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It was supposed to be hypothetical.

Sure, Donatello was the one who designed the protocols, but it was always supposed to be hypothetical.

He'd been planning out the execution of such a concept for years now; and as someone who simply didn't believe in not putting all he was into his work, he had worked long, late, ill-advised hours to make sure that this theoretical function was a function at all.

The concept was whether technology could sustain life separate from the body. A "ghost in the machine," as his in-depth research into pop culture informed him. It was a messy concept, getting into the nature of souls and artificial intelligence and mortality and all sorts of things that were not in Donnie's wheelhouse, so he did what he always did- which was compartmentalize anything he couldn't puzzle out, and march onward with unearned bravado.

It wasn't a protocol that needed much maintenance; he could just set up the program in a robot, and install remote access to all aspects of said robot to his battleshell. Maybe add a couple of emergency protocols, and Booyah. He had initially planned on implementing it into Sheldon, but unfortunately Donatello found himself caring too much about his own creation, and had instead built a simple little robot to explore more of the morally defunct aspects of robotics free of guilt.

Come to think of it, He hadn't... really told anyone about the project, yet? His brothers wouldn't understand the science behind it, and in the off-chance they DID understand, he didn't want them to count on it in any capacity. It was theoretical, after all. He told April about some of it years ago, but Donatello doubts she remembers their conversation about it. He designs it mostly because he can, he's just that stunningly brilliant, and if anyone could discover the secret to immortality it would be him.

So he invented immortality.

And then promptly forgot about it.

...That isn't quite fair, it was on his mind. Somewhere. It was never a priority, it was never a concern, it was never an option . With the daily blend of peaceful absurdity and straight-up chaos, it sort of fell by the wayside. But it was fine! What could possibly happen!

...

Needless to say, it all went wrong when he died.

-----------

WARNING

sysadminDONATELLO "vitals critical":true

activate "experimental immortality" protocol? [y/n]

>

WARNING

sysadminDONATELLO "probably going to die":true

override sysadminDONATELLO console commands:true

activating "experimental immortality" protocol

[loading…]

ERROR - some data could not be transferred

ERROR - some data could not be transferred

ERROR - some data could not be transferred

ERROR - some data corrupted

ERROR - connection lost

43.8 terabytes successfully transferred. learn more? [y/n]

>n

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

>set "sensory synthesis":true

"sensory synthesis" set to true

Sight shuddered and shifted like a faulty camera, but even with the newly activated touch simulation, Donatello feels numb . It was supposed to be a routine mission. Barely worth his time. The worm guy was there, for crying out loud. He couldn't even remember how he died, only that he did die and it hurt it hurt it hurt-

>set "manual control":true

"manual control" set to true

His limbs jerked to life, startling him out of his thoughts. Or coding? Could he even think anymore? ...he could NOT think about this right now . He picked himself off of the ground and shuffled out from under his bed, unused to being three feet tall. He'd have to fix that. Later.

>set "emotional simulation":true

ERROR: unable to run sysprotocol "emotional simulation." learn more? [y/n]

>YES

unknown command, please use [y/n]

>WHY did I program you like this

unknown command, please use [y/n]

>Y

sysprotocol "emotional simulation" currently contains 23 corrupted files and 4 unfinished scripts. would you like to edit this? [y/n]

>n

Okay, guess he'll have to fix that later as well . Maybe it's a good thing it doesn't work so he doesn't have to deal with any unpleasant emotions like crushing exhaustion or overwhelming existential dread. Haha. That didn't feel very funny.

He toddled out from his lab, tried his hardest to think about as few things as possible, and called for his dad. It felt natural, and Donatello was grateful for even feeling so in his new mechanical body. His father, however, was not grateful for being interrupted from his soaps, and whipped around with a glare that could level armies.

