Splinter found his feet nearly knocked out from under him by a light, but momentous weight crashing into him and latching on, almost losing his grip on the bags of supplies filled to the brim in his arms. Nonetheless, he knelt down and let them drop to the floor, coming face-to-face with his beaming youngest son.
“Michelangelo?” He put his hands on his shoulders and subconsciously looked him over for any signs of injuries or evidence of any messes that he may have made while mistakenly left unattended. “What are you doing out of bed? You were supposed to be napping.”
“I was playing with Leo,” Mikey gestured to their living area. “He showed me how to dwaw a sword. Wanna see?”
“Leonardo is up too?” Splinter sighed and shook his head. “What about Donatello and Raphael?”
Mikey shrugged. “Still sleepin'.”
Splinter felt his muscles begin to relax. At least they weren't all up and awake while he was out scavenging.
“Mikey? Mikey, where'd you go?”
Leonardo appeared around the corner and was pleased to see that his father was finally home. He ran to his side and hugged him.
“Daddy, you're home!”
Splinter picked up the two, full bags.
“Yes, I am. Leonardo, what are you and your little brother doing out of bed?” He prepared to scold.
Leo looked down and shuffled his feet nervously.
“W-well, Mikey woke up from his nap and he woke me up 'cause I heard him cryin', so I got up and played with him 'til you got home...”
Splinter couldn't fight his delighted smile.
“Good boy, Leonardo,” he praised. “I am so proud of you for caring for your little brother while I was not here.”
Splinter headed for their kitchen with both boys on his heels. He stopped at their counter and set down the bags.
Leo grinned from ear-to-ear. “I'm a good boy?”
Splinter scooped him up and held him against his hip.
“Of course you are,” he said. “You always are.”
Mikey put his pudgy hands to his chest and looked up at him.
Splinter ruffled the top of his head.
“Yes, of course, all of my boys are,” he cooed. “In fact, I found a treat for all of you.”
Mikey beamed and hopped up and down.
“What is it? Is it food? Is it cake? I always wanted cake!”
Splinter chuckled. “No, but it is almost as good.” He set Leo down on the floor and went to the kitchen counter to release the heavy bags from his arms.
“Is it a puppy?” Leo guessed.
“No, it is not living,” Splinter replied and started unloading the bags. “It is food, though.”
Mikey gasped aloud. “Cookies?”
Splinter looked at him quizzically and pulled a plastic container from the bag.
“How did you know?”
Mikey shrugged. “I'm a good guesser.”
Splinter turned his attention to his oldest to find him awestruck.
“Can...c-can we have them now?” he finally asked.
Splinter opened a cabinet and placed the cookies on the top shelf.
“No, but you may have them after dinner,” he said.
Mikey crossed his arms over his chest. “You pwomise?”
Splinter ruffled his head. “Yes, I promise.”
Mikey stared at the container on the top shelf as his father continued putting away their supplies. His mouth watered as he could see the golden-brown pastries within it, tempting his taste buds and making his stomach groan with desire.
“Can we just have a bite for wight now?” he squeaked out.
Splinter stopped what he was doing and looked to his son. He smiled at the glimmer of want in his son's baby blue eyes.
“No, Mikey-bo,” he said firmly, “you must wait until after you've had dinner.”
“What's for dinner?” Leo asked, pushing a chair toward the counter.
While Mikey had been lost in his cookie daydream, he failed to notice Leo leave his side and get a chair to give him a boost so he could help his father put away their supplies.
“I was able to find a few discarded cans of baked beans,” Splinter explained while holding up one of said cans to show them. “It has a few dents in it, but it's contents should be perfectly fine.” He shook his head. “Humans can be so wasteful, my sons.”
Mikey felt himself shudder involuntarily imagining himself throwing away his precious prize waiting for him up in the cabinet.
“Why would anyone thwow away something they can eat?” he asked. “Don't humans know if they thwow it away they will be hungwy later?”
Splinter sighed. “Humans' lives are not like ours, Michelangelo. They have many more resources to live off of than we do. Many of them can afford to throw away things just because they do not look good.”
Leo took one of the cans into his hand and stared at the picture of the bowl filled with baked beans.
