Actions

Work Header

Donnie's Better Half

Chapter Text

Guided to an adjoining room, he like felt the complete opposite of a guest of honour--for although he was politely, and very patiently, dare he add, offered a seat, a wary silence had nevertheless manifested itself in the air around them. He did not meet eyes with his brother, the only other in the room. Not even wishing to speak with him. But that wasn't out of spite, for Leonardo had much greater justification for exhibiting bitterness. And yet he choose not to. Surely, the others would, when they returned and saw him here.

It was all part of the plan they'd prior agreed upon: to delicately put to the rest of their family the estranged exposé. He and his brothers were once inseparable, but now, they wanted nothing to do with him. Donatello didn't blame them, of course.

"When will they be back?" Donatello said. Peering across from him at the diligently sat Leonardo.

"Five minutes, give or take."

Leonardo had made some effort to tell his brothers to come home early to meet someone. Though, needless to say, Raph and Mikey weren't the most reliable on that front. Their first thought had stupidly been, is it your girlfriend? Despite the fact in knowing that A, that would never happen, and B, Leonardo really wasn't the type to care for any benign infatuations. And they were definitely similar on that front, as he imagined Donatello would sooner build himself a robot and elope. Leo chuckled.

"What?" Donatello smirked, slightly put at ease due to the obscene sight of his stoic brother laughing at nothing.

"Just a thought ..."

At that, Donatello leaned back in his armchair. Not wishing to pry further, since he took his brother's short-spoken ambiguity to mean, don't ask, I'm not telling you.

Footsteps pounded outside. Leo shot up. "That'll be Raph and Mikey. I'll go."

He nodded at Leonardo, who then gracefully traced a corridor to find them. His heartbeat quickened. Donatello's thoughts were running amok. They were going to see him, right now. He wanted to run away and hide, but he couldn't, because he also wanted to finally reconcile with the family he now and had always dearly loved. He missed his father telling him to swing harder with his bo; he missed Michelangelo playing in his lab and breaking absolutely everything; he missed Raphael charging in and getting him and his brothers in a whole lot of trouble. And then, there they were.

---

"Why did you bring him here, Don--and against his will!? Do you think he wants to be stuck in another timeline!?"

"Of course not. But, see here, Raph ...--listen to me, and you will understand: with another me from the future, we can revolutionise the present. Technology will advance tenfold! After all, it's only logical to take advantage of a gateway through time, isn't it?"

"...Your logic is sick," Mikey spat.

He was shouldering a second Donatello who appeared older, slightly more muscular and toned, and also wizened in his years. But encased in that mellow exterior was a burning resentment, in understanding that he was now trapped here indefinitely. And because of himself.

"My family will never see me again," the older Donatello said, his head bent in mourning.

Splinter went to offer respite to his now eldest by carefully pressing a palm to his shell. Raphael wasn't so punctual, however, as he took one look at this new brother of his before turning to the younger--fist clenched. He wanted to hit him so bad, and Leonardo understood this well enough to step between.

Donatello's eyes bulged. Finally! At least one of his brothers could understand his reasoning. But, that thought was short lived. For although Leonardo did not talk down to him like his brothers did, he made sure to shoot Donatello daggers. A glare--a dignified look of cold, and carving at him beneath his sheet of ice with a twinge of scorn and disgust. Don's face caved in on itself.

After that, their relationship only took a turn for the worse. Don and his own brothers, and perhaps even his Master, became distant. Sour, bitter. The kind that even when swallowed and digested it left a horrible taste in your mouth. One that ought to be washed down with something--that which their Donatello could not provide. In a strange facility they had found a portal through time. Donnie himself saw it as unstable, and predicted that it could barely withstand a single usage. Well, that turned out to be true--once he'd brought back with him a future copy of himself.

The four brothers made a vow never to use the machine. Rather, to destroy it, if at all possible. But, through his strange rashness, Don had broken that vow, and burdened his family with a second Donatello. A Donatello  now cruelly fated to relive the past, and unjustly separated from his true family. And, no matter how much the present Donatello tried to make amends, it was hopeless. So he left. Never to be seen again.

---

"I brought Donatello here ..." Leonardo said, to which Mikey gave him a derisive look.

"What? No you didn't. He's with us--oh."

Donatello was then graced by his brothers, that hesitantly wandered inside. They were beneath an internet cafe. Hence, the skyward pipes decorating bluish, ash-tinted concrete walls. Surprisingly kempt and smooth, from their Master's insistence on cleaning.

The ceiling was gently sloping--excavating out to the sewer tunnels; and, for the chamber they were in, a higher roof. A few woven bits of furniture were strewn about, and--like a moat--tiny waterways followed throughout the structure's outermost lining. Drips reverberated into the cavernous below, and the underground's humidity also released beads of moisture along a tangle of overhead ducts.

Following behind Leo was Raph; then Mikey, then his Master, and lastly the future version of himself. Other Don bit his lip. Oh yeah, he'd forgotten about him. Or at least, tried to. Mistakes hurt like that: you can repress them all you want. But, it's inevitable that you will only feel even more guilty for not allowing them to act as a constant reminder, as to not repeat your past wrongdoings.

The instant Raph's spirited yet snarky face met with his long departed brother's, he stiffened. His lips sealing: a surefire sign that Raph had absolutely no intention of talking this over. Strangely, however, he did not curse a venomous 'What's he doing here?' 

In comparison, future Donatello's expression was muted, although his forehead had procured a single drop of sweat. And amidst them, Splinter mutely gasped his son's name.

"What's this about, Leo?" Mikey began, folding his arms--there better be a damn good reason for this.

"I spoke with our Donatello--" Leo stopped himself, thinking his brothers probably wouldn't like that. Which they didn't. " ...our ex-Donatello. And while I have not forgotten, I've come to the conclusion that it's time we at least make an attempt to accept him back. It was a long time ago that this happened ...he's different now."

“Well, the damned boy genius looks his same old self to me. What’s he got for us this time: four dozen smackaroons and a letter of apology?” Raphael scoffed.

"Raphael!" Splinter said, silencing him.

Seeming perplexed, Donatello comfortingly ran his fingers across themselves, whilst given the chance to speak. "No, really, I ...I'm sorry. To all of you. What I did was wrong--unforgivable, even. So, I'm not here to ask for your forgiveness. I just want you to know that I am sorry, and that I wish to be your brother again. If you'll have me ..."

They all paused, and turned to one another. Huddling, as Splinter slipped past and took the long departed Donatello's hand.

"I cannot aid you in this, Donatello. I cohesively seek what is in each of their best interests. You are my son, and, be that as it may, if not all wish to welcome you, I believe it would be unwise to have you remain ...and bring further upset."

"I ...think I understand, Master. Thank you."

"I'm glad you do. Know that, no matter what happens, you will always be my son."

Splinter retreated to stand by his family, a fleeting touch drawing over the younger Donatello's shoulder. The three knew what Leo and Splinter wanted, but what of them? Moments passed unfulfilled at Mikey and Raph's introspection, and, when they still didn't know quite what to think, future Donatello stepped up to pat their arms.

"Please, accept him. He's your brother."

"He's also you. Trust Donatello to stick up for Donatello!" Raph growled. "Don't pity him just because he's a copy of yourself."

"It's not because he's me. Hey--I'm the smart one, remember? I know he means well."

They thought on future Donnie's consolation for a time, before slowly dipping their heads. He was right. And Leo was, too. It'd been far too long. Holding grudges was pathetic--this much they knew--but, it wasn't for a grudge. If you can believe it. They simply felt that he wasn't to be trusted. However, if half of their brothers thought he deserved a second chance, then so be it. And at the final outcome, Don smiled down at Leo. It felt warm and genuine, that which Leonardo had missed. He smiled back.

---

Now, normally, Leonardo would've come up with some sort of an idea as to how he would mend the relationship between Donnie and the rest of his family. But, such a case stumped him. He was clueless. Since the decision had been made, the present Donatello had been living with them and nothing more. He didn't talk much, and neither did they. Laying in the sitting room, he felt Splinter draw a breath nearby.

"The mirror that held Donatello shattered long ago, and with it, a shard of him missing. Us. I see that, even now."

Turning, Leonardo saw Splinter peering at him through the corner of his eyes.

"Please, speak with our ...older Donatello, if it troubles you, my son," he confided, stepping away as Leonardo nodded dutifully.

It couldn't go on like this.

Leonardo knocked on his door--for since the current Donatello's departure, he'd taken up the room of his former self.

Future Donatello wedged it open, always happy to see his little brother. Although, unlike his current form, he did not typically wear belts, or knee and elbow pads; coming from a future where the turtles had defeated most threats around and there was little reason to fight. Instead of the ninja gear, he wore an unbuttoned purple coat that almost touched the floor. And Leonardo thought it suited Donnie's pacifistic inclinations.

"What's up, Leonardo?"

It'd been two years already and this Donatello was still so formal. Raph and Mikey always had to tell him, it's Raph! It's Mikey! Well, Leo had an interchangeable knack for it, too.

"It's Donatello--uh, the other one."

Future Donnie laughed at Leo sharply correcting himself.

"It's been rather awkward hasn't it? Did you come to me for advice?" Don pleaded innocently, but with a knowing hitch in his voice as if he already knew the answer.

"...You just read us like an open book, don't you?"

"Ha ha! Yes, I do quite like books. And I have known my brothers for thirty-four years."

"Grandpa."

Future Donnie grinned and scratched his nose.

"Even so ...despite my age, I can't say I've gained much experience in this matter. But, since he is me--try chatting to him about Paris, France. He'll love that. Then, serve him pizza with green peppers, mild tea--coffee's for all-nighters--with two scoops of milk, extra sugar, and--"

"I was asking about fixing his relationship with me and my brothers, not how to suck up to him, Don."

"Eh, right. So, about that …” future Donnie sat for a moment and clenched his hands, now actually giving the question some thought. “It’s no use waiting around, or the same will happen again as it did two years ago. When you were sixteen. Think of this as a blank slate, Leonardo. Familiarise yourselves ...whether it be through physical or emotional contact. Although I-- …he is not the most receptive to the latter.”

Ducking his head in understanding, Leo prompted him to continue. However, that seemed to be about the extent of future Don’s help.

“It can’t hurt to try, right?” Don added.

Future Donnie wasn't kidding. Sixteen years from now, his younger self's conversational skills will have improved very little. Nonetheless, he took his words to heart and approached his own Donatello. In complete contrast, this Don was explicitly discouraged from referring to the turtles by nickname. This didn't help to reaffirm their bond, but, calling them Leo and Mikey so quickly would just be presumptuous.

Leo found the younger Donatello on the sofa, since his room had been snagged up. And Leo even came to realise that Mikey was resting his head in Donnie's lap.

"Snuggling up already, are we?"

"Shuddup, Leo," Mikey hummed deviously. "I was sleepy."

Their Donnie was clearly overjoyed to see Mikey's display of affection, although he'd normally settle down like that with anyone. At Leo’s observance, however, Mikey did become self conscious and slowly eased off. Allowing Leo the space to sit next, as he made some slight attempts at conversation.

Perhaps unifying his family again wouldn't be as difficult as he once thought--it looked promising so far, but, Raphael may be a problem. Therefore, Leo decided that he'd test a few methods before pushing Don and Raph together. Mikey getting all touchy-feely added a degree of confidence to future Don’s somewhat lambasted suggestion.

Leo himself did not normally express fondness through physicality, and, true, Don wasn't much for it either ...but, it couldn't hurt to try. So, by the time Don had ushered everyone off the couch, and he was slowly but surely falling asleep, Leo poked him. He'd briefly thought Don to be napping, until the younger turtle groaned in response.

"Donatello, are you sure you're fine with sleeping on the couch?"

Donnie looked around before sighing. He gave the impression that he intended to express a little more tiredness and irritation, but Don settled for agreeableness in recalling the terms he and his brothers were on.

"What gave you that idea?” he smirked.

"Oh, nothing, really. So, I take it you don't want to share my room with me?"

Gasping at the revelation, Donnie grabbed his clothes and sprinted down the hall.

"I'm going, I'm going!"

Grinning as he shook his head, Leo strode in after him. Finding Don already tucked under his bed sheets. Practically mummified, with how tightly he had them wrapped around himself. Right, the past few nights must've been cold for him. They only had thin, worn out blankets to spare. When Don saw Leo hovering, though, he threw the sheets away.

"Oh--sorry! It was on impulse ...I can take the floor--"

But Leo raised his arm. Halting him.

"When I say share, I mean share, Don."

That was the first time he'd been called Don in so long--and by Leonardo, no less. The corners of Don's mouth became plastered with a death defying grin, as he ducked back into bed. Exhaling a sigh of relief, at no longer having to lay across floors or flimsy furniture.

However, Donatello did reluctantly withdraw himself a few inches to give Leo some room, as he reminisced on the past. Recalling Mikey howling like a banshee, and Raph relentlessly pounding him in his sleep. To which he'd wake up either deaf, or black and blue. Or both. He really couldn't remember Leo's nocturnal habits, though. And he feared for the worst. Well, beggars can't be choosers. His brother was warm and Don huddled up beside him. Leo faced his shell while Donnie faced the wall.

He was out like a light--but Leo, ehm ...not so much. Don was hogging the covers, however it was already too late to reclaim his territory through fear of waking him. Instead, Leo resorted to crawling closer to Donnie who was taller and hence exuded more body heat. Although not significantly so, for eye-to-eye and at their full height, Donnie's mask still sat only a notch above his own.

Perhaps the closeness had partially roused Donatello, because next he flipped himself over so they were facing each other. Leo could make out his breathing now--that sounded high pitched and nasally, in contrast to his own. He even thought Don's sleepy puffs of air were a bit stupid, but it was quiet so he didn’t mind. Leo shut his eyes tight, and he guessed he could start dreaming any moment. Until he felt some discomfort down his leg.

It didn't take him long at all to recognise the touch of flesh, that was Donnie's shin creeping over his own. The younger was lying on his stomach, with his right knee jutting out from the sheets. He tried to shove the pest away, but that stirred Donatello so he thought it best not to. He could probably sleep like this, anyway. Probably. Concentrating again on counting sheep, he groaned at sensing Don's leg on the move. Was he awake and doing this on purpose?

Don's right thigh was now pressed between Leo's legs--and he definitely did not like where this was going. It wouldn't have fit between the outliers of his larger frame in the first place, if Don wasn't so slender. Pulling away, Donnie's leg only slid up and up. Deciding its final resting place as right below his crotch. Ugh. Fine, Donnie. No more. Time for sleep--but, just then, he felt a fuzzy sensation. Don's knee had jostled in the compromised position and nudged Leo's groin.

He felt himself clench, his inner thighs tingling, perhaps at the coldness that inched its way across his bare skin. Leo knew what was happening, and he thought he had to stop it, but he didn't. In fact, he let it go on for a few seconds more; maybe out of shock, or if he was just that determined to fall asleep. Or because it felt a little, pleasurable?

Leo abruptly pried himself away from Donatello. Fortunately for the both of them, however, it did not wake him. Somehow. Rather, Don snorted once and dozed on like nothing happened. What Leo wished he could be doing right now, but, after something like, fat chance.

This was a bad idea after all.

Chapter Text

Toes prodded beneath him and dawdled closer. Footsteps sparking vibrations that lightly shuddered the bed's posters. Swivelling round, half-awake, a white lamp glow penetrated Leonardo's eyes and shook him. He grumbled, then adjusting to the light and observing Mikey.

Before, his significantly shorter sibling had been obscured by blindness. Although, now it was indisputable in how the mischief maker was holding a tin bucket of water above his head. The quilt was hanging down on one side, and Leonardo sitting upright exposed Donatello in his long, unbroken slumber. Mikey's hands lowered, at being caught in the act of his elaborate scheme.

"Oh-ho, you lucky dog. Brought your shield, did you?" Mikey cackled.

Smiling, Leo raised his brow. "What? You could pelt him too."

"I could!--But, that's not how I roll, man. I don't prank guests. Not anymore."

Guest. Right, that was how they saw Donnie. Suffice to say, it was an improvement over immoral, back-stabbing pond scum. But, Leo still thought he had some work to do. He glanced behind--Don was responsible for this too and, like him, he wanted to bring the family together again. So far, he hadn't been much help, but, Leo understood that he was just as emotionally perplexed as they. Mikey put his hands across his hips, ogling Leonardo expectantly.

"So, are you going to wake that guy up or what?"

"Mmhm."

Propped up on the mattress, Leo outstretched his leg behind and clobbered Don, who exhaled a muffled yelp.

"Ow! What, what?"

Mikey didn't question why they were sleeping together, although it did strike him as unusual. Instead, he waited for them to get up and out of bed. Donatello was still rubbing his collar bone, that had just connected with Leo's ankle; thinking that even such a small titbit of his brother was much stronger than need be. And Leo himself was slow to pick up on his own gesture's dubious intent. That being, revenge for what had happened last night. Even though it wasn't Donnie's fault.

Cripes--he'd just made himself remember.

"I know turtles're supposed to be slow, but, sheesh! C'mon--Master Splinter's waiting on ya," Mikey said, as he rhythmically clapped his hands. Urging like a military commandant for the pair to get a move on.

Don's eyes were squinted, and he gripped the covers as he rose out of bed. Leo was in the lead, although he quickly moved away so Donatello could overtake him. The manoeuvre only slightly courteous, as it was still for the sake of avoidance. But, Mikey had gotten tired of waiting. So he jumped behind them, pushed them over, and watched his brothers topple like dominoes.

Leo'd been rammed straight into Don, and they fell onto the floor. One on top of the other. Feeling the ground and pressed on his knees, Leonardo raised himself to make sure their bodies weren't awkwardly touching.

"Whoops! Didn't mean to push you that hard," Mikey snickered, now backing himself into the kitchen.

"It's gonna take a while getting used to that again ..." the turtle under him murmured, as he tried hauling himself up.

Although Don slipped at some point--the strength of his scrawny arms waning from fatigue. He landed flat on his shell, and stared back up at Leo who still had his arms clamped onto the floor around him. Palms resting at either side of Don's head. No matter how you looked at it, Leo was forcing him down. Although by now the older turtle was already well aware of this.