"-DAD .-" His voice was tinny, and toneless, and such a far cry from Donatello's natural voice that it scared himself, but he couldn't really feel the fear, so he continued regardless. "- DAD. ITS DONATELLO.-"

And by SOME miracle, his father's glower melted away into something of a startled awe. He pulled away from his beloved projector, and beloved chair, and met Donatello's clumsy steps with a ferocity he'd only seen a handful of times. "My beloved son." Splinter's paws cradled Don's rigid jaw, and he's certain that if he could've he would've wept at the gentleness of his voice.

Instead, he shivered like a shook-up soda pop ready to burst and fell into his dad's open arms, which his external thermal sensors unhelpfully informed him was warm. "-IT'S ALL GONE WRONG-." He hated this, hated this.

Splinter understood, and wept for him.

----------

"-HOW ARE THEY.-"

Typically Donatello would feel jubilant about scaring Raph enough for him to make whatever noise THAT was, but the tear tracks staining his eldest brother's dampened any feelings other than the raw devastation evident in his eyes.

Raphael stalled, stared, and snapped back to reality, sharp teeth suddenly beaming at Donnie. "Ehhh, y'know. Sad n' stuff." His smile dropped as quickly as it appeared, and he sighed. "...they're all taking it pretty hard. Hard stuff to see." And Raph shuffled, pointedly avoiding meeting the digital eye's on Donnie's spiffy new LED display.

...Donnie tries to process the exchange, but if he thought his relationship with feelings was bad before he died and became a robot with a faulty emotional simulator, HA! ... Speaking of...

>run system diagnosis

running system diagnosis, please wait...

"...How're YOU holdin' up, Dee?" Raph's tentative question pulled him out of his head, and Donnie looked back at his brother as he stuttered and squirmed. "I mean, y--, you're the one who d---, who died, and-"

"-COULD BE BETTER.-" Don and Raph both winced at the crunchy-ness of his voicebox, but Raph nodded ever so slightly, encouraging him to continue. "-I. I'M NOT SURE. WHAT TO DO. I'VE NEVER DIED BEFORE.-"

Raphael laughed , a strange, broken sound. " Nobody's died and lived to tell the tale before you, Donnie. Always gotta be a trailblazer, huh?" and Raph was actually looking at him this time, and Donatello beeped odd tones back at him as if it were a snicker, and was at least polite enough not to mention how his mask was damper than it was the moment before-

SYSTEM DIAGNOSIS COMPLETE: 218 corrupted files found. 12 unfinished scripts found. 3709 incompatible files found. 0 malware found. 16 systems operating successfully. 3 systems are malfunctioning and require maintenance. learn more? [y/n]

>

"...nie? You with me, buddy? Oh sewer apples, please don't be broken please oh pleasedon'tbeGONE- "

"-RAPH.-" Don bit out, more than a little overwhelmed, and Raphael slumped with relief, at some point having taken off his bandana?

"...What was THAT?" Raph finally hissed, after leading Donatello in the underrated pastime of sitting in the middle of hallways.

"-WAS RUNNING SYSTEM DIAGNOSTICS. DIDN'T HEAR YOU. SORRY.-"

"'System diagnostics'? Did everything go okay?" Raphael scooted closer, shifting into Big Brother Mode.

"-OKAY ENOUGH. NEED TO WORK ON. SOME OF THE CODING.-" Raphael's eyebrows furrowed in concern, so Donatello felt the need to clarify: "-EMOTIONAL SIMULATION. OFFLINE. THINK INTERNAL MEMORY. IS ACTING UP TOO---"

"Emotional Simulation and Internal Memory!?" Don watches Raph lose eight years off of his lifespan in a single exclamation, and somewhere underneath all of the strange numbness, Don feels awful. "Is there anything we can do!? This sounds serious, Dee! Why didn't you say anything?"

"-HAD IT HANDLED.-" Don defended himself, first and foremost. Raph shot him back an extremely unimpressed, extremely exasperated glare. "-JUST NEED TO CONVERT SOME FILES. AND REROUTE SOME FUNCTIONS. IMMORTALITY IS AN. EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE. RAPH."

