Splinter was awoken from a light sleep to the sound and feeling of a certain baby turtle stirring in his arms. Without opening his eyes, Splinter lightly patted the little one on his shell to try and subdue his coughing.
He hushed him. “It is alright, Michelangelo.”
The smallest of the turtles had become ill only a couple of weeks after they had been 'adopted' and they had begun their lives in the sewer.
Splinter sat up and cradled the little one in his arms. Michelangelo continued to violently cough, shiver, and fuss.
He felt Mikey's forehead; it was still warm. He sighed. “You are still warm. What am I gonna do with you?” he cooed.
Splinter rose from his cot and carried his son into their makeshift kitchen and retrieved a bottle from a tote made into a sort of cabinet. Then he heated up the teapot on the stove.
He returned his attention to his son and adjusted the blanket that he was wrapped in. “I'm sorry, little one. I wish I could make you better.”
Mikey yawned, revealing the very few tiny teeth he had. They shined like a tiny beacon of hope to the troubled father; his baby was still growing, however sick.
The dozing little one jumped piteously when the teapot whistled. Seeing the little one quickly settling down, Splinter chuckled at him and poured the hot water into the bottle and then dropped a teabag into it.
“What was that, Michelangelo?” he cooed. Mikey gave a small, sleepy smile and nuzzled into his father's furry chest. Splinter stroked his head, hoping that it might coax him closer to a much needed sleep.
He removed the teabag from the bottle and disposed of it, and then twisted the top on, being sure to check that the tea was not too hot. He attempted to get it into Mikey's mouth, but he clamped his mouth shut and edged his head away.
“Come now, Michelangelo,” he said, “you must drink. It will help you feel better.” He pushed it against his mouth until he finally accepted it. “Good boy.” Though tense and resistant at first, the little one settled down and even reached up to hold the bottle himself after a few moments. “Aw, see? I knew you were thirsty.”
Splinter carried Michelangelo back to his room and sat down on his cot. Mikey's eyes were beginning to droop and he was losing grip on his bottle. Splinter grabbed the bottle with one hand and firmly held it so it wouldn't fall on the baby's face when he dozed off.
Soon enough, Mikey was asleep. Splinter was about to lie down and go to sleep himself, but thought to check on his older three first. He walked across the room and knelt down by the lump of pillows and blankets that cradled the rest of his little family.
Sure enough, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello were all huddled close together sleeping soundly. He readjusted the blankets and silently thanked God that at least his other three were remaining healthy.
After giving them each an affectionate stroke, he held Mikey to his chest and returned to his cot, trying to get back to sleep.
Splinter's eyes slowly creaked open. He turned to look at his clock and it read five o'clock AM. He smiled; Mikey had slept through the rest of the night.
Apparently, so had his brothers, very well, in fact. Leonardo and Raphael were laughing and wrestling around on the floor, and Donatello was standing by the wall, running his fingers along the stone as if he were fascinated by the textures or something.
Splinter smiled. He had yet to hear a single coughing fit from Mikey. He smiled down at his youngest and stroked his head. It felt as if his fever had gone down drastically.
Splinter paused; perhaps it had gone down too much. He rolled his son over in his arms and his heart leaped. The baby's face was deathly pale, his eyes and mouth looked like bruises, and his chest was not moving.
“Michelangelo?” he lightly nudged the infant with his arm. He did not respond. “Mikey?!” He panicked; the little one still did nothing. “Oh no, no, no!” He frantically laid the little one down on his cot and checked him for a pulse; nothing. He blew into Mikey's mouth and compressed his chest with two fingers. He repeated that action several times and checked for a pulse or a breath, but he still got nothing.
Michelangelo's respiratory virus had taken his life.
With tears in his eyes, Splinter finally looked at his older three. They were all three staring at him with a fearful curiosity. He wouldn't tell them. He couldn't. He had failed again.
Splinter woke up in a sweat. He immediately sat up and checked on Michelangelo. He held his tiny wrist in his fingers and finally exhaled when he felt a slow, but strong pulse. He hugged the baby close to his chest and kissed his head.
“Thank God,” he whispered. For safe measure, he got up and checked the other three as well; safe and sound.
As if on cue, Mikey broke into another coughing fit. Splinter held him against his shoulder and patted his shell.
“Ssh,” he hushed him, “there, there, my son.” He sighed. He knew what needed to be done.
Splinter and his three oldest sons sat in a circle in their kitchen. He was spoon feeding each of them from a bowl of worms and algae. He, himself, could not stomach the idea of eating it, but it maintained the nutrition that his boys needed. As a nice addition, they loved it.
Raphael, quite the impatient little one, would open his mouth and clap his hands together to let his father know that he wanted more now.
Splinter chuckled. “Wait just a moment, Raphael.” He stuck another spoonful into Donnie's mouth.
Meanwhile, Michelangelo lay on a blanket next to him drinking a bottle filled with a more liquidated version of the algae, being still too little to eat it solid.
Donatello was watching him and attempted to crawl over to him and take the bottle. Not because he wanted it, he just wanted to investigate.
Splinter picked him up and set him back with the other two. “No, no, Donatello. You cannot take Mikey's food.”
