Hotline

By Shahrezad1

Summary: As one of RooTTech's many Tech Support drones, Donatello gets all kinds of calls. But when Donny gets phoned by a wrong number on the edge, will he be able to keep her from toeing the line? Intermixed events and various pairings as one person's choice affects the entire Turtle team.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything except for fond childhood memories of watching turtle cartoons on Saturday mornings.

Trigger warning for those who have dealt with depression, suicide, anxiety, and abuse. The more serious content will be in Chapter 4, although there will be mentions in later chapters. If you have PTSD regarding these issues, you may not want to read this fanfic. Thank you.

Quick Author Note: Donatello's nickname will be written as "Donny" rather than "Donnie" in this, as determined by the subtitles of the live action films. I wasn't sure which spelling to go with, but that little detail became the deciding factor. :)

~/~/~

Chapter 1: Hotline

"I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok
I just want to be ok today
I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok
I just want to be ok today

I just want to feel today, feel today, feel today
I just want to feel something today
I just want to feel today, feel today, feel today
I just want to feel something today."

-Ingrid Michaelson, "Be Okay."

There are just some people that don't deserve to breed.

The thought blossomed like lilies among the sewage after a twenty-minute trial with an exasperating prankster.

At this point the turtle was pretty accustomed to TRS/Telecommunications Relay Service calls: voice operators acting as telephone intermediaries for the Deaf via TTY typing machines. The only problem being that TRS operators had to voice everything a caller typed up—everything. And if that caller happened to be a bored college student using a university-provided TTY machine for their own nefarious purposes, well…

"Ma'am, or Sir, I'm fairly certain that my refrigerator isn't going anywhere. And if it was, that's no-one's business but mine. Now. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

He asked the question with gritted teeth, more out of force of habit than anything else. Donny's superiors tended to monitor calls, randomly jumping in to listen when an employee least expected it. It made sense, logically. After all, most RooTTech employees worked from home, so it wasn't as though the managers could hover over their shoulders, making sure they stuck to protocol and retained a certain level of professionalism.

But he would be lying if he said that it wasn't as unnerving as shell.

The olive turtle tossed two Very Cherry chewy Tums into his mouth with all the anxiety of an addict, his stomach already roiling.

When the operator on the other end, forced into spewing the endless volley of bad jokes and immature innuendo, spoke again it was with a slight laugh to her voice. But, like a true professional, she held back.

"There's plenty that you can help me with."

He huffed an exasperated, "thank you for calling RooTTechnologies," then disconnected.

Okay. Time to breathe.

The mantra, enforced by a childhood of martial arts training, was necessary in his line of work—for his sanity, if nothing else.

You are not allowed to kill anything—that's Raph's job. Don't break anything, either; it's not as though it's their fault for a general lack of intelligence among the masses.

Patting one of the cracked monitors closest to him with all the fond familiarity of a breeder and its prize-winning purebred, Donny took another few gulps of air, one of soda, and signed back in again. He only got paid for the hours he spent connected to the network, something RooTTech kept track of via a downloadable application.

Some days resulted in dead air—it was then that the machine-savy vigilante caught up on old issues of Popular Mechanics and made sweeps for gang activity through hacked traffic cams—and then there were days when it was an endless stream of idiocy.

Today fell into the latter category.

They'd taken up the old patrols a couple years ago, after Leo finally returned from his "training period" in South America. Which was great—no complaints there, and it was definitely nice for them to stretch their legs and learn to work as a team again. But late nights meant difficult mornings (followed by coffee), which bled into exhausting shifts. And as one of the sole breadwinners of the family most everyone left him to his own devices during the daylight hours.

Abandoning him to his horrific fate.

At 10:00 AM he'd had to help an old man figure out how to update the Windows program on his computer.

Somewhere around noon a woman with a Southern accent needed assistance understanding why her mouse wouldn't work (it turned out that her son had taken the archaic mouse ball out).

At 12:30 PM he received a telemarketer call…from Japan. That had gone at least somewhat smoothly as he switched into half-passable Japanese.

At 1:00 PM a mystified college student couldn't figure out why his laptop wasn't working after he'd accidentally spilled soda on it—after all, 'he'd wiped it down and dried it off and everything,' but only after he'd forgotten about it for an hour or so.

It's fried, dude. Just say goodbye and let it go.