Leo watched him. Admired him, in fact. Noticing how Donatello's reddish, chestnut brown eyes were half-shut in blissful, tired delirium. For it didn't matter how long you slept in, waking up in the early morning always did a number on you. And Don's arms were sprawled out like vines--he'd've ordered Leo to get off by now if he was completely conscious.

Meanwhile a sick, passing thought unbeknownst to him was circumventing through Leonardo's mind. In that, Don was just and strong and capable as him, and yet--here and before--he was helpless. Donnie's head tipped backwards. His mouth slanted, with a tiny spot on his beak parting in query. Quietly exhaling. It almost looked suggestive. Leo jumped back up.

"Damn, I forgot to ask Mikey to make you tea with extra sugar,” was the first thing that came to him. Ham-fisted, though, fortunately, it seemed to get the job done.

Leo helped him up. And with Don so weary, he turned a blind eye. 

"...You remembered!"

"Sorry to say, I didn't. Future Don told me."

"Oh, well. Thanks for the thought. And, by the way, your face is red."

"It is?"

Leonardo cupped his cheeks; discerning that they did indeed feel rather hot. He hadn't even noticed his own embarrassment. Don was definitely still observant, as flush was hard to spot on deep, forest green.

"Yeah. But don't worry about that. The buccal arterioles in my face are going to have acute vasodilation, too, if I don't eat soon."

"You can call me Leo, Donnie."

"Leo-Donnie, got it," Don chuckled. "Oh! I mean, Leo."

---

This was all wrong. So very wrong--and weird, and gross, and a myriad of other things Leonardo felt marauded by right now. His cool, seemingly imperturbable features had been ravaged by a sudden, terrible realisation: in that, this whole time, he hadn't thought of the younger Donatello as his brother once. Batches of pet shop turtles were traditionally bred together, and they were no different. Donatello's experimental blood tests on them had proven that already.

He felt sick to his stomach.

That one time they'd slept together had wrought immeasurable guilt over him, and Leonardo imagined that this is what Don had been cradling to himself all these years: the more he tried to wish away his mistakes, the more he came to regret them.

Biologically, they were related. That much was true. But, somehow, and for some reason, he just couldn't wrap his head around that. Donatello didn't feel like his brother at all. It could be the two years they'd spent apart, and that he'd become so used to seeing future Donnie as a kind of surrogate father. Or perhaps, it was that Don's rubbing against him had forever twisted Leo's perception of him in these early stages of familial recuperation.

It didn't make any sense--and the rest of his family began to notice his disarray, as well, as they gathered round a lake in the hills. Drifting together in the calm waters, that were absent of Leo and other Don.

"You should come join us, Leonardo," begged future Donnie.

Mikey sighed. "Okay, how many times do we have to tell you? It's Leo, Donnie!"

"Ah, then allow me to rephrase that: you should come join us, Leo-Donnie."

Leonardo looked at his Donatello and sneered, to which the other returned a giggle. They were definitely one of the same, and that scared him even more. Although he would not confess this--rather, Leo wanted to finally take a step in the right direction.

"Only if the other Donatello comes in, too," Leo said.

Other Donnie blinked at him. "What?--Why?"

"It's family bonding. You shouldn't have us do all the work."

Other Don raised his head. "See, it's only that--well ...it's been a while since I bathed with you all."

Standing rigid along the shoreline, other Don shied away. He wasn't used to this. But, his brothers need not ask Leo at all, because he instinctively got up to help Don with removing his attire. And while Don stood before him, and Leo was crouched down, the eldest was able to fixate on every nook and cranny of the other's body. Remaining completely and selflessly exposed to Leonardo, who was determined to reclaim his innocence.

He carefully unbuckled Donnie's belt, and then his armbands, and his knee pads. Until it was all but laid on the ground in front of him; Leo coordinating it as if he were assembling his DVD collection at home. Don reached to remove his own coloured mask as Leo stood up triumphantly. For just as his brother now wore nothing, he felt nothing.

"Thanks, Leo. Although I could've done it myself, you know?"

Discretely scooting away from him, Leo crouched by a bush to lay down their clothes. "Like you would've."

The brothers ducked past low hanging brambles until their feet touched the edge of the reservoir. Leonardo hadn't even gone in yet, and he still felt rejuvenated--in finally having collected himself. And in his newfound energy, he gestured for Don to hush before crawling below the surface, where he emerged to splash the rest of them.

"Yaaah! I told you there were crocodiles in here!--" Mikey cried, huddling onto future Donatello.

Leo waved his finger. "And let that serve as a lesson to never let your guard down, Mikey."

"Of course," and at his brother's predictability in spouting such lame edifications, Raph could only muster a sigh.

They went and eyed around for Leo's partner in crime, only to find other Donnie benched on the side. Bereft toes idly kicking the waters to-and-fro.

"What's the point of taking your clothes off if you just plan on sitting there!?" Raph said, oddly disgruntled at his brother's small, though seemingly incongruent act.

"I'll come in later, honest!" Other Don called back.

"Sure thing. That's no problem, is it, guys? No problem at all! And for your information, we absolutely do not have any ulterior motive in totally going along with what you're saying ..." Mikey warned.

And his threat was not empty, as future Donatello then furtively swam up to the younger. Tugging on his legs, and, with a cry, his other self plunged into the shallows.

"Gah-ck! You guys ..." Donnie spluttered. Future Don bobbed his head up to wave a finger at the other and cackle, to which his younger form narrowed his eyes. "Traitor."

Raphael made sure to keep his distance from other Donnie, however the rest appeared more eager as they encircled him.

"You stink of machines and oil worse than future Don!" Mikey said, then raising other Don's arm and beginning to wash it.

Other Donnie rubbed his nape. "It’s my natural aroma …”

Leonardo was the last to follow suit of Mikey--and Raph, not at all. Being this close to his family made him nervous, so Donatello shrank underwater, to which he was collectively dragged back out. He came to realise it was no use resisting, so he stood on the lake bed. Stiffly laying hands across his thighs to cover himself.

Leo was rather worried about this scenario, and what it could devolve into, but he also saw it as another opportunity to prove he'd cleansed himself of these feelings. Besides, Raph had justification for not participating, but he didn't. Leo scooped up some water and patted it along other Don's shell. Slowly steering towards his brother's nape; a parting in muscle indicating cartilage. Leo touched down once, and--in a petrified, jerky fashion--instantly recoiled back at the sensation of Donatello shivering.

"What is it, Leo? You see a bug on him!?" Mikey squealed, and Raph just backed further away at that.

"Something like that, yeah."

What had actually happened, though, was a relapse: for, at seeing Don intrinsically quiver, his first thought had strangely been whether or not he'd just positively responded to his touch. And that definitely wasn't in any innocent kind of way. How his imagination could spontaneously conjure up terrible ideas like that was beyond him, because the matter of fact was that the lake was cold and it gave Donnie goosebumps.

After that, Leo could only bare to take his brother's former role of sitting at the side with his feet in the pond. Perhaps it was coincidental, but he was sure he saw Raph drag himself closer to other Donnie, as the latter made himself more approachable.

Spending time with his brothers had clearly somewhat rekindled their connection, and Don now felt more comfortable around them. If he knew what Leo was thinking, however, their efforts would surely be in vain. In his time alone, Leo prayed to himself that this was only a phase--one that he'd escape with the passage of time. Yeah ...escape or surrender, he wondered. Other Don swam towards him.

"I'm jealous of you, Leo."

"Oh? It's not like you to be envious," he said. Unassuming, despite himself.

"Yeah, but, what can you do--I'm outta shape and you guys work out."

Donnie coiled his three fingers around Leo's shin. Comparing it to his own. It wouldn't've bothered Leo so much, if he wasn't already pervaded with self-doubt, and that the grip was uncomfortably tight. He tensed up a little and felt anxious, so he keeled over to gently remove Don's hand. The younger glanced up and frowned. There was an ominous haze to Leo's eyes, and his shoulders were pressed together.

"It's not like you to be nervous," Don shot back at him.

"...I'm thinking about what I can do to help you and Raph," he lied. "I'll try talking to him sometime."

Donnie sat for a moment. The corners of his beak perking up.

---

What he had once taken for a sign that his tactics had succeeded, were now fully realised as one giant step backwards. It had been Leo's intention to put a foot down in understanding that this geek who'd betrayed them once before was his brother. That his body didn't affect him in the slightest--but, looking back, it did. And he'd only made things worse. Now alone, Leo could willingly compose the image of him undressing Donatello, and his lean figure from top to bottom.

And through the corner of his eyes he'd seen the younger Donnie clambering out the lake while droplets trickled a vertical pattern across his arms and legs. Distinctly remembering how he also risked a glance at the older, where Leo played a game of spot the difference. Future Don equipped his coat and appendages and the dampness soaked through the cloth. Making his fair, olive complexion gleam.

Having returned to their lair--and by the time Leo had prepared himself for some much needed rest--he swung open the door, only to discover other Don fast asleep in bed. His bed. No helping it--he wouldn't be caught dead in that position again. So, with the rest of his family having already gone off for the night, he took to the lounge and laid himself by a rug on the floor. At first he thought of the couch, but it was enveloped in Donnie's scent.

This will pass, he told himself. It was only Don's form that enraptured him and nothing else. He could be this way about anyone if he tried. And it wasn't like his temperament was attractive. A mellow voice then called to him, and he sprung awake--expecting to see Donatello, but it was future Don. Figures: they both sounded very much alike.

"What're you doing on the floor when you have a bed?" Don said, his tone of voice growing deeper in mocking.

Leo rolled over.

"I couldn't sleep--just let me."

And as much as he tried to appear sated on the rugged mat, it was obviously less than ideal. Stubborn old Leo, Don sighed to himself, as he began carrying his brother in his arms.

"--Don!?"

It was a laborious task trying to careen Leo around with him struggling so much, although his brother soon gave in. For the shorter turtle of the two, he was surprisingly heavy, which led to Leo being practically slammed onto the bed. Shell to the covers, and with the door already kicked shut, future Don towered above him. The overhead lamp was unlit, so the space was largely enclosed in blackness. A single candle flickering on a bedside coaster painted a shadow across Donnie's front, that made him look even taller. And a little intimidating.

Donnie's stance over him was brief, but, in that time, the eldest sibling saw a hungry look in the other's eyes. Entranced by Don; his touch on Leo's calves that had only been to set him on the bed was met with the faintest shudder. Future Don's eyes narrowed in questioning, and then grew wide. He did not join Leo--instead, vying to abruptly move the brother over and tuck him in, before Don rested his own head against the ground.

"Thanks, Don. Only for one night, though ...you don't have to."

"Just one night, then."

Leo imagined the younger Donnie probably would've done the same for him if he was in that situation. And he couldn't help but appreciate their tenderness. This would be a better night's sleep--for him. Meanwhile, future Don was left to his thoughts, and coming to a slow comprehension to which Leo was none the wiser.

---

Other Don kept to the workshop, while Raph and Mikey were out ritualistically scouting the tunnels. The lab had since been renovated by his older self, and Don had to say he was impressed. Future Don was obviously more capable--which reminded him that he himself still held onto some hope of creating a time machine. To get his other self back home. Then again, it'd been three years and even future Don had made little progress on such an invention, that seemed laughably improbable. If not impossible.

The gears behind him cranked round at the sound of a parting lab entrance. Leo was there, and looking a bit out of it, as per usual. Donnie smiled. Ever since Leo had first confronted him, he'd been so helpful. Don was over the moon at the fact he'd been willing to forgive him at all. So, he couldn't help but play favourites, and to act a tad clingy around his big bro.

And that only drew more attention to Leo, who was clearly trying to put some distance between them. He reluctantly strode over to Don, who was sitting at the cluttered workbench, and gripping a spanner. Leonardo waved once and avoided eye contact--not that Don would notice, as he was much too busy tightening screws on his latest project. Between the spurring of the screwdriver, Donnie jotted some notes down in an adjacent journal.

"How's it going, Donnie?" Leo said, peering over.

"Alright, I think? I was just about to put the flux into this heated weld capacitor which should allow me to detect sodium iodide emissions from this fragment of the time machine I kept, and ..."

Leo zoned him out, though at some points absent-mindedly tuning in to other Don's indecipherable ramblings. He admired his enthusiasm. Even though Leo had absolutely no clue what he was saying.

"--Hey, I'm not boring you, am I, Leo?"

"No. Keep going."

That almost sounded like an order. The delight the response brought Donnie was affable, and he eagerly dove right back in. Leo just couldn't help but quietly stand there as an outlet. He definitely liked this side of him, too. But, sometimes Don would lean in closer, and he didn't stop it. This was ridiculous, it was like he was obsessed or something. Rather, becoming obsessed, with him.

Leo was in an awful hurry to get out of there, and so much so that as he stumbled back out the lab, he felt himself brush against future Don's shoulder. This much older brother of his had just been watching them like a hawk. His eyes that were typically glazed indifferent and gentle, now voraciously bore into him with disgust. But a repressed sort. This change an antithesis to Leo's own odd surrendering of himself to hopelessness.

"Leonardo," said future Donnie, his serious tone stopping Leo dead in his tracks. "I need to speak with you."

---

Donnie's room again. The image was still clear as the night before, with Donnie stood over him. Only this time, the door had been shut for a time, and they were metres apart. Leo assumed that to be on purpose, as his confessing to everything had made Don ...uneasy, to say the least. But, his elder brother had nonetheless obliged to hear him out, so he just sat there. Patiently. Being there for Leo like he always had.

"Thank you for coming clean to me. This definitely isn't normal--but I will give you the benefit of the doubt here, and say that you are experiencing a chemical imbalance."

"Meaning ...?"

"Look, I won't go into details like I know my younger self loves to. You just need to get out more--and I mean proper getting out. I believe you have been too busy with the other Donatello, as of late."

Leo remained serious as he bit back a snort. "Boy, I really must be off my head if the techno-turtle is telling me to get some fresh air."

Don managed a small chuckle. "Yeah."

"...So, is that all you wanted to tell me, or is there something else?"

"Well, it's only that, if you really want help then I suggest you let me try something. For you see, your thoughts and desires are one thing, but in execution they are another," Don said, as Leo's mouth dipped in confusion. "...Let me put it this way: if you actually tried anything of the sort with your brothers, chances are you would be disgusted by it and drop the notion. So physical contact with him, or me, should break you out of it."

Leo considered future Don before he, with a shred of doubt, inclined his head. "Fine. If you think that'll help."

Future Don then cautiously stepped towards Leo, to lay his hands across his shoulders. Knowing what was to come, Leo closed his eyes. But Don pried them open.

"Don't. The more disturbed you are, the more effective it will be--and I know that sounds terrible. Just, try to bare with me."

He had to crane his neck slightly to stoop to his little brother's level. Just before their lips touched, however, he reminded him:

"And I’m only doing this on a scientific basis, okay?"

Leo smirked, thinking that is absolutely something Don would say. He didn't have much time left to deliberate or compose himself, however, because not a moment later, their beaks connected.

Don's was a bit coarse with age, but his movements were guided and gentle. Probably because he was purposefully avoiding making it too sensual. Leonardo was his brother, after all. And it's not like either of them wanted this. They'd pecked one another on the cheek before, but now--in full panoramic view--Leo could see the older Donnie pressing his mouth against him with eyes glued shut. Clearly nervous himself. It couldn't've been more than five seconds before Donnie pushed away.

"Well? Did that help?" Don muttered as he wiped his mouth, appearing somewhat repulsed.

"I think so. I needed that, thank you ...--uh, but don't take that the wrong way, though."

"Don’t mention it,” Donnie said, calmly returning a hand to Leo’s shoulder. “Seriously, don’t,” and they both laughed.

They didn't speak to each other again that day. The whole scenario had made both of them unquestionably awkward, although neither of them doubted that it would soon pass. A short time later, though, Leo sat down in his room and thought everything over. The kiss, and how it made him feel--now, not necessarily as it happened, because he was far too overwhelmed at that moment to think anything. But right now. And he couldn't but delightfully squirm at the thought of it.

Chapter Text

From his lab, Don remains hunched over and distractedly tapping at the laptop keys, while three out of his four brothers are at the centre of the lair. And doodling on sheets of paper with coloured pens, to pass the time. At one point, Splinter came past to call their game childish. To which Don heard them simply collate a laugh.

It’s no use--right now, there’s no way he can focus. So Don picked what remained of a pastry snack at his desk before wandering through. Nibbling on it and watching them from the doorway, his tough bread spattering crumbs. Without warning, skin clamped around his shoulders, causing him to flinch. He stared back wide-eyed at Leonardo.

“Why so tense, Donnie?” Leo said, spouting his usual blend of polite and diplomatic.

Don exhaled a long, drawn out sigh. “Oh, I don’t know."

For a moment, his shoulders reflexively sank in relief, and Leo joined his field of view. Noticing how Don's eyes now maintained an unnerving focus on his family.

“Come on, let’s join them," Leo said, as he began carting Donnie out.

“--Woah!”

To his dismay, Leo then forced him into a circle. Purposely nestling him right next to Raph. Their knees almost touching. And as Leo made his first guess at Mikey’s artwork, Donnie nervously chewed up the last of his meal. Totally oblivious to the fact that Raph’s eyes had become slits; scowling over at how meagre drops of food were flung his way. Splinter kept watch, standing in the corridor connecting the leisure room to the main hall. Their Master frowning at how--without his son breaking his gaze--Raph restlessly swiped dappled spots of bread from himself.

“The Empire State Building!” Future Donnie called out.

Mikey slapped down his pen. “What? How!? I haven’t even finished it, yet!”

“Mikey, you seriously suck at this game. You’re too good at drawing," Raphael said, before snatching the utensil from his brother.

He began to sketch his own, however Raph's line work and concentration was stilted. An unshakeable hesitation brought on by his agitation at Donnie’s closeness. And how a single crumb was resting on the page.

“Bah. I don’t feel like playing this no more,” Raph grunted, rising up. “Why’s Donatello here, anyway? Ain’t you supposed to be finding a way to get future Donnie back home?”