“They look really good to me,” he shrugged and set the can inside the cabinet with the others.
Mikey's attention was returned to the cookies as he watched his brother place the can on the shelf below them.
“Let me help.” He scaled the chair and practically climbed over Leo to sit on the counter. “I wanna help.” He took another can from the bag and put it away. As he drew closer to the coveted prize on the top shelf, he couldn't resist but to take the container and gawk at it in his hands.
“No, Mikey,” Leo scolded in the way that always grated on the youngest turtle's nerves, “those are for after dinner, remember?”
“I'm just lookin',” Mikey brushed him off.
Splinter did not even have to turn his head to know what his son was, no doubt, up to.
“Michelangelo,” he said, “put the cookies back on the shelf. You must be patient, my son.”
Mikey sighed, but obeyed. “Hai, Sensei.”
Splinter folded up the now empty bag in his hand and stored it under their sink. He went to a dejected Mikey and lifted him off of the counter.
“Why don't you go and wake up your brothers?” Splinter suggested. “I need you boys to get ready for training.” He set him back on the floor.
Mikey groaned. “But daddy, I don't feel like twaining. I'm too hungwy!”
Splinter arched an eyebrow. “I do not believe you are hungry, child. Lunch was nearly two hours ago and you had seconds. You are fine.”
Mikey reluctantly left and went off toward their bedrooms to do as he was told to.
Leo carefully climbed off of his chair.
“Thank you for helping me, Leonardo.”
Splinter took the chair and returned it to the table.
Mikey first entered the room that he shared with Donnie. To his delight, the bulge bundled up under the covers on the bed opposite his own was still breathing steadily, still asleep.
A wicked grin spread across his freckled face as he carefully creeped his way to the bed like a cat on the prowl for his prey. He stopped and bent his legs in an anticipating crouch.
“Wake up, Donnie!” He screamed as he jumped into the air and pounced on the bulge that was his sleeping immediate older brother.
Donnie was startled awake at the same time all of the air was knocked from his lungs.
“Wise and Shine, Donnie!” Mikey cheered. “Come on, daddy says we gotta twain!”
Once Donnie caught his breath, he sat up and pushed Mikey off of him and onto the floor.
“Mikey!” He shouted. “Don't jump on me, for the hundredth time!”
Mikey, unscathed, got off of the floor and crawled back on the bed.
“Donnie, guess what! Daddy has a surpwise for us! He got us cookies for after dinner!”
Donnie sighed. “Mikey, I don't think you understand the meaning of the phrase, 'guess what'. You're supposed to let me guess at what it is that's happened...”
Mikey scoffed. “Didn't you hear me?”
“Yes, yes, I heard you; daddy got us cookies,” Donnie threw his blankets off and rolled out of bed. “Dinnertime is a long time away though, so I'll be excited then.”
Mikey groaned. “Ugh, I know, I know. Are you awake now? I gotta go get Raphie up too.”
Donnie rolled his eyes. “I'll go wake, Raph. I don't wanna listen to another episode when you make him mad.”
“Darwn! I was gonna go and cwow at him like a wooster!”
Donnie tied his bandana around his head. “Exactly why I'm doing it.”
Mikey shrugged. “Okay, well, we'll be in the dojo, I guess.”
He left the bedroom and went down their hall, heading toward their living room. He wondered just how much time he had killed while waking up Donnie. Surely it had been a lot of time and it had to be close to dinnertime now. He'd be sure to ask what time it was and how long until dinner as soon as he saw his father. Somehow he always knew what time it was and how long until another time came. He wondered if his father, or maybe all mothers and fathers in the world, made up the times for everybody as they wanted it to be. If daddy wanted it to be three o'clock, then it was three o'clock. If daddy wanted it to be bath time, then it was bath time. If daddy wanted it to be dinnertime, then it was dinnertime.
Mikey sighed; but right now, daddy, or sensei, wanted it to be training time, so that meant it was training time, whether little turtles liked it or not. However, he knew he had some choice in that matter; it was training time or corner time, and if not corner time, then spanking, no TV, and go-to-bed-early time. He'd seen Raphael try these choices enough times to know. He would settle for the training time over any of those options.
