This one shot was needed for my sanity. I needed to laugh and hopefully make others laugh. TMNT are owned by Mirage. I wish I owned them. I wish and wish, but nothing ever happens the way I want it to happen...
Michelangelo had exactly twenty-four hours to live.
It wasn't an enemy that was going to do him in, however.
Nor was it some deadly disease, or serious injury that could not, given their circumstances, be healed.
And it wouldn't be in some nameless lab under the curious knife of some future Nobel Prize for scientific research winner.
Nope, it would be at the hands of Hamato Raphael, Ninja Turtle, Older Brother, and Hothead Extradordinair.
Michelangelo was committing suicide by brother, and in twenty-four hours he would be gone from this Earth.
The worst part was, Raph had no knowledge of the deadline, the consequences, or what it was that Mikey had done that would land him in the category of "late brother". Raph and Casey had gone up to the farmhouse for two weeks to work on the place, race their bikes, and generally have a good time. Splinter had been grateful to Mr. Jones for the rescue; lately Raphael had been more than his usual angry self at his younger brother, and Michelangelo had been more than his usual annoying self, threatening the harmony of the family and Splinter's blood pressure-- literally.
Both sons had been stunned when, during the height of a particularly strenuous sibling battle their father had been trying to mediate in, Splinter had suddenly grabbed his own head, sucking in such a gasp of pain and surprise, that they had convinced themselves they'd killed their father on the spot.
Don had played it to the hilt later, as he left Splinter resting in his room, carrying the blood pressure machine that April had got at his request and wearing an expression that was almost indescribable in its complexity-- fear and anger were mixed in there somewhere, however.
"Can we see him?" Mikey barely spoke the words when Don's eyes bore into his. He felt as if his brother had delivered a stunning blow with the Bo staff against his head, and almost staggered back in reaction.
"You two need to leave Sensei alone-- No, wait-- you two need to leave each other alone!" he'd fiercely admonished them both.
"Hey, Don, take it easy," Raph said, taking offense at his brother's attitude-- but not daring to show any anger. He was more than surprised at his brother's ferocious behavior, and something deep inside him urged him not to provoke Don.
"How is he, Don?" Leo had quietly asked.
"He'll be okay-- fortunately, it's not as bad as I feared-- this time," he stressed. "He's not been sleeping well lately, and that may have added to the stress. I think it's a migraine, but his bp was higher than usual. He'll be fine after a good rest-- and some relief from his two 'loving' sons."
"Look, we fight all the time," Raph had begun, echoed by Mikey, but Don cut them off so quickly and so angrily that even Leo was taken aback by the reaction.
"You want to bury our father? Keep it up!" he shouted as quietly as possible.
So Casey had been appealed to by Leo, and he was more than willing to take a road trip with his best bud.
"But why does Raph get to go? Why not send ME away?" Mikey had whined.
"Because YOU were the one to start this whole thing," Leo sternly replied. "Again. As usual. So, Raph deserves the trip away from you."
"And I deserve punishment?"
"Mikey, who put the pudding in Raph's pillow case... again... this week?"
Mikey pouted the entire time. That Leo rode him night and day worse than Splinter ever did, coupled with Don's almost obsessive protection of their father from his youngest son had Mikey ready to reap vengeance on all his brothers. But he knew more than anyone that, unless he'd truly lost the will to live, he shouldn't burn the bridges that led to their protection from Raph's anger.
"It's just so not fair," he still grumbled to his cat one boring day. The city seemed to be at peace-- a sort of vacation of its own while Raph and Casey were out of town.
He and Klunk were in Raph's room once again-- they'd started coming in here almost twenty-four minutes after Raph had waved bye-bye. At first it was just to fool around with Raph's stuff, see how much damage he could cause by planning future practical jokes to play on his brother. He had seriously planned a number of ways to booby-trap the place, and entertained himself with the imagined reactions of his brother to the many plots and scenarios his creative mind came up with.
Then he realized he was coming in here 'cause he missed Raph.
