DISCLAIMER: I do not own any TMNT's, whether chibi, adolescent, teenage, or adult size version. I only own the following story about them.
Splinter hesitated before entering the lair. He looked down at his tattered canvas bag and knew it didn't hold enough for the five of them, even though his sons were only six. They were growing boys, or turtles, and needed nourishment more frequently than if they were older. On the average, he did rather well. Still, he was limited to what discarded food he found topside that wasn't already rotten or partially eaten.
Unfortunately, it seemed the humans had recently become a bit thrifty in what they threw out. As it was, what Splinter collected for dinner this particular evening allowed him only two dried rolls and one slightly bruised apple, certainly not enough for even one meal.
As he noiselessly opened the rickety wooden door of the lair and stepped inside, a chorus of cheers greeted him.
"Splinter's BACK! SPLINTER'S BACK!" Mike yelled as he raced into the room, jumping around in front of his father and clapping his hands excitedly. "Foodfoodfood!" he gleefully chanted as he bounced on his toes, his smile wide and anticipating.
Soon, three more just like him came running into the main part of the lair. They joined their baby brother, who still leapt happily about in front of the rat they called Splinter and whom they regarded as their father. They all had equally hopeful expressions on their faces as they eyed the bag, as if it promised a feast fit for a king.
"Did'ya bring lots of food this time, Splinta, did'ya?" Raphael asked gleefully. He was just as excited as his youngest brother was, and as hungry, but he preferred to stand defiantly, as if daring his father to say 'no'.
"Raph, you know Splinter tries to bring lots every time he goes out. Be respect…respect…?" Leo furrowed his brow as he tried to think of the correct phrase. He always had the hardest time with the bigger words, but he could always count on Donatello to help him out.
"The word is respectable, Leo, and we all know he tries, huh, Splinter?" Donnie looked up at his father with eyes that were just as eager and optimistic as his other siblings were.
"Yes, that is correct, Donatello. However, I believe the word you meant to say is 'respectful'," his father gently corrected.
Donnie blushed sheepishly and hung his head. It was a rare occasion whenever he misused a word. Noting his brother's mistake, Raphael snickered, quite amused. Just the same, he received an admonishing glance from his father, which quickly quieted the young turtle's teasing.
Splinter chuckled a little, "Do not worry, Donatello; 'respectable' is still a good word to use in this case." He saw his gifted son's eyes brighten for just a moment and then Splinter instructed all of them. "Now, my sons, please take a seat on the couch," the rat politely asked.
"But aren't we gonna eat, first?" Mike wondered with widening eyes, as his other brothers clambored up onto the sofa, "I'm soooo hungry!" he exclaimed as he danced around excitedly.
"Yes, I know. We all are. Please, take a seat on the couch, Michelangelo." Splinter gently insisted.
Mikey reluctantly jumped onto the beaten up old couch where he joined his brothers. He bounced around on the torn seat cushion for a moment, but after Raphael pushed at him, he finally settled down. Now, four pairs of famished eyes riveted onto one as they watched their father. Splinter sat the lightweight bag down before them on a box that they used as a table. Where their home had limited space, they didn't have the luxury of a dining area. So, more often than not, they ate their meals while seated along the well-worn couch.
The aged rat then began to explain, "It is very important for all of you to know that I traveled many miles to find what I brought home." He saw their eyes light up as if expecting something grand and it was then that Splinter felt instantly guilty. "However, what I was able to find is not much…"
There, he saw it immediately, the crestfallen disappointment in their face as each of his sons weighed his words.
Donatello and Leonardo were the first to catch on to their father's meaning and then Raphael and, lastly, Michelangelo. Now, four pairs of anxious faces stared back at Splinter. Slowly and gradually realizing that whatever it was that Splinter had brought back, they knew it was not going to be enough.
Deciding not to prolong the situation any longer than necessary, Splinter carefully opened up the bag. He reached inside with one of his bony paws and soon brought out a hardened roll. He gave it to Leo, instructing him, "Please, Leonardo, share this with Donatello." Then, reaching back into the bag, the rat pulled out yet another similar roll and handed it to Raph with the same instructions, "Raphael, make sure that both you and Michelangelo have the same amount." Splinter watched as each of his two older sons broke the rolls in half and handed one of the halves to their younger sibling.
Mikey looked at his share and then over at what his brothers had. He looked a second time at his portion and then up at Splinter, asking, "Is this – it?" His voice was thin and hallow.
Clearly, the half piece of bread was not going to suffice. However, there wasn't anything Splinter could do about it. After scavenging topside for nearly four hours, it was the best food he was able to bring home for his family.