He stopped at the end of the hall and looked on at their dimly-lit kitchen, and then to the dojo, the light now on since he was sure his father and teacher's pet brother were already in there waiting for him and the other two. He glanced back at the kitchen longingly.
An idea hit his young, naïve brain. His father may determine what time it was all the time, but that did not mean that Mikey could not make his own time in between his father's times. Right now, he wanted it to be cookie time, and training time hadn't officially started. Surely, he could manage that. One of the cookies were for him anyway, so what did it matter if he ate it now?
Mind made up, he scurried off to the kitchen and found himself a chair. He pushed it against the cabinet and climbed onto the counter to uncover his prize on the top shelf of the top cabinet. He got down the container and set it in his lap, and then looked around cautiously before opening the lid. In spite of his 'time' logic, he knew in the back of his mind that if he were caught, his father may not agree.
He took the first bite of that chocolate chip cookie and nearly drooled on himself from the saliva that had accumulated with his anticipation. It was unlike any tasty sensation he'd ever experienced on his young tongue. Before he could even finish chewing and swallowing his first bite, he was going in for his second, then third, then fourth. He swallowed his final mouthful and was disheartened to realize that the delicious treat was all gone.
He dared glance down inside the open container to be teased by the remaining three, but no matter how much he wanted to, he could not begin to justify eating another. Only one of them was intended for him, and if he ate another, one of his brothers would have to go without. Sadly, he knew that wasn't fair, so he closed the container and put it back on the shelf.
His father calling his name nearly knocked him off the counter mid-reach, but luckily, he recomposed himself.
“Where are you? You know it is training time!”
“Uh, I'm coming!” He tried his best not to indicate with his voice the sudden overwhelming guilt that he felt.
Leo groaned, sitting on the floor across from an eager-to-fight Raphael.
“What's taking Mikey so long?” he whined. “I wanna start!”
“Patience, Leonardo,” Splinter said, “your brother probably had to go to the bathroom first.”
Raph giggled. “He had to poop.”
Splinter gave him an unamused glance.
“Not in the dojo, Raphael.”
Raph bowed. “Hai, Sensei.”
Mikey slinked through the big doorway, rubbing the back of his hand on his mouth. He took a seat on the floor across from Donnie.
“Where were you, my son?”
Mikey glanced up, startled.
Splinter arched an eyebrow. “Yes, you. Who else?”
“Oh,” Mikey chuckled sheepishly, “I was...um...” he glanced to Raph, “...l-looking for Waphie.”
“But Mikey, I told you I was gonna wake up Raph,” Donnie said.
Splinter shook his head. “Never mind it. Let's get on with today's training.”
Mikey released a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding.
“I want to switch you boys up today,” Splinter began. “Today, Leonardo, you are going to fight Donatello, and Raphael, you are going to fight Michelangelo.”
“But sensei,” Leo argued, “don't you think that's unfair? I mean, Donnie and Mikey are so little. Me and Raph can kick their little shells.”
Donnie crossed his arms and pouted. “I can beat you, Leo. I'm not that little.”
“Yeah, and I'm not either!” Mikey screeched.
Raph scoffed. “What, you think you can beat me?”
“Yeah, I do!” Mikey shouted.
“Boys,” Splinter intervened, “do not argue. You will spar as I told you.”
Each boy bowed respectfully and got to their feet, standing across from the opponent they were assigned.
Mikey contorted his body into a fighting stance and stared Raph in his emerald eyes, peering into his mind, looking for a reading as to what the larger turtle would do first.
Before Mikey could blink, Raph threw a punch straight at his cheek. He dodged it by ducking just in time and catching the fist in his palm. Still not quite the expert at thinking on his feet, he decided while he had Raph's fist in his hand, that he would twist his wrist just enough to make him 'yelp' and then spin him around, hoping the momentum might unbalance him and knock him to the floor.
To Mikey's dismay, Raph remained standing and shook his fist loose from his grasp. Mikey knew he needed to think quick, so he threw a punch of his own at Raph's face, but Raph caught it in his palm, and before Mikey knew what hit him, Raph had twisted his arm and turned him around.
“Ngh!” Mikey groaned at the intensifying discomfort.
