Author: Kat Lee
Fandoms: X-Men/Generation X/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Character/Pairing: Lin+/Donatello, animals
Challenge/Prompt: puzzleprompts: August Challenge: ALL Prompts
Warning(s): Slight Spoilers
Word Count: 3,282
Date Written: 30 January 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Lin looks nervously around as she enters the zoo. There’s something different about the place tonight. She felt it the moment her hands touched the iron gate, but she has yet to be able to determine what it is. Something is amiss, or at least different, but whatever it is isn’t bothering the animals.
She hears chatter about somebody else visiting and frowns. She knows of no one else who would visit the animals this time of the night. Nathaniel once said something about coming with her to the zoo, but she had quickly realized that it was just his attempt to get closer to her and has shied away from being caught alone with him ever since.
She’s not interested in getting to know any humans, or other mutants, better. She may have been born a mutant, but it’s not with mutants where she belongs. It’s certainly not with humans either; Lin would rather spend her entire life alone than to have to contend with another human face to face for more than five minutes. These beings being held in cages and away from others of their kind are her people. This is where she belongs -- perhaps not in the zoo itself, but with the animals. She’ll never belong to the species to which she was born.
He hasn’t been here since you’ve been back, the squirrel sitting on her left shoulder says.
His partner nods his agreement. We haven’t seen him in a long time.
Lin is about to speak to them when she hears the baboons hooting. She moves closer to their exhibit, taking a step back when one of them -- and not the one who is normally in charge, either -- stands up and starts beating his chest in triumphant. I’M THE KING! he hoots proudly.
The King of Monopoly, one of the others corrects him. Lin can hear the anger in his voice and hopes they’re not about to fight.
Then she realizes what he said and frowns. “Monopoly?” she asks aloud, her brown eyes dropping to the floor of their cage. Her mouth falls open as she sees the board game sitting between the primates.
He’s always bringing us new things, one of the squirrels says.
New ways to spend our time, the other adds, bobbing his tiny, furry head in agreement, rather than just hunting for nuts and trying to stay away from the humans all day.
“But a board game?” Lin whispers in disbelief. He’s clearly taught them how to play it, too, she thinks, looking back at the game and taking note of the property card and colorful pieces of paper money sitting beside each player. There are even hotels and houses on the board.
Why not? one of the squirrels asks, eyeing her. If she was anyone else, he would think she didn’t believe they could learn to play such a thing.
Lin shrugs helplessly. Her mind is blown, but he’s right: Why not a board game? Why not give the animals a better way to spend their time than always hunting for food, sleeping, and otherwise trying to stay away from the humans invading their environments? Why not give them something fun to do? And Monopoly was a safe game. It wasn’t like it was Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Go Fish. All the animals could play it with harm or upset coming to none because of the game.
“I just . . . I never would have thought of bringing you guys a game. It’s hard to believe someone else thought of something to help you . . . “
That you haven’t? the squirrel on her left asks. He shrugs. Donatello’s always bringing us all sorts of things.
The first thing he brought us was pizza. Do you remember that? asks the other squirrel.
His buddy clasps his little paws over his white stomach and moans in delight, Oh boy, do I ever!
Even the lions like pizza!
Yeah. The right squirrel frowns. But he stopped bringing it because he couldn’t afford to give it to everybody.
But, boy, did we have some legendary pizza parties! The left squirrel laughs so hard that he falls from Lin’s shoulder, but she’s there to catch him.
“This . . . Donatello sounds fascinating.”
He’s a good friend.
Not better than you, --
But he is a good friend!
“I believe I would like to meet him,” Lin comments. “Is he a mutant?”
He’s a turtle.
“What?! Then how does he bring you all these -- “ Lin stops talking as a night hawk’s shriek pierces the humid air. One squirrel dives into her backpack; the other covers himself in her long, dark hair. Lin drops down closer to the ground but waves her hands at the hawk. “GO AWAY!” she orders. “GO AWAY!”
It’s only after the hawk is gone that Lin reconsiders what just happened. “Was that hawk wearing glasses?!” she asks in disbelief.
One of the squirrels nods, though he’s still visibly shaking. Donatello helps all the animals, the other says, finally letting go of her hair, both the hunters and the little guys like us.
“And the ones in between,” Lin murmurs in awe, “like the baboons. But I wonder why he went for you guys when he could clearly see that you were on my shoulders?”
I think he was warning us. The squirrel on her left climbs out of her backpack and resumes his place on her shoulder.
Yeah, agrees his buddy.
“Warning you?” Lin repeats. She eyes them warily. “What have you two been doing?”
The right squirrel wrings his tiny, gray paws together. We may or may not have, he starts to hesitantly explain, insulted him a few nights ago.
He dived at us, but he missed us, the bolder of the two squirrels explains. He hit a trash can instead.
“So you laughed at him?” Lin asks. “Shame!”
But he was trying to eat us, Lin!
“He was only trying to do what was in his nature. You didn’t have to make fun of him for something he couldn’t help. Now you’ve made him angry and he’s going to be after you even more. Perhaps you should come home with me tonight, but the next time you tease a predator, I may not be there to save you guys!”
