I Have No Fear, I Have Only Love
"She is dancing away from you now,
She is just a wish,
She is just a wish,
And her memory is all that is left for you now,
You see your gypsy…
You see your gypsy…"
-"Gypsy," by Fleetwood Mac
By the time the Kraang were defeated and the portal between our dimensions was sealed irrevocably, a great deal had changed. Over two years had passed and I had grown restless. I yearned to spread my wings—to return to the world above and forge a life of my own; however, the thought of leaving my surrogate family behind pained me greatly. In my mind, both courses of action had drawbacks: if I stayed, life could slip through my fingers; but if I chose to go, I risked leaving everything familiar behind—everything I had grown to care for. It was the most difficult decision I ever made.
In the dead of night, I packed what little I had into a pillowcase. I wanted to leave quietly, without fanfare or goodbyes. I felt it would be for the best. I knew there was no way to explain my desire to return to the surface without belittling life underground. I tied the pillowcase shut, slung it over my shoulder, and peered into Donnie's lab. Though the lights were on, he wasn't there. I assumed he turned in for the night like the others. I tiptoed from my room and carefully closed the door behind me. Then, sticking to the shadows, I glanced into the common areas of the lair. Aside from the soft flickering of the television, it was dark. I listened intently for signs of movement and heard nothing. The coast was clear. I slid from the lab, through the lair, to the turnstiles. Nostalgia momentarily paralyzed me. Two years of memories flooded my mind and I wondered whether I was making the right choice. As quickly as it came, though, the moment passed. I vaulted over the turnstiles, crept down the stairs, and turned down the main tunnel.
Excitement mounted with each passing step. I didn't know where I was going to go or what I was going to do when I got there, and that was what thrilled me. The future belonged to me and I could mold it how I saw fit. I longed to fill my lungs with fresh air; to rest my eyes on the cityscape; and when dawn broke, to feel the sun caress my skin. Adrift in my reverie, I rounded the final turn.
"April?" A familiar voice snapped me to reality. I spun around. Donatello stood mere feet away clutching a box of salvaged equipment.
"Donnie, hey…" I muttered. My heart raced. "Whatcha up to?"
"I stopped by the junkyard. I figured tonight was as good as any to go scavenging for parts." He stepped from the shadows. That was when he noticed the makeshift satchel tossed over my shoulder. His smile faded and he set down the box he was carrying. "April, what's going on?"
"I…I, uh…" I tried to think of a convincing explanation, but nothing came to mind. I swallowed hard and braced myself for the worst. "I'm… I'm leaving, Donnie."
"Leaving?" He spoke the word as though he had never heard it before. "I don't understand…"
"I've been doing a lot of thinking lately…" I balled my hands to keep them from trembling. "I haven't been happy for a while now. I'm eighteen—going to be nineteen in a few months—and I have missed out on so much: school, graduation, college, holding a crappy part-time job, and everything in between. I don't want to wake up one morning and realize that life has passed me by…"
"H-How long have you felt this way?"
"A couple of months."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I…I guess I didn't know what to say…or how to say it." I averted my eyes to the ground to avoid his. "Living with you guys has been an experience I will never forget. You protected me when I needed it most and welcomed me with open arms. I will always be grateful for that…but I can't stay…"
"I can fix this." He said as if to convince himself. "I can make this work. Just give me a little time and you'll see."
"You can't." I replied tersely. My throat tightened and my stomach fluttered. "I know you want to, but you can't."
"But I could—"
"No!" I raised my voice. "You can't. I'm tired, Donnie. I'm tired of hiding and living in the dark. I'm tired of seeing the same four walls every day. And I'm tired of wasting time waiting to get my life back. I've made up my mind…"
"So that's it?" He bristled. "You were just going to leave?! Were you even going to say goodbye?"
Ashamed, I sighed. My silence provided his answer.
"After everything we've been through together…" He shook his head in disbelief. "Did you think we wouldn't understand? That we wouldn't care? You're not the only one this decision effects…"
"Don't you think I know that?" The words sprang forth more callously than intended.
