summary: Twelve-year-old Donny is starting to feel the pressure of his brothers' expectations. (chibi!Turtles fic)
warnings: um...sappy? maybe a little? I'm not sure...
notes: just a little ficlet based on a story I heard in church...actually, I couldn't find a source, so I improvised some parts of the story Splinter tells. shrug My first "published" TMNT fic! I'm working on some longer stuff. This is just dessert, ha ha. (chibi!Turtles are so cute! cue fangirlish squealing)
disclaimer: I made up all of the television shows Mikey gushes about. And that godawful sounding comic book. Other than that, I don't own any of the characters in this fic except in my own twisted mind, and they tell me that just won't stand up in court.
The Ton of Rice
by Becky Murakawa
Bang bang bang bang bang BANG BANG--
"OWW--mmm!" Donny muffled his yelp of pain with a hastily applied fist, moaning until the pain dulled from a sharp, sudden agony to a steady throb.
His brother Michaelangelo looked up boredly from an old, tattered issue of Mystical Power Men From Planet Z long enough to cast Donny a sympathetic smile and an offer to enlist their other brother, Leonardo, in getting a bandaid from the medicine cabinet (which Donny himself had built from waterlogged timber).
"No, thanks," said Donny, a little sourly, as he knew that Leo would be offended by the demand (Mikey rarely asked for anything unless it was for his own benefit, and even then, his requests were uniformly put forth in an annoying, ear-splitting whine). And it was Mikey's fault that he was in this situation in the first place. After all, Mikey was the one who had provoked their last brother, Raphael, into throwing the former clear across the open living area and onto the television, thereby putting both the television and the old television-stand out of commission. Donny anticipated spending the better part of three days repairing the television; he wasn't at his best with electronics yet, though he had managed to rig up a make-shift icebox for Sensei, who worried that the four brothers did not get enough protein and was delighted, in his solemn way, with the prospect of being able to bring meat back to the Lair to be set aside for harsher times. The television stand, on the other hand, was the simpler of the two tasks, and Donny had decided to start with that.
Not that it was going so well, in hindsight. Mikey had chosen to oversee the project, his entire meager collection of well-loved comic books at the ready. As if that were not enough of a distraction, Sensei was preparing the night's meal in the area that served as a kitchen, and the pleasant odors were almost too much for Donny, who was nearly as bad as Mikey at keeping his tummy under firm control. Little desperate growls kept throwing his aim off. That, and Leo--
Mikey sighed resignedly. "There 'e goes again."
"The Ultimate Death Beast Tackle?"
Mikey tilted his head slightly in the direction of the dojo. "Yup. Leo dodged it, though. Dunno why Raphy even bothers."
"He just likes naming them," Donny explained dryly. "I think he rips most of them off from that cartoon you two watch."
"Super Rippers from the Core?"
Donny rolled his eyes. "No."
Donny frowned. "You know, I actually like that show, and I resent the implication that it is--"
"Mega-Lift Man!" said Mikey triumphantly.
"--on par with your other stupid shows," Donny concluded belatedly, reddening a little. "Yes. That's the one."
"I love Mega-Lift Man. His Super Zombie Monster Grapple is the best." The pointed look his older brother gave him completely missed Mikey. The little turtle went back to perusing his comic books, smacking his lips loudly and then shouting, "Golly gee, am I hungry! I cannot read but for the ribs sticking out the sides of my shell! O woe is me! So...hungry! FADING AWAY TO SKIN AND BONES--!"
"You know that never works," Donny observed lightly.
Mikey lowered his voice to a stage whisper. "Yeah, but have you noticed his whiskers quiver whenever it gets to be about time to eat?" The little turtle grins. "That's 'cause of me."
"Congratulations on being a nervous breakdown waiting to happen."
"Gee, thanks, bro!" Mikey said sincerely.
"HaiYA! Gotcha, bro!" Raph's victorius crow ended in a surprised yelp and the slap of skin hitting the dojo mats.
"YA! Back at you!" The tone of Leo's twelve year old voice was unmistakable. "You know, if you didn't constantly pause to berate your opponent..."
"Lecture Mode," Mikey narrated. "Leonerdo could stand to take a page outta his own book. Raphy's getting mad, of course. Climbing to his feet, all scratched up, battered, abused by the brother he once admired more than anyone in the world..."