Throughout the rest of his eight-hour shift Donny had been verbally poked and prodded, asked strange questions and hung up on more times than he could count. Honestly, he was ready to throw the towel in at this point…or at least have a go at Raphael's punching bag. But the clock was moving at an infinitesimal pace.

Like tar on a cold day in New York.

There was a beep indicating an incoming call and Donatello sighed, leaning forward to press the Enter button on his computer. Just as he did so, however, Mikey's orange alley cat, Klunk, leapt up in unison. Sure, the button got pressed, but so did a handful of other things as the feline proceeded to investigate his workspace, knocking piles of carefully sorted computer parts off the desk right and left.

Meanwhile the sound of shallow, hiccup-ridden breathing made its appearance through his headset.

"H-hello? Is anyone there?" a voice asked plaintively, a hint of a wobble to it.

Donny mentally swore as he righted the jungle of electronics Klunk had knocked over, whilst the culprit merely groomed himself nonchalantly. He gently shoved the cat away and, offended, the orange fuzzball made his way back to the 'den.'

"Sorry about that, technical difficulties. What can I do to help you with your IT problems, Miss?" Donatello asked, fudging with the usual opening dialogue in an effort to transition through the awkwardness of his fumble.

But, if anything, his response seemed to shock her.

"Oh. Then this…this isn't The Hotline?"

"The Hotline?" he echoed absently, fighting a tangle of wires with single-minded determination.

"The…the s-suicide hotline?"

He forgot what he was doing as his breath came out short and quick, staring at the wall of monitors in front of him and not seeing any of them.

"Ah, excuse me. I, um, I'm not sure if I heard that correctly," he laughed a tad uneasily, "did you just ask if this was a suicide hotline?"

"Yes."

"Yes?"

Her voice was halting, "I…I must have written it down wrong. I-I'll just go now—I'm sorry to have bothered you…oh, I just knew that this was a bad idea, I—," the last part was muttered under her breath, a clatter occurring in the background as though something had been knocked over. Donny reacted instinctively.

"No! I mean, um, no. Please stay on the line. My name is Donny. How-um, how can I help you?" feeling as though he was being strangled, the turtle forced the sensation down.

"Well. Um, are you sure?" she asked hesitantly, "I mean, you're not trained or anything…"

"You don't have to be trained to lend a listening ear," he remarked encouragingly. It sounded like something April might say, and Donatello crossed the only two fingers he had in the hope that none of his brothers would come in to interrupt.

"What would you like to talk about?"

"Well, I. Miss Dobson said that if I felt…if I felt as though…"

He resisted the urge to prompt her, knowing that sometimes—as in the case of Raphael—all it took was nonjudgmental silence and a bit of encouragement for someone to start speaking. He wouldn't rush her.

The woman on the other end didn't disappoint.

"Miss Dobson said that if I ever couldn't handle 'everything' to call here first, before making any 'rash decisions,'" she expressed in a whoosh.

"But the number was wrong, of course," Donny continued the narrative for her.

"Yes, exactly," she agreed ruefully.

"Well," he began, thinking quickly. It felt as though this call was her last resort, and should she hang up she might not try again. Therefore, expert or no expert in counseling and psychology, he would try to manage as best he was able. And if his managers complained he could always send an email explaining the situation, "what events led you to the point where you felt as though su…where you felt that was your only choice?"

The caller hesitated, only shallow breathing coming through the line, "I don't like talking about it."

His gut clenched—whatever it was, it must be pretty serious. And regrettably he had a feeling that had this really been the Suicide Hotline she might have been willing to talk through the situation. As things stood, she didn't trust him, being the proverbial 'stranger' he was, regardless of the fact that a real attendant would have been a similar nonentity. He would have to tread carefully and keep her on the line as long as possible, running a tracer simultaneously—just in case. Whether that 'just in case' meant intervening or some other action, he didn't know. But it was just better to be prepared. Especially if there was no other recourse but to call the cops.

Hopefully he wouldn't have to resort to that, though—anonymous tips had a way of getting back to them, and there were these two lady cops, one uptown and one downtown, which had lately been sniffing after their trail. It was a disaster just waiting to happen, which he would prefer to avoid if possible.

Maybe with some effort she could be helped without the need to notify the authorities.

"You could start with the things you do feel comfortable talking about," he suggested gently.

