So Much To Give
The major motioned toward the exit. “If you’re both feeling well enough, shall we proceed?”
With Don agreeing to meet with Dr. Rockwell and Dr. Yellowhair the next day to begin work on refining the retromutagen formula, Kokopoulos escorted the two of them several blocks, past abandoned office buildings and a mini-mall, its parking lot occupied by nondescript government trailers, set up as barracks. A restaurant in the mall seemed to be active, serving as mess hall. They crossed a large field, half of it likewise occupied by trailers and came to a large, gray structure. They heard it long before they saw it; animalistic as well as human-sounding howls, shrieks and wails carried to them from the building.
“Was this an animal shelter?” Donnie asked as they approached, noting a large fenced-off lawn.
“It is,” Kokopoulos confirmed. “We’re approaching it from the side; otherwise you’d be able to see the sign out front. This is our Dangerous Mutant Containment Facility, referred to affectionately as the Freak Show. This is one of about fifty such facilities we’ve commandeered around the city; kennels, prisons, and hospital wards, where we can contain and monitor some of the more difficult mutants… Some of them became unpredictable, aggressive, violent or insane after their exposure to the mutagen; some simply lost their sentience, becoming more animal than human.”
“Like my dad,” April put in. “Donnie cured him, but he was a giant mutant bat for a couple of months.”
The major nodded in a familiar sort of acknowledgement and continued. “Some have a personal vendetta against humans. And some have gained… attributes… that are harmful to themselves or those around them.” He grasped the door handle, turning back toward them. “It gets a little loud from here on out,” he warned as he opened the door and ushered them inside. A pair of men inside stood to order. The major granted at-ease at once.
The din was incredible. The entire place was in a continual uproar. Don didn’t think he’d be heard even if he shouted. He tapped the major on the shoulder and pointed toward the men’s weapons.
“Tranquilizers,” Kokopoulos shouted though the cacophony. “In case of escape.”
Just then a loud pop carried to them through the screeches and growls. A guard ushered a middle-aged man and woman around the corner, toward the door. The woman was sobbing uncontrollably; her husband had an arm wrapped around her in a consoling manner. “Brandon! Brandon!” the woman wailed, her words muted under the noise as they left for the more peaceful outside.
The guard looked to Kokopoulos. “Sir, had to dart #14. He became extremely aggressive and started lunging at his visitors. Cracked the glass a little bit.”
At April and Don’s alarmed looks, Kokopoulos shook his head. “Nothing to worry about. Those walls are inch-thick bullet-proof glass. Nothing’s getting out.” The major nodded to the guard. “Be sure to file an incident report on it.”
April moved to the first pen. It was solid concrete on three sides and the floor. The fourth, outward-facing wall was the thick Plexiglas the major had mentioned, with several holes bored through it and a small, hinged pass-through at the bottom. A mutant dragonfly was inside, hammering itself senseless against the walls. She pressed a hand against the glass, putting her fingers to her temple. Don couldn’t hear her, but watched her lips move, and she smiled serenely despite the chaos around her. The dragonfly-man stopped battering itself against the walls of its cell and hovered, lowering itself—himself— slowly to the floor. April’s smile widened as the mutant walked over to her, slowly and calmly, and rested its head against the glass in front of her. She nodded and said something else to it, then moved on to the next pen and repeated the process there with a cat mutant, who ceased its yowling and sat cross-legged on the floor, yellow lantern eyes following her in a placid stare.
As April proceeded down the row, calming the mutants on one side, then the other, the din around them lessened, and Kokopoulos leaned over to Donatello. “How is she doing this?”
Don grinned back, heart full of pride for his companion. “Oh, it’s just this thing she does… Sort of a telepathic connection, along with her natural gentleness.” The man nodded, looking on with astonished curiosity as April rounded the corner at the end of the row and moved on to the next.
It took her the better part of an hour to visit each and every cell, spending more time on some, less on others. Even the sedated “Brandon,” who seemed to be mutated with a Rottweiler, received a few calming words and thoughts from her. He sighed and relaxed further in his doped state. Even mutants she hadn’t reached yet began to settle down, the calmness of the others pervading the containment facility, the scents in the air changing. Even the stunned guards began to look relieved as the atmosphere of the place became more comfortable; serene, even. They could clearly hear the conversation between the girl and the occupant of the last cell.
