Splinter and Usagi entered the lair, each with a snoozing turtle on each shoulder.
Splinter sighed. “I knew that was a bad idea.”
“Yoshi,” Usagi said, “you must not worry so much. It was just a little girl. She is the only one who saw them.”
Splinter hugged his two oldest sons closer to him. “Yes, but she is certain to tell others what she has seen.”
Usagi smiled at him with reassurance. “You know how active a child's imagination can be at that age. No one in their right mind would believe her.”
“Perhaps you're right,” Splinter sighed. “Still, I do not want to do that again. This just shows that it is too much of a risk.”
“I understand, my friend, but please know that the last thing I would have intended is to put your boys in any danger.”
Splinter scoffed. “Oh of course not, Usagi. I know your intentions were pure. Believe me, I want to spoil them too – so much that it hurts sometimes – but their safety is priority.”
Yoshi looked at the sleeping Michelangelo on his left shoulder. “Well at least they got to have a little time on the playground this evening.”
Splinter grinned. “Yes, I am sure they will not remember it, but I know they enjoyed it. Thank you for all that you've done for them today.”
“Oh it is my pleasure, Yoshi. I love them like they are my own,” Usagi hugged Donnie closer to him for emphasis.
“I suppose it is time to put them to bed then,” Splinter said under his exasperated breath. “I smell pee though; at least one of them needs to be changed.” He sniffed both Leo and Raph's diapers. “It is Leonardo.”
Usagi sniffed Mikey and then Donnie. “These two are clean. Would you like me to take Raphael so you may take care of Leo?”
Splinter started on his way to the babies' bedroom. “No, it is alright. I can change him in his crib.”
Usagi followed behind. “So when are you going to start potty training these little ones?”
Splinter entered through their door-less doorway and carefully placed Raph in one of the cribs, skillfully only using one arm.
“Goodness, probably not for another six months to a year.”
Usagi followed suit and used the same one-armed skill to place Mikey and Donnie in their shared crib without waking them from their slumber.
“That long? They are so intelligent. I would think they would be ready much sooner.”
Splinter covered Raph with his signature red blanket, untied his new bandana, and kissed his forehead.
“They are very intelligent,” Splinter agreed, “but they are still just too little.”
Usagi carefully removed Mikey's orange bandana. “By that, do you mean to little or too young?” He bent down and kissed the little one's forehead.
Splinter retrieved the baby wipes and a fresh diaper out from under the crib and unfastened Leo's dirty one.
“Perhaps both,” he said. “They may be too young to understand how to control their bladders or bowels and perhaps too little to sit on the toilet.” He chuckled as he wiped Leo's bottom. “I fear their little behinds may fall into the toilet.”
Usagi laughed as he unfastened Donnie's purple bandana. “That would be a sight,” he said before he pecked him on the forehead as well. “Poor little guys.”
Splinter laughed as he generously sprinkled baby powder on Leo's entire bottom. “I have already had to rescue poor Raphie from the potty once.”
Usagi made his way over to Raphael and kissed his forehead.
Splinter finally fastened the fresh diaper on Leo. “I had left the seat up and he crawled inside it and could not figure out how to climb back out. Oh, how the boy screamed,” he laughed and removed Leo's bandana. He kissed his forehead.
“I would bet,” Usagi said with a lighthearted grin and then kissed Leo as well.
Splinter then kissed Raph and stroked his head. “Daddy saved him, though.” He pulled up the gate to the crib and locked it in place, shaking it once to make sure it was secure.
Usagi released a tired sigh. “Well if I am no longer needed tonight, then I guess I will head home.”
Splinter gripped his shoulder graciously. “Yes, and again, thank you for all of your help and all the nice things you have done for the boys.”
Usagi modestly shoved away his hand. “It is my pleasure, my friend.”
Splinter chuckled as he gazed at his babies sleeping in their cribs. “They love their Uncle 'agi.”
Usagi laughed aloud. “Well, good night, my friend. Call me if you need anything.”
“We should be set, but thank you, my friend. Good night.”
Oroku Saki tucked his young daughter snugly into her purple canopy bed. He kissed her forehead.
“Good night, Karai,” he said. He began to walk away.
“Wait!” the little one chirped. “I want a story!”
Saki sighed. “Daddy has work to do, Karai. I do not have time for this.”
Karai puckered her lower lip. “But I can't go to sleep without a story...”
Saki shook his head and sighed again. “Very well. One story.” He sat on her bed. “What do you want to hear?”
