To Understand

So, I've been having some fun with the 1987 Turtles. This piece is an expansion on "What's Michelangelo Good For?" and the first of a series of stories. I personally see more family in this group than most people, just limited by what the TV show was. The Archie comics touches on this aspect a little more. So, I consider this to be 1987 cartoon/Archie universe with the assumption that the turtles grew from childhood to adulthood. The cartoon was…inconsistent on that factor but I personally follow the canon that mutated as babies/toddlers and Splinter raised them to their current age. The comic series seems to follow this path as well so I went with it. I hope you enjoy it. All characters are copyrighted to their original owners, no infringement intended.


The orange banded turtle turned his attention to the veterinarian, pausing in his exit with his brothers, "Yeah, Dudette?" he still was a bit uncomfortable calling her Jane, least not all the time, though she had told him that he could. Dr. Goodfellow seemed too informal after everything they'd been through so his typical 'dudette' title seemed appropriate. She had headed back in towards her office but she was waving at him to follow, saying,

"Can I speak to you for a moment, Michelangelo?" Her tone was bright, much brighter and open than she had been a few hours ago. Not that he was surprised. She was surrounded by the best of all compadres! Looked like his animal buds had worked their magic on her too!

His brothers paused in their step, pausing to wait but he waved them on, "Go on, bros. I'll catch up with you later. Me and the Doc and Pete'll just chill for a few." He grinned up as his bird amigo swooped down and landed on his head, cooing lovingly. Reaching up, he gave the little bird a scratch on the neck before turning to his three comrades. He definitely caught a slight hesitation in Leonardo's stance so he added, "Dude, the bad guy's gonna be sitting in jail before the day's up, if he's not there already. I'll meet you all back home. Besides, I need to check in with all my furry amigos. Our visit yesterday was cut a little short."

Leonardo nodded, sighed in defeat "Alright, but be careful."

Giving his elder brother a cynical look, he followed Goodfellow inside, calling. "Leonardo, I can handle myself. I'm sure some mondo danger is waiting in the doc's office." He pulled out one of his nunchaku, twirling it a little. Laughing at his older brother's serious look, he added as a peace offering. "Half an hour, okay, Fearless Leader? I'll pick up some pizzas for dinner, deal?"

"It's just this was how-" Leonardo was cut off by his other two brothers grabbing hold of his arms.

"C'mon Mommy-Dearest," Raphael remarked with a half eye roll. "Let's go."

Donatello added, "Mikey's a big boy now. He can beat up Foot Soldiers all by himself."

"Not funny, guys." Leonardo gave a faint glare but he relented and allowed them to ease him back towards the van. Soon as their youngest brother vanished into the vet office, he shook their grips off, "I'm being serious, guys! This is how this mess started, we split up."

Donatello eyed him "Uh…actually, I believe it was a mad scientist geneticist that started it."

Crossing his arms, Leonardo countered "Which took full advantage of the fact that we weren't all together."

Raphael eyed him, "Uh, excuse me? Since when do we all join arms and tra la la down the street together all the time. We didn't do anything different, Leonardo! It was a bad guy gettin' in a lucky shot. Don't go turning all paranoid-protective on us because of it!" He eyed his older brother, sneering, "Though, you have a bad habit of that if it's Mikey."

Leonardo narrowed his eyes, "I do not. Sorry if I'm a little cautious because a crazy scientist almost blew our little brother up with lily pads!" Stepping forward, he nearly was beak to beak with his red banded brother. "That isn't something minor, Raphael!"

Feeling that his leader was attacking his concern for his brother and indeed, was inferring that he had no concern, Raphael snapped back, his tone sharp, "Watch it, Leonardo. You think I don't know that? But he made it out, like he always does." Raphael scoffed a bit "Guy has more lives than a cat."

Donatello felt a need to break in, play peace maker as he sometimes had to do. Michelangelo was better at it but given the circumstances, someone needed to cool some hot heads before things turned ugly. "Leonardo, Raphael, stop it. I have to agree with Raphael though, Leonardo. It's not like Michelangelo hasn't dealt with enemies on his own before. I know it's a rare thing when one of us might actually get hurt but Mikey's fine—"

Leonardo narrowed his eyes at his younger brothers, "Okay, yes, he's fine in the sense that he's alive but you didn't notice the burn on his shoulder did you?"

The wise cracking turtle and scientist turtle exchanged glances at one another. "Well, not really, no." Donatello admitted.