Her response was a shaky, rattled, "alright," before she began.

"Um, I'm being bullied in school?" the girl started off with, and he blinked—if being bullied was the 'least' of her worries, then what—?

"Why?"

The question came out as a side-effect of his personality. Donatello was always wanting to know the 'hows' and the 'whys' of things. Question came second-nature, and since he'd never been bullied himself, while understanding in parts, the turtle couldn't quite grasp the purpose of it. Nor even how bullying could affect individuals in such away as to push people to the edge.

"Does it matter why?" she asked somewhat irritably and he blinked at the first real emotion she'd shown outside of uncertainty, "I'm weak, so I'm a target."

Donny immediately backtracked, "forgive my lack of…um, tact. I was, ah, homeschooled, so I could never quite understand why bullying happens."

She was silent for a moment, and he was worried that he had lost her.

Finally, "it's okay."

"Oh…Okay. Ah, um, what are some of the things that they say?"

"That I'm ugly," she explained shortly, "that I have a horse face. That I should just save everyone the trouble and put myself out of my misery."

The girl parroted the words back tiredly, as though accustomed to their sting. Donatello winced.

"I'm sure that that's not true."

"How would you know that?" she challenged, "you've never met me."

"You're right, I haven't," he remarked quietly, "but you're not the only one with self-confidence issues about their appearance and I can honestly say that I've heard them all, myself, and in 90% of all such situations the details are inaccurate."

Monster, freak, lizard-man. They cut deeply, but the last one had offended him the most due to its inaccuracy. Lizards don't have shells, now do they? He'd explained patiently to the street punk before knocking him out with his Bo staff. Still, it was the epithetic which irked him the most. Do your feaking research.

"I thought that you said that you were homeschooled?"

He coughed, "well, there's a reason for it," he explained shortly. Which was, in its own way, completely truthful, "and as it stands, I can guarantee that I'm one of the few people least likely to judge you based on appearances—trust me on this."

There was an echoing kind of silence on the other side, and he was certain for a moment or two that his vehemence would result in a dial tone. Until something like muffled cloth moved against the receiver—a nod, maybe?

"Sorry."

"It's okay. And you shouldn't be the one apologizing, I should. I was definitely…opinionated for a moment, there, when I should have allowed you to continue talking. I just have rather strong feelings about the subject."

"About people's appearances?" she asked.

He shifted in his seat, having long-since dumped his pile of mismanaged electronics back onto the nearest flat surface, "about letting the attitudes of others dictate our choices and beliefs. It's true that, yes, we all have limitations, whether physical or otherwise, but we can't understand the bounds of them until we extend ourselves beyond what the world expects of us. We—," he cut himself off abruptly, "I'm rambling, aren't I?"

"Yes," the girl asked with a laugh to her voice. His heart leapt—he'd made her laugh. It was a start, "but it's kinda cool. You seem really smart."

"Um, thank you?" he responded with a surprised laugh, "but this is just what I was talking about. Based on my physical exterior people don't expect much from me—especially a mature, informed opinion. Similarly, it sounds as though your peers are basing their opinions of you on your outside appearance. What to do in this situation is to prove them wrong. Appearances are immaterial; they don't dictate what we can or can't do. Only we can—it doesn't matter what we look like."

"I guess that's true."

Realizing by her muted response that he had probably gotten carried away again, and that he was perhaps in what Mikey liked to call his, 'Professor Lecture-o' mode, he decided to try a different approach.

"Look, I'm going about this the wrong way. What I mean to say is…bullies will find any excuse to pick on someone weaker than themselves—you said it yourself. Oftentimes it has nothing to do with the victims so much as the bullies' own problems at home. I know that that doesn't help much, but it does put events into perspective."

Taking a breath, he continued, reminding himself to keep his points simple and clear, "and, truthfully, if they're not meaning what they're saying, then the only person whose opinion counts is your own."

"Even if I do look like a horse?" she asked sardonically.

"Well, even if you do, I know plenty of people who have an animal appearance," he said with a mischievous grin, leaning back in his chair, "for example, there's a guy I know who has kind of a rodent look about him, and he's the finest man I've ever met."

"Really?" she asked with some hesitance.

"Yep. So fine, in fact, that he's my father."

There was a huff of laughter, so he took it as his cue to continue.

