passive aggression, it was the calmest they'd ever heard these things. Other Don and Raph shared their confusion at the voice, whilst Leo kept his hand on the buttons of his own active device. Trying to figure out how to work the damn thing. And all the while, future Don returned his focus to a detailed plan of the sewers. The pen in his hand having already been to stamp their location with a red circle.

Hovering the unscrewed tip, Don held it over another spot. A tunnel outlined near to where his pen was, and marked with the name of a street they'd been to. 46th Midtown. Comparing it to a second map, this time of the city, future Don choked when his coordinates fell on the neighbourhood church above.

"I am not from your planet. Me and my associate are Tesri ...we were sent here to eradicate you--and this is why." 

The screen changed to what looked to be footage of a much earlier--or, more specifically, a much later, date. Worryingly set outside Earth's atmosphere and to the backdrop of space; an alien vessel being gunned down by an enemy ship.

The cameraman watched on, ogling, and trembling behind a tiny window. Presumably within a nearby spaceship, and belonging to the same fleet that paraded around this other, smaller armed carrier. The one barraging them with beams and missiles. One by one, searing holes tore through ships' hulls. Debris floating and barging into the manic onlooker's. Their video receiver built-in to the now very familiar strap on their arm, judging from the camera's low down positioning.

There were distant cries, and the turtles and their Master could hear running. Of course, they had to be shown all this for a reason. And that reason came to them when their attackers dawned in closer, passing across the glass. The one manning the cockpit was obscured, although three turtles could clearly be seen through a side window.

"Is that us?" Other Don said, pointing to the screen. Leo hushed him.

"In your tongue, that I am able to comprehend through my scanner, I am Decima," and it tapped on its uniquely alloyed wrist strap. Leo peered down at their own 'scanner'--realising it was the same one. "I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I no longer care for my mission. I will kill the member of your kind who caused the death of my partner and trapped me here, and then the rest of you."

The tape had seemingly struck a chord with future Donnie, who sat back in silence. Putting down his regional maps of Manhattan's lower and upper echelons that were inscribed with red. And as for the creature, the shade of its brow darkened when it malevolently inclined its head.

"You are my freedom. You are my salvation. Offer yourself to me and I will be merciful," it growled, before the projector screen vanished. Ambient colours of the room again returning to normality.

"Oh God. One of them is in my dimension. That must be the alien who-- ...Oh, God."

Leo helped up future Don. "Calm down, Donnie. For now, we should prepare for their next attack, and protect other Don."

"Protect him? Leo, besides the fact that our new, contemporary bode is closer to a Foot hideout, the six of us can barely handle one of those aliens. And my family are down to four! We should be thinking about protecting them, or ourselves."

Mikey frowned, then Raph. They each spoke up.

"Four?"

"The Foot!?"

Splinter stepped up to him. "...Future Donatello. Enough. You will speak to me of this in private. All of this."

And over the next while, they did. Without future Donnie there for his brothers to consult, the others, perplexed, engaged themselves in some meaningless conversation. Anything, to take their mind of the fact they were now devoid of their old home, and how they all felt exceedingly lost. Particularly other Don, who stared down with his arms crossed and compact. But, for once, Leonardo had no intention of patiently standing idle.

His Master and future Don had taken to the back room, which was nothing more than a dugout with a towel hanging over it. Against their wishes, Leonardo positioned himself by an alcove. Which was as close he could safely eavesdrop on them.

"It's not you. It's Leonardo," Future Donnie said very matter-of-factly. Leo nearly choked.

"I see. That must have been difficult for all of you. My condolences to your family ...however, seeing as this is rather important, will you inform our Leonardo?"

"I'm sorry, Master. I'm not sure I am able to right now. Please understand that I was going to tell you and everyone about this, but I-I ..." Future Don exhaled as he pulled himself back together. "I think there's a better time and place for it. I care about your son, and I don't what to bring him down while he's still young."

"You may not feel it, Donatello, but you are young as well. And you still have much to learn. You must not leave it too late," Splinter sighed. "Now, what of our attackers?"

They all could see what Leo was up to, although none of his brothers cared enough to watch his wildly changing expressions. Amidst them, other Don packed what little he'd manage to pull in their struggle away from the lair and compiled it along his belt before making out a tiny gap in the wall. Residing in this place for years had its perks, and one of those was that other Don had acquainted himself to the space's many discrete exits and entrances.

