There were several reasons why Donatello hated mornings.
Number one: mornings meant the end of sleep which was a ritual that he valued highly because his participation in it was often brief, discontinuous, or scarce. A good night's sleep was such a rare occurrence for him now that he was beginning to wonder if it was karma punishing him for refusing to take naps when he was a kid.
Number two: alarm clocks. There was absolutely nothing natural about the damn things. He preferred to let his body decide when it had gotten enough rest. Instead, for five days out of the week, he was yanked from the clutches of slumber by a loud, obnoxious beeping right next to his head. More than once, the genius had been tempted to silence the device permanently by hurling it across his room.
Number three: mornings forced him from the comfort of his warm, peaceful bed. At least they did on the days he actually managed to make it to his mattress before losing consciousness.
Number four: mornings required a lot of effort on Don's part to transform from a mindless zombie to a functional intellect. He couldn't spring from between the sheets ready to greet the day. The genius needed at least five minutes of heavy blinking after his alarm sounded before he could push himself up into a sitting position followed by another five minutes of rubbing at his face until he mustered the strength to crawl out of bed entirely. Bleary-eyed and yawning, he'd amble through the darkness to his bedroom door then shuffle off to the bathroom to relieve himself.
Number five: his brain wasn't firing on all cylinders until he had a full cup of coffee. Don didn't understand why he was incapable of coherent thought until there was caffeine flowing through his veins. This particular personality quirk was rather annoying. For a so-called genius, he would have expected his mental facilities to be fully operational as soon as he rolled out of bed. But no. He had to spend the first twenty or so minutes of his day in a haze of confusion, struggling to make sense of anything his tired eyes observed.
Like why Raph and Leo were holding hands at the table when he stumbled into the kitchen.
Stopping just inside the doorway, Don rubbed a hand across his face. When he looked at his brothers a second time, he saw that their fingers weren't linked at all. The proximity between them was small though and that was probably what had led to his misinterpretation of the situation. Grumbling in irritation about his lagging brain, Don massaged his temples as he headed for the coffee pot.
"Morning, Donnie," Leo greeted.
"Ungh," the genius grunted while extracting a mug from the cupboard.
"Coffee's all ready for ya, bro," Raph announced then took a drink from his own cup of the hot brew.
The blade-wielding turtles exchanged glances. Smirking, Raph caressed the back of Leo's hand with his fingertips while their sibling's back was turned. Leo smiled and dropped his gaze, allowing Raph to continue until they heard the coffeepot forcefully retuned to its place atop the burner at which point he hastily withdrew and reached for his bagel.
Drink in one hand and pop-tart in the other, Don slumped into the seat across from Leo. He stared blankly ahead for a few minutes then lifted his mug to his lips for that first miraculous taste. Several sips later, he was finally starting to feel alert. Dunking his pastry into his coffee, he looked over at Raph.
"You're up early," he mumbled and bit into his pop-tart. Raph wasn't a morning person either, but the hothead didn't require a caffeine crutch like Don did.
"I went ta bed early," Raph lied with a shrug of his shoulder.
The hour had been late when he and Leo returned from their seaside getaway and it took a long time after that to completely burn off the lustful energy they had accumulated during their heated kiss in the garage. All in all, the two teens had maybe gotten three hours of sleep. Raph was tired as hell, but it was well worth waking up in Leo's arms. Now he could only hope that his exhaustion didn't show on his face.
"I see," the purple-masked turtle said and fell silent again to focus on his simple breakfast.
Raph looked at Leo out of the corner of his eye. The eldest appeared bemused by Don's typical morning behavior. Leo's calm demeanor surprised Raph who had expected nervousness, if not outright panic, from Leo when Don had caught them unawares and walked into the kitchen while their hands were intertwined. Evidently, Leo was also under the impression that Don had been in too much of a stupor to notice.
"Well…" Raph sighed as he stood and stretched his arms above his head. "…I'm going ta the dojo."