"Give him a break, Raphael,” future Don said, and at that, Raph wasn't up for sticking around much longer.

Splinter motioned to his son as he went by. Steering Raph down the hall for a talk, while Donnie cupped his face in his hands.

He wasn't the only one who ditched them, however. It'd barely been more than hour before he saw Donnie sit down, and Leo was sure he was gone. He'd checked future Don’s room, his room, the couch, the lab--even the training hall. And although some part of him felt justified in trying to lift Don’s spirits and give him some time off to relax, he’d also let him down in some way.

Donnie had put faith in Leo by allowing coercion of him acting more casual around his family, but all it’d resulted in is him feeling more outcast. Leo backed against the brick wall and slid his arms behind his head, fleeting gaze cast above at nothing. Mikey popped round the corner.

"Oh, it's just you, Leo. Thought I smelled some brains round here," Mikey sneered. Lightly punching Leo once he put on a disappointed smile. "Kidding!"

Watching the lab again as Mikey skipped away, Leo came to realise that something was missing. Not that he'd ever bothered to memorise the interior, or that he knew anything about his brother's gadgets. But, the sodium iodide thingy-ma-bob, or whatever he called it, was all but gone. Its disappearance leaving a dust-free expanse on the workbench.

---

They leapt from the open cart of a supply train; surreptitiously cartwheeling a landing through grazed tall grass fields. Crushing wilted daises underfoot. This wasn’t as far from New York as Leonardo had ever been, and certainly not future Donnie, but, they’d still made quite the distance. It was already night, however they remained a short walk away--according to a journal future Don held in front. The journal that belonged to his younger self, having been left on the workshop counter the day before.

Leo stopped for a minute. "So, why would Donnie want to come here?”

“I thought you would’ve figured that out by now, Leonardo. Isn’t it obvious? This matter is concerning his covet to return me home,” future Donnie said, turning a page in the notebook. “Other Don’s been tracking irregularities in the fabric of space time, that are inexplicitly linked to the traces of the machine that brought me here.”

“I know, he told me as much …do you think he could find a way through that?”

"Well, the chances of it are highly contingent.--Wishful thinking, if you ask me."

Wriggling out a work-in-progress map from the book, future Don began motioning the needle points of his drawing compass along the parchment. Inscribing an indented line for the power plant that loomed ahead. One that was in the midst of circulating oily black fumes. Following the unmarked trail, and soon inside, a middling breeze regressed to one that they vaguely associated with the city: soot-filled, tarnished, heavy, and sickeningly industrial.

Slinking past the workers and chinking machines--much unlike future Don’s own--and along the ceiling pipes and trusses, they came to a barricaded door. It threw ajar from future Don’s pedantic touch, its contents now displayed unto them. The few dozen hovering emerald spheres warranting a scrutinising glance. Each a swirling vortex that depleted the surrounding light. Not at all like anything Leo had ever seen before ...at least, not on Earth.

Elsewhere, the younger Don presents himself to one. Postulating alone, and regarding a particularly dense cloud. It was the single biggest time anomaly around--since he'd been with the machine while it was still operational, anyway. And its scope made him ponder not only whether it really was a drifting remnant of his time travelling, but if it may still contain some power. Perhaps, even enough to traverse through time again. He knew he had to try, and fast, as it had already begun to fade away.

Initially fearful, he went to touch it, before quizzically entering by one arm and then the other. Not only a gap in time but a gateway, as he predicted--now, to where exactly, he wasn’t sure. Alternating through reality, his mind stirred at the thought he was risking his life by doing this, although the same could be said for as he acted before. When he used the device on future Don.

But there was a job to be done, and he thought it ought to be sooner than later. No more dawdling after Leonardo--no matter how much he’d like to. His brother’s efforts certainly helped for comfort and to settle in, but it did a number on his work ethic. Raph was right--he needed to help take Donnie back home. This was the first lead in years, and by God he’d find some use of it.

By the time he’d completely submerged himself in the strange, corporeal visage, the world he knew was gone and a new one took its place. His knees hitched; gliding along unfamiliar metallic footing, as he balanced himself on one hand. Neighbouring him, a corridor--one half of which was transparent, and beside that, a glass balcony walled by overarching pillars.

Creeping up, he felt a noise beneath him, so Don scraped his back against a column. Barely wide enough to mask his frame. Downcast gaze angled to a point where he could see out the corner of his eyes a hulking, terrestrial being. Its limbs like stalks and spiked on end. The top of its scalp projecting almost a crown of antlers, though unmistakably fleshen, and tinted like the rest of it with a saturated reddish violet. Clambering on tendrils, it sulked at the floor below. Pacing from one end to the other.

Extending its claw, the being motions for two others of its species to step forth. Guiding them to a flight of steps, and then to the platform above. The corridor Don was hiding in. Some sort of mechanism was pressed by the first of them Don had spotted, which triggered a sealed door Donnie had prior not known to be there to slide open. Vertically heaving itself by a split in the middle. 

Once the gateway had fully retracted, it exposed an active, and sophisticated cylindrical device. Don gawked at it with immediate recognition, as it was undoubtedly the root cause of his single greatest mistake. Emanating from it were pulses of a jet engine-like buzz. But, not a moment after he’d gotten a grip on himself, clacking he assumed to be foot treads came louder and louder up the steps. Towards him. Nowhere to go, Don could only blend with a pillar's shadow.

Setting foot on the balcony, the two beasts began talking to one another--not that it was in any language Don could possibly understand. Held in one’s grasp was also what appeared to be a blueprint. While the second went through the portal without hesitation, the other creature just stood there. Gripping the schematics with both hands, and--thanks to Don’s position behind it and his amicable knowledge in technical layouts--he found it easily readable from afar. The contraption syndicated on the page mirroring the time machine in front. He quickly assumed they were preparing to construct a second, just as they had before, until Don used it. A two-way time machine, he thought. Then, it saw him.

“I thought you said he’d be around here somewhere,” Leo grumbled.

“Yeah, I did ...”

Passing a compression room, Leo and future Don steadily made their rounds through the complex's upper levels. It was like the inside of a hospital--well, more specifically, a psychiatric ward. It had that clinical feel to it; antiquated by steam vents that were tethered along tan brown hallways. Minutes spent in the place, their panic began to settle in. Maybe Don wasn’t here. And the harrowing, insectoid shriek that rang across the room from them certainly didn't make that seem any less possible.

Around them, the strange balls of light future Don had labelled to be metaphysical tears in time were dissipating fast--fading away as mysteriously as they’d materialised. And not only that, but gashes were loudly imbedding themselves in the door frame. Something clawing at it from the inside. They watched a strange form step from the vault, that crackled open. Something clearly not human drawing into the lit tunnel. Its back protruding, arched and malevolent.

“Wow, the other Donatello really let himself go,” future Donnie laughed, as he uncased his battered staff. Although Leonardo quickly shot him a contemptuous look. “--Sorry."

Three serrated streaks tore into the side of his face. Hissing, other Don squeezed his palm over it. Crimson continuing to flow and coagulate even as he gripped his cuts tightly, and painfully so. With a feint expression, Don's fist clutched his weapon. Just in time to elude the creature’s next strike. He propelled his staff flat and evenly to push against its heavy torso--not enough. A single shove sent him hurtling. With a pang and a thud, Donnie’s shell collided with solid plexiglass. The blow did fail to entirely collapse the windows, or to even create a hole, however the shattered spherical imprint of his carapace was unmistakable. The glass also hadn't cracked all the way through, making the sound barely audible from the opposite side.

His sight diminishing from surrendering consciousness, Don caught a blurred and slanted view of the machine buzzing, and an alien treading through time. This one bearing elaborate spikes, and blackened skin. His eyes felt heavy, and with a single winded grunt, other Don fell cold.

“What is this thing? A mutant?” Leo said, spinning his blades and staring it down.

He and future Don briefly cornered the creature, until it charged at them. Weaving talons around Leonardo and raising him like he was nothing, before pummelling him into a support beam. Surveying around, it then registered in Don’s mind that a stairwell sporting dangerously low hanging barricades stood to either side of them. There wasn’t much room in the hall, and not just because this lumbering behemoth was in the way.

Leo planted a sword in its ankle--skimming flesh until his foe's balance gave way, and the beast flattened onto the steps. However, sparing a moment too long to catch his breath, its tremendous reach sought out Leo's katanas. Laterally tossing them and then Leo behind.

Without adequate barricades around them, Leo very nearly tripped over the stairs and fell to his death. But the blades took his place; the faintest of clangs signalling contact with the ground floor. Clinging to the ramparts with one hand, Leo began to haul himself back onto higher ground.

Gazing up, a shadowy array of feathers then formed a claw-tipped, bulbous hand. Slamming under it and busting a panel off the barely protective bars. However, just before it could strike him, Leo grabbed the tip of the staff Don presented him with--proceeding to reclaim his spot on the platform. With little time to think, or act, Leo plainly gestured his thanks and now the creature was on Don.

Gripping his staff, claws raked at him and effortlessly snapped the pole in two. Nervously chuckling, future Donnie dropped one half and began using the other--now equipped with a sharply jagged tip--to jab at the creature. Thus allowing him to witness how its thick skin was dealt hardly any damage. Rather, it growled and began preparing another blow. Only this time, Don was ready. He smoothly ducked back against the hit, before vault-kicking the alien against a tanker. While it was down, Leo retraced his steps, and flicked his blades to the beast's neck. The movement swift enough to halt it from even staging an attempt to crawl away.

Leo nudged their captive. “Do you think it talks?”

“Probably not."

Taking his staff, Don threateningly positioned it overarm. Staring at their breathless foe. However, they soon found before them an emerging ring of light, from a metallic band around the presumably alien life form's wrist. Holographic imagery depicting a violent scene in an odd location,  whilst the tongue of an indiscernible language played from the built-in communicative device. Its tech portraying current Donnie coming to his senses, and him narrowly escaping with his life.

Leo and future Donnie watched each other, with the former instinctively gasping out his little brother’s name. Taken aback, the being below them weakly reached to pull a notch on the device. Using the turtles' short distraction to their advantage. And the next they look down, its violet flesh had begun to evaporate. Briefly harbouring a translucent spectre of its form, before all that remained was the ground it once rested on. Leo and Donnie blinked.

“Not a race as primitive as we’d been led to believe, hm?" Don said, with morbid enthusiasm. "A self-destruct mechanism.”

“Yeah, maybe--but, that doesn’t matter right now. We need to get to Donnie so we can find out whatever the Hell’s going on.”

“Get to Donnie, how? The building he was in didn’t exactly look local--”

A single, collapsed thud echoed down the hall.

“Come on,” Leo said, dragging his older brother behind and past a corrugated door.

They heard other Don groan in a heap on the other side. The two rushed to him, delicately turning his face only to see their brother's eyes wrenched shut both in discomfort and inertness--not to mention the oozing cuts running up and down his cheek. Future Donnie shot to his pouch, patting a clean fabric to other Don's wounds. Only to realise that they hadn’t enough time. They'd made plenty of mess and noise already, and people were coming.

“Later, Don. Let’s get him out of here, first.”

Slinging other Donnie's limp arms around themselves, they padded away under the hindrance of his weight.

---

Slowly approaching from all sides, other Don's brothers encircled him as he lay flat on a futon in Master Splinter's room. All except other Don were knelt on frugal carpets varying in red and brownish dye. The location's proximity to Splinter's own remedial supplies convenient in comparison to the others' cluttered, though more spacious living quarters.

His whole family was there, and in most cases that would be comforting. Although Donnie couldn't help but tense at being crowded. His Father and brothers spoke many words to him the moment he came awake, but none that he was presently able to comprehend. Until future Don leaned in to kindly mutter.

“What happened, Donatello? Who did this to you?"

“Um ...a lot happened," other Don said. Clearly needing a lot more time to think.

And his brother's apparent cluelessness brought Raph to a snarky chuckle. "Well, that just explains everything, doesn’t it?”

"Raphael, you are in no position to--" Splinter began, silencing himself when drowned out by a fervent Leonardo.

“Could you give him a break, Raph? Don’s been passed out for hours, and all you can think of doing is wagging that big mouth of yours. Make yourself useful and bring him a towel."

“Look who’s cranky,” Raph told him in a part whisper.

“Leo, he didn’t mean it. Don’t get all tense over something like that. I--ow …” Don’s surmise fell into a whimper, as his cuts twinged from the cotton ball future Donnie applied.

Splinter sighed at them. "Leonardo. Raphael. Both of you will see me tomorrow morning. I have taught you respect, however your lack of it would suggest otherwise."

Leo dipped his head in repentance, however knowingly continued to squint his eyes at Raph. Until his brother gave up and squared back. “Always me that has to leave, huh? Fine. I will,” and Raph shut the door.

Quietly exhaling, Splinter shifted on his knees to face Leonardo and Michelangelo. Leaving Future Don to tend to his younger self.

“You two may go as well. Donatello needs time to rest, alone."

Nodding, they also made their way out. Reluctantly closing the entrance behind Splinter and the two Donnies. Raph fidgeted--eager to hear from his brothers. Though he’d made it seem like he felt the opposite. Heading over, Leo slapped a can of soda on the stone wall’s skirting board. Relaxing on the surface's edge with his elbows, which made Raph feel a little more comfortable. To the point he even bit back most of the smack talk he was fully prepared to hand Leo.

“Speak to me that way again, boss man, and I won’t let you off so easily.”

“I’ll keep that in mind," Leo said, smiling back. "For the record, even if you don’t appreciate him being here, I wanted to make it clear to you that he’s your brother; and that he’s recovering, and--”

“My head’s not as thick as my shell. I knew what you meant five minutes ago, thanks.”

“Right. Sorry ..."

Raph paused, feeling himself entering one of his odd moments of clarity. “I am too ...--to him, I mean. That other Donatello being here really makes me feel uneasy, but not so much anymore,” he turned to Leo. “Maybe it’s ‘cause he has my back more than you."

Leo thought he was serious for a second there, until he returned the look and saw Raph grinning wildly. The clinking handle of Splinter's room signalling to them future Donnie's presence.

“He's fine. Let him rest, okay?” he warned them, then waving and removing his jacket so he could dump it in the hall.

Waiting for future Don to move out of sight, Leo then completely disregarded him, and their Master.

Other Don practically cheered when he opened the door. “Leo! Thank God, it’s far too early for me. How’s Raph?”

“How’s RaphYou almost bled to death.”

“‘Tis but a scratch,” Don laughed, then immediately regretting the act when his face ached and he reached to grab it. “By the way, could you talk to me? About training, or, anything that isn’t related to my lacerations. 'Cause when I think about them, they hurt even more. Probably due to sensory memory feedback inciting stimuli in the nociceptive pathway, which causes pain sensitisation--and I’m thinking about it now and it hurts and I’m rambling again …”

“I don’t think you need me to talk to you ...just, calm down.”

“You’re right,” Don quietly conceded to him. “Leo, I ...I really appreciate you sticking up for me earlier. I feel like I’ve not been grateful enough to you. You’ve helped me out a lot. Heck--if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t even be here right now!"

Leo smiled in agreement, although he soon deviated from his hasty, near dismissive response after assessing his brother's words. "...Don, because I understand that you're trying to express your gratitude, allow me to remind you that where you are right now is on a bed, writhing in pain."

“Hey, that part's my fault." he chuckled. "For going off alone ...not that I regret it, or anything. I put myself in danger, and now I’ve got new intel to help future Donnie! Which is--why I’m here.”

“You’re here to be their brother, Don,” Leo said, carefully touching his arm.

Don's face lit up. However, there was a slight, scrupulous raise of his eye ridge at the word choice of their.

Leo stared down. “I really like speaking with you--sorry, if that’s a strange thing to say."

“Not at all. Insightful conversations more your style?”

“How modest of you ...yeah, and also I don’t feel pressure around you. You’re satisfied with me not offering any input ...I mean, I can’t, really. Since you one-up me in half your conversation topics."

“That works both ways, though," Don said, tilting his head. "You could talk all day about perfecting your form and practice regime and I wouldn’t have a clue. But I’d still listen, because, it's nice hearing you talk about your passions."

Leo nodded. “Anyway, you should get some rest. You’ve stayed up long enough.”

“I suppose ...but, uh, hey--for what it’s worth, Leo, thanks for hearing me out tonight. You’ve always been the only one who does.”

Staying in the doorway a moment longer, he gave Don a look of understanding. Pulling the handle behind him, Leo jumped up as future Donnie stood aside with a, suffice to say, displeased hold on his hips.

“What’re you doing, Leo? I thought I told you to let him rest.”

As if taking that as a challenge, Raph charged in front. “You said it yourself, Don: he’s fine. What’re we waiting around for? We’ve got more important things to do--like, maybe getting him to tell us what happened?”

“Don’t you think he’s had enough for one day, Raphael?” Future Don said quickly.

Raph stepped closer. “Of what? You Mothering him? Yeah, I’m sure he has!”

"Honestly, where'd this attitude come from?" Don sighed, thinking aloud. "Can't bad mouth him, so I'm your substitute, am I? Are you too devout to conceptualise individuality, and to you we are simply a singular entity?--The same brother?"

"Maybe I could tell you, brain box, if I had any idea what the heck you just said!"

If it really was the case that Don’s had enough, he wasn’t the only one. He felt Michelangelo’s gaze boring into him, and normally he would've intervened, but he'd already dealt with Raph once today. Which was more than enough. So, he swerved round them like traffic cones and nudged past.

“You two have fun. I’m going to bed.”

Rather than lying down, though, Leo plainly perched on the bed rest and looked down at his fingers. Interlocking them to form a tight basket. He’d go talk to other Donnie again, if he wasn’t unwittingly locked behind the war torn fences of no man’s land. Still--he needed something to comfort him. It wasn’t very often that Leo found himself simultaneously incapable of keeping his brothers in line, and unable to. Well, Splinter or a desperate Mikey could sort them out, anyway.

Eyes sewn shut and palms gently grappling his knees, Leo tried to meditate his worries away--the key word being try. He’d thought to keep the door open to make himself more accessible, however, all that came to him were the far gone echoes of future Don and Raph’s deluded rivalry.