Donnie didn't fuss and accepted another spoonful. Raphael then attempted to climb on Splinter's lap and take the bowl from his hand.
Splinter firmly pushed his hand away. “No, no, Raphael,” he scolded, “you must wait your turn.” He allowed him to settle in his lap and soon enough (after Leo got a bite) little Raphie got another bite too.
Splinter looked down by his side to see that Mikey had dozed off and dropped his near empty bottle down beside him. He smiled and returned to feeding the older three.
“That's the last of it, boys,” he said, having scooped up the last of the bowl's contents. “That means it's nap time.” He scooped up all three of them into his arms and tucked them in on their bed made of pillows.
He sighed. Now to do the thing that he dreaded. He wrapped up Mikey in his blanket, covering all but his nostrils so that he may breathe. He took another blanket and covered his own face; all except his eyes and slipped on a pair of gloves.
Splinter checked on his oldest three one last time and he, Mikey in arms, ventured off into the sewers.
Once he reached the surface, Splinter made a mental note to keep his tail wrapped around his leg so that it would not drag behind him and startle any humans.
He sauntered cautiously down the sidewalks, receiving quite a few curious looks from passer-bys.
Lucky for him, after only a few blocks, he was able to find a pharmacy. He walked as casually as possible inside and gathered several packages of baby and children's cold medicine and vitamins.
Mikey broke into another coughing fit and stirred in his arms.
He bounced him soothingly and hushed him. He was relieved to find the little one had remained asleep, and continued on his way to the register.
The man at the counter was very clearly a little put off by Splinter's appearance, but for the sake of his job, he managed a polite smile.
“How are you today...sir?”
“I am fine,” Splinter replied, “and you?”
The man seemed to be instantly more comfortable and smiled wider. “I am doing great.” He rang up the items and looked at the bundle in Splinter's arms. “Aww, sick baby?”
Splinter sighed. “Yes.”
The man handed him his bag of items and reciept. “Well I hope the poor little guy gets better.”
Splinter bowed slightly. “Thank you, sir.”
And with that, he left the pharmacy and returned to the sewers.
Splinter checked on his oldest three and was relieved to find that they were still napping. He lie Michelangelo on his own cot and prepared the cold medicine.
Mikey broke into another violent coughing fit, this one strong enough to awaken him.
“Hello, little one,” Splinter smiled and tickled the baby's stomach.
Mikey smiled and tried to laugh, but began to cough again. It was then that he began to cry from the pain.
Splinter stroked his cheek. “Aw, it is alright, my son.” He sighed. “You are not going to like this, but it will help you.” He took the syringe from the medicine and stuck it into the infant's mouth, releasing its contents.
Mikey cringed, but before he could spit it out, Splinter held his mouth shut tightly, leaving him no choice but to swallow.
Mikey wailed once Splinter released him. He took him into his arms.
He smiled at the fussing child. “Aw, that was not so bad. No, not at all. You're gonna get better now.”
Soon enough, Mikey settled down and was asleep again in his father's arms.
Splinter's attention was shifted to the sound of stirring from the other side of the room; Leonardo was waking up.
“Well hello, Leonardo,” he greeted.
Leo looked at his father and smiled. He yawned and crawled over to him and into his lap.
“Did you have a good nap?” Splinter asked.
The sleepy toddler rubbed his eyes and only smiled, still not quite able to speak. He then began to watch the sleeping Mikey in his father's other arm.
“Mikey is sick,” Splinter explained. “I gave him some medicine, though, so he is gonna get better very soon.”
Leo cooed and reached out to grab the blanket that bundled his little brother.
Splinter stopped him. “No, no, Leonardo. You cannot take your brother's blanket.”
Leo fussed and kicked his feet.
Desperate for his ill son to not be disturbed, he hushed Leo and hugged him to his chest with his free arm. “Shoosh, Leonardo. You must be quiet. Your brothers are sleeping.”
“Co-old,” he whined.
Splinter gasped and looked at the child. “Did you...did you speak, my son? Did you say 'cold'?”
Leo blinked. “Cold...” he whined again.
Splinter's heart leaped. “My goodness, you just said your first word!” He hugged the little one and pecked him on the head. “Are you cold?”
Splinter chuckled and set the little one down so he could get up and retrieve one of the blankets from their bed. He returned to the pouting toddler and picked him up and wrapped him up in the blanket.
“Is that better?”
Leo did not reply, but smiled and nuzzled his father's chest.
Splinter stroked his head. “I am so proud of you, Leonardo.”
Splinter fastened a diaper on his youngest and smiled. “There; all clean, Michelangelo.” He scooped him up and felt his forehead. “Your fever has gone down. You're doing so much better.”
The infant smiled and began chewing on his fingers.
“Cold,” Leonardo crawled up to his father and youngest brother, holding a blanket.
Splinter laughed. “You have a blanket, honey. You must use it if you are cold.”
Leo held up the blanket as if to show it to them. “Cold,” he pushed.
“Yes, and the blanket will make you warm.”
Leo did not seem to hear him and crawled into his lap. He draped the blanket over Michelangelo and smiled. “...'key cold.” He pointed at Mikey, “cold.”
Splinter smiled proudly. “No, Michelangelo is not cold anymore.”