He doesn’t expect the others to understand him. They don’t think like he does. Leonardo thinks with his body. So does Raphael. They both move easily together, all sharp turns and powerful thrusts. Donatello practices enough to keep up, does his time in the dojo, but they all know where his true talents lie. Once katas and sparring are done, after new lessons have been absorbed, he heads alone to his lab and absorbs himself in his engineering.
Michelangelo, however, will sometimes join him, looking over his shoulder at blueprints with curious darting glances that make Donatello wonder just how much his little brother understands. When Raphael’s claimed the TV to watch mixed martial arts tournaments, and when Leonardo won’t leave the dojo to play arcade games, Michelangelo flops on the floor beside Donatello’s feet, reading comic books and drinking soda. Donatello will sigh at every distracting chuckle and squeak out of his brother, rolling his eyes when Michelangelo hums along to a song blasting on his headphones, but he never shoos his brother out.
And sometimes they drag Donatello out of his lab to repair the tv, or the arcade game. The refrigerator or the microwave. The lights. The heater. The air conditioner. The water heater. Every appliance they own has to be coaxed back to life with recharged batteries and wire twisted free from junk yard salvage. Occasionally stray voltage scorches his fingers already scratched on sharp steel and rough, unfinished edges. He doesn’t mind the pain too much. It’s the price to pay for working electronics, and the busy work is good practice for the basics.
But in his lab! That’s where he finds his chief joy—alien technology plucked from the krang, machinery stolen from the Foot clan, current technology liberally borrowed from various stores. Engineering projects of his own design litter the lab, each one half-finished as new ideas demand his attention. When he does finish one, he displays it proudly to his siblings.
And sometimes his project doesn’t explode immediately, but his brothers have learned to keep a healthy distance.
Tonight, though, he’s left his lab dark. They’ve gathered in front of the TV for Super Robo Mecha Force Five, and Michelangelo’s made hot chocolate with marshmallows. Raphael and Leonardo are on opposite sides of the couch, not looking at each other. They must have argued about something earlier tonight, but they’ve reconciled enough to tolerate each other to share the popcorn between them.
Donatello divides his attention between the show and his notepad, working out long calculations—voltage, resistance, timing functions and potential amperage for his next creation. He frowns. Math is fine, but it’s only one step toward the more enjoyable process of soldering connectors and assembling a chassis. It’ll be a long night before he finishes this prep work and even thinks about drawing up blueprints, let alone gathering the materials—
"Yo, egghead," Michelangelo says, grinning up from under the notepad.
"Mikey," Donatello grumbles. "I’m busy—"
"Busy missing the best part," Michelangelo says, and he sits up so that the notepad tumbles into Donatello’s lap. "Look, space princess is about to do her new transformation sequence!"
For a moment, Donatello lifts his head to see, watching her slow and elaborate spin as ribbons spiral out of her locket and alter her uniform. There’s a swirl of light around her and then she poses, hand up to challenge evil, daring her enemies to attack. She’s easily outnumbered a hundred to one, and yet she gives them a handwave as if trying to taunt them.
It’s so ridiculous that Donatello chuckles, then laughs as Leonardo and Raphael both lean forward, cheering her on as if this kind of fight makes any kind of sense. Of course they’d love this kind of lopsided battle. They probably fantasize about beating up legions of Foot ninja and posing exactly like the princess is doing—
—and they’re both talking to each other like brothers again. Donatello blinks and looks down at Michelangelo, who’s studying the fight scene with all the concentration of someone who doesn’t want to meet Donatello’s look and betray a secret.
With one cartoon, Michelangelo has everyone inside, together, smiling.
Donatello relaxes a little more in his seat, rolling the stiffness out of his shoulders. The numbers can wait ‘till the morning. Tonight he’s discovered a new little puzzle to solve and, like the endless alarm clocks of his youth, he itches to take Michelangelo apart to see what makes him tick.