Leonardo sighed, leaned against the side of the van. "I know Mike can take care of himself. I've seen it. But if he has a burn there, do you realize how close he must have been with those explosives went off?" He sighed "We get so used to getting away unscathed, to our enemies not having the foresight to place traps and triggers that we can't outmaneuver, it just…shakes me when we get that close."

Raphael laid a hand on his brother's shoulder, "Yeah, but think about what you just said—close. As in, not hit. So a bad guy got a lucky shot in but Michelangelo has enough skills that it didn't take him out." Here, he lowered his voic,e spoke mainly to himself "Not that I'd ever admit that to him of course." He gently nudged his brother's shoulder "But if it makes you feel better, we can hang out and wait for him. Michelangelo can never hold his attention very long on something. He'll be out and heading off before you know it."

Donatello added, "Besides, I told Dr. Goodfellow that I would look about improving their security. I could use a leader's strategic eye point."

Leonardo's eyes lit a bit and Raphael groaned, "Oh, boy…"

"I just wanted to thank you, again, Michelangelo. The animals really owe you a debt of gratitude."

The surfer turtle smiled and gave his pigeon a scratch at the neck again, "Aw, no problemo, Dudette. Like I said, animals make me, like, total mush."

The older woman just gave a smile, "I can see that," she gave a gentle look to the knowing look that the turtle exchanged with the bird, saying, "But I also hoped you might talk to me a bit more about how you…and Pete…communicate."

Michelangelo eyed her, a bit surprised, "Really, Doc? Thought you thought it was totally bogus."

"Well," she admitted as she sat down at a desk and gestured for Michelangelo to take a seat as well before continuing, "I must admit, I was skeptical. But, obviously, by the end of our little vacation—"

"If that was a vacation, I need a new agent" Michelangelo griped and his bird friend cooed in agreement while Jane continued,

"It's become pretty apparent that however you are communicating, it's legitimate. Pete seems to have accepted me." The bird cooed again and flapped its wings, "But I have to admit that while I…understand that you two are communicating, I don't see…how. Nor do I think I can mimic it. I was hoping you might tell me more about how it works."

The orange banded teen eyed her a moment before stating, "Well, why the interest, Jane?" There. He'd used her name. It wasn't so bad now that he thought about it. After all, he HAD played Tarzan earlier and she had made a pretty righteous Jane!

"You taught me several things today, Michelangelo." She began simply. "And reminded me of others." Pausing slightly, she chuckled, shaking her head, "And you reminded me of me, now that I consider it."

While distracted somewhat by his happy bird friend, the turtle still replied, "Reminded you of you? Dudette, how did I do that?" His tone carried his confusion quite well but he was also aware of her barely contained amusement. Almost made him laugh. "I mean, you don't exactly look the part of a turtle, Doc."

"Not physically," she clarified. "A while ago, when I was fresh out of school," she explained, "I was so in love with animals. I still am, but when your job demands so much out of you, when you tend the sick and injured so much, when it's day in and day out, it's easy for you to forget the WHY of your career." She reached out a tentative hand and when Pete did not ruffle his feathers, she gave him a scratch to the neck as she had seen Michelangelo do so often. "You and Pete the Pigeon have reminded me. And I thank you for it."

He did laugh this time, a gentle chuckle that his family usually relished in. He had his loud contagious laughs but it was his gentle compassionate chortles that they truly looked forward to the most. "Hey, no problemo, Doc. Animals and me go together like turtles and pizza." He smiled at her, "Is that what you wanted to talk to me about? To thank me?"

She nodded, "Partially but I also had a question." She gave him an amused look, "Remember, I was asking you about talking to Pete?"

"Oh, right." Embarassed that he'd lost track of the topic, he cleared his throat, stammered, "Uh…well," the teenager frowned, rubbed his neck nervously. "It's…not something I can really explain, Doc. Like, with a lot of talk, you can explain what you're saying by the words. I mean, if I were to tell you 'Hey, I'm Michelangelo, the resident party dude!' you could…I mean, each word I say means something." He thought another moment then added, "Or if I were to say 'Konbonwa. Michelangelo des'. Dohzo yoroshiku. Watashi wa nihongo o hanashimasu. Eigo o hanashimasu. Suge, ne?' you could guess that each word I said meant somethin', even if hearing it left you mondo-confused!"

Jane nodded, her eyes fixed on him, "Yes, I presume that was Japanese?"

