Donatello landed flat on his shell in the snow, the wind temporarily knocked out of him. From the sidelines, Raphael laughed raucously. He gasped a lungful of icy air, and coughed as it frosted his lungs.

"Oh geez, sorry, Donnie! I'm sorry! Here, let me – "

April reached out a hand to him. Grabbing her wrist, he yanked her off-balance, brought his fist up to her ribs and stopped short. Once she had her footing again, he extended a finger and poked her in the side.

"Knife in the ribs," he muttered grumpily, "You're dead."

April scowled, "I was just checking to see if you were okay."

Donnie flipped up to his feet, and brushed snow off his shoulders.

"I'm a ninja, April. I'm fine."

He sighed and smiled appeasingly.

"That was good. Just never let your guard down. And no 'sorries' in the dojo."

"We're not in the dojo," she smiled, gesturing at the trees surrounding them in the crisp morning, freshly blanketed in a layer of white.

Donnie gazed at her adoringly. Her flaming red hair stood out starkly against the muted backdrop of gray skies and pine trees.

"STARing," Raphael coughed helpfully into his fist.

Donatello blushed and jerked his head away from April. Raph was stamping around in the snow trying to keep his feet warm. Mikey was building a teenage mutant ninja snowman, while Leo leaned on his crutch, a warm woolen poncho wrapped around his shoulders.

"Gesundheit," Leo muttered, giving Raph a sidelong glance. "Okay, nice work, April. Good follow through on the sweep. Donnie, quit going so easy. You gotta hit her once in a while, it's the only way she'll learn. You two catch your breath. Mikey and Raph, you're up."

"Come on," April smiled, reaching for Donnie's hand.

Butterflies fluttering in his stomach, he reached to take hers. For a minute their fingers fumbled together as they walked off the field. She didn't seem to be able to get a good purchase. She giggled a bit, then let go as they reached the others. She blew on her fingers to warm them, and then put them in her coat pockets, turning to watch the fight.

Raph scowled at him again as he walked by.

"Don't be a creeper," he hissed under his breath.


Donnie tore his eyes away from April again, and forced himself to nod and smile at Leo. He turned to watch the fight, but Mikey was still fussing with his snowman.

"Mikey," Raph groused, "Come collect your beating."

"Almost done," Michaelangelo sang, patting some more snow into place on what appeared to be the snowman's lumpy shell, "You can't rush art."

"Now, Mikey," Leo said, affectionately, "Frosty the Turtle can wait."

"His name," Michaelangelo said dramatically, "Is Han Snow-lo. 'Cause it's like the ice planet Hoth out here."

"Don't make me gut you like a Taun-taun," Raph smirked, twirling his sais.

"Dude! You've got issues."

"Why does everybody say 'the ice planet Hoth?'" Donnie grumbled, "It's just 'Hoth.' Nobody says 'the desert planet, Tatooine,' or 'the swamp planet, Degoba,' or 'the uncomfortably racist planet, Naboo.'"

April giggled, and Donnie snapped to attention. He hadn't really expected anyone to laugh – his brothers didn't really get his jokes. He grinned goofily in response.

Mikey did a complicated series of flips into the field, and just like that, the battle was on.

"MmMMmm, kick your butt I will, young Padawan."

"Stand still and engage, ya little – "

"Much anger I sense in you, dude. Stop frenching your sister, you must."

"Ow!" Raph cussed as a nunchuck caught him in the head, "Hey, if anybody's frenching their sister around here, it's Fea – "

"Do you really wanna finish that sentence?" Leo drawled, "Your form stinks, by the way. Concentrate."

"MmMMMMmm, yes, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to stinkage!" Mikey riffed, landing another hit on Raph's shell, then tucking and rolling before Raph's retaliatory strike could connect, "If only you knew the power of the – OOF!"

Finally, Raph landed a solid kick to Mikey's midsection that sent him flying. He landed on his back and slid a few feet in the snow. He rolled to his side, and dry heaved.

Everyone took a step forward, including Raph.

"Y'aright, buddy?" he asked, anxiously.

Mikey wheezed and gave a thumbs-up, face still planted in the snow. "Good…one..."

"Better, Raph," Leo begrudgingly admitted, "Mikey, it's not enough to attack and dodge, you've got to be ready to block. Sure you're okay?"

"Yep," Mikey said, slowly getting to his feet, and rubbing his plastron, "Dude. You rearranged my breakfast."

"NNNNnnn, kicked your shell I did," Raph smirked, cuffing Mikey affectionately on the head. He wrinkled his nose.

"Sounds weird when you do it."

"Alright, that's good for today," Leo said, eyeing the position of the sun, "Let's jog it out back to the house and warm up. Err, cool down. You know what I mean. Don't forget to stretch."

April had crouched down to watch the fight, and Donnie gallantly offered her his hand. Instead, she smiled, and grabbed him by the wrist, the way one of his brothers might have.

"Thanks!" she smiled, and starting loping for the house, her breath hanging behind her in clouds in the frosty air.