The announcement gained Leonardo's attention. Turning his head, he watched over his shoulder as Raphael carried his dishes to the sink and quickly cleaned them. His dark eyes then followed his temperamental brother out the door and lingered there long after he was gone.
"So, you guys talked?" Donnie asked, finishing off his pop-tart and chasing it down with the last of his coffee. Leo's gaze slowly shifted over to him and it was clear by his expression that he wasn't registering the question. Rising, Don returned to the coffeepot for a refill while providing some clarity. "You and Raph. You guys talked after we got home last night from the meeting with Nobody, didn't you?"
"…yeah…" Leo replied and looked back to the door. "…we talked for a bit."
"About?" Don pressed as he reclaimed his seat.
The leader traced a finger over the tiny chip in the rim of his teacup. "Mostly about what happened and our future association with Nobody."
"Do you think he was serious when he threatened to break ties with us?" the genius wondered, swilling the coffee in his cup before taking a drink. "He was pretty angry."
"I don't know," Leo said. "I suppose only time will tell."
Don nodded in agreement, but Leo failed to see the gesture as his line of sight was aimed at the door again. Leaning back, the purple-masked turtle nursed his coffee while silently studying his older brother. He had always felt that his relationship with Leo was close. Conversation flowed easily between them and it was not unusual for them to seek each other's input for any number of situations.
But as he sat in reflection, Donatello realized that a considerable amount of time had passed since his last lengthy dialogue with Leonardo. The few times that Leo had approached Don in recent weeks had been in regards to any technical needs for their missions first in tracking the Purple Dragons' activity and then surveying Ruffington's warehouse operation. Short, simple exchanges of information and that was it.
The genius wasn't sure why that change in Leo's behavior hadn't registered on his radar sooner especially considering the leader's mood of late. His insides twinged with guilt at the thought that he had failed to be there for his brother. Chastising himself for being so oblivious, Don was determined to lend his support now. After all, better late than never.
"Leo…are you okay?"
The question made the eldest shoot a puzzled look at his younger brother.
"…I mean…" Don drummed his fingers against the side of his mug anxiously. "…this situation with the Purple Dragons and Ruffington has been…difficult…how are you feeling about everything?"
It took Leo a moment to respond. Blinking slowly, he shook his head as if to clear his mind. "…I'm…fine…."
"Really?" Don's eyebrows arched questioningly.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"You seemed pretty upset last night."
"Well, I don't particularly enjoy having my screw-ups thrown in my face," Leo countered. "So, yes, I might have been a little upset after hearing what Nobody had to say."
"Nobody was out of line," the genius soothed. "We all know that what happened at the warehouse wasn't your fault." Pausing, he looked down into his coffee as he contemplated his next choice of words. "I know witnessing that accident must have been pretty traumatizing but…"
"I really don't want to talk about that," the leader interrupted sharply.
Noting his brother's stern features, Don still tried to push a little further. "…Leo…you know you can open up to me when-…"
"I know, Donnie," Leo cut in again. Gathering up his tea cup and plate, he prepared to stand from the table. "And if I needed to open up to you I would."
"…Leo…" the purple-masked turtle began again in a softened tone. He watched his big brother turn on the faucet to wash his dirtied dishes. "…we've talked about internalizing your emotions…it's not healthy…"
Transferring his cleaned cup and plate to the dish drainer, Leo stared unseeingly at the running water circling the drain. Almost a minute passed before he reached over to shut off the flow and his hand lingered on the tap.
"I'm not internalizing anything. I'm working this out."
"How?" Donnie questioned dubiously as he left his chair to stand at the counter next to his brother.
Leo grabbed a towel and made a great show of drying his hands. "I keep myself busy. Mediate. Train. Go for a run."
"That sounds a lot like avoiding the issue, not addressing it," the genius argued with a furrowed brow and a frown on his face. "All while isolating yourself."