"Do you?" He asked earnestly. "They've been lying low for now, but have you considered what might happen if Shredder and the Foot Clan come after you? Have you even thought that through?"
"Things are different now. I have a couple years of training under my belt. Besides, with the Kraang gone, they have no use for me."
"NO USE?!" His eyes widened. "They would use you to get to us, to draw us out. So long as the Foot is around, you're in danger."
"What do you want me to do, Donnie? Stay down here forever? What's the point of being given a second chance at life if you spend it living in fear?"
"No one's asking you to. All I'm asking is for you to delay your plans just a little while longer. Maybe talk things over with Sensei…"
"No!" I growled; he recoiled slightly. "If I go back to the lair with you and speak with Master Splinter, he will list the reasons why it is safer for me down here. But that is never going to change. Withdrawing from the world is safer than living in it, but what kind of life is that? I'd rather take my chances topside."
I turned to go, but he pulled me back.
"You don't get to do that." He said, scolding me. "You don't get to make people care about you and then just toss them aside like they don't matter. All we want is what's best for you—why don't you see that?!"
"If you want what's best for me, you'll let me go." I tried to pull away but I couldn't break his grip.
"What about Leo, Raph, and Mikey?" He continued. "You're willing to put your life at risk, but what about theirs? Or Sensei's?" He loosened his hold on me. "Or mine..? April, I know you're upset—angry, even—but if you leave it makes our battle against Shredder and the Foot that much more difficult. If something were to happen to you, I don't know if I could…"
He trailed off. A sinking feeling crept over me and I began to panic.
"Don't!" I snapped. "Don't you dare say it! I never asked for any of this. My life was fine before. It wasn't perfect, but it was mine. It's been so long since I have lived—really lived—that I've forgotten what it's like…"
"So the past two years…" His voice quavered. "All the time we spent together…everything we've done… It means nothing to you?"
"No…" I lied. I intended to sound forceful, but the word clung to my lips and sounded disingenuous. Again, I turned away. I didn't want him to see me cry.
"April! Please…Please don't go…" He pleaded. "I…I love you…"
I stopped in my tracks. "Donnie…don't…"
He stepped in front of me and put one hand on my shoulder. He lifted my chin with the other, forcing me to meet his gaze.
"I've loved you from the moment I first saw you. These past years have meant everything to me. Just being close to you makes each day brighter." He swallowed hard. "I need you to look me in the eye and tell me you don't feel the same way."
My heart hammered. Though I loved him deeply, I could never love him freely. He had given me the stars, but he could never give me the life I envisioned. It seemed there would always be something standing in our way.
"Is that it?" I murmured. "Is that what you need to hear? I don't… and I never will…"
Tears pooled in his eyes. His hand slipped from my shoulder and fell to his side. With mere words I inflicted more pain than any weapon. I pushed passed him, but he grabbed my hand again.
"April…p-please…" He spoke between sobs.
"Let GO of me!" I snarled. I pulled my hand from his and took several steps before he snatched it up again.
"NO!" I swirled around and slapped him across the face. Shocked, he stumbled back. That's when I saw the blood. Four jagged marks extended across his cheek. He brought his hand to the wounds and looked to me. Even at his worst, I had never seen him in so much pain. I turned and ran. It was all I could do to keep my heart from breaking.
I down a second glass of whiskey, then a third. My arms and legs feel unusually heavy and my stomach, steeped in alcohol, burns like hell. The room teeters and sways as I make my way to the bed. Once there, I collapse. I close my eyes, cradle my face in my hands, and yearn to forget—for the past to slip into oblivion. But time is cruel. Long stretches of time can pass before we truly see the wisdom or folly of our choices. It didn't take long for me to understand that I acted foolishly, but it took years to realize the magnitude of my mistake.
I didn't simply return to the world, I thrust myself into it. There was so much I wanted to do and so much time to make up for that few moments laid idle. I focused the bulk of my energy on finishing school; I worked harder than I ever had academically and managed to finish a year and a half of coursework in just over six months. Then, I set my sights on college. Between my SAT scores and my father's notoriety, I received scholarships from several reputable universities. Ultimately, I decided to go to Stanford and to double-major in physics and mechanical engineering. I earned my undergraduate degree in three years and my master's in five. My focus and dedication served me well: my work was regarded highly by my professors and earned the praise of research laboratories across the country.
