Disclaimer: TMNT are not mine.
A/N: This takes place loosely in the '87 'verse. I have had this idea for a while and decided to finally write it. For some background on my inspiration: Donatello in the OT was boundless. He made anything imaginable. Half the time it exploded...but he still had this uncanny ability to invent. When things didn't work the way he planned, his brothers sometimes gave him a hard time (Raphael especially). However, there were a few times when Splinter encouraged him to keep on going, or applauded him on his achievement. So that, and the model airplanes which adorn Donatello's bedroom (if you look at his room in the OT, you can see numerous model planes) gave me the idea for this piece. Enjoy.
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A whiny, petulant cry carried through the lair and reached the ninja master in his meditation room. His sensitive ears subconsciously twitched in irritation at the high pitch before swivelling in the direction of the yell. He cracked open one onyx eye before the other followed suit, the calm center from his meditation broken. He grabbed his walking stick and rose to his feet, the sudden movement disturbing the graceful curls of smoke rising from his incense.
He tightened his grip on his staff as he headed toward the commotion, an exasperated huff of air passing through his nostrils. His patience with his four young sons was wearing thin this week and he had been looking forward to the meditation to take the edge off his dwindling composure. Now even that momentary solace had been shattered.
Raising the young mutant turtles was rewarding, but also exhausting for the lone adult with virtually no previous experience with children. As a human, he had been sensei to adults, rarely in the company of kids. After coming in contact with the strange ooze and mutating, Splinter had taken it upon himself to serve as a father figure to the young ones. However, his lack of in depth knowledge of children meant that much of his actions were based on intuition or the rare parenting books he was able to salvage while scavenging for supplies.
The boys were nearing eight now, their individual personalities setting themselves apart from each other. His third oldest son, Donatello, had been uncharacteristically destructive the last few days, and setting his brothers off because of his actions. Donatello was normally a meek, quiet, and obedient boy, so this recent change in behavior was beginning to concern the sensei. He was not sure how to exactly address it, only that it needed to be dealt with, and soon.
"MAAASSSTTTEEERR SSPPPLLLIIINNNNTTTEEEERRRR!" came the call again, more drawn out and insistent this time.
Splinter came to a stop at the source of the shouting, which was in the common room at the center of the boys' four individual bedrooms. Raphael was kneeling on the ground in front of a smoking heap of what once may have been a toy spaceship, and Donatello was standing next to the opening to his room, shell pressed against the wall. Splinter could see that the young turtle was trembling. The edge of his purple mask just below his eyes was a shade darker from a rimming of tears which had escaped his eyes. His lower lip was quivering ever so slightly, as if he were moments away from losing what small self-control a young child could muster over their emotions.
After taking a deep breath to compose himself, Splinter addressed the boys, "What is going on here?"
At the sound of his sensei's voice, Raphael's head snapped up. His expression was screwed into a pouty scowl. The second oldest tended to be one of the more emotional of the four, his tantrums as unpredictable as a volcano. Splinter immediately knew it was Raphael who had been calling for him. Raphael pointed an accusing finger at his younger brother.
"Donnie did it again, Master!" the boy was clearly angry, his small shoulders heaving from the speed of his breathing. "He broke another one of my toys!"
Splinter turned his attention to Donatello. In as placid a voice as he could muster he asked him, "Is this true, Donatello?"
Donatello's eyes closed tightly, the tears finally breaking free and rolling down his cheeks. He turned his head to the side and nodded so slightly Splinter almost missed it.
Splinter had to pause and weigh his response. The other times this had occurred, Donatello had been grounded as a punishment. Yet, he was repeating this behavior over and over again. Why? Was it for attention? Splinter had once read that sometimes children will act out if they want attention...but that did not seem to fit Donatello's personality. No...something else was behind this.
"Why, Donatello?" Splinter asked.
"I don't know…" Donatello whimpered in response.
"Donatello," Splinter's voice had begun to grow stern. "I do not appreciate being lied to, and you know that."
By this time, the commotion had drawn the attention of Leonardo and Michelangelo; Splinter glimpsed blue and orange rimmed eyes peeking around the corner from the den.
Donatello's wet eyes opened sluggishly as he went to gaze at his toes, the wall, the floor...anywhere but Splinter's piercing eyes. His little hands felt clammy, his breathing coming in nervous bursts.