"I can't isolate myself if Raph is with me when I do these things, can I?" Leo retorted, jerking his head up to glare at Don.
The leader realized what he said about five seconds after it had left his mouth. Cheeks flaming, Leo quickly dropped his gaze to the towel he still held. He hadn't meant to let that little tidbit of information slip out and certainly not in such a rude manner, but he had lost his patience for Don's prying.
"I'm sorry," he muttered. "I shouldn't have snapped at you."
"Raph?" Donnie wondered, completely unabashed by Leo's little outburst.
"Yeah," Leo replied and hung the towel over the edge of the sink to dry. "…we…we've been spending a lot of time together…talking and…stuff…"
Donatello was quiet for a minute. His brother's answer had ignited a jealous flame in the pit of his stomach and it surprised him. It shouldn't matter who Leo chose to confide in as long as he was opening up to someone. Yet, Don found himself questioning why that someone was Raph – temperamental, antagonistic, not-gonna-talk-about-my-feelings Raph.
"…well…that's good…" Don stated and flashed a small smile. He returned to the table just long enough to grab his coffee mug for a second refill. "…especially if it means the two of you are getting along…"
"You'd be surprised how well we get along," Leo mumbled more to himself than to his younger brother.
"What was that?" the genius asked, pausing mid-pour to look at Leo.
"I said I'm going to head to the dojo now," the leader lied as he moved towards the exit. "I'll see you at training."
"Oh…o-okay..." Don sputtered while he watched his brother beat a fast path out of the kitchen.
He hadn't expected such an abrupt end to the conversation, but he seriously doubted that there was anything he could say that would have pulled Leo back into it. With a sigh of resignation, he finished filling his coffee then turned to lean his shell against the counter as he sipped away at it. His mind was abuzz with activity now that his bloodstream was flooded with caffeine and the most pressing thoughts at present all involved his big brother.
Standing there, Don couldn't shake the growing suspicion that Leo was somehow being deceptive. He was used to having to needle Leo a bit for personal information, but the katana-wielder was rarely so outright dismissive. Leo's reluctance to speak seemed to have increased once Raph's name had been brought up. In Don's experience, that only happened when the two were at odds yet Leo had indicated that wasn't the case.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
The sudden beeping of his watch warned Don that he had only a few minutes before training started. Leaving his mug next to the coffeepot for later use, he made his way to the dojo. He encountered Master Splinter upon entry and greeted his sensei appropriately then found a spot to perform some warm-up stretches. While he loosened up his arm muscles, Don let his gaze wander the room.
It was no surprise that Mikey had yet to make an appearance. The knucklehead was known for pushing the limit of punctuality. What was surprising, however, was the drastic change in Leo's demeanor.
On the opposite side of the room, Leo was flat on his shell. Rap knelt next to him with Leo's right foot resting on his shoulder as helped the blue-masked ninja through a hamstring stretch. A smile graced Leo's face until Raph said something undistinguishable that made him burst into hearty laughter.
Don could hardly believe this was the same brother he'd been speaking to not even ten minutes ago in the kitchen. All that had really changed between then and now was Raph's presence.
And for the second time in a day Don felt jealousy burning in his gut.
"I'm here! I'm here! I'm here!"
Donnie's thoughts were interrupted by Mikey dashing into the dojo. The youngest of the brothers had arrived just in the nick of time Mikey skidded to a stop at his usual spot in the middle of the practice floor. Joining Mikey, Don glanced over at his other brothers as Raph was helping Leo to his feet. It might have been his mind playing tricks on him, but Donnie could swear that the two blade-wielders held hands longer than necessary before they, too, fell into line.
"Now that we're all present," Master Splinter said, giving Michelangelo a pointed look as he moved to stand before his sons, "let us begin."
While he was arranging himself into the ready position, Don continued to observe Raph and Leo through his peripheral vision. His suspicions had grown to include Raph on the list of people he thought were keeping secrets.