And then he got mad. Raph is out having fun, in the daylight! He's in the open air, not a care in the world! He's fishing and swimming and racing the countryside on his bike! He's having fun!
"And me?" he said aloud to his cat, who was keeping him company in Raph's hammock. "I'm stuck underground, training, doing chores, hiding from Leo whenever I can get away. And Don won't let me within ten feet of Splinter unless he himself is present. He's my dad, too, you know. Not like Sensei's gonna break. He probably was just trying to teach us a lesson that day..."
But the memory of that day made him frown so much that he forced it once again from his mind, and tried to think of something to do. He stared at the dull, blank ceiling, brow furrowed in thought.
He'd listened to all of Raph's CDs, and put them back in the wrong cases as usual. He'd managed to break a dumbbell, as well as a favored porcelain figure of Kwan Kung sitting on a horse that Raph had spied in April's shop and taken a fancy to. He'd pretty much had a food party in here every chance he'd gotten, and the room needed cleaning before anything dangerous mutated and destroyed them all.
He stared at the dull, blank ceiling, spread out before him like a canvas, beckoning the artist to come forward and create something so beautiful that the whole world would weep with joy.
He stared at the colorless space above him, thinking that this is what Raph stares at when pouting in his hammock, or thinking quietly just before falling asleep.
He stared at the boring expanse above him, his mind as blank as the ceiling...
"I know!" he suddenly grinned, flipping out of the hammock, causing his cat to scatter in surprise as he went rushing off for his art supplies. In ten minutes he was back, maneuvering a table and some chairs into a precarious tower, mind racing with the creative flow of the inspired artist.
"Heeeheeeheee!" he gloated, surrounding himself with his supplies. "This is the perfect revenge!"
Splinter, carefully looking around, sensed that the coast was clear. He quietly left his room and entered the dojo, prepared to work out a bit. Donatello had been a most-- dedicated-- attendant these past two weeks. Splinter could not remember such devotion to his well-being, and he spoke from long experience.
Long experience, he repeated to himself, filled with various memories of being "cared for" by one or all of his sons during their long history as a family.
And yet, it had been next to impossible for Splinter to do any of his normal pursuits short of meditation, and Donatello even monitored that. Leonardo had been filling in for Splinter-- an easy chore as Raphael was far away, and therefore the whining of his youngest son was the only thing to disturb his "recovery".
Since the migraine, Donatello was nearly attacking him all hours of the day, like a well-trained ninja attacking his targeted enemy, checking and rechecking his blood pressure with that device that April had so generously provided.
"Roll up your sleeve, father, and relax your arm." He'd begun to hear those words in his sleep. Donatello seemed to have become permanently attached to that device; Splinter even swore that he'd seen it in his son's lap at dinner last night.
Thinking of the blood pressure machine, Splinter reminded himself grimly that he must thank Ms. O'Neil sincerely for giving it to his son.
Then he took several deep, centering breaths, and began to do his warm up exercises.
I think I will invite Leonardo to spar with me, he thought, working out the kinks that had developed with the enforced inactivity he'd been experiencing. The number of pops and cracks that emanated from his back and joints as he stretched to his fullest surprised him even more than the grateful groans that accompanied them. I could definitely use the workout, and I doubt that Donatello would give me a full one. He probably would try to get me to sit down in the middle of an attack and let him take my blood pressure.
He shook off the bitter thought-- he loved Donatello, and was genuinely touched by the attention he gave to his father's health.
"At least he cares, which is more than most parents experience from their children," he sighed aloud.
With that comforting thought, he began his workout.
He was in the middle of performing katas when Donatello found him.
"Sensei!" he snapped in shock, causing Splinter to actually jump in surprise, feeling momentarily as if he'd been caught doing something bad. Then he immediately recovered his dignity-- and his authority.
"Donatello, show respect to the dojo!" he ordered. Don performed a hasty bow even as he approached his father, blood pressure device in hand.
"Sensei, you have to be careful," he lectured as he insisted on his father rolling up his sleeve so he could take the fifth reading in the past few hours.