Frantically mumbling to himself, he crept outside to check before shutting it. And on a bench near Donnie’s room was a waistcoat. Purple--of course. Lacking buttons, or else the lean, human-sized proportions would not fit. Different from future Don’s usual ankle-length jacket. Pausing in contemplation, he took it with him.

With the exit shut, his mind could finally distance itself from the rest of his family--although not quite. Don was still there in his head, and by his own doing. He held the coat close like a blanket, while draping his legs frontward across the bed. Protectively pinching the outerwear between his forefingers, as he was suddenly made aware of how relaxed Donnie made him feel. Because even if he wasn't here, and couldn't be, a slight memento of him was all Leo needed to enter his rightful place of inner calm.

But it was future Donnie's coat, and not the younger. Other Don was undeniably meek, and--being of a similar age to him--more comprehensible. Not as intimidating as future Don, yet in some ways more, because he was latching onto Leo. Growing closer. Leo's focus broke once more, and he grit his teeth. That snooty chortle of the younger turtle while laughing at his own remarks. The beseeching glint in his eyes as his soft words spoke sincerity. And then he realised, thinking about Don was distracting him.

Because it made him aroused.

After so long spent in the inseparable company of one another, individual scents had dimmed. Merging into one. Familiarity brought contempt, but also tolerance. Therefore, by this time, future Donnie's scent to Leo was near indistinguishable from his brothers. Unlike his younger self. Gone for a time, he’d nearly forgotten other Donnie’s musk that now pilfered him anew. Both of theirs were different, although a fragment remained that resided in future Don’s fabric. Reminding him of his other half.

Donnie didn’t smell particularly good, albeit--just like a turtle from the sewer that thankfully washed semi-regularly. Not on his tongue, he still felt he could taste the iron from Don’s machines, and vapid fumes laced with pen ink. Harshly pressing the coat against his beak, and inhaling again, he felt the region above his tail tensing.

“Oh God, what the Hell am I doing?”

He threw it down. The air free of him now. Leo spat choked up breaths, and reclined his neck. Retroactively twitching from shock like a bombshell had hit him. His hanging legs slammed into the ground, and with such force that the door creaked half an inch. Divulging in a sliver of light--but so little that Leo failed to notice.

Trapping the cloth from sight and mind, he tucked it under his pillow. Of the vehement, tingling sensation, this one was the most intense he’d had. Now that silence had failed him, as well as Don, he sat eye-to-eye with another obstacle. The last he should purvey for his so longed and languished sanctity. Because it all had made him ...like this. Enduring it was a more sensible route, however. And he was not one to curiously stray far from sought ways. But, it just felt so good.

There was a desire to experience more, and also the fear of unfamiliar findings. He stared down; eyes now transfixed on his plastron’s lower extremities. A vertical pocket resting on the centre most ridge, that made it particularly difficult to spot. He sensed heat there, like the rest of him now, and in an instant he touched two fingers to the phylactic muscle. Wedging it open a slight. Nothing.

It was like he was touching any other part of himself, as it offered no pleasure or relief--apart from his cold-blooded fingertips’ breadth and coolness. He’d done this before. Attempted it. Knew what he was doing ...sort of, and every time, it was all the same. He turned away, features scorned and shameful. Hand adrift and unwilling to withdraw. Dry but needy. Half-heartedly partaking in the act, and through the night, until he fell asleep on the last tired, empty stroke.

Chapter Text

By the ivory framed windowsill sits a shrouded figure. Propped up on one knee, the bolts along the glass come forcefully undone. Rendering the entrance free of its hinges, and ensuring the form ease of entry. They cautiously lower themselves into respectable quarters--for one that housed only a single bed. Vaulting their last leg over, it clumsily brushed a tiny wire. Promptly sending an alarm blaring through the home. On the floor below, a family scattered about the main hallway and a velvety carpet enclosed lounge profess a pained gasp. Covering where their ears would be, if they had any.

"Awh, jeez, Donnie! Would it kill you to install security that doesn't deafen us?" Raph told his brother, who then frowned.

"It works, doesn't it?" Although, observing that his family's intense stare on him would not soon dwindle, Donatello sighed and relaxed his shoulders. "Alright, alright ...I'm on the case."

People often fear what they do not understand. And that had been made perfectly clear to them for so long that they had failed to conceptually realise how one could make them understand. Living in the sewers throughout the course of their early lives and a spacious cabin in the woods the next was quite a stretch--designed and partially manufactured by their own Donatello. The task of funding made effortless by partaking in the trade of Donnie's inventions, and the surprising array of souvenirs they had accumulated from a lifetime of adventure. 

After saving of the world time and time again until there was little more to do than further their training, there didn't seem to be any better way to endorse that than to allow themselves the comfort of a real home. And the peace that came of finally being accepted and appreciated by humankind. Some of humankind, anyway. The knowledge of their existence was still kept scarce for their safety, and they were allocated to a desolate location nigh impossible to reach by the general populace.

Even so, they were very occasionally frequented by the odd intruder, who need only be frightened off. Today would be no different, Don thought, as he preyed up the steps. Muffled sounds came from Mikey's room, so he went inside. And, to his surprise, he found himself. Like seeing through a mirror, only his counterpart was tripping and fumbling over the litter on his little brother's floor. Mostly food waste, although his reflection had one foot stuck in a drum as he shyly waved in greeting.

The alarms now reset, two vaguely dissimilar copies carried themselves side-by-side down a stairwell. Future Don strut with a certain aloof intensity, while the younger loitered. They'd made a short tour of the home, as the younger Donnie had maintained some attempt at focusing on the task at hand. Michelangelo eyed his brothers afar from his armchair, head in an old magazine and scepticism furrowing his brow. Though he'd been prior introduced. Matching voices echoed long through the corridors and chambers they passed, and the older turtle inclined his head as he listened to his second half. A solitary breath escaping him before future Don finally opened his mouth to speak.

"So, you're me from the past. Which in your world is the present. And I'm you from the future ...making technically neither of us from the present. Wait, what?"

"Exactly," Other Don chuckled. "You see, Donnie, I thought that you might help me with, um ...technological advancements. You and the people from this timeline must have all kinds of crazy inventions!"

And at that, he momentarily left his older brother's side to admire a set of artefacts and inventions lining a table. An ill-concealed smirk twisting future Don's features, at witnessing the emergence of his former self's childlike wonderment.

"...Ahah, I'm not sure you'll need any advancements if you can come up with a time machine. Even we haven't managed that ..."

Other Don manically spun round to wave his hands. "No-no-no-no, the time machine is ...well, it's a long story. Anyway, I'd still like you to come with me."

"With you? To the past?" Future Donnie blinked at him. "Time out, Donnie. I know that back in your time, I had my fair share of ridiculous ideas. But, changing history like this? That can't be safe ...are you sure you've thought this through?"

The gleam in other Don's eyes dimmed a little. "We always do, don't we? I arrived in one piece, so it works, at least," he took future Don's arm. "Come on--I know you're as curious as I am about the machine's capabilities."

"Its capabilities? ...Who made it? Why--Don. This is all so shady," he said, with an adamant shake of his head.

"We can really help people with this. Please. Don't you trust yourself?"

Future Don paused wistfully. Looking into his younger half's eyes.

"Not always."

It took some convincing, but now the two Dons were outside the vicinity of the suite, and wandering into the surrounding woodland. Trekking a cobbled path alongside a stream that trickled under them, as they made it to a sunlit clearing amidst the trees.  Which laid in contrast to the whirring of a walk-in machine towering above that had assumed itself within a newly inaugurated crater. Other Don stopped to scout by holding a palm above his eyes, the green globules of energy swarming the place only accentuating the fact that this all seemed very unnatural.

"Your Leo's still out here, right? I didn't see him in the house with you guys."

"...Yeah. You know how he is," future Don said, through a forced, sad smile. "Mr. Meditate."

Other Don frowned; made a little miserable himself at the idea that in the future, Leonardo had possibly shut himself off more. Both holding some doubts now, they hesitantly found their way inside and flicked the switch. And immersed in the cosmic waves of time and space, they felt weightless. Almost as soon as it had began, however, they were out again, and in a dark, grey building--very different from future Don's own glistening homestead.

Moving from the capsule, they encountered that after enduring such a startling relocation of their very being, even their muscles were twitching. Future Donnie closely paced behind the other, afraid to let go lest he be lost in the city he used to know. And he couldn't help but stare back.

"You were right--it works, but ...that device doesn't exactly look stable. I don't know about this," future Donnie said.

"Stop second guessing things. I bet that's why your finished inventions are half the number of mine--not to brag or anything!"

That lightened future Don's mood a little, as he was directed to a side door. An exit sign quivering in red light above. But, a distant snarl startled them. Turning, they could make out a skulking, poignantly inhuman shadow, with grotesquely deep pink skin. Hovering above them as they sat with their backs to a spire of crates. The creature glossing over their hiding spot, and marching on its haunches for the time machine's portal. And only when future Don was absolutely sure that it was safe to, did he shuffle closer. Whispering in other Donnie's ear.

"What is that thing?"

The younger Don's blank, tight-lipped expression told him that they were both just as clueless. Being nearest to the monster's side, with him lagging behind his younger self--future Don took a wary peek round the box's corner. A gasp escaping him, though fortunately it did not alert their unexpected visitor, that looked as if it were about to enter through the same way they'd recently come in. The channelled vortex's image of a riverside cottage showing how it was still set to future Don's location.

The pair of turtles watched on, as a pigeon flew in through the sky windows and nestled itself at the device's forefront. Not only in the way of the creature, but budging inches closer to the portal. Exhuming a hooting sound as it innocuously pecked away at the metal framework. Remaining there, unflinching, even as claws unsheathed, raising into the air and shearing down. The two Dons could vaguely make out a harsh flurry of feathers and red, as whatever this thing was steered further unto the machine ahead.

"It--it's going in! We have to stop it!" future Don said, and more loudly this time. Breaching an exceptionally high octave at the desperation in his voice.

Reaching for his staff, future Don prepared to spring into action. Until other Don pulled him back.

"We can't, Donnie."

"Why!? It's going into my world! We've got to do something, before it--!"

One more step, and the creature was gone. He'd said it looked unstable before, and future Don wasn't kidding. The time machine's circuitry went haywire; blowing a fuse as it presumably had just made its final translocation. Sparks and steam emitted, running up and down the cables, before amassing into one big electrical blast. Future Donnie was stood up and trying to force his way past, but the younger Donnie had him held down. Identical grip rivalling his, and at the oncoming explosion, he ran for cover with his copy.

Even with pipes and supply crates between them, they could feel the surge of heat. Shut eyes baring witness to a flicker of light. Before long, they could see again, and also hear the crumbling devastation around them. With skin lightly seared, soot painting their faces, and the institute around them barely standing--future Donnie's ticket back home was all but destroyed. The roof was creaking and they had to go, but future Don froze. His younger half's head bent gravely and despondent. Future Donnie's shock contorted into anger, because he'd stopped him. The only reasonable explanation for such being that he knew.

---

"You're right--those creatures you described are exactly like the ones we saw. They're building another time machine. But, I feel like encountering them twice is too much of a coincidence," Leo nodded at his much older brother, after hearing his nothing short of satisfactory detail on the matter.

Those beings he and other Don had witnessed two years ago were here. Again. Raph just sneered, though, as he moved from his cross-legged position on the floor.

"Who cares about the back-to-the-future-mobile? They tried to kill us and they're not human! I'm telling you, guys, it's an alien invasion."

"Omigosh! Aliens! It's the war of the worlds!" Mikey said, hands on his head.

Future Don went to calm him, while other Don hung in the back. His mind on something else entirely.

"That's crazy talk," Future Don said. "If they had a time machine before, they could've taken over the Earth in one fell swoop--I suggest looking for them at the site of their first attack."

Raph grunted. "Oh yeah? What're we gonna do with 'em, then? Life counselling? Lot of good that would do, when they don't speak freaking English!"

"Homicidal monsters are on the loose. Priorities, people. We catch them, then think of a plan. And the only way we're going to do that is if we heed Don's advice, by checking eighth avenue." Leo said, and they all looked to each other in quiet agreement.

Dismissing his brothers, Leo went to collect his weapons. Whatever had powered that time travelling gizmo and hence caused the explosion was technology far beyond their comprehension. And, on top of that, it had expelled radiation on the surroundings. So the two Dons were hard at work in their lab crafting some makeshift protection against radioactive waste; masks, and portable oxygen tanks. Other Don remained silent in his company, and future Donnie attributed that to the retelling of his story.

"You seem a little out of it, Donatello," future Donnie said. His younger half distractedly twirling a wire round his finger.

"Do I? I feel fine."

Future Donnie regarded him before exhaling an impatient sigh. "Well, I'm not about to let a wounded, light-headed child work on my anti-radiation gear. Out, out, out."

And he grabbed the other's shoulders and hauled him away from the lab. The vault door shutting behind. Other Don leaned against it.

"Child?" he muttered to himself.

Other Don had instinctively denied future Donnie's assumption, even as he knew it to be true. Recounting his regrets was a little bothersome, especially when coupled with everything else on his mind. But, like Leo had said, there were more important things right now, and he couldn't let sudden doubts get in the way of that. So he sought to resolve them as soon as possible. And by that, he meant, now. Finding his way through the lair, he came to Leo, who was putting on elbow pads in his room.

"Hey, Leo, can we talk for a minute?"

Leo stopped what he was doing to glance aside. "...Now?"

"Yes. And this is on the topic of ...well, I--you ...--me--uhh."

"Donnie. We haven't got all day. What is it?"

Taking a breath through his nose, Don shut the door behind and stared Leo down. "Raph saw you touching yourself last night. He came and told me, while I was a captive audience. I would've kept this from you, but ..."

"For someone so smart, Don, you sure can be gullible. So, Raph managed to fool you with one of his delusions about me hugging myself to sleep, did he?" 

"It wasn't that kind of touching."

Leo's sneer grew more serious. "I don't know what you're talking about. I've never--I never did such a thing last night. And if I had, I wouldn't've been so careless."

"Please. You know Raph wouldn't make up a thing like that, and I'd only ask you this if I had a very good reason to."

Leo's brow deeply furrowed in concentration, before he finally relaxed his features. "...I trust you far too much, Donnie. But, you're right ...I've never really done it much before, though, and I didn't feel anything from it.--Gah, why am I even telling you this? How I act in my spare time is absolutely none of your business."

"I'm sorry for prying. I thought it was unusual for you ...you're distressed, and I want to help, is all," Don put to him gently. Even so, Leo started to pace around the room.

"What is there to help? I was curious, did what I wanted to do, didn't get quite what I expected, and now, I'm never doing it again."

"It's not that simple. Face it: you're pent up. You have four brothers, now, instead of three ...and I can't help but feel guilty, because that's my fault," Don said. Leo frowned at him and lowered his arms. "That stress is manifesting itself, and if you don't work towards finding a solution it'll only get worse. I'm here to return the favour, Leo. I think it would be beneficial if you ...repeated your actions."

"I've repeated them enough."

"You're probably doing it wrong. I could offer you some instructions--"

"Instructions!? Are you serious? Do you realise how intrusive you are being right now?" Leo scoffed, slightly embarrassed. The stoic look on Don's face telling him that he was. "Fine, Donnie. I might consider this silly little request of yours, if it'll get you out of my hair. Anyway, it's not like I can deny that your advice is usually of some merit."

Leo then deftly returned his focus to fitting a belt around himself.

"Thanks. I'll keep them away. Rest assured, you won't be disturbed."

"And not by you either, I should hope."

They both paused a minute, until Don broke the silence with his quiet, nasally laugh. That went just about as well as he'd expected--Leo could be quite easy to reason with, if you got on his good side. However, just as Don reached for the knob, Leo slid a backpack off the bed. Revealing the previously obscured sleeve belonging to a distinct purple jacket peeking out from under his pillow.

"...Is that future Donnie's coat?"

---

Wading through debris on the outer city, condensed alleyways provided a natural cover from the scarcely populated streets. Future Don scoured the wayside, from corner shadows. There was a street square ahead, and to their left, a monastery--nearly an abbey. And Don recognised it. The past flashing before him--recalling a hideout where he'd once been. And for a moment, Don saw figure glinting outside the windows. So he shrunk back, and held out his palm. His brothers froze. 

With his head retracted, future Don could still see who was heading through the doors. Someone wearing a torn shawl over a coat blowing in the wind. What really interested him, though, was a sudden memory. In the distant past, or rather the future, the sight before him felt so different and yet so similar. In another time this individual withdrawn for another, in ninja garb. Red and black banners waving, a partition of the Foot clan.

"Green light, Donnie," Mikey said, snapping him out of it.

"O-oh, right."

Of course, they weren't here for that. And future Don was sure their family were worried enough as it is, without having to concern themselves with outside affairs. Not to mention, affairs of whom may not even bare ill intent. After all, if his memory was not yet failing, the Shredder should be dead by now. Long dead.

A partially collapsed establishment stood ahead of them. What few windows remained were boarded up, and the entrance was bolted shut--leaving the only means of entry to a surmountable side wall. On the vantage point, was a gaping hole of fallen bricks poorly covered with planks that could be torn apart to fit through five turtles in single file. Helping each other up by the reach of their arms, other Donnie--as the last inside--carefully laid the makeshift barricade back against the wall.

Carrying on unseen, the entire structure of the building, if not black with char, was a pale grey from powdered rubble. Untouched for years. Wooden flooring splintered under them, to the extent that Raph stepping on a particularly loose platform triggered scaffolding to snap under him. Leaving Raph's legs to dangle through the ground--his shell thankfully trapping him midway. Grumbling, he coughed up a spray of dust and waited on someone pulling him up, which fell to Mikey and other Don.

They meandered across a fallen piece of roof purporting a ramp to the ground floor, as only a mess of bricks remained of the perpendicular staircase. It was a wonder the whole ceiling hadn't come crumbling down already. Little in the main hall was still intact, but the turtles began searching around; poking various mounds of oak and stone, as Raph stopped to clean himself of a few more white specks. His sounds muffled from the rustic aluminium casing fastened across his mouth, that was dotted with tiny holes ending in tubes. Joining them to a tanker against his shell which served as an air filter.