Yet no matter how I soared, my mind never strayed far from the sewers of New York. I thought of Leo, Raph, Mikey, and Sensei with striking regularity. After years in absentia, the drudgery and listlessness of living underground faded; only happy memories remained, and there were many: Leo reciting lines from Space Heroes when he thought no one was around; overhearing Raph's conversations with Spike; trying Mikey's cooking as he eagerly gauged my reaction; and hanging on Sensei's every word as he told stories that mirrored life and exuded wisdom. I missed them all terribly and I missed who I was when I was around them.
Where Donnie was concerned, it went deeper. He had such a profound impact on my life that I couldn't be certain where his influence ended: the countless hours we spent together working on projects piqued my interest in physics and engineering, our conversations shaped the way I viewed the world, and his myriad qualities and virtues embodied everything I wanted in a man. We had been so close and shared so much, that life without him was hollow. Not a moment passed where I didn't consider picking up my T-phone and apologizing profusely for being cruel and thoughtless. But every time, I lost my nerve. Looking back on it now, I know I was being selfish. I was trying to spare myself pain by letting things lie; after all, by leaving things unsettled, I wasn't sure how he felt about me or what he thought of me. But, if I spoke with him only to discover that he wanted nothing to do with me—and who could blame him—I would finally have to admit to myself that an entire chapter of my life was over. So I kept myself busy and my mind occupied. I plunged headlong into my doctoral work and spent nearly all of my free time in either the lab or library. I knew if I stopped—even for a moment—my subconscious would conjure memories of Donnie—the pain in his eyes as I turned away, the sadness in his voice—and my heart would break all over again.
For the longest while, that was my routine: I lived my life in self-imposed purgatory. I was too weak and cowardly to reach out to them and beg their forgiveness and I was too sentimental to cut my losses and move on. But then one night, as I tossed and turned, my T-phone rang. For the briefest of moments, I thought I was dreaming; when I answered, I was almost certain I was dreaming.
"April?" The voice was unmistakable.
My heart jumped into my throat. "D-Donnie?"
"Sorry for calling so late."
"Erm…uh…D-don't be." I stumbled over my tongue. "I couldn't sleep anyway."
"I have something important I need to discuss with you."
"Absolutely." I managed. "A-any…Anything."
"I know it's a lot to ask, but this needs to be done in person."
I swallowed hard. How could I deny him?
"Alright…s-sure. I'll hop on the next flight."
"Great." He said warmly. "See you soon."
And the next thing I knew, he was gone.
I did a lot of thinking on the flight back to New York. Mainly, I wondered what had changed. It had been almost a decade since I had seen them last—what made Donnie decide to reach out to me? The optimist in me hoped for the best, but my practical side knew he wouldn't turn to me unless he had exhausted all other options. Then I began to fear the worst; countless 'what-ifs' ran through my mind, each more unnerving than the last. By the time the plane landed, I was a panicked wreck. I bolted through the terminal at J.F.K. International and made a beeline to the bar for a quick shot of something strong.
I hailed a taxi and told the driver to take me to Lower Manhattan. The back of the cab reeked. It was like someone used an entire bottle of Old Spice to mask body odor and vomit. My stomach twisted and churned; I wasn't sure if it was because of nerves or nausea, but it took my mind off the remainder of the ride. I had the driver drop me off a block or two away from the apartment where Dad and I lived. I paid the fare and briefly considered taking a walk through the neighborhood, but decided against it. I had grown up there and had many fond memories, but experiences from childhood are never as sweet when they are relived later in life. Instead, I walked down the street in the opposite direction and ducked down an alley with sewer access. I lingered there for a little while and when I finally mustered the courage, I pried the manhole cover from the opening and sent Donnie a message:
Arriving via Forsyth; see you in a few.