"My hero!" Mikey teased, fluttering non-existent eyelashes, "'Help me, Donnie-wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!' "

Donnie just watched her go, morosely.

"Do you ever stop talking?" he asked, wearily.

Mikey's face fell. He looked like a kicked puppy, and Donatello felt immediately guilty. Mikey was accustomed to a robust "shut up, Mikey" and a cuff on the head, but Donnie could tell this time he'd hurt his feelings.

"Oo. Drama," Raph muttered, settling into a lope, "Don't mind him, Mikey, he's just sulking again."

"Right, and you never sulk," Don muttered.

"Nope," Raph called over his shoulder, "I brood."

"My bad, dude," Mikey said, sincerely, "Bros?"

"It's fine," Donnie said, trying to smile reassuringly, "Um – 'bros.' Go on, I'll catch up."

"'Kay." Mikey grinned, reassured, and hollered after Raph. "Race ya!"

"You're already behind," Raph's voice filtered through the trees.

"Fool, you don' know my life. I can make the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs!"

Donnie was about to step into a jog, when Leo grunted behind him.

Don turned awkwardly, mid-stride, and almost lost his footing. "You okay, Leo?"

"Yeah," Leo said, testing his bad leg, stepping gingerly against the ground, "I think I've just been standing in one position too long. Gone all stiff. I kinda didn't want to worry the others."

"Need a lift?" Donnie asked, concernedly putting one knee in the snow, and hooking a thumb at his shell, "I gotcha. No big."

"No, it's not that bad," Leo said, hobbling towards him, "Keep me company?"

"Sure," Donnie said. He took a spot beside Leo, and to his surprise, Leo placed the crutch through the straps of his katana scabbard, and put an arm around Donnie's shoulders instead. They fell into step, Donnie carefully matching Leo's gait, and headed back to the house.

"So what was that all about?" Leo asked.

"What?" Donatello played dumb, keeping his eyes forward, "I don't know what you mean."

"You're usually the most patient with Mikey."

Donatello couldn't think of a good response, so he didn't say anything for a while. He expected Leo to badger him, but he just waited patiently as he limped along next to him. Donnie sighed.

"She tried to hold my hand. After we sparred. Just for a second."

Leo glanced over incredulously, and Donnie quickly looked away, under the guise of keeping his eyes on the trail.

"Wow, that's rough dude. I can see how that would bum you out."

Donnie could hear the smirk in Leo's voice, even if he couldn't see it, and it got under his skin. He stopped, and held up a hand, examining.

"Three fingers. She didn't even know where to put her…she couldn't…"

He laced his fingers together, then sighed, and let them fall.

"It was awkward, that's all."

Embarrassed, he pointed ahead on the trail. "Watch your step, there's ice here."

They set off again, Leo still leaning on Don.

"Sorry," Leo muttered, "I guess…I didn't think about that."

Donnie just shrugged. They were getting nearing the farmhouse. He could see smoke from the chimney curling into the sky not far ahead – someone had lit a fire. Probably Casey.

"It's never going to work, is it?" he suddenly blurted.

Leo remained silent. The only sound was the crunch of snow, their breath, and the subtle hitch in Leo's throat when he stepped on his bad leg. The longer he didn't say anything, the more Donnie knew Leo probably agreed with that assessment, but didn't know what to say to make it any easier.

"God, what are we doing, Leo," Donnie sighed, "Human girls? I mean, what were we thinking?"

"We?" Leo said.

Donnie glanced over at Leo. He had his stony, "I'm the leader" poker face on.

"I thought we were talking about you and April?"

Donnie rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly.

"Right. Sorry."

"Who said anything about Karai?" Leo added unnecessarily, limping along next to Donnie.

"Nobody, Leo," Donnie mumbled.

Nobody but you.

They walked in silence until they saw the clearing and the farmhouse up ahead through the trees. April and Raph were standing on the porch.

"Y'aright?" Raph hollered, hands around his mouth, "We were about to double back."

"Fine," Leo called, "Just stiff. Donnie's got me."

Raph nodded, satisfied, and went back into the house.

April smiled and waved. Donnie felt his heart skip, and he grinned back, raising a big, green, three-fingered hand and giving a stupid little wave.

She nodded and went back into the house, too.

"Donnie's always got my back," Leo said, quietly, and gave Donnie's shoulder a squeeze.

Touched, Donnie glanced up and saw Leo smiling at him reassuringly. Releasing him, Leo walked forward normally, his limp suddenly seeming miraculously improved. Donnie blinked, and then smirked, shaking his head. He got played.

"You'll be okay, Donnie," he said over his shoulder as he walked to the house, "We'll all be okay. Just be yourself, and what's meant to happen, will happen. No matter what, at least we've still got each other."

Donnie nodded, falling into step behind Leonardo.

"Thanks, Leo."

"Don't mention it."

He glanced at Leo's bad leg, at the new scars in his shell and his arms, still healing.

Yes, at least they still had each other. Thank God.

He followed him to the house.