“I didn’t mean to bite anybody… I’m not a bad dog!”
“It’s all right… everything is fine now. You were just confused and scared, weren’t you?”
“Yeah… yeah… confused and scared. I’m not a bad dog, am I?”
“No, I’m sure you’re a very good dog under normal circumstances. You just had a bad scare. Everything’s fine now, right?”
“I’m a good dog!” the mutant repeated after her, trying to stick a handlike paw through one of the air holes in the plexiglass to reach her. “Can we play with the ball now? Play with the ball?”
April gave the dog-mutant a sad look. “Not right now, Moose. Maybe later. Why don’t you have a nap?”
“A nap! I will have a nap!” The giant dog wagged his tail and tried to make sense of lying down with a half-human body.
Heading over to Donnie and the major, she breathed a sigh of exhausted relief. Donnie gave her a pleased hug. Major Kokopoulos shook her hand. “That was amazing!”
“Just doing what I can to help,” April said modestly, toeing the concrete.
“If you don’t mind, Miss O’Neil, there’s one more mutant I’d like you to try to calm down for us…”
“Sure… I mean, as long as it’s one more and not fifty… I’m a little drained…”
Kokopoulos motioned for them to follow as he led them through the compound to a smaller set of pens on the opposite side of the building. “This is the quarantine section… This is where we keep Isaiah. He… needs the privacy. You’ll see…” He moved to a cell in the middle of the row.
It looked like a solitary confinement cell, with a small window at the top and a pass-through barely wide enough to fit a bowl through at the bottom. As Kokopoulos opened the window, a voice from the little room yelled, “No! Stop! Too many voices! Too many!!”, followed by what sounded like a small hail of objects against the door. Kokopoulos pulled his head away from the window just in time to be missed by a high-velocity Lego brick.
“Might be best to keep a hand over you face…” he said, glancing over to April. “All yours.”
The whimpering continued as April stepped up to look through the little window. Inside crouched a boy of about eleven, clutching his head in pain. Small things floated and orbited around him at different speeds: Legos, paper clips, dice, game pieces, a ballpoint pen, pieces of tile, small rocks, pistachio shells. He lifted his eyes to April for a moment, and she understood at once. She looked back to Donatello and the major. “Could you two maybe step back against the far wall? Especially you, Donnie… you’re kind of overloading him.”
Don blinked at her for a moment, then caught on. “Oh! Right…” He shuffled back to lean against the wall, the major following his lead, looking on cautiously.
The exchange between them was largely silent, with April occasionally nodding or shaking her head, once or twice humming an assent. Everything seemed to be going all right, until Isaiah’s moaning suddenly escalated once more, and April suddenly ducked beneath the window as the hail of detritus hammered it again, the pen, a die, and a few of the pistachio shells sailing out through the window and clattering against the opposite wall.
“I’m sorry!!” the boy yelled, and the window slammed itself shut and bolted without human hands touching it. Major Kokopoulos advanced, but April wordlessly waved him back, resting her head against the wall for a few minutes more before joining the soldier and the turtle again and silently motioning them out of the room. Once outside, she explained, “He can hear every thought of every person and every mutant in this place. Mostly it’s just jumbled noise, but it’s so loud to him that he can’t stand it… plus he’s got other powers that he can’t understand and can’t control, like the telekinesis. Closer proximity makes it worse, it seems like; the walls do nothing. And when he’s annoyed at people—not necessarily even the person he’s talking to—He can’t help it, but that’s when he ends up throwing everything around him at them.”
“He seemed to have calmed down considerably when you started… er… communicating with him, though,” Kokopoulos commented. “And then locked himself away after he threw everything at you…”
April nodded. “Well, I can kind of relate… I don’t always have mastery over my powers either, and they can be scary… and he’s afraid of hurting someone, since he can’t control it. I showed him some of the meditation techniques Master Splinter taught me… Hopefully that will help him hold out until the retromutagen is finished. He can’t wait… he really wants to go home.” She cast a glance at the rows of mutants in their cells as they walked back toward the side door they’d entered from. “They all do… oh…” She stumbled, trying to keep her feet beneath her as a dizzy spell hit. As she lost her balance and pitched toward the floor, Donnie was there to catch her.