Raph released his arms and before Mikey even had the chance to notice it, Raph swept his legs out from under him, sending him chin-first into the mat-covered concrete floor.
The impact caused his teeth to clatter together, sending a surge of pain through his skull. He couldn't cry. While training in the past six months, Splinter made it very clear that the dojo was not the place for crying babies. If any of them cried during training, contrary to how he acted when they were hurt any other times, he would not comfort them, but order them to sit out training until they recomposed themselves, and then force them to make up the time they missed by doing extra flips.
His heart sunk. He had taken too long to get up. He couldn't beat Raphael after all.
Mikey glanced over at Leo and Donnie and saw that Donnie had successfully taken Leo to the ground. Even his nerdiest, least athletic brother had done better than he had.
“Heh,” Raph cackled, “guess you couldn't beat me.”
Mikey rubbed his aching chin and pushed himself up to a sitting position.
“S-shut up, Waph!” His voice cracked, but he still refused to cry.
His tear-blurred gaze was met with a far-too-familiar maroon kimono, its occupant towering over him.
“Michelangelo,” Splinter scolded, “your defense was acceptable, but your offensive strikes...or strike...was poor.”
Mikey couldn't look up. He knew if he did he would cry.
“I-I know. I'm sowwy...”
“I do not want an apology, my son, I want an explanation.”
Mikey shrugged. He didn't know what his father expected him to say.
“Waph is too much bigger than me,” was his futile response.
“And better,” Raph added.
Splinter gave him a silencing glare.
“Raphael may have a size advantage, but that does not mean that he is better,” he corrected. “Typically, he is stronger than you, but you are faster, quick on your feet. You were not fast at all just now. You seemed lethargic.”
Mikey finally looked at him. “What's that mean?”
“It means you were being slow, sluggish, or dull,” Donnie intervened.
Mikey glared at him and blew a raspberry.
“Exactly,” Splinter said. “So what is the problem today? Are you not well?”
Mikey knew his father was expecting an answer of some kind. He knew exactly what made him that way; he had eaten something hardy right before training. A pretty sizable cookie. Snacking before training was something his father forbid for that reason.
“He's probably sleepy because he didn't get a long enough nap,” Leo spoke up. “I'm a little sleepy from that too.”
“Yeah, I guess I'm a little sleepy...”
“I'm sorry. I couldn't go back to sleep, 'cause I got scared when I couldn't find you,” Mikey whined. “I got scared and I was alone.”
Mikey was notorious for having pretty bad separation anxiety for being four years old. He hated being alone, especially when he didn't know where his only parent was. Though it tested Splinter's patience at times, making it difficult to go scavenging, he knew the only thing that he could do was hope sooner or later he would grow out of it.
He sighed again. “I know, my son.”
Mikey finally stood. “You want me to twy it again?”
“No, I want you to sit this session out. You will have to make it up another time.”
Splinter said nothing else and pointed toward the corner on the other side of the room.
Mikey sighed and trudged off to the dreaded corner. Splinter was a bit alarmed when he got there and just stood with his face to the wall.
“Michelangelo, you do not have to face the corner. You are not being punished,” he said
Mikey turned around and grinned sheepishly.
“Oh yeah, 'cuz I didn't do nothin' bad...nothin' at all...”
Splinter gave him an incredulous stare.
Mikey tried to hold his waning grin, but buckled under his father's gaze nonetheless. He dropped his gaze to the floor, trying to give the impression that he has found something interesting in the designs on the tatami mat beneath him. Anything to escape that scrutinizing gaze.
Splinter was not oblivious to his youngest son's suspicious behavior, as he knew he hoped that he would be. Nonetheless, he chose not to interrogate him and continue with their training session.
Both boys jumped at the unexpected breaking of the tense silence.
“...since you two were successful, you will now spar against one another,” he said. “Leonardo, since you were bested, go sit with Michelangelo.”
Leo scowled. “But...but I'm not done for today, right? I still wanna train.”
“No,” Splinter replied, “you are just done for right now.”
Leo bowed once and joined Mikey on the far side of the room. He glanced to his little brother and noticed an uncommon worried expression on his face while he picked at the mat.
“What's wrong, Mikey?”
