Donnie didn’t like this spot.
The chair, once soft, was now rough and dirty and frayed in places, rolled on broken wheels that he had to replace more times than he could count and they clacked against the tiles as he wheeled from bench to bed to cabinet and back. There were stains on the darkened grey fabric, the chair itself was a find on a midnight trip to the junkyard that Master Splinter definitely would not have let him go on if he had told the old rat, was covered in red spots and spilt beakers worth of chemicals. The fabric was thin from overuse, the springs inside sharp and digging into Donnie’s skin when he sat down too hard and the tiny back unsupportive and uncomfortable under his shell.
The sheets on the bed were crisp and white, pressed and washed from that place around the corner, days of Donnie painstakingly folding and drying as he hid in a large grey trench coat, matching hat, gloves, glasses, spending hours upon hours making everything perfect, just for the sheets to be stained deep red again as the night came to a close. His ‘gown’, a garage sale science coat, as white as the sheets, missing buttons and with some worrying greenish spots that wouldn’t come out no matter how hard Donnie scrubbed. Once, he had found a bed, maybe from a hospital, but it was sturdy and intact with very little work needed to be done so he wasted no time dragging it home. When he had found it -another trip to the junkyard, but Leo went with him this time after Master Splinter found out about his son’s midnight adventures, both to keep an eye on him and to also help drag whatever he found back to the lair- Donnie realised it must have been from a children’s hospital or something. He’d had to add extensions to the bed, having to add extra wood and metal and fabric he had found on the street and bleached until his fingers were numb and his nose stung, yet his brother’s feet still managed to hang off of the edge.
Yes, it was always his brother’s feet dangling off the edge of that bed. Sometimes they were dangling limply, other times they were thrashing, sometimes the toes twisted in pain until he was sure they would snap, sometimes they were puffy and red with broken bones or sprains. But it was never Donnie in the bed, no, he had his spot and now he must stay in it. It’s how these things go.
Donnie’s spot is on the worn grey chair with the broken wheels that clacked on the tiles as they rolled around the room and the springs that dug into him when he sat down too hard. He belonged with the syringes and the thread and the bandages and the blood. Often times, he would look down at the table and wonder who he would be seeing today. Mikey with another sprained wrist? Raph with new fractures in his ribs and cracks in his shell? Leo with a deep slash down his side? Hell, Casey with another concussion?
Hours upon hours, Don would sit in this chair with a morphine filled syringe or a needle to be threaded, wincing as his own wounds pulled for his attention as he moved to stitch up his brothers, methodically wrapping bandages and stitching gashes and slowly mending broken bones. Only when they were in bed, smothered in blankets with a glass of water and a bottle of painkiller’s sitting next to the note of ‘take two with water, then drink the rest of the water’ did Donnie sit and tend to his own wounds. Still, he sat in his chair, the bed reserved only for his brothers, those who needed it most, and he sat in the tiny broken chair as he stitched up his own wounds and wrapped his own bandages and took his own painkillers.
Leo would level him with a hard, calculating stare after real hard battles, looking deep into Don’s soul after his brother broke of the last stich and placed gauze over the leader’s side. “Don.” He would say, and Don always knew what was coming. “Are you alright? Do you need to be fixed up too? We all took a pretty heavy beating out there, you sure you’re not hurt?”
Don would roll his eyes, smiled at his oldest brother. “Don’t worry Leo,” he laughed, even as his sprained ankle screamed at him to tend to it, his dislocated shoulder burning for attention. “I’m fine. You worry too much. If I needed anyone’s help, don’t you think I would have said something? Jeeze, I’m not Raph.”
Shaking his head, Leo would always place his hand on Don’s shoulder, sometimes squeezing and making Don hold his breath as his bad shoulder shuddered, “I know, just don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s ok to take a break every once in a while.”
Smiling, Donnie turned back to his work, popping his shoulder back into place once he was sure his brother was gone and getting an icepack for his ankle.
They didn’t understand, his brothers, that as long as there was still the Foot to fight, as long as Hun and his purple dragons roamed the streets, as long as Agent Bishop searched for them, as long as the Shredder and Karai still lived- Donnie could not ‘take a break.’