"Haven't we checked here plenty of times already? We're not gonna find anything."

Leo looked up from the ground. "We've not been inside before, Raph."

"Yeah, by now the gamma radiation has decayed to a point where we can walk around without experiencing chromosomal decomposition," other Don said, and Raph interjected with a huff.

"Thanks, Donatello, it was really imperative that we knew that ..."

But there was an oddly playful tone in his voice that made other Don shift his gaze. For although the bandana covered a grin, the corners of Raph's eyes were raised in good-natured fun. A look that Don soon returned.

"No problem--whoa, there's something under here," Other Don exclaimed, and indeed there was a vaguely familiar electronic bracer caught between the floorboards.

It should've been found by the authorities by now, or at least coated in dust--not to mention how it was oddly pristine. Don handed the wristband to Leo, who went to purposefully graze his finger along a button-infested panel.

"We've seen this device before--these belong to those aliens. I think it's a multi-purpose tool, with a telecom."

The two Donnies nodded at Leo, although the remaining pair of turtles shared with each other their apparent confusion. Having briefly observed how one operated before, Leo inspected the controls before hovering his index above a notch and pressing down. The rest jumped back, for the band now exuded a tear blue cone of light that morphed into a projected image. Their curiosity peaked, the brothers crowded round the dull glow and watched the blurry visual of a near pitch black room at a slanted angle. Like a camera had been tipped on its side. A few seconds more, and the buzzing audio collated a voice. Harsh, deep, alien, and with a distinctly foreign tongue.

---

Lifting one arm, future Donnie began tightening the screws of goggles while his other hand gripped at extraterrestrial technology. Laboriously examining every inch of it carefully and yet carelessly, as he let his excitement overcome him. At Leo's orders, they were in the lab again, and at future Donnie's, missing other Don. Along with everyone else. Not that the rest of his family would very much care for sticking around to figure out a gadget none of them had any clue how to work correctly.

It was late, and Leo was in and out to check up on his progress. Nothing of interest so far, although on future Don's increasing determination, Leo suspected it wouldn't take much longer.

"You were right, it does have a tele-communicator ...our main point of interest is the audio logs, though, so I'll get to work decoding those," future Don said, flipping it over. "Fascinating!--A particle accelerator, pantograph, uranium-235 ..." However he paused, tersely collecting himself and realising with a certain horror what he'd just done.

Eyes torn wide, he jostled round to face Leo, who was poorly hiding a bemused snicker. In response, Don made an effort to conceal his own face.

"Oh, God. I hate it when I do that."

"What?" Leo pleaded to him, although more out of obligation.

"Unconsciously using long, pretentious-sounding words and going into detail on things nobody cares about."

Don then distracted himself by folding the strange instrument on the table and applying a needle thin wire to prod at its intricacies. Flaring a green hued laser pointer along the underside. Leo could tell his presence was making Don nervous; a moderately bulky shadow cast upon the leaner, cloaked frame. Don's thumbprints consciously staggered.

"Donnie ...I don't mind, really."

"But they do, and I'm not about to let myself get in the habit of it.--Besides, I'm not him."

"Well, duh. I know you're not, and I never said you were. So why are you even bringing that up?" Don looked away. "I just ...want you to know, that it's okay to get excited about your passions. You could learn that from your younger half."

Not long after, Leo strode out the lab. Returning through the hall, and to his bedroom. Leaving a contemplative future Don to his work. There were no noticeable disturbances to the quilt or his pillowcase's ruffled creases, yet he jostled out an envelope from the latter. Evading household pranks was always a pain, because they were ninjas. But, this was no prank, and neither was it another one of Mikey's lame notes to him admitting to raiding Leo's corner of the fridge. It was Donnie's 'instructions'.

And he couldn't help but wonder about the placement, where future Don's attire had been ...Leo was sure he didn't know. He'd made an excuse for it on the spot--then again, it had been a rather pathetic attempt that sat far from his usual brand of intricately woven plots. Balancing one leg on the bed and idly swinging the other like a pendulum, Leo slowly unveiled the parchment. Flicking the two halves into an A4 sheet.

His jaw almost dropped. Don hadn't written a step-by-step to-do-list, like point one, point two, and so on and so forth. He'd essentially constructed a couple hundred word essay that filled the entire page. In some way, Leo was impressed, but in another, concerned that Don had put this much effort into extraditing his blood relative's pleasure. Maybe future Don did have some justification in explicitly avoiding details if it came down to this. 

Although he thought he'd like to put himself up to finding a more worthwhile way to spend his time, there was nothing more Leo could do right now. Even if it was preferable to revert to something that made him less self-conscious, and one that he didn't find so lightly humorous in its absurdity. Future Don was their best bet at trying to work the thing and he'd been at it for hours already. Now, all they could do was wait.

In fact, he asked himself if there was any need to go through with Don's strange demands at all. It's not like Don would know if he didn't bother, and he never promised it. But, he was a bit curious. It was supposed to feel good, wasn't it? Leo looked down at himself, and then at the door. It wasn't locked. He never shut himself out often as there was no need to. It was wrong to keep secrets from the rest of his family--only it'd be more wrong to not keep this one.

Click. A few paces further along, other Don skulked around. Keeping out of sight. The brisk chime of the lock on the entrance to Leo's room providing enough of a signal. He'd promised to ward off the rest of his brothers should they attempt a midnight stroll, and Don was usually a turtle of his word. However, it did make it a little more difficult that he hadn't a room of his own to watch from. Hence his decision to make do with lurking in the corridor itself. 

By this time, he'd done his rounds and made sure that his family were sound asleep--all except for future Don, that is. But, knowing himself, he'd be far too concentrated on his work to come out for as much as a snack.

Finding that his calves were aching slightly, Don crouched to the floor. Leo probably thought he was a complete weirdo now, asking about such private endeavours. It's just that, he'd been so helpful. So generously choosing to forgive Don, and guiding him as he always had. Don had held Leo in an esteemed, high regard for as long as he could remember, but now more than ever. And without realising it, he'd put him on a pedestal above the others. Which is why Don reacted so suddenly to ...hearing him act like that. But, he desperately wanted to return the favour, and offer help in any way he could.

Ten minutes must've passed by now, and Don felt so agitated all of a sudden. Pestered by the image Raph had forever engraved in his memory; of Leo's taut, lime green thighs spread apart and plastering his entrance in a shy, tender rub. He wanted to know if he was done. If he was okay. If he was doing it right, or wrong. If he'd just forgotten everything and gone off to sleep. If he needed help. If he would look as enthralling as the time Raph had caught him. Don swallowed and made a straight path, until he was standing right outside Leo's bedroom. The stone underfoot against his bare heels issuing a barely audible pat on each step. 

He pressed his ear hole to the frame, alongside the palm of his hand for support. Resting against it for a time. Silence. Asleep, he thought, and then immediately refuted at hearing a single muffled gasp. Distinctly Leo, yet soft, much unlike his usual stern and silent affront. Even after knowing him sixteen years, Don had experienced nothing quite like it. And this being wrong--forbidden, even, should've made it worse. Yet it only made it seem that much better.

It would've taken an impossible effort to stop himself from listening closer, as he waited for something. Anything. And, lo and behold, what followed was a modest grunt. It made Donnie tremble. Don's own hand began to slither down as it threatened to mimic the turtle behind these thin walls. No--he had more self-control than that. His fist clawed at his chest. A knot in his legs and abdomen and everything below him tightening.

Why?

---

The lab was dim, and he'd pulled a muscle in his neck from lying in the same position all night, were the first things that came to mind. His senses recuperating, future Don became aware of a constant ringing. Assuming it to be an alarm clock, he outstretched his palm to slap down beside him on the workbench. Its noise not making his rude awakening any less uncomfortable.

As opposed to landing on smooth plating, however, his skin crushed a hard and uneven surface. Rattling metal. Half-shut eyes shot wide, and--grunting in pain--he pulled back his whole arm. Cradling it. Coming to realise that it was an alarm of sorts, and definitely not theirs, as future Don spotted the alien wristband. In tune with its beeping, a tiny light flashed on and off.

"Okay, Donnie--on a scale of one to ten, how important is this?" said Raph, rubbing his eyes and not particularly happy at being forced into the lab.

Similarly, his brothers and Splinter came in to stand vexatiously astute.

"I don't know for how long, but, this device has been making noise. It might be some kind of signal."

Future Don cupped the gadget for all to see. And as he did, other Don could've swore it flashed brighter.

"Such a foreign device, and one that transmits a signal, no less, cannot be anything good. Quickly, my sons. We must--"

Their Master went quiet on hearing the metal band's silence, alongside its glow mysteriously dissipating. No one spoke either--at least, not until a faint rumble sounded down the hall. Banging on the dilapidated metalwork serving as the lair's entrance, from the outside. Certainly no human could create a sound like that.

"...Oh, look. The pizza's here. Y-y-you get the door, Raph," Mikey said, huddling behind him.

"Uh, well, I broke it last time so I think you should get the door."

"You broke the door?" Mikey repeated.

"Are we really going to talk about this now!?" Leo gasped at them.

Splinter poked his head through the lab's hatch. Anticipating what was coming. However, even at the premeditated assault on the doorway, they could not have prepared for a scraggly, nearly ten foot tall beast to come barging in through the front of the lair. Their Master shrunk back, pressing his shoulders to the wall and deluging himself in shadow. His sons following shortly thereafter.

They could not see, for by daring another peek at the creature they would surely be spotted. Instead, they slowed the heartbeat pounding in their chests and the ringing in the sound conductive bones they had for ears to listen for the alien's own transmissive device. As it exhibited a noise they'd already grown accustomed to. The lab door was wide open, and the only means of exit inside was a rear vault. Raph came into sight with their invader again, once he'd correctly registered the beeping to be a fair distance away. Directing his finger, Raph revealed to them the alien had turned its back. So they went out.

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."

Chapter Text

As soon as they'd expelled themselves from the confines of their lab, the pair of scientists had begged everyone present to stay and watch. Waiting, for the reveal of the two Donnies' first joint venture. Of course, nobody had any clue what it was, but as to please their brothers and bask in their abnormally happy-go-lucky state, the others befit themselves a quiet audience. Not that it was hard. Mikey never paid attention to anything, even the tasks he enjoyed, so he was given a free pass to observing them like some drying swabs of paint.

Other Don and future Don serviced as two close fronds, intermingling as they conjured up the apparatus. They had said they were done and only wanted to show, however it became more of a tell when future Don's perfectionism got the better of him--and he returned to work at a few faults. His little brother not acquitted, other Don was inclined to aid him. Further incentivised by a new familiarity and their partnership.

Well, Raph let them. He was more interested in amusing himself by holding up his NC-17 comic. Raising the top panel that showed a man being beheaded, and aligning the edge of the page with future Don. So it appeared as if he was receiving it instead. Raph derided a dark chuckle, whilst Mikey went not to look bored out of his mind.

"I'd like your advice on this last bit, Don. The output I installed for the co-efficiency generator has a sub-optimal voltage."

"I've got a transformer right here for you--the circumferential aid better accommodates the run out's concentricity."

Future Don then gave his younger form an outlet with a bundle of wires, for attaching to a little disc-shaped gizmo. By this time, Mikey was sat up and slightly intrigued--for all the wrong reasons.

"Dudes, as much as I'm digging the Transformers talk, I thought you wanted to show us something."

"It's not the kind of talk you're thinking of, Mike. And with one more tweak we should be ...--" Click.

"Done. Would you all like to hear how it works? No? Okay, good ..." and future Don, somewhat ironically, began to sink into a very over-complicated explanation.

There was only one thing their invention could reasonably be for anyway, and Raph and Mikey knew it was to deal with locating the alien threat. As they couldn't risk revealing their location again by utilising the tracking device of the scanner. Other Don occasionally interjected to add in some of his own favourite six syllable words, and Raph downed a potato chip packet in the back. Leo was fortunate enough to pick a time nearing the end of the lecture to approach the lair, with Mikey's voice unsurprisingly breaching so loud he could hear him from outside.

"I dunno how it's even possible, but I get you guys even less now! You're, like, the worst turtle we could have two copies of."

Raph poked him. "Frankly, Mike, I wouldn't be none too happy about a pair of chuckle heads bouncing around, neither."

Other Don laughed at Mikey whereas future Don wore a reluctant smirk.

"Oh? Having a go, are you, Raph?" Mikey grinned, pulling up his imaginary sleeves. "Step to the side and I'll give you something to chuckle about."

Despite their position near the two Dons, Raph wasn't about to hold back. Happily lunging at his brother, everything that wasn't already bolted to a solid surface, which was ...everything, rattled as they took it to the ground. Future Don shrank back on his chair to protect the fragile hardware he was holding, while other Don just about snorted in amusement.

Raph's hand shot to Mikey's shoulder, wrangling it to keep him from dodging away, as the other pressed a firm grip to Raph's cheek. Withstanding that, however, Raph secured a playful yet vicious headbutt. At the noise, Splinter rushed in from his make-do meditation room. The candles still lit and his tail flailing as he spun, only to find his sons' method of loosening up: throwing non-fatal punches at each other.

Splinter held his face. "Ah, yes ...we are all adults here, aren't we ..."

Remarkably, other Don seemed more used to this than his older self. Or perhaps it was just that he was younger, and therefore more appreciative of it. He looked to his Master and nodded excitedly, with Mikey and Raph continuing to roll around. Even as Leo stepped in. Only by this time, Mikey was lying down and had the courtesy to lift his head at him. Leo's face was stern, akin to their Master. And through it he watched the two Dons that were sat by one another, all fairly cheery and smiling.

"Seeing as I'm not interrupting anything, can anyone tell me why our lives are in mortal danger and I'm the only one scouting around?"

Splinter pulled Mikey up. "Indeed--perhaps an explanation, or rather action, is in order, boys."

They all groaned. However after some debacle, the chore fell to future Donnie to assist Leo--not like they needed five turtles to check half a mile. And Don wanted a field test to try out his new toy, anyway.

Having already ran one circuit, Leo and Donnie backtracked at a calmer pace. They hadn't talked much on the way there, as Leo always demanded the highest level of efficiency. Meaning complete concentration. Don was patient, but not that patient, so it was lucky that he had a tracking device to keep him company.

Leo's eyes flashed a moment when they came to the old lair. Of course, only sparing seconds around it through fear of an ambush. Both their lungs were aching now, and Leo led Don to a wider passage which they had space to rest in. Don was slightly unnerved by something and stared around before sliding onto the wall. Leo felt it too, though there were more pressing matters at hand. He watched Don with his tool, who was transfixed and monitoring the radar.

"Somehow, I miss having aliens on our backs ...your gadget pick up anything?"

"No--in fact, the drum's pitch deviation is off a slight. Ha, Donatello made a rookie mistake."

Leo frowned. "You know, you don't have to flaunt your superior intellect at every chance you get."

"What? That's not what I was doing at all," Don scrunched up his face a little. "As much as you'd like to think you do, you don't really know me, Leonardo."

That almost made him laugh. Doesn't know him? He supposed then for the past eighteen years Leo hadn't been interacting with Don morning 'til night on a daily basis. Then again, he hadn't been around for the entirety of this particular Don's life. Leo's expression mellowed a slight, however retaining the desire to chastise him. At least after they'd begun to walk again. A shadow flashed along future Don's eye, lurking in the dark.

"Well, I know you well enough to understand that nothing's changed and you're still full of yourself."

"In many aspects, nothing has changed--and your family is a testament to that," he said, without thinking.

"...What's that supposed to mean?"

Don paused. Then peering up from his dysfunctional tracker. "I am referring to everyone's insistence on taking nothing seriously. And when those aliens do complete their mission and kill us, it will be because of you all joking around!"

Leo glared at him. To some extent, he understood future Don's frustrations, though he'd incorrectly assumed them to have subsided. Counteracted by other Don's promised discussion. He was more composed, now. Happy, even. And at home future Donnie had shown no anguish. Unless that had been a face for them.

"If you came out here just to badmouth them, Don, you had best put a sock in it. Although I understand that some things may still be troubling you ...so if your concern for your real family is distracting you this much, I suggest you head back home."

"What? It's not about that! Any of that. It's, how you all treat me," Don mumbled, clumsily flicking the switch of his tracker up and down for no reason.

"You mean, like a beloved older sibling? Would you prefer I speak down to you like you've done this entire time, instead?"

He swallowed. "I'm ...sorry, that I haven't been clear to you, and that I made you feel that way. The truth is, it's because everyone acts like I'm him."

"...Oh."

When Leo thought about it, of course they perceived future Don as his younger half. They always had. The two perpetuated a nurturing role, and similar attributes that were looked to in each of them. A position in the family that need only be reprised, which came to future Don on his younger form's departure. But now there was two. Perhaps he felt inadequate, and that was something Leo frequently questioned himself on.

"...Don, when Mikey called you a copy, he didn't mean--"

"It's deeper than that. Don't you see? Whenever Raph's mad at Donatello, or can't be, he's mad with me: last night, and after other Donatello got hurt. I get compared to your brother all the time. Not to mention, I'm forced to listen to the same jokes that amuse him--not me--ad nauseum. It's like, for the last two years I've just been a ...a replacement. All I want is for everyone to act a little different around me."

Leo grew still, which incurred Donnie to follow suit. "If you had told us this sooner, you wouldn't be in such a state. Don, you are an individual. And do you know why? I'm angry with you now, and only you."

"Even so, your brothers subconsciously don't think of me as my own person."

Leo looked away. "I think we're all miscommunicating, here. Tell them and we can work something out, instead of acting like I'm your only ear."

"But you are. You and Donatello--and the latter is only because he's me."

"Exactly. Because he's you. You are more similar than you'd like to believe--other Don has also told me that only I listen to him," Leo sighed.

Don's mouth pursed at that. But, he didn't look upset. Just concerned. "You were right before, Leonardo. And I'm starting to think that you are now. I don't want your Donatello to end up like me ...so that's why, um, if you could, please, say to him what you told me. About--being passionate."

Leo smiled. "Well, Don, it looks like you've lost this one. I thought you didn't want to be treated the same."