“Nothing,” Mikey answered with a start. “Just sleepy.”
Leo chose not to push any further and went on to watch the two middle brothers spar.
Splinter turned off the burner on the stove and carefully filled four little plates with an equal amount of baked beans. Last, he filled the largest plate, his own, with a much greater amount.
“Boys!” he called. “It is dinner time!”
Not a second delayed, four sets of feet stampeded into the kitchen, no doubt carrying hungry bellies. Much to Splinter's surprise, only three of them climbed over each other to get to the table. The fourth, usually the one to lead the pack, lagged behind his brothers at an uncharacteristic sluggish pace.
Splinter set Mikey's plate down in on the table and lifted him up onto his chair.
“Thank you, daddy,” he said.
He set another plate before an eager Raphael.
“Beans? They're gonna make me fart!” he laughed.
He received a chuckle from Leo and Donnie, but not from Mikey. Mikey only sat and ate quietly as if he hadn't even heard him.
Splinter took his seat at the end of the table.
“I am just thankful that you boys do not sleep with me anymore,” he joked.
A chorus of laughter erupted, once again excluding his youngest.
“I bet I can fart bigger than Leo,” Raph challenged.
“I bet not! I bet daddy can fart bigger than all of us!” Leo added.
“No, I can fart bigger! Watch!” Raph's face contorted into a strain.
“Raphael, not at the table,” Splinter scolded.
Raph exhaled and laughed. “Hai, Sensei.”
Splinter watched his youngest son for a moment. He was eating unusually slow and looked strangely withdrawn.
“What is the matter, Michelangelo? Are you not hungry?”
Mikey looked up, startled. “H-huh?”
“I said: are you not hungry?”
Mikey shook his head. “Sort of. I'm...m-mostly just sleepy.”
“Well, bed time is not for another two hours, but perhaps if all goes well, meaning eating dessert and having bath time, maybe you will be able to go to bed a little early.”
Raph's eyes grew wide like saucers. “Dessert? We have dessert tonight?”
“Yes,” Splinter responded with delight, “Michelangelo and Leonardo did not tell you? I got a large cookie for each of you.”
Raph grinned from ear-to-ear. “You're the best daddy ever!”
“Well, I should be. I have the best sons ever,” he chuckled. “You boys have all been so well behaved as of late.”
Mikey felt himself sinking down into his shell as his stomach turned.
“You deserve this.”
“Can we have them now?” Leo asked.
“Well, let me see your plates.”
Leo, Raph, and Donnie eagerly pushed their plates toward their father so he could inspect them, and they were all almost completely cleared.
He paused and stared at Mikey, who had not yet showed his plate to him, but after a moment of hesitation, Mikey slowly pushed his plate so that his father could see. It was halfway gone.
“Good enough,” he said, and rose from his chair to retrieve the coveted treat.
Mikey felt his blood pressure rise. The kitchen was about to blow up and he needed to get out of the vicinity for it.
“I gotta go to the potty first, daddy,” he said. “I-I'll, uh...be right back.”
“Very well, my son,” Splinter said, getting the plastic container down. “Take your time.”
He set the container on the counter and pulled off the lid. He was about to go to the table and serve them to the boys, but noticed that he was short one cookie.
He sighed. “Boys, we are missing one. Did one of you already eat one?”
All three boys looked back and forth at each other.
“It wasn't me,” Raph said. “I didn't even know about 'em 'til a minute ago.”
Splinter turned his gaze to Leo.
Leo shook his head. “Wasn't me.”
Donnie shrugged. “Wasn't me either.”
Splinter and three older boys looked to the empty seat where the youngest member of their family had been sitting.
“Uhoh,” Leo said. “Do you think Mikey did it?”
Splinter looked down thoughtfully. “Wait here, boys.”
Donnie cringed toward Leo. “Mikey's in trouble, I think. Do you think he'll get spanked?”
Leo rubbed the back of his neck. “I hope not. He's so little.”
Raph crossed his arms. “Let him get whooped. The little brat could use it once in a while.”
Mikey had a tendency to scream dramatically when being spanked. He could get so dramatic that it frightened and disturbed his older brothers, making them think that perhaps he was just too small to handle that kind of punishment.