No, his brothers would continue coming into his lab with unshed tears in their eyes and new battle scars etched across their skin like constellations and Donnie had to be there for them. He knew deep inside the very crevasse of his heart, of his soul, that nobody else could do his job. April, maybe, but April knew how to work his computers and hack into security programs and check their temperature- not stitch up the leathered skin and reset bones back into their proper places and bring down a fever. No, he was needed, and he knew he was needed, no matter how much he wished he wasn’t.
Donnie hates this spot, because every day his family comes in and lays on that bed with their lives in his hands with more trust and belief in him Don would ever be worthy of, and it’s his job to keep them breathing, stop the blood from rushing too quick and too suddenly from their bodies, fight off the infections untreated wounds tend to bring.
Sometimes, it’s Leo, often it’s Leo, his eyes closed tight to fight against the tears pushing against his eyelids with the blades usually stuck in his abdomen, or the gashes across his chest and arms, the daggers buried deep to the hit in his side. One time Donnie had to pull his brothers own swords from his back before he could do anything else, gentle with the blue wrapped hilt and the gaping wound in Leo’s flesh and even bigger one in his pride. He would mumble something apologetic about being a burden, but Don would shush him, too intent on the winding of bandages and the hard pressing of fabric and the stopping of blood and the sickening pull of removing weapons from flesh to be worried about his unneeded apologies. Halfway through Leo would sigh deeply through his nose, his breathing slow and his body relaxing slightly as exhaustion set in, his eyes rolling into the back of his head as he squeezed his brothers hand tight one last time before sleep took him. Don would finish up the stitches and clean the blood from his brother’s skin as he slept, not leaving his spot by his side on the chair until Leo could stand, could walk and leap and tumble like there had never been a problem in the first place.
He would hover, Leo, trying to repay some debt, as though his appreciation and continued existence weren’t enough for his brother. He would hover in the lab, ask to help out, fetch things for Donnie when they were mentioned. This is my spot, Donnie would think, watching Leo scurry around his lab like a confused puppy with too many toys to choose from, you shouldn’t be here. Get out, live, this is my burden to bear, not yours, you have too much of that already. But Don never said it out loud, instead he thanked his brother for his help and the new set of bandages he’d asked him to retrieve. When Leo left for the final time, Don closed and locked the door, unnecessarily changing the sheets on the bed again for his next patient of the day to come in.
Most times it’s Raph with injuries more serious and deadly than the others. Don couldn’t count the amount of time’s he’s worked plaster into the new cracks in his shell, or had to brace the broken bones in his hand or wrap bandages loosely around his side in a desperate hope that his fractured ribs would mend right. Once, he came in poisoned, taking both Leo and Mikey to carry him in and lay him on the bed, holding him down as he writhed and shook, laughing as the chemical sent shocks of artificial joy through his system and screaming as his eyes betrayed him with images that weren’t there at all. That was worrying, Donnie remembers, seeing his bravest and strongest brother off his face with deadly poison on the too small bed, wiggling like someone was rubbing his hands up and down his sides. After sending everyone out of the room, Don had tried to put an IV in, but Raph would pull it out straight away, screaming about worms in his skin. Instead, Donatello focused on the drawing of blood and the bubbling of distilling and the finding of a cure. Behind him, his brother would laugh, swat at the air, mumble: “I don’t know what you’re so worried about? This is fine, I’m ok.” But no, it wasn’t ok, the poison was already so deep in his system that he was hallucinating and his eyes were dilated and his breathing was thick and laboured, his skin a clammy pale, his words slurred close to unrecognition. As Donnie worked, his usually angry brother was so calm behind him, tightening Don’s chest as he sat in his chair and worked on a cure, the red-banded brother laughing like Don had never heard him. “You know Donnie; you worry for nothing. You worry too much, just like Leo,” giggles and sighs and Donnie almost turned. “You’re a lot like Leo, poor you, but you don’t have to worry about us all the time. We can take care of ourselves. We’re not children.” His tongue sounded heavy in his mouth, and Don wasn’t even sure if he knew he was speaking at all. “We don’t need you all the time you know. We’re fine. We don’t need this.”