"I...I…" he began, his voice heaving. He wanted to run away. He wanted to hide. "I wanted to make the toys better…" he finished in a whisper.
"How is that better, Donnie?!" Raphael cut in, his fists clenching. "You're so weird with your books and your batteries and your wires!"
Donatello winced as if the words had struck physical harm.
"Raphael, to your room, now!" Splinter ordered.
Raphael rose to his feet reluctantly, his eyes narrowing.
"Why am I getting in trouble?" he protested. "Donnie's the one who broke my toys! He keeps trying to put batteries 'n wires in'm! He's so dumb! Even Mikey knows which toys need batteries."
Batteries and wires? Splinter lingered on that thought, knowing it to be an important clue. He was beginning to think that he had not been handling this situation as he should have.
A few years ago, when the sensei had begun formally educating the quartet, he noticed that Donatello's mind did not quite work like those of his brothers'. He had a natural affinity for learning. While the other three seemed to learn at an age appropriate level, Donatello excelled in a wide range of subjects - especially the sciences - and took in knowledge at a rate Splinter struggled to keep up with. Donatello's brothers needed teaching just as human children did, while Donatello only needed a slight nudge in the right direction before instructing himself. Splinter had recently found some discarded high school text books on a dump run, which Donatello had already avidly read cover to cover multiple times. And one of those books was on electricity…
Splinter was beginning to feel more certain of his theory, and guilty for being so upset with Donatello the other times this had occurred. But he had to be sure...and he had to deal with Raphael first.
"Raphael, your being upset does not give you the right to disrespect your brother in such a fashion. Early practice tonight and then go to bed."
"Do not test me, Raphael. Do as I say. Now."
Raphael grumbled to himself as he stomped off to the dojo to enact the first portion of his punishment.
Turning back to Donatello, he addressed the boy gently, "Donatello, please come with me."
Donatello swallowed nervously and nodded weakly in acknowledgement. Michelangelo audibly giggled from the sidelines and in a sing-song voice interjected, "Ooooo! Donnie's in troooouble!"
This was promptly followed by Leonardo visibly shoving his brother and hissing, "Shush, Mikey!"
Splinter shot an irritated glare at the unwanted onlookers and commented, "I suggest the two of you find something more constructive to do with your time or you will be joining Raphael in the dojo. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sensei! Sorry, sensei!" Leo spoke in a rushed tone and dragged Mike back to the couch by his mask tails.
"Ow! Ow! Leo…" Mike whined, his voice fading as the duo drew further away.
Splinter then silently motioned for Donatello to follow. The child complied, trailing after his sensei with his eyes focused on the ground below him, the very tip of Splinter's tail visible at the upper edge of his vision. The walk to Splinter's room felt like an eternity to the youngster, like the final march of an inmate to their inevitable execution.
After entering Splinter's quarters, Donatello immediately kneeled upon the tatami mat and bowed his head. For as long as he could remember, this had been drilled in his head as the proper way to show respect when called before one's sensei. He attempted to hide his frightened shaking, but Splinter's keen eyes had already picked it up. The mutant rat's heart went out to the boy, and he truly hoped that he would be able to goad the answer out of Donatello.
"It has come to my own personal attention that I have not handled your actions towards your brothers' toys appropriately."
Donatello's breathing began to speed up again, as his mind attempted to figure out what Splinter meant. He knew he had messed up big time and deserved whatever was coming. He was supposed to listen to his sensei, and instead had repeatedly disobeyed him. In reality, he had only wanted to make Splinter proud of him...if only things had gone the way they were supposed to…
Splinter sensed Donatello's tension. Bending over slightly to bring himself to the boy's level, he lifted Donatello's chin up so they made eye contact.
"I made a mistake before, Donatello."
Donatello stated at Splinter in disbelief. His sensei had been wrong?
Donatello had not been expecting Splinter to blame himself for anything.
"Yes, my son," Splinter smiled softly. "Even adults make mistakes sometimes, and I now realize that I never asked for your view of things before punishing you the previous times that your brothers' toys have been broken. You said you were trying to make them better? Could you please explain that to me?"
Donatello pursed his lips and shook his head sharply, his small eyes wide.
"Donatello, I want to understand. I cannot if you won't talk."