Splinter came upon their bathroom door and peeked inside. The light was off and the door was open, but in a household of all males, that did not necessarily mean that it was not occupied.
“Hamato Michelangelo, are you in here?”
He flipped on the light and saw nothing.
“Are you hiding from me?”
He knew better than to assume that just because Mikey wasn't in plain sight, he wasn't in the room. He pulled back the shower curtain, but the bath tub was empty.
It was then that his sensitive hearing picked up what sounded like muffled sniffles. Very muffled. He knelt down and opened the cabinet under the sink. Sure enough, a small brown turtle shell lay there on it's stomach, heaving out muffled sobs from within.
“Michelangelo, come out of there,” Splinter ordered. “Right now.”
Slowly, a lime green little head poked out of the top of the shell followed by his four short limbs. Blue eyes filled with guilt and tears watched the father for a second and then returned to the floor of the cabinet.
“Why are you hiding? Did you do something bad?”
Mikey wiped his misty eyes and nodded.
“You did? Would you know anything about the missing cookie?”
Mikey shrugged with hesitation.
“You don't know? Michelangelo, don't lie to me.”
Splinter arched and eyebrow. “What? I did not understand.”
Mikey hiccuped. “I a-ate da c-cookie.”
Splinter put a hand on his petite shoulder and aided him out of the cabinet.
Mikey began to bow to the floor submissively, but Splinter pulled him up, ordering him to remain standing and face him.
“You did eat the cookie?”
Mikey nodded. “W-was fo-or me anyw-way...”
“You are correct; it was for you, but you were told that you were to wait until after you had your dinner,” Splinter scolded. “I wanted to give you a special treat for being good, and all I asked was that you wait patiently. Why could you not do that?”
Mikey thought this was a rhetorical question until he realized that his father was looking at him, expecting an answer.
“That is not an answer, Michelangelo, I want an answer.”
“I w-was hu-ungry...”
“Too hungry to wait? Have you ever been not fed? You get three meals a day everyday, am I correct?”
If Mikey didn't look guilty enough before, he definitely did now. He nodded and began to sink back into his shell again.
“Were you just being impatient?”
Mikey did not want to say 'yes', but knew he was in too deep at this point to say otherwise so he chose to nod again.
Splinter sighed. “Do you think you should be punished?”
Mikey hesitated, but dared shake his head.
“No?” Splinter knew his son did not believe this, but was interested to hear what he would say. “Why not?”
Mikey looked down at the concrete floor as if he'd find an answer there.
“C-cuz' I'm-m cute...?”
Splinter had to bite his lip and avert his gaze downward so that his son would not see him smile and laugh at his response. After one second of composing himself he looked back at Mikey, forcing a stoic expression.
Mikey's face screamed hope that he had made a good point.
“You are cute, but does that mean that you have learned your lesson?”
Mikey nodded. “Uh-huh, I have. Taking da cookie was bad.”
“Yes, it was. What else did you do that was bad?”
Mikey looked all around him, trying to come up with what else he's done that his father could possibly have found out about. He came up with nothing and just shrugged.
“I see, then you have not learned your lesson. There was more wrong done here than just taking a cookie before you were allowed to have it. You were also dishonest. Instead of telling me the truth when you should have, you ran away and hid from me.”
“I'm s-sowwy,” Mikey squeaked.
“So, how do you think you should be punished?”
The dreaded question. Even at four-years-old, Mikey knew that if he chose a punishment that was too easy, his father would choose it, but he certainly did not want to suggest one that his father would find fitting.
“N-no TV tonight, a-and no ba-ath time...?”
“I'm not taking your bath time away,” Splinter replied. “It's not because you love it, but because you need to be bathed, but how about no TV for the rest of tonight and you have to sit in the corner while your brothers get there free time before bed?”
Mikey sighed. “Okay...”
Mikey sat facing the corner in his father's silent dojo, Splinter several feet behind him, deeply engaged in his meditation.
As bored as the child was, he felt, strange enough to him, calm. Calmer than he had felt all day. It was all over. The waiting, the guilt, the more waiting; all over. His father had deemed it corner time, but soon it would be bed time, and then it would be tomorrow time.