She threw her tiny arms in the air. “I wanna hear a story 'bout turtle babies!”
Saki contemplated. “Hmm...”
“And a princess!” she added.
“Very well,” he smirked. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little princess who traveled the world with her daddy, the king, searching for powerful warriors to serve them. One day, the princess met four mutant turtle babies. She played with them and made friends with them, and the king adopted them and raised them to be the most powerful of all his warriors. The end.”
Karai clapped and giggled. “Yay! I bet I know who the princess is!”
Saki chuckled and tickled her stomach. “You got it!”
She laughed madly and shoved his hands away. “Daddy, can I have turtle babies for my little brothers? I always wanted a little brother or sister.”
Saki stood up and Karai sunk down under the blankets as he pulled them up to her chin and tucked her in once again.
“More than that,” he said. “They will serve you.”
“Wow, I always wanted servants. Just like a princess!”
Saki smirked and ruffled her hair. “Yes, exactly. Now go to sleep. Daddy has a lot of work to do.”
Karai hugged her stuffed panda closer to her chest and turned on her side. “Okay, night night, daddy.”
“Good night, my dear.”
Saki went across the hall and entered his office, quietly shutting the door behind him. He sat in his large spinning office chair and picked up his corded phone. He dialed in a number and propped his feet up on the desk as he awaited an answer on the other line.
“Hello, Daniel,” he greeted dryly when a young adult male answered. “I am issuing a meeting of the foot in one hour.”
There was a pause as the young man tried to get his master to elaborate.
“Don't ask questions,” Saki commanded. “Just assemble all of the Foot ninjas and have them meet me in our hideout. I have a proposition for all of them.”
He then hung up. His orders were final.
Splinter was awakened by the sound that he had only one year ago became all too acquainted with: a baby screaming for his father in the middle of the night. He sighed and rose from his sheets. By now he was able to distinguish each baby's cry and he already knew this one to be Donatello's. He wrapped his robe around himself and trudged off to his sons' room.
Upon arrival, he was surprised to find that Donnie was not standing up holding onto the bars. He unlocked the gate and pulled it down.
“Oh no, what is the matter, Donatello?” he cooed and scooped the unhappy toddler into his arms. He glanced at Michelangelo to make sure that he had not been disturbed by his bunk mate's fussing and was relieved to find that he was still sleeping soundly.
Although being held, Donnie continued to fuss, so Splinter hugged him to his chest for a moment and then pulled him away to look into his eyes. The little one continued to sob as he vigorously rubbed his eyes and nose.
“What is troubling you, baby?” Splinter cooed. “Are you yucky?” He lifted him to his face and sniffed his diaper. “No, you are clean.” He began to lightly bounce him in his cradled arms. “Are you hungry?”
Donatello groaned and scratched at his eyes again.
Splinter firmly moved his tiny wrists. “No, little one, you will hurt yourself.”
Donnie pouted and squinted his eyes.
Splinter's scowl deepened. “What is the mater? Are your eyes hurting?” He wrapped Donnie's purple blanket around him and planted himself in the old rocking chair across the room and switched on the lamp beside it. He gasped: Donnie's face, particularly around his eyes, was covered in hives that were quickly merging into one giant puffy welt. “Oh no, what has happened?”
Donnie whined and attempted to scratch at his face, but was stopped once again.
“No, no, no, do not scratch, honey, you will make it worse,” he said.
Donnie did not hesitate to show his objection by letting out a loud sob.
Splinter firmly hugged him to his chest in order to both console him and muffle his cries and carried him off to the living room where he could not disturb his brothers. He sat on the couch and turned on the lamp that was bigger than the one in the bedroom and looked his son over in the better lighting. That was when he noticed that the hives were not only on his face, but also all over every part of his body that was not covered by a shell.
He sighed. “You poor baby. How did this happen?”
Donnie attempted to scratch his eyes again, but Splinter stopped him.
“No, no, do not scratch,” he said firmly.
Donnie began to scream again.
Splinter sighed and stood up as he wrapped him up tightly in his blanket.
“Come on,” he whispered. “It looks like we will have to go make a phone call.”
Splinter stood heavily clothed inside a phone booth nearest to his underground home. He held the bundled up Donatello close to his chest as he dialed his only friend's number and silently prayed that he would answer.
“Hello?” a familiar and tired voice answered.
“Usagi, it is me,” he spoke urgently.
“Yoshi, what is it? Is everything alright?” Usagi asked as the exhaustion quickly evaporated from his tone.