"I'm'a take that out on yer shell, Leo."
"...Why, Leonardo? Why did you betray me? Why? Wasn't I...good enough for you? I gave everything I had to you, Leonardo...and you have only thrown my precious, precious gift back in my face! Stomped on my heart! Today, Leonardo...today you meet your maker."
"The blood! The pain! The emotion!"
"Shit, Leo, stay still--"
"Two brothers, torn apart by the tragic betrayal of one by the other...That Time. Like any other day, it--"
"MIKEY, shut UP!"
"Heh heh heh." Mikey ducked expertly away from the swatting hand of his hot-tempered brother. "Guess the emotion got to be too much to handle, huh, Raphy?"
"Yer about ta get inta somethin' you can't handle, you don't quit it," Raph advised angrily. Time seemed to slow down to terrible seconds, as Raphael finally noticed what Donny was doing. The pacific turtle winced at the sight of the wide, thoroughly evil grin that spread itself across his brother's face.
Why, God? What have I done to you lately? ...Besides the Darwin comment. I was totally joking.
"Well, well, well." Raph snickered. "Repairman Donatello, on the job."
'No thanks to you,' Donny managed not to say.
"Looks good...kind of." Feigned awkwardness. "If you close one eye. And look at it sideways. From a distance."
'I hate you,' Donny didn't say.
"Aw, lay off Raphy," Mikey jumped in. He grinned. "Obviously, if your sparring is any sign, you couldn't see the sun at noon."
A muscle over Raph's left eye began to twitch alarmingly. "You gettin' smart wit' me?"
"Naw, you're just getting stupid with me."
"Raph--hey, Raphy, put down the lamp, I was just kidding...um...I love you?"
Donny sighed and put his tools aside, sucking absently on his sore thumb. He sometimes wondered what his life would be like if he had been an only child. The blissful fantasy gave him the strength to return to his repair-work.
Three hours later, after quietly having dinner (while Mikey and Raphael cast each other baleful glances and kicked at each other under the table when they thought Master Splinter wasn't looking), Donny was nearly at his wit's end. He had finally finished with the television stand which, if not good as new, was at least serviceable. But the television itself...that was another story.
It didn't help that Mikey had been determined to keep vigil with him; however, after a valiant battle, the younger turtle had finally given in to sleep, and was currently performing a rendition of what might have been Beethoven's 5th--his snoring being the main instrument of choice, but the occassional slurp, mumble, and small cough making an appearance. It was taking its toll on Donny, who found himself listening more to his brother's sleep-talking than to his work, which was frustrating him.
"Nnnng dun anna please Don-ny ya ummm," Mikey said. "No toushin', awrigh'?"
Disturbed, Donny couldn't help but speculate what exactly his younger brother was dreaming about. And about him, too!
"Rr. Rrrrsk. Um. Won' gonna toush it noways. Dint break it. Unnng. Raphy did it. Bas'ard."
The wires Donny was trying to reattach slipped from his tired fingers. The young techie yawned. Sleep sounded really, really good right about now. But if he didn't finish this tonight, Mikey and Raph would be on his back all day tomorrow. And Sensei would have to miss the Channel 6 news. And it would be...admitting defeat. He was smart. He could do this.
Donny jolted up from his light sleep, realizing that he had somehow managed to drift off in spite of himself. He looked around dazedly, and caught sight of the wind-up clock by Sensei's armchair. Almost one a.m. He must have been out of it for at least a couple of hours. He groaned and looked down at the disassembled television.
"What a bonehead," he scolded himself aloud, smiling sheepishly at Master Splinter, who stood calmly before him. Sensei always, even in moments of great anger or happiness, had that air of absolute control, like water that would not ripple no matter how forcefully the wind blew. It threw Donny off a bit; his emotions were running high, sluggish as his thoughts were from exhaustion and self-anger.
"My son," his father said softly, "What are you and your brother doing out of bed at such a late hour?"