"Donatello, enough," Splinter said, an edge to his voice. "You have taken excellent care of me, and I appreciate your concern, but I am fine. As you said, it was just a-- migraine"-- and here he smiled at remembering this word-- "brought on by stress, and it has not reappeared. Surely you must understand that I need exercise."
"You need to not overdo it, Sensei," Donatello was stubborn. "You're not as young as-- I mean, Raph will be home in several more days. Mikey has probably been planning all sorts of get backs 'cause he was kept here while Raph was given a vacation. You know once Raph finds out that Mikey's been doing whatever--"
"Have you or Leonardo spent any time ensuring that Michelangelo is NOT doing 'whatever'?" came the mild question, and Don felt rather than saw his father's stern gaze upon him.
Don swallowed, hard, feeling himself caught. To tell the truth, his only real contact with Mikey, outside of meals and training, had been to keep his youngest brother from stressing Sensei.
"Leo promised what?" Leonardo, entering the dojo, asked as he bowed in respect, then set down a water bottle and a towel.
"To keep an eye on Mikey," Don, suddenly preoccupied with his blood pressure monitor, quickly said.
Leo nodded to Sensei, beginning his warm-up routine.
"I have. I've been working him hard. I've been giving him extra chores, extra training, and extra time to hide from me. True, he's been in Raph's room, and I do plan on going through it with him the day before Raph gets back. You know Mikey. Better to let him plan his revenge, then bail him out in the last 24 hours. At the least, Raph will return to a very clean bedroom." And Leo smiled in self-congratulations at his knowledge of how to handle his brother.
Splinter, not satisfied, never the less dropped the subject for the moment.
"Leonardo, when you have sufficiently warmed up," he said instead, "I would dearly love a sparring match with you."
"Sensei!" Donatello's voice was respectful but loud! "You can't--"
"I can, and I will," Splinter replied kindly but firmly. He faced Donatello, and put both hands on his shoulders, forcing him to look in his father's eyes. "My son, you are driving me to distraction! I need to be able to go about my routines without your hovering over me. I am sounding ungrateful, I know, but really, it is time that you allowed me to return to the normal routines of my life."
Donatello's face was set in defiant anger, but he could see that his father was adamant. He bit back several very sound and knowledgeable comments about blood pressure, stress, and the possibility of stroke, bowed to Splinter instead, and reluctantly stood back.
At least he can't object to my being here just in case, he defiantly thought.
Truth to tell, he had noticed that Splinter's blood pressure, steady for several days after the sudden migraine, had been increasing with every subsequent reading. It would be fine for the first reading of the day, and then for the next seven to ten readings it would go higher and higher. He'd been researching all sorts of reasons for the cause but never finding out anything that such a phenomenon could be attributed to.
It had never occurred to him that it might be because of his attention.
Still-- Don was very reluctant to give it up. Ever since the strange mystic attack they'd all experienced, where they'd been psychically led to believe that their Lair had been destroyed, that they'd been exposed to the world-- that April and Casey had been killed-- only to learn that someone had been using a strange form of magic on them--
Don, as he watched Leonardo and Splinter face each other with the bokken, still could not get that entire incident out of his mind-- and he knew that Splinter could not, either.
He knew that Splinter, not satisfied with increasing their lessons on meditation and all things to do with the astral forms of defense, had been very focused on preventing such an attack from happening again.
He knew that his father had not been sleeping well for several weeks leading up to the migraine.
Neither had Don, for that matter. He kept feeling that he needed to be on guard, that something was going to happen, that things were not right. Something kept nagging his subconscious; something that he couldn't explain away or solve with technology.
And it was his opinion that Splinter had not only been on extra guard duty as it were, keeping them safe by spending time on the astral plane-- but was, perhaps, seeking out their unknown enemy the same way the enemy had sought them out-- which is why Don was constantly showing up to spy on his father during meditation.