"This constitutes a different purpose. You're nice, and I want you to be nice to him. I-I just ..."

Leo perked a brow at him, the corners of his mouth upturning further. Entangled in the truth, that progressively hindered Don, as he was forced to acknowledge it lest he suffocate. All things considered, he did want to be treated the same as other Donnie. Because they were both loved and respected, and that's what mattered. Don grinned a little.

"Dammit, Leonardo, why are you so convincing?"

"Convinced you, did I? When you're supposed to be older, and smarter?"

The intentions for his terminology couldn't be any less than jesting, and the despite fact in knowing this, Donnie evaluated them as a judge in character. Leo's mind and body were autonomous, as well, which definitely did not restrict him from nudging the other on the way home. Don was nearly twice his brother's age, and hence greatly more in tune with his emotions. Or rather, should be. Which all made him think that, maybe I'm the one who needs to grow up.

---

Like the spindle of an electronic compass, his tracker's radar point revolved clockwise. Steadfast in other Don's hand, who intermittently upturned his invention that was buckled onto the turtle communicator. Ensuring that they were heading in the right direction. Although, they had been for a while now. Leo and future Don raised their heads--unlike how the fields had been dashed before with petals in winded heat at the power plant, tufts of cotton dangled from the cliff face.

A pebbled beach strand below them from the steep whitening ledge, the sea nearby and grey tipped gulls tolling. They were far from the edge, and thus closer inland to the meadow, in fact. During the night to guise themselves in an expansive stretch of land. Wide and open. On the radar of Don's finicky tool was a still blip, a virtual rod in the screen winding over and periodically causing it to pulsate. Scanning for movement. They were forced to deactivate the alien wristband before, however reverse engineering the inner workings and assembling a new shell for it provided another way to find the Tesri without being caught.

"Leo, seriously, you don't have to be a regular McFly to be able to tell that their time machine thingy probably won't be ready by now. Like, is it even here?" Mikey said, struggling to hide his exasperation at everyone being led seemingly through the middle of nowhere.

"They have future Donnie's only way home and that's all that matters. I only want to be sure about the location," Leo stopped to face them. "Remember, we're doing this for him."

Future Don had been awfully quiet, however he exchanged an affection look with Leo. One that other Don spotted as he shuffled round. Accepting of Leo's rationale, other Don kept moving. Left to ponder alone, ahead, at the interaction. They had arrived from a coastal route, the sewer grate as a river mouth. Passing further from the shore. It could've been that other Don already missed having someone to so fondly discuss his scientific interests, while they were busy with another sibling. And he was so caught up in pondering their sudden closeness that he bonked his head against something. Which stunned them all, considering there was nothing there.

Raph stepped up and tapped the air with his knuckles. "Check this out--invisible walls. Like a video game or something."

"I think it's a force field, actually," Other Don watched his tracker as he rubbed his scalp. The signal ahead only pointing to a green expanse of nothing. "I don't get it, it should be here ...maybe they're underground?"

"Or they're in the sky. Or, that thing's broken and we've been walking in circles," Mikey shrugged. "Awh, man. I just stole future Don's job of complaining about everything, didn't I?"

"What?" Future Don snapped at him.

While the four of them slipped into a frenzy of other Don reassuring Mikey that his scanner was working, future Don denying his grumblings yet simultaneously apologising for it, and Leo trying to shut everyone up, Raph charged at the invisible barricade. Chest thrown forward, and fist clawing for it. The instant he made impact with the solid force his eyes could not see, he was fired back. Gasping, as what felt like streaks of electricity shot through him. Casting Raph, breathless, into mud and soil.

Mikey left them and ran over. "Holy smokes! You okay, Raph? You beat that thing like it owed you money."

"Yeah. Freaking ...magic crap ..."

Laying on his shell and struggling to stand, Raph groaned when Mikey took his hand and towed him off the ground. Leo and future Don came towards them, crouching over Raph and helping him keep on two feet. Unsurprisingly, the moment he found his bearings, Raph sighed at the nursing and shoo'd them all away.

On recognising other Don promptly withdrawing from Raph's side, they all readied their lectures for insensitivity, however halted once they found him cleaning roots and dirt off a manhole cover. His nimble fingers fighting to lift it, and when he did, he craned his neck over a dim, dark tunnel. That was some kind of abandoned sewer entrance.

"If you guys are done getting pounded by a waft of air, have a look down here," he said.

Sure, they were close to the city outskirts, but they didn't think they'd come across a way to the sewers this far out. At least, not one on land. Unless there had been a settlement here before. Other Don's tracker indicated that the lone alien they were after was set in this area, yet they'd only spotted the barren south-east coast. The way down was narrow, and the ladder rusting and twisted.

In possession of what was essentially their sole means of navigation, and ahead of everyone, other Don climbed down first and herded them. This end was not a connection to their way through the sea, evident of the one way path carrying northwards. Overgrowth other Don had pulled from the cover wasn't isolated to the entrance, either, and all they way along the underground they found moss.

It was all a grungy colour, absorbent not of the waste that flowed through as it did no longer, but muck seeping in through the roof. Composed of rock that had given away from the passage of time, embellishing cracks that allowed through showers of dirt. Only future Don failed to eye the parts in disrepair, instead admiring the broad scope and preserved curvature addled with brick slabs.

Future Don turned to them. "You know, for an eighteenth century Queens sewer in the middle of nowhere, this is actually quite impressive."

"Well, aren't you hard to please ..." Raph coughed, stumbling a bit. Leo raced to help him walk against his will.

Excited at first, future Don grew fidgety the further along they came. Proceeding to watch his younger self's device alongside the walls around, as if in constant monitor of their location. At some point pulling the crumpled map he'd pocketed the day prior, and coordinating their position to a dot he'd marked. His eyes widening.

It would've been more reasonable to bring it up with everyone, though he faced Mikey. Recognising that as of late he had been too harsh on them. So, he fizzled only Leo's concentration with a prod of his shoulder, silently pointing out the spot on the map. Leo took the hint and said it for him.

"Let's all be careful, now. We're getting closer to Foot territory."

While he'd traditionally barge in front, Raph struggled to keep up the pace. Still recovering from the force field's knock back. Though recovering perhaps wasn't the most accurate way to describe it, considering that his condition only seemed to be getting worse. When Raph tripped over his own foot, he landed across other Don--who helped raise him back up. Raph dusted his shoulder before spitting out in frustration.

"What're we, moles, Leo? Did you forget the damn alien thing is above ground?"

Future Don thought a moment. "He's got a point, Leo. Honestly, I don't like all of these risks for me. We've gotten ourselves in so much trouble already ...if there is a way inside down here, is it really worth it?"

"How can you even say that?" Leo looked at him despairingly. "Do you not want to go back?"

"Hey, I don't think any of us are going back, with all these wacky alien gizmos watching our every move."

Everyone froze, and went quiet at Mikey's hapless observance. He was right--the brick and plaster that surrounded them before was now mixed with a strange metal plating.

"Not alien. Foot ..." Other Don whispered, as he was cleaning dust from a block of stone. Revealing a faintly engraved three-clawed emblem. "Knowing our luck, this could be some kind of trap. Be careful."

And as a chain reaction, the five of them rushed to put their bodies against the wall. A tiny click from each of their shells as they collided with it, one after the other, sheltering themselves as best they could in moderate darkness. However a glow was concentrating on them from afar. And they saw that high up on the opposite side of the tunnel was a camera-type gadget. It scanned them up and down, and they hadn't the time to move before a warning sound came on. Leo pointed ahead with his katana.

"Everyone, fall back! We'll meet at the sewer's fifth-by-fifth crossroads--"

As if the whole tunnel had a mind of its own, it began to shudder. Rumbling beneath them, that sent even their most sure-footed off balance. Casting them to their knees. Praying to the floor, the centre of their palms were sore while pressed to harsh, pebble covered terrain. Some rocks of which were flung into the shallows and off the narrow platform.

To their right, pliant copper blocks in the walls pulled back, as some kind of mechanism behind it was released. The wall itself shifting and reconstructing, like parts of a puzzle sliding away. In the brothers' trepidation the metal at last formed a nearly humanoid shaped gap. The space now filled with a hunk of metal, the surrounding fibres having amassed an android.

None of the brothers looked away, vibrations in the ground unrelenting under a continuous rattle. Helmet plating of the still automaton filtrated smoke from the sides, and a lapse in its visor turned it red. They came to realise that this unveiling was not exclusive to one chamber, however, as several ways along the walls, two more emerged.

Raph fell back again, Leo catching him this time. Although, much too weary by his standards, Leo laid him back down. His brother too light-headed to protest, as he would. Leo angled his weapons defensively while Mikey turned to him.

"I don't think these giant robot things are gonna be down with your plan, Leo."

Then, just as quickly as the tomb-like structures had unearthed and shaped into--as Mikey put it--giant robots, iron flaps on one of their arms flew wide open. And these sheets spun round; its right hand drawing back like a turtle to its shell. By rearranging the outer casing, the radius of the now not-so hollow arm expanded.

Enough to allow their fists to morph into a gun of sorts. More astutely put, however, a cannon. Escaping from a tiny glass particle within the centre of their chests were also needle thin beams of energy. Lasers, and powerful enough to sear a red hot line on the concrete below, that was unfortunate enough to be in the way of one's activation.

By now, all the turtles had their weapons unsheathed. The out-of-commission Raph was relegated to the sidelines, so he just pointed at Mikey that was crouching from some blinding ray shooting across his shell. The little brother then walloping the firing tin can with his chucks.

"Punch everything as hard as we can, how's that for a plan?"

"Oh yeah, Raph, 'cause that worked so well for you last time."

Lamenting his words, Raph spun his knuckle at the Foot contraption that came to him--their youngest sibling busy with another. Not in practice of exactly what he preached, as weakness wrought across his whole body from a long since passed after shock rendered the blow malleable. Struggling and failing to retreat his arm in time, the bot snatched his within its presently sole opposable grip and dragged him up. Leaving him at its mercy. If it was even capable of any.

For a turtle on the brink of his impending demise, Raph was unnervingly quiet. Soon recognising that this wasn't the time for stubbornness, however, he gasped out. More attentive than even his younger form, the untimely plea befell future Don who immediately extracted himself from his current three-on-one assault with Leo and other Don. Now aiding Raph, who by this time was dangling near motionless between the dual chest and arm gunned cross hairs of his mindless jailer.

As far as the brothers were concerned, these man-made forms were operating on a pre-ordained missive to sharply dispose of any and all intruders. But as future Don would soon find, they had slightly more sophisticated coding than that. Once future Don stepped close enough, the android twisted itself to where it could now aim its second, narrower beam in its torso on him. The light on each of its guns flaring up, igniting.

Future Don thought and Raph didn't, regaining an ounce of strength the latter fiddled a sai out from his belt and snagged the bot's thigh. Too weak to lift his shoulder any higher. Sinking so low into it that his knuckles snagged on some glass increments, bloodying skin. The act reckless should his strike not land on any controls. Though it thankfully had.

For a fraction of a second, the android was displaced from a temporary loss of motor control. And given that time, Raph flopped to the ground--slinking away alongside a panicked future Don. Leo was lucky to interject when he did, as he appeared behind the bot that he noticed was stumbling, and sheared a clear cut line across its back plate. Kicking it high in the same spot, so that it down slammed face-first. Cybernetic joints unnaturally twitching post-mortem. But that didn't put Leo any more at ease.

"Dammit, Raph, stay down! You're not making this any easier for us!"

"Shut up," and the instant Raph redacted his head in the other direction, his snarl became a complacent smile. "You're welcome, Don."

While irrefutably shaking his head at them, Leo was snatched from behind by one of the two remaining Foot androids. Raph and future Don that shortly before had been dismissive reached out for him. Although while huddled the floor, they were unable to even come close to their imperiled brother. Other Don, after trailing the robot that had ran from his grasp in order to isolate Leo, swung at it with his bo.

Without a sharp edge on his stave to penetrate their shielding, his best bet proved to shattering a light emitting visor that gave it eyes. Though he failed to break it, his planned assault did succeed in scrambling the metal being's inner workings--disconnecting the cameras from its mainframe. The bot now left to its additional artificial senses.

A tactical know-how of the turtle still at its disposal, the bot clutched Leo even tighter as if to taunt them. His life coming to an end that much faster. At this, Don hit again, and harder. And when his pole made contact a second time, sparks fizzed from the helmet's rear, and the sockets that melded their entire face became dislodged. But as an unforeseen side effect, this kick started their optical communications, and it attempted to regain its focus on other Don.  Simultaneously drawing a laser on both him and Leo. Don's breathing hitched, when realising he'd damned them both.

Raph and future Don were on two legs again, and about to make for the second guard when they realised Mikey had his hands full. And the other two were in trouble. Recalling from the second that he'd already been battling a time, Mikey looked on in horror at his brothers about to kick the bucket. He battered the first that aimed on them, the force of his chucks not nearly powerful enough, but it didn't need to be.  A tiny rattle made laser pointer fly off-target, scorching the ceiling. And freeing them.

Tackling it right beside the sewer's next door running stream, Mikey in doing so noticed that Don's few good whacks from earlier had made a dent. In fact, one that chipped away and exposed a pair of wires. Measuring their proximity to the water below, Mikey used the side of his nunchucks' hilt and forced them against either of the robot's shoulders. Flailing as it went off the edge, the side of its head that cables dangled out faintly skimming along sewer water. Which caused it to violently short-circuit.

Raph and future Don were flanking the remaining suit of armour, but their formation--standing against each of its arms--made a panting Mikey target practice. He groaned at being shot once, and careful to not let his knees buckle into the electrified water, their little brother curled back. Other Don and Leo were not quite safe yet, and still within firing range. With one last trick up its sleeve, the lone soldier's arm cannon compressed, so that the muzzle was but a long, horizontal gap. Glowing plasma like energy emerged from it, amassing a diameter akin to a sword on its left arm and next turning it on a fallen Raph.

As it spun to hold an ethereal blade to his neck, Raph in his weakened state could only hobble back before he fell again. And future Don pulling on the bot's free arm only resulted in him being bludgeoned. Kneeling in pain, he shielded his mouth soaked in red that had been caught on their fist's barbed metal plates. Other Don and Leo were lying back, agape, knowing that they wouldn't make it in time. At least not before the guard could slit Raph's throat.

They all yelled at each other, and in a last ditch effort other Don peered down. Watching from his belt the little tracker that gave the only light in the tunnel. Sun glimmering from manhole covers and grates long since passed. His staff away, it was all he could throw. And with a disheartened yet desperate sigh, Don launched it at the android's bladed arm.

A crackle that he had hoped had sounded from within the man-sized piece of technology yielded only to his gadget's flashlight giving out. Their only illumination now the crimson glare from the sword, that when held this close to Raph's neck made it so all that they clearly see was their brother about to die, and the expressionless face of his killer. If slightly extenuating the matter, while adding to its animosity, the glow was pulsating. Flashing on and off; a blood red haze to the pitch dark.

While not knowing when it was going to happen, or if they would be so unfortunate as to see it, they prayed for the latter. And in darkness, Leo found other Don's hand that was close. Taking it. Had it been on any better occasion, other Don would've asked him why. The light went out for the last time, to the sound of clinking, scraping, and footsteps. And a resounding crash.

When the light finally returned, they saw that it was not red. As Donnie's lighting mechanism had initialised instead. Brightening the air around them, that which showed a terrified Raph clambering to his knees. And a shadow draped over the metal carcass on the ground, which lay inactive through two large gashes that had nearly split its iron chest in half. The shadow a Tesri, and moving towards them.

Baring its teeth and scraggly claws, they all looked ahead of the tunnel. And once future Don picked up Raph, they went as fast as they could down it. Paying no mind as to who went where, or in what direction they were headed. So after coming along the narrow expanse, they darted off at a series of tunnels. Winding up all in separate ways, and ones that pointed to Leo's crossroads. Which likely threw their ambivalent saviour that had began hunting them off their trail.

---

Other Don stood with his older half. Kicking his feet along shallow puddles, they wandered at a not so cautious pace. He was aware that they were still at risk of being stalked, however Decima would surely be too far behind them now. It was all quiet, but them. And in particular, they were grateful for the maintenance on these parts of the sewers, that withheld pockets of light from nearby storm drains. Regrettably baring less stamina than his former self, future Don bent over to catch his breath.

"Crap. That alien's been following me and Leonardo all day," he said. Thinking to the unannounced presence in the sewers that had been scouting with them.

"Wait, really? What if it knows where our new lair is, then?"

Future Don didn't respond, but glanced at other Don through disconcerted eyes. Proceeding straight and in the direction of Leo's meet-up point. The younger Donatello clasped his hands behind his back, finding their silence ominous.

"Speaking of Leo, you guys were out for a while this morning. Did you, uh, talk about anything interesting?"

"Ironic how your anything implies that you are asking for specifics."

Because he was. Taken aback by future Don's attentiveness, the other took a few brisk steps more. This was possibly the worst time he could've ever chosen to bring this up, having only narrowly escaped the death of one of their own and not yet home. But Leo confused him to the no end. His subtle touch in the dark a forerunner to everything else. Besides, the only one he could talk to about this was himself.

"I'm just--wondering if Leo brought up laundry. He said he did yours. Before, in our old lair."

Future Don smiled. "I wish. Really, Donatello, we were just attacked by aliens and killer robots, and now you want to discuss the washing-up? It's not like we wear very much."

Thinking other Don's lack of response as unusual, future Don examined him. Only to find the other's eyes wide and staring down apprehensively.

"What? Did I say something wrong?"

"No. Leo, he--he said that he did. And that's why he had your coat."

"Even the best of us lie, sometimes," he shrugged. "Such is life. And, it's my coat, anyway. Why do you care if he had it?"

Other Don looked around, as if to determine if there was anyone listening. "Because he was hiding it in his room ...and that was on the same night he m-masturbated."

"Um, okay, I really didn't need to know that ..."

"You don't know what I'm getting at, do you?" Future Don shook his head. "I think he was doing it to you. Or me."