“I hate to wake you and ask this of you in the middle of the night, but I need a favor.”
“Anything. What is it?”
Splinter sighed. “It seems that Donatello has broken out into a rash that is becoming increasingly worse.”
“Oh no...” Usagi groaned.
“It is all over, but it is worst on his little face. It is very concerning and he will not sleep. I would really appreciate it if you could go get some Benadryl, some sort of aloe, and something that I can put on his hands to keep him from scratching.” He watched the bundle in his arms squirm as he spoke.
“Of course,” Usagi said. “I am getting dressed as we speak. Is Donnie alright?”
Splinter sighed again. “He is very fussy, but he doesn't seem to have a fever and he is breathing just fine, so he is alright for now at least.”
Usagi whimpered. “Oh, bless him. I will be there as soon as possible, Yoshi.”
Splinter grinned graciously. “Thank you so much, my friend. I am truly indebted to you.”
Usagi scoffed. “Oh, you owe me nothing. Now just give me forty-five minutes or so and I will be there.”
It was two in the morning and Saki was finally returning from the meeting with his American clan. As always, his loyal clan was willing to go on a man hunt, or “turtle hunt”, rather, for the baby mutants that he desired so with little questioning. However, getting them to take him seriously without giving him restrained incredulous expressions was the challenge. Surely, they thought he was losing his mind.
He drug his exhausted body off to his bedroom and began to strip himself of his armor as soon as he walkd through the doorway.
Saki sighed. “What is it, Karai?”
“Daddy, I can't sleep,” Karai pouted. “Can I have 'nother story?”
Saki massaged his temples and sat on his bed. “Karai, daddy is very tired...”
“Well I'm tired too,” Karai argued, “but I can't sleep! I need another story.”
Saki groaned. “No, I don't think so. Please go back to bed.”
“But if I don't get a story, then I won't go back to sleep and then I'll be all cranky tomorrow.” Karai shook her head. “No one likes a cranky princess.”
Saki glared at his relentless daughter. “Karai, go back to bed.”
Karai shrugged. “Okay, but I might not be da only one who can't sleep tonight,” she said coyly.
Saki put his face in his hands and groaned once again.
Karai puckered her lower lip and gripped his arm. “Do you really want your little princess to be up all night?”
Saki sighed, stood up, and took her into his arms. He carried her off to her room and tucked her into her bed once again.
“Alright, what do you want to hear?” he asked reluctantly.
“Doctor Seuss!” she chirped.
“Sweetheart, you don't have any Doctor Seuss books.”
Karai crossed her arms over her chest. “Well then you have to go get me one.”
“No, Karai,” Saki said. “It is two in the morning.”
Karai sat up. “That's not too late! Please, daddy!”
Saki shook his head and attempted to help her lie back down. “How about I just make up another story for you?”
“No!” Karai cried. “I want Doctor Seuss rhymes! You're no good at rhyming!”
“I am not that bad...”
Karai blew a raspberry. “No. You stink at rhyming! Please, daddy! Pretty please! I really wanna hear a Doctor Seuss story!”
After only three years of raising that child, Saki knew there was no winning with her in a situation like this.
He sighed.“Very well, but we will have to make this trip quick. We both need our rest.”
“Yay!” Karai clapped her hands before springing from her bed and making a beeline for her bedroom's exit.
Splinter dug out a pair of long, white socks from his bedroom closet.
“Perfect,” he whispered to himself and returned to his bed where he had left Donatello.
Donnie fussed in his sleepy and itchy displeasure and it did not help his comfort levels at all when his father stopped his scratching and covered his little hands with the white socks, folding them down more than halfway so that they would only come up to his elbows.
“There,” Splinter said. “That should keep you from scratching.”
Donnie attempted again to scratch his swollen face, but was once again met with the wool obstacle. “Owww,” he whined.
Splinter scooped him up into a loving embrace. “I know, I know, but I cannot have you scratching.”
Donnie then tried to bite at the socks on his hands, but was stopped.
Splinter chuckled. “No, no.”
Another baby's cry rang out throughout their home for the second time that night. This time Splinter knew it to be Michelangelo.
Splinter sighed and looked to Donnie. “I think your little brother has awoken and realized you weren't there.”
Donnie responded by trying to bite the sock on his hand once again. Splinter stopped him without a word and began making his way back to the boys' room.
“Let's go get your brother before he wakes the other two.”
When Splinter entered the room, Mikey was standing up in his crib crying out loud with tears running down his freckled little face.
