Author's Notes: PLEASE read. Before anyone jumps on me with "Splinter was mutated as soon as he reached the sewers!" No. The cartoon and/or movies are not going to waste precious air time showing Splinter doing rat things in the sewer between relocation and mutation. That does not mean it didn't happen. It's called cutting to the next scene. I do not recall it being stated nor confirmed how long Splinter wandered the sewers before coming into contact with the mutagen.
That being said, this is based off of the very confuddling Newtoon and Movie canon that (going against comic and oldtoon canon) states that Splinter was a rat turned humanoid, instead of a human (Yoshi) turned mutant rat-man. Although I do not support this strange take on the events, it does offer some interesting possibilities to play with.
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I couldn't seriously pull off a basic rat learning Japanese and Ninjitsu from a cage (as much as I love the movies and newtoon). So quite obviously, they aren't mine.
Favors of Fate
My whiskers twitch, despite having been aware of him for three minutes now. As the son who often chooses his words carefully, I allowed him the time to gather his thoughts. "Come in, Donatello."
The turtle moves from the doorway and bows before taking up the lotus position before me. Though he has yet to speak, I can sense questions like a swirl of energy around him. This of course, is not uncommon; Donatello is often quiet but never still. No, his chi is always thrumming, always active. Rarely does he acquire the emptiness, the stillness of mind that I try to instill in them as a mediation technique. Contrary to what my relentless and often futile attempts may lead one to believe, I would not trade his amazingly active mind for all of the tea in Japan. My son continues to amaze me, as do his brothers. I can only wait until he chooses his words before I may know what it is he wishes to discuss.
"I was wondering, Sensei...how long had you been living in the sewer before you came into contact with the mutagen, and subsequently, us?"
An interesting question, but how to answer it? How does a basic rat perceive time beyond that of day versus night? The truth is, I have no record or clear recollection of days, weeks, or months. Although I cannot be precise, I put much thought into the reply. To do anything less would show disrespect to the person whom is seeking conversation. "I cannot be certain, my son. But to hazard a guess, I would say less than a year but more than four months. I am sorry that I cannot provide a clearer answer, but I payed little attention to time as it passed by."
His eyes cast downward in thought, absorbing my words. He gives a small nod, as if agreeing with his own inner dialogue, and I can't help the smile as I recognize these familiar tells.
"Food was always difficult to find, wasn't it, Sensei? You must have resorted to things you would not have normally eaten as a pet, even if it was the natural diet of a rodent in the wild."
I still cannot see where my son is going with this stream of conversation; I often explained to my charges the importance of sustenance and the difficulty of obtaining it, in hopes to portray a sense of appreciation. So that they may understand what they have, and would hopefully never go without. The first question is one of which my son already knows the answer to, and the other was a lead: a statement that he expects me to agree with, rather than a true question. Donatello is maneuvering the conversation, and I shall let him for now. Thus far, he has yet to say anything that I can disagree with.
"Yes, I often resorted to food that I was unaccustomed to. Crumbs hidden among refuse, insects..." I trail off, uncertain just how much detail my son is asking for.
"That's perfectly understandable. Many rodents, rats in particular, are fierce carnivores. An opossum will take a kitten, if it's small enough. Rats will often eat their own injured or dead, among other animals that can be much larger than themselves. I would just assume, that as a basic rat, you ate meat, other than insects." His voice is calm, almost monotone. I find myself wondering if this particular thought has made so many travels through his mind, that to speak it aloud sounds almost rehearsed.
"Master Hamato Yoshi and Teng Shen taught me a particular appreciation for life, but you are correct Donatello. I often resorted to feeding on a prey animal from time to time, as was both in my nature and necessary for survival."
Donatello nods three times, indicating that the conversation is going as planned. His eyes are clear, no longer clouded with deep thought and appropriate words. If he had anticipated my responses, and already knows what it is he wishes to say...I can not help but to feel a creeping apprehension. A thought begins to tug at my mind, but he asks the question before I can anticipate it.
"Why didn't you eat us?"
The shock must have shown of my face, for he hurriedly elaborated, "I mean, baby turtles would be a good find for a rat in the sewers. I find it hard to believe that you could afford to take pity on a meal when food was so scarce. And to take on four other animals, to provide for this prey species when it was a challenge just to provide for yourself...it doesn't make any sense. If the mutation didn't effect any of us until the next morning, your first instincts should have been primary. Survival"
I suppose I should have seen this coming. An omission that my sons may take for granted would not fare long with one who places so much weight into logic. For years, Donatello has pondered and questioned our origins. It is no surprise that he would review the facts provided with his sharp eye and keen analyse. It is then, that I have to wonder if I should indeed tell him the truth. Would the facts change his view of me? Is there any alternative? Donatello is looking for the logical answer, and would be satisfied only with the truth or a well-crafted lie. But do I dare go against my own teachings and upraising in order to protect his untainted image of me? Do I dare?
He watches me, patiently waiting for the answer. So open, so expectant. "I did not eat any of you, because I had already eaten for that day."
I watch him intently, searching for any sign that I have hurt him. He nods, as if it was a very plausible answer and comments with a neutrality that I had not expected. "Then you herded us into that coffee can so that you could feed another day."
I cannot explain why it shames me so to admit it. The thought of what I may have done had I not fed earlier that very day...it sickens me. At one time, these sons of mine, these boys who mean everything to me, were nothing but the next day's meal. I do not even realize that my eyes are downcast until Donatello's voice brings me from my thoughts.
"Sensei." His look softens a bit. "Father. You know that I could never judge you based on your pre-mutated instincts. Nothing can change what you are to us." He raises from his position to move toward me, embracing me in a tight hug. So much the way that I would hold him as child, warm and comforting. "We love you. I love you."
I wrap my arms around his shoulders, squeezing him gently. So many coincidences, so many favors of fate. So lucky I am, to have this life and these sons. I fight the stinging at my eyes, and it's a losing battle. I sigh deeply and stroke his scalp in a familiar manner, while savoring this moment with my student, my world.
"And I love you, my son."