Hang Up and Take Down
Disclaimer: I do not own the mutant ninja turtles, teenage or otherwise. I do not own their Master Splinter or any other character in this story. I simply borrow them and have a little fun with them. I make no money from this, please don't sue me.
A/N: Ok, some of you are going to disagree with my little scenario here, but this little bug got planted in my ear long ago. I don't remember NOT thinking this, and even the powers that be are not going to dissuade me of this idea. Even if they explicitly tell me otherwise in one turtle-verse I simply move into another one and happily continue to believe this. This story started as a couple of flashbacks in part of one of the first stories I ever wrote. (I never posted it, so don't bother looking.) When I re-read it a while ago so many characters were OoC so often that I'd have to re-write the whole thing to be satisfied with it. Instead, I picked out two bits that I liked and they became this story. CHIBI ALERT! The guys are little, especially in the first section.
The sounds of roughhousing erupted from the next room Splinter knew that it was inevitable with four small sons, but it also tended to result in someone getting hurt, it was almost always the same someone. Michelangelo and Raphael had started the game, as usual. Leonardo and Donatello always wound up joining them shortly thereafter whether or not they really wanted to play. Splinter rose from his meditation to break up the game that had started in the next room.
Splinter often worried about his two smaller sons when the roughhousing started, but he had quickly learned that the one he thought of as the youngest of the group had an uncanny ability to bounce and that injuries were usually contracted by the second youngest, this time was no different. Splinter all but flew when he heard the cry; he'd been too late again.
He expected that he would find his small son in some impossible position and, as usual, Donatello did not disappoint. This time he was folded in half and dangling by the bottom of his carapace from a pipe jutting out of the wall about 7 feet from the floor.
"Does someone want to explain how this happened?" Splinter asked, eyeing Raphael and Michelangelo in particular, but making sure that Leonardo knew he was included in the rebuke.
"We was playin' Mastah Sp'inter." Raphael explained.
"We didn' mean ta hurt him." Michelangelo added.
Leonardo just looked at the floor.
The turtle still attached to the wall started to struggle.
"No, Donatello, wait. If you struggle you might fall and hurt yourself more." He could already see tears of fear and pain in the young boy's eyes. The turtle had a shiner and several other new bruises forming on his small frame, not to mention dangling like that had to be rather painful.
Splinter looked around for a moment before finding a chair, he couldn't reach little Donatello from the floor and couldn't, for the life of him, figure out how the turtle had gotten up there in the first place. If this had been the typical roughhousing conclusion Donatello's predicament had been through no fault of his own, and Splinter couldn't help but notice the tears his son was fighting back during the rescue from the wall.
As soon as Donatello was safely in Splinter's arms the little turtle buried his face in his father's fur. Splinter could tell that his son was terrified, and the quiet whimpering had not gone unnoticed. The rat held his trembling son close, rocking him slightly. The other three were trying to sneak away, as usual, but their attempt was nipped in the bud.
"Just where do you think you're going?" He asked them, his tone was demanding, but he did not raise his voice. The trio stopped in their tracks and turned to face their father, who was still rocking the fourth turtle.
'I am going to take your brother to his room. You three are not to move from this spot until I return."
Three little heads nodded and Splinter carried his still shaky young charge to the bedroom the turtle shared with Michelangelo. Once Donatello had calmed a little Splinter went to deal with the others. True to his instructions they were right where he had left them.
"I want to know how your brother got up on that wall, and I want to know now. I know he did not get up there on his own."
The three remaining turtles looked at the floor.
"No one's going to tell me? Very well, since you all seem to have so much energy, back to the dojo."
The boys groaned, but did as they were told. Splinter gave them some tumbling assignments and left them to complete their punishment.
He returned to the small room that was shared by his two youngest sons. Donatello was not where Splinter had left him, but the wise rat had a fair idea as to where the little turtle had gone. Lifting the blankets and peering under the bed he found what he was looking for. A couple of old radios and several Lego creations were scattered around the turtle, but it was another object that held the boy's attention at the moment: a single plastic cube with nine small colored squares on each side.
"Hello Sensei," Donatello whispered. He didn't look up, but instead continued to focus on the Rubik's cube he was twisting this way and that.
"My son, why are we whispering? And what is all this stuff down here?"
"This is my quiet place. The others never find me here. You're the only one who ever finds me here." The little turtle accused in a whisper. "I don't mind though."
"What is all this stuff?" Splinter repeated, indicating the objects under the bed.
"Just some things to play with," the little turtle then pointed to one of the radios. "I got that one to work yesterday. Do you want it?" Donatello sounded enthusiastic and sincerely wanted to give the radio to his father.
"Thank you, Donatello, it is a wonderful gift. Now why don't you come out from under there?"
The little turtle obliged and brought the radio and the cube out from under the bed with him. He handed the radio to Splinter, who set it on the nightstand, then held out his arms to be picked up.