Finally, Leo came away from his Master and older brother and, just as he did, caught sight of the only other turtle not presently occupied. Right after other Donnie surpassed the corner of his eye, Leo went ahead in the same direction; quietly waving to a curious Mikey. The path led to an opening, and on the other side he immediately felt himself lower into running water.

Remains of conspicuous reptilian footprints smeared the gravelled dirt under him, although hard to spot as the mud consistency had begun to wash away. Wasting no time, Leo fervently paced through the tunnels which caused a dribbling, watery echo. One that Donnie was oblivious to, as he operated on the now enclosed lair entrance. Their excavation evidently not having held up long.

Compensating a bent-up corkscrew he'd brought with him for a hand drill, Don manually wound the end between the rocks. It was a sluggish venture though undeniably the one to congregate the least noise, as Don was no stranger the concept something could still be lurking around this place.

By now, he'd expanded the hole and moved enough debris to fit an arm and a leg. Although, no matter how accommodating the next syllable interrupting the long silence was, it proved to be all he needed to make him jump back and break out in a cold sweat.

"Is this becoming a weekly thing for you?"

"Oh, Leo! What a surprise! Ha ha, fancy seeing you here! I ...got lost in the sewers."

"Donnie, I'm not in the mood--you're becoming like Raph. Stop going off on your own."

Don put down his tools; offering his brother a yielding smile that said, I know.

"You're hurt," Leo went on.

Then, he startled the other. Only this time, Don was wholly justified in the response, because Leo was reaching out and touching him. Donnie flinched at fingers brushing against his scarred cheek. Tensing up at some recollection of a recent memory. And this seemed to make Leo acknowledge the act's strangeness, because he also withdrew.

"It," Don swallowed, returning his gaze to the task at hand. "--Doesn't matter. I've been useless for two years, so I have to work overtime."

"No, you don't. That's ridiculous! You haven't been useless at all. You found the scanner and--"

"And I've brought you all closer to the Foot, like future Donnie said. It's just ...not ...good enough," he shook his head. "Please, I need my tools. I need to find someplace safer for us."

Leo lowered his hand. He had a point. Heaving from the pile one last rock that gated his way in, Don took a moment to admire the turtle-made crevice. Wide enough for him to fit, shell and all. Leo was presently occupied in questioning himself, mainly on whether he should continue, but also as to why he'd just invaded Don's personal space. Which provided time enough for the other to dig inside and slip right past him.

"Donnie, wait! Stop!"

The opposite end of the crawlspace was at the centre of the lair, that now lay dark and abandoned. Still outside, Leo stared at the direction of some recurring splashes. The weight of such heavy enough to send waves slamming into the sewer's shallow walkways. Cautiously manoeuvring himself to spy near the corner, he could see the towering silhouette of one.

They were still here, waiting for them. And Donnie was alone inside. Leo turned his head, and again and again from the hole and to the alien on its way. He half expected Don to re-emerge, acting like he'd earned a round of applause. Only there were no sounds but Leo and their untimely fate that drew closer.

Finding that the younger turtle had purposefully suited the tunnel to his own lankier dimensions, it made it difficult to squeeze into. And by the end of it, his body had a mediate ache from being hunched over. Don was just about to move the sliding lab door when Leo sped over, came in, and pointed outside.

"It's back, Don. We're leaving. Now," he said, narrowing his eyes.

"I told you, I need my files! My tech! With them, we could track down the Tesri."

"Track them down? One is outside right now! It'll kill us!"

Dismissing Leo's commands, Don continued on. His hands flying across his workbench. Fingering the many drawers and cabinets in a panicked frenzy. Turning his head from one piece of equipment to the next, like he was filling out a checklist. Leo grumbled at this. Coming to the conclusion that Don wasn't about to listen any time soon, he drew back the door an inch to peer out and keep watch. They both heard bricks crumbling, although only one of them had eyes on the entrance as to witness a languid arm poking inside. Leo called out to the other in a whisper.

"Donnie!"

Without sparing as much as a passing glance in the eldest brother's direction, Don consciously proceeded in quick, panicked movements. But Leo was done waiting on him. While Don was busy and had his back keeled over, Leo gripped his shoulder and arm and gave a fierce tug. The effect was immediate, and Don retorted by clinging to the desk.

