A Tale of Two Senseis

Chapter 1: Vertigo

A/N: So here's another story set in my Falling Leaves universe. I know it's been a little while since I've visited this universe, so I thought it would be a good idea to come back to it now that the sequel to Truth and Lies is finally completed. I hope that all of you will enjoy this story. Remember, I welcome any and all feedback so don't be shy about leaving me a review.

Disclaimer: TMNT and all related characters belong to Nickelodeon. I only own Willow Green, Cynthia Lee, and any other original characters not associated with TMNT.

Summary: Sometimes, being a sensei can be rewarding and demanding. Willow and Splinter discuss the trials and joys of being teachers to their respective students. A Falling Leaves novel.

As Splinter finished teaching his sons the katas he wanted them to learn, he turned and smiled at the woman who was casually observing the lesson. Since she had come into their lives, Willow Green had proven to be a very trustworthy ally and often liked to observe the lessons he taught his sons when she had time. She was an instructor at a dojo and often didn't have time to come visit, but when she did, she was always fascinated by what the Turtles knew and how Splinter taught them different lessons.

Splinter dismissed his sons, and they bowed and left the room.

"That was a good lesson, Master Splinter," Willow commented. "You're a great teacher."

"Thank you, Willow," Splinter said with a smile. "And I take it you were observing so you can use these lessons on your students?"

"Well, I don't' think it would hurt," she joked. "Goodness knows, I've taught them most of what I already know."

"I see. Would you care to join me for a cup of tea?"

Willow nodded and followed the Rat into his chambers. His room was cozy, and Splinter took pride in making sure it was neat. He only wished his sons would follow his example with their own rooms. He sat down and prepared the tea just as his father had shown him when he was a young boy. He offered one cup to Willow, and she took it graciously with a smile.

"So, what did you think of the lesson?" Splinter asked her.

"It was great," she answered. "I really think Leo is probably the best at what he does. He just flows with so much grace and concentration. Was he always that good?"

Splinter chuckled. "You know, my sons often say the same thing of their brother that he was perfect even when I first taught them, but he was not. He had troubles just as much as anyone else would have when they are first learning."

"You'd never know it by looking at him," Willow said. "Why does Raph call him Fearless?"

Once again, Splinter chuckled. "That is Raphael's way of irritating his brother, though I do think he truly feels Leonardo is fearless even though he is not truly fearless. Let me tell you a story about one of Leonardo's fears and how it took him some time to conquer that fear."

Willow smiled. "I would love to hear it," she said.

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Splinter gathered his young sons into the dojo and had them stand before him. He had only just started teaching them the basics of ninjutsu, but today he was going to teach them about balance because that was an important skill. Michelangelo was clowning around and yanking on Donatello's mask tails, but a sharp reprimand from Splinter stopped the youngest Turtle in his tracks.

"My sons, today I will be teaching you about balance," he began.

Raphael's face scrunched into a scowl. "Why do we gotta learn about balance?" he asked. "I thought ninjutsu was about hitting people."

"No, ninjutsu is much more than that, my son," Sinter replied. "There are many different things that are important in learning this art, and balance is one of them." He led them to a group of small bamboo posts, not much higher than his ankle. "The object of this exercise is to see how long you can balance on one of these poles."

"That's it?" Michelangelo asked.

Splinter nodded. "Yes, that is it," he answered. "Leonardo, you will go first."

"Leo always goes first!" Raphael complained. "I wanna go first!"

Splinter leveled his son with a stern glare. "Leonardo has been patient while you have not been patient, so he goes first," he said firmly in a voice that the Turtles knew was his final word.

Leonardo jumped onto the bamboo pole and raised one foot in the air. He stayed on there for a long time until Splinter told him to stop.

"Very good, Leonardo," Splinter praised him. "You have a natural flair for this. Raphael, you are next."

The green-eyed Turtle grumbled and made his way to the bamboo pole, making sure to bump shoulders with Leonardo on his way there. Then he jumped onto the pole raised his foot, and began to balance.

"See? I can do this just as good as Leo can," he bragged. "Piece of cake." But just then, he began to teeter and promptly fell off of the pole onto his bottom.