In that instant, future Don understood everything. The idea had already crossed his mind at other Don's disclosure, and he had only to settle his own denial that this really was happening. That the most reasonable prospect for Leo having something belonging to him in a place it shouldn't be and during such a time, was really for what he feared. It'd been so long since then, that he'd almost forgotten the matter entirely. Believing Leo had come past that. How it ended there, and then. Or rather how it should've.

"...I can't believe you would think that. Donatello, we're brothers. I mean, he's not done anything to you, has he?"

"Well, we hugged, and held hands. That kinda stuff ..." he said, his voice quivering.

Future Don was speechless. That same contact other Don spoke of, having also successfully keyed himself in to Leo's deviation in the past. And the fact that this was still ongoing ...the fact of all the memories. The signs of Leo's odd dithering in their training, gone ignored.

Other Don blinked at him. "Why, have you guys done anything?"

"You mean, me and Leo?" And Other Don nodded. He thought about kissing Leo, and his face flushed. "No."

Future Don knew he really should be telling the truth. Being honest with him, as the other had been. Despite the conflicting subject matter. But, some part of him knew that if he revealed Leo's feelings as they were, it would only make things worse. Other Don was feeling this way ...and so was Leo. And so was he, when he thought about it. 

All of today, and from the very beginning, Leo had prioritised future Don's safety and committed to his return. Having been so patient with him. Helpful, and talkative. Maybe it was true, then, that there was a tiny voice in his head telling him that he wanted Leo for himself. The bigger one saying, that this was to keep two of his little brothers from realising the other was reciprocal.

"If it's different with you, maybe I've got him all wrong--maybe, I'm the one who's weird." Other Don said quietly.

Future Don raised his younger form's head. "No. It's normal to feel that you need someone. Heck, I'm in my thirties so you have no idea. You've got to learn how to deal with it, is all. Or you'll lose yourself."

Lose yourself, right. Other Don nodded, and heeding these words everything came tumbling out of him.

"Yeah ...that happens when you can't do what you want. Especially when you don't know what that is. It's the same deal with Leo. He's been holding back for a lot of things--not to us, but I think in general. If what you're saying is true. And I've been restraining myself, as well. You know, I tried bringing this up with him, first, and maybe that was a mistake. Maybe it should've been you. But, back then ...I didn't really know you. If that makes sense?"

Future Don's eyes were focused and understanding, but the other fidgeted. That time behind Leo's door, he'd liked it--all those times they'd touched, no matter the context of it, he'd liked it. And even through hearing what future Don had to say, he found himself wanting more. Talking more.

"Maybe this is just the side of me speaking that wants to fix everything too fast, but I have urges ...we both have urges. We're the same person ...so, what if we used each other, to ...fulfil ours?"

Heat pressed itself against the full of future Don's body. Other Don, that was formerly right beside, had moved himself in front so quickly. And gracefully, whereby bending his knees he lowered in an almost enigmatic gesture. Their eyes, the same, met. Future Don's gaze tipped down. And often so logical or indifferent, this time he was afraid. Future Don had to stop what was happening with him and Leo, but this is definitely not the way he wanted it to! So he took future Don's arms and forced him away.

"D-Donatello, do you even understand what you're saying?"

Other Don surrendered to him with an upset frown. "Sorry. I'm letting this get to me too much, aren't I?"

Biting his lip, future Don thought of his conversation with Leo. He was not the one to advise on this--having so easily succumbed to misjudging others himself. He let go of other Don's wrists.

"I might ...think about it. But I hope you realise that what you're feeling towards Leo is--" They heard a scream. "...Wrong."

"What the heck was that?"

The sound came again. A cry for help, and reminiscent.

"Mikey."

Chapter Text

"Are you sure this is the last place you saw him? Did he come through here?"

"I don't know. I said I don't know! We were all trying to get away and do what you said, that I didn't have the time to ..."

Their Master quieted Don. "Please do not rush your brothers, Leonardo. They have said all that can be, at this time. I'm sure he will not be far."

"I doubt that, Father," Future Don piped up from his hand-made cell. "No readings on the turtle comm. Either his broke, or Michelangelo's far out of range."

"Then we do what we can and search on foot," Splinter said. "Only this time, we remain as one."

Abiding by this, he took his sons along the caverns. Past this sewer region's junction,  into a linear passage, and finally allocating themselves at the last trace of their brother. The two Dons hadn't yet visually mapped this stretch of the underground, so they hoped their auditory memory of his cries for help would be enough to find him. In a short enough time, however, it would become apparent to them that it wasn't. Probing the area, there was little more than their own footprints. Even having returned to this site immediately upon gathering their Master, any sign of Mikey would've washed away now from the shallow waters.

Scrabbling behind, like peak hours on a Manhattan crosswalk, the five of them turned back and forth for answers. Finding none, and taking note of this, their Master took a less frantic approach. In fact, with only Leo understanding the logic behind his actions, they hardly saw it as an approach at all. Splinter crossed his legs, the ruffles of his robe darkening as they soaked through. Shifting dirt and the quiet plonk as he hit the water made other Don turn his head.

"Master Splinter, what're you--?"

"I feel that your brother's presence has passed through here," he said, joining his hands together. "I will see what I can find by my own methods."

He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes as to meditate. Future Don stood beside his former self, in his cynicism attempting to put a stop to their Master in believing it to be of no use, until Leo touched his shoulder. Drawing him aside. He thought it better to allow their Master undisturbed entry to the astral plane, and his quiet acceptance of the matter calmed the others.

Raph grunted. "Great. So, while Master's off in la la land, the heck do we do?"

"You could start by acknowledging that I can still hear you and how I do not appreciate your tone."

He couldn't hear them anymore now, though, that certainly having given them the motivation to shut it. Closing in on each other, behind him their worried mumbling. Chin up high, they stared at Splinter as he paid mind to them no longer. The sensation on his neck of being watched, of an audience, and everything fading to black. In this tunnel resided intense feelings of the past, and from his son.

Their Master felt himself traversing the underground. Connecting elsewhere. To his son, who he saw dash away. Trying to escape. It stepped into the light--the rogue alien. Mikey flicked his head back when past a corner and towards the end of the tunnel. Enough distance between them, he stopped running. Panicked, and still pacing about. Focus flickering and hands desperate to grab onto anything, he resorted to scavenging the ground, as he saw below him a crack in the wall. He briefly let himself crawl under an inch, but his shell stopped him. It was too dark to tell if Decima was coming now.

Mikey shimmied out again and patted the walls. Hard as a rock. He slammed his fist down, into an unusually placed patch of dirt that had previously gone unseen. Noticing that the spot he punched had darkened, black dirt flecks began to hit him in the face as he dug. Clawing away until the full of him could squeeze under. And the instant he was fully submerged, Mikey jumped into the shadow on the other side of the wall. With his knuckles, burying the hole again. Barely visible. The dark pink calves of his chaser. Watching, to be sure of it leaving. Incurred to be so close to the hole with his eyes.

Decima stopped, split his legs and bent down. Mikey shuffled back a little. Head up, he couldn't see it anymore. Claws shot at he and he screamed. One of its fingers grazing his belt, which allowed the strap on the turtle communicator to slip out. Metal and plastic clattering like a breakfast tray, his outside contact gone. And into such a panic that Mikey sprinted down the passage.

Their Master was released from his concentration. "Our Donatello was correct. This is the tunnel your brother came through, as he was being pursued."

"Well, where is he ...?"

Raphael was then directed by Splinter's line of sight, and an incursion of his arm. A strip of bricks missing in the wall. Darkness suggesting a hollow after it, that future Don approached. Crouching in front, he flipped out his own turtle com and contacted Mikey's cell one last time. There was a buzzing inside. He beamed at the others watching, before spritely raising the tracker light.

Shining within, and on a silvery glare, was Mikey's phone casing clumsily laid by a waterfront. And behind it, an alcove. Crooked walls, dust sifting in the light. Splinter put himself against his sons backs for a closer look, and he and future Don's eyes went blank. Sparking a memory, of an old Foot hideout. Their Master's vision harnessed from another, and future Don's his own.

"This path wasn't originally ...here. It was clearly unearthed later than the surroundings. And judging by these coordinates, and our proximity to those Foot Clan constructs, that can only mean--"

"Yeah," Leo cut off future Don. "Which, more importantly, means he's in trouble."

Raph crossed his arms. "And I suppose he was just screaming 'cause he saw an ice cream van."

With all but one of his sons preoccupied, as the older Don was monitoring the comm signal, other Don moved between the cracks. Spotting the disturbed soil underneath that had been dug up and resettled down by Mikey, other Don discarded the dirt until he felt limestone. And as the leanest of the bunch his passage came with ease. Though segregated from his family now, he stuck out to wave his hand.

Leo frowned. "Don, me and Raph aren't going to fit through that."

"The extent of the circumference isn't exactly requisite to us all. I can go with him--"

"No. If we are to diverge, your technical expertise will be required with us all," Master Splinter said to future Don, sinking to his knees before the passage and dragging his robes. "Donatello--"

"Yeah?" Other Don called from behind the wall. Then hiding an embarrassed shrug, from a look of disappointment that indicated the call was not meant for him. Splinter sighed.

"Donatello, you will take Leonardo and Raphael as you find another way around. My sons, remember: you must return Michelangelo to us at all costs."

The three behind nodded, and then waited. Impatient for Splinter's hobbling crawl while he disappeared inside. Their footsteps fading as other Don and Splinter came together to trudge along and find Mikey. Once left with the constant rumbling of pipes' condensation and noisy dripping, Raph, Leo and future Don looked to one another.

---

Needles prickling up and down him. If TV static had any tangible sensation, that would be what he was experiencing right now. And as part of anyone's morning routine, his tired muscles felt the need to partake in that odd, spastic wake-up stretch. Only he couldn't. Not simply because, he was too stiff to control his limbs at all, but because fabric was in the way. Rivets dotted along leather strips across his wrists and ankles.

His eyes opened, though to blurry sight, and now he not only felt but saw the way in which he'd been locked down. Like an animal. The hospital bed under him rattling at even the turn of his head. Tan iron bars lining the mattress supporting it--flimsy, however solid enough to render him completely immobile. His eyelids felt so very heavy, but the blip, blip, blip sounding in his head kept Mikey awake. Irritating in its repetition, and enough to deter him. Egging him on despite echoing in the futility of where he was.

The sound was coming from a computer. A mounted one, so that he could only see the current screening thereby painstakingly hoisting his head all the way up. And unaided by the rest of him. He was alone. The halls dark, and nothing clean or white. Partition screens secluding his field of view. A table nearby, and resting on it, tools. Mikey assuming them nothing that he would terribly enjoy to feel dig inside his skin--though something already had.

There were several tubes tacked on to his arm, and bags that were likely intended to hold fluid, hung up like a conundrum of coats in a cupboard. Medical procedures weren't really up Mikey's alley, but he wasn't stupid. They were either going to put something in him, or take something out. And that's when the panic started to sink in.

"Raph? Leo? Donnie? ...You there?"

Silence. He tried to recall to where he had last been situated. It was in a tunnel, and alone until something took him out and had presumably dragged him here. Mikey laid back as to concentrate on the restraints. Attempting to pull them apart, because his left leg did appear lose. Threads beginning to tear, to a satisfying shrrip. He sighed. A pale mark sat around the former tightness.

Shaking the nerves in his numbing leg about beforehand, he outreached his free foot to the table. There was a sheet on it, that he couldn't read from here. With his ankle, he steered the performing table on wheels closer to himself. Gripping about further, he managed to clutch the sheet between his two toes. Before that, however, he cut himself deep on what felt like a pair of a scissors. Then folding his leg, he rested the clipboard on himself. Straining to peer at the terrible cursive, befitting a doctor. Not to mention the parchment was now dotted with a dark red, his fresh wound dribbling all over it.

"Eww, so much blood ..."

Picturing Leo towering above and begging him to focus, he endured the discomfort in favour of figuring out the list. There were countless details, many of which he glossed over. The emboldened sections read:

[SUBJECT]: X-002/MAMMALIA-REPTILE HYBRID

[TYPE]: A+

[PROCEDURE]: PHLEBOTOMY

[VOLUME & BP]: 4.3L, 113BPM (10:57PM)

[MIN. REQUIREMENTS]: 4L

Whatever the heck that all meant. He thought he could really use Donnie right now--and then, Mikey froze a minute. Noting the register of his 'type', this was all more likely documenting his blood. With his aching foot plastered in dried red, he reached for the table again. This time aiming for the blade. With some luck, he hooked the handle around his toe. Dragging it over his cuffs repeatedly, and awkwardly, until they came apart.

[CHANCE OF MORTALITY]: 98.8%

For the first time in however many hours he'd been out, he could move again. Mikey deciding that his first effort would be to slip the four tubes out his arms, along with the pin prick of a needle from the incisions. It stung a bit, and his bloody footprints dappled across the maze of increasingly dull corridors. He stopped at a noise. A two-way glass sheet beside a door, and through the mirror, a gathering of people.

Inside was a stone room. They were knelt in a circle, and dressed in robes. Mikey gawked at them rather stupidly, forgetting himself. One man draped in black--contrasting the surrounding's dark grey--was approached by another in a different garb. Petrified, Mikey teetered towards the shut entrance. Just barely leaning close enough so that he could hear inside.

"The Harlem messenger is here for you, Commander. They are entrusted to Oroku Karai."

The darker dressed higher-up waved his arms. "Great. Another one of her loyalists sets foot on our doorstep. She does not trust me--or any of us, for that matter--to lead this establishment alone."

He retrieved a dagger from a ritual chalk drawn circle, and within it lying various reagents and apparatus. The empty spaces of additional white outlines suggesting that it was missing some.

"An extraterrestrial being freely wanders the ground under us. We, the nearest surviving Foot faction to those accursed turtles, and the terrors they bring. And what protection is our leader so generous to provide? Nothing."

The others jeered him, however a lone soul looked round in questioning before she stood up. "Even so, the dead should not return."

His head snapped to meet her gaze. "Yes--lady Karai does detest our old practices, doesn't she? But the art of ninja is the art of survival, and that should come to us, to all of you, by any means necessary! By the greatest means. With an asset on our side. Which will only come, by death. Perhaps it should be one of ours, that is disloyal." 

At that, the Foot Commander sheathed his blade and two more took her from behind. Restraining each arm, and pinning her face-down on the mat before their Master. Those watching did nothing, while the Commander swished his robe towards her. Plucking a tome from his seat, and a gemstone as pitch black as his own garb from a deep parting in the cloth, he began to repeat a string of chants. Each word instilling increasing mania in the woman.

Rearing her head away, she gritted her teeth as if bars were clenched between them. An elder dressed in one of a whitish hue joined his superior, and they looked to each other once as if in confirmation. The old cultist bent down, his mellow, leering eyes for the merest moments calming her. Bony fingers prying, and coiling to unveil only one. His index claiming above her collarbone for a point of solace, appearing as all her body was being forcibly kept down. And at the touch she screamed once, a new light dithering from the Master's stone. Mikey covered his mouth, unable to prevent himself from mumbling behind it.

"My God, she's ..."

All in the circle performed a synchronised bow of their heads. Delicately poised on the cusp of the Commander's palm was the stone, glimmering and a repeated knock sounding from under it. The woman all but completely limp now, and so flattened to the ground that Mikey could no longer see her through the window's bottom panel. Risking only a peek from the edge of the door. The Foot Commander retreated, proceeding by a heavily armoured stranger among them.

"Tell her any of what you have seen today, Lieutenant, and I will make sure that they are the last words you speak to anyone."

He didn't as much as nod in response, fearing as little as that would be par for the course for his superior to reconsider. Behind the two, the assailants' formation dispersed. Flocking to her corpse, hands and arms hooking under her body. With Mikey concluding far too late that they were preparing to haul her out. He lunged away, carrying in an aimless direction. Lost concentration again, that he would've needed this time. That may have perhaps allowed him a short escape.

But it was too late now, because with his sporadic, adrenaline fuelled run, all the blood rushed to the wound on his foot. The clotting diffused, contents began to leak from it and he groaned in pain. Slipping on blood from where he'd attempted to make away from the door. Landing flat on his chest, hand flopping into a puddle. In vain he urged his body to continue on, with only the muscles in his arm strong enough to take heed. Dragging himself, a scarlet print of his fingers displaying where he'd at last given up. The hall's artificial light grazed on him; a spotlight. Then door whinged, and they grabbed him.

"Wait--stop! Wh-what're you doing!?"

What scared him most, wasn't that a syringe had been brought over from the desk and jammed into him. Or, that he was moved by his arms, all else below him lagging behind. And neither was it the cut on his foot that seemed to endlessly billow with liquid and occasionally, agonisingly thump and catch on a floor tile's sharp edge. Rather, it was that for all the people around him, not one would bat an eye if he went and died right now.

"Take it back to the bed."

"No!"

The serum he'd shortly been prodded with was beginning to take affect, and that made it near impossible to struggle. Coming to even the point, that he couldn't as much as turn his head. With his remaining muscle control, he was only able to blink infrequently, as he beheld a Foot Clan crest on a bystander's croak. Soon to be the last sight he could logically comprehend, before he was strapped down to the bed once more and forced to stare at a blindingly white overhead lamp.

"All motor function successfully inhibited, Commander. It won't hold for long."

"Finally. Why was no one keeping watch? ...Well!?" those gathered averted their own from his eyes. He slammed on the desk, then relocating the table to where it'd been moved by his test subject. "The next drivelling idiot who lets that turtle escape is going to die, too. So don't think because it's not part of the plan, that it's out of my capabilities."

Pupils twitching, retinas burning. As if there were some language he could communicate using only his eyes, Mikey frantically flicked about his pupils. Followers around him, some of them doctors, though he could only see through his peripheral vision. A vision that soon blurred from the intensity at which he stared, with nothing but fear left in them. Words that he felt too disoriented to distinguish consisting of back and forth dialogue. A ringing in his ears like an atomic bomb had just gone off.

Needles stuck inside him again. Now, he would find out what they wanted with him. Whether or not he wanted to actually know. Too numb to feel the blood drawing from his arteries and trickling into plastic canisters. His pupils narrow from the shock. What were to be screams came as muffled sounds from his constricted diaphragm. There was so much blood, and it was his. He wished he had the strength to close his eyes. Please come for me.