Michelangelo nodded, "With a mondo-horrible accent. Don't use it a lot, Fearless Leader is tons better. It's not like talkin' English but each word still means somethin'…" He looked more than a little lost. He understood what she was asking but to answer it was much more complicated than one might think. Luckily, his veterinarian friend chimed in,

"So, I get the impression that however you and Pete communicate it not like that?" Her tone was not accusatory, simply inquisitive.

A firm nod followed that question, "Major League Bizarro, right?" the orange banded ninja asked nervously.

"Certainly not what I was expecting," she responded simply, tapping a pen against the desk again. It had been a nervous tic she developed in her schooling days and it had maintained. "Even non-verbal languages, like sign languages, use symbols to convey meaning." She drew back on her old training, when she had been working part time at a daycare in her college days and drew her fingers across her face like whiskers, "Like that—"

"Cat," Michelangelo said with a nod and the doctor blinked.

"You know sign language as well?" she inquired and her young friend shook his head,

"Nope but the whiskers are kinda a dead give away. But I get what you're gettin' at Doc. Words or hand signals or whatever…they all mean something." Shrugging, he eyed his bird friend, "My feathered amigo and I don't exactly talk that way though."

Jane nodded, "So…how do you talk? I heard you coo at him several times. Isn't that like speaking English or Japanese?"

Shaking his head with a passion, the turtle corrected, "Not even close. We make things mondo-complicated; animals are simple. I know it sounds nutsoid but well, it's more like …" he groaned, trying to think of the words, "Ideas…naw, not even that. Like…" he smirked a bit when Pete cooed again and nuzzled the turtle's head a little. "Thanks, amigo. Well, maybe I should play storyteller to explain it," he offered.

Jane simply gave a nod, as much as she wanted to understand, it was obvious that Michelangelo was trying. She knew all too well that sometimes getting your thoughts out was harder than it should be. "I hear you ARE the best storyteller out of your family."

"Exactamundo!" The teen grinned sheepishly, "Well, maybe. I still say Sensei has the best bedtime stories." He dropped his voice to a teasing whisper "And he'll still tell me one if I ask."

Allowing herself a light laugh, the veterinarian remained quiet as Michelangelo continued, trying to put what was so simple for him into context for her.

"Well, like earlier, when I found Donatello's bo. Ever know how…uh…ever had a time where you walked in somewhere, looking for something and you knew, like, right then, where it was before you even saw it?" Michelangelo tried, trying to elaborate as much as he could. It was simple as pizza was good to experience it but to describe it was something else altogether! He really hoped that what he was explaining made SOME semblance of sense! "It…was kinda like that. I didn't see the bo until I tripped over it but I knew something was there that would tell me where my turtle buds had gone." He eyed her, "Uh…that ringing any bells for you?"

The doctor was quiet for a long time, thinking silently to herself. Michelangelo eyed her and while the silence made him nervous, he didn't feel anything but fascination in her face. That made him feel a little better. He never bothered to tell his brothers about this; they just dismissed it as him being goofy. They knew he was close with animals and figured that was all they needed to know. They didn't prod and he didn't offer. Still, the way the doctor sat there, thinking so intently, made him a bit uncomfortable. It was a welcomed relief when she spoke again,

"It sounds like you're talking about feeling emotions, Michelangelo." She tried. "Because what you're describing sounds an awful lot like feeling…" she paused, tried to phrase it correctly. "What you were describing about finding out where your brothers were would have been relief. Are you saying that is what you felt when you came upon Donatello's bo?"

Man, this sounded ludicrous even to him but there was no other way to phrase it. "Bullseye, Dudette." Swell, now comes the 'you're crazy' bit.

Now, the logical part of Jane told her that this was ridiculous but given what she had just been through, she was hardly in a position to declare ANYTHING beyond the realm of possible. "Interesting. And…you get these whenever you 'speak' to animals like Pete?"

"Not just Pete," he clarified. "But yeah, that's totally our language. Like, my bro Raphael was teasin' earlier that I was raising some Kentucky Fried Pigeon Pizza and I just…well, kinda…'felt' humor and pushed it on my bird amigo." He cast a glance at his bird friend, easily catching the whiff of 'affirmative' and 'being right-ness'. The bird cooed to give a verbal confirmation. Michelangelo eyed Jane after a moment and winced, seeing her baffled look. Head drooped, he said, "Sorry, Doc. I know it's totally Twilight-Zoneish but…that's how my mind connects with all my furry compadres." He grinned sheepishly, "Donatello always said I was the odd one."

"It's not that," she clarified, smiling. "Though, I must admit, it IS quite the big pill to swallow. You mentioned that it was not just with the animals that this happens. Where else does it happen?"