Splinter was certainly not weak, Don realized, as he watched his brother give it his all, yet fail to truly make any real headway against their father. Don pushed down the memory of the last time he'd seen the two of them going at it-- he wondered briefly what his blood pressure reading was at that recalled scene-- and he tried to relax.
Splinter will be okay, he forced himself to believe.
Michelangelo stood back and grinned. It had taken several days, many long hours, a few falls off the makeshift platform, and nearly all of his supplies, but the finished product brought tears of joy to his eyes.
"Yes! I am a true Renaissance Turtle!" he affirmed as he surveyed the fruits of his creative payback labor.
He jumped into Raph's hammock, eyes closed, waited a few minutes, and then slowly opened them.
The effect was even more astounding and breathtaking from this position than it was merely standing on the floor and looking up!
"Oh! It's just-- just-- too perfect!" he sighed in rapture. "I wonder if Raph would consider changing rooms with me... seems a shame to waste such a masterpiece on a practical joke."
He gazed at it for what seemed like hours, fondly studying each detail, surprising himself at some small touch here and there that he'd forgotten he'd done-- truly everyone in the family will want to see this!
"Michelangelo, my son!"he could hear his father gasp in delight in his mind! The sound of his father speaking his name with such emotion was so real that once again, tears came to his eyes...
The hammock shook roughly, and Mikey, with a start, realized that he must have dozed off.
"Michelangelo, my son!" The sound of his father's voice was real in his ears-- like his dream come true-- and yet the tone was not one of delighted awe.
The tone was one of sheer-- sheer--
"I am extremely angry with you!"
Mikey bolted up, eyes wide, and looked at Splinter. His father and both brothers were staring at the ceiling as if they were thunderstruck.
"Paint it out!" Leo ordered, eyes never leaving the ceiling. "Paint it out NOW!"
Mikey looked from Leo to the ceiling and back again.
Now three pairs of eyes bore into him, but he stood his ground.
"No," he repeated to the stunned silence. "I'm not going to. Raph has to see it first. He may even like it."
"Mikey, you've been sniffing too many paint fumes!" Don said severely. "You're out of your mind! Raph is going to KILL you, and you know what happened the last time he nearly killed you!"
"I'll change rooms with him," Mikey stubbornly insisted. "I am not painting it out. Raph needs to see it."
"My son, this is-- this is--" Splinter, at a loss for words, gestured in frustration.
Michelangelo was defiant.
"I don't care how much punishment you give me, I don't care if I'm undergrounded for life, I'm not painting over it and that is final!"
And with all the dignity he could muster, he climbed out of the hammock, marched himself into his own room and quietly closed the door.
Leo frantically began to gather what supplies he could. He had to paint out that picture!
"No, my son," Splinter, as if he guessed what was in Leonardo's mind, shook his head. Gazing at the painting again, he sighed. The boy certainly had many talents, but at the moment it was a rather close contest of which was the stronger-- his talent for art, or his talent for getting into trouble with his older brother. "Do not paint it out. Michelangelo must reap what he has sown-- or rather, painted. Give him an hour to cool down, then have him come in here and clean this room. Do not paint out the picture." And he quietly left the room.
"Hey, Dad!" Raph grinned, entering Splinter's room and bowing, then giving the Rat a hug. "You're lookin' better! Has Don let you out of here at all while I was away?"
"Yes, my son," Splinter smiled, hugging his son in return. "He has even allowed me to take up my normal routines again. Training will be at the usual time tomorrow."
Raph laughed, and spent a few minutes with Splinter telling him of the things he and Casey had done.
"When Donnie gets a chance, I want him to print out these pics I took," he said, digging his digital camera from his backpack. "I got a good one of Case crashin' his bike into a thorn bush! I musta pulled thirty of them little devils outta his as--butt."
Then he forced himself to be serious for a moment, and, getting onto his knees, bowed to Splinter.
"I'm sorry that I was the cause of your recent illness, Father, and I swear that I'll do my best to control my temper."
Splinter, knowing what was waiting for Raphael upstairs, seriously doubted it.