But you do, Don wanted to say, as he inserted the needle with the antidote into his skin and his brothers laboured breathing levelled out until he slept. You all need me because without me, you would have to be in this spot. Raph didn’t hang around like Leo did, didn’t fetch him things and help him in the lab, but he would stand at the door with his arms crossed and shyly ask if Donnie needed help, and would thank him by bringing him the meals he had missed, too engrossed in his work to realize there had been food at all and would place a blanket over him when Don fell asleep with his head on his desk. When he was feeling up for it, Raphael would offer Don to spar, going easier than he does on Leo and Mikey but enough of a challenge that Donnie was thinking less about his spot in the lab and the sheets he would have to replace and more of the sais he had to dodge and the feet he was trying desperately to keep under him.
It was rare that Mikey would be in his lab with serious injuries. The usual cuts and scrapes from topside training, sprained wrists and ankles and elbows from sparing, bruising and the occasional broken finger. Being the smallest of the brothers, and the lithest, he somehow managed to dodge attacks better than the others. The worst time gave Donnie chills to think about it, was when Raph had run all the way across town with his baby brother in his arms as Mikey screamed and wailed with burns blanketing his skin and oil still stick in the ridges of his shell. Without being told, Raph placed him on the bed, pulling the chair out from under the desk and up against the bed as he waited for Don to catch up, hushing his brothers’ sobs. Both Leo and Raph had to hold him down as he thrashed around on the tiny bed, Donnie using alcohol wipes and antiseptic gel and burn cream to sooth the aching on his brother’s skin. The warehouse had exploded, oil leaking from the barrels as Mikey got trapped under fallen rubble closet to the flames and by the time they’d got to him he was already burning. Leo was the eldest to three, Raph the eldest to two and Don the eldest to one, the heart wrenching sound of his baby brothers moans of agony sending sparks of electricity down his spine, hands shaking for the first time in forever. Don wrapped him head to toe in bandages and gave him the right medication, not leaving his side for more than a moment.
Michelangelo would offer his thanks in meals made and shows watched, opting to make Donnie’s favourite food instead of his own and documentaries and science shows instead of cartoons. He’d lay his head on Donnie’s lap and with all the naivety of a child unaware of the world and would say: “Hey Don, why do you never get hurt in battle? How do you do it? Can you teach me?” and Donatello would smile at his baby brother and rub his head, ignoring his question in favour of playing space invaders with the broken controllers that Donnie knew he would have to fix soon.
It was rare that Master Splinter was on the bed and even rarer still that he was lying on it. Sensei didn’t fight enough to need to be on the bed, the odd shoulder needed to be relocated, pressure points needed to be pressed, grazes and thin cuts needed to be mended. He would eye his son with an even more intense stare than Leo, searching his core for whatever he was looking for before nodding. “You have done well, my son.” A kind smile and Donnie felt himself smile back. “Thank you for your assistance. Now, tend to your wrist before bed. Do not think this will excuse you from training tomorrow.” And he left with little less than the soft swishing of his tail on the tiles.
Don looked at his wrist, not even realising anything was wrong, but yes, there was that dark puffy bruise he had forgotten about earlier as he stumbled down the sewers with Raph’s arm thrown over his shoulders and the other over Leo’s. He grabbed an ice pack and sat down to finish the last of his reports. Master Splinter never thanked him or showed any sign of gratitude at all, but Donnie knew him well enough to know that he felt it all the same.
Often times, only last-minute emergencies, did Casey and April come in. Casey more often than not, his eyes glossy with a concussion and his breathing shallow from broken ribs and punctured lungs, April with sprained elbows and an undeniable limp. They often sat together on the bed, almost arm in arm, and Don checked blood pressure, and wrapped bandages and managed blood loss, holding tight to Aprils hand as he popped her elbow back in place and to Casey’s as he pushed against his ribs to find the cracks. Raph brought Casey the beer he liked and Leo brought whatever books he found for April to keep her occupied as Don took their blood and re-bandaged their wounds.
Later, Casey would clap Don on the shoulder and stay as far away from his lab as he could, being mindful of his need for space and the tendency he had to ruin Donnie’s inventions, so he stayed with Raph in the dojo and the garage. April would stand on the tips of her toes and place a gentle kiss on Donnie’s cheek and he would blush despite himself, thanking him for the work he put into his family and the care feels for all.