All he needed was concrete proof.
It came a lot sooner than Donatello expected.
And quite by accident.
Keeping the lair's security up-to-date was constantly at the top of Don's priorities. Not that he minded. Tech was his forte after all.
Still, it took him almost three full days to completely install his latest cameras throughout the lair and the sewer tunnels surrounding their underground home. With that part of the project done, he let his exhausted body flop into bed and passed out in the midst of telling himself he would do checks on the surveillance system first thing in the morning.
A combination of a good night's sleep and excitement for the new gadgets made the day break seem a little less awful than usual. He was even humming a happy tune as he sat down at his computer with a steaming mug of coffee. Keying in his password, Don opened the program that controlled his security system.
The window the popped up assured the genius that all of his cameras were powered on and had remained mounted in place. Next, he pulled up a report detailing the activity of each camera over the last 24 hours. Thanks to 360-degree rotation, motion detection, night vision capabilities, and backup batteries, there was absolutely nothing that would escape video capture.
Donnie's brown eyes scanned the report, happy to note that no glitches had occurred since setup. A few of the sewer cameras had picked up some movement from some creeping rats and a familiar orange feline in hot pursuit of the rodents. And, of course, there was the expected movement of the small ninja clan throughout the day. What did manage to pique Don's curiosity was movement outside Leo's room just after one that morning.
Taking a sip of coffee, he clicked on the recording which instantly began to play. Raph and Leo appeared in the camera frame abruptly as Leo was slammed shell-first into his bedroom door by Raph. At first, Don thought he was witnessing yet another one of his brothers' infamous fights, but as the camera zoomed in on the action, his curiosity morphed into confusion.
Because Leo and Raph were not fighting…
…Leo's fingers were slipping under Raph's belt…
…Raph's hands were sliding up the back of Leo's thighs…
…and their mouths were fused together.
Eyes growing wide, Don felt his entire face start to glow red. He moved the cursor until it hovered over the "Exit" button to end the video and yet hesitated to click it. Instead, he watched as Leo wrapped his legs around Raph's waist when he was hefted off the floor. Then Raph reached for the doorknob and the two disappeared from view.
The screen went dark.
Donnie sat there, staring at his reflection.
Hand shaking, he slopped coffee everywhere as he lifted his mug to his lips, silently praying that his brain was still asleep.
"Do you think there's something going on between Raph and Leo?"
Donatello voiced the question as he leaned over the back of the couch to peer down at Michelangelo. The youngest turtle was stretched out across the cushions, a pillow under his head as he indulged in the latest issue of The Justice Force. Nearly a minute of silence lapsed before Mikey slowly lowered his comic book and looked up at Don.
"What about Raph and Leo?" he asked.
Holding back a sigh of impatience, Don rephrased his question. "Have you noticed how much time Raph and Leo have been spending together lately?"
"Yeah, so what?" Mikey pondered with a shrug of his shoulders. He lifted his comic to resume reading. "I thought we agreed that was a good thing? You know, since they're not screaming their lungs out for hours on end or beating each other black and blue."
"It's why they're getting along so well that concerns me."
Mikey's grip on his book tightened. He was grateful for the colorful pages that hide the look of panicked shock that flashed across his face. Releasing a slow breath, he tried to arrange his expression into one of calm confusion and dropped his hands again.
"What are you talking about, bro?" he asked, noting the frown that Don wore.
The genius glanced around, suddenly rethinking his decision to start this intended conversation in the living room where there was absolutely zero privacy. Don's eyes returned to Mikey and he jerked his head in the direction of the turtles' bedrooms then turned and walked away. Setting his mouth in a firm line, Mikey gently tossed his comic onto the coffee table and rose from the couch to follow Don.