"Get off of me! Hey! Leo, get off!" Don cried, his body unrelenting as it tried to tear itself from Leo's grasp.

With his free arm, Donnie pushed on him. Releasing himself, although quickly rendered off balance. His shell banging as it skidded along the floor. Shooting his brother a glare, Don's features softened into regret once he found Leo pale and terror-stricken. And not because he'd just caused Donnie to fall on the ground, or again touched him non-consensually.

"Sorry, Don. I--" Leo stopped himself, hearing a solitary creak play outside.

Their minds jostled at the idea that one of the Tesri were nearby, and how they may or may not have been alerted to Don's struggle. The door was open, and, fearing the worst, Leo didn't stop to close it or grab Don lest they cause more of a scene. He knew Don wasn't stupid enough to stick around, and that was partially true because Leo saw him stop to snag his last piece of equipment. Which was inconveniently set over a high cupboard. Crawling on the next door counter top to reach it, Don stretched his arm, taking the disc-shaped gadget and tearing round.

By this time, the alien's presence was audible to the extent that they could hear breathing. So Don moved himself from touching above the cupboard to the half a centimetre of space behind it, slipping in his fingers and heaving away. Digging his feet into the counter's side, and using all his strength to propel the furniture far enough for him to hide behind. Leo already crouched near some piled boxes on the far side.

Don had made even more noise in acquiring his hiding spot, which made the alien come in to check the lab first. The cabinet was on the right and wedged between other storage units, making its change of position not quite as obvious. Even so, this Tesri trudged a lap across the room. Its observance compelling Leo to move side-to-side in accordance with their altered field of view. Don could see that its shell-like skin was a darker tint of violet than the first they fought. Almost black.

Feeling his scars, it occurred to Don how it was their challenger from the lair, because of the fresh wound across its shoulder. Leo held his breath when it came close. Too close, and thus forcing Leo to make a run for it. Luckily, the alien seemed focused on something else, as it bent down to touch a series of rumbling pipes behind the crates. Leo motioned to a peeking Don, and they silently came out. Each expelling their withheld gasps once they were close to home.

"Leo," he panted "Back there, were you ...scared?--I mean, of course you were, we were this close to being ravaged by a bloodthirsty monster. But, before that," It seemed like an obvious question, and for that Don quietly sighed to himself. "Is it about what future Don said to us? About how--"

"It's me."

"What?"

"...I'll die within sixteen years. I'm the first to go."

Donnie's eyes shot wide, however seeing as his brother was more upset, he went to rest a hand on Leo's shoulder.

"You don't know that. This is a different timeline. Whatever future Don told you--"

"But it's still possible, isn't it?"

"...Come on, nothing's gonna happen to you. Not if two Donnie's got your back," he smiled, in a lame, albeit successful attempt to ease the mood. Leo feeling himself grinning.

"Right, if. Keep going out like this and there won't be two."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Don said, reaching to scratch the back of his neck. "Because that would be a shame, wouldn't it? F.D. wouldn't get to see his young, beautiful reflection every morning."

Leo rewarded him with a tiny cackle. His vision then clouding, as it rested on Don. Like he was admiring him.

"Hey--you better not think that just because you made me laugh I'm going to let you off easy, Narcissus. Now, move your butt," and before Donnie could protest Leo began forcing him further along the passage.

---

Face-to-face on the training mats, Raph and Mikey stayed metres apart. Each preparing their battle stance; the top of Mikey's chucks drooped over his fists until he began to wave them, and Raph's posture was the usual temperamental slouch with a low clasp of his sais. It didn't look like much, but right now this was the most they could do to prepare for a second assault.

In almost any other situation, Leo would be analysing his brothers' technique. Perhaps commending Mikey on how--following Raph's thoughtless charge--he bent back out of arm's reach, kicked his brother's legs out from under him and mercilessly launched his victim into the wall. But, since today Leo couldn't stop thinking about Donnie. He'd felt him twice, and was mesmerized by it. So it didn't help that his older form was sitting nearby, and watching him.