Familiarity is comforting. Life on the surface constantly changed. Periods of decline and decay followed periods of growth and renewal. But no matter how the surface transformed, the bowels of the city remained unaltered. Though it was pitch black and though I hadn't been underground in years, I navigated effortlessly through the tunnels. My footfalls pattered against the concrete and sloshed through puddles; the air, thick and damp, clung to me like a second skin and chilled me; and the smell—refuse, decaying leaves, and stagnant water—stung my nose. Yet I couldn't recall the last time I felt so at ease.
"You can still find your way, after all these years…"
The words sent a shockwave through me and made me jump. Donnie rounded a corner and approached from the opposite direction.
"I just got your message and figured I would meet you halfway." He said with a smile. "Thanks for coming, April."
Awkwardness settled between us. Neither of us knew exactly how to proceed. We once shared everything with one another, but now even a greeting was difficult. When we reached the lair and I could see him in the light, I was taken aback by how he'd changed. His features were harder now, more defined, yet his eyes and smile were as warm as they ever were. The years had been kind to him.
"You look great, Donnie." I offered. "It's so good to see you."
"It's great to see you, too." Ever the gentleman, he gestured for me to pass through the turnstiles before he did. "I was shocked to get ahold of you to be honest. I didn't know if you still had your T-phone."
"I could never part with it." I replied. "It made me feel connected to you guys in some way." I took a deep breath and gathered my bearings. "Besides, there were so many times that I wanted to call, that I wanted to check in, or even just hear your voices…but I always chickened out."
"It's okay. I'm sure you had your reasons."
We sat at the table and he offered me a cup of tea; I accepted. The lair hadn't changed much. Some of the furniture was new and it was cleaner than I remembered, but what stood out most was how quiet it was.
"Are Leo, Raph, and Mikey around? I would love to see them."
"They're out patrolling." He said. He handed me a mug and took a seat. "And…well, they don't know that you're here. I didn't tell them."
"Oh. I-I see…" His words wounded me; in turn, I took a sip of my tea and averted my gaze.
"None of us took it especially well when you left." He continued. "I didn't want to invite you back just to have it end in minced words and hurt feelings."
"I wouldn't blame them if they hated me…"
"They don't hate you, April." He emphasized the word. "I don't want to put words in their mouths by any means, but I think that they felt abandoned. One day you were here, and the next you were gone. It was sudden…jarring. It hurt them deeply enough that they couldn't see the position you were in or the reason behind your decision."
"You know where I stand." He replied. "That's the reason I asked you here. I have a preposition for you."
Intrigued, I gestured for him to continue. He pulled a flash drive from his belt and laid it on the table.
"On the drive, you'll find specs for several inventions I created over the past few years, most notably a self-sustaining fusion reactor and bio-interfacing robotic prosthetics, both reverse-engineered from Kraang tech. I want you to have them."
I-I don't understand…"
"C'mon, April." He said with a sigh. "I've kept track of all you've accomplished. I followed your career at Stanford from day one. You're considered one of the emerging elite in your field and you haven't even finished your doctorate yet." He composed himself. "I'm suggesting a partnership."
"But why?" I asked, perplexed. "Donnie, you're twice as smart as I am. You don't need me. If anything, I'd be holding you back."
"That's where you're wrong. This doesn't work without you." He leaned in close and looked me in the eye. "I can't do this alone. Take the flash drive, file for the patents, and present one of these inventions as part of your doctoral thesis."
I wrestled with myself. His research and inventions had the potential to change the world. While I whole-heartedly knew passing his work off as my own was highly unethical, a part of me craved the adulation that would follow.
"I can't do that. It wouldn't be right."
"I would be a silent partner, April." He assured me. "No one would ever know."
He was going to such lengths to persuade me that I knew something was up.
"Why are you really doing this? What's going on?"
He gulped his tea, got up from the table, and set his mug in the sink. He held onto the edge of the basin and bore down on it until his knuckles grew pale. After a few deep breaths, he turned and faced me.