"I don't want you to think I'm weird and dumb like Raphael does," Donatello admitted feebly, shifting uneasily under Splinter's close proximity.
Splinter withdrew his hand and stood up. Although not tall himself, he still loomed over the kneeling child.
"I am sure Raphael does not mean that," Splinter assured him. "Sometimes when we are upset we say things we don't mean. I will talk to him later about that."
Donatello wasn't sure he believed Splinter. He wasn't like his brothers at all. No one understood him…
"I...I see things, Master Splinter," Donatello blurted out.
See things? That caught Splinter's full attention. He raised a curious brow and prodded, "Oh?"
"In my mind...ideas...things I want to make...or do…" Donatello grasped for words to explain what went through his head. "It's there, so clear...I see everything...the wires where they are supposed to be, and I tried to follow the principles of aer-aerody-aerodynamics...but when I tried to make the toys do it...it doesn't work…they just blow up."
Aerodynamics? "Do what, Donatello?" Things were starting to make more sense now.
Splinter was amazed; this boy truly was a wonder.
"Don't give up, Donatello."
"But, sensei...I can't do it," Donatello's eyes wandered back to the floor.
"I think you can, my son. Rome wasn't built in a day."
Rome? That old city from the history book? "Of course not, Master Splinter...The Roman Empire was founded in 27 BC and fell in 1453 AD to the Ottomans and the city itself had even existed for centuries before that. That's way more than a day!"
He took it as literal...and that knowledge...why didn't I notice the extent of this before? Splinter did not let his surprise show. Donatello was already aware of his "difference" from his brothers and Splinter did not want to make the boy feel more alienated than it already seemed he did.
"That's not exactly what I meant, Donatello," Splinter said, his voice with an amused tone. "It's a figure of speech. It means...that great things take time. You have a gift, and we must nurture it. Just as I have come to see your brothers' own individual gifts, I am beginning to see yours. I had an idea before...but I think I understand yours a little more now."
"O...k…" Donatello said, still unsure.
Splinter put a reassuring hand on the child's shoulder. Donatello raised his head and his eyes met Splinter's, which shown only encouragement.
"I will figure something out to help you with this, Donatello. In the mean time...just don't take your brothers' toys anymore, alright?" Splinter grinned at his student.
Donatello couldn't help but smile widely in return. He had to admit he was beginning to feel a little better.
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It had taken Splinter a few weeks, but after nightly trips to many local toy store back allies he was able to find what he wanted for Donatello. It never ceased to amaze him what humans could throw away.
Donatello had been patient. Splinter had gotten him a notebook for the interim and Donatello had taken to drawing his ideas down. He felt closer to a real answer when he could go over his plans visually and make necessary changes.
Raphael had backed off - and apologized - after a stern lecture from Splinter. Splinter wasn't sure if the hot headed child had learned his lesson, or just wanted to avoid another lecture...but that was besides the point. For now, the Hamato household was a peaceful as one could be with four active boys.
Donatello awoke the next morning to a box at the foot of his bed. The box was terribly banged up; it was dented and ripped in places and had grease from the trash on it, but the joy Donatello felt in getting this gift was undeniable. He picked it up and mouthed the words which were on the box, "model airplane kit". There was also a note attached to the box. He held it gingerly in his hands and read:
You have been gifted with an extraordinary mind. You have an inventor's spirit. I may not always understand the amazing things I know you are going to come up with in the future, but I will always be there for you to encourage you and will always be proud of you. Never doubt yourself and what you can accomplish. Even the mighty eagle must learn to fly before he can soar.
PS I am sorry if this is missing a few pieces...but I am sure you can improvise.
Encouraged, a bright grin broke out on Donatello's face and his eyes lit up. He finally comprehended what Splinter meant.
"So, airplane," he spoke to the box, "I guess we are going to learn to fly together."
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A/N: That was harder to write that I thought it would be. I usually try to add a lot more details and description to my stories, but I felt more dialogue with simpler narration worked, since some of this is from a child 3rd person POV. Donnie was hard to write here. I'm not sure how to write a child genius; I hope I pulled it off. I also have never written a full turtle-tot piece before. Also keep in mind that Splinter here was human at one point, but with this more in the '87 verse and not the 2k12 'verse, he was never married and never had children. All that being said, Happy New Year! :) Thanks for reading!