“S… sorry,” she muttered weakly. “Guess I’m a little worn out…”
“You’re hypoglycemic,” Donnie chided warmly, reaching into his belt for the sucker he’d pocketed and handing it to her, then scooped her up under her legs. “You gave more blood than you should’ve, and then we walked all the way over here, and you decided to play therapist to 51 mutants… Eat that,” he commanded, pointing a finger from around her shoulder at the lollipop.
“I can walk!” she protested loudly, though she immediately felt another wave of dizziness come over her. She obediently pulled the wrapper off the sucker and stuck it grumpily in her mouth.
Don chuckled at her. “No, you cant… you call that walking?”
She huffed an exhausted sigh. “Okay, I guess you’re right…”
Kokopoulos pulled out his phone and held it to his ear. “Sachs? Bring a GP around by the Freak Show, would you?”
Don immediately protested. “We could walk…”
The major gave him an incredulous look. “Carrying her?”
Donnie gave a boastful snort. “I’ve had to carry an engine block by myself two miles. This little flower…” he said, tossing April in the air slightly so that she gave a startled squeak, “…weighs nothing.”
“Even so, it’s been a long day for all of us, and I daresay you could use a hot meal and a bed.”
Neither of them could deny that those would be welcome, and accepted the ride to the barracks. “We’re putting you in the on-site VIP housing instead of the hotel where most of the out-of-town doctors and staff are staying, but we hadn’t planned for accommodations for Miss O’Neil…” the major explained as they pulled alongside a double-wide trailer, surrounded by a few cookie-cutter duplicates. “There’s a queen-size bed, but if you’d prefer, I’ll send Carson over with an extra cot, and arrange for separate housing in the morning...”
“Oh, uh… we can stay together,” April told him. “We’re… kind of used to it… but the extra cot…” she turned a querying eye to Donnie.
“…would probably for the best,” the turtle decided. April gave him a rather guarded look, but nodded to the major.
Kokopoulos nodded in return, leading them up the steps. “This should meet all your needs, but if it doesn’t, if there’s anything you need, you can ask any of the men to bring it for you. There’s a cooktop and a oven-microwave combo if you want to cook, or you can just eat at the mess hall.” He went on to point out all of the obvious furnishings in the trailer: a couch, TV, a dinner table with four chairs, an empty bookcase, and in one of the back rooms, a large desk and a worktable with a rolling chair. “Dr. Rockwell figured you would appreciate your own private work-space.”
Don snorted. “It’s like he knows me!”
Dinner arrived then: three large Styrofoam boxes full of shredded barbecue pork, baked beans, and potato salad, delivered by a random soldier. The major thanked him, then shook hands with Don and April, and departed, wishing them a pleasant evening and a nice meal. Shortly after, Carson arrived with a camp cot and set it up in the empty spare bedroom for them. He likewise shook hands with both of them again as he left, a broad smile on his face.
“It’s… so weird…” Donnie remarked as Carson jogged back to the barracks.
“What?” April looked up at him.
“No one runs and screams when they see me… There’s so many mutants in the public eye of the city, no one even reacts to one more…”
April gave a little chuckle. “You complaining?”
He smiled back at her. “Far from it… it’s just… sudden, I guess. One day, it’s ‘Eek! A monster! Shoot it down and ship it to a research facility!’ and the next, it’s ‘You’re a cool guy, turns out you’re a person too! Let me shake your hand!’” He stared out into the street, musing, shaking his head slightly as the stars glittered down at them. “And what’d it take? More mutagen…”
She nodded. “There’s so many mutants out there now… The EPF guys have probably seen the best and worst of them… A talking turtle probably ranks pretty low on the weirdness scale.” She chuckled again, taking hold of his hand. “Donnie, you’re normal!”
Don quirked a brow at her. “Normal?! You call this normal?” he laughed bemusedly.
“You and the guys and Splinter, the Mutanimals… even Shredder’s henchmutants… you’re not just weird anomalies anymore… An eighth of the population of New York City is mutants now; you’re part of a minority group!”
Donnie snorted as he considered this with amusement. “So, what, now they’re gonna call us Mutant-Americans?”
“Maybe. But just think… you guys don’t have to hide any more! You can actually go out during the day, go grocery shopping, see a movie while it’s still in the theater…“
“…shop for new parts instead of raiding the junkyard,” Donnie put in, picking up her enthusiasm.
“Mikey could go clubbing!”