He was led into his own room and quickly sealed inside as Don shut then locked the door. Mikey parked himself cross-legged on top of his unmade bed, leaning back against the wall. After some hesitation, Don took a seat next to his little brother. His expression conveyed his discomfort which aroused Mikey's curiosity. Drumming his fingers on thighs lightly, Mikey waited for the other ninja to speak.
"I think there's something going on between Leo and Raph," Donatello answering his own initial question while keeping his gaze focused on the floor.
"…something like…?" the jokester prodded when his brother failed to elaborate.
"I saw them kissing outside Leo's room last night!" Donnie blurted, jerking his head in Mikey's direction.
Mikey blinked slowly for a few seconds then sought confirmation of what he had heard. "…you saw them…"
"…kissing," the genius supplied.
"…outside Leo's room?" Mikey asked, one eyebrow arched skeptically. Donnie nodded and Mikey shook his head in disbelief. "Well…that…that doesn't mean…anything…"
"I saw both of them leave Leo's room this morning, too!" Don replied, his tone a touch defensive. "I was checking the security footage of the new cameras I installed to make sure they were working properly. One of the cameras captured the two of them groping each other while they made out for almost five minutes before they went inside. That same camera recorded them slipping out this morning and heading to the bathroom with all their gear in their hands. You can't tell me that doesn't mean anything …"
Donnie cut off mid-rant as he noticed a change in Mikey's demeanor. The younger turtle appeared flustered, chewing on his bottom lip, and averting his gaze while he squirmed in his seat. Realization hit Donnie like a freight train and his jaw dropped.
"You knew something was going on between Raph and Leo," he claimed.
"…I…" Mikey rubbed the back of his neck nervously. He knew he was too bad of a liar to try and deny the accusation. Sighing heavily, he shot Don a guilty look. "…yes…"
"For how long?!" the purple-masked turtle demanded, his face twisted in anger.
"…not that long…" Mikey stated weakly. It was rare that Don's temper showed which was perhaps what made it so disconcerting.
"Why didn't you tell me?!"
"It wasn't my business to tell!"
"Like that ever mattered to you before?" Donnie snapped. "The second you find out even the tiniest tidbit of information about anything you come running to share it with me, especially when it's about Raph or Leo or one of their stupid fights! You live for gossip, Mikey! What made you suddenly develop a conscience?!"
"This is different!" Mikey protested, trying his best not to react to the barbs Don had thrown at him.
"Because this is about Raph and Leo being in love!"
Mikey's voice finally matched Donnie's for volume. His response had shocked Don into a silence that hung heavy in the room. The two brothers stared at each other for a full minute before the intense awkwardness forced Don to drop his gaze once again.
"How do you know that?" Don asked in a near-whisper.
Mikey shrugged his shoulders. "It's just obvious." The look of furious doubt that flashed across Don's face prompted him to hastily add to his response. "At least it is to me. The way they look at one another has changed – it always seems to be with longing and not contempt. Their body language when they interact is different, too. They used to do this cautious dance around each other, like a coiled spring about to break from too much tension. Now, they find all kinds of reasons to be in close proximity throughout the day and at night th-…" Mikey trailed off as his cheeks burned bright red. He hadn't meant to let the last little bit of his knowledge slip out. "…do things together…"
Don's eyes widened and a deep red stained his olive skin all the way from his cheeks to his neck. "Have you been spying on them while they were…" He didn't want to believe what Mikey and the video recording was implying and could not bring himself say it.
"What?! No!" Mikey insisted, his own blush flaring up again.
"Then how could you possible know what they're doing at night?"
Plucking the long tails of his orange mask off of his shoulder, Michelangelo began twisting them around his fingers. "Right place, wrong time, I guess. A few weeks ago, I was heading to the kitchen for a late-night snack. When I got close to Raph's bedroom door I heard…sounds…" Mikey's fidgeting intensified and embarrassment kept him from meeting Don's gaze. "…it was pretty obvious what was going on in there…especially after I heard Leo's voice…"
"Weeks?" Donatello questioned when it was clear that Mikey would say no more. "They've been having sex for weeks? And you didn't think I needed to know?!"