---

"Donnie, the alien back in the tunnels. The one that saved us. That was Decima. He could speak English using the, uh-uh, scanner thing. If we gave him it back, we could--"

"Oh, please. Our 'saviour' just wants revenge. He wanted to kill us himself! So, let's all focus here, and stop moving onto the next hair-brain scheme, when we're still mopping up your last?"

"Raphael! Like you, I'm also worried. And I'm sure Leonardo is too. Please don't go pointing fingers at a time like this."

Raph sighed, putting his head down and nodding. There was a hollow click as Don neglected them in favour of diligently toying with the lock to a door from the church's roof. Set on the front lines, he squat behind his bo. The door acquiescing to give him 360° surveillance of the hall before entering. It was most unlike a loft, and more of a gallery, at the crumbling marble busts and urns of no doubt some doctrine value.

"He's after us because we allegedly killed his accomplice," Leo faced future Don. "But if what you said is true, it just went into the machine."

Don thought for a minute and nodded. His focus elsewhere, seeing as on the opposite end of one statue, the silhouette shade masked a missing panel. Beneath which rested a pit melded in with the sculpture's shadow. Don addressed his brothers, though both were far too elated to acknowledge him. The two watching one another intensely, in blind spite. Don chewed the inside of his mouth. Hoping by some miracle that Raph wouldn't respond.

"I hate this," Raph scoffed at him. "You so desperately want to prove yourself right, Leo, that you're forgetting about your own brother. What about Mikey?"

"What about him? As soon as we bring him back, this is what we're going to be dealing with."

He wasn't wrong, and of course Leo had every right to inquire as their leader. Even as now perhaps wasn't the best time. With Raph looking as if he might bite again, Don stepped back. Nuzzling himself between the two. Aware of the fact that the younger forms of his brothers had still yet to acquire an understanding of the term drop it.

"Leonardo ...I'm with Raphael. Right now, we need plans for rescuing Michelangelo. Not for fighting aliens. And until you realise that, I'm taking charge."

Crowding a deep stairwell, they delved further and with fewer words amongst themselves. The hum of an upstairs radiator grew softer into silence as they pillaged the dark. A prayer room long since forgotten preceding an alcove in disrepair, and separating the room from another set of stairs to the crypt, was a cage door. One that Leo didn't have much difficulty in slicing the lock off of. Well, Don would've liked him to be quieter.

They had undoubtedly stumbled upon a fortress of their future adversaries, considering that future Don could've only known about this place had there been an attack before. The way that they knew this anyway, was due to the fact that the road ahead was lined with fully armed guards of the Foot clan. The kind that would make one reckon there was an event about to take place.

Advancing unseen wasn't too much of a problem for them, of course it would still be a lot easier if they weren't three large mutants. Future Don took a more vested, nimble approach. Clearly from a greater experience, that his brothers couldn't help but notice. In their usual competitive way. Eventually finding himself in the lead, Raph stopped at what looked to be an old holding cell, only in use for electric lighting that flickered behind a tiny window-shaped gap. The brothers popped their eyes through it, tossing their heads in all directions like impatient children to see what the fuss was about.

"There's people in there--and not the welcoming committee," Don said.

Raph shook his head, and it was oh so tempting to say duh. When the storeroom's occupants scooted back, they could make out an altar behind. A pale woman's clothed body strewn across it and held down by rope. Leo's finger could barely bridge the gap, and he did so discretely as to draw their eyes to a tool set sticking out from a chest of drawers. Don quick to recognise it.

"Ritualistic double-edged knives and embalming tools. Marked with ...I don't know what."

"Pagan symbols--I saw some in Master Splinter's books on the occult."

Raph stuck his head between them. "Uh, they're for preserving bodies, dorks? Not raising zombies. This isn't helping Mikey."

"But insight into what they're about to do to him, might," Don said, with a grim look. Raph choked.

Near them and below a set of shelves was a hatch's metallic frame, that was quickly pried away by sais. Carefully dropping themselves, they then rid themselves from plain sight. Scanning the perimeter before setting out to uncover what their surroundings remained as the upper levels' stone furnishings. Raph narrowed his eyes, thinking that they were in the sewers again at the increasingly grottier walls.

Structural integrity diminished as they went on, like some kind of progression into their psyche and at one time assimilating into connecting caves and a ceramic floor. They were no bloodhounds, but common sense told them they were not being led astray. After future Don successfully pointed out to them the second trip wire cuddling at ankle-level behind a doorway, Leo inspected him.

"Donnie ...you knew this Foot hideout from before, right? Did anything happen in your future?"

He doubted offering a response at all, in the dangerous spot they were. But in the end Don went stationary after moving his brother's backs against the wall.

"I'd rather not go to detail on this, now. All you need to know is the soldiers here are some kind of crazy Foot loyalists. That's how I remember them; wanted to finish us, and take up where the Shredder left off."

"So that's why they took Mikey ...what they were involved in, is that how I died?"

"No. The Foot didn't kill you, but I know they were partially responsible ...they might've contracted someone."

"Wait. You--you don't actually know who axed Leo, and you're telling us this now!?"

Leo clasped a hand over Raph's mouth.

"I don't know if they're real or not, is what I'm saying," Don said despondently. It wasn't the best time for him to be this way, either, now that Raph was free to speak. Though he was oddly silent here, in Leo's cadence.

"That doesn't make sense. As far as we understand, Mikey's in danger because of me. Instead of me. And for someone who's assigned himself a position of authority, Don, you aren't being very clear with us."

"Dammit, enough talking! I might as well go do this on my own ..."

The surroundings that enclosed them were unruly, and travelling along straight was the cleft of a corridor. Only for them it felt as a crossroads. Raph spun away, steeling on his heels. Acting like none of this meant any to him but the final outcome. He'd like to believe his judgement sound, his anger justified. However strange that may sound. Only this time, he didn't take his sharp tongued temperament that set Leo at unease for granted. He stopped--both himself, and the distance between them.

"Get it together and I'll see you guys there."

Leo nodded, not that Raph could see it anyway. They both knew they had to walk on, despite how every step was more painful than the last from an intense desire to dissuade this doubt from surfacing. What would do good for both of them was to stop, for just a second. If only one. Because as much as Mikey's life could be hanging by a thread, they couldn't go on like this as they had all day. So Leo didn't resist to being led to a table where he sat down, gave a miserable groan and covered his face.

Don nudged Leo, and it not having much affect he sat down with him. "Come on, we can go find Michelangelo together."

"If he isn't dead already."

Leo didn't move an inch. They were hands apart, and when Leo saw Don's touch seeking him he shuffled further away. Disappointed in himself, Don went again--only more tenderly, this time. Allowing his brother hold of one hand, Leo kept still. The other masking face. Cheek turned. Don abruptly grabbed his wrist, and Leo's curled palm budded. It was wet. Don looked at him.

"Shut up," Leo grumbled.

"I didn't say anything ..."

A satin tablecloth where they sat, mutants and adverse to the perfect makings of nature across a human platform. It would've been hauled from the levels above--perhaps for disrepair. Don imagined the opaque baroque stained glass shimmering the sun dancing over, dust and impurities illuminated and oddly beautiful. Leo finally returned Don's glance at him and spoke.

"I need him."

"Who? Your brother?"

"Yeah," he let his hand drift across Donnie's lap. "Mikey."

The first red flag was that, as abnormal as Leo had been in the past few weeks, he was never this aloof. Cogitating further on this, Leo clearly needed a minute to rest--and so did he, in knowing that there was peril to come. Everything seemed so hopeless, so pointless. He didn't need to go home--of course, Don wanted to. But, even as Leo insisted that this was for him, for his big brother, it was truly for all of them. 

The Tesri weren't out just for Don's blood, and neither was the rest of its species. Time manipulation was a dangerous thing, not that even he understood it the slightest or dared dabble in it. Besides their little group, this alien race was also intent on invading Earth. Perhaps global domination, and enslavement ...their motive was yet unclear to him. Everyone was at stake. Hell, if Mikey did die here and now, that would make their end goal all the more difficult.

He had to live. But as with each their own, he was only the chip of wood off a pawn. A piece in something much larger. Considering it this way in of itself worried Don, not that he'd ever been the glass half full type. Don stared to the side, pretending not to notice that this whole time Leo had been rubbing the insides of his thighs. They were curtly tucked together, but that didn't stop Leo shovelling his fingers in and sustaining a gap. Resting one hand that was lightly sodden on his brother's skin.

Was it meant as comfort? Warmth? This should've been the breaking point for him, and it was unsurprising now how this only came to be as Raph had split off from them. Neither himself nor Leo were the right ways for this mission, clearly, and most unusually Raph had been the one to keep his brothers on task.

His fingers swept broader strokes, a timid inclination loitering under Don's plastron. Afraid to go further. Leo thought he hadn't realised, but Don was all too aware of it. Not that he cared enough to stop what was happening. Something that had already occurred before, as other Don had put to him, and future Don had even seen it for himself. But at his own failure of resolve, or to heed his own warnings, he was allowing this to carry on. In order to learn if it was true. To let Leo rest, and resume focus, so be it this his only means. Don't stop. It was comforting, in a way. He needed this. Liked it, but knew he shouldn't. The crude gesture endearing. He was thinking too much again.

Raph was likely nearby Mikey at this point, and yards beyond themselves. Mikey. Pleasure. The clumsy way Leo shifted convincing him the other hardly understood the meaning behind his actions. Both their eyes and ears and minds had clouded up. Now that Don thought about it, Leo hadn't really personally interacted with other Don in so long. Not outside their tasks, that were too intense to draw away from. Loneliness. Longing. Sympathetic to Mikey, but this feeling wasn't for him. The assumption of Leo's innocence was thrown out the window when his hand cupped Don's slit. Instead of caressing around it, he furthered contact by purposefully dragging his finger along the crease. Don shivered. They looked at each other. Leo's eyes searching.

"I know what you're doing, Leonardo."

Leo's hand stilled.

---

Other Don and Splinter moved away a mount of pebbles, the tiniest unprecedented move cracking the cave wall above and allowing debris to trickle down. Clearing the way so they wouldn't spill blood like crawling over broken glass. Coming deeper through a long, sleek passage that was missing cobwebs, as it had been in use. And so recently disturbed that it would imply only Mikey had been here.

Breaching the tunnel's end, Don and his Master found themselves in a Foot lab of sorts. There was cover near, that they dashed to, and barely in time to stray away from the Foot soldiers in robes and light armoury on their guard. The one in darker costume hand signalling and glaring commands. 

Other Don tapped his Father's shoulder, feeling in need of reassurance. Splinter touched his arm. On the ground again, they were under such heavy watch that they could not even risk standing. Strange supplies were scattered around, in crates and dangling above them. Some in the hands of those manning this underground facility, and being cradled behind a door. That they thought it reasonable to set as their next destination. Despite a low roof, operations underway suggested their present occupation a supply room of sorts, and next engulfed by hard iron faced walls and floor.

They stood in ire. Beds along, watery red, a mopped up blood trail. Guards overseeing the one space where curtains hung. Leo, Raph and his older form were missing. But more importantly than that, so was Mikey. Past his Father, and most unlike him, Don took it upon himself to scamper to the other end of the hall. Splinter gawked at his son, and then relaxed at his safety. Don was at an angle, so that he could see some green toes poking out from a bed. Not the vibrant sea green he was used to, but moving and living. He tip-toed further. Closer, and Splinter followed. This time taking the initiative, and drifting all the way around undetected before his Master from the dividers.

Rendering the two watchmen fast unconscious, Don quickly saw that they were alone. And for the first time in twenty-four hours, they saw Mikey. Unconscious, pale, and connected to equipment: vacutainers fused with blood. As much as they wanted to exclaim their worry at Mikey's sickness and loss of much of his vital cells, they stayed quiet. Calming one another with a nod, and culminating a silent plan. Drugs were at the bedside which flowed alongside anaesthesia to keep Mikey out cold.

"My son. Oh, my son ...he's safe," Splinter reached to finger the red soaked tubes drawn from him, and channelling overhead. "Donatello, what have they done to him?"

"Phlebotomy--" Splinter spun round, not in the mood. To which Donnie gasped. "Right. English. Blood extraction--and at least a quarter, I think. Couldn't tell you what for, though."

They extracted the cascade of venipuncture needles from around his skin. It was one thing that the Foot had made Mikey appear as if he were some wired contraption--Don and his Father's undoing of Mikey's tubes oddly satisfying. But, his restraints were another. Leather bindings had been discarded on a surgical platter in favour of metal casting for his wrists and ankles. Don saw that there were bolts to the bed's frame, and he thought it convenient that there had been enough side room to place chain plates for screws. And even more so the screw heads large enough for Don to find a scalpel and spur the horizontal split round and round. It had surely been hours before the hardened sheets worthy of armour came off.

Don twisted his head to see the electrocardiogram. "He's alive, Master. Only his blood pressure is low--so don't wake him. He might go into cardiac arrest."

Not a second later Don jumped, upon seeing three shadows embossed into the computer screen. His shell brushed by the bed, rattling it in a sharp frolic backwards that prompted Mikey to blink awake. The silhouettes then appearing as his brothers.

"Well, so much for that, huh?" which Don immediately recognised as Raph's voice.

"Master. Donnie," Leo nodded at them in greeting. "It's okay, it's just us."

Splinter's eyes were wide, and his breathing harsh. Torn between the sudden revelation of his sons' and Michelangelo coming to. Future Don smiled and patted him.

"...Sorry for scaring you, Master."

"No offence, but who cares!? Mikey--is he ...?" Raph sprinted over to find Mikey turning his head, and fully conscious.

"Ugh ...Raphie? Donnie? Hey, the Foot's here! They're up to something. We gotta--"

"Mikey, buddy. Don't talk--we're getting you out of here," Raph tried to reassure him, but he was having none of it.

"No-no-no, you don't understand ..."

It was a miracle he was alive at all considering his malnutrition, and if the files were correct in his total blood loss. But he didn't seem to care, or understand that he was in a near death state, as he erratically latched himself to the wall behind. His head tucked away behind his shoulder, peeking at them through the corner of his vision. Desperation in his eyes.

"Mikey ..." Leo said ineffectually.

It was Raph's turn, now. Their little brother would no doubt soon pass out again if he continued to exert himself, and Raph's solution was to lunge at him. Which only made Mikey back suddenly, and too panicked to be careful, his neck and upper shoulder connected with the wall. Knocking him clean out. Perhaps this would make it easier ...their Master took Mikey, paralysed again. They heard a gunshot. Picking their weapons, exiting unseen would be a challenge. Not that they were ever unfamiliar with such things. Raph escorted his Father out first, while other Don observed his future counterpart. As for Leo, he solemnly avoided physical contact with anyone. Other Don looked down, to where the set of ruffled documents were, and he took them.

---

Initially, the pain in his arms made him believe that he was back in that bed alone. Only now, the two Donnies were at his side. Unlike the laboratory silence, with a pang in his ears of those passing on tiles and a mechanical ringing, the lack of communication both Dons gave him while at rest in their home felt like paradise.

Tiny deposits had been made in his skin again, and slits through which tubes flowed. Supporting Mikey this time. Aiding him. Normally Mikey felt any space where noise could be filled, should be. But his head ached too much to listen, while in a phase akin to bordering on sleep, and to where any noise beyond ambience was agonising. Despite that, he smiled a little. At simply the idea of these two brothers sharing his blood type. Future Don stared down into Mikey's bleary eyes. Relieved, though he did not share his younger counterpart's optimism.

"How do you feel?"

"Hmm ...like one of those squishy cartons of fruit juice you suck until it makes that kshhht sound, and only air comes out."

Other Don snickered, his laugh infectious. It spread to Leo as well, who passed by the doorway. Raph right behind him, and heartily slapping his brother's back. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to leave them to their own devices, but other Don suspected that there was something on future Don's mind. Because he was staring at him.

He knew himself better than anyone else, and so of course he understood that whenever he hid his uncertainty or shyness about anything, he would gawk at the others and flex his brows in a peculiar way.

With Mikey asleep, future Don tucked him in, and the other shut the door.

"It's been hectic today, hasn't it? You okay, Donnie?"

He shrugged. "I'm fine. Michelangelo's recovering, now. I was ...admittedly, a little worried, about what we were going to do if none of our blood matched his. Because we wouldn't've been able to save him ...but, everything turned out alright."

"Yep. That's what I was thinking, too. Heh, I wonder why," Other Don said, trailing off and shuffling uncomfortably when future Don couldn't think of any answer besides a polite nod. "I don't mean to pry, Don, but, ever since the Leo thing, haven't you been a bit--edgy? Uhh, the first Leo thing, I mean."

He rubbed his arms. "I'm glad you brought that up, actually ...it's been bothering me."

"Has it? Do you, um, wanna talk about it?"

"M-maybe. Donatello, I feel weird. And I hate calling it weird, because you'd think by my late twenties, I'd have enough experience to more accurately put to words my mental state, but I really don't, and I can't take it. I can't take it anymore."

"You can't take using the word weird?" and Future Don gave him the most scathing, disappointed look he'd ever seen. "Okay, so it's not that."

"Please take this seriously, and don't make me regret what I'm about to ask you ...Donatello, I thought about your offer. And whether I should take you up on it."

"...Oh. Oh! Seriously, forget about that. I wasn't thinking straight. I was scared--had a screw loose. I'll never say anything like that again, I promise--"

"I want to try it ...with you," and future Don stared up in time to watch him blink. "Taking into account all possible outcomes, I don't honestly see myself or any of us ever having ...the potential to engage in something like that. Touching. S-sexually. All day today, it's like Leonardo's been toying with me on purpose."

"How? What happened?"

"Nothing. Never mind. My point is, I--well, you know how old I am! And it's ridiculous, that I've never as much as looked at another person like that before. I have a sex drive too, you know, and the only way I can ever do anything about it is ...um ...we could--once. We could just try it once. If you're okay with that. I know you said you'd changed your mind."

"...Okay."

"What?"

"Okay. We can."