“D'ee! D'ee-e!” he cried.
“Oh, what is the matter, little one?” Splinter cooed at him.
Mikey seized his screaming and held out his arms, his face settling into a hopeful pout.
Splinter carefully lifted him out of the crib with his free arm. “Are you missing your brother?”
Mikey hiccuped and rested his head on his shoulder. Splinter pinched his beak playfully, making the child do one of his signature smiles and then giggle.
Splinter grinned. “There's my smile,” he cooed.
Mikey smiled at Donnie and reached a chubby arm out to touch him, but Donnie nuzzled closer to his father and edged away from Mikey.
“Donnie is not feeling well, Mikey,” Splinter explained. “Come. Let's go sit in the living room and let your brothers sleep.”
Splinter took his two youngest boys to their living room and sat down on the couch cradling one in each arm.
Mikey squirmed out of his grip and crawled over his father's lap to get to Donnie. He tapped his hands on his shell to get his attention, but Donnie simply groaned and nuzzled closer to his father's robe.
Splinter chuckled at them and ruffled Mikey's bare head. “Mikey, honey, I don't think Donnie wants to play right now. He does not feel well.”
Mikey stared blankly at his father, making it clear that he did not understand.
“He is sick,” Splinter clarified. “His skin is hurting.”
Mikey frowned and pointed to Donnie. “Ouch?”
Splinter nodded. “Yes, Donatello is hurting.”
“B-bet-ter...” Mikey leaned closer to Donnie and pecked him on the cheek, being sure to overemphasize the “lip-smacking” sound.
Splinter gasped and put a hand between the two. “No, no, no, Mikey! I don't want you to get sick too.” He was sure it was nothing more than an allergic reaction to something, but in the case that it were not, he was not going to risk his other boys getting sick too.
Mikey pouted. “D'ee...”
Splinter sighed. “I know you want to make him feel better, but it will do us no good if you get sick too.”
Mikey whimpered and tried to snuggle closer to Donnie anyway.
Splinter shook his head and reluctantly allowed him to do it.
Mikey nuzzled Donnie before pecking him on the cheek again. Donnie rolled over a little and smiled at him.
Splinter beamed. “Aww, do you love your big brother?”
Mikey grinned at Donnie. “Pl-lay...” he cooed and kissed him again. “...b-bet-ter.”
“You are very talkative tonight, Michelangelo,” Splinter praised. “Are you talking for Donatello? You want him all better?”
Mikey looked at his father and pointed to Donnie. “Bet-ter...”
“Yes, I want him better too. I don't think he wants to play right now though. Perhaps you should come lie down. You need your sleep.”
Mikey disregarded his father's suggestion and proceeded to pull on Donnie's arm. That was when he noticed the socks that covered his arms up to his elbows. He pulled at one curiously and watched as the elastics pulled it right back in place instantly. He giggled with amusement.
Donnie whined and pulled away from him. “No-o-o...”
Mikey laughed and went to repeat the action with the socks, but Splinter stopped him.
“No, no, Michelangelo. Donatello does not like that. Please let your brother sleep.”
Mikey pointed to the socks. “M-eh!”
Splinter giggled. “Do you want socks on your hands too? I don't think you need them, child.”
Mikey decided he would attempt to touch the socks again.
“Mikey, no, no,” Splinter warned.
Mikey stopped and looked blankly at his father for a moment, and then went back to trying to get the socks.
“Michelangelo!” Splinter increased the sternness in his tone. “Daddy said no. Leave Donatello alone.”
Mikey pouted at him, but boldly decided he would try again.
Splinter grabbed his hand and firmly smacked his little fingers.
Mikey was stunned. He had never been struck by his father before in his short life.
“I said no,” Splinter said, lowering his tone. “I said no, and you need to listen, understand?”
Splinter fought the urge to take the child into his arms and apologize to him profusely as the little one stared back at him with a quivering lip and misty baby blues.
“D-da-da-a!” Mikey's tears finally began to flow as he started crying out loud.
Splinter patted his lap and signaled for Mikey to come him. “Come now. You need to lie down.”
Mikey just sat in his place and continued to bawl.
“Michelangelo,” Splinter warned, “come here.”
Mikey obediently crawled into his lap and submissively lay his head on his shoulder.
Splinter looked him in the eyes. “I don't like to smack your fingers, but you need to listen to daddy when he tells you to do something.”
Mikey only hiccuped and rubbed his eyes.
Splinter sighed. “Do you want some milk? Will that help you sleep?”