Michelangelo frowned, "Eh, it's kinda a come-and-go thing. Like, if one of my bros is super upset about something, I'll get a whiff of whatever it is that's buggin' em. But doesn't happen all the time. It's, like, mondo-unreliable that way." He frowned, thinking, "Or…like, it's kinda…well…know how you can recognize someone's voice that you know totally like the back of your hand?" When Jane nodded, he continued, "I…kinda…get feelings on my bros that way. Like, if they're out of sight, I can still 'feel' that they're there. Gotta be focusing on it though." He sighed, pouted lightly, "And even THAT doesn't work all the time." He laughed, a little, mostly out of nervousness. "But never fails with my animal buds!"

"Has your Master Splinter talked about it with you at all?" She inquired simply.

Shaking his head from side to side, Michelangelo responded, "Naw, didn't wanna bug Sensei, why?"

"Well, doesn't it seem like a gift he might want to explore with you?" She was genuinely curious.

Michelangelo laughed out loud again, "Naw, that spiritual stuff is Fearless Leader's territory. Michelangelo is just the resident Doctor Doolittle!" He scratched at Pete's neck again, hitting the spot he knew the bird preferred and was rewarded with a grateful coo and chirp. "Does that answer your question, Doc?"

"One of them," she admitted. "And you were right…it is quite difficult to explain."

Michelangelo stood, stretched, "Well, my bros always said my head was a mystery." He cocked his head at her and Pete did the same; it was a humorous sight—two almost mirror image head tilts, "But you said it only answered one of your questions."

"Correct," she stood as well, crossed around her desk. "I've been pondering this for a time, Michelangelo. As much as you enjoy and love animals and care for them…why not learn to tend their wounds yourself?"

"Am I…bugging you, coming here so much? I-" His face fell considerably.

Jane waved her hands "No, no, nothing like that, Michelangelo." She took his hand in hers, "It's a pleasure. But you have a gift with them, a rare gift. You reminded ME of why I even went into animal medicine in the first place." Smiling brightly, she inquired, "So why don't you learn yourself?"

"Uh….you do know I'm not the smart turtle, right?" he responded carefully. Pointing to his headband, he added, "You're looking for the purple one."

"Hogwash." She snarled, "You're ignorant, not stupid, Michelangelo. Big difference. You have the passion for them, the desire to care for them. Everything else can be taught."

"Uh.." he started again, though he had to admit, her question had struck a chord with him, deep in his gut. He loved watching how she, somehow, was able to wrap the injured animals back together, breathe life back into them somehow. He had always imagined that it was a gift he would not understand. "Well, I was never really good at that school stuff. Plus, there's the whole giant-turtle thing that kinda chases most schools off." He added, "And…even if I could go, I'm totally still high school dude! Donnie is…well, he's weirdo-smart."

Jane was unpersuaded, "Well, it would be unorthodox, that is for certain." She admitted, "But, it also means that you would not have to waste time with classes designed to suck up money." She crossed her office, pulled two old books from her desk, "Here." She approached, laid them in the turtle's hands. "Basic level. Flip through those and tell me that you wouldn't be able to follow it, to make yourself understand because it means something to you…here." She pointed to his chest, jabbing it with her finger. "You mentioned earlier today Michelangelo that you didn't understand how I could help all the animals you bring me when I couldn't understand how you and Pete spoke. Now, we both understand one another but the difference is this: you can LEARN my gift. I can't learn yours."

Caught more than a little off guard, Michelangelo cracked open the worn pages of one. It was highlighted to death but as he flipped through the pages, he had to admit, she was right. The way it laid out how his animals friends were pieced together, what made them work, it caught his curiosity in a way that normally only a comic book could. The humongous words didn't even scare him! He stopped, after a few minutes, looked up at her and she just smiled knowingly, "Keep those. Come back to me when you've read through them. If you want to learn, Michelangelo, I want to teach. I could use an assistant in here…"

"You serious?" he inquired and she nodded, firmly.

Donatello had been taking some college classes in the Lair but he never imagined that he would have a chance to do anything beyond the basic education that Sensei gave them. Just didn't seem to be in the cards for them, given the whole mutant-thing. But yet here was one of his dear friends, offering essentially the picture perfect career to him on a silver platter! He eyed the large books in his hands again, considering. Did he dare? Shifting his sights to his shoulder, his bird flapped his wings excitedly.

How could he dare not?

"Gotta warn you, I'm a slow learner, Doc."