Said brother groaned, long and miserable, looking for the first time in a while like the fifteen year old with the weight of the world on his shoulders that he is. "-RAPH.---"

"OI!" Leo's yell cuts through his train of thought, and Raph turns with him towards the audacious voice of their younger brother. " Could you two take your little heart-to-heart huddle somewhere else? Some of us are trying to sleep, thank you." The chirping of his 3DS immediately betrays him, and Raph rolls his eyes but nods anyways.

"It's been a long night, Donnie. Best we be turning in, huh?" And Raph smiles at him, a real smile this time. "You gonna be okay for the night?"

And Donnie lies, and nods, because Raph needs the rest, and watches him wave goodnight, and sits there, because he just realized he's never going to get to sleep again.

----------

Mikey cries every time they see each other. Which is less than ideal, to be quite honest, so part of Don questions why his brother keeps trying to talk to him.

(A different part of him, one that couldn't be put into code yet stuck around anyways, thwacks him upside the head and says of course Mikey would want to talk to you, idiot, he's your brother and he loves you! Donnie's new processor apparently doesn't understand the concept of loyalty. Scoff.)

So Donnie is sitting at the desk in his lab, partway through updating his own coding, and Mikey is crying. He's more unsure of what to do than ever, lately Dad or Raph, or occasionally Leo, are the ones who console him. But Donatello's the one who's here, and clearly Mikey wants to talk to him, so he's the one who'll listen, too.

"I'm sorry! I-it was just so, so scary, Don." Mikey managed to choke out, curling in on himself. "Everything was fine , everything was normal , and how it was supposed to be, and then..." He cuts himself off with a whimper.

Don doesn't realize he's moved until he's hugging Mikey as best he can at his height, and Mikey crumples down into a seat on the floor to better hug him back. "-I'M HERE. I'M OKAY. MIKE.-"

Mikey hums back, voice thick, but says nothing else, holding Donnie tighter and burying his head into Don's steely shoulder as he cries.

78 files successfully converted. learn more? [y/n]

>n

That should be the last of them.

"...Dee?"

Donnie had forgotten how long they'd sat there before he heard Michelangelo's cries die off. His breath still hitched with emotion, but he looked to his older brother with an openness Don hadn't seen since before the incident.

"-YES.-" He inquires back, and wilts slightly at the lack of inflection possible with his current self. Mikey's expression falls too, just a tad, but he understands.

"...Did it hurt? Dying?" Don pauses, considering the question, considering how much a lie would hurt him. "None of us saw it happen, only found you after you- after."

"-IT DID. CAN'T REMEMBER. THE REST.-"

"I'm sorry." Mikey answers, and it's so simple, and thoughtful, and so very much like Mikey; and Donatello shakes in his brother's arms.

"-I'M OKAY NOW.-" Don tries to amend, to excuse, and Mikey just keeps looking at him , with such open affection, and he gives up. "-SIGH. CAN YOU KEEP. A SECRET.-"

Mikey's eyebrows shoot up as he readjusts himself, but he nods. "Yeah. I mean, sometimes. Depends on what it is?" Mikey cuts himself off again, but with a smile this time. "But yeah! Anything for my big bro Donnie!"

And he slides himself deeper into his brother's embrace, and hunches his shoulders. "-EMOTIONAL SIMULATORS. ARE WORKING AGAIN. WOULD YOU STAY. WHILE I REACTIVATE THEM. MAKE SURE NOTHING. GOES WRONG.-"

To that, Mikey understands, and holds him even tighter. Donnie waits until he feels him nod above him and takes a moment to listen to his brother breathing.

>set "emotional simulation":true

"emotional simulation" set to true

It hurts to feel, after everything that had happened. It hurts, like being doused in ice-cold water, and he doesn't know how to stop. He can feel the fear, the anger, the hurt, the grief, the dread, everything.

Mikey holds on.

