Waking Up is Hard to Do
The groan felt good slipping out of Donnie's mouth. He blinked his eyes as the dimly lit room came into focus. The lab had been brighter than this. So had the cell. He remembered Val holding something to his neck and not being able to move at all. His hand moved from under a blanket and rubbed. Nothing was wrong with his neck.
"Hey! He's awake!" That sounded like Leo. Was Raph hurt again? It would be just like him to get himself killed trying to save the day.
A golden face leaned over Donnie's gaze. Her fur caught the light and dispersed a halo around her. Her hand brushed his forehead. "You're awake finally," Di said softly. "You had us worried for a while."
He caught her hand before it withdrew. "What happened?" His throat felt raw.
"Get him some water," Di told someone out of his range of vision.
The water glass appeared with Leo to help him drink it. "You're safe now, Donnie."
Now he could handle talking. "What took you guys so long?"
"There was some other stuff that slowed us down." Leo had his responsible-for-all-the-crap face on. "We should've been there sooner." He helped Donnie sit up in the bed.
"I'm not complaining about any rescue," Di answered.
"Donnie's awake?" Both Raph and Mikey tried to come through the door at the same time. Raph shoved his way in first. "Your girlfriend let go of your hand long enough to come see about him?" He threw over his shoulder contemptuously.
Mike straightened his belt as he came up to the bed. "She shoved me out of the medbay when Leo started bellowin'."
"Allie and Mona are here?" Donnie looked at Di, not expecting a straight answer from anyone else.
"Yes, they're both here."
"Good thing too," Mike broke in, "or we would've never teamed up with the Martians."
"And we needed them 'cause Val Tech was teamed up with the Plutarkians," Leo added helpfully.
Donnie turned back to Di. She shrugged as if to say I don't know either. "What happened to Arkson and Val?"
"They got away," Leo answered. "Gettin' you and the other prisoners to safety was more important."
"Next time then."
"There ain't gonna be a next time," Raph fairly growled.
"Maybe not for you." Di's fur bristled.
Donnie squeezed her hand, taking her solemn gaze from Raph. "He didn't mean it like that. Just that they weren't getting another chance at me."
"Well that I can agree with. I don't want to see you get hurt again." A sudden flush of red was visible under her fur.
"And I don't like to see you hurt." Not that he could see her wounds now. The form-fitting jumpsuit she had on completely covered her body.
"Aw don't you two look cute?" Mike said with a grin. "Guess gettin' locked up in an alien's skyscraper fortress ain't so bad." Di's face grew redder and she tried to pull her hand away. Donnie held onto it tightly. "Glad your shell is in one piece, Donnie, but I gotta get back to keep vigil over Zack."
"Zack? What happened to Zack?" But Mikey ducked out of the room without answering. "What happened?"
Leo glared at the door, "Michaelangelo's big mouth."
"I don't think I'll go into shock if I know, Leo."
Di took a deep breath and squeezed his hand. "They mutated him. His body is still going through the change. Everyone's hoping we can find a way to reverse it." Her voice betrayed her weariness.
"Have you been working on it since you guys got us out? How long has that been?"
"Since early last night. It's almost noon now," Leo answered.
"Didja get your back fixed?" She stared at the blanket. "Di!"
"Other people were hurt worse than me!"
She wouldn't meet his eyes. Yet he wasn't really surprised by her actions. Everyone else's needs would always come before her own. "Give me the info. You get fixed up."
"Donnie, you shouldn't push yourself."
Raph for once backed up Leo. "Yeah, you were really sick."
"Nothing's wrong with my brain. Hand it over."
"Well, that's always open to debate," Raph answered while Di set the laptop within Donnie's reach.
"Go do something useful like make up with Mona." Donnie grabbed the laptop. "Or go sit with Zack. Or fix me something to eat. Or take Di to get treated."
"I don't need him to take me! I give orders!"
"You won't be if your back gets infected." Donnie winced slightly. "Will you do it for me?"
She blushed again. "I'm going, okay?"
Leo watched her and Raph leave. "She's nice."
"Very nice," Donnie answered while opening up the computer files he needed.
"But won't you have trouble bringing her home to meet Splinter?"