"Yes, my sons, this is all that I have. When you are done, however, I will have dessert for you," He announced with a sad smile.
Their eyes lit up instantly at his words.
"DESSERT?" all four chorused in excitement.
"Yes, dessert, but you first must eat your dinner." Splinter patiently insisted.
Eagerly, three of the turtles hungrily chomped down on their hardened half roll, making sure that not even a crumb was lost. The fourth turtle, however, took his time. He would nibble at his roll and then he would look over at his brothers. Occasionally, he would sheepishly glance up at Splinter, who watched, but then the turtle would go back to the meager portion of food.
As he gradually ate down to the last bit of bread, he lowered his eyes as they filled with tears. He did not want anyone to see how close he was to crying. In fact, it would have remained unknown if one errant tear had not escaped and went unnoticed by Splinter.
However, that was not the case. Concerned, now, the rat went over to him and softly asked as he laid his hand on his son's shoulder, "Is everything all right, Michelangelo?"
"Hmm hmmm," his youngest son replied, the boy's answer muffled by the food in his mouth.
"Then, why are you crying?" his father asked.
"Not crying…just - worried." Mikey replied quietly as he wiped another tear away and sniffed.
"Worried about what, my son?" Splinter inquired.
By now, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael had realized that their youngest brother was upset. All three focused their attention on Mikey and their father.
"That..." Mikey looked up at Splinter, his tears now streamingfreely down his cheeks, "you don't have anything t'eat." He sniffled a bit, trying not to cry, yet finding it quite difficult to do otherwise.
His other three brothers finally understood and looked up in horror at their sensei. Their bread now gone, there wasn't anything left for them to share. In that moment, they felt ashamed.
Splinter looked at each of them and smiled, "It is all right, my sons. I am a grown rat and can last many days without food. You, however, are growing children and need food in order to get big. I will not starve." He saw Mikey's eyes grow misty once again, so Splinter added with a smile, "I promise, Michelangelo."
The foursome sat silent on the couch as they pondered his words. While they considered all what their father had told them, the rat reached back into the bag and pulled out the slightly bruised apple. He then said, "Since all of you did well in finishing your meal, you may now have dessert." Splinter handed the apple to Leo, "Please, Leonard, go into the kitchen and cut the apple into four equal portions. Make sure that each of your brothers gets a slice."
Leo solemnly replied, "Yes, Sensei," and took the apple from out his father's hand. He slipped off the couch and obediently headed towards the kitchen.
Donatello looked once at his two remaining brothers and then slid off the sofa to follow his oldest sibling out of the room. Then, next was Raphael and, lastly, Mikey. All of them seemed more subdued than normal as Splinter watched them pad silently out of the living area. He watched them until they disappeared around a concrete walland intowhat they used as a kitchen. His whiskers then twitched as he contemplated his youngest son's concerns. It was the first time that any of them had shown even a hint of worry for his welfare. Consequently, it warmed his heart. Even though they would eventually know rejection from the world above, in time their caring would guide them in helping others. Once he avenged his Master Yoshi's death, Splinter knew that his sons' charitable foresight would benefit the humans living topside.
As Splinter sat down in his beaten-up rocker to relax his tired feet, he listened to the intermittent whispers that flowed out from the kitchen. Although a simple act, giving Leonardo the responsiblity to cut the apple was a lesson in leadership, a small bit of training combined with a normal day-to-day activity. Moreover, for the others to watch and wait for Leonardo to 'divvy' the food was a lesson in patience and acknowledging that leadership, as well.
Splinter chuckled to himself as he heard Raphael telling Leonardo to cut evenly. Maybe Donatello was helping to measure the portions, too, in order to insure the same results. Knowing how hungry his youngest son had been as Leonardo made each cut, he could easily picture Michelangelo's expectant face.
Just the rat allowed his eyes to close in hopes of catching a short nap, he felt a sudden movement of air to his right. Snapping his head around, he quickly noticed that all four of his sons stood beside him – each one grinning triumphantly. He smiled with how well they had used their stealth capabilities. They were learning well. He made a mental note to himself to be more alert to them in the future. Just the same, what caught his attention next was what Leonardo was holding. His oldest son, with his brothers surrounding him in obvious support, held out a small, chipped plate to their father with the cut apple placed neatly in the middle.
However, instead of cutting the fruit into four equal pieces, Leonardo had cut the apple into five.
A/N: Discovered a plot-bunny in a recently read story – can't even remember what story it was – but I just had to write it out. Originally, it was going to focus on why Mikey always gorges himself and I just may do a one-shot dealing with that. Still, this pretty much explains why he does, anyway.