It hurts and it hurts and it hurts , and it all sinks in, and Mikey holds on.

...Eventually, it stops hurting, just a little. He feels the emotions that were clogging him up ebb out of him gradually, and he feels lighter. And hey, no post-meltdown migraines when you're a robot, always a plus!

And when he finally pulls away from Mikey, he pulls away from Raph and Leo too, and the only thing keeping him from feeling overwhelmingly embarrassed is the fact that this is the okay-est he's seen them since everything. Donatello cedes no ground as he screeches dial-up sounds at his eldest brother, and his own chittering beeps join in with his brother's laughter as if it were the same, and maybe it is, and maybe it is good to feel. He's missed this more than he ever thought he would.

----------

His brothers had, at some point, filled April in on everything. Apparently.

He felt bad, like a bad friend; for not telling her sooner, or for not being the one who told her, or for not even remembering that she was told. The days following the incident were vague at best, probably due to his faulty memory storage. Everything was off, was wrong, different from what it was supposed to be, and Don could feel it deeper than his circuitry. The fact that April had slipped his mind was unsurprising, but he still felt like a crummy friend.

Which is why he wasn't snapping at her for dropping by while he was in the middle of something important. Instead Donnie had resigned himself to getting as much done as he can before April drags him into a conversation about feelings.

She's quiet in her approach, her footsteps stilling long before she begins to speak. Usually she's struck up a conversation by now, about something at school, or work, or his brothers; but she seems to have something big on her mind tonight. Which is fair, honestly. "...How're ya holdin' up, Donnie?"

"-HEY APRIL. HOW ARE YOU. LOVE YOUR JACKET.-" Donatello immediately replies, and in the following lull in conversation he winces as he realizes this is the first time she's hearing his newly awful bit-crunched voice.

"Cut the crap, Dee." April sighs, and walks over to his current work station. Donnie doesn't even need to look up at her to read her expressions as she realizes what he's working on, or what he looks like; her sharp gasp is pretty self-explanatory. "Donnie…"

"-ALMOST DONE. THOUGHTS. QUESTION MARK.-"

"...Do you really think this is a good idea, Donnie? Right now?" Her hands gesture emphatically at his current project, and he feels his excitement sap out of him at her exasperation.

"-WHAT'S WRONG WITH. DONDROID TWO POINT OH.-" He whipped around to glare at April, and met her gaze head on. "-SPEAK NOW OR. FOREVER HOLD. YOUR PEACE.-"

"Nothing's wrong with DonDroid 2.0!" April shot back at Donnie, the two holding a silent test of wills; and April groans, and relents, reluctantly. "Nothing's specifically wrong with DonDroid 2.0, I'm just!- Don't you think it's a bit… early, to do this?"

"-EARLY. I ASK.-"

"It hasn't even been a week, since you… well…"

Don would've clicked his tongue if he had one, but he didn't, so he made do with a sharp beep. "-YOU CAN SAY THE DIE WORD. AROUND ME. APRIL.-"

"But I don't want to!"

He paused.

"You're my best friend, Don. And you're still here, so you couldn't have died. " Her face steeled in conviction, and she stood taller. "It was a near death experience, worse than the ones you usually have. You almost died. Nothing more… and nothing less. That's why I'm concerned about DonDroid 2: Electric Boogaloo, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because we're all still processing what happened, and I don't want you to take risks you don't have to."

She sighed, and wilted, somewhat. "Sorry for being so harsh about it, I guess. Just worried."

And Donatello thought about how infuriatingly correct April was, and he coped. "-DONDROID TWO POINT OH. APRIL. NOT DONDROID TWO. ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. SHOT LEO DOWN ON THAT ONE. AS WELL.-"

April laughed. "Great minds think alike, huh?"

"-YOU TWO LIVE. TO TORMENT ME.-"

"Wouldn't have it any other way!" April leaned on the back of Don's chair, her face relaxing into a sort of tired resignation that seemed to be a common recurrence spending time with him. "...Really sold on this new body thing, huh?"