“Oh, no! Do we really want to unleash that on the world?!” They both broke into peals of laughter.
“Leo could run his own dojo!” April continued fantasizing.
“And Raph could… get… brought up on assault charges… Oh dear! I can’t—” he laughed so hard he couldn’t catch his breath, April joining him. “Can you imagine what—what would happen if he actually went to prison?!”
“He’d be having the time of his life, picking fights every hour, on the hour, enjoying the all-you-can-beat buffet…”
“He’d either land himself in Solitary by the first day, or he’d be running the place!” Donnie guffawed.
“What about you?” April asked merrily, heartily enjoying their speculation. “Go to college? Earn about a thousand degrees in your first semester?”
Don sighed. “If I could… but where would I get the money?”
April quirked her head at him. “Donnie, you could get full-ride scholarships for any college in the world! The Ivy Leagues would be climbing all over themselves to get you! Especially after saving everyone…”
“But then… I’d have to leave you behind… and I’d miss you too much…”
She rolled her shoulders in a shrug. “They could put us in married housing…” She gauged his reaction to her words from the corner of her eye.
Donnie was predictably dumbstruck for a moment, a wide crescent of a smile spreading slowly across his face. “Married…” he realized. “We could get married!”
“…when we’re old enough,” April added, eyes twinkling at him.
Donnie’s eyes sparkled in return. “April,” he gasped, taking both of her hands in his as he fumbled for words, “would you like to…? I mean, when we can, you really want to—“
At that moment, Don’s T-Phone let out its jaunty series of tones. Donnie rolled his eyes in irritation. “Wonderful timing as always, Leo…” he muttered, as he hit the answer button and wandered inside to lounge on the couch while he talked.
“Hi, Leo… No, I’m not going to be home tonight. No… Matter of fact, they think its too risky for us to travel back and forth, so I’ll be staying here for the whole duration. … Actually, no; we were attacked by a tree that mutated with a crow and ended up eating one of the guys escorting us, and then we came face to face with an oncoming Granitor.… What—Leo? Oh, hi, Mikey… no, I didn’t name it this time… Mikey, it ate someone right in front of us… is this really the best— Yeah, like a dinosaur, uh-huh, with big tree-trunk legs… Okay, yes, it’s a good name. Okay… Yes, I’ll tell April. Put Leo back on… Hi… No, we’re stuck here; we can’t risk April. …Three months, at least. … I know that, but there’s nothing I can do, they need me here… Yeah, I’ll keep my training up as much as I can. … Right, will do. … ‘course I will, don’t I always? … Okay. Say hi to Raph and Sensei for me. Oh, and Leo? … When the EPF gives the all-clear, make sure Raph knows that assault and battery are jailable crimes. Haha, ‘kay, bye!”
He terminated the call, and sat waiting for April to finish talking to her dad, having decided to call him while Donnie was on the phone with his brothers. As she paced the living area, she staggered suddenly, still woozy from the blood-loss. Donatello leapt to his feet to catch her if she went down again, but she managed to make her way to the sofa and plunk down on it. “Right… Love you, Dad! Bye! …Okay, I will! Bye!... Bye!” She rolled her eyes at Donnie. “BYE, Dad.”
Donnie caught her eye as she hung up. “How’d your dad take it?”
“About as well as can be expected. He’s not happy about it, and he’ll be ready to come spring me at a moment’s notice…. How’s Leo?”
“Oh, annoyed, but I think he’ll manage without me. Mikey’s named our mutant the Tree-Rex, ‘cause it was a tree and nearly wrecked us.”
“Pffff…” came April’s response, followed by a huge yawn, which she tried to stifle with a hand. “Uff… I’m so tired…”
“We’ve had a long day,” Don remarked, becoming distracted by the silicone on his legs. He began peeling pieces off. “This stuff is useful, but it sure doesn’t breathe well… Doesn’t hold together when you try to take if off either… I was hoping I might be able to reuse it as boots if it held together. Maybe I can refine the silicon formula a little if I…” He looked up, thinking April was nodding at his idea. Actually, she was just nodding off, head dropping slightly each time before she jerked it back up, unfocussed eyes widening for a second as she tried to pull herself back to wakefulness, only to slide closed again. He smiled, watching her drowse-and-rouse pattern, then thought better of letting her get a crick in her neck and gently shook her knee. “Hey…”
Her eyelids fluttered open and she inhaled deeply. “Oh… Sorry, Donnie… What were you saying?”