Mikey cringed as Don's anger flared again. "Donnie, please don't be upset…"
"Don't be upset?!" the genius repeated vehemently. Standing from the bed, he pressed his fingers to his temples in aggravation. "How can you not be upset, Mikey?! They're brothers!"
"Well, so what?!" Michelangelo questioned loudly, his own temper starting to rear its head with Donatello's increasing hysteria. "I'm not going to disown them for being gay!"
"This isn't about them being gay!" Don argued. "This is about the fact that brothers don't have sex with each other!"
"Human brothers don't have sex with each other!" Mikey countered, rising to his knees on top of the mattress and making himself eye level with the other turtle. "We're not human! We're the only mutant turtles in existence! Haven't we had to miss out on enough things just because we're freaks?! Why should we have to put love on that list, too?!"
The purple-masked turtle stared at Mikey, his rage smoldered by the tears gathered at the corners of his baby brother's eyes. Yelling was not a common form of communication used by the two most passive ninja of the clan. Yet, this conversation had led to both of them screaming. A myriad of emotions was churning inside Don, the foremost of which was shame over making Mikey the target of his vented frustrations. Taking a deep breath, Don softened his tone before offering a response.
"I'm not saying that Raph and Leo don't deserve love…" He paused as he tried to figure out exactly what was his intended statement. "…I..I just don't understand why they have to be in love with each other…"
"Maybe you just can't help who you fall in love with," Mikey suggested softly, turning his gaze towards the wall.
Don watched his brother for a moment before he, too, had to look away. In the past, whenever issues between Leo and Raph had arisen, Don had always been able to confer with Mikey. Now, he wanted nothing but to be alone to sort out his thoughts. Spinning on his heel, he started for the door.
The sudden movement caught Michelangelo's immediate attention.
"You're not going to say anything to Raph or Leo, are you?!" he asked, his voice full of obvious panic. "Or tell Master Splinter?!"
Three steps from the exit, Donnie stopped and announced to the room at large. "I don't even want to look at either of them right now, let alone say anything. And I am not volunteering to be the one to tell Sensei what those two have been hiding from all of us!"
With that, Donatello made his departure, shutting the door behind him a little harder than necessary. Michelangelo sighed heavily and flopped onto his side, suddenly overwhelmed by exhaustion. He supposed that he could understand Don's anger about Raph and Leo's clandestine relationship. Truth be told though, he'd been desperately hoping for a more positive reaction.
Reaching behind his shell, Mikey groped for his blanket and pulled it over himself, needing to feel some kind of physical comfort. As the minutes passed by, his mind replayed all the thing Donnie had said during their encounter. The words, the rage, the hate was so unlike the gentle turtle it left Mikey deeply disturbed.
The soft sound was enough to pull Mikey from his reverie. His attention drifted to the floor where his fuzzy orange cat sat on his haunches.
"Hey, Klunkers," Mikey greeted. Stretching a hand out from underneath his blanket, he scratched his pet behind the ears. "You been in here this whole time, huh?"
Chirping in response, Klunk jumped up next to the turtle for more scratches. Mikey's nails trailed along Klunk's back which caused the feline to erupt in a chorus of purrs. It was only when Klunk nosed at his cheek that Mikey noticed he'd been crying. His next breath came out as a sob and fresh, hot tears rolled down his face.
Klunk laid down on his side next and nuzzled the underside of Mikey's chin – his preferred method of comforting his owner. With his right hand, Mikey gently pulled Klunk closer and massaged his fingers through the tiny beast's thick coat. The action earned him even louder purrs. After a few failed attempts, Mikey spoke aloud to his pet as he often did when he was upset.
"Well, Klunk," he began, sniffling hard. "Guess it's a good thing I didn't tell Donnie that I'm in love with him."