Donnie stalled a bit, idly shuffling the spare bits. It was practically finished, at this point. "-DONDROID PRIME WAS. NOT BUILT FOR LONG TERM USE.-" Just a few more lines of code, and he could have a body that was the same size as his real one, that was compatible with his already teched-out battleshell, with a voicebox that actually worked, and all sorts of neat gizmos added on top of it all. (because what couldn't be improved by some Donnie tech?) "-LIKE THIS ONE BETTER.-"

"I think it suits you." April's face softened, and Donatello rapidly went over the conversation to make sure he didn't say anything too self-depreciating or pitiable. "You think you can pull this body transfer thing off? Safely?"

"-SAFELY IS. THE KEY WORD THERE. HUH.-"

"Eyyyyup."

Donnie triple-checks his data instead of answering, combing through and seeing if there were any dangling phrases. Everything seems up to snuff, yes. Could he really pull this off?

>check "dondroid data transfer"

0 errors found in sysprotocol "dondroid data transfer".

April clears her throat, pointedly inserting Donnie back into the conversation. "-WOULD YOU LIKE. TO HELP. QUESTION MARK.-"

"Donnie-"

"-COMPLETELY SAFE. I PROMISE. ZERO POINT OH SEVEN PERCENT CHANCE. OF FAILURE. AND EVEN THEN IT SHOULD JUST. TRANSFER BACK TO DONDROID PRIME.-"

April half-laughs, half-groans. "At the very least you've told the rest of the guys about this, right?"

"-TOLD DAD.-" And she rolls her eyes for what felt like the eighth time tonight, but nods.

>set "dondroid data transfer":true

sysprotocol "dondroid data transfer" set to true

And a second awareness flickered within him, and it was an absolutely horrifying sensation, but he turned to April with a fierce determination. His words, "-READY. WHEN YOU ARE,-" are met with her biggest grin, and they both turn towards Don's future body.

>run "dondroid data transfer"

----------

"And you're sure you feel up to this? Cause we don't all have to- I can just pick up the pizza by myself, Or send Leo out, or-"

"-Raph. I have been cooped up in the lair for so long, do not test me.-" Donatello snapped, and Raph's frown grew but he trudged ahead anyways. Silently, Don marveled at his amazing new ability to emote with his voice, and stand at eye level with his brothers. It was the little things he missed.

Also, he had some new "features" he wanted to take for a test drive. Exhibit A:

"Dude, you gave yourself built in heelys?!" Leo's indignant cry somehow carried over the sound of Donnie making them eat his dust. Motorized wheels previously drawn into his own mechanical legs shot out and whirred to life as Don skated from rooftop to rooftop, feeling more alive than he had in a long time. Or a week. A very long week.

It took Donnie an embarrassingly long time to realize he had outpaced his brothers by a wide margin. Or just straight up ditched them, depending on how you looked at it. Don knew how his brothers would look at it.

>call sysuserRAPH using "Donnie's shellphone"

calling sysuserRAPH…

There were upsides to being a machine.

" DONNIE!" Raphael's voice clicked into Donatello's own direct audio feed at precisely the wrong moment, and Don jumped at the sudden volume. “You do not get to just prance away from us like you own the place! -sigh-, I know you’re sick of being doted on, or whatnot, but you have to stick with us, that’s what we told Dad. I’m coming over there to- what, why? Okay, just no lollygagging, got it?- Leo’s coming over to take you back to the lair, okay? Stay outta trouble. Love you Dee- Mikey- Mikey says he loves you too- Okay, bye. Love you! Bye. -click-”

Mentally, Don applauded Raph for taking part in what is possibly the most one-sided conversation he’s ever heard. Emotionally, he weighed the consequences of him blocking Raph’s number in petty revenge. Physically, he resigned himself to his fate, sat with legs crossed over the rooftop’s ledge, and thanked himself for installing solitaire on his own hard drive.