Trash had always awakened quietly. The trait had served her well in the labs where they would leave you alone until they were sure you were awake. It also came in handy for avoiding messes in the mornings. She eased her eyes open, but only one wanted to cooperate. Her body ached, and she wasn't under a big pile of rocks. Then her heart thumped oddly. Ryan sat on the end of the bed. Poor thing, looks like he's been up for hours. But he's here. He's not holding Allie's hand. She stretched as much as she dared given how her body ached. "Hello, what's for breakfast?"
"And I was worried about brain damage." Ryan shook his head.
So much for a gushing romantic scene. He's just here 'cause that's what a good leader does. She blinked her one moving eyelid rapidly. "Well, you're the one who's always telling me how hard-headed I am. And it's not my fault my metabolism is all whacked," she added peevishly.
"Talk about being hard-headed. What in the world were you thinking! You could've been killed!"
"Yeah, like you think that's such a bad thing." Trash's head pounded all over. "You really need to learn some gratitude."
"Gratitude over a suicide attempt!"
"I got you outta the way!" Her head really pounded now.
"I could've got us both outta the way!" Ryan yelled back. "But you didn't stop to think."
"Hello, anybody want lunch in here?" Charley opened the door.
Trash didn't care. She was so tired of caring that never seemed to get her anything. "I can't! I can't think and do like Allie! No one can!" She burst into tears. "Not that it matters to you what I am good at! The only thing you give a damn about is I'm not Allie!"
Through the stinging in her left eye and haze of tears in the right, she watched Charley storm into the room and grab Ryan's ear. "Get out now!" He couldn't fight the hold, and found himself deposited in Throttle's arms in the spaceship's hallway. Charley shut the door, pulled a clean bandanna from her pocket, and gave it to Trash.
It felt like forever before Trash got her crying under control. The eye that wouldn't open was swollen shut. She could feel it through the bandanna. Charley didn't say anything. Trash wiped her face. It felt odd to use her left hand to do it. "Do you know what a lucky bitch you are?"
"I wouldn't put it like that," she answered dryly.
"He loves you more than anything else. More than himself. Do you know how rare that is?" She couldn't even look at Charley's sympathetic face. "I'm never gonna get that. Guys just wanna screw with a freak like me. All guys but Leader-boy. And I don't need him to love me." The tears welled up again and her throat hurt. "I just wanna be worth somethin' to him just once. A good Bone, a good fighter, a good anything."
Charley took a deep breath. "Look Trash, Ryan was really worried about you. I don't think he expressed himself very well."
"He's never had that problem. Ever. You always know what he's thinkin'." Trash wanted to curl up in a ball of pain. But her body wouldn't let her. "All he cares about is bein' a good leader and impressin' Allie so she'll love him back." She tried to laugh, but it hurt her ribs. "He followed her 'cross country, learned to fight what she thought was a worthy fight, got stuck leading us, and she's in love with someone freakier than most Mutates." Her chuckle was bitter and short.
"You think it serves him right."
"You just don't get it, do ya? It hurts him. It hurts him to see her in the arms of another guy. I don't want to see him hurt. But sympathy he don't want from me. He just wants to hate me for being available and not being Allie. It'd be so much easier if I could just hate her."
"I would think hating her would be easier than hating Ryan," Charley said.
"She's my friend. And I don't hate Ryan."
"You sure treat him like you do."
"You don't understand anything!"
Trash closed her eye and took as deep of a breath as she could. "All I have is me and even that was taken away and forced to change. All I can offer is freaky me and that's not good enough. Ryan hates me enough to crush me under him. I can't let him do that." She snorted, "I even try to take myself out of the problem and that doesn't work."
Charley took another deep breath. "Trash," she began.
"Look, you don't like me and I don't like you. The least you can do is spare me the sympathy speech."
"And I had one all wrote out," Charley snapped back. "I'm not your enemy."
"Nah, you just got a decent man... er male that treats ya like gold. True, you had to go to another planet to find him."
"And you're jealous. Get over it. You might have more friends that way."
Trash frowned. "I don't need friends. Just like I don't need love."
"If that's the way you feel. But it's a very lonely life." She finally left.
Trash sighed with relief. But she couldn't stay here. Ryan would come back and yell or somebody else would show up feeling sorry for her. She couldn't handle either anymore.
She pried the suction cups and wires off her skin, and rolled onto her feet. She managed not to jostle her arm in the cast, but the movement sharply drove the air from her lungs. Once her breath was back, she cussed until the pain subsided. "No pain, no gain," she grunted to herself and limped down the hall. She had to catch herself against the hall walls when her vision went swimming. But nobody else on the ship seemed to notice.