He gave her a doting grin. “We should go to sleep.”
April sat up a bit straighter. “You don’t have to go to bed just because I’m tired…”
“I’ve got to be bright-eyed and bushy-scaled in the morning too, or Rockwell will just have one more thing to lord over me.”
She gave him a knowing smirk. “Guess were both calling it a night, then—Ohh, shoot…” She stomped a foot.
“I don’t have any overnight stuff… I don’t even have a change of clothes! I wasn’t planning on staying here!”
“Ah. Well, we could call the Major, or one of the soldiers… they won’t mind—“
“No…” April interrupted, “I don’t want to send them to their deaths, going out at night in all this to find me a nightshirt and a toothbrush. I’ll just sleep in my shirt, and ask them to pick up some things for me in the morning.” She headed toward the bedroom and emerged a moment later with a pillow in her hands and a blanket over her shoulder. “G’night, Donnie!”
Don gave her a look of condescension. “What’re you doing? I’ll take the cot…”
“You need the better night’s sleep; you take the bed.”
“You totally exhausted yourself today; you’re not getting a crummy night’s sleep on an uncomfortable little cot on top of that!”
“And your shell won’t even hardly fit on that thing!” She curled a fist at him in determination.
“April, take the bed, please!” Donnie insisted.
The two glowered at each other for a moment, then both broke into giggles. Donatello eventually sighed, “Or, we could be mature about it and share the bed…”
She bit her lip for a moment. “All right…” she agreed, carrying the bedding back to the bedroom and replacing it on the bed.
“And I promise to be a perfect gentleman,” he told her as he followed.
“You had better be, because the bra is coming off.”
Don’s jaw dropped and his eyes goggled. “I—What?!?” He tried to hold to his claim of gentlemanliness and turn away, but somehow found his eyes magnetized to her as she reached around her back, then wriggled one arm, then the other into her shirt and back out again, pulling the offending garment from the neck of her shirt.
“Ta-daa!” she waved the white object in front of him tauntingly.
He blinked at her. “How did you…? Nevermind, this is probably something men just aren’t supposed to know…”
She chuckled at him, undoing the button of her shorts and letting them fall around her ankles. She still had her black leggings on underneath, but Don was afraid more was about to come off. He immediately leapt onto the far side of the bed and pulled the covers over himself, emitting a few rushed and very fake snores.
“Don’t worry, Cassanova, the rest is staying on,” April teased, sliding between the sheets and turning off the bedside lamp. “Good night, Donnie,” she sighed contentedly.
“Good night, sweetheart,” he whispered back.
He tried to settle himself in to sleep, but his impending conversation with Rockwell and Dr. Yellowhair in the morning about refining the retromutagen-manufacturing process butted itself to the forefront of his mind. He hated to admit it, but he was nervous. And, competing with that thought, he was sharing a bed with the girl he loved for the first time, and was hyper-aware of April’s presence, determined not to do anything weird or awkward. He pointedly turned his thoughts back to his retromutagen methods and started making a mental list of suggestions for refining the process, and was down to bullet-point #4 when the girl next to him rolled over and curled against his shell and legs, making him nearly jump out of his shell.
Of course… he thought, my shell takes up so much room… I must not have left her enough space. He scooted closer to the edge of the bed. Moments later, though, he felt her cuddle up to him again. He repeated the process, giving her as much of the bed as he could, but soon she was up against him again. He couldn’t sleep like this, balanced on the edge of his carapace. “I’ll just go sleep on the cot…” he mumbled to himself sitting up.
“Donnie…” April murmured, “…come back! I just wanted to snuggle with you a little!”
Don rolled his eyes at himself for being an idiot and got back into the bed, facing her this time. She smiled and rolled over to curl up against his plastron. He reached a finger out and booped her nose with it. “You are supposed to not be a distraction!”
She giggled. “And you are not on the clock until tomorrow.”
He gave a conceding little sigh. “I suppose you have a point there…” he said, wrapping his arms tighter around her and stole a little kiss from the side of her mouth. She turned and stole it back, lips lingering on his a bit longer.
Nervous thoughts banished, and April in his arms, Donnie sunk into a peaceful, undisturbed sleep.
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