"Man, Raph would chew you out for sitting so close to the ledge." Leo's voice carried over the rhythm of the city, and Don minimized the program and shifted to watch his brother's approach. "Good thing I'm the one who came over here, huh?"

With that, Leo plops himself down right next to Donnie, leaving his sword a few paces back. The distant light of helicopters' meander through the dark gray sky like half-hearted stars, and the wailing of an unhappy toddler from the pedestrians beneath them is quickly drowned out by a very loud, very colorful argument a few blocks over. Don drinks in the atmosphere, and wonders. "-Aren't you here to be my escort, oh blue one?-"

Leo scoffs, and leans against Donnie like an oversized pillow. "Like I could keep the great Hamato Donatello down. I-I mean, of course I could, I'm Hamato Leonardo: Battlenexus Champion , but you're a tough guy to beat down, y'know?"

And there's something in his words that catches in Donnie's processor, and he watches Leonardo as he fumbles his boasts and falls into an almost contemplative silence. "-Leo---"

"-I. I wanted to talk to you, actually. If that's cool with you, I mean. NBD if it's not, aha. it's not that important." Leo cringes and carefully angles his face away from Don.

"-Sure. What's up---"

"Are you really okay?" Don stops, internally kicking himself for expecting this conversation to be about anything else. "I mean. If that all happened to me, dying 'n stuff? I dunno how I'd feel."

Don knows how Leo works, in the same way his pseudo-twin knows him. He knows that Leonardo's smarter than he acts, and more observant, and can be surprisingly mature when he needs to be. He also knows that Leo's natural coping mechanism is evasion and humor, and Donatello's sensing an awful lot of that in this conversation. Donnie knows this because it's how he handles these sorts of things too, but that's for a different conversation. ...Actually, now that he thinks about it, it really isn't, it's for the conversation Leo's actively engaging him in, isn't it? Donnie finds a middle ground. "-Doing better than I was. Getting out and about helped.-"

"Yeah?" And Leo shifts back to look at Donnie, probably studying his reaction. "That's good, that's good." He says mostly to himself, and relaxes with a self-assured hum. Don wonders what he found that made him do that.

"-...Are you okay?-"

Leo jerks at that, choking on saliva for a split second (Don did not miss that, either) before whipping around with a signature Leonardo Grin of Mischief and Mayhem plastered on his face. "Pffffft, yeah? Why wouldn't I be? I'm not the one who uhhh, bit the dust, so to speak, heh."

Don sighed, and pulled his legs up out of oblivion, high enough to hug comfortably, and nestled his chin into his knees. He was going to have to spell it out to him, huh? "-Your brother died, Leo. Or almost died, the juries still out on that one. But you were the ones who found my body, and that---"

"I found you first."

Don winces, and Leo sighs, long and tired. "Don't really, aha, wanna talk about it. Y'know?"

"-Mmm.-" Don's not sure what the right thing is to say, to do. He never really does. "-...Are you going to be okay?-"

"Yeah-" Leo cuts himself off with a sniff, and he swipes at his eyes in a quick motion. "Yeah. I'll be okay, I think. Don't worry 'bout ol' Leon, haha."

"-I will, but thanks for your input.-" Don quips before he can think too much about it, and Leo chuckles wetly. "-Anything I can do to help?-"

"You're already helping, man. Just by being the great Hamato Donatello. " Leo says this as if he were riffing back, but Don sees a glint of sincerity.

"-...Y'know, with the whole no longer an organic being situation, I don't really, sleep, anymore. Can get kinda quiet.-" Donnie offers, a little less confidently than he'd like to admit, but it's worth it to see his words dawn on Leo's face.

" I might take you up on that-"

Leo's shellphone rings.

Leo freezes, checks the caller ID, checks the time, and looks at Donnie.