Cross-legged, Leo stuck out his palm. Staring at it. Future Don assumed his brother to be imagining his grip on the katana, and how it felt to hold. Only he couldn't be more wrong. Leo clenched his fist tight, as if he really were holding a blade. Because, really, he wanted to hold Don--him. For ...whatever reason. Maybe, it was out of a longing for comfort and safety after everything they'd been through. At least, that's what he hoped it was. Raph was still dusting himself, and calling Mikey a screwball, and whatnot. So Mike thought it was about the right time to point with his thumb to future Don, who got up to join Raph.

Other Don was in his lab. Again. Figuring out the alien band with the equipment he'd reclaimed. Even if Don was the most gentle turtle, and Leo liked that, he wasn't exactly the most approachable ...--so, that must be it. Leo didn't feel physical contact with him often, and, therefore, when he did, it must leave an impact. Like when future Don kissed him. Oh, who was he kidding? He wanted Donnie. And now it was just a matter of accepting that--and hiding it.

Leo frowned. Sticking his elbow on his shin, and cupping his face. Raph and future Don were in the middle of an intense fight in front of him, but it was all a blur. And he could've swore he heard Mikey, who was sitting right next, say something to him. Not that Leo picked up any of it. His little brother turned away dejectedly, and that hurt a little, to the point Leo tried hard to focus on the close flashes of red and purple. Don's outline coming into view. Now, Leo's head in the game. Future Don often reminded the others of him being much older, implying his superiority. Only he still fought with the same old shtick, and the same old flaws.

Attack now. Why aren't you attacking him? He's open. You missed your chance. You missed it again. Attack now. Good, but a little too late. Don, why are you thinking about this so much? What is there to think about? It was clear as day to Leo now, how future Don was focusing on things that seemed like they wouldn't matter. Seemingly, because that rampant, methodical brain is what helped Don to console him in the tunnel.

Leo pressed a finger to his chin. He'd always thought of such things as being the problem with Don. A definite weakness, that which their Master would often point out to the two Donnies; suggesting for them to overcome it. His mind being so out of synch with the rest of him was a liability. And yet, to Leo, he was beginning to consider it a valuable asset. Donnie was understanding, and usually able to converse with others without saying the wrong thing, or coming off the wrong way. And if his thought process was any different, that wouldn't be the case. So, Leo didn't look at future Don's delayed attacks with disdain anymore. Rather, he had a newfound appreciation for it in understanding why.

It's like everything that ever annoyed Leo about Don had become ...desirable. Adding to his appeal, and not drawing from it. He gazed on intently, as future Don bludgeoned the end of his staff into Raph's sheltered rib. And Leo couldn't ever remember Donnie looking so--well, cool. Even when right then and there, Don was getting battered by a sweeping roundhouse kick to the back.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and while Leo would like to take Master Splinter's role and give him some advice, he felt too compelled by Donnie's little pout on the floor. His cheeks puffed and face all screwed up. It was stupid and just like him, and Leo didn't want to ruin it.

"Ow!" Leo gasped. He'd been staring at Don so long he didn't notice Raph coming up to give him a hard punch on the shoulder.

"Good to know you're still alive. Don wants to fight you, Leo, not an empty shell."

Not exactly feeling he was in top condition for a brawl, Leo forced himself up. Picking his katanas and utilising near perfect coordination, Leo remained stationary and awaited Don's next move. Hacking Don's staff a few times was the best he could manage, though, before Leo was outsmarted. Again, and again. Leo was hardly paying any attention at all, now, and fought with the bare minimum to fend off his attacker. And Don hated it. He shoved Leo and made him skip back.

"Your form's sloppy. What, you think I'm some decrepit old man?"

"Yo--chill, Don. Didn't Leo totally save your shell yesterday?" Mikey said.

"Well, yeah ..." Don's pupils darted to the side. Though not for long, as they were quickly set again on his opponent.

Adamant on being taken seriously, Don lunged for him. Kneeing Leo in the side, while at the same time gripping his own bo one-handed that he next used to disarm the other's blades. The younger brother was knocked over hard, and Leo slammed down on one knee. With a worried look, Mikey raised his brother up. Giving future Don a tense smile.

"Good run, Donnie boy. I think you're tired now. Maybe you should talk to Splinter again."

"How is talking to your Master Splinter going to bring back my family?"

Raph snarled at him.