The rat gently picked up his son and sat the boy on his lap. The flinch at his touch told Splinter that he had found one of the turtle's plethora of bruises. He sighed. Several of the bruises came from incidents like the one a few moments ago, but others came from the dojo. It was those injuries that Splinter hated the most. Those ones he felt responsible for, but he knew that all of his sons needed to be able to defend themselves when the time came. He quietly looked over his son's injuries and decided then and there that everything in the dojo would be non-contact for a while. At least until the boy healed. Donatello was playing with his Rubik's cube again.
"Donatello, do you want to tell me how you wound up on that wall?"
The turtle just shrugged.
"Do you not know or do you not want to tell me?"
"Don't know." After one more twist of the cube, "Look!" He held the block out to Splinter, "Each side is all the same color."
Donatello generally told Splinter when he knew how he found himself in what Splinter had previously thought impossible positions. Like when he had gotten thrown by Michelangelo and Raphael only to find himself firmly wedged behind the sofa and unable to escape. Or when he had followed Raphael through the sewers and slipped off a pipe. He spent 10 miserable minutes suspended by his ankle before Splinter found him. Then there were the times that Donnie got into places that even he couldn't explain, like today 7 feet off the floor dangling by his carapace, or last week when he had been found stuck behind the refrigerator. He couldn't explain it, but he had managed to get there somehow, usually with his brothers' help.
"Very impressive, Donatello," Splinter finally said of the completed puzzle. He watched as the young turtle yawned. "I think maybe you could use some rest." He gave the little turtle a quick hug, and felt another flinch.
Donatello seldom offered up resistance to a nap, but today he became uncharacteristically furious. He took his freshly solved cube and heatedly messed it up. Tears shone in his eyes.
"Why is it always me, Master Splinter?" The irate turtle asked. "Why is it always me who has to hang upside down and get all beat up? Why can't it be someone else for a change? Or no one at all?" His bandana was damp and Splinter carefully untied it and set it on the nightstand beside the radio. Splinter looked down at the turtle who had once again buried his face in the rat's fur.
"Donatello, I want you to listen to me now." Splinter kept his voice soft, and gently lifted the turtle's head so he made eye contact. "Someday things will be different, you'll see." The disbelieving look he received prompted him to continue. "I have faith in you, Donatello. Someday soon you will be more than able to hold your own with your brothers, as long as you don't give up on yourself." Splinter could see the little turtle consider his words and finally accept them. Another yawn prompted the rat to once again suggest Donatello get some sleep. This time the little turtle allowed Splinter to tuck him into bed.
Splinter was well aware of the fact that Donatello desperately wanted to be able to do what his brothers did, but the young turtle also knew that he always got hurt, for some reason that didn't usually stop him, which gave Splinter hope for his son's future survival. Splinter stayed with the turtle for a while. Eventually, Michelangelo poked his little head into the room.
"Is Donnie going to be ok?" He asked innocently. "We really didn't mean to hurt him."
You never mean it, but you still manage it. Splinter glanced down at his battered and bruised son and noticed that he was asleep. He tried to remember a time when Donatello wasn't covered in bruises. Slowly, he stood and escorted Michelangelo out of the room.
"Your brother will be fine, he just needs time to heal, and you and your other brothers need to give him that time. I want you to promise me this."
Mikey nodded emphatically, and Splinter was touched by the young one's concern for his brother.
Splinter started to leave in search of Leonardo and Raphael, whom he hadn't heard from in too long, when he was stopped by a small voice behind him.
"Master Splinter? Why is Donnie always hurt? How come Leo, Raphy and I don't get hurt like he does? Is he a wimp like Raphy said? He's not is he?"
Splinter realized that Raphael needed a little talking to on the subject of his brother, but first he needed to answer Michelangelo's question.
"No, Michelangelo, Donatello is not a 'wimp'. His strengths are simply different from yours."
Mikey looked confused for a moment. "What strengths? I don't get it."
"Well, think about it this way." Splinter suggested. "What quality does Raphael possess that would prevent him from getting hurt when you roughhouse, or even when you practice in the dojo?"
"Oh, he's really strong. He can pick up that big box and move it around! Oops." Mikey clapped his hands over his mouth as he remembered that he wasn't supposed to tell Splinter that. What he didn't know was that Splinter had long suspected that it was Raphael who kept moving that box away from its rightful position near the wall of the dojo.
"It's ok, Mikey, I know he's been moving it." At that the little turtle looked incredibly relieved. "Now what about Leo, what does he do well that helps him avoid injury?"
"He doesn't fall very easily. He runs across pipes like they're normal floor!" Mikey was excited because he knew the answer to that one too.
"Yes, Leonardo has very good balance, you are correct. What about yourself? What do you do?"
That one had little Michelangelo stumped. He was just him, and he didn't know what he did that helped him avoid injuries. Eventually Splinter had to help him out.
"You, Michelangelo, are a natural athlete. You are stronger than Leonardo and have better balance than Raphael. That gives you a means to get away from either of them. You also bounce like no one I have ever met, and all those things work in your favor. You are very quick too. Now, where do Donatello's natural skills lie?"
Again Michelangelo was stumped by the question. Donnie wasn't particularly strong, he didn't have great balance, he wasn't quick and he certainly didn't 'bounce' like Mikey did, in fact when Donnie fell there tended to be a loud crash involved. The little turtle was hard pressed to come up with what helped Don avoid injury. "I don't know Sensei. I can't think of one." Michelangelo felt awful, it was as if he were admitting that Donnie couldn't protect himself, as if he were admitting that Raphy was right, and Donnie was a wimp.