"You were not the cause my son," he said instead, gently encouraging Raphael to sit back up by putting his hands on his son's shoulders. "It is true that I was upset by your fighting, but that is how you two have been since childhood. Do not allow yourself to believe that you could ever cause me illness."
Raph grinned in relief.
"Still, I'm gonna be more calm," he asserted. Splinter wisely kept from commenting. "Where's Mikey? I got him a present."
"Michelangelo is already in bed. I am about to join Donatello and Leonardo in the kitchen. Care to join us?
"Naw, I'm gonna call Casey and make sure he knows I got some of his stuff, then I'm goin' take a long hot shower and go to bed."
Splinter nodded, and the two left his room together.
Raph, warm and dry from the shower, climbed gratefully into his hammock, and sank back on his back, head well-supported with pillows. He loved going to Casey's farm, and Case was very good about making sure his guests were comfortable, but nothing compared to the snugly, relaxing feeling of his hammock. He was so comfortable that he decided to leave the light on-- he didn't want to get up and switch it off, he was that relaxed.
He swung there gently, suspended between the ceiling and the floor, back comfortable in the curving hug of canvas, eyes not focused on anything, remembering his trip. That had been the greatest two weeks-- except for his constant worry about Splinter, and missing the nightly patrols and fights with various enemies-- and he truly had enjoyed it.
As he swung there, gazing blankly at the ceiling, something nagged at his conscious thought. Something was nudging him violently, like an elbow to the plastron, as he replayed some of his best memories of that two weeks... Casey and him fishing... Casey and him fighting over whose fish was the largest... Casey throwing him into the lake when it was proved that Raph's fish was larger... Raph retaliating on Casey by hunting him down and forcing said fish's head into Jones' mouth... the painting on the ceiling... the movies they'd watched... the...
PAINTING ON THE CEILING?
Raph's eyes slowly grew and grew wider and wider in disbelief as the full impact of what he was looking at forced itself into his conscious knowledge like a hippo forcing itself into a bathing suit.
On the ceiling was a beautiful scene of the Battle Nexus. The crowds were almost moving, they looked so lifelike. Raph could almost hear the cheers, the roars; he could almost smell the countless odors of sweat, blood, and dust mingled with the aliens scents of foods and perfumes.
The Daimyo was magnificent in his robes of office, and light actually looked as if it were coming from his War Staff, flashing multicolored bolts of celebration and joy. His main of white hair seemed to be stirring in the breeze, his clothing seemed to shimmer and flap about his impressive figure.
Splinter, Leo, and Don were standing to one side, watching Something Important. Splinter, indeed, had what looked to Raph on closer inspection like tears of pride in his eyes! He could actually see them glistening there, ready to fall from the ceiling onto the watcher.
Leo and Don... Oh my GOD! They looked as if they were just this side of hero-worship-- all smiling and eyes gazing adoringly at Someone Special.
But the center of the painting-- the CENTER OF THE PAINTING!
RAPH was in the center of the painting-- Raph was in the center of the painting, holding--
Raph was actually HOLDING Mikey on his shoulders, gazing upwards at his younger brother, proudly smiling while tears glistened in HIS eyes, tears glistened on HIS cheeks, as Mikey just as proudly showed off his Battle Nexus Medal for unparalleled honor!
The LOOK on the painted Raph's face was-- was-- WAS--
Don, in the kitchen, nodded an "I told you so" to Splinter and Leo as he took his own blood pressure.
Leo shrugged a "What can we do?" at Don in response, and went back to his futile attempt to beat Sensei in chess.
Splinter, eyes on the board, merely smiled at the ensuing noise of one son going after the other.
"But it's a MASTERPIECE! My best work ever! And 'sides, it's almost midnight!"
"I don't frickin' care, YOU ARE GONNA PAINT OUT THAT ENTIRE THING TONIGHT OR I'M GONNA KILL YOU!"
"It is nice to have all my sons at home," he commented, moving a piece on the board. "Checkmate."