I’m sorry, the left one tries to apologize.
“Apologize to him, not to me, but do it from a distance and then hide.”
Yes, ma’am, he grumbles.
Lin wipes sweat from her brow. “That was a little too close,” she murmurs. The words have barely escaped her when a huge roar shakes the compound. The birds scream in fright and flee the trees. The smaller animals run for their hiding areas. Both squirrels hit her backpack simultaneously and dig deep inside of it. She can feel them shaking behind her, but instead of turning to hide from the roar like everybody else, Lin runs toward it.
One more roar pierces the night air before she reaches the alligator exhibit. Upon arrival, she leans over the bridge and peers down, but everything looks calm. “Hey, guys,” she calls, “are you okay?”
Eyeballs instantly begin to pop up into sight on top of the water’s surface. I’m a lot better now, one of the older gators grunts. I had an awful toothache.
Lin freezes. She’s not at all certain she wants to know what happened to alleviate his toothache. His mate surfaces and rubs her long, scaly nose gently against his. A friend just helped us. He took the bad tooth out of his mouth, but it did hurt.
Lin again feels her jaw going slack. She just barely manages to stop it from dropping open this time.
It did hurt, the male gator agrees, his tail wagging, but it feels so much better now!
The female’s eyes look up at Lin; it would be a chilling expression for any one else except for Nature Girl and perhaps the friend who just left them. You should really meet him.
Lin nods, still awed. “I have got to meet this man,” she whispers in agreement, “this . . . this turtle!” Raising her voice, she calls down, “Do you know where he was headed next?”
The gators talk for a few minutes, each tossing around a different idea, but when the female partner of the male who this Donatello just helped sounds confident in her belief that he was headed to the rhinos next, Lin nods, deciding to go with her. “Thank you,” she calls back down and runs toward the rhinoceroses.
She can hear the squirrels chattering in disbelief in her backpack. They still haven’t tried to climb back onto her shoulders, but they’re upset that she just communed with the gators. Lin rolls her eyes. “Honestly, sometimes, you two sound as prejudiced as humans!”
It wasn’t our intention, one of them says.
Yeah, but don’t you know those things can eat us? And they’d eat you too, chatters his partner, without hesitation! They’d gobble you and both of us down and still be looking for more! We wouldn’t even be a snack to them!
Realizing that she’s stopped moving, the other squirrel asks in concern, Lin? What’s wrong?
“I . . . I think I see him,” she breathes in disbelief, edging closer.
There’s a being kneeling in the water with a rhino’s head in his arms not fifteen feet from her. Lin almost jumps back when he looks up directly at her. He’s wearing some sort of goggles, and he looks akin to an alien. He’s taller than Broo, though, and it’s not like Lin’s unaccustomed to seeing strange beings. She goes to school with them every day.
“You must be Lin.”
She nods mutely at him.
“Can you help me?”
She nods again. Her mouth seems to have forgotten how to work to form words, but her feet are able to walk forward. “Help Larry hold still,” the turtleman tells her.
Lin nods again and sinks into the water. She reaches out and holds the rhino’s massive head in her hands. She gulps as she looks at his sharp, black horn. She feels the squirrel climb onto her shoulders and then immediately zip back down even deeper into her backpack. She watches, wide eyed, as the turtle makes his way around the rhino, checking him over with his hands before finding a piece of flesh he can reach underneath his armor.
“What are you doing?” she manages to ask, watching, wide-eyed, as he takes out a needle and fills it with some kind of fluid.
The turtleman barely looks at her. “The neanderthals who feed the animals here have managed to give him diabetes.”
“Hush. You’ll scare him.”
It’s all right, the rhino says, his small tail striking the water. I remember Lin from when she first started visiting. She’s sweet.
Lin blushes. Donatello looks from the rhino to the girl with a grin. While the trio are looking at each other, he slips the needle into Larry’s skin. “There,” he says a moment later, retracting it. “All done.”
I didn’t even feel it! Larry exclaims in amazement.
Donatello grins. “That was the plan.”
Lin strokes Larry’s rough cheeks, but her eyes are on Donatello. “Who are you?” she asks and then, before she can stop herself, she persists, “What are you? I mean, are you a scientist? A doctor? A vet? How do you know what these animals need? Do you talk to them like I do? I guess you do. We did both just talk to Larry. But . . . How? I’ve never met anyone like you, and I’ve met a lot of mutants, humans, and animals. What are you? Are you a scientist? Are you a vet? Are you sure you gave him the right dosage of insulin? And if these animals mean so much to you, like they do to me, why am I just now seeing you? Where have you been? Why don’t you come more often? They need more help. You know that. You’ve got to know that. You’ve -- “
“Whoa! Whoa! Easy!” Donatello backs up in the water and raises his hands before him. “Calm down, girl!” He blinks at her in surprise. “Are you usually this loquacious?”
It’s Lin’s turn to blink, this time in confusion. “I’m sorry?”
“Do you usually talk this much?” Donatello clarifies his query.