"-Wanna warp us back into my lab?-" Don eyes the abandoned ōdachi. "-if we're lucky, Raph hasn't checked in there yet.-"

Leo retrieves his sword and returns to the ledge in one fluid motion, the dark smudges in his bandana lost in his wild grin. "And if we're unlucky, we'll just tell him we were there the whole time anyways. The look on his face'll be priceless."

(The look on Raph's face was, infact, priceless. Donatello immediately captured it from his internal cameras and sent it to their family group chat. He could hear Mikey's laughs echo from the kitchen.)

----------

" HEY! TURTLES!"

Donatello did not roll his eyes (he would never! ) as a familiar caterwaul echoed from a few buildings over, beckoning the brothers over from their rooftop run. After reluctantly befriending their former adversary, they've more or less become used to running into Casey and her antics. Tonight she was wrestling with no less than seven shopping bags full of miscellaneous crafting supplies, and was fortunately winning.

"Uhhhhh, hey CJ. Whatcha got there?" Leo eyed her conspiratorially as they dropped down beside her.

"Supplies!" Casey's grin was feral as she almost toppled over shifting six of the bags over to one arm, partially freeing the other for wild gestures. "My guidance counselor suggested I take up a non-destructive hobby, and has vetoed competitive arm-wrestling yet again , so I have chosen scrapbooking! Which brings us to one burning question, do any of you have memorabilia of our bonds of friendship you would wish for me to put in?"

"Yes!" Mikey immediately chimes in, and then he visibly pauses to think. "Well, no, actually. I don't think so, other than our copy of Hot Soup: The Game, and I don't think Dad's letting go of that one anytime soon . But it sure does sound like something I'd have!" Mikey beams, and Raph's approving chuckle is matched with Leo's dramatic groan.

"-Think I still have a kunai you flung at my head in my lab.-" Don hums and ribs Casey, already used to their casual rivalry stemming from her unironic love of crocs; and almost kicks himself as Casey's face drops once she looks at him. Of course, he hasn't talked to her since the incident, and of course, he was going to have to have another one of those conversations, which at this point he was so sick of-

Casey blinks back at him, nods tightly, and full-on cackles.

"That's perfect!" She keels over laughing, decorative wooden animal skulls spilling out of one of the bags. Donnie wonders what sort of scrapbooking Casey was doing that could even begin to use them. "Does it have any blood on it? Then it really tells a story."

"Gross!" Leo chimes in, but Donnie's still stuck on Casey's reaction. Usually he'd just gratefully accept someone overlooking awkward conversations for his sake, but as long as he's known her, Casey wasn't a person that he'd describe as particularly tactful.

"-So.-" He pipes up, tragically not as overwhelmingly confident as usual. "-Are you just, not gonna say anything about this whole situation?" At this the conversation lulls, but in his peripheral he sees Raphael suddenly relax, was he worried about this too? How on brand .

"I meant no disrespect!" Casey squawks and stiffens, and drops into a bow, the cacophony of shopping bags forgotten. "I was informed as to your status by April, and I foolishly assumed you wouldn't want it brought to attention. Sorry again."

" -No no no, you're good.-" It felt, wrong, having Casey apologize so emphatically to them about something she did right, only partially because he was pretty sure she was older than all of them by a year at the very least. "-It was actually--- and I'm gonna be genuine with my feelings here, mark your calendars guys--- actually really thoughtful, Casey. Thanks.-"

And oh, that was way too much emotional vulnerability, dial it back and say something cool- "-How in the name of all that I hold dear would you use a faux moose skull in a scrapbook?-"

"Does it mean something to you?" Mikey perks up and picks it up, spurring the others to help gather Casey's things, and haha, yes, diversion successful.

"Nope! Skulls are cool, that's my motive." Casey laughs again, and stuffs a cheesy hockey mask into one of the bags she hadn't dropped. "As for the execution, Donatello, I prefer to view scrapbooking as a challenge! Anything goes with enough superglue and elbow grease!"