Mikey sniffled. “M-mi-lk...?”
“Yes, some milk.” Splinter lay Donnie down on the couch beside him and covered him with his purple blanket and took Mikey into the kitchen. “Maybe some warm milk will help you get some much needed rest.”
Mikey continued to sniffle and rub his eyes.
“Settle down now, little one,” Splinter soothed as he got a sippie cup from a cabinet and filled it with milk. He fastened on the lid and put it in the microwave. His attention was drawn back to Mikey when he felt him suddenly twitch in his arms. When he looked at him, he took note of his concentrated expression.
“Uhoh, are you going pee-pee?”
The concentrated looked morphed into a silly grin. “Pee-pee!”
Splinter sighed and shook his head.
Usagi hastily made his way to the babies' and toddlers' section of the all night supermarket. As he scanned the shelves for babies' Benadryl, he could see a figure of a man of tall and muscular stature holding a little girl's hand out of the corner of his eye. He briefly glanced in the man's direction, but did a double-take when a better look at the man made him familiar.
“Oroku Saki?” he hesitated. “Is that you?”
The man was startled to hear his name unexpectedly and half smiled when he recognized the shorter man speaking to him after only a few seconds.
“Miaymoto Usagi, my, I haven't seen you in ages,” he said and shook his hand.
Usagi curiously and discretely looked him over, taking note of his newly acquired burn scars and scarred eye.
“I did not expect to see you here in America. You look...” he hesitated, but decided not to comment on the changes, “...you look great.”
“Yes, I have business partners over here as well,” Saki replied. “I am here for a few months.”
Usagi averts his gaze to the little girl in a purple night gown holding his hand. “And who is this? Is she yours?”
“Yes, this is my daughter, Karai. Karai, this is my old friend, Usagi.”
Usagi knelt down in front of her. “Hello, Karai. How old are you?”
Karai stared at him blankly. “I'm three...I seen you before somewhere...”
Usagi laughed. “I don't know, sweetheart. I think I'd remember a pretty face like that.”
Karai blushed and giggled.
“So what brings you to this section?” Saki asked. “Do you have a little one?”
“Oh no, I am just doing a midnight run for my...” Usagi hesitated, “...nephews.”
“I did not know you has any siblings.”
“I do not,” Usagi replied. “I...well...say, have you spoken to Hamato Yoshi since he has come to America?”
Saki could have sworn that his heart stopped beating in his chest for a moment. “Hamato Yoshi? He is alive?”
Usagi instantly became confused. “Wait, you...you thought he was dead?”
“Yes, I thought he had perished in a fire like his wife and daughter. You are telling me he survived? I have not seen him since that fateful day.”
Usagi sighed sadly. “Unfortunately, Tang Shen and Miwa did perish, but Yoshi survived. He could not deal with the grief of losing them so he came to live here in America. He never contacted you? The two of you were like brothers in Japan ever since we were boys.”
“I cannot believe that my dear old friend is alive,” Saki thought aloud. “Do you know where he is residing?”
“Yes, in fact, I was getting to that. You see, his children are my nephews.”
Saki's eyes widened further. “Children? He has already had more children? Has he remarried?”
“No, he adopted these boys. Precious little guys they are, too. They just turned one-year-old yesterday,” Usagi smiled warmly as he thought of the four little angels.
Saki grinned. “I am so pleased to hear that, and relieved that he is alive. Where is he residing? I would love to see him and meet his new sons.”
Usagi nervously rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, the thing is, he is not exactly fond of having visitors. Having lost Miwa, he is so protective of his boys and very choosey about who he allows into his home to be around them.”
“Oh, but surely he would welcome an old comrade.”
“Well, I'm sure, but perhaps it would be wise if I spoke to him about it first...”
Saki waved his hand dismissively. “No, no, there is no need to do that. Why don't we surprise him? I'll bet he would be thrilled. I certainly am to hear that he is alive.”
Usagi sighed. “I don't know, Saki. He is very serious about his privacy now.”
“Oh, what is the harm? Of course he'll be pleased to see me. After all, we're like brothers.”
Usagi smiled slightly. “I guess you're right. Yes, he might very much appreciate the surprise.”
Saki crossed his arms with satisfaction. “Good then. Where can I find him and the little ones?”
“I will show you. Will you be available tomorrow evening?”
“Yes, of course. Where shall we meet?”
“Meet me by the pet store on fourth tomorrow at six?”
A sinister grin slowly spread across Saki's face. “I can hardly wait.”