"My whole life, I've had a gift." His voice was soft, almost a whisper. "I've always been able to figure out how things work—how to take them apart, put them back together, and keep them functioning properly. It's what I do best. But now…" He shook his head from side to side. "Now, I've come across something I'm completely powerless against. I've done all I can to help, but there's only so much I can do with scrap components and salvaged parts. I mean…he is lying in there right now—and he's probably in pain—and I can't do a damned thing about it."
I put the pieces together. "Sensei?"
He nodded. "It started a couple months back. Little things, you know? We'd be training and he'd be short of breath or he'd twist or turn a certain way and he'd feel a sharp pain. For a while, we thought it was just age catching up to him. But then things got worse. He was always tired and he wasn't as sharp as usual. By the time I convinced him to let me look him over, his condition worsened. Now, he's practically bedridden."
"Do you know what's causing it?"
"X-rays showed a mass in his left lung, but I don't have the equipment or supplies to do much else without doing harm." He pinched his eyes closed and added: "And he'd be furious with me if I told you, but Raph's not doing well, either. He hurt his leg in battle a few years back and he kept quiet about it. Come to find out he tore ligaments in his knee and they never healed properly. He hides it well, but we can tell he is in pain."
I sank in my chair. The situation was as dire as I feared.
"Look," He continued. "I've never asked for much. I've never needed much. Until now, everything I've created has been for me. But circumstances have changed. I can't—and won't—watch my family suffer when it's within my power to prevent it. These inventions are revolutionary. Whoever owns the patents will be extremely wealthy. That's why it has to be you, April. You have the background and pedigree to pull this off and you care enough to help…"
He was offering me an olive branch, an opportunity to start afresh and earn his trust again. "I'll do it…"
He laid his hand upon my own, gave it a gentle squeeze, and smiled. "Thank you."
I savored the feeling. It was like old times, like our years apart were little more than a bad dream. But then, he pulled away.
"Oh!" He exclaimed with a snap of his fingers. "I forgot! There are some components you'll need in order to build the fusion reactor. I left them in the lab."
"Oh…of course…"I sputtered. He rose from the table and motioned for me to follow. The lab was more sophisticated than it was when I left; it was also more crowded. Various devices lined the walls and perimeter. "You've been…really busy…"
He blushed. "Yeah. Once I replicated the design behind the Kraang's power cells, I kept tinkering with different applications for it. I might've gone a bit overboard…"
As he fished through various drawers and crates, I took a closer look at some of his creations. Many were ingenious while some, like the waffle-maker powered by Kraang tech, were ruthlessly absurd. My curiosity pulled me in one direction and then the next until I found myself standing before the door to my old room. I pushed it open. To my surprise, it was just as I left it. I stepped in, sat on the bed, and ran my fingers over the velvet coverlet.
"I never thought I'd see you in here again." He quipped, standing at the doorway.
"Me neither. I figured you would be using it for storage or something."
He smiled and joined me on the bed. "Right after you left, I came close to disassembling it. I could never bring myself to follow through, though. Too many good memories."
I looked to the ceiling. It was as beautiful as I remembered. The stars still burned and the cranes still tangoed between them. It gave me the strength to bear my soul to him.
"Donnie, that night all those years ago…all those terrible things I said. You didn't deserve that. It was completely out-of-line. I'm so sorry…for everything."
He threw his arm around my shoulders and held me close.
"You don't have to apologize." He said. "I've replayed that night in my mind so many times and I'm equally to blame for how things turned out. I was being selfish and unfair. The thought of you leaving terrified me. I wanted you to stay down here so badly that I paid no mind to how you felt about it. I guess I figured that if you stayed, we could be together…"
"I should have stayed…"
"April, look at me." He said; I did. "You were right to go. I wouldn't trade a day we spent together for anything. But long term, it wouldn't have been any kind of life for you. You deserve so much more. You deserve to be a part of the world; you deserve to be seen by others the way that I see you; most of all, though, you deserve happiness. It took me a long time to see it, but I could never give you the life that you deserve."
I laid my head on his shoulder. "You're wrong. I've been on my own for years now and no matter where I go or what I do, it never compares to what I had when I was down here… to what we had."