"He does have a strength, Michelangelo, but it will take time to develop that strength enough for him to avoid injury. Donatello wants very badly to do everything that you, Leonardo and Raphael are capable of doing."
"But he's so little, and he just gets hurt!"
"What does Donatello do best?" Splinter interjected, silencing the youngest turtle.
"He made the toaster work? He's really serious a lot too." Mikey finally suggested quietly.
"Close enough," Splinter laughed quietly, "You and your other brothers are lucky when it comes to your physical games and your training. You are naturally quick, Raphael is strong, and Leonardo has excellent balance. Donatello has no such physical blessing. His strength lies in his mind. Sheer determination and time are his allies. With practice he will find ways to compensate for the natural gifts he lacks, and time may reduce and eliminate those shortcomings. He is serious because he must work hard to do things that come naturally to you. Do not tell him he cannot do what you do, Michelangelo. What he needs from you is for you to be there to catch him if he falls, not when he falls, and he needs you to know the difference. Do you understand?"
Mikey shook his head.
"You shouldn't tell Donatello, or any of your brothers, that he can't do something. If you do then he might begin to believe it, and that will only hurt him in the long run. Also, you cannot expect him to fail. You need to expect him to succeed, while also being there to help him if he doesn't. Can you do that?"
The little turtle contemplated Splinter's words for a moment before nodding. "I think so."
"Good, let's go find Raphael and Leonardo."
At this Michelangelo got excited and traipsed alongside his master and father.
"Master Splinter?" Mikey asked as they walked. "Does this mean that someday Donnie's going to beat Raphy when they spar?"
"He might Michelangelo. Some day, he just might."
---------------------------A few years later---------------------------
Splinter watched the four young turtles in the dojo carefully. Leonardo and Michelangelo were sparring with weapons they seemed to favor. Mikey had a small pair of nunchuckus and Leo a pair of wooden swords. Raphael was sitting on the sidelines next to Donatello with a pair of wooden sais. Splinter had some ideas for a good weapon for Donatello, but his second youngest son seldom used the same weapon more than once when he was given a choice. Today he had a staff sitting beside him. Based on the length of the weapon and the turtle's height the equivalent weapon when the child got older would be a bo staff. This was one of the weapons that Splinter believed would be a good fit for the turtle, but he had never seen Donatello choose the weapon of his own accord before.
Leonardo landed a blow that finished the sparring session. Splinter called a halt and the turtles traded places. Mikey and Leo moved to the sidelines and Donnie and Raph headed to the center of the floor. The turtle who now wore a red bandana tied around his head towered over his brother wearing purple, and Raphael still had several pounds on his little brother even though the smaller turtle had started to catch up recently. The spar commenced.
The sparring session began as every other session between the two had for as long as anyone could remember. Raphael jumped in on the offensive and came at Donatello with all the power he could muster, driving the smaller turtle back toward the wall. Donatello managed to block the attacks from the sais, but Raphael did manage to land several solid kicks. Each time he took another hit the smaller turtle jumped back to his feet. Six hits, Seven, Eight solid connections to the little one's body, not to mention the numerous glancing blows, but each time the small turtle stood back up. Splinter could see the exhaustion on Donatello's face, but he also saw the characteristic determination there too.
The little turtle looked as though he were about to collapse from this sparring session and Splinter was just about to end the session for the boy's safety when everything changed in an instant. Raphael made a move to go high, and Donatello saw his moment of opportunity and went for it. He dropped to the ground. Crouching low and bracing the staff high across his shell he pivoted hard, using every ounce of strength his exhausted muscles could muster. The staff took Raphael's feet right out from underneath him. Donatello used the time that Raph was falling to make his next move. He spun back around and leapt at his brother. The little turtle slammed the length of the staff across his bigger brother's plastron and positioned himself in such a way that no amount of strength from the struggling turtle was going to dislodge him. From Donatello's position almost no force needed to be exerted on his squirming brother to keep him on the ground. He just sat there holding Raphael down until Splinter called an end to the session. Splinter smiled slightly, while Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo all looked at the purple-clad turtle in shock. Hopefully, in time, Donatello would be able to knock an opponent down long enough to escape, but for now neutralizing an attacker until help arrived was more than enough to please his Sensei.
"Donnie!!" Mikey cried happily as he rushed over and lifted his brother to his feet and off the ground. "That was so cool!" He embraced his brother tightly, and Donatello's eyes were begging Splinter to have Mikey release him so that he could breathe again. On the other hand Mikey seemed to be the only thing keeping his brother on his feet.
Raphael was still on the floor, dazed by what had just happened. Leo congratulated Donnie with a quick pat on the back before going over to help Raph up.
"What just happened?" Raphael asked, still shocked by the turn of events.
"I believe that your brother," Splinter informed them, "has just found where his true strength lies. I believe he may have just found his weapon of choice as well." He smiled down at his exhausted son and finally managed to get Michelangelo to let his brother go.