“I -- Huh -- “ Lin stops herself, realizing that she’s been barraging him with question after question and not giving him a chance to answer. She’s never this forward, not even with new animals. She blushes again and lowers her head shyly. “No,” she answers, “I’m not. I’m . . . sorry. I was just surprised to meet another friend of the animals, another human -- “ She glances up at him, and her almond-shaped eyes travel quickly up and down his body. “ -- or, huh, two legger?”
He smiles. “I had heard about you, but I suppose, they had not told you about me, probably because my family have been gone for a while in outer space.”
“Outerspace?! You are a Scientist!”
“Well . . . “ Donatello scratches the back of his dome-shaped, green head. “I suppose you could call me that.” He chuckles. “My family certainly would. I am constantly trying to invent new things to help us, to help them,” he says, indicating the animals, including the two squirrels who have finally climbed back onto Lin’s agile shoulders, “to help the world. And yes, I know I gave him the right dosage. I would not have attempted otherwise. The last thing I want to do is to hurt him, or any animal.”
Lin’s smile fills the face and seems to, to both Donatello and the animals, brighten the entire dark night around them. “That’s the last thing I want too,” she agrees humbly. Suddenly, she remembers the comet she saw last week, the one she’d mistaken for a shooting star and actually made a wish on. She had been at the zoo at the time and had wished for someone with whom she could share all the secrets of the zoo and the animals here, some one who would actually care about the animals like she does, not just pretend to like Nathaniel attempted to do to get close to her.
She beams. This man, strange and unique and wonderfully intelligent as he is, must be that answer, if she’s going to receive one. It may be tradition to wish on a falling star, but Lin still thinks it’s silly. Nonetheless, something’s brought Donatello into her life now, and she certainly wants to get to know him better.
Larry rises, splashing both Lin and Donatello with water. Donatello laughs, and it’s a wonderful, deep, and free sound. Lin’s smile grows. She pushes her wet bangs out of eyes and then reaches out a hand toward him. “I’m Lin Li,” she tells him, “but some people call me Nature Girl.”
“Donatello,” he says, taking her hand and giving her a gentle squeeze. His smile is wide, bright, and filled with white teeth. “My family calls me Donnie, when they’re not mad at me.”
She laughs this time. It’s a beautiful sound to all who hear it, almost musical. “Donnie. How long have you been in New York, Donnie?”
“I was born here.”
“And you’ve been visiting the animals here . . . “
“Since I was big enough to escape from Master Splinter.” Lin cocks her head. “He’s our father,” Donnie hurries to agree.
“So you’re not just a Scientist. You’re a Ninja.”
Donatello’s grin widens. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
“I think I’ve heard of you guys!” Lin exclaims suddenly, remembering a conversation she’d once had with Doctor McCoy. It had all started because of an injured turtle they had found on the road and nursed back to health together. “This is going to sound really weird if you don’t know him.”
Donatello looks dubiously at her. He holds out his hands, gesturing at himself and the talking animals around them. “Try me,” he coaxes.
“Do you know a big, blue, furry Scientist?”
“Doctor Henry McCoy?”
“I met him once, a long time ago. We had some of the most interesting conversations -- “
“You should come home with me.” Lin blushes again. “I mean, come home with me so you can see him again.”
“You’re a member of the X-Men?”
“Not exactly, but they are teaching me.”
“You really think so?”
“Oh, yeah! But first,” he says, “I do need to make some more rounds.”
“By all means! I want you to teach me everything you’ve learned about the animals!”
“On one condition,” Donatello interrupts her gently.
“What?” she asks in surprise.
“If you teach me to speak their languages. I can pretty well understand most of them, but I would love to talk to them the way you do.”
“Deal!” Lin exclaims eagerly and shakes his hand again. Maybe this was the answer to her fondest wish after all. Maybe she didn’t have to be the only human with all the animals in the world. Maybe there could be another person like her, one who put the animals first and loved them all, one who preferred the animals to anything human, or mutant, kind had to offer. Maybe this was the friendship for which she’d been waiting her entire life.
She cocks her head to the side again and studies Donatello in the dum, fluorescent lighting of the zoo. He could look like a Prince, she decides, remembering her childhood fantasies. A green, bald, Ninja Prince, but a Prince nonetheless. But he didn’t have to be a Prince to woo her or win her affections. He’d already caught her admiration simply by loving the animals. There’s never been anything more important to her, after all, and never will be anything more important than the animals.
“This is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Donatello remarks aloud, shaking her hand. His grin takes on a bashful turn. “I just realized how lame that sounds,” he explains apologetically.
“No.” Lin shakes her head even as she withdraws her hand. She strokes the tiny head of one of the squirrels on her shoulders with her index finger as she agrees, “You just call it like you see it, and I couldn’t agree more. Welcome to my home away from home, Donatello.”
“Welcome to New York, Lin.” It’s not her imagination. He does blush this time, but then he leads the way to helping more animals and continuing their first adventurous night together. It’s only their first time together, but they both already know there’ll be many, many more nights like tonight and look forward to them all spent together with the animals.