At the very end of the spaceship was a big room with lots of tools and a funny-looking cylinder in the corner, big enough for a couple of people to get inside. "What the hell is that?" She took a long route to get closer, staying near the walls so she wouldn't hit the floor.
"That is a transport booth," a disembodied, female voice answered. "The Plutarkians stole most of the technology, but others use it as well."
"Cool, so you're a talking ship that talks in the house."
"Yes, and an organic in your condition should be resting."
Trash ignored the good advice and studied the control panel next to the booth's door. She kept her hands off, not wanting to hurt her good one. "So you can beam me anywhere with this thing?"
"Yes, I can transport you to almost anywhere."
"Good, I wanna get away."
"You need to be more specific."
"You shouldn't travel in your condition."
"You're not my mother." She climbed into the cylinder. "Energize." The clear glass doors slid shut in front of her. A blue light surrounded her and when it cleared, she was standing on a concrete beach. She turned and saw the John Hancock Center building in the nearby city skyline. "I guess it sent me to the closest beach." She eased down until she could lie on the sun-baked stone. "No more yelling." She closed her eyes.
Ryan rubbed his ear while staring at the shut door. And he had always thought actors hammed it up when that happened on TV. Throttle grabbed hold of his arm. "Let's let the ladies chat," the tan mouse said. Ryan went willingly down the ramp and out of the ship. "What the hell was that about?"
"What is it to you?" Ryan gritted his teeth after letting the snarl out. He wasn't mad at the Martian, but he made a convenient target.
"When a subordinate is recuperating is not the time to call them on the carpet! You should know that."
"So I guess this is the time for you to spell out how lousy a leader I am."
"Stow the attitude!" Throttle yelled. "I'm not an insecure girl you can take your insecurities out on."
"No, you just take advantage of one while tellin' your girlfriend you're not interested!"
Throttle snorted. "Nobody has ever taken advantage of Trash in a bedroom." He thumped Ryan's chest. "But you better get over your," he thumped again, "jealousy and insecurities while you," he thumped again, "still have a team!"
Ryan jerked out of range. "You have a lot of nerve telling me what to do! Do I look fuzzy?"
"Make all the personal bonehead moves you want, but I'm not gonna let you endanger another person. It doesn't matter if she's a member of your team or not."
"Where were you when she decided to throw herself under a pile of rocks?" Ryan snarled back.
"Watching her shove your ass out of the way."
"And what kinda lousy leader has their team members commit suicide instead of letting their leader rescue them?"
"That had nothing to do with you as a leader. She saw the man she loves in danger and got him out without thinking about herself."
"Now I know you're loco, Martian. Trash in love with me? She hates me. She always said my leading would get someone killed."
"Your leading had nothing to do with what happened to Trash. Hell, you didn't even give an order." Throttle sighed. "You need to stop worrying about your abilities. You're a fine leader when you're not letting your emotions make you a bonehead. Why don't you tell her how you feel?"
"I was telling her how I felt about her behavior on the field."
Throttle's shades dropped down his snout and he stared at Ryan over the rims. "You covered your fear with anger and took it out on her. And man, you ain't doin' much better with me."
"Fear? Fear of what?"
Ryan's mouth moved a while before he could say anything. "I don't want to lose any Bones."
Throttle chuckled as he sat on a crate. "You two keep going round makin' each other jealous and doin' a damn good job of it too."
"Jealous? You're crazy, Martian. Trash hates me; she always has." Ryan paced a little in front of Throttle. "And I'm not in love with her. I'm hardly her type." He swallowed down a bitter lump. "She likes... well... everything that's not me. All she does is make snide comments about me."
"When have you ever treated her with respect?" Throttle countered. "You both cut each other down and cut your hearts in the process." His husky voice softened slightly. "It's one thing to lie to her, but at least be honest to yourself."
Ryan fell heavily onto a crate. "It's not supposed to be Trash. Allie and me were supposed to be together forever."
"And what did Allie say 'bout that?"
"She always said she didn't love me like that. And with the way her and Mike act, I guess she wasn't lying. But Trash is... and I...." Crashing headfirst into a brick wall would be easier than getting his thoughts in order. "I can't imagine life without her."