"My best friend also has a crocodile's smile—very toothy," he went on with the inside joke, "but he's trustworthy and intelligent."

"Mmm hmm."

"Then there's a rabbit-y sort of guy, very twitchy. People underestimate him a bit, but he's someone you really wouldn't mind having your back in a fight."

"One of your friends from the neighborhood watch?" the girl prompted teasingly.

"The very one," he agreed with a quiet sort of pride, "'though he's makes more cameo appearances than anything."

"A volunteer of a volunteer?"

"Exactly."

"I dunno," she murmured, "I mean, those are all guys, though. It's different for a girl…being ugly."

Ugly. He hated that word. With a passion. How did one determine that something was ugly? It was nothing more than an opinion, unbacked, unsourced, and with no basis in fact. True, the Golden Ratio could be used to indicate in a mathematical formula what was considered the "perfect" balance of features, among other measurements, but there was no similar equation for the opposite state. And what was more, appearances which were considered ugly in one culture could be seen as attractive in another—he'd witnessed that first-hand.

"Okay, so you're being bullied. And for what? For your physical appearance of all things. But that's like pitting a sunflower against a bouquet of roses. Which smell lovely, but give very little back to the world," he wet his lips, the words he was speaking almost as much a rule for himself to live by as they were for her.

"Look, fitting in is great, but it will never allow you to grow. Your differences allow you a distinct advantage, evolution-wise. And even if you do agree with their conclusion, you should focus on the traits which make you an individual, rather than a drone. Humanity is beautiful, and you are a part of it. Which is something to celebrate."

Especially as it's nothing that I can be part of.

Her tone was doubtful, "I'm not sure if…" then there came a hitch to her breath, a thoughtful pause, and, "I'm not sure if I have talents or, um, traits. But, well, I do like anything involving stories. Things I can get lost in—books, mostly."

"That's a definite start," he said encouragingly. The fact that she was volunteering information was a good beginning.

"And I like that I'm creative—that I can imagine things. That I'm somewhere else, or doing something other than…what I have to."

"Okay, go on."

"And I like to write poetry."

The words were forced out, as though waiting for the other shoe to drop—perhaps waiting for his rejection. Donatello blinked, then smiled. This he could work with.

"I like poetry, as well. Who is your favorite poet?"

Eventually down the line of their conversation she admitted that there was more to it than just bullying.

Donatello told her that that was okay—they would deal with one thing at a time.

~/~/~

AN: This idea blindsided me, to be honest. I tend to go through fandoms in a merry-go-round-like fashion. I revisit old friends and go in circles while adding more and more horses to my retinue. In this case, the Turtles fandom is an oldie but a goodie.

So when I saw the newest teaser trailer for the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming out in August I was hit with inspiration. Previously I was a little leery (it's a Michael Bey film, and there's Megan Fox in it. :S ), but the dialogue in Teaser Trailer 3 gave me hope.

Especially given the fact that I could distinctly tell which character was talking, even when there is no clear image of each speaker. And then in my brain I heard Donny say, "you know, you could always write a fanfic before you leave for your religious Mission in Japan on August 20th. Kind of in anticipation for the new film."

My response was in the negative—no way, no how, "ain't nobody got time fo' dat."

But he kept insisting. This is the end result. We'll see if I'll actually finish it. :S Which is why I'm going for the format that I am—no solid plot, each "love interest" being a regular person, with tiny scenes thrown into the mix, and overlapping POV's from the brothers.

This is because in real life, stories are not linear. Especially when it involves several individuals living together (as an example, do I stop dating just because my roommate had a boyfriend? No, I do not. Etc).

Also, crossover references. Because, by golly, there are a lot of vigilantes in New York, apparently. XD Let me know if you can spot them—we already got a few hints in this chapter.

As for the matters of authenticity: I'm basing many of "her" experiences on my own, as well as those of family members, friends, and coworkers. I'm trying to be sensitive to the material involved, and if her experiences don't match those of others (in which case, you have my deep and abiding sorrow and empathy), I apologize—I'm trying to make this story as accurate as possible.

PLEASE REGARD THE TRIGGER WARNING AT THE BEGINNING. Thank you.

If Donny seems callous it's because he's not quite sure how to react just yet, plus his mind is more logical than emotional (although that will change with time and exposure). Additionally, his initial efforts involve giving her something and someone else to focus on at this time.