A quiet inquiry from Raphael. "...Does your guidance counselor know about this?"

"Nope! She said to 'surprise me.'"

"Ah." Raph nods solemnly.

Casey nods too, but very enthusiastically; and with the same energy she starts talking about her new pitbull, Serling, complete with whipping out her phone to show them pictures while still holding five out of the seven stuffed bags. Mikey was smitten.

And when the final bag is handed to her she dashes off into the night, but not before fishing out of bag number two a pair of tacky violet crocs in Donatello's size.

Donatello remotely and discreetly hacks her phone to change the font to wingdings.

----------

'My beloved son.'

Donatello couldn't stop thinking about it. Three simple words, but they seemed to play on loop in his head. Literally, he had the memory file queued up, but he couldn't bring himself to stop. It was one of the few memory files of that first day that he could still pull-up, not lost to faulty coding or shock.

He knew his dad loved him. He knows his dad loves him. This wasn't some, grand revelation, it was just common sense. Yeah, Dad could be a bit hands-off, but he knew this. Why couldn't he stop?

'My beloved son.'

"My son."

Don finally pulled himself out of his head and glanced up at his father, who was watching him with an almost apprehensive frown. "-What's up, Pops?-"

Splinter straightened in his seat, and casted his gaze towards the rest of the room, seeking prying eyes. "Where are your brothers?"

"-Out at Señor Hueso's. I wasn't in the mood to watch my brothers eat pizza.-"

"And they left you here? That doesn't seem like Red's style." Splinter huffed and glowered at the door, as if his ire would summon his return.

"-I insisted. Had stuff to do here.-" He clarified, emotionless, and curled further into himself. Because it was comfortable, and natural, and for no other reasons.

"...Uh huh. And that's why you've spent the entire evening sitting there and not nitpicking my choice in entertainment?"

Don hummed.

"... Donatello." Dad ran his fingers over a loose thread on the arm of his recliner, and smiled gently at Donnie, beckoning him to take a seat beside him. Don followed, curiosity guiding him, as it always did. "Hmm… Death is a… hard thing to process. I never was very good at it, myself." He sighs, long and tired.

"... I don't have some, wise saying, that will fix everything that has happened to you. I don't know how you feel, and I won't pretend to." He runs his strange, wiry paw-hands over Donnie's mechanical exterior, and Don leans into the touch, even if the sensory synthesizers aren't a substitution for the real thing, and probably won't ever be. "I just want you to know I am deeply sorry, and I love you dearly, Donatello-" His voice warbled dangerously before he cut himself off, and Don felt the faint alarm bells of oh crap is my dad crying? before Splinter cleared his throat and continued. "And for as long as I live, I will fight with all I am to keep these truths."

And Donatello, because he is a soft sappy boy, apparently, observes in a quiet voice: "-I'm going to outlive all of you, aren't I?-"

"Most likely." Dad replies, and Donatello is crushed with the weight of reality for just a moment, before his father pulls him into an awkward half-hug. "There was always a chance for that, even before all of this. If I have any luck, all four of you boys will live long and happy lives, beyond my years, and April would be right beside you."

"-I don't want to bury my brothers.-"

"They didn't want to bury you."

Don sits for a while before pulling out of the hug, more than a little emotionally drained; and Splinter's ear twitches as he relaxes back into his chair. "Now then, no sense worrying over a future that may never come to be. I'm here, you're here, and your brothers will be here, once they're done harassing- Señor Hueso? Is that who you said?- Señor Hueso."

"-Mostly from Leo.-"

"Blue? That one’s ever the troublemaker, haha!" Splinter kicks up the legs in his recliner, and shuffles until he gets in just the right spot. "Now, Purple, I need something to drown out this awful commercial, tell me about one of your gizmo-whatzits, would you?"

Don lit up , and dashed into his lab, eager to showcase his newest inventions, with his newest speculations, and some varying hypotheses, and Dad kept listening even when the commercials had long since finished.