Yes, his spot was on the tiny chair by the crisp white bed, mending broken bones and sealing cuts, giving his family the proper care they all deserve. The feeling of a sewing needle through thick flesh more familiar to him than his own face in the mirror, the winding of bandages and the insertion of syringes sometimes more comforting than the feeling of his bo gripped tightly in his palms.
Once his family had been mended and sent to bed, he would fix his own cracked ribs and light-headedness, downing a handful of painkillers while he held one end of the bandage with his hand and the other with his teeth, letting the pain wash away until it was nothing but a numbing emptiness that let him finish his work pain free and peaceful. His family would pop their heads in, give him an unreadable look, ask “when was the last time you slept?” and he would spin around with a blank look and haze behind his eyes as the only thing his tired and heavy tongue could produce was “huh?”. He would earn a worried glare and concerned eyes searching his face for more answers he didn’t have, leaving with a final remark that Don already wasn’t listening to.
You see, Don was fine with his arrangement, and although he hated it, he knew that it was his duty. Leo was the leader. Raph was the muscle. Mike was the comedic relief. Donnie was the medic.
So Donnie would sit here quietly and console his crying youngest and listen to Raph’s bitter ranting about the unfairness of battle, watch his leader stare quietly at the rest of the family he put in danger. Biting his tongue, Donatello would mend his family, ending sharp looks as he grunted in pain. He was proud of himself for hiding it so far, hiding the angry agony he felt as he shifted and mended others after fights, very obviously hurting but he didn’t matter.
Sometimes, they’d ask if he was alright, volunteer to take up the fix-up at the end of it and to mend their brothers, but no, they couldn’t do it. Not like Donnie could. They couldn’t stitch straight lines through leathery skin, couldn’t cover wounds in cream and gauze like a medical professional, couldn’t set bones and joints and ankles quickly and efficiently, couldn’t regain a heartbeat with panicked siblings fretting around, couldn’t console tears and anger and guilt like it was an everyday occurrence.
There have been times, not many times but times all the same, where Donnie has almost prevented his brothers from patrol, claiming that they needed routine checks, or rest or just plain old bonding and every single time they would kick up a fuss but couldn’t they see it was for him as well?
He never hated them for it. No, he could never resent his brothers, because deep down, pushed so deep that Donnie couldn’t reach it, he had the desire, the craving to be needed. And in the sickbay, they need him.
Sleep be damned. Food be damned. Training be damned. He needs to help, it’s his duty, in the same way Leo needs to lead and Raph needs to protect and Mikey needs to laugh. He would never give up his trade, his tools, even if they cause him more pain than pride.
It’s small and old and overused, but his spot, his chair with the thinning fabric and the sharp springs and the broken wheels and too-small back matters more than anything else. For he would never find himself on that medical bed, not if he could help it, not with his precautions.
If his brothers came in to call him out on his bullshit… Donnie’s bullshit was better.
Leo, his arms crossed as he glared at Donnie from against the wall. “You’re hurt.” It was a statement. “You fell off a building. I watched you, yet I still don’t see any wounds covered. What are you playing at?” Donnie would laugh and wave Leo off, telling his older brother that he landed on his feet and that he only sprained a finger, showing the bandaged wrapped around the digit (a burn, not a sprain, not something Leo had to know), and Leo would glare once more before turning on his heel and leaving.
Raph, his arms waving in the air, spittle flying from his lips as his voice rose in angry octaves. “But I saw the blood, Don! You can’t lie about this crap, if you’re hurt, you’re hurt! We’re not going to tease you for needing help every now and then.” Donnie would pat him on the shoulder and turn away, sitting on his chair and ignoring Raph while typing on his shoulder until Raph would growl and storm away.
Mikey, sitting quietly on the floor, head resting against Donnie’s desk as he worked. “You know, if you want, I can cover that bruise,” he would offer. “Or you could teach me how to seal your shell. I hadn’t seen it before, but from here it looks pretty bad.” Donnie would kiss his baby brother on the head and reassure him that he would do it once he finished.
Because they didn’t need to know. He didn’t belong on that bed, he belonged on the chair with broken wheels, but Donnie was fine with that. As long as he could look after his family.
Donnie didn’t like his spot.