Donatello guiltily remembered that his teacher had tucked them all into bed as usual at eight thirty (except for Raphael, who thought and verbalized at great length his opinion that they were all far too old for such babyish nonsense, but the others secretly liked the ritual), and since Master Splinter usually watched the Channel 6 news at this time, and their television was out of commission, it had been less than half an hour before Donny heard his sensei retire to his own room. It was then that he had slid with ninja stealth into the living area, tool box in hand, and Mikey close on his heels.
"Fixing the t.v.," he answered honestly, seeing no point in trying to cover up his activities. "Mikey's helping me," he added.
"Yes, I can see that," Master Splinter remarked evenly, but Donny thought he caught a little smile on his father's muzzle as the ninja master looked down at his smallest son, snoring happily on the threadbare sofa. "But," resumed Sensei, "why could the two of you not wait until morning?"
"I--" Donny swallowed nervously. He didn't think his teacher was angry with him, but he never could really tell what Master Splinter was thinking. "I have to fix the television, sensei."
"Donatello," said Splinter patiently, "it is one o'clock in the morning. Would it not have been better to sleep tonight and work tomorrow?"
"No-o," said Donny reluctantly. "I'd rather...finish it tonight. I know I can do it, sensei, it's just taking me a--lot--longer than it should, and--"
He wasn't sure how it snuck up on him, but he was suddenly very close to tears. Stubbornly he turned back to the broken television, refusing to meet his father's gaze.
The soft displacement of air as Master Splinter knelt on the floor next to him was the only sound for a few moments. Donny waited for Sensei's verdict. Instead, his father inhaled slowly and then said, "There once was a young Chinese woman who was a very good and industrious wife. However, despite her many accomplishments, she grew discontent, realizing that she did not know anything of the world beyond her own front door. And so one day, she went to see a wise man who lived in her village. This man was very well-loved by the people of that village, and his wisdom and knowledge of both practical and transcendental matters was remarkable. The word 'transcendental'," Master Splinter interrupted himself, "refers to things existing outside of observable nature."
Donny, upset as he was, silently mouthed the word, still staring at the television but with his attention entirely on his father.
"In any case, this Chinese woman was admitted an audience with the wise man. She begged him to tell her how she might go about learning all that she wished to learn. The wise man thought about this, and then he said to her, 'In your son's lifetime, he will eat a ton of rice.' The woman, confused, agreed that this was so. The wise man nodded and said, 'Yes, in his lifetime he will eat a ton of rice, and it will be very good for him to do so. But if you were to try to feed your son all of that rice at once--what do you suppose would happen?" The young woman answered that her son would become very sick, and be unable to accept it all. The wise man smiled at her. 'In the same way, you must not expect to learn what you wish all at once, for it would have the same effect on you. You must learn little by little.'" Master Splinter's warm, furry hand rested upon Donny's head. The small turtle sighed, his tears having finally escaped their prison and run free all down his cheeks. "Do you understand, my son?"
Donny didn't answer; instead he crawled up into his father's lap, forgetting that he was twelve years old and beyond such things. He buried his face in the faded, familiar robe.
Sensei's voice was quiet and very low; Donny had to strain to hear it, and that got his mind off the shame of his tears. "My son, you do not have to push yourself quite so hard. Much is expected of you, I will admit--but I believe that you have been the one placing the highest expectations. Do not mind what your brothers may say to you regarding your..." The ninja master paused, searching for the right word. "...technical abilities. After all, was it not Raphael and Michaelangelo who broke the television in the first place?"
"Yes, sensei." Donny rested his cheek against the thick fur of his teacher's neck, eyelids heavy and swollen.
When he had himself in control again, he followed his sensei into Raphael and Mikey's bedroom, watching as the old rat carefully tucked Mikey in on the bottom bunk. Then he allowed himself to be led into his and Leonardo's room, and after he crawled up to the top bunk, let Master Splinter pull the covers up and hug him tightly. "Good night, Donatello," the old rat smiled, and exited the room noiselessly. Donatello watched sleepily through the opening of their bedroom (none of the "rooms" in their sewer home had doors, except for the bathroom, which had an old curtain pulled across its entrance) as Sensei extinguished the lamp that Donny had been using to illuminate his work. The Lair was left in complete darkness except for the faint glow of the nightlight in Raphael and Mikey's room, across the way.
But Donny had fallen into fatigued sleep almost before that registered, his soft snoring joining with Mikey's enthusiastic counterpoint.