Michelangelo laughed. "Ha! Ha! You fell off!"

"You were doing fine, Raphael, but you lost focus, and that is always essential in this exercise," Splinter reprimanded him.

"I nearly had it though," Raph said.

"Yes, you did," Splinter conceded. "Donatello, you are next."

Donnie did well for the most part. Mikey had a lot of trouble because of being distracted and talking about how it would be neat to be able to fly like Superman.

"That was a good try today, my sons," Splinter praised them. "We will work more on this later."

"Can we try those next?" Raph asked. He pointed to another set of bamboo poles that were much higher than the ones they had used.

Splinter shook his head. "No, those are the ones I use," he answered. "You are still too young for that and must use the smaller ones. Once you are older, you may use the higher ones."

"But, Sensei, isn't ninjutsu all about learning new things?" Leo asked him.

"Yes, but you are still too young to tackle those poles just yet," Splinter said firmly. "Do not go near them. Now, I must go see about preparing your lunch. You may leave now and go do as you like."

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"It doesn't surprise me that Raph would want to challenge you like that," Willow commented.

"Raphael often did that when he was younger, and he still tends to do it now," Splinter replied. "But this time, he would regret what he did."

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While Splinter was busy preparing their lunch, Raph looked at the higher poles again. Leo stayed with him and so did the others because at this stage, they all liked to be together.

"Sensei bein' stupid," Raph grumbled. "I know we can tackle those poles now."

"Raph, you can't," Leo protested. "Sensei said not to."

"Since when do you listen to what Sensei says?" Raph challenged.

"Since he told us not to do it," replied Leo.

Raph rolled his eyes. "Aw, you're just scared, Leo. I bet you can't balance on those poles."

Leo glared at his brother. "I can too!" he retorted.

"Then prove it!" Raph challenged. "Prove that you're not a scaredy Turtle."

With a determined look on his face, Leo marched up to one of the bamboo poles. It was definitely higher than the one he had been on earlier, but he had to do this. He had to prove to Raph that he wasn't scared. Donnie and Mikey watched in awe as Leo slowly climbed up the pole. It was really high, but Leo ignored that and continued climbing until he had reached the top. Then he stuck out his right leg and balanced just as Splinter had taught him.

Mikey gasped. "He did it!" he yelled. "Leo really did it!"

"That's amazing," Donnie breathed.

Leo grinned and looked down at Raph. "Who's the scaredy Turtle now?" he taunted.

Raph was about to retort when a stern voice interrupted them.

"What is going on here?" Splinter demanded.

Leo was so startled by his father's voice that he forgot to focus on his balance. He teetered and tried to right himself, but he couldn't do it. With a yell, he fell off the pole and smacked into the ground.

"Leonardo!" Splinter yelled, hurrying to his son's side. Leo was unconscious and didn't respond to his father's voice.

Mikey gasped. "Look what you did, Raphie!" he said. "You killed him!"

"I did not!" Raph protested. "He's faking it!"

Splinter worked over his son until Leo's eyes opened. "Are you all right, my son?" he asked gently.

"What happened?" Leo asked groggily.

"You fell off of the pole," Splinter replied. "Why did you go up there when I expressly forbade you from doing so?"

"Raph challenged me to do it," Leo answered. "He said I was scared, so I proved to him that I'm not scared."

Splinter then turned to his green-eyed son. "Is this true?" he asked.

Raph looked down and scuffed the floor with his foot. "Maybe," he said.

"That was a very bad thing you did, my son," Splinter chastised. "Your brother could have been hurt worse than this. You are to do ten flips and write an essay about how it was wrong to challenge your brother to do something forbidden. And you will be doing Leonardo's chores for the week as well."

"Hai, Sensei," whispered Raph. He really did feel guilty about what he'd made Leo do.

"Will Leo be okay, Sensei?" Donnie asked.

"He will be fine," Splinter reassured him. "He will have a nasty bump on his head, and he will not be able to train until it has healed, but that is all that is wrong with him. Now run along and get the first aid kit so I can treat his wound."