"Yeah. You would think that, wouldn't you? That they're dead. 'Cause you're a quitter, Donnie. And you've always been a quitter!"

Mikey and Leo leapt up to calm their brother. However, they both thought that there was some truth to his words. As harsh as they were. Not wanting to test Raph's anger, Don sheathed his stave and coolly headed towards their living quarters.

"Look at him. He's doing it right freaking in front of us," Raph spat. "Coward."

They all spoke little for the rest of their midnight duel--only sharing announcements of their parting when Mikey and Raph realised Leo's sparring session would unsurprisingly drag on too long. For their studious brother, this was more procrastination than anything, as he continually found difficulty in concentrating. Because his focus rested on the entrance to the two Donnies' makeshift lab. Leo trained away, alone, into the evening. Until other Don came out like a hungry bear rising from its hibernation, anyway. In a casual setting, Leo had always walked briskly, so Don heard him coming from a mile away.

"Whatever you want help with, I'm sorry--can't right now. Super busy--"

"Donnie. Future Don's a wreck. He's you, please do something."

When their eyes met and Leo got a better look at other Don, he saw he had bags under his eyes and a bandage around his right thigh where Leo'd given him a nasty fall.

"You're a wreck, too," Leo sighed. "Forget it, I'll deal with him. Just go to bed."

"I will soon, okay?--And you really don't have to worry about me. At least fret over future Don, or yourself, because you're the one who ..." Don stopped himself, noticing Leo had adopted a grimace and was facing him disappointedly. "I'm sorry--"

Raph was right. He did give up rather easily, because Don was moving past Leo to go to his brothers who could be faintly heard snacking and clattering plates down the hall. Attributing this to future Don's quick departure from Raph's confrontation, Leo sensed that this wasn't from anger or logical thinking. But regret.

"Don," Leo began, only taking two steps forward before his younger brother's hurried pace turned against him.

Donnie's wounded right leg twitched, and he fell back, to which Leo made a dash to catch him. Fingers firmly trailing under his younger brother's arms to hold him in place. When Don's breathing had calmed down, Leo slid his grasp up to his shoulders. Keeping him in front. And he saw Don's ankles jittering like he'd forgotten how to walk.

"Are you okay, Don?"

"I-I don't know. My legs are numb."

"Let me sit you on the ground."

"No way, it's dirty! I haven't cleaned in ages ..."

Before he even had time to conjure up a response, Don spun to wrap his forearms around Leo's shell. Their plastrons tapping as they pressed together. Leo blinked.

"What are you doing?"

"Feel dizzy. Face hurts, legs hurt. The last one's your fault."

"I never said you could hug me, though."

Don calmly exhaled through his nose and chuckled softly. Head resting on Leo's shoulder. Despite the fact that Don was quite a bit taller, he was definitely holding Leo right now. He was kind of heavy, actually, so it made the older turtle lean back half an inch. Other Don's mind was slowly coming back, and it hit him like a rock. This felt nice. Way too nice.

"Okay, I think I can stand now. Didn't mean to shock you! Lemme try walking a bit ..." Don said, as he patted Leo and tried to pull away.

But only slightly, which gave Leo all the time to decide what he wanted to do next. And he brought Don right back into an embrace.

"L-Leo!?"

This was all so weird. Leo was doing this to him, alone, in the corridor. In moderate darkness. And, on top of that, Don felt overwhelmed with ...well, everything. Of course, he had done it to Leo as well--but, that was kinda justified. Kinda. Unless he was overlooking something. This felt good, though. They didn't hug often, so that must be why. That must be why. Since Leo wasn't talking, Don poked him a little.

"Are you sick?"

"No," Leo whispered to him. "Things are eating at me and you're the only one who I feel I'm on the same page with."

Don relaxed in the hold, having deduced that this contact was for Leo and not for him. Like his big brother had said, he really must trust him a lot. He'd been thinking so much lately--which Don could relate to. They both went quiet for a time, until Don took a deep breath. Almost as if he'd calculated the exact number of molecules of air he'd need to say it all.

"Hey ...don't worry about anything. Tomorrow, future Don's on me; I'm getting a fix for the alien situation, and our family is here to protect you. There--did I miss anything?"

Leo hugged him tighter.

"Yeah. Follow my orders more often."