"Don't you think she needs to know that?"
"But she hates me!"
"She should after what you did." Charley's scathing voice preceded her arrival. Her green eyes flashed as she planted her hands on her hips. "They say don't upset the patient for a reason, you know!"
Ryan looked down at the floor. "I lost my temper. I'm sorry."
"I'm not the one you should apologize to."
"Did I make things worse?"
"Not if you wanted to convince her you hate her."
Ryan blinked at her while the meaning slowly penetrated. If Trash thought he hated her.... "I've gotta talk to her."
"Are you gonna talk this time?" Throttle asked.
"Yes, I'll talk this time. I won't make her cry." Ryan headed back into the spaceship.
"I've been reasoning with him for a good five minutes," Throttle sounded like he was following, "and you get him movin' in five seconds."
"It's a woman thing."
Ryan headed up the ramp into the ship and went straight to Trash's room. "Trash?" The bed was empty. "She's gone!"
"What?" Charley rushed up behind him. "She's in no condition to go anywhere."
"That won't stop Trash. Mind over matter takes a whole new level with her." Ryan sighed.
"We better find her before she hurts herself." Throttle started down the hall.
"Biker Trash is on the North Avenue Beach on Lake Michigan." An electronic voice spoke up.
"How the heck did she get there, MC?" Charley demanded.
"Via the transport booth. There were no restrictions placed on her using it. She was warned about her medical condition."
Ryan's chest felt tight. "But she insisted on going. I better go get her." He headed back down the ramp.
"Wait a second. MC, can the transport booth hurt her?" Charley drummed her fingers on her hips.
"No, merely her trying to stay on her feet."
"That's what I figured." Charley disappeared down the spaceship's hall and ran back. She tossed a small black box to Ryan. "A transport remote. That way you don't have to ride her back on a bike."
"Thanks." Ryan ducked out of the ship and headed for the elevator. He felt like kicking himself in the ass. Trash in love with him and all he could do was whine about Allie. How much that must've hurt her. He squared his shoulders. He would fix it; he had to.
Modo chuckled as the baby grabbed the top of his boots and pulled himself up. "Ready to start walkin' already, li'l fella?"
The baby looked up at him and blew a raspberry. He wobbled, but grabbed Modo's hands. He tried to step on Modo's foot.
"Too bad we ain't got stuff for ya to play with. Maybe I'll send Vinnie to get ya somethin." Somebody came into the lounge. Modo glanced over his shoulders and saw a golden cat girl. "Hi, don't think we've met, ma'am. Modo."
"Hi, I'm Di." She partially leaned over the couch, keeping her back as straight as possible. "I hope you're not allergic to me too."
"Sorta. His girlfriend was patching me up and he came in. He managed to say his name between sneezes."
He chuckled. "I'm not allergic. Come sit down. Maybe ya should look over the baby. Yer a doctor or something, right?"
"Something," Di agreed with a smile as she joined Modo on the couch. "You'll have to bring him to me." She grimaced settling on the cushion.
"No problem," Modo hoisted the baby to her lap. "Charley found him with the other prisoners."
"Well Val Tech took good care of you, yes they did. Noticed anything wrong with him?"
"Nah, but I don't know much 'bout human babies."
She studied the baby quickly. "Other than this puncture mark on his arm, I don't see anything wrong. Course, I'd need more equipment for a detailed exam." She tickled the baby and pointed out the puncture mark on his arm. "Looks like someone drew some blood recently. Now why would they do that?"
"Would Val Tech do to him what they're doin' to Zack? Already I mean." Modo tried not to frown because the baby was looking up at him.
"They have before, but they usually don't keep drawing blood afterwards. This is just a few days old." Di passed him back to Modo. "I wonder."
Modo bounced the baby on his knee. "Wonder what?"
"I keep finding notes on the progeny in Val Tech's information. Maybe that's supposed to be this baby."
"What do they say about him?"
Her face furrowed. "Trying to figure out why he's surviving," she answered in a low voice. "Oh my God, you're a second gen."
The baby clapped his hands.
Di's green-gold eyes shone. "A baby of two Mutates, and he's survived. None of the others have." She stood up quickly and hissed. "I have to stop that! I've got to look at those notes again."
Modo continued to bounce the baby as she ran from the room. "Well, I hope they got yer name somewhere in those notes."