"I'm a lot of things, April, but one thing I rarely am is wrong. Since we met, you've always looked beyond what I am, and treated me like a man when most would have only seen a monster. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that—to feel normal, even for a moment. But one day you'd want more than I'd be able to give. Ordinary things: a walk on the beach, a night on the town…" He choked up, cleared his throat, and continued, his tone dampened by sorrow. "A family… I wouldn't want to wake up one day and realize I held you back…"
"You…won't … You won't h-hold me back…" I mumbled, blinking back tears.
"I would. Maybe not at first, but in time." He said. "I'll always be down here and I'll always want you in my life, but I won't let you give up life on the surface for me. Deep down, whether or not you choose to see it, you know I'm right…"
Time alters love. Young love, no matter how passionate, is selfish, for those who know its virtues fail to look beyond themselves. When love matures, it deepens and expands; it consumes and enriches. It is the capacity to measure one's desires against another's and govern the heart accordingly. When I spurned Donnie, my reasons were petty and shortsighted. I was willing to break his heart and venture into the unknown simply because I was afraid. But when he explained why we couldn't be together, there was no fear—only love.
I cried. He held me as I wept—as my chest heaved and body quaked—and when I ran out of tears, we fell asleep in each other's arms.
The following morning, I made peace with the guys. I apologized for leaving the way I did, tried to explain how I was feeling at the time, and told them that no matter where I went, they were always in my heart. They were unfailingly gracious—even Raph—and made me feel worthy of their forgiveness. As we ate breakfast, we shared stories of battles past; we remembered the times we shared fondly and laughed until our sides ached. But when the conversation turned to Sensei, the atmosphere turned somber. From a young age, parents seem equal parts omnipotent and immortal—like they will go on forever—and losing them seems unthinkable. Facing that possibility, even for individuals as adaptable as they, was burdensome. That night, I flew back to California with a renewed sense of purpose.
I immersed myself in work. I spent weeks painstakingly recreating Donnie's fusion reactor; after several failed attempts, I finally produced a fully operational reproduction. I patented the design and presented the device to the College Board as part of my Doctoral Thesis. In typical fashion, Donnie was right: the reactor was hailed as a revolutionary step toward clean, sustainable energy. Investors and venture capitalists alike flocked to me seeking a demonstration and the opportunity to fund my research. Within months, I amassed a small fortune, the majority of which I used to purchase the equipment, medicine, and supplies Donnie needed to help Sensei and Raph; the remainder was used to build a cutting edge research laboratory in Lower Manhattan.
For a while, I believed I had it all. My company—Hamato Industries—cracked the Fortune 500, I was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year, and I received my first Nobel Prize in Physics. But as my notoriety grew, I began to feel imprisoned by it and ashamed of it. When people stopped me in the street to thank me for all I had done, I felt like a fraud; when I presented Donnie's inventions to the world, often to great acclaim, I felt like a liar—like I cheated on a test by copying the smart kid's answers; and when I was awarded a second Nobel Prize, I wanted to slip into my shadow and disappear.
My misery is compounded by a sense of duty and injustice. My role as the public face for Donatello's creations can never change, no matter how unbearable it becomes. There are times I desperately want to tell the world the truth, to sacrifice my pristine image for the sake of my integrity, but I know if I do, everything Donnie has created—all of his inventions and hard work—will come crashing down. After all, people fear what they do not understand and reject what they can't explain to preserve the reality in which they choose to live. What pains me most is knowing that the world will never know or thank the individual truly responsible for vastly improving their lives.
The room still spins. I power down my laptop, speech unfinished, and switch off the lights. I grab the wastebasket by the desk in case the whiskey comes back up and lumber back to bed. Tomorrow, when I wake, I will have to fix a smile to my face and address the world as April O'Neil—scientist, inventor, founder of Hamato Industries, and Nobel laureate. But tonight I can dream of when I was truly fortunate: back to the sewers of New York; to my room of velvet and lace; to a time when his heart belonged to me.
A/N: Thank you all so much for reading! I would greatly appreciate your feedback! Also, if you have any questions, feel free to send me a PM!