The two Turtles left and came back with the first aid kit. Splinter bandaged his son's head and had him put ice on it for a little while to heal the bruise. Raph dd his ten flips and was working on his essay while Splinter prepared sandwiches for the boys. Leo ate his on the couch with one hand while holding the ice to his head with the other. Raph came over to him, a guilty look on his face.

"Does it hurt?" he asked.

"Yeah, but Sensei says it'll go away soon," Leo replied.

"I'm really sorry for doing that to you, Leo," Raph said. "I didn't mean to."

"That's okay, Raph. I know you didn't mean it."

"So, are we cool?" Raph asked him.

Leo smiled. "Yeah, we're cool."

"Great," Raph said. He sat next to his brother and they watched a few episodes of Space Heroes together to get Leo's mind off of his wound.

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"Wow!" Willow gasped. "No wonder Leo used to be afraid of heights. I used to be afraid of them, too, after I fell out of a tree in Central Park. Some boys were challenging me that I couldn't climb so high because I was a girl, so I did it to prove that I could. It worked, but then I fell after a branch cracked and broke my ankle. The boys were really upset that I'd been hurt and never teased me again."

"So you have had to prove yourself as well," Splinter stated.

Willow nodded. "Yeah, I did" she said softly. "But I conquered my fear and got stronger so I could prove myself. I see Leo did the same thing."

"Yes, he did," Splinter replied. "It took some time for him to get over his fear, but he did. Raphael helped with that, and I think Leonardo appreciated the help."

"I'm sure he did," Willow said. "Thanks for telling me the story, Splinter. I really liked it."

"Perhaps next time you could tell me a tale of your own about teaching your students," Splinter said.

"I'd be happy to," Willow replied. "But right now, I have to get home. I'll see you next week."

"I will see you then, Willow."

The two bowed to each other and Willow left Splinter's room. She found Leo on the couch watching TV and had a new respect for him and what he'd had to go through.

Leo caught her looking at him and became confused. "Is everything okay, Willow?" he asked her.

"Everything's fine, Leo," Willow said. "Do you want to walk me home?"

"Sure." He got off the couch and followed her to her apartment. "So, what was Sensei telling you?"

"He told me a story about how you had a fear of heights," Willow answered.

Leo blushed. "Yeah, I did have that fear for a long time," he admitted.

"But you conquered it," Willow reminded him.

"It took me a long time though," Leo told her. "I think that's what's so embarrassing about it."

"Leo, you should never be embarrassed about that fear," Willow chastised. "I had it, too, and even though I don't have it as much, it still comes back to me at times. I'm sure it does for you, too, am I right?"

Leo sighed. "Yeah, it does," he confessed. "I just wish there was a way to get rid of it for good."

"No one is truly fearless, Leo," Willow lectured him. "If that was true, we wouldn't be motivated to face our fears. Fear makes us stronger. Don't be ashamed of having that fear. It made you stronger and that's the most important thing."

"You're right," conceded Leo. "I guess I shouldn't dwell on it."

"No, you shouldn't. Well, here's my stop. Thanks for walking me home, Leo."

"You're welcome, Willow. I'll see you again soon."

"Yep, you will. Have a safe trip home."

He smiled at her and left her outside of her building.

Willow watched until he was gone from sight and then entered her building. She got ready for bed and smiled as she thought about what tale she would tell Splinter the next time she saw him.

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I've learned a lot more about the Turtles than I ever knew about them before. Sometimes people aren't what they seem and you learn new things every day. I learned about Leo's fear of heights and how he had to master that fear. It's still with him just as my fears are with me. I haven't told them all of my fears because I want to remain strong. But if they knew of one of my darkest fears, I think it would cause them to be more protective of me, and I don't need protection. I need to protect myself.

Now I must think of a tale to tell Splinter the next time I see him. I don't know if it'll be as good as the one he told, but I have to tell him something. I think I have just the one that will make him happy. Well, I'd better go to bed. I do have work in the morning.

Until next time,

Willow

A/N: And so the first chapter ends. I'm so glad to be getting back into this universe though I don't know how long it will last. I'll do my best to keep this updated as much as I can though I will be working on Falling Leaves and maybe some other one shots in the universe if I think of them